Tomorrow belongs to me *UPDATED*

My daughter, who attends middle school, told me that she understood the the take-away message from Obama’s speech to be “The future is your responsibility,” a thought she found unpleasantly burdensome.  Generally, she thought the speech was long and boring.

As for the “tomorrow belongs to you” aspect of Obama’s little talk, my mind irresistibly floated to the song below.  I am not comparing Obama to Hitler. This song is not a Nazi song.  It’s an American Broadway song. It’s just that the song’s title and refrain were such a perfect match for the way in which my daughter understood Obama’s message:

My daughter, incidentally, wasn’t the only child to find Obama dull.

UPDATE:  My elementary school aged son just got home and he too thought it was boring.  Some kids simply tuned out altogether.

UPDATE II:  Two bloggers make the excellent point that sending a direct message to children about education is not the President’s job and that in itself makes Obama’s speech suspect.  (See here and here.) And yes, other presidents have spoken to school children, but those have usually been one and one classroom experiences, not broadcast to a nation of captive children, and no president before has ever been so dismissive of his constitutional boundaries.

The voice of the blogosophere about Obama’s speech *UPDATED* *AND UPDATED AGAIN*

You can read what I wrote about the speech here.  Others have been writing too.

The Anchoress, in addition to her must-read Ich bin ein Muslimer takedown of the speech, has a list of blogs thinking about what he said, which I’ll just copy wholesale:

Andy McCarthy: Koranic text Obama left out
Andrew Bolt: Islam, I am your savior!
Fausta: What was missing from the speech
David P. Goldman: Why Couldn’t Obama’s writers find a peace quote from the Koran?
Abe Greenwald: Not too good on Women’s Rights
Jennifer Rubin: Abudullah is not charmed by Obama
Bookworm: Gives the speech a C and wonders about specifically Muslim formulations
Ed Morrissey: Not so bad; not much different from Bush
Michelle Malkin: Not having any; didn’t like Bush’s speeches here, either.
Rich Lowry: On the whole not bad
Max Boot: Could have been a lot worse
Ann Althouse: Commenters parse the speech
Jake Tapper: President finds himself in Hieroglyphs
Hugh Hewitt: The World is Worse for this dishonest speech
“Yes we can” in Hieroglyphics
Mike Allen: Kinda common rhetoric
Confederate Yankee: Obama’s Brilliant Delusion
Andy McCarthy: Founding Fathers Friends to Islam?
Dana Perino: Comparing two presidents, two speeches
Damian Thompson: Watch out for Christian Terrorists!
Noisy Room: United Under Allah
Obama’s Nixon China Speech
Flopping Aces: Charm Offenses & History
Gateway: US President won’t stand for democracy

Here are some more reads I recommend:

Joshuapundit summarizes all the of ill-informed, fatuous and foolish statements that surrounded the nuggets of smartness and decency buried in that mess.

Rick Moran about the sadness the deliberately or foolishly misinformed speech engendered in him, and Sammy Benoit chimes in.

Ira Stoll, who hoped for better when it came to Obama and the Jews, confesses that the speech brings him to a different point of view.

Peter Daou also caught that strange obsession with the hijab.

Max Boot notes that the speech could have been worse, and explains what was good.  He also highlights all the false equivalencies Obama drew between the Muslim world and the west.  He also deconstructs the little misuse of history, by which Obama implied that Tripoli and the US have always been partners in freedom.  (I bet Boot would give the speech the same C I did.)

Jennifer Rubin also sounds many of the same notes I did.

And Abe Greenwald agreed with me on the bizarre fact that Obama kept harking back to those hijabs.

Here are John and Paul from Power Line, each of whom also damn it with faint praise and praise it with faint damns.

Reading all of these views shows that the issues I picked up upon — the vague mea culpas, the hostility to women, the hostility to Israel, the apparent willingness to protect America (thank God), the false moral equivalences, the bastardized history, etc. — were not products of my own anti-Obama imagination but were, in fact, truly present in an anything-but-earth-shattering speech to the Arab world.

Laer thinks the speech was as good as it could get, considering both audience and speaker.

