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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Australia may be close to a paid maternity leave, as I heard on the BBC today. That would leave us, the US, dead last, trailing even developing nations with zero paid leave for working mothers. Almost makes me want to move to Sweden. They get 18 months. Wikipedia has all countries. It's interesting. It made me mad, but it's interesting nonetheless.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080529/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/rice_mcclellan_book


Condi's commenting on Scott McClellan's new book, What Happened. She sure is saying a lot for someone who's not going to comment on a book she hasn't read!

Interesting to me is that the White House and others quoted aren't really saying McClellan's making false statements. They are just "puzzled" and think it's "sour grapes". Condi is trying to take issue. She says WMD was the fundamental reason; McClellan says the primary reason was spreading freedom, etc. The way I remember it was McClellan's point, then that faded to the WMD focus. Regime change was cited after the invasion as a primary reason, I think. WMD was bogus, so they had to think of something else.

She also backpedals a bit and cites excuses:

'It wasn't just us who was concerned about WMD'

'Those skeptics should have stood against UN sanctions/oil for food'

'If you believe he wasn't a threat to international community, then why allow Iraqis to suffer under oil for food'


There WERE critics of the admin's approach! All the former officials speaking out is what made me seriously doubt Bush & Co's plan. They just chose to ignore them and dismiss them as unpatriotic, etc. There were also critics of oil for food speaking out. I read things about Hussein getting rich while the people starved. None of those things Condi cited justify the invasion of Iraq. AND, Hussein was pitched as an imminent threat against the US, not just the international community in general. He was implicitly linked to 9/11 more than once by Cheney and Bush, etc.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Soup Nazi

Norman Finkelstein was arrested at the airport in Israel on his way to the Occupied Territories.
He's banned for 10 years. It's almost funny. Except it's real. It's a bit comical like the soup Nazi. No entry for you! Come back 10 year! Next!

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/5/23/headlines

http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=11&ar=1700

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If you think US support for Israel is remotely a good idea, have ever thought- why do they hate us, are American or Jewish or a politician... well... just read it.

It’s Time for a Declaration of Independence From Israel
http://www.alternet.org/story/55827/

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ok, you've heard my rant, now here's someone more eloquent :


Bush in Israel

Refugees are the Key

By SAM BAHOUR

“[When David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel's independence it] was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David: a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.”

“You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth.”

- President George Bush, May 15, 2008

President Bush addressed the Israeli Knesset to mark Israel’s sixtieth anniversary. The President’s speech was absent of any real insight or policy. Instead of addressing the politics of a region that can only be equated to a powder keg about to explode, he assumed the other worldly role of bestowing on Israel a religious right, one dangerously terrifying because it represents the views of the most rabidly extremist Jews, similar to the Jewish law student that assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the gun-toting Israeli settlers (many holding dual U.S./Israeli citizenship) that populate Israel’s Jewish-only settlements across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

President Bush used the out-dated words “Eretz Yisrael” [biblical Land of Israel] to depict the Israeli state. This sort of usage was, and is, exactly what most right-wing Jewish fundamentalists use to refer to an Israel that reaches from the Euphrates River, in what’s left of today’s Iraq, to the Mediterranean Sea.

Adding insult to injury, he went on to praise Israel’s welcoming of immigrants from around the world to populate the newly created State of Israel. It meant absolutely nothing to President Bush that the indigenous Palestinian population, lingering for 60 years only hours away from where he was standing while addressing the Knesset and on whose ruins Israel was built, remains today’s longest standing refugee community.

The Palestinian refugees symbolize the long-standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The refugee problem has its roots in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which ended in the mass displacement of over 750,000 Palestinian Arabs (approximately half of the Arab population). According to historical accounts of the War, including from recent Israeli historians, Jewish Zionist forces precipitated the flight of the Palestinian Arabs as part of a campaign of population transfer. The nascent State of Israel subsequently enacted laws to expropriate the refugees’ property and bar their return. The refugees were left homeless and destitute, mostly dependent on foreign aid for survival. The subsequent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip resulted in the further displacement of around 200,000 Palestinians.

Today there are over 5.5 million Palestinian refugees and displaced persons who have never been allowed the choice to return to their homes or given redress for their losses. The continued denial of their rights encapsulates the decades-long strife, disenfranchisement and dispossession the Palestinians have suffered.

