Bernie Sanders’ Record on Palestine

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bernie-sanders

My article  “Bernie Sanders’ Record on Palestine” has been published at Mondoweiss.

“Bernie Sanders is clearly more progressive on the Palestinian issue than any other major candidate for the Presidency including Hillary Clinton. Still, Nicolas Sawaya says a review of his record on key issues in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice falls well short”. – Mondoweiss

Clinton vs. Sanders Primaries: Update 3-27

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Clinton vs. Sanders (Nigel Paray for CNN)

Actual Results:

Sanders did very well since my last update. He has cut into Clinton’s pledged delegate lead by almost 100 delegates, whittling her advantage from 326 to 230. Clinton now holds a 55.0% to 45.0% advantage vs. Sanders in total pledged delegate %. Furthermore, Sanders has reduced his % of pledged delegates remaining needed to win the pledged delegate vote, from 58.0% on our last update to 56.6% today. This means that if Sanders wins 56.6% of the remaining pledged delegates, he would win the battle for pledged delegates (and by extension, the popular vote).

Clinton vs Sanders Graph2 3-27-16

Fig 1. The graph shows (off the left-hand axis) the number of pledged delegates won by Clinton and Sanders by state and cumulatively (Clinton in blue and Sanders in red); the remaining pledged delegates in the race (in gray); and the % of those remaining delegates needed to win for each candidate (off the right-hand axis).

Analysis of Actuals vs. Projections:

The model projected a lead of 397 pledged delegates for Clinton at this point, for a 58.6% vs. 41.4% Clinton lead, so the model is clearly over-projecting in favor of Clinton (by +3.6%). Final model projections are +590 pledged delegates and a 57.3% vs. 42.7% win for Clinton. Projections were developed right after Super Tuesday on March 1st and will not be changed. See here.

Clinton vs Sanders Graph1 3-27-16

Fig 2. The graph shows (off the left-hand axis) the delegates won or lost by Clinton after each primary (blue bars mean Clinton won the state; red means Sanders won); the size of the bars reflect the difference in delegates won or lost for each state. The bars are staggered in “water-fall” fashion to reflect Clinton’s actual total delegate lead, which is compared against model projections of Clinton’s delegate lead (black dots). The graph also tracks (off the right-hand axis) actual delegate % won for Clinton (blue line) vs. Sanders (red line), and compares against model projected % for Clinton (blue dots) vs. Sanders (red dots)

Clinton vs Sanders Table 3-27-16

Table 1. The table tracks actual pledged delegates won by Clinton and Sanders vs. model projected delegates, and calculates the delta between the two

The model projections under-performed relative to Sanders’ actual win totals. This can be explained because of 2 reasons:

1) Given that the model works based on a regression of “racial demographics”, it’s important to have good demographic data. The misses on Democrats Abroad, Alaska and Hawaii can be attributed to no demographic and poor demographic data, respectively (we had no demographic data for Democrats Abroad, and Alaska and Hawaii don’t fit our simple White/Black/Hispanic bucketing very well). As such, these misses are not big surprises.

2) A more interesting phenomena is Sanders’ performance in caucus states. Although the model predicted that Sanders would win Idaho, Utah and Washington (and Kansas previously), clearly, he does much better than expected based on projections using simple demographics. I would argue that this is because the caucus format rewards Sanders’ base much more so than Clinton’s.

The so-called “enthusiasm gap” manifests itself in these formats, where people are expected to caucus for significant chunks of the day, and Sanders certainly has very dedicated supporters. As such, when the caucus format is over-layed on top of demographics, this exacerbates the difference in victory in favor of Sanders. This can be contrasted to the primary format, which is less “demanding” of voters and where Clinton does much better than Sanders, and where demographic projections seem right in line with results.

One could also add an additional variable around whether the primary/caucus is open or closed (closed implies only registered Democrats can vote, whereas open implies anyone can register and vote; there are formats in-between as well), where Clinton seems to do better than expected in the closed format given her large lead with registered Democrats.

As such, in retrospect, adding secondary variables around “primaries vs. caucus format” and perhaps “open vs. closed” in the model to complement the primary predictive demographic variables would have likely enhanced results.

