Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Real Old School

One of the biggest problems concerned parents have about music today is the lyrics. They worry about what words are being heard by their innocent children. They demand that companies either censor artists or put warning labels on their products. So what would a concerned parent think about the following lyrics:
"Ready to kill with their jagged-edged daggers drawn/The three aggravated braggarts staggered up the lawn/And without dragging on while the story is told/Beneath the tree they found a bag filled with glorious gold."
This particular piece seems much like the violence and bling filled lyrics of any rap song. And that is exactly how Baba Brinkman sees them too. Only he didn't write these lyrics. In fact the man that wrote them has been dead for over 600 years. That is because these "lyrics" are from Geoffrey Chaucer' Canterbury Tales. And Baba Brinkman is the guy who had the bright idea to make the Canterbury Tales into a collection of hip-hop songs.
Now this guy is no joke. He is not your average, run-of-the-mill rapper. He is a native of Vancouver and "has a master's degree in medieval and Renaissance English literature from the University of Victoria." In other words, he knows his stuff. Brinkman got the idea when he started comparing the lines of Chaucer's work to modern rap. The similarities were amazing. Like much of today's rap, the Canterbury Tales contains references to "hard living, violence, sex and the secrets to true love." The transition from page to music was almost seamless.
Brinkman has been working on his albums for awhile now. He has currently put the "Pardoner's Tale," the "Miller's Tale" and the "Wife of Bath's Tale into this updated format. The name of the album is "The Rap Canterbury Tales" and features "a picture of Chaucer wearing wraparound shades on the cover. " All in all, I think this a great idea. If anything it illustrates a point about censorship in this country.
Too often we put our prejudice views ahead of our own judgement. We think that people like Young MC, Slick Rick, Ice T, 2 Live Crew, Snoop Dog and LL Cool J (all of Brinkman's influences) could not possibly be making anything close to Chaucer's work. But the truth of the matter is that they really are. In some ways, these artists are the Chaucer's of today. They are talking about the same issues and themes. The difference is the presentation. And I think that is where censorship gets it all wrong. We don't hear the message or we misinterpret it. We only want to censor those things we disagree with. And that, of course, is wrong. Find and by this album. You may start to appreciate something that is a large part of our culture now. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Slaves No More

For anyone of African descent, this should be a red-letter day. But I seriously doubt most people would be able to tell me why this date is important in Black History. I must confess that I had no idea what happened on this day. But I do see the importance of it. I can look at the events of December 18, 1865 and know why they changed history. But what about Black youth in today's society? I don't think many of them (aside from those currently studying US history) could explain why this effects their lives even today. But the ratification of the constitutional amendment that freed the slaves is one of the most important events in the history of blacks for the United States.
It was on this date in 1865 that Secretary of State William Seward declared the thirteenth amendment ratified by 27 of the then 36 states. This date marks when the amendment was officially placed in the Constitution. Because of this amendment, black all over the United States were freed from slavery. The amendment itself was a follow-up to the Emancipation Proclamation and a way to make the abolishment of slavery permanent. But why is it still important today?
Like many of the freedoms we have been given, the right to be free from slavery is taken for granted. Many people today don't even think about slavery. When we hear about it happening in other places, it is brought to mind only briefly. But with this action, the United States put itself on a course that would lead to the eventual complete equality of blacks. It is an all-important first step. Without the 13th, other amendments, such as the Civil Rights Act, would not have been passed. This makes the 13th amendment the reason for black freedom today. But is this message lost on youth?
I believe it is. If I were to take a poll at this school, many students would have no idea what the 13th amendment is. More still would not be able to tell me if and when slavery was abolished in the United States. Some 40 years has passed since the Civil Rights Movement and the actual affects have not fully occurred. Slavery in America, at least, is gone. But ending slavery was just one step. While thinking on the 13th amendment, we must also think on what brought about the need for such an amendment and learn from that mistake.
There has been increased talk in the media about racism in America. It is clearly still a problem in some areas. Of course when celebrities are brought into the mix, the topic gets an increased spotlight. We must remember that the ignorance of racism is what brought about the need for the 13th amendment. We must learn from our mistakes. We must put our petty differences aside and move on. While I do not think that we will ever return to an era of forces servitude, I feel that the attitude that created that era still exist. It must be stamped out. We are slaves no more. We must live and work together as one equal people unseparated forever.
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Harry Potter and the Dumbass from Georgia

