Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Laboring on Ferguson -- Jacob/Esau -- yet ANOTHER view

I've been laboring on the symbolism of the Jacob/Esau story that was given to me by my relative as it relates to Ferguson and the Black experience. I had a difficult time with it and I was not comfortable with my analysis. It bothered me. I think the meaning of the story is much easier to understand than I thought at first. I glossed over the Reform rabbi interpretation of Jacob/Esau which may be the most important and salient point.

I should have focused on the birthright itself. Why should Jacob be the only one to get the birthright? Esau says or cries to his father "But father isn't there enough room for more than one birthright?" That is the theme on which I should have concentrated. I should have illuminated the fact that we all are deserving of the birthright and that it is not reserved for just one. We are all the chosen ones. Does there have to be one group on top and one on the bottom for all time? As my relative says "Life is not or should not be a zero/sum game."

In John 14:2 even Jesus is said to have instructed "In my Father's house are many mansions."

I did, though, relate it to the inclusiveness and the promise of America but, as MLK said, the bad promissory note to the Black man was returned "marked insufficient funds." The Black man historically has always been the one left out of the American Dream.

My interpretation had more to do with the method of acquiring the promise rather than the promise of the birthright itself. Ferguson makes us refocus our efforts to be inclusive of everyone.

The moral of the Esau story, therefore, as the reform rabbis see it, is that the birthright should be for all people, for all time and not reserved for just one. I agree!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Can a Costly Campaign to Eradicate Polio From Nigeria Possibly Succeed?

Child receiving polio vaccine
An unidentified health official administers a polio vaccine to a child in Kawo Kano, Nigeria. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

When Rudyard Kipling visited Chicago in 1889, the black canals and soot-filled air made him wonder if he hadn’t wandered into hell on earth. The crowded slums reminded him of Calcutta; the anarchists and religious fanatics, mobsters and businessman, shouting and spitting everywhere, struck him as so many savages.

A few years after Kipling made these scathing reflections, he nevertheless exhorted Americans to assume “the white man’s burden” in a famous poem of that name, and join the imperial mission to civilize the non-Western world. It’s not known whether 28-year-old lawyer Paul Harris was inspired by the poem, but shortly after it appeared, he set out to civilize the people of Chicago.

Harris came from Vermont, where people helped each other out in a jam and friendship and business went hand in hand. He desperately wanted to introduce some small-town civility into the brutal world he encountered in Chicago. So in 1902, Harris founded the first of what would become a global network of Rotary clubs that have been providing fellowship and respite from the harsher side of modern capitalism to millions of business people and professionals ever since. They donated land for community gardens, sent shoes to European refugees and operated a Fresh Air camp for crippled children.
Then, in the 1980s, Rotary set out on its most ambitious philanthropic mission of all: eradicating polio from the face of the earth. During the 1960s and 1970s, the World Health Organization had led a campaign that permanently stamped out smallpox. Like smallpox, polio is preventable with a cheap vaccine, and the disease had been all but unknown in rich countries since the 1960s. That it still crippled thousands of children each year in the developing world seemed to Rotarians a terrible injustice.

They started with a fundraiser that attracted cataracts of donations from ordinary people; at its height, $1 million a day was pouring in from raffles, wine-tastings, golf-tournaments, chicken-plucking contests and other, mainly neighborly, activities. Most of the money went to the WHO and UNICEF, which set out to immunize every child in every country where the virus was still spreading. In India, where polio crippled or killed thousands of people each year, two million volunteers, including 350,000 Rotarians, set up immunization booths in marketplaces and went door to door in slums and villages, some accessible only by camel or elephant. By 2002, the number of polio cases worldwide had fallen from 350,000 to less than a thousand, all confined to just seven countries. Some 5 million people had been spared paralysis or death.

A thousand cases of any disease may not seem like a big problem, but Rotary was aiming to eradicate polio; otherwise, the disease, which spreads through contaminated food and water, could quickly bounce back. But the last 1,000 cases of polio have turned out to be much more stubborn than the hundreds of thousands that came before, and it’s certainly costing more money to get rid of them. The polio eradication campaign spent slightly more than $2 billion between 1988 and 2002; then Microsoft billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates joined the fight, and today, his foundation, along with the American and British governments and other donors, are pouring roughly $1 billion a year into it.

The last cases are concentrated in countries like Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, all beset with violent conflicts. Polio cases in these countries have declined steeply as a result of the campaign and program officials are cautiously optimistic that they’ll meet the goal of global eradication by 2018. But even if they do, questions will likely linger about the wisdom of their approach. As I was to discover in Nigeria, the polio campaign has exacerbated political tensions, endangered the lives of health workers and contributed to the perceived neglect of other public health issues. There are signs that the Gates Foundation and its allies appreciate these concerns, and are now working to address other diseases such as malaria and measles. But in the future, public health experts should reflect on whether fighting one disease at a time is always a good idea. Diseases like polio are not rogue criminals to be tracked down and killed at all costs; they are rooted in the same injustices that cause conflict in the first place.
In Nigeria, the trouble started in 2003, in the ancient slave trading city of Zaria. The polio vaccine used in the campaigns is a liquid administered by mouth from pre-packaged plastic dropper vials. Shortly after the United States invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq, Nigeria’s Supreme Council of Sharia announced that scientists at Zaria’s Ahmadu Bello University had tested the liquid and found that it contained contraceptives; the polio campaign was part of a secret plan to reduce Muslim populations so that the infidel West could take over the world, they said, and ordered parents to refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated.

The polio campaign was then uncontroversial in other Muslim countries and so the World Health Organization called on the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Countries and the African Union to persuade the Nigerian clerics that the vaccine was safe. The campaign resumed a year later, but by then Nigerian polio strains had spread to twenty countries around the world, as far away as Indonesia.

Today, the campaign is running, but it’s not for the fainthearted. When I visited northern Nigeria earlier this year, polio vaccinators, most of them women who visit hundreds of households each month, told me they have been stoned, cursed, doused with hot oil and had guns pulled on them. In some areas, they hide their UNICEF thermos bags under their hijabs. In early 2013, assassins shot dead nine vaccinators in the city of Kano. The western aid workers who manage the project from Atlanta, Seattle and Abuja, the faraway Nigerian capital, dart into these areas for a day or two at a time in bullet-proof vehicles driven by guards armed with Uzis.

