Monthly Archives: February 2009

The Morning After (A Reaction to Israel’s Elections)

MichalThe following is a guest post from my good friend, Michal, who is – dare I say it? – a twentysomething world explorer currently stumbling her way through life in the land of Israel. Here, she shares her opinions on the Israeli elections that recently took place and what it means for the country’s future:

Firstly, a general disclaimer- these are my opinions. The opinion of a lefty (in a country that is going increasingly to the right) who is slightly discouraged with the political system as a whole who tries her best to still stay optimistic…

Secondly, how it works- In Israel we have a parliamentary system of government. There were 120 Knesset seats up for grabs with 33 parties in the running, a party has to get a certain percentage in order to get into the Knesset with a minimum of 2 seats. Some of the small parties were absurd (there was one that comprised of holocaust survivors and young people wanting to legalize marijuana (only in Israel…)) while some had (semi) legitimate platforms (fighting organized crime etc…). It was known that from the get-go most if not all of these parties would not get into the Knesset.

After the results are in the president asks the leader of the party that got the most votes to form a coalition government. (In order to form a governmentyou need 61 seats. Since no one party ever gets that number a coalition of parties must be formed to make a government) That person is presumably going to be the Prime Minister and he/she has 6 weeks in which to form a government. Thus begins the politics of promising certain ministry positions and compromises, political wheeling and dealing and whatnot…

The country in general has become more right-leaning with the story of these elections being Israel Beiteinu led by Avigdor Lieberman. Israel Beiteinu is a VERY right wing party full of unknowns and Lieberman is somewhat of a fascist. VERY anti-Arab and just a scary figure all around… His party has surpassed Labor to become the 3rd largest party and it is shocking and scary that he has gained so much ground, publicity and power.

The results as of Wednesday morning have Kadima with 28 seats, Likud with 27, Israel Beitenu- 15, Labor-13, Shas- 11 etc…

The left/right divide is right now looking like right-65 seats left/center (including Kadima)-55.

The votes of the soldiers as well as those of overseas diplomats and attaches still need to be counted with 4 or 5 seats still up for grabs. This could change the entire picture of what is going on (especially as soldiers tend to vote more right wing). We will have those results soon and that could very well make this post irrelevant…

In any event, the thinking is that Tzipi Livni the head of Kadima may not be able to form a coalition government even if she is chosen to do so (because of the right wing leanings of the majority if the Knesset). If she does not succeed, the job goes to the second largest party (in this case Likud) who will then go ahead and for a coalition.

My thoughts are that Livni’s main chances of forming a government are to have a Kadima/Labor/Likud coalition. I would like to see Barak stay as Minister of Defense and have Bibi become Foreign Minister.

If Bibi is chosen to form a government or if he gets it after Livni doesnt succeed there is no telling what will happen… I have already begun threatening to move back to the states if he forms a Likud/Israel Beitieinu/Shas government but I don’t think that will happen….

Either way, Israel Beiteinu will almost certainly be in a Likud led government and possibly in a Livni led govt. This means that Lieberman will need a ministerial appointment of some-sort. That means (hopefully) giving him one where his ridiculously fascist agenda can do as little harm as possible. (Health?) Who knows what Bibi will do. Either way we will have to wait and see.

As far as working with the Obama government, I think that a Livni/Obama dynamic has somewhat decent possibilities and that a Bibi/Obama dynamic could be disastrous… Thank goodness we never had a Bush/Bibi pairing… I hope if Bibi is chosen that Obama/Clinton/Mitchell can and will be strong enough to save us from ourselves…

On the whole I am disappointed in Labor only getting 13 seats. They were (are?) a major powerhouse in politics and at a time the only major force to be reckoned with. I truly hope they can get their issues sorted out and make a strong showing next time (that being said maybe it’s the Israeli people that need to get their issues sorted out…)

I am upset about Meretz (a smaller left wing party) getting only 3 seats. I remember the days when Meretz had 8-10 seats. While never one of the 3 majors, it used to be a power player and a force to taken seriously in coalition building.

I am not so hopeful about the outcomes either way. It is discouraging and disheartening to wake up the morning after elections and see that very little has changed and if possible gotten worse. The entire system in general needs to be shaken up and taken through reform.

There need to be young fresh politicians who are not corrupt, smarmy, or greedy. I know that is politics everywhere but in Israel it seems to be especially pronounced. Take for example the fact that 2 of the 3 candidates for prime minister already held the job and both were ousted early.

Let’s hope for the best.

