Monday, April 30, 2007

The true politics of terrorism

We’ve heard the arguments: “support the Democrats and you support terrorists.”

Has it occurred to no one that support of Republican positions on war-making, foreign policy, religious (in)tolerance, immigration, free trade, globalization, and ‘democracy-building’ are the precipitating cause of Al-Qaeda’s use of terrorism? Combine xenophobia with economic colonialism, and the United States appears to be a monster that actually hates democracy.

It may seem troubling, but next to George Bush’s fascist totalitarian tendencies, Al-Qaeda looks like a group of freedom-fighters.

George long ago lost the battle for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people through his devotion to running a dictatorship while waving the flag of ‘freedom’. He also lost any chance at winning over the hearts and minds of those in the Middle East, desperate for change in their own cultures. Instead, George’s divisiveness, hatred of compromise and conflict management, opposition to communication, and rejection of consensus-building (except the first, all of these the true hallmarks of leadership), have led to rampant recruitment of opposition to United States policy.

The problem is the administration’s stances. It isn’t George as a person (who is offensive in his own way), or the citizens as people. It isn’t even our military. It is how and why we use our might, influence, and wealth to force our way on others, to the detriment of others. This means that it is an issue of mindset. It is our use of resources, our view of interacting with other nations, our view of economics, and our view of war.

The Democratic Party is very likely to make some big mistakes, especially when it often seems to overly pursue consensus. But the Republican positions foster consumerism, which is the biggest reason people of other states begin to despise us. When we have “a consumer society” as Pres. Bush has so often declared and supported, we create a society that is selfish, isolationist, and exploitive. Consumerism isn’t about freedom, choice, or economic success/security; it represents the worst version of us.

So here’s the test, Democratic presidential candidates: can you stand up and call on the end of consumerism? Can you say that our supposed national trait of ‘unity’ is more important than tax cuts for wealthy corporations? Can you support the health of our nation and make inroads to strengthening our global position?

Probably not, but at least a return to the center is better than a culture of divisiveness we have come to expect from the self-proclaimed ‘compassionate conservative,’ also known as ‘the decider’ who sold himself in 2000 as “a uniter, not a divider”. If that’s his self-image, then how awful it will be for him when he realizes that no one has divided the country, and the world, as thoroughly as George W. Bush.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Is your spell-check broken?

Here is my question: what is wrong with spellchecking? I mean really; who doesn’t use it? If you are talking about an e-mail to a friend, that is one thing, but if you are publishing something? Well, then you better use it.

In my (many) years of video game playing, the advent of the website GameFAQs has revolutionized gaming and made it so much easier to find out what games really have to offer. At the same time, it has been a boom to budding game aficionados that are seeking a little public notoriety. This is all great and I have taken advantage of a great deal of work that others have done. So for that, thank you!

There is a dark side to all of this, however. The people writing these FAQs and guides hate proper grammar, spelling, punctuation, or anything resembling traditional communication. It never appears to be out of spite or malice (besides the occasional ‘thru’), but simple carelessness. I’m not talking common grammatical issues, like two or to instead of too, but simply sloppy writing.

They also aren’t playing with grammar in any interesting way—I would accept Hemingway writing over Faulkner’s love of punctuation and additional clauses—but it just seems like they don’t know how to use it. But there is also an issue of consistency, so they can’t ever claim ignorance. It is possible that for many writers, English is a second language, as the site is obviously international and there is plenty of anonymity, but they are playing the American version of the game, not a European or Japanese version. They are likely in the U.S. writing for Americans.

The truth is that these people are writing 100-200 page documents that are riddled with errors; lots and lots of them. These documents are too long to be written directly online; they are clearly documents from a word processor. They just don’t use a spellchecking feature. Of course they like to draw pictures as if it were ASCII, which would make Word’s Spellchecker go crazy, but still! Why don’t they use it? It isn’t that hard—I use it to compose this blog. When I’m done, I read it over. And then I look for those angry red lines and I spell-check. Am I a dying breed?

The ultimate irony

The irony seems to be lost on everyone.

Let me start at the beginning:

The Legislative Branch (Congress) decides what the federal budget is. For years, this has meant that they allow the Executive Branch (White House) to write the budget and then the Legislators will look at it and decide whether or not to approve it. If they don’t, they will rewrite it and make something new. In either case, the budget is then sent to the President to sign into law.

Bush has made it his principle to boost the budget of the Pentagon and for warmaking in the budget but request funds for Iraq and Afghanistan separately. This has meant that instead of posting a nearly $600 billion defense budget, they can claim $500 (still record proportions). This has also served the president as implying continued authorization of his wars of choice.

As I’ve said before, Congress has more power than simply “the power of the purse,” but for argument’s sake, in separating these provisions, Bush is allowing Congress to exercise that right.

The wrinkle came in the last couple of weeks and is being finalized as we ‘speak’. The Legislative Branch has authorized over $120 billion in funding for the war this year with a required timetable for withdrawal. Bush has pledged to veto the bill.

