Thursday, June 30, 2005

World Powers, Gay Marriage, and Iraq: The Sequel

The past two days have been massive coverage of Iraq. Most news groups and op/ed pieces are still focused on Iraq, and maybe 90% of these pieces are rehashes from people jumping on the "I hate Bush and Iraq" bandwagon. So I'll touch briefly on some of the more novel subjects I read.

The political analysts and experts(the actual ones, not greasy pundits) have released their judgment of Bush's speech. They more or less agree it was transparently patronizing and trying to play off of patriotic and fearful sentiments. Terrorism expert David Rothkopf, as reported by the AFP, referred to it as "unvarnished demagoguery." Cutting through the polysyllabic vocabulary, he basically calls Bush out on shamelessly playing off the public's emotions, which I agree with completely. The strategy isn't working anymore; people have become jaded to and even offended by references to 9/11, and Bush needs to find another avenue for support. Of course, major Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi were the first to criticize Bush for implying this connection (note: He never came out and stated there was a connection, leaving breathing room for interpretation or a CYA (cover your ass) retreat), and the moderate-to-liberal media were quick to quote them as well as assert this on their own.
More Democrats and Republicans are questioning Bush on his decision not to send more troops to secure the borders and quell the resistance. John McCain in particular was quick to point out that more troops from the beginning would have made a large difference in the outcome of the war. Kerry and Reid, among other Congressmen, have said that when they spoke to all ranks of enlisted men and officers, the main complaint was that they didn't have enough personnel to accomplish their tasks. Perhaps Bush needs to begin listening to the generals who are actually in combat instead of the ones sitting on his advisory board. The main problem here, though, isn't Bush's concern that it would send the wrong message, as he expounded in his speech; the reason we cannot send more troops is that we are already stretched too thin. Enlistment rates are dropping. We don't have near enough soldiers in the field as we should, and recruiters have three choices:
1) Target kids 16-18 and try to manipulate them into joining the army. This has been attempted, and actually, as a hidden part of the No Child Left Behind act (the worst thing ever... all the best teachers at my school left after that act was enacted and enforced), the government is allowed to collect information about high schoolers (grades, race, studies, basically anything the school knows), and parents, though you can tell the school not to send the information to the government, they still will sell it to a private company, who then sells it to the government. Basically there is NOTHING you can do to prevent this. Anyways, they've been doing this for 3 years now, and it's not effective. That's where option 2, the actual decent option, comes in.
2) Repeal the arbitrary restrictions in place that discriminate against groups. Allow the women on the front lines. They are looking to join the army, and the less desirable position there is stuck as a base medic or on KP. They joined to serve their country in battle, not serve their male counterparts their rations. Also, that DADT policy needs to go. Some 10,000 servicemen have been kicked out of the military because their sexual orientation was discovered. That's at least 6% of what's in Iraq now, enough to cover a large stretch of the already porous border. The insurgents are joining foreign nationals, and the number one way to end their attacks is to never let them into the country. Also, allow the non-citizens to fight. Many immigrants have difficulty finding jobs in our dribbling economy, and enlistment offers a large bonus in addition to a better case for citizenship. If they defend our country, they are practically guaranteed our rights as well.
3) Offer a better enlistment incentive. If you increase the pay and enlistment bonus (a proposal is underway right now to raise the top enlistment bonus to $40,000), more kids just out of high school or dropped out will choose the army as a beginning to their career. You might also attract the kids who can get into college but can't afford it. With financial aid as unreliable it is, there are many kids just sitting at home with part-time jobs waiting desperately for their chance at higher education. Of course, offering more pay would require a tax raise. But really, when's the last time out country went to war while simultaneously lowering taxes? War and taxes go hand in hand for a stable economy...
--- Bush's Iraq-terrorism link faces skeptical US public
--- Democrats: Bush wrong on troops, 9/11
--- US Invades Kids' Privacy
--- If Uncle Sam Wants You He Has to Be Able to Find You

Ok, so I focused on Iraq more than I said I would... so sue me. Let's go to the world for a bit:

