Thursday, December 04, 2008

To All Those Who Pee a Little at the Word "Change": Prepare to be Dissappointed

After three years of spitting venom at the shortcomings of the Republican Party, now I get a chance at the other side.  And what better place to start than to point out evidence that the Oil companies already have their hands on the controls of the Obama Puppet Show.

An article published by Reuters today explains that because the price of a barrel of oil has dropped below $80 per barrel, Obama is no longer going to deliver on his promise to impose a windfall profits tax on the oil companies.  The money generated by the tax was to go to lower and middle class households to cope with the strain of heating costs.

I thought Obama was looking out for the little guy? Is that not what he promised all through his campaign? Suddenly now that he is elected it is more necessary to protect the profits of a multinational, multibillion dollar company than the common man.  Honestly now, none of you optimists saw this coming?

The argument by the Oil companies is that the added tax will "stifle exploration and innovations.#" I truly hope that no one believes this excuse for even a second.  My hopes however rarely come true.  In the last quarter of 2007 Exxon Mobil made a record $11.7 billion dollars in profit#.  Exactly how much money does it take to "innovate and explore?."

This is not to say that the drop in oil prices as of late has not and will not hamper the profits of the oil companies, but to say that they are going to feel much of a hurt would be a lie.  In order to get a better hold of where Exxon lies currently you can look back at the last time oil prices were at the current level (about $44 per barrel.)  This level was last hit in the fourth quarter of 2004. How was Exxon doing that year?  Well that was another previous record profit year.  The company averaged a quarterly profit of $6.3 billion#.  So even now, are the oil companies shaking in their shoes? I think not.

While the price of oil is at a FOUR year low and oil companies are destined for poverty, having to live only on handful of billions of dollars in profit the unemployment rate has reached its highest point in TWENTY-SIX years#.

Honestly I am having a difficult time understand why Obama would throw his windfall tax plan out the window.  Even if the price of oil has dramatically decreased, so have the incomes of a great amount of people.  Their ability to pay fuel charges has not changed, or in many cases has become much worse with the loss of their job.  To make matters worse many Americans unsure of what the price of fuel was going to do locked in their fuel costs in the summer when they were at their highs. These people apparently will become casualties of the market system with no help from the president who promised it to them.  Maybe Hugo Chavez will make another run up here this winter.

What it comes down to is, who has more wiggle room?  The answer is obviously the oil companies, they can deal with a short term recessions much better than the common person can.  Obviously the percentages of profits taken from the the oil companies in this tax would not yield the tax money originally envisioned, but any percentage of billions helps. 

So who are you really for Mr. Obama, Us or Exxon?  I think we just got your answer.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Reciprocating Saw Tearing Through California

I mentioned before in my Prop 8: Enough Already! entry that prior to this past election day gay marriage had been shifted back and forth in legality six times.  Well thanks to a conservative, religious and traditionalist population, the lucky gays in California have been blessed with lucky number seven.  All the gays in California should walk into as many churches as you can and shake hands with everyone, thank them for dragging you back and forth like a rag doll.

I prophetized in that entry that if Prop 8 was enacted into law that within eight years the courts would again take up the case and possibly pull the power back to the side of the gays. Remove eight years, insert two weeks and I was EXACTLY right. 

Yes at the urging of Attorney General and Former Governor Jerry Brown (his aura always smiles and never frowns [bonus points if you get that]) the supreme court is again going to take up the gay marriage question.  The case is slotted for March and will answer the question of whether this was a proper use of an initiative. Unfortunately all gay marriages remaining on hold at least until a decision is made.

It is painfully sad and a little scary that this battle has come to this.  We are back to the courts, how many times can this go back and forth?  It can not be healthy for the legislature and now the people to be fighting for control of the constitution with the supreme court.  Is this not asking for a breakdown of democracy in the state of California? Should we have written rules as to when one branch of the government supersedes the others?

It is hard for me to be unbiased in weighing whether the Supreme Court should be again looking at this case, because I have a direct hope for an outcome that can only come from them doing so.  I know that if Prop 8 had been voted down, and the supporters of it had proceeded to bring the case to court I would be extremely annoyed, but yet I'm advocating just that for my side.

The only way that I can defend this belief is in saying, as I have in the before mentioned entry, that this is a case best left to the courts.  The reason being that it is a case of extending the rights of a minority against the tyranny of the majority.  It was wrong for the majority to hold a popular vote against a minority in the first place, therefore their taking it to court would be furthering the wrong.

I was going to write more about the reasons that this was a case best left to the courts, but I found this article by Kermit Roosevelt which makes my arguments seem like the fourth grade abridged version. Here is a taste:

"Regardless of where you stand on same-sex marriage, what's troubling
for US citizens in the California case is the idea that an equality
guarantee could not be effectively enforced against the will of a
majority. The point of such a guarantee is precisely to protect
minorities from discrimination at the hands of a majority."

I encourage you all to read the article, it gives quite a compelling argument for the supreme court intervention.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Come Rednecks, Join Us...

