Praise where praise is overdue: Obama on Israel

Those who follow this blog may be forgiven if they were under the impression that I am hostile to President Obama but they would be mistaken. Barack Obama was the first candidate for president for whom I ever voted with enthusiasm. If I have been critical here it is because I expect much and there are issues on which his positions or actions have been troubling.
But there is one area where he deserves special commendation and he isn’t getting enough — his policies toward Israel and Palestine.

I am a strong supporter of Israel and not that many years ago considered moving there, but ever since Nixon I have been aware of a strange phenomenon. Candidates who are touted as “good for Israel” usually aren’t. Such candidates usually encourage Israel’s worst tendencies. I won’t pretend the issues are easy but the American policy for many years of supporting (or at least turning a blind or winking eye toward) Israel’s expansion of the settlements has done Israel much harm. Resolutions of the conflicts that would have been merely difficult years ago have been greatly complicated by Israel’s constant expansion into the West Bank and around Jerusalem. It may be a form of tough love and it may be almost too late but Obama’s clear position on settlement policy is a beath of fresh air after years of stagnation. An interesting recent article on the subject can be found in Thursday’s piece by M.J. Rosenberg in the Israel Policy Forum.

So, thank you President Obama. Perhaps our children will be able to see the day when two states live in peace side by side as a result of your courage (and a lot of hard work and risk on behalf of both Israelis, Palestinians and their neighbors).

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Tarnished Medal of Freedom.

I know that Sandra Day O’ Connor has many accomplishments and I am sure that other presidents have given the Medal of Freedom to unworthy recipients but there is a special ring of hell reserved for the cabal that engineered the coup d’├ętat that installed George W. Bush. O’Connor was one of the gang of five who gave the world eight years of horror and destroyed the reputation of this country and its role as a leader in integrity and human rights.

Unitasking in a Multitasking World

In an essay entitled,How Living as a Unitasker Nearly Led Me to Ruin in a Multitasking World, I wrote,
In a world that comes to depend more and more on multitasking, some of us are really born unitaskers. Are we doomed to sit on the sidelines or will we someday be able to listen to music and do homework at the same time?
See the complete essay at Associated Content.

Only now can we call it futile

Imagine, if you will, a gray-haired petty bureaucrat
Walking in a steady gray rain
Black umbrella in his right hand,
Rigid, upright.
In his left a black briefcase
Which contains the book he has just finished reading.

He walks slowly, matching the rain,
The angle of the umbrella and his posture
and the color of the sky and the angle of the rain
Match the upright Miesian columns
Of the government buildings clustered there.

The last pages of the book haunt. It ends
as Hannah Arendt leaves Germany by train at last
The same month his mother left by boat.

Each alone. Fifty thousand Jews left Germany that year.
Each alone.
Each leaving thousands behind who could or would not see.

Two centuries earlier an age of Enlightenment had begun there.
Now who is enlightened?
What is the lesson?

The book is called “The Pity of It All.” But it is misnamed.
It is full of hope and irony as well.
Only now can we call it futile.
We think we are different today.
Or are all hope and enlightenment doomed.
How are we to know whether we too are fools, he wonders.
Walking slowly in the rain, his umbrella upright
Amid the Federal columns.

Tiptoing around the edges of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is not humane

Tiptoing around the edges and tinkering with the details just won’t cut it any more. Yesterday Defense Secretary Robert Gates is reported to have said, the military might not have to expel someone whose sexual orientation was revealed by a third party out of vindictiveness or suspect motives. As an example he suggested that someone who was “jilted” by the gay service member might not be discharged.

“That’s the kind of thing we’re looking at to see if there’s at least a more humane way to apply the law until the law gets changed,” Gates said, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon.

Nonsense… Can you imagine the hearing? What would the evidence be? How is this human?. What difference does it make how the information is revealed?

The time has come to permit our military to be open about who they are. “Don’t ask” is a good idea – the answer is TMI. But not asking has to be coupled with a No Consequences policy no matter the source of the disclosure. Anything less is inhumane and continues the second class citizenship of gays in the military.

U.S. May Permit 9/11 Guilty Pleas in Capital Cases

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal report that the Obama administration is internally circulating a proposal that could allow some terrorism suspects at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to enter guilty pleas without representation and to be sentenced without going to trial. This plan could enable prisoners who appear to want to confess so they can be executed and achieve martyrdom to achieve their purported goal. This, some contend, would save this country from the hassles and embarrassment involved in finding a legitimate solution to the problems created by their incarceration and the difficulties of providing them with trials which contain the minimum due process required by a civilized nation.

While many states permit guilty pleas in capital cases, they often require the state to prove its case before a death sentence is ordered. Would we be satisfied to put these men to death based on guilty pleas resulting from torture or mental illness?

This is one shortcut that just won’t bear scrutiny or even pass the smell test.

Let’s hope this was just a misguided trial balloon.

Why has there been no outcry? Shame on us.

They held a loaded credit card to my head

Congressional irresponsibility reached new heights when the right to carry loaded, concealed weapons was included in the credit card bill.
There is irony in the fact that the rate on my credit card nearly tripled on the day before it passed.

Review of the credit reform legislation shows that many of the protections in offers are less than meets the eye. Card companies will still be able to raise rates to unconscionable levels. It remains to be seen how useful the required notices will be.

But at least I can pack a rod in the woods.