Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

For the Corporations, By the Corporations

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

So it looks like Pinocchio is slowly but surely becoming a real boy. But unlike Pinocchio, corporations don’t have tell-tale signs of lying, and most definitely don’t have a conscience, in the form of a cricket or otherwise. Instead, corporations are a carefully crafted wooden parasite, carefully winding their way through American government, changing the internal workings ever so slightly, so the rest of the public body has no idea what’s happening. But like any plan, occasional parts are forward and obvious, and this little parasite has relied on the simple lack of care of the American people… and succeeded.

Seal of the Supreme Court of the United States

Image via Wikipedia

A few weeks ago, the American Supreme Court over turned an older ruling that limited the amount that corporations could spend on political campaigns. This decision was hailed as an advance for free speech by some, and the authorization for corporations to buy elections by others. Off the bat, the reasoning for the previous ruling was over-turned is garbage. In addition to legal jargon, part of the reason given (I believe by Alito) was that the previous decision was not unanimous, thus meriting a repeal until the decision can be reviewed. If that’s valid reason to review, why hasn’t Alito reviewed other landmark cases that redefined rights, such as Dread Scott v Sandford? Do non-whites really need rights? Perhaps Plessy v. Ferguson? Bah to the fourteenth amendment! The notion that all Supreme Court cases should be unanimous is ridiculous. It undermines the very idea of America being a democracy.

Regardless of this grave injustice, America continues as if nothing has happened. Even with the background chatter of action overturn what many if not most people agree was a bad call, on both sides of the political field, there has been no movement to do so. And the longer this ruling stays in place, the closer we get to an America run openly by corporations rather then the more subtly run government we have now, through lobbies.

An interesting point here is that many people on the right, where the majority of support for this decision comes from, feel that government control is intrusive but welcome corporate control. Even if not openly, I often find that people leaning right argue with government spending/programs/etc (at least those that don’t help them directly), but have no issue with stuff like cable company monopolies, ISP limit rates, food company take overs. These things are just the invisible hand of the market interfering with our lives, thus ok. But representatives we selected making those same decisions or instating those sort of controls, and suddenly the forefathers are turning in their graves. And sadly, those on the right get screwed by the market just as much as the rest of us, but can never seem to accept it, thus leading it to repeat.

But in the end, how can anyone justify corporations being people, and having the same rights as people? I think The Daily Kos said it best, with satire: Give Corporations More Rights! Giving corporations rights as people is just a convenient way to bypass making sensible laws. After all, if corporations are people, they are obviously second class citizens. If we’re making them people, why not given them other rights? Also, why aren’t other collections of people also people? I’m trying to come up with an example, but its all so foolish, I can’t even think of one worth putting down.

Simply put: corporations are not people. There’s no good reason why they should be treated as such. When people say corporations freedom of speech is restricted by laws like the one that prevented them from spending without limit on campaigns, but I have to ask, who’s rights are limited? The people within corporations can still freely spend money. Those investing in the company can still freely spend. But instead, by granting corporations the right to spend money freely, millions of dollars earned by dozens if not hundreds if not thousands of people will be spent by a small enclave, who will only help campaigns that make sure they maintain the power. People don’t invest in medical companies to help a pro-life politician get into office; they invest in a company to either make money or because they believe in what the company does. But if that politician’s economic policies help that company avoid regulations or simply help the board stay in power, why would the board not put funds towards the campaign? Why should a board of businessmen make political decisions with other people’s money? Why is it ok for a business to interfere with politics, but wrong for government to regulate business?

In the end, this is another step along the path to corporatocracy. It is a long series of problems, rooted in the ever-growing lack of care to know the facts but desire to criticize the results. It’d be an interesting day if people started to apply the values they hold dear to outside their household. And while we should continue to strive for the rights that keep us free, we shouldn’t be so eager to sell them to the highest bidder.

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Can’t Solve What You Don’t Understand: Illegal Immigration

Monday, February 1st, 2010

I can say from personal experience that few people know anything significant about the American immigration system, and the general attitude I face very closely resembles the attitude drilled into soldiers: dehumanize your opponent to make tough decisions easier. Undocumented immigrants are painted as villainous scums, subjected to treatment and situations we reserve for murderers and child molesters. Our current immigration system, and the treatment of those in immigration court and detention, is broken at best and inhuman at worst. And every day, Americans clamor for immigration change, the vast majority of who make baseless, board accusation with little to no proof, and sit happily in their ignorance. With the giant claims of grandeur next to “ignorance is bliss”, any real American should be outraged. Immigration is not a simple issue, and solving the problem of undocumented immigrants is not as simple as “throw them out”.