In the 21st Century.

We on the "liberal" side of American politics have spent the last eight years banging our heads on anything hard we could find trying make sense anything that president George has done. 

In that time he has wiretapped our calls both home and abroad.  Endorsed torture and shredded the rules of the Geneva Convention.  Increased the powers of domestic spying, and reduced the rights of the people to defend themselves in front of a jury of their peers. Deregulated business into our current financial ruin and alienated us from countless more nations than we could ever imagine.

I don't remember at any time during any of these ridiculous oversteps of power a liberal or a Democrat threatening to kill Bush.  Do you know what that is called?  Democracy.  Or more accurately Civilized Humanity.

For some reason now that the Democrats have finally been able elect a president from their own party, death threats, attempted assassinations and general squabbling about "how long he'll make it before someone shoots his ass" seem to be everywhere.  Can't you guys just grow up?  You lost, deal with it.  You get another chance in 2012.

Honestly there are many people that have been predicting the downfall of the Republican party after this election because of their "disconnection" with the highly educated "fake Americans."  I don't know if I can believe all of this hoopla, but I do have to say that a party that has this many supporters who in 2008 think "killin' 'im" is the best way to get what they want politically tells me that the predictors just may be on to something.

Now leave Obama and the Democrats alone for awhile, it's their turn to fuck everything up, then it'll be your turn again.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Uncle Tom

First of all Obama won. Lati-frickin-da. I guess he's the one that I wanted to win out of the TWO choices, but I voted for Nader. He would make a good president.

Second of all gay marriage is now unconstitutional in Florida, Arizona, and California. In Arkansas it is now illegal for a gay couple to adopt children. Great job, America fucked up again. Only this time it isn't the governments doing, it is us, the citizens who have failed. We are a shameful people.

I guess while I'm on this angry trip I might as well add another name to my list of stupid Americans who are a complete waste of oxygen, Shepard Smith.

Honestly I've had to watch this video a bunch of times so I would know what to write about here, and I have to say I am very near an aneurysm.

Ralph Nader asked whether Obama was going to be an Uncle Sam for the people or an Uncle Tom for the giant corporations. This can in no way be construed as being a racist question. Basically it is just a problem because Obama happens to be black, because Nader could have made this same comment about any of the white men who have become president. He didn't make the statement to mean that he was going to pander to white people over black people, he clearly stated in the quote that Obama has to decide whether he is going to stand up for the poor, or pander to the wealthy.

But in true television news character Smith had to go on in complete bewilderment that Nader could say such a thing and then proceed to completely ignore every great point that the man made.

Smith repeatedly made stabs at Nader for being a spoiler in 2000 and then becoming "irrelevant" since then. He is not irrelevant, he is one of the last stands against an all out two party system. Sure he will never be elected, but he stands for a very good cause just being a third party candidate.

It is people like Shepard Smith that have made America's democracy a joke. In many European democracy there are actually more than two parties to select from, oh the thought! It is people like Smith that caused us to elect Barack Obama as president. Is he qualified? Eh maybe. Is he the best person for the job, No.

We are stuck with what we have, between to losers. A mule or an elephant. A big business lover or a big business luster. A gay disliker or a gay despiser. A party that will walk all over the poor or one that will run them over with a tractor.

Fuck you Shepard Smith

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kill a Pundit, Save our Sanity

Last Friday the New York Times spoiled a delusion I was purposely keeping myself under. The Delusion: That Pundits were just an accident, a quark, God's little joke on us all, and that soon they would fade away. Or maybe all be shot. (This is in no way a threat, I'd like to keep myself happily out of the FBI target list for as long as possible)

The article which brought about the demise of my sanity was titled "At pundit school, learning to smile and interrupt"

There is a frickin' school teaching people how to be pundits? I am left in aww.

Lets be clear, the word Pundit hasn't always been a curse word, and the person filling the position not always an ass. The first "pundits" were local Indians who advised the English judges on Hindu law in India under the colonization era. No, punditry became terrible upon the advent of the 24 hour news station.

For some amazing reason 24 hours is not enough time to pack all of the news into, which can hardly be argued against when Joe the Plumber, one of the least relevant celebrities in our time gets hours of time on-air a week. Since 24 hours just isn't enough time, there is no way to allow for two people to go on air separately and state what they think and support it. It is obviously necessary to put two, three or four pundits on screen at the same time and have them yell at and over one another, effectively offering less intellectual debating than the Jerry Springing show.

For this reason, in order to get a step ahead of the others, pundits are enrolling in classes which teach them how to destroy what was once the beloved debate.

Pundits need to "carve...[their] philosophy into bite-size nuggets — preferably ones that end with a zinger — and to avoid questions he doesn’t like."

Those three things are just terrible. Nuggets don't get the audience anywhere, we need substance, we need explanations. Nuggets are causing us all to go the way of the mentally retarded.

The school is teaching the students how to interrupt, avoid questions they don't like and steer a conversations in a direction where they can get their message across. This is just what we need, an off topic message for the simple reason of self-promotion. What we are looking at is the professionalization of a tactic most often employed in Ms. Teacher's third grade class.

