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Thank You Helen Thomas

June 10, 2010

I’ve been truly disgusted with the controversy surrounding Helen Thomas’ ouster from the job she has performed admirably for over 50 years. She deserved much better than being dismissed for comments made when some crappy little teenager shoved a microphone into her face looking for a “gotcha” moment. Even those who ostensibly defend her and mention that others have said for worse repeatedly still acquiesce to the conventional Beltway “wisdom” that her remarks were anti-semitic. Here’s one example I saw in the Boston Globe today although I’ve run across many others.

But the official reason for her departure is anti-Semitism.

Asked if she had a message for Israel, Thomas said, “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.’’ If she had stopped there and not said Jews should “go home’’ to Poland and Germany, would that have been enough to incite the controversy that followed?

For accuracy’s sake, I believe she also said they should go back to the US. And I have to ask, why exactly is that anti-semitic? Israel actively encourages Jewish people living outside of Israel to move there and in conjunction with the United States provides financial support for settlers to build on land which belongs to the Palestinians, something which is clearly illegal under international law. There are numerous stories documenting this over a period of many many years and yet it is something that is rarely mentioned publicly in the Beltway. Here are just a couple articles easily found with a quick search.

From Reuters/Alternet – US tax breaks help Jewish settlers in West Bank .

The full extent of tax-exempt U.S. funding for settlements is unclear because so many groups are involved and their spending practices are not always transparent.

But a review by Reuters of U.S. tax records found 13 tax-exempt organisations openly linked to settlements that have raised more than $35 million in the last five years alone.

~snip~

In one example, when settlers took over a new building in the flashpoint city of Hebron last year, a tax-exempt New York organisation sprang into action to solicit funds for renovations to accommodate more families.

The Hebron Fund, which raises an average of $1.5 million a year to support Jewish settlers in the city, and other groups said they were as entitled to tax exemptions as other charities.

And from a post by Anna Baltzer, a Jewish American who has been documenting human rights abuses and supporting nonviolent direct action in the West Bank with the Int’l Women’s Peace Service:

In spite of international law, Israel not only condones the illegal settlements, but actively supports their establishment and growth. For example, the Israeli government subsidizes housing, water, electricity, transportation, and many other services for settlers. By declaring settlements “national priority areas,” the illegal colonies are entitled to 65% more grants than local councils in Israel, and financial assistance to lease land at rates well below the actual value.[2] Israel also offers tax breaks, business incentives, free schooling, and mortgage grants up to 95% in the settlements[3] to attract new Jewish citizens to become part of the occupying presence. The larger the Israeli population in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, the stronger Israel’s claim to that land becomes.

On an Israeli road outside of Ariel settlement near our house, a Hebrew billboard announces to passersby, “Now is the time to move to Ariel. Join our community, and you will receive 100,000 New Israeli Shekels.” That’s more than US$20,000. Advertisements like this appeal not to well-off Israelis, but rather to poorer Israelis, like young families, recent immigrants, or Israelis of color.

For bringing up what should be obvious her remarks are twisted and Thomas winds up out of a job. And it isn’t difficult at all to find more, and yet nobody seems to mention this when discussing Thomas’ remarks. If they did, they might have to admit that perhaps Thomas had a point. If they did, the question might be asked of her critics if they were going after Thomas simply because she was of Lebanese descent, especially as the most vocal of her recent critics have made a pretty good living for themselves demonizing the Arab world among the other nonsense they spit forth on a daily basis. Much easier to cry “Racist!” and get rid of one of the last people willing to bring up points the Beltway royalty and their lackeys find inconvenient.

So thank you Helen Thomas for 50 years of responsible journalism that kept us all better informed. Thank you for being willing to ask the hard questions of our leaders and not simply being a stenographer for power as is the norm these days. Here’s hoping you and Bill Moyers continue to kick some ass during your much deserved retirements.

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27 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    June 10, 2010 11:40 am

    Been keeping my eye out for anything from the Unreasonable Woman Diane Wilson regarding the Gulf disaster. Looks like she made an appearance in the Senate yesterday.

    A Senate hearing on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was disrupted Wednesday as a protester poured an oily-looking liquid on herself before being arrested.

    “This is what it feels like to have oil dumped on you,” the woman, identified as Diane Wilson, said in comments addressed to Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

    Wilson issued a statement issued later saying she is a fourth generation shrimper from the Gulf and that her protest was directed against Murkowski for supporting the oil industry and opposing measures such as lifting the liability cap on oil firms in offshore spills.

