Ending the "War on Terror".
Little is more corrosive to the US right now than the "War on Terror". We should cease it immediately. It is not a war. To treat counter-terrorism as such undermines the mission of the military, inhibits the course of criticism and debate, and alienates our allies. Target safe havens for top terrorist leadership, eliminate disconnected states. Work with regional interests in order to deal with Iraq, whose toppling has shifted the entire power balance of the region towards a Shi'ite system and away from the Sunnis. Everyone is worried there, and everyone has an interest in stability there.
Re-affirm the invulnerability of the Constitution's and Rights Bill's visions. The Bush Administration has neutered habeas corpus, freedom of the press, criminal justice, the right to privacy, the right to happiness. These ideals should be sacrosanct and untouchable. We cannot lead the world by example if we are hypocritical in our actions. We cannot fight on terrorists' terms -- we should be morally incorruptible, even if it means we do things like obey Geneva Conventions that many believe don't apply to enemy combatants. It is the principle of being just, not the technicalities of law or the savagery of war, that is important.
Trash the Department of Homeland Security and scale back the Transportation Security Administration. Those organizations are full of under-qualified employees with little background for the job, resulting in ridiculous no-fly lists, nonsensical flight security procedures, humiliation of American citizens by foolishly ignorant TSA employees, and little tangible improvement in security beyond making the whole system so convoluted that it takes hours to get through a terminal. Besides, we already have an organization for homeland security. And there's also a reason that the NSA is not allowed to spy on Americans or domestically without court approval. Rename the Department of Defense to the Department of War, as it used to be called. Be realistic about what it actually does. All this bureaucracy we've added since 9/11 has only made us weaker, and complicated the ability for departments to share with each other.
We should pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan immediately, and withdraw from foreign occupational bases.
For those who claim that pulling out of Iraq means one does not have any coherent alternative, I can counter that. I'd recruit special operations soldiers heavily, raising their training and maintenance standards also. I'd want to expand JFK's culture of special forces. I would target their usage to focused attacks on key Al-Qaeda safe havens. The 82nd Airborne and other rapid-deployment forces such as Ranger battalions would also play into this. This would be done with keen memory of Somalia -- the difference being that they knew we were there, and they knew we were coming. Afghanistan won't be united by the US. Iraq will re-order itself faster without our presence. There are other failed states such as Somalia that Al-Qaeda thrives off of. The focus of our efforts should be on these sorts of places. Our military is built for quick strikes, and as we pull back our forces, we should hit the federally administered provinces between Afghanistan and Pakistan heavily. But our forces cannot be allowed to be sucked into occupation; all of America's enemies and even some of its friends want us to remain occupiers in other peoples' countries.
Finally, as all deployed soldiers are keenly aware of, private military contractors must be curtailed in their allowable mission during foreign conflicts, and they must be held to standards suitable for representatives of the coalition or of the United States itself. While they may just begin to poach from overseas bases instead, it is unconscionable to let them operate under US mandate as is.
One key notion of a successful democracy is respect for transparency. It's something we clamor for in struggling nations but recent administrations (particularly the Bush one) have shown little respect for it in their own dealings. All government workers are servants of the people, humble and forthcoming when asked by the people to take accountability.
National security and effective operations have been cited as reasons to not disclose information to the people, and indeed much more information has been kept out of public sight or even re-classified in recent years. Scandals have emerged demonstrating a pattern of contempt for public knowledge.
The people deserve to know just about everything, particularly if the material is not immediately time-sensitive. The media plays an important role in this and should be given access without intimidation or blackmail. Government organizations like the Government Accountability Office should be respected. The Freedom of Information Act should be fully carried out, and not be selectively acknowledged when convenient. Requests for information from our government should not be ignored, delayed, partially filled.
The government should have a heavily promoted channel for educating the American people about the latest ideas, trends, and programs. Politicians say they talk simply because that's the only thing their constituents will understand. But people are not stupid; they just need to know what options are available out there. Never trust someone who underestimates the American public.
