Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Update on the peace process

For once there is good news about the progress of peace talks that have been stalled for the past five years or so. US Foreign Secretary (Secretary of State) John F. Kerry has been able to get a tentative framework endorsed by the entire Arab League, which would be enough coverage for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to make the case to the already skeptical Palestinian public that negotiations within the newly announced framework are within their national interest. While it will be a simultaneously tough sell for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to both his cabinet and his people, it will give him a stronger incentive to make a real meaningful dialogue knowing full well that his American partner, US President Barack Obama, will give him plenty of backup in the international sphere so that there can be an ongoing dialogue. By mentioning Obama's support, Netanyahu can make the case to the equally skeptical Israeli public that reengaging in a dialogue with the Palestinians will help make Israel more secure for future generations. Full credit for the breaking of this story goes to the Associated Press via Yahoo News.

I find this to be a very positive step towards ending the nearly century-old dispute, and one of the biggest sources of violent outbreaks in the Middle East. In addition, to the tough sells involved, doing so will undoubtedly isolate both Syria and Iran. The Arabs' main source of rage now is not so much with the Israelis, as I've mentioned in previous posts, but with the Iranians. The reason is simple: Iran has a relatively strong history of dabbling in the Arab states' internal affairs, and for the past 30 years or so, the Arab states have long complained to the Americans about this. Now this is not to say that the Americans and the Iranians have any business launching threats at each other, because they don't, but that's not the main point here. The Iranians after the Islamic Revolution have long cowed their Arab neighbors threatening to back radical Islamic elements in their borders unless they heed Iranian guidance in the Islamic struggle against Israel. Now this is the main reason for the Arab push for peace with Israel since 2002, as it would free up resources for them to go after elements backed by the Iranians.

Now for the American perspective of this: it's a massive interest for there to be a final accord to the Arab-Israeli dispute as it would finally allow a fully unified front against the main source of terror, the Iranians. For America, like Israel and the Arab states, Iran's reach across the Middle East is a credible threat and the fact that it has not made the proper disclosures for its nuclear program as mandated by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty creates an even larger crisis that threatens the whole non-proliferation regime put in place by both the Americans and the Russians at the end of the Cold War. This is primarily why America wants to see this dispute end, as it would only aggrivate an arms race, but of a smaller proportion to the extent of what it faced with Russia for 40 years (1947-87).

Friday, July 19, 2013

Martin/Zimmerman Verdict

I can't begin to understand how its possible to let a kid, who was unarmed at the time he was shot, receive nothing in terms of closure, especially for his family. At the same time, it's really beyond absurd to allow the "Stand Your Ground" laws to remain on the books, when Trayvon Martin's death clearly showed how ineffective.and dangerous they are.

It makes me concerned that someone can cite this kind of law after looking for a reason to use it. George Zimmerman really had no business following and confronting Martin at all, and was told by the 911 operator with whom he was on the phone to stay in his car. That being said, however, still doesn't change the fact that it could have been anyone who was on the recieving end of the "Stand Your Ground" that would be dead, or very seriously injured. I understand needing self-defense laws to protect oneself against criminals, or threats to one's own survival, but the way this law was applied in Florida only says to would-be vigilantes that they can take the law into their own hands and enforce it how they please.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

BART Strike of 2013

I have to say, this has been a crazy week so far with the ATU and SEIU local unions for BART having gone on strike. Apparently it's been over the number of safety incidents that have taken place over the past couple of months which is why I'm kind of understanding of their striking. I'm really concerned that BART's management was not hearing the train and fare-gate operators as they've apparently been making noise about the lack of concern or investment in safety for riders. While I hope they can restore service as soon as possible, I really hope that the State of California can force some changes in terms of safety routines.

Additionally, the unions were also trying to seek a raise, which had been a part of the fight as well, with wages and benefits on the line. The good news is that, while the unions agreed to call off the strike and resume their current contract for another 30 days, they are back to negotiating a new contract, as well as, pushing new safety practices to end the kind of tragedies that have taken place on the BART system over the past few months. I hope for sure that it has some teeth and that BART can increase its presence of crisis management for these types of situations.

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