Category Archives: Politics

The irrigation challenge in America’s Southwest

After California Governor Jerry Brown announced mandatory state-wide water restrictions in April, reducing our wet footprint seemed to finally become a topic of household discussion; not only in California, but across the nation. But with California grabbing all the water-related headlines, it’s made it difficult for less-populated states like Arizona and New Mexico to gain ground in the national water conservation discussion.

The entire Southwest is being effected by drought, not just the Golden State. It’s important that we as Americans give proper attention to the situation in Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas, which together are home to approximately 10 million people. Arizona in particular has an interesting irrigation system in place, known as the Central Arizona Project.

The CAP is a fresh-water canal that winds its way through the state, providing drinking/irrigation water to approx. 5 million of Arizona’s 6.7 million residents. Built in 1985, the CAP is a 336-mile system of aqueducts that divert water from the Colorado River and Lake Havasu. It serves as the “largest single resource of renewable water supplies in the state of Arizona” according to its website, http://www.cap-az.com.

Canals like this are a brilliant example of how we can keep the American Southwest inhabitable for generations to come, but only if we manage to sustain them. The reduction of water levels in the Colorado River has been a primary concern for the CAP, and its members are working to limit the use of river water by the people in the region.

The electrical plant which provides power to the CAP (thus enabling the CAP to pump water to its consumer base) has recently signed an agreement with the EPA to reduce its pollution output in order to remain open until 2044; after that, the CAP’s consumer base may have to pay higher rates in order to keep the canal system pumping water and thus providing power. The CAP’s annual report for 2014 is available here.

The canal cost the state of Arizona $4 billion to construct, and while that is a hefty sum, it’s an investment in the future. Citizens of Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and California would be wise to contact their representatives and advocate for the construction of a canal on par with what Arizona has built. And with the five states listed above having a combined budget of $293.6 billion for 2015, it’s fairly evident that they could carve out enough money to build canals of their own (perhaps even conjoin them to create a sort of manmade mega-river, similar to the Colorado.)

If more states that rely on water from the Colorado River (especially those in the southwest) could construct a system of aqueducts on the same level as the CAP, then the next generation of Americans born in that region would need not worry about the source of their fresh water. All it takes is a slice of the state budget and voter initiative on the part of those who call our beautiful deserts home.

Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) and his office was unavailable for comment regarding the future of the CAP. To contact the Central Arizona Project with any questions or concerns, call (623) 869-2333 or email them at info@cap-az.com.

Sources:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._state_budgets

http://www.cap-az.com/index.php/public/annual-reports

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_population

Torture

Updated: June 18, 2015

Dianne Feinstein made a good point during her interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN: There is no good time to bring up the topic of torture. However, it was something that needed to be addressed.

I want to stress that the torture report conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee was not designed to damage the Republicans or punish the CIA operatives that carried out these acts, as some people have argued. Rather, this investigation was conducted to demonstrate America’s willingness to confront its past and show that we as a nation are not afraid to admit our mistakes.

What this report showed is that yes, we did in fact torture terror suspects in the wake of 9/11, and mistakes were made in how we conducted our “enhanced interrogation” program. But that’s not really the heart of the debate here. The question now facing the United States is “Was this justified?” I’m here to argue in the affirmative. I realize that this is not a popular opinion, but that has not always been the case. Many Americans have forgotten what the mood was like in the initial months and years following the attacks.

I have a creeping suspicion that what I write here may come back to haunt me later in my professional career, but I will not allow popular opinion to silence my views. Just as Murrow stood up to McCarthy when the rest of the nation dared not speak a word for fear of being labeled a communist, I am here to give voice to those who share my view but are too afraid to speak for fear of being labeled un-American.

The first thing to remember is we are not fighting enemy combatants, we’re fighting terrorists. If we were taking about members of a foreign country’s military then of course torture would not be justified. But the men and women in question do not give a damn about the Geneva Conventions. They fly no country’s flag, they don no uniform, and they kill indiscriminately. I realize that 9/11 was 13 years ago, but isn’t our slogan Never Forget? We should not adopt a softer stance on terrorism simply because no one has flown planes into New York skyscrapers recently.

