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Archive for August, 2010

The Secret War on Terror

In May 2010, the U.S. launched an air strike against an Al Qaeda stronghold located in Yemen. While many news agencies reported this as a success, it turns out that this strike actually killed the province’s deputy governor. This respected leader had been using political means to try to convince Al Qaeda that the terrorist fight was not worth it. His tragic death was used as a rallying point for Al Qaeda supporters and portrayed as propaganda to spark a wave of anti-americanism. The U.S.-influenced Yemen president, Ali Saleh, had to essentially bribe local tribes in order to stop the ensuing violence.

The scary part is that in May the media depicted this air strike as the work of an old Soviet-era air force regiment controlled by President Saleh. However, we found out later that this was actually a secret mission ordered by the Obama administration and intentionally hidden from the public. Only recently have we discovered that there are more “shadow” missions like this one.

Although Obama won the election on a wave of anti-war sentiment, the United States has increased military and intelligence operations in about a dozen countries. These “Special Access Programs” are being conducted in countries like Pakistan and places in North Africa. Apparently since Al-Qaeda is running a covert operation against the U.S., we’re allowed to run a secret mission back.

The difference is, of course, that we are a respected country not a terrorist organization. Or at least we should be. The problem with names such as “The War on Terror” is that they justify going to war with anything that the president constitutes as “terror”. And although this president is attacking countries that actually have Al-Qaeda operatives located within them, the logic behind these attacks is very close to the Bush Doctrine.

Supporters of these attacks will say that these strikes are necessary for homeland security. They will note that terrorism has changed the world and the U.S. should change with it. The assumption behind these claims is, however, that these strikes work. Many people forget that for every innocent man or women that is killed, more children are abandoned and seek refuge and revenge through terrorist organizations. They will grow up with a strong, logical reason to hate America. We may actually be breeding more terrorists.

The Al Qaeda Yemen branch is currently as strong as ever. If we didn’t learn this lesson during the failed missions of the cold war, we should at least come to grips with it now. No matter how good our military drones and assault planes are, we can’t beat terrorists by shooting at them.

After all, in the eyes of a child whose parents were just killed by an American air strike, aren’t we the terrorists?

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As you all probably know, Obama visited Texas today. His 6 hour trip to this overwhelmingly Republican state was much more about fundraising than it was campaigning. Obama’s approval is low enough that Democratic politicians like Bill White and Mark Strama are trying to distance themselves from him. But, the highlight of this trip, at least in the eyes of thousands of UT students and faculty, was his speech in Gregory Gym.

While Obama was expected to make his appearance at 2 pm, the line outside of Gregory Gym apparently started around 9 am. There were three different kinds of tickets: “floor”, “bleacher”, and “balcony”. Once again, I was amazed with how efficiently this event ran. There were people passing out water while we were waiting and almost exactly at 12 pm the line started to move quickly into the gym.

Obama’s speech emphasized the importance of higher education in this evolving world. And to address the critics that want him to focus solely on the economy, he drilled in the point that an educated workforce is the first step to a growing economy. Like always, Obama had facts to back up his points. One-third of college students, and one half of the minority students, don’t earn a degree even after six years. Not only that, but America has fallen from 1st in the world to 12th in terms of college graduation rates in the span of one generation.

This is as close as I got.

This got me thinking. Deficit spending and unemployment benefits are only temporary fixes for the economy. Without a top-notch, well-educated workforce, however, America’s decline is inevitable. We can invest in renewable energies and biotechnology all we want; but, without innovators and critical thinkers, that money would go to waste.

As we’ve seen in the past few years, many jobs can easily be outsourced. Factories and call centers don’t have to be in America anymore. But, you can’t outsource innovation. If we have better thinkers here in America, it won’t matter how cheap labor can be in other parts of the world. Companies will succeed here as long as we have a leg up on education.

So while education may not be the answer to our current financial crisis, it may just be the fulcrum of our long term economic growth.

