Saturday, September 18, 2010

Architects of UAE: I See You

Hello, Lefties!

I’m Sara, ND’s Arkie Dem. I thought it would be fun to keep y’all updated on the interesting things that go on in today’s architecture world.

I stumbled upon this and decided the United Arab Emirates is kicking our, well…democrat, if you will… in the Cool Architecture contest (if there was one, I mean). One of the UAE Government’s current architecture initiatives is Masdar, a planned city that will be the “world’s first zero carbon, zero waste city powered entirely by renewable energy sources.” It will be completed by 2016, but the renderings of this awesome city already look amazing! If you ask me, someone watched Avatar and thought “Unobtainium my ass. I'll bring Pandora to Earth!”

Possibly the coolest part of the energy-efficient technologies used to make this city zero-impact are the “sunflower umbrellas” that open during the day to give shade and store heat during the day, but close at night to allow a view of the night sky.

What I want to know is why we’re not planning on creating this kind of architecture over here. Granted, no one is building now, and we don’t have the land to have a planned city like this. I can tell you, it’s not based on an architect’s refusal. But utilizing the ingenuity and fervor the UAE would bring new life to the American city. This green architecture is absolutely gorgeous, so beauty is no longer a constraint. Implementing more energy-efficient technologies would save us money and resources. Alternative resources have been researched and developed to the extent that a ZERO-IMPACT city is now possible. There’s absolutely no excuse anymore to avoid at the very least a transfer a majority of our energy use to renewable sources.

Either way, I’m making a pilgrimage to Masdar in 2016. We’ll have graduated, but SB ’16 anyone?


For more information, go to: http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/7394/lava-wins-first-prize-for-masdar-worlds-first-sustainable-city-in-uae.html

Friday, September 17, 2010

Send college students to war in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama has said of Afghanistan, “This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity.” If that is true, every citizen between the ages of 18 to 25 should be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice. A volunteer army should not allow the rest of American young adults to disconnect from debates on just and necessary wars. Let’s analyze the nine years of evidence to find justification for President Obama’s claim.

The war in Afghanistan has no achievable goal, yet we are committing desperately needed dollars to the war in the face of a devastating recession at home. Even if every military offensive is successful and the Afghan people begin to cooperate effectively with the U.S. military, the U.S. is still left propping up a corrupt government under President Hamid Karzai. Not to mention the country’s infrastructure is non-existent or in shambles, and the population has little to no respect of the country’s political institutions.

The plan of using force to win the hearts of a people puts our soldiers in a precarious situation. Once one civilian is killed violently by a drone missile, a grenade, or a stray bullet, the entire community will be pushed away from supporting the war effort and at least one, likely two or more, person will enlist to fight for the Taliban.

What would you do if a member of your family or your best friend had been killed by a heavily armed military force from another country that does not practice your faith or speak your language? Would you risk your life to cooperate with a foreign military force responsible for civilian deaths in your community? The reality is every Afghan knows a U.S. soldier will leave if that is the order. They understand the individual Afghan does not matter to Washington or the war effort. Therefore, why do we continue to put our soldiers into villages and tell them to be armed diplomats and community organizers?

Bank bailouts are being talked about in political ads across the country with politicians trying to be more populist than the other. Is anyone mentioning that we are currently “bailing out” the central bank of Kabul? Bank failure would mean no government employee (Afghan military force) could be paid and one of the only sources of credit in the country would disappear. Because we are building a country, and not fighting a war with our military, this issue is potentially catastrophic. While the Treasury department said no U.S. taxpayer money would be given directly to the bank to protect its solvency, the U.S. will be bankrolling the government of Afghanistan for the next 10 to 50 years. Therefore, we may not be giving cash to Kabul Bank, but by subsidizing other government action we indirectly are contributing.

The U.S. will spend $105 billion (roughly one-sixth of its defense budget) on the war in Afghanistan in 2010, which is more than the $98 billion the Chinese government, second largest spender on defense in the world, spent on defense in 2009. Total spending from 2001 to 2009 in Afghanistan is $190 billion, yet experts are saying the Taliban has recovered from its initial defeats to return to nearly the same power and influence it had in 2001 when the U.S. invaded.

