Friday, June 30, 2006

Questioning Israel

I don't get Israel. And I don't get why the United States is such a strong ally of Israel. I sometimes feel as if we all let Israel get away with things that we would not stand from any other country because of guilt. The world (aside from the Muslim world which suffers from denial) suffers from collective guilt over the Holocaust. Of course, the Holocaust was one of the world's greatest tragedies and its perpetrators, in various forms, were numerous. But there are three important facts here that we seem to overlook:
1. The Holocaust happened over sixty years ago. The majority of victims and perpetrators are gone. We are not guilty of the sins of our fathers. It is an event to remember and learn from, but not an event whose shadow we should always live in.
2. It is impossible to make up for the Holocaust. Millions of people lost their lives in extremely savage ways. Millions of others suffered horribly. Entire families were lost. No land, no looking the other way, no monetary gifts can make up for that.
3. Being wronged does not give you the right to wrong others.

My first question: Why exactly is Israel entitled to the land that they have been given or have taken over? The Israeli argument is that their land is the land promised to them by God. That it is, was, and always will be the land of the Jewish people. I don't understand how that argument holds any legitimacy in today's world. Why do we all bend to their religious beliefs when we certainly don't bend to any other denominations? How can historical ownership be the criteria for present day ownership? Wouldn't that then give older countries or former colonizers the right to land that they once held? And if it always was intended to be their land, why did so many of them give it up and disperse throughout the world before later reclaiming it (and what rights should they have had to it at that point)? Before the Holocaust, the land was the Palestinian territory and was administered by Britain. While many Jews did live there, the prevailing thought of many was that the land, once relinquished by Britain, was to become Palestine. Instead, partially because of the Holocaust, the land became Israel, and the Palestinians are still without a homeland. How can any of this be considered legitimate?

My second question: Why does Israel believe in exchanging violence for violence? I understand that it must be difficult to live surrounded by people who hate you, who don't recognize your right to exist, and who would love to see your country annihilated. And while a number of the countries are openly hostile to Israel, some have made great strides towards, if not being friendly, at least coexisting despite the tensions. As a nation of people who have been the victims of some of the world's worst violence, it seems to me that there would be a general abhorrence of violence and a desire to avoid it at all costs. But perhaps a desire for vengeance is stronger, even if the revenge is carried out on those not responsible for the original act of violence? The fact is that violence does not end violence, but instead breeds it. Missile attacks, which kill civilians intentionally or accidentally, do not create friends. The cutting off of entire villages from supplies does not breed goodwill. As the movie "Munich" depicted, whenever an evil is destroyed, another, usually stronger and more radical, pops up to take its place. There has to be a point when you quit playing tit for tat. Military force and violence should be reserved for the most dire of situations, not every act perceived as malicious. As long as military force is the first, or only, option, there will be no peace in the Middle East.

Clearly, I am no expert on these issues. And I don't mean to imply that Israel alone is at fault for the current situation. There is obviously plenty of blame to go around. I am simply trying to understand why we tend to heap the blame on the Palestinians while turning a blind eye to the equivalent actions of Israel. I do think that Israel deserves to exist. But I also think that Palestine does too. And I can't understand why we can't make that happen.

(And you know what I hate most about this whole issue is that by even asking these questions, one sets themselves up to be considered anti-Semitic or at best anti-Israel. Anyone who knows me knows that I am neither. I am simply for a more balanced view of the situation and in favor of a homeless minority finally being granted the statehood that they've had coming to them for decades.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Some Say the World Will End in Fire, Some in Ice

I think we all just might drown. In the DC area, it has been raining for nearly 48 straight hours. And by raining, I mean torrential deluges of water. I mean four inch deep rivers of water on perfectly flat roads. I mean streams of water shooting up higher than your car from the middle lane of a major thoroughfare. I mean rain that bounces back up a few inches because it hit the ground so hard. Downpours. Thunder. Lightening. We're getting it all.

And it's causing problems. First, it was the power going out. It went out around 10:30 yesterday morning and didn't come back on until the afternoon. We headed out to the Smithsonian around noon, because sitting at home without any electricity isn't much fun. We all figured out why people worked so much before there was electricity - there's not really that much else to do.