The widely popular Harry Potter series has been controversial since the first book hit the shelves in the late 90’s. But the only place this book as seen cases on banning and courtroom drama is in the United States. It seems we have some people in this country that didn’t pay attention to that whole “Freedom of Speech” thing in the Bill of Rights. The most recent case comes from Georgia, but it looks like Harry prevailed.
Harry Potter has traveled to many parts of the world. He has learned many languages and is friends with children of all ages. On one of his travels, Harry flew into the schools of Gwinnett County, Georgia. There were many fans of his in the local school and libraries couldn’t keep Harry around long enough for everyone. But there was one person in the county that despised Harry Potter more than the Dark Lord himself. That person was Laura Mallory. In October of 2005, she asked a local committee to ban Harry from the schools because, she says, he promotes violence and witchcraft.
But Mallory didn’t know who she was dealing with. She apparently didn’t even know what country she was living in. Her first application for banning Harry was denied. She, however, continued to fight. She appealed her case before another group of officials that told her the same thing, “Harry stays. Now get lost.” According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website, “at all levels the decision has been to keep the books on the shelves.” And Harry was pleased.
The state board of education in Georgia seems to agree with the other committees as well. They ruled that Gwinnett County did nothing wrong by keeping Harry in the schools and that the decision was ultimately up to them. So again, Harry and his friends were pleased. When asked for comment on the debacle, the Dumbass from Georgia simply said, “I didn't do a good enough legal job because I didn't hire a lawyer.” She can of course take the case to the Georgia Supreme Court, but I think Harry will do just fine. It is nice to see that freedom of speech still lives in Georgia, at least on some level. Hooray for Harry!!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Happy Birthday Alabama

Today the great, southern state of Alabama celebrates its 187th birthday. It was on this date in 1819 that the state was admitted to the Union. The state has seen many historical events over the years. Alabama is the home for the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. And while that may seem like a low point in Alabama history, the state has moved on. Of the southern states, Alabama seems to be the most organized in the areas of education, industry, technology, commercialism, and government. It is evident to me every time I visit.

In the area of education, Alabama has the city of Tuscaloosa. Since 1831, the University of Alabama has been the pinnacle of education in the state. While other great school may be in Alabama, the University is the best by far. What is so great about Tuscaloosa is its location in the state. Situated near the middle of the state, it is the perfect place for an education hub. And not far from the seat of education in Alabama is the home of the state's industrial center, Birmingham.

Named for the English city, Birmingham is the industrial capital of the South. In many areas, there is not other place like Birmingham. The city is also near the center part of the state, which allows for easier access from all points. Founded in 1871, Birmingham became a bustling metropolis in the Reconstruction Era. It quickly grew into a major producer of iron and steel. This explains the city's unofficial mascot, the Roman god Vulcan. Far to the north, another Alabama city is associated with Roman gods for a different reason. This is the technology center of the state, Huntsville.

Founded in 1805, Huntsville is one of the oldest towns in Alabama. But through the workings of NASA, it has also become one of the most technologically advanced cities in the state. Huntsville is one of the bases of operations for NASA. Many test flights and early rocket tests were performed here. To this day, many of the workings of NASA still happen in Huntsville. This attraction to technology has made Huntsville grow by leaps and bounds. Many technology firms have offices here and NASA still holds its annual Space Camp at the US Space and Rocket Center.

One of the most important sites in Alabama is the city of Mobile. By far, it is the oldest city in the state, founded in 1702 as a French fort. Today, Mobile is one of the United States' key international ports. It is home to both a navy and air force base. For the state, Mobile is a great center for commercialism and transportation.

But you can't have a working state without a seat of government. And what a more fitting place than the smallest of all these places, Montgomery. Montgomery was once the home of the Alibamu Indians (where the state's name comes from). It became a frontier settlement in 1800. Montgomery's place near the center of the state makes it ideal for the seat of government. However, it was not the first capital by a long-shot. In fact, Montgomery is the last in a line of four other capitals including Huntsville and Birmingham. The location works. It is just far enough away from the other centers to keep everything organized, yet it is convenient from anywhere in the state.

