The Crusader’s Reaction

August 31, 2007

Senator Larry Craig, Representative Mark Foley, and the Reverend Ted Haggard share in their shame. All three are conservative leaders who have legislated and preached against homosexuality as unnatural, wrong, and undeserving of legal protection. All three have been disgraced when accused of practicing homosexuality.

I am neither a lawyer nor a psychologist. The goal of this article is not to comment on Senator Craig’s guilt or innocence, nor to take you inside of the minds of these apparent hypocrites. However, if I could humbly submit a hypothesis, I think these men may have spoken out against homosexuality as part of a reaction against their actions.

Psychologists have described a number of different ways that people tend to deal with guilt. Some rationalize their guilt, stretching their beliefs to meet their actions. Others force their guilt into their subconscious minds. Others undergo what is known as “reaction formation,” where a person seeks to crusade against something against their beliefs precisely because they are indulging in it. Rather than addressing the roots of guilt by changing their actions or reevaluating their beliefs, these people seek to hunt out the guilt in others. To put it more simply, they directly disobey Jesus’ command in Matthew 7: 5 to “…first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Is it possible that the two legislators and the clergyman above made a crusade against homosexuality the most public expression of their faith precisely because they struggled with it personally? These men were raised in times and places where homosexuality was not acceptable. From their earliest days, it is likely that they were taught about how unnatural and wrong homosexuality is. Parents, clergy, and the culture of conservatism demonized homosexuality. When these men began to explore their own sexuality, perhaps they found it less orthodox than the prevailing culture expected and accepted. Rather than fighting to change attitudes about homosexuality, or addressing their own sexuality in order to change it, if that is even possible, these men embarked on a crusade against homosexual activity.

It is very dangerous when people seek to hunt their private guilt out in the public world. There are countless cases throughout history of guilt-ridden people becoming bloodthirsty rulers and tyrants. Guilt is a powerful force. If approached carefully, respectfully, and privately, it can make us all better people. If denied or ignored, it can make us beasts and oppressors.

The crises facing each of the three disgraced men right now is awful, and I am not suggesting that they did not wholeheartedly believe in what they preached. However, society needs to cast a compassionate eye on them and all people struggling with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy stems from the root of guilt that all of us interact with in our own lives. It is only in how we deal with our struggles with guilt that we can claim to be any different. Even at that, we are all hypocrites here. Everyone has some crusade that they carry out into the world, rather than addressing privately.

Rather than assaulting these men like ravenous wolves, we need to respect their privacy and offer a hand of forgiveness. Our first duty whenever we see hypocrisy, after all, is to take the planks out of our own eyes.


Long Live the Irish Republic!

August 28, 2007

In 1920, the modern Irish conflict began. The United Kingdom, which had occupied the entire island of Ireland for most of the last 800 years, partitioned Ireland into two states: the Republic of Ireland, an independent nation governed democratically; and Northern Ireland, a loyalist enclave that continued to be a part of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland, with a Roman Catholic majority, has been largely peaceful for the last half-century. Northern Ireland, split almost evenly between majority Protestants and minority Catholics, has not.

After decades of bombings, police occupations, and rule by the United Kingdom, home rule has finally returned to Northern Ireland. The local assembly became the authority in the territory in May of this year. The assembly is split between unionists, who favor the Protestant United Kingdom, and republicans, who favor the Catholic Republic of Ireland. Now that it is ballots, and not bullets, that are deciding Northern Irish policy, the status of Northern Ireland will have to be permanently established.

It is time for reunification in Ireland. The Irish island has had a unique sense of cultural identity for millennia. From its Celtic ancestry, to the Gaelic language, to Roman Catholicism, Ireland is simply not British in its heritage. The indigenous peoples of Ireland, including the six counties that now make up Northern Ireland, share a sense of family, community, and history distinct of the British, who arrived in the past few centuries. The rights of British people and Protestants in Northern Ireland will be fully protected by the Republic of Ireland, a modern democracy and a member of the European Union. The dignity of Irish people, both in the Republic and in the six counties, will only be honored by creating a united Ireland.

Ireland is a country with a rich heritage and culture. With the rise of Irish nationalism in recent years, the green, white, and orange tricolors are seen throughout the country. Gaelic is returning to the public schools. The dignity of the nation, after enduring centuries of oppression by the British, is finally being restored.

