Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The War on Drugs...How easy we forget.

Somewhere in the midst of fighting the war on terror we forgot about the war on drugs. I by no means want to come across as not being in favor of the war on terror but I don't think that we should sacrifice the progress that we have made in getting drugs out of our schools and punishing the scum who bring drugs into the United States. The War on Drugs has recently been thrust back into the forefront because of a new law that is being passed in Mexico.

Mexican President Vicente Fox plans to sign into law a bill that was passed by the legislature that will decriminalize the possession of small amounts of such drugs as marijuana, cocaine, or heroine. Does this sound like a bad idea to anyone else besides myself? The insane logic behind this law is that it will free up law enforcement officers to pursue the large scale distributors of drugs and not force them to focus on small scale drug possession. This makes absolutely no sense to me.

Ironically, according to the CNN story, this law has gained very little attention in Mexico because drug use is less common then in America. President George Bush knows about this law and understands the potential impact, and I guarantee that President Vicente Fox knows that this will impact The United States more so than America. Why not mortgage America's future if a few votes can be gained in Mexico.

The War on Drugs can not be pushed under the table again. I remember DARE in elementary, and the red ribbon, and the Just Say No campaign but the youth of today are not exposed to this positive influence to the extent that I was as a child. All that is said in today's culture is to keep an eye out for terrorists. I think we need to continue to educate our kids on the dangers of drugs and maybe focus a little less on pushing The War on Terror to the public. We need to take an interest in laws such as this one passed in Mexico because not only are they our "ally" in the War on Drugs but they are our border state and are a huge supply line of drugs to The United States. And personally, the idea of a bunch of people carrying drugs with no consequences is a little frightening.

Just Say NO to bogus laws...

I Hate Big Bird

For the record, I am terrified of the Bird Flu and I am convinced that I am going to be the first documented case in the United States. Every time that I start getting sick or cough I believe that it is the beginning of the infamous H5N1 strain of influenza. I hate the bird flu...bottomline.

Ok, maybe I am being a little dramatic but this is something that needs to be understood and we as citizens need to take a proactive role in preventing a potential bird flu outbreak. If you think that I am crazy when I insist that international politics apply to everyone, then just imagine what will happen if the bird flu reaches the United States from an overseas country. As of now, over 200 people have died overseas from the disease and most cases have been attributed to handling of contaminated poultry or feces. However, migration patterns of birds make the potential outbreak a real possibility.

Luckily the Bush Administration is assuming a proactive role and is preparing for a potential impact. If there was an outbreak in America it would impact citizens in a wide variety of ways ranging from cancellation of flights in and out of the country to the economic impact of people missing substantial amounts of time while ill. This is an international impact that we have to take an interest in because an outbreak could happen at any time. We no longer live in a world where isolationism is an option, and the idea of a global village is more real than ever before. Just like in previous centuries an illness can decimate entire populations and can alter the entire world. We have to be ready and aware of the developing situation that surrounds the bird flu and understand the impact that it has on our lives.

Bottomline...I still really hate the bird flu.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Invisible Children...Let's Turn On The Lights

I mentioned the Malcom X quote in the last post about doing something about things you care about. I wanted to cite one example of when an issue worlds away has become a national issue. There is a war in Uganda and every day there are children that are kidnapped and forced to serve in the military. These children are referred to as The Invisible Children. The mission of the Invisible Children Movement is to tell the story of these children and provide financial support.

How is the struggle for the children in Uganda different than the genocide occurring in the Darfur Region? Why has the public taken notice? And the most interesting question, how the heck have the people behind this movement gotten college students to care and care to the point of walking 5 miles at night in an act of solidarity in the Global Night Commute?

Honestly, I think the answer lies in a certain television show and a certain story that they ran recently. Oprah Winfrey herself took up the cause and made a population of America that might have never heard about the issue stand up and take notice. A friend of mine watched the story and said that it was one of the best stories that she had seen and was extremely compelling. Any time Oprah decides to take notice of an issue, there are thousands of people who decide to take up the banner as well. Would the story of The Invisible Children have been seen by the public without Oprah? It is entirely possible but Oprah can make any issue seem important and can compel any person to provide their time or financial support.