In other news, Naveen and I were quoted in this Dallas Morning News article about Obama’s visit.

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I’ve often heard critics say that the young people in our country are apathetic about politics. This is somewhat hard to believe. First of all, the 2008 election was a huge talking point at my high school. People who weren’t even old enough to vote were donning their “Obama ’08” t-shirts and passing out Obama stickers. But then again, presidential elections are exciting for everyone right? The real test of apathy, or lack thereof, would be how the young react to politics during a downtime.

The president’s administration recently announced that Obama would be giving a speech at UT Austin this coming Monday. This appearance will be an invitation-only event with a “limited” number of tickets for students who can show their valid UT student IDs. While he endures a record low approval rating of 44%, students were asked to line up for a chance at one of these “golden tickets” to hear him speak.

A critic may take this opportunity to predict a low student turnout to prove to the public that Obama’s “honeymoon” period is over. This was most definitely not the case. Not this president. Not at this university.

My brother, my friend, and I arrived at the Texas Union at 10:30 PM Friday night ready to camp out all night for tickets to see Obama. The line was officially supposed to begin at 10 PM, just half an hour before we got there. To our surprise, there were already at least 500 people ahead of us.

Although we weren’t sure if we were going to get tickets, we decided to wait it out. Fortunately, the Texas Democrats organized a voucher system for us to claim a line number and then return in the morning to resume the wait. This method worked flawlessly and we arrived at around 7 AM to find at least 1000 people waiting in a massive line.

The line stretches down the entire street.

Somehow, we only had to wait until 8:30 to receive our tickets. The whole process was surprisingly efficient (I guess that’s what happens when Democrats run an event).

My Golden Ticket

Besides from walking away very happy with the prospect of seeing Obama in a couple of days, I also realized something very exciting. We, the young people of the nation, are definitely not apathetic about politics.

But one question still remains: how many people would have lined up if George W. Bush was coming in to town?

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Okay, the mosque won’t be “on” Ground Zero. The Financial Times says it will be a “stone’s throw” from Ground Zero. It might take an olympic athlete’s arm to throw a stone the full two blocks that stand between the planned mosque and Ground Zero, but the fact remains: it’s pretty damn close to where the twin towers stood nine years ago.

Initially, I kind of agreed with the New Yorkers on this one. Although the 9/11 attacks obviously didn’t represent all or even a majority of Islam, it was an act of Islamic agression against our country. Because of this, it may seem kind of inconsiderate or even rude to ask New York to endorse the construction of this multi-story symbol of Islam. After all, would the Muslims appreciate it if the Christians wanted to build a church on the site of a Crusade massacre?

But then, I thought again. The majority of Islam was appalled at the actions of Al-Qaeda on September 11th. And, this mosque would actually attract these moderate muslims. Support and tolerance for this mosque could be a powerful symbol to the Islamic world that it is safe and even encouraged to be a Muslim in America. Intolerance towards religion was one of the reasons the attack on the World Trade Center happened in the first place, right?

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is with me on this one, too. Allowing a mosque to be built near Ground Zero isn’t just constitutional, it’s also a symbol of strength. This is America. We want to be known as the shining beacon that accepts all types of people. Compromising our strong values just so we can sleep better at night knowing Ground Zero is Islam-free is exactly what Al-Qaeda would have wanted.

So the construction of the mosque, which will include a 9/11 memorial, is neither insulting nor tolerable. It is, in fact, a powerful symbol of moral tenacity in an overwhelmingly intolerant world.

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How did Proposition 8 pass in California in the first place?

Nobody really knows.

But somehow it took almost two years and a gay federal court judge to finally overturn this oppressive law. Chief Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8 on the constitutional grounds of equal protection and due process. For those of you that don’t know, Proposition 8 states that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”.