Northern Ireland had to fight for several more decades after the partition to receive respect and self-rule. The British suspended all home rule in the early 1970’s. Catholics were barred from the government, many jobs, social service programs, and housing in many areas. Discrimination was rampant. British police massacred fourteen Catholic civil rights marchers in 1972, on the day that would be known as “Bloody Sunday.” Both Catholics and Protestants started terrorist paramilitaries. Over 3,400 people were killed during the conflict. The Catholic community left Northern Ireland in droves, resulting in the current 51-49% religious split, with a slight majority in Protestants.

The past five years have seen rapid changes. Major Catholic and Protestant militant groups, including the Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Volunteer Forces, have disarmed. The assembly has finally been permanently restored. Elections in 2006 saw unionists receive only 20,000 more votes than republicans, in a vote of over 660,000 people. Republicans gained ground in the 2007 election, over results from 2003.

As the peace and reconciliation process continues to unfold, and as former republican militants make their way into the new mainstream, Irish nationalism is sure to grow. As the Catholic community recovers its numbers, both by growing more rapidly than the Protestant community and by welcoming expatriates home at last, sympathies with the Irish Republic will also grow.

As a Catholic of Irish, English, and Scottish descent, I have hope that Northern Ireland will be fully reunited with the Republic of Ireland in the very near future. All people have the right to fully embrace their heritage and culture. The partition of Ireland was yet another tragic event in the long chain of atrocities committed by the British Empire. It is time for freedom, independence, and unity to rule in Ireland.

Éire go Brách!


Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, But Where Oh Where Could Osama Be?

August 27, 2007

(This post was written by Andrew, who does not yet have WordPress access. Until he is authorized, I will be copying his posts from our mother site, http://www.bluestateobserver.com)


Ok, I know what everyone’s thinking: God, it’s another rant about terrorism and how pointless the War in Iraq is. I can’t say it isn’t, because this piece is about it in one sense, but in another, it’s about what the heck happened to Osama bin Laden and terrorism.

All right, let’s take a time-trip back to 9/11. A terrorist organization called al-Qaeda stole four US airplanes loaded with jet fuel and hijacked them, crashing them into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers. The last plane crashed in the middle of a Pennsylvania wheat field. After that day, Congress was asked to declare war on terrorism and to send troops to Afghanistan. The idea was to take out Osama Bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist regime, thinking that by doing so, it would disorganize that terrorist regime, sending it into chaos.

That’s a great plan. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t meet one red-blooded American who wasn’t for that war. So, everyone hops on the “we are mad and its time to kick butt and take names” bus. Well, eventually we come up short on our goals as a nation at war… in fact we went and attacked, overthrew, and tried to rebuild a totally different country, Iraq. So here I am thinking, ok, so we saved a bunch of people form a tyrannical government, which is nice and all, but where is Osama?

Months of occupation pass. The months turn into years, and the years turn into terms, and the terms turn into another election, where Bush, the Commander in Chief of oh so many things in this country, including, of course, our action in the two wars we are facing: Iraq and terror, which is kind of a package-deal, considering that sectarian violence is kind of terroristic.

So, yeah, now Bush’s reign in the Oval Office, or as he would say, the egg-shaped office, is coming to an end. We now face the fact that we won’t have his wisdom to rely on, or his stubbornness to rely on, or even Cheney’s heart attacks to keep us sane anymore. The funniest thing is, I hear all of this junk about Iraq, yet nothing about Afghanistan, or even a progress report on how we are doing there. I mean, are we winning? Did we find him? And, to answer Bush’s question, do they serve tacos there? I mean seriously, Osama is the man we originally wanted to hang, isn’t he?

All I am saying is, we should finish all that we start, which means everything from wars to having the congressmen and senators finish their green beans and mashed potatoes at lunch time. So, why not start mailing our presidential hopefuls about finishing things? I mean, if we dragged our feet in work as much as they did, we would be fired. So, why shouldn’t we show them the same exact courtesy as everyone who reads this? Try to get a hold of the people you want to see in office, and ask them what they would do about Afghanistan and al-Qaeda. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see something done over there instead of seeing nothing done, and if that means settling for catching Osama instead of unifying Iraq, then heck, I am all for it!


