Palestine screws up again, rejects statehood

Palestinians have no problems with endless wars and with sending their children to die as suicide bombers. What they have a problem with is success.

Why is there no Palestinian statehood yet? Why don’t they just declare themselves a country and get it over with?

Finally we have the answer. Is it the big, mean United States of America telling them not to do it? Nope. Is it the even bigger, meaner Israel, responsible for every calamity in the universe? Not this time. Then who? Why?

The Palestinians themselves reject statehood.

Israel and Palestine have never been closer. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agree on almost everything. Borders. Refugees. Security. The only thing they don’t agree on yet is Jerusalem. So Olmert is willing to sign an agreement that places Jerusalem as an issue to be agreed on in the future. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it.

Palestine gets statehood. Olmert gets to do something politically risky but historically significant before he is forced out of office over the latest round of scandals. Abbas gets a weapon for defanging Hamas, and he gets to be Palestine’s first president–maybe they even name an airport or something after him like Ben Gurion . Bush gets to make his contribution to history before leaving office. Only Hamas gets no benefits, since they say they are resisting only to get statehood for Palestine.

Palestine gets statehood. Let me repeat that. Palestine gets statehood.

But the offer is rejected by Abbas.

Why? Jerusalem. Abbas wants Arabic-speaking east Jerusalem for its capitol. He is willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater in order to get it–or not get it. Jerusalem is a “red line” says a spokesman for Abbas. “We will not accept any agreement that excludes Jerusalem.”

What fools.

Why do they need a particular city as a capitol before they can declare statehood? Countries change their capitols all the time. The United States has had no less than 9 capitols: Philadelphia, Baltimore, Lancaster, York, Princeton, Annapolis, Trenton, New York, Philadelphia again, and Washington. I can just hear it now. Instead of “Give me liberty or give me death”, Patrick Henry saying, “Give me Washington DC as the capitol or give me death.” I bet that wouldn’t have made him a revolutionary war hero.

If America had insisted on having the location of its capitol written in stone before declaring independence, we would still be a podunk occupied territory British colony.

Posted in Middle East, Palestine, peace. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Palestine screws up again, rejects statehood

Text of Hillary Clinton’s email petition against Bush attack on birth control

Text of Hillary Clinton’s email message about Health and Human Services rewriting regulations to undermine reproductive rights, including links to petition:

Sign the petition

Dear [Nijma],

Since 2001, I have served as the honorary chair of HillPAC, an organization dedicated to helping working families. It is our goal to fight for a better future for every child, and for every family. To keep fighting for those who get up every day, no matter what the odds, and never give in. For those who never back down, and those who always stand their ground. HillPAC works to elect Democratic candidates to office who share these same ideals and goals and I’m proud to serve as the honorary chair and I hope you will join me in this mission.

Right now, I’m working with HillPAC to lead the fight on one very important issue, and we need your help.

The Bush White House is working to rewrite the definition of abortion in federal regulations to include common forms of birth control. This would undermine women’s health and put family planning services in danger. Simply, it puts women at risk — it could even prevent victims of sexual assault from receiving emergency contraceptives.

I need your help to speak up for the health of millions of American women who are in danger, once again, from the latest assault from the Bush administration.

Will you join me in sending a strong message to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to put women’s health ahead of right-wing ideology?

Click here to send a message to the Bush administration asking them to protect women’s health.

Imagine being told common forms of contraception like birth control pills could now fall under the definition of an abortion. This is another assault by the extreme right on the rights and health of women everywhere. They will do anything in their power to impose their beliefs — no matter what the risk to women.

We’ve worked hard to guarantee women have access to a full range of health and family planning services, and we can’t let the right wing undermine those efforts. This issue is far too important not to act, so I hope you’ll join HillPAC and me today in speaking out to protect women’s health.

Tell Bush’s HHS Secretary to protect women’s health!

Thank you for all your support. I’m so happy that we are still working together on vitally important issues like this one.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Posted in Gender, Government, Women. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on Text of Hillary Clinton’s email petition against Bush attack on birth control

Bush Department of Health and Human Services tries to re-write contraception laws

The Bush administration’s Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to redefine abortion to include common contraception methods such as the pill. The legislation is being written now. The proposed legislation could have sweeping effects on women’s health services and could prevent victims of sexual assault from getting emergency contraception.

According to the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA)

…the draft rules propose to re-define abortion to include most modern forms of contraception, a radical new definition that directly contradicts the definitions of pregnancy ascribed to by the American Medical Association, the British Medical Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among other leading medical authorities. Defining “abortion” in this manner will limit access to the full range of comprehensive family planning services for women and men most in need of them – the low-income and uninsured beneficiaries of programs like Title X and Medicaid.

