Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Some personal reflections

May 21, 2008

I just realized that yesterday marked my 35th post, and the site reached 3,765 views yesterday as well. In light of these milestones (ha!), I decided to write a post of somewhat more inward reflection with a nice corny twist to it. I usually don’t express much deep, personal emotion/reflcetion on this site, so I am slightly nervous and good deal embarrassed…. So try to be nice with your comments this time around  😉

 

Most of us have probably heard the old saying: “If you’re not a Democrat by the time you’re 17, you have no heart. If you’re not a Republican by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” I have been pondering this idea for quite a while. My mom used to tell me this every once in a while during my young teen years, and it enraged me. I used to think “Ugh! What a horrible thing to think! It is way better to be a Democrat.” Now that I am 20 and have a little more life experience under my belt, I am able to look at this saying a little more rationally, but not necessarily with less questions.

I feel I hit my peak Democratic, liberalist attitude at 18. To call myself a “bleeding heart liberal” would certainly be an understatement. Every ounce of suffering I saw cut me deeply and I constantly questioned why our government wasn’t stepping in to feed this family or save that fain forest. Compassion and empathy have always been two of my most profound characteristics (hence why I took “Veronica” as my Confirmation name in 8th grade [For you non-Christians, she is the one who approached Jesus and used her cloth to wipe the blood and sweat from His face while He carried the cross]), but some inward reflection has made me realize that these qualities have kind of… shifted.

While I would still love to see a hungry family eat or a rain forest thrive, I cannot say that I still believe it is only the duty of our government to remedy such problems. I’ll have to turn to my guy, Thomas Paine for some insight here: “Government is best which governs least.” We certainly need a central government for national defense/international relations, to regulate currency, and oversee interstate commerce, but why has the national it seeped into issues of abortion, gun control, and drug laws?

Looking across the country, many may argue(my uncle included, as we just had a huge debate about this the other day) that citizens have become uneducated, ignorant, and that people are naturally inclined toward selfishness. They state that the Supreme Court and federal government must act to protect us, that they must remedy the problems the we have created through our own shortcomings.

I cannot agree.

While I look across this country and see ignorance, hate, stupidity, and overall apathy, I simply do not believe this is human nature. We have allowed ourselves to become dependent on government, to let it make decisions for us, to let it do all the work. What happened to Plato and Aristotle’s ideal citizen?  What happened to the Ben Franklins of this country (for those who don’t know, he was one of twenty children, and his father was a candle maker/soap boiler)- the every day citizen who rises up to take the challenge and exhibit the qualities on which this country was founded?

More people could tell you the names of Britney Spears’ children than could name their state representatives. More people voted on the first season of American Idol than voted in the 2000 election. Yet we cry out to the courts to right the wrongs. We yell at government for not taking care of more of its citizens.

The privilege of living in a democracy comes with the responsibility and challenges of upholding it, and it seems like people are becoming more and more accustomed to sitting back and letting the big guys do all the work. I would not necessarily blame this on citizens though. A lot of times, people in power seek to make the Average Joe believe that he cannot take action and that he can have no impact. They aim to keep themselves in power.

Whether you are for or against abortion (I won’t be arguing that at this time), we should not run to the court system to establish this or that abortion law as correct. This is a job for our legislators, and this is where rights such as the First Amendment come into play. As a democratic republic, we have the right to voice our policy opinions to our representatives and get them made into law. The court’s only role is to determine whether that law has any CLEAR violation of the Constitution.

Today, we just find it all too easy to have a group of 9 people, completely insulated from public wants and opinoins make the law for us.

“If you’re not a Democrat by the time you’re 17, you have no heart.” This is true. We have to develop a very broad and general conception of compassion and care for others in order for society to function properly.

“If you’re not a Republican by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” This too is true. Once our care for others has matured in a way that we can discipline ourselves to work through difficult solutions, we have developed a brain. We need to be intelligent and independent from government in our actions to help others.

We need to have a heart to love humanity while at the same time have the brain to do carry out our duties and responsibilities as American citizens and ultimately reach our goal of helping others. “If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.” I believe that adage too applies to my argument. If we teach our children and teach ourselves to be educated citizens, we can help the destitute in any situation; we can develop laws that work the best for the greatest number of people.