With the advent of the peace process in the early 1990s, hopes were ignited that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip would end and the plight of the refugees would be resolved. These hopes were dashed as the negotiations reached an eventual deadlock, leading to a stalemate and Israeli military onslaught on Palestinian areas that continues to plague the region.

Following the breakdown of the talks there was much debate about who was to blame for the failure. But this debate obscures the larger problem stoking the flames of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians: Israel’s unwillingness to comply with rules of international laws, including the rights of the Palestinian refugees, and third party failure to enforce them.

Taking the Palestinian refugee issue as a case in point, the State of Israel, who controls the key to solving their problem, has refused to recognize the right of the refugees to choose whether to return to their homes and denied any responsibility for the problem since 1948. Israel has adopted this position in violation of international law, including UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which affirmed the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes or receive compensation. The General Assembly has affirmed this most basic human right of the Palestinian refugees every year since 1948. Additionally, admission of Israel to membership in the United Nations (General Assembly Resolution 273 of May 11, 1949) requires Israel to comply with General Assembly Resolution 194 of December 11, 1948. At the time, Israel stated it agreed to comply with this resolution.

Israel has defended its refusal to concede the right of return on the grounds that the massive return of Palestinian refugees would spell the death of the Jewish state. But admitting its historical responsibility to the Palestinian people and recognizing the rights of the refugees could in fact deliver security and prosperity to Israel. Indeed, Israeli recognition of these basic principles would improve the atmosphere on the ground, help create more parity between the parties, and provide a fair framework for working out the details of a peace plan for resolving the conflict.

Israel’s first Prime Minister said that “the old [refugees] will die, and the young will forget”. A few days ago, Israel’s current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, explicitly stated that Palestinians must, “relinquish your demand for the realization of the right of return.” Following these ill- fated desires, Israel has sought to deny or delay addressing the refugee issue. However, the amount of blood shed since 1948 proves the fallacy and the immorality of the Israeli position. Adhering to it will only lead to more bloodshed.

The rights of the Palestinian people, and in particular the refugees, should be recognized alongside any legitimate rights of the Israeli people. Ultimately, it is through the evenhanded application of international legitimacy that we may be able to get out of the current stalemate and reach real grounds for peace. Otherwise, the failed Israeli practice of “might is right” will prevail and prolong needless death and destruction on all sides.

It does not come as a surprise to Palestinians, and an ever-growing number of non- Palestinians, that President Bush’s speech reflected blindness to the plight of Palestinian refugees. Those Palestinians from the Diaspora, not refugees, but Palestinians with their homes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along with non-Palestinian foreign nationals trying to assist Palestinians by working and serving in the occupied territory, have become the latest category of victims of the most recent application of the Israeli “might is right” mindset. Israel has been denying entry to scores of foreign nationals, Palestinians and others, trying to enter the occupied territory. The mass majority of these foreign nationals are U.S. citizens and the Bush Administration, although acknowledging that Israel is discriminating against U.S. citizens based on their ethnicity, have done very little in standing up to its “eternal” ally Israel in order to resolve this latest problem.

If U.S. citizens are left to vie for themselves in the face of Israeli intransigence, Palestinian refugees are absolutely correct in not believing that any U.S. mediated “peace process” will lead to the realization of their inalienable rights, including the right of return.

Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism and the author of the infamous novel The Old New Land (Altneuland) and the book The Jewish State (Der Judenstaat), who Bush was keen on recalling in his speech, is surely laughing in his grave at Bush’s visit to Israel and his being more Zionist than Israeli extremists.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the besieged Palestinian City of El-Bireh in the West Bank. He co-edited with Staughton and Alice Lynd HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and can be reached at sbahour@palnet.com.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Nakba

Bush's speech to Knesset
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080515/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_mideast_text_1

Two very disturbing themes emerged from this obstacle to peace. One was the specific and repeated references to Israel's "historic" "right" to be there, going back to Abraham. The other was the militaristic pep talk that faded to obsequious silliness towards the end. Had it ended on that note, I would have fully expected Bush to lead the Knesset-army out marching and take over Gaza and the West Bank at the end of the speech.