Let me take a moment to address the arguments that some of my critics would likely bring up. Yes, the investigation into these torture cases showed that we did not obtain enough information from the suspects to prevent any one terrorist attack. But let me ask you this: If there was even the slightest chance of preventing another 9/11 at the hands of amoral psychopaths, isn’t it our sworn duty to protect the lives of the many at the expense of the few by any means necessary? It’s not an easy question to answer, but I stand resolute in saying yes. In the words of Major General Larry K. Arnold in the midst of the 9/11 attacks: “We will take lives in the air to save lives on the ground.”

The second issue is the men who were tortured by the CIA were “suspects” i.e. they were never charged with anything. I admit that this does look bad to the international community, but what so many people fail to realize is that these men are not American citizens, and therefore not protected by the U.S. Constitution (in this case the amendments outlawing cruel and unusual punishment and the right to due process.) And as far as I’m concerned, the few Americans who were alledgedly tortured by the government for acts of terrorism, most prominently Jose Padilla, waved their citizenship rights as soon as they conspired to kill masses of innocent people outside of a war zone.But what about the Geneva Conventions I mentioned earlier? Didn’t the United States violate them just like the terrorists did? Yes. Yes we did.

Torture is strictly outlawed by the Geneva Conventions, but again, these men and women waived their right to the protection of international law the second they decided to commit atrocious war crimes. While it’s true that many people believe that two wrongs don’t make a right, you would be childish to think that such black and white morality applies in extraordinary circumstances such as these. If playing dirty is what it takes to keep this country safe, then I see no problem in leveling the playing field. Doing so does not make us as bad as the terrorists because it is terrorists that we are targeting, not helpless innocents. Normally I don’t agree with the notion that peace can be obtained with both the olive branch and the arrow, but these radical groups have left us no alternative.

Unlike most journalism, topics like this are purely subjective, not objective. So my purpose here was not to inform, but to persuade. I realize that I won’t win over everyone with this article, but I wrote this piece to show that everyone has the right to voice their opinion, no matter how unpopular it may be. If we all speak up for our views, no matter how guarded, we may find that many others share the same beliefs. Once that happens, we can have a proper dialogue about the merits of our actions as opposed to keeping silent for fear of being condemned.

I’m reminded of a political comic I read awhile back that depicted a mushroom cloud towering over the National Mall. The speech bubble in the background read: “For the last time, if you don’t tell us where the bomb is, we’ll be forced to get you a lawyer.”

Photo credit to: aei.org

Can technology end police discrimination?

Updated: June 16, 2015

I’m not going to sit here and try to convince anyone that Big Brother is not watching. The NSA has made it perfectly clear that Americans are no longer entitled to privacy, and we as a people have accepted that. Why? Because of terrorism. Fair enough, but what happens when the threat is not from terrorists, but from our own police officers?

It seems our government has finally realized just how much of a liability our boys in blue have become. In response to the latest incident in Ferguson, President Obama has asked Congress for $75 million to invest in body cameras for our nation’s police officers. Highly controversial and very timely, the topic of police brutality and use of deadly force has become a daily nation-wide discussion.

Now look, I have friends who happen to be cops. I have friends who are cops-in-training. They’re college students who’re still wide-eyed and optimistic about the world waiting on the other side of their diploma. What’s their opinion on this, you ask? Simply put, it’s a mixed bag. These guys (and gals) are the future of law enforcement, and they’re smart enough to know that something has to be done about the declining public view of police officers in America. This is good, especially considering the ever-sensitive issue of race has been at the forefront of nearly every one of these cop-on-kid cases.

Think about it. Which would the American people prefer: a dead teenager in the street, or a speeding ticket? This may be a loaded question, but a valid one none-the-less. Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, both proof that the race issue in he U.S. is far from settled, especially when police are involved. And thanks to 24-hour cable news networks and the omnipresent internet, these incidents are no longer isolated.

Can you imagine how much more galvanizing the civil rights movement would have been if pedestrians with camera phones had been in the streets of Birmingham when cops were blasting blacks with fire hoses? What about if YouTube was around for the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago? Or the Watts Riots in LA a few years prior? Something tells me all of the above would have gotten more than a few hits.