I am certain that it is possible to have both a heart and a brain. While especially at this point in time, it may not really be especially conceivable to be both a Republican and a Democrat, I believe that by strenthening our hearts, we provide fuel for our brains, and while educating our minds we only increase our capacity to love.

I am accepting the challenge to become an American citizen, heart and mind.

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Fear. Violent fear.

July 28, 2007

U.S. Plans New Arms Sales to Gulf Allies
Washington Post

I was brought to the brink of tears after reading this article:

“The Bush administration will announce next week a series of arms deals worth at least $20 billion to Saudi Arabia and five other oil-rich Persian Gulf states as well as new 10-year military aid packages to Israel and Egypt, a move to shore up allies in the Middle East and counter Iran’s rising influence, U.S. officials said yesterday.”

The other countries to which we are selling this sophisticated weaponry (including “smart bombs” and air-to-air missiles) are the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.

Oh God no.
You know how sometimes you can just FEEL when something is going to go horribly wrong?
Perhaps not right away. Perhaps not earlier than a decade from now.

Why is this happening??? Has history taught the leaders of this country NOTHING about providing generally violent and powerful states with weapons? This looks all too familiar.
All too familiar indeed.

Yes, let’s strengthen the pro-Western nations against Iran. They will always BE pro-Western. There is no possibility whatsoever that they may turn on us on a dime. No no. These are our allies.

I think we should take advice from one of the greatest leaders of this country, George Washington (you know, he’s the guy featured on the dollar bill): “Trade with many, ally with none.”

Tonight on Smackdown: Nature v. Business

June 29, 2007

Who will emerge the reigning champ?

I realize that most of my posts so far come off quite liberal, and although that is the direction in which I tend to lean, on many issues I’m pretty stumped.

Like business and nature, for example. I love the environment, and I’ve been pretty clear on that, but business is important, too. We need a strong economy as a crucial keystone for just about everything else. If we want to end poverty, we need a good economy. If we want to keep jobs in the U.S., we need a good economy. If we want to help fight AIDS in Africa, well, we need a good economy. Everything we do depends on our revenues. Even nature depends on it! Keeping our environment safe is not a cheap cause. We need money to fund alternative fuel research, cleaning our lakes, oceans, and rivers, and the saving of endangered species It all costs something. However, the loss of a healthy ecosystem would be hundreds of times more costly than anything we can ever imagine. Food, wood, cotton, steel, makeup, gym shoes, baseball mitts, everything from A-Z depends on nature….and on business.

Understandably so, we face quite the dilemma: Where do our priorities lie? In the thing that governs our very livelihood, or… the other thing that governs our very livelihood?

In a really neat series of articles that the Washington Post did on Dick Cheney’s vice presidency (June 27, 2007), an incident of nature v. business was cited. While farmers faced droughts in Oregon, they were prohibited from irrigation in 2004/2005 because of the trauma it would cause to two types of threatened fish in the area. Due to VP Cheney’s work, the law was changed, and farmers were allowed to irrigate. Following the reversal of this law, tens of thousands of fish were found dead along the banks of the Klamath River.

Business won.
But at what expense?

Whether it is because of selfishness, ignorance, or just the difficulty of the subject, humans have a tough time seeing how important the interrelations of nature are. So what if we lose two types of fish?

Well, let’s say that those two types of fish feed off of smaller types, and those smaller types eat plant organisms that grow in rivers. When you eliminate the fish at the top of that food chain, the population of the next fish in line grows exponentially because they no longer have anything to keep their numbers “in check”. In turn, these fish consume all plant life in the river, lowering oxygen levels. The fish starve or suffocate, leave mass amounts of corpses, and create a river full of fungus/algae. The destruction of the entire ecosystem occurs because of the loss of the higher fish. When any one piece of an ecosystem is changed too drastically, it can very easily cause the destruction of the whole thing. (If you want to take that scenario a step further… Animals around the area no longer have a clean body of water from which to drink. Now where will that take us?)

However, not only was the ecosystem lost, Oregon lost the fishing business. Fishermen (er… fisherpeople to be politically correct I suppose) have lost their jobs, and people have less fish to eat directly from the area, causing them to shell out more money to get the fish from areas that are further away.

