December 2008 Archives

Immigration's broken

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You've heard me rant before about how the immigration system is broken in this country. It's so hard to get in legally, that unfortunately - but understandably - some people choose to come illegally.

My latest disappointment with the system came this morning. I've spent a fair amount of effort, time and some money trying to bring a man from central Africa over here to Utah to go to college. He was accepted by the college. We then spent a lot of time and some money trying to get all the necessary documents in order to obtain the necessary F-1 visa. We were racing against time, but I was fairly confident we had all we needed and that he'd get the visa.

He had his appointment at the embassy this morning and was rejected? Why? Was it because he messed up on one of the many forms or because he didn't have sufficient funds? No. It's because the interviewer decided that even though my friend's visa would expire after a couple years of school, he (the interviewer) wasn't convinced there was a compelling reason for my friend to return to Africa (which they want to see). Besides the fact that my friend helps run a business in his country and is needed, perhaps the biggest problem is that the decision is incredibly subjective and really affects a life. My friend said that there were several other interviewers there at the US embassy also, and he said one seemed to just be handing out visas, even to people who couldn't really speak any English (which my friend speaks natively). Had he had a different interviewer, he very well may have been able to start school here on the 5th. Now he has to do the forms over and spend a bunch of money to try again. The system's broken.

Presidents, Part 2: McCain

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If it seems like a post about McCain is out of date, it's because I have procrastinated writing this for so long. Sorry. I'd still like to give some of my thoughts about him.

Way back in November of 2006, I posted that I wanted to see a McCain-Romney ticket. It's interesting how close it came to being a reality. I think a lot of people think having a business man (Romney) in the White House during this financial crisis would be a good thing. But alas, it's not to be. But, keeping in line with my wish way back in '06, I supported McCain both in the primary and the general elections. In fact, I was one of the very small 5% of Utahns who voted for McCain in the primaries (some 90% voted for Romney, who I felt had become disingenuous). I liked McCain's more moderate positions: his willingness to be bipartisan in order to actually get things done; his immigration policies; his support for the surge while condemning the way the Iraq war had so far been run. His military service also demands respect, even though he apparently does talk like a sailor. He's not the most charismatic or eloquent guy and I can't say I ever really liked McCain the person, but I liked his policies and voted accordingly.

You also might be interested to know however, that as the campaign wore on, I became increasingly frustrated with McCain and was very near the point of not caring if he lost. The main reason? His negative campaign. McCain had a reputation of talking straight and being above the fray. Yet he allowed his campaign managers to plan the direction of his campaign and constantly attack Obama on things that were pretty much lies. Obama wasn't completely innocent either, but McCain was the worst offender. That's not cool and it's not the McCain that started out running in the campaign.

I also have to say that I wasn't all that enamored with Palin. I'll admit that at first it seemed like an exciting pick - a fresh face. However, as the campaign wore on and it became clear how little she knew of the world - such as the fact that she had just barely obtained a passport - I became disenchanted. I was also somewhat put off by the fact that she seemed to have been chosen to capture the evangelical right. I felt at times like they are treated as the the only ones who matter to the GOP, and as such, they've accumulated a lot of power. I was looking forward to a McCain that was more centric - that wasn't beholden to them.

It was sad to see McCain's image slide down so far from the summer. I hope now that he's back to being Senator McCain, he can go back to the old bipartisan, get-things-done guy that he was before. For now, I'm cautiously optimistic about Obama - my next subject.

Presidents, Part 1: Bush

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This is part 1 of a 3-part group of articles I've been meaning to write for the last month (I'm slow!) on my feelings on US presidents and the recent campaigns. And now that you know my politics, I want to share my thoughts on George W. Bush.

There has been ongoing debate and commentary recently about how bad of a president George W. Bush has been. Some pundits say he's the worst and some say he's the second worst. I don't have the historical knowledge to argue definitively on that topic (neither do most people), but my feeling is that those statements are just hyperbole.

Throughout the last 5 years (coinciding with the war in Iraq), I've heard increasing rhetoric about Bush and how he's a "liar," a war criminal or worse. Sources range from the ridiculous Al Sharpton, "Clearly, [President Bush] lied. Now if he is an unconscious liar, and doesn't realize when he's lying..." to those high in government like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, "President Bush is a liar...I think [Bush] is a loser." His job rating is around 29% - a fall that has been stunning when you consider that just after 9/11, he a record high rating of 90%. Does he really deserve the flak he's been taking? Is he really a liar and a criminal as some attest?