My conclusion to the whole thing is that the pundit does not represent what journalism is all about. It is one of the very few professions which is supposed to work for the audience to inform and at times educate. The pundit in trying to break information down into nuggets, smiling while you're on the attack, and adding catch phrases like "flip flop" in to attract attention is simply distracting the audience from what is really going on in the world.

There is a reason that the debate as been beloved for so long, it allows for the free exchange of ideas and when done correctly can inform an audience on multiple side of an issue. Unfortunately in many ways it seems that the debate is going down the proverbial shitter and with it goes all of the benefits.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Write to Marry Day

*UPDATE* Contributed posts are up

I just wanted to pass along a some information I found at the Caffection blog about Write to Marry Day. This is an organized write-in of anyone interested in blogging against Proposition 8 in California. If you write or have written a blog against prop 8 before October 29 you can submit it at Mombian and together we can help show Californians why this proposal is despicable.

In related news the New York Times and Fox News (links are to the articles not main sites)each printed articles Sunday about the extreme attention (and $$$) this California Proposition is getting state, nation, and international wide.

I'm feeling a little short-winded tonight so I'll just leave it at: good reads, dig in. Even the Fox News one, hell even they can put out a fairly unbiased piece of news occasionally.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Proposition 8: Enough Already!

The California gay community has some of the strongest legal power in the country over their right to marry, however they have been dragged back and forth through the dirt more times than in any other state. The legal right for them to marry has been given to, and taken back from them, around six times. Five of which have been since 1977.

It is great to see that Apple and Google have stepped up to the plate in opposition to Prop 8. But let's be honest, it is quite sad that they even have to.

Prop 8 in essence does the same thing that Prop 22 did back in 2000. Prop 22 was found to be unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in May 2008. So just why are we going in circles? Should we expect that if Prop 8 gets passed on the ballot next month that the supreme court will come around in the next eight years and also find it unconstitutional? It seems as though at some point we need to draw the line on wasting all this time and money.

It is in my opinion that this is an issue best left for the Supreme Court. Obviously I have a biased view as I am supportive of gay couples right to marry, but the purpose of the Court system is better suited for this kind of decision. Voter initiatives and congressional votes serve the purpose of keeping the government running as a democracy. Unfortunately, in allowing for majority rule, sometimes the minority gets stepped on a little too much. In these cases, which include the current, the court system is a much better place to determine constitutionality.

UCLA estimates that over 11,000 gay couples have been married since the floodgates were opened in May until mid September. God hasn't sank it out of spite yet, so why not just leave the gays alone?

All Americans need to get behind the 'anti-anti-gay marriage movement' and help get prop 8 voted down. Even if the rest of us in the other 49 can't make the vote we need to make it clear that this proposition is a terrible thing. As I have said before, only 4% of the United States allows for gay marriage (that's two states for you math buffs), losing California would be a great loss to the cause.

See also my earlier, mostly relevant blog: The Hypocrites Dilemma

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Voting isn't for Idiots

In the world in which we find ourselves under a constant barrage of media from news stations, political satire shows, the blog-o-sphere and any other media outlet you can think of, we have become a culture in which voting is more difficult.

Some would argue against this statement,claiming that with such great coverage it is now possible to know more about the candidates than has ever been known before. This of course is a very good argument. The seemingly infinite number of outlets creates an infinite number of angles against the candidates. Information is going to come up that people wouldn't have even thought of 50, 75, or 100 years ago. Sure there have always been the sex scandals in politics, but only now can news articles, news programs, spin shows and bloggers all converge on topic of “Why Obama turned down a cup of coffee and asked for an orange juice instead”

Unfortunately it is this that is destroying so many people's ability to make an informed choice in the voting booths. This is not to say that I want the news, bloggers and satirists to stop what they're doing. That would be idiotic they need to continue to do their jobs. It is just unfortunate that to the untrained ear and eye this very news is increasingly turning candidates into celebrities with every election. There is so much information out there that people are reluctant to even try to dive down into it, instead they surf along the top of it absorbing a little information here and there. Unfortunately that information is more often than not the sketchy, superficial rumor mongering that caused the Great Orange Juice Controversy of '08. Or better yet they vote for whomever doesn't seem to be the biggest idiot when played by the actors of SNL.

This is not to say that everyone is an idiot and can't understand how to use the media to their benefit. There is certainly no way to calculate such ignorance anyways. I'm simply saying that those who are thinking about voting in this coming election should seriously consider if they are doing so under the proper knowledge.

A couple weeks ago Howard Stern featured a guest who did a street experiment, much like the Jay Walking part of the Tonight show. His experiment followed the premise that many black voters were going to vote for Obama simply because he was black. Obviously in listening to this you have to take into account the show it is on and the fact that this was in no way a scientifically controlled experiment. Certainly more people were interviewed than were put on the show, and of course it was the best ones that made the cut.