It seems that there is a strong interrelation between business and the environment, and it’s one that we can’t afford to ignore. We cannot function in a world without a healthy environment, nor can we function in a country without a healthy economy. Look to any example, and if you think hard enough, it is not so difficult to see the ways in which the two rely on each other.

The problem now becomes this: in the U.S., one cannot be “pro business” and “pro nature”. It’s just not possible. Politicians will be condemned for flip-flopping or being soft and won’t stand a chance in the next election. Ah, the two-party system: You are only one or the other, never both, and always neither.

I’m all about compromise- maybe it’s because I’m young and I’m still lost in a land of ideals and “what-could-be’s”, but for the sake of this country, for the sake of the world, and for the sake of the future, we have to find a way to reconcile business with nature, or nature with business. If we do not, there is no telling what could lie in store for us.

Zero Tolerance for Compromise

May 20, 2007

This post has been inspired by the resignation of Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank and the frenzy to name a new person to the position.

For those who may not know, the World Bank is an international organization that offers low-interest loans and aid to poor countries that use the bank as a last resort. Wealthier nations pump millions into the World Bank, and thus, have a great deal of interest in what is done with the funds. For about 60 years, the United States has taken on the role of appointing the president of the World Bank, obviously giving us a ton of influence over how the billions of dollars are handled. This in turn bestows us with a great deal of power. However, after a scandal arose regarding Paul Wolfowitz who is facing allegations that he has given a promotion and large pay increase to a mistress of his, the U.S. is fighting for its ability to name the new president.

Wolfowitz’s appointment by President Bush was something that many nations objected to. He was key in planning and implementing the war in Iraq, and a lot of European leaders saw him as a symbol of America’s arrogance (Washington Post).

While some nations agree that the United States should maintain its control on appointing a World Bank president, others feel a multi-nation merit-based process should be the determining factor. President Bush, of course, is vehement in choosing a successor to Wolfowitz. And this is where my commentary comes in.

For the past five years, President Bush has displayed an absolute unwillingness to compromise. The United States is at a new low in international relations. We are no longer a beacon to the world that presents a model for democracy, diplomacy, ingenuity, and compassion. We have become, in many respects, a nation that repels change and understanding. We are no longer at the forefront of innovation. In my opinion, President Bush’s staunch, right-wing, no bargaining attitude has helped a great deal in putting us in this place.

Friends are hard to come by for the United States nowadays. We are seen as haughty and arrogant. We are viewed as selfish, boisterous, and hard-hearted. We are not respected as a nation of dignity and honor.

While I do understand the necessity for a tough leader, someone who is firm and resolute in his or her beliefs and convictions, I also recognize the need for compromise and discussion. President Bush is resolute in appointing a new president of the World Bank. In order to hold the respect of other nations, he could certainly allow other world leaders to help in the selection of this president, while still choosing someone from the U.S. It would not be difficult to find a very qualified leader of the World Bank from this great country of ours.

I’m starting to get sleepy now, so I’m sure this blog has turned into something a lot like an incoherent ramble, but my point is, we have GOT to learn to compromise. We have GOT to learn how to give a little and take a little. The U.S. cannot afford to lose anymore allies, and we cannot afford to sacrifice anymore of our dignity and honor. Our pride, self-interest, and bull-headedness will be our downfall, and if we cannot learn to respect the various interests of the countless other countries with which we negotiate, we are going to be in a lot of trouble. I am by no means saying that the United States should not look out for its own interests, but we need to figure out a way to do that, while still valuing the positions of those other countries.

Global Warming: An Economic Tale

April 18, 2007

…Actually, before I continue with my post, I would like to briefly mention the tragedy that took place at Virginia Tech on Monday. The incident truly reveals to us how quickly life can be taken away and how much we must value every moment. Our time here is too short for anger, worry, and hate. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those in mourning, and I hope all may receive comfort despite their tragic loss.

(more…)

If it’s brown, drink it down. If it’s black send it back.

March 29, 2007

An avid Simpsons fan, I had to open this particular blog in this manner. When discussing the water quality in Springfield, Homer Simpson demonstrates his boundless wisdom in whether the water should be consumed. Oddly enough, this relates to my newest entry: the arrival of 102 Hatians on a Florida beach. (The Cubans are allowed to stay, but the Hatians are sent home…)

I’d like to address two aspects of this issue. First, I will take the (stereotypically) Republican stance and ask why the hell were 102 people, sailing in BROAD DAYLIGHT in a sorry excuse for a boat able to get past our Coast Guard?! We are one of the most hated countries in the world right now, supposedly on the brink of some sort of terrorist annihilation every moment of the day… and our Coast Guard misses possibly the most blatant attempt to reach U.S. soil by the Florida coast. Let’s get the whole “national security” thing together, okay? Okay. Now, with that out of the way, on to the liberal mush!!!