Oprah does an incredible job of educating the public and making issues far from home (Worlds Away) seem like they impact you as much as the local mayors race. It can be argued that she educates the public better on issues than the government itself.

According to Frederick Douglas, the turning point in his life was when the wife of his master taught him to read. He said "The first step had been taken. Mistress, in teaching me the alphabet, had given me the inch, and no precaution could prevent me from taking the ell" (Douglas). I believe that a relationship can be made between the roll of Oprah informing the public about issues such as The Invisible Children and the women who taught Douglas the alphabet. Both laid a foundation that had an impact on people, and imagine if everyone who joined the Invisible Children movement built on it and took a more in depth view of world affairs.

Oprah needs to continue to do more stories...Maybe that is the solution to apathy.

Sudan..Play Nice

Malcom X once said in his autobiography, "Everything I've ever felt strongly about, I've done something about." The issue in Darfur is something that we all need to do something about. I wish that America could stand up like Malcom X and care about this issue. I think that quote has ramifications throughout international politics. We only do something about the issues that are on the front page. But I think that we should care about the thousands of people dying in Darfur.

We have to take a stand to end the genocide that is occurring in Sudan. In case you are unaware, genocide is defined as the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group by the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary. Personally, I am against anything that involves the systematic extermination of people. This is exactly what is happening in the Darfur region right now. We can no longer wait around for the Sudanese government to resolve the issue.

There are currently peace talks going on and both the United States and Britain have sent representatives to attend and help with peaceful discussions at the talks. The US has sent Robert Zoellick who is the number 2 man at the State Department. It is too bad that this doesn't warrant the attention of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, she was too busy making an effort to boost the polls by visiting Iraq. I still don't think that the United States is doing enough to impact this important international issue. GENOCIDE is occurring and we send our number 2 representative to negotiate and represent America. We need to assume a more active role in this issue.

Proof that Americans don't care about issues unless they are on your front door, the conflict in the Darfur region has been going on for 3 years and has led to over 180,000 people dead and more than 2 million displaced. How has it taken this long for the international community to take notice? That is the problem with international politics, proximity is very important when news worthiness is continued and a story about people dying in Darfur gets pushed to the back of the public conscious.

Sorry Lt. But You are Coming with Us

WE GOT BIN LADEN!! ok, not quite but we might be one step closer. CNN has reported that one of Osama Bin Laden's top lieutenants has been captured in Pakistan. Mustafa Setmarian Nasar was captured in Pakistan in 2005 but recently turned over to American custody and taken to an undisclosed location. Nasar has served as a trainer in Bin Laden's training camps and was important enough to warrant a 5 million dollar bounty.

Imagine the treasure trove of information that this man might possess on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden or even the operating procedures of Al-Queda. If the interrogators in the military or the CIA can get Nasar to share the secrets that he knows, the information will have an incredible impact on the War on Terror. (side note: How can you have a war on an emotion?). The American public has been waiting for real, concrete progress in the war so that we can see for ourselves that the lives lost in this battle were not lost in vain. The apprehension of a terrorist like Mustafa Setmarian Nasar accomplishes the goal of obtaining concrete evidence.

Marshall McLuhan wrote about government in his book entitled "the medium is the Massage". And what he wrote impacted me when thought of in relation to international politics and how it impacts the American public. "A new form of "politics" is emerging, and in ways we haven't yet noticed. The living room has become a voting booth. Participation via television in Freedom Marches, in war, revolution, pollution, and other events is changing everything" (McLuhan)". We only care about things that we see on TV or is flashy and attention grabbing. Politics now is all about flash and so often light on substance. This explains why people will be more drawn to this story about terrorism then a story about genoide in Sudan or a new President in Italy. We are a selfish society and it has to impact us directly before we ever take notice. McLuhan is right about the impact that the TV has had on the view of politics because stories are packaged to grab the attention of the viewer which causes many important issues to be lost.

Good Morning Bolivia

This is my disclaimer, I really don't know a lot about Latin America and the culture in the region. I do however understand the need for gasoline and oil in the world so when I hear a country's leader making claims about forcing oil companies out I get interested.

