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Gordian Knot

The United States, a nation state that has long espoused the values of democracy, self-determination, and representative governance is faced with a Gordian knot this week.  At a time when the "Arab Spring" is smoldering in the Middle East, the Palestinians will press their case for statehood at the United Nations.  The position of the Palestinians represents numerous failed peace process efforts and not a hint of progress on the horizon.  The two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinian government has stalled, but even worse, it has rotted.  Appealing to the United Nations is in some respects international theatre, but fundamentally, it is a democratic tool and should be given strong applause. The U.S. has exerted undo pressure to ensure that the votes at the U.N. will not be enough to support the Palestinians. The public face of the U.S. goes something like, "We would like to see the two parties back at the table to negotiate an enduring peace. Israel and...

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A Day of Dignity

This past weekend in every corner throughout the United States ceremonies were held in honor of the ten year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  On display for all the world to see was the sense of dignity that symbolizes the best of democracy.  Democracy, with all of its emphasis on freedom and representative government is inherently about human dignity.  As speeches were given to highlight the importance of remembering those who lost their lives on that fateful day, the true spirit of the nation rang from coast to coast. The dignity that was ever-present in the memorials to mark the passage of the ten years since 9/11 changed the United States was profound- and pronounced. The leaders of the nation laid down partisan pandering because the day was so much bigger than politics.  The three presidents, Obama, Bush, and Clinton all demonstrated the statesmanlike qualities that best characterize the office of the President.   Vice President...

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Ten Years Hence - 9/11/01 to 9/11/11

The morning of September 11, 2001 is seared in my memory. I can remember details from that morning with such vivid recall. One of my strongest memories was that of watching the television and hearing myself say, "This must be a movie trailer. This can't be real." It took several minutes for my mind to process the inconceivable reality that was indeed unfolding minute by minute on the television screen. My eyes welled up as it all began to sink it. That day, a day of infamy, scarred the United States and served as the ignition for a cascading series of dramatic geo-political bursts throughout the world. That day signaled a seminal change in the world that has marked the first decade of the 21st century. The events set in place on September 11, 2001 led to the March 2003 Iraq War with its radiating impact on the Middle East and the western world. For citizens of the United States the eleventh of September represented a fracturing of their primordial sense of identity. The elemental...

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Life in trash land

For several days last week the CNN homepage included a story titled: "Life in trash land". The story included a photo log of images from a trash dump where people eke out a living by sifting through heaps of garbage. Such is the plight of a segment of the poor in Mozambique. The photos are not easy to see. The emotions that I felt ranged from shock to revulsion to great compassion. These people must survive entirely on what they find in the trash, whether it be food to get through the day or materials for a bonfire to warm the cold night. While I was moved by the photo log, the following excerpt from the story moved me more. The photographer Jose Ferreira relayed his impressions as he said, "Despite all the circumstances of how they live, they keep on showing their kindness and happiness and hospitality," he said. "We don't find these human qualities in many places in the world." I think about the United States where I am from. The culture and society are certainly under duress at...

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Sentence of US Hikers in Iran

The report out of Iran this weekend was disappointing- to say the least! The sentence of the U.S. hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal to eight years under the charges of illegal entry and espionage was unexpected. The chatter out of Iran had been that the two were likely to be released. But, let's be clear. Shane and Josh are pawns in the geo-political triangle between the U.S., Syria, and Iran. As Syria contends with internal unrest from the populist protests against the Assad regime, the world community has asserted that Bashar al-Assad must step down from power. Additionally, the U.N. is weighing a decision to refer members of the Assad regime to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. The Obama administration has called for Assad to resign. The hard-liners in Iran have likely stepped in to the judicial process so as to convey to the U.S. a penalty for its stand against the President Assad and his regimes crackdown on protesters. Iran has long allied...

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Einstein was a genius!

His observations about many areas of human life revealed his superior intellect. It is reliably reported that he said the following, "My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind." ( Albert Einstein.) Today, people in the United States are increasingly reducing the experience of religion to their own practice. The harmful assumption that one's practice, although good & true, should be the practice of another is also being politicized, leading to greater polarities in society. Think about what Einstein concluded. The ability to look at one's heart, one's spirit must be a basis point for how we interact in this country. Religious tolerance must be practiced in the United States through the lens of valuing the person, whether the religious practice is mirrored or not. There are multiple reasons the Puritans did not survive the challenge of democracy...

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Really Mr. President?

Really Mr. President? The U.S. stock market has exhibited a downward spiral that sent Americans and others around the world in to a state of uncertainty about the future and fear about the present.  The debt ceiling deal did not calm the markets and the reality of globalization rang 'round the world.  The economic strength of the U.S is not just about the broken political system in Washington, it is also about the strength of our trading partners.  So, Mr. President when it was announced that you were to give a speech on August 8, 2011, I was ready to listen.  But, really?  That was it?  Okay, I get it that you have been the adult in the middle of the squabbling.  I get it that it that the deal was brutal, really brutal.  But being the adult is just not enough right now.  Your country needs you to be a leader.  And a leaded does more than just describe the problem.  You described the problem accurately in your speech. But so...

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Get a real strategy

Get a real strategy.  Wow, watching 112th Congress work together (not!) on the debt ceiling was quite an education.  There was no other way to retain any sense of equilibrium other than to see it as an education.  As parties vied for position and power, I was struck by the apparent lack of strategy on the part of the Tea Party congress members. The Tea Partiers have indeed served the country through their determined focus on the debt.  Where they failed to serve the country was in not knowing how to use the leverage they had gained.  Tactics, yes, they exhibited tactics.  But where was the rest of the strategy? A real strategy would have obtained leverage and then used it to gain real reform in the budget.  If there had been an actual strategy, once leverage was obtained, exercising it to reach the goal would have been the next step.  The budget problems were created over a span of time.  The Tea Party naivite was akin to one setting out...

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Terrorism in all forms

The attacks in Oslo, Norway had all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda operation in the early hours of the news reporting.  The certainty of the massive bomb blast being a terrorist attack was clear but the subsequent shooting rampage of teenagers at a youth camp added a complicated factor.  While the second prong of the attack cohered with operational practices of Al Qaeda, the abject shooting of teenagers did not.  As analysts around the world were watching and waiting to learn the identity of the attackers, the rampage on the island left 69 teenagers dead.  And the attacker emerged as a lone wolf, a Norwegian.  This was a case of domestic terrorism.  But what exactly is terrorism?   There is no singular definition that every one agrees aptly covers the scope of terrorist activities.  But terrorism is essentially about political power.  Whether domestic or transnational, terrorists seek to change the political system that exists.  The...

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