Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Anya And Her Friend Debate The Egyptian Revolution

My friend (who's Pakistani, for the record, and a great guy) had this on his facebook Sunday morning:

"Got up this morning thinking what if the revolution in Egypt is another American supported act to remove a powerful President and install another puppet government to control its interests in the region? This I say considering the fact that the US has decided to throw its weight behind the Egyptian Vice President (the puppeteer in this case) in its bid to oust Mubarak. Second, ElBareidi the IAEA guy has suddenly found prominence in this case, and virtually all opposition has decided to band around him. Really Egypt? ElBareidi for President? A guy whom most of the Muslim world think of as another western installed puppet?

Third, the prominence given to the notorious 'Muslim Brotherhood' in this whole crisis by the Western media is absolutely ridiculous. A search led me to discover that the "Muslim Brotherhood' has virtually remained on the sidelines ever since the crisis started, whereas Western media particularly, has created an either or situation with regards to the Muslim Brotherhood. This was done, to propel the power (or in this case the real democracy) from going towards the common people of Egypt. By creating fear about the supposed fallout that would result, a puppet government would be installed bringing further chaos to the region.

Fourth, the fact that Obama's office has only issued seemingly calculated statements on the crisis further disturbs my conscience. So Mr. Obama you were not concerned when Tunisia went down, and you failed to notice the first few days of the Egyptian crisis? I guess then I must say that a fall of a (supposed) Ally fails to stir any emotions in you? If you were such a great proponent of Democracy why didn't your criticism of the Mubarak Government come early? (Yes Mubarak was in power for the last 30 years). I guess all allies face similr fate. Take the example of the popular Pakistani leader Bhutto, hanged to death when he went against American interests. President Zia ul Haq, used against the Russians in the Afghan war, later blown up in a plane crash(along with an American ambassador, perhaps to garner sympathy?). I guess CIA really knew its work back then. My point is the fact that Governments are 'used' all over the world, they are only thrown out when these 'dictators' become all too powerful to defy authority.

Now, I'm never one to let a foreign policy discussion stand without my input (it's a curse?) and my thoughts on Egypt are long, complex, and still trying to get sorted into one coherent post, but this is what I put together:

Hm okay. Well obviously my perspective is a bit colored because I’ve lived in the US all my life, but I think their foreign policy is generally a total fail, and Egypt is just one example of that.

About the Muslim Brotherhood, all the frenzy about it is Western fearmongering at best, lies at worst. While they may be the biggest (organized) opposition party, they’ve promised not to put forward a candidate for president and the protestors in the street have been doing a pretty goo job of shutting them down. I wouldn’t worry about them and I wouldn’t listen to any coverage Western mass media puts out about them.

The US's policy towards democracy in other countries, especially ones in the Middle East is that it’s good only as long as the people vote for those who benefit the West. Example: Palestinians need self-determination, but as long as they vote for Hamas, we’re not going to help them. It’s stupid, counterproductive, and hypocritical.

That being said, I’ve been surprised at how much the us has tried to stay out of Egypt’s revolution (unlike, say, what we’ve done in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, etc) and that’s been an encouraging sign to me. Revolutions, if they’re going to bring any true change, have to be legitimately by the people. And this one is, driven by too many human rights abuses and not enough food.

I’m actually encouraged that the opposition is beginning to coalesce around ElBaradei. For any transition to be effective, there has to be a leader for the protestors, otherwise this will dissolve into chaos. Perhaps ElBaradei is not the right person to lead Egypt (I think he is, at least during transition; then again, I don’t know how the Arab world views him) but he is the right person to be a leadership figure at this moment.

The thing is, Mubarak was *already* the US’s puppet government. He was a dictator unsupported by his people. we give billions and billions of dollars and military equipment to them a year, and in return they keep up their peace treaty with Israel (which leads me to: everything the US does in the Middle East is aimed at protecting Israel, which is an unsustainable and harmful policy. But that’s another story). For the first ... four days or so of the revolution, the US government was actually firmly supporting Mubarak. It was naive and made them look like the didn’t know what was going on, but they did. I mean, Joe Biden even said Mubarak wasn’t a dictator, which is perhaps the stupidest thing he’s ever said.

