Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Okay, you're both wrong, now move on...

I won’t claim to have a deep knowledge of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This war (I’m not sure if we can classify it as such, but I’m not sure what else to call it – maybe occupation) has been going on since the State of Israel was established in 1948. Certainly the decision by the United Nations to place the displaced European Jews on land already occupied by the Palestinian people was questionable, but the situation for the Jews was more than dire, and therefore something had to be done; ergo, the establishment of the State of Israel.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, this didn’t sit well with the Palestinians or others in the Arab League, and it set of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. This first war displaced many Palestinian civilians and pit the Jordanians and Egyptians against the Israelis, priming for future wars to come. Unrest continued to occur, but nothing major, until 1967 when the Israelis, expecting an attack from several Arab states, launched a pre-emptive attack on Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The war, as stated by the name, was ostensibly over after just six days of fight, with Israel taking control of the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula, and occupying a larger portion of Jerusalem. The war indicated to the Arab world, and the world at large, that Israel was not to be trifle with. However, the war only increased tension in the region.
Finally, in 1978, Israel and Egypt met at the Camp David Accords, leading to the Israel Egypt Peace Treaty in 1979; this treaty gave the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt. However, Israel continued to have problems with other actors in the region, and specifically with the Palestinians (as represented by the PLO). In the early 2000s (after many fits and starts) Israel began to withdraw its settlements and occupation of the Gaza Strip, turning over authority (and giving autonomy to) the Palestinians living there. This move was not welcomed by all Israelis, and there was much pushback. However, after the elections of 2006, in which Hamas (a political party, with an army wing that is called a terrorist group by the Israelis) won a plurality of the vote, Israel no longer recognized the authority of the Palestinians to govern themselves in the region, and have basically been fighting with them since then.
The Palestinians in the Gaza and the Israelis along the border have been trading rocket sorties over the past few years, but there have been a few times when they’ve come to the brink of war. We’re now close again. The problem is that Israel, supported whole-heartedly by the United States – with both foreign aid in terms of money and weapons – has been guilty of such disproportionate response, that their claims of defense do not hold up. Hamas rockets fly over Israeli cities in small burst (and shot down by Israeli’s new missile defense system, the Iron Dome), and then Israel retaliates with a shelling that decimates buildings, killing dozens of civilians in Gaza. This is essentially a repeat of the conflict that arose in 2008, in which Hamas was firing rockets into Israel, and the Israelis sent F-16s across the border to destroy schools, mosques, etc., which they said Hamas was using for missile storage (and confirmed in certain cases). Regardless, the conflict was incredibly one-sided with regard to the death toll; more than 1,000 dead Palestinians, as compared to 13 dead Israelis.
I think we can come to the conclusion from the sordid history in Israel and Palestine that this is an incredibly complicated problem. There have been moments when an agreement was close – as in the 2000 Camp David summit where Ehud Barak offered to create a Palestinian State, but Yasser Arafat rejected it – but both sides have been guilty of derailing the process. What we need is a rational, fair, two-state solution that settles the issue of border control, autonomy and recognition for the Palestinians, but also a melting of the cold war that has been doing on for the last 60+ years.

P.S. IDF Spokesperson Avital Leibovich is very anti-Palestine, and justifies the killing of Palestinian civilians under the guise of defense. She feigns pity for the Israeli civilians that have to run to bomb shelters whenever they hear the air raid sirens, but cares nothing for the Palestinian civilians whose buildings are not hit with rockets, but blown up with bombs from IDF airplanes, and who have no bomb shelters to run to. This is not the type of person that should be formulating policy for the IDF.
Also, President Obama needs to recognize that he's missing half of the picture. If Israel has the right to defend itself, then so does Palestine. If the Palestinians interpret Israeli occupation in Gaza to be an act of war, then they see themselves justified in launching rocket attacks. Then escalation leads to escalation, and nobody wins in the end (although undoubtedly the Palestinians will end up with exponentially more casualties). The United States needs to be neutral in both its support and condemnation.

Friday, November 16, 2012

He didn't misspeak...

“Especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”
“In each case, they [the Obama administration] were very generous in what they gave to those groups,”
 “With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift, free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”
“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,”
“Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