Alabama is by far the most organized southern state. Like all the southern states, it has its problems with education and race relations. However, I think Alabama has made many big strides to move into the future. With all the resources contained in the state, it would not be a surprise to see Alabama as a major player in the US economy for years to come. Happy Birthday Alabama.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Jack Is Back?

The plot of it all reads like the screenplay to a bad teen slasher flick. Five unsuspecting girls just trying to get by are slaughtered by an evil serial killer. The fact of the matter is that this is not fiction, it is the stone-cold truth. The setting for all this is the small, English city of Ipswich. The girls are prostitutes and they are all dead. Authorities have said that all the girls were killed in a similar fashion and in similar places. The whole thing points to a serial killer on the loose. In England an ominous warning has been put out. A warning that has not been heard in England since the Victorian Era, "All prostitutes stay off the street. It is not safe." The killer is still out there but already the comparisons are being made to a similar killer from England's past, Jack the Ripper.
The similarities are very real. When the Ripper Murders occurred, five victims were taken. All were prostitutes and all were horribly murdered in common areas. At this point, little is known about who is committing these crimes. Authorities are calling it a serial killer because of the similarities in victim choice and method of killing. Like the Ripper, this killer has also taken five victims. All of the girls were prostitutes and have been identified as Gemma Adams, 25; Tania Nicol, 19; Anneli Alderton, 24; Paula Clennell, 24, and Annette Nicholls, 29. The last two names were the latest victims found.
In an even more chilling turn in the case, Paula Clennell was interviewed by British media shortly before her disappearance. She was asked about the warning from British authorities to stay off the streets. In reply to the warning Clennell said, "I have to continue working the streets because I need the money." Now, she is dead. Her fears were realized.
One can only imagine the fear associated with knowing that such a killer is on the loose in your own backyard. The obvious similarities between these murders and those from the past cannot be denied. This bad copy-cat must be caught. It is odd that Jack the Ripper was never caught or even positively identified. Perhaps Jack is back. One popular theory about Jack the Ripper is that he was actually a vampire. OK, maybe it's not a popular theory, but still interesting. Is this killer a fan or is it Jack himself? Let us hope that more lives are not lost in the quest to find out.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Spice Up Your Election With Kucinich

In 2004, a spry Democratic Congressman from Ohio threw his hat into the race for the presidency. He was one of the many that were trying to gain the Democratic nomination. He didn't get it. He was overpowered in the primaries by the likes of Howard Dean and John Kerry. The only thing he had going for him were his views. But this former-bachelor from Cleveland did not let this get him down. As the 2008 election season gets into gear, Dennis Kucinich is back. And he is ready for action.
Many thought that after his recent wedding, Kucinich would fade into the background of American politics. But the Democratic party's handling of the war in Iraq has inspired him to run again. Kucinich's major disagreement stems from Democrats approval of the $160 billion dollar spending bill for the war. Kucinich said that Democrats should have listened to voters. In an interview he said, "Democrats were swept into power on November 7 because of widespread voter discontent with the war in Iraq. Instead of heeding those concerns and responding with a strong and immediate change in policies and direction, the Democratic congressional leadership seems inclined to continue funding the perpetuation of the war." So Kucinich has been pushed to return to the spotlight.
Kucinich becomes only the second Democrat to declare his campaign for president. Poll front-runners Clinton and Obama have yet to officially announce their candidacy. And Kucinich faces some deep competition from those two individuals. If Kucinich was a long shot last time, he is even more so now. With all the fresh faces running for President, how can Kucinich possible expect to get anything done? He need only stick to his beliefs.
In 2004, Kucinich ran with many big liberal values. He said that if elected president, he would seek the creation of a national peace department and universal health care. These two things alone may be very popular with voters in 2008. The American people have already spoken, through the election, that they want change in Washington. Perhaps Dennis Kucinich is that change. If not, he will at least make things interesting for Clinton and Obama. If the two front-runners follow the pattern of Democrats in previous elections, they will both start to lean more toward Moderate as election time grows near. With Kucinich in the debates, he can keep important liberal issues on the table and probably make Clinton and Obama look stupid for not agreeing. While I am not officially endorsing Dennis Kucinich for president, I am not going to say that he will not have my support in the future. I wish him luck. He is going to need it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Annan Farewell An International Challenge