Moreover, by potentially invalidating a number of hard-won state laws that protect women’s access to contraceptive services, the draft regulations would be a major step backwards for women’s health. The very laws described as “the problem” in the draft regulations, like the twenty-seven state laws that require equity in prescription coverage for contraceptives, and the eleven state laws requiring the provision of emergency contraception to rape victims in the emergency room – are common-sense, compassionate provisions that are broadly supported by a majority of Americans.

These new regulations could severely limit access to counseling, education, contraception and preventive health services for those who need it most, low-income and uninsured women and men. Americans – including the nine in ten who support federal funding for access to family planning services for those who cannot afford them…

To oppose this legislation, you can send an email message through the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) |here| and send a message to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt through HillPac |here|.

Fatwa against Liberals?

What makes someone open fire on a group of people watching a children’s play in a church?

When a gunman was arrested after opening fire in a Knoxville church last weekend, he told authorities

that he had targeted the church because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country’s hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of the major media outlets.

He was known as someone who “hated blacks, gays and anyone different from him”. He was unemployed, and was losing his food stamps.

Was he just someone who turned to hating other groups because his own life was unsuccessful? As the Christian Science Monitor suggested, was he one of a “whole category of mass killers who are seeking vengeance against a group of people who they feel are taking away their birthright, their opportunities, and making it difficult to succeed…society has been bending backward to favor disenfranchised groups so they’re trying to get some justice for their own victimization.”

Or maybe a question of lost manhood?

They will take that intense personal feeling of emasculation and failure and find some societal or political overlay that makes the failure seem not of their doing.

Leave aside for the moment the question of how someone whose wife had a restraining order against him and who once told her he was going to “blow her brains out then blow his own brains out” was able walk into a pawn shop and to buy a semi-automatic weapon.

Where did the shooter get the “political overlay” that told him to kill liberals?

It’s nothing new. For years, conservative pundits have been calling for physical violence against those who don’t agree with them. Glen Greenwald spent some time a while back documenting the conservative lynch mentality, links are in the above Media Matters piece. Some on the blogosphere think that words don’t matter, and this type of call for violence is unimportant.

You can still get a “liberal hunting license” with a picture of a donkey superimposed on a target from one blog’s “Patriot Shop”. This from a website with a mission to distribute their literature to military personnel. Just what we need. People who already know how to use a gun being indoctrinated to shoot democrats.

The chatter on the blogosphere also points to conservative pundits (Savage, Hannity, O’Reilly, Coulter, FOX, Limbaugh, Beck etc.) as being responsible for the shooting.

And what was the shooter reading before he went on his rampage? Police removed the following books from his home:

  • The O’Reilly Factor, by television commentator Bill O’Reilly
  • Liberalism is a Mental Disorder, by radio personality Michael Savage
  • Let Freedom Ring, by political pundit Sean Hannity

I grew up in a very conservative community, although of course there were all political types there too, but I never saw the kind of hate speech and intolerance that passes for conservatism these days. Whatever happened to conservatives like William F. Buckley? The conservatives these days just seem to push the envelope more and more, becoming more and more outrageous in order to market more and more books and make more and more money.

The other day I was in one of those little Arab supermarkets buying pita bread. They had on a program with a man weeping copiously and dramatically about the latest political action in his neighborhood, I think from al-Jazeera. It wasn’t being presented as a news program although it was news. It was the equivalent of a soap opera.

This is the new entertainment, whether al-Jazeera or Ann Couter. It sells. Some recognize it for marketing, like professional wrestling, but others mistake it for truth. The tragedy is when someone like the Knoxville shooter, or the al-Quaeda suicide bombers mistake this type of propaganda for real life and act on it.

Posted in Terrorism. Tags: , , , , , . Comments Off on Fatwa against Liberals?

Is your neighborhood walkable? Ratings for 40 cities has a tool that rates neighborhoods in 40 different cities and tells you how walkable the neighborhood is.

Back in the 60’s, population was shifting to the suburbs. Everyone wanted a slice of the American dream. A piece of land. A yard. Safe streets and good schools. The result was acres and acres of urban sprawl. I myself grew up in one of these new areas and I can’t even begin to describe how safe and how good and how utterly boring they were.

Researchers have just begun to document the negative effects of this type of housing development. Bedroom communities require cars to get back and forth, adding to a larger carbon footprint and increased gasoline expenses. Social cohesion is lost. People stop walking and are measurably heavier, as health risks associated with obesity increase.

While many urban planning students would rather sell their soul to the devil than listen to a developer, this tool is fairly interesting. Maybe there are a few real estate marketers who do have a soul, or at least know how to talk about the values that come into play when people choose a neighborhood.