People need to understand is that most undocumented immigrants are not immoral people, and definitely not “Mexicans stealing American jobs”. They are the same as anyone else: many, if not most, are parents who want to support their families, to keep their families alive. Many are people who enter legally and due to the red tape of our immigration system, end up falling out of status. Many are enticed by the ever-present call of the “American Dream” and feel it is their last hope. So why do these people enter or stay in the country illegally? Because America is better from where they come. Americans take special pride in painting the United States as the best country in the world, but seem surprised that people will do anything necessary in order to come here. While it doesn’t justify entering or staying in the country illegally, it sounds like a five year old talking about how great their toy is, but if anyone tries to touch or play with it without their permission, they’ll tell on them. Many people who enter illegally do so because they have no other choice; they come from countries where they’ve lost their jobs or make so little they can’t support even a small family, either case in no small part thanks to multinational corporate exploitation. Those that enter illegally gather whatever they can hold, and make a dangerous trip across the border to a country they know little about, where they don’t speak the native tongue and are often if not always harassed by locals, reduced to doing arduous labor or demeaning jobs that, face it, most Americans are too pompous to do themselves. It makes us feel better to say “illegals are stealing American jobs”, but it’s been a long time since making money in America has been about hard work. These days it seems to be about suing someone for your own mistakes. But none the less, these people come over in hopes that by coming to America, they or at least their children will have a better life. They put up with little money, tiny apartments, abuse, and a myriad of other issues none of us can imagine, and each day risk that they’ll be returned to where they come from, no better if not worse off. Its the companies who exploit these workers, paying them just enough to get along, much less then an American would have to be paid (minimum wage), so they can cut corners and make a higher return. Good ol’ American capitalism: do what it takes to reduce cost and maximize profit, be it exploit workers in other countries or exploit undocumented immigrants right here at home. If the jobs weren’t available, there wouldn’t be much keeping or bringing more undocumented immigrants here. We choose to blame undocumented immigrants for taking jobs, but how often do we accost those hiring jobs?

I’m sure people are wondering, why don’t they just come over legally? First, the immigration system in the US is very convoluted. It requires a certain amount of starting capital to simply get a visa. For those who can scrounge up the money, there is the issue of time. A limited number of visas of various types are given out each year, and are granted based on where you’re coming from, your skill set, if you have a job waiting, etc. If you’re thinking that an under-skilled worker coming into the States would just be a hindrance on society, I would ask: what are we doing about all the people in the US now who are under-skilled, and more important, unwilling to work? I’d contend that an under-skilled worker who’s willing to work is better then someone capable but unwilling. Many of these immigrants also have families they need to support. Ask yourself, if you could not support your own family in your current situation, and you found you could work under the table at a factory as long as no one knew you were there, would you do it? Would you let your personal morality to stand in the way of feeding your children?

Americans can blame immigrants for our problems as much as we want, but it won’t make it any more true then saying our national debt problems are because of one political party or the other. The problem is complex and deep and won’t be solved simply by deporting people, enacting tougher punishments, or building a giant wall. Deporting immigrants will not stop new ones from coming in, and will do little more then build ill will against America. Currently, immigration holding facilities are often worse then prisons, for a crime which at best compares to a store robbery. Families are split up, people are treated terribly, and immigration court is a mockery of our system of law. We treat hardened criminals with more respect. A giant wall will not stop people from digging under, punching holes, or finding other way around it, and really, just serves as an eyesore and an environmental disaster.

With all this, mind you, I am not a supporter of open borders with the world as it is now. Countries need immigration laws to maintain populations and services, and for a balanced to exist among various countries. If borders were open, people would flock to well off countries, depriving poor countries of needed human resources, and over flooding richer countries, also bringing them down. Instead, I believe in a fair immigration system. Understanding people and connecting with them goes much further to solve a problem then an iron gauntlet. We need to control the current undocumented population, enact strict laws punishing the companies hiring them, and put smart controls on the border. If we aren’t going to grant those here amnesty, we should at least hold true to our ideals and give them an opportunity to present their case. It would help improve our image as a understanding country run by laws, not emotions. If we don’t eliminate the under-the-table jobs available here, there will always be reason for immigrants to try to enter here illegally, knowing they’ll have a better life then where they came. And as for smart controls, while I have a few ideas, I’m certain if we can spend $3 billion fighting wars we don’t need to be fighting, or at least to the level we currently are, we can find a few million to come up with something effective. At the least, we can be human.

Coming out of the Immigration Closet

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

It’s been a while since my past post, before which there was a slow down in my rate of posting. The reasons, while bad for readership, are simple, and a topic which I think deserves some light.

Nearly two years ago, as I was about to graduate college, looking for jobs, I questioned my parents on the current status of our immigration woes. After having waited years, I was finally asking the hard questions which I should have asked so long ago. Given I had faced few difficulties concerning my immigration status, I had scant reason to question or doubt my parents previous responses, and given I was relatively comfortable in the situation as I knew it, I had little reason to research it myself. As with most things, people try to avoid answers that will change their worlds. And so finally I did ask, and finally I was told the truth: we had been in the country illegally for a number of years. Having lived in the US since I was 5, it was a life-altering shock. There were a number of reasons that played in. My dad was unable to renew his visa, and the alternatives he was pursuing kept falling through. The US government was also nice enough to inform him that his visa had expired 3 months after it had expired. But regardless of how or why, I now knew of my legal (or illegal) status three and a half years after I turned 18, now unable to do anything about it.