Point being, the US didn’t want this revolution to happen. I’m not ruling out the possibility that they’ll try to manipulate these protests into something good for them (we have a history of putting our own ideas of “good” for other countries ahead of what’s actually good for those countries. reasons I have issues with palin complaining that Obama thinks America isn’t a “force for good” in the world, because no, we’re not and we’re not supposed to be).

I suppose my final conclusion would have to be: this is a revolution modeled on Eastern Europe in 1989, not Iran in 1979, the Obama administration has a failed foreign policy, and I have to disagree with your idea of this being a us set up.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gabrielle Giffords

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot point-blank in the head today at a constituent meet-and-greet in Tucson. Six people were killed at the scene including one of her aides, a District Court judge, and a nine year old girl; at least 12 other people were injured. The gunman was 22 years old and had an automatic weapon, a pistol with an expanded magazine.

Giffords is a moderate Democrat who is one of the few people in Congress who truly believes in bipartisanship. Everyone she has worked with has said she was a truly kind and joyful woman.

I've seen a lot of people trying to spin Giffords' politics. Fox News in particular seemed to have a bit of a field day with her pro-gun policies. But really? That type of victim blaming is disgusting (although I can't really say I'm surprised). Let me tell you what Gabrielle believes in (from On The Issues) She strongly pro-choice. She favors requiring the hiring of women & minorities. She strongly favors same-sex domestic partnership benefits. She opposes teacher-led prayer in public schools. She’s neutral on the death penalty. She strongly opposes mandatory Three Strikes sentencing laws. She supports the absolute right to gun ownership. She strongly favors more federal funding for health coverage. She’s neutral on privatizing social security. She opposes school vouchers. She strongly favors replacing coal & oil with alternatives. She strongly supports the drug war. She opposes allowing churches to provide welfare services. She favors making taxes more progressive. She strongly opposes allowing illegal immigrants to earn citizenship. She opposes expanding free trade. She strongly opposes the expansion of the armed forces. She strongly favors strict limits on campaign funds. She strongly opposes the Patriot Act.

We live in America, people. We live in a first-world country whose democracy is supposed to be a shining beacon on light. And yet a Congresswoman cannot hold a public event without being the victim of an assassination attempt. What does that say about our country?

This isn't the first attack on Giffords. Her office was vandalized after she voted for healthcare reform, and she has received numerous death threats. In fact, Giffords isn't even the first Democrat to fall victim to an assassination attempt: Tea Partiers cut a gas line to a house they believed belonged to Rep. Tom Pereillo. This is the face of modern American political rhetoric. Congresspeople being shot on street corners. "Second Amendment solutions" (= solutions involving guns) being treated as viable alternatives. A former vice-presidential candidate who says things like "don't retreat - RELOAD" and puts crosshairs over the names and districts of Democrats she wants out of office, and then scrubbed any and all incriminating comments and pictures after this shooting. Tea Partiers who hold events described by the paragraph: "Get on target for victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly." Words have consequences. And maybe Giffords' shooter wasn't directly inspired by something specific that Palin, or Beck, or Limbaugh said, but its only a matter of time before someone else acts on them.

A 9 year old girl is dead. A federal judge is dead. A congresswoman is in critical condition in the hospital. The shooter was 22 years old. Twenty-freaking-two years old. This is mine and Ashley's generation. Do you know how horrifying this is to us? Our generation is being told that it's okay to hate, to shoot, to virtually order another politician's assassination and it's all okay because that's just how people talk politics in this country. Guess what, though? IT'S NOT OKAY. And it never will be.

Please, keep everyone involved in this tragedy in your thoughts (and prayers, if you say them).