I'm not going to repeat what the goes on in the clip in it's entirety because it's not very long and I've included the link. But basically the guy asked the black participants who they were voting for, all of which said Obama for various reasons related to his presumed ability to be a better leader, or his agreement with them on issues. He then preceded to ask them which of two “Obama views” they agreed with more strongly. The twist was that the issues were actually of McCain's view and those interviewed fell for it, bad.

This was a dramatization that unfortunately probably appears in society more often than we would like to admit. (Oh and it's unfortunate that I have to say this, but no I am in no way trying to say that black voters aren't as qualified as white voters.)

We have been pushing to get young voters to the voting booths for a long time and in this election due to the Obama camp we may even see record numbers of them doing so like we did in the democratic primaries. Unfortunately we should be pushing for young INFORMED voters. If the young people of the country are too lazy to get out and vote just once, isn't it also a pretty good assumption that they weren't able to find the time in their busy schedules to actually follow the debates, news, blogs, other commentary? We vote on a Tuesday for Christ's sake, Monday isn't even one of the big party days. My opinion is that if they don't want to vote, don't make them because they're just going to make a stupid decision anyways.

And just to bring this whole issue to a head Orange County California opted today to allow a one day only drive-thru registration and voting system. The same way that we have managed to become fat, sloppy and lazy Americans through the fast food assembly line, now we can vote! And to no surprise at all it had a great reception. We need to keep this from spreading.

If people are too lazy to vote the old fashion way they probably shouldn't vote at all. Is voting really that hard? For most we're talking about once every four years. For the most dedicated voter twice a year. All you have to do is walk into a building sign a book and vote in the booth. Occasionally lines get a little lengthy during peak hours but districts do the best they can to keep these under control. If you can not do that once every four years, you shouldn't vote. I'm sorry, you're are lazy and would be better off following the rest of us around anyways. Stop fooling yourself, leading isn't for you please, please don't waste your time or mine.

We're better off with a tiny percentage of informed voters than a mass of ill-informed, lazy morons.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Reagan's Dead for Good and What That Means for You.

Sure his mind left us long ago, and his body left us a few years ago, but outlasting both were his treacherous financial plans. Now as we all sit back and watch our investments fall, college graduates unable to find jobs to pay off their student loans, senior laborers calculate the increased number of years they will have to work if their 401k's don't turn around, and the newly unemployed wonder if they're going to make rent among hundreds of more dismal stories, we can take to optimism in the fact that the Reagan era is over.

Apparently the problem is, is that human nature causes us to be-live for the moment idiots. Otherwise why would we repeatedly allow ourselves to be duped into allowing for less controlled markets for temporary gain? Reagan certainly wasn't the first Head of State to masturbate to The Wealth of Nations and unfortunately will not be the last.

It certainly is hard to say no to great economic gain. The Internet bubble of the '90s made a lot of people phenomenal amounts of money. Unfortunately the fall afterward cost many of those same people most or all of that money back. The current bank situation is just another example of how, when allowed to, greed takes over good sense and lot of people get hurt.

The reason that these greedy bastards running the banks were willing to make such shaky business decisions is because they knew that in a “pinch” the government would step in to save them. The same expensive suit wearing, limousine riding, caviar eating assholes that have been touting free market capitalism knew that if their greed got out of control socialism would step in to protect their investment. Suddenly Socialism isn't such a bad word.

It is an atrocity that the American taxpayers are forced to bail out multi-billion dollar companies because they are unable to make good business decisions. Isn't that the reason that they have boards make financial decisions rather than singular people? A room full of well dressed, white businessmen weren't able to realize that giving loans to people who have no chance in hell of paying them back was a bad idea?

This of course isn't to take all of the attention off of idiot American who borrowed too much and can't pay it off. I sometimes wonder if maybe the term “adjustable rate” only rings a danger bell in my head. If you're taking out a fifteen year loan with an adjustable rate, wouldn't it seem likely that somewhere along the line the rate would increase creating a situation where you couldn't afford your premiums? In fifteen years?!

But alas we were left with the decision, very possible financial ruin or a $700,000,000,000 federal bailout. It was a complete necessity, a shameful necessity. Not one penny will be seen by the millions of common people suffering joblessness, homelessness, and 'furturlessness,' This bailout is set up only to help those that already have to much money and want more. Unfortunately the way the system is built, without them we all go down.

So the moral of the story is, we as Americans need to stop being short sighted idiots. Sure we might not see skyrocketing profits when we have a little extra socialism stirred into our economy but at least when the time comes for the cyclical downward slope of the economy it drops like a bunny hill and not like the Atom Bomb.

How is your 401k doing? Aren't you glad we didn't privatize Social Security yet?

Update: "The stock market's prolonged tumble has wiped out about $2 trillion in Americans' retirement savings in the past 15 months [401k], a blow that could force workers to stay on the job longer than planned, rein in spending and possibly further stall an economy reliant on consumer dollars, Congress's top budget analyst said yesterday."~Nancy Trejos, The Washington Post

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Space Race Number Two, Even More Pointless to Me and You

Forty years after the U.S put a man on the moon it is now extremely important that we invest billions more into our space program in order to beat China there, says Buzz Aldrin the second man to set foot on the moon back in 1969 (article ). He further wishes to put more money into the NASA pocketbook in order to remove the five year gap in which they will not have a regular shuttle fleet to travel to and from the International space station. God forbid we had to rely on the commies....I mean the Russians.