    Wilson opened a jar and poured a dark, oily-looking substance on her head at the hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, before being taken away by Capitol police.

    Take that Murkowski!

    • Stemella permalink*
      June 10, 2010 11:44 am

      Next time she should bring a water squirter filled with the stuff and strafe the bunch of them. Molasses would do nicely. :)

      • cometman permalink*
        June 10, 2010 12:26 pm

        The Senate should be glad that’s all she did. Others are reacting a little more harshly – Bullets Shatter Glass at BP Gas Station.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    June 10, 2010 11:41 am

    The good guys and gals get tossed first, as did Helen. Judith Miller survived. All the hacks whose so called journalistic efforts supported Bush’s dirty wars and corporate cronyism survived. Helen Thomas has been a stellar and courageous journalist my entire life and longer, asking the kind of questions her colleagues have been either too cowardly or too compromised to ask.

    It says more about the current state of media and politics that she would be so quickly and summarily dismissed and written off. This country clearly remains in the grip of centrist right AIPAC loving corporatists. It is no coincidence that Bill Clinton is back at the head of the Democratic Pary establishment, strong arming races to keep the DLC types in power; kicking non neo liberals to the curb. Helen Thomas is one of those kicked to that same curb. She is in good company.

    I hope Ms. Thomas takes some time to enjoy her time out of the rat race and that she then writes a massive book telling us all what for, as a record of what has been lost by this country with this her ouster.

    Here’s another take on the issue from Robert Scheer: On the Vilification of Helen Thomas

    • cometman permalink*
      June 10, 2010 12:21 pm

      Even Scheer, who I admire and who wrote a good article about her here, feels it necessary to include that he feels Thomas’ comments were deeply wrong. Unless her intent was that everyone in Israel get the hell out, I don’t see what was necessarily wrong about what she said, and I really don’t believe that was her intent. Of course I don’t know her personally and am making a subjective judgment, but still, so are those who would demonize her for off the cuff remarks made in haste where she wasn’t able to make her intent clear. I’m sure if she had been asked in an official interview or was asking questions herself as part of her job, she would not have phrased things that way at all and probably would have elaborated a bit more and I’m certain that she is well aware of the points I brought up above. The Israelis are illegally occupying Palestinian land and those who settle there illegally should get the hell out.

      If she does manage to get a book out, I’ll be buying it.

    • cometman permalink*
      June 10, 2010 12:35 pm

      Here’s another on Thomas from another guy I admire, William Rivers Pitt, who also goes out of his way to condemn her remarks before heaping praise on her – I Come to Praise Helen Thomas, Not to Bury Her. What is so hard about just praising her without first inserting the obligatory verbiage about how her comments were wrong? I suspect that even decent journalists like Scheer and Pitt feel they have to or the Israeli lobby will be all over them too.

      Her remarks were very very blunt to be sure and easy to (deliberately, by some) misconstrue, but lacking context and intent I just don’t think her remarks were anti-semitic and thus “wrong”.

      I have a lot of respect for you and melvin and the others who post here from time to time too, so if I’m off base here and just being tone deaf or I’m projecting too much of my own thoughts into what Thomas said, please feel free to let me know. Lay into me if you want, I promise I won’t bite :) I just don’t get this at all.

      • artemis54 permalink
        June 10, 2010 1:30 pm

        Well I for one am in complete agreement.

        It is forbidden in the US to discuss the subject freely they way people are allowed to in, say, the Israeli press. Find the most “offensive” fragment and play it over and over to slap the sticker on her and ship her off. They should set fire to that chair rather than seat a Fox shill in it.

        Predictably, the scumbucket Joe Scarborough suggested that at 89 or whatever she has gone senile. In an honest debate she would slice him to ribbons even if he brought along his little band of codependent weenies.

        • cometman permalink*
          June 10, 2010 1:41 pm

          Thanks. I’ve read so many articles in the last few days (and even a couple more since I posted these last few comments on the subject) where even Thomas’ defenders wring their hands about her “wrong” comments that I was really wondering if I was the only person who felt this way.

          I really don’t like discussing this Israel-Palestine stuff much at all since rational discussion seems impossible, but this incident has really got me frosted.

          • Stemella permalink*
            June 11, 2010 8:09 am

            All those qualifiers written by people who otherwise support Thomas are doing the Ben Dover for the great American tabu. It is simply unacceptable to overtly criticize Israel in public lest other talking heads brand one as an Amadinejad like fanatic.

            The hand wringing is the price to be paid lest they be treated the same way as Thomas by the oh so powerful conventional wisdom (cough puke cough).

