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These words are my diary screaming out loud

Friday, June 29, 2012

Next up...

I really want to write about the Atlantic column that's been tearing up the interwebs the last week or so. You know, the Why Women Can't Have It All one? I read it, and I read multiple responses to it, but I just can't figure out what I want to say about it. I mean really, what does "having it all" actually mean? I bet it means something entirely different for everyone.  Life is about choices. Everyone, man or woman, should make the choices that are best for their individual situation, and own them. At the same time, nobody should be given grief for their choices. Just because a woman has chosen not to pursue her career all the way to the top does not mean that she lacks ambition. And just because a woman has chosen to forgo marriage and children for her career does not mean she's lonely. Are there some cases where the above are true? Sure. But who is any outside observer to say? The world would be a much better place if we stopped caring so much about other people's lives and used that energy instead to concentrate on our own.

And no, as of now I don't plan on writing any more about the health care law, other than to quote Chief Justice John Roberts in the Court's opinion released yesterday:
We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enactthe challenged provisions. ... Members of this Court are vested with the authority tointerpret the law; we possess neither the expertise northe prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences oftheir political choices.
Basically, it's not on us to decide if its good policy. If you don't like this law, that's not on us, its on your elected representatives. So make sure you vote!!

And I think that pretty much covers the topics I was wanting to write about. Phew!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Supreme Court Got It Right (also, I'm not talking about what you think I am)

"The Nation well knows that one of the costs of the First Amendment is that it protects the speech we detest as well as the speech we embrace." - Justice Kennedy, writing in the ruling striking down the Stolen Valor Act
This wasn't one of the topics I had been planning on writing about this week, but I am anyway.

Today, hidden among all the craziness of the health care ruling, the Supreme Court also ruled on the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. Basically, the Act made it a misdemeanor to claim military awards that hadn't actually been received, with extra penalties for the Medal of Honor. That's it - all you had to do was SAY you had gotten them. One such person, who had claimed that he got the Medal of Honor, challenged the law's constitutionality under the First Amendment.

The Court ruled that the law is, in fact, unconstitutional because it is so broad. Basically, it says that just saying you got an award is protected speech. The opinion absolutely agrees that its a lie, and that it is a bad thing to do, and that military awards hold a special significance to the American people, and rightly should. But it also acknowledges that this alone is not enough for it to be constitutional. The Court basically says that there's nothing wrong with publicly berating and calling the person out for lying about it, and that's actually how it SHOULD be dealt with.

While it doesn't directly say so, the Court basically says that using such claims for gain, other than just to "puff himself up," is fraud, and fraud is already illegal, and should be. So had the original respondent, who just SAID he had gotten a medal of honor, actually tried to use it to get VA benefits, or a government contract, or some other special treatment, that would be a different situation. But all he did was say it. Whether or not a law is Constitutional is not the same as whether or not we like it. So a better (and constitutional, it seems) option would be to recraft the law so that it says that it is a crime to claim to have been awarded military awards and then uses those awards in an attempt to gain something (money, special treatment, government contracts, VA benefits, or the like). But that's fraud, which is already a crime, right?

I think the Court got this exactly right, and I absolutely agree with the Opinion's statement that allowing this to go on would open up the slippery slope to allowing laws against all sorts of lying. As much as I absolutely hate people that claim something like the Medal of Honor, which so many people had to die to receive and all of them had to do something truly honorable and extraordinary and, dare I say, even heroic, I can't imagine living in a place where a blatant lie, spoken for the sheer, pathetic purpose of making yourself look better, is illegal. That's just not what our country is about, and not what the First Amendment is for. I'm all about publicly humiliating anyone who makes such claims, and I'm all about prosecuting someone who uses such a claim to try to defraud anyone. But just to make himself look better? Nope. That guy will get his, and I'd rather feel sorry for him and let him get a little humiliation than make it illegal.

What are your thoughts? You can read the whole decision here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

From Politics to Foreign Policy, It Seems...

Vladimir Putin is a scary, scary dude.

