Thursday, July 31, 2008

Across the Country Day 1

Silly to think that I wouldn't be able to blog, of course my Dad brought his computer. So I packed up all my assorted crap into my car, and headed off on our journey. The sky was an overcast gray as we set off west. We crossed the old brick towns and spired chapels along the route through the rugged mountains of Western Maryland and West Virginia under a silver and salmon pink sky with hints of peach hue and punctuated by an occasional downpour.

We stopped for lunch in Morgantown, West Virginia, home of West Virginia University. We grabbed a bite on the main street, which felt like college town USA. We had subs at Jimmy John's, home of freakin fast subs and cute aphorisms on the wall (if someone is nice to you, but mean to the waiter, they are not a nice person). After lunch, we had a nice little stroll down main street, then we were off.

The landscape changed as we passed through Pennsylvania's rolling hills, and veered within 30 miles of Pittsburgh before swinging back through a sliver of West Virginia. On past Wheeling's spired churches and into Ohio. The thing I find so sad is the endless homogeneousness of America- the same fast food outlets, same stores, same crap.

Along the way, we began two books on tape and cd, respectively. The first was a Stephen King novel about people going stark raving mad from cellphones- I couldn't agree more. The second was Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillen (Author's note: I'm at Panera using their wifi, and apparently Amazon is blocked content- I didn't realize I was in China). The fascinating thing about listening to Paris 1919 was the profile of Woodrow Wilson, and some of the striking similarities of Wilson to our current President Bush. Their idealism, stubborn obtuseness and sheer certainty of their convictions. Also their inability to work with the other side of the political divide leading to the foiling of their bold ambitions.

As we passed into Ohio, the terrain changed again. We were now driving through the Midwest's fields of farmland. Flatness and corn now filled the horizons where their had once been hills and mountains. We took a break in Columbus and wandered into the State House. Their was literally no security as we passed through the building and into the Legislature Hall. After walking around the State House, we wandered our way into the opening of an art exhibition at the Riffe Museum. The museum was holding an exhibition of "Midwestern Impressionism." It was an interesting collection of impressionist artists painting the landscapes of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The works showed a wonderful Midwestern gothic through an impressionist lens. After, we drove over to The Ohio State University, where we wandered around campus and are now about to get back on the road. Off to Indianapolis.

Off to the shaky coast

It's the edge of the world
And all of western civilization
The sun may rise in the East
At least it settles in the final location
It's understood that Hollywood
sells Californication
-Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Californication"

I'm off today on my great leftward swing. I'm breaking free from my St. Helena of suburbia and beginning my road trip to Lala land. My Dean Moriarty is none other than my Dad, who is nice enough to join my on my transcontinental adventure. We are trying to hit as many baseball games as possible: Chicago, St. Louis, Denver and LA (of Anaheim). We plan to hit the Grand Canyon, which I have never seen. Also all sorts of middle America delicacies like Rocky Mountain oysters.

I assume I will be blogging over the next few days. If I am unable to do so, I am posting this short story that I read over the summer and really found interesting. This should keep my loyal readers occupied:

Tobias Wolff, Bullet in the Brain

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

what's that, sunny?

I'm fed up with all the stupid anti-Obama jokes I keep receiving as forwards from my right wing friends so I am posting a McCain joke I found online:

Early one morning during the Presidential Campaign, John McCain heard a knock on his front door. He opened the door to find a high-school-age girl wearing a "Vote for McCain" t-shirt.

"I saw you on TV last night, debating with the other candidates," she said.

McCain nodded. "The other candidates say I'm too old," he said. "They say I'm losing my memory and that I won't be able to remember the names of foreign leaders if I'm elected. But I'm going to prove them wrong."

"Good," said the girl.

"Now tell me, young lady," said McCain, "what is your name?"

The girl looked confused. "It's ME, Grandpa."

