This and thatAmerica's Theocracy Brigade aren't the only politicoreligious types who object to 'liberal' academia. Apparently the 'Hitler of the Middle East' (this year's version) feels the same way.
One of the great myths circulated is that the United Nations is a leech stealing money from the US taxpayer and funnelling toward the 'ratholes' of third world dictatorships. In reality, the US economy ends up BENEFITING from membership in the UN, a study has shown.
The US' annual dues represents 22 percent of the UN's regular annual budget. However, on average, 22.5 percent of purchases made by the UN are from US companies.
The US pays $396 million in annual UN dues but received $315.8 million in UN contracts in 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Add to that the fact that the UN and its agencies contributed over $3 billion ($3,000 million) a year to the New York City economy in the late 90s, according to the city's former Republican mayor Rudy Giuliani. The annual figure is surely higher now.
On a related note, The Washington Post offers a reasonable editorial defending the UN. This has credibility because the paper's goal is to improve the UN's operations not smear the organization for cheap political points.
It also has credibility because unlike the UN-bashers on the far right, the paper demonstrates a clear understanding of the UN's role, limitations and expectations of it.
The editorial points out that while American UN bashing is at an all-time high, the US and international community are relying on the UN at an unprecedented rate. Everyone wants the UN to go into Lebanon. Everyone (except the genocidal Sudanese government) wants the UN to go into Darfur. The UN already has huge missions in places like Côte d'Ivoire, the DR Congo and Bosnia.
Unfortunately, the editorial is short on specific reforms that ought to be undertaken. Some want to expand the Security Council and give permanent seats to different regions of the world with the accompanying veto power. Some critics claim that this is a recipe for further gridlock while others fear this would weaken US control of the body.
California's legislature recently passed a bill designed to undermine the antiquated electoral college system. Under the legislation, California would grant its electoral votes to the nominee who gets the most votes nationwide - not the most votes in California.
Get enough other states to do the same, backers of the bill say, and soon presidential candidates will have to campaign across the nation, not just in a few key "battleground" states such as Ohio and Michigan that can sway the Electoral College vote.
The electoral college system may have been innovative and made sense in 1787 but it's counterproductive in 2006. And it doesn't even accomplish any longer the objectives for which it was created.
Let's hope California's governator signs the bill.
It amuses me that self-described meritocrats get into a tizzy about race-based affirmative action in university admissions but don't say a word about wealth-based special preferences.
The anger against affirmative action in college admissions is nothing more than fury in search of a problem. College officials take into account a host of non-academic, non-statistical considerations in deciding who to admit. They want geographical diversity. They want diversity in student specilizations (Yale wouldn't want 95 percent of their students to be mechnical engineer majors). They want well-rounded students, not automatons. They sure as heck want students with rich parents. So why is it the worst thing in the world for a little racial diversity to be one of many, many subjective factors considered by college admissions officers?
Almost two dozen former generals and high ranking have called on President Bush to negotiate with Iran and North Korea. In a letter, , the group told reporters Bush's 'hard line' policies have undermined national security and made America less safe.
"That seems strange since Ronald Reagan was willing to negotiate with the Soviets even though they were the 'Evil Empire," noted one general. "One wonders why George Bush can't negotiate with the Axis of Evil."
The generals further argued that the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq is at least partially responsible for Iran's drive to develop a nuclear program.
"When you announce an axis of evil of three countries and invade one and then say that Iran should take that as a lesson, it does seem that it may give them an incentive to do precisely what they don't want them to do," [Lt. Gen Robert] Guard said, "develop a nuclear weapon."
In fairness, it's not really clear what sort of negotiations can be undertaken with the two countries. The Clinton administration tried negotiations with North Korea in the 90s and their nuclear weapons program is still going. Forget their antipathy toward the US, Iran's regime has refused to cooperate even with the UN. One thing that's clear is that yet another half-cocked military intervention will only lead to disaster. Reasonable suggestions are desperately needed.
AlterNet has a good look at how health care is really run in Canada and its effects on the well-being of Canadian citizens. Vermont Public Radio notes a study which argues that universal health coverage is possible in the progressive state without increasing overall costs.
Another piece in AlterNet rubbishes the notion of the clash of civlizations at the moment but warns that such hysteria could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The neocons who are pushing a Clash of Civilizations are mirror-images of the terrorists that inspire their hyperbolic fear -- they are just as irrational and just as great a threat to our security.
Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman isn't the only senator who's under serious heat for rankling his party colleague. Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel is also bucking his party's line and taking heat for it with comments like:
-"There were no terrorists in Iraq until we got there."
-"War should never be held hostage to a political agenda. It shouldn't be used as a partisan issue, a wedge issue, especially by those in my party who say Democrats don't care about the secu rity of our country"... which goes against the GOP's electoral strategy since 2002 (and from 1948-1988).
-"I think the Patriot Act had gone too far (and needed to be amended) to balance constitutional liberties and security."
-On the future war with Iran: I hope this administration thinks through this very carefully. Who's going to do the dying?"
Though I haven't always agreed with them, I've always had a fair amount of respect for Republicans like Hagel and Indiana's Dick Lugar who take a moderate internationalist approach to foreign policy. I wish they were in the ascendancy in the GOP rather than the Norm Colemans of the party.
This editorial from the Salem, OR Statesman-Journal points out something I've been saying for years.
Americans don't understand why organizations they see as being terrorists, like Hamas and Hezbollah, have a fair degree of support in the countries in which they operate. The reason is simple. Hamas and Hezbollah certainly have armed wings which execute liberation (if you support them) or terrorist (if you oppose them) missions. But they also have social wings. They run hospitals and community centers and sports clubs.
These groups have traditionally operated in regions where the central government authority were virtually non-existent. They fill a critical vacuum. So ordinary people see Hamas and Hezbollah not necessarily as a paramilitary organization but as the guys who provide social services. After the Israeli destruction of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah was much quicker to come to the aid of displaced peoiple than the Lebanese government. Ordinary people in Hamas- and Hezbollah-controlled regions don't necessarily want the destruction of the Jewish state; they just want health care when they're sick. Is that entirely unreasonable?
In many ways, Hamas and Hezbollah are just like the Mafia. Outsiders see them as violent thugs. But they provide a social stability and safety net that would otherwise be lacking. Yes, that stability comes at the cost of silence and de facto complicity with a criminal organization. However, if only other alternative is to let your relative die of illness due to lack of government-provided health care, most people would choose the same unpleasant option.
Another great example of this is in Somalia. Given the recent Islamist takeover of the pseudo-country, Foreign Policy has a good analysis of why such fundamentalist regimes are often popular when they take over (think Iran's Ayatollahs, the Taliban, etc). It's not because the people necessarily desire theocracy. It's because they yearn for law and order and stability and, after years of chaos, will naturally gravitate toward anyone who can provide it.