I already thought he was shady, based on a paper that I wrote on him back in 2007. And I've been kind of fascinated with him since that time, and Russia for a little longer than that after a very interesting class I took in college about politics in the Former Soviet Union. Fast forward to the paper I wrote about Putin for the class I'm just finishing up, and holy crap. I learned a whole lot about that man, enough to have filled up at least another paper, if not two, and unfortunately, most of it wasn't really on topic for what I was writing, so I have to share it somewhere. Luckily for me, I have that outlet here :)

Even before I had decided on the topic for this paper, I had put a new book about Putin on my Kindle Wish List - The Man Without A Face, by Masha Gessen. Gessen is a Russian journalist who had been following / reporting on Putin since his early days as Prime Minister under Boris Yeltsin, and as things progressed over the years since then, did a TON of research into his past. Granted, this book is slightly biased, as she makes it clear from the start that she's no fan of Putin. But it turns out, not many people are.

Its pretty common knowledge that Putin started his career as a KGB agent. But what many don't realize is that he was nothing special in the KGB. His career was mostly a disappointment - he didn't get any prime jobs or postings, he didn't rise very high in the ranks, and he wasn't given any extraordinary awards or accolades. He says that before the attempted coup in 1991 he wrote a resignation letter to the KGB. He also says that the KGB lost it, so a year later he wrote another. But that begs the question, how does he know that they lost it? And why wouldn't he have written another one immediately upon finding out that the first had been lost, instead of waiting a whole year? Makes one wonder a little, for sure...

Gessen also makes several linkages between Putin and some very bad things that happened in Russia, to include some bombings of apartment buildings around Russia, the Beslan school shootings, and a whole bunch of meat being stolen from the city of St Petersburg during the early days after the fall of the Soviet Union. Additionally, she implied that Putin has had numerous of his detractors and political enemies killed, unfairly imprisoned, or forced into exile. One of those people in whose death she alleges Putin was involved was his own mentor, Anatoly Sobchak. Basically, she comes to the conclusion that Putin has built the new Russia to revolve around him, and will stop at nothing to ensure that things go his way.

And she's not the only one - it only takes a quick google search to come up with myriad articles that talk about scary things Putin has done - even just in the past few weeks, he's sent helicopters back to Syria and raised fines on protestors in Russia from $90 to $6000, seemingly because most of the protests lately have been against him and his party. Not exactly the actions of the leader of a nation moving closer to democracy, you may be thinking. Exactly.

So here's where I have a hard time. Mitt Romney makes a comment about Russia being a threat to us, and Colin Powell comes out and says that Mitt Romney should know better. Seriously, it seems to me that Colin Powell should know better - he was in the thick of dealing with this guy. We keep wanting to talk about Russia being a friend and strategic partner. But friends don't do things like request that the location of the G8 be changed and then, at the last minute, decide not to come for no good reason. Being partners implies a willingness to work together, yet Putin campaigned on anti-Americanism this time around. And oh by the way, was elected in what many, even his PM before Medvedev, say were corrupt elections in which his opponents were not given equal (or sometimes any) air time, and voters were pressured into voting for Putin. Nothing about this guy screams "friend" or "partner" - if anything, and I'm no real foreign policy expert, but it seems like this just makes sense, we should be keeping Russia close to keep an eye on them. Because Putin has stated, in no uncertain terms, publicly, over and over again, that a strong Russia is his number one priority. Combine that with an ego that does not like to be insulted, and this could be the recipe for a big old mess.

What I can't quite seem to figure out, though, is why we as a country are so insistent on trying to 'reset' relations with Russia and Putin, and so hesitant to say anything else. In my mind, I think it would be a great thing if President Obama had a Prime Minister David moment (If you haven't seen Love Actually, shame on you, but here's a video of the speech anyway, and no, I don't know what language the subtitles are in) and actually laid it out there. But I'm sure there are things that I don't know, and that I don't have need to know, that are keeping that from happening. I just hope they're good, solid reasons. I really do. Because I'm pretty sure that no matter what we may say, whether we call him our best friend or a scary dude we're watching closely, he will still act in whatever way he feels is going to provide the best outcome for himself and for his version of a strong Russia. He's surely not thinking about our feelings.