They came pretty close with my neighborhood, rating it 45 out of 100, and my old campus neighborhood just west of the Loop an 86. Of course I didn’t choose to live here because it was walkable, I chose it for being cheap place for student digs and for having an interesting main street with a Polish bakery, now sold, and a colorful local corner coffeeshop, now burned down. Also there was an absence of gang signs in the neighborhood. That has changed too. Within a one block radius of where I live, there are probably more than a dozen gang signs on the garages and stop signs, including one on the back of the carriage house on the property where I live.

My move to this neighborhood was part of a 3 year plan, now going on seven years. Maybe it’s time to take this website and figure out where I want to live next.

Posted in Public Policy. Comments Off on Is your neighborhood walkable? Ratings for 40 cities

I shouldn’t laugh at this, but….

This comment made by “Ralph” has been driving me crazy for days now:

I am not certain whether your failure in this regard is a result of a congenitally weak intellect, habitual cognitive laziness, adherence to some ideology or another that stunts systematic thinking, or a willingness to misrepresent reality when it serves the needs of your current rhetorical project.

The comment was made by a liberal to someone defending a conservative website, but it’s so classic and covers so many bases it could be applied almost anywhere.

It’s sort of like the classic insult when Bilbo Baggins gives his fiftieth birthday farewell speech in The Hobbit, “I know less than half of you less than half as well as I should, and I like less than half of you less than half as well as you deserve.” As the guests are still trying to work out whether or not this is a compliment to them, Bilbo flaunts his disdain of custom even more by using the Ring of Doom to disappear.

So why is Ralph’s comment so outrageously funny, and why do I feel so bad laughing at it?

Does everyone discover insults as entertainment at some point in their lives? For me the discovery came in the back of the debate bus sophomore year. That was the year our high school debate team took the state “A” championship. The insults were predictably “sophomoric” and mostly ad libbed. The only one I remember now was the standard “I’d have a battle of wits with you but never fight an unarmed man.” Sensing that the comments were not helping team morale, we quickly tired of the game.

For some reason, since that day in the back of the bus, I just can’t bring myself to put anyone down. Oh, I can think of insults all right. Sarcastic comments spring constantly to the tip of my tongue, but they never seem to be able to get past the teeth. I’m just unwilling to say anything hurtful, even if I know the other person has no similar qualms. It’s almost as if I am unwilling to regard anyone as an adversary. There is always the possibility that they could be led to see the light, if only they weren’t approached in an antagonistic style. Can anyone be truly beyond redemption?

But where I have held back, Ralph has gone on, probably in his junior year, senior year, and more, to finely hone both his style and his analysis of remarks worth insulting. He unfailingly chooses people who are so disgusting that no one really minds when he shreds them. And the shredding is done in such meta language that who can be sure what is really being said about them?

Ralph isn’t funny just because of schadenfreude, though that is one component. The other component is truth.

I remember being in some group or another and being given the following exercise. Describe a person who really irritates you. We instantly all thought of the same person. Then you have to change the description so that it contains your original assessment of the situation, but is emotionally neutral. That is, it gives information diplomatically without expressing a value judgment. We ended up saying that the person, an obnoxious, overbearing control freak whose uncle just happened to be a senator, had a “strong personality”. Mustn’t upset Senator’s dear nephew. A few months later, I added the word “difficult” to my repertoire.

What Ralph does is like what Bilbo did–express an undiplomatic sentiment in such diplomatic language that by the time you work out whether it’s an insult or not–if you can–you have gotten a glimpse of the situation from a different and rather complex angle. If you said the same thing in the simplest language possible, for instance “You are either stupid, an airhead, a Marxist, or getting paid to write lies”, it would sound childish and petulant, and would probably not ring true.

So does Ralph’s gift for insults get him in trouble? Is it the one sticking point that prevents glorious success or holds him back from promotions and positions of trust? Or is it the trait that inspires respect based on fear, or maybe it puts him in a position of authority as one able to handle difficult people? Probably none of the above. Although I no longer have his blog address, I remember seeing his blog once, and it was pretty academically dull, sorry Ralph. He’s not the only one. Funny how people’s academic writing is so different from their leisure writing.

“Misrepresent reality”. Has kind of a nice ring to it. “Serves the needs of your current rhetorical project.” Hee, hee, hee. Thanks, Ralph.

The guy who wrote the original paragraph Ralph was responding to is an English teacher’s nightmare.  He started out with a nice enough topic sentence about why we should ignore a particular conservative website that advocates assault and battery against liberals.  But then, instead of developing the idea or defending it with reasons and examples, he quickly degenerated into non sequitors and vague generalities impossible to decipher.  Finally he ended with the statement to “clean up your backyard”. Ah. At last something a tree-hugger can sink their teeth into. It turns out that Ralph’s backyard has complex problem involving a shedding magnolia tree, too much shade, and no ground cover.