At the end of this year, the UN will lose a very dynamic member. Secretary General Kofi Annan is stepping down after ten years of service. Today, Annan gave a parting address at the Truman Library in New York. In the speech, Annan gave a challenge to the world and the new UN secretary general to continue fighting for what is right. This farewell was a fitting send off for a man that has made human rights a number one priority of the UN.
The focus of the Annan speech was on the current situation in Darfur, Sudan. Over the past months, the American media has virtually ignored this story. While it makes a good investigative piece for some reporters (Anderson Cooper, etc.) the story has failed to produce little government action. This is the point Annan makes in his speech. Anna gives a list of those that share the blame for the situation in Darfur. Among them Annan lists "those valuing abstract notions of sovereignty over human lives; those whose response of solidarity puts them on the sides of governments and not people; and those who fear commercial interests could be jeopardized." Annan says that these excuses for inaction are not enough. He states, "The truth is, none of these arguments amount even to excuses, let alone justifications, for the shameful passivity of most governments."
I believe that the American government should listen to Annan's speech. We are one of those governments whose inaction has lead to the gross violations of human rights in the Darfur region. Annan does not think it is too late. But he does say that this time of inaction needs to stop. Annan says, "We have still not summoned up the collective sense of urgency that this issue requires." And while Annan has been the biggest advocate for human rights, the UN has failed to act as it could. Holding this action back, is the UN security council. On such matters, the US is often a "stick-in-the-mud" and will not lift a finger to help. It simply doesn't fit into our foreign policy to help these people. So we watch them suffer.
Annan said that the UN must start acting as one body and not let the actions of a few dictate the general assembly's course of action. Annan says, "We must develop the responsibility to protect into a powerful international norm that is not only quoted but put into practice, whenever and wherever it is needed." And he also called for preemptive actions against future atrocities when he said, "Above all we must not wait to take action until genocide is actually happening, by which time it is often too late to do anything effective about it."
Kofi Annan is leaving the UN after ten years of dedicated service. During that time, Annan has tried to make human rights the "third pillar" of the UN. And under Annan, the UN has done more in places like Rwanda, Somalia, and Darfur than any government or nation. But the incoming secretary general must continue this type of resolve. He must take his cues from Annan and look toward peace. He must not let the UN become an instrument of war. Kofi Annan was able to bring the UN into a useful role in the 21st century. Let us hope his replacement can continue such a big legacy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Love Thy Neighbors or At Least Talk

It doesn't take a foreign studies major to tell you why there is no diplomatic relationship between the US, Syria, and Iran. Our president has clearly labeled these nations as terrorists states and has refused to work with them on a plan for Middle-East stability. Even though the much hyped Iraq Study Group says it is a great idea, the Bush White House is not budging. And why this could be is beyond me. Wouldn't it make more sense to actually work with people that live in the region to help fix the region? I guess it makes too much sense.
Yesterday, old buddies (not by choice) Bush and Blair sat down for breakfast and a chat on the Middle East. Afterwards, a press conference yielded much about Bush's opinion of the Iraq Study Group's findings. The most controversial part of the report has been that the US should include Iran and Syria in talks about how to stabilize Iraq. But Bush says it is not going to happen. Unless...
Yes, our immature child of a president has set conditions for these two nations. If they meet the conditions, then they may participate in an international discussion on something that is going on in their own backyard. For Iran Bush has the following condition: "If they would like to engage the United States, they've got to verifiably suspend their [nuclear] enrichment program." And for Syria, the condition is equally ridiculous. According to the President Syria must, "stop destabilizing Lebanon's government." These two goals are completely ridiculous. It is childish to present such a challenge to two sovereign nations who want to participate in diplomatic talks. What if the tables were turned?
That would be a big laugh. If Iran and Syria were to give us demands, the current administration would laugh in their faces. So why should we not expect them to do the same. The truth of all this is in the motives. Why would Bush place such demands on Iran and Syria knowing full well they will not comply? I am beginning to think Bush wants this war to continue. I am beginning the think that the face of evil is alive and well in the White House. The United States needs the help of all Middle Eastern nations to stabilize Iraq. We stupidly created a situation that has lead to civil war. Now we need real help to calm it down. Who better to help than nations of the same culture? No one. But don't tell that to Bush.
I am fed up with the child-like nature with which international relations is handled in this country. Let me make this statement and know that I think it to be the utter truth. Bush wants our troops to die in Iraq. He wants good men and women to sacrifice themselves in the name of nothing. He wants us to be stuck in a never ending civil war that we help start. He wants to dump all these problems on the next president. He is an evil person and he should be removed from office immediately. If he is such a good Christian as many short-sighted evangelical Americans see him, then why does he act against the teachings of his religion? Why doesn't he love his neighbors as himself? Why doesn't he at least try another solution besides war? The answer is because he is an evil black-hearted war monger with a lust for blood. If we all had the power, he would be gone. This war will never end.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