    • cometman permalink*
      June 10, 2010 1:06 pm

      Here’s one where the author does not feel the need to elaborate on Thomas’ “wrongness” and does put her comments into a little more context than the two soundbites that keep being mentioned and replayed –The Ambush of Helen Thomas.

      Between saying they should “get the hell out of Palestine” and they should “go back to Poland or Germany or the US” she does in fact specifically mention the illegal occupation.

      Smiling in grandmotherly fashion—-the way an 89 year-old woman might do when suddenly approached by an 17 year old boy who seems sincerely interested in her thoughts—she replies: “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.”

      “Oooh…” responds the questioner. “Any better comments?” (A voice in the background: “Helen is fun!”)

      “Hah hah hah,” laughs Helen. “ Remember these people are occupied, and it’s their land, not German, and not Poland.”

      “So where should they go? What should they do?”

      “They could go home. Poland. Germany.”

      “Where’s home? You’re saying Jews should go back to Poland and Germany?”

      “And America and everywhere else.”

  3. cometman permalink*
    June 10, 2010 12:40 pm

    Here’s one the Supremes snuck by without much notice that negatively affects democracy in AZ and likely in my own state as well which also has a clean elections program – Keeping Politics Safe for the Rich.

    In a burst of judicial activism, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upended the gubernatorial race in Arizona, cutting off matching funds to candidates participating in the state’s public campaign finance system. Suddenly, three candidates, including Gov. Jan Brewer, can no longer receive public funds they had counted on to run against a free-spending wealthy opponent.

    for those not familiar with the clean elections system, which may now disappear before the rest of the country gets a chance to find out about it:

    The system gives qualifying candidates a lump-sum grant for their primary or general election races in exchange for which the candidates agree not to raise large private contributions. If an opposing candidate is not participating in the system and spends more than the lump-sum grant, the participating candidate qualifies for additional matching funds.

    The ratfuckers who opt out of the program can still spend any ungodly sum they want to attempt to buy their way into office, but that was evidently not enough for these greedy bastards. Gotta make sure the little guy gets stomped on too. Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  4. cometman permalink*
    June 10, 2010 1:09 pm

    Guess it shouldn’t be too surprising that Thomas was forced out in a country where shit like this still goes on – The Ordeal of Curtis Flowers .

    Guess it isn’t racism when “real” white Mericuns are the ones doing it.

  5. artemis54 permalink
    June 10, 2010 1:35 pm

    btw, Feinstein went into a regular standup schtick over that “Western Conference” baloney from Barasso etc. She pointed out that California has more population than this WC thing all together, and yet somehow she wasn’t invited, going on to cite the number of Californians with asthma and saying that number was greater than the whole population of any of the WC states. As I noted, how is it a western caucus without Cali, WA, or OR? Would you have a Northeast Caucus and leave out Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire?

    • cometman permalink*
      June 10, 2010 1:44 pm

      I wouldn’t. But if New York were hosting the conference, they might ;)

  6. artemis54 permalink
    June 10, 2010 2:59 pm

    Whoa! You’re not going to believe who’s grasping the third rail of environmentalism.

    The Anglican Church of Australia is condemning incentives to breed on grounds of intergenerational equity.

    Unless we take account of the needs of future life on Earth, there is a case that we break the eighth commandment – “Thou shall not steal”.

    Equally interesting is the passage about “care for . . . life forms who cannot speak for themselves. . .”

    But perhaps not so strange that it comes from Australia, more conscious every day of it hideous environmental record and one of few places that has codified in official policy that biodiversity and the natural world have intrinsic value in themselves without regard to any utility for humans.

    • cometman permalink*
      June 11, 2010 11:55 am

      That is an interesting interpretation of “Thou shalt not steal” but if it gets people to realize that the planet does not have an infinite carrying capacity, then good for them.

      And having a population minister who is considering the consequences could be a great idea. At the very least I think governments should stop encouraging people to have too many children by eliminating tax incentives for every child. Allow people to deduct 2-3 children on their taxes, and if they want more than that they’ll have to figure out how to pay for them. Limit welfare benefits to the same 2-3 children per family. People in most developed countries seem to already be limiting their family sizes so I don’t think such measures would be all that drastic.

      Of course if the population minister decides Australia just needs to get Monsanto to produce more frankenfoods to feed the population no matter how big it gets, that wouldn’t be such a great idea.

  7. artemis54 permalink
    June 10, 2010 3:14 pm

    Hallelujah!

