What We Really Think About Jobs, The Economy, And Politics

To those who care about the United States,

Much has been said lately about how college students and recent graduates won’t stand for Obama to be reelected because the economy has not improved and job prospects are bleak. Instead of finding our dream jobs, we are moving back into our parents’ homes. While some of that may be true, here is another truth: we are smarter than you think – and we realize that Obama is not solely responsible for the economy.

I am employed and I am enjoying my job. Is it my dream job? Maybe, maybe not: but it is certainly putting me on the right path, whatever that is. Many of my friends who graduated in the past two years are employed across the country in just about every industry. And many other friends are still looking for jobs. Some had jobs, but left to look for other work or get another degree – because we aren’t here to settle.

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but we don’t want just any old job. We want to be happy and feel like we are contributing something to society. Many of us are willing to remain unemployed longer if it gives us the chance to end up where we want to be. Sure it sucks, and we wish the economy was better, but we also know that we have a lot to offer and we know that our turn will come.

Conversation about the economy has been hijacked to become a referendum on President Obama. Some say that Obama must not be reelected so anything he tries to do must be stopped. Therefore, any efforts Obama attempts to improve the economy are doomed to failure, or at least limited success. It is Congress and the states that prevent improvements to the economy when they refuse to participate in Obama’s plans if said plans could help Obama in the election. This isn’t solely Obama’s fault. It is those who refuse to work together. And this is not a pro-Democrat or anti-Republican analysis. It is the facts. Research them. We did and we will continue to do so.

Our generation is not content to sit back and be told what to think and who to blame. We have too much information at our fingertips. We will use it. And we want to pursue more and more opportunities. We believe in our future and in the future of the United States of America. What we do not believe in is the partisan attacks that prevent useful governance and which prevent our country from actually solving its problems. We demand that politicians work together, compromise, and understand that they are here to do something. Represent us – the future. We have voted and we will vote for or against you because this is how the economy affects us.

Sincerely,

College students and recent graduates

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Understanding Healthcare Reform

I have not posted anything on here in a long time – my bad. I’ve been surprised at how busy life seems to be. Time is flying by. I’ll try to be better about posting again.

Anyway, Stuart (my brother) shared a video about healthcare reform in the U.S. with me. He had to watch it for a public health class he is taking. It is easy to follow and actually helps makes sense of the complicated healthcare reform policy upon which, just today, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments.

This is definitely something people should understand before deciding that they are for or against it. It is also relevant to the work I am doing professionally.

More On The Flotilla

The response to the Gaza flotilla has been overwhelming.  Stories from every angle are all over the home page of The Jerusalem Post.  Most countries seem to be using this as an excuse to condemn Israel, even without knowing the truth of what happened.  This is no surprise.  The United Nations has called for an impartial inquiry into what happened between Israeli commandos and the “pro-peace” activists.  With the UN’s history of discrimination against Israel, this is almost laughable.

This morning I came across a TIME Magazine article about whether or not Obama and Netanyahu could bridge their personal gaps to create peace talks.  I was going to post that here as an interesting story, but then came across a post by Joe Klein about the flotilla incident.  I generally agree with what Joe Klein writes.  In this instance, my opinions waver.  In terms of Israeli politics, I tend to consider myself moderate, wavering to the left or to the right depending on the situation or topic.  Klein gives blame on the Israeli side to Netanyahu and his right-wing government, giving added credence to my International Studies thesis. Klein’s article is as follows:

Well, this certainly doesn’t look good. Israeli commandos attack a flotilla of peace activists and supporters of the Palestinian cause–including a Nobel peace laureate, a holocaust survivor and the mystery writer Henning Mankell–in the waters just off Gaza. Ten are killed; several Israeli commandos are shot, apparently by activists who seized their pistols. I have several immediate reactions:

First reaction: This is an insane use of disproportionate force. It is a product of the right-wing radicalization of the Israeli government, an extremism that Peter Beinart wrote about in his recent, much debated New York Review of Books article. And it will further isolate Israel from the rest of the world. The US will be asked to condemn this behavior in the inevitable Security Council resolution–if Obama doesn’t veto the resolution, there will be hell to pay among the Israelophilic leaders of the American Jewish Community. If he does veto the resolution, his outreach to the Islamic world is kaput. If he abstains, everyone is offended.

Second Reaction: But wait a minute. The blockade the Israelis were enforcing is a joint Egyptian-Israeli effort, caused by the intransigence of Hamas (which, in turn, may be a result of groups even more extreme than Hamas, a new generation of militants who may be the next wave). The sticking point is the Hamas refusal to release its Israeli Army prisoner, Gilad Shalit. And the blockade is not total–food and humanitarian supplies are allowed through by the Israelis, which renders the humanitarian aspects of the flotilla redundant. The real purpose of the flotilla is to dramatize the inhuman conditions in Gaza. But those conditions are as attributable to Hamas’s behavior, especially its refusal to release Shalit and to negotiate, as they are to Israel’s intransigence. If I were an Israeli–even an Israel opponent of the Netanyahu coalition–I would be utterly opposed to making concessions to an organization as historically intransigent and violent as Hamas, unless there were signs that Hamas was willing to behave more reasonably. The first such sign would be the release of Gilan Shalit.