Analysis Going Forward:

The bad news for Sanders is that are only 4 remaining caucus states left (Wyoming, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands), and they are all relatively small and closed caucuses. Going forward, Wyoming is a closed caucus, Wisconsin is an open primary, and the next states through April 26 are all closed primaries (Rhode Island is semi-closed), including the big states of New York and Pennsylvania. As such, I expect Clinton to slightly outperform her demographic projections. Despite Sanders’ strong performance over the past couple of weeks, I still strongly believe that Clinton will beat Sanders, and I suspect when it’s all said and done, she will do so within ~3% of initial model projections. More to come. Next update after New York.

How the model “works”:

The model regressed delegates won by Clinton vs. Sanders for primaries on March 1st and before against the “racial makeup” of those states. The resulting regression coefficients are then used to project future primaries based on the “racial makeup” of those future states.

Clinton vs. Sanders Primaries: Update 3-18

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Clinton vs. Sanders (Nigel Paray for CNN)

Projections were developed right after Super Tuesday on March 1st and will not be changed. See here.

Right after Super Tuesday, Clinton led Sanders by 199 pledged delegates and had won 59.7% of the pledged delegates (vs. 40.3% for Sanders). Since then, Clinton has widened her lead to 326 pledged delegates and leads Sanders 58.1% vs. 41.9% in total pledged delegate %. The model projected a lead of 389 pledged delegates for Clinton at this point, for a 59.6% vs. 40.4% Clinton lead, so the model is slightly over-projecting in favor of Clinton (by +1.5%). Final model projections are +590 pledged delegates and a 57.3% vs. 42.7% win for Clinton. See table and graph below:

Clinton vs Sanders Graph 3-18-16

Fig 1. The graph shows (off the left-hand axis) the delegates won or lost by Clinton after each primary (blue bars mean Clinton won the state; red means Sanders won); the size of the bars reflect the difference in delegates won or lost for each state. The bars are staggered in “water-fall” fashion to reflect Clinton’s actual total delegate lead, which is compared against model projections of Clinton’s delegate lead (black dots). The graph also tracks (off the right-hand axis) actual delegate % won for Clinton (blue line) vs. Sanders (red line), and compares against model projected % for Clinton (blue dots) vs. Sanders (red dots)

Clinton vs Sanders Table 3-18-16

Table 1. The table tracks actual pledged delegates won by Clinton and Sanders vs. model projected delegates, and calculates the delta between the two

How the model “works”:

The model regressed delegates won by Clinton vs. Sanders for primaries on March 1st and before against the “racial makeup” of those states. The resulting regression coefficients are then used to project future primaries based on the “racial makeup” of those future states.

Clinton vs. Sanders Primaries: Update 3-14

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Clinton vs. Sanders (Nigel Paray for CNN)

For fun, I plan on updating the Clinton vs. Sanders nomination battle after each major set of primaries and tracking actual pledged delegate counts vs. projected delegate counts based on the model I developed right after Super Tuesday (March 1st). See previous post here.

Projections were developed right after March 1st and will not be changed but I will update the actual count to compare against model projections.

Right after Super Tuesday, Clinton led Sanders by 199 delegates and had won 59.7% of the pledged delegates (vs. 40.3% for Sanders). Since then, Clinton has widened her lead to 223 pledged delegates and leads Sanders 58.4% vs. 41.6% in total pledged delegate %. The model projected a lead of 249 delegates for Clinton at this point, for a 59.4% vs. 40.6% Clinton lead, so the model is slightly over-projecting in favor of Clinton. Final model projections are +590 delegates and a 57.3% vs. 42.7% win for Clinton. See table and graph below:

Clinton vs Sanders Graph 3-14-16

Fig 1. The graph shows (off the left-hand axis) the delegates won or lost by Clinton after each primary (blue bars mean Clinton won the state; red means Sanders won); the size of the bars reflect the difference in delegates won or lost for each state. The bars are staggered in “water-fall” fashion to reflect Clinton’s actual total delegate lead, which is compared against model projections of Clinton’s delegate lead (black dots). The graph also tracks (off the right-hand axis) actual delegate % won for Clinton (blue line) vs. Sanders (red line), and compares against model projected % for Clinton (blue dots) vs. Sanders (red dots)

Clinton vs Sanders Table 3-14-16

Table 1. The table tracks actual pledged delegates won by Clinton and Sanders vs. model projected delegates, and calculates the delta between the two

How the model “works”:

The model regressed delegates won by Clinton vs. Sanders for primaries on March 1st and before against the “racial makeup” of those states. The resulting regression coefficients were then used to project future primaries based on the “racial makeup” of those future states.