I'm an avid news reader, and I have read many articles about his "illegal" activities and still read many comments about how Bush lied to everyone. The problem is, none of these claims seem to have any merit. I won't say he has never done something illegal or lied, but the people making these claims don't have concrete data to back them. The opposition claims he lied about Iraq, but that just doesn't seem to be the case. If you go back to the beginning of 2003 and put yourself in Bush's shoes, without any benefit of hindsight, you'll see that pretty much everyone in the world thought Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and he had obstinately refused to comply with some 12 previous UN resolutions. Of course, if you're going to war, you should make sure your claims are true - and the info that was declared by the CIA and others did in fact support Bush's theory that Saddam was a threat. It was determined he (Saddam Hussein) needed to be eliminated. Whether the analysts reported false information is a different story, but can't be blamed on Bush. Also, whether you think the war was necessary or not is again a different story and not relevant to Bush being a liar or a criminal.

Some say the war was illegal, but there was a UN resolution authorizing force (though some claim they think Bush should have gone back to the UN again) and the US Congress did declare war. Therefore, the war was not illegal. On the issue of illegal wiretapping, the media has routinely called them illegal, but the problem is that it is a gray area where there wasn't explicit law prohibiting Bush from doing what he was doing. If there were, then it would have had to be stopped. Instead, Congress passed a bill to clarify the issue - effectively saying that the president had the right to order non-warrant wiretaps on international calls in order to combat terrorism.

I think beyond these hot-button legal issues, there are three other issues that have hurt Bush's reputation (and these aren't in any order). One is the long, costly and problematic war in Iraq. The original execution of the war - the "Shock and Awe" - was brilliantly run by Donald Rumsfeld, but as we now know, there appeared to be highly erroneous assumptions of how things would carry out after Hussein's fall, and no real follow-up plan. Based on those assumptions, Bush's "Mission Accomplished" stunt wouldn't have been a big deal, but of course, it now seems a big blunder. Rumsfeld's specialty was the use of a relatively small, powerful force to quickly wipe out a visible enemy. But when the nearly-invisible insurgency kicked in, that force was inadequate. Whether due to Rumsfeld or the top military brass, I don't know, but significantly more forces weren't committed to Iraq for too long and that gap gave the insurgency time to gather money, weapons and power. Disaster ensued. As tired of the war as I was however, I still felt it was our duty to fix the mess we got into - as did Bush. Fortunately the defeatists were ignored and "The Surge" went forth and has worked wonders (mixed with other happenings like the 'Sunni Awakening'). Looking back, I don't know how much direct input Bush has had in the running of the Iraq war, or whether he just let Rumsfeld and Cheney run it, but he does bear some responsibility.

Issue number two is the alienation of much of the world. This is largely due to the Iraq war and Bush's unilateral and sometimes arrogant approach to it - think, "You're either with us or against us." When he talks, it is sometimes with a smirk that can be frustratingly maddening and further enforces this idea of assumed supremacy. Mix all that with the fact that much of the Middle East thinks (erroneously) that the Iraq war is just a war on Islam, and you have a situation where the US has really lost a lot of stature and power in the world. Some countries like France didn't help things by matching Bush's haughtiness with their own. Regardless, both our friends and our enemies were angry at the US. That is sad and even a little scary - our ability to push for change in Iran and Palestine has been seriously weakened. I'm hopeful that Obama can get some of that back.

Issue three is the response by FEMA to Hurricane Katrina. It is still mentioned often by the media and considered a major blunder. This one stymies me though and I don't think the media is on the same page as the general public here. While the news organizations love to bring the point up, comments tell me that much of the public is sick of hearing about it and sick of the fact that so many in New Orleans seem unable to take some responsibility and rebuild. Now, I'll admit that the damage was devastating and there was a lot of real loss and suffering. Where I disagree is that it is FEMA's responsibility to take care of all the citizens there 100%. The mayor, Ray Nagin, along with the governor, Kathleen Blanco, politicized things early on and were somehow able to remove much of the spotlight from their own inability to take care of their constituents. That is where the real crime happened. The federal agencies should be there to assist and augment the local efforts, but the media would like you to believe that FEMA is responsible for all the problems. That's just not true and even after years of living in FEMA-provided trailors, many citizens there are still expecting the government to take care of them. A minority will always need help, but I hate what I see as a major lack of personal responsibility by so many.

Wow, so I've covered what I think are the major contentions here but I haven't even mentioned some of the good works he's done. Bush is responsible for perhaps the largest investment in anti-AIDS work in Africa in world history - tripling the previous investment to some $9 billion. He reformed Medicare to give seniors more plan options and save them bundles in prescription costs, although the returns here differ depending on who you ask. He has passed the No Child Left Behind bill, which, while a target of criticism, has also been hailed by both political parties as a major benefit to the education system and the bill will likely be renewed. Additionally, Bush created an enormous pristine marine preserve northwest of Hawaii. He tried mightily to pass a much needed, moderate immigration bill only to be defeated by his own party. Bush tried to push Social Security reform after being re-elected but was defeated in those efforts as well, putting into question what will happen when I reach retirement age. I'm sure there have been other notable accomplishments as well.

In closing, Bush has failed to efficiently run the war in Iraq and has hurt the US's image due to that war and his sometimes arrogant approach to things, but he really hasn't been as bad a president as everyone makes him out to be. I hope history proves me right.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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