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  The Mad Woman of Berkeley (August 4, 2009)

People we have met who know Becky O’Malley well most often use the words “angry” or “bitter” to describe her. As with most of her writings, O’Malley’s June 25, 2009 editorial is a rambling and utterly incoherent mess.  All we can say is that it is some sort hysterical and flailing analysis of the whole world.  About all that comes through is her bitterness and anger.

As usual with O’Malley, schoolyard taunts replace thought.  So we learn that legislators in Sacramento are “chumps” and “idiots;” Israel’s elected leaders are “dreadful people” and “thugs;” British and New York legislators are all “fools.”

Probably few of you actually read O’Malley’s editorials, but just this once we beg you to give it a try.  In the same perverse way that we are drawn to look at a car wreck on the freeway, this is a must-read.  It gets stranger and stranger the more one looks at it.  After several readings, we have concluded that, at bottom, it is a diatribe against, of all things, democracy.  It is nothing less than the ravings of a madwoman for whom the very salvation of the world depends on our submission to the will and understanding of one Becky O’Malley.  Everyone else in the world is stupid or crazy or both.

O’Malley sets the stage by fuming that George Bush lost the popular vote in 2004 but still won the election (somebody should inform her that this actually occurred in 2000—can anyone at the Berkeley Daily Planet do even the smallest fact checking?).  O’Malley implies that the overthrow of democracy itself may be required.  Would it not be better just to amend the Constitution?  She then veers off into gradually more ominous realms.  She doubts that when America leaves Iraq there will be a freely elected democratic government, “whatever that might mean.”  “Whatever that might mean?”  What does she mean by “whatever that might mean”?  Now on to Sacramento where she suggests that Queen Elizabeth would do a better job of governing California.  So back to monarchy is it?  Does one have to be a psychoanalyst to suspect that Queen Elizabeth is a stand in for Queen Becky? 

Onwards to Israel where the latest government is the “worst yet.”  Never mind that this government, as of the date of her editorial, had barely arrived in power and had done little yet to offend.  Quite the contrary, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced his acceptance of a two state solution (more than can be said for Hamas), evacuated some settlements, removed many West Bank roadblocks (leaving only 10 manned checkpoints), and pulled the army out of four major West Bank cities.  What drives O’Malley apoplectic is that one of the members of that new government has called for loyalty oaths from Israel’s citizens.  At this point it is mere bombast with little prospect of it becoming law.  Though we agree that it is not a great idea, neither is it off the charts “thuggish” as Becky would have it.  I suspect that O’Malley herself used to take loyalty oaths every day at the start of school.  It was called the Pledge of Allegiance.  Lack of loyalty to one’s country is typically called treason and is severely punished in virtually every country on earth.  This Israeli politician, therefore, did not suggest anything out of line with standing norms.  Becky next turns to northern Europe and talks about the failure of democratic socialism on the basis that Iceland fell to a Ponzi scheme.  She misunderstands the nature of the Icelandic economic meltdown (it was not a Ponzi scheme), but leaving economics aside, because Iceland bankrupted itself should democracy itself be condemned? 

Maybe the strangest case she makes in a completely strange article is when she argues that the street demonstrations in Iran prove that Iran is not a monolith and that therefore military action against it would be unethical.  This sets common wisdom on its head.  The common wisdom is that democracies do not need to go to war against one another.  They resolve their differences peacefully.  Democracies only fight dictatorships.  Now that we all recognize that the patina of democracy that overlaid Iran’s theocracy was just that, a patina, a Potemkin village, does this not strengthen rather than weaken the case for denuding Iran of its nuclear weapons by any means necessary?  It surely does not weaken the case.

O’Malley would do well by leaving foreign policy to her columnist, Conn Hallinan.  At his very worst, he is never this bad.


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