Friday, November 16, 2012


Bombs are once again flying across the Israel-Gaza border in both directions, leaving death, injury and destruction on both sides. This same kind of action happened almost exactly 4 years ago, and I wrote about it then.

It's easy to play the blame game in this situation, and I'm not going there. As far as I'm concerned there is enough blame to go around, and playing that game is a key element of the death spiral. In my opinion, this death spiral has no end.

No end, that is, until peace-loving people in the region decide to try something very, very different. The primary players in this "something different" have to be individuals, not organizations. And it can't just be the people in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; others in the region need to be involved. Remember, I said peace-loving people, not haters or terrorists or militants on any side. And I specifically said people, not organizations, because for the past 64 years these organizations have failed to find a resolution to the conflict.

What is needed is a Peace Spring movement, in some ways similar, and directly related to the on-going Arab Spring. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict affects everyone in the Middle East (and beyond), and so everyone in the region needs to be part of the resolution. Imagine hundreds of thousands or millions of people in the streets of Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and beyond demonstrating for peace. And not just peace in general, but a lasting peace based on specific principles (see The People's Voice and the Geneva Accord for examples).  Democratic rule means that governments listen to citizens.

People power is needed to resolve this conflict because organizations such as the State of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Fatah, the United States, the United Nations, religious sects and others are too entrenched in their own ideologies to participate in something different. People power is messy business, and the key will be for leaders to emerge who can provide coordinated focus and direction, find bridges between conflicting ideas and opinions, and move the process forward.

If this sounds far out, it is. But business as usual is not acceptable. The people in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank are locked in a death spiral, and every flare up is more dangerous because each time the weapons are larger, more sophisticated, and more deadly.

Imagine, if you can, a new Middle East, where everyone is a partner in a movement that benefits everyone. Where the rising tide lifts all boats. The people in the region, and their descendants, deserve no less.


Monday, November 05, 2012


Dear President Obama:

I learned from a news report last night that at least 10,000 families are homeless in the aftermath of the storm Sandy; their homes are either not inhabitable or gone. Winter weather is closing in on the east coast, in fact, a Noreaster storm is expected to hit in the next couple of days, bringing cold, rain and possibly snow. How will these storm victims be housed?

The devastation caused by "Superstorm" Hurricane Sandy, like that from Hurricane Katrina, can bring out the best in people, as evidenced by the outpouring of donations and volunteerism. Because of adequate advanced warning and forecasting about Sandy, local, state and federal agencies were able to plan for the storm and it's aftermath, although we know that nothing is perfect. As recovery efforts move forward, it is painfully obvious that very many people are desperate and suffering, and their futures look bleak. I think we need a different response.

It is time for you, Mr. President, to make a bold move that not only will help these storm victims, but will put into place a new system of disaster recovery; I'll call this the Disaster Recovery Administration. Let me explain with a couple of examples.

1. Above is a photo of a street curb in my Portland, Oregon neighborhood. One response of President Franklin Roosevelt to the Great Depression was the creation of the Work Projects Administration. This federal program put many thousands of people to work building public infrastructure throughout America. The program provided jobs for unemployed people, and built up needed public infrastructure.

2. When the United States entered World War 2, the federal government let contracts to shipyards around the country for war ships and liberty ships, like the one pictured above. Thousands of people were employed to build these ships, and some shipyards completed a new ship every 1 or 2 weeks. This massive effort helped win the war.

The Disaster Recovery Administration would be a federally-funded and administered program that would employ thousands of Americans to rebuild areas destroyed by a natural disaster (we're sitting in Portland waiting for the monster earthquake the experts say is due). Certainly the United States is capable of quickly building quality housing for 10,000 needy families in New York, New Jersey and other areas destroyed by Sandy, as well as re-building public infrastructure like roads, bridges, and utilities. Planners, engineers, architects and other professionals need to be brought in to design "hardened" infrastructure and buildings that have a chance of withstanding the next big storm, and the effects of climate change. And designs for buildings and infrastructure can be based on more sustainable designs and materials than previously.

This work would be contracted to private businesses, with care taken to include a large number of small businesses. Incentives should be given to businesses that hire veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who have skills in logistics, organization, crisis management and nation building projects.  I see this as a win-win for America.

Mr. President, I believe that you have the authority to create this program. I've heard  that the damage from Sandy is estimated at $50 billion. This is a large sum, but we know that $trillions have been spent on 2 wars without a blink by Congress. Certainly you can push legislation through to enact this new program.

The time to act is now. This disaster calls for real leadership and good government, not partisan politics. It is up to you, Mr. President, to put a program like this in place, and to put it in place immediately.

Thank you.