Abort Mission!

The United States should withdraw its troops from Iraq immediately. If I would have said this a year ago, most people would probably have scoffed at me and then rubbed it in my face the George Bush had won the election... but times have changed. Congressman John Murtha recently gave a speech on the House floor calling for the military to leave Iraq; Dick Cheney was not happy. A year ago the Vice President would have been able to throw out the classic line and accuse Murtha of trying to undermine the troops and democracy effort, but that doesn't work quite as well anymore. Now that we're beyond the phase where we blindly support "freedom" and the troops, we can finally start to think about this war and where it is going. John Murtha has a few compelling reasons for leaving Iraq, and logically he's just correct.

Most warmongers justify continued presence in Iraq by arguing that once the US leaves, civil war will erupt. They're probably right. Unfortunately, the civil war is inevitable, whether or not we leave now or in a few years (when the military simply can take no more). Murtha is a veteran who sincerely cares about our military, which is exactly why he wants to leave Iraq now. Staying the course, as some would say is necessary, will do nothing more than destroy our military. Look at the military as it is right now... recruitment is up and enlistment is down; the longer the war goes on, the more recruitment will increase and enlistment will decline. Not only that, our current military units are on their second and third tours of duty, and some experts are predicting a morale collapse similar to what happened during Vietnam. A marine officer was recently quoted in the Atlantic Monthly saying that "we can lose Iraq and destroy our Army, or we can just lose." Its time to face the reality that winning this war wasn't quite as easy as George Bush may have led you to believe.

American presence in Iraq is also bad because it perpetuates the problems we are ultimately trying to solve. Consider our moral credibility... George Bush can talk about giving people in Iraq rights they never had under Saddam Hussein, but when Bush talks about human rights, the world thinks about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Here is a reality check: the torture at Abu Ghraib did significantly more to fuel insurgency than it did to get vital information to fight terrorists. George Bush can talk about freedom, but the world thinks about how Iraq has already become a theocracy and ruled by a powerful few and their militias. Additionally, the very perception of a foreign occupier is enough to give insurgents incentive to do what they do.

George Bush rarely speaks about the war anymore... but when he does he usually talks about staying the course and finishing the job. Nobody has any idea what that means. John Murtha talked about the continued deaths of Americans and Iraqis, shoddy military recruiting, increase of insurgent attacks, lack of clean water, among other problems. What is the justification for staying in Iraq? Most don't even remember why we justified pre-empting Saddam in the first place. Unless we can justify busting up the military or taking more drastic measures (like conscription and tax hikes), we're infinitely better off aborting the mission and bringing the troops home.

Political Apathy

"You see Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care." ~Peter Gibbons, Office Space

This quote describes more than Peter's attitude toward his job. This quote represents the attitude milions of Americans have for politics, current events, and other real-life situations. The reality of this quote really hit me today when I was sitting in a business-type class at school. The professor spoke with an accent and challenged the class to guess what country she was from; someone threw out Lebanon, and she indicated they were very close geographically. The sad part is... most people had no idea where Labanon was or what other countries were near it. Serbia and Japan were thrown out as possible countries she could have been from; and most people hadn't a clue at all.

I normally wouldn't be surprised at people's ignorance; but I considered that I was sitting in one of the most elite universities in the country, among who are supposed to be some of the most intelligent people around... and still they had no concept of the Middle East. Dispite the fact that the United States is and has been involved in the Middle East for the last decade (most of these people's adult lives) they really didn't care enough to ever find out what was actually going on over there. And why should they ever have cared about it? Its not like the United States' relationship with Isreal or Saudi Arabia ever changed the way they went about with their lives... And its not like they ever saw the reality of the wars we've been involved in over there...

Everyday I start to think that intelligence and awareness are completely different concepts. Some of the smartest and hardest working people can be completely oblivious to their surroundings. And Peter is right... its not because they're lazy by any means; its that they have no reason to care. All things considered, I start to wonder whether its better to be intelligent, or to be aware, and I realize that they're not mutally exclusive... if you really want to be the best of the best, you definately need both.
George W. Bush doesn't believe in global warming... But whats interesting is the approach to environmental issues that big oil has taken. Less than a month ago I saw a commercial for BP which touted their movement toward more environmentally fuel. According to the advertisement, BP already sells low-sulfer gasoline in over 40 American cities, which releases fewer harmful chemicals into the atmosphere when burned. In fact, BP's own website contains the quotes: "There is evidence that the earth’s temperature is rising" and "There is an emerging consensus that climate change is, at least in part, linked to the production and consumption of carbon based fuels." BP even has a multiple-part report on global warming and how they plan to address it.