UPDATE:  I have to add Peter Wehner to the list, for nailing both Obama’s rhetorical and substantive approach:

The best way to view President Obama’s speech in Cairo is to understand the way Obama views himself and the rhetorical devices he employs. In this case, the key to unlocking Obama’s speech may be Aristotle’s golden mean, the search for a mid-point between extremes. Obama’s rhetorical template is an increasingly familiar one: he gives voice to one side of a dispute and then the other. And Obama — our philosopher-king, the Voice of Reason in an unreasonable world — interprets and arbitrates these disputes, putting them in just the right context and arriving at just the right solution. Or so we are led to believe. The trouble is that Obama’s approach at times distorts history and mistreats our closest allies.

The above, by the way, is not just an airy-fairy conclusion.  Wehner goes on to support his theory — and also shows the lies Obama has to tell to maintain this Olympian posture.

Krauthammer wasn’t so thrilled either, and he caught the same point I did about the bizarre comparison Obama made between women in America and women in the Muslim world.  He also latched onto the innanely self-referential quality that is in all Obama’s speeches, as did Benjamin Sarlin, who gives the formula for writing your own Obama speech.

And you know you’re in good company when you make the same points Melanie Phillips does.

UPDATE IISoccer Dad reminds us that, as with Sotomayor’s 32 infamous words, context is king.  Also, JoshuPundit also wondered, as I did, if, in referring to Muslim charitable practices, Obama was suggesting that we do away with that little legal provision make it illegal to fund terrorism.

Grading Obama’s speech

This is the substantive part of Obama’s speech (introductory language omitted), with my comments.  Overall, I’d give the speech a C.  He made some obvious points, he made some good points, and he made some idiotic and offensive points. It would be nice if his speech was effective in bringing about the positive things he mentioned, but I’m not optimistic.  It wasn’t a sufficiently intelligent, visionary speech to do that.  It was just a mixture of praise, platitudes, desires, and insults.

*******************************************

We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.  [I guess it's good to open a speech by getting your audience to agree with you, so that they continue to agree with subsequent points.  Obama's very first substantive paragraph begins with the Marxist notion that it's all our fault.  That should get his audience nodding.]

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.  [This is a limited, but accurate statement.]

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.  [I'm having problems understanding what it means to have a relationship defined by our differences.  That fact alone doesn't inevitably lead to murderous conflict.  It does only when what makes the other side difference is its murderous ideology.  So this is just silly blah, blah, but it sounds nice and doesn't put the Muslim audience on the defensive.]

I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.  [In what la-la land does Obama live?  First, we've repeatedly fought on behalf of Muslims around the world, so Obama's not inaugurating anything new.  Second, where in the whats-it does he get the idea that Islam shares with Western culture notions of "justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."  Islam is predicated on submission, a yearning for a return to the golden era of the 7th century, and, most significantly, the subjugation of half the population (that would be women), not to mention a scriptural mandate that all non-Muslims be destroyed or enslaved.  It's one thing not to insult your audience.  It's another thing to lie.]

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there’s been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. [At least he's got some connection to reality.] But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today — to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.  [I anxiously await Obama's truth.]

Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I’m a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.  [It's always about him, isn't it?  But, again, good to establish a connection with your audience.]

As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities — (applause) — it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.)  [I won't pick this apart.  Some of it is true, some of it is wishful thinking and historical revisionism.  I don't think it matters too much.]

I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they’ve excelled in our sports arenas, they’ve won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers — Thomas Jefferson — kept in his personal library. (Applause.)  [Somewhat exaggerated in terms of the scope of Muslim contributions to America, but still basically true and, again, a smart thing to say to a Muslim audience.]

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)  [La-la land.]

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words — within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum — “Out of many, one.” [Very nice.]

Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores — and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. (Applause.)  [More self-involvement, and more pander.  Also, I read the numbers in the CIA fact book to say America has fewer than 2,000,000 Muslims.  I'm lousy at math, though, so please help me here:  What's 0.6% of 307,212,123? UPDATEI'm not the only one who found the math suspicious.]