Now I’m 23. I came to the US when I was 5. I’ve spent over three quarters of my life in the States. I was brought here legally, and due to my parents’ mistakes, I am an undocumented immigrant. And at the end of the day, there is nothing I can do about it. The system of law/justice we think of as the American court system doesn’t apply to immigration: you don’t get a chance to argue your case, there is no jury. There is a public prosecutor and a judge. You’re not even entitled to a defense lawyer, it’s an option; you have to find and pay for one on your own, and having seen it without a lawyer around, I can tell you no lawyer just means deportation. Really, immigration is less of a law system as it is edicts from a judge.

America has long prided itself as many things. One of the great prides of the US is that it is a land of opportunity, a place where people of humble origin can rise to the top, go from destitute poverty to unimaginable riches. This was once a unique truth to the United States until about three score years ago. Back at its founding, the US represented freedom, and that early jump on freedom allowed the US to be a land where history didn’t determine future. In older countries, social classes existed with prejudice. What class you were born into often indicated your opportunities and life choices. Over time, however, as the populaces of other countries saw the opportunities of America and as the aristocracies began to lose power, America slowly went from being unique to being commonplace to becoming a liar. America’s grand growth through the years has been in no small part due to immigration. The flux of new people, new ideas, and fresh mindsets helped make America a leading innovator in the world. What started as open minded acceptance of immigrants has become closed minded abuse.

Now I’m obviously a biased source… I’m hoping for change at least in part because it will help me. I’ve lived almost two years of my life in fear, without the ability to drive or travel via plane, no official ID, unable to work, etc over something I didn’t directly do and would love to correct. Everyone knows of that particular brand of freedom that comes with your driver’s license, the joy of the first paycheck, the peace of mind of realizing you pick where your life goes, for the most part. These are all denied to me. Hell, I’ve had to skip out on hanging with my friends simply because I don’t have ID to get into a club, or because I couldn’t get a ride. I sit at home, every day, with nothing to do but study, work on websites, and play video games. Let me tell you… playing video games for a year and a half takes all the fun out of video games. Unfortunately, the current solution (unless a judge finds reason to make an exception for me) is to leave for 10 years. And while I’m no supporter of open borders at this time, America’s immigration system is flawed at best and broken at worst.

Now someone, someone is reading this and thinking, “Ha! I should call INS on this dirty, job stealing Mexican.” Someone more sensible is reading that last sentence and wondering why I think that. When I first found this out, I was too ashamed to tell anyone I knew in real life… I came forward on a forum I used to be a regular on. People there knew me somewhat well, my thoughts were valued; it was a community. Though I mentioned how I’m of Indian decent, a few of the early comments were about how I’m ruining American life and how I should go back to Mexico. It was a shocker for me… someone hears illegal immigration, and the first things on their mind are stereotypes. Anyway, to anyone thinking of calling INS, I have news for you: INS doesn’t exist anymore, its ICE, and I’m in the system anyway. For those confused, INS was the acronym for Immigration and Nationalization Services, the old department in charge of immigration, and ICE is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a nice new aggressive name. I’m sure you’re hoping for my swift departure, and I forgive you. On that forum, someone mentioned how they’d never let that happen to their family. When I asked how he knew, if he had ever been in a similar situation, he simply replied no and that’s because he’d never end up there. Like with many other situations in life, you’ll never know until you’re in the situation, and for hundreds each year, they find themselves in the situation without even realizing it, with no alternative but to completely uproot their lives, be criminals, or get stuck in a system that’ll take years to decide anything.

So what now? Now, I’m deep in the system. I was fortunate: I found a lawyer who doesn’t seem to care about the money (she’s charging half per court appearance what the next cheapest lawyer did and she actually plans on doing something), and is an immigrant herself. She also was kind enough to spend time talking to us, and through a random conversation about what life back in India would mean, discovered we might qualify for asylum. We are also fortunate enough to have a judge known for being open minded. So we’re busy translating documents, and we’re here for at least a few months as the process gets underfoot. If the asylum application is accepted as valid, then we begin a process that will last at least a year (not counting appeals) in which essentially I’ll have to prove I’m so American that life in India would actually be dangerous. So I’m here for at least a few months… and if the application is accepted, probably a year and a half, then another half year for appeals. It would mean my brother gets to finish college, and if we get our EADs, we can get our passports so if we are deported, we can leave to a country other then India. I would really like to do my graduate studies in the UK, if for no other reason then it would be nice to break this monotony.

I debated a lot making this post… what was the point, should I bother… the reason is pretty simple. To a lot of people, illegal immigration is a fantastical tale of aliens who don’t speak English taking away jobs from Americans. In truth, it’s often people you couldn’t distinguish from any other American, just hoping they can find a solution to the hell they’re in, more likely then not trapped because the immigration system itself screwed them. Everyone deserves a chance; we can’t pretend America is the bastion of democracy and hope then horde it to ourselves. And we definitely have to stop pretending that some of us are more American then others. In fact, immigrants tend to know and value what it means to be American more then most of us raised here… they have to fight for it, earn it. I didn’t really understand what it meant until I found out about my situation. I tend to find that those I argue with on the topic who make these outlandish claims of authority through birth tend to be the least informed or knowledgeable about America, let alone the rest of the world. I’m sure a number of you are out there, but meh. Though uncharacteristically partisan of me, I challenge you to prove to me you have any substantial quality that makes you more American then me.