102 Hatians, one boat, three weeks, thousands of dreams.

Of course, as illegal immigrants, these men and women will be sent back to Haiti where they will once again continue life in poverty-stricken muck where the political oppression has a more sickening stench than the garbage and filth in which they are forced to live. While watching CNN, the footage of the deeply colored men and women of a land so far away glowed from the television screen. I couldn’t begin to describe the emotions I felt watching the event. The question of immigration is one of the big debates surrounding politics today, and it is obviously something to be addressed.

Obviously, immigration MUST be regulated. We cannot merely allow thousands and millions of immigrants enter the United States illegaly. This “gunks up” our system of government, costs money, and just isn’t logical. However, how can so many Americans be so willing to throw these people out of the U.S.?

If you haven’t seen the footage of the Hatians landing on Florida’s beach, I strongly suggest you find a way to see it. Watching these men and woman so overwhelmed with emotion pour out of that small, dilapidated boat is one of the most moving experiences I have ever seen. These are modern (and colored, haha) examples of the 15th Century English. They are the Scottish and Irish, the German, Italian, and French. Just like our ancestors, the earliest immigrants, they traveled a horribly long, tiring, and dangerous journey in order to escape the horrors of their home country and taste what millions of people here call, “The American Dream”.

Yes, they will bring their cultures with them. Do you honestly expect them to leave behind their heritage and everything that was, at some point, beautiful about their country? (And by the way, the reason so many of these Third World countries are in the shape they’re in is due to colonization in the 17th and 18th Centuries and Imperialism in the 19th Century) Yes, at times they may bring their own religion, and yes, it may not be Christianity (contrary to popular belief, the U.S. wasn’t even itself founded on Christianity. The Founding Fathers were Deists, a very interesting and notable point).

I think that a regulated, lawful allowance of immigrants into the United States is something that can further enrich our country a great deal. We are the “land of opportunity”, but are often not willing to let many people in on the spoils. The 102 Hatians that poured off that boat did not come to lay on a beach and “suck up welfare”. They came to work. They came here to receive an education, to live a life full of meaning and hope. They came to give their children the opportunity to live in a world where they will not be forced to enter the profession of child prostitution, a world free from random government killings and censorship of every kind. They came to be free.

So no, we cannot let anyone and everyone into the United States free of regulation and free from a watchful eye, but we CAN find a way to monitor and account for all that come here. Let them learn English; let them get jobs; let them contribute to the country for which they are willing to die. It is certain that their children will appreciate their parents’ struggles and all that America has given them, and it is certain that they will in turn do all that they can to become educated, upstanding citizens of the United States of America.

Depleted Uranium is a War Crime…maybe?

March 8, 2007

I first came across the use of depleted uranium in the Middle East about a year ago while writing a blog for an environmental science class. I still feel that it’s an extremely important issue with which to be familiar, so I decided to write another entry about the substance. I feel that this issue is one that is not well known. I have never heard anything about it on the television, in newspapers, magazines, or on the radio. I was made aware of its existence through a song, oddly enough…

Uranium is a radioactive material found in the earth’s crust. After the isotopes U-235 and U-234 are removed to make nuclear fuel, “depleted uranium” is what is left. Within the past couple decades, depleted uranium has been discovered to be practically impenetrable by just about any other substance. Thus, our tanks are often covered with the substance in order to act as a sheild while our bullets are tipped in it to infiltrate the armor of our enemies. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

The Pentagon has released a statement saying that depleted uranium is 40% less toxic than regular uranium, so it presents a far smaller danger. However, how much help can that be when “…A-10 Warthog aircraft…fired 300,000 bullets. The normal combat mix for these 30-mm rounds is five DU bullets to 1 – a mix that would have left about 75 tons of DU in Iraq.”? The Christian Science Monitor (http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0515/p01s02a-woiq.htm)

