31 January 2008

Ralph Nader considering running for president

Ralph Nader has set up an exploratory committee to evaluate whether he should run for the White House or not. Predictably, this announcement has already been greeted with far too many complaints that he "spoiled" the election and is the sole reason we have George Bush as our president. Ralph Nader is one of my three modern American political heroes (the other two being Russ Feingold and Dennis Kucinich), so obviously I'm going to support him.

Ralph Nader is not the reason George Bush is our president. Al Gore didn't take the Florida recount far enough, and he quit too soon. Ralph Nader had nothing to do with it. The Electoral College system is the reason Al Gore isn't our president.

30 January 2008

Haiti's Hunger

From National Geographic:

"Charlene, 16 with a month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau...

...in places such as Cite Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings, and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal."


"Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation, and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well."

As people and politicians continue to urge the production of fuels like ethanol, people like Charlene continue to suffer. Why do we need to create a fuel which will ultimately lead to more suffering around the world when we already have options that will lead to better outcomes, such as hydrogen or electricity?

27 January 2008

Caucuses vs. Primaries

Presidential caucuses and primaries both have a number of advantages over one another. However, primaries are, I think, a much better way to choose a party’s candidate for president.

Although one can argue that caucuses could be better due to the natural filtering out of inactive citizens (people that are not concerned with politics at a deep level probably wouldn’t take the time to attend a caucus), there are major problems with this system. For example, it’s hard for people to attend. People of certain professions may not be able to take out the time for caucuses. Another negative is that people can be persuaded by a candidate’s suave representative, rather than the issue at hand. Also, caucuses might not represent the true feelings of the people in the state. This sort of goes back to the “filtering out” of some citizens that don’t want to take the time to attend a caucus; even if they don’t go, their vote should still count. However, since there is no voting system, this isn’t possible.

Primaries allow all citizens to elect the candidate for their party with the freedom to vote when it’s convenient for them. Also, more people generally vote in primaries, meaning that the results are much closer to what the people really want. The biggest reason a primary is the best choice is that it gets us closer to a pure democracy. Although it’s impossible that America will ever be anything but a representative democracy due to size, having some form of that ideal democracy makes people feel involved.

Because a primary is more truly representative of what people want in their candidates, it is a better system than a caucus, where less people attend and decide for everyone.


This is a piece from the Mahabharata, in which a father is answering his son's question about leading a virtuous life, and his son's reply:

First, learn the Vedas, son, by living as a Vedic student. Then you should desire sons to purify your forefathers, establish the sacred fires, and offer sacrifices. Thereafter, you may enter the forest and seek to become an ascetic.

When the world is thus afflicted and surrounded on all sides, when spears rain down, why do you pretend to speak like a wise man?

How is the world afflicted? And by whom is it surrounded? What are the spears that rain down? Why, you seem bent on frightening me!

The world is afflicted by death. It is surrounded by old age. These days and nights rain down. Why can't you understand?

When I know that death never rests, how can I wait, when I am caught in a net?

When life is shortened with each passing night, who can enjoy pleasures, when we are like fish in a shoal?

This very day do what's good. Let not this moment pass you by, for surely death may strike you even before your duties are done.

Tomorrow's task perform today. Evening's work finish before noon, for death does not wait to ask whether your duties are done.

For who knows whom death's legions may seize today? Practice good from your youth, for uncertain is life's erratic path.

Those who do good enjoy fame in this life and happiness hereafter. Foolish indeed are those who toil for the sake of son and wife, providing for their welfare by means proper and foul.

Such a man, full of desire and attached to sons and cattle, death carries away, as flood waters would a tiger sound asleep.

Death will carry away a man obsessed with amassing wealth, his desires still unfulfilled, as a tiger would a domestic beast.

"This I've done. This I must do. And that I have yet to complete." A man who is thus consumed by desires and pleasures, death will bring under its sway.

Death carries away a man who is attached to his field, shop, or house, even before he reaps the fruits of the works he has done, fruits to which he is so attached.

When death, old age, disease, and misery of all sorts cling to the body, why do you stand as if you were in great shape?

Death and old age accompany an embodied soul from his very birth so as to destroy him. The two embrace all these beings, both the mobile and the immobile.

The delight one finds in living in a village is truly the house of death, while the wilderness is the dwelling place of the gods - so the Vedas teach.

The delight one finds in living in a village is the rope that binds. The virtuous cut it and depart, while evil-doers are unable to cut it.

Those who do not cause injury to living beings in thought, word, or deed, are themselves not oppressed by acts that harm their life or wealth.

Without truth one can never check the advancing troops of death. Never abandon truth, for immortality abides in truth.

I do not injure, I seek the truth, I am free of love and hate, I remain the same in pleasure and pain, and I am safe - so I laugh at death like an immortal.