To the rest of you, I’m not gonna say push or vote for immigration reform. I’m not here to tell you what to think, or to make your minds for you. I will ask you to research it for yourself. I chose this title because much like the LGBT community in America, undocumented immigrants are fighting to be accepted in a country that seems to think them less then human. I am biased, but if anyone wants to know what I’ve been through in more detail, I’ll let you know. Check out Dream Activist and read a bit as well. The DREAM Act is a law that’s been tossed around for nearly a decade now that would allow for someone who’s in the US illegally under the age of 16 and completes two years of high school in America to apply to stay in the US temporarily, and should they complete two years of military service or two years of college, the chance to apply for a more permanent residency. It gives kids who had no choice in their coming here a chance to stay, rather then to be ripped away from their homes. Of course, it does nothing to solve the issue of tearing families apart, but debatably, one step at a time. There are also mailing lists out there who, if nothing else, combat the lies and venom spread by supposedly “true blooded Americans”.

It’s a hell. For me, the end is no where in sight, and right now, all paths are bleak. As time progresses, things may change. And even if I’m deported, something has to change. So many people talk of change, and revolution, and taking America back. Maybe it’s about time we learn where America actually came from, and actually take it back.

Social-schism

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

USSR IconographySince Obama came into office, it seems like all we hear from members of the right is that he is leading us to Socialism. And each time I hear it, the first things that pop into my mind are, is that a bad thing, and that’s different from now, how? For some reason, socialism is equated to communism, both seen as pure evil, and I think we have the cold war to blame for that.

I think its important to note what communism is. As posted in the Wikipedia article on communism, “Communism is a socioeconomic structure and political ideology that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership and control of the means of production and property in general.” Of course, the reason the US had so much trouble with the idea of communism is that our economy had become based on the idea of capitalism. We believe that those who can make money make it, and if you can’t, too bad; they believed no one should be left behind. But in truth, communism is not socialism. Communism believes that no one should own sources of income, and that it be run communally; socialism advocates that the government should oversee sources of income, and help lead these groups. Communism is politics; it distributes resources and goods to that which needs it. Socialism is economics; it places everyone on equal footing, to succeed or fail based on their own merits.

And this is where I see a large dose of hypocrisy. First of all, Americans need to get it out of our heads that we’re in some progressive, socially advanced nation. Regan once referred to America as a “shining city on a hill”, probably from John Winthrop, believing that America was a beacon of hope for the world, in terms of our resolve, strength, and ideals; that’s no longer the case. If you compare the US to countries like China or Saudi Arabia, I’d argue yes, we are socially advanced. If you compare the US to countries like the UK or Germany, we’re very conservative. In my research, I spoke to a number of people from various countries in Europe, and they all agreed to the following: our liberals are like their conservatives. Some people I spoke to said that if their politicians even said “God” in any public statements, they’d never get reelected, if they avoided the incoming impeachments. We can’t elect a man who isn’t a “true” believer. The idea that we’re advanced because we’re rich is also a fallacy. America has been holding on to stagnant ideas for decades, enveloped in this idea that we’ve continued to progress. In fact, America was the start of the fall of the global economy, started by sheer arrogance.

Another dose of hypocrisy goes straight to the members of the right claiming Obama is leading America to socialism. I wonder how many of them supported the first bailout of Wall Street. I wonder how many of them would have supported the bailout if it was their company or a company that financed them. A government bailout is as socialist as it gets. Not to mention all the other programs the government fiances such as welfare, medicare, and unemployment that are social programs. America already has socialist elements, but they are mere shadows of competent programs. America has dipped its feet in the pool of socialism, but doesn’t have the nerve to jump in, but is now too comfortable to step out.

In contrast, we see European countries, not founded on principles of freedom, equal rights, and religious independence being the more socially advanced. While Americans complain about “high taxes” and constantly demand cuts, many Europeans have higher taxes then we do, and in exchange, have much better welfare programs, higher literacy rates, and more then a few face lower unemployment rates. They have state funded or mandated medical programs, meaning everyone has access to the basic medical care everyone should have the right to. They have programs so when you lose your job, you aren’t wondering if tomorrow you and your family will be on the streets. In effect, the policies give everyone a chance to be someone, and don’t fault them for situations beyond their control. Is it your fault if your bank makes some stupid decisions and you lose money? Is it your fault if your company decides to go for profit and randomly cuts you from the line? Is it your fault if your apartment catches on fire because the person living below you decides that lighting a fire indoors is a good idea, and your insurance won’t cover it?

America tends to be a very solitary society, while providing this false notion of comradery. We talk all about the American future, and how we need to work together to overcome the world’s evil, yet we can’t come together as a country to solve what should be important issues like healthcare, homelessness, the energy crisis. I’m not saying they’re easy to solve, but they should be at the top of our list. Socialism isn’t the enemy… in truth, a lot of American ideals and moralities are socialist in nature. A path to socialism will make our country stronger, if we can control socialist ideas to work for our nation. We’ll never be socialists… America is too deep rooted in the idea of personal freedom to be very socialist, but we can finally adhere to the ideas the “Christian” ideals the right always talks about: helping our neighbors, helping the most downtrodden of us, giving everyone a chance. Socialism is the true “no one left behind”, the real “everyone’s equal”. We can truly be the “shining city on the hill”; we can be the beacon for the advancement of the world, socially, culturally, and economically. Though honestly, it’ll take more then socialism for that… but that’s a discussion for another day.

