Monday, November 23, 2009

William Kunstler

The new documentary of William Kunstler, directed by his two daughters from his second marriage, is an excellent movie. It tells the story of a remarkable, yet far from perfect man, who really came of age during the trial of the Chicago Seven circa 1970. His eyes had been awakened defending Freedom Riders in the South in 1961. Kunstler defended the unpopular - often of Color - defendants through much of his later life.

In general one could say that he notably defended "the underdog". This image contrasted minimally with his desire for being "Visible" and perhaps "notorious" - which was most notably vividly portrayed as defended and embraced the Mafia chief John Gotti - who could hardly be portrayed as a "working class hero".

Despite his faults, Kunstler clear was a great person and did a lot of good in his life. His daughters have done a great job of portraying him as the real person that he was.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Learning From History/Reality vs. Ideology Alone

It is instructive to look at how we in the U.S "as a nation" act internationally. Recently I heard snippets of President Obama's words while in China. Listening to How he spoke I would have thought that the U.S. was repeatedly doing favors to China and that they were very much in our debt. We allow China to provide us with goods and services as well as to invest in our economy helping keep it from collapsing. It would seem to my naive self that we logically would be Thanking China and acknowledging that gradually China is becoming much more economically powerful and we are weakening greatly.

We can perhaps in part blame our most recent past president for foolishness in Iraq and Afghanistan. We loved Saddam Hussein as a strong opponent of the Fundamentalist regime in Iran in the 1980's and early 1990's, but Hussein refused to simply be our puppet and he became our enemy.

Our repeated naivete in not understanding that Al Qaeda is strongly Sunni means issues with countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but not Iran which is Shiite. Though Saddam Hussein was Sunni, rather clearly his leadership was secular based. When we push (majority) Shiite leadership in Iraq, inevitably it helps tie Iraq to Iran - a Shiite nation - and to built up Iran. Now, we cry in our beer about Iran - well we asked for it.

We didn't read our history book right!

Afghanistan - has a strange history. It is a very decentralized country that strangely doesn't like "foreigners" to try to control its destiny. We helped build up the Fundamentalist Moslem forces in both Afghanistan and Pakistan - because we wanted to weaken The Soviet Union - who were trying to control their neighbor.

We don't seem to understand that just because Afghanis may dislike the Taliban does not mean that they will welcome the U.S. in Their Country. Thankfully our ambassador in Kabul seems to understand the dilemma. Oft times it seems that for every life or dollar we spend fighting in Afghanistan - multiple "militants" join the fight against us. It also seems farfetched at least to me that terrorist actions in the U.S. - are going to build up out of Afghanistan, an impoverished - decentralized nation.

Of course we don't see the powers that "Big Oil" and other business interests have in controlling U.S. foreign policy.

Perhaps - naively - I think and hope that more of us in the U.S. will understand how we can be friends and allies of the Moslem World and others who oft times seem to be our enemy. It requires a rather simple thing - Respect. It requires a more complex thing of us - introspection and "reality checking".

We could in a perfect world - work seriously at solving our internal problems - racism, poverty, healthcare - in "people positive" ways. At the same time we could be an active part of the rest of the world in new ways - listening to both our allies and "enemies" and working with others. It would be a radical change! It also might save us from being another fallen empire as well as more importantly making us into being "good people".


Friday, November 13, 2009

Afghanistan - Obama's options - What's Best?

It is interesting that now the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, a former high level military leader there has spoken out against sending more troops there.

Juan Cole in his amazing book: Engaging the Muslim World - has a good relevant quote on page 190 of his book:

"Until the United States and NATO give up their counterproductive search-and destroy tactics and until they instead invest heavily in reconstruction, they will make no progress in winning Pushtun hearts and minds. There is even an increasing danger that the massive numbers of foreign troops in the country will make it a magnet for radical vigilantes; already foreign volunteers are being found among the neo-Taliban, from places such as Chechnya and the Arab world. That is, the immensity of the U.S. and NATO footprint in this fiercely proud tribal Muslim region may actually be creating the threat it ostensibly seeks to avoid: the reconstitution of al-Qaeda and the revival of the 1980’s discourse on holy war that proved so deadly to the Soviet Union."



