Margaret O'Brien Steinfels

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.

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Secretary Kerry: Nice Try

Secretary of State John Kerry's effort to bring the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off to another level is clearly failing, if it has not already failed. So what's next? Some weary but knowledgable observers offer their thoughts. I read them to say in general: time for the United States to sign off.

McCarthyism or Corporate Survival?

Mozilla Firefox is my browser and it works. Every now and again I get an update; sometimes a note asking for a contribution to what is largely/wholly a public-spirited effort to keep the internet open source (or something like that). For some reason, I thought it was an Italian effort (as in Mozarella), but it turns out it organizes itself right here in the U.S. drawing on sources from global techies.

Jesuits march ahead

The first laywoman to head a Jesuit school likely to be named soon!  Washington Post.

Confirmed: America.    HT: Gene Palumbo

Even the NYTimes Objects

Maybe this is too parochial, but... even the NYTimes thinks the Sheldon Adelson Republican primary is a shocking travesty...though their news columns didn't seem to pay much attention.

Here, from the Editorial Page Editor's Blog (who knew?) is David Firestone's comment under the headline: "The Line to Kiss Sheldon Adelson's Boots."  Well you know what they mean but it's not fit to print.

Can't be too careful

Governor Chris Christie, otherwise known as Governor Bridgegate, personally misspoke (he can't blame Bridget Kelly) at a Republican gathering in Las Vegas, otherwise referred to as the Sheldon Adelson Republican primary. The major potential Republican 2016 candidates were auditioning their ideas to some of the richest men in America, along with the richest, Adelson himself.

Christie referred to the "Occupied Territories," let it be said, in way wholly sympathetic to Israel. But the phrase is forbidden in Adelson land, and Christie quickly apologized for the slip-up--unlike some of the other slip-ups he's made. The territories, i.e., the West Bank, are not occupied because they belong to Israel from time immemorial, or so Adelson insists. Politico

The potential anti-Semitic fall-out from the whole meeting has been thoroughly discussed by J.J. Goldberg at The Jewish Daily Forward under the headline: A GOP Plan to Save the Jews: Buy White House.

Where is George Orwell when we need him?

Juan Cole offers five signs that the West Bank might be said to be occupied:

1. The UN General Assembly partition plan for British Mandate Palestine in 1947, which was extremely generous to the Jewish settlement community of the time, did not award them Gaza or the West Bank, where there were at that time virtually no Jews!

2. Israel militarily conquered Gaza and the West Bank only in 1967. Typically you refer to territories not belonging to a country, which it holds during wartime, as “Occupied Territories”

3. Israel is in violation of over 30 United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding what the UNSC explicitly calls the Occupied Territories....

Walking in Putin's Shoes UPDATE

Patrick J. Buchanan, you remember him, invites us to consider the current situation in Mittel Europa from Putin's point of view.

"When Putin defended the seizure of Crimea by saying he did not want to visit Russia’s two-century-old naval base at Sevastopol, and be greeted by NATO sailors, did he not have a point?"

Buchanan, the isolationist, has his own point about NATO, etc., but still an interesting note of empathy.

UPDATE:  Two developments of note: 1. One of the leading candidates Vitali Klitschko, a former boxer, has withdrawn his name from the presidential election, arguing that candidates should unite behind Petro Poroshenko a billionaire in order to heal the division in Ukrainian society. This may put pressure on other candidates to stand down, i.e., Yulia  Tymoshenko. Story here.

2. Right Sector, the right-wing of the Maidan protestors, is surrounding the Parliament and demanding the resignation of the Minister of the Interior...these are the right-wingers that Putin has cited as being anti-Russian and fascists. Story here quote after the break.

Putin: Why Did He? UPDATE: And why won't he.

Putin's motives and actions have been cloaked in a fog of political confusion and media alarum. Here is a piece, the first I've seen, that makes some sense about what has happened in the Crimea.

Crumbling Crackers Crisis

No, not Ukraine. Much closer to home. After the Christmas crisis looking for usable pot holders and candy canes, the household now faces the crisis (and mystery) of crumbling crackers. Our long-time favorites "Stoned Wheat Thins," crumble when touched, barely touched.

Counter-typical thinking: Russia-Iran Division

Now that Russia has become enemy numero uno again, suspcion has fallen on their attitude toward Iran and the P5+1 negotiations to prevent Iran building nuclear weapons. But why would Russia, right next door to Iran (closer than Israel), want its islamic near-neighbor to have such weapons? Doesn't make sense.

"Grass is Greener" conundrum; more conundrum

While there is still a lot of hand-wringing in DC about Crimea becoming part of Russia, we might consider this story in the NYTimes about the consequences of joining Russia. South Ossetia signed up in 2008 after a scuffle between Russia and Georgia; now a certain amount of seller's remorse has emerged, at least economically.