I read possibly the most intelligent assessment of foreign aid I have ever had the pleasure of clicking. I don't want to dilute it, so please, if you have time, click the link below and read it for yourself. It's critical of the Live 8, but it just makes so much sense to me.
--- A Way to Feed the World

Regarding the G8: Blair wants to address global warming as a main topic, especially the Kyoto Potocol. Bush, however, still rejects the motion, saying that the protocol will destroy jobs in the US. Honestly, we've already spread so many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that global warming is unavoidable. The gases will take hundreds of years to react and recombine into something less harmful to the earth, and by that point temperature change will already take effect. That and, although the US produces about 24% of the world's greenhouse gases, a large amount of the future gas will be produced by developing countries such as India and China, countries that will not abide by any limits the G8 sets. Bush's alternate proposal, unfortunately, was terribly misguided. Congress has passed essentially the largest setback in environmental policy we could ever imagine. Expanding coal mining in the US? Drilling in the Alaskan Ecological Reserve? Take a hint from Europe, Bush. France is dotted with nuclear power plants. How many disasters have you heard of there? Scotland just approved a 209-turbine wind power farm. That alone is an enormous amount of energy that has little drawback. Think of all that open space on the plains in the midwest... oh, and Cheney? If you want the public to trust your energy advisors, give us the names of who they are... otherwise we'll just assume they're some oil industry goons.
--- Bush faces tough time at G8 over global warming

Also regarding the US popularity in the world, an analysis by Ted Rall of a recent Pew Research study from around the world, 15,000 citizens in 15 countries. Our popularity is at an all-time low, and many nations view us similarly to the way we viewed Germany in World War 2. We have become, as Rall puts it, "the biggest danger to peace and stability on the planet." For evidence, I point you no further than the situation in Iraq. Before we invaded, the only violent threat in Iraq was Saddam's standing army. We invade, depose Saddam from his throne, and not even a year later members of all the surrounding countries are joining the insurgents and terrorists and pouring into Iraq. Many countries that were indifferent to us in the Middle East are now criticizing our efforts, taking backward steps in their progressively democratic campaigns in spite of (or perhaps because of) our attempts to bring peace to the region. We have been assisting Israel for decades now. Where is that conflict headed? The leaders are playing GOTCHA! with us, holding peace talks by day and then attacking each other by night. You would think that in the effort to bring peace, Bush and company would try to be diplomatic to the surrounding nations. Sadly, Condoleeza Rice has embarked on a crusade (what? Bush said it first...) against all of the Islamic-ruled governments, criticizing their rule and their policies. Bush is all but directly threatening Iran with invasion, even though Iran hasn't really done anything except elect the "wrong" guy. He's already bullied up on Afghanistan, a country with little chance to defend itself, and he's eyeballing Syria for future campaigns. Right now, the world trusts Germany, Italy, and Japan more than it trusts us, and no more than 60 years ago we saved the world from that "Axis of Evil." Anyways, I've butchered his story enough. Read up here:
--- AHEAD: SIX DECADES OF HUMILIATION

Ah, lets see... gay marriage. Spain and Canada have passed it, the Netherlands and Belgium did awhile back... do you remember when the world looked to the US for progressive reform? Now we're hung up on faith-based morality mixing with our secular government while Spain, a heavily Roman Catholic country, allows gay marriage without a hang-up. 60% of citizens polled there said they fully support it, while 32% dissented. Now compare those numbers with here: 89% of the population believes that gays deserve the same rights as heterosexuals. 60% of the country also supports either gay marriage or same-sex partnerships. This poll was taken when Bush was elected. Now, I realize that several states have passed same-sex marriage bans, but this was due to more trickery than pure homophobia. The gay marriage aspect was only a small portion of the referendum in each state. Most of the issue was marriage security, or the fear that the government would strip away benefits from married couples, playing off the economic considerations of the lower class that would normally support Democratic endeavors. You can read the story for exact numbers and such, but people are getting married later, divorcing more, and forming nonconjugal unions for economic benefit, stretching the safety net of government aid until it will snap. By defining a narrow aspect of marriage as a man and a woman, reducing benefits for domestic partnerships, and forcing businesses to cater only to those clearly defined relationships, the government is saving money and extending benefits for legal unions. The main way to gain support for gay marriage is not to appeal to the moral side, as the Democrats have wrongfully attempted, but to reassure the public that it would not negatively affect such areas as social security (a major point, as a giant safe dangles precariously over that issue already), workers' benefits, and insurance costs. This story is a lengthy one, but it's a good read, and honestly, the Democratic party has wasted time and effort squaring off against the Republican party on moral issues. Grey areas like stem cell research are worth discussing, but to put this issue narrowly on gay rights is like running into a door. You have to open it first, preferably as wide as possible.
--- Beyond Gay Marriage
--- Spain OKs Gay Marriage, Defying Opponents

