Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Support for Israel

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Dear President Obama,

When Palestinians kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers, Palestinians danced in the streets, and the terrorists were praised by PA officials. Rather than helping capture them, the PA facilitated their escape; they still have not been apprehended. Palestinians who expressed regret over the kidnapping received death threats.

In contrast, when Israelis kidnapped and murdered a Palestinian teenager, the act was universally condemned by Israeli leaders, and Israelis and Jews all over the world. The Israeli police quickly apprehended suspects and promised to bring them to justice. The families of the SUSPECTS received death threats.

THIS is why there is no peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Not because of new housing built by Israel in “settlements.” Not because Israel defends itself. Not because of the security wall which shut off suicide bombings almost like a light switch. There is no peace because Israelis want to live, and Palestinians want to kill them.

Of course, that is a simplification. There are Israeli extremists, and there are Palestinian doves. But they are the exception that prove the rule.

My wife and I lived in Israel in 1995-6. We experienced first-hand the threat of violence experienced daily by Israelis: Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated and there were six suicide bombings during our time here.

I say “here” because I am currently vacationing with my family in Jerusalem. Last night, as the air-raid siren blared, we huddled with our five children in the safe room of our apartment, comforting them and praying silently for our safety and for that of the millions of others within reach of the rockets, as well as of the tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers who defend Israel and its people against these barbaric attacks.

Some day, a Palestinian leader will emerge who recognizes that only a lasting peace with Israel will secure the future of the Palestinian people. In the meantime, since peace is not being offered, Israel can do only one thing: defend itself and its citizens.

I call upon you and the entire U.S. government to clearly, consistently, unequivocally, and without hesitation condemn the ongoing attacks against Israel by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad; acknowledge and support Israel’s undeniable right to defend itself against those attacks; and provide Israel with the political, diplomatic, and material support it needs to put a stop to them.


Jonathan Kamens

[Also sent to Senator Warren, Senator Markey, and Representative Capuano.]

Olympics in Boston: Just Say No

Monday, July 7th, 2014

no_boston_olympics(I’ve just sent this letter, or a slightly tweaked version of it, to Mayor Walsh; Councilors Ciommo, Wu, Pressley, Flaherty, and Murphy; Senator Brownsberger; Representative Honan; Governor Patrick; Senators Warren and Markey; and Representative Capuano.)

Dear [title] [name],

I have lived in Boston since 1989. I have been a homeowner here, in Brighton, since 1997. My wife and I have five children, all of whom were born in Boston, and two of whom are in Boston Public Schools. We are Bostonians. And we absolutely, positively, do not want Boston to host the Olympics in 2024.

We do not have enough space. We do not have enough roadway capacity. We do not have enough public transportation capacity. We do not have enough housing capacity. We do not need to spend, literally, billions of dollars constructing facilities which will end up abandoned and unused after the party is over. We do not need years of construction disruption that will make the Big Dig look like a toddler digging in a sandbox.

Boston has nothing to prove; we are already a world-class city. Hosting the Olympics will in the end make us less so rather than more.

One cannot ignore the fact that the International Olympic Committee and Boston do have one thing in common: corrupt governance. It is impossible to ignore the fact that the head of the Boston Olympics exploratory committee, John Fish, is the CEO of a construction company that would earn billions in revenue were the Olympics to be hosted here. It is impossible to ignore the fact that our mayor is beholden to  the unions, whose members would also benefit financially from a Boston Olympics.

The problems I, and many others, foresee are hardly unique to Boston. In their current form, the Olympics don’t benefit ANY city, state, or country in which they are hosted. They have become bloated and corrupt, and this sickness will only begin to heal when the IOC can no longer find any city willing to host the Olympics in their current form.

For the good of Boston and the good of the Olympics, I implore you to oppose the effort to bring them to Boston in 2024.


Jonathan Kamens

On the rationality and wrong of racism

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

After George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, a narrative quickly emerged that Zimmerman “profiled” Martin, that he considered Martin suspicious merely because of the color of his skin and the fact that he was wearing a hoodie.

Leaving aside the question of whether that narrative is accurate in the particular case of the Zimmerman / Martin incident, it is indisputably true that profiling and judging people based on their race occurs every minute of every day in this country, leading to vastly disparate treatment of individuals.

Those who decry racism are right to do so. It is the root cause of a great deal of unfairness and suffering in the world, it causes strife where there need not be any, and it deprives individuals of liberties, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled.

However, there are three crucial facts about racism that are often ignored or at least unacknowledged by those who fight against it, even though they are also indisputably true:

  1. In many (but certainly not all) contexts, racism is rational.
  2. When people are prevented by force of law from behaving in a racist way, their liberty is infringed.
  3. Although we have chosen as a society to oppose racism (a choice I fully agree with), that fact does not negate either of the other two.


My current take on Boston’s mayoral candidates

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

I’ve spent some time taking a look at all of the declared candidates for Boston’s mayoral election. Here are my initial reactions, for those who might be curious.

People worth considering

All of these are people I’d be happy to see elected.

John Connolly

(Web site.) Current City Councillor. I very much liked what he said and did about the Boston Arts Academy / MSBA renovation fiasco (email me if you’re curious). His web site has by far the most detailed platform of any candidate, and I agree with pretty much everything he wants to do. His connections would make him a less adversarial mayor than the outsiders who are running, but they might also prompt him to ignore some of the “business as usual” which really needs to be cleaned up. Overall, after looking at all the candidates, Connolly is currently my first choice.