And then the second, and more annoying, problem is that we have water leaking into our bedroom. The gutters are full of leaves and sticks, so they can't handle all the water (not sure they could anyway, but they'd be doing a little better.) So instead of being funneled down and away from the building, the water is running right up against the building and seeping in wherever there are cracks, which is apparently right along our bedroom window. By the time we noticed it, a good section of the bedding had been soaked through and the carpet was wet. So now the bed's in the middle of the room, all the stuff that was under the bed is all over the place, and the room is a general mess. Of course, since the rain hasn't stopped at all, no one can get up on the roof and clear the gutters, so every time the rain gets hard, the dripping starts. Hooray for Chinese water torture.

Seriously, if it doesn't stop soon, I think we might just float away.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Welcome to the Hotel Blackinton

We have a fairly well stocked kitchen that usually serves three meals a day and is always available for self-service, a comfortable couch, an available air mattress, wireless Internet, and a bathroom with shower and tub. Laundry facilities are available in the building. A furnished patio is available for outdoor eating. And guests have full use of tennis courts and pools. We are conveniently located right next to the Beltway and are only a five minute walk from the Grosvenor Metro stop, which is on the Red Line. Best of all, we're free.

Since Jeff and I moved into our small one-bedroom apartment, we've played host to a number of guests. High school friends on their way through town. Family members up for a visit. Post-college friends stopping in for a night. A study abroad friend looking at graduate programs in town. Pretty much anyone who we know who has ever been in the area. If someone asks, we say yes, unless we're going to be out of town or we have a packed house. (Although the packed house part hasn't stopped us before, as we've had three guests in addition to the two of us at one point in the past.)

I think of it as traveler's karma. I've been fortunate many times in travels through Europe and the United States to have people who are willing to provide me with a place to crash, who don't mind playing tour guide for a day or two, and who make it much more affordable to travel. Hotels are expensive, not to mention lonely, if you're traveling by yourself. So when a friend calls, I say yes, with the knowledge that somewhere down the line, I'll be rewarded with the same hospitality. I also just enjoy having the company of friends and family.

This summer, our apartment has already played host to Matthew and to my friends Joyce & Jack. It's about to get another visitor, but this visit is going to be a new one for our establishment. This is going to be a long term stay. We're moving from the weekend B&B to the Extended Stay hotel. My brother Gregory will be arriving on Monday and will be calling our couch home until mid-August. In a very last minute offer, he received an invitation to intern at the Architect of the Capitol, which is a really great opportunity. However, by the time the offer was made, the cheapest housing to be found in DC (which is never cheap to begin with) was around $100 a day. Seriously. Unless he lived in the ghetto.

So arrangements were made for Gregory to come live with us for the summer. It will be cozy, for sure, but Jeff and I are glad to be able to help. Fortunately, Gregory is about the easiest person to live with that one could possibly imagine. And I've had plenty of experience living with him before, so we should be just fine. And I have to admit that I think Jeff's pretty excited to have someone in the house who might actually enjoy playing video games with him. It'll be interesting, but isn't life supposed to be?

Friday, June 09, 2006

House Rejects Network Neutrality

Well, last night the house passed the Communications, Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act and killed a proposed network neutrality amendment. Now it's up to the Senate. Debate hasn't yet begun on the issue, so you still have time to contact your senators and ask them to protect network neutrality. Regardless of whether you support the COPE Act (which you probably do if you're just familiar with the bill as an anti-monopoly bill and not aware of the impact it could have on universal access or the ability of communities to negotiate their own franchises), you should be concerned about network neutrality. I am not a big fan of government regulation, but I'd rather have government say that big telecom doesn't have the right to regulate the Internet than have big telecom determine what I view over the Internet and how quickly I view it.

This article is worth reading for more information on the vote and its effects.

See yesterday's post for more on the issue and on getting involved.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Network Neutrality - Clearly, I'm Serious About This

I know I recently blogged about network neutrality and current telecom legislation, but the battle is really heating up. I'm not sure it's being felt in other areas around the country, but it certainly is being felt here in DC. The big telecoms are bringing in lobbyists by the busload, taking out full page ads in the Washington Post, and running television commercials. Attempting to make companies like Google and eBay look bad by claiming they don't do their part to expand Internet services, and by making claims such as "The Internet can't be free," the big telecom companies are trying to gain control of the Internet. They want to be the gatekeepers of what you see and how fast you see it. They want to change the face of the Internet. The Internet's founder himself (no, not Al Gore) has come out in the favor of network neutrality. It is the way to ensure that the Internet remains what it was intended to be - a network for the free exchange of ideas. Please, please, please take action on this issue. By clicking on the image below, you'll go immediately to a site that will allow you to easily contact your elected officials. If you want to learn more, just go to Google News and type in "network neutrality". You'll get every side of the issue. This opinion piece co-signed by a UIUC and a Stanford professor presents the side I'm on.