Pro-Israel

A great op-ed by MJ Rosenberg of the hollowness of "pro-Israel" politicians. I always laugh at AIPAC mustering these 99-1 Senate resolutions as being about as meaningful as Syria's election referendums. As I learned in Texas, not everyone who is critical of you is your enemy, and not everyone who speaks positively is your friend.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Political Survivor

There was a real interesting segment today on the Kojo Namdi show on WAMU (NPR) about how the election has turned into a reality tv show. The primaries really kicked off during the writers' strike, and the networks loved the high ratings the debates were receiving. Slowly, we kicked each of the 10 original candidates off the presidential island until only Obama and McCain were left.

Meanwhile, what remains has been a contest not about issues but personality. There has been record amounts of coverage about Obama, and nearly 2.5 times the amount for him than McCain. That includes positive, negative and utterly vapid and innane coverage about the Senator from Illinois. Meanwhile, McCain has received more coverage than any Republican candidate ever. Somehow this campaign has boiled down to a personality contest- a referendum on Barrack Obama- and not anything related to the issues.

All of this leaves me in fear factor. If this campaign cycle remains about personality and not issues, I have my concerns. If we can't reframe this election about how the Republicans are bombing on the issues that matter, and leave it circulating about American Idol-like emptiness, we are truly headed for trouble in November.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

For the Knowledgable Bum

I had my last day of work at Magnificent Publications ("For the Knowledgable Reader") and now I am gainfully unemployed :)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bush unscripted; Obama in Berlin

Poppy Bush, Pres Bush the first, can't possibly be proud of the job his son is doing. He is screwing everything up. Loved the video, nice to see him unscripted.



It takes a drunk to know one- too bad we're the ones left with the hangover, not just Wall Street. I love his smugness, as if he wasn't an enabler to all that has crashed.

I think it is hysterical that people actually voted for that clown because he would be "better to have a beer with." Bill Maher said it best when commented "I don't want to have a beer with the president, he should be the designated driver."
Instead, as Maureen Dowd wrote:
"Boy George crashed the family station wagon into the globe and now the global economy. Yet the more terrified Americans get, the more bizarrely carefree he seems. The former oilman reacted with cocky ignorance a couple of weeks ago when a reporter informed him that gas was barreling toward $4 a gallon."

Pres Bush the first went triumphantly to Berlin to watch the Wall come down. We had another leader there yesterday to bring down the walls of division that were thrown up during the W era.


Hundreds of Thousands of Germans came out to see him- Germans waving American flags and cheering for us, and for the possibility that things can be different after such a period of division.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Agents of Chaos

This was how the Joker referred to himself in the new Batman movie. I was reminded of this while reading about Radovan Kardzic. A lot of good articles about him and the war in Bosnia from people who were close up like Richard Holbrooke and Roger Cohen. I think the best article I read was from Neely Tucker of the Washington Post. Something about seeing the contrast of pictures of Kardzic, one looking dapper in a expensive suit- the other looking like a monk or Andrew Weil, really reminded me of Hannah Arendt's concept of "the banality of evil."

Continuing the evil discussion, a good piece by Bradly Burston of Ha'aretz over the prisoner swap and another agent of chaos, Samir Kuntar.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Obama and the Jews

It seems about time to put to bed the fallacy that Obama is having a hard time wooing Jewish voters. This specious argument was first drummed up during the primary campaign with Hillary, because she received considerable support among Jewish voters, especially older ones. I even heard this canard from worried non-Jewish Dems.

There was never any basis in reality that Obama would have trouble landing Jewish voters, and his ranks are filled with Jewish supporters, especially among younger Jews and older Jewish intellectuals. Pundits pointed to Joseph Lieberman's support for McCain as possibly trouble for the senator from Illinois, but polls are proving otherwise.

The vast majority of American Jews are liberal to left-of-center and support the Dems, and this won't change with Obama as candidate for the highest office. Of course, there are some real Right Wing Jews, whose likes I met in Texas. They exist and Bush did a decent job of courting them-probably better than McCain has done, because Bush was able to pull some votes away with the Orthodox in his faith-based outreach.