Why are we unable to learn from our country’s past engagements abroad and the military history of Afghanistan? You cannot kill an idea, or a culture that accepts the Taliban with force. It must be destroyed by education and economic development. Modernity and legitimate democratic governance cannot be brought in by U.S. tanks and squads of marines. Maybe that is why many NGOs and experts like Greg Mortenson, director of the Central Asia Institute that has built 145 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, believe money should be invested in the human capital of the Afghan people instead of militaries. Between the 145 schools built by the Central Asia Institute and the 300 schools built in Afghanistan by the CARE foundation not a single one has been destroyed by the Taliban. Greg Mortenson has said, “for the cost of just 246 soldiers posted for one year, America could pay for a higher education plan for all Afghanistan.”

Remember when 60 percent of people disapproved of health care legislation and politicians and the media said an anti-government revolution was brewing in this country? Then politicians began the race to see who could distance themselves more from the bill before the midterms. Well, recent polls show that 60 percent of Americans oppose the war in Afghanistan, yet our country trudges on with nation building and our country’s leaders are holding their ground that we are fighting “a war of necessity.”

People are not invested in the events of the war because it has no effect on their day-to-day lives. Even in a recession the economic costs of the war still are not enough for the issue to be a part of political platforms in the midterm elections. How would this situation be changed if every mother in the United States knew it was possible that her child was sent into a battle with no metrics for victory? Would college campuses take some time away from drinking to start organizing against a war that is taking the lives of Afghan civilians and their friends or family members? How would politicians vote if their children were going to war? To justify taking the lives of more than 1000 U.S. soldiers, and spending 1/6 of our defense budget, every young person in the U.S. should be willing to fight to protect this country. Do we have to reinstate the draft, college students included, to hold our president accountable when he calls nation building in Afghanistan a “war of necessity?”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Clean Energy: For the Good of the Economy


In the panic over midterm elections and hype about the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq an important issue has slipped under the radar in the last few months. After a flurry of outrage over the BP oil spill in the Gulf, America is once again apathetic about global warming and the future of renewable energy. We can't ignore reality: fossil fuels are inherently dirty and finite; the future of the U.S., and of the planet, lies in renewable energy.

Thankfully, a number of highly estimable leaders from both parties recognize this and banded together to do something about it. On September 13th, the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition - a coalition of 29 governors - sent a letter to the Senate emphasizing the necessity of a national renewable energy standard.

What does this mean? Recently a report was published by Ernst and Young ranking China as the best market for renewable energy investment in the world. This is not just an environmental issue; investment in renewable energy has become one of the most pressing economic matters for our country. The market for renewable energy provides thousands of jobs and holds the potential for hundreds of thousands more. In order for the U.S. to remain a viable competitor in the global economy we must, in the words of the Coalition, “pass a strong national renewable electricity standard that will require our utilities to get more of their electricity from clean, renewable resources and create…clean energy jobs in America.” The future of energy lies not in crude oil, coal and natural gas, but in the infinite sources of nature, such as wind, sun and water.

I commend these governors for reaching across party lines for the good of the country. It’s inspiring to see political leaders working together, especially in the heated, bipartisan climate of today’s politics. As divided and troubled as the U.S. is, it’s important to keep in mind that this country is, above all, land, and we as a whole must do everything we can to preserve it. And hey, if protecting our ecology boosts our economy and keeps us ahead of the game globally, that’s just an added bonus.

Photo Courtesy Lillie Catlin

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Viva Mexico

Tomorrow, September 16th, marks the bicentennial anniversary of Mexico’s independence. In 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo led the Mexican populace in a revolt against Spain. Hidalgo's famous speech Grito de Delores (the Cry of Dolores) helped start and lead revolution. Despite Hidalgo's death the following July, the people of Mexico fought for eleven years. During this time, the Grito de Dolores served as their cause, their inspiration. The speech remains a part of the Mexican identity. Every midnight of the anniversary, to kick off the celebration, the Mexican president shouts the last line of the speech: "Viva Mexico!"
Mexicans usually celebrate this day with impressive fiestas, but this year the mood is anything but celebratory. Mexicans are not hopeful for the future. A four year drug war that has taken more than 28,000 civilian lives has created an environment of fear and uncertainty. The violence is so bad that the city of Juarez and the state of Tabasco have canceled their yearly celebrations. Nearly 14,000 troops and police will patrol the streets of Mexico City during the traditional midnight celebration.
This bicentennial celebration should have been huge and festive. The Mexican government spent $232 million on this event, but Mexicans cannot find the energy to fully participate. They cannot ignore their problems. People have claimed that Americans are players in this Mexican drug war. Most of the drugs that pass through the Mexican cartels end up in American hands. And many of the weapons used for cartel violence pass from American hands to Mexican hands. If you choose to celebrate Mexico’s independence with a Margarita, don’t forget the last lines of the Grito de Dolores. “Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico! Long live Mexico!” because Mexico still struggles to live.