Bill Walczak

(Web site.) If you’re looking for an “outsider” who has the potential to shake things up and yet also has the strength of character and experience to avoid being eaten alive by the establishment, Bill’s your man. Definitely worth a serious look. Education and community health-care are his two big issues, and he has a huge amount of experience with both of them.

Charlotte Golar Richie

(Web site.) She seems highly qualified. She has been endorsed by EMILY’s List. She would be Boston’s first woman mayor. Unfortunately, her web site is entirely lacking any sort of substantial content about her vision, plan, or platform.

Robert Consalvo

(Web site.) City Councillor. Worth a look, but if you’re going to vote for a current City Councillor, I think Connolly is a better choice.


Amend the ECPA to protect email privacy!

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

The privacy of our email is protected by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, passed in 1986, which requires law-enforcement officials to obtain a warrant to intercept and read private email.

However, the law has a critical flaw: it does not require a warrant for emails “left on servers” for more than 180 days. This made sense when people downloaded their email and deleted it from servers, but it’s completely obsolete in an era when email is left on servers so that people can access it from anywhere on any device.

A coalition of email service providers is seeking a revision of the law to treat email stored on servers the same as email stored on home computers. This revision should be written into law and signed by President Obama as quickly as possible to protect the privacy of American citizens’ email.

Please sign and pass on this petition to help convince President Obama and Congress to fix the ECPA!

Some truths about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

I know there’s probably no point, but I finally snapped and dished some truth to some Israel haters in my Facebook feed. What finally set me off was this comment: “I find it inescapable that the Israelis took Palestine from the folks who were living there in 1946. Out of that injustice springs the current strife. I think the Israelis need to (1) apologize and (2) foot the bill for building a viable Palestinian state (a la the Rand plan), and (3) pay reparations. That would be a solid start to ending the conflict.”

Here’s what I wrote: (more…)

Vote YES on Massachusetts Question 3 (“Medical Marijuana”)

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Question 3 on the Massachusetts ballot in 2012 proposes to allow marijuana to be cultivated and sold in Massachusetts for the use of qualifying patients. To qualify, a patient must have been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition, such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV-positive status or AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, or multiple sclerosis. The patient would also have to obtain a written certification, from a physician with whom the patient has a bona fide physician-patient relationship, that the patient has a specific debilitating medical condition and would likely obtain a net benefit from medical use of marijuana.

I recommend a vote of YES in support of medical marijuana in Massachusetts.

My recommendation is based on several independent, but related, factors:

  • Marijuana is medically beneficial to certain patients.
  • This is a clear-cut states’ rights issue.
  • The harm that might arise from the passage of this law is being exaggerated by its opponents, and the benefit from passing the law far exceeds any potential harm.
  • I support the lessening of restrictions on marijuana in general, and medical marijuana laws in other states have led to a change in attitude about marijuana and a better understanding that it is far less harmful than most other illegal drugs and deserves to be treated differently.


Vote NO on Massachusetts Question 2 (“Death with Dignity”)

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Ballet Question 2 this year in Massachusetts proposes a “Death with Dignity” law, mirroring similar laws which have been enacted in two other states, Oregon (14 years) and Washington (3 years).

Though I support the right of individuals to choose to end their lives at a time of their own choosing, I cannot support the law proposed by Question 2. It has serious structural issues and establishes a precedent which could be used by anti-abortion groups to make it harder for women in Massachusetts to gain access to abortion services, and could be used as model legislation to create similar difficulties in other states as well.


Vote NO on Massachusetts Question 1

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

I recommend a vote of NO on Massachusetts 2012 Question 1, the “Right to Repair” initiative.

Its purported goal is to ensure that independent automobile repair facilities have access to the same diagnostic information as car dealerships, so that consumers can have their cars maintained and repaired by whomever they want. This is a laudable goal, but Question 1 is the not the right way to accomplish it; it isn’t even necessary anymore, since a law has already been passed to do what Question 1 would do; and there are some highly questionable games being played at the last minute by supporters of the initiative.


Salty endorsements

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

UPDATE: The Salt Lake Tribune endorsed George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, so contrary to what I wrote below, it probably is sort of a big deal that they endorsed Obama in 2012. I think what I said about the other newspapers listed below still stands, though I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

I want Obama to be reelected as much as anyone, but I’d really rather he win it fair and square, with full — and I mean FULL — transparency and honesty in pro-Obama stuff being posted online.

Much ado has been made in the last couple of days about the following newspapers endorsing Obama: Durango Herald (Colorado), Akron Beacon Journal, Asheville Citizen-Times (North Carolina), Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), and Salt Lake Tribune.

The Facebook postings and articles about these endorsements have made out like they’re a big deal because they’re all in important swing states where Republicans have traditionally done very well. The implication, which isn’t always stated explicitly but is clearly meant to be understood, is that it’s surprising that these newspapers have endorsed Obama. This implication is particularly strong in the case of the Salt Lake Tribune. After all, Romney is a Morman, Utah is the home state of the Mormons, so newspapers in Utah obviously should be endorsing Romney, right?

The truth is that these endorsements are not news, because every one of these newspapers also endorsed Obama in 2008 (funny how no one is mentioning this, eh?). Maybe that’s because their clear-thinking, visionary editorial boards recognized the potential danger in a McCain / Palin win, or recognized Obama’s greatness and a great moment in history, but frankly, I’m guessing it’s more likely it’s because they’re liberal newspapers.

It’s echo-chamber self-congratulatory chest-thumping to pretend that these are noteworthy endorsements. If you want Obama to win and you have time on your hands for gloating over these endorsements, it would probably be better spent canvassing or making phone calls for the campaign. Or just send them a check to help them run ads to combat the smear campaign by Romney and his SuperPACs in battleground states.