Thursday, November 8, 2007

Proliferation? No! Retention!

The Army has been ordered to increase its size within the next five years. To do so, it has begun retaining troops.
In addition to the problem of fewer recruits, the new "Couch-potato" generation is posing a difficult challenge for the military to overcome.
Fewer and fewer people are potential recruits.
Promotion has increased due to the need for supervision for the troops, often resulting in incompetent leaders.

What do you think about:
-incompetent leaders
-retention of troops for longer than originally agreed
-the "couch-potato" generation
-increasing the military's size

Terrorists or Monkeys?

As the United States and Americans fear terrorists, other nations may have bigger fish to fry, or should I say "bigger monkeys to fry"?
It is not the first case authorities have seen: the urban monkeys living in New Delhi have killed. On October 21 of this year, an important political leader died after falling off his first-story balcony from a pack of monkeys. The deputy mayor was peacefully reading his paper when urban monkeys attacked.
The estimated 5,500 monkeys living in New Delhi reside in the temple of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. But these monkeys usually don't stay in the temple. The Indian Parliament is has made many attempts at relocated the monkeys, like placing them in monkey "prisons" but that made animal rights group angry, or sending the monkeys away to other states but the neighboring regions refuse, or hiring more monkey catchers but even with a 450 rupees ($10.50) reward per monkey the city only has a force of three monkey catchers.
The monkeys have not only been blamed for the death of public officials but they have also broken into the Ministry of Defence, destroyed secret documents, weaseled their way through airport security and almost caused a complete shut of the airport.
Death by monkeys would seen sad during any other point in time, but seeing that we have a "war on terror" to think about, death by monkey is more than ironic.
We expect to be attack. We watch what color our national security is today, yet we can die from monkeys or chock on a pretzel.
Are we so tight that it is hard for us to accept being killed by monkeys?
Are we so scared of another 9/11 that we can't imagine another way to die?
Can we realize that other nations sometimes have bigger problems than terrorism? (unless you consider the monkeys terrorist)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

World Police

Whilst looking up more sources relating to Jacquie's post on improved relations with France, I found this:
Sarkozy insists that the USA and France work together, but remain on equal footing.
He called on the USA to acknowledge the international issues that threaten to effect every nation.
Musharraf called for a state of emergency, postponed elections and suspended constitutional rights in the name of the fight against terrorism.
Bush and Sarkozy have taken it upon themselves to threaten Musharraf into retreating.
They are demanding that Pakistan "'have the elections as scheduled, and [Bush wants] [Musharraf] to take the uniform off'".

The article focuses on the revived relationship between France and the USA, but will this relationship last?

Returning to the issue over America's self appointed state as "World Police", is it really our right to get involved?

Isn't it slightly hypocritical that Bush demands Musharraf "take the uniform off"?
While Musharraf might be using more drastic measures, isn't doing so under the same
reasoning as the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act?

French President visits Washington DC

The French President Nicolas Sarkozy made his first visit to the United States since his election to the presidency in May of 2007.

President Sarkozy spoke to Congress today about France's support in Afghanistan, the drop of the US dollar to the Euro, and criticized the Bush administration on its weak platform on global warming. But Iran was the biggest subject President Sarkozy spoke about. President Bush said that they will "work jointly to convince the Iranian regime to give up their nuclear ambitions for the sake of peace".

He said that his visit was to "reconquer American hearts". He did so by telling Congress that France is eternally in debt to America during WWII. Known in France as "L'Americain" for his love of the American workplace, culture, and core beliefs, President Sarkozy hopes to rebuilt the once great relation between the two nations.

Will this visit help heal the broken alliance left by Iraq and France's previous president Chirac?

Will it lead to better European relations with the United States?

Or was this only a publicity stunt?

Photo courtesy of

18 year-old kills 8 people in Finland

After the Columbine shooting in April of 1999, the shooting at an Amish school in
Pennsylvania in October of 2006, and the Virginia Tech shooting in April of 2007, yet again there has been a deadly shooting at a school.

This time in southern Finland at Jokela High School on November 7, 2007. The gunman has been identified as Pekka-Eric Auvinen, an 18 year-old student at the school. The gunman, who had no prior criminal record, purchased the gun less than a month before the shooting. Pekka-Eric Auvinen took the lives of seven students and the principal of the school before shooting himself in the head.

He had posted a Youtube video of his plan, giving an eerie resemblance to the Virginia Tech shooting this past year. In the video, which has been removed from Youtube, he shows off his gun and called himself a "social Darwinist". Under the screen name, Sturmgeist, which means storm spirit in German, he explained that "death and killing is not a tragedy... Not all human lives are important or worth saving."

What drives these people to commit such awful acts?

Is there anyway to prevent this from happening in the future? Can the authorities possibly predict this behavior?

Information from and a French news broadcast.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


The primaries are beginning to heat up.
Having watched them in our own class and created boardgames based around them, I don't feel the need to explain them.