Faith and Politics

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Sometimes when I watch some YouTube videos on religion, I just get depressed. Our most recent election brought religious fury to the foreground, bringing doubt of our political leader’s religion, for no other reason then to bring doubt to the politician himself. Now mind you, I have a lot to say about religious “arguments” on YouTube in general, but I really do wanna talk about faith, politics and public policy, and how they meet.

I’m gonna preface this by saying, to be clear, I am not an atheist. I don’t dislike religion. In fact, I believe in the power and use of religion. If there were ever to be a debate on whether religions should be discontinued or not, I would be on the site advocating for their continuation. What I can’t abide by are some of the uses of religion as an inconsistent moral compass, whether it can be taken apart and subjected to individual whim to fit the view you think (on purpose or not) as the most advantageous for yourself. Religion has its purposes; I don’t believe it has a direct role in public welfare.

I Stumble a lot. I don’t know what people did to find websites before Stumble. I guess viral was really the only way. Anyway, I happened to stumble across a YouTube video where then Senator Obama spoke about his views on religion mixing with public policy. I found this rather interesting, as the views were sort of in line with how I see faith and politics. More importantly, after watching it, I watched some of the related videos, including one by a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern Christian (sorry, can’t pinpoint his accent) who first thanks a Muslim for bringing out the “truth” on Obama, then attacks passages from the Qaran, one where Dr. Dobson talks about how Obama is just distorting the Bible, and Ann Coulter “puts down” Obama on this particular speech.

I am deeply disturbed by the religious elements of this past election, namely the attacks on Obama. I have never seen attacks on a candidates religion like this before. Clearly a Christian, Obama was accused of being a Muslim (as if that in itself made him a threat), he was attacked for his pastor, he was attacked for his view points on Christianity. Even now as President elect, he seems to be portrayed as the most dangerous thing to ever happen to America. This from many of the same people who denounce anyone who speaks out against President Bush. A friend of mine made an interesting comment a little earlier: “It’s funny that the most prudish, moralistic people are also the ones most likely to breach basic ethics for the sake of their agenda.”

Any attack on Obama having possibly been Muslim at some point in his childhood is pointless. To say he’s “secretly” a Muslim while pretending to be a Christian is just insulting to anyone who can think on their own. Most Christian denominations pride themselves on the fact that once someone is “converted”, they are saved. Obama faithfully attended a church for at least 20 years, and for all accounts and purposes, has shown himself to be a true Christian, much more then many today. Graduating from a prestigious law school, instead of taking up a big salary job, he gave back to his community. He appears to be a faithful husband and father. He supports the unity of all mankind with minimum violence. Now given, this also sounds like what Islam teaches as well… but we’ll ignore that because apparently, Islam is “evil”. Anyway, these attacks are no more then the grown up versions of the childhood insults like “He’s gay!”, given when a bully doesn’t like one kid, with of course no evidence or even logical reasons. Dr. Dobsen even attacked Obama’s interpretation of the Bible. What makes Dobsen more correct then Obama? Does Dobsen know something about the Bible that the rest of the world doesn’t? Honestly, I think people like Dobsen are the ones with a distorted version of the Bible. I always wonder about this… the Bible is the word of God, who is perfect, but written by men, who are imperfect, yet the Bible maintains it’s holy level of perfection. Does this means that the people who transcribe the bible are infallible? Or that they are touched by God? If I choose to copy the bible, word for word, what would that mean for me?

The Codex Gigas from the 13th century, held at...

Image via Wikipedia

In general, the attacks on his views on Christianity seem to only come from the super conservatives who think they and their followers are the only true Christians. Lets take a look at some of what Obama said. First and foremost, he advocates for the separation of religion and policy. He talks about the diversity of religion, and the diversity of Christianity itself. He talks about not taking the Bible literally, quoting lines from the Bible that no sensible person today would implement. He asks that religion be translated into universal reasoning in cases of public policy. He says he’ll use logic before religion. Most importantly, he makes the audacious claim that people want to use religion to bridge, not divide! (That’s me being sarcastic in case it’s not obvious).

Now, I’ve never been a big follower of people like Ann Coulter. I didn’t know much about her before this. I’m not sure how someone like her actually becomes popular. It scares me to think ideas like her are common-place enough to have multiple books authored. I don’t think every Christian out there was scared that Obama was Muslim (or Arab, as if those are connected), but I do know a lot were, as evident from one of McCain’s supporter’s misconceptions. It does scare me to think that people could be brought to such levels of fear by a religion that teaches the value of every human life. The truth is Obama has one of the best religious-political views I’ve ever heard. He doesn’t denounce religion, nor reduce his support of it, but he uses it as a guiding factor of morality. Anyone who can attack him for being moral without bringing religion directly into fray while spouting on and on about Christianity and the values of this great nation needs to reexamine both accounts and truly look within themselves. I’m no Christian, but I believe in the value of the good Book rather then select one of its hundreds of interpretations to cherry-pick my religious beliefs. I figure its better to believe in the whole of one religion rather then the pieces of a dozen.