Everyone, from the campaign managers to the vaccinators, risks his or her life daily, and their heroism is astonishing. I interviewed one young man who had previously worked on polio eradication in Pakistan, where dozens of polio workers have been killed by Taliban fighters angered about drone strikes and the CIA’s use of a door-to-door vaccinator to help track down Osama bin Laden. One morning, as he was walking on the street in Karachi, a boy of about 12 approached him and asked if he was American. “No,” said the polio worker, who asked that his name not be printed. “I’m African,” and he pointed to his T-shirt, which had a map of Africa on it. Later that day, gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on his vehicle and a bullet flew through the side door and lodged in his hip. After months of rehabilitation, he can walk again and is now working to eradicate polio in Nigeria. “I am so committed to polio eradication,” he told me when I asked him why he took such risks. “I want to see the last case in the world. Nothing will stop me.”
Why are so many Nigerians hostile to the polio campaign? Just as in Pakistan, the campaign in Nigeria has become a symbolic front in a battle between the nation’s leaders, widely seen as corrupted by the West and failing their own people, and the radical extremist reaction against those leaders. Ordinary Nigerians told me that what angered them most about the polio campaign was that the government wasn’t doing anything else for them. Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, and yet its people are among the poorest in the world. Although roughly $52 billion from oil sales is earmarked annually for poverty reduction, more than 70 percent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. Meanwhile, elite politically connected Nigerians rake in millions in a parallel universe of shell companies, bribery, ghost pension schemes, fake subsidies and other charades.

The poverty alleviation money is supposed to go to Nigeria’s state governors and local government councilors, who are like mayors. They are supposed to use it to run basic services such as schools and medical clinics and maintain supplies of electricity and clean water. And yet half of the children in Northern Nigeria are malnourished; fewer than 25 percent have received all their vaccinations for diseases such as measles and tetanus; and fewer than 15 percent of adults in some states can read. A health clinic I visited one day was doubling as a dress shop. When I asked the nurses about various medicines, half were out of stock, and the nurse in charge was on her way to a pharmacy because she thought she had malaria.

Because of the intricate and dangerous nature of Nigerian corruption, trying to find the missing money is a fool’s errand. In 2011, British development officials reported that the majority of clinics in one state kept no budgetary records at all, and most of those that did spent far less than state officials claimed they were.

Meanwhile, polio has been getting all the attention. Ten times each year, polio vaccinators visit millions of households in northern Nigeria offering polio drops to everyone under 5 years of age. The cost of this program, almost entirely paid for by Western donors like the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the American and British governments, is equivalent to roughly one-sixth of Nigeria’s entire (official) health budget.
While trying to figure out why so many people are angry about the polio campaign, I came across the writings of Murray Last, a brilliant anthropologist who has been studying northern Nigeria for over fifty years. He explains how the disproportionate emphasis on polio has fed into suspicions about Western medicine traceable to precolonial times.

In the nineteenth century, northern Nigeria was under the control of a small number of vast caliphates headed by powerful sultans. Life was organized locally by the sultans’ emirs, who lived in big houses, had elaborate spy networks and knew what everyone was doing. If there was a dispute, the emir would arbitrate; if people were hungry, the emir would put food out for them. There were no public entities in this feudal world: no courts, no police, no hospitals, not even public water fountains. After the British took over in 1903, they tried to set up bureaucracies to carry out sanitary inspections, adjudicate disputes and collect taxes, but these came to be seen, according to Last, as “synonymous with extortion.”

Modern medicine was seen as part of this conspiracy to undermine the caliphates. During sleeping sickness epidemics in the 1950s, health inspectors rounded up people with swollen glands and took them away for compulsory treatment. When beautiful girls were caught in the dragnet of this highly coercive program, many locals saw it as a form of kidnapping, and bribed the inspectors to go away.

The few hospitals were run by evangelical Christians. The colonial administration, worried about antagonizing the emirs and imams, tried to discourage them from building their hospitals in the heavily Muslim north, but medical care was desperately needed and the evangelicals defied the authorities and set up hospitals anyway. As expected, the hospitals came to be seen locally as part of a wider conspiracy to undermine the caliphates. Preachers read Bible verses to people waiting to see the white doctors who were rumored to steal body parts for witchcraft, cast spells with their X-rays and suck blood with stethoscopes. Some people, Last says, suspected whites might not be entirely human: they were always washing; the dye on their clothes didn’t run; you never saw their feet, which were always hidden in shoes; they didn’t like walking; they built big lakes and dams and sometimes dove under the water. People whispered about what they were doing under there. Perhaps they were some kind of fish.

It didn’t help that the British arrival in the early twentieth century coincided with famine and epidemics of meningitis and Spanish Flu. People believed whites were yet another scourge sent by Allah to punish blacks for being insufficiently devout. As a result, Last writes, there were a series of Muslim revivals around this time, as people sought spiritual protection from the terrifying power of these besieging outsiders.

Suspicion about what whites are up to remains prevalent, even now, along with a craving for order through intensive religious purification. Since the 1970s, and especially since the end of military rule in 1999, numerous charismatic Islamist movements have emerged to try to cleanse Nigeria of what many northerners see as the corrupt, unruly ways of the more Westernized tribes of the south, who now dominate the nation’s politics. Some of these movements have called for Sharia law; others want Nigeria to become an Islamic state like Saudi Arabia; and others, like Boko Haram, seek to revive the ancient caliphates that colonialism broke apart and replaced with what they see as a corrupt system overseen by Western-backed figureheads. What all these groups share is a yearning for bygone order and a suspicion of Wwestern-style modernity. Over the years, one group or another has declared that not only polio vaccines but also watches, radios, books other than the Koran, cars and even dried bouillon cubes are haram—forbidden.

Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder and megaphilanthropist, waded into this maelstrom in 2009. By then, he’d already spent $657 million on polio eradication, but he’d never visited the operation in Nigeria before. According to a 2013 Rolling Stone article by journalist Jeff Goodell, Gates cares more about polio eradication than anything else because it provides a crucial test of his philosophy of philanthropy as problem solving. For Gates, writes Goodell, “The world is a giant operating system that just needs to be debugged”; he thinks there’s an app for everything, from ending global poverty, to improving education, to fighting disease and climate change. He has no patience with anyone who says any problem is too complicated.