I have no worries that my peeps will be anything but loyal Dems and will come out full force for Obama. I personally predict that Obama will get a higher percentage of the Jewish vote than Kerry received.

Meanwhile, a very good article by Yossi Klein Halevy in The New Republic about Obama's trip to Israel.

VP speculation and a little West Wing recap

There is an uptick of speculation that McCain might tap Carly Fiorina as his VP, especially as Jindal removes himself for nomination. She has been my recent bet on his VP pick, and could teach him how to do "a google."

Meanwhile, I would personally like to see Obama tap Sen. Chuck Hagel as his running mate. I like the idea of a unity ticket, and Sen. Hagel, who is accompanying Obama on the Middle East tour, is the last of the real political mavericks since McCain traded his mav status for base pandering. Hagel has security credentials and increases the idea the this is a new kind of campaign by crossing the political divide. He has also been Obama's "Lieberman" and speaking on the Illinois senator's behalf.

Meanwhile, I dug up an old clip from West Wing, a rousing speech by Congressman Matt Santos at the Democratic Convention. Enjoy:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Paul Rockower for President

Apparently I was aiming too low when I offered myself up as Obama's Vice Presidential candidate. The news reports are in and the people want more. The Draft Rockower movement has begun. See for yourself on this New3online report: Rockower for President.

Thanks Julep. For alerting me of the groundswell, you will get appointed my Ambassador to Kazakhstan, or at the very least a White House internship.

Meanwhile, back to the campaign at hand. As I have said in the past, I respect John McCain but would never vote for him. That respect has definitely dwindled as he switched his once maverick positions to the Republican norms on tax cuts, Guantanamo, and drilling for oil off America's coasts. I doubt it is senility that has kicked in, just sad political pandering.

Running as an heir to the Reagan Republican movement is a tired strategy of a past era. I just don't think he fully grasps the economic issues that face us, let alone the problems that we face in the new millennium. Frank Rich has a great article about this in Sunday's NYTimes. How could we possibly elect a president in 2k8 that can't even send an email? Time for an end of Grand Dinosaur Party that has run us aground. I have said, to anyone who will listen, that if we want to win, this race can't be about McCain's character or personal history, but rather his lack of grasp on the issues that we face. Perhaps that is why I have been drafted to run, because McCain couldn't figure out how to open the link above.

PS: Happy Birthday Ernest Hemingway, and some other schmo born today. J/K happy birthday Dad.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Scramble for Wonga

'All I can add in my solitude, is, may heaven's rich blessing come down on every one, American, English or Turk, who will help to heal this open sore of the world.'
-David Livingstone's final words, emblazoned in brass on his tomb at Westminster Abbey

A few things that graced my plate in recent weeks that again reminded me that things seemingly never change. I recently finished a few books about Africa that dovetail nicely and were pretty good, The Scramble for Africa and The Wonga Coup.

The Scramble for Africa was a great survey of the colonial takeover of the dark continent, and all the scheming and scamming that it involved. It was good, albeit long, read into the period and touched on all the interesting robber barons, scoundrels, missionaries, colonialists and Monarchs that were involved in an interesting and pivotal period.

Some "luminaries" the book dealt with were Henry Morton Stanley (Dr. Livingstone, I presume) and his role in helping King Leopold , obtain the Congo as well as the later horrors that took place there. Also Cecil Rhodes and his role in Southern Africa. The book discussed Frederick Lugard, the Rhodes of West Africa.

Also some fascinating events like the Boer War, Germany's first genocide- in Southwest Africa, the failed Italian campaign in Ethiopia and the Fashoda Affair- the closest occurence to the failure of the Democratic Peace Theory about how democracies don't go to war with each other. Anyway, a real interesting book if you are a history buff like moi. Ironically the epilogue opens with optimism of Zimbabwe's independence, as it discusses the colonial scramble out.