Third Reaction: As I wrote a few months ago, the Gaza situation is–to coin a phrase–a bleeding ulcer that requires aggressive US diplomacy. That means acting as an intermediary between Hamas and Israel. I was led to believe by senior US officials at the time that there were no contacts–not even secret or third party contacts–with Hamas. That seems hard to believe. There is an obvious deal to be negotiated here:  the release of Shalit in return for a limited lifting of the blockade, especially construction supplies so that the Gazans can start rebuilding their homes.

Fourth Reaction: Hamas has achieved a propaganda “victory” here and will be even less likely to negotiate immediately, enjoying every last moment of the international condemnation of  Israel.

Update: Here’s an Israeli account of the incident, which–in Orwellian fashion–calls it a trap set by the pro-Palestinian activists. It is claimed that the Israeli commandos were armed with paintball rifles (huh?)…but they were apparently also armed with pistols, which they used and were used against them.

Update2: Right on schedule, the Likudnik Israel-firsters over at Commentary throw down the gauntlet. It’s up to “liberal zionists”–that is, people who believe in Israel but not in Likud’s neo-imperialist policies–to “choose” between Israel or Hamas. Sorry, but it’s a false choice…and I’m certainly not going to submit to some juvenile ultimatum thrown down by right-wing extremists whose knee-jerk support of Netanyahu’s sado-masochistic coalition is hurting Israel grievously. I understand Israel’s position on the Gaza blockade, though not its crazed macho military nonsense against the flotilla. I believe it’s up to Hamas to initiate negotiations that will lead to the lifting of the blockade. But I also believe that Likudnik policies created Hamas just as surely as the disastrous 1982 Likudnik invasion of Lebanon created Hizballah. It is just astonishing how these shameless people can be so noisy and so wrong for so long. In truth, the one thing that might deter Netanyahu from his disastrous course might be if responsible American Jewish leaders quietly sent the message to Bibi that enough was enough, that they’re happy to support reasonable acts to ensure Israel’s survival, but not this Goliath-like stupidity. (It’s interesting that some of the Palestinian activists were using slingshots against the IDF commandos; that’s an image no Jew wants to see).

The Washington Post article that Klein quotes is interesting in itself.  While essentially tearing apart the flotilla organizers and supporters, the article simultaneously blames Netanyahu and the Israeli government.

We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla — a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists. Israel says that some of the organizers have ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda. What’s plain is that the group’s nominal purpose, delivering “humanitarian” supplies to Gaza, was secondary to the aim of provoking a confrontation. The flotilla turned down an Israeli offer to unload the six boats and deliver the goods to Gaza by truck; it ignored repeated warnings that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza. Its spokesmen said they would insist on “breaking Israel’s siege,” as one of them put it.

The article says that the only way for Netanyahu to get out of this “disaster” is to take credible and solid steps towards a Palestinian state.  Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are in a place for this to happen right now.  Making such major decisions as a result of a diplomatic crisis will only end in failure.  If  the writer of the editorial had read my thesis, the writer would know this.

Gaza Flotilla – Not About Freedom

Last night (U.S. Time), Israel attacked a flotilla that was bound for Gaza.  Israel has blockaded Gaza due to the rule of Hamas and terrorist activities.  While this blockade is well-known, some groups (mostly humanitarian but many with pro-Palestinian and/or pro-extremist ties) have tried to run the blockade and reach Gaza.  Israel and the UN allow humanitarian aid in and offered the flotilla the opportunity to pass the aid on, after a security check.  The offer was turned down.

After being warned to turn around/stop, Israeli soldiers boarded the flotilla ships.  They were attacked by the people on the ships.  According to one Israeli Navy commander, the people on board “came for war”.  The soldiers responded, believing their lives were in danger, and ended up killing several (10 – but number still uncertain) on board the ships and wounding others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been in Canada, canceled a trip to Washington to meet with Obama on Tuesday in order to return home and deal with the impending international crisis.  Obama called Netanyahu today and the two discussed the need to know the facts as soon as possible.  European leaders are already using the incident as a call to end the Gaza blockade and instead act against Israel.  Obama and Netanyahu plan to reschedule their meeting.

Israel has the right to stop ships and check their contents for security reasons (as do all sovereign countries), nevertheless, extremists are using the opportunity to call for attacks against Israel.  To some extent, Turkey is even giving credence to these calls and encouraging some sort of protest against Israel.

