Forest Fires and Sequestration: Republicans Set Fire To America

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Fire Fighters Struggle With Flames and Budgets

Fire Fighters Struggle With Flames and Budgets

Every summer there is another record breaking forest fire immolating homeowners and ravaging communities.  2013 is no exception.

Throughout the American West, the United States Forest Service is scrambling to evacuate homes and contain destructive wildfires.  These fire epidemics are getting worse every summer.  Analysts blame urban encroaching into forests, global warming drying out the West, and bad luck.

Meanwhile, Washington’s sequestration and budget cuts have just axed the wildfire protection budget by more than forty-percent.

A gridlocked congress’s inability to act has pushed President Obama to preemptively reducing programs to offset future spending caps.  These cuts are on top of the millions lost to the sequestration eroding the Forest Service’s budget.  The Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program, responsible for controlling damaging megablazes,  has lost $208 million of its original $500 million dollar budget.   As the Forest Service chooses how to allocate its meager resources, experts are predicting worsening fires throughout  the foreseeable future.

The United States must invest in wildfire protection instead of cutting funding.  It also must spend smarter.  Proactive strategy, ranging from clearing at-risk brush to lighting clearing fires, are progressively considered the best option for the fiscally starved Forest Service.  Rather than fighting megablazes head on preemptive action curtails megablazes from ever burning out of control of threatening communities.  These preventive methods are the cheapest option to saving endangered towns; every dollar spent on prevention multiplies itself into ten dollars saved on firefighter costs.  To unlock the funds needed to reinstate funding to the Forest Services it will take political action from Congress, the institution originally responsible for the crippling cuts.

Many Republican Congressmen, ironically representing  the fire-plagued west, are responsible for the sequestration and budget cuts.  These austerity hawks are endeavoring to “starve the beast” of big government; by choking off the federal programs and taxes these zealots intend to force the nation towards smaller government.  The Republican leadership is now self-immolating its own districts to uphold a deranged ideology.  It’s no wonder Congress’s approval rating has plunged to ten percent.  Another record.

 

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Cookie-Cutter Politics: The Uniform (Failure) of America’s Two-Party System

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Republican Elephant & Democratic Donkey - Icons

Cookie-Cutter Politics

I must confess; this November will be the first time I will vote in the Presidential Elections.

In previous elections I viciously debated which candidate I should support.  The rugged individualism of the Republicans spurred my dreams while the sound theories and progressive stance of the Democrats captured my earthly pragmatism.  As each Election Day came I dithered back and forth.  I could never decide, I never voted.  I may not have voted because I was distressed by the increasingly polarized extremes of the two-party system.  I may also not have voted because I was underage.  We may never know.

This year the debate is between Obama and Romney.  I can already hear the next year of commentary, with regular exclamations of “I wish there was a third-party to vote for!”  This is a legitimate issue.  America’s polarized politics have grouped large coalitions of values into strange alliances.  This is the only way each side can garner enough support to pass any laws.  It makes all politicians seem a little too uniform.  Why do Democrats always advocate for gun control?  Why do Republicans always oppose weakening any immigration laws?

The simple answer is politicians have no alternative.

The Two-Party system strong arms politicians on both sides of the aisle into a cookie-cutter mold.  Only moderates, those who make everyone happy by fitting the textbook description of the Democrat/Republican are legitimate candidates because only they fit all the values of each of their respective parties and win the crucial nominations.  Radicals, who could make world-changing reforms, are hedged out by the system which eliminates anyone with even one misaligned value.  I imagine there are plenty of Democrats who support gun rights and Republicans who would be willing to welcome immigrants.  These men will never see office because they do not fit the mold and there is no alternative.

The American Two-Party dilemma is only those who cannot reform are elected into office.  Those with flexible ideology, who could make real reform, are shunned because they will always have at least one taboo.  It is support of the entire party or no support at all in our polarized system.  We are left with similar men with the same ideas, the same convictions, and the same restraints.

Perhaps I was right to dither; both answers were always partially wrong for me.  I feel this is the issue every American has.

Profile: Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan

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Hamid Karzai

Meet President Hamid Karzai, the first elected president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan.  After 2014 his government will be responsible for protecting the country which thousands of Americans, Afghans, and international troops have died to sustain.  It is in debate if he is up to the task.

In order to answer this question we must analyze who Hamid Karzai is

Karzai was always going to be a politician.  He first made a name for himself in the ranks of the Mujahedeen, freedom fighters resisting the Russian annexation of Afghanistan.  He gained notoriety fundraising for the Mujahedeen in Pakistan and fame by leading negotiations uniting conflicting factions and directing mass defections of domestic opposition.  In 1992 he served as the Deputy Foreign Minister in the Afghanistan government.  The Taliban’s growing influence hedged him out of the country.  It was not until the 1999 assassination of his father, by the Taliban, that Karzai began his crusade to end the radical regime.  It was not until the events of September 11, 2001 that Karzai got his opportunity.

During Operation Enduring Freedom, the NATO invasion of Afghanistan in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Karzai fought with his tribe to bring a new government to Afghanistan.  He met stiff resistance from the Taliban, who were specifically targeted him to deny Afghanistan of one of his finest negotiators.  Friendly fire, from American missiles, hit his troops and seriously injured Karzai.  He became the chairman of the transitional government and was essential to the negotiations which brought about a unified government in Afghanistan.