Gates brought technical rigor to Rotary’s polio campaign, with new vaccines, disease modeling programs, satellite maps and GPS tracking methods to find unvaccinated children. But after the Nigerian clerics revolted against the campaign in 2003, he came to understand that the problems weren’t just technical; they were also political. So, in 2009, he visited Nigeria and met with Predident Yar’Adua and the governors of all of Nigeria’s thirty-six states. Eventually, they unveiled a new plan to encourage clerics and other celebrities to say positive things about polio vaccination in their sermons and on the radio and to sponsor public events to promote polio. Some were paid to do this. In 2011, Gates launched a competition: state governors who best performed a set of promotional polio campaign activities would be awarded $500,000, which they could use to support other healthcare projects.

But the program was no match for Nigeria’s legendary corruption. When I was there, I heard a new story every day: shortly before I arrived, some of the vaccinators were caught throwing out their vaccines, and then reporting preposterously high success rates to their bosses; then local government officials were caught reselling toys and biscuits intended as gifts for vaccinated children; then I heard that officials from one of the international agencies were going around with sacks of cash, for who knows what purpose. Finally, just as I was leaving, a group of young men took over a clinic where polio vaccines were being stored and refused to release them. They said they were angry that a local politician who promised electricity for their neighborhood still hadn’t delivered three years later. When the police turned up, hundreds of women and children formed a barricade, chanting, “If you want the vaccine, you’ll have to kill us first!”

To date no one has been able to identify who killed the nine polio workers in Kano in 2013. Boko Haram, which usually celebrates its atrocities, didn’t lay claim to this one. The shootings occurred at two separate clinics, at around the same time. Security guards had been hired to protect the vaccinators but, according to local sources, both groups of guards left to get a drink at the same time, just before the killers arrived. There are speculations that some people want to sabotage the program so that the epidemic, and the millions of dollars it brings in, will continue.

That might sound far-fetched, but rumors of sabotage for financial or political gain aren’t unheard of in Nigeria. This past summer, analysts began asking why Boko Haram assailants so often turn up in Nigerian military uniforms, carry weapons stolen from Nigerian military armories and frequently attack military installations where the gates have been mysteriously left open. It’s known that soldiers are furious about army corruption and low pay, and some may be hoping that by making the north of the country ungovernable, they can undermine the prospects of President Goodluck Jonathan—a southerner—in the 2015 elections. It’s conceivable that some may be thinking along similar lines about the polio campaign.

Each four-day polio vaccination campaign begins with a “flag-off” ceremony at which the governor or some other dignitary immunizes the first child and gives her a toy. At a flag-off I attended, thousands of people gathered in a giant field, and some even climbed trees to watch. Then the governor and his entourage arrived. A group of musicians launched into a song, the words of which, I was told were, “May the governor rule for another year and another year and another year!” Dancers dressed in costumes printed with pictures of the governor did handsprings all around them, while party officials showered them with Nigerian banknotes. Then an official promised that the ruling party would bring roads and primary schools and water to the people, if re-elected in 2015. A small group of protestors who managed to get near the podium began shouting, “We’ll do better than them!” They were quickly silenced by security men. There was almost no mention of polio at all.

The highlight of my trip was going around with the “mop up” team when local leaders and health officials demonstrate their commitment to fighting polio by revisiting the houses of vaccine refusers. If parents still refuse, their house is surrounded by dozens of crippled polio survivors in bright yellow Rotary vests, who may remain there for hours, until the parents give in. “Look what happened to us!” they say. “Do you want this to happen to your children?”

Polio is a terrible disease, but the answer to this question isn’t quite as simple as you’d think. I interviewed some of the polio victims expecting sad tales of abandonment and discrimination. Instead, I found a group of Nigerians with remarkable integrity, managerial competence and a charismatic leader named Abdul whom they call their king. Abdul contracted polio as a baby and walks on all fours with flip-flops on his hands, but still manages to support three wives and seventeen children, all of whom (except the toddlers) are enrolled in school, unlike most of northern Nigeria’s children.

Islam doesn’t stigmatize disabled people or begging, which is how many polio survivors earn their living. Abdul’s friend Hamid, also severely crippled by polio as a baby, recently ran for mayor. He didn’t win, but after the election, he led a demonstration of blind, crippled and other “peculiar people”—as he calls them—against a corrupt local official and got her fired.

Polio cases are falling steeply in Nigeria, though the disease’s course is hard to predict. In 2010, the year after Gates’s first visit to the country, polio cases fell by 95 percent, to twenty-one cases. But they rose again in 2011 by nearly 200 percent, to sixty-two cases. This year, there have been only six cases so far, although officials are worried that the virus could bounce back in areas made all but inaccessible to vaccinators by the Boko Haram insurgency. In May, the World Health Organization declared polio a worldwide emergency because the virus had spread from Nigeria to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Somalia, and from Pakistan to Afghanistan, and Syria to Iraq. Case numbers are still very low, but the news is worrying.

Some public health experts, including Donald Henderson who led the World Health Organization’s successful smallpox campaign in the 1970s, wonder whether it’s time for the polio campaign to switch course. Perhaps Nigeria should fight polio the way most countries do: by strengthening local health services so that all children receive not only polio vaccines but also vaccines for measles and other diseases and treatment when they become ill. One such program, known as the PRRINN-MNCH (Partnership for Reviving Routine Immunization in Northern Nigeria; Maternal Newborn and Child Health Initiative), was launched in 2006 with help from Columbia University scientists and achieved considerable success in some northern states. But earlier this year the British government redirected its grant to a less comprehensive program more narrowly aimed at immunization.

Somehow, the Nigerians may have to figure things out on their own, just as the people of Chicago were forced to do in the decades after Kipling and Rotary founder Paul Harris witnessed anarchists and religious zealots—the Boko Harams of the day—battling political graft-masters on the streets of their city. If the west is to be involved, we need to find a better way, because even if the polio campaign succeeds, many serious problems—health-related and otherwise—will remain. Nigeria is filled with savvy, honest and hardworking people who understand the needs and concerns of their communities, but the architects of the polio campaign—for all their billions and technical know-how—seldom encounter them, because few are in positions of power. A more promising approach would be to seek out those people and listen to what they have to say.

The Wall of Justice

A friend challenged me to compare Biblical story of Jacob and Esau with the tragic violent events of Ferguson, MO.

 I think what the Jacob/Esau story told us was that Esau compromised with Jacob and was satisfied with the remunerations Jacob gave him which allowed Jacob to keep his birthright when, in fact, the birthright was not rightfully Jacob's to keep. Esau compromised and settled for the things he received even though he was much aggrieved against.

