The Spin Room

A page that features responsive pieces based off of original articles from Truth Be Told.

Comment on responses under “Leave a Reply.”

Important: all opinions expressed in this section belong to the writers of the respective posts and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Truth Be Told’s author.

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Response to Restraint – By TBT reader Elon Amit – Jerusalem, Israel

On the fifth day of Sukkot (the Jewish harvest holiday), we were glued to our televisions, waiting for a glimpse (or some news) of our long-vanished soldier Gilad Shalit. The special broadcast began at 6:00 am. Our first live view of Gilad Shalit showed him being taken from a car and led toward an unidentified building in Egypt by a few leaders of Hamas – the terrorist organization that kidnapped him.

Who’s “we” might you ask? “We” are every single Israeli, for we are all ‘one’ at heart. For a day, all political views and agendas were put aside, unlike the days leading up to the trade. From the announcement of Gilad’s release to those first pictures of him being escorted from the car into the building with his abductors walking side by side (as if they viewed him as an equal or a human being rather than a scapegoat and an object to traded at their will) people were arguing over whether the price of over a thousand prisoners – all of whom were arrested due to terrorist involvement, four hundred of whom have blood on their hands – was too high.

But in the moment we saw Gilad for the first time, all the arguing stopped. It didn’t matter if it was a “good” trade or a “bad” one. All we cared about in that moment was that Gilad was back. There was a feeling of joy, calm and bliss that settled over the country when Gilad crossed back into Israel and first spoke to his parents after five years in captivity.

My name is Elon, I am nineteen years old and I live in Jerusalem. This march I am joining the IDF to fulfill my duty as an Israeli to my homeland. While watching the footage of Gilad walking through the formalities of the day, I couldn’t help but think “what if that were me?” It is an incredible feeling for past, present, and future soldiers to see the sacrifices that our country is willing to make for the sake of our lives and the support and love that every Israeli gives us. The fact is that Gilad has returned. That is unchangeable, so we must focus on the good that the trade brought. For one day every Israeli felt a sense of unity and belonging to the State of Israel and the world was able to see the sacrifice we make for Jews and Israelis everywhere.

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Response to An Inarticulate Outcry – By TBT reader Asher Levy – Los Angeles, CA

Occupy Wall Street. These three politically consequential words have so little meaning that everyone in my political circle has been scrambling to attempt to figure out exactly what Occupy Wall Street stands for.

I’m not going to attempt to answer that great question as Mr. Fields-Meyer has already demonstrated that the movement is so disparate, fractured and petty that no single definition can emerge. What comes across clearly is that the occupiers of Wall Street are an entitled bunch. They fail to realize that the society that they are picketing offers them the chance to have comfortable, vapid protests such as the ones happening now.

As a social justice advocate, I work with a Jewish organization called Uri L’Tzedek, Awaken to Justice, where I check work standards in restaurants, build community partnership, organize boycotts of ethically deplorable organizations, and do other such concrete defined community building. Occupy Wall Street is not social or economic justice; it is the outcry of the entitled feeling the same lack of trust in government and economy that the rest of us Americans feel.

Occupy Wall Street, with it’s catchall phrases, picketing, and lack of concrete base, resembles a far-left version of the Tea Party. I suspect that jealousy may have had something to do with it; far-lefties, dissatisfied with President Obama’s failure to deliver upon his credentials as a leftist much in the way that the Tea party is critical of much of the Republican establishment, felt left out of all of the populist fun that Republicans are having between the meteoric rise of the charismatic Herman Cain and the Tea Party. The left gets Obama, who, it seems, no one is enthusiastic about anymore. More frightening than the adoption of Tea Party tactics is the fact that Occupy Wall Street will doom the left in 2012. It is a scary, ambiguous, radical, vaguely hippie-ish mob that would have no appeal to independents, who are currently being wooed by the very concrete policies of Herman Cain (criticize the man all you want, but I understand 9-9-9 in a way in which I will never understand Occupy Wall Street).

Do not take this piece as a blanket criticism of all grassroots movements; certainly, the Civil Rights movement was an unmitigated success, the consequences of which as felt today, and the Arab Spring, while rapidly descending into chaos and radicalism, stood for something concrete.  I myself am an activist, part of a strong grassroots movement involved in ethical work standards, micro-financing, and immigrant issues, among others. Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, defines itself by how loud it can scream and not through true activism, that is action. Occupy Wall Street is a movement of crybabies.