Why Bernie Sanders won’t win: Demographics

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Clinton vs. Sanders (Nigel Paray for CNN)

Much has been made about Bernie Sanders’ poor performance with minorities so far in the democratic primaries (see here and here). Indeed, an analysis by ABC news of exit polls of all democratic primaries so far reveals that only 15% of black voters and 36% of Hispanics have voted for Sanders (vs. 83% and 63%, respectively, for Clinton); by contrast, Sanders has picked up 48% of the white vote (vs. 50% for Clinton).

ABC Analysis of Democratic Exit Polls

Sanders supporters acknowledge this fact, but counter this by pointing to a more favorable landscape going forward in remaining states, especially post March 22nd. Although this point is true (as we’ll see below), the question remains: is it favorable enough for Sanders to win the nomination. As such, we’re interested in answering the following questions:

  • Does the “racial makeup” of a state (i.e. White / Black / Hispanic demographic split) have any value in predicting the pledged delegate vote?
  • If it does, what do Sanders and Clinton’s delegate projections look like for the remaining races?
  • What would it take for Sanders to win the pledged delegates race?

In order to answer the first question, we regress pledged delegates won by Clinton vs. Sanders for primaries on March 1st and before against the “racial makeup” of those states and check the quality of the fit. The purpose of the regression is to find a set of optimal coefficients that, when multiplied by the “racial demographics” of each state and then by the number of delegates available for that state, result in a set of calculated pledged delegates that match as closely as possible the actual delegates won by each candidate for states that have already voted. The results of the regression are listed in Table 1:

Table 1 Clinton vs Sanders

Table 1. Actual pledged delegates won by Clinton vs. Sanders compared against calculated pledged delegates from regression model

The quality of the fit can intuitively be appreciated by comparing the results of the regression (columns labeled “Projected Delegates”) vs. number of delegates actually won (columns labeled “Delegates Won”) on a state by state level. The closer the regression results are to the actuals (i.e. the closer the “Projected Delegates Delta” columns are to 0), the better the fit. Even though the regression is not perfect (in the sense that the delta between our regression results and the actuals is not 0 for each state), the deviations are relatively minor. Mathematically, this intuition can be assessed more formally by checking the R2 coefficient of the regression (there are other ways as well). The closer this coefficient is to 1, the better the regression is. Given that our R2 coefficient is 0.99 for Clinton and 0.965 for Sanders (the adjusted R2 for Clinton is 0.986 and 0.952 for Sanders), we can conclude that this a good regression (see here and here for a good introduction to regression). This implies that there is a strong correlation between candidate preference and the “racial make-up” of a state, at least based on the states that voted on March 1st and before. Although this strong correlation doesn’t necessarily imply anything causal on its own (in the sense that this could be a spurious correlation), there seems to be a lot of independent evidence that this is indeed a meaningful correlation.

And what of the regression coefficients that yielded the above results? It will come as no surprise that the coefficients reflect what we expected, which is to say that minorities play a very important part of Clinton’s success, while the White vote explains most of Sanders’ success.  For completeness, we list the coefficients here:

Regression coefficients Clinton vs Sanders

In order to answer the second question, we multiply the regression coefficients by the “racial makeup” of future states and then by the pledged delegates available for those future states to project future primaries. Our total projected delegates for these future states is presented in table 2:

Table 2 Clinton vs Sanders

Table 2. Projected pledged delegates from regression model

If we look at the projections based on our regression method, we see that Sanders performs better than Clinton in states with a large fraction of White voters, while Clinton does better in more diverse states. Overall, we expect that Clinton will win 2321 delegates (57.3% of total pledged delegates) vs. Sanders’ 1730 delegates (42.7%). As such, we can see that Sanders loses the pledged delegates vote handily.

The third and final question can now be asked: what would it take for Sanders to win? We choose to answer this question by asking a proxy question: what would the candidate preference by White / Black / Hispanic voters have to be going forward for Sanders to win the nomination?