    EPA to ban use of endosulfan in the United States

    Let’s see Murkowski overturn this.

    • Stemella permalink*
      June 11, 2010 8:21 am

      That is very good news.

      To balance it out with some shitty news, California may allow highly toxic methyl iodide for use on strawberries to replace the banned methyl bromide.

      State poised to OK supertoxic pesticide

      and lest you think your organic fruit juice and canned fruit is safe,

      Group Finds Lead In Kids’ Drinks

      The products tested range from nationally recognized brands to more niche market favorites, but the results were troubling across the board. A single serving of Raley’s private-labeled premium apple juice, Santa Cruz Organic Concord Grape Juice and Dole Pear Halves each contain levels of lead beyond what federal regulators consider safe.

      In a written statement, the West Coast supermarket chain Raley’s said the company was surprised by the lead levels since its suppliers and private brands routinely monitor their products, but the company says it has ordered independent tests to check for lead.

      A spokesman for the J.M. Smucker Company, which owns Santa Cruz Organics, says the company did not have enough information to investigate the claims being made.

      Lovely. :(

  8. artemis54 permalink
    June 11, 2010 11:10 am

    Iceland’s parliament has legalized gay marriage.

    The vote was unanimous.

  9. Stemella permalink*
    June 11, 2010 11:30 am

    Announcement from your friendly on-line weekend music and entertainment corndinator:

    Bonnaroo Festival 2010 available streaming live on you tube here

    Bonnaroo Music Fest

    Here is the schedule (in Central Time) for the next three days

    Friday, June 11th

    Julia Nunes – 12: 15 pm – 1:15 pm
    Neon Indian – 1:15 pm – 1:45 pm
    Carolina Chocolate Drops – 1:45 pm – 3:00 pm
    The Temper Trap – 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm
    The Dodos – 3:30 pm – 4:00 pm
    Damian Marley & Nas- 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
    Mayer Hawtorne and the Country – 5:30 pm – 5:45 pm
    The National – 5:45 pm – 7:15 pm
    Tori Amos – 7:15 pm – 8:00 pm
    Michael Franti & Spearhead – 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm
    Tenacious D – 9:30 pm – 11:00 pm

    Saturday, June 12th

    Punch Brothers ft. Chris Thile – 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
    Gaslight Anthem – 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
    Norah Jones – 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
    Trombone Shorty – 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
    Mumford & Sons – 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
    The Dead Weather – 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
    Umphrey’s McGee – 7:30 pm – 7:55 pm
    Jimmy Cliff – 7:55 pm – 9:25 pm
    LCD Soundsystem – 9:25 pm – 10:55 pm
    Kings of Leon – 10:55 pm – 11:30 pm
    Jay -Z – 11:30 pm – 1:30 am

    Sunday, June 13th

    The Avett Brothers – 12:30 pm 1:45 pm
    John Butler Trio – 1:45 pm – 3:00 pm
    Regina Spektor – 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
    John Fogerty – 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
    Weezer – 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
    Zac Brown Band – 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
    Ween – 8:00 pm – 8:30 pm
    Rise Against – 8:30 pm – 9:00 pm
    Dave Matthews Band – 9:00 pm – 11:30 pm

    • cometman permalink*
      June 11, 2010 12:04 pm

      Very nice. That’s some very good sound and video quality! Noticed that the nice music isn’t keeping people from scrapping with each other in the comments section though over something to do with the BP spill :)

      I did get tickets for that Maine music festival on the 4th of July weekend by the way. Can’t wait to see the Dweez!

      • Stemella permalink*
        June 11, 2010 12:52 pm

        You lucky Nautilus, you! I sure wish I could have pulled that off, but fate has other plans for me this July. Someday I’ll make it to a Dweeze fest of some sort.

        A band at the moment “Carolina Chocolate Drops” is playing jug band music with an actual jug. I had no idea that a jug could be made to sound like a digeradoo!

  10. cometman permalink*
    June 11, 2010 12:21 pm

    I thought I was pissed off about Helen Thomas being shown the door. Check out Arthur Silber, who explains why telling Israelis who are illegally occupying Palestine to go back where they came from is exactly like white people telling blacks to go back to Africa. This one’s going to leave a mark – A Friendly Note to Many of Israel’s Defenders . The whole thing is worth a read but here’s the gist –

    I am forced to admit that the comparison is staggering in its power. It makes the point with concision, and the historic parallels are overwhelming. To review briefly, and despite the very painful familiarity of these facts: significant numbers of Africans voluntarily, indeed enthusiastically, migrated westward and took over large parts of the eastern seaboard of what was then the United States beginning in the mid-1800s. They were able to do this because they had the unending support in a multitude of forms of the most powerful Nation-States of the time. The Africans claimed that a special dispensation from … well, something or other … ordained that the land mass designated by the name “United States” was uniquely theirs. The Nation-States that made possible the Africans’ conquest and domination agreed.