The night the grand jury announced that Officer Wilson would not be charged in the shooting of Michael Brown, there were massive demonstrations and protests in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, and of course, St. Louis. And thanks to the miracle of modern media, the whole world got to see it as it was happening. Now imagine that Officer Wilson had been wearing a body camera on that fateful day in August. Would Brown still be alive? Would Wilson still have walked free? There’s no way to know for sure, but the implications are far too significant to ignore.

Equipping our nation’s police with body cams is one of the smartest moves our government can make. Sure, some may call it federal overreach, others may call it a waste of taxpayer money. But consider the amount of money in damages caused by the people of Ferguson when they burnt the city to the ground. I think $75 million worth of body cameras is a very sound investment both fiscally and morally.

One only has to go so far as to look at surrounding literature for further insight on the implications of race and police. A brilliant example of such literature is the 2000 book Driving While Black by Kenneth Meeks. In this bold book, Meeks lays bare the nature of race relations in the United States, and how profiling by police is not only possible, but occurs on a regular basis. “In 1999 in the wake of a national outcry by civil rights officials and leaders of color against the police practice of racial profiling across the country, the New Jersey state Attorney General’s office initiated an investigation into the allegation that its state troopers engaged in the practice.”

Sound familiar? That’s because it’s yet another example of history repeating itself. Take the Eric Garner incident for example. Garner was placed in a chokehold and wrestled to the ground by four police officers because he was allegedly “selling loose cigarettes.” An obese man, Garner died as a result of the altercation and the lack of oxygen it caused him. What makes the Garner incident so prominent? There was videotape. Yes, someone was recording the tussle between the cops and Garner, and the video soon got widespread media attention.

This incident shows that racial discrimination by police is not only a long-standing practice, but also an ongoing problem in our communities. Will constant video surveillance prevent deaths like those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner? Some say no, after another grand jury acquitted all four police officers who where involved in Eric Garner’s death. But I say equipping our nation’s cops with a little supervision is still a good idea.

While this may be viewed as a punishment, officers themselves may actually support the measure after conflicting reports surfaced regarding whether or not Michael Brown had his hands up during his altercation with Officer Wilson. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Police officers understandably object to the notion that one of their own would shoot someone with his hands up.” Politicians at both the national and local levels support the implementation of body cams. Most notably, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “We’re going to see the officers’ perspective, literally. I think that’s powerful.” And I agree. After all, who polices the police?

Photo credit to: abcnews.go.com

Procedure overshadows policy in immigration “battle”

Updated: June 5, 2015

How petty are we getting? I was under the impression that if Democrats and Republicans agreed on something, then it would get done (the few things they actually do agree on, that is.) But apparently this doesn’t apply to the crucial issue of immigration. Both Dems and the GOP have said that they are in favor of immigration reform, and yet they have completely halted any actual progress on passing a bill because they have slightly different ideas on how they would like to see it done.

To be accurate, a bill did pass the Senate 500 days ago, but it stalled out in the House, leading to President Obama threatening executive action in order to address the issue. And that brings us to tonight’s national address.

Honestly, I don’t even see why the mainstream media and politicians are making such a fuss over this executive action. We all knew it was coming, the president told us so himself multiple times. But of course we can’t even pass a budget anymore without shutting down the government for two weeks, so naturally Obama’s announcement is now undergoing the standard transformation from presidential duty to tyrannical power-grab.

This is Obama’s 193rd  executive order since taking office, which is nearly 100 less than his predecessor George W. Bush issued during his presidency (although you’d never know it by the way the Right have been talking.) Don’t think I’m only coming down on Republicans, either; this issue could have been handled better by both sides.

But when you get down to the most basic facts, the bare truth is that Republicans killed the immigration bill in the House, and that’s why tonight’s announcement was necessary.

The president approved of the bill that the Senate passed, and it also had the approval of all the Democrats in the House (not to mention a few House Republicans.) But thanks to the radical factions within the GOP, the bill was unable to pass the House and into law. These are the people who were bent on seeing Obama lose reelection in 2012 and are now determined to make him a lame duck president for the last two years of his “rule.”