After the healthcare vote and the vandalization of her office, MSNBC interviewed Giffords and asked her if she felt scared by the threats. Watch her response. I dare you not to cry.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Death of Parties?

And every good argument deserves an equally good counter-argument. Not that I could aptly debate Anya's very good points, but for the sake of argument, and a balanced opinion, I will try to do so.
To understand the importance of political parties, we first have to look at why they originally came about (at least in the United States). In Federalist No.10, Madison basically says that "factions" are a necessary evil. Madison states, "As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed...The latent causes of faction are thus sown into the nature of man; and we see them everywhere...a zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well as speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than co-operate for their common good." He goes on to say the development of factions is inevitable though because, "The inference to which we are brought is that the causes of faction cannot be removed and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects".
And Madison believed that the Constitution was the means to control the effects. Madison is essentially telling us that yes, these factions cause problems, but they are a necessary evil in that we, as humans, naturally develop these factions in a democratic form of government. He says that eliminating democracy to eliminate the factions is absurd, and to make everybody think the same way and hold the same beliefs is also equally absurd. So, he proposes we don't eliminate the factions at all, we just deal with the effects of them. He thought the Constitution would handle the effects, and for the most part I agree with him. I also agree that it is in our human nature to form the factions, or political parties, because we like to form groups, we like having a consistent platform and having unwavering ideals. Anya mentions Bernie Sanders, and although I don't like his politics, he does have unwavering ideals. I think parties strengthen these ideals, not weaken them. What better way to stick to your ideals if you have other people backing you up? We like having a sense of safety and consistency because everything else in the world is wacky. On a psychological level, I think abolishing parties would be harmful for people's well-being and we would somehow find a way to drift back to a party system; it's just in our nature like Madison suggests.
We also have a long history of political parties in this country. Our political parties were developed very early on, one could stay it's essence started with the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. The Federalists being supporters of the Constitution and the Anti-Federalists being the people who didn't want the Constitution. These, however, weren't official parties. Then came the Federalist party and the Jeffersonian Democrats, or Democratic-Republicans. And why is having this history important? We know it works pretty well. Our political system was copied by many other countries, people are dying to live here, and we do get things done. Now, I don't always advocate complacency, but there's something to be said for, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Anya seems to believe our government is "broke" and I happen to disagree with this. Also, the reliance on history to keep a decision is a common legal argument. The Supreme Court very often relies on stare decisis, or adhesion to past decisions, when deciding cases. It takes a lot for them to overturn their decisions. Just like it would take a lot for us to overturn our party system in exchange for something that would be perceived as chaotic as well as uncharted territory. But, if anything could make a no party system work, it would definitely be the fighting spirit and lion's heart of the people of the United States.
For the most part I think we, as humans, like a party system. That combined with the fact it has been with us since the early inception of our government, makes it very unlikely we will have a no party system. But, who knows what the future holds for us?
Oh, and also we are happy to say this is our 50th blog post! We are so glad to have made it to 50, now on to 100!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Death of Parties

A while ago, I blogged about the benefits of a multiparty system, something most Americans would never think of applying to their country.  Well, now I'm here arguing for something even more radical: The abolishment of all political parties.

Right now, political parties seem to be the bane of America's existence.  They are causing endless gridlock in Congress, enraging voters, and bringing some truly frightening people (Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, et al) out of the woodwork as people fight to be the "most" Democratic or "most" Republican on the ballot.  Intelligents and moderates are being shoved aside, normal citizens are being ignored, and radical and harmful views are being covered as viable alternatives by the media, allowing them to become popularized and widespread.  So what's the solution?  How about something really radical, something that's never been considered.  How about doing away with political parties?

I wrote once before in support of a multiparty system, like many European governments have.  I still believe that is much better than our current system.  But might a party-less system be even better?  Might it eliminate the "I support most of that bill, but I can't vote for it because I'm a Democrat/Republican" mentality that so many moderates are forced into?

