Obama in the Promised Land

President Barak Obama went to the Middle East. He spent his first day with Bibi Netanyahu, the next with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah followed by a speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center. His last day was spent in Amman, Jordan where he met with King Abdullah, who holds a place of peace in the region. His speech in Jerusalem in a huge auditorium full of Israeli students showcased Obama at his best, which the audience acknowledged with long stretches of applause and standing ovations. He pointed out that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians will be able to get everything they want, so both sides must make a leap from status quo to compromise. Sadly, it seems unlikely that his eloquence will shift the region’s ancient story, but he did make his positions clear. He reassured the students that the U.S. is a partner of Israel's, but also said that true security lies in respecting the Palestinians’ right to their own homeland, and that the settlements do not fit into a move toward peace. This drew wild applause, as the generation that is coming of age has a great stake in peace.

In an effort to be balanced, he did not overplay the fact that he had come under Hamas rocket fire near Gaza, but he also did not quite capture how much the building of settlements truly costs Palestinians, who can awaken to discover a fence and an army placed between their village their olive fields (which are their source of income). For a visceral view of one such village I recommend a wonderfully well-done documentary: 5 Broken Cameras (http://vimeo.com/15843191 or www.movies.netflix.com). It’s a moving, eye-opening film. If you missed the President’s speech, you can find it via Google. The issues generated between Israelis and Palestinians are filled with complexities, and their relationships one to the other can have huge impact on the world. What would you suggest?

"ANN": The Ann Richards Play

ANN is a brilliant play written and performed by the Emmy Award-winning actress Holland Taylor. The Ann of the title refers to the 45th Governor of Texas, Ann Richards. She first came to national attention as the state treasurer of Texas, but became a national treasure when she delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, where she uttered the most memorable line of the gathering, “Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” Memorable though it was, it was not her most profound remark. She waxed almost poetic when speaking about her granddaughter Lilly. “And as I sit there, I wonder if she’ll ever grasp the changes I’ve seen in my life--if she’ll ever believe that there was a time when blacks could not drink from public water fountains, when Hispanic children were punished for speaking Spanish in the public schools, and women couldn’t vote.”

Holland’s skillful avoidance of repeating Richards’ more famous lines invites her audience into a more intimate relationship with the glorious essence of Ann, and brings them face to face with her complex, colorful, wise and captivating brilliance and love of life. Though I never met Ann Richards, I was a fan, so I was able to grasp how fully Holland (who is a friend of mine) is able to transcend her own powerful being and become Ann. Ann is an inspiring, hilarious, beautifully crafted tour de force. It's playing in New York City at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater through September 1st, and is a must-see. For tickets, visit www.telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200.

And there’s more! Imagine what an honor to Ann Richards a US Postal Service commemorative stamp would be. The proposal for the stamp was officially submitted in mid-January, along with a listing of the impressive committee in support of the effort (click to view). The stamp is now officially in consideration by the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. Our next step is to demonstrate support for the stamp from the general public, so please add your own signature to those of the artists, media minds, thinkers, interested citizens and activists who’ve already signed the petition on Change.org by clicking here. You can also 'like' the cause on Facebook and follow it on Twitter. Thanks for helping to honor Ann Richards.

Travesties

There is so much going on in the country and by the hand of America in the world that I hardly knew where to begin. So I thought that I would make a list of the travesties we need to acknowledge and which call to us for comment and action, because when huge numbers of us let those who are impacting our lives and those of others know what we want, we are able to make our country a place where we can flourish and know that we are doing our part. I want to acknowledge Edie Windsor for doing her part in a huge way. It is one thing to say that we’re being treated unfairly, and quite another to take it to the Supreme Court. I also want to honor the women on the Court for their clear thinking and questioning. They were strong and clear. The men, not so much. Please let me know what you think.
 
Chief Justice Roberts
“But you want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet?" REALLY?! Is it at all possible that Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts, who is set to judge Marriage Equality, seriously sees it as an entirely new issue? Is it possible that he doesn’t understand that Marriage Equality must be seen in the context of Gay Rights, a movement which began in Chicago in 1924 and became high-powered and highly visible after a raid by rabidly homophobic cops on a little bar called the Stonewall in New York City's Greenwich Village in 1969?  Perhaps he should look up the 1996 This Week With David Brinkley that dug deeply into the subject of Marriage Equality. Wouldn’t you think the justice might do a little homework before taking the lives of American women and men into consideration? Thank you, Edie Windsor for bringing this issue to a boiling point. Thank you for demanding federal equality for your marriage to the love of your life, Thea Spyer. You, Thea, are the anti-travesty.