Should the black man be considered as Esau, much aggrieved, angered at those who have perpetrated a great injustice toward his people? If they give him what he wants should he simply forgive them? The black man in this nation was promised many things but the white man did not deliver on them. What does one do when one party is still stealing from you? Does one simply sit back and accept one's plight?

The emergence of the KKK, White Citizen’s Councils and other racist groups institutionalized racism through vicious Jim Crow laws mandating segregation, instituting poll taxes, and literacy tests to permanently cement the second class status of the black man into the southern landscape. It not only took root then but continues nationwide to this day.

The black man has been kidnapped, beaten, lynched, had property confiscated and innocents killed by white vigilantes and white police. The electorate does not think about that nor the de jure suppression of the black vote, the black man's only recourse for justice. Instead districts are gerrymandered in favor of whites and they get difficult and costly-to-obtain voter ID requirements. The excuse white institutionalized power gives is the protection of the vote when blacks and other progressives know it is protection AGAINST the black vote since there is little voter fraud and the white reason for the ID law is a sham. When one is poor it is not so easy to have the mobility to adhere to the "law" to obtain an ID nor afford the cost of one.

Jim Crow has reared its ugly head yet again and the black man is angry -- no furious. I cannot blame him for that. Prejudice of white against black in this nation runs deep and its amelioration slow. The Grand Jury of Ferguson comes back freeing the white aggressive police officer shooting an unarmed man as did the jury come back to free George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvone Martin and the truly innocent man selling cigarettes outside a store was choked to death by the police for a ridiculously minor offense. Multiply those incidents a thousand times.

Yes, Michael Brown had flaws. Were they deserving of death? I believe Michael Brown did not need to die and that what happened to him happens over and over and over again across the nation so much so that it becomes part of the black man's DNA to fear. This must change.

There are things so consequential that one must say "no more" for those who have felt the jackboot of white tyranny on their neck. The black man hangs from the Poplar Tree again and again and again. When does it stop and is passive resistance effective? I do not know. Michael Brown is NOT Esau but is the representative of hundreds of years of cruelty and injustice against a people where the wall of justice said to have been under construction has, in truth, yet to be built.

Racism is the albatross around our nation’s neck; it is the conundrum of a nation that is supposed to stand for justice for all but in reality stands for justice for the few. Esau, I suspect, would not compromise with that!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Malcolm X as it applies to the Ferguson violence

The Ferguson violence brings to my mind the quote of another era from a civil rights icon of the black community, Malcolm X.  I loved what he said on non violence the most in the era in which he said it. 

He gave a speech on non-violence and the struggles then of the African American community. He said blacks were non violent BUT they were NOT nonviolent with people who were violent to them.  What he said carried the strength as only Malcolm could utter the words then.  The Ferguson mainly white police should replay what he said on YouTube and think on it.  I post what he said below.

I got it then and I get it now.  Understood, that is the essence of the Ferguson violent protest issue and the essence of the black anger behind it!

The Democratic Party is the ONLY Party of diversity.  We must use now what we have and next time REGISTER TO VOTE and then DO SO.

Here and

Friday, November 21, 2014

What Democrats need--Read and heed if you care about your country

I have written HUNDREDS of posts before the election.  I left no stone unturned and even got a list of Hispanic organizations urging them -- NO pleading with them and others -- to get out to gd vote.  We will keep getting these RepubliCONS until the cows come home.  They have the money and control it all including the media.  They have a lot of the courts (not all) and they won't confirm any of the president's court picks. 2014 is 2010 on steroids!  Those RepubliCON beasts sue the president at every turn.  How can anyone live with themselves and try to take HEALTHCARE, healthcare of all things away from those who cannot afford what those swine have themselves I will never know?

There are no words that can convey the detest I have for the Republicrat Party and if I could waive a magic wand I would get Democrats and Independent leaning Democrats OUT TO VOTE...that's the secret.  They must register to vote and do so.  By 2016 when Obama is not running will they remember what he has done for them now?  I don't know.  They better.  It is up to leadership and the grass roots to get out this Democratic vote.  Until Citizen's United can be repealed I am not really sure if anything will work and for that we need a Democratic president to nominate for the high court and a Democratic Senate to confirm. I am staying away from listening to any Republicon so I mute all the Republcon accusations against the president they make and any news about the rancid lawsuits they file.

This immigration action he did BETTER work for 2016.  With a Republican president, House and Senate then George Carlin's "American Dream" segment on YouTube will be absolutely true. I post it below.  George Carlin called it and got it right!  I post it again and yes, it has profanity because what Republicans are doing IS profane.  You can take it because it tells the truth.  Start now and sign up ALL Hispanics, persons of color, all minorities, women, the disabled, the elderly etc. to vote.  The Democratic tent is big and there should be NO reason to cede our nation to racists, wingnut extremists and their madness.  The Republicon Party is now comfortably home for neo Nazis and Eugenics (white supremacists), Birchers and Ku Klux Klaners. 

If you want a country that stands for something humane listen to George Carlin and KNOW he was right and then start now and DO something to make sure Republicons are crushed in 2016!  Forward this to anyone you choose.

Here or below

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Major Networks Not Airing Obama's Immigration Speech--Damnable!

It is UTTERLY unacceptable, disrespectful and sickening that the major networks are not covering the president's important speech on immigration tonight. 

I propose ALL those rotten channels (CBS, NBC, ABC) that do not cover the president I would like to start a boycott of them.  Not only boycott those that insult our president kicking dirt in his face we need to boycott those sponsors that keep them in business.  It is after all a business decision I presume.  God forbid Americans KNOW anything important their government does instead of watching football.  SHAME ON ALL OF THEM.  Their programming STINKS anyway so its not hard at all for me to boycott them and their phony corporatist sponsors with them. 

One wonders, too, if their decision carries some racism to boot.  So get all your Hispanic, African American, and any other persons of color and whites who support a just cause you know to join the boycott. AND MOST ESPECIALLY GET REGISTERED AND  VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!!!  This white woman wants to give these major networks the gd BOOT.  SHAME on all of them that refuse to carry this important speech of our president and we in turn will NOT tune them in!