From Infamy to Arrogance

The War to End All Wars was over. The United States had lost many men and had settled down into another era of isolationism. Along with that, the nation was still under the thumb of the Great Depression. A war had begun in Europe and the US was involved in weapons and money trading only. But all of that was about to change. It came like a bolt from the blue. An attack like no other ever in history. The cost was great, with 2,403 lives lost. Sunday morning on December 7th, 1941 is now 65 years behind us. But its long term affects are still seen in our military operations and how we react to tragedy.
Pearl Harbor changed the course of US history like no event since 9-11. In fact, constant comparison to Pearl Harbor was almost immediate after 9-11. The reason is simple. Since Pearl Harbor, no single event had done more damage to the United States. So it was only natural for the thought to cross peoples' minds that this was the new Pearl Harbor. A Pearl Harbor for a new generation. And just like that generation of men 65 years ago, 9-11 set off a change of events that we are still feeling the effects of today. An unending war that is costing troops their lives.
Yes, the similarities are many. But what really sets Pearl Harbor apart from 9-11 is the reaction. After Pearl Harbor, the American people rallied together with the President in a new war effort. The economy of the entire country switched over-night from depression to war. Pearl Harbor was a "day of infamy" and is still. It was not used as a political slogan. It was not used to push the radical foreign policy of a backward President. It was not used as anything. It was "infamy." And with that thought it mind, the United States set out to fight a war that really did protect the safety of all Americans.
So how has this changed. Great tragedy, like Pearl Harbor, would have never been used in the way 9-11 has. Pearl Harbor was not a great idea for use in an ad campaign. But our government has grown to use tragedy as such. And for that reason, "infamy" has become "arrogance." September 11th should have been a new day for infamy. Instead, 9-11 was seen as some arrogant politician's new toy. An instrument of war. A reason to kill. And that is a sad state of affairs. The memory of Pearl Harbor is not done justice as the world stands today.
Pearl Harbor should always be remembered as it was. It should not be polarized, glorified, or politicized to push an agenda. It should be something all nations look back on and realize that we don't need to go there ever again. We don't need that sort of loss of life. But it is not seen as such. US troops are dying everyday in a war sparked by just such a tragedy. But instead of focusing on an end, our arrogant leaders want more and more. They are demanding that more blood be spilled in their cause. This was not the cause the soldiers of Pearl Harbor died for. And our nation needs to respect their spirits and end this administration. It has gotten to that point. If Pearl Harbor could rally us one more time, maybe this nation would change for the better. And end this senseless conflict.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Study Finds Iraq Situation Sucks