Hey, Gingrich, leave our Pope alone!

Newt Gingrich to present new John Paul II documentary at Notre Dame


Newt Gingrich will be showing his new movie "Nine Days That Changed The World" on campus next Monday. I didn’t believe this story when I first saw it online; then I did some digging and found that it is indeed true (it’s on the ND website), and that Castilla Gingrich actually heads a production company, and that the movie is 99.99% a political ploy. John Paul II was an amazing man and great Pope, someone who deserves to be remembered and to have his accomplishments presented in film, but why is Newt Gingrich making such a movie? Does he think that he can throw together a movie, bring it here, and suddenly we all will love him and vote for him in his 2012 bid? This is one of the best universities in the country; we are not so easily fooled.

Only Domers are allowed to exploit this university for political reasons; you can’t just convert to Catholicism, make a movie about a Pope, and then you’re in. I’m sure there are those here who support Newt Gingrich; I have a friend at Georgetown who loves the man, but I can’t stand him. He is one of the most hypocritical and unscrupulous politicians ever. He ought to stay out of politics, but recent actions and statements reveal his intentions to reenter the ring. To be fair, this scheme is not nearly as disgusting as his attention-grubbing remarks about President Obama. In that case he was blatantly lying about and disrespecting a great man; in this case he is only being manipulative and exploiting a great man. I’ll finish my comments on Newt by saying that I hope I can avoid him during his visit to campus.

Now as for the movie, it is so obviously political that it taints the solemnity of the subject matter. Pope John Paul II did great things for the world, such as combating the repression of Eastern Europe under the Soviet Union. Yet, that is not really what this movie is about. I would LOVE to see a movie about John Paul II. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to watch this one because I won’t be able to stomach looking at Newt Gingrich standing next to his third wife every other minute. The story of John Paul II does not need a host and John Paul II definitely does not need Newt Gingrich; Gingrich needs himself associated with John Paul II. I am angry that I won’t be able to watch this movie (the legitimate parts look good), but I just can’t shake off the fact that this is just Gingrich’s latest stunt to draw attention and crawl back into the national spotlight.


P.S. Check out the movie for yourself at http://www.ninedaysthatchangedtheworld.com/

GOP showing true color$ during tax debates

First off I’d like to say that green is in fact my favorite color, but as a true liberal the natural essence of fresh cut green grass is what draws me to the hue – not the similarity to the benjamins that are missing from my wallet and so closely held to Republicans heart (and votes).

I keep hearing the Republicon talking points over and over: “Raising taxes in a time of economic struggle is preposterous!” “Americans cannot afford Obama’s tax hike right now!” They’ve repeated it well, and their lemmings have taken hold. I have heard this position repeated on all major media outlets and I am repeating it, reluctantly, right now. When I hear these words come out of their mouth or read them in the news the theme song from The Apprentice instantly runs through my head, “Money, money, money, money, money, money, MONEY! Some people got to have it!... People can't even walk the street because they never know who in the world they're gonna beat for that lean, mean, mean green almighty dollar, money.”

Are they really trying to say letting tax cuts expire for only 2% of American is wholly raising taxes? A tax hike? They must be kidding, or just being extremely dramatic. What they really mean to be saying is: “Raising taxes for 2% of people in America in a time of a bourgeoisie economic free-for-all is preposterous!” “We, along with our corporate puppeteers, should not have to pay taxes. How dare you!” “And now a word from my sponsor [insert Big Business, anti-middle-class association here]...”

Without using this post to debate why Bush cut taxes in a time of war to begin with or why republicans can’t see that spending tax money for tax breaks is still, well, SPENDING money, I want to just shout something out real loud: “THANK YOU, REPUBLICANS FOR SHOOTING YOURSELF IN THE FOOT.” Woot! Woot!

The Republican fa├žade as defenders of the “middle” class (and “real folks”) has been so blatantly unveiled, by none other than themselves. If, God forbid, I were a member of the GOP, I wouldn’t touch this issue with a ten-foot pole. The fact that some of them are shows who is truly “out of touch.” They would rather fight a political fight over a couple bucks that the top 2% probably write off anyway instead of aligning with the interests of 98% of Americans who really could benefit from the tax cut extension. If they choose not to support the extension of tax cuts for 98% of Americans out of loyalty to a 2% minority of America, that’s great – our job campaigning in these last days will only get easier.