Repeal NAFTA Now!

August 21, 2007

This week, the leaders of the United States, Canada, and Mexico are meeting in Quebec to discuss “modernizing” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). After a decade and a half of watching American jobs shipped over the border, watching our manufacturing base die, and watching Mexico’s economy continue to choke when compared to America’s, it is time to do away with the agreement.

Free trade is a fallacy. In exchange for cheaper prices on low-quality foreign goods, we get a depleted economy. Meanwhile, in third-world countries, free trade succeeds in bringing jobs: jobs at sweatshops and on mega-plantations. Free trade is not ethical. It is not in the best interests of any country. NAFTA is an abuse of human rights and national economic sovereignty.

National interests are best taken care of when the economy works for the citizens. What is a wiser trade policy: employing a minimum-wage farmer at $4.50 a day in Mexico on an American-owned maize plantation to raise a crop that will be sold 1,000 miles away, or giving him money to grow maize to feed customers in his own village? Rather than taxing imports at 20%, or at whatever rate Mexico determines, and spending the income on subsidizing Mexican farmers to grow crops, thus sponsoring markets that can eventually compete fairly with our own, NAFTA sees an American conglomerate buy all the farms in the Mexican countryside and has them grow crops for use in the United States. It suppresses the development of meaningful domestic markets in poor areas. Rather than producing competitors who could eventually rival us, it mandates outsourcing jobs across the borders, where wages and regulations are disturbingly low, keeping America very rich and Mexico very poor. Rather than equalizing trade, it tilts the odds permanently in favor of the industrialized market. Rather than creating the Japanese and German economic miracles of tomorrow, free trade creates second-class countries of the future.

Global markets are not a bad thing. Opening new markets, diversifying the types of products available to people, and making domestic providers compete with foreign producers are important ways of providing the competition necessary to grow our economies. Embargoes against responsible members of the international community and excessive tariffs that strangle international trade are irresponsible and closed-minded. Free trade is a good thing between nations on an equal footing, who can truly compete without sacrificing the environment or the rights of labor. The problem with NAFTA and other international free trade agreements is that they establish a global oligopoly by eliminating the right of nations to place reasonable tariffs on goods. They provide no real means of enforcing fair environmental and labor standards. They take workers from other countries and exploit them to work for wealthy foreign investors in impoverishing conditions, rather than empowering workers to improve their own nations. They even deny us our means of protecting American jobs from employers who will put money before the people of this country.

In the interests of our national welfare, labor rights, the self-sufficiency of foreign economies, and the health of our environment, it is time to repeal NAFTA. The entire system of free trade, in which the only model for increased global interaction is exploitation and economic suppression, is warped and abusive. Future international trade needs to be based on self-sufficiency and national growth, not reliance on others. We need to declare our independence as Americans again, and encourage all nations to take back their rights. We can only trade goods fairly, for everyone’s benefit, as independent equals.

We have every right to regulate and restrict trade in the best interests of our people. Every country does. It is time to leave NAFTA and free trade behind. Another world is possible: a world where people work for themselves and the betterment of their countries, a world where jobs come back home and Americans employ Americans. We need to reclaim the sovereignty that is rightfully ours. We need to repeal NAFTA now.

This post was made in the United States of America.


The immigration problem: The theory to why we have it

August 20, 2007

(This post was written by Andrew, who does not yet have WordPress access. Until he is authorized, I will be copying his posts from our mother site, http://www.bluestateobserver.com)

The United States immigration problem has lasted many generations, but hasn’t had much attention paid to it until just recently. Not too many people know the exact reason for why immigrants show up to the U.S daily without a Viable excuse to becoming a citizen and usually no money at all. For decades since well beyond the 1960’s people have been coming into America through Canada and Mexico illegally all for the same reason to live the “American dream.”

Now I am personally a first generation American on my mother’s side and third on my fathers. I grew up hearing stories from my grandfather of when my mother first came to the country in the mid sixties, and not to mention how much of a hard time it was for him to become a citizen. You see the law states that to be a citizen of this country you first need to apply for citizenship then wait for the papers, then find a company who will sponsor you. The whole idea behind that whole application process was to make sure you won’t have to live off of welfare, and actually work when you are in the country for at least two to three years before being considered a citizen.