Thea Spyer and Edie Windsor

Travesties

Mitch McConnell shows just how low someone the Republicans have chosen as a leader can go, when he says to a crowd that Hillary Clinton looks like she’s from "a rerun of the Golden Girls." He saved this mean-spirited, cheap substitute for humor for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which is the largest annual meeting of conservatives in the country. CPAC gave McConnell plenty of opportunity to say almost everything that has made the Republicans as out-of-date and out-of-touch as they are on almost every topic of concern to Americans. Michelle Bachman managed to sound just as insane when she spoke at CPAC about how 'we the people' pay for special walkers for the Obama's dog, and having two men at ready 24/7 in case the President or someone in his family want to see a movie at any hour, and a list of other lying nonsense that it took CNN about 30 seconds to disprove. McConnell and Bachman would be a dream team on the comedy lecture circuit. The real issues we face need creative, intuitive, intelligent thinkers to rise above this kind of offensive high school rhetoric. Please write to McConnell and tell him that he needs to change his ways, put the good of the country above his hatred of his African American President (who he’s failed to derail), and be respectful. He’s an embarrassment. www.mcconnell.senate.gov

Travesties

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) addressed a breakfast meeting of the 2013 Annual Legislative Summit of U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on March 19th in Washington, D.C. He began with a story about his youth, when he “…lived, worked, played and grew up alongside Latinos.” He used Spanish to emphasize his ideas about immigration and “love” for Latinas and Latinos, stated that “No one captures the romance of the Latin culture more than Pablo Neruda," then read Neruda's poem Si tu me olvidas without a clue that while Neruda was a brilliant, articulate, Nobel Prize-winning Poet, he also served as a Senator for the Chilean Communist Party. Naruda’s politics were close to mine, not Paul’s; not the Republicans’. Rand went on to say, “My hope is that today we begin a dialogue between he GOP and Latinos…a dialogue that shows that the GOP sees all immigrants as assets and that Latinos can come to see the GOP as the party of opportunity, the party of the American Dream, el partido del sue┼ło Americano." Seriously? Seriously Mr. Paul? Do you include Alaska’s GOP Congressman Don Young in that statement? Young, who had been forced by public opinion and the press to apologize for using the slur "wetbacks" that very same day? Please tell Rand Paul that you want him to be respectful and support real immigration reform and let him know what kind of reform you wish to see. www.randpaul.gov

Travesties

Remember the separation of powers that was written into the laws of our land? Our Congress is certainly having some difficulty in this matter when it comes to our food supply. Without holding any hearings, Congress has approved genetically-engineered crops, such as new versions of corn, soybean, canola, and cotton. Once these crops get planted, it will be too late to do much about it, because they will take over, leaving the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ignore any court ruling that would stop the planting of new genetically-engineered crops. This is important because the court is often our last hope, what with Congress, the White House, and regulatory agencies turning a blind eye to it all. Makes me wonder, as many things do, just whose pockets Congress and the White House are in. Please ask President Obama not to sign the budget deal that contains this provision at www.whitehouse.gov. And please check out this article in The Guardian for further information: Monsanto Protection Act put GM companies above the federal courts.

Travesties

All I have to say about drones is that drones kill in a merciless, indiscriminate, appallingly murderous manner, no matter what the president says about not loosing American lives. Americans do get killed. And there is no justification for killing innocent Pakistani men, women and children who are not involved in making war on America. Also, it should be obvious that drone attacks have many unintended consequences. Al-Qaeda loves them. Every time we destroy a house or kill a baby, an entire neighborhood wants retribution. Every attack lessens any hope of having 'real' allies in the Middle East. And what is the world to think about your ill-conceived Korea fly-over to demonstrate your sleek new black terror weapon? North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is inexperienced, is unprepared for wise leadership, and at 30 years of age still displays adolescent personality traits. This means that President Obama’s threats are not a deterrent any more than waving a red cape at a bull cowers the bull. Or maybe our president, like Korea’s, welcomes the threat of war. It’s time for our President to face a few realities. War Games was a movie, not a lifestyle. Please thank President Obama for his policies that work, and for the stiff upper lip he displays with grace despite the gross speech and sometimes outright lies thrown at him by the likes of Bachman, McConnell and Boehner. But on the other hand, he is willing to wage war. So please tell him: 1) that drone strikes are not acceptable; 2) that they turn hearts and minds against us; 3) that the lives of non-Americans are meaningful; 4) he should give back the Nobel Prize: www.whitehouse.gov, http://nobelpeaceprize.org

Travesties

"I liken it to the proverbial hunting season," Dudley Brown says. "We tell gun owners, there's a time to hunt deer. And the next election is the time to hunt Democrats." I have to admit, this guy fits right in with a certain ilk who can not think outside the parameters of their own self-interest. He founded the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners after leaving the NRA. Just what good Americans need, a target on their backs. But who can blame Brown when in this era of gun-crazed folks with easy access to assault rifles, he’s likely to get rich. And of course Brown doesn’t want universal background checks, not with his seeming romance with vengeance and violence. Guns are good for that, so of course he doesn’t want to help law enforcement identify violators, especially if there are no limits placed on gun clips or automatic weapons. He's promising political payback in next year's election. That could cost Colorado Democrats their majorities if they do what Democrats so often do, which is politically shoot themselves in the foot when they should be pulling together but watching their backs in gun-land.