It’s the war not the warrior, stupid

In the heart of silicon valley is a relatively small little town where I grew up. It was originally an agricultural town and considered a summer home for the affluent from San Francisco. Founded in 1906, this town had 200 people in 1930 and now has around 28,000 people. What started out as a small rural area with farmlands and train depots has turned into one of the most affluent areas in California, with sprawling homes in over one acre lots in the mountains. The downtown is quaint with high end stores and restaurants and the streets lined with luxury cars. On any given day there are expensively dressed people walking up and down main street; some with their kids, some with their dogs, and some just by themselves. Every Sunday my family and I stroll through downtown after breakfast at a family owned cafe, passing by other families doing the same thing; strolling through the streets stopping to pick up coffee and danish while shopping. If recession hit the US, you would not know by looking at the residents of this town. Life is definitely good.

However, there is one thing the stands out, something that just does not fit in the sea of wealthy people. His name is Tom or it could be Joe, no one knows for sure since he answers to both, and he is a homeless man who has set up his “home” in the little alleyway between a little french cafe and the local bank. Tom/Joe can be seen riding his bike in his fatigues with all his belongings stuffed in a bag and hung on the handle bar. He is the male version of a bag lady. This town is known in the area for its affluence, so why is there an anomaly like this? This man used to live in Los Altos. He spent his childhood growing up in this town and was given the house when his parents later passed away. Why is he not living in his house? Is it because of the financial crisis? Was it foreclosed? No. This man is a Vietnam veteran and when he came back he couldn’t find a job. He was injured during the war and after his treatment was released to fend for himself. The benefits he received was not enough to sustain himself. He couldn’t afford to keep the house that had been in his family for generations. With his head injuries and PTSD, he was having trouble going back to the life he once had. His injuries make it almost impossible for people to help him and veteran services just didn’t help enough. For the rest of his life, he will continue to roam around downtown Los Altos living off the food people provide him.

Veterans day was this past Friday and while it is great we have a day to honor those who have served us, we need to do more for those that risk their lives to protect us and our freedoms.  There needs to be a better program set up in place to help those returning from war, especially the young ones. As you recall, the Vietnam war was highly protested in college campuses around the United States. Veterans returning stayed away from campuses because of the disrespect they faced. It was a tough environment for veterans to return to. In Eric Shisenki’s article in the Wall Street, Why Veterans Make Good Employees, he states that, “there was an air of disdain for the military and for those who had served in Vietnam–nothing confrontational, nothing openly disrespectful, but studied indifference.” This attitude continues to be exacerbated even today by the anti-war faction. Case in point, as a response to a school wide request for donations for a care package drive to send to our troops, Professor Avery of the Suffolk University Law School wrote “I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings.” This, supposedly learned, man failed to make a distinction between the war and the warrior. Our troops do not have a choice on whether to fight in our wars, Congress determines that. If he has to direct his ire, it should be against the war, not the troops and he should direct it towards congress and the president, not our heroes. Does he also not distinguish between killing a human beings versus killing enemy combatants? Ironically, it is these men and women in uniform who even allowed him the freedom to make such a statement. I would challenge him to make such incendiary statements in Moscow where he attended school. Learned maybe, smart definitely not.

In 2008, a bill was passed to improve the  G.I. bill the United States had in place since WWII which finances education for many veterans. While this has helped in a lot of ways, there is also an increasing problem with homeless veterans.With more and more people entering the armed forces, the current federal programs will not be able to sustain substantial benefits for the veterans. What should we do about it? Well unfortunately, the United States like the rest of the world is going through a financial crisis. Even if we had the money, though, throwing money at the existing programs will not alleviate the  situation. What needs to happen is a restructuring of the federal programs as well as state programs in order to ensure that soldiers returning from service will be better provided for and become productive members of this society if they so chose to leave the armed forces instead of leaving them to fend for themselves and struggle to survive. What also needs to change is our attitude. Let us ensure the vets are integrated back into society. Let us ensure they are included as diversity in our hiring efforts in the private and public sector. Let us give them the adulation they deserve for selflessly serving us. They have done a lot for this nation and it is only right that we give back.

To Joe/Tom and others like him out there: a salute and my heartfelt gratitude.

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Liberal Racism – Can that be?

“Here we go again with the race-card business.”

“Shake it off. Stop complainin’. Stop grumblin’. Stop cryin” Obama recently told the Congressional Black Caucus, droppin the g’s when speakin to them. Really Mr President? Is this how all blacks speak? The media of course was deafening in their silence in pointing out how racist it was of Obama to stereotype ‘black’ speech. However when Cain recently said “African Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded, not even considering a conservative point of view,” causing an uproar amongst the black community, he was eviscerated by the liberal media for making such race based ‘disparaging’ comments (never mind there may be some truth to this). There seems to be convenient use of racism in play here.

Race played a big role in the 2008 elections when an African American candidate “made history” by being elected President of the United States. But now that we have proven we can elect a black man as president, will race continue to be a key factor in the 2012 race? Looks like it. As opposed to the 2008 elections when Barack Obama, a liberal democrat, was the only African American candidate in the race, the 2012 race has Herman Cain as, God forbid, a conservative GOP nominee. This has stemmed an “us versus them” debate with a little bit of a twist. It is no longer the minority vote versus the white vote but rather a more complex discussion of Republican minorities versus Democrat minorities.

According to the National Journal, the last consensus reported that “the minority population grew from 30.9 percent in 2000 to 36.3 percent in 2010 […] The minority share of that adult population rose from 28 percent in 2000 to 33 percent in 2010. That’s an annual rate of increase of one-half a percentage point; if this trend continues, minorities will represent 34 percent of American adults by the 2012 election.” The minority demographic has become an important vote for the Democrats and cannot be ignored by the Republicans.