Have we really changed?

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Obama 08 Logo

Obama '08 Logo

I think a lot of people will remember where they were at 11PM on November 4th, 2008. Whether you agree with his politics or not, it was a historic moment when Senator Barack Obama became the President Elect, 44th to hold the highest office in the United States. The first non-white man to become president, Obama hopefully represents a new age in race relations in America. It was a big step in unified equality in the US. Or was it?

As California’s results came in to secure Obama’s victory, the populous of the state also passed Proposition 8, banning gay marriage. So as non-whites (or perhaps only African Americans) took a step forward, gays took a step back. Gay couples still retain rights as a couple, so what does marriage matter? Now note, I’m not from the Sunshine State, so any “facts” are from conversation and research. To me the answer is simple: denying a couple marriage says they are not the same, puts them apart. It says gay people do not deserve the same things, or do not deserve the same choices the rest of us have. At one point, non-white, non-men could not vote, and over time, as Americans we stood up against this discrimination. At one point, an African American had to give up their seat on a bus to a white American, and as Americans, we stood up against this discrimination. Now gays are being denied the right to marry, and as Americans, we’re the ones denying them this right. How is it not discrimination?

King and King

King and King

It seems one of the biggest pushes was a campaign that didn’t want homosexual marriage taught in schools. I came across the site for Protect Marriage – Vote Yes on 8. I watched some of the videos on the site, and the only thought I had was, are you kidding me? Two parents were upset because their child read a book about a prince marrying another prince… and this is a problem why? Should a gay couple be up in arms every time a story is read in class about a prince marrying a princess? Kids don’t pull these fascinating conclusions out of simple fairy or folk tales that we adults do. The reason a story about a prince marrying a prince stands out so much to them is because its ingrained everywhere else in our world that marriage is between a man and a woman. The parents from Massachusetts said they thought the school would at least wait till the kids had been through sex ed. What in the world does gay marriage have to do with sex ed? Perhaps all discussion on straight marriage should be banned until kids go though sex ed. To say the two are connected is absolute bull.

A majority of objection to gay marriage comes from the religious crowd, who clamor that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. They say the sanctity of marriage needs to be protected. Where is the sanctity of marriage upheld in Vegas side-street chapels, with the ceremony behind conducted by an Elvis look-alike, with a drunken bride and groom? Where the sanctity of marriage being preserved with the divorce rate in America on the rise? Oh, right. Its protected as long as it follows their religious beliefs. Which are up to their interpretation, but never correctly analyzed by non-believers. I’ve done a bit of research, and I really think I need to read the Bible myself, because as far as I can tell, the evidence condemning homosexuality is circumstantial at least, up for interpretation at best. And yet that same book is very clear on other facts, like not judging others.

To me, this was a great move to show that while as a people we can accept non-Caucasians in America, or again maybe just African Americans, that’s pretty much the extent of our understanding (as an Indian, I still get discriminated against). We still think certain people don’t deserve rights, simply because we don’t agree with them. But in a sense, the 5th was also an ending step of discrimination in America. Its been gone on the surface for a while, but its the first sign that its really dying as a whole. Now that one battle is over, the next can begin.

The Polarized States of America

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Digg.com

Digg.com

I was hoping to avoid going on political topics in the beginning, giving a variety of views, but what can we say? We’re dead in the throngs of political madness, with voting less then 30 days away. And unfortunately, I made one of the biggest mistakes of the recent past: I joined Digg.com.

How is this a mistake you might ask? It’s a discussion site with more gang-mentality comments then discussion. The most active arguments are on the political topics, and they are nothing short of arguments. There are people on both sides with no knowledge of the situations except for the title of the links and the occasional video. Liberals and conservatives describing their politician as beyond error. Democrats and republicans describing the opposing party as idiots for only listening to their side’s propaganda. And then third party followers who believe that if they tell people both major candidates are the same dirty pigs, they’ll convert people into voting third party. I’ve seen comments on there that range from childish to annoying to stupid to vile to boring to just down right unintelligent. And then once in a while I see a comment that looks at both sides of the issue and makes a valid or at least well thought out point for one side, and those comments most often get buried or mocked.

So whats the point, you might ask? Most voters are mostly uninformed you say? But why? This is an ironic sort of country, filled with counter-intuitive, almost opposing views/desires. The first is the English language. Common, has there ever been a more convoluted language? There’s also this desire to be inanely free, maintaining rights, while having national and personal security. There’s the strong isolationist urge to keep away from the rest of the world while at the same time to be the saviors for the rest of the world, take what we need, and give nothing back (that doesn’t help us). And of course, there is the odd nationalistic pride, defining America as the greatest unified country on the planet, yet ridiculing anyone who has a viewpoint that doesn’t quite match up.