2004 was the peak of Karzai’s career.  He was elected the President of Afghanistan with 55.4% of the vote.  Numerous obstructions marred his presidency and public opinion depreciated.  Systematic corruption eroded public faith in the government.  Isolated and accidental killings of civilians by Afghan and NATO forces turned distrust into anger.   The Taliban was still at large in the southeastern parts of Afghanistan.  Illegal poppy fields remained the cash crop for the insurgency and the Afghan government could not cull the fields.  Karzai fiercely insisted to not use chemical herbicides against the poppy growers, due to fears of a much more volatile civil war, have stifled progress against the drugs.  IED’s, suicide bombers, and ambushes have only spread anger and dissention.

In  2009 Karzai won the reelection with only with just over fifty percent of the popular vote.  Accusations of ballot stuffing, voter intimidation, and a key opponent mysteriously dropping out just before the runoff election have left Karzai’s government under heavy suspicion.  It took over a year for him to place all of his advisors because the Afghan Parliament rejected many due to the candidate’s ties with warlords and inability to perform.

Criticisms are multiplying.  International activists have denounced his administration as one of the most corrupt in the world.  Millions of dollars of international aid have simply disappeared.  Widespread desertion is common in the Afghan military and discipline in the ranks is nonexistence.  Deserters often turn up in the ranks of the Taliban.

Karzai will be the President of Afghanistan until 2014, at which time international forces will complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan.  It is my opinion that Karzai is not up to challenge.  He has failed to rejuvenates a country which desperately needs strong leadership.  He is probably one of the best men in Afghanistan to mediate fair negotiations.  However, that is not the role of the President:  presidents must act, and Karzai does not seem to be reforming in a hurry.

Source: BBC, New York TimesBiography.com, Wikipedia

Above the Law (Of One Child Policy)

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Pink Face Tibetan Girl

Cute Enough to Risk a Second?

At the heart of every blockbuster rests a simple question: how far would you go to save a loved one?

In China, the distances are further from here to a galaxy far, far away and the trials exceed Rocky’s worst nightmares.

Having a second child in China is not just heavily frowned upon, it is against the law.  The government is ruthless and despicable in its dark crusade against the unborn: in some regions of China infanticide is commonplace, two-child mothers are forcibly sterilized, and corpses of the unborn are tossed in ditches on the side of the road.  It is little surprise that around 500 women commit suicide every day in China

There are three major routes for the daring few to have a second child.

1) Face the Fines

Wealthy families can pay the stiffs fines to have seconds.  The costs per child range with from providence to providence and with the ferocity of the population administrators.  Many of the fines range between 200,000 yuan and 300,000 yuan, $20,000 and $30,000 American dollars, per year in a country where the household income is just over $10,000 American dollars.  The costs rise quickly with additional child.  Only the elite have two children, having three is almost unheard of , and more than that seems to be sacrilege.  This path is only open to the wealthy. The 99% must look elsewhere.

2) Bribe the Bureaucrats

For the majority of the 160,000 “out of plan” children are born into China this is the best option since  corruption is a core pillar in Chinese culture.  For a bride, officials are more than happy to legitimize the paperwork for illegal children.  Loopholes in the law are stretched to the breaking point.  The second child can be declared a member of a childless family or that of a rural family which was alloted two children.  More daring families risk simply declaring the second child a twin of the legal first-born one.  As families get poorer they go to further extremes to meet the loophole conditions; it has driven some to marry relatives to hide seconds while others hide children when inspectors arrive.  This path is dangerous, however it is the only option presented to most parents.

3) Births Abroad

Middle income parents choose to have babies abroad.  Some are born in capitalist cities like Hong Kong, where the restrictions are not in place.  Others go to great distances; some fly all the way to Japan or even the United States to birth children.  Illegal clinics host the expecting mothers, paying lucrative rates, until their children are ready.  These children are then birthed  like normal babies in conventional hospitals.  The problems arise with getting the mother and baby back to the family.  Since the babies were born on foreign soil they are technically foreigners.  This makes life difficult because parents still pay hiked rates for education and health of the children.  This is generally the cheapest legal option.

Conclusion

Out of love and passion every year tens of thousands of children are born “out of plan” every year.  This is a bold statement about the indomitable nature of mankind as the desire for having multiple children survived terrifying propaganda encompassing half a century.

This situation brings to mind a quote from chaos theorist Malcolm, of Jurassic Park, “Life will find a way.”  Another, lesser known, Jurassic Park quote comes to mind as well: ” OH-MY-GO-THE-DINOSAURS-ARE-EATING-ME-SHOT-IT-SHOT-IT-SH——*crunch, crunch*.”  With its one-child policy the Chinese government is fighting the very forces of evolution.  A hundred thousand years of primal struggle cannot be snuffed out by a few misguided politicians and a little red book.

When the Jurassic side of China’s one-child-policy emerges the country will be torn asunder.  Love of family is stronger than the logic of population parameters.  These massing illegals parents and activists indicate a revolution will happen sooner rather than later.  Change is coming to China: life will find a way.

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