Next up, more than likely: that Atlantic article about women that's been lighting up the interwebs for the past week or so. Can you tell I've been thinking a lot lately?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Warning: This is a Political Post

I've been a little MIA this month, for a few reasons, and I apologize. Between heading out to visit my nieces (SUCH a great trip), working on a paper for school (only 2 classes left until I'm officially done with my Masters Degree!), and life in general, I just haven't been here much. On top of that, I've been pondering a couple of things that I want to talk about. I think I'm ready for one of them, but we may have multiple posts over the next few days. Let's just call it making up for lost time :)

(And here's the disclaimer: Don't read past here if you don't want to read about politics, because this is my politics post. I promise I will leave it to this post, for now.)

As anyone who's known me for any period of time may know, I'm kind of a politics junkie. I read a lot, and I pay attention, and I've found myself really changing my political views in the past few years. Well, more accurately, I think I've actually been forming my own views instead of just latching on to those of my family and the preponderance of people I surrounded myself with in the military. I very much find myself relating to people like Meghan McCain - I want to maintain my Republican-ness, but I'm finding it harder and harder to do.

Its not that I don't agree with the party on anything. I agree that the deficit is a problem and the current policies are not working. I don't think that raising taxes on the upper class is the right answer, but I also don't think they should get breaks. I'm all for closing loopholes. I have no problem with the capital gains tax rate being lower than the regular income tax rate. I think the continued spending by the current administration is unsustainable, and needs to stop. I think this President uses the words I and me and a little too much for my liking. I love the military, and I take the national security of this country seriously, and I think that the threats of severe cuts to the defense budget would be a huge mistake, especially without true reform of our policies.

However, that's about where it ends for me. I have a very hard time with a party that touts its desire for smaller federal government yet wants the federal government to regulate our social lives. I have a hard time with a party that consistently talks about the importance of every single human life, yet doesn't want to ensure that programs are in place to care for the child that was born to a mother (or parents) who can't care for it. (And yes, I agree that the federal government is not the place for those programs, but I also think that until the infrastructure has been set up for local/state/church/whoever to take care of them, they need to continue in their current state.) I can't get behind a party that continues to say nothing about the birthers, and who refuses to do the research into all of the good Planned Parenthood does before denouncing the whole organization. Or who think its perfectly OK for myriad tax loopholes to keep the extremely rich from paying any income taxes - I see paying their fair share not as raising rates on those folks, but as actually getting them to pay the rates that are currently set for their brackets.

The rhetoric, the blind allegiance to party instead of issues, the continued practice of making things up for the sound bite, often intentionally, because the sound bite will inevitably get more attention than the correction/apology that comes after the damage is done... This is happening on both sides, and frankly, I'm sick of it.

I'm far from happy with the current President, don't get me wrong. But really, was Mitt Romney the best the Republican party could come up with? I read something the other day that said only a very small percentage of probable voters was really and truly undecided at this point. I really do think I fit in that small percentage. I really do feel like I'm part of that truly independent group, that moderate group that apparently can't put up a viable candidate because it takes being extreme on either side to win a primary. So I, and many others like me, find myself in a position where I can't get even mildly excited for this presidential election, because neither choice seems like a very good one. I really do hope for the day that moderation returns to favor, but I wonder what it will take. Will it take huge defeats in this election year? I'm not even sure that those will happen, and if they do, they won't be landslides. This is likely to be a very close election. This country is divided almost right down the middle. Its people like me that will probably make the decision one way or another. Unfortunately, and I'm sure I'm not the only one, I'm having a hard enough time making that call that just staying home on election day is looking like a much less painful idea. But I know that's not the right answer either.

To wrap this up, I don't like being confused! Hopefully between now and election day, something will click that will make the decision for me. I hope its something easy like the Republican VP pick, but somehow I don't think that will be the case.

And... end political rant. :)