This is very frustrating to see for someone such as myself, who voted a straight republican ticket in the midterms (no, really.) More importantly the people, the politicians and the president know that the reforms which will be pushed though the executive branch are both limited and temporary.

The only way to have long lasting and comprehensive reform is for Congress to pass a bill.

In truth, I voted a straight republican ticket in the hopes that the GOP would take back the Senate. Not because I think Republicans do a better job than Democrats, but because I knew that the GOP had a much better chance of winning back the Senate than the Dems had of winning back the House. I also understand that nothing would have gotten done in these next two years if the chambers remained devided.

Now the GOP has no excuse not to pass some sort of immigration bill (especially with the Supreme Court blocking parts the president’s executive action twice in the last six months.) If the Republicans continue with their policy of inaction, they’re going to show up to the 2016 presidential election empty handed, and that won’t resonate well with the voting public. People will look at the president and his party and say “Well, at least they tried something.”

From a purely objective standpoint, the president’s decision to push ahead with executive action was the right course to take, not just politically but also for the nation. Think of it as a tool to get the reform ball rolling. The president’s immigration strategy will go into effect this spring, and that will give the republican-controlled congress time to come up with a proper reform bill.

And the GOP will pass an immigration bill soon. How do I know? Because we’re talking about the people who’ve attempted to repeal Obamacare over 50 times since it was passed. The Republicans are going to want Obama’s reforms to go sooner rather than later.

This all may sound rather anti-GOP, but I actually believe this is a good thing. Republicans have a lot of good ideas when it comes to reforming our broken immigration system, and I believe they are going to pass a solid reform bill. Now that they won back the Senate, all they needed was for the president to give them a kick in the pants to get them moving. And Obama’s executive action will do just that.

Source(s): http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/wbush.html

http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/obama.html

Photo credit to blog.oup.com

“Dark Money” and its impact on recent midterm cycle

Updated: June 3, 2015

Dark Money is more than just a catchy phrase- it’s an emerging industry. Dark Money is a name given to 501(c)(4) organizations, which is the IRS code for nonprofits. The ingenious thing about these nonprofit organizations is they have been able to contribute unlimited amounts of money directly to political campaigns without having to reveal themselves as a donor. They can stay in the shadows because they are not being taxed on these contributions due to their nonprofit status with the IRS.

Let’s say (hypothetically) that Best Buy is a republican institution. The owners and CEOs at Best Buy have the power to set up a small nonprofit organization (a bakery for breast caner research, for example) and funnel massive amounts of money through said organization and into the war chests of republican candidates; all of which is legal.

If you think back to the previous midterm election cycle in 2010, the total amount of money brought in from sources outside the campaigns totaled $205,519,230. But as the popularity of Dark Money grew among private business owners and more organizations realized that they would not be audited by the IRS, the amount of revenue given to 2014 midterm campaigns by Dark Money groups came in at $545,605,510.

That’s a 376% increase in spending in just four years.

Now imagine what the Presidency will cost in 2016. Political scientists estimate that if a candidate were to enter the race for the White House today, they wouldn’t be taken seriously unless they already had at least $150 million in their coffers.

See what the experts at OpenSecrets.org have to say about Dark Money: https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/nonprof_summ.php

It’s important to keep in mind that not all candidates who spend the most money on the campaign trail emerge victorious (the Tom Harkin/Joni Ernst race being the most pronounced example.) But in order for lesser-funded candidates to actually win these elections, the voters have to be willing to go the extra mile and do some independent research.

A good way to start would be looking at outside sources- internet, newspapers, public records at the library -for additional info on the candidates in question. This is a great alternative to relying entirely on campaign ads, where 5-10% of Dark Money groups can be found spending their dollars.

As my old PoliSci professor once explained to me, today’s voters have the power to change our entire political system from the outside if they really wanted to, but it would take a lot of work. The choice is ours, people. If we want to stop the influence of Dark Money spending, then let’s show the corporations and special interest groups that what they’re doing will no longer stand. Let’s elect candidates that we personally have found to be best suited for the job, not candidates who look/sound the best in TV and radio ads.