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That’s why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it. (Applause.)  [This makes me uncomfortable.  It's good to trumpet America's religious freedom, but I find it icky that he would boast about the fact that America (rightly, I guess) allows its Muslim citizens to enshroud their women -- and please note that this last is an applause line.]

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations — to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.  [For someone with a Muslim background, I think he's a bit unclear on the whole submission and sharia and jihad and "other religions need to be destroyed" concepts that are an intregal part of the Koran.]

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. [I actually believe he -- and his media sychophants -- do believe that words alone are all it takes.]  These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.) That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.  [I know this is an example of his soaring rhetoric, but it leaves me cold.]

And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes — and, yes, religions — subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared. (Applause.)  [Good.]

Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: We must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together. [He keeps saying that he'll tell the truth and face the tension but, so far, he hasn't done that.  I'm waiting....]

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.  [Good.  That's clear and unequivocal.]

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America’s goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I’m aware that there’s still some who would question or even justify the events of 9/11. [Grammar my dear "brilliant" President.  (I was told the other night at a comedy club that he's brilliant.)  What he meant to say was "there are still some...."] But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. [Grammar:  he's talking about Al Qaeda as an entity, not a collection of individuals.  It should be "states its determination...."  Normally I wouldn't be so fussy but Obama is, after all, brilliant.]  They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.  [Substantive content of this paragraph:  Okay, and at least he didn't pretend to agree with the Truthers about the real responsibility for 9/11.]

Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military — we seek no military bases there. [That would be George Bush's policy.] It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.  [Good.]

And that’s why we’re partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America’s commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths — but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) [Obama is either prevaricating or he genuinely misunderstands what the Koran defines as innocent.  Indeed, given the verse immediately following, one has to suspect that Obama, the "Holy" Koran follower, is speaking in code.  Also, why is he calling it the "Holy" Koran.  Barring some parity at the end of the speech where he says "Holy" Bible, he's never before used the "Holy" Bible formulation.  Takes pandering too far.]  And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace. [Okay, don't insult your audience.  Get them to work with you, not against you.  Islam is the problem, but Islam also has to work on the solution, so a little praise here is probably a good thing.]

Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who’ve been displaced. That’s why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.  [Where in the world is all this money coming from?  We're broke.]

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. (Applause.) [Splendid waffle there.]  Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: “I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.”

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future — and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. [Wouldn't that be George Bush's policy?]  And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people — (applause) — I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own. [And yes, George Bush's policy again.]  And that’s why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. [Which is a result of George Bush's surge and a (smart) repudiation of his campaign promise to have troops out in 100 days.]  That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq’s democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. (Applause.) [This would, again, be Bush, not "campaign Obama" speaking.] We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. (Applause.)  [Whatever.  He's going to outsource torture and he's going to build a new, identical facility, give it a brand new name, and do the same old, same old.]

So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.  [Good.]

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.  [Because Jews are pathetic they deserve their own country?  Feh.  At least he's reiterated support, even those his actions lately belie that.]

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. [Good for him for saying that.]  Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.  [Good again.]

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. [Excuse me? Is he implying Jews have persecuted Arab Christians?  This is a whopper.  It's the Muslims who have persecuted Christians, and have finally succeeded in almost completely de-Christianizing Bethlehem for the first time since Christ himself.]  For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.)  [This is an unconscionable paragraph, that completely ignores the actual history of the regime.  It ignores the 1924 mandate that gave Jordan to the Palestinian people.  It ignores the fact that, in 1948, the Arabs attached the tiny new Jewish nation, willingly abandoning their own villages to make room for war.  It ignores the fact that Arabs have been in a perpetual state of war against Israel since 1948.  It ignores the fact that surrounding Arab nations have intentionally kept the Palestinian refugees in those territories as a running sore.  It ignores the fact that Israel (a) offered to hand over 97% of the territories but was refused and (b) handed over Gaza, to no result.  Yes, the Palestinians are a problem, but to imply that it's all Israel's fault is the kind of big lie Goebbels would have loved.]