There are multiple ways to do this, and we run three different scenarios. For all scenarios, we assume that the future popular vote won is proportional to the number of pledged delegates won; this is a reasonable assumption, on average, as the Democratic primaries proportionally allocate their delegates once a 15% threshold of the vote is met:

  • Assuming minorities continue voting as they have in states that have already voted, Sanders would have to win about 70% of the White vote going forward. Given that Sanders has only managed to win 48% of the White vote so far, expecting him to win an additional 20%+ going forward seems implausible.
  • Assuming Sanders continues to capture the same amount of the White vote as he has, he would need to capture 70% of the Black and Hispanic vote to win the nomination. This seems even more implausible given his current percentages with minorities.
  • Assuming Sanders captures 60% of the White vote (a +12% increase vs. today), he would need to capture 50% of the Black and Hispanic vote (a +36% and +14% increase vs. today, respectively) to win the nomination. As such, even with such a drastic increase in the White vote captured, Sanders would somehow have to triple his percentage with Black voters, and significantly increase his support with Hispanics. Again, this simply does not seem realistic.

Note that throughout this analysis, we have ignored super-delegates (who favor Clinton). One of the interesting conclusions resulting from this exercise is that talk of super-delegates in this race is superfluous: unless Clinton gets forced out of the race (because she gets indicted, imprisoned, or some other far-fetched scenario) Sanders is extremely unlikely to win the popular vote, because of demographics.

Some notes:

“Racial makeup” in red in Tables 1 and 2 come from 2016 democratic primary exit polls; in black from 2008 democratic primary exit polls (note that this helps Sanders as minorities, which Clinton wins handily, have increased their percentages over the past 8 years); in blue for Florida from the latest 2016 democratic primary poll available; in green from the “racial make-up” of the state as a whole (no better data was available) based on, for the most part, the 2010 census; in gray for Democrats Abroad based on an assumption that neither candidate is favored given lack of information.

Encouraging ethnic cleansing in Congress

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Palestinian refugees flee Galilee in the fall of 1948 (Fred Csasznik)

How many of us know that as recently as Nov 2014, a US Congressman in the House introduced legislation that calls on Israel to formally annex all the Palestinian Occupied Territories (West Bank / Gaza / East Jerusalem) and encourages the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from these territories?

The bill was introduced by Steve Stockman (Texas, 36th district) and was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it (thankfully) died. Stockman isn’t in Congress anymore, but the fact that this shit even gets introduced by these people is mind-bending. The best part of this bill is that it was pitched as a service for Palestinians to “increase their standards of living” and is dubbed “The Right of Return Act”. To where you might ask? Jordan. You really can’t make this stuff up.

H.R. 5734 (113th): Right of Return Act

Excerpt: […]

“The Congress of the United States shall take the following course of action:

(1) The Secretary of State shall call for the State of Israel to increase the standard of living of those living in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza by extending its sovereignty over those territories, and for the Palestinian Arab residents currently residing in those areas to be granted citizenship in the countries that controlled those territories from 1949 to 1967 and have a right of return to those countries.

(2) As long as part of the unity government of the Palestinian Authority refuses to allow the right of return to the countries that controlled Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from 1949 to 1967, no funds appropriated by Congress under any Act may be obligated or expended to provide any United States assistance, loan guarantee, or debt relief to the Palestinian Authority.

(3) The Secretary of State of the United States shall take such action as will ensure that refugees are allowed to be properly allowed to return into their host countries in accordance with the regulations set forth by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

(4) All United States assistance, loan guarantee, and debt relief that currently goes to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) shall instead be used to assist those who exercise their right of return to the countries who controlled Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from 1949 to 1967”

 

 

Zionism’s collaboration with Nazism

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In light of the Haj Amin Al Husseini kerfuffle, it’s interesting to look back at those times and understand who else was collaborating with Hitler. This may not be news to some, but it might surprise others to know that certain elements of the Jewish Zionist leadership were positively dealing with Hitler, or busy cutting deals with Hitler, or straight up collaborating (or trying to collaborate) with Hitler.

There was the visit by SS officer Leopold von Mildestein to Palestine hosted by the Zionist Federation that resulted in a tour of Palestine to showcase Zionist accomplishments. Von Mildestein was so happy with his visit that the German daily Der Angriff issued a special medal to commemorate the occasion in 1934: a Nazi swastika on one side and the Star of David on the other side. See here.

There was the famous transfer agreement (or Havaara) between the Nazis and the Zionists that allowed German Jews to emigrate to Palestine indirectly with their wealth by depositing the latter into a special account that would be used to buy German goods, which would then be exported to Palestine and sold there, with the sales money transferred back to the newly immigrated Jews in Palestine. Needless to say, world Jewry was totally opposed to this as it violated the world wide boycott of German goods asked for by them.