As a social activist, I should feel inspired by their efforts. I don’t. We all have things to complain about, but rather than be a disparate mob, they should attempt to solidify leadership, move beyond the protests and attempt to make a mark in a lasting and meaningful way. We could use a wakeup call to injustice in our midst, to corruption in the corporations. I just don’t want it coming from a raving, inarticulate man with a drum yelling about some 99%.

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Response to An Inarticulate Outcry – By TBT reader Adam Lipton – San Antonio, TX

The opinions expressed in this essay are my own and not associated with TBT. I want to thank TBT for allowing me to express my ideas here.

“They are saying we are all losers, but the true losers are down there on Wall Street. They were bailed out by billions of our money. We are called socialists, but here there is always socialism for the rich. They say we don’t respect private property, but in the 2008 financial crash-down more hard-earned private property was destroyed than if all of us here were to be destroying it night and day for weeks. They tell you we are dreamers. The true dreamers are those who think things can go on indefinitely the way they are. We are not dreamers. We are the awakening from a dream that is turning into a nightmare.”—Slavoj Zizek, October 9th 2011.

The fact that prominent Slovenian cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek came to speak at Occupy Wall Street is no surprise, in fact I was surprised he had not come out to Zuccoti Park earlier. Zizek and the Occupy Wall Street movement share a defining character trait, they have both been commodified. Zizek is right, we are all losers in the system of global capital however, him and the members of Occupy Wall Street are the true losers in the system for when they awaken to the nightmare they simply do nothing.

Zizek is a prolific author well known as an eminent Lacanian scholar and revolutionary extraordinaire, the problem is Zizek has lost his revolutionary zest. His academic stance within the university has only allowed him to become a pawn within the system of global capital, he too with Occupy Wall Street is a failure at leftist revolution. The countless books on revolution and the crisis of modern capitalism written by Zizek is the exact same as the thousands of scantily clad people yelling in Zuccoti Park, they are examples of co-opted dissent. Since the 1970’s the political right has deployed cultural hegemony to establish conservative think tanks and institutions that privilege and preserve  conservative beliefs, these institutions have also allowed open public protest. During Vietnam the Nixon administration chose to allow the protests to continue and to affirm that those protests were examples of democratic deliberation that this country was founded on, turning those movements into mere support blocks for the system they so desperately wished to oppose. Occupy Wall Street finds itself in the same place today, a movement co-opted and commodified. The dissent of Occupy Wall Street only affirms the system of globalization and capital that it opposes. Capital takes the very protest and glamorizes it, creating T-Shirts, Bandannas and Ipod accessories all fitting the theme of revolution. We see the protesters of Zuccoti park heading towards the same direction as Che Guevara, merely a face on a T-Shirt, no longer a revolutionary but a material object for every hipster to go out and buy. THAT is the trick of global capital, it commodifies the aesthetics of dissent by allowing to occur, destroying all political efficacy of the movement. So how does Occupy Wall Street fix their paradox of dissent? They pick up bricks.

Instead of becoming Facebook statuses with a million “likes” the protesters need to end this allegiance toward civil disobedience and take over the system by force. In the May ’68 protests the city of Paris was turned upside down, streets were blockaded and protesters were seen writing Graffiti one very corner, but this too was co-opted. Those who stick to civil disobedience when given lip service by the elites in power accept even the slightest hint of reform and go home thinking they have brought down capitalism, waking up the next morning to the same nightmare. As Zizek says :

What matters is the day after, when we will have to return to normal lives. Will there be any changes then? I don’t want you to remember these days, you know, like “Oh. we were young and it was beautiful.”

No statement could be more true on how the revolution should be carried out.

So my message to the people of Occupy Wall Street who sit daily in Zuccoti Park, start the revolution. Grab a brick and throw it through the window of the first Taco Bell you see. Storm Wall Street and tear down the stick exchange monitors, take control of the levers of power by eliminating those levers. The task at hand is to do wake up tomorrow not to a nightmare but to a new world, one without a blueprint but one free from corporate domination. Occupy Wall Street must do what they say they will do, that is Occupy Wall Street, and not leave or take no for answer. If this means violence, so be it, bullets change governments far surer then votes do. The people of Occupy Wall Street have to be willing to get their hands dirty in order to fight global capitalism and it’s influence on politics. The expansion of capital to every aspect of our lives was not clean so neither must the revolution be.