For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It’s easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding [historical revisionism:  it's not the displacement.  The displacement is a symbol for the world to writhe about.  The problem is the existence of a Jewish nation in violation of the commandments in the peace and equality loving "Holy" Koran], and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. ["Hostility and attacks" seems like an awfully bland formulation considering the Palestinians oft-repeated desire to commit complete genocide against the Israelis.]  But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. (Applause.)  [Yeah, but what's that mean?]

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. (Applause.) [Yes.  Another American president grabs the Middle Eastern tar baby.]  The obligations — the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.  [A point is appropriate, but I don't get the black analogy in this context, because it would mean he's saying Palestinians are slaves to the Jews -- and he couldn't be saying that, could he?]

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.  [Does he really not understand that Hamas' sole raison d'etre is to destroy Israel?  I'm not imagining this.  Hamas leaders say it all the time.  Governing is just a time-waster.]

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)  [It does not violate previous agreements.  It's always been understood that Israel can maintain normal growth on old settlements.  This is a cruel slap, and Obama is not winning Jewish love for this one.]

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.  [He doesn't seem to understand that, until the killing stops, Israel cannot take away the barriers to Palestinians earning their livings.  Anyway, the Palestinians don't really want that.  If Israel gives them access to the livelihoods they demand the overwhelming flow of cash money from the West stops, and that's worth more than a few jobs.]

And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.  [That needed to be said, and he gets kudos for saying it.]

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.  [Meaningless.  Not quite straw men, but close.]

Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra — (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, [Muslims, whenever they mention Muhammad, add "peace be upon him."  Is Obama a Muslim?] joined in prayer. (Applause.)

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America’s interests. It’s about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.  [Is it me, or has he said absolutely nothing at all here?]

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that’s why I strongly reaffirmed America’s commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation — including Iran — should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I’m hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.  [One word:  idiot.  No, two words:  delusional idiot.  No, six words:  America-hating, Israel-hating Leftist anarchist.]

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)

I know — I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)  [So, after saying he'd never impose democracy on other people, he then goes on to say that people must govern themselves, which is Democracy.  He talks like a bad lawyer.  His ultimate principle, too, is right out of the Bush playbook.]

Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people.  [Is he listening to himself?  ACORN, attempts to stifle talk radio, increased American media control, government ownership of industry, etc. -- these are all tools Obama uses to destroy Americans' control over their own destiny.  I think the word "hypocrite" applies well here.]

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they’re out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) [It takes one to know one.]  So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. [Uh, no.  About 800 years ago, Islam had a brief, shining moment during which it elevated some smart Jews to prominence.  It's had a few other moments of tolerance when it's in control, although that's usually because there's been a secular government in a country with an Islamic population (Indonesia and Turkey spring to mind).  Otherwise, throughout its history, it's been strikingly intolerant of other religions.  Jihad means bringing Islam by the sword.  With respect to other religions it kills, enslaves, taxes, confines, etc.  What is he talking about?  Is this his version of "truth"?]  We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it’s being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there’s a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of somebody else’s faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld — whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. (Applause.) And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.  [Have we not been honest before, Obama?]

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That’s why I’m committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.  [I don't know what he's talking about, but I do know that America has been cracking down on Muslim charities that are fronts for terrorism.  Is that what he's talking about?]

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can’t disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.  [Obama doesn't understand that the clothes Muslim women wear are products of tradition, not religious doctrine.  The former gets less respect than the latter.  For example, if women want to cling to the clothing tradition, then they have to give up the right to drive, because the state should not be forced to take pictures of a bunch of rags with eye slits for driver's licenses.  And again, I find it very disturbing that his example of Muslim religious freedom is to harp on an Arab tradition of subjugating women.]

In fact, faith should bring us together. And that’s why we’re forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That’s why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s interfaith dialogue and Turkey’s leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action — whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue — the sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights. (Applause.) I know –- I know — and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.  [There he goes again with the hijab.  Maybe it's freudian, and he wishes he could shut Michelle down.]

Now, let me be clear: Issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we’ve seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.  [To equate feminazi demands for equal pay for comparable jobs to women stoned to death for adultery is cheap.]