We saw in 2008 how powerful the minority vote was for the Democrats. CNN exit polls showed how important they were for Barack Obama’s election: “Blacks, 96 percent Obama to 3 percent McCain; Latinos, 67 percent Obama to 30 percent McCain; and Asians, 63 percent Obama to 34 percent McCain.” Minority voters came out in record numbers to elect the first African American president. This was understandable because for 219 years of US history there have only ever been white men as presidents. There has also been a lot of discussion and speculation that a number of ‘white’ voters voted for Obama once and for all dispel the spectre of racism. But for Obama to be re-elected “Independents, whose allegiances have shifted rapidly, hold the key. But Obama’s hopes also depend on rebuilding the coalition of African- Americans, Latinos, younger voters and suburbanites that elected him.”

With the economy at a stand still and record numbers of people unemployed, the focus is still on race. This “us versus them” mentality has not worn off, but has in fact become a lot worse under the current president; drawing lines not only between minorities and whites but also between minority Republicans and minority Democrats. The Republican Party has always been illustrated as one of the “old white men” so when a conservative minority espouses conservative ideals, there is a lot of rift and tension within their community.

Supposedly we live in a day and age when there is no racism and people are not judged by the color of their skin, but looking at the presidential race, it is all about racial tensions. When there are more important issues to worry about, media continues to pushes this idea of separated identities. The media it to blame on the race card we all play when it comes to politics. For the last three years, when the Republicans and the Tea Party questioned Obama’s policies, media called it a racial attack. News channels, like NBC, have admittedly skewed and edited Perry’s words to show racism in the GOP. However, when more recently, Herman Cain called out the Democrats for being racist for attacking him with allegations of sexual misconduct, liberal media like NPR questioned his claim as improbable, stating sarcastically “in Cain world, apparently, only liberals can be guilty of racism.” Also critical, “Racial politics return with Cain allegations” declared the Boston Globe. Equally telling is that they were not sympathizing with Cain but criticizing him for bringing up the race card. Yet with very little evidence they are quick to jump to conclusions on any opposition to Obama as racism. “An overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man. That he’s African-American.” President Jimmy Carter declared in reference to the Tea Party.

I say, let this matter rest altogether. Race should just NOT be an issue.

John Avalon has a good analysis in US/World News on how historically the economy is the number one issue in a president’s re-election “job approval, unemployment and growth in gross domestic product. Plug in the data and you get the election outcome — pure, unsentimental and simple.” Obama would love to run on the race card to provide a distraction – he has no economic success to stand on. But I say enough of the race card already. When people go out to vote for the 2012 presidential elections, I hope they will look more at the issues rather than the race of the candidate as we saw in 2008. By continuing to discuss race and ignoring the main issues, we continue to segregate people. Lets bury the race card once and for all. There will always be a few racists in the country, but lets make them irrelevant. When we vote, lets vote for the one we truly believe will lead us to a better economy.

***/Palin 2012?

“Republican Debates Are a Hot Ticket on TV.” With the September Fox debate attracting over 6 million viewers as compared to an average of 2 million in 2007, it is no wonder every media outlet has jumped onto the Republican debate band wagon.There are around 23 debates planned with nine already behind us. There has been much talk about the Republican Presidential candidates with what seems like the weekly debates and each one has blended into the other like a bad reality show. Ron Paul keeps espousing his rigid Libertarian views and Michelle Bachmann keeps discussing her family life (none of which is relevant to the background and experience necessary for a presidential candidate). Herman Cain has become the front runner with his bold 9-9-9 plan but shows his inexperience when it comes to foreign policy and making gaffes. With Romney and Perry continuously going at each other, no one else can get a word in edge wise. Oh yes, Santorum and Gingrich do get in their clever gibes once in a while but Huntsman is essentially inconsequential.

For those of us here in California, the primaries are about eight months away and I don’t know about the rest of you but I am getting very tired of all the bickering and the Republicans tearing each other apart. Lets be honest, a Republican is going to vote Republican anyway; ABO, Anyone but Obama 2012! Even a “rino” would be better than Obama.

What I am more interested in is who the vice president on the ticket is going to be. I believe the VP choice will be crucial in winning over the independents. In fact with someone else on the ticket in 2008, McCain could have potentially won. This time, we need to pick the VP with utmost care, someone who will be viewed as Presidential but someone who will also attract the independent votes. With the changing demographics, I’m guessing that there will need to a be a “minority” on the Republican ticket.

If Herman Cain wins the nomination, the position is open to the entire Republican field. But what about if another candidate wins the nomination? The Republican party will most likely look towards Bobby Jindal or Nikki Haley for the “ethnic” vote, or Paul Ryan to win over a younger generation or to get both category of votes, Marco Rubio.

Let me first discuss the demographic shift then discuss the potential Vice President candidates.

According to Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais’s article Shifting Voter Demographics: America is a Different Country, “In 1965 the nation was 89% white and 11% black, about the same as it had been during the previous century. Since then, high levels of Asian and Latino immigration have produced an America today which is 66% white and 33% “people of color,” a tripling of the minority population in only four decades.” The minority vote is becoming ever so important. And with most minorities tending to vote for Democrats, it is becoming ever so more important for Republicans to try to relate to minorities and attract them to the Republican party.

The next demographic shift is in age. The Millennial (born 1982-2003), or “youth” vote, is becoming increasingly important. “There are about 95 million Millennials, about half of whom are now of voting age. One out of four eligible voters in 2012 will come from this generation. That will expand to more than one out of three voters by 2020.” This is the vote that pushed Obama into the White House and it is this vote that has the potential to vote him back in, in 2012.