Two party politics

Two party politics

Truth is, two party politics suck. Nothing is black and white, nothing is a or b. Having two major parties means if you don’t agree with either side, you can choose to use your vote on a third party that has no chance of ever winning, or not vote, which is also frowned upon. But the system is too far ingrained for a third party to ever come to power. Not until the other two parties do something EXTREMELY terrible. Truth is, the two party system, along with how diverse America is, and the state of human psychology and American sociology, tears people apart. I have not seen comments so vicious as I do on political debate discussions. And most of the time, its because people are too blinded to party lines to see what they’re truly writing about. They’re confounded with acceptance of ideas that they would probably dismiss or discard on non-political topics. XKCD said it best. I’ve heard people say terrorism is un-American, but secessionist desires are the independence America was founded on. I’ve heard people say that the bailout is our road to socialism and communism, but public works are important.

Truth is politics brings out the worst in people. And sometimes it brings out the worst people. I don’t think a country will ever be well off until it brings intelligence to its highest ranks, and not necessarily political intelligence. I believe, that with the right backing, an academic or scientist, would make a better political leader. A “common Joe” would make a better political leader. But these people are often smart enough to realize that politics are too convoluted for a single person to significantly effect. Even if a guy off the street made it to President, you have all of congress, and every other level to compete with. And yet, people are outraged by how politicians behave but mock any of the “common folk” who make a stab at it. Politics is a dark color in the spectrum of civility. And quite a few people are waiting for change. Unfortunately, no one is willing to step up to it. And I think I’ll be laying off Digg for now. I’m not sure any of us really wanna listen to some of those comments… and I’m not sure I can afford to lose that much faith in humanity.

Presidential Debate #1

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Preface: I watched the debate on CNN, and listened to the post-commentary on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News, consider them my sources if you want.

So last night was the first Presidential debate, moderated by Jim Lehrer (who has has moderated 11 presidential debates counting last night, over 5 elections… 20 years of this stuff) on the topic of Foreign Policy. With the current economic crisis America finds itself in, he included topics on the economy. The debate was almost over before it began, with McCain claiming he wasn’t going to be at the debate in lieu of his having suspended his campaign because of the financial crisis. Then yesterday morning the McCain camp declared victory on the debate, before he even confirmed his attendance. All this led to the thought that McCain’s claims of putting aside his campaign because of his mantra “Country First” while searching for a solution to the economic crisis was nothing more then a dirty political tactic. Of course, you then have to consider that before McCain landed in DC, Democrats and the GOP had come to a fundamental agreement on the nature of the bailout. Then a few hours after McCain landed, the GOP pulled out. And reports leaked yesterday said members of the GOP bailed to make sure McCain would have time to be a part of the solution. That seems like a bit extreme to me though.

But the debate itself. Foreign policy is supposed to McCain’s expertise. His life experiences plus his general experience in Congress, and then his general mocking of Obama’s lack of experience specifically in foreign policy should have given McCain a clear lead in this debate. It was known economic questions were going to be added, and it was believed that Obama would have the advantage there. The McCain camp also berated Obama’s debating ability, in that he could read speeches with great eloquence when he had time to prepare, but slipped up when he had to think on his feet. Mind you, I agreed with that statement, until the debate. In the past, Obama’s ability to debate, think on his feed, were limited. His ability to give a speech has always been phenomenal. My opinion of this changed Friday night.

The debate started with the question on everyone’s mind: the economy. The candidates were given two minutes per topic, then five minutes to talk face to face. I heard two comments here from the various channels: Obama called McCain John through the night, and McCain never so much as looked at Obama. Both were called slights to the other side, though I must say it was Fox News that called Obama’s action of calling McCain by his first name a slight, and all three news stations commented that McCain never looked at Obama. Personally, I think Obama calling McCain by his first name put them on even grounds, and dropped any atmosphere of superiority or elitism. McCain never once looking at Obama or commenting directly to Obama (as Lehrer asked them to do) I thought was a slight. An interesting addendum, CNN just pointed out, when the two men walked on stage and shook hands, McCain barely gave Obama a glance there, quickly turning to the crowd. Does he not like looking at Obama?

The debate itself was interesting, and brought out more then a few thoughts about both candidates. Interesting statements included. McCain kept saying how Obama doesn’t understand, and Obama kept saying, “When I’m president…”. It makes me laugh a bit, because while they were discussion whether they’d meet with certain foreign leaders, McCain commented that he isn’t going to setup a visitors schedule for the White House yet, and yet he’s the person who says as President he’s ready to hit the ground running. He “doesn’t need any on-the-job training.” Are you telling me that the job of President of the United State of America is a straight forward job, that requires no more information then you have picked up as a POW and a senator? He says he’s ready to go on day one, and yet I feel like its Obama who feels confident in the job.