Another egregious example of collaboration was the surreal offer made by leaders of LEHI (the Stern gang or NMO) to the Nazis in 1941-42 to fight on their side of the war (keep in mind that future prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir belonged to this organization):

“The NMO, which is well-acquainted with the goodwill of the German Reich government and its authorities towards Zionist activity inside Germany and towards Zionist emigration plans, is of the opinion that:

Common interests could exist between the establishment of a new order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO.

Cooperation between the new Germany and a renewed folkish-national Hebraium would be possible and,

The establishment of the historic Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, bound by a treaty with the German Reich, would be in the interest of a maintained and strengthened future German position of power in the Near East.”

There are many other examples one can cite, but this is a representative sample of Zionist hypocrisy.

Charlie

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I stand with freedom of speech, and the right of everyone, including bigots and racists, to freely express themselves and their ideas; as such,‪#‎jesuisCharlie. I do not stand with or support the freely expressed opinions of everyone, in particular those of racists and bigots; as such,‪#‎jenesuispasCharlie.

I understand and appreciate the position of many of my Muslim friends who have chosen to publically condemn the massacres and who have tried to explain that Islamic teachings do not condone in the slightest these attacks in order to educate, but I stand with my Muslim friends who refuse, on principle, to condemn these attacks. The latter refuse to condemn not because they condone these attacks (they don’t), and not because they don’t support freedom of speech (they do), and not because they don’t consider this to be a heinous attack on innocent civilians (they do), but because they refuse to play this condemnation game whose underlying logic they recognize as essentially bigoted. I say bigoted because the implicit logic here is that unless they publically condemn this attack, they are deemed to be complicit in this attack by virtue of their silence, and solely because they share the same faith as extremists who claim to be acting in defense of that faith. As such, their refusal to condemn is a refusal to acknowledge this bigoted logic. On a deeper level, the fact that they feel it necessary to take this principled stance is a reflection of a certain Zeitgeist, especially in the West, that has permeated social discourse on these issues. Sometimes, this is explicitly vocalized by aforementioned bigots in the form of “why aren’t the moderate Muslims speaking out against these attacks!?”, but most of the time, it is more subtle and expressed in the form of suspicion and un-trust towards Muslims in different spheres of life. This creates a poisonous atmosphere where the targeted group begins to feel the walls closing in; thus defiance and the principled stand.

I do not stand with hypocritical proclamations coming from the leaders of France about their unequivocal support for freedom of speech as a universal value that ought to be protected and that serves as a fundamental pillar of French values. I say hypocritical because when freedom of speech is elevated to a universal value (as it should be), but only selectively enforced, then that claim to universality is automatically undermined. Leaving aside the historical fact that the French law advocating for freedom of speech, passed in 1881, was explicitly shaped to exclude France’s colonial subjects, including Algerian Muslims, from exercising that freedom, freedom of speech continues to be selectively enforced today across different facets of French policy. It is selectively enforced within France when that freedom of speech is not accorded to some who wish to criticize certain religions or events, and selectively enforced when it interferes with certain business interests of the French Republic. The latter is especially ironic when one examines the relationship between France and Saudi Arabia. At the same exact moment that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were occurring, a world away in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi blogger by the name of Raif Badawi was publically flogged 50 times in public for running a liberal website that criticized Saudi rulers and the ruling Wahhabi ideology. Badawi was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1000 public lashes (50 of which were administered a few days ago) and 10 years of prison for exercising his freedom of speech. Meanwhile, France has been busy supplanting the US in becoming Saudi Arabia’s leading arms dealer; Hollande, in particular, has been leading this charge. Raif Badawi’s freedom of speech, which he used to criticize this ideology that is responsible for so much of the Islamic extremism that we see today including the Charlie Hebdo massacres, is one that is conveniently not being supported by France, by virtue of their continued business dealings with the Saudis. And to be clear, Badawi is not the only victim of this oppression: Mohammed al-Qahtani, Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammed al-Bajadi, Abd- al-Kareem al-Khodr, Omar al-Saeed and countless others have had their freedom of speech denied by the Saudi state, and yet, their freedom of speech is not deemed worthy of being defended by France (by for instance, terminating their arms deals with the Saudis).