Bolivia has a newly elected President who has begun following through on some campaign promises to regain control of the countries natural resources. Evo Morales has stated that he will nationalize the extensive natural gas resources of the country in a bold move to place more government control over the industry. President Morales has also sent troops into the gas fields with orders to secure them and evict foreign companies if they do not turn over full production to the government. This is a problem because any impact on the supply on natural gas or oil can send prices sky rocketing and then I have to pay 4 bucks a gallon or it costs more to heat my apartment. These are both things that put me in a bad mood, and I think its safe to say that I am not alone in this thought.

However, what really struck me about this situation is the fact that Morales has formed alliances with Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro and Venezula's President Hugo Chavez. Personally, I wish that the global village was not shrinking to the point that those 3 jewels of foreign countries could become best friends. It is no secret that Castro is not the biggest fan of the United States (i.e Cuban Missile Crisis) and Chavez might start something for no other reason than to get back at Pat Robertson. I do not like the idea of 2 proclaimed enemies of America are associating with the President of Bolivia who controls extensive natural gas resources. It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out but it is definitely worth keeping an eye on because of the impact it could have on cost of living on heating, gasoline, etc.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Struggle for Control in Iraq...This sounds familiar.

In case you missed it, there is a debate raging in Iraq on who will control the Iraqi parliament. Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has been at the center of controversy over whether or not he is the right man to lead Iraq. He has struggled to gain support from the rest of the country because of his failure to effectively provide essential social services while also not being able to avoid the sectarian conflicts throughout the country.

However, there is a new development in the drama surrounding the Prime Minister. There is finally a new Prime Minister Designate to take control of the government. The interim prime minister has led things in the 4 months since the general elections but there was not a designate until now. Will the government of Prime Minister Designate Jawad al-Maliki have an impact on the future stability of the state? Will they solve the problems facing the social services structure and will they unify the country? These are essential questions that must be answered before any hope of future stabilization will ever materialize.

It is in the best interest of the American public to have a strong Iraqi central government that can handle the daily social needs of the Iraqi people while also providing a strong national defense to protect the country. The Iraqi army is in shambles and the only way to solve the problem is to stabilize the country from the top down beginning with the Prime Minister situation. We as Americans care because if a strong government can be formed it means that we will be able to pull our troops out of the country sooner. I don't think that I know a person anywhere in America who would not want our soldiers to be back home.

I know that it probably will not be important in the rebuilding process because having power to Baghdad or national security throughout the country are more important, but what role will technology have in the rebuilding process and how will it affect America's role in Iraq. Michael Heim commented in the essay entitled "VR 101" that virtual reality is a technology and that in the future we can expect virtual reality to permeate into a wide range of avenues of society such as driver-training or computer-aided tourism. Imagine the impact that widespread implementation of technology would have in Iraq, and consider the implications that creating high tech jobs would have on the Iraqi government and society as a whole. Virtual reality is the future and it is inevitable that this form of technology will become an essential part of Iraqi society. Close your eyes and picture a technological savvy ally in the Middle East? The thought makes peace seem like a real possiblility.

We as Americans need to stay focused on the state of the Iraqi government and understand the impact it will have in America. We have an invested role in the region and the affairs of the state, I think we need to understand that there is hope but it will take time.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chad...The Schoolyard Bully Returns

Ok, so I am not posting and talking about a bad memory from elementary school. When I refer to Chad I am talking about the small African country of Chad. The government of Chad is making claims that they will cut off the oil supply from the country if the international actors like The World Bank do not step in and help with growing tensions in the country. Chad claims that Sudanese backed rebels have been attempting to destabilize the government before the upcoming Presidential elections.

Chad is by no means a huge player in the global oil market and in fact exports very little oil in relation to the countries in the Persian Gulf and the oil that they do export is not even as high quality as other reserves in the world, but the government is banking on the fact that any threat to the world's oil supply will trigger an international response. Chad has the unenviable task of bordering Sudan which has received significant global attention because of the drastic human rights violations occurring in the country. Chad knows that the only way to stabilize the country and gain a international response is to attack the lifeblood of the world economy. Is there a better way to gain America's attention than to do something that might make us pay more at the pump?