As predicted in a previous entry, the Iraq Study Group has made some very obvious findings about the war. The commission, made of Washington insiders, was put together by the President to find a new strategy in Iraq. This strategy has been called for numerous times over the past couple of years. But always the response from the administration has been, "stay the course." The Iraq Study Group has done away with all that. But still its findings lead to the same conclusions many of us already knew, the situation in Iraq sucks.
One of the most controversial parts of the groups plan is the idea of "a diplomatic offensive." This plan calls for the US to get involved with Iraq's neighbors to try and resolved this conflict. The administration has said time and again that it will not talk with Iran and Syria. Bush does not want to have anything to do with them. But the Study Group disagrees. According to their report, " if we don't talk to them, we don't see much progress being made." "You can't look at this part of the world and pick and choose which countries you're going to deal with." So the US will have to bite the bullet and get to work with these talks.
While many were hoping for a more clear timetable on troop withdrawal, the Study Group did not delivery. Instead, the group blasted the administration's philosophy of "stay the course" by announcing that, "by the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq." This comes as a relief to many families wondering if their troops will ever come home for good. And if the plan is followed, the vast majority will by 2008.
Though Bush's buddies made up the majority of this group, they were quick to point out the failures of the current administration policy. Speaking of the policy the group said, "the current approach is not working and the ability of the United States to influence events is diminishing." "Our ship of state has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward." Which is what many. many people have been saying for months. It comes as no surprise because it has been obvious for awhile now that "stay the course" is not working. But our hard-headed president would not change. His arrogance has cost lives. If this commission had been established three years ago, we might not be in Iraq today.
The main focus of the report was the current state of affairs in Iraq. With the civil war situation, the study group (which did not call it a civil war) gave this warning to the administration, "The United States must not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq." "If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized." A statement that, again, has been made many times before.
Why has it taken this group to make the administration wake up about the war? Is it because of Rumsfeld? I doubt it. Is it because of Uncle Dick? I don't think so. What it boils down to is sheer arrogance in military command from the White House. The generals are bound by law to listen to the president. But he is not bound by law to listen to them. No one in the media can make a truthful claim to know what generals have told the White House. But I would bet it wasn't good. And I would also bet no one really listened. But now maybe things will change. I think the goal of 2008 is a good one. And I also think that it will look good with Republican voters if our lame-duck president brings the troops home before the presidential election. His party could use the help. But, as always, we will have to wait and see.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Racial Quotas are Racist

The supreme court is hearing a case today about racial quotas in school. It amounts to the age-old battle for affirmative action. And as liberal as I may be, affirmative action will never seem like a good idea to me. There are many that say programs such as these need to be in place in insure that school segregation does not occur, but I think it occurs anyway. In my experience, basing some one's attendance in school on skin color not only creates more problems than it solves, but it is also racist.
The reason the supreme court is hearing this case is because of two systems that are being questioned in Kentucky and Washington State. In both school districts, administration has put in place an affirmative action system for admitting students. In both cases, student were denied entry because certain racial quotas had already been met. Most people will automatically think that the students in both cases were black. That is not the case. The students denied entry were a mix group of white, black, and Latino backgrounds. And because of this system, they were told they could not attend school in these districts.
Affirmative action has always amazed me. For years, a group of people from all different walks for life have fought for equal rights for all people. This system of affirmative action is an affront to their cause. If someone is applying for a job, race should not be a factor. And that is were racial quotas come in. Because of affirmative action, employers and now schools must have a certain number of each "race" based on the makeup of the community. That is simply ridiculous. It shouldn't matter at all. And that goes double for a school.
My theory on schools has always been one of physical address. Wherever you live, you should have to attend the closest public school. Of course the exception being those that pay for private school. So if a community has 400 white students and 150 black students, they should all be enrolled in the same school. It is simple. No one was judged on color. The school district should simply look at your address and see if you are in their district. If you are not in their district, you should not go to school there. Common sense people.
When it comes right down to it, racial quotas are racist instruments. If a black guy is denied a job because he is black, that is racism. And the same is true for the white guy or the Latino guy. If two men apply for the same job and one is more educated and trained for the position, which one deserves the job? Easy answer, the educated one. I didn't ask to see if he was black or white. It doesn't matter.
The supreme court should realize what many logical thinkers already have. Racial quotas have got to go. They don't do anything but continue to divide this country on racial lines. And while that may be in the best interest for a small group of good-ole-boys, it is not in the best interest for America. Let people go to school where they live. Don't force schools to account for race when they already have to account for so much more.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bolton Out and Christmas Comes Early For Dems