Friday, November 13, 1964 – 45 years ago today – my brother and I were awakened about 6:30 a.m. by our mother saying: “Daddy’s dead”. I was an immature 13 year old. My father’s cancer and impending death had never been discussed with Dan and me as our parents tried to make our life “normal”. Strangely, perhaps, I had Never consciously thought of my father being terminally ill, but at the same time it also made perfect sense that he was dead.

I didn’t cry then – “being a man” – and in some ways became “the man of the house” in the coming months and years. In the early 1980’s when I discovered feminism I learned to cry. I then grieved the loss openly as well as discovered the anger that I felt towards him.

Now – a rainy Seattle day – it was rainy on my father’s funeral day also I think – I sit and feel a variety of emotions. I’m 58 years old. My father died at 46 and would be 91, if still alive.

I’ve been lucky so far in my life being healthy and not having major tragedies affecting me greatly. With an 87 year old step-father, an 82 year old mother and an 86 year old mother-in-law we will face losses together in the years to come.

I’m thankful that my brother’s chronic mental illness has been much milder in recent years so that he’s been able to be relatively happy. I feel lucky and happy at the successes and happiness of my 22 year old son teaching AP biology and freshman physics in an excellent Chicago public high school.

I’m sad for areas of my own immaturity and mistakes. I also feel happy that my life has become easier and more satisfying while being more challenging. My partner and her two sons push me to be a better person, which helps me, despite my resistance.

I wish that my father had had the opportunity to live a much longer life. I’m sad that his desperation to live pushed him to “fight death” and not accept the inevitable. I’m sad that in the world he knew death and illness were not discussed, so that his friends and allies witnessed his withering body, but were never were able to share with him and help him.

I’m sad – that we weren’t close – and didn’t have a deep bond, though thankful that I can now cry in this moment and simply be.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's Amazing (and Annoying)

Today - a "new comment" - on an old blog entry I wrote on Gaza:

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I've written several times about my erectile dysfunction issues here. Spammers - latch onto - such writing -and perhaps will pick my words above up and do it again. I get an occasional response to my writings in general - I'd say on average one response for every 2-4 blog entries I write - but strange- the entries on ED- get like 13 responses - only 1-2 of which have anything to do with the topic!

That's life I guess - frustrating! It takes some Chutzpah - to write about ED - such responses aren't scary or unnerving - just annoying! Thanks!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Healthcare Reform - and President Obama's Future

An anonymous reader wrote in response to my last blog entry:

"No, the "compromise" wasn't necessary. The same anti-choicers who insisted on the Stupak amendment voted "no" on the whole bill.

It'd be nice to see Democrats that stood up for women, rather than regarded our rights as expendable. "

I am aware that Most of the Democrats who pushed for the Stupak amendment, then voted against the bill. A few of them though voted for it. IF 3 additional Democrats had voted "no" (as easily could have happened), the bill wouldn't have passed. It is sad that standing up for women seemingly wasn't possible here - I'm not being facetious when I say that.

Passing healthcare reform legislation now - requires senate passage of a bill and then reconciliation between the two bills for a final law.

As of now Joe Lieberman has indicated that he'll block legislation coming to a vote as is now proposed which at best would give the Democrats 59 votes, assuming that they didn't lose any other "real" Democrats in the cloture vote.

I really hope that the Democrats will do their best to come up with the bill that has the best consensus opportunities. I then hope that they will meet privately and try to agree to a united cloture vote - and then at least 50 votes in favor of the final legislation. I hope that - IF - anyone including Lieberman - will not (eventually) agree to this, that they will be stripped of all seniority and/or other perks that they now get (Lieberman chairs a committee - which he could easily be stripped of for 2010 - for example).

