Wednesday, May 25, 2005

From Taegan Goddard's Political Wire Website

In a speech to Nebraska Democrats, the AP reports New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's take on the 2008 campaign.

"On the Democratic side, there is an impressive field of potential presidential candidates," Richardson began.

"There's Joe Biden, who may be able to bring back national security voters; Senator Evan Bayh from Indiana may be able to bring back the Midwest.

"Virginia Governor Mark Warner may bring back the South, and Hillary Clinton -- she's the only one who can bring back the White House furniture."

Dry political commentary at its best.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

True Blue Republicans, and how politics has failed them

David Brooks wrote an article Saturday about poor Repubicans, and their sway in American politics. It notes a recent pew poll showing poor representation of poor voters by both parties. The poll classifies poor demographics as socially conservative and fiscally conservative regardless of party. Regarding foreign policy, poor Republicans are hawkish, wheres their Democratic counterparts are against the war in Iraq.

Those identified as poor Republicans are, like poor democrats, critical of big business; the difference lies in how they view responsibility for their position. Poor Repulicans take more personal responsibility, but remain optimistic that individual persistence, character, and hard work will prevail against economic insecurity. Their Democratic counterparts are more likely to feel that economic security is beyond their control.

Not to say that the lefties love government assistance, while the conservatives reject it completely. Both are looking for assistance. It's only that the right-leaning poor don't want programs that undermine work ethic. Undoubtedly, the poor Republicans' position is admirable and practical. Strong work ethic, individuality, and optimism are desirable and distinguishable American traits. Our founding fathers, and mothers, thrived on there ability to innovate and survive despite adversity.

Nevertheless, I believe many rich and elitist leaders on both sides of the aisle don't pay enough attention to these poor constituents. 83 percent of the poor Republicans polled believe big business has too much control, compared to 26 percent of rich Republicans. 80 percent believe the government should help the needy, compared to 19 percent of rich Republicans. The trouble is, most Republican leaders belong to the later cohort.

Large deficits in the present, caused by miscaluculated tax-cuts and pork spending, will make difficult future goals of raising the lower class to the desired middle class. Cuts to Pell grants and Medicaid are also making it more difficult. If social movement is a goal, individual optimism is a must, but if conditions are too hostile, that mentality may slowly become more cynical.

Democrats who loathe free trade and costly welfare handouts are no better. Throwing money via a bureaucratic umbrella at the impoverished will not aid them in improving their condition. Additionally, those poor Republicans who value individuality abhore such policies. Furthermore, protectionist policies, as anyone who took economics in high school knows, cheats the consumer (unnecessarily high prices) and insults the workers by not allowing them to adapt to globalization and the increasing need for market flexibility.

The poor Republican/poor Democrat cohort has often been called "middle America." I believe true representatives of them must respect their individuality, aiding them through streamlined healthcare and education assistance. Results, testing, and accountability of such programs is a must. Which is why such programs as No Child Left Behind are a good concept (though lack of funding and state-flexibility are obstacles to its success).

Those in office must do a better job at connecting with these groups, especially running Democrats. If they want to win the next election, they're going to have to adopt "middle American values." Hopefull signs of fiscal responsibility and bipartisanship are evident in such models as Barack Obama, Russ Fiengold, Bill Richardson, and Evan Bayh. Their Republican counterparts: John McCain, Chuck Hagel are also on the right, ahem correct track.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

GO Demoncracy!

Looks like things in Uzbekistan are at an all-time low on the Democracy scale. After a riot and prison break led by Islamic opposition on Friday, soldiers began firing on protesters, killing around five hundred people. Survivors of the skirmish recalled how soldiers fired "indiscriminately at unarmed civilians and struck women and children." See article.

After the prison quagmire, some survivors went to Andijon to speak directly with President Islam Karimov about their grievances. They reported being met with further gunfire. "Tanks came, with soldiers," said Makhammed Mavlanov, a trader and Kyrgyz citizen. "Shooting started. There was no fight. It was just mass death."

The United States has finally responded to the violence, according to the Washington Post. "We certainly condemn the indiscriminate use of force against unarmed civilians and deeply regret any loss of life," says State Department spokesman, Richard A. Boucher. Condaleeza Rice has also called on Karimov to reform Uzbekistan's sketchy political environment.

The United States still considers Uzbekistan to be a partner in the War on Terror. Though if the relationship needs to be reevaluated if it continues. If the War on Terror is meant to spread democracy, hold states that use excessive force accountable, we need to do more than give allies slaps on the wrist.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Democracy When?

A New York Times article today points out how the U.S. is likely using Uzbekistan to jail terror suspects, despite the fact that Uzbekistan is known for its poor human rights record and torture of political prisoners. A February 2001 state department report reports how prisoners beaten, "often with blunt weapons, and asphyxiation with a gas mask," while other human rights groups, including Amnesty International, report torture methods such as “boiling of body parts, using electroshock on genitals and plucking off fingernails and toenails with pliers.” In regards to the Uzbek government, the State Department report states, "Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state with limited civil rights."

Regardless, the Bush administration has supported the despotic regime, led by President Islam Karimov there, and included it as an ally in the fight against global terrorism. After a 2002 visit by Karimov to the White House, Bush has said, “the world community cannot deprive this person of the moral and physical right to stand among those who have suppressed the forces of fear and terror becoming the living symbol of his country.” Since September 11,2001, the U.S. government has given more than $500 million to the country for security measures.

Since the new alliance against terror, has the U.S. pressured Uzbekistan to clean up its human rights record? According to various statements in the February 2005 article by Amitabh Pal in the Progressive magazine, Uzbekistan is as corrupt as ever. Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan stated, “Tortured dupes are forced to sign confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the U.S. and U.K. to believe, - that they and we are fighting the same war on terror.” Additionally the February 2005 State Department report on human rights abuses still finds Uzbekistan to be noncompliant.

President Bush case against Iraq and other targets in the War on Terror has brought up human rights abuses, citing Hussein’s use of chemical and biological weapons against Iraqis. The response was to invade Iraq and try to establish democracy there in order allow citizens freedom and government accountability. Why not hold Uzbekistan to the same standard?

Military action is about protecting national interests. In the case of Iraq, security was the proclaimed national interest, with neoconservative justification that spreading democracy to a despotic region would make it more secure. That being said, Iraq never attacked us. Neither did Uzbekistan for that matter.

Not that the Bush administration is alone in hypocritical alliances with despots when it comes to foreign policy. Reagan formed cushy ties with a little-known group called the Taliban in the 1980s to fight the Soviet Union and with Hussein to fight the Iranians; of course, they posed no “threat” to us then.

The main point is that our stance towards despotic regimes has been wildly inconsistent. If America is going to be the beacon on the rock that spreads democracy around the globe, the Bush administration must hold allies accountable, including themselves when it comes to torture and human rights abuses.