As usual, I couldn't believe what came out of Bush' mouth. His speech writer must be a member of the AIPAC and a big Zionist bigot.

A reference to Ariel Sharon, man of peace - A moniker that still puzzles me. At least he got the warrior part right. Dude loved a fight.

In one paragraph, he hits on two contentious points.
1. "natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate."This is a quote from their Declaration of Independence. The Jews have this right and no one else does, apparently. Why not say all people do, if that's what you believe. They don't believe that, that's why. Israel is a state for Jews, not its citizens and has been since its inception.
2. "...redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David — a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael."The previous was a political opinion. Now, here, Mr. Bush, you're messing with the Bible. Not only is this unhelpful in our quest as an unbiased mediator, but it is Biblically incorrect. Bush repeats this misconception that in 1948, a Biblical prophecy was fulfilled about Jews returning to a homeland. At one time, the Israelites were God's chosen. With Jesus' death, resurrection and acension, that is no longer the case. Not to mention that the Israelites and today's Jews aren't the same. God did promise the Israelites land and they obtained it, but keeping it was conditional on following God and they turned away. God told them in detail what would happen if they turned away- kicked off the land, pestilence, wars, etc. Bad stuff. A lot of that happened in AD70 when Jerusalem was invaded and temple destroyed. This was symbolic of the fulfillment of the old and coming of the new (Christianity/Jesus). Talk in the prophets of the returning of God's people to Zion after their rejection is symbolism for everyone coming to God through Christ, rather than literal Jews coming to literal Israel. The language is clear if you read it (also Hebrews discusses it).

"unbreakable alliance", "friendship", "shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul" - more obstacles that prevent the US from helping in any way. In fact, it is detrimental to any peace, justice or positive development in the region. And there is more still of Bush bestowing on Jews the religious right to ethnically cleanse Palestinians in the name of freedom and democracy.

In a mention of the holocaust, Bush again, wrongly, references the “promise of God,” or Israel.
He quotes Golda Meir. This deluded woman has also said there is no such thing as Palestinians.
In a paragraph about the “struggle” for independence, Bush makes them sound heroic-”in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats”. The part about welcoming immigrants is a half truth. They are welcome if they are Jewish. The Arabs that have lived there since the beginning and who are citizens aren’t even welcome. I found this lie particularly funny and out of place, seeing how many Americans are aware of Israel‘s war crimes: “love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity”. Yeah, imprisoning people for political reasons, denying fair trials to Arabs, and treating people like cattle at the many checkpoints, and generally oppressing and collectively punishing an entire population for the crimes of a few. That sounds like liberty and dignity, all right. I guess the Iraq disaster has taught us Israel and the US share a desire to carpet bomb Israel’s neighbors and torture “suspects”. We do have that in common, at least. Worked for peace and fought for freedom?? I’m just not buying it. I’d buy state sponsored terrorism. That fits. Aparthied. I’d buy that. Worked for peace? No. It just doesn’t match the facts on the ground.

He mentions an agricultural miracle?? Whaa??? He’s totally buying into the old myth that Israelis made the desert bloom. What happened was that they expropriated the most fertile land, then diverted most of the Palestinians’ water resources to the dry areas they stole. Today, Palestinians have a serious water crisis and have to look thirstily at the green yards and full swimming pools in illegally built settlements. No miracle there. Palestinians were left with a lot of rocky areas they had to work hard to get any use of- that is more of a miracle, but since it is a positive Palestinian development, it is totally ignored by the US.

Bush mentions several Jewish tourist attractions he visited and said that he’s seen Israel’s character. He didn’t visit any Israeli Arab or Muslim sites (that he mentioned)-guess they don’t factor into Israeli character. Only Jews matter and Bush is applauding and supporting this racist view. He says this, then wants to talk peace and compromise. It is easy to see who will be expected to compromise.

He speaks of moral clarity, value of life, right to a peaceful life, without so much as a nod toward Palestinians.

He says he’s ashamed of the UN for trying to do what no one else dares- to put Israel in it’s racist, oppressive place.