To effectively carry out their movement Occupy Wall Street must not take the reforms that doomed ’68. It is time for people to stand up and say no, not with their voices with their actions. The people of Occupy Wall Street must be ready for political insurgency or they should stay at home and let real revolutionaries fight their battle.

As with all of my work I hope to open it up for dialogue and discussion. Feel free to post comments, contact me via facebook or email me at adamlipton94@gmail.com.

Once again thanks to TBT for allowing me to post this work. This work along with my others can be found at http://linesoffracture.blogspot.com/ 

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Response to Truth Be Told’s Camaraderie Out of Extremity – By TBT reader Evan Korn – San Francisco, CA

I understand the surge of nationalism that has consumed our country since Obama’s announcement last night. I feel the same relief after almost ten years of sorrow – or loss – that finally the deaths on September 11, 2001, can be put to rest. Yet, in the conversations I’ve heard, and in the euphoria of the past twenty-four hours, I have had a strong feeling that something is missing. Although I initially was inclined to feel the rush of nationalism so many others have experienced, that swell was quickly replaced with questions.
What I really wonder, and what I see missing in many dialogues or commentaries about bin Laden’s killing, is its actual significance. Are we overemphasizing the death of a terrorist leader; could it be that his killing really doesn’t carry all the significance we’ve given it? Or, for that matter, is it even right to celebrate his death, for – as I see it – such celebration could simply antagonize and motivate our terrorist adversaries.
Last night, in the build up to Obama’s speech, one of the CNN news anchors proclaimed that that moment – the moment when you heard that Osama bin Laden had been killed by the U.S. Government – would be instilled in your mind; that, like 9/11, you would always remember where you were and how you found out. All of the rhetoric surrounding this event seems to establish it as a bookend for an era of terrorism. However, I am curious to see whether it will prove to carry such finality, or whether it will turn out to be simply a landmark in the continuing epic of modern terrorism and the United States of America.
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Response to Truth Be Told’s Election Guide – By TBT reader Anonymous – Malibu, CA

If anyone were that way as you paint the Republicans to be (in your Election Guide post), no one would vote for them. Just like if I were to write a series of questions in the same extreme, painting the Democrats in the same extreme light, no one would vote for them either. We both know that the world is more complicated than you or I can portray.

Each of your points evokes a counterargument, but I’m only going to address a couple.

“If you think that no one else should benefit from your success, that you and your money are better off in the a secluded bubble of wealth, vote Republican tomorrow.”

One of the central tenants of economics is that savings equals investments. Where do you think people who earn and have so much wealth put their money? Under their mattress? They put it in a bank or some other investment. What does the bank do with that money? The bank lends it out to business and entrepenaurers who create jobs and advance society. Think Microsoft, apple, google. Where do you think these people got the money to start up? From venture capital funds. Where did the venture capital funds get the money? From people’s savings.

Secondly, a paraphrase of a point Winston Churchill once said about democracy is, “democracy is the worst form of government except for all others”. Capitalism is probably the worst economic system except for all others.

The more you confiscate the benefits one gets from hard work, the less incentive you have for innovation, for entrepreneurship, and the other miracles that have turned a 200 year old country into the greatest economic engine the world has ever seen. And then, we can be like Europe, who has at least five countries that are about to default on their debt because they gave all their money away that they didn’t have to their citizens who weren’t working. Look at the economy and the mess in the economy of the PIGS– Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain—Is that the rat hole we need to go down by pursuing this utopia of socialism? It didn’t work for the former Soviet Union either. Even China has a modified communist agenda with a capitalist overlay today. So you want us to go to those models that have demonstrated 100% of the time not to work? Confiscatory tax policy will destroy the seed that has developed America and the “American Dream”.

I get that there may be a debate as to how much taxes destroy incentives and how too little taxes are inappropriate for those who benefit from our society. And this is a worthy debate. But to say what you say and imply that Republicans are for zero tax policy is grandstanding and just not true.