Day 144: A Favorite, A New Discovery, & A Return to Roots

Sara Bareilles in Concert

Sara Bareilles in Concert

Last night I attended the Sara Bareilles concert at The Birchmere, which was quite appropriate for Valentine’s Week. She is one of my favorite singers because of her powerful voice, abilty to play both piano and guitar, the fact that she writes all her own songs and, above all, because her lyrics speak to me.

The opening act was Tony Lucca, who I had never heard of prior to last night, but whose music I really enjoyed. His music seems very similar to Sara’s (yes, we are on a first name basis) and he was such a good performer that he won over the crowd and recruited some new fans.

Sara was amazing, like I knew she would be. She added personality to the show, talking about her experience at the Grammy’s (where she swears Bono intended to throw his sunglasses to her even though the women sitting behind her caught them), joking about herself and her band, and explaing the stories behind the lyrics. She played her “well-known hits” (Love Song, Bottle It Up, Gravity) and some lesser-known favorites of yours truly (Vegas, Fairytale) as well as some completely new music.

Here’s about a minute of her live performance for those that may be unfamiliar with her music:

What I kept thinking throughout the concert (I blame the Blue Moon for these deep thoughts) was how full circle my music taste has come. Russian music is famous – well at least to me – for its use of piano / guitar and folk feel. These artists who I’ve discovered in recent years seem to all have those two aspects in common in their music.

When I was young, a favorite musical talent in my household of two (my mother and me) was Sergey and Tatyana Nikitin. I’ve included one of their most famous songs below, and even though most of you won’t understand the words and even though it does sound a little cheesy, I do think there are definitive similarities with the music I listened to in my youth and the music that I connect with currently.

The song is “Alexandra” from the movie Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears which was one of my favorite movies when I was little. (It’s actually a very acclaimed film and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1980.) The story is of a single woman and her daughter who find great success in life even without a father figure in the family. (As a five year with divorced parents, this was quite a comfort to me.)

The lyrics begin:
Everything wasn’t built right away, Moscow wasn’t built right away
Moscow didn’t believe words, but believed love…
… Alexandra, this town is yours and mine…

Day 138: Breakfast with Jeff Pulver (and friends)

Image representing Jeff Pulver as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase

Last Thursday, I attended “Breakfast with Jeff Pulver (and friends)”. Jeff  is best known as the co-founder of VoIP provider Vonage. He classifies himself as a Technology Anthropologist and now spends part of his time organizing breakfasts in different cities as a way to bring together people who may have connected online but have never met face-to-face.

To begin, Jeff spoke a little about what he’s currently observing in the world of online communications. To him, it is painfully evident that the way in which we interact with others has changed. People are communicating because of online availability rather than by the arbitray presence of a telephone.

Jeff made a point I found particularly interesting:

There is now an entire generation growing up digitally who – because it’s so easy to communicate online – won’t have the opportunity to develop people skills the way individuals did before the Internet and will, consequently,  find it challenging to communicate in person.

(Does this mean that the same way there was a shortage of Internet-savvy individuals during the tech boom, there will be, at some point, a shortage of proficiently personable people?)

Julie Minevich at Jeff Pulver DC BreakfastNext, Jeff had each of us go around the room and introduce who were were and a tagline to describe ourselves (my tagline was, of course, was “stumbling my way through life in our nation’s capital”). Then, we were let loose to network our hearts away. We were each given a blank name tag and small sticky squares. The small squares were so we could “tag” others based on the information they gave us during the conversation we were to have.

The whole thing (the name tag with our name and tagline and the name tag left open for others’ comments) is referred to by Jeff as a “Personal Social Networking Toolkit”. He came up with the idea as a way to help each of us define who were are, start a conversation with others, and get feedback on how we’re being understood.

For example:

– My tagline was a shortened version of the tagline I use here on this blog – “A twentysomething Social Media professional stumbling her way through life in our nation’s capital”. This is how I define myself.

– I mentioned in my introduction to the room that I use this tagline because I recently relocated to DC and am doing my best to catalog my time here. This later helped start a conversation with others as they asked me where I moved from, how long I had been in DC, etc.

– Some of the tags I received on my badge: “Gets news 1st @ Twitter”, “friendly”, “intellectual”, “i am content” (a double entendre – being happy and providing information), “social medium” (ie a provider of social media). These are the thing that people take away from meeting me. (Not a bad list in my opinion – that is EXACTLY what I would hope to project at a professional social media networking event.)

I really consider the event a huge success – I was indeed able to meet those I had already connected with online, get to know other DC Social Media influentials, and have an opportunity to think about the role of social media in personal relationships (post to come on that particular subject).

Pictures from the event can be found here.