Sen. Barack Obama has been deemed an "impatient" politician who will move legislation faster by changing the system.
He also claims to cut off all "strings" from lobbyists.,4670,Obama,00.html

While these two statements would be ideal, how can he guarantee to follow through with them?

Already in our class elections, interest groups have become important.

Hasn't every running candidate promised to make things move faster, or change the status quo?

If Sen. Barack Obama does manage to follow through with these promises, does he stand a chance against Sen. Hilary Clinton, let alone the republican candidate?

Senator Hilary Clinton has been accused of playing the gender card as a shield against her opponents ( while Senator Barack Obama is enduring the correlation that has been (at first accidentally) drawn between "Obama" and "Osama" (

These attacks are underhanded and irrelevant to policies, but will Clinton and Obama's gender and race respectively affect the outcome of the primaries or general election?

For each, how do you predict it will be positive or negative?

Does the emphasis on their gender and race demonstrate the increased highlight on person-oriented politics as opposed to emphasis on policies?

Suicide bombing in Northern Afghanistan

Nearly 40 are dead today, November 6, after a suicide bomber blew himself up in New Baghlan, in northern Afghanistan. Among the dead are schoolchildren and political leaders. The White House made a statement that "The terrorist attack today in Afghanistan is a despicable act of cowardice and it reminds us who the enemy is..." The Taliban condemns the attack, claiming no responsibility. The bomber has not been identified for lack of body.

Politicians came to the quiet region of Baghlan to visit a sugar factory. Among the dead are the former minister of commerce, Sayed Mustafa Kazemi, and four other members of Parliment. Many schoolchildren were wounded or killed because they had gathered to welcome the leaders.

This bombing is so unexpected because suicide bombings are normally in southern and eastern Afghanistan. It is also significant because it reflects the growing number of insurgent attacks and reflects the increased efforts of the Taliban to gain power. (Although they deny the bombing.)

With the spotlight on Iraq and occasionally Iran, Americans only remember Afghanistan when there's a bombing even though they are as great a treat as any other country that hates the United States and its policies.

Which country or countries do you think we should focus on?

Darfur Genocide: Is the international community lazy?

Since 2003, genocide has been taking place in Darfur, Sudan.
It all started when two rebel groups, who represent agrarian farmers and whose members are mostly non-Arab black African Muslims, challenged the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir. President Omar al-Bashir responded by allowing the Sudanese government to took up arms and fund local militia groups, known as Janjaweed, which translates to "Devil on Horseback". These Janjaweeds are mostly Arab black African Muslims and have been destroying and pillaging villages, murdering, raping, and torturing people along the way.

The Janjaweeds have taken as many as 400,000 lives and displaced nearly 2.3 million Darfuris. Those who are displaced live in refugee camps, nearly 200,000 reside in the neighboring country of Chad. These camps are set-up by the UN and other humanitarian organizations. Of the one million Darfuris still living in Darfur, their safety lies only in the hands of the under funded and undermanned African Union and its 7,400 peacekeeping troops.

International legislature has been written such as the Darfur Peace Agreement, and the UN Security Council Resolution 1706. The music community has also raised awareness with the release of the collaborative album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International campaign to Save Darfur, which has many of John Lennon's songs sung by artists including U2, Green Day Postal Service, Jack Johnson, and Black Eyed Peas. All proceeds go to aid Amnesty International's efforts to end this genocide.
What I'm getting at is this: Life is absurd if we just sit in front of the TV, watching a report on the Darfur genocide, and then CLICK. Off goes the TV and the genocide is no longer that important. As human beings, we should make an effort.

Sign a petition ( or ).
Participate in a rally or demonstration.
Inform others.
Voice your frustration.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Nostradamus: Do we listen or ignore him?

