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You rock!

Thank you for taking decisive action on civil liberties: issuing executive orders to close Guantánamo, end the military commissions, ban torture and delay the al-Marri trial.

Thank you for your moves toward greater transparency in government as well. I'm really looking forward to having a national dialog now; it's quite a contrast already, to the disconnected-ness of the last few years. It had gotten to the point that there are other countries I was thinking were more free and where the people are more involved in government, than here. Maybe we can get back to being the shining example of democracy again.

I am proud that in your first 48 hours in office you are beginning to free America from the civil liberties outrages and human rights abuses of the Bush era.

I promise you my support as you continue to take actions to renew American justice and look forward to your next steps towards ending this national shame and restoring America's moral leadership in the world.

From my perspective (at least before the economy crashed) the number one issue for this country has been foreign relations. We are threatened by terrorists mainly because we have sown the seeds of discord, and have made enemies for ourselves all over the world. If we had stayed more neutral, it might not have happened; but now I'm not sure if it's too late for neutrality. I'm quite certain it's never too late for diplomacy, though. We need to stop all of our unilateral, violent meddling around the world. Gitmo was just one small part of the problem. I'm afraid that those who are released will always hate us, and will become the core of future terrorist cells, because of what we did to them there.

And now, perhaps as side effects of our efforts towards immigration control, and the even more impossible "war on drugs", we seem to be creating new enemies in Mexico as well! I live in Arizona, I don't want to some day become a victim of these people who are normally so laid-back, but given enough abuse they are also bound to react with hate against us. As long as someone somewhere in the world hates us, for what we DO as opposed to what we ARE (a distinction that Bush couldn't understand), we're going to keep reaping what we sow. Everything was fine a few years ago. The influx of illegal immigrants seemed unfortunate in some small ways, but it was not overwhelming. I do not believe that they merely take away our jobs - they are consumers too, they participate in our economy as much as we do, and help it to grow. So why are we building a Berlin Wall across our border? I really detest the sense of intolerance that is being conveyed. I think it's good to try to limit immigration officially, but "zero-tolerance" is an impractical, inhuman policy for anything. We need to be more humanistic, stop over-reacting to every little bit of disorder. Some disorder is normal, and by trying to exercise absolute control over others, we just create even more disorder. We should try to optimize for happiness as much as possible, rather than order and discipline.

But soon with the violence down there, The Wall will become self-justifying. I don't even understand the source of all the violence: maybe there is more to it than merely the repercussions of our own actions. But I think this is a really pressing issue right now, and I'd like to include this in our national dialog: what ideas do you and your administration have about that?

Another issue (much smaller, in the scheme of things) is Belarus. My wife is from there; she has become a permanent resident here under the fiancee visa program. We don't like president Lukashenko at all ("Europe's last dictator" as he's often called). But the current cold relations between our countries has put us in a bit of a bind, as well. Because of Lukashenko's behavior, the US government froze his foreign assets (bank accounts and such), and because of that, there have been some diplomatic dismissals on both sides. So it's now much harder to get a visa, either for us to visit my wife's family or for her family to visit us. (Rumor has it that my mother-in-law is going to have to take a trip to Moscow next time, because the US Embassy in Belarus doesn't process visas anymore. Even last time those guys were jerks - they didn't make a good impression.) I wish something could be done about this little tiff. I wish Lukashenko would be replaced by a real statesman who would restore the democracy over there too, but that is an issue for the Belarussians to make happen: we cannot force it to happen. Our sanctions against Belarus just create ill will. Of course if everyone else agrees that they have a positive effect, I could accept it too; but sanctions didn't work for Cuba all these years, did they? The sanctions affect the people much more than the government. We stepped on Lukashenko's toes but his revenge is to step on the people's toes, in both countries.

Then there is Russia. They're behaving like a bully lately, about like we have been behaving. At this time we don't have any moral high ground to stand on and tell them how to behave. Again I don't like to see the chilly relations that have developed. Maybe it's the normal state of affairs when both sides are strong enough. But a few years ago when I met my wife it seemed that the world was becoming a lot more ecumenical. That was a nice direction, and it's too bad the course has been reversed, on so many different fronts at the same time.

Of course in situations where we have created instability, I think we have a responsibility to restore order again - to leave the place in better shape than it was when we came. So I think I agree with your plans so far in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I don't envy your job right now as you try to figure out where to start, untangling the mess we've gotten ourselves into. But so far I'm impressed with the work that you are starting, I'm so very glad I voted for you, and I'm wondering what I could do to help.