Send this to anyone you choose.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

LOVE--Crossing the Divide

In view of the horrific world events I want to convey my thoughts about a relationship that transcended the discord.  It crossed the artificial divide we all too often construct to keep human beings from sharing that part of our nature which seems unique to us.  It allows us to connect to other living things on this planet and gives us the ability to love.  We do not know for sure that we are the only animal who loves but at least, on the surface, we seem to be the sole evolutionary inheritor of the ability for higher thought and the attachments of love that it can bring.
When violent world events, especially those that centrifugally revolve around religious belief and cultural differences, I think on a relationship I knew between a Pakistani man, his family and an elderly Christian woman who lived the love of her very strong Christian faith.  She and I had ad infinitum discussions about faith as she tried, without much success, to persuade me that this life is more than just our birth, all that transpires in between and, finally, death.  She said, because she possessed such a strong faith instead of fearing death, which was in sight for her as she approached 90 years of age, she welcomed it because she knew her God would be there to welcome her into a place of eternal peace.  I envied her pacific place.
This wonderful woman died yesterday and so I wanted to write a tribute to her amazing life.  She was, in the purest sense, simply a good, kind and wonderful woman who never married nor had children.  She worried about the loneliness of old age so she made her church and the love it preached the center of her life.  We would go on walks at Christmas time when she shared with me the gift of her faith and the love it encompassed and hoped I would see it too.  Still, though, I remained steadfast in my agnosticism and, in truth, I remain a skeptic who must wade through the travails of life with no surety of anything more powerful beyond it.
There are times, though, I do think something more powerful than we sends answers that are seemingly miraculous.  I do not know this as truth but my friend's circumstances gave me pause for thought.  She was forced to move in her 80’s to a less expensive section of town where she found, as was her habit, someone, a young Pakistani Islamic man owner of a convenience store nearby with whom she could exchange ideas especially ones about the faiths they both possessed.  They became close friends as each day she went there for coffee and to talk.  They became so close she eventually bought a house with him.  He moved his family to the US and she legally adopted him.  In the end he and his family, too, were there for her helping her as a son would help his aging mother.  She shared in the Middle Eastern food he cooked and the holidays he kept.  His children thought of her as their grandmother, his wife as her mother-in-law and they weep now for her loss.
He was a Pakistani Muslim man who prayed the required five times a day.  She shared in that life as he shared in hers.  It was the most beautiful relationship and a love that, indeed, crossed the artificial divide we create keeping those with whom we should have more in common to unite us than we have differences that divide, keep us apart and kill. It does not have to be this way and our friend proved that to me.

And so I say, rest in peace our beautiful friend and if there is a God and a paradise, you are surely in His and its sacred arms. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Good Explanation--Over There

This opinion by editorialist Alex Kingsbury "Why the 2007 surge in Iraq Actually Failed" linked here and below in the Globe explains in detail why the original "surge" in Iraq failed and why it is doomed to failure now under this president.

It is an excellent editorial and presents me with details I would and could not have otherwise known. How can we the majority understand what really happened if the "news" does not relay it to us or if we get the truth only if we happen to fall upon a text or an article which does explain it. Few do go looking for it when the many need to. Only those who experienced it and who are not shackled by the fear of speaking about it can really tell us what happened.

This article presents more than most I have read why we should not re-enter the Iraq quagmire and why a re-immersion into the quicksand that is Iraq fighting ISIS probably will not work either. Every bestial action by ISIS provokes our population to acquiesce to more war and feeds into the ISIS desire to have us do that in perpetuity to waste our blood, resources and energy to continue a futile effort.
What a simply horrendous condition in which Bush, et al placed us. With American memory short and its attention to the details of the few who fight this battle, the majority will go along with anything because it is not most of our necks on the line. Now every commander in chief will follow the yellow brick road the same as the president before him/her did. We will expend even more resources, blood of our soldiers and raid on our treasury so that the nation cannot spend for the necessary things we desperately need here because we have spent so much over there.

I simply do not know what the answer is now that we have broken all the china. We own it still but cannot fix it. I worry all is too late.

The goalsof the Iraq surge were spelled out explicitly by the White House in Jan. 2007: Stop the raging sectarian bloodletting and reconcile Sunnis, Shiites, and...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Great Divide

The link below is a wonderful interview by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now with whistle-blower Alayne Fleishman and the chronicler of the big bank frauds of the Great Recession, Matt Taibbi, who knows more about the financial 2008 Great Recession debacle and crime emanating from it than anyone I have read.

Again, read it and weep better still get angry.  KNOW those you elect ESPECIALLY Republicans but some Democrats too will NEVER EVER exact justice for YOU the taxpayer while the creators of the Great Recession CEO's of the big banks walk away with MILLIONS. It is an incredible interview!

Amy Goodman & Juan González interview Matt Taibbi and a bank Whistle blower on How JPMorgan Chase Helped Wreck the Economy and Avoid Prosecution.  See the interview here
On that site read an excerpt of Matt Taibbi's book entitled "The Great Divide -- Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap."

"A year ago this month the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the banking giant JPMorgan Chase would avoid criminal charges by agreeing to pay $13 billion to settle claims that it had routinely overstated the quality of mortgages it was selling to investors. But how did the bank avoid prosecution for committing fraud that helped cause the 2008 financial crisis? Today we speak to JPMorgan Chase whistleblower Alayne Fleischmann in her first televised interview discussing how she witnessed "massive criminal securities fraud" in the bank’s mortgage operations. She is profiled in Matt Taibbi’s new Rolling Stone investigation, "The $9 Billion Witness: Meet the woman JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep from talking."

Progressives keep not voting like you did in 2014 and see how this nation saves its 1% richest and how the rest of us are relegated to hell.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Richard Engel -- The War Against ISIS

I paste this incredible Richard Engel report below on the above referenced programming. The invasion of Iraq, historians will no doubt say, was the greatest blunder in US History. Go ahead, put another nationalist know nothing Republican, say a Jeb Bush, into office or put a whole Congress of Republican know nothings into high office and see what you get. You will get and probably now have eternal war; never ending, trillions of bucks war killing thousands more as far into the future as the eye can see capturing your children and even your children's children for a "mission UNACCOMPLISHED" Bush did not envision. As Engel says "No Iraq, No ISIS" it is as simple as that. He destabilized an entire region. The forces of slaughter that George W. Bush and his henchmen unleashed has engaged this nation in an eternal war we better win.