    In the ensuing century and a half, the Africans slaughtered most of those they found living in the United States, beginning in the eastern states and then steadily continuing their campaign of murder and destruction across the continent. The few survivors fled further and further west. The Africans inexorably pursued them, all still with the backing of certain immensely powerful Nation-States. Eventually, the Africans drove the remaining previous inhabitants of the United States into just three or four very small areas in (what were then called) Arizona and New Mexico. From that point on and continuing to the present, the Africans forbade virtually anyone and anything from moving into or out of these impossibly restricted areas. Although it is rarely talked about or admitted, people will eventually acknowledge, when pressed, that the Americans forced to remain in these concentration camps must endure conditions that are among the most nightmarish on earth.

  11. cometman permalink*
    June 11, 2010 1:20 pm

    Link dump with several different subjects to note –

    Saw this one at a few places, but Naked capitalism also posted this video which does seem to show that the border patrol agent who shot down a Mexican kid wasn’t exactly in imminent danger – Video of Border Shooting of 15 Year Old Disproves “Self Defense”. I really like that she has been pulling non-financially related links from sites I read regularly before ever discovering hers – Chris Floyd, Raw Story, etc. – the kind of sites that the Klub Kumquateers like to say aren’t reliable because they don’t spout the Democratic party line.

    Glenn Greenwald uses the recent Dem primary in Arkansas to explain why the bullshit excuses of not having a big enough majority to get anything done that doesn’t benefit the corporations are nothing but bullshit excuses – The Democratic Party and Blanche Lincoln.

    So what did the Democratic Party establishment do when a Senator who allegedly impedes their agenda faced a primary challenger who would be more supportive of that agenda? They engaged in full-scale efforts to support Blanche Lincoln. Bill Clinton traveled to Arkansas to urge loyal Democrats to vote for her, bashing liberal groups for good measure. Obama recorded an ad for Lincoln which, among other things, were used to tell African-American primary voters that they should vote for her because she works for their interests. The entire Party infrastructure lent its support and resources to Lincoln — a Senator who supposedly prevents Democrats from doing all sorts of Wonderful, Progressive Things which they so wish they could do but just don’t have the votes for.

    Good one explaining how the world really works and the current relationship between states and the corporations they carry water for – The State as Protection Racket .

    Mike Whitney notes that the Europeans are doing the exact same thing as their US counterparts regarding the ratfucker bankers, handing out free money and moving bad debt from private tabs to the public tab to hide the fact that they are insolvent – Another Bank Bailout .

    And finally, wikileaks founder Julian Assange better keep his head up. I’d mentioned a few days ago that authorities had apprehended Bradley Manning, the soldier who leaked the helicopter attack video to wikileaks. Supposedly he had also handed over a whole bunch of other documents and now the Pentagon is trying to find Assange before he can release them.

    Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast.

    ~snip~

    Wikileaks has not replied directly to email messages from The Daily Beast.

    However, in cryptic messages he sent this week via Twitter, Wikileaks referred to an earlier Daily Beast article on the investigation of Manning and said that it “looks like we’re about to be attacked by everything the U.S. has.”

    Post them and run like hell Julian!

    • Stemella permalink*
      June 11, 2010 1:46 pm

      Daniel Ellsberg is on Ratigan’s show right now saying essentially the same thing. Ellsberg had some choice words for Barry too, saying that <O promised transparency and that he's violated that promise. He says that O's hit squad policy to take out American's should it have existed when he released the Pentagon Papers would have resulted in his murder if it existed then. Hence he suggests that Assange keep his location secret.

  12. cometman permalink*
    June 11, 2010 1:40 pm

    Octocam! – live feed of the giant Pacific octopus at the Oregon State Hatfield Marine Science Center.

    Like most octopi, this one hides a lot but the site says it’s more active at feeding time which occurs at 1:00 PM Pacific Time every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. Going to put this one up on the blogroll.

    Have a nice weekend everybody!

  13. artemis54 permalink
    June 12, 2010 5:48 pm

    They’re dead, Jim

    Captain James T. Kirk joins campaign to save Canada’s wild salmon

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