The other book, the Wonga Coup fits in nicely as a bookend to colonial takeovers in Africa. This was about a plot by a bunch of mercenaries to overthrow the brutal dictator Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea in a coup to take control of the country's oil wealth. Obiang is one of the most brutal dictator's in all of Africa, and the mercenaries were going to storm the country and put in a new president while taking vast profits from the country's oil wealth. If it sounds like something out of Frederick Forsyth's Dogs of War, that's only cause it partially was. Even Maggie Thatcher's boy Mark was somewhat involved in the sordid affair. It all ended badly, with many mercenaries ending up in two places you never want to be- prison in Zimbabwe and Equitorial Guinea.

The final note from the "plus ça change" relates to a movie I watched friday night, The Battle of Algiers. The movie is a classic about the FLN's struggle in its insurgency against France, as well as France's counterinsurgency efforts and the terrorism takes place from both sides. There are some real poignant and sadly relevant scenes about French paratroopers torturing the FLN fighters, and the question of morality of tactics and righteousness of cause. The film deals a lot with the notion of winning the tactical battle but at a cost that ultimately loses the war of ideas.

One of the more riveting scenes takes place in a dialogue between a reporter and the French Colonel in charge of the counterinsurgency:

REPORTER: Colonel, there’s been talk recently of the paratrooper’s successes and of the methods they said to use. Could you say something on this?

COLONEL MATHIEU: The successes result from these methods. The one presupposes the other.

REPORTER: I feel that being excessively careful, my colleagues keep asking roundabout questions to which you can only reply in a roundabout way. It would be better to call a spade a spade. If it’s torture, let’s speak of torture.

COLONEL MATHIEU: I understand. You have no questions?

REPORTER: The questions have been asked. We would like the answers.

COLONEL MATHIER: "Let us be exact. The word “torture” does not appear in our orders. We ask questions as in any police operation against an unknown gang. The FLN asks its members to keep silent for 24 hours if they are captured. Then they can talk. That’s the time required to render any information useless. How should we question suspects? Like the courts and take a few months over it? The legal way has its drawbacks. Is it legal to blow up public places? When he asked Ben M’Hidi, what did he say?

Believe me, it’s a vicious circle. We could talk for hours without reaching a conclusion. The problem is quite different. The FLN wants to kick us out of Algeria. And we want to stay. Even though we have different ideas, I think we all want to stay. When the rebellion started, there were no nuances. All the papers, even those of the left, wanted it suffocated. We’re here for that. We are neither mad nor sadists. They call us fascists. They forget what we did in the resistance. They say Nazis, but some of us survived Buchenwald. We are soldiers. Our duty is to win; thus, to be quite clear, I’ll ask you a question myself: Must France stay in Algeria? If the answer is still “yes,” you must accept all that this entails."

Or watch it for yourself

Na nana nana nana...

BATMAN! Zap, bam, kappow. Saw the Batman movie this weekend, it was great. Ledger was sick as the joker, really one of the better assumptions of role I have ever seen. The audience hung on the Joker's every word, I haven't seen a performance like that in a long time. Heath Ledger definitely deserves a posthumous Oscar, his performance stole the show.

The rest of the movie was good, just a little less than great (A-). It was a little long, and the ending was a little weak. Maggie Gyllenhall did a much better job than Katie Holmes as "Rachel Dawes," as she had enough gravitas to hang with the rest of the crew. Again, the real thing to watch was Heath Ledger as Joker, everything else, even Batman, was secondary. Worth a watch, all you caped crusader fans.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sadness and Shame

Yesterday was a day of great sadness across Israel, as she received the bodies of two of her sons. The bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the soldiers who were kidnapped by Hizbullah as the spark that lit the Second Lebanon War, were returned to Israel for the release of five Lebanese prisoners, as well as 199 bodies of dead combatants.