Oftentimes, the main difference between the two major parties in this country is rhetorical.  No matter how much the Democrats pledge that they’ll turn the country around, they’ll stop the corporate welfare and secrecy and fiscal irresponsibility and gutting of social security that occurs under Republican administrations, the changes that happen are miniscule.  Often, the choice between Republican and Democrat boils down to the choice between evil and slightly less evil.  Look at the choice in Nevada during the midterms: on the one side, the racist let’s-let-preachers-endorse-candidates-from-the-pulpit-and-dismantle-the-department-of-education Sharron Angle, and on the other hand, the bumbling, compromising, bored and boring Harry Reid.  

The most principled members of Congress are Ron Paul, a Libertarian, and Bernie Sanders, a Socialist.  While they might caucus with the Republicans and Democrats respectively, they break with their caucus when they support something that runs contrary to their beliefs (look at Sanders’ vote against the tax cut “compromise” bill).  The few senators who are willing to break party line on important issues (McCaskill with earmark bans, Snowe and Voinovich with DADT) are either lame ducks or far enough from their next election that they feel that they won’t unduly upset their base.

With no political parties, there would be no nebulously defined “base” that politicians are beholden to simply because of their party affiliation.  They would have the satisfaction of knowing that they were elected based on their views, rather than disinterested voters voting party line and then becoming upset because of one or two votes.  Current Democrats who, say, support gay rights but oppose the START treaty would be able to run on a platform including both those points of view and the public would know exactly what they’re getting.  There would be fewer unpleasant surprises for constituents and Senate leaders.

This would also eliminate party line votes.  Often, members of Congress are forced to compromise their beliefs because they’re afraid of losing their party’s backing.  Whether it means losing a chairmanship or losing financial backing in the election cycle, you can bet that most of your Senators and Representatives are far more interested in that job security than they are in voting their conscience.

A lack of parties would also throw the electoral system wide open to more involvement by the citizens.  It would eliminate many of the issues that have kept third party candidates (such as Greens, Libertarians, Peace & Freedom party members) who usually have new, viable suggestions from even being considered.

There are, of course issues with this system, mostly with what would happen to Congress.  For instance, how would the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate positions be filled? (Majority/Minority Leader and Majority/Minority Whip positions would be obsolete.)  The position of President Pro Tem would simply fall to the most senior senator, rather than the most senior senator from the majority.  Since the Speaker of the House is elected directly by the House, choosing a speaker is not dependent on the existence of political parties (although since the Speaker is the person who receives the most votes,  How would committee chairmanships be designated, and how would members be assigned to committees?  Currently, members request assignments, which are approved by a party committee in charge of committee assignments (I mean ... what? No that’s actually what they are). The assignments slates are then sent to the full Chamber for approval.  But this has not always been the case, political parties have not always had say in committee assignments.  Until 1911, the Speaker of the House handled all committee appointments.  Reverting back to this practice would not be overly difficult.  Until 1846, committee assignments were handled by the vice president, the president pro tem, or party leaders.  Probably the simplest thing to do would be to let the president pro tem handle assignments, since party leaders wouldn’t exist and letting the vice president make assignments - even though he or she is technically the president of the Senate - seems to be mixing the two branches of government more than they should be.

All of this, of course, is simply procedural.  There is little possibility that the abolition of political parties would ever gain any traction in the hearts and minds of anyone, be it Congressmen or the American public

Would our country even function like this? I think it's possible. But it is also entirely possible the answer is "no".  Then again, you might say that our country doesn't function now, with two parties (the only goal of the Republican Party, according to Mitch McConnell, is to defeat Obama), so a lack of political parties couldn't do that much more harm.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Myth of the "Ground Zero Mosque", the Power of Symbolism, and the Failure of the Media

"Ground Zero Mosque"

You've seen the phrase everywhere, haven't you?  In the headlines of Fox News, the Irish Independent, in Abraham Foxman's speeches/articles. Not to mention, of course, the multiple Twitter-fights that Sarah Palin has sparked. Even Salon and Al-Jazeera are using the term, although they, at least, have the decency to put it in quotes.