In recent weeks shadier companies like Exxon Mobile, ConocoPhillips, and Kerr-McGee have launched their own advertising campaigns bragging about their contributions to reducing global warming. But what is the impact of all of these claims of more environmentally friendly oil? With gasoline prices around here hovering near $2 a gallon and with more and more Americans realizing that global warming is real, oil companies are going to have to start covering their assess if they want to do business as well as they have been. Now, people can go to the pump and spend $40 filling up the SUV with the good, warm feeling deep down that at least they won't be emmitting as much sulfer into the atmosphere.

The new advertising campaigns these companies have launched are pretty slick from a business standpoint, but sadly, it'll only exacerbate the problems of global warming. While reducing sulfer from gasoline might look like a good first step in the goal to eliminate harmful emissions into the atmosphere, its only encouraging people to burn more and more fuel. Renewable energy needs to gain support and momentum, and it will only do that once people get fed-up with the current oil industry and want something better. If they're convinced that there isn't a problem or that the problem is being taken care of, then it will be impossible to increase the momentum.

Who Needs Kids?

In a children's care facility, about 40 miles southeast of Cleveland, the lives of about 130 kids are in jeopardy. They live in a place licenced by the state of Ohio as an Immediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded. Their lives are different than most of us could ever imagine, many of them require round the clock attention from medical staff and recieve all of their food through a tube attached through their stomach (sounds familiar doesn't it?). Many of them were brought in by family members who, although having loved their children very much, couldn't handle the burden of having a disabled child to constantly care for. Despite their condition, all of these children can laugh, smile, cry and feel emotion.

And our Governor, Bob Taft, wants to eliminate funding to the facility. Medical professionals unanimously agree that without the ICF/MR clinic many of the children will die. It is amazing, that in this "culture of life" that Republicans have been promoting recently, that the prospect of taking the lives of chilren who are unable to defend themselves (another line that sounds strikingly familiar) can be justified because of budget problems. Granted, every level of government is experiencing budget shortfalls, and there are problems that need to be dealt with... but Ohio is slowly and surely becoming a bad place to live, and with the proposals Republican frontrunner Ken Blackwell has proposed, it will rise to the top of list of the worst states to educate ourselves and our children, unless, of course, you are very wealthy and enjoy your big-time tax cuts.

Its becoming more and more clear that Republicans seem to manage to promote "life"... just as long as they don't have to pay for it. With proposd cuts to medicaid and childrens health facilities in Ohio, I know that this isn't a state I'd want to live in if I were less than well-off economically. Maybe its time to consider who has the right to life? If it is everyone, like a lot of people like to blabber about, then maybe we need to rethink our leaders too.

Read the heartbreaking story of these children in The Plain Dealer

Girls Gone Wild

Many consider Ohio University in Athens to be the state's biggest "party school," which I guess can be taken to mean whatever you want. In addition, OU has arguably the best journalism school in the state with an outstanding local newspaper, The Post. Recently I came across an editiorial article written by freshman journalist Ashley Herzog, which really hits the nail on the head in determining where the line should be drawn between feminism and promiscuity.

I've been known to be sympatheic with a lot of feminist arguments, and am often frustrated by "weak" women who so easily get exploited by men. Although I can't personally point to extreme examples, its easy to see girls in high school who will do anything to appease a guy just so she can have a boyfriend; and it often makes me sad to realize that people in this world can be so shallow. Nevertheless, Some of my best female friends from debate camps have been strong women who are open about their embracing of feminism; but at the same time, they aren't foolish enough to use the liberation mindset to jusify being sexually promiscuous. I often get upset and frustrated to find out that someone who I thought had better judgement has decided just to "go wild." Herzog makes an excellent point in realizing that 30 or more years ago women were often sexually exploited by men, and the feminist movement sought to end that, and it did... for a while... unfortunately, today, women now manage to sexually exploit themselves, by going to wet t-shirt contests and appearing in videos like girls gone wild. The sad reality is that women who exploit themselves really just appease the same men looking for a cheap thrill, turning back some of the underlying goals of the feminist movement.

Read the original article from The Post

Criticize Your Government

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend an hour of my day listening to Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones upon her visit to our school. Very few people knew she was coming until few hours before the speech was schedualed, and it was a surprise to many. After it was announced that we would be listening to the congresswoman talk at about 10 am, everyone in my homeroom has some wise-ass comment to make. The thing that I found most amazing however, was how few people actually had any idea who she was... I heard people call her everything from a state senator, to city councilwoman, to Ohio represenative. People were asking if she was a Democrat or a Republican, what she looked like, and why she was here.