Another excellent way to get involved as a voter would be to visit your local IRS branch- easily found through a google search -and demand to know why they are only auditing 1% of all 501(c)(4) organizations (Dark Money groups.) A favorite saying of mine plays well at a time like this: “We used to live in a country where the voters picked the politicians. Now we live in a country where politicians pick the voters.”

But it dosn’t have to stay this way.

If you’re tired of corporations and wealthy special interest groups controlling everything from the White House to your Mayor’s office, then use your power as a voter to do a little independent research. If the big spenders start losing elections, Dark Money groups will vanish and it will be much easier for the average voter to be heard.

Statistics from Al Jazeera America and OpenSecrets.org were used in this report.

Photo credit to watchdog.org

Homeland Insecurity

Updated: June 2, 2015

It may be just a coincidence that both Canada and the U.S. have experienced serious breaches in homeland security in the last month, but it is very important not to miss the underlying significance of it all. Let’s start from the top. One month ago Omar Gonzalez scaled the walls of the White House, ran across the lawn, forced his way into the building, and made it all the way to the East Room before finally being tackled by security (oh, and Gonzalez was armed.) And now our neighbor to the north has suffered an even more serious breach.

Omar Gonzalez
Omar Gonzalez (photo curtesy of the Washington Post)

As most of you have no doubt already heard, lone gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot Canadian soldier Nathan Cirillo to death on Wednesday in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (near Canada’s Parliament building.) Zehaf-Bibeau then entered said building and opened fire on security guards before being fatally shot. In both the American and Canadian incidents the assailants were subdued, but not before causing great alarm in their respective countries. You would think the measures used to protect important assets such as the Canadian Parliament building and the White House would be a bit tighter, especially in this age of global terrorism. I’m aware that the shock of 9/11 faded long ago, but the danger of terrorism never did; it was only temporarily disrupted.

Unfortunately, terrorism is something that will never be defeated. It only takes one person to cause a major incident, as we’ve seen firsthand in recent months. That’s why it is all the more important to stay vigilant at home and not allow these egregious breaches in homeland security occur. But in every tragedy lies a valuable lesson to be learned. Let’s examine the parallels and contrasts between Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Omar Gonzalez. Both men are thought to be mentally unstable, but for different reasons. Authorities believe that Zehaf-Bibeau was disgruntled due to a delay in receiving his passport.

According to an informative article from NBCNews.com, Zehaf-Bibeau is a radicalized Canadian who’s next move was to get to Syria in order to join ISIS. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/canadian-parliament-shooting/ottawas-parliament-hill-reopens-public-after-deadly-shooting-n233821. Omar Gonzalez, on the other hand, is an American veteran of the Iraq war suffering from PTSD. His family was quick to rush to his defense in the aftermath of the incident, explaining how he was reduced to living out of his car prior to the incident. A detailed piece on Gonzales and his personal history can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2014/09/30/alleged-white-house-intruder-omar-gonzalez-is-a-veteran-does-it-matter/.

Now, what is the most prominent trait these men share? They’re both natural-born citizens of the countries they attacked. This is further proof that domestic terrorism is alive and well. We as a nation, and indeed every nation in the world, must constantly keep an eye peeled for one of our own that could snap at any moment. I don’t want this to sound hysterical, because there is actually good reason to be concerned. Far from the fearmongering-for-ratings game that every major news network has played at some point over the years, this article is designed as a warning and a reminder: our government needs to keep a firm finger on the national pulse. Both of these incidents are repeats of previous incidents very similar in nature, and the people in charge need to start recognizing the patterns.

Michael Zehef-Bibeau
Michael Zehef-Bibeau (photo curtesy of thepunditpress.com)

Not only our government, but average citizens as well. No one can predict with 100% accuracy when the next catastrophe will strike, but it’s evident that in times of international crisis (brought on by things like Ebola and ISIS) the average person is more likely to suffer some kind of breakdown, private or public. In the case of Zehaf-Bibeau and Gonzalez, it was public. Very public. And while their’s is an extreme example, the truth is that it can happen to anyone who has experienced similar hardships. I’m not excusing their actions by any means, but I am saying that both Canada and the U.S. have to learn from these incidents and provide more help for people under physiological duress.