Because, you see, there's a big problem with the phrase "Ground Zero Mosque": There is no mosque being built at the former site of the Twin Towers, nor will there ever be. The ominous, hateful Ground Zero Mosque does not exist.

The building causing all this hoopla has been used for Muslims to pray for years. The "mosque" is a cultural center and interfaith center that is to be used for outreach and education.  It has a basketball court, a swimming pool, and a primary school, with a floor set aside for Muslims to pray -- and other prayer rooms for people of different faiths.
The real danger of the politicization and fighting that swirls around this issue is that people will start thinking that the war on terror is meant to be, or is best accomplished by, a war on Islam. While that may be the goal of some of the ultraconservatives, that is possibly the worst thing that can happen to this country. What happened to freedom of religion, separation of church and state, government not interfering with private property? Why are all Muslims automatically assumed to be evil terrorists?. People of practically every single religion have killed in the name of said religion countless times.

This is not an issue of "sensitivity" to the families of the people who have died. This is not an issue of Ground Zero being holy ground. Of course it has a high emotional impact for the families of those who were killed, but one would imagine that if the tea partiers really cared about the ground being "holy" they would also raise a ruckus over the fast food joints and strip clubs that are closer to ground zero than Park 51. Besides, what could be more holy than religion?  Muslims died on 9/11 too, and no, those Muslims were not just the hijackers.  As one 9/11 widow said, "How did '9/11 victim' become sloppy shorthand for 'white Christian'?"

This is not a "victory mosque", like so many tea partiers have tried to tell you. This is an open center being built with the best of intentions. Do the world a favor.  Stop saying Ground Zero Mosque.  Call it what it is.  Call it Park 51.

I wrote the beginning of this essay/post in October, when midterm energy was running high and gratuitous mudslinging was common on both sides.  It is fascinating to me how this issue has completely dropped off the map.  Sure, it's still present in the public's mind . . . vaguely . . . but it's not being shoved down our throats, Fox News isn't devoting whole days to screaming about how horrible it is.  And that brings us to a shockingly horrifying, yet unfortunately unsurprising realization: all this controversy was simply a ploy to game the elections.  People's deaths, and people's desires for reconciliation, were diminished, stomped upon, and turned into a political issue simply because the Republicans wanted votes.  And the media played right into it.  There's a lot of really low electoral tactics, but this is one of the worst I've seen.  And no one tried to stop it.  There were a few people who said at the very beginning, "Oh, conservatives are turning this into a political issue", but either they were drowned out or they kept reporting just because. News reporting is supposed to be about truth. But truth is often the first casualty of networks looking to boost ratings.

Anya Just Discovered Six Drafts Hanging Around On Her "Edit Posts" Page

Anya is now done with finals and on winter break, therefore, she will finish these six posts and spam you with them tonight.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

1st Year Anniversary

So, sadly, we missed our first anniversary for this blog. To be fair it is finals week for both Anya and I, so we've been EXTREMELY busy. I just wanted to say thanks to those who read this blog and who (hopefully) get to learn something new. We love writing and will continue to do so, so continue to tune in. Also, it seems fitting to thank the people instrumental in getting this blog started. Thank-you president Obama for providing the idea for a Healthcare Bill that Anya and I got so worked up over we had to debate about it for days, thanks Congress for adding fuel to the fire, and thanks Mr. E (not his real name) for encouraging us to take our love of politics and share it with other people, also thanks for being there to answer our questions and listen to us argue, we loved your class. Thanks everyone. Some new posts to come...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The City of Los Angeles