Save the Internet: Click here

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Few Notes On Politics

Kentucky Politics
I just noticed that Governor Ernie Fletcher is running for reelection in Kentucky. Seriously, what kind of superiority complex must he have? First he runs his campaign based on a promise of cleaning up politics. Then he spits in the face of everyone who might have been naive enough to believe that by running one of the more corrupt administrations in recent history, complete with an indictment to prove it. And now he decides to run for reelection? I can just see him sitting in his office sneering at the entire state, making out every single Kentuckian as a pure idiot. How stupid he must think his constituents are. I only hope he's not right. Voting for him is like kicking yourself in the head.

National Politics
And so Bush is back up on his platform railing against gay marriage. Interesting how this issue has been ignored since his reelection but is now back on the table as mid-term elections near. This couldn't be about politics, could it? Unfortunately, that's exactly what it is. It's not about what's right or what's fair, but about what will keep people so fired up that they will ignore all the other issues when it comes time to vote. It's disgusting.

I just don't understand the grounds for outlawing gay marriage. The only rhetoric I ever hear is that the Bible says marriage is between one man and one women. I don't know if this is true, because I've never read the Bible that closely, but I do know that we are a secular nation, so it really shouldn't matter one lick whether the Bible says marriage is between one man and one woman or between one man and one cow or between two women, a siamese cat, and three aliens. It's irrelevant.

As we all know, marriage is a civil institution. Just going to a church and having someone say you're married doesn't cut it in the eyes of the government. You have to apply for a marriage license and have it processed by the state. Marriage is an institution set up to provide protection under the law. Marriage guarantees the right to make medical decisions for a loved one who is incapacitated, it guarantees the right to joint ownership of property, it guarantees the right to file taxes as a couple, it guarantees the right to be covered by a spouse's insurance. Why should two people who love each other and are committed to sharing a life together be denied these rights? What good reason is there for it? What if you were unable to marry your partner of choice because the government denied it - maybe because your partner was the "wrong" race, or age, or weight, or political orientation? We'd all be up in arms over that. So tell me what is the difference?

Civil rights are meant for all people. Remember the "all [men] people are created equal" part of the Constitution? Marriage is a civil right, and thus a right for all people, regardless of whether they love someone of the opposite or the same sex. Gay marriage is not a threat to straight marriage. If you really think about, more than anything, it's a reinforcement of the importance of marriage.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Next Blog

Sometimes after I finish reading someone's blog, if I have nothing else to do, I press the "next blog" button to see what else is out there in the blogger world. Rarely do I find a blog that's as interesting as mine (but that would be pretty hard to find, now wouldn't it?). But I enjoy pressing the button anyways. But the problem is that eventually I always run into a deadend. Someone out there decides that they're too good for the blogger banner bar, and there's no "next blog" for me to check out. Then what am I supposed to do? Sometimes it takes quite a while to get to this point, but I just followed the "next blog" link after commenting on Matt's blog, and I was at a deadend in only two clicks. And the first blog was in a language I don't know and the second blog was a computer how-to blog. Didn't help much with my boredom.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Working Girl's Summertime Blues

Summer has arrived. Perhaps not according to the calendar and its obsession with solstices, but Memorial Day has come and gone, and the mercury has soared into the 90s. It seems to me that it must be summer.

It's harder to tell now when summer comes and when it goes. That clear demarcation of summer - the last day of school and a few months later, the first day of school - is no longer mine. I no longer have the luxury of a final bell followed by a walk down to the Dairy Queen for a dipped cone or a day of cramming a year's worth of stuff into my parent's car followed by a 17 hour drive back home. The first morning without an alarm clock or the need to be anywhere never comes anymore. No, summer is not the same when there is no break, no man-made delineation of seasons. It's hard when everyday is a 9 to 6 with no deference to the rising mercury, the jingle of the ice cream truck, or the allure of the pool. A week of vacation and a holiday here and there does not make a summer.

So I grasp at summer however I can, trying to keep it from slipping through the air conditioning vents of the office where I sit all day and lament its passing. I take my lunch outside in the Circle, sweating through the heat and humidity of midday DC, defiantly refusing to move into the shade. I savor the sloppiness of perfectly ripe peaches purchased from a farmer's market. I fight off mosquitos and wasps to have my hamburger and corn-on-the-cob on the patio. And I pray to win the lottery, which I unfortunately always forget to play, with the hope of taking back my summer.