Think of this whole situation in terms of a mother and her toddler. If the toddler doesn’t get enough attention, he’s going to act out. If the U.S. had solved the embarrassing VA fiasco, maybe Gonzalez wouldn’t have been so disgruntled. Same applies to the bureaucracy in Canada that delayed Zehaf-Bibeau’s passport. Again, I’m not excusing the actions of either of these men. I’m simply pointing out solutions that may very well prevent future incidents of a similar nature.  While the mother/toddler metaphor may be a bit too juvenile for the seriousness of the situation, it is apt none-the-less. I believe said metaphor applies to every country, even well-established democracies.

Congress and its never-ending incumbencies

Updated: June 29, 2015

They say that to improve is to change, and to perfect is to change often. There’s no question that we’ve improved greatly as a nation in the 238 years since our founding. Senators are no longer elected indirectly through state legislators, presidents no longer have unlimited terms, and other barriers to democracy have been abolished in favor of gateways to the voting public.

Despite this, there are still many flaws in the American democratic process, one of the biggest being career politicians. The majority of Congress usually surfs to reelection every two years because of unlimited term limits and high barriers to entry for new candidates.

Look at the track record that Congress has with electing new members. As I’ve mentioned before, 90-91% of the 112th congress were re-elected to the 113th. This is terrible for a legislative body that has passed fewer laws than any other Congress in U.S. history. An even greater shock comes when one takes a look at some of the most tenured members of Congress.

John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), John Conyers Jr (D-Mich.) and Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) are the most egregious examples of career politicians. Between them they have 154 years in Congress. Let me say that again – 154 years. Their combined incumbencies predate the end of slavery.

It’s not just seemingly unending congressional terms that threaten our democracy. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get the attention of our representatives. Case in point: I tried contacting my congressman – Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) – no less than four times over the past two weeks via phone and email. The only thing I accomplished was being re-directed by various members of his staff and then forgotten about altogether.

If we are ever going to see an end to the gridlock in Washington, we’re going to have to overhaul the legislative branch. So I’m calling on you, the average voter: Don’t reelect your congressman/woman in the next election cycle. Bring someone else to Capitol Hill. I know this may be hard to hear, and I know many of you may not trust a fresh face, but it will be those fresh faces that jettison the dead weight from the body of Washington politics.

To see a full list of Congress’s longest-lasting members, and to get a better idea of how they’ve managed to stick around so long, check out this page: http://www.rollcall.com/politics/houseseniority.html.

Sources:

https://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/elec_stats.php?cycle=2012

http://www.rollcall.com/politics/houseseniority.html.

Photo credit to: timeboostapp.com & shutterstock

AZ Republicans in danger of clipping own wings

Updated: May 26, 2015

Last week reports started surfacing about Arizona republicans forming a committee to study the effects of barring indipendants from their primaries. Nothing is official yet, but before the GOP make such a bold decision, it’s very important that they consider all the ramifications. Independents have become the largest voting bloc in the state, which is a good and bad thing for republicans. But it’s also a good and bad thing for democrats. If republicans can’t manage this double-edged sword without cutting themselves, then they don’t deserve to get the independent vote in the first place.

The “problem” is independents are allowed to vote in either primary (democrat or republican) and many conservatives are worried that allowing independents to do so will hurt their platform. Essentially what they’re saying is they’re worried about the more open-minded voter “diluting” the hardcore republican candidate pool. But have any of these conservatives stopped to consider that this may be what they need? Look at Mitt Romney. He actually had a good chance of winning the White House until his fellow party members convinced him to adopt a far more conservative image.

If Arizona republicans decide it is a good idea to bar independents, it will only serve to hurt them in the long run. But it seems they haven’t put too much thought into it. Arizona GOP Communications Director Tim Sifert said in a phone interview, “No work will be done [on the committee] untill after November 4th. We’re focused right now on winning the election.”