Most importantly, the White House and Congress need to be honest. They need to say what it means and to drop the notion that secrecy is important to national security. They need to bear out ideas they don't support or concessions from those who disagree, so that the American people can weigh the different options intelligently. Public forums should be constructed to allow for political activism. Do you know where in your community you would even go to discuss politics? Chances are, no place even exists.
Foreign policy matters are not discussed with the people currently. Scholars and regional experts should help lay out the situation to the American public with a broad, all-encompassing presentation of a country's political, economic, and social situation. The president's role will be to use his media coverage to inform the public. Because right now, foreign policy matters are framed in the most basic terms, in order to keep people obedient and unsuspecting of what's really going on elsewhere in the world. Americans have little awareness of the status of any nation outside their own, even Iraq, the most media-fixated country on Earth right now.
I propose increased governmental support for the Government Accountability Office to investigate all levels of federal government and examine what could be cut down or made more efficient. An index of how efficient each arm is would be very useful. The GAO has been a rare beam of light in the darkness as of late -- we should give it credibility and respect and follow its recommendations while preserving its non-partisanship and commitment to public service.
Military Servicemembers' Rights
You can die for your country but you can't drink until you're 21? Either we lower the
legal drinking age or we make exception for active-service teens if they stay on post
while they drink.
Trash the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Why turn away people who wish to serve our nation in the military just because they're gay? I knew many gay service men and women while I was enlisted and they were often the best students and soldiers we had.
Expand GI Bill benefits. Get rid of the barrier between Student Loan Repayment funding and the GI Bill, which has affected me personally. Allow servicemembers to go to non-military schools and then come back easily. General Petraeus has encouraged this behavior from his officers.
Make sure veterans are integrated back into society; homeless ex-military indicate failure on our parts.
Election Awareness Reform.
Election Day should be a national holiday. Despite weak correlation statistically between voting on the weekend and voter turnout, work restraints should not interfere with stewardship of the nation. Furthermore, the government should take direct measures to inform the public of all candidates, without prejudice toward any candidate. It can provide a web platform for doing so.
A part of me believes in earning one's citizenship through government service but that would be a long way off and there would have to be a grandfathering provision. Renewed vigor for the Peace Corps, Job Corps, and AmeriCorps would coincide. Americans need a closer relationship with their government.
Web applications and Internet accessibility are still being improved, but they have reached a level where online voting is feasible if taken out of the hands of incompetent contractors. Online commerce thrives and people insist that voting online is impossible. What if people could log in to their page and see all the districts', state's, and federal government's candidates that they're eligible to vote for? What if people could vote in online referenda for any issue? This would bring in an element of a direct democracy. It would also be possible to bring voters closer to their representatives and to awareness of more sides of political issues, using this system.
At the very least, voting system contracts should be removed from companies who refuse to fully disclose the internals of their products, to avoid the Diebold debacles in Florida and Ohio. The 2008 election is using the
same broken Diebold machines as it was in 2004. WHY? A system should have an easy-to-understand interface, a link to the Internet for peer review and faster vote-counting, and a hard-copy tabulation for representatives of different parties or organizations for confirmation. Are you telling me that we can't figure out a secure voting system yet trillions of dollars are traded online every day without a blip?
Financing candidates should be reined in. Money should not buy support or allow for more publicity. Some sort of government-supported apparatus for publicizing candidates should be formed, and every candidate should be given the same amount of money to run their campaign. It is no secret that incumbents bring in more campaign money, and incumbents or wealthier candidates are almost impossible to defeat.
Relative Salaries, Compulsory Service for Elected Officials.
Career politicians have no place in Washington D.C. nor in our universities. As a standard, members of Congress and in the White House must have served in the U.S. military and the Peace/Job Corps. In order to shape policy, they must have served their time with little financial reward and understand the life of a military servicemember and the lives of those in other countries.
Congressmen should earn only the average salary of their constituents. The president should earn the salary of the average American. Perhaps this could be tied more closely to the average level of poverty also but I'm not sure how yet. They will find backdoors to get money -- perhaps the best we can do is report the difference between reported income on taxes and what their salary is, to indicate the level of outside lobbying. Non-monetary economic incentives may be used to encourage the right sort of behavior from elected officials.