Granted I was not alive in 1969 when the Apollo Shuttle landed on the moon so that romantic patriotic happening is nothing but a story to me, but that may just be why I can think about this situation a little more clearly than Mr. Aldrin. During the cold war the American people were built up beyond any sense that we had to beat the Soviets at everything, we were brought down as a country into the world of grade school playground competition.

Now its 2008, there is no sane person or country in the world that would argue that the U.S is the most powerful nation in the world, but yet we still feel the need to prove our preeminence by re-beating China to the Moon.

Who cares if Russia, China, Japan or any other country in the world makes leaps into space exploration? Isn't that a good thing? Isn't it about time that more and different minds started to figure out the questions of the universe? Would working together on international science projects not bring the people of the world a little bit closer?

When the over zealous finger on the button Americans see China making efforts to gain a foothold on space they immediately connect it with an attempt at military supremacy. It's as if there is an instantaneous flashback to the cold war. Fortunately, the world has changed a lot since 1969, at the time the United State's communist witch hunt was tearing the world apart. Now in 2008 the majority of the world has a different attitude in which countries are trying their best to get along and compromise rather than wage war (At least theoretically, in practice, eh we're working on it). This isn't a time for space race number two, this is a time when space ready countries should be working together to further science more quickly and efficiently.

I say efficiently because this is yet another point that must be brought up about the space program. This is not to say that there have not been scientific discoveries directly attributable to the space program, but it seems for the amount of money that is poured into NASA much more should be expected. Sure, with 300 years of funding we may be able to move to a distant planet when we destroy our own. Unfortunately, at the rate we are going this one won't make it that long. Maybe saving the planet we're on should be just one of the things that we should more thoughtfully invest our money in, rather than making a command post on the moon. Poverty, health insurance, disease, starvation, pollution and global warming are just a few of the things that come to mind as being more important than an elitist's ability to go on an “Out of this world!” vacation and stay on the moon.

So Mr. Aldrin although I recognize the romance in what you are saying, it is time that we re-think and re-organize our space program, turn competition in cooperation and see if we can't further some science and save some people at the same time.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Hypocrite's Dilemma

Starting today, officially 4% of the states in the Union allow a gay couple to legally marry. Bay-bee steps. California's leap onto the official homo-scene of course coincided with a very important Observer Dispatch article which highlights, quite well, why we are going to be pushing for legalized gay marriage far beyond the time when I move into a nursing home. The article was a comparison of the policies of the men running for the 24th district congress seat, the incumbent Democrat Michael Arcuri and his opponent Republican Richard Hanna.

The question was framed as follows: "Should there be a federal law mandating that all marriages should be between a man and a woman? Why?" Of course it couldn't have been stated better, such as "what do you think about a gay couple's right to marry?" but who is splitting hairs? Anyway both men took the fairly safe position that it is not up to the feds to make a decision, that the issue must be taken up by the individual states. Arcuri went on to say that although he does agree that 'civil unions' should be allowed he felt that there are more pressing issues to be dealt with on the national scale such as health care, energy costs, and trade policies.

So to better highlight the plight of a group of people, who's request is only to be considered normal citizens: There are a ton of people who completely disagree with their request and most of the rest think is just not important enough to address.

To argue with those that outright disagree is, of course, laborious and a fruitless task which certainly leads to insanity, or at least stupidity. You may as well go yell at the bible itself because that is apparently where much of the justification for intolerance comes from. I am repeatedly dumbfounded every time I am confronted with a biblical argument when debating U.S policy since I swear I read somewhere that the U.S was founded as a secular nation. Couldn't these people just try to develop their own moral code based on the bible and argue with that, rather than telling us about the rules set forth in the bible?

If only they could let the rest of live in sin around them without interfering with their rules, we could live in harmony and just all get our eternal damnation in the afterlife. After all we're not asking to sacrifice your babies, we're asking for gay couples to be allowed to legally marry, like they do. But hell, that's silly, even if they did allow that then there would be a bunch of fags running around with their fair share of the taxes they pay, and that's cutting into God's people's change purses. We can't have that.

For those that do not completely disagree with gay marriage, but feel that there are much more important tasks to attend to, you're wrong too. Granted, health care and keeping the poor fed are very important issues among many that can not be discounted. However, how many senators and congressmen are single? It seems funny for a group so disinterested in marriage rights to all stop and get married before they got on with their important policy making. How many congressmen and senators kiss their husbands or wives on way out the door in the morning to go save the sick and the poor? Are they completely blind to the irony?