Granted, probably only a minority of the people at school are represented by her since they live in Cleveland's "thriving" subburbs, but it seemed odd that no one knew who the congressperson from their major city was. Of course, I'm not going to claim to know all of the representatives from the state of Ohio, but I'm at least aware of the representatives from Cleveland East, Cleveland West, Lorain, and Lake Country are and have a mild idea of how they stand on issues and vote in the congress.

The fact that so few people know so little makes for a humorous situation when they try to criticize the government, leaders, or policy. For example, the other day people were baffled at why the drinking age in the United States is 21 years old and not 18 like in other countries. They honestly believed it was based on maturity and they felt they were mature enough for it. They had absolutely no clue about the federal mandate handed down to the states during the construction of most of the interstate highways; mandating of course that states would recieved federal funding for interstate projects if they raised the legal drinking age to 21. The other day in English the question was asked who would be a possible candidate for the Republican ticket in 2008, someone proposed that Bill "First" might run, and only a handful of people knew who Bill "Frist" actually was. Another time someone was excited about the prospect of Hon. William Renquist having to step down as chief justice, because it meant that Bush could appoint a new "conservative" to the Supreme Court, clearly of course, this person had no idea how William Renquist swayed ideologically.

Maybe the problem is that no one reads the newspaper anymore... Maybe they just flip straight to the sports section and the funnies for a laugh at the day's Ziggy cartoon. Maybe the problem is that people rely on Action 19 News for reliable information, and thus end up knowing only of the latest Jay-Lo affair and dirty dining experience. Maybe everyone obsesses about their math, science, and theology classes and hasn't a care what goes on in the world... Whatever the case, at least I can leave high school knowing that even though I don't have the best grades or the best test scores, that I'm infinitely more knowlegable on issues that actually have significance in the world.

De Facto Racism

A company recently decided to discontinue public transportation service to its office; I don't know what the official reason is, but the unwritten reason is simply disappointing. I can understand a company wanting its employees to have a strong work ethic, to abide by uniform rules, work well with co-workers, etc. But it seems as though this time they are taking an approach that obviously discriminates against a certain group of people.

Statistically, it is true that African Americans make up the majority of public transportation riders in this area, and are less likely to be able to afford to drive or own cars than the average white person. I'm witness to the fact that there are plenty of hard working people that ride public transportation every day, myself being one of them. Unfortunately for these people, unless they start driving, they're not going to have the same opportunities they used to have. In a perfect world, a company would hire or not hire based on how good of a worker a person is, regardless of whether they drive, bus, bike, walk, scooter, or whatever to work. But doing this might make them look like they are discriminating and would probably piss of quite a few people and the ACLU... De Jure racism = bad.

So I guess sometimes people have to look outside of the box and they've definately done that. By eliminating the most common form of transportation used by a certain group of people, you can eliminate those people. I personally feel uneasy because I have ridden public transportation everyday for the past 4 years of my life, and without it would have missed out on some of best opportunities I've ever had.

Pro Life Kiss of Death

The Terri Schiavo drama has fired up just about everyone in the country, from religious conservatives, to federalism proponents, to marital rights advocates, and the political implications have been huge. One thing, however, is for certain: Terri Schiavo's case paints the perfect picture of how the Bush's as well as other congressional pro-lifers really do care about their cause. Listening to banter a few months ago about how people were voting for George Bush because he would end abortion made me laugh because of the track record Republicans have had when it comes to those types of issues, and the most recent front page headlines fall right in line.

The litigation and legislation surrounding the
Terri Schiavo case has been a no-win situation for either Democrats or Republicans. Former states rightists have pushed for federal jurisdiction to cover the case and gone against popular opinion of America. Sure they've shored up support with the religious conservative base... but who cares? Religious conservatives weren't thinking of blocking pro-Wade judges from the supreme court, and isn't the centerpiece of the Pro-life movement to end legal abortion? The GOP's obsession with the Terri Schiavo debacle has done nothing more than created more hurdles to jump overe in the ultimate goal to overturn Roe.

Not only did they lose the battle, but they proved that they really aren't especially worried about it either. Jeb Bush practically gave up the battle a few days ago, ironically, he'll never win back support from religious conservatives, and consequently his chances of winning a Republican primary have pretty much disappeared. Additionally, by creating so much political clout Republicans have made it that much harder to push for the judges necessary to overturn Roe v. Wade... but then again, maybe thats what they want? Consider in 3 years: abortion will still be legal and extreme right wingers will visit churches and blame "those damn democrats and moderates" for blocking the judges needed to overturn the case.