Richard Engel's reporting is UNBELIEVABLE about the war against ISIS which I have linked below. It is well worth your time not to stay ignorant of that which your country has done in your name. Weep, America, because you do not know enough to keep ignorant Cretans out of office. As Engel says "The US stayed in Iraq and it did no good; the US left Iraq and it did no good." Now as the president ups the forces again turning it into probably another ground war the US will be there in perpetuity way beyond Obama's term in office. The president really has no other choice.

If we stay out ISIS may surely establish their caliphate. They are strong and getting stronger drawing religious fanatical converts by the hundreds from even the west and making alliances with even Al Qaeda and other groups; establishing their own currency. It is truly amazing. Can they do it with the many disparate groups with whom they have often fought? Who knows? Do you want to risk turning the clock back to the 8th century to find out?

Watch this hour long program which I link here and below learn what your country has done to you!

Matt Taibbi and Bank Whistleblower on How JPMorgan Chase Helped Wreck the Economy, Avoid Prosecution

If you want to know why it is important to get the gd vote out across the nation.  Scroll down.  You get the government you deserve if you don't!


Alayne Fleischmann, JPMorgan Chase whistleblower. She was a deal manager at the bank, where she says she witnessed "massive criminal securities fraud" in its mortgage operations during the period leading up to the financial crisis.
Matt Taibbi, award-winning journalist with Rolling Stone magazine. His latest article is headlined "The $9 Billion Witness." He is author of the book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.
This is viewer supported news
A year ago this month the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the banking giant JPMorgan Chase would avoid criminal charges by agreeing to pay $13 billion to settle claims that it had routinely overstated the quality of mortgages it was selling to investors. But how did the bank avoid prosecution for committing fraud that helped cause the 2008 financial crisis? Today we speak to JPMorgan Chase whistleblower Alayne Fleischmann in her first televised interview discussing how she witnessed "massive criminal securities fraud" in the bank’s mortgage operations. She is profiled in Matt Taibbi’s new Rolling Stone investigation, "The $9 Billion Witness: Meet the woman JPMorgan Chase paid one of the largest fines in American history to keep from talking."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A year ago this month, the Justice Department announced the banking giant JPMorgan Chase would avoid criminal charges by agreeing to pay $13 billion to settle claims that it had routinely overstated the quality of mortgages it was selling to investors. When the toxic mortgage securities started turning bad, investors lost faith in the banking system, and a housing crisis turned into the 2008 financial crisis that led to millions of home foreclosures. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman unveiled the settlement last November.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN: Not only will Chase have to pay the largest settlement ever levied against a financial institution, but it has admitted in our statement of facts that its own employees, employees of Bear Stearns and employees of Washington Mutual made material misrepresentations to the investing public about a large number of residential mortgage-backed securities that they issued prior to the crash in 2008. This settlement is a major victory in the fight to hold accountable those who were responsible for that crash.
AMY GOODMAN: Soon after the JPMorgan Chase deal was reached, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder discussed the bank’s misdeeds during an interview with NBC News’ Pete Williams.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: It packaged loans that it knew did not pass its own stated due diligence test. We have a whistleblower who indicated that she expressed concerns about what the strength of these mortgage-backed securities were, and they put them out there to the market and said that they were perfectly fine, when in fact they were not.
PETE WILLIAMS: So, to be clear, you’re saying that JPMorgan’s conduct here contributed to the housing collapse?
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Not only the conduct of JPMorgan, it was the conduct of other banks doing similar kinds of things that led directly to the collapse of our economy in 2008 and in 2009.
Show Full Transcript…/matt-taibbi-alayne-fleisch…

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Broken Heart

Republicons wining as much as they did in the 2014 midterms will make the president's life and those of us who support those things for which the Democratic Party stands miserable.  So what else is new?  Republicons vow to block the president no matter what he proposes.  The epic China/US treaty deal on climate change just forged by the president will be blocked by these obstructionist mendacious nincompoops. Who could have predicted that?
I feel now like I was hit by a truck.  Ending the Obama presidency with a Congress worse than any other obstructionist one since the Civil War is beyond my ability to comprehend and therefore successfully write anything in exegesis of it.  How does one explain the massive electoral myocardial infarction that happened one week ago and make sense of it?  How rational is it for a nation to usher into office the same Party that obstructed the President at every turn insulting him, shut the government down and refused to raise the debt ceiling?  The refusal to raise the debt ceiling alone would have sent this nation and the world into a gran mal economic seizure.  

The difference between the 2008, 2012 elections when the president was swept into office and the midterms of 2010 and 2014 when he was not on the ballot is that persons of color including Hispanics and the Democratic base sat the election out.  2/3rds who were registered to vote in 2014 did not do so.  It was the lowest voter turnout in decades.  Democrats win when voters vote.  The majority of the electorate is on the side of the 98% and not the side of the 1% millionaires and billionaires but if the 98% do not vote they are not counted.

Perhaps, they sat it out, too, because of unconstitutional Republicon Jim Crow-like tricks requiring certain difficult-to-obtain and costly IDs needed to vote or perhaps they sat it out because, clearly, we live in two different Americas -- a racist half and the other half.  Moreover, Obama cannot be elected anymore.  Or perhaps it was the fact that Democrats like Alison Lundergan Grimes, who gave that chinless McConnell beast a bit of a scare, thought it better to run away from the many successes of the president and simply not answer the question posed to her: "Did you vote for President Obama?"  She SHOULD have said a resounding YES and then screamed out the differences, the wide differences, between a Democrat and a Republicon of this era.  She should have stood tall and proud that she is a Democrat instead of denying it and not answering the obvious.

After the president's rise to the presidency I thought all that hard work, all the freedom rides, all the marches against segregation, all the voter registration and Supreme Court decisions paid off and that all the bombings of black churches, all the racist killings, all the segregation and all of the strange fruit hanging from the Poplar Trees were made right.  I thought the wrongs of a nation were addressed and in the process made the arc of the universe, indeed, bend toward justice and not away from it.  I am not so sure anymore that the arc of justice has not retreated and bent the other way. My heart is broken and I weep.  I hope someday in my lifetime I will see a land that does not deliver "a bad check marked insufficient funds" as MLK said it had.

Race has been the albatross around the necks of our national historical experience from its beginning.  The president to me looks sad, he looks lonely and he waxes baffled by a Republicon Party that should have been relegated to the ash bin of our history a long time ago.  But it has not been relegated to the ash bin of our history.  In fact, the racist Republican Party of Harpies is stronger than at any other post Civil War time in our history.