Both sides got their jabs in. But again, I really think Obama did better. Neither side really answered when they were asked if they’d support the bailout bill as is (fairly obviously, I think, why tie down their responses?) but Obama did do better in the beginning of the debate. McCain started out shaky, and improved as time went on. Obama was cool and confident through the whole thing. For someone with little foreign policy experience, Obama kept saying what he’d do, and McCain just seemed to show his age by talking about the past. He spoke about the bracelet he got from the mother of a KIA soldier, and how the mother didn’t want her son to have died in vain, which McCain translated as winning the war. Obama came back quickly by responding decisively: “Jim, let me just make a point. I’ve got a bracelet, too…”; Obama’s bracelet was received by a mother who didn’t want any other mother to go through what she went through. Sorry McCain, but just because you got a bracelet and one viewpoint doesn’t mean that’s justification for your ideology. Obama got more jabs in by coming back at McCain’s observance that Obama agreed the surge was working. I will admit, Obama should openly admit the surge has worked. Not the surge as in troop numbers, but the strategy behind the surge. It has done what it meant to accomplish. Obama responded by stating that McCain seems to think the war started in 2007 (the surge), when really, it started 4 years prior. But if the surge worked seems moot to me. Its as if you have an infected leg then pass out, and someone else has the choice of disinfecting it and cleaning the leg, cutting the dead tissue, leading to a longer, possibly more difficult recovery, but keeping the leg, or the choice of cutting off the leg, swift response that will lead to more precarious situations later on. If the person chooses to cut off your leg and you recover, I’m sure you’ll agree you recovered, but that doesn’t mean you think its the right choice.

One thing that really hit home with me was the question about if either candidate would sit down with the Iranian leaders. McCain’s stance was a stout no, that the President meeting with Iranian leaders would be paramount to justifying their actions. Obama said he would meet without precondition. Now Obama did screw up here a bit, switching his wording around between the President directly, and underlings then the President, and I’m not sure if he meant it the first time or if he wanted to correct himself to look better. But what I do know is Obama claimed that McCain may not even meet with the Prime Minster of Spain because they may not be aligned with us, and McCain had nothing to say about that. Whether it was because it wasn’t true or because it was, that’s a loss for McCain. The idea of speaking to someone with preconditions immediately means you think you are better then they are. If you want to lead the country, and the world, I believe you have to be willing to place yourself at their level. Or them at yours. Talking to someone does not mean you are vindicating their actions. It could quite well mean you want them to stop.

Overall, I think this debate hurt for McCain. He just came from a fiasco over the economic policy in DC (his suspension, threatening to not attend the debate, an early declaration of victory before even attending?), and was nearly even with Obama in the polls, with a slight lead. Foreign policy was his home term, his experience should have won him out. But instead, I think he was flustered through the event, didn’t show Obama the decency of speaking directly to him, put on a smug, “I’m better then you” attitude, and in the end lost the debate. From my viewpoint, he was acting like the adult speaking to the youthful counterpart, always saying, well you don’t understand, you don’t know, you aren’t ready. And even if he did just as well, tied for all intents and purposes, it was a loss for him. He needed a win to pick up and show the people of this country that his actions over the last few days weren’t him playing politics, but seriously working. He needed to wow the nation.

And instead, the news analysis after the show showed that more people were impressed with Obama then McCain. According to a CNN poll, 51% of people polled by telephone thought Obama did better on Friday, while 38% thought McCain did better. This poll was biased, with 41% of the respondents identifying themselves as Democrats, 27% as Republicans and 30% as independents. But even Fox News, a definitely Right news group, had a poll of 30 independents. Seventeen sided with Obama, and ten with McCain. The newscaster then had the audacity to say, “Were they watching the same debate we were?” I agree that left and right news groups spin media for their view points, but that was ridiculous. While CNN had a panel of nearly 10 evenly split between Republican analysts and Democratic analysts, Fox News was shooting down the idea that Obama did better. And in my opinion, he did.

If anyone out there is Republican and thinks McCain did better, please comment and tell me where. I’ve said it before: if I’m placed in a party, I’d be a Democrat, so my views probably hid some of what McCain said, so enlighten me.

American Politics… About the Best Man (or Woman)?

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

This is the first time I’ve been engrossed and interested in politics, probably in part because I have a stake in the outcome and in part because political discussion is fun. Like religious discussion is fun. But with everything I hear on the news, read in the paper, and learn from discussions I have with people passionate about politics, I only seem to come to one conclusion: politics in America is no longer about who is the best person to lead the country, if that was ever the reasoning.

I thought politics was about the best candidate trying to prove to the people that they are the best choice to run the country. I always knew there were people on both the left and right who were “groupies” to their side, regardless of the candidate’s strength. But I thought most people were open to reason, and that candidates’ goals were to convince the public that they were the right choice.

Now I watch which candidate convinces the American public that the other candidate is less worthy. Its not about the best man, but the worse. In this election, both candidates are attacking each other. I will openly admit, if I were to be placed into a party, I’d be a Democrat. And while it is mostly because I believe that its government’s job to help those who can’t help themselves, its also because on the whole, while both sides are slinging mud, I tend to notice that Republicans sling a lot. Now, I’m not saying that all Republicans are like that, but for the constant claim that Democrats are elitist, Republicans sure do act high and mighty.

Now, I’m not saying Democrats are without fault. I specifically said that if i were to be placed into a party because in truth, I wouldn’t claim to be a part of an organization who’d drop to revenge tactics. At the same time, I say unfortunately the tactic is needed. Who knows who threw the first drop of mud in this campaign (I’m sure someone does, but I sure don’t), but unfortunately its been shown that negative images stick in peoples’ heads.

And so it’s ended up, there really isn’t an issue of who’s the better candidate anymore. All I can think of about the candidates off the top of my head is that McCain switches sides to meet the current need, and Obama lacks executive experience. Does this tell me who’s the better President? No. But it does tell me who’s worse.