Now obviously this issue is going to have to be started by the individual states as it has, unless of course the South decides to secede again (we really should have just let them go). But those that think that this is not an issue best addressed on the national scale are crazy! The very reason for the development of our government over independent states was to aid in the relationships between those states. Like shipments over state lines, married couples are constantly moving from state to state. This leads to the inevitable cluster-fuck that we are seeing today, gay couples who are married in one state are not in the next, within the borders of their own country! Nothing travels over state lines more than people, so to say that this is not a national decision is to stamp yourself an idiot.

Congratulations California.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Nuclear Non-Proliferation

By Timothy Rice

The U.S has repeatedly expressed that it doesn't like the idea of Iran gaining nuclear weapons. Iran says it is simply trying to get nuclear-electric power, while the U.S and other U.N. countries think otherwise. To be honest in 2008, with a growing number of countries gaining nuclear technology, Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Unfortunately for the U.S it is caught in tough situation it has seen many times since 1968 when the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was first signed, how can the U.S expect other countries not to develop nuclear weapons when it's own stockpile is of ridiculous proportions?

The NPT was in itself a tool of proliferation. A collection of the most powerful states, all nuclear armed, signing an agreement that they would not aid in the proliferation of nuclear weapon technology. If this doesn't send a message to the rest of the world that the keys to world dominance lay in nuclear technology, then what does? In India, Israel, and North Korea, three new comers to the nuclear scene, regional dominance is thought to be a major pushing factor into nuclear technology. Iran is now poised to be the next nuclear regional power, and little is going to stand in its way of making that happen.

Unfortunately for the U.S as it leads in the quest to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, it has very little in it's arsenal to do so. In the examples of North Korea and Pakistan the U.S has done little more than subject the states to unilateral economic sanctions. The U.S has found it difficult to convince other states who are part of the NPT to impose their own sanctions on these states. In Iran there is an even greater quagmire, the U.S has had Iran under economic sanctions ever since they took over the U.S embassy there in 1979, long before they began developing nuclear technology. In an attempt to force Iran to halt their nuclear development the U.S has attempted to hold Russia and China accountable through economic controls so that they too will sanction Iran. Unfortunately neither state is very interested in doing so, as they are both major weapons traders with Iran, including much of the materials needed for their nuclear program. By trying to force these two world powers around, the U.S is actually further eroding its power of persuasion over them.

Lack of a bargaining chip isn't the only problem the U.S faces as it tries to force the world into adherence to the NPT. Two other factors greatly diminish its influence, it's own interest in breaking nuclear treaties and it's very real threat of willingness to use nuclear weapons against other states. First for it's treaty breaking, the U.S has in 2006 proposed a program which will replace its current nuclear stockpile with more updated warheads and delivery devices. This replacement can only be considered ethically wrong, not lawfully as no more nuclear weapons are being created than are already owned. However, the situation becomes problematic when dealing with the treaties signed by the U.S and other nuclear states against the further testing of nuclear weapons because of the known negative effects on nature and humans. The U.S would never create an entirely new stockpile without testing. So what will it do?

Beyond redevelopment the U.S, the only country in history which has used nuclear weapons against an enemy, still considers nuclear weapons an option in times of war. Furthermore, this option has been considered for Iraq a non-nuclear armed country. After decades of the Cold War, where at least Mutually Assured Destruction somewhat protected both the U.S and the Soviet Union, the U.S has now plunged the world back into 1945 with threats of nuclear strikes against countries who do not have comparable devices.

Although the U.S has made some substantial movement to decrease its number of nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War it still harbors the best equipped nuclear arsenal in the world by far. Those who attest that the U.S must have a far superior arsenal in order to retain its police power over the world are out of touch with human emotion. Nuclear weapons may be able to deter countries from using other forms of conventional warfare, but they in no way can stop their own proliferation. With every day that passes that smaller states feel threatened by the U.S' ability to completely decimate them, they will want more to create a comparable weapon.

If the U.S really wants to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world it needs to stop meddling with pointless sanctions and needs to take the first step to changing what defines power in the world. Cutting it's arsenal in half after the cold war ended had little effect around the world, when what was left still greatly dwarfed what every other state had (with the exception of Russia).

The U.S needs to drop is arsenal to near zero in order to get other countries up to the table, and to get them to consider their own dismantlement. No one is going to put down their gun until the biggest gun gets put down. America, it's our move.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Paying For Their Grandparents' “Wrongs”

By Timothy Rice

The recent less-than-drastic political shift in Cuba from Fidel to Raul Castro has brought back into the American public light a little fact: In 2008 we still have to drive to Canada to get Cuban cigars.

In one of the longest running economic embargoes of modern times, totaling 46 years (enacted in 1962), the U.S. continues to cut off imports from, and severely limit exports to Cuba. Can you remember why the U.S. put these sanction on Cuba in the first place? Not surprisingly after all of these years, many people have forgotten why.