All of Israel stood in mourning for the Regev and Goldwasser families, as all could acutely feel their grief. Although the two soldiers were believed to be deceased, their families clung to the hopes that they would return. The following is something that was sent to me by my friend Eyal in Israel. Eyal is an officer in the Israeli army, and was part of the group that traveled with my Birthright group. Although I was planning on writing about the exchange, he helped push me to do it, and was kind enough to share his thoughts:

"Hizbullah didn't reveal if the soldiers were alive or dead, although all the intelligence reports said that the soldiers are 100% dead. We all had a feeling deep down in our heart that they are alive. My mind said to me that they are 100% dead but yesterday i had the feeling that at least one of them is alive, but I was embarrassed to talk about it because i was afraid that it will sound stupid. At nine o'clock, all the soldiers at out base stood in front of the tv waiting, for a miracle but the picture we saw was this

My eyes were full of tears but I was really proud of being an Isreali at that time.
The feeling was like all of the nation stopped at that time just to see if they are alive, and after we knew they were dead it was like the all nation were in grief for those soldiers. The radio in the last two days broadcasts only sad songs.
As Eldad Regev's brother said: 'I'm proud to belong to (a nation) of lovers and not haters,the feeling was like every Israeli is your own brother.'

He added, 'Every Israeli mother whose son is sent to war should know that the fate of her son is in the hands of dedicated commanders who will work tirelessly for his release.'"

This all took place in stark contrast on the other side of the border, where Hizbullah joyously welcomed the murderer Samir Kuntar. Samir Kuntar was a terrorist, who took part in a raid on Nahariya. His despicable acts included smashing in the skull of a 4 year old child; he was welcomed as a hero by Hizbullah.

I can't remember a point of utter juxtaposition like this. The humanity of Israel weeping for her dead juxtaposed with the inhumanity of Hizbullah celebrating with pomp and circumstance the release of a child killer. Some days it becomes apparent that we truly have an ocean of void that separates us.

As I am off to commemorate the yartzheit tonight of my grandfather, Harry, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser will be in my mourners prayers.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Jesus is my landlord

That's right, I got a friend in Jesus. I found a lovely place to live for the next year in a house I had visited the previous day. It was the first place I had been in-touch with when I began my search, and the last I visited on the previous day. I had thought the place nice, but it was a bit further away and with more people in the house which had worried me. My how things change as the situation unfolds and I visit nearly a dozen places.

So the place is an old victorian house that has been renovated very nicely, complete with some art deco-ish trim and a spire. A nice yard with palm trees, and a nice porch to sit out and enjoy the California extended summer. The interior has a real charm to it, and is all hardwood floors. My room is not very big, but adequate. It has an alcove with a cathedral window. I don't have much of a view, but there are some plants out my window. All and all, more than sufficient for my minimal needs.

As for the title of this email, the man who owns the place is an amiable fellow named Jesus. Jesus is an engineer, but mentioned he does some carpentry on the side. So now that I will not be a homeless grad student, I guess Jesus really is my savior.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kudos

Thank you Tom Friedman for writing the column I wish I had. Probably why you are who you are, and why I am going back to school.

And to the LA Times for a good piece on the Axis of Oil.

Homeless

I flew out yesterday to LA to look into housing. Apparently, most people do this via internet. I won't even buy a t-shirt on the web, and figured that it made sense to come out to inspect and "kick the tires." Sadly, the only thing I have gained out of my housing search is a $70 parking ticket for parking in a "red zone." So not fair cause it was in the shade, and I couldn't see the red paint. Even worse cause I only moved to avoid a 4hour limit zone, and would have received a far cheaper ticket if I had stayed put.

Anywho, I thought I was all set. I found a nice, quirky place with real onda. The place was a nice old house, with a big yard filled with fig trees and an orange tree. The house was not far from school and filled with foreign kids. I was all set to write out a check for the deposit, but the owner, a fellow about my age, noted that tenants were barred from having overnight romantic guests. I'm no Don Juan, but I also am not looking for the cloistered life of a convent. He was adamant about the rule, so unfortunately, I had to walk away. I have been pounding the pavement ever since, to the tune of little luck. A basement dungeon; a crazy Republican landlord for a place that was out of the Bates motel; a Chinese prison camp room; all way too expensive.