I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity — men and women — to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. And that is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams. (Applause.)  [Good.]

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations — including America — this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities — those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith. [Fine.]

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.  [Aside from the fact-free pander, fine.]

And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century — (applause) — and in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I’m emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.  [Fine.]

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.  [I'm not sure what to think of this.  After 9/11, I'm not thrilled about inviting Muslims into the country.  I'd make it conditional on their being forced to engage in some cross-cultural activities (such as going to churches and synagogues, to grow beyond their blind prejudices, and I'd bar them from attending radical mosques.]

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.  [Considering that sharia law bars paying interest on money, I don't see a benefit to American businesses to get involved in investing in sharia economies -- but what do I know?]

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We’ll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I’m announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.  [Where's the money coming for this?]

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.  [We are?  Ready, that is.]

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek — a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.  [Words, words, words.  Pretty, but neither soaring nor visionary.]

I know there are many — Muslim and non-Muslim — who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort — that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There’s so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country — you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.  [Ditto.]

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort — a sustained effort — to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It’s easier to start wars than to end them. It’s easier to blame others than to look inward. It’s easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There’s one rule that lies at the heart of every religion — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) This truth transcends nations and peoples — a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us: “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”

The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”

The Holy Bible tells us: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Applause.)  [Here's that unusual "Holy" Bible reference.]

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you. [Normally, Americans say "May God bless you."  What's interesting about this phrase is how it echoes the fact, which I appointed out above, that Muslims, whenever they mention Muhammad, add "peace be upon him."  Didn't Obama think anyone would notice this parallelism?] Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

The mysteries of the human brain

Many years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who was a medical student on his neurology rotation.  He related what was, to me, an amazing story.  The patient he saw that day was a fairly young man who had suffered a major stroke, resulting in an almost complete loss of speech (aphasia).  He could still form sentences, but the words were all wrong.  So, instead of saying “Can I have a drink of water,” he’d say “Cow book the drive blanket for tears.”  It was tragic.  What struck my friend, though, was when the doctor in charge asked the patient to sing “Twinkle, twinkle.”  My friend expected to hear nothing, or gibberish.  Instead, the patient sang the song word perfectly — and was able to do so with several other nursery songs.  That’s when I first learned that we store music, including lyrics, in a different part of our brain from language.

Because of my friend’s anecdote, I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection between words and lyrics.  I therefore read with interest a story in today’s New York Times about a singing therapy for aphasic stroke victims:

The technique, called melodic intonation therapy, was developed in 1973 by Dr. Martin Albert and colleagues at the Boston Veterans Affairs Hospital. The aim was to help patients with damage to Broca’s area — the speaking center of the brain, located in its left hemisphere.

These patients still had relatively healthy right hemispheres. And while the left hemisphere is largely responsible for speaking, the right hemisphere is used in understanding language, as well as processing melodies and rhythms.

“You ask yourself, ‘What specifically engages the right hemisphere?’ ” said Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, a neurologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who studies music’s effect on the brain.

Melodic intonation therapy seems to engage the right hemisphere by asking patients to tap out rhythms and repeat simple melodies. Therapists first work with patients to create sing-song sentences that can be set to familiar tunes, then work on removing the melody to leave behind a more normal speaking pattern.

But relatively little research has been done to understand how this type of therapy affects the brain of a stroke patient.

In a study completed in 2006, Dr. Schlaug and colleagues at Harvard tracked the progress of eight patients with Broca’s aphasia as they underwent 75 sessions of melodic intonation therapy. M.R.I. scans taken when the patients were speaking simple words and phrases showed that activity in the right hemisphere had changed significantly over the course of treatment.

“The combination of melodic intonation and hand-tapping activates a system of the right side of the brain that is always there, but is not typically used for speech,” Dr. Schlaug said.

He recommends melodic intonation therapy for patients who have no meaningful form of speech, but can understand language and have the patience for therapy sessions.

You can read the rest of the story here, including an interview with a stroke victim who re-learned speech through this technique.