“If you’re under the impression that the subprime mortgage crisis couldn’t have been prevented by regulation and oversight, vote Republican tomorrow.”

Tacit in your statement is that regulators do a good job overseeing business, hospitals, the environment, ect… It seems as though all the great frauds were in regulated industries. Enron was a public company that filed regular, monthly, quarterly statements with the government. Same with WorldCom and all the banks that were swept up in the latest subprime fiasco. Is the question really about more regulation or is about better regulators?

The subprime disaster was essentially had its origin in the Community Redevelopment Act brought forth by a democratic congress and signed into law by a democratic president, Jimmy Carter. This law compelled regulated banks to make loans in the inner city, ostensibly to make more loans to minorities. As is common, among all regulation, they have unintended consequences. And the banks learned that they did not have to keep these loans on their books but could package them and sell them to investors who were willing to take their savings and invest it for a higher rate of return but with risk. The banks changed their business model from “knowing their customer” and keeping the loans and risk on their own balance sheet to a business model where it makes no difference if I know the customer and selling the loan in bulk to others. The banks were no longer bankers, but were just loan originators, looking to make a loan origination fee and sell the loans to wall street and then investors. This was the unintended consequence of the Community Redevelopment Act. Any excessive regulation would have lowered the loans available to less credit worthy borrowers and then the possibility for the “American Dream” for all those immigrants and less fortunate people would have less access to start-up. So they could have only lend to the most credit worthy borrowers with regulation, but you would not have had this great economic miracle of the last 20 years and all the advancement that has come with it for those who never could have afforded it otherwise.

Yes, there should be better regulation, but more importantly, better regulators. The Republicans are concerned with these two points as opposed to just throwing massive regulation and poorly prepared regulators at a problem because the unintended consequence of that is to stifle entrepreneurship, creativity, job growth, and opportunity for all.

The crisis is not solely the failure of Republican lack of regulation; Democrats had equal opportunity. Blame is equal and easy to go around.

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Response to A Pragmatic Oath- By TBT reader Evan Zimmerman – Los Angeles, CA

Firstly, if there was an election tomorrow, Egypt’s president would win. He is dearly loved because he employs over 70% of Egypt’s citizens (although most of them are “post office” jobs, my phrase for useless jobs because the post office is not useless, of course, but it is a place where there is huge bloating in terms of necessary jobs and inefficiencies). That doesn’t, of course, invalidate your statement. Egypt is far from a functioning democracy because of the way it enshrines its leader. No healthy democracy does that (at least, while the president is in office; George Washington, anyone?) and healthy democracies always have legitimate opposition, always. Otherwise, there are inane abuses.
You’re also failing to address the primary issue at hand here. If Israel is a Jewish state, then all Jews have a right of return, and the fact that Israel is a Jewish state is powerful ammunition against the Palestinian’s right of return, something that will inevitably come up once the squabbling over settlements stops. It is true that we Americans demand that new citizens recite our oath, which says “under God” in it, but there are no legal ramifications to it. The only real effect of that is that some atheists feel offended.

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Response to Blind Zionism- By TBT reader Ben Abramowitz – San Diego, CA

I heard the man on the mountaintop speak, and yes I clapped. However, I did not often clap because I agreed with what he said. Like you said, his inflection is what made his speech enjoyable to listen to. I clapped because of the gall he had to proclaim said “truths” about the conflict at the border.

Truth be told, whenever I argue for the continued existance of the Jewish state, I never bring up the point that the Torah guarrantees it to the Jewish people. This is simply because it means nothing to those who do not believe in it. When Christians tell me that Jesus died for my sins too, I hardly believe them. Additionally, considering that Christianity and Islam formed as branches off of Judaism as their additional prophets emerged, does the promise of the land of Israel not include them as well? Simply put, there are so many arguments for the State of Israel that Biblical referrences are not required.

You must remember that around the Israeli War of Independence, the two-state solution was accepted by both the state of Israel and the United Nations. The reason 600,000-725,000 Arabs were kicked out of Israel was not because the new Israelis needed space, but because the Arab nations had made it impossible for them to stay there without conflict.

The refugees were just another consequence of war. At no time in recent human history has one country conquered another without burdening the inhabitants of the country. These burdens often come in the form of death and poverty, and the lucky ones are only forced into refugee status. Luckily for those refugees, there are SEVEN Arab states willing to accept them. Do you think there is a single Jewish person living in any one of those seven countries? I cannot imagine that there is.