Who's the real winner? Pro-lifers haven't seen anything accomplished but will still buy into the propaganda and vote for the "pro-life" candidates again. The whole situation makes me sick. Not only do Republicans go against the things their supports fight for, but they manage to take credit for being pro-life anyway. I guess on the bright side this whole situation makes it harder for Bush to attract moderates to vote for ridiculous bills like Social Security reform, and it allows me to breathe as sigh of relief when thinking about the theocratic justices he wants to appoint to the Supreme Court. Its too bad the way this whole situation played out though... nobody really wins.

Parental Discretion is Advised

...is usually a phrase I see being displayed before episodes of CSI or ER where large amounts of blood and gore are about to follow. As I tuned into The Simpsons tonight, it was preceded by a new warning message: This episode contains discussions of same-sex marriage. Parential discretion is advised. I guess I can understand warning parrents before a show where people are getting murdered or coughing up a lung and dying, but before the Simpsons?

I think this goes as a prime example of how our current politicians and administration is portraying the gay rights movement. Recent Bush appointee, Margaret Spellings, Secretary of Education, told PBS not to air an episode of the show Postcards from Buster, featuring a rabbit who travels the world visiting a diversity of places and people. One episode in particular, however, had Buster visiting a home where the parents were both women, and thus, was never aired. I'm sure Ms. Spellings recieved a gold medal from Bush for that one. Meanwhile, right-wing groups are trying to paint Spongebob squarepants as a gay who can't control his urgest to be with his buddy Patrick and the teletubbies as raging homosexuals who need to be banned from television.

So really it comes as no surprise that when these individuals can't get an episode completely off the air, they go for the next best thing... scare the parrents into not allowing their kids to watch it. At the same time the Simpsons was airing, the show Desperate Housewives was on. Might as well let kids watch that show though... at least everyone is straight and it can't give kids ideas like maybe people unlike themselves deserve rights too. Not to say that amazing progress hasn't been made toward this movement in the past few years, but given the current administration and 'family-values' groups, looks like the fight is going to continue to be difficult.

Kill 'Em All

A few weeks ago I wrote about Al-Quida training missions and how the actions our military was taking is just fueling hate towards Americans. The elections in Iraq might not have been perfect... 44 civilians were murdered, the ballot was huge and confusing, in some Sunni neighborhoods only 2% of the population actually got out to vote... but overall it looked like things might for the first time be taking a step in the right direction. Then Tuesday night our military held a forum in Sothern California to discuss the war on terror. Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corp was quoted by the Associated Press as making the following statement:

"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling. You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

Its pretty obvious how fired up Americans get everytime a recording of Osama Bin Laden is shown on Fox News talking about killing Americans and ruining our lives. And once again, the tables have turned. Although this story hasn't and probably won't get much attention by the American media, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it is currently one of the top stories on Al-Jezeera or other Middle-Eastern television stations. The juxtaposition of opinions is absolutley mind-boggling. On the one hand, you have our president delivering the State of the Union address proclaiming that he's spreading liberty and Democracy to the Middle East, and then on the other hand you have a military lieutenant bragging about how he gets his high by blowing away Arabs. So how many new terrorists have been recruited with this new recruiting video? I honestly can't say. But to all those who wonder why we're having such a hard time fighting this war... maybe its time to examine how we're fighting this war.

The Varsity

Located in Downtown Atlanta, GA only a few blocks from the area's largest interstate highway, is the epitome of American culture and everything in this country that could really benefit from change. Staffed mostly by lower to middle class African Americans trying to earn enough money to attend Universities like Georgia Tech and University of Georgia, The Varsity is frequented by middle to upper class white families, and they seem to like it that way. Every Sunday good Christian families drive their gas-guzzler Expeditions and Suburbans with W'04 bumber stickers downtown to attend the "after church rush."

varisity

As you enter The Varsity you become witness to one of the largest counters in fast food history. Standing in line you hear the employees yelling "Whata ya have?" to the customers and punching orders into the register. The food is what many people, from where I come from, would call disgusting. I personally find the food to be a cross between White Castle and McDonalds, buts its tolerable at the least. They don't have very high expectations, however. Even the picture of the Chile Dog with Mustard they print in the brochure looks like what i would get from Damitre the Hot Dog Vendor on campus, only I gaurantee Damitre's dogs are far better.

varisity

The Varsity is often so crowded that its difficult to find a place to sit. Families proudly sit around enjoying their greasy double hamburgers, french fries, onion rings and milk shakes made with neither milk nor ice cream. On the way out you have to remember to get your paper Varsity hat or buy some Varsity gear to remember your trip. And if you can't make it to the restaurant, the Varsity will cater your special event! I know I definately can't wait until the next wedding I go to where I get to eat greasy hamburgers and chile dogs.