These dynamics and other underlying issues that I’ve failed to highlight in this post are worthy of being examined and unpacked as a result of this tragedy, so hopefully, we can have a good discussion that goes beyond the usual clichés.

To moderate Muslims: Condemn!

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hannity-muslims

Every time some atrocity is committed by some individual or group “in the name of Islam”, you inevitably hear someone say: “why aren’t the moderate Muslims condemning this atrocity?”. I’m really tired of hearing this complaint over and over again. Here’s why:

1) There are “moderate Muslims” that condemn this atrocity. There are many who do so in English, and many more that do so in Arabic. The fact that you haven’t heard anyone condemning it (by virtue of you asking the question) reflects more on you than anyone else: you should either consider befriending more Muslims and/or learn Arabic. In fact, there is quite the vigorous debate within the Arab/Islamic world about whether Islam allows for the atrocious acts to be done in its name. So that we don’t hide behind our finger (like we say in Arabic), yes, there are fundamentalist schools of Islamic thought that have been adopted by some in the Muslim world, and yes, they do have access to funds. However, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of Islamic schools of thought and their scholars (and by extension, their adherents) do not condone these atrocities.

2) There is clearly a double standard when it comes to atrocities committed by some “in the name of Islam” vs. others committed in the name of some other religion. For example, take the state of Israel, an admittedly Jewish state that purports to speak on behalf of Jews world-wide. Does anyone ask “moderate Jews” to condemn the heinous atrocities and massacres committed by the State of Israel against Palestinians and other Arabs? Or what about Christian Zionists who provide invaluable financial, political and moral support to the State of Israel in committing these atrocities by virtue of their interpretation of the Bible? Does anyone ask “moderate Christians” to condemn the support provided by Christian Zionists to the State of Israel in committing these atrocities? Or what about the group of fundamentalist Buddhists of Myanmar who have no problem massacring the Rohingya Muslims? Does anyone ask “moderate Buddhists” to condemn these massacres? The list goes on and on.

3) Most importantly, Muslims shouldn’t be asked to condemn anything at all done in the name of Islam in the first place. I don’t tend to use the racist or bigot card very often, but the statement “why aren’t the moderate Muslims condemning this atrocity?” is actually a bigoted statement, and demonstrably so. The statement implies that the lack of explicit condemnation is (tacit) approval, for otherwise, why ask the question? To be clear, the implication here is that unless there is explicit condemnation by some (moderate) Muslims, then *all* Muslims (tacitly) approve of this atrocity. This follows logically, for if you believed that there were moderate Muslims that didn’t approve but chose to be quiet for instance, then you wouldn’t be asking for explicit condemnation (since you would already know that there were “moderate” Muslims that didn’t approve of this atrocity, but chose to be quiet). As such, anytime anyone claims that *all* members of a group are “fill in the blank”, he is clearly making a bigoted statement. This applies to any and all groups, whether Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists or anyone else.

In conclusion, just stop with the complaining, and examine your own assumptions.

American vs. Lebanese Democracy

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Activists threw tomatoes at banner bearing pictures of members of parliament and marked ‘You have failed’ [EPA; Al Jazeera]

Today, American citizens go to vote in their mid-term elections that will likely result in a different Congress. In a couple of days, Lebanese parliamentarians go to vote for themselves to extend their already illegal mandate.

In my more cynical moments, I ask myself whether the former is better than the latter. Is it better to engage in an illusion of democracy, where research has shown that the average American voter has essentially no impact of policy in this country, or is it better to simply not delude oneself in thinking that voting makes a difference within the context of a dysfunctional system (whether of the American or Lebanese variety) by simply not having that ability to vote (and until the system is fixed).

Is it better to derive satisfaction from casting a vote for an elephant or a donkey that both turn into lap dogs beholden to special interest groups once in power and whose positions are almost identical on most topics (minus details), or is it better to rip that veneer of respectability and that veil of deceit by publically giving the middle finger to your people and saying fuck it: you all knew this was a charade anyway, and now we’re making it official; no vote for you.

Unless the outcome of voting is a reflection of the will of the people (on policy issues), what’s the point in engaging in this meaningless exercise every 2 or 4 years? Perhaps the system needs to descend into levels of Lebanese dysfunctionality in order to have an honest conversation about fixing a Democracy with no clothes.