I think I will probably end up living with Anthony Kiedis, ie under the bridge downtown. Off to the next dilapidated, overpriced hellhole...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Green Mountain wedding

I'm in Vermont right now, for the wedding of one of my oldest friends, Brian Dean. I caught an early morning flight yesterday to Manchester, NH, along with the rest of the wedding party. I immediately found myself with two quick strikes first for checking my bag when the rest of the party carried theirs on, and the second for not bringing my camera because apparently I was backup photographer. Missed the memo.

I napped on the hour long flight and arrived to Manchester to be greeted by Brian and his father. His father took Brian's brother, soon-to-be wifey Natalya and future Mom-in-law while Brian, another old friend Jesse and I waited for a friend of Nat's named Christie who was coming in from Cali. Jesse got his rental and we piled in for the 2 hour journey from New Hampshire to Vermont. We stopped along the way at some one horse town for pizza for lunch, which was surprisingly good- doughy thick crusted and gooey. The ride to Brian's folks' place was pretty, as we drove through endless green under a crisp blue sun with clouds painting shadows on the mountains, and past turquoise lakes wrapped framed in forestry.

We arrived to the Deans' lovely home, in the middle of Vermont's pristine abundance. There home was on acres after acres, complete with ponds with frogs, fields with cows and looking out to the green Vermont mountains. The Deans' property was an idyllic, bucolic masterpiece painted out of New England gothic, while the air was so fresh, as the winds carried it through the verdant landscape. We lounged around their home and in the hammock, as I read Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, a beautifully written book of short stories about India and the Indian experience in America.

We drove through the little one-moose town of Cavendish, to the hall where Brian and Natalya had to file for their marriage license. The town hall had a little plaque in honor of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who had lived his exile years in the town.

For the rehearsal dinner, we headed to a lovely restaurant whose name I am blanking on. It was in an old structure that also served as a bed-and-breakfast. We had a private room in the ambiance of a wine cellar. We sat around a rustic old wooden table, with cute African animal napkin holders, and had a wonderful 5-course meal. The group began with a crab and mango salad, while kosher moi had a spinach soup. We moved on to a delicious piece of white fish called barnabie(?) with an emulsion, then on to a wonderful wild mushroom risotto with asparagus. The next course was a bacon-wrapped (sans bacon) quail, which I liked but everyone else seemed to think a little strange to chow down on the baby birdie. The whole thing reminded me of an episode of This American life about Francois Mitterand's last meal on a tiny, delicate bird. I passed on the next course, the beef, which looked delicious but didn't fit in my parve meal. We ended with a chocolate soufflé and meringue with berries. I can't remember the last time I had a poly-course meal, it was absolutely delicious. The girls went back to their hotel for the night, while we went back to the Deans to sit out under the vast skies. I watched shooting stars pass under the crystal clear Vermont skies.

The next day we hung around the house until wedding time, and witnessed a lovely ceremony to marry the young couple. Brian and Natalya were married next to the hollyhocks by the neighbor Rolf, who was a Justice of the Peace. Brian and Natalya exchanged their vows, and the wedding was short and poignant. It was made even cuter by Brian and Nat's dog Sasha, who was scampering around in a dress. We retired back in the house for yummy wedding cake and champagne. Later, we headed out for a delicious dinner at a nice restaurant. I had a fennel gazpacho, and a panko-crusted salmon with blueberries. As continuing with tradition, Brian spiked my water with salt while I was in the bathroom- I trick I got my vengeance for the following night. We dropped the newlyweds off at their suite, and headed back home.