In short: It was 1957 and Fidel and the other communist revolutionaries began to take state control of private businesses in Cuba, many of which were owned by U.S. companies. Once the U.S created its embargo Cuba was left in a trading vacuum which the U.S.S.R quickly came to aid. Cuba needed a place for their exports to go, and a source of much needed supplies. The U.S.S.R needed an ally within the realm of the U.S. This partnership further eroded amicable ties between the U.S and Cuba and apparently hardened a dislike that prevails even today. But how appropriate is it to continue economic sanctions nearly 50 years later, after the fall of the U.S.S.R, the end of the Cold War, and now the stepping down of Fidel Castro?

Not appropriate at all.

Many political scientists agree that economic sanctions hurt those on the bottom tier of the economic ladder the most. Those at the top, the ones that are most often targeted by the sanctions, have the means to get around the hardships caused by them. Therefore, the only way that sanctions could ever really have an impact, would be a popular uprising against the ruling class for getting the people “into the mess.” Unfortunately this rarely, if ever happens. Evidence of this can be seen in the past by the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961: the Cuban people were not ready for an armed upheaval and after 47 years of nothing different, probably still are not.

It is appalling that after 46 failed years of sanctions the U.S. Government still thinks that either, the people of Cuba still must be punished, or that the Cuban government is going to suddenly relinquish the U.S. owned companies. Over the years some concessions have been made by the U.S government to allow some humanitarian-type trading with Cuba, including food and medicine. At the same time stronger rules have been created including attempts to punish other countries that trade with Cuba.

So how do these sanctions hold up to the U.S' pledge to bring democracy to the world?

The U.S has specifically said that it wants democracy in Cuba, just like it wants everywhere else. Certainly if Cuba showed signs of democratization the U.S would be much more forthcoming with a repeal of the embargo. But isn't that embargo seriously hampering the country’s ability to become a democracy? Is the U.S putting Cuba in a Catch 22?

There are many things that are important to an internal creation of a democracy, Internal (as opposed to the external type propped up by the U.S e.g Iraq and Afghanistan.) Two of those things, and possibly among the most important are money and free information. By lifting the sanctions with such a geographically near neighbor, money would quickly filter into the country- even if to only a few hands outside the government to create a private monetary base that would begin to grow power.

As for free information, currently the Cuban government heavily filters the information available to the people, including state run media and extreme restrictions on the Internet. However since taking over Raul Castro has relaxed many of his brother’s laws including those on high tech devices such as DVD players, cell phones, and computers. In this digital age this relaxation could become comparable to that of Mikhail Gorbachev's Perestroika and Glasnost in the Soviet Union.

These high tech devices are however only as useful as the information that you put into, or can access by them, currently this information remains restricted by the government. However, if the U.S. were to remove their sanctions and a steady barrage of information began to constantly be available to the Cubans, some information will get through. As computer and Internet access grows more people will have access to Cuba's already running underground media. That media can create a revolution much more effectively than economic sanctions and do so in a humane way.

The U.S has the power to create a revolution that is much to it's own liking, but unfortunately it needs to get over its grudges of yesterday, and look at what would make a better tomorrow.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Support Our Troops?

By Timothy Rice

Four years ago the magnets were everywhere, everyone was slapping them on the back of cars, on their front doors, mailboxes, and businesses. Now it is 2008 you really have to wonder how many people are paying attention to them, and to the bigger picture, their namesake, Our Troops.

Shell Shock”, “Battle Fatigue”, and “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” different names which all highlight a troublesome fact: many soldiers can not readily reintegrate into society after deployment. The term shell shock was applied to the soldiers who managed to return home from WWI,physically, but mentally the war had taken something from them. Ninety years, six major wars and countless smaller conflicts later, we've obviously figured out how to cope with this situation.

Or have we?

The military certainly has programs in place. Disability payments are awarded to those tested and failing psychological tests. Numerous government programs run on an opt-in basis including Military Onesource, Courage to Care, and Operation comfort offer a wide array of help ranging from finding a temporary home for pets before deployment, information for families about helping their soldier cope with reintegration, to available suicide hotlines.

But the problem with these programs is that they are largely opt-in. Some soldiers are found early on as having a high chance of developing PTSD and are pushed into treatment, others ask for it, but still others fall through the cracks, a life shattering situation that often ends in suicide and at times also put the lives of the soldiers loved ones in danger. It is time for the government and military departments to step up mandate psychological testing early and often.

Critics attest that the suicide rate of returning soldiers from Iraq is no higher than in the general population. Hogwash. If you look at the statistics of the returning soldiers from Vietnam with the knowledge that little more has been set up to help soldiers cope, you know that there is a pending crisis. The numbers for post-returning suicides range from 20,000 to 200,000. The discrepancy of the large range has been explained by many doctors, that the cause of death has often been misrepresented out of respect to the families.

Many psychologists have highlighted two reasons why Vietnam created such a horrid situation for soldiers upon returning home. First, that the prevalence of guerrilla war is more detrimental to the human mind because it lacks a front line to show progress and creates a soldier who must be constantly “hyper-vigilant” about their surroundings, a situation which often doesn't immediately go away upon returning home. This situation is certainly occurring again in Iraq and Afghanistan as each of these wars are fought largely in city streets. The other cause that is often blamed on the increased prevalence of battle related psychological disorders is the expedited reintegration since the world wars. Before mass aviation transportation the soldiers' trips often took weeks on ships and trains during which could converse with other soldiers easing their stress with those that could understand before returning home to a relatively oblivious home and society.