I used to love Malcolm X's response when he was asked "Are you violent?"  He said no, he was not violent and that he was nonviolent BUT he was NOT nonviolent against people who were violent to him.  I am not advocating violence but I always could understand why Malcolm X said what he did.

US, China strike groundbreaking agreement

My question to this hopeful story is how will the Republicons ruin it? Keep electing them and see what catastrophes they bring.  Bush II the failure wasn't enough for the nation killing hundreds of thousand including thousands of Americans for a trumped up phony war based on lies.  Keep it going, sit back and enjoy the view IF we get out alive. 

AP: Josh Leder

US, China strike groundbreaking agreement

-- A groundbreaking agreement struck by the United States and China is putting the world's two worst polluters on a faster track to curbing the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming. With the clock ticking on a worldwide climate treaty, the two countries are seeking to put their troubled history as environmental adversaries behind them in hopes that other nations will be spurred to take equally aggressive action.

The U.S., a chief proponent of the prospective treaty, is setting an ambitious new goal to stop pumping as much carbon dioxide into the air. China, whose appetite for cheap energy has grown along with its burgeoning economy, agreed for the first time to a self-imposed deadline for when its emissions will top out.

The dual announcements from President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, unveiled Wednesday in Beijing, came as a shock to environmentalists who had pined for such action but suspected China's reluctance and Obama's weakened political standing might interfere. In Washington, Republicans were equally taken aback, accusing Obama of dumping an unrealistic obligation on the next president.

In fact, the deal had been hashed out behind the scenes for months. U.S. officials said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry floated the idea during a visit to China in February, and Obama followed up by writing Xi in the spring to suggest that the world's two largest economies join forces.

Obama pressed the issue again during a meeting with China's vice premier on the sidelines of a U.N. climate summit in September, and the two countries finally sealed the deal late Tuesday - just in time to announce it in grand fashion at the Great Hall of the People as Obama's trip to China was coning to an end.

"This is a major milestone in the U.S.-China relationship," Obama said, with Xi at his side. "It shows what's possible when we work together on an urgent global challenge."
Under the agreement, Obama set a goal to cut U.S. emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. Officials have said the U.S. is already on track to meet Obama's earlier goal to lower emissions 17 percent by 2020, and that the revised goal meant the U.S. would be cutting pollution roughly twice as fast during a five-year period starting in 2020.

China, whose emissions are growing as it builds new coal plants, set a target for its emissions to peak by about 2030 - earlier if possible - with the idea being that its emissions would then start falling. Although that goal still allows China to keep pumping more carbon dioxide for the next 16 years, it marked an unprecedented step for Beijing, which has been reluctant to be boxed in on climate by the global community.
"This is, in my view, the most important bilateral climate announcement ever," said David Sandalow, a former top environmental official at the White House and the Energy Department.

World leaders who have been pressing for a global climate treaty heralded the deal, with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging all other nations to follow Obama's and Xi's lead by announcing their own emissions targets by early next year. Former Vice President Al Gore, a prominent environmentalist, called the Chinese move "a signal of groundbreaking progress from the world's largest polluter."

Scientists have pointed to the budding climate treaty, intended to be finalized next year in Paris, as a final opportunity to get emissions in check before the worst effects of climate change become unavoidable. The goal is for each nation to pledge to cut emissions by a specific amount, although negotiators are still haggling over whether those contributions should be binding.

Developing nations like India and China have long balked at being on the hook for climate change as much as wealthy nations like the U.S. that have been polluting for much longer. But China analysts said Beijing's willingness to cap its future emissions and to put Xi front and center signaled a significant turnaround.

Yet it wasn't clear how either the U.S. or China would meet their goals, nor whether China's growing emissions until 2030 would negate any reductions in the U.S. And in Washington, Republicans were sure to launch a renewed effort to block Obama's plans out of concern they could overly burden U.S. businesses and taxpayers.

"This unrealistic plan that the president would dump on his successor would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is set to become the majority leader early next year.

For Obama, the fight against climate change has become a central facet of the legacy he hopes to leave. Facing negligible prospects for major legislative victories during his final two years, he has sought to bypass Congress by using regulations on power plants and vehicles to cut emissions, and his aides say his audacity on those fronts has boosted his credibility on the issue when he meets with world leaders.

In China, the smog-laden skies over its cities have become a source of embarrassment that the government has sought to obscure. Ahead of the economic summit that brought Obama and other leaders to Beijing, authorities shut down factories, banned wood fires and kept half the cars off the road.

Monday, November 10, 2014

There is HOPE: "In Germany, a Jewish community now thrives" by Mike Ross

There is hope!

In Germany, a Jewish community now thrives

A member of the World Jewish Congress lights a candle at the Gleis 17 (Track 17) memorial of the deportation of Jews from Berlin to concentration camps during World War II, in Berlin Sept. 16.

A member of the World Jewish Congress lights a candle at the Gleis 17 (Track 17) memorial of the deportation of Jews from Berlin to concentration camps during World War II, in Berlin Sept. 16.

BERLIN Since first arriving in what would become Germany more than 1,800 years ago, Jews have searched for acceptance. No matter how desperate their attempts to demonstrate their standing as good German citizens — in some cases converting to Christianity, enlisting to fight in World War I, even trying to persuade their American counterparts to be less critical of the rising new leader Adolf Hitler — nothing brought them acceptance by their countrymen.

That, however, may be changing. Seventy years after the Holocaust, as anti-Semitism churns across Europe, the Jewish population on the continent is plummeting to record lows. New strands of hatred foment seemingly justified by the policies of Israel — a sovereign country thousands of miles away. And yet Germany has suddenly reemerged as a home for Jews.

Ask Cilly Kugelmann, the vice director of the Jewish Museum Berlin. Kugelmann is the daughter of two Polish Holocaust survivors who, as it is said, “grew up sitting on packed suitcases.” Today, she says she can’t think of anywhere else she’d rather live than Germany. “Germany is one of the safest places for Jews worldwide,” Kugelmann said.
In preparing to visit Germany for the first time, nothing was further from my own beliefs. In the place where my father’s family was slaughtered, I assumed that no Jew would ever again see Germany as their home. How could they?

After all, a walk down a narrow Berlin street takes one to where the city’s Jewish population was routinely rounded up to be sent to concentration camps — and to the windows of homes filled with complicit onlookers. Nazis used the familiar settings of a Jewish school and community center to lull their victims into a false sense of security, even though by then, many knew they were being sent to their deaths. German residents knew full well the fate of their Jewish neighbors — this street was commonly referred to as “Todes Straße” or “Death Street.”

