About Those Benjamins and the Survival of Israel

TUCSON, Arizona - Donald Trump's daft assertion - “Democrats hate Jews” - not only reflects an Israel policy that fans smoldering anti-Semitism across the world but also threatens the very survival of a hard-won Jewish homeland in a region armed for Armageddon.

“Democrats have become an anti-Israel party,” Sarah Sanders told reporters recently. Then, sticking by that absurdity under harsh questioning, she added: “They've become an anti-Jewish party.”

Judaism is a faith and a heritage. Zionism is politics. They can overlap, or not. No one speaks for an ancient religion defined by perpetual argument. And if Jews did have a pope, he or she would hardly be Bibi Netanyahu, much less Sheldon Adelson, Trump's Israel-First funder.

Since 1967, I have reported off and on from Israel, nearly every Muslim country and European slums where Islamist zealots whip up hatreds. Today, I see Trump's embrace of hardcore Zionists feed growing hostility that risks conflict no one's God can stop.

Tom Friedman had it right in a New York Times column evoking an existential danger from Congress and AIPAC, the formidable lobbying group: “It's the threat that America will love Israel to death.”

If a two-state option remains open, negotiation is possible. “But once that's gone,” he wrote, “all hell will break loose in the Jewish world…It would rip apart every synagogue, Jewish Federation and Jewish institution in America.”

That's in the United States. Imagine the impact across the Middle East, beginning with the West Bank and Gaza with no Palestinian Authority to balance extremists.


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On Partisan Pit Bulls, Poodles and Trusty Watchdogs

TUCSON, Arizona – A local headline last week meant little to winter visitors here to see blazing wildflower color: “Corps Gives Rosemont Mine Final Permit for Construction.” Against a national backdrop, it was a calamitous sign of the times.

America’s watchdog reporters bark louder than ever when public trust is betrayed. Yet unless citizens react, ignoring partisan poodles and pit bulls who mislead them, newshounds might as well be coyotes howling futilely at the moon.

We all know the big picture. Too many people tune out “the media,” confused and overwhelmed. Donald Trump creates an alternate reality by default, burrowing into a White House from which he will be exceedingly hard to evict.

But a close look at the projected Rosemont copper mine shows how we are losing forever natural wealth and cultural heritage as a polarized nation fixates in closed loops on moronic Twitter babble and extraneous political circus. 

Over the past decade, federal and county agencies did what government regulators do: Specialists weighed facts and made decisions. They denied permits over water supply, air quality, impact on wildlife and wetlands, among others.

Trump’s approach is closer to Louis XIV’s: L’Etat, c’est moi. His minions had denials changed to approvals despite years of reporting in Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star, at the national level, and in an investigative website – Rosemont Mine Truth – that provides data and documents for anyone who troubles to notice.

The “Corps” in that Star headline is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has repeatedly refused a Clean Water Act permit. But the decision was moved up the chain of command until it was approved.

As a result, Hudbay Minerals of Toronto is to dig a vast open-pit mine. Environmental scientists say the $1.9 billion project would cripple Tucson’s water supply and destroy priceless splendor on national forest land sacred to Indians.


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A Coup Attempt, Plain and Simple; It Could Succeed

TUCSON, Arizona – Donald Trump’s Wall is illusory, but the writing on it seems clear enough. He is plotting a coup d’etat, gambling that divided Democrats, media sycophants, big money and people who don’t vote will enable his cult to make him a modern-day Mussolini.

Trump might watch next year’s elections play out as a disgraced has-been on the sidelines, perhaps behind bars, as Elizabeth Warren predicts. But that is a wishful long shot. If he is re-elected, America will find itself tested to a degree that is hard to imagine.

I’ve covered countless putsches since the 1960s. Military takeovers are swift, often bloody. Subverting democracy takes a lot longer. Either way, they require three essentials: fear of external threat; a rewarded ruling class that undercuts institutions; bullshit that buries truth.

Trump himself sketched out his scenario in singsong mockery when he elbowed aside Congress to confront his bogus border emergency. Legal challenges will work their way up past uncompromised judges to a Supreme Court that Mitch McConnell has allowed him to pack.

 Robert Mueller has already nailed six Americans close to Trump, along with 26 Russians. Andrew McCabe says Rod Rosenstein worried enough that the president might be Vladimir Putin’s stooge to suggest on two occasions that he wear a wire into the Oval Office.

That alone would oblige a real president to clear himself of suspicion and determine whether America’s fiercest foe was perverting its elections. Trump condemns “a ridiculous partisan investigation” and repeatedly tweets “NO COLLUSION!” as if it were only about him.


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On the Border: Prosecuting Americans for Saving Lives

SASABE, Arizona – A U.S. Army grunt freshly arrived from the Northwest was still puzzling over how to unwrap a tamale at the tumbledown general store and bar at this flyblown border outpost, but he had already sized up his mission to make America safe again.

“Kind of silly,” he said, with a chuckle. “Before, it would take a guy about ten seconds to get over that fence.” Now that troops have garlanded the steel uprights with concertina wire, he figures, “it’d take a little longer.” In any case, the fence ends five miles from here.

At the checkpoint, a veteran Customs and Border Protection agent, with a German shepherd and sharp eyes, echoed the soldier’s mirth. “I wish all those guys in Washington would spend just one day down here to see what the hell they’re talking about,” he said.

Not even the Berlin Wall was impervious, despite its machinegun towers and obstacle-strewn no man’s zone. Down here, 50 miles of forbidding desert watched by high-tech surveillance and green-striped SUVS do the job without evoking a hateful Evil Empire.  

After squandering perhaps half a billion dollars on a show of military farce, Donald Trump is sending another 3,750 troops to chew up the desert until September.

A clearly marked border, with sturdy fencing where useful, is hard to call immoral, as Nancy Pelosi does. Yet immoral is tepid understatement for Trump’s wild distortions to stoke fear and loathing among his base with a jihad aimed at anguished migrants and refugees.


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On Zapata, Bogey and Circling Vultures

TUCSON, Arizona - Two movie scenes, both by serendipitous circumstance from 1952, have always powered me through dark nights of the soul when it seemed as if humanity's better side was losing it. They may no longer be enough.

In “Viva Zapata,” peasants stop troops taking Marlon Brando - Zapata - to jail for resisting a corrupt president. One aims a machete at the telegraph line to prevent a call for backup. If you cut that, an officer shouts, it's rebellion. Brando growls, “Cut it!”

In “Deadline U.S.A.,” a mobster phones Humphrey Bogart, editor of “The New York Day” to warn him not to run an exposé, or else. “What's that noise?” he asks. Bogey replies: “That's the presses, baby. And there's nothing you can do to stop it.”

A growing number of outraged Americans are ready for rebellion. Presses roll at a big New York daily and another in Washington. In too many other cities, however, bad guys simply buy out newspapers, gut the staff, and dictate “content” that suits them.

Whether acquisitions are driven by politics or greed, the result is the same. As conflict, climate collapse and economic perils steadily worsen, Americans are fast losing touch with global reality.


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