Sunday, February 29, 2004

The Military-Industrial-Infotainment Complex

The New York Times (reg'n req'd) has an article about new safety measures the Pentagon is taking to protect service members as troops are rotated in and out of Iraq.

I was opposed to the war in Iraq, but the war is now a fact of life. It's no secret I have very little faith in this administration. I think Dubya is a spoiled frat boy with a low IQ and no real political or international experience. But I have far more respect for the seasoned professionals at the Pentagon. I hope every single US service member abroad comes home safely.

I hope Dubya is not re-elected...but not at the cost of more lives. Hopefully the American people will boot him for his failure to generate American jobs, his anemic environmental policies, his callous disregard for international law, his stunning ability to alienate almost all of America's traditional allies, his failure to capture Osama bin Laden, the fact that he was AWOL from his National Guard unit, et cetera.

On the topic of the military-industrial-infotainment complex, the Manchester Guardian ran an article about how the United States is changing its policy on landmines. The Bush administration hasn't agreed to sign the treaty, but the articles claims the Pentagon's new policy calls for taking extra precautions to make sure that landmines can be reactivated or will automatically self-destruct.

Of course, the policy is set to begin two years from now. Which is safely after the elections. I wonder if this is just political cover for attacks on a President whose administration has rejected a lot of treaties out of hand, like the International Criminal Court. The administration also failed to reach a compromise at the Uruguay GATT meeting, as well as pre-emptively disavowing the ABM treaty, refusing to discuss the Kyoto protocols (which were flawed...but worthy of discussion, IMO), and killing the biological weapons treaty. Maybe Karl Rove is feeling a bit vulnerable on those issues, I doubt Dubya has a clue on any of these issues.

The pre-emptive disavowal of the ABM treaty really galls me. Why disavow a treaty before you need to do so? Just because you want to destroy international law and comity for the fun of watching the world burn? But I digress...

I'm not sure I 100% endorse the land mine treaty. I think North Korea is a pretty nasty place and I think South Korea is probably a little safer for the deterrent effect of those mines. But landmines and booby traps last a long time. Far longer than most of the conflicts that spawned them. Vietnam and Cambodia are still covered in landmines. Residue of decades-old hate waiting in the ground to kill and maim.

I wonder if there is a correlation between people's views on the morality of the actions of the US Military and their views on whether the US should sign the landmine treaty.

If war is a crime against humanity, then landmines are one of its horrors and should be banned as a step towards ending war.

But if you believe that war is a fact of life, then landmines become more of a necessary evil. Plato said that only the dead have seen the end of war.

I like Thucydides' comment that no man is so foolish as to desire war more than peace. For in times of peace, sons bury their fathers. But in times of war, fathers bury their sons.

Let me know what you think about the War in Iraq, the International Criminal Court, the Landmine Ban Treaty, the Biological weapons treaty, GATT and/or the US military-industrial-infotainment complex.

I think Zwichenzug made a good point when he said that epistemic actors are finite. I'm a bright guy, and I read a lot, but I don't claim to have all the answers. I don't even claim to have most of them. So I am always interested in other points of view. :-)

Saturday, February 28, 2004

On the topic of global oil dependence, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has an article discussing how the the North Sea reserves are expiring and this will force Europe to depend upon the Middle East for a majority of its oil by 2030. I think the subtext here is that the Europeans are concerned that America is taking military action to secure sources of oil and the Europeans may not have access to this oil. The article also discusses the conflict of interest between Europe and Russia in reference to natural gas supplies.

Friday, February 27, 2004

I just read over at Jasonblog that it is traditional to post something a little more light and fluffy on Fridays. That seems like a reasonable tradition to me. So you'll just have to wait to learn my views on the Landmine Ban Treaty and the International Criminal Court.

Today I thought I'd share with you this silly internet game I've been playing.

It's called Kings of Chaos. My friend Mark got me into it. I play a dwarf named Derdunal. I derived the name from Tyler Derdun, one of the main characters of Fight Club.

I really enjoyed the movie Fight Club and I liked the book as well. CNN has a short interview with the author, Chuck Palahniuk.

Now for a shameless plug:
If you want to give me extra dwarves in my epic battle against the orcs, click this link and follow the directions.

Zwichenzug for his Friday posting put up the Political Compass site.

My political compass:

Economic Left/Right: -1.00
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.79

Let me (and/or Zwichenzug) know what you think of the Political Compass.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Alan Greenspan today warned that the looming Social Security Crisis must be addressed for the sake the long term health of the US economy. Greenspan may as well have been talking to his hand. This is an election year and the politicians on both sides of the aisle are rushing to assure the AARP that nothing is going to happen to their entitlements. No means testing, no reduced benefits, and no sane economic policy in this country. (NY Times, registration required)

The Social Security Crisis is estimated at $45 trillion dollars. The entire US economy generated a little over $10 trillion dollars last year.

This problem is nothing new. I remember reading about it when I was in high school when we debated the elderly topic. The writing is on the wall for everyone to see, but the politicians realize that to address the problem is political suicide.

I love this country and it breaks my heart that we are unable to perform the most basic form of strategic planning. The ship of state is headed towards a waterfall and the architect of our economy is telling us to steer the other way but the elderly lobby will have none of it. The republican form of government that this country was founded upon is seriously broken.

