Archive for December, 2012

Gun Control after Newtown

The United States has too many guns. Guns are too easy to get. There are guns for sale to the public that have no other purpose other than homicide.

While we cannot say definitively that making deadly weapons a bit more difficult to acquire (at least more difficult than a car!) would put a stop to tragedies like the one in Connecticut, they can at least make them a bit more difficult to plan and less lethal when they do occur.

If the killer had to work a little harder to buy the guns or steal them maybe there would have been time for someone to notice something. If a mental health professional could officially determine that he is potentially dangerous, he would at least have to get the guns illegally which would involve greater expense and more risk. If the guns held less ammunition there likely would have been less killing.

None of these measures remove the need to make mental health treatment more available. Nor do they deter legitimate gun owners from exercising their 2nd Amendment rights.

The point is we can take significant steps to minimize this kind of violence. What is required is the political will and a public willing to stand up for politicians who do the right thing, and against the gun lobby.


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The Non-Case Against Susan Rice

Why were republicans so intent on keeping Susan Rice from becoming Secretary of State? She never showed any sign of going off-script. She always supported standard American Establishment foreign policy. Never went off the rails toward anything radical, never scared Israel like Andy Young did in the 70s. When she went on television to explain what happened in Benghazi she was little more than a messenger. Diplomatic security is not her responsibility.

Was it to derail the Obama agenda in some way? I hope that our politics hasn’t become so divisive that the opposition would make weakening the president’s hand such a priority.

Dare we wonder if it was because she’s a Black woman? John Kerry, the new front runner for the nomination—also a good choice, would be the first White guy in that job in 16 years since Warren Christopher. Are there folks on the right—the same characters who question President Obama’s legitimacy who would like to restore what they perceive as the natural order?

The other question is why Obama and his allies in Congress did not fight for her. The President himself strongly defended Amb. Rice, but we did not hear much from fellow Democrats in Congress or from the executive branch. After today’s announcements from the independent inquiry on the Benghazi attack, one wonders if someone feels a need to divert blame away from Hilary Clinton.

These questions remain unanswered and will continue to be the subject of much speculation. What does seem clear is that if you want to stop a political appointment by this administration all it takes is a little resistance.

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The UN Vote on Palestinian Status – Why it Does Not Matter

Well it happened as expected. The UN General Assembly voted to grant the Palestinian Authority Non-Member Observer status, a step toward UN recognition of a Palestinian state. Not surprisingly there was much celebration at the UN, and among Palestinians and their supporters. In fact however, nothing has changed.

It is already well known that most of the world, particularly the developing world sides with the Palestinians and that voting record of the UN General Assemble demonstrates that Israel is wildly unpopular in the UN. This vote is simply another example.

The restrictions on basic liberties that make Palestinian’s lives so difficult remain. The checkpoints in the West Bank and the military ring around Gaza are still there. The small everyday insults that go unreported in the global press will not stop.

Last Thursday’s vote will not reduce the level of fear among Israelis that causes them to impose draconian measures against the Palestinians and to elect the most hard-line, violence prone factions in Israeli politics.

The vote does not legitimize Hamas‘ violence against Israel, nor does it make any less foolish the Hamas tactics which do nothing to change Israeli policy while strengthening the violence-prone government still in power and weakening anyone in Israel prone to negotiation or sympathetic to the Palestinian plight.

Settlements in the West Bank continue. It was reported Friday Nov. 30 that Israel is planning to build housing for 3000 settler families in the West Bank. Yes, one day the Palestinians might maneuver to have them declared illegal by the International Criminal Court, but that will not end the settlements. Only a negotiated agreement between the two parties—with the encouragement/pressure from the international community (this means you US, Quartet, Arab League!) will make a meaningful difference on the ground.

The vote does not change the fact that peace will not come to the region until Palestinians and Israelis figure out how to share that little piece of land that they both have a good case for calling home.

We actually like the tone and substance of Ambassador Rice’s statement explaining the US vote.

We however believe that the US should have abstained. Abstention would emphasize how little the vote matters to the reality on the ground and at the same time implies the even handed posture we should maintain toward the region.

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