Well, for Ralph or any other liberals with a magnolia and/or ground cover problem in their back yards, may I suggest stone paving blocks? In areas with such deep shade that grass, traditional groundcovers like ivy, hosta, daylily, sweet woodruff, lamia, or even moss won’t grow, I have had quite a bit of success with both stone and brick, although I have to add that my maple tree–and maples do have a reputation for both dense shade and shallow roots–is not too shady, nor are the roots too shallow to support lawn from a good shade seed mix.  As far as the leaf problem, raking will give you blisters, plus it takes a lot of time, and then you still have to deal with the leaves. I would wait until no liberals who might comment about your carbon footprint are watching, then take a lawnmower with a bag attachment, chew up the leaves with the lawnmower, google magnolia leaves to make sure they can be composted (I think it’s sycamore you can’t compost), then bury the leaves somewhere. A half hour (and not really that much gasoline) and you’re done.  Trust me, the guy who has so much to say (or not say) about ignoring conservative websites will not tell you this.

One big happy family: Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and Lynndie England and SERE

“It’s like a big family,” said commander Colonel Mike Bumgarner to a group of officials touring Guantanamo back in 2005, when Jane Mayer wrote about it for the New Yorker.

Now Mayer has a new book out that connects some more dots. Apparently psychologists attached to a military torture training program called Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE), which has had some bad press over the years, were moved to Guantanamo and then to Iraq. The new job description for military shrinks was not teaching our military how to resist torture themselves, but how to torture prisoners more effectively. Oh ho! So Lynndie England didn’t think of that stuff all by herself.

And yes, we torture our own soldiers. When they say they don’t do anything to the prisoners at Guantanamo that they don’t do to our own people, they’re absolutely correct. That’s what SERE is all about. One commenter says after he got through the SERE training he “vowed to never be captured alive.” And we’re supposed to be the good guys.

Years ago there was a PBS special called I, Claudius, a historical series set in ancient Rome. In one episode, Caligula asks Claudius, played by Derek Jacobi, whether he might be in fact insane. Jacobi, who has a heavy stutter in this series, had remained unscathed as Caligula, believing himself to be a god, murdered one political rival after another, including his sister who is pregnant with his unborn heir. Jacobi, stuttering magnificently through the scene manages to blurt out the reply, “You set the standard of sanity for the entire empire.”

Back when Lynndie England and the others were photographed at Abu Ghraib, they were called “bad apples.” Now we find out someone else in authority has indeed been setting the standard of sanity for American core values. The whole bushel basket is rotten. England was just the most visible apple.

Now tell me what happens to the good apples when there is a preponderance of rotten ones.

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Going Green: a solar powered trash can

When you think of Chicago, you think industrial, you think meat packing, you think grime.  But Chicago is starting to think Green.  A few weeks ago this solar powered trash can turned up outside the local fast food franchise. Apparently about fifty of the units are now being used on local beaches.

It has a twelve volt battery charged by a solar collector on the top of the unit that powers a forty watt trash compactor.

The unit saves energy since it doesn’t have to be emptied as often.  Newer units even have a remote signal that tells the home office when it is full.

Knowing this neighborhood, though, they really need to label it in Spanish.

Posted in Green. Comments Off on Going Green: a solar powered trash can

Thinking about Just say no

Looking for information about the differences between Microsoft Office 2000 and the XP version ( XP can only be used on one computer and needs a registration key at the Microsoft website), I came across several comments about the free and open source programs.  The writer program is said to be as good as Word.

All of that may be true, but….what they don’t tell you is that you can’t attach the file to a yahoo email.

Obama: remaking the world is not for Woman

Would Barack Obama prefer to return to the days of yesteryear before women could vote?  Looks like it.

Obama signed the guest book at Yad Vashem, writing, “At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man‘s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise from tragedy and remake our world.”

Looks to me like women just got excluded from the Obama vision of human action in the world, both good and bad.

In the 18th century, when Thomas Jefferson wrote the words “all men are created equal” and “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” women could not vote and could not give consent.  Jefferson did not mean the word “men” to mean “men and women” or “humans”.  He meant “men”.

Gender-neutral language has been around for the last 40 years.  It is the norm these days for newspapers, law journals, psychology journals, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and countless English grammar texts, including the one I studied from as an undergraduate in 1991.  Surely Obama has some basic understanding of the idea.

Use of language that is not gender neutral is associated with promoting sexism in economic issues, like equal pay for equal work. No one disputes the role that sexist language plays in manufacturing consent to gender inequality, in maintaining and strengthening sexist values.

Obama already has enough problems with women defecting from his political party. Why would he appear to ignore the role that such women as Golda Mier, Madeline Albright, Condoleeza Rice, just to name a few well-known ones, have played in the evolving picture that is the Middle East. Why is Obama so ultra cautious not to offend Jewish voters by spending days with his careful reclarificaton of his stand on Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel but so careless with trivializing more than half of American voters?

Posted in Gender, Obama. Comments Off on Obama: remaking the world is not for Woman