The GOP is backing what they call non-destructive stem cell research, which basically means trying to extract stem cells from embryos without destroying them. This will yield approximately one good stem cell per embryo... honestly, I don't know what their reasoning is. If you had 100,000 cans of tuna, perfectly good but with nowhere to sell them, do you just throw them away? No, you GIVE them to someone who needs them, say the homeless, or the oft-referred to starving kids in Africa... so if we have 100,000 embryos that are going to be destroyed because they're unusable, why not give them to stem cell research? I know conservatives and such will leap down my throat for comparing "POTENTIAL HUMAN LIFE!!!" to a can of Chicken of the Sea, but seriously, don't be preachy. Just give us one good reason why we should throw them away instead of making use of them. Two-thirds of Americans support embryonic stem cell research. You have a mandate, Mr. President. Listen to the public and stop worrying about your "ethical boundries." Dare I bring up Iraq again?
---GOP Backs Non-Destructive Cell Research

And of course, I'm finally going to comment on the whole reporters refusing to testify and reveal their sources. What I find interesting is, they reported on the fact that Valerie Plame's name was leaked by the administration directly after Plame's husband countered Bush's State of the Union justification for the war, that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. Plame's name was already revealed in an earlier column by a very conservative writer named Robert Novak, who claimed his sources were senior officials in Bush's administration. The situation seems even more dubious now that the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency discovered that the documents Bush based his assertion on were fakes.
--- Two US reporters again refuse to testify, face jail in CIA leak case

My final thought: Bush telling Iran that they're not allowed to have uranium, even for peaceful energy endeavors, makes me wish I could draw a political cartoon. Bush's head, in a caricature atop a child's body, selfishly hugging a box of candy. A dozen kids, with N. Korea, Iran, and other countries' names on the backs of their shirts, are jumping around him saying "Lemme have some!" Bush says, "No! You'll get cavities!" as he shovels them into his mouth.

This is my last entry until Monday, July 11th. I have a beach/Blacksburg trip.

Until then,

The Flaming Liberal Atheist Tree-Hugging Hippie Douche.

3 Comments:

Anonymous kendall said...

hey, i totally called you that in a comment on your last post. before reading this one.

i win.

i'm going to read this one now, though.

12:46 AM, July 01, 2005  
Anonymous kendall said...

but okay hang on.

what are we supposed to do about iraq?

the whole calling it the "wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" argument comes into play. so people notice there was a miscalculation, or that something was executed badly. whatever. what do we do to fix that? what has to happen in order to get american presence out of there? if the job isn't done, it's not done.

our goddamned president sure as hell isn't answering that question. growl.

anyway.

remember, bush thinks global warming is a myth :oP but yay environment, yay gay marriage, yay scientific research. eff the man in charge who can't take his christian ideals out of the way he runs our wonderful country.

HEY did you hear about italy?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050624/ap_on_re_eu/italy_cia

this actually makes me laugh, in a rather bitter manner.

1:05 AM, July 01, 2005  
Anonymous kendall said...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/
20050624/ap_on_re_eu/italy_cia

it didn't post right, i don't think.

1:06 AM, July 01, 2005  

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