On October 28, 2007 the History Channel aired a documentary entitled The Lost Book of Nostradamus. The documentary interviews professors, historians, authors, and Nostradamus scholars about the recent discovery of a manuscript found in a public library in Rome, Italy.
For those of you who don’t know who Nostradamus was and why his work is so important, Nostradamus is “the go to guy for prophecies” as stated by one of the interviewed authors. He was born in 1503 and lived in the south of France. His fame comes late in life at the age of 45, when he first published his work in an almanac, which is like a modern day horoscope. The almanac was translated into languages and even read by royalty. He based his work off of the stars and celestial alignment. He is most famous for his predictions of the Great Fire of 1666 in London, the Atomic bombs, and even the assassination of JFK. As Victor Baines, the President of the Nostradamus Society in America puts it, “no doubt in my mind that Nostradamus was a true prophet”.
What are so interesting in this lost book are the water colors and Quatrains that predict important world events. The most famous prediction made in this book is that of the water color of a tall building engulfed in flames. In a deck of Tarot cards, the “burning tower card” illustrates total ruins and destruction. This water color is also linked to Quatrain I: 87 “Earth shaking fires from the World’s Center rear / Around New City the earth a quiver / Two nobles long shall wage a fruitless war / The nymph of springs pours forth a red river.” Another Quatrain predicts mass conflict based on religious and political opposition. Quatrain VI: 80 “From Fez shall ruler ship to Europe spread / Burning their cities, slashing with the sword. / By land and sea shall Asia’s kingly horde, / Blue-greed, hound Christians till they / drop down dead.” The current conflicts which have roots in opposing religious beliefs, give Nostradamus’s predictions an uncanny possibility.
Nostradamus also predicted three Anti-Christs. The first being Napoleon, the second Hitler, and the third a Muslim man from an Asian country thanks to a water color image. Nostradamus also predicted the end of the world in this recent lost book. The last seven images contain large amounts of symbolism and astrology significance. From the last seven images, it is concluded that Nostradamus predicts the apocalypse to be around 2012, the same year as many other civilizations around the world, such as the Mayan calender. There are other predictions made about the papacy and the Catholic Church, such as the short rule of Pope John Paul I and the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.
But with such a great and controversial discovery comes skepticism. Peter Lemesurier, a Nostradamus scholar, says, “I don’t think Nostradamus did any painting at all, I don’t think he was capable of it. Nostradamus was a man of words… [not] a man of images”. Many other historians share this cynical view about the lost book. Studio Crisostom, located in Rome, specializes in the restoration and analysis of antique books. They have taken the tack of proving the authenticity of the lost book. Nostradamus’s son, Cesare, was known for his talent in painting and it is suspected that he drew the water colors instead.
Although the journey and authenticity of the book is uncertain, should we ignore Nostradamus’s predictions? Or should we prove Nostradamus wrong and try and stop whatever disaster lay ahead?
If you want more information visit (for the History Channel homepage) and (for the History Channel's Nostradamus page)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Paul Tibbets: Deceased

Paul Tibbets, the man responsible for the 80,000 deaths in Hiroshima, died November 1.
He never expressed any regret for his actions.
He decided in life not to be buried due to fears of protesters defiling his grave.,,2203557,00.html#article_continue

This man was a bigot, if not a murderer.
The public opinion and perception on racial differences was dramatically different during his time period.
He ended the war much earlier than it would have ended otherwise(as you hopefully know, the Japanese didn't surrender until after the
second bomb) .
This man was following orders.
This man has expressed no regret for the countless lives he took.
This man couldn't have a grave for fear of the destruction protesters might cause it.

It was his decision.

His views and actions might be partially explained by these excerpts from an article about military psychology:

"a lifetime of learning about the rules of society and morality must be suppressed in the interests of survival. Military psychologists must help soldiers act effectively in combat-and suffer a minimum of emotional fallout afterward."

"Modern treatment for ["combat stress reaction (CSR)-a progressive psychological breakdown in response to combat-was a matter of psychological 'weakness.'"]stresses short-term desensitizing therapy and a quick return to combat. While this may seem harsh and self-serving on the part of the military, wartime studies indicate that soldiers with CSR who are treated in this fashion are less likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder than those pulled to rear-echelon units for treatment."

"Adherents believe that increasingly realistic weapons training conditions soldiers to kill reflexively-a desired outcome for the military"

Were his views simply the views ingrained in the American public by the government's propaganda?

Should he be commemorated as a hero for ending the war, or as a murderer for piloting the plane that dropped the bombs?

Do popular views fluctuate too easily? (i.e. Hero to killer) Should he be remembered for his actions as they were originally interpreted?

Does the government have the right to manipulate Americans' racial views with propaganda?

Are military methods ethical? Are they necessary?

Platform 9 3/4 vs. Muggles

As many of you may know, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, recently announced that the character of Dumbledore was gay.

When I first read this, I pondered over it, considered it along with the plot, and accepted it. However, something drove me to read the various comments that had been posted under the news article.
I was incredibly surprised.
The responses ran the gamut from supportive to ambivalent to infuriated.
Most of these had one key line that surprised me. Something along the lines of "Why did she say that?"

I don't understand how a character's sexual preference can change or ruin a book, but it does address the views of our society.

Bill O'Reilly, a conservative political commentator, referred to JK Rowling as a "'provocateur' who is 'going to let all hell break loose'".

Should JK Rowling really be accused of a detrimental act, while she is just putting the spotlight back on an issue that is ever-present in many Americans lives?

Gallup Poll released several polls addressing America's changing attitude:

Do you feel that homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle or not?

As you may know, there has been considerable discussion in the news regarding the rights of homosexual men and women. In general, do you think homosexuals should or should not have equal rights in terms of job opportunities?

Yet gay marriage still has not been legalized.

Do you think that homophobic attitudes have truly changed over the years?

What caused the vast amount of criticism Rowling's announcement made?