After the war, the once thriving Jewish community of Berlin, which at its high point reached 180,000, was left with only 7,000. In East Berlin — the section controlled by the former Soviet Union — its population was down to several hundred and predicted to reach zero in a matter of years.

In the late 1960s my father returned to Germany to visit for the first time since being liberated by American soldiers. Despite the celebrated triumphs of Simon Wiesenthal the Nazi hunter, and the prosecutions that were the result of the Nuremberg trials, he found his homeland awash in Nazis, many of whom were back in positions of power in government. When an attempt was made to finally prosecute high-ranking Nazis residing in Germany, it failed miserably. Of 400 perpetrators who were prosecuted, 13 would be convicted, and only six would go to jail.

As the civil rights era drew to a close in the United States, a movement of German students, known as the 68ers, was just beginning. These young people demanded answers from their parents and grandparents.
It took the next generation to demand change. As the civil rights era drew to a close in the United States, a movement of German students, known as the 68ers, was just beginning. These young people demanded answers from their parents and grandparents — generations who started two world wars and were responsible for humankind’s greatest atrocities.
Teaching a new generation: A mother walked her son at the Berlin train station memorial where Jews were sent to their death.
Teaching a new generation: A mother walked her son at the Berlin train station memorial where Jews were sent to their death.
Gradually, Germany began to confront its past. Public schools were required to teach about the Holocaust and make mandated visits to former concentration camps. Reparation payments were made to victims, and laws were enacted to make it a crime to deny the Holocaust or to display Nazi symbols. Immigration laws were finally liberalized to no longer require German blood as a precondition to becoming a citizen.

The Germany of today is a different place, particularly in Berlin, where 45,000 Jewish residents now live. Waves of immigrants have arrived every decade since the war ended. Most recently large numbers of young Israelis are moving here, attracted by arts, culture, and a more reasonable cost of living. Ironically they live quite peaceably in the same emerging neighborhoods as young Muslim emigres. And for the first time since the war, German-speaking rabbis are being trained in seminaries.

Two years ago, one of those rabbis, Daniel Alter, was viciously attacked in front of his 7-year-old daughter as he prepared for the Jewish High Holy Days. I asked him if he believes that Jews will ever be home in Germany. He answered by saying, “My suitcase is definitely unpacked, but I know where it is.”

Today the gilded dome of Berlin’s New Synagogue rises over the Spree River as a prominent landmark announcing that a Jewish community thrives. And it does. For now, it does.

Ugliness of anti-Semitism Marks Paris--the world's longest hatred!

The longest hatred never ends!  The article below by Mike Ross sent a chill down my spine!

Ugliness of anti-Semitism marks Paris

Marine Le Pen, president of the French far-right party National Front, poses beside a young girl dressed as Marianne, a personification of the French Republic, in northern France on Sept. 14.
AFP/Getty Images
Marine Le Pen, president of the French far-right party National Front, poses beside a young girl dressed as Marianne, a personification of the French Republic, in northern France on Sept. 14.

PARIS — Paris is justly lauded as the most beautiful city in the world. Nowhere else is there a greater collection of talent across the spectrum of architecture, art, literature, food, and culture. But French society also has a nasty underbelly – of growing ugliness – that should give pause to those who live amid the sparkle of “The City of Light.” 
That ugliness is an unprecedented rise in anti-Semitism since the Holocaust. It comes in the form of increasing violent attacks on Jewish people, the emerging popularity of a growing right-wing political party, and a perfect storm of converging ideologies that has distinguished France from its European counterparts.

Anti-Semitic incidents in France are up stratospherically, according to information provided by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, the director of the American Jewish Committee in Paris. As recently as 1999 the number of recorded acts — ranging from graffiti to targeted arson and homicide — against Jews countrywide was, at just over 80, relatively small. Yet each of the last 15 years saw no fewer than 400 individual episodes. The methodology for reporting such incidents has remained precisely the same — only the volume of hatred has changed.

A Jewish cafe in Paris, now closed, signals a fading community.

A Jewish cafe in Paris, now closed, signals a fading community.
In just the first seven months of 2014, there have already been some 600 anti-Semitic incidents. Rodan-Benzaquen expects a total of about 1,500 by the end of the year. In fact, of all the crimes classified by French authorities as racist against minorities, Jewish victims represent 50 percent — even though Jews account for less than 1 percent of the country’s population.

The seriousness of these attacks can’t be downplayed. People have lost their lives.
In 2006, 23-year-old Ilan Halimi was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered in Paris. A similar incident followed two years later — both motivated by anti-Semitism. In 2012, Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old French citizen claiming ties to al Qaeda, killed four people — including three children, ages 3, 6, and 8 — in an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse. And earlier this year, a young French jihadist murdered three people in a Jewish museum in nearby Brussels.

All the more worrying is that, alongside this increase in violence, France’s National Front — a nationalistic, anti-immigration political party with a history of Jewish hatred — has gained ground. The party is now led by Marine Le Pen, and while Le Pen is far more politically savvy than her father, who founded and ran the party as an avowed anti-Semite, her allegiances remain coy. She has failed to distance herself from commentators like Alain Soral who loudly castigate Jews, gays, and feminists as well as the “comedian” Dieudonné, whose hate of Jews comes complete with a reverse Nazi salute that he popularized called the “quenelle.”

Across France, National Front’s popularity is at its peak. The party this year received nearly 25 percent of the total vote in the election for European Parliament — more than any other political party.

And then there are the jihadists. No European country has had more recruits signing up with the Islamic State terrorist group than France, today estimated to be around 1000. Once radicalized and trained, the danger that they pose upon their return to the country is very real.

All of the threats, taken together, bring real fear to France’s Jewish community, presently the largest in Europe. One example: Until recently, it was commonplace for Jewish families to send their children to public school. Today those same schools have few if any Jewish students. Families are choosing Jewish and even Catholic schools instead.
Many Jews are leaving France altogether. The number of emigres to Israel alone so far has doubled in 2014 from last year to about 5,500.

Upon my return to the melting pot that is the United States, I couldn’t help but realize how lucky we all are. For all our problems — and there are many — there is something that works here to connect our disparate communities to a shared goal that seems absent in Europe. For all the sparkle of Paris, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.