A few weeks ago many things have been afoot in the City Of Los Angeles. Many of the ballot measures were voted on a few weeks ago in city council, and before that written by the City Attorney's Office. There were some controversial things, like an excise tax on oil, and taxing medical marijuana that were discussed as well as some important reforms, like DWP reforms.
On Tuesday's council meeting a lot got accomplished. In the morning, council voted to put on the ballot a measure to create more funding for the City's libraries so they can stay open longer and more days of the week. The councilmembers were very happy and positive about this measure, however other departments in the city had to lay down the facts. The city is in debt and we will definitely not have a surplus of money next year. So, the City Administrative Officer, Miguel Santana (CAO)tried to explain to the councilmembers that in order for this to work they would have to move money allocated to one area to the libraries. Even after this warning, the measure was still voted on to be on the ballot this March.
Another important package of ballot measures were voted on for DWP reform. One of the measures was put off until Wednesday. They will be on the ballot seperately, but the council looked at them in a package. The DWP reform would essentially establish someone they would have to account to. It would also establish a rate payer advocate. Councilmember Tom LaBonge likened some of the reforms to the establishment of the Christopher commission under Mayor Bradley, which effectively got out most of the corruption in the LAPD. That's essentially what council wants to do with the DWP.
The last item on the agenda for that Tuesday meeting was the taxation of medical marijuana. Although, not much was discussed about it that week, before there were discussions about it's legality (http://ronkayela.com/2010/11/la-cant-legally-tax-pot----but.html ...as a disclaimer I do not necessarily agree with the opinion's about the council, I'm just illustrating the legal issues). What I could surmise from this discussion is that you can't tax medical marijuana because people aren't supposed to be selling it in the first place. If you wanted to tax their gross receipts and it would apply to utilities. etc, known as reimbursements. But, as another kicker, since the collectives are non-profits they can't be subjugated to a gross receipts tax under state law. And then we have the federal government who says medical marijuana is illegal. So, this law, if passed, is preempted by both the state and federal governments. All in all, this ballot measure doesn't seem to hold water legally, but we'll see if this is explained well enough to the voters. It took me around half an hour to have this explained to me and I still don't quite grasp it all.
Later in this same week, another item was proposed to put on the ballot a sort of excise tax on oil. Basically, the companies would pay money to take oil out of Los Angeles. The ironic aspect of this item is that it was proposed by Councilmember Hahn, but she was the only one who voted against it. So, that is another thing you will see on your ballot.

You can watch these council meetings here:
on a side note, you can see me in the meeting for Tuesday if you click on item no. 14 on the scroll bar. I'm in the audience during the public comment in a white shirt)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day Endorsements!

Because Anya's not old enough to vote, she decided this was the next best thing! Detailed endorsements for my home state of California and my adopted home state of Massachusetts, and for everything else, you can assume I'm supporting the Democrat =P.

California: Governor - Jerry Brown. Senate - Barbara Boxer. Lieutenant Governor - Gavin Newsom. Secretary of State - Debra Bowen. Insurance Commissioner - Dave Jones. State Controller - John Chiang. Treasurer - Debra Reiger.

Massachusetts: Governor - Deval Patrick. Lieutenant Governor - Tim Murray. Secretary of State - William Galvin. Treasurer - Steven Grossman. Auditor - Suzanne Bump.

Vote smart and vote blue,

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Anna Nicole Smith Trial" Results and Convictions

Recently, the jury gave the verdict of this long-running case whose defendants were Howard K. Stern, Dr. Eroshevich, and Dr. Kapoor. Dr. Kapoor was acquitted on all the charges brought against him. However, Howard K. Stern and Dr. Eroshevich weren't as lucky, they were found guilty on the charges of conspiring to provide drugs using false names. The prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any of the defendants provided drugs to a known addict, which was the major part of their case. The next step in this process in the sentencing hearing where Judge Perry could reduce their sentences down to misdemeanors or Dr. Eroshevich and Mr. Stern could receive the maximum sentence of three years each in prison. The sentencing hearing will be held on January 6, 2011.