Alan Greenspan is revered by many, but when he starts talking about Social Security and fiscal responsibility and making hard choices, he is like Cassandra, speaking the truth but treated like a fool.

I don't know what is a greater threat to the republic, the imperial dreams of Dubya, or the excessive power of the political interest groups in Washington. Tyler pointed me to this essay by Tom Tomorrow that sums up my frustration well.

Since I'm on the topic of imperial dreams, Istvan sent me this link which discusses the symptoms of facism.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

It looks as if gay marriage is going to be an election year issue. Jasonblog has a post today about how even gay republicans are upset about Bush's plans for a constitutional amendment.

I think it is morally wrong and legally indefensible to deny gays the right to marry. Actually, I wrote a 50 page paper for my constitutional law class with that exact thesis. The right to marry is a fundamental right and the bedrock of civilization according to the US Supreme Court's past opinions. Of course, it's only a fundamental right if you're heterosexual in today's America. I also wrote a resolution for Student Congress when I was in high school allowing gays to marry and to adopt children. So this is an issue I have given considerable thought over the years.

I live near West Hollywood (WeHo), but I am not gay. Lord knows I have enough opportunity. Several times in the past couple of years men have hit on me. I just politely turn them down. I am a happily married man. My wife, Sarah, is my best friend. I feel that getting married was the best decision I ever made. And why should we, as a society, deny the right to marry to any two people who love each other and want to make their commitment manifest?

In some ways I find it liberating to live among the gay men of WeHo. My masculinity is no longer an issue for me. I am very comfortable with my sense of masculinity and who I am. I no longer believe that gender is binary. Rather, I think gender is a continuum and people range all over the continuum, regardless of their plumbing.

In keeping with our theme of gender and government, but turning abroad, the Manchester Guardian has an article about straight men in Italy pretending to be gay to get out of mandatory military service. The article claims that most Italian gays and lesbians conceal their orientation to be allowed to serve their country, while these straight men shirk their duty by pretending to be gay.

I think this shows that honorable men and women come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and orientations.

The Christian Science Monitor has a short article claiming that the leaders of the Chinese government have decided that nuclear proliferation is no longer in its national interest, changing a 30 year old policy. Unfortunately, it is difficult to put the nuclear genie back in its bottle. But hopefully this will at least spur the North Koreans to stop exporting the technology to the highest bidder.

Monday, February 23, 2004

The Manchester Guardian has an interesting article about a report ordered by the Pentagon that is being suppressed by the Bush administration. The report allegedly states that climate change is a more serious threat to US interests than terrorism.

At least here in LA we have a lot of mountains and elevation away from the sea. Florida, on the other hand, is quite close to sea level. I predict that in 20 years Florida will largely cease to exist.

I enjoyed my visit to Tulsa and Okmulgee immensely. The Muscogee (Creek nation) have a very nice, renovated court house that we visited in Okmulgee. We also visited the Lighthorsemen (or Tribal police) of the Muscogee. Sarah is friend of the head of the Lighthorsemen, Mr. Washington Cummings.

On a side note, I prefer the Canadian phrase "First Nation" better than Indian, Tribe, or Indigenous Nation...so I will use the phrase First Nation from here on out to refer to these nations.

While we were in Tulsa, Sarah was honored by a domestic violence coaltion named Spirits of Hope as a "vagina warrior", or a woman who strives to improve the lives of women. Jane Fonda was also honored and later came by and asked for Sarah's card.

The Vagina Monologues were excellent. Eve Ensler performed most of them herself (Jane Fonda and a First Nations woman each performed small pieces). It is a powerful experience to have topics of ranging from orgasm and self-actualization to female genital mutilation and Serbian rape camps acted out for you in a crowd of strangers. It creates an interesting sort of intimacy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

I'm traveling to Tulsa, Oklahoma tomorrow. I'm going to attend the Vagina Monologues while I'm there and visit the Muscogee Nation.

Since I'll be out of town, blogging will be light for the rest of the week. So that you won't be totally bored, I thought I'd leave you some links.

First, you can never go wrong by clicking over to the Onion. Get Your War On is a good irreverent choice. Penny Arcade is really funny, if you are a (video) gamer. This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow is filled with scathing political humor. The back issues are freely available, but you now have to get a day pass from Salon to view the current comics.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

My friend Jason is America's best writer. He recently hosted a discussion of a website called Life After the Oil Crash. The tone of Life After the Oil Crash does strike me as a bit defeatist and tinged with hysteria. Nevertheless, it reminds readers that our supply of oil is finite.

I think the fact that our oil supply is finite is an excellent reason for the US to invest in alternative energy supplies such as solar power, wind power, geothermal power, tidal power, et cetera. The Bush Administration gives lip service to increasing energy independence, but their policies strike me as doing just the opposite in reality.

The Manchester Guardian also recently ran an article on how population growth may soon outpace our supply of potable water.

I am not a rabid environmentalist by any means. But I think we (meaning the world community) should carefully consider the dramatic impact the human race is having on the ecology of the Earth and ways to decrease our "footprint".

Monday, February 16, 2004

I recently got a new bike, I got a hybrid this time. I've been biking to UCLA for almost a year now and I thrashed my mountain bike. I've easily biked over a 1000 miles in the last 10 months. My mountain bike is a Trek 7000 and my new pride and joy is a Giant Seneca SX.