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Matthew J. Webster – Writer

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My work, not The Forward’s

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(The following essay was submitted to The Forward opinion editor Batya Ungar–Sargon on 6/18/19. In an abhorrent — if typical and perfectly legal — example of journalistic hackery, Ungar-Sargon appears to have assigned the thesis of my submission to a staffer and published his “hot” take today.

I love good editors and want to work with them! If this one had responded whatsoever to my efforts, I would not be calling her out. Instead she blithely stole my idea.)

6/18/19 — LOS ANGELES — Matthew J. Webster

A worldwide legislative effort to discredit boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel continues apace.

In Germany, the country my Jewish grandfather fled for the US as an undocumented (I prefer “illegal”) refugee in 1939, the Bundestag last month moved to declare BDS activities anti-Semitic and illegitimate. The Netanyahu government is lobbying hard for Germany lawmakers to formally adopt and enforce the motion, which notes that the “Don’t Buy” stickers BDS activists have placed on Israeli products disturbingly recall the Nazi slogan “Don’t Buy From Jews.”

Merely suggesting that citizens have the right to boycott Israel can be career suicide in Germany, where recent anti-Semitic incidents have rattled the Jewish population of 200,000. Last week the director of Berlin’s Jewish museum resigned following backlash to his tweet referencing a letter signed by 240 Israeli and American scientists. The signatories, among them prominent anti-Semitism and Holocaust researchers, defended BDS as a legitimate, non-violent means of resistance.

In Israel, a law passed in 2017 barring BDS supporters from entering the country has to date mainly resulted in alienating two-plus million ethnic minorities and the outrageous detention of an American college student in October. A public benefit corporation staffed by former Netanyahu advisor Dore Gold and a pair of ex-generals has also received about $36 million of government funds to combat BDS, and datebooks of Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan confirmed that in 2018 Erdan met with Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen specifically to discuss “the struggle against the boycott.”

In my native US, 27 states have adopted legislation hoping to dissuade Americans from exercising their Constitutional freedoms specifically to criticize Israel, and Senate Teds Cruz and Kaine are now pushing a complementary federal bill.

I have to wonder if this is all a bit much. As permanently flawed as Israel may be, I love the country and don’t support BDS, because boycotts separate Israel’s critics from the very counterparts they should be dialoguing with.

On the other hand, data from the Brookings Institute estimate the effects of BDS on Israel’s economy are approximately zero, and you can’t effectively ban an idea. If my neighbor won’t buy wine grown in the Golan Heights for ideological reasons, what can I or the government do about it? And why is it so important to punish Israel’s critics for boycotting when they have little real impact?

US politicians sponsor anti-BDS legislation because it’s popular. Most Americans support Israel, and there is no major downside in espousing to protect it.

Germany’s history makes criticism of Israel even more fraught than in the US, but nothing (yet) stops thousands of people from demonstrating each year on al-Quds Day. Legislation calling their actions anti-Semitic will not influence their personal sentiments, and overzealous restrictions on speech may produce a reaction Germans absolutely do not want.

In 2016, federal judges rejected the last of many attempts to outlaw the NDP, an extreme-right wing, openly anti-Semitic political party, ruling the NDP had no real influence beyond municipal politics. The judges also noted that banning the group would not change the mentality of its members, who even after a ban could form a new party or change their votes to the much larger anti-immigration party, AfD. (Incidentally, AfD voted in favor of the January motion delegitimizing BDS.)

All men being equal in the eyes of the law, I hope the Bundestag will apply the same principles to the BDS movement. Mischaracterizing reasonable criticism of Israel’s administration as equivalent to anti-Semitism is repression, and creates a chilling effect where respectful debate is the only way forward.

Israel faces another general election in September. Netanyahu’s support of the 2017 anti-BDS law helped him curry favor with racist, extreme-right parties and win the April election. Meanwhile, insiders profit from the richly financed war on BDS.

I also hope Israeli voters will consider the cynicism of these arrangements, and how they are seen from abroad. The state of Israel is a thing, and Jews are people. When even Jews are afraid to openly evaluate Israel’s government, what future remains?

Written by webster71

July 10, 2019 at 14:20

Posted in Uncategorized

“Breaking up big banks” is BS.