Although very undesirable, delayed re-integration, may be a viable and helpful action that could in the end help soldiers. In addition across the board psychological testing needs to be completed in the warzone, at the time of homecoming and at times thereafter depending on the degree of need. Sessions with psychologists need to be more than offered, they should be mandated. More programs for group help need to be opened and strongly advertised. Soldiers need to get out of their houses and talk to other soldiers. Family members need to be better informed on their task of helping the soldier reintegrate.

In this digital age the military is unfortunately relying heavily on Internet and phone based opt-in helping programs. Psychological problems cannot be solved by the sufferer with research offered by the military on PTSD. Sufferers need actual personal contact help, and the military needs to take a more active role in opening up these roads to recovery and encouraging soldiers to seek help.

The military needs to learn from its mistakes in Vietnam. Beyond the fact that the United States lost a war, many soldiers who fought in have suffered from depression leading to drug use, homelessness, and suicide and even murder.

These same things are happening with the Afghanistan and Iraq veterans. These veterans have the added fear in the new smaller military ,of re-deployment, even repeated re-deployment. The excuse that this is an all volunteer army and therefore they knew what they were getting into is no longer an argument. USA Today reported last month that the use of Military Onesource, a military jack of all trades helpline, has increased every year by 40%, this shows that there is a strong need for this support out there.

The military has been stressed far beyond the expectations of everyone and new programs need to be put in place to protect these soldiers from themselves upon returning. Ignoring the knowledge that we learned from Vietnam is harmful to the soldiers themselves,their families and our society.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Columbia: The U.S' Spoiled Child

By Timothy Rice

Thankfully, last week the tensions between Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and Colombian president Alvaro Uribe ended amicably, calming fears that the area would erupt into war.

After the Colombian military crossed Ecuador's border in search of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), a rebel group against the government of Columbia, Ecuador and neighboring Venezuela stepped up military operations on their borders with Colombia.

Ecuador had all rights to step up their military preparedness- the very premise of the modern international state is its sovereignty within its borders. Venezuela also has substantial reasoning to flex some military muscle, as a fellow neighbor of Colombia and also an ally of Ecuador. Hugo Chavez certainly dramatized the event for his own political gains, but none-the-less Venezuela also had reason to fear that its sovereignty could be intruded on by the Colombian military.

But the United States was not justified in any way in its strict unabashed support for the Colombian government.

The U.S certainly has a history with Columbia, and their alliance now goes back for decades. The U.S has repeatedly sent aid to the country in order to help build law and order. In turn it has hoped that a more controlled Colombia will not send so much cocaine to us, which is so expensive to track down once it gets here. The U.S has grown quite fond of its little child Columbia, but must remember one important fact: even our favorite children can really mess up sometimes. And although we still love them we can not condone this behavior.

Unfortunately, the U.S has a history of these unsavory alliances. We like to make ourselves inseparable with other states and their leaders, expecting that if we give them aid, and promise protection, they will be by our side in a conflict in their state neighborhood. -Think Saddam Hussein, The Shah of Iran, Cold War Afghanistan and even the development of Israel.

Since 2001 we have clearly learned that our support of Saddam and the Afghanistan government were both bad ideas, obviously. In addition supporting the Shah of Iran turned out not to be such a great idea since he also was an unelected dictator. In recent years the U.S has even realized that Israel, a long time ally may not be the all time good child, and may actually be unjustifiably causing much of the turmoil with Palestine.

So why is it that the U.S cannot realize these mistakes when it wholeheartedly endorses and protects its allies of today?

Colombia is a troubled state, corruption and lawlessness are rampant. It contains some of the most dangerous cities in the world. There is no shame in helping such a country mature. Indeed financial , social, and educational aid given by the U.S to Colombia are commendable, no matter how selfish the reasoning may be (remember our own drug war).

However-The U.S testified that actions taken by the Columbian military inside the borders of Ecuador were OK. Clearly, the U.S would not feel the same if it were our border which was crossed.

The U.S as the hegemon owes it to the world to stop playing favorites. Obviously a good part of the reason the U.S even took the time to speak at the conference was for political reasons against Hugo Chavez. Chavez has personally made himself and his country an enemy of the U.S, mostly for his own political reasons. Standing up to the U.S as little Venezuela has a way of making him look strong to his people. The U.S however does not need to look strong in the international arena, it is strong, there is no question.

The U.S has vilified Chavez as an enemy. In truth however he affords more to his people than Uribe does to the Colombians. Rather than playing political games and standing up for Columbia's wrong doing, the U.S could have taken the opportunity to take the higher road and make amends with Venezuela. Admitting that Columbia, although an ally, was at fault would have helped boost our diplomatic relations with South America and just may have helped re-polished our tarnished international reputation.

But alas, we failed again.