Now, let’s see how well Democrats can do with the opportunity that has been presented to us. Try these points (they seem to be working well): “Raising taxes in a time of economic struggle is preposterous!” “Americans cannot afford the Republican tax hike right now!”

If it ain't broke, don't nix it

In Ad Wars, Democrats Shy From Ties to Own Party

The above NY Times article really grinds my gears. Why do candidates have to separate themselves from successes? It is true that we did not accomplish as much as we could have since President Obama took office. It is true that our country isn’t in the best of shape. It is not true, however, that passing health care reform and bailing out our financial system were failures.

Health care reform is extremely beneficial in the long term and on an individual level, two things that are, quite unfortunately, undervalued in our politics. The bail-out was a necessity; the planning was incomplete and the execution very rough, but we can’t forget that it saved us from a dire alternative.

I can understand distancing yourself from the party on certain issues; I’m from Minnesota where Rep. Collin Peterson defines what it means to be a blue dog. Sometimes it can help you get elected and it’s definitely possible to disagree with the party stance; the diversity of opinions in the Democratic Party is a great asset. The place where this trend loses me is when it becomes systematic across the country in this year’s campaigns. It could be that this article dramatizes the issue, but I’m concerned regardless.

My major qualm is the lack of faith in the party. The Democratic brand/ideal/message is not dead. There are plenty of people out there who still support our positions or who would if only we showed them some confidence. Backpedaling from the President and Congress might win a few cheap votes from disgruntled people, but at what cost? If we say the Democratic Party is failing we undermine our future efforts to make this country great. Destruction is always simpler than construction; it is difficult to build up people’s faith in our party and our ideals, but it is very easy to break down their faith in our ability to achieve our goals. I’m probably crazy, but I think it is possible to get elected and to stick to your guns. I think you can run as a Democrat, tell the people you are confident in the government and in your ability to improve our national situation, and win. My second concern is more existential: Why even run as a Democrat if you are going to back down from nearly the entire platform? If you aren’t advancing a single plank that agrees with the party and you’re dissociating yourself from Democrats across the board, run as an independent or even a Republican. After all the GOP is proving that yelling about the current administration and big government without solid plans on what to do about them is enough to win an election.

I’m definitely not advocating strict party loyalty, (whether of the British Parliamentary or GOP nature) I am saying let’s not give up on being the party of hope and change. Two years (not even) is not enough time to accomplish everything our party set out to do. I’m not even sure I can decide on a major in the next two years (fortunately I’m a freshman). I say every candidate should confidently run on the platform they believe best serves our country and for the party they agree most with. Whoever wins, wins. I believe that the ideals of the Democratic Party are good enough in themselves that if we campaign hard and stay with them we’ll come out ahead in the end.

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's Called Desperation

What's a Republican to do when he's running a losing race against a strong 23-year incumbent Speaker of the House? Well obviously he runs an ad featuring Nancy Pelosi on a broomstick (and plane? Do you believe in magic?) and some of California's worst out-of-work actors. Thanks, John Dennis, for introducing "Freedom Water" to my vocabulary, I really missed the days of Freedom Fries.

When Marketing Makes You Cry

So I am the first to say I would never buy a car that is not union made in the United States...BUT if there was ever an ad to make my think twice about that statement, this is it:

On 9/11, Remembering the Meaning of Freedom

This weekend the anniversary of the horrible event that occurred just nine years ago and rocked our nation to its core was lost amid the shuffle of a Notre Dame home game and the opening weekend of the NFL. But now that the weekend has come to a close (and we’ve begun to recover from the tough Notre Dame loss) it’s time to remember 9/11 and what it means for us today.

Nine years ago, 2,977 people were killed in an attack by Islamic terrorists. It was a painful day for my country. I can so vividly remember coming home that day and talking to my mom on the phone to ask when she would pick me up and take me to soccer practice. She told me that there wouldn’t be soccer practice that day. Most of us can remember exactly where we were when we heard the news. It was a defining moment for our country. And yet in some ways we as a nation still haven’t figured out what it really meant. Was it an attack by Muslims or an attack by terrorists? Today we still fight over that answer.

So, let’s start with the basics, what is a terrorist? According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, a terrorist is a person who systematically uses terror (a state of intense fear) especially as a means of coercion. Yes violence is the tool, but fear, and the control fear gives to terrorists, is the ultimate goal. Fear can lead the smartest men to make foolish and irresponsible decisions. Fear leads us to complete irrationality and that is what terrorists are counting on. So is America controlled by fear?