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Former Secretary of Labor and cloying nudist Robert Reich has piped up in defense of Bernie Sanders, a transcript of whose interview with the NY Daily News seems to display some uncertainty regarding federal authority over large financial institutions.

But today the promise to go gangbusting on financial industries is a red herring raised ten years too late, and it’s improbable and dishonest coming from political candidates.

Dodd-Frank provides for federal liquidation and receivership of banks and other institutions even where the company’s board doesn’t want it to happen.

However, Sanders, Clinton and other pols who want to “break up the big banks” are ignoring the fact that these same institutions are the undisputed champions of complying with federal regulations.

That’s not easy to do, and it’s exactly how they got “too big” in the first place. Institutions grew so complex that they could profit from unethical practices that were NOT illegal, yet.

If certain companies made exactly the same mistakes today that they did ten years ago, yes, the FDIC would have the power to liquidate them now. It’s an appealing prospect to Americans who, rightly, feel cheated by the subprime lending scandal and bailouts that followed. And it’s not going to happen.

Written by webster71

April 6, 2016 at 19:45

Muay Thai Hygiene

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Here you see my mouthpiece. Anti-septic for unarmed combat.

Written by webster71

January 6, 2014 at 17:28

Posted in Sport, Uncategorized

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Wicked Tuna Breakdown – S1/E6

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The reel-fishing New Englanders of reality TV are affronted by some “snotty” (foul) weather in Episode Six, which makes it the first time viewers see the truly punishing conditions North Atlantic fishermen work under.

Captain Dave Marciano of the Hard Merchandise balances the prospect of rain, twenty-foot-high seas and winds of thirty miles an hour with the upcoming end of the commercial tuna season, and decides to fish while he can. He and first mate Jason Muenzner proceed to Stellwagen Bank, north of Cape Cod, where they hook a five-hundred-pound fighter that drags the boat two miles from its anchor and takes them an hour to get onboard, Hemingway style.

Triumph flirts with tragedy when the boat’s engine dies and Marciano can’t raise help on the radio, but finally he gets it to turn over and steams his slob home safely.

“When that wind comes up and that ocean gets big, it’s a violent place to be,” says Capt. Dave Carraro of the, while his first mate, Paul Hebert, heaves modestly in a corner. Carraro does come home with a fish for his trouble, as does F/V Odysea skipper Ralph Wilkins. Each skipper points out at the beginning of the episode that tuna feed more aggressively in rough weather. Every storm at sea requires a cost-benefit analysis where the benefit is a paycheck and the cost of foolishness could be life-threatening.


“If you brave the elements long enough and you fish hard enough, it pays off in the end.” – Pirate, first mate of the F/V Odysea

Written by webster71

May 7, 2012 at 18:15

Wicked Tuna Breakdown – S1/E5

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With Captain Kevin Leonowert of the f/v Christina coming off a season-high giant tuna catch in the last episode, Week Five finds him hooking and losing not one but four likely keepers.

NatGeo’s producers show their savvy by positioning Leonowert to personify Aristotle’s concept of peripitea, as described in Poetics: it’s more dramatic to portray a once-vaunted man who has fallen on hard times than the other way around.

Capt. Dave Marciano makes a smart move by bringing his teenage son, Joseph, out on the Hard Merchandise, and is rewarded when the lucky youth reels in a 600-pound fatty. Marciano coaches confidently as his son finishes the job, and the crew is treated to a traditional family greeting when they find Dave’s wife, Nancy, and their youngest daughter waiting at the dock for their return.

Capt. Ralph Wilkins, of Provincetown’s f/v Odysea, comes up short for slobs this week, but demonstrates sufficient patience and chum-chucking technique to show he’s a break-even skipper at worst, and more likely a badass fisherman. Bravo to NatGeo for also including an informational spot during the third commercial break to let a balanced selection of scientists and experts outline their perspectives on tuna conservation.


“I’m not arrested, and we’re good to go.”

–Paul Hebert, first mate of the, after Coast Guard officials have completed a routine onboard regulatory check.

Written by webster71

April 30, 2012 at 14:03


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Rhododendron at the SF Conservatory of Flowers

Written by webster71

April 7, 2012 at 14:23

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Vatican delegation blesses Urquell, the original golden Pilsener…

Written by webster71

April 4, 2012 at 20:43

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