The rest of the weekend was spent carriage riding, outlet shopping, and watching fireworks as we lounged around. Ok, I lounged, while Brian and his brother and father bailed hay. Anyway, it was a lovely affair and truly special to watch one of my oldest friends settle down with a great girl. I hope them all the best in their new life together, and wish them a hearty mazal tov.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Recount

I spent my 4th in a very ironic fashion, I watched the horror movie that is Recount. I had tried to watch it on two previous occasions, but the "train-wreck" effect made me turn it off. With a few drinks to get me through it, I was finally able to watch the replay of the 2000 recount. Ugh. Oy, it didn't have to be this way. I have tried a few times to write a counter version of the last 2 terms if Gore had been in office, but gave up at the pollyannish nature that it turns towards (ie everything is perfect). Anyway, it was a fitting way to spend the last 4th under our dear leader's watch. Cheers to 4th of July '09, dear G-d let thing be different.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Colombia, Israel and July 4th

With the recent dramatic rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and the three American hostages, my thoughts turned to another dramatic rescue that took place around this time. Israel's raid on Entebbe took place today, some 32 years before.

Like Colombia's rescue, the world cheered the dazzling guile and skill of Israel's commando raid on the airport in Uganda. Colombia's raid, and Israel's Entebbe operation seems in such juxtaposition with the news this week that Israel will be making a prisoner swap with Hizbullah.

Granted, the situation between Israel and Hizbullah is a little different since Israel was ultimately swapping prisoners for the bodies of two soldiers it believed to be dead. It was around this time that the second Lebanon war kicked off over the capture of Goldwasser and Regev, on the heels of the capture of Gilad Shalit by Hamas. Gilad Shalit still remains in Hamas custody to this day. I can only imagine the IDF's envy at the Colombian army's recent operation, as it finds itself negotiating with Hamas for Shalit's release. Perhaps the IDF and the Mossad still have some tricks up their sleeves, and can pull off a daring rescue like they were once so adept at. Ok, I temper that last comment with the fact that the Israeli Airforce knocked out its second nuclear reactor when it destroyed the North Korean-built Syrian reactor earlier in the year. There could be a third sometime soon....

Moving tacks a little, on the 4th of July, my thoughts seem to drift to my students from the citizenship class that I teach. I wonder about the ones who have recently passed, and what it means for them to celebrate this holiday as new American citizens. I always love reinforcing the questions about July 4th on the exam by asking them what they did or are doing for the holiday. Always smiles and mentions of bbqs and fireworks.

The program took a hit recently, amid budget disputes in the county government and is being left in limbo. Sad that such a wonderful program could be left to die over petty local politics. In any case, enough volunteers will continue staffing the classes in an ad hoc fashion so that the classes will continue until it is back up and running.

In any case, Happy 4th of July. Two great pieces on Patriotism, left and right in America on Slate. Waving the Flag I & II

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Truth from the tyrant's mouth

While being far from an apologist for Robert Mugabe, I have to give him credit. At the African Union summit in Egypt, he balked at criticism from leaders on the rest of the continent, and basically told them to all look in the mirror. Mugabe's record is abysmal, but sadly his record is shared by many of the 53 nation bloc that would be casting stones. Meanwhile, the AU ended up doing nothing, and didn't even provide real censure. A pathetic display all around.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Cry, the beloved country

The name of the book by Alan Paton, which is quickly becoming the ubiquitous phrase to aptly describe the situation in Zimbabwe. There is a sadly poignant essay in the Washington Post on the Zimbabwe of Memory by a journalist who was there in the late 90's, which stands as a reminder that it didn't have to be this way.

We're number 1!

A WHO report showed that the US of A leads the world in substance abuse, despite it's considerably stricter drug laws. Meanwhile countries with laxer drug laws have lower rates of abuse. This news of our primacy comes not long after we were ranked as the most incarcerated nation in the world.

Can we please discuss these issues as part of our never-ending presidential campaign, or are we forced to only discuss issues like Barack Obama being "a Muslim" with a Christian pastor problem?