Monday, June 27, 2005

Mr. Ellis goes to washington?

An Ithsmus article gives Marc Eisen's opinion on a good candidate for Wisconsin Governor in 2006. From my very hometown of Neenah, WI comes Mike Ellis, a fiscal conservative and pragmatist...from the Republican party. Yes, Eisen compared Ellis to John McCain, the maverick from Arizona who doesn't build a platform on Gods, Guns, and Gays, but on campaign reform and balanced budgets, along with reorganization of the public sector. Mr. Ellis comes off as a candidate that won't bow to special interests, but rather a meek reformer and good-humored arbitrator.

All this flattery must stand up to voter scrutiny. If Ellis runs, does he plan on reforming the public sector in a way that's more efficient, or does he intend to cut it? Will he resort to common right-wing stances on Guns, Gay-Bashing, and diminishing domestic partnership benefits to gain votes? Will he be intend on taking a divided state legislature crippled by extremes and make progress? Does he plan on being a Bush syncophant or an individual in his own pary?

Eisen seems to be hopeful. Ellis certainly would bring in new possibilities to dealing with the republican-controlled legislature, something that Doyle is not very fit to do. He could bring back more moderates out of the partisan woodwork. And he's a far more moderate than a possible candidature of John Gard, who would rather lock gays in a tower and put a Jesus statue on the State Capitol. My cousin, Mr. Gard, is far too radical to be my governor.

So, let's hear more Mr. Ellis.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Democracy in Iran?

A Times article relays how hundreds of Iranian women demonstrated in Tehran today against government sexual discrimination. The demonstration was likely able to take place because of a more moderate attitude before polls open in the next presidential election.

Protestors and feminists stated that a candidate interested in promoting womens' rights would have to change the constitution, due to the fact that the rights concerned are determined strictly by Islamic Shariah law. 89 women reportedly ran for president last month, the six member Guardian Council rejected each one.

The protests reflect positive developments in Iran that wouldn't have been possible several years ago. Zahra Eshraghi, the granddaughter of the Islamic revolution's leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, agreed that many rights involving the womens' movement are sanctioned by law, but things are gradually improving.

Much scepticism is placed in current reform candidates. Feminist leaders are concerned that such candidates are simply campaigning for votes, without intent to change the law. This is likely, but the fact that politicians are paying attention to womens' issues is a progressive step. Though the problem of women's rights needs a deeper revolution than in the political sphere; social and religious revolution is perhaps more important.

But with vocalisation and organization, there is hope.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

U Dubya

Ed Garvey of the Capital Times writes about how politicians are tending to neglect the role of the University when it comes to civic engagement. Politicians writ large are choosing PAC's and lobbyists, corporations as their source for consultation on public affairs. These groups are also the ones that are able to provide most campaign funding and immediate economic benefit for said politicians. The question is then, how does this reflect democracy?

In short, it doesn't if the will of government is negociated with the few who enact money to their words. Back in the days of Bob La Follett, the Wisconsin Idea was that the concerns of farmers, laborers, artists, engineers, and other members of the citizenry would debate their concerns and ideas in more pure environments, including the academic one and civic groups. Though much has changed since then.

I take a lot of pride in my time at UW Madison. It's very much a globally-known institution, with a reputation for diverse views and conscientious thought. UW Madison ranks high as an institution of research, stem-cell research especially. The sociology program is number one in the nation (which was my specialty). UW Madison also beats Harvard in the number of CEOs that it produces, those who will lead the future markets. If those in government want to see long-run prosperity, they should focus using more funding to create a next generation of civically-involved, educated, disciplined citizens. The University system and public schools are where to start.

But the state Gop would rather cut education funding and build more prisons. Hell, it's better for the short term.
Anna Applebaum's Op-Ed bring's up the question of Amnesty International's use of the term "Gulag" to describe Guantanamo Bay. She makes several good points about mischaracterizing the United States. Soviet Gulags killed millions to keep a dictator in power, whose power could not be checked. The U.S. claims it will look into Guantanamo abuses, and has taken some steps to monitor and change. Also President Bush is hardly a Josef Stalin. Not only does he lack the same reputation and brutality, but American's can hold him accountable with little fear of being killed, especially if one is caucasian. (However, there are reports of Bush protesters being shoved out of rallies and arrested.)

Amnesty is supposed to be an independent political organization. Using the term, "Gulag" puts it in a political position against Bush's policies, and its rhetoric will do nothing but inflame those whose policies they intend to change. In other words, diplomacy calls for moderated dialogue if progressive movements are to ensue. If Amnesty wishes to change the policy in Guantanamo, they must meet with the Attorney General with their findings, while posting their research to the world in a way that doesn't cast America as a former Soviet Dictatorship.

Dick Cheney and John Bolton could also learn a lesson. If they wish to successfully engage North Korea, they would abstain from language that infuriates Kim Jong Il, and use more subtle economic threats via China to reach their objectives. But, since they haven't used this path, Kim John Il is continuing to pull out of the six-party talks.

Back to Amnesty, the "Gulag" metaphor also increases international pressure against US military operations around the world. Infuriating U.S. adversaries around the world is no way to ensure a quick end to the war in Iraq. In short, the truth about Guantanamo shouldn't be silenced, but used more diplomatically to change to policies set by those in power.

In many ways though, I think real diplomacy is taking a nap.