Lastly, you pointed out that there are Blind Zionists out there. There are. Although Blind Zionism isn’t what we would hope for, it is certainly better than apathy. I don’t consider myself a blind Zionist, but how am I supposed to know if I am one? I have my reasons for wanting the existance of a Jewish state in Israel, and I know what had to and still has to be done to make that a reality. In my mind, Blind Zionism is analogous to reform Judaism. I believe they are mislead and misguided, but in the end any positive conviction is better than none at all.

The man on the mountain may have been arrogant, but he wasn’t by any means oblivious. I do not believe he was a Blind Zionist just because he said that no one had ever been forced out of Israel when they were. I think that man knows more than most about the realities of maintaining Israel as a state, though he may not always be correct.

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Response to Blind Zionism- By TBT reader Ben Bulow – San Diego, CA

“quasi zionists”

“Kids clap. Staff members smirk. I frown.”

“I frown because what the man with the white goatee is saying with such confidence is simply untrue.”

Yes.

Me too.

Me too.

“After the Israeli War of Independence there were between 600,000 and 725,000 Arab refugees. That means that there were between 600,000 and 725,000 Arabs who were no longer able to live in their homes because- for better or for worse- the Jews needed somewhere to go.”

Well, I think the Jews have needed somewhere to go for a very long time. But, after the Israeli War of Independence, between 600,000 and 725,000 Arabs were no longer able to live in their homes for a very simple reason– Israel won. And hence the name of said war.

There are many different ways to approach this problem, and many different legal, political, and historical angles we could examine. And we would probably come up with nothing. But there is one, very simple idea that sheds light on the very root of the issue. Might makes right.

It’s not true just because it rhymes. Look at a present day political map. The borders and names on it are probably the ones approved by the United Nations. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason, at least in the minds of most, they get to decide.

So why does your modern political map look the way it does? War. Going however far back as you wish to, you must find that the borders of all nations are defined by conquest. Sometimes a country is conquered by a people that were previously its own citizens, a phenomenon we like to call a revolution. But those boundaries were defined by war.

Until one day, once the superpowers of the present were satisfied with the way everything looked, they decided that things should stay the way they were.

All of a sudden, the borders of the present became sacred, the countries became “sovereign”, and if you did anything to the contrary you were committing “war crimes”.

It’s like the whole world was playing musical chairs and then once some people were standing in front of the choice seats, they commandeered the game and stopped the music.

What bothers me is why people listen to this dribble and accept it as truth. All the borders of England, France, China, the United States, of every country today, were at some point determined by war. By conquest.

You mention this, and I applaud it. But I don’t think you took this seriously enough and took it to its logical conclusion.

Israel exists because it conquered and continues to defend its land. It has no inherent “right” to exist, but it certainly does.

Back in the day, there were Jews in Israel. Then, for a long time, there weren’t, or at least there weren’t very many. During this time, the inhabitants of the land changed as different nations conquered it. The cycle continued when the Jews returned in full force in 1948. That’s the best way I know how to explain it.

I don’t see any way to rationally justify zionism religiously, since believing in the words of the bible is not rational.

I don’t see any way to rationally justify Zionism legally, since, as explained above, I don’t really believe that the “international laws” or “court” of the United Nations have any inherent truth in them.

I rationally justify zionism by the simple idea that might makes right. I realize that this turned into less of a direct response to your points and more of a look at how I myself justify Zionism and the existence of Israel.

Blind Zionism as you dub it is real, and it is a real problem. I can only hope that some Blind Zionists will be exposed to this kind of thought and see the light.

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Response to Examine THIS- by TBT reader Tova Leibovic – Santa Barbara, CA

I was a student teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District this year and experienced firsthand many  unbelievable challenges the system has inevitably created. For now, I will recognize one specific issue that is a national issue, which is the standardization of curricula, but particularly the unfortunate increase of testing. I am sure many people are aware of the No Child Left Behind Act that was passed a while back. With this passage, education became even more standardized, and less individualized than it had been in the past. Although, I heard from so many trusting souls that there was so much testing in the schools and that the students were not learning, I never truly believed it, until I spent a year in Los Angeles Unified (LAUSD).