In the self alone and by the self I am born, on the self I stand, and, though childless, in the self alone I come into being; I will not be saved by a child of mine.
The M ahabharata is an Indian Sanskrit text from around the 5th century BCE. I'm currently taking Eastern Religious Traditions in school, and we were assigned this text. I found it beautiful, and decided to share it here. Our professor is also reading the Ramayana to us, which I would recommend to anyone who's interested in Indian/Hindu tradition.

China Steps Up Control in Tibet

According to Radio Free Asia:
"The Chinese authorities believe that monasteries are the chief centers of Tibetan culture responsible for maintaining Tibetan identity. Therefore they are cracking down on the monasteries," a source in Tibet said in a recent interview.

Novice monks are no longer admitted to replace monks who have died, and monks rarely appear on the streets in many Tibetan cities, sources say, and this trend has become more visible and pronounced over recent months.
According to RFA, this seems to be in response to both this years' Olympic games and to the Dalai Lama receiving the US Congressional Gold Medal last year.

25 January 2008

The Best of the Presidential Candidates Leaves the Race

Dennis Kucinich, undoubtedly the best of all the democratic nominees for president, has decided to leave the race after not being able to raise funds that could match those of his opponents and not performing well with voters. It's depressing that, being one of the few candidates that could of really made America great (plus cleaning up the mess from the Bush administration) wasn't able to reach out to Americans. I hope he'll make the attempt again in the future. America needs someone with Kucinich's courage and integrity.

22 January 2008

Why China Should Not Hold the Olympic Games

Here are a few pieces of the Olympic charter:
1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The organization, administration and management of sport must be controlled by independent sports organizations.
5. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.
6. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that granting the 2008 Olympics to Beijing would improve human rights in China. However, it seems it would make much more sense to reward China for making improvements... if they had. Because China is allowed to host the Olympics, there's no guarantee that they will improve the human rights situation afterwards. It's like telling a child that if they clean their room you'll give them a new toy, only you've already given them that toy. What makes the child want to clean their room now?

21 January 2008

A Woman's Right to Choose

Blog for Choice Day
Today is the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling of Roe v. Wade, and the arguments over women's reproductive rights are still being debated.

There are many people in America who are fighting to take away a woman's right to choose whether or not she wants to have a child, and the implications of such laws, when passed, would have a lot of negative repercussions. For example, when abortions are banned, the rate of women getting hurt (or worse) as a result of back-alley abortions increases.

Women deserve the basic right of making decisions about their own bodies and what they want to do. Taking such a right away shows that our society still isn't at the point were women are equal to men; where women are allowed to make their own decisions.

Take this day to write your legislators to let them know that women deserve the right of choice.

15 January 2008

Would a $2500 car be a good thing?

The Tata Nano is a $2,500 car made by an Indian manufacturer. According to this National Geographic video, the manufacters claim that it will get 50mpg and meets safety standards (although I don't know if safety standards in India are the same as in the U.S.). Although the concept of such a cheap vehicle sounds great to many, there is a lot of opposition. People worry that, because it's such a cheap car, there will be many more on the road, causing congestion and pollution.

I'm right down the middle in my opinion of the Tata Nano. On the one hand, I understand the problem with there being more cars on the road and thus there being more pollution. On the other hand, however, I'm a poor college student. A $2,500 car sounds amazing to me. Plus it looks cool.

What do you think?

Back from break

It's been a long break. I didn't have an Internet connection at home, so I came back and was a little overwhelmed by the number of e-mails and blog posts I had waiting for me. I'm still not finished sorting through everything, but it's better than it was.

This semester is only two days in, but it's already turning out to be amazing. Last semester was great, but the first-semester-of-college confusion and settling in is over. I've already got group meetings on my agenda and I'm really looking forward to getting more involved. I'm also enthusiastic about my classes: English 102, Music Appreciation, International Organizations, Turning Points in European History, Eastern Religious Traditions, and Comparative Cultural Systems. My professors (from what I can tell - I've only had one class period with each of them so far) seem great.

It's still unbelievable to me how much I've changed since last August when I entered this period of my life. I've become dedicated to learning and hardwork, which is a vast difference from my attitude in high school; I'm more willing to step up and do things that are new and foreign to me despite a still-lingering feeling of anxiety that I felt so much when I was younger; my interests and preferences in things as diverse as music and food have changed (still vegan though!); and I just flat-out feel smarter. I've learned how to manage my time better and I've learned how to present myself both in writing and in person more effectively than I used to. I'm very much looking forward to the further changes that the next few years will bring me.

Although I'll always be a political science major, I'm considering double majoring in computer science with a minor in international relations. I'm not completely sure what I want to do as a career after college, but I'm very interested in all three of those, and it would give me a wider base on which to pursue a career.

I'm going to attempt to post everyday, but with college getting a little more busy than last semester don't be surprised if it's once every other day or so. I'm not going to give up this blog because it provides me with an outlet for expressing myself and working out ideas, but I doubt that I'll be able to use it as much as I would like. Thank you to all my subscribers. Your interest is much appreciated.