And what about the democrats? What’s their take on this? I know independents can just as easily insert more conservative-minded candidates into democratic elections if they choose to go with blue primaries, but are the Dems just as afraid of this diluting their base as republicans are? According to Arizona Democratic Executive Director DJ Quinlan, “I think in an age where independents are the largest voting bloc in Arizona, for one of the major political parties to block them from their primaries is absolutely ludicrous. It sends the wrong signal to independents and taxpayers, since primaries are publicly funded. We have to come to terms with how we are going to engage citizens and voters, and you certainly don’t do that by excluding people.”

Quinlan went on to say that as far as the republican’s authority to exclude independents from their primaries is concerned, there is a legal precedent. “In 2013 the Libertarian party was able to limit their primaries to libertarian voters,” he said. But he was quick to add, “There is no one kind of independent, and we [democrats] welcome them to vote in our primaries.”

If we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, this isn’t just about protecting the republican base in Arizona. This is about the right to free speech and the representation of an entire group of people. What right do the republicans (or any group, for that matter) have to prevent people from voting in party primaries? It’s the right of every American to vote for who they want to represent them, whether it be in a general or primary election. Denying them that right for any reason other than being a convicted felon is a violation of the First Amendment and the Constitution in general.

(Photo credit to WN.com)

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Russell Pearce gaff holds valuable lessons for midterm voters

Updated: May 26, 2015

Most of you probably never heard of Russell Pearce before this week, or perhaps you are still unfamiliar. In any event, he is the latest in a string of Republican casualties brought on by the changing tide of the American demographic. Pearce is the vice-chairman of Arizona’s Republican party, or at least he was until he got a little too candid with his views during his radio program.

Pearce fell into the now-familiar trap of talking about a woman’s reproductive rights despite being a man – it’s a play that’s almost always sure to end badly in today’s PR climate. Pearce said that every women that uses Medicare should be required to use birth control and get their tubes tied. These remarks were part of a larger call on his part to “test [Medicare] recipients for drugs and alcohol.” Pearce went on to say, “If you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.”

The latter half of Pearce’s comments actually have validity, from a logical point of view. Where Pearce fumbled was in his failure to keep his fingers on the national pulse. His delivery came off as far too strict, even cruel. What could have been a tactful and inspiring call to personal responsibility now lies at the public’s feet as a scandal in need of punishment. Pearce’s intentions were good, but as we’re seeing more and more in today’s republicans, he couldn’t figure out how to rewrap his old-fashioned conservative principles into a minority/woman-friendly package.

After his controversial broadcast, Pearce came under fire from members of his own party. Republicans denounced his remarks in an attempt at damage control. Does it strike no one else as counter-productive for republicans to attack one of their own for views that they themselves have, simply because those views were expressed in a callous way? Instead of punishing politicians for having the courage to speak plainly about their views, we need to educate them on how to speak more tactfully. This will ensure that their message does not get lost in translation, so to speak.

Here’s a link to a Politico article that details Pearce’s defense of his actions: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/russell-pearce-resigns-110959.html

I will be voting Republican in the upcoming midterm elections, but not in defense of Pearce – quite the opposite. I will be voting republican despite Pearce’s comments, because I can see past them to their intended meaning. I know that we as a nation will benefit more from a republican majority in Congress during the last two years of President Obama’s term. Not because republicans have better ideas than the president and his party, but because republicans have a much better chance of taking control of the Senate than the democrats do of taking control of the House.

It should be clear to everyone by now that members of Congress will only vote along party lines, so the only way to ensure that legislation actually be passed is to give one party control of both chambers. Thanks to the republican’s redistricting in 2010, it  will be far easier for them to win a majority in Congress than it will be for the democrats. But not everyone knows this. What’s worse is that swing voters (who get all their information from media pundits and TV ads) are usually swayed from one candidate to another by gaffs such as Pearce’s.

It is a sad day for democracy when parents can explain party platforms to their kids better than politicians can to their constituents. But that is why I agree with what Pearce said, despite his ham-handed delivery. My parents taught me all about the republican party, what stances it takes, and why it takes them. As a registered American Independent, I am grateful that I’m able to understand the positions of both parties without having a bias toward one or the other. That is the key to voters making a difference: being able to see through the haze of flowery and inflammatory speech and onto the real issues.