For some reason many of us are under the impression that the GLBTQ movement in America has been making amazing strides in the last few years. While progress is definitely underway, same-sex marriage is only legally granted in 5 out of the 50 states. Good job America.

I never really understood the point of going out of your way to pass laws that restrict other people. It makes some sense to pass laws like drinking age or even a ban on illicit drugs. While these laws are oppressive, at least they effect everybody (i.e. on the road, in public places, etc). If you aren’t gay, why should you care if they can get married? Why should you care that they can visit their partners in hospitals? If you can help other people be happy with no cost to yourself, what’s the problem? To all the evangelicals out there, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought compassion was a key part of Christianity.

Then again if being gay is a choice, then these people are making the wrong choice, right? Actually, no. Nobody would choose to become a part of an oppressed social group. Also, there are plenty of examples of animals in the wild being gay. Darwin would concur: a gene that makes an animal “looser” and more tolerant of different mates could, plausibly, be selected for. Don’t believe me? Believe this. They are obviously born gay and should be treated just like any other citizen.

Anyway, this fight is far from over. There will definitely be multiple appeals to this decision. But, hopefully, this makes it to the supreme court and America can finally take a great step forward in the area of social justice.

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Has Obama followed through with his promise for Iraqi troop withdrawal?

Actually, yeah.

By the end of this month all U.S. combat troops in Iraq will come home. While some naysayers are still complaining that 50,000 troops will still be left in Iraq, I say that these troops are necessary for the continuing growth of a new government. These troops’ primary duty will not be combat. Instead, they will be instructed to train Iraqi troops and continue rebuilding.

It’s pretty sad the way the media portrays news. It makes sense, but it’s sad. Reporting on Iraq became drab and dull after the stories became repetitive and people started losing interest. Because of this, many Americans probably forgot that our troops were still dying and insurgents were still fighting. The fact is, July 2010 was the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq since 2008. The war was still going on and there was no end in sight…until now.

Most of us probably remember the controversy when President Bush started this terrible war. We also remember the harsh criticism he received for this decision in the succeeding years. But soon this debate started to get boring. Supporters said we were winning and opponents said one can’t win a war without a purpose.

There was no easy fix. If we pulled out, some would say those who died gave their lives in vain. If we stayed in Iraq, more troops would die and more money would be spent. Bush couldn’t flip flop on his decision by supporting a withdrawal and had McCain won, he wouldn’t have been able to branch out from his neocon, Bush doctrine supporting, political base.

So, thank you Obama for making the tough decision. We’ve helped the Iraqi government incorporate democracy and we’ve gotten rid of Saddam Hussein’s oppression. That’s a victory….right?

P.S. Happy birthday, Obama.

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Hell yeah.

A common definition of  a liberal is one who accepts change more freely than a conservative. People who accept change are often the same people who take time to think about the options and come up with new, evolved solutions. Liberals are people who evolve with the changing times instead of sticking to traditional and often out-dated viewpoints.

But, that is all conjecture. Satoshi Kanazawa, researcher for the London School of Economics and Political Science, has found statistically significant evidence that shows people who are more intelligent are more likely to claim they are liberal and less likely to claim that they go to religious services. Furthermore, a team from the “Add Health” survey group conducted a study of 20,000 adolescents. The mean IQ for someone who was “very liberal” was 106 compared to the 95 mean score for people who claimed they were “very conservative”. Don’t believe me? You might believe this.

You might be asking: so..what’s your point? The point is that liberals need to take advantage of this during elections and campaigning. I often feel as if the Republicans are always on the offensive calling liberals wimps and portraying us as flip-floppers. Democrats need to reverse this and make fun of the Republicans for being dumber than us.

The fact that Obama went to Harvard Law School was somehow a point of attack for Republicans. They called him a political elite. Democrats should have easily turned this around and said if faced with a tough situation, Obama will make a better decision because he is simply smarter than McCain.

It’s funny and sad that being smart can be a negative characteristic in today’s political climate.

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