Thursday, January 22, 2009

This guy is so serious!

Some of you may have seen the clip of Vice-President Joe Biden taking a dig at Chief Justice John Roberts yesterday as he swore in senior White House staff (see below.) Notice how President Obama steps over to him and touches his arm, shaking his head disapprovingly even as the staff laughs at the joke. Biden is apt to say anything, of course, but it revealed just how serious Obama is about his bipartisan stance. I think that many have misinterpreted his insistence on bipartisanship as a sign that he will be wishy-washy on the crucial issues of the day; it seems more likely that he is simply doing his best to disarm opponents and gather as many troops as possible behind some of the more far-reaching things he is planning to do (his forgiveness of Joe Lieberman was an earlier example, if not proof that he really is a Christian.)

We shall see soon enough whether I am right about this or not, although so far he is not wasting any time doing what he said he would do. His executive order that the Freedom of Information Act must be interpreted in favor of disclosure rather than the way the Bush administration viewed it, in favor of secrecy, is a very important example.

Spying revelations: Journalists also targets. From Keith Olbermann's Countdown... (with thanks to PK for the heads up.)

Better than owning? Kevin Kelly of Wired says "Access is better than ownership." Check out this interesting blog post about the future of private property.

War crimes in Gaza? Possibly, say human rights groups; Israel of course denies it. Read about it in the Los Angeles Times. A few key grafs:

Moral questions also linger among Israeli peace activists troubled by the relative lack of public introspection over the destruction and civilian deaths wrought by their army's immense firepower during the fighting in the cramped territory. They say Hamas' abuses do not erase Israel's responsibility for such incidents as the shelling of a United Nations school that killed dozens of civilians sheltered there. Even if Hamas had to be weakened, they wonder how their nation, where memories of the Holocaust are so thoroughly embedded, could look past the plight of 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in a dense war zone they couldn't escape.

"We are witnessing a moral corrosion that is destroying everything at a fantastic pace," said Michael Sfard, a lawyer with Volunteers for Human Rights in Tel Aviv. "We've reached a threshold of insensitivity that we had never reached in the past."

The offensive "on Gaza may be squeezing Hamas, but it is destroying Israel," Ari Shavit wrote in the left-leaning Haaretz in the days before the operation ended. "Destroying its soul and its image. Destroying it on world television screens, in the living rooms of the international community and most importantly, in Obama's America."

An interview with Ilan Pappe. In the Guardian.

The incendiary IDF (Israeli Defense Forces.) A report on Israel's use of white phosphorus over Gaza, by Kenneth Roth for Human Rights Watch.

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