He condemns anti-Semitism (the Jewish kind), which is good, but stops just short of repeating another lie, that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. Why don’t free people have the right to examine and question a state’s right to exist, or right to oppress, right to extra-judicially assassinate, right to demolish homes, right to cause a humanitarian disaster, right to influence or control another population’s elections, right to collectively punish?

“On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.”

Ok…I know where Bush is going with this, but Israel’s definitely in the latter category. I think Bush is of the opinion that terrorists are different than Palestinians in general, but with this speech (and other sentiments like it), you’d never know it. In speeches like this, you’d think all Palestinians or Arabs are terrorists or that there are no Palestinians-just Israeli Jews and the Terrorists.

As for breaking ties with Israel, Bush gives no real reason why we reject it. We just do. He says it’s propaganda, so he must be right. He was right about WMD’s, so, let’s all get on board with this, ok?

He leaves an opening for attacking Iran-home run in Israel. Israelis are ready to elect him PM now. Maybe Bush is trying to get elected over there. Maybe this is a stump speech. It would explain a lot.

“to prevail in this struggle, we must offer an alternative to the ideology of the extremists by extending our vision of justice and tolerance and freedom and hope”

He just said a few paragraphs ago that he doesn’t expect anyone to talk to those they deem terrorists and here we are extending tolerance? Extend our vision and offer tolerance?? Seems like everyone has to do it our way and anyone who has a different idea is a terrorist.

A rather anti-diplomacy speech. Political problems need political solutions, not threats of carpet bombing or worse. Peace won’t come without justice. Bush may be right that peace follows democracy, but there is a need for justice that the US is incapable of overseeing. Some may say it’s not our job, but our government seems to think it is. If they are going to do it, I say, do it right. Acknowledge both sides’ suffering, concerns, violations, progress, etc. Dish out criticism to whoever is doing wrong, not just the people you can’t identify with.


If I had just 3 words, they'd be: obstacle to peace.
Until later...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Election

I have been holding onto this post, so I'll just go ahead and post it. I guess it kinda defeats the purpose of a blog, huh?

Well, this post comes from a discussion at work about why people support one candidate versus another- I thought I should justify to myself my choice for Obama. Is he just more charismatic or do I like his policies? Another issue that plagues every election is Roe v. Wade. Should I vote on this issue alone? Some hard core Republicans I know and love would say yes. While I do think it is a life and death issue as well as a moral issue, there are other moral issues. Actually, a lot of Democrats I know are voting solely to uphold this court decision as well (the next president will have to appoint one or more Supreme Court Justices most likely). They see it as too much church in the state.

The only quotes about what all the fuss is about with Jeremiah Wright is something about the US policies being partially responsible for 9/11 (which I agree with) and the US lying about HIV not being invented for genocide of black people (kind of crazy IMO). Maybe the fuss is about Obama’s reaction. I think a general distancing was bad, especially if he agrees with some of Wright’s ideas, as do I. He should have come forward to tell which things that were said that he does and doesn’t agree with to clarify, rather than clarifying that he renounces the statements, but not the man. I think and even hope that was the wrong distinction, but would be disappointed to find that he didn’t stand up for hard, yet truthful, statements. Overall, this "issue" is silly. As Bill Moyers has said, how would you like your long career of speaking to be summed up in 16-20 seconds of soundbytes from your work? Maybe we aren't getting the whole picture...

Clinton, on the other hand, is talking about attacking Iran if Israel is threatened. That should be more worrisome to people (especially people who opposed our action in Iraq at any point) that the Obama-Wright “controversy”. We should be worried that Hilary is showing the same tendencies as Bush, though she will not admit it. I do hope this won’t turn into a fight about who loves Israel more, though. Reading Congressional transcripts about the Middle East peace issue, even when criticizing Israel, the session turns into an Israel love fest or contest, with each comment being preceded by how much they love Israel or what their state does for Israel/Israelis.