"A television grab from Turkish station Cihan shows Navy troops storming the Mavi Marmara" - From Times Online

While it is clear that my views are pro-Israel (which does not mean that I am anti-Palestinian), I try to have a fairly balanced view of situations like this.  The mainstream media, including the BBC article linked to above, almost always represent Israel negatively.  This is biased and untruthful, yet continues to happen.  As such, below are some notes and quotes on the situation, from Stand With Us.  Stand With Us is obviously pro-Israel, but I think these notes are obviously true regardless of whether or not one agrees with the situation that is unfolding.  Clearly we need more information on what actually happened – and it is unlikely to come from unbiased sources.

• Activists carried out a pre-planned violence, armed with knives and metal bars, each sailor being attacked by a mob of a dozen extremists

• The provocateurs were organized by an Islamist organization that has links to fundamentalist jihadi groups.

• The extremists brought small children on board knowing that they intended to violate international maritime law.

• Israel offered to transfer the aid to Gaza again and again – they refused – and chose confrontation.

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “Weapons found on board; the organizers intent was violent, their method was violent and the result was, unfortunately violent”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “We repeatedly called on the organizers to stop this provocation”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “The maritime blockade in Gaza is because of the terrorism of Hamas”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: Allowing the illegal flotilla to reach Hamas would have opened a corridor of smuggling of weapons to Gaza and resulting in civilian deaths.

• Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza.

• “We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us, they are going to have to forcefully stop us,” said one of the flotilla’s organizers

• Using the Arabic term ‘intifada,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said “We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world.

• Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said this week: “If the ships reach Gaza it is a victory; if they are intercepted, it will be a victory too”; Hamas is responsible for the suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis.

• Israel left Gaza in hopes of peace in 2005 and in return received more than 10,000 rockets and terrorist attacks.

• Israel has said that it will deliver any humanitarian aid to Gaza, as it does daily.

• No country would allow illegal entry of any vessel into their waters without a security check.

• Any police force in the world would respond to aggression; the provocation is the reason for this regrettable outcome.

• Wounded, including violent activists, are receiving medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.

Al-Jazeera TV Report from “Freedom Flotilla” Before Its Departure for Gaza: Activists on Board Chant Intifada Songs and Praise Martyrdom.
http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2489.htm

Israeli Navy addresses a ship in the flotilla and offers it to dock in the Ashdod port:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKOmLP4yHb4

BBC report shows violent, masked activists on ship:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/10195838.stm

Read StandWithUs Statement:
http://www.standwithus.com/app/iNews/view_n.asp?ID=1444

Ironically, all of this is unfolding on the United States’ Memorial Day.  The flotilla claimed to be pro-freedom, but their preparation for violent attacks and resulting occurrences show that freedom may not have been the main or entire purpose of this group.

My friend offered the following thoughts on Facebook:

Dear Palestinian “Peace Activists,” You don’t approach an area under blockade and NOT expect to be stopped. THOUSANDS of heavy weapons have historically been smuggled into Gaza so don’t blame Israel for wanting to ensure its own security by searching your ship. Moreover, why not just submit to the search and be on your way… No, go ahead and attack Israeli commandos and see how that works out for ya. Morons. That said, its truly sad for so much loss of life…

Syria and Lebanon claim the attack could lead to war.  This is not surprising and could be a way to once again delay any sort of peace process.

Obama Recognizes Jewish American Heritage Month

On May 27, 2010, President Barack Obama welcome Jewish leaders to The White House to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month.  I did not know, until recently, that such a month existed.  This is pretty cool:

Three Jews and Six Catholics Walked Into The Supreme Court

Obama is said to have selected Elena Kagan, the current Solicitor General, as his choice to replace Justice John Paul Stevens upon his retirement.

Kagan in 2009; Source: The New York Times

Interestingly, religion plays into Supreme Court nominations.  Obama was considering two Jewish people for the Supreme Court nomination.  Stevens is Protestant – and apparently the only current Protestant Supreme Court Justice.  With Obama’s choice of Kagan, assuming she is confirmed, there will be no Protestant Justice.  This is interesting in the United States, with the country’s White Anglo-Saxon Protestant background.  Perhaps this is a step towards a more diverse country?  I’m sure Obama will be attacked for that one by someone.  Clearly diversity is bad.  Oh wait…

Interestingly, one Rabbi stated “that possibly having no Protestant justice member on the court could be seen as a lack of diversity, but he also stressed that this has more to do with the court having six Catholic justices.”  How ironic.

Kagan is said to have views that are in line with the Jewish community.  That could prove to be good for the Jewish community.  She is also said to be liberal, but fairly moderate.  That should get her Republican support.  I hope that she rules without political bias though, the same way I believe all Supreme Court Justices should.  That may be a little utopian though.

The religious makeup of the Supreme Court has changed dramatically over time.  In 1800, it looked like this:

Source: adherents.com on NPR

And in 2000, before Stevens’ retirement, it looks like:

Source: adherents.com on NPR

According to an author quoted by NPR, “religion is the third rail of Supreme Court politics. It’s not something that’s talked about in polite company”.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the Senate over the next few weeks and what the commentators have to say.