Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My president is cool, how 'bout yours?

I don't know about you, but I'm busting my buttons that my president is a cool, smart young Black guy instead of an ignorant, incompetent fool. It's a guilty pleasure, to be sure, because I am a life-long leftwinger and Obama is just the human face of the capitalist ruling class--right? Hmm, I guess we will know soon enough. But I'm not as ready to moan and whine as some Marxists who are so sure they have it all figured out that they actually think they know what Obama is really going to do.

Actually, I don't know exactly what to expect from him, because what he does depends so much on what we do. And that's another source of guilt: Deep down, many of us Americans don't believe we really deserve to have a good president, especially after we--in our democratic wisdom--twice elected George W. Bush. Oh, I know, you didn't vote for him (neither did I.) Oh, and yes, he stole the 2000 election, didn't he? Well, perhaps if the Democratic Party had offered up a better candidate the margin of victory would have been greater AND no one would have wanted to vote for Ralph Nader. So, there again, those of us on the liberal/left side of the spectrum have to share the guilt because Gore and Kerry were the best we could come up with.

I am sure that I and most other readers of this blog, no matter what their political viewpoints, will not agree with everything that Obama does. But it seems clear that he is not likely to be bound by ANY previous conventional wisdom or taboos, other than those he actually agrees with. I think we have learned that much about him by now, especially since he is still standing tall after all the mud slung at him during the primary and presidential campaigns. He may even surprise us. Already this morning, he is beginning to fulfill his campaign promise to close Guantanamo by halting the military tribunals, he is freezing many of those Bush administration midnight rules and regulations from going into effect, and he is removing the ban on federal money going to international family planning groups that counsel about or perform abortions.

Who knows, he and Hillary Clinton might even buck the Jewish lobby (ie AIPAC, yes Virginia, there is a Jewish lobby) and tell the Israelis that they have to make peace. Maybe now Obama will tell us what he thought about the collective punishment of death and destruction Israel just deliberately visited upon the people of Gaza. I somehow doubt that he thought it was a good idea, especially since he is a Christian and probably relies more on the New Testament than the Old Testament for his moral code.

At the very least, every day Obama will do something new and interesting, and that will inspire many Americans to do the same.

How did Cheney really pull that muscle? One of the Washington Post's blogs, The Gene Pool, starts off by suggesting that he did it while chopping up kittens with an axe, but another commenter thinks he was moving out boxes so the FBI wouldn't find them.

What Israel hath wrought. Two versions of the destruction of a village in east Gaza. Which one sounds the most believable?

Obama, Israel and Palestine. An interesting and important article by Steven Erlanger in the Jan 22 New York Times explores the difficult choices faced by the new Obama administration in the Middle East. Erlanger points out that Israel's actions in Gaza have probably strengthened Hamas at the expense of Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas (he pretty much dismisses some Israeli claims to the contrary), and increased the likelihood that Hamas would win new elections designed to create a Palestinian unity government for both Gaza and the West Bank. That of course raises the issue of whether Obama, and Israel too, would have to engage directly with Hamas as part of the settlement process. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but isn't it funny how many recent Israeli actions seem to have the effect of making the "peace process" more difficult? But something tells me that sooner or later, the jig is up for Israeli obfuscations, which were so eagerly supported and accepted by the Bush administration--whose 8 year long "disengagement" from the situation could perhaps better be seen as a period of letting Israel do exactly what it wanted. Obama does not have to shed his pro-Israel rhetoric to make progress in the Middle East, all he has to do is be even-handed and let Israel hang itself on its own rope as its true motivations--avoid peace at any cost--are exposed. Now if the Palestinians would just get smart and take advantage of this window of opportunity rather than eating themselves up in internecine warfare...

One-state solution? Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi gets some of his facts wrong--the Israelis did expell many Palestinians from their lands in 1948--but his opinion piece in the Jan 23 Times makes a very good argument for this logical and I think inevitable outcome, even if a two-state solution might be necessary as a first step. Let me be as clear as possible: States based on religion or ethnicity, whether Islamic republics or Jewish states, are abhorrent.

Gideon Levy: Gaza war ended in utter failure for Israel. The Ha'aretz columnist explains why.

Oaf of office. Don't miss Steven Pinker's explanation of how strict constructionist grammarian Chief Justice John Roberts got President Obama balled up on the oath of office Tuesday. His call for boldly splitting infinitives should be a clarion call to all those who want to write gracefully.

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