You see the laws haven’t changed in years it’s just the federal government never kept up with prosecuting the illegal immigrants before now. Allow me to give an example. This is a story I hear from my 74 year old grandfather constantly from when he first started working over at Pratt and Whitney machine tool in Hartford before they went out of the country looking for outside labor. You see my grandfather was working next to some new guy for a few months after first showing up in the states. One day he went in to work and the FBI was there carting the guy my grandpa worked next to away. So my grandfather always a curious fellow went up to the foreman and asked him what had happened. The foreman told him he was an illegal immigrant from Quebec, and that there was nothing to worry about. Three weeks later my grandfather comes in to work and sees the same guy who was carted off to Canada back working on the machine next to him. my grandfather went up to the man and asked him why he was back, the man just stood there and replied that he was bored and wanted to see his wife and kids for awhile so he got a few buddies to rat him out to the immigrations office in Connecticut witch the federal government sent him home on a plane for free. All the guy did to get back to the state was to buy a bus ticket to Hartford.

You see the laws have always been around to curb illegal immigration, but not really enforced fully. So, to be quite frank I believe that if any legislation should be passed about illegal immigrants it should be to enforce the existing rules to keep more form coming in and to make it possible for the illegal to become legal citizens while they are in the United States. Partly due to the fact sending all of the illegal immigrants back to there home country to touch base then fining them 5,000 dollars American for trespassing and then trying to go through the miles of red tape is ridiculous partly due to the fact that. A.) most of the immigrants upon returning to there countries of origin will most likely never be heard from again due to the fact they were ruled by an oppressive government that will most likely execute them for being defectors. B.) the majority of them are poorer then dirt and will never pay up due to them not having the money in the first place so I am definitely sure if they came hear for jobs the most likely didn’t have it then and still wont have it now. C.) they are too numerous it would cost billions of dollars and way too many man hours spent trying to find every single illegal immigrant in America and send them back to there country I mean be realistic please.
The solution and this isn’t clear cut, but give them exclusive rights then batten down the borders and force the immigrants now to come through the correct channels. The channels have been there we just haven’t forced people to use them exclusively, and as a wise man once said, “There is no time like the present.”


Executive Power in Iraq: The Only Road to Peace

August 11, 2007

The Iraqi national flag.

This summer, months after the troop surge began and an end was supposed to be in sight for the conflict in Iraq, Baghdad is still bloody. There are still daily bombings, and the civil war tearing apart Iraqi neighborhoods is still raging. As Shiite insurgents, Sunni terrorists, and foreign fighters continue to fuel sectarian violence, more and more American politicians are suggesting that the problems faced by Iraq are political, and cannot be solved by the military.

They are right.

The greatest mistake made in Iraq since the invasion in 2003 was the constitution passed by referendum in 2005. Modeled on Europe’s liberal democracies, the Iraqi constitution includes far-reaching freedoms such as freedom of the press, free religion, free assembly, and free speech. Most of the power in the country is delegated to Iraq’s parliament, which has the power to select the prime minister.

This model of legislative-superiority, although it is excellent for peaceful nations with established democratic traditions, is the one feature of Iraqi government that will lead to its downfall. Unless Iraq revises its constitution to allow for a strong executive, only partially accountable to the legislature, the government will not see 2012.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. Times of domestic insurrection and civil war, in particular, demand that the government mobilize and that the people make sacrifices. The United States recognized this. In the 1860’s, when our own nation was in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln suspended basic rights such as freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and the right of habeas corpus. Secessionist newspapers were closed down. Anyone within several miles of important railroads could be subjected to arrest without charges leveled against them. Thanks to these heavy-handed executive measures, opposed by the courts and vocal members of Congress, the American union was preserved. Even though America was effectively two countries with radically different labor systems and views on federalism, the country survived long enough to emerge as free, united, and the most powerful republic on the planet.

If Iraq is to survive as a nation, even with its three ethnic and religious groups, it must cast off the niceties of Western democracy. Elections must stay on schedule, and the courts and legislature have to keep operating, but Iraq’s executive branch must assert its power. This means cracking down hard and fast on the dissidents, tribal groups, and religious blocs that are tearing the country apart. Only a strong, unitary leader will be able to take on popular political parties and charismatic clerics. Only a strong, unitary leader beholden to no one will be able to preserve Iraq.