Benjamin Woolley in his essay Cyberspace discussed the idea of the global village and how this village has become smaller and smaller due to the advent of cyberspace and the internet. "Television has become our eyes, the telephone our mouths and ears; our brains are the interchange for a nervous system that stretches across the whole world - we have breached the terminating barrier of the skin (Woolley)." How does Woolley relate to the issues in Chad? The threats of a small African country would barely have had more than a slight blip on the global radar a decade ago but now with the internet dominating our lives we can no longer ignore the threats of a country like Chad. The issues that affect Chad become the issues that affect us because we read about them on the internet or see them on CNN. The global village is an interesting concept when applied to the field of international politics because it helps to exaplin how the world is interrealted and why a threat in Africa can effect all us living in America.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

HAMAS vs Israel Round 1

To say that the attack is Tel Aviv was the first round in the saga between HAMAS and Israel would be a drastic understatement. Let me be very clear, HAMAS did not claim responsibility for the suicide bombing on April 17, that dubious distintiction would fall on the shoulders of the fundamentalist group Islamic Jihad. But this did set up a tense battle between the HAMAS run Palestinian government and the Israeli government. HAMAS has a history of supporting terrorism in the region, primarily directed at Israel and from the very moment they won election there was a call from Israel and other western countries for HAMAS to come out against terrorism and acknowledge Israel's right to exist. This has not happened and the United States, European Union, and Israel have cut off any funding that went to the previous Palestinian regime.

Though HAMAS might not have had any direct relationship with this attack their true colors did shine through. If they had hoped to ever develop peaceful relationships with any significant international players they had to come out against terrorism and they did the exact opposite. HAMAS spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the attack was justified because the Palestinian people were in a state of self defense and that it was in reaction to the continued Zionist crimes carried out by Israel. Even the most unintelligent observer could see that this does not qualify as coming out against Terrorism.

As I have said before, we need to care about what happens in Israel and the state of peace in the region. Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and we need to care if they are in a state of war or in peaceful cooperation with their neighbors. The internet has made our world a mouse click away and news travels faster than ever before. Now a video of Osama Bin Ladin or any Islamic Fundamentalist can be delivered at the headquarters of Al-Jazeera and the world can see the video in living color in seconds through cable news or the internet websites that distribute the video. This impacts our lives and we must be aware of the situation.

Imagine the situation that would occur if in a hypothetical situation Israel was wiped off the map and Arab and Islamic Fundamentalists took control of the entire area. It would push the only stable ally in the region out and create an even more unstable environment. And what may I ask is right in the middle of the Mid East? Oil. Lots of Oil. And because it today's climate of cyber-connections everyone would see it happening and gas prices would sky rocket. The economy would plummet and America would see a depression that hasn't been seen since the Hoover Administration. The internet has connected the world and we as Americans need to care about our freedoms and we need to care about what happens with the peace process in Israel.

Monday, April 17, 2006

What's The Freakin Point?

The question you might ask is what is the point? Why do I care about what happens with a HAMA election in Palestine or that Egypt finally had opposition opponents on the Presidential election ballot against Hosni Mubarek? Or why do I care that Tony Blair faces opposition in the British parliament? You probably don't care but you should. You should care about the world and understand its intricacies. We live in a world where countries are more connected than ever before, we no longer live in a Cold War mentality that allows us to promote isolationism and survive. We have to adapt and adjust our lives to continue to survive as the world's superpower. We have to take an interest because these things affect our country and our freedom and liberty as Americans.

We can no longer duck our heads to the sand and hope that the problems just go away. I have problems with the War in Iraq and I question some things about the build up and now more importantly the exit strategy. But that doesn't mean that I am opposed to the war, I have concerns but I think the War in Iraq sent a clear message to the world that the foreign policy of the United States is changing and we will defend ourselves preemptively if necessary.

Why should you care about Egypt? Because since the Camp David Accords that created the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab country they have been the number two recipient of foreign aid from America (behind Israel). Are you starting to see the importance and the impact on your life. You tax dollars are funding these governments, you care about your own when your tax dollars are involved. Why not care where the rest of your money goes?

I am going to look at many different issues from varying viewpoints and discussions to better understand international events. And the impact they have on your life.