Students are tested for everything under the sun in LAUSD. They have an Open Court Test (OCR is the unfortunate literature curriculum that many districts choose to use) after each chapter is competed. They have math testing , Social Studies testing and science testing about once every two months. Finally, the entire year the students prepare for the big Kahoona, “the CST.” I often thought that students were not learning the material, but rather learning how to take a standardized exam.

To put context into my own personal student teaching placement is important. I worked at two different elementary schools this year within LAUSD. Both were in the San Fernando Valley, in lower socioeconomic areas and both had at least a 96% population of English Language Learners. The truth is that these are the schools that are at a disadvantage, because unfortunately the standardized tests do not take any of these factors into account. In fact, both of these elementary schools have been put under “watch” and are either in the category of Program Improvement (PI) or are about to be in PI. The way a school is put into PI status is based on the overall Academic Performance Index (API) scores of the CST.

Working at a PI school is pretty much the worst situation for administrators and for teachers. The district comes in whenever they choose and the entire curriculum becomes even more standardized. For example, at one of my schools, I witnessed a teacher get scolded because she was not on page 75 on Day 21 of the school year in her OCR curricula. She explained to the LAUSD administrator, that her students did not grasp the concept instructed the day before. The administrator wrote her up for not following the rules, and the teacher had to move on to page 75, despite her students utter confusion. This situation particularly saddened me because this teacher was creative, intelligent, passionate and an amazing educator, yet she had to stick to words of her teacher manual and was not able to deter. The students lost and the teacher lost.

I apologize for digressing and not focusing on the issue of standardized tests in our school system, however, I do believe that the consequences of these standardized tests are very important. It is also important to note that I worked as a Special Educator and my students, who had various disabilities ranging from Autism to Learning Disabilities, were also subjected to the nonsense. Most of them were able to take the California Modified Exam (CMA), which basically has larger font and more pictures, yet still covers the curriculum. I administered this painful exam in May for two straight weeks. My students did not know many of the answers and seeing their anxiety on their faces was disheartening. For example, some of my students do not know addition, however, on the CMA they were tested on the fourth grade curriculum, which included fractions, division, graphing etc…I just could not believe that precious instructional time was being wasted on a test that covered material my students did not know how to do.

Another problem with the CST/CMA at the schools I worked at is that the students are apathetic. Most could care less how they did on the test, because it is so standardized and removed from their lives. I remember as a fifth grader getting a bad grade on one Social Studies test and being devastated for days after. Most of these students do not even know what they received on the exams and it does not affect them in any way. So basically, our testing system has encouraged students to not take ownership, as none of them really study for the exam, nor do they care what the outcome is.

The entire three months leading to the CST this year at one of my elementary schools, the principal and teachers tried to get the students pumped up for the exam. Once a day the students were reviewing CST practice questions and were prepping so that they could in fact have a better score. The teachers began “teaching to the test” and the actual material that the students should be learning was lost. For instance, fifth grade completely stopped learning Social Studies. The students did not learn about the Revolutionary War or about the Civil War. It makes me wonder, what on earth are we teaching our children? We are teaching them that school is about testing and not about learning. We are encouraging standardization and discouraging creativity. We are even saying that they have zero accountability for not doing well, as they are promoted to the next grade no matter what. In my personal opinion, it will take a long time for the damage of No Child Left Behind to leave our system. I truly hope it does.

4 Responses to The Spin Room

  1. Evan Z says:

    In response to 60 Minutes: A Response
    The proposed state will never work because Jerusalem, it’s supposed capitol city, is not in its borders. Many Arabs will want to move to Palestine, and what’ll happen then? There might be another displaced persons crisis. My proposal is to connect Gaza to some of the Sinai desert, convincing Egypt to give up some land in exchange for huge Western suport and celebration, whereby forming a “U” shaped territory that lines the Mediterranean Sea. This will create a single, united state with its own capitol city and give us the strategically important West Bank.

  2. Pingback: New TeenVoice and Spin Room Pieces | Truth Be Told Politics

  3. Pingback: Spin Room Response: Occupy Wall Street | Truth Be Told Politics

  4. Pingback: TeenVoice and Spin Room Pieces: Voting in the United States and Military Swaps in the Middle East | Truth Be Told Politics

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