There will be a time for the fruits of democratic freedom to be enjoyed in Iraq, but only if the government is strong and independent. It is too beholden to interest groups and the passions brought about by popular leaders and prophetic visions of war to act decisively for the people.

If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is not capable of bringing about strong, energetic leadership that overrides the formalities of the weak and divided government brought about by the current constitution, then it is time for him to step aside. Allow a person capable of wielding real power during this time of crisis to purge the government of the forces that wish for nothing more than its destruction.

Striking a balance between immediate action and a long-term commitment to democratic values will be difficult. I am not advocating that democracy in Iraq be sacrificed to stability, or that dictatorship be instituted. A dictatorship of a weak parliament, however, is far more deadly to the Iraqi people and hopes for liberty than strong and uncompromising leadership from the executive branch would be.

The weakness of the current constitution and the idealism of Iraq’s executive branch will lead to the collapse of the Iraqi state. Unless someone dedicated to democracy in its most single-minded and heavy-handed form takes power, someone dedicated to fundamentalism in its most hateful and divisive form will.


Invest in Infrastructure. Save Lives and Money.

August 5, 2007

Last Wednesday, US Senators Chris Dodd and Chuck Hagel, of Connecticut and Nebraska, introduced the National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2007, a bipartisan effort to rebuild America’s infrastructure, prompt economic growth, and secure a higher quality of life for our citizens. The legislation would create a publicly owned national bank run by the federal government as an independent agency featuring funding from both the private and public sectors, devoted to funding infrastructure projects.

The bank, which is reminiscent of the Bank of the United States that existed early on in our national history, is designed to help address of our crumbling infrastructure, which has led to several major incidents in the last weeks. Only two weeks ago an underground pipe burst in downtown Manhattan, spewing asbestos into the air. Recently, the water near Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was investigated for contamination by harmful substances. We saw another tragic instance of our national infrastructure failing only a few days ago, when a bridge collapsed in Minnesota, killing several motorists.

This legislation is crucial to ensure that our national prosperity and security are not jeopardized by old equipment and a devastating lack of attention paid to improving our transportation, energy, and safety networks. The United States is a powerhouse of a national consumer with ever increasing amounts of traffic, energy use, and trade. Our ports, highways, railroads, and energy grid must be updated. When they are left to crumble, we see incidents such as the ones described earlier. We see incidents like the blackout that struck the Northeast in 2003, knocking out power to millions of homes. We see destruction and danger throughout the wealthiest nation on the planet.

As our competitors in Europe, Japan, and China continue to adapt to our increasingly global market, with all of its strains on infrastructure, by pumping billions of dollars into transportation networks and energy overhauls, they will continue to gain an advantage over America. As their systems are able to become more and more efficient with public funding, their citizens will reap the rewards of more efficiency, safety, and better trade networks.

The National Infrastructure Bank Act of 2007 has the potential to put America back on an equal footing with these nations. By allocating public funding and organizing private funding for our national infrastructure, we will have the ability to transform America’s markets into a sleek and efficient machine. Just as the Bank of the United States helped earlier generations to lay the groundwork for infrastructure in this country by establishing national roads, canals, and railroads, in our time, a National Infrastructure Bank will allow us to continue to update these systems. It will also let us lay the groundwork for future wireless networks, high-speed railways, and affordable, clean public transportation for every American.

The Dodd-Hagel legislation shows what America can do with proper use of public funding and cooperation between the public and private sectors. By establishing a united public approach to rebuilding our national infrastructure, and by utilizing private dollars, we can strengthen our economy and the quality of life for our citizens, and ensure safety for generations to come. We can prevent tragedies like those that occurred in the past several years that brought devastation on our economy and even cost us human lives. We can earn a national infrastructure grade higher than “D” from the American Society of Civil Engineers. We can finally rebuild the Gulf Coast in our inner cities as we have planned to do for years, but never found the means to. We can reestablish America’s position as a global leader in quality of life, standard of life, and trade networks. Most importantly, we can show the American people that our government is still committed to preserving safe access to water, energy, and transportation.