Photo credit to Politico.com

The Middle East: a mistake America can’t get right

Updated: May 25, 2015

Long before Saddam Hussein first brought American troops to Iraq with his invasion of Kuwait, the Middle East had already shown the world that its countries were capable of staving off (and eventually defeating) global superpowers in combat. Look at what happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. Afghanistan is a failed state populated by poverty-stricken opiate farmers, and yet they were able to ultimately stop the Soviets from installing a communist puppet government by out-maneuvering and out-lasting the vastly superior invading force.

I would like to say that the U.S. would never have made the same mistake that the Soviets did by invading Afghanistan if it were not for 9/11, but the United States has a history of getting involved in wars that other global powers have lost. America usually has the mindset that we will somehow be better than others at fighting the exact same war in the exact same way. Case in point: Vietnam. In the 1950s Eisenhower said that the French were idiots for letting the Viet Minh outmaneuver and defeat them in battle, and yet sure enough we gradually took the French’s place in Vietnam and proceeded to be outmaneuvered and defeated in battle. We even had our own version of the French’s Battle of Dien Bien Phu that signaled our eventual defeat (the Tet Offensive.)

We are all taught from an early age that history repeats itself, a lesson that our government officials unfortunately seem to have trouble retaining. Sure enough, 40 years later America has made the exact same mistakes in Iraq that it made in Vietnam. We poured money and troops into a region where the native people viewed us as invaders and we were eventually forced to withdraw from the country after failing to make significant progress against the opposition’s guerrilla fighters. But the ironic parallels do not stop there. Two years after the last American troops left Vietnam, the Viet Cong pushed past the border into South Vietnam and secured the capitol city of Saigon. Sound familiar?

The exact same scenario is playing out right now in Iraq. Two short years after the last American troops left the country, ISIS stormed in and seized control of nearly every major city in a matter of weeks. If there was ever a clearer example of how history repeats itself (and how hopeless some wars truly are) it is this. Why do we commit ourselves as a country to “saving” the people of other nations from their own governments? Has it ever occurred to anyone that perhaps global policeman isn’t a good roll for any state to play?

Let’s continue the comparison between the Viet Cong and today’s terror groups, namely the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The Viet Cong actually had scattered support from the people of South Vietnam, especially as U.S. presence in the country dragged on. While I’m well aware that ISIS members are responsible for great atrocities, I should point out that they do have support from numerous Iraqis and Syrians (not to mention multiple Americans and other westerners who have left the West to fight for the ISIS cause.) For the uninitiated, that cause is the creation of the Islamist State of Syria and Iraq, or ISIS.

In our media we hear about ISIS members killing civilians and journalists, which is completely unacceptable. But what we don’t hear about from our media is the number of innocent civilians killed by US forces during the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is true that all of the killings brought about by ISIS are intentional, where as the casualties caused by U.S. forces are (mostly) accidental. But I doubt a grieving family would care to differentiate between the United State’s drone missiles and ISIS’s roadside bombs when at the end of the day their loved one is still in an ashtray. Maybe instead of a foreign force imposing a system of government that runs counter to the local culture, the natives would be more receptive to a local force imposing a system of government that they are all familiar with and (for the most part) accepting of.

All we have proven as a country since our shift away from isolationism is that when it comes to foreign policy, we are capable of five things: invading any country who’s actions do not suit American interests, spending ungodly amounts of money building roads and schools for these countries (even as our own fall into disrepair), killing a vast amount of the native people and enemy combatants while sustaining relatively minor casualties, imposing our own values over centuries of tradition, and compromising on our originally stated objectives before withdrawing our troops and calling the mission a success. America needs to take a page from its own textbook and realize that history always repeats itself, in every aspect of life.

Lastly, please consider the following: The Vietnam war was a result of the Truman Doctrine of containment during the Cold War, and what did that doctrine achieve? An empty treasury in the early ’90s and a Soviet state that was on its way to ruin regardless of our actions. The Iraq war was the result of the Bush Doctrine as part of the War on Terror, and what has that achieved? Weakened American prestige on the global stage and proof that we as a people are incapable of learning from our past mistakes. The world does not need nor want America to interfere in its affairs, and the sooner we get back to minding our own business, the sooner we can continue to move forward as a nation.