So with this demographic shift in mind, who should the VP be? Like I mentioned above, there are four choices I see as viable candidates; Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio. Bobby Jindal is one of my favorite governors. He has run his state, Louisiana, really efficiently even under dire circumstances with the fallout from Katrina to the oils spills. He is obviously loved by his constituents as he was recently re-elected to office in a landslide. The only problem with Jindal is that he had a lackluster performance on the national stage when he provided the rebuttal to Obama’s State of the Union address in 2009. That one small mistake was blown up by liberal media so much that there is a slight feeling amongst the independents that he is inexperienced and perhaps not dynamic enough. Nikki Haley is a rising star in the GOP, but is she too inexperienced? Perhaps. She has done wonders in the short time as governor of South Carolina but has only made national news in a negative light with the denial of her heritage.

Paul Ryan is a proven force to be reckoned with. As a young Representative from Wisconsin, Ryan was at the forefront of the Republican party and the powerhouse behind the Republican budget proposal. He is known nationally as the face of the young Republicans and a Tea Party favorite. Ryan is a relatively young politician, someone the “youth” vote can relate to, and someone who can energize the party once again. Marco Rubio, a Senator from Florida, also has that appeal. He is relatively young and is a fresh figure in the Republican Party. Along with being able to attract the “youth,” Marco Rubio, as a son of Cuban immigrants, appeals to the “minority” vote. For this reason, I believe Marco Rubio should be on the top of all the candidates’ list. He has however recently announced on the Bill O’Reilly show that he would not accept if asked. However maybe party loyalty and some persuasion may sway him.

Other potentials? There are always Chris Christie and Scott Walker, but they have been too controversial to help garner enough independent votes to ensure a Republican win. With a strategically picked Vice President based on the demographic changes, the GOP will make sure Obama is a one-term President.

Big Bad Corporations

Who said private corporations do not have an interest or the right regulatory incentives in creating jobs? Recently, large multi-billion dollar private sector corporations have set up programs and have started hiring underprivileged teenagers in Texas. These “altruistic”corporations have set out to foster a strong work ethic amongst kids with the added bonus of paying them handsomely every time they finish a simple task. They have set up “command and control centers in Texas actively recruiting children for their operations, attracting them with what appears to be easy money for doing simple tasks.” They are bringing up the next generation of productive citizens who are being taught they need to work for their money. So why the concerns amongst the adults that teenagers are being hired by these corporations? Is it because they themselves want the jobs instead of letting teenagers have it? Or is it just an inherent distrust of big corporations? No, it is neither. It is because these big “private sector corporations” also happen to be the illegal and very violent Mexican drug cartels.

With over  9% unemployment for the last two years and very few new jobs being created in the private sector, we wait with baited breath for the new jobs report released every month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And every month we release that breath with a sigh. Unemployment remains stagnant at over 9%. Desperation has set in and the unemployed will do virtually anything for a job. The job market is so bad, that adults are now targeting jobs once held by teenagers, leaving the younger generation of workers at an unemployment rate of 24.6 percent, according to the Bureau.They have to ‘fight’ the adults for their seasonal jobs. Thus, the temptation for easy money is hard to resist. So while the supposedly 99% of the people are worrying about how corrupt the top 1% is on Wall Street, they should take a harder look at the real corruption in our society; the corruption that is molding our future generations. It is sad that the few private sector firms hiring people for lucrative work are those that are illegal. How do we fix this? Two simple words: border security.

In this past year alone, 25 children have been arrested in one border county in Texas “for running drugs, acting as lookouts, or doing other work for organized Mexican drug gangs” according to Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. At least six drug cartels have started using U.S children as “expendables” and luring them in with “easy money” to perform minor tasks for these cartels. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has started a program called “Operation Detour,” a program which McCraw says Texas will join. The program has law enforcement officials speak with the the parents and the children in the community, to try to deter them from working with these drug cartels.

More than 1,300 people have died along the borders as a direct result of the drug war this past year, and now these cartels are luring in children and becoming an even bigger problem. “The Texas border region represents 9.7% of the state’s population, yet has 19.2% of the state’s juvenile felony drug referrals and 21.8% of the state’s juvenile felony gang referrals.” Clearly, the passive steps by the Texas Department of Public Safety are not working. All is takes for teenagers to change their behavior is being lectured to by adults, right? It is very idealistic and naive to think that just talking with students and their parents will prevent kids from joining these cartels.

Of course this isn’t just a Texas problem, or for that matter just a border state issue. It is a national security issue. Why isn’t the federal government helping? The Obama administration has taken a few steps to help border security but again he has taken a perfectly good Mérida Initiative and made it more passive. There are some good programs like the much needed “The Edge Teen After School Program” that encourages teens to participate in intramural activities. These go a long way in keeping teens occupied and hopefully out of trouble. But these big bad corporations can be very persuasive and the lure of big money for doing easy tasks is just too strong.

According to CBP (Customs and Border Patrol), only when the Bush Administration increased funding to border security, including fencing and border troops, did the United States see a decline in drug trafficking. When Obama eased up, taking a less harsh stance on the issue, trafficking and violence has increased. Sure there are some economic problems to resolve this problem. How much would a fence cost? Well some estimate a fence to cost $21 million per mile. Steep price, I know. But not only would it fix the problem of drug transportation, inherently fixing the violence issues along the border, but it would also fix our illegal immigration issue which is a huge drain on our economy. Lets stem the flow of illegals into our country and take politics out of it; this is for the future of our country.