Another silly thing Obama is being criticized for is not wearing a flag pin. I read some articles about that while I was Googling for something else. I heard a snippet on the radio last week about what I think was this very “issue”. They lady said something like “Why can’t he just say he loves the flag?”. She quoted him as saying he revered it, which I think is more descriptive and correct to say. Why is this even an issue. He’s had to refute the false accusations that he doesn’t say the Pledge and other assorted things as well as the fact that he’s Christian rather than Muslim. I think there was a recent Jerusalem Post article proving (or trying to prove) that he is Muslim. Silly. If the man says he’s Christian, he’s Christian. If he was Muslim, why not say it? What would that matter? It wouldn’t to me, but I guess there are those ignorant folks who say all Muslims and Arabs are terrorists (such as those at JPost…)… The facts on the ground just don’t support him being Muslim or lying about being Christian. Sorry, JPost. They’ll have to find a new way to slander the guy who’d rather use diplomacy first and who doesn’t want to automatically bomb Iran and Israel’s neighbors into oblivion if he becomes President.

I like that Obama has lived in another country and has exposure to Islam. I think this will help with diplomacy and foreign policy decisions in the region that has become a focal point for us. I think the fact that he is a minority could have given him different experiences from the typical white male we’ve always had and will influence him in a positive way, even in a position of power. On the cynical side, he is male and wealthy, though, so that similarity with his predecessors could cancel out the good, there.

Freedom to Unionize, protect striking workers, raise minimum wage, open internet

I like the (somewhat unavoidable) emphasis on mortgage fraud crackdowns. I guess he has to address it. I’m not sure he’s got a good plan, though. The fund for “innocent” homeowners could become abused. I’m not sure how many are innocent. Many, many people live beyond their means on credit cards and fall to peer pressure to get more, buy big, etc. People I know tell about their friends/acquaintances who put rims on their SUV’s and buy/rent flat screen TV’s or the latest gadget, yet have trouble making the rent or mortgage. These people aren’t innocent. They are living beyond their means. It is a problem in our culture for sure, but individuals have to take responsibility and sell some stuff or do something before everything gets repo’d and they are left with nothing to show. There are tons of things I’d like to have, sure, but you have to be realistic. You have to be content with what you have. If you buy it, your income won’t magically increase to cover it. And if it goes on a credit card, on the contrary, you will have less money to work with because of those insane and often “sneaky” interest rates. And then there are those sketchy check cashing and rental places that have unbelievably high interest. These places should get some attention, but the individual should take responsibility for these decisions. I don’t know that it’s the government’s place to bail people like this out and I don’t know how to distinguish between the “innocent” and who shouldn’t be helped.

I like the fact that he wants to expand FMLA, but I think he needs to go further. Other countries have up to a year of paid leave and more weeks per year of paid vacation time as the standard. We generally get 2 weeks per year starting out, and other places get 3 or 4. Happy, rested employees make for a more productive work force. Talk about reducing the work day or week and that will be the day change is accomplished.

Some crackdown on lobbyists, but not enough to free us of AIPAC control (foreign interests ahead of ours)

More transparency.

On the hot button issues of abortion and gay marriage, which will no doubt come into play when one of them is battling McCain, I’m more conservative. I am pro-life for sure and would even say I’d like to see abortion banned. I do have reservations about a total ban when the life of the baby and mother are endangered (ectopic pregnancy). I believe homosexuality is wrong, but unlike conservatives, I don’t think the government should be involved since it is not a matter of life and death. I have heard the abortion ban being called too much church in the state, but that’s a life/death issue- one that civil societies need to legislate, much like murder or theft. Life begins at conception and I just don’t see how you can argue differently. I mean, is it suddenly life in the 2nd trimester, the 3rd, at birth, when it gets fingernails, when it first cries or takes the first breath? If it is called alive at any point other than conception, then why is infanticide wrong? Not a bit of difference really, except culturally (Americans accept aborting a fetus if it is inconvenient for the mother). Gay marriage (giving the “right” or prohibiting it) legislation is more like no separation of church and state. I don’t know that I’m against civil unions. I need to think about that more.

Since I have delayed this post so long that my state's primary has come and gone this week, I will comment on that, too. Looks like Obama is gaining ground. Can't say I hate it, given the options. Of course, I would much prefer to do away with the electoral college and these party conventions and free it up for more than 2 parties to truly, viably be involved. I'd like more of a democracy, I guess. Call me crazy.

Also, Clinton said she broke the tie with Indiana?! She's taking a page out of Bush's playbook, here. Say what you wish happened, not what actually is happening. It's over, Hillary. Give it up. You're a drain on your party, now.