Maybe the most interesting part of the Varsity experience is the de facto segregation that still exists... but then again this is the heart of the Conferacy so I guess it doesn't surprise me too much. Maybe its the fact that people are in love with such unhealthy, bad food... but we are the fattest country in the world so I guess that doesn't surprise me too much either. Maybe its the that going to the restaurant after church is a tradition of so many southern Christians... but I don't understand a lot of fundamental Christianity, so I guess that doesn't surpise me too much either. I guess its just the utter reality shock that such a place not only exists but flourishes in today's day and age. This one little fast food joint really can give us a nice interpretation of what our country really represents.

Hotel Rwanda

I’m usually not one to write movie reviews, even though I usually have an opinion on just about every movie I see. However, after receiving the ability to attend the advance screening of Hotel Rwanda this previous Wednesday I felt something had to be said about it. The true tragedy of this movie is that its an extremely limited release and therefore will probably only be seen by those who are truly interested. I guess in a lot of ways its pretty consistent with America’s media portrayal of genocide and African policy.

Think what you may about the Rwanda situation, but it’s hard to deny that genocide is happening in the world right now; Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are considered genocides by many in the world, and even Colin Powell held a press conference declaring the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region a genocide… and then our military did nothing. Meanwhile we continue to occupy two nations, hold thousands of potential “terrorists” prisoner, and our media and government officials make it sound like we’re making the world such an amazing place.

Hotel Rwanda says it best in the scene where UN General Oliver (a Canadian) has to break the news to Paul (Rwandan hotel manager) that the United States and other European Nations have decided not to intervene to stop the mass killings, but rather are ordering all of the white people to leave the country immediately. Its almost impossible for Paul to understand how countries like the United States could see the sickness and horror going on in Rwanda and choose to do nothing. “You’re dirt. You’re below dirt. You’re not even a n*****… you’re an African” is how General Oliver has to explain what the west thinks of Africa.

Later in the movie, a group of nuns and orphans flee to the hotel seeking refuge from the killing. All of the Europeans (Italians I believe) are told to get out of the country immediately, while the African nuns and orphans are forced to fend for themselves in the midst of the mass murders. Eventually the United Nations commits an intervention force of 300 peacekeepers to attempt to stop the ethnic conflict, although little can be done with so few troops. The United States, of course, commits nothing.

In light of all the horror going on in the country, many emerge as true heroes, although sadly, American opinion often makes these people unimportant. General Oliver shows that the United Nations isn’t the devil our current administration and many of our leaders make them out to be. The United Nations can only be as effective as its member states, and Rwanda proves that even the most powerful “peace-promoting” countries in the world really only care about peace when it directly benefits their interests. The Red Cross and its workers are perhaps one of the world’s greatest organizations; helping rescue orphans and run refugee camps to help innocent, displaced Tutsis is only the beginning of what they have the ability to do. And of course, Paul, the hotel manager, who works to make sure he can save as many lives as possible. Along the few powerful Belgians willing to help him, Paul is able to save the lives of thousands. Don’t get me wrong however, the true heroes are few and far between, and its fairly safe to say President Clinton and powerful Americans were not among them.

Hotel Rwanda isn’t necessarily a bloodbath and attempt to make everyone in the theatre sick from sight of blood and mass murder like many Holocaust movies have done. Rather it’s a portrayal of the genocide that makes that audience sick at the thought of how the west can allow such atrocities to happen. It’s the story of a few brave Africans and Europeans who were willing to go against the international opinion and work to save lives and ensure stability in Rwanda.

Everyone who has an opinion on foreign policy and military intervention should see Hotel Rwanda. Unlike other movies (Black Hawk Down) which portray America as the world’s savior and all of Africa as the enemy, this movie shows America’s true colors when it comes to intervening in situations that don’t directly serve our political interests. Tragically, the only location in Ohio currently playing this movie is the Cedar Lee. Nevertheless, come by car or plane or train up to Cleveland Heights to see what is possibly the best movie of the year.