Did you catch it? The media hasn’t. Bush asks for something, gets it, and then rejects it. And calls the Democrats names for ‘obstructing’ the war. The media has moved on as if Bush has already vetoed, suggesting that the new talk is how does Bush get the money anyway.

Here’s how it is. If Bush vetoes, he is rejecting his own war-funding. He is putting the troops in danger. He is putting U.S. chances for success in danger. He is making it more likely that the bogeyman will hate us. It isn’t the Democrats. It is President George W. Bush who is doing this with the power of the pen. A lonely man sitting in a giant room, far, far away from combat, let alone Congress, is putting his own military in danger because he doesn’t want to play well with others.

None of this is new, of course. It is Bush, with a big help from Rumsfeld and Cheney, that underfunded the soldiers on the ground, spending their money on high-tech weaponry that is useless to the occupation. It is Bush that didn’t give the body armor to every soldier and armor on Hummers. The Legislative Branch gave him unprecedented clearance and wealth to perform this war of choice. No president in history has gotten such an opportunity, and Bush couldn’t make sure that the military was properly prepared. Considering the decision to invade Iraq was being made in 2000 (before the election), one would think that three years would have been enough to properly prepare, but not this president. It is Bush that has cut funding for military hospitals, withheld military pensions, stretched the military so thin that it may be on the verge of the breaking point. He has made patriotism unpopular at a time when people were so desperate to love their country. Bush has single-handedly decimated our military. So no, I don’t buy that a war-funding bill with a timetable will ruin the world. In fact, it was what Bush asked for, what Congress needed to do, and what the people wanted. A veto of that kind of true win-win-win proposition and George will become the biggest heel in history (if he isn’t already).

Bush, it is time to start playing well with others. The war is over; its time to go home.

Monday, April 16, 2007

All wars are wars of choice.

Even self-defense is a choice. And aggression…that’s certainly a choice.

In the U.S., we really have to sell it, too. The people don’t choose to go to war easily, and Congress doesn’t either. War is a big deal.

That’s why 2003 was so shocking. There was no real debate. Democrats let Bush’s party have their way, even signing on to an open-ended authorization that could be twisted into meaning indefinite, perpetual war with anyone.

So, Mr. President, your war was a choice.

And since God doesn’t call people to go to war, to make war, to start war, you weren’t ordained to go to war.

You chose to go to war. And it is time you dealt with your choice. What are the repercussions to choosing to go to war? The war itself.

Mr. President, you aren’t a soldier. Neither was your former top man at the Pentagon. Or your second in command. At the same time, you show no compassion, mercy, or dignity as a man that has made such a choice. You are not a military strategist, so as “commander-in-chief”, your qualifications appear to be lacking. You have no sociology, psychology, cultural studies, political science, anthropology, or religious training, so you don’t seem qualified to deal with the ramifications of war. What you are, is a business man. One with a history of failure. Those are your qualifications. As the puppet president, you have failed the American people in every conceivable way: you created more bureaucracy in Washington (Homeland Security), consolidated more power (New Intelligence Czar), you made prescription drugs, health care coverage, and education more alienating, your tax cuts hurt the economy and disproportionately benefit the wealthy, you compromised the struggle to protect the environment (the first bill you signed protected arsenic producers!), you have shown virtually no skill in diplomacy, you have made the entire planet more dangerous, and I haven’t even touched on your wars of choice or your addiction to killing people.

But perhaps your worst crime is being a weasel [no, I don’t mean literally—I recognize that you are a human being—it’s what we English majors call a metaphor; ask Laura]. You only see strength in abstinence, rude behavior, equivocation, disinformation, secrecy, deceit, compromising your opponents and the playing field, lying, blind allegiance, authoritarian control, and in titles and stereotypes. The world is not black and white, Mr. President. Your political opponents are not your enemies and they don’t aid terrorists when they suggest your economic policies suck. Your tenure in office has done more damage to the United States than any in the 20th Century (and that includes Reagan’s S&L bailout—but that has nothing to do with you, right Mr. Bush?). All of these things were your choice. You chose to be the bully in both elections. You chose to respond to a criminal act with all of the fury of the American military in the bloodiest and most violent overreaction in recent memory. In doing so, your choice has exposed the flaws in our military might. Where would Iran’s nuclear program had we not invaded Iraq? Might we actually be able to threaten them?

Mr. President, you cooked the books. Own up to it. You lied to us. Admit the truth. Admit that you made a choice. No one believes it was the right choice anymore, so stop trying to convince us. I ask you to respect the office enough to show some guts as the leader—stop hiding behind the office. Maybe you looked at Pres. Clinton and said “if people think he desecrated the office, I can one-up him!” If so, congratulations, Mr. President, you have single-handedly made a world-wide mockery of the most visible symbol of democracy and undermined its credibility with your personal devotion to fascist-style leadership. But then again, that was your choice to make.*

*Make sure to thank Katherine Harris again; you sure have a lot to thank her for.