The alpha particle radiation emitted by DU is easily deflected by the skin. However, when the DU burns (usually on impact; or as a dust, it can spontaneously ignite) the skin can no longer suffice as protection, and dangerous radioactive oxides are created that can be inhaled or ingested. “If allowed to enter the body, depleted uranium, like natural uranium, has the potential for both chemical and radiological toxicity with the two important target organs being the kidneys and the lungs.” -Depleted UF6 Management Information Network

Funny enough, during the Gulf War and under President George H.W. Bush, depleted uranium was also utilized in the Middle East. However, utilization of the substance was brought to a hault: Depleted uranium is more of a problem than we thought when it was developed. But it was developed according to standards and was thought through very carefully. It turned out, perhaps, to be wrong.”
— Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to President George Bush in 1991 Gulf War .”

U.S. Representative, Jim McDermott has taken a strong stance against the use of depleted uranium in America’s most recent war and has stated, ““Both the Leukemia rates in children and malformations at birth had increased by 600% and it was clearly an epidemic where all this DU had been dumped… It becomes a dust that can be inhaled and infect the blood stream and the rest of the body.” Some of his speeches and writings on the subject can be found here http://www.house.gov/mcdermott/sp050517.shtml

According to the U.S. State Department, depleted uranium is virtually harmless. It is a false threat to the safety of our soldiers and those living in the Middle East. Its dangers have been fabricated. No scientific proof can be found as to the harm the substance can cause. This is a site on the State Department’s opinion of the substance: http://usinfo.state.gov/media/Archive/2005/Jan/24-107572.html

Personally, I feel that we simply do not know enough of the substance. If it is harmless, why was its use terminated during the Gulf War for fear of the harm we were doing? Sites that have been contaminated by depleted uranium display signs warning citizens to keep away. Another point worth mentioning, depleted uranium has a half life of 4.5 billion years. This means that before the substance is COMPLETELY “decomposed”, it will remain in the environment (or in the body) for 9 billion years. Nine. Billion. Years. Could it be possible that many of the effects are long term and will not be seen for 100 years or so? Of course.

Just like many other aspects of the war in Iraq, the use of depleted uranium is eerily similar to actions during the Vietnam War. Any guesses which? Yep. Our use of Agent Orange. History has taught us a grave lesson in THOUROUGHLY studying and understanding chemicals used in warfare before diving right into the latest fad. In order to act ethically and humanely in this situation, I feel that it is only right to immediately discontinue our use of depleted uranium until furthur studies can be conducted. After knowing the consequences of the substance in their entirety, we can then make a moral decision. We cannot punish future generations that will know nothing of this war with the (possibility) of leukemia, serious birth defects, and environmental degredation.

We have to stop before we make an irrevokable mistake.

I just think this site is neat…

March 6, 2007

www.costofwar.com

…and somewhat scary.

The Bush Hypocrisy

February 21, 2007

As many of you probably know, the U.S. Court of Appeals has denied the right of the Guantanamo Bay detainees to challenge their imprisonment. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/20/AR2007022000490.html?sub=AR

Since America invaded Iraq, we have been given countless reasons for our occupancy there. First the certain presence of those pesky weapons of mass desctruction, and where were those again? We were told that Saddam had connections with Bin Ladin. Reason after reason followed for our occupancy. Finally, the Bush administration settled for two reasons: Saddam was torturing his people- starving families, raping wives, beheadding anyone and everyone. Second, we need to spread democracy. It is up to us to make sure the greatest system in the world, the American system, permeates throughout the entire world.

Herein lies the problem: (completely disregarding the fact that it could very well be impossible for an inherently Islamic society to coincide with democracy) . We condemn Third World countries for their treatment of the accused- for their random imprisonments, for torture, for holding citizens captive without giving them the mere dignity of knowing why they’re being held captive. However, the Bush administration has decided that at Guantanamo Bay, the captives there do not deserve the privilege of Habeas Corpus, one of the most basic American rights.

How is it that we can continue to push for democracy, for liberty, for justice and freedom, yet when it comes time to extend these rights to the very people on whom we’re trying to force them, we’ve decided that it’s just not that important? It’s the parent who smokes two packs of cigarettes a day and tells his or her child not to smoke. How can we claim to be a beacon for the world when we continue to violate the principles we hold so dear?