This brings us to the crux of my problem, the so-called “Ground Zero” mosque. Let’s think about some of the fundamental guiding principles of our nation, namely life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Liberty is an important concept that is not so easily explained. Fortunately, someone realized that and soon enough we were given the Bill of Rights. It guarantees, among many valuable things, freedom of religion. And yet so many of us are now ready to throw that concept away. Principles are not laid out for just the easy times. They aren’t intended to be dropped at the very first sign of trouble. They are meant to guide us through the darkest of times when we want to give in to the terror that consumes us. And when we lose our principles to fear, terrorists win.

We always say that “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.” But every time that we associate Muslims with terrorists and persecute them as such, we’ve spoken in the languages of fear and terror. It’s a different form of negotiation, but nevertheless, it’s something that we cannot allow. When we think as the terrorists expect us to think, when we speak as they expect us to speak, and when we do as they expect us to do, that’s something worse than negotiation, that’s surrender. And America doesn’t stand for that.

The fact of the matter is not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslims. While no attack in this country could ever equal the horror that was perpetrated on 9/11, there are terrorists in this country who have attacked far more often than any Muslims ever have. According to the NAF (National Abortion Federation), since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers. The property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidents of trespassing, 1264 incidents of vandalism, and 100 attacks with "stink bombs". And worst of all, at least eight people have been killed.

I am not here to take any kind of stance on the debate of abortion (in fact I have yet to fully develop a position of my own the matter); instead I merely wish to point out that these crimes which constitute “terrorism” have been committed throughout our country, and often they been performed in the name of Jesus. How many of these places were blocks away from a church? I don’t know the answer with regards to most of these incidents, but I do know that Dr. George Tiller was gunned down on May 31, 2009 while serving as an usher at his church in Wichita, Kansas. If we are to blame the mainstream religion for its extremists, then why does this church still stand? When a priest says he would not condone such violence we understand the separation between the Church, and those who use its name to do wrong. Why should we act differently in the case of Islam? Why should we allow the terrorists their victory? Instead of responding with fear, we must respond with love, with embrace. We must prove that while we do not tolerate terrorists, we also do not let them determine how we think and act. We must show the world, that we do not let terror guide our judgments.

To close out my first official post, I would like to link to a poem, which I saw on the internet recently that summed up all my feelings with more beauty than I could ever hope to muster. It was written by a 26 year veteran of the armed forces. Read it and tell me if you can really say that it’s okay to prevent the creation of a mosque, whether it’s two blocks away from Ground Zero, or anyone else in this beautiful country. “In Arlington we lay to rest…

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Questioning Your Party Loyalty? Never Again.

I'm a bit speechless after this video. It's like a gift that just keeps on giving.

In all honesty, I think the Tourette's guy and Steve Austin had a baby. I hope you enjoy!



Leave your favorite quotes in the comment section below.

Sooner or Later...

We've all been pretty busy around here, settling in to a new routine and watching our Fighting Irish hard at work, so I have to apologize for my tardiness in covering what is a fantastic victory for freedom lovers everywhere. This past Thursday, a federal judge in California proclaimed that Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a violation of the First and Fifth Amendments in an 85-page opinion.

Despite President Barack Obama previously calling DADT a threat to national security, the U.S. Justice Department defended the policy in court. However, the Log Cabin Republicans (my favorite kind of Republican, if I have to have one) prevailed, with Justice Virginia Phillips saying she would issue an injunction barring the government from enforcing the policy.

In her opinion, she said the main argument of the defendants, that gays openly serving in the military is a threat to troop readiness, is unsupported by evidence and the policy actually have a "direct and deleterious effect" on our military. The Justice department will have the opportunity to appeal her decision, though there has been no developments as to whether they intend to challenge.

Hopefully, this ruling will spur the Senate to review and repeal DADT, which they have yet to bring to the floor. The House already voted for its appeal back in May, though the proceedings seemed to hit the brakes with little development when the Senate decided to wait until the Pentagon finished its review of the effects of openly gay servicemen in the military

If the Senate continues to wait to rule on the matter, I am fearful that midterm election results will kill the efforts to repeal DADT. With Republicans polling much stronger than Democrats in many parts of the country, a Senate shift after midterms could effectively kill the repeal of DADT and the efforts of the Log Cabin Republicans.

However, I am confident that whether it be this year, or in ten more, gay rights will inevitably prove victorious. With two consecutive rulings coming from California in favor of both gay marriage and the repeal of DADT, it is clear to me that our country is on the right path to awarding our citizens the freedoms they deserve. Of course, sooner is better than later, but later is better than never.