With only 20 shopping days left till Christmas, Democrats on Capital Hill get their best gift since the November election. The infamous John Bolton has announced he will not seek any confirmation hearings to continue to be UN envoy for the United States. This is great news for all those in Congress who opposed him. It is terrible news for Bush because he is losing his personal mouth-piece in the UN. And Bush showed his anger about the topic today. But it was time for Bolton to go and Bush should learn an important lesson from this about future appointments.
John Bolton has been causing controversy since his first day as UN envoy. The major problem is seen as his "brusque style and whether he could be an effective public servant who could help bring reform to the U.N." Both of these comments are valid. Bolton seems to be short with those who would like to seek diplomacy instead of harshness. Bolton also has not done anything to change the UN except to make it appear useless in the media.
But more than that, Bolton's appointment was very controversial. In a very underhanded way, Bush appointed Bolton to the UN "temporarily in August 2005, while Congress was in recess." As you can imagine, Democrats and Republicans alike were pretty pissed about this sort of back-alley politics. And for those reasons, it was time for Bolton to go. His temporary appointment runs out soon. In a letter to the President, Bolton wrote, "After careful consideration, I have concluded that my service in your administration should end when the current recess appoint expires." Ouch. And so Bush was pissed.
In some statements today, the anger of the president was apparent. Speaking of Democrats, Bush stated he was "deeply disappointed that a handful of United States senators prevented Ambassador Bolton from receiving the up or down vote he deserved in the Senate." That's odd considering no one really liked this guy except Bush. Even members of the president's own party were loving the fact that he was leaving. But Bush went on to say about the Opposers, "They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time." "This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their nation." So I guess he really is upset. But he should learn a lesson from all of this.
John Bolton was a mouth-piece for the administration. He used his position of power in the Security Council to try and bully other countries to fall in line with US foreign policy. He is the reason the situations in Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Iraq remain as they have for the past three years. He has done nothing but parade the Bush party-line around the halls of the UN. And all the time he is being pushed by an administration that lust for war.
Congress has grown tired of Bush appointing his buddies to seats of power. Bush needs to see that a real UN ambassador would work with other countries, not intimidate them. A real UN ambassador would represent the country, not the current administration. A real UN ambassador would work for peace, not harsh sanctions that hurt the innocent. And by that definition, Bolton is not a real UN ambassador. Bush needs to think long and hard or he will have to endure the waiting game with Congress. As for Bolton, I wish him luck and a merry Christmas.

Friday, December 01, 2006

AIDS: Never Forget

December 1st has been known as World AIDS Day since 1988. But how many times since 1988 do you remember thinking about it as such? Many people have become desensitized to the fact that AIDS is still a huge problem in the world. They don't remember that this is not an isolated disease that affects only one group of people. This is a serious and completely preventable disease. And while doctors and scientists have made great advances in fighting the disease, more can be done by the common man to prevent this disease from spreading more than it already has.

The disease we call AIDS was first identified in 1983 by Dr. Luc Montagnier's team at the Pasteur Institute in France. Since then, scientists have identified AIDS as the epidemic of the 20th century that has spilled over just as destructively into the 21st. AIDS is spread by a virus known as HIV. HIV is a sexually-transmitted disease that can lead to AIDS after a long incubation period in the body. And because the disease is sexually-transmitted, it is completely preventable.

However, the number of people AIDS has infected or killed is very disturbing. According to health organizations, AIDS has lead to the death of 30 million people worldwide. And it is known that 40 million people are infected with HIV. In 2005 alone, AIDS lead to the death of 3.1 million people. Despite all efforts, a cure has yet to be found. Because of this, prevention has always been the most lauded way of keeping AIDS from spreading. The effort has lead to some good results, but more work needs to be done.

In the United States, AIDS is still seen as the "gay disease." And it is that prevailing thought that keeps prevention campaigns from working. In America, homosexuals are not the most infected group. In fact, AIDS is most often found in African-Americans and Latinos. But no matter what the infected group, we must overcome the ridiculous stereotypes and the moronic thoughts of "this doesn't matter because it doesn't affect me." We have to realize that has a species, this disease is harming us. If we care at all about human life, we must do more to prevent this disease in the US. For that reason, I advocate more education on sexually-transmitted diseases and prevention in schools. It is not morally wrong for us to teach kids how to save their own lives.

Worldwide, many countries have started successful prevention programs. Numbers of case are down somewhat. However, in Africa the disease is still a top killer of all age groups. In 2005, 570,000 children died because of AIDS. For prevention to work in Africa, I feel we need the involvement of a higher power. The Catholic Church has long held a tradition for the non use of condoms and other birth-control devices. For whatever backwards reason, the Church sees this as the prevention of God's work. I see it as the killing of God's people. It is high time the Catholic leadership change their stance on this issue. Saving life is more important that producing more. It is not morally wrong to save a life it all it takes is a latex condom.

This is a day for remembrance. AIDS is a real problem. We must do all we can to help prevent the spread of this disease anymore. It is also important to make sure that research continues toward the goal of finding a cure for the disease. If it takes another 25 or 50 years, it is worth it. If prevention can stop the spread, maybe by the time a cure is found, not many people will need it.