We deserve officials who are informed about and experienced in the world. We should hold them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. We deserve officials who didn't just major in politics. We deserve officials who are aware of long-term American strategic interests and not just winning the next short-term election with mudslinging ads.
Federally-Funded National Wireless Infrastructure.
Following the same grand thinking of the interstate highway program initiated in the 1930's,
this federally-funded program would develop, install, maintain, and constantly upgrade
a national wireless network for the Internet. Installing repeaters, base stations, and towers
would be easy. They could piggyback off of existing cellphone towers and streetlamps.
Cities could maintain the system at their level and make sure everything connects up to the
An underlying theme would be massive expansion of bandwidth. According to an
article in Foreign Affairs by Thomas Bleha, the United States is the only industrialized
nation without an explicit promotion of broadband. 80% of Japan has access to ultrafast
Internet (100mb/s), and access to 26mb/s for around $22/month, whereas American providers
quibble over 1.5-3mb/s for $45-50/month. We have been squarely trounced in this arena.
The United States should be super-saturated in bandwidth, creating an online sandbox for
innovation. Connectivity is our future, and the Internet is its vehicle.
The effect this would have on commerce, communication, emergency channels, education, and
progress would be immeasurable. People of all economic classes would have access to
unlimited, omnipresent Internet. Channels could be standardized, reducing conflicts and
signal noise. An always-on culture would spark ingenuity and creativity in all realms of
industry: household appliances could interact with the producer directly, entertainment
would be more of a social gathering, people would be able to find information faster. As
in Neal Stephenson's Metaverse, a parallel, massively profitable world would spring from
no where. Other nations would marvel at the U.S.'s advanced communications.
After the interstate highway program came the golden age of fast food burger chains,
built along the new highways to feed hungry travelers, mainly in California. Shipping,
trade, and logistics easily transported goods to feed a booming economy. Imagine that now
on the Internet, the cornerstone of the Information Age.
No DRM, Censorship, Internet Taxes, or Monitoring.
I believe if the government defended the people and told the RIAA, MPAA, and DRM proponents
to back off, it would restore faith in the government as serving the peoples' interests
and not the companies' interests.
Democracy and capitalism thrive off fluid distribution. This includes Internet downloads.
Pirating exists because the system as it stands is not seen as equitable by the consumer.
The government should defend free speech online under any circumstance, as it was intended
to be. It should go after those who seek to curb or intimidate free speech using cease &
desist or the cooling effect.
The government should not levy taxes on sales over the Internet as interstate commerce, but
instead as a consumption tax as described in the FairTax.
The PATRIOT Act is not worth it. Spying on Americans needs to stop unless conducted under
stringent, specific conditions, and not in general ones.
Murder, Abortion, Capital Punishment, War.
Let's just get it out there. You can certainly say abortion is murder. Okay? So? Steven D.
Levitt describes in
Freakonomics his highly contentious
claim that the precipitous drop in crime just when experts predicted massive chaos and destruction
was caused by the Roe v. Wade decision; that is, mothers who did not want their children got
abortions, vastly reducing the numbers for the statistically most crime-prone demographic, children
born to broken families with single mothers who could not afford to properly raise them.
Abortion isn't about murder -- the framing of it as such is irresponsible. The basis for the pro-life movement is that those children were innocent and didn't have a choice, whereas criminals who
are executed had a choice. But at the same time, much of the pro-life movement is also pro-war,
and it takes a giant leap of faith to not see that putting soldiers with guns into any
highly-populated area will result in innocent civilians dying.
Murder is a cop-out, an exaggeration, when it comes to abortion. I don't have a problem with
people aborting fetuses they didn't want. That's their choice. As public policy, we should ensure
safety for our citizens as a priority, not try to push moral stances that are highly contested
and always will be. Yes, you may not support abortion. But many do. How do we co-exist?
That we see abortion as murder is arbitrary and illogical in terms of public policy.
And unless you're a pacifist who believes any life taken is bad, then you're not making much sense
Capital punishment is not always bad. But it's mis-