These were Mitt Romney’s statements in a recorded conference call with his big donors post-election. This is the reason that he is stating that he lost. And you know what, he’s right. You add up women (not just young women, but any woman who cares about making her own choices in life), young people, Latinos, and African Americans, you have most of the electorate (Obama also got an overwhelmingly large percentage of the Asian-American vote) accounted for, except for white men.
So essentially what Mitt Romney is saying in this statement is that the Obama administration didn't cater as well to white men as every other administration that has ever existed. While I wouldn't necessarily agree with that statement (old white men got plenty of “gifts” from the Obama administration), I don’t think that we as a country should be lamenting the decreased influence of white men in our politics, our boardrooms, or anywhere else in society. Old white men have had their run - it’s been long and deleterious to pretty much every other social group – and it’s time that we as a nation begin to embrace the original concept of this country, inclusion.
Romney’s statement, while misguided in its use of the word “gifts”, actually makes a lot of sense. People would vote in their best interest. While Romney is lying in saying that Obamacare provides free health care for people, it is understandable that people would embrace a change to the healthcare system that would positively benefit them and their family. He’s make it possible for people with existing conditions to get health care, he’s removed the lifetime caps, he’s allowed children up to 26 years of age to stay on their parent’s plan, and most of all he’s created the mandate that forces everyone into the market (think “skin in the game”), which in the long run will be able to decrease cost, and hopefully encourage more competition.
And why would a woman vote for Mitt Romney? He and his running mate have shown support for policies that would drastically diminish the ability of a woman to make healthcare choices about her own body. I’m not sure why that would be such a mystery that a woman who wants to control her own health, even getting (*gasp*) birth control if she wanted/needed it, to vote for the person that actually espouses a view in support of women’s rights.
As far as Latinos are concerned, the Republican Party has done nothing but patronizingly pander to them in an effort to win votes. When it comes time to actually create policy that benefits Latinos, Republicans are nowhere to be found. It’s interesting, however, to note that Latinos should be a key demographic for Republicans. Republicans espouse to believe in hard work, family, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, etc.; these seem to be characteristic traits of Latinos (not to try and put anyone into a general category) and, in fact, most immigrant groups, and yet immigrants are spit on by the Republican Party and turned off by their jingoist, white is right, mentality.
Finally, African Americans. On the whole, I cannot see why the Republican Party thinks that they have a chance to win the black vote. Not to say that black people vote as a bloc, but Republicans have made every effort they can to gerrymander this country into segregated districts, doing their best to push black people into districts with only other black people. Was not the “southern strategy” an overt effort to create fear of black people in this country, by appealing to white voters misperceptions and stereotypes? Have republicans changed their strategy at all? Not really. Newt Gingrich throughout the Republican primary called Barack Obama a “food stamp president”, and republicans talk of black people in this country as if every single one is on welfare. They’re living in the past, and they want to keep it that way. Their past is where the white man is superior, and the black man has to respect the white man; they want to hold onto that for dear life.
Republicans after Obama’s first victory always referred to an unspoken “they” that had taken the country away from “true Americans”. And while we can’t be sure who exactly “they” are, we can surmise from the comments of Republicans, from the tea party to Mitt Romney, that they were speaking of African-Americans, Latinos, minorities in general, women, young people, LGBT people, religious minorities, Muslims, immigrants, and basically anyone else that was not white, was not married, was not heterosexual, was not born in this country, was not Christian (hopefully Protestant, but they’d give you a little wiggle room as long as you believed in Jesus), or was not a “job creator”. Republicans fundamental belief is that this country was built by and for white people, and everyone else is just “they” that are living here on “our” land on “our” dime. I guess every group except for white people forgot that, and decided to vote for the guy that actually considered them citizens of this country, and therefore as important people and groups in our society.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hand in hand...

Well, the election is over. Barack Obama is still president. Democrats are still in control in the Senate. Republicans are still in control in the House. Essentially nothing has changed. However (and I guess that is more of a big HOWEVER), it seems as though the American people wanted to keep both parties in control, because we are a divided nation ideologically, but want both sides to work together. The 111th and 112th Congresses were both complete failures. There was intra-house and inter-house fighting, along with intransigence toward the president, and it lead to not only low approval ratings, but little-to-no cross-aisle politics. That is not the point of congress, nor does it help improve our country’s economy, which has been languishing over the past 4+ years.
I’m a progressive, and therefore I tend to vote Democrat. And looking back at Obama’s first term, I personally might have a finger to point at some people that I specifically think caused the logjam in congress; but what will I have gained? What will we as a country have gained by pointing fingers? The answer is nothing. Finger-pointing will only lead to further partisanship and blaming. We are where we are, and we need big solutions to the big problems that our country still faces; the economy, international security, tax reform, etc.
Republicans and democrats are not going to magically agree about the solutions to these problems, but if both parties come to the table with an honest desire to work with one another, and to create positive, comprised solutions, I think we’ll all be better off for it. Sure, I’ll probably be frustrated that some of the legislation doesn’t go as far as I think it should (as others will think it goes too far), but that’s the country we live in.
I will say that one thing that has already frustrated me is the reaction by Mitch McConnell to the president’s victory. The same guy who said that the sole purpose of the Republican Party should be to make sure Obama is a one term president, has christened the (hopefully) new era in American politics with a big, wet blanket.
“The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president's first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control.
Now it's time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office.
To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we'll be there to meet him half way."
Mitch McConnell looks like a turtle (and sounds like one), and the Republican’s first order of business should be to remove him as minority leader in the Senate, and replace him with someone that actually wants to get business done.
The country is changing. There was a lower percentage of white people overall that voted. A higher percentage of women. A higher percentage of Latinos. A  higher percentage of young people. And black voters came out in numbers commensurate with those in 2008. The electorate in this country is becoming less white-male-centric, and therefore the Republican Party needs to start adapting to those changes if they expect to remain a relevant political party in this country. Hopefully this election will be a wakeup call, helping them realize that they need to drop their social policy evangelism, and start recognizing that abortion, welfare, gay marriage, immigration, etc. are not policies that are going to win them elections. Good ideas that improve people’s lives are going to win elections. I’m not trying to help republicans win, but I just saying that it would help move the country in a better direction if everyone comes around.