IF - healthcare reform legislation - is Not passed, I fear that:

1.) The Democrats will not succeed in most areas in passing controversial legislation that the Republicans don't support and
2.) In 2010 - the Democrats will take huge hits in the elections and

Again - the Democrats will have shown us all how they can "have it all" - but not do anything with it.

Obama - will then - obviously be greatly weakened and 2012 - may well be another bad year for the Democrats.

Healthcare reform is important now - in making a Start. It will Not be "good legislation". It will need improvements in future sessions of Congress. IF we insist on "good legislation" now - the Now will keep disappearing over the horizon. I think Single Payer is the answer - but obviously we aren't at its time yet!

Those who want to "stand on principle" - and "make a stand" now - are generally not those who lack healthcare coverage now and will really be hurt without such legislation. Personally I think that the Democratic Party is spineless and "not the answer" - but right now it's all that we've got. I'm more concerned that we now end up with the Republicans again either "in power" or able to block Anything from changing. They still are plenty Scary to me!


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Healthcare Reform - Maybe - Thank You!

I'm very glad to hear that the House of Representatives passed their healthcare reform bill! While the compromise related to abortions being covered is bad, obviously it was necessary to get the bill passed.

I can only hope now that the Democrats in the Senate will have 60 votes - to get their plan to a vote - and then at least 50 votes to then pass it. IF- opponents of reform - such as Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu and our "dear independent friend" from Connecticut (Joe L.) - won't allow the legislation to get to a vote, I hope that they will be stripped of All Seniority - and similar by the Democratic Leadership.

Besides Healthcare Reform being very important, it also is necessary for the Democrats to recover from their woes, and move towards positive 2010 and then 2012 elections.

Healthcare reform - can be reformed in coming years. IF it isn't passed and put into law, it likely won't happen for another long period of time.


Have a Nice Day !

One thing which puzzles me at times is how we are and are Not "nice" to others (generally strangers) in odd common life situations.

Do we let the driver into our lane ahead of us? Do we do so if s/he signals their intentions, but not otherwise? These are simple examples.

I know that I am annoyed with people who encounter road signs telling them to get out of their driving lane (because it's ending) and wait until the absolute last second and then try to force themselves in front of others who have commonly already "waited their turn" in the slower lane (rather than doing what the latter people are doing). Others no doubt look at this situation differently!

I find that when I'm in a good mood and relaxed I tend to be "generous" looking out for situations where I perceive that I can minimally help another person or simply "be nice" with a smile or similar. I also find that when I feel rushed or put upon, I'm much less likely to do so. At times I embarrass myself or worse, when I don't yield to a pedestrian that I didn't see in my haste.

In some life situations I recognize how I was taught as a child to "be nice" and how "respect" and being a caring person for me often is superficial - but deep in these areas. Part of "being nice" is a desire to fit in - an inferiority complex - for me. It also can be partially the opposite - sharing - without desiring acknowledgment - simply being "good people".


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Peace in the Middle East ??

Yesterday -I'm glad that our Congressperson - Jim McDermott - was one of 36 who voted against House Resolution 867 - which condemned the Goldstone Report's condemnations of both Israel and Hamas for War Crimes related to the Israel-Gaza War.

It is sad that when Hamas - rocket launchings - killed roughly 12-13 people over several years, a ceasefire was in effect stopping the rocket launchings, which was then broken by Israel, not Hamas and then the Israeli invasion of Gaza killed Gazan's 100-1 vs. Israelis killed, much of Gaza has been destroyed and an Israeli blockade of Gaza continues to the present and Israel refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Commision - lead by a Jewish Man who is hardly "anti-Israel", that we in the U.S. can not and will not accept that Israel - was the aggressor - and was the one who did "most of the bad stuff".

So sad!