Great Reads

Below are links to some op-eds that I found interesting:

1. There was a piece about our government’s outrageous spending in Wall Street Journal.

2. In the Wall Street Journal, Amity Shlaes discuses policies that helped create a boom in Silicon Valley that gave us the “Jobs Economy”.

3. Elaine L. Chao, a Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, wrote an op-ed piece for Fox News discussing how President Obama has hindered the private sector from creating jobs. 

What do we want? And when do we want it?

We have all heard about this Occupy Wall Street Movement or OWS as it is commonly referred to as, that originally started in New York and has grown across the country as Occupy *Insert City Name Here. Some are comparing it to the Tea Party movement and some are comparing it to the Arab Spring. In my opinion, they are nothing alike and below I will discuss why:

OWS started as a suggestion from a Canadian magazine that people actually took seriously around mid September. Some don’t have a clue as to why they are there. Some just wanted to join in the fun. And some were actually paid to be there. That’s right the “populist uprising” that is happening around the US, that has been compared to the Arab Spring, is actually a paid assignment for some and funded by the unions to “occupy”. From what I can glean from all the information and some misinformation in the press, the majority of the people participating are there because they are mad at bankers and the top 1% of the richest Americans. What exactly are they mad about? Well to be honest I am not really sure. Some are protesting the bank bailouts, some are against big corporations. All the protesters there believe they “deserve more” but what is interesting is that no one seems to take ownership of their own economic situation. They all believe it is someone else’s fault.

What I also find quite amusing is this hodge podge of people are just as clouded in their thoughts as they are in their organization. They have no clear demands or if they do it has not been articulated cogently. A smattering of uncoordinated signs, like “greedy pigs” and “carbon free future” accompany the protests. So what do these protesters really want? What do they really expect to get out of this if they aren’t willing to work with the people who are willing to help. This movement just shows exactly what these people practice in life; they would rather it get handed to them than work for it. One protester, a college student, demanded he have his tuition paid for because “that’s what [he] wants”.

I believe in personal responsibility.”Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” What am I getting at? Well, the people that are protesting at various Occupy * City Name are expecting corporations and government to hand them money and “spread the wealth”. They are mad that the top 1% are not paying their “fair share of taxes” but that 1% pays almost 40% of the individual income tax and almost 60% of corporate income tax. These protesters do not want to work for their money, they expect that the government hand it down in the form of welfare programs. According to David Brooks’ article in the New York Times, if you take everything that the top 1% earned, you wouldn’t even make a dent in the national debt. What got the United States in this recent economic crisis is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. While government is in part guilty for even creating these programs and ‘forcing’ lax rules and quotas to qualify minorities, the people themselves are responsible for the overspending, over-borrowing. Why are they shocked that they are in debt? The debt didn’t come out of nowhere; they knew they were living above their means.

These protesters can sit out there all they want, but without a clear plan or demand and effective organization, they wont see anything change. They keep complaining about unfairness which had lead media to compare it to the Arab Spring but unlike the Arab Spring, OWS protesters are not facing a dictatorship or human rights violations. Egypt had Mubarak, Libya, Gaddafi, Yemen and Syria have Saleh and Assad, all regimes with varying levels of oppressive governments and economic decline. The protesters have been fired upon and responded to with brutal force. Many people have sacrificed their lives for their cause. In contrast, the Wall Street protesters have freedom. Freedom to demonstrate, freedom to display anti-establishment signs, freedom to say pretty much anything including anti-Semitic rhetoric, all protected under the First Amendment. They also have the right to move freely around the country, find jobs, go to school to re-learn and the right to ‘get rich’ based on their own abilities. Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Larry Page all did, and all from modest circumstances. How can then one even compare the two movements? The only commonality is the use of social media to organize. In fact one can argue that the Arab World is facing real hardships and it is almost sacrilege to compare the two protests.

The “inability of the organizers, whoever they are exactly, or the participants, an endlessly shifting population, to say clearly and succinctly why they’re there” makes this protest completely different from the Arab Spring and the Tea Party. The Tea Party, or the Taxed Enough Already Party have a clear agenda and goal. The Tea Party-ers have united against big government and lower taxes. They have proven to be effective as a group that gets things done. They are promoting their message slowly but surely and are pro-actively electing people around the country that have the same strong convictions as them so they can be represented in Congress. Tea Party-ers don’t expect anything to be handed to them and in fact are very strongly for self sufficiency, so they are taking action for themselves. The OWS protesters should take note.

Secure Borders: not just an immigration issue

Over the past decade, the United States has fluctuated in policies dealing with the drug war between a strong active stance to a more passive preventative stance. The war on drugs can only be fought successfully by ensuring our borders do not provide a convenient route for the traffickers. Additionally, being proactive in assisting Mexico with capturing the drug cartel ‘lords’ to disrupt their operations is also a good strategy but dependent on Mexico’s cooperation. A strong drug enforcement policy with preventative measures that will decrease drug usage and thus lead to less drug trafficking is a good parallel strategy but a long-term one; unless our borders are secured so the cartels lose their ability to traffic thus effectively shutting them down, we will not succeed in this “war”.

Since the movement of drug cartels northward, from Colombia to Mexico in the 1990’s, the United States has had an even more vested interest in trying to cut drug trafficking into the United States. The National Drug Intelligence Center now considers Mexican drug cartels as dominating the U.S. illicit drug market. According to the Center, Mexican cartels “use their well-established overland transportation networks to transport cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin – Mexican and increasingly South American  – to drug markets throughout the country.” With nearly 2000 miles of common border between the two countries, the United States government has had to take a much more active role in curbing the resulting problems that came with that northward shift; increased violence and increased drug use in the US. What would effectively solve both of these problems is if, as a short term strategy, the United States took a much stronger stance on; securing the border, and playing a more active role in busting cartels, and as a longer term strategy instituting a strong drug enforcement policy which includes prevention. However securing our borders is the the single most effective strategy of curbing this drug trafficking. “In the United States, wholesale illicit drug sale earnings estimates range from $13.6 to $48.4 billion annually.” This lucrative business has caused turf wars amongst the different cartel in Mexico leading to increased violence.

In the past decade, Mexican drug cartels and the ensuing violence between them to gain control of the business, have influenced two major areas of United States policies; the control of its borders, and the US policies on substance abuse. Only recently has the problem of drug trafficking from Mexico been a concern for the United States. According to James Creechan in a paper he presented at an annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology,  An overview of drug cartels in Mexico, about 70% of all narcotics comes into the US from Mexico. Because the most influential drug cartels are now from Mexico and the wars between the cartels to take control of the lucrative drug trafficking has spilled into the US borders, the US government has had to reevaluate policies to ensure that we are is effectively curtailing the cartel activities and thereby curtailing violence.

Background on the northward shift in the location of drug cartels:

The fall of the two biggest drug cartels in Colombia, Cali and Medellin, led to the Mexican drug cartels taking over as the main supplier of drugs to the United States in the 1990s. As law enforcement began to crack down on certain cartel leaders, cartels began fighting for the best drug route to the United States and violence increased greatly. During the 1980’s and 1990’s when Colombia dominated the drug trafficking system, the route of the flow of drugs to the United States was through the Caribbean to Florida. When heightened security effectively closed the Florida route, Colombian cartels looked to Mexico for alliance because of its border with the Unites States. The Colombian cartels and the Mexican Cartels set up a system over time which allowed for the Mexican drug traffickers to not only transport the drugs into the US but also physically carry cash back to Mexico via land transportation. This allowed them to evade monitoring of any electronic cash transfers.

The increase in incoming narcotics raised serious concern for the United States government. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) created by President Nixon in 1969 to fight drug wars, worked closely with the Mexican government to control the situation. “Those fears are not unfounded, but U.S. policy makers have a serious problem brewing much closer to home. The prominence of the drug trade in Mexico has mushroomed in recent years. Some press reports contended that, by 1997, Mexican drug organizations were rivaling or even surpassing the strength of the Colombian cartels” (Carpenter, 169).

Background on joint effort between the U.S. and Mexico under President Bush:

The drug cartels use illegal immigrants and illicit business transportation to cart the drugs across the border into the US.  With seventy percent of Mexican drug market in the United States, drug traffickers are crossing the border daily in order to cater to their clients. “Most of the foreign-produced Marijuana available in the United States is smuggled into the country from Mexico via the U.S.-Mexico border by Mexican DTOs and criminal groups.” The violence that has ensued due to the Mexican drug cartels has caused great concern for the United States. In 2007, 7500 have died in drug related violence by the cartel including 200 Americans. Because of Mexico’s proximity, the violence amongst drug cartels has infiltrated the borders and has come into bordering United States cities. The Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) within The Department of Homeland Security, created in 2003 by President Bush after 9/11 has the jurisdiction to facilitate trade between the US and South America while securing the border to enforce drug and immigration laws.

Additionally, the Secure Border Initiative was created within CBP in 2005 “to gain effective control of our Nation’s borders through substantial investments in technology, infrastructure, and enforcement personnel.” According to the official CBP website, in fiscal year 2007, CBP increased Border Patrol agent staffing by 21 percent, from 12,349 in fiscal year 2006 to 14,923 at the end of fiscal year 2007, the largest yearly increase in the history of the Border Patrol in response to escalating violence because of the drug cartels. On all four bordering states, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, the government increased security measures.

To further secure the border a decision was made to build barriers along the US Mexican border to prevent the flow of illegals and drug trafficking. The barriers were built as part of three separate operations; Operation Gatekeeper in California in 1994, Operation Hold-the-Line in Texas in 1993, and Operation Safeguard in  Arizona in 1995. According to CBP, as of January 2009, about 600 miles of the fence has been built. This measure has met with some success. “What we are seeing is a result of increased border enforcement’s deterrent effect on illegal border crossings along with the result of our increased ability to confront continued illegal drug smuggling attempts across our borders,” said CBP’s Acting Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern in a press release. “We will continue to increase the pressure on drug and human smugglers by confronting them at every turn, including their attempts to smuggle weapons and bulk cash south of the border.”

In 2002 president Vicente Fox requested increased cooperation from the US Government to help him in his war with the drug lords. Prior to this the two countries had often worked at cross purposes. Mexican anti drug agency and DEA increased cooperation and shared information. One joint effort “Operation Trifecta” in 2003 a 19-month-long international Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation into cocaine, Marijuana and methamphetamine trafficking leading to several arrests and confiscation of a huge cache of drugs, was immensely successful. “The success of Operation Trifecta is based on unprecedented cooperation between Mexican law enforcement and US counterparts over an 18-month period. Information sharing reached new levels and is the foundation for a new and more effective working relationship.” said DEA’s Acting Administrator William Simpkins in a press release. According to a Drug Enforcement Agency report “900,000 fewer teenagers are using illicit drugs in 2008 than in 2000. This is a 25% decline.” The DEA works closely with the Mexican government in order to capture the cartel leaders hoping to dismantle the cartel and disrupt the flow of drugs into the US.

The Merida Initiative by President Bush and President Calderon, has reinforced cooperation through support and training to fight the cartels.“On February 3, 2006, Mexican drug kingpin Oscar Arturo Arriola-Marquez, head of an international drug distribution network whose operations extended from Mexico across the U.S. border and throughout the United States, was arrested in Mexico as a result of a joint operation between DEA and the Mexican authorities. The Arriola-Marquez cartel was a violent criminal organization responsible for trafficking thousands of kilos of cocaine and Marijuana into the United States and laundering the resulting illegal proceeds.”

Because the Mexican drug cartels smuggle drugs into the United States, it is in the best interests of the United States government to take a hands-on approach to ending this ‘drug war’. The United States has taken it into its own hands to control the recent increase in illegal narcotics use. Since the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 1970, they have made their biggest impact in the past decade during the Bush administration. The government increased its funding allowing them to expand operations. “On January 19, 2007, Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, head of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel that controlled large-scale Marijuana and cocaine trafficking from Mexico to the United States, was extradited to the United States, along with 14 other of the world’s most violent and ruthless criminals. Cardenas-Guillen was captured on March 14, 2003, by law enforcement in Mexico, with the assistance of DEA, the FBI, and U.S. Customs.”

According to the DEA, besides the “supply reduction activities,” policies “including evidence-based prevention and early intervention programs, have resulted in fewer first time illicit drug users, significant reductions in youth drug use, and an increased perception of the health and social consequences associated with drug use.” The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) developed the Drug Free Communities (DFC) program along with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and funded the program to the tune of $450MM. The idea is that if drug use is reduced then the market for illegal drugs would decrease and thus reduce trafficking and violence. Secondly, the government provides significant funding to the States to carry out prevention and treatment programs. Access to Recovery (ATR) was started in 2003 for treatment and recovery services. Finally, the policy on lengthy incarcerations for drug traffickers is instituted to act as a deterrent. The prison terms are usually between five and twenty years depending on the type of drugs, the quantity and the number of offenses.

Background on joint effort between the U.S. and Mexico under President Obama:

On “March 24, 2009, came an announcement from the Obama administration of a $700 million border security strategy. The new initiative will focus U.S. law enforcement efforts on working with their Mexican counterparts at the border to reduce illegal flows of weapons and money pouring into Mexico and drugs coming into the United States.” Despite this grand announcement, enforcement has not been diligent. “The General Accountability Office (GAO), the chief watchdog agency for Congress, has found less than half of our border to be under operational control.” The State Department has recently issued an assessment of the situation on the border claiming that in the past couple of years, violence on the border has “dramatically increased.” Also, in the past few years, there has been around 30,000 narcotic related murders. The States Department has clearly seen a slip in United States policies related to the drug war under the Obama administration.

States like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California are facing the brunt of this situation; in terms of economics as well as human capital. Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, has written to Obama about the worsening situation saying, “Luck and good fortune are not effective border enforcement policies. The shocking reality of cross border gunfire proves the cold reality: American lives are at risk. As the attached news article notes: “More than 1,300 people have been murdered in Juárez this year as a war continues relentlessly between the Juárez and Sinaloa drug cartels.” Americans must be protected as this deadly war bulges at our border.”

A lot of the policies Obama has created and built upon are preventative measures and does not take proactively bust drug cartels. “The U.S. strategy in simplest terms is to follow Mexico’s lead. In a research paper by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the authors argue that  “in contrast to Plan Colombia, which the U.S. government shaped in important ways, the Mérida Initiative was intentionally designed to respond to Mexico’s requests. The Obama administration has adjusted the Mérida Initiative to include more attention to community development and at least two pilot projects along the U.S.-Mexico border.” What President Obama has done is move U.S. policy from a proactive plan to a more passive plan. With the recent data on how many people have been murdered as a direct cause of the drug trafficking, focusing on preventative measures like “community development” is obviously not helping ease the situation.

Some argue that the Obama administration is trying harder than any previous administration to curtail the drug war problems by spending more on the efforts. In 2010 Obama requested that the Mérida Initiative be funded another $100 million. Throwing additional money at the problem does not alleviate the situation. His administration is so worried about “human rights violations” that the initiative has been rendered ineffective.

Another strategy the Obama administration tried to pursue was preventative measures here in the United States; trying to reduce drug use which would reduce the need to traffic drugs. “In May 2010, the Obama administration announced that its domestic strategy for combating illicit drug consumption would place renewed focusing on prevention and treatment. Specifically, the administration unveiled a target of reducing illicit drug consumption among teens by 15% over the next five years, and additional resources for programs to help those who struggle with abuse.” Again, I argue that preventative measures like these are good for the long run, but as an immediate solution completely blocking and fencing off the border will prove the most effective.

What the Obama administration has concluded is that Mexican drug cartels have started to not only smuggle cash back to the United States but also weapons and firearms back to Mexico. According the the Wilson Center, “under President Obama, the United States and Mexico have sought to step up efforts to disrupt south bound weapons trafficking and bulk cash smuggling. The widespread availability of firearms in the United States — particularly high-powered weapons (including high caliber pistols, machine guns, and even grenades) — creates a readily accessible market for illegal weapons trafficking into Mexico, where there are strict limitations on the possession of firearms. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE), of all weapons confiscated in Mexico and turned over to U.S. authorities for tracing, more than 90 percent came from the United States.” With this discovery, the Obama administration tried a new program called Operation Fast and Furious, that allowed the US to track guns deliberately sold into Mexico. The reasoning was that tracing the guns would lead them to the drug cartels. Unfortunately the ATF lost track of a number of guns which ended up as weapons used in killing Americans. This failed attempt “allegedly allowed thousands of weapons to cross the border and fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.”

Analyzing the statistics of the various programs and policies it appears that the strategy that has been most effective is securing our borders. According to CBP, increased funding for border patrol and fencing under the Bush administration directly led to a decrease in drug trafficking. When administrations changed, Obama took a more passive stance on the situation and that has led to increased violence along the borders. President Obama recently signed a $600MM border security bill which is a step in the right direction, his political intention of pandering to Hispanic votes notwithstanding. “The new $600 million will fund some 1,500 new border patrol agents, customs inspectors and other law enforcement officials along the border, as well as two more unmanned aerial “drones” to monitor border activities.”  Per a statement by the White House, this bill is “part of a multi layered effort to target illicit networks trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons and money,” the Texas Attorney General Abbott said it best when he stated that it is fine to hope and pray that US citizens will stop using illicit drugs and in turn stop drug trafficking but ground troops and securing the border has been the only strategy known to work.

Work Cited:
Carpenter, Ted Galen. Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington’s Futile War on Drugs in Latin America. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
 
Ronfeldt, David and Reuter, Peter. “Quest for Integrity: The Mexican – US Issue in the 1980s.” Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs.Vol. 34, No.3, Special Issue: Drug Trafficking Research Update (Autumn, 1992), pp. 89-153 Published by: Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami Stable.
<http://www.jstor.org/stable/165926&gt;.
 
Falco, Mathea. “U. S. Drug Policy: Addicted to Failure.” Foreign Policy, No. 102 (Spring, 1996), pp. 120-133 Published by: Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, LLC Stable. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1149263&gt;.
 
Van Wert, James M. “The US State Department’s Narcotics Control Policy in the Americas.” Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 30, No. 2/3, Special Issue: Assessing the Americas’ War on Drugs (Summer – Autumn, 1988), pp. 1-18 Published by: Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami Stable. http://www.jstor.org/stable/165977.
 
U.S.Drug Enforcement Agency. < http://www.justice.gov/dea/index.htm&gt;.
 
Creechan, James. “An overview of drug cartels in Mexico” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology (ASC), Los Angeles Convention Center, Los Angeles, CA, Nov 01, 2006
 
Miron, Jeffery A. “The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition.” <http://www.prohibitioncosts.org/mironreport.html&gt;.

A Bake Sale with a Message

This past Tuesday, the University of California Berkeley College Republicans hosted a diversity bake sale. What made it a “diversity” bake sale? Well, they tailored their prices based on race. Caucasians had to pay $2.00 for baked goods while Asians had to pay $1.50, Latinos paid $1.00, Blacks $.75, Native Americans $0.25 and all women got an extra .25 off. The Berkeley College Republicans were trying to make a point. Jerry Brown was about to sign legislation, SB 185, that would allow race, ethnicity and gender be considered for college admissions “so long as no preference is given.” Supporters of the bill are quick to point out that this is NOT affirmative action.  “California’s Constitution prohibits “preferential treatment” on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, public education or public contracting.” This prohibition was further ratified by voters 15 years ago when proposition 209 passed in 1996. However it is naive to believe that no preferences would be given if race is being considered at all.  “I don’t think they could consider a person’s race without giving some edge to that person,” said Ward Connerly, a former UC regent and author of Prop. 209. “Would they give it a little weight? A little nudge? A strict reading of Prop. 209 says you cannot discriminate or grant preferential treatment.”

This bake sale caused a huge uproar and there were protests over the Facebook page of the event. Liberals were mad. “It’s racist!” they claimed. It was all over the news. Every news channel from MSNBC to Fox covered the bake sale trying to stir up debate. What I don’t understand is that a bake sale with different prices based on race is racist, however admitting people in college based on race isn’t?? That is pure hypocrisy to me.

What the UC Berkeley college Republicans were trying to point out with this “discriminatory” bake sale is that if a person considered their bake sale “racist,” then SB 185 should be considered racist. They tried to convey it in a way that college students can really relate to. Why should race be considered for college admissions when it’s not considered in everyday life. The bake sale is racist? No. The bill that is waiting for approval or veto by Jerry Brown is racist. Not as blatantly racist as the bake sale but definitely racist.

There are a few problems I see with SB 185:

“This bill would authorize the University of California and the California State University to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions, to the maximum extent permitted by the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section 31 of Article I of the California Constitution, and relevant case law.”

1. The language of this bill is vague. What is “other relevant factors”?? The language used opens it up for ‘abuse’ and little to no accountability. If any future cases come up, how are they going to argue against “other relevant factors”?

2. This brings me to my next point. This bill states that race should be a factor into college admissions. But what about socioeconomic status? If the whole point of the bill is the “equalize” the admission process for higher education, why should it be based on race and the color of someone’s skin instead of their socioeconomic standing (which actually affects their opportunities)?

SB 185 was an obscure bill which did not have the attention of media or Californians until the uproar about the bake sale. It would have quietly passed into law if Jerry Brown signs it. The bake sale brought it into attention and now there is a debate about it. Precisely the intention of the sale.

Eye for an Eye?

There has always been much debate over the morality of the death penalty in the United States. Recently it has come under a lot of scrutiny when the State of Georgia was set to execute Troy Anthony Davis (executed 10:00 PM PST, September 21, 2011). With support for Troy Davis from high profile individuals like President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict, the case got a lot of media attention which flared the death penalty debate once again. The issue was once again brought to the attention of the public by the media yesterday when Texas decided to end its “special last meal” services to those about to be executed. I will analyze these two recent stories and give you my opinion on each case as well as my opinion on the death penalty in general.

Background Troy Anthony Davis Case:
Davis was convicted in 1991 of the murder of a Savannah, Georgia policeman, Mark MacPhail in 1989. While working security at a local bus station, MacPhail intervened when he saw someone being assaulted. According to witnesses, Davis then shot and killed MacPhail. During the trial, 34 people testified for the prosecution. Among them, seven witnesses testified to seeing Davis shoot MacPhail and two testified that Davis confessed to killing MacPhail. Along with all the witnesses, there was ballistic evidence. The bullets at the scene were linked to a gun used by Davis in an earlier shooting in which he was also charged.

Opposition’s point of view:  
There has been recent strong support for troy Davis, who until his execution maintained his innocence. People have argued that there was not enough evidence that linked Davis to the murder. When convicting someone, the prosecution should argue beyond a reasonable doubt, and there was definite doubt in the public’s mind on Davis’ guilt. Over the years, Davis’ attorneys have filed petitions and appeals, pushing the execution dates back three times. Of the nine witnesses who originally testified against Davis, seven have retracted their statements. Nine people have come forward that implicate another man, Sylvester Coles. According to Davis supporters, there is reasonable doubt, and thus he should be exonerated.

My point of view:
Troy Anthony Davis had a criminal record. Earlier, he was charged and convicted in another shooting. The bullet casings at the earlier shooting matched the bullet casings at the scene of the murder of MacPhail. THIRTY FOUR people testified for the prosecution. SEVEN of those stated they had seen him shoot MacPhail and TWO testified that Davis confessed to the killing. Why did seven people retract their statements? A number of issues could have played into this i.e. media, pressure from vocal public opinion and also pressure of going against Davis’ high profile supporters. Witnesses also have a habit of second guessing the past and rethinking what they originally stated; it had been a while (the original trial was in 1991). Additionally, despite appeal after appeal, the defence was not able to convince any of the judges on Davis’ innocence. In my opinion the prosecution convincingly laid out the case to convict Davis.

Now I will change gears and taking a look at the last meal part of the execution process.

Background on Texas deciding to end its “special last meal” services:
“The controversy began after Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed on Wednesday for the hate crime slaying of James Byrd Jr. more than a decade ago, asked for two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover’s pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. Prison officials said Brewer didn’t eat any of it.” If you do not know about this case I will briefly explain it though for this piece of the post I am only arguing that the rights given to a prisoner about to be executed is ridiculous. Jame Byrd Jr. was viciously murdered by three white supremacists. The “lynching-by-dragging method” used on this man made the case one of the worst hate crimes of the past decade. So obviously, there is no doubt that Lawrence Brewer deserved the death penalty. So when Brewer ordered this extravagant meal and did not even touch it, Sen. John Whitmire decided that it was a privilege that the prisoners did not deserve and was put into place effective immediately by the Texas Criminal Justice Division.

Opposition’s point of view:
As it is, many find the death penalty unusually cruel. Taking away what little humanity there is in the process makes it even crueler. Other states put dollar limits on final meals and other restrictions, but Texas decided just to eliminate it. There is no real argument for why people do not agree with the elimination of the last meal in Texas other than an emotional appeal.

My point of view:
Like Senator John Whitmire said in his argument, these murderers did not give their victims their last meal wishes so why should they have theirs. They ruthlessly took away an innocent person’s life and thus should have all rights stripped away from them.

With the media attention on the death penalty this past week, I just wanted to write my own opinions of the death penalty. As you can probably tell, I am pro-death penalty and I will list out just a few reasons why.

1. Financials. a lot of anti- death penalty proponents argue that death row and execution costs more than keeping someone in prison for life. Sure on the surface it does look like it costs more but when adding up totals for the death penalty, they factor in costs like all the appeals prisoners make. When adding up the numbers for keeping that inmate alive, those metrics are not taken into account. Those sentenced to life have an unlimited number of times they can appeal, so in the long run, keeping them alive would end up costing more.

2. This brings me to my next point. Why not just sentence them to life? It is less inhuman they argue. In this strong opposition to the death penalty there is tremendous hypocrisy. How is it that opponents to the death penalty did not protest the execution of Brewer who was convicted of killing James Byrd? So are the opponents for using the death penalty selectively? Or is it that some murders are more heinous than others and therefore deserve the death penalty? Opponents of the death penalty however claim they are against ALL death penalties. However their actions prove otherwise. Additionally, sentencing someone to life without the option of parole actually does not mean they will stay there until they die in prison. There have been multiple cases where they have been let out for various reasons. is this fair to the victims whose lives were ruthlessly taken away?

3. The death penalty process is actually pretty fair. There are many people who are convinced innocent people are being executed but the process allows for those mistakes to be avoided. There is plenty of time to appeal between the time they are sentenced to death and when they are actually executed.

If those reasons did not convince you I will now try to appeal to your emotional side.

“The 775 killers who were executed between 1998 and 2008 had murdered at least 1591 people.  That is an average of 2 victims per executed killer.”

1. Execution is the only way to remove a threat from society. Even within prison walls, an inmate can do a lot of damage to society. “Pablo Escobar, a criminal so ruthless he allegedly mailed witnesses invitations to their own funerals, was not only able to control his criminal empire from a luxurious prison, but he was also able to escape with a disturbing level of ease.” So for the safety of the society as a whole, it makes more sense to eliminate this possibility.

2. Deterrent to crime. It has been proven that with strong punishment, crime rates decrease greatly. We can see this in the fact that countries like Singapore, which has the death penalty for weapons infractions and large fines for smoking in non-smoking areas, have a very low crime rate compared to the United States. I know what you are thinking. The US is huge and has a much higher population than Singapore. Well the analysis was calculated in ratios per 100,000 people.

3. Justice and retribution. It was not only the victim that was affected in each case. Each victim has  family and friends that are left grieving. So for their loved ones lost, it is only right that they get justice.

The punishment should fit the crime. When someone ruthlessly takes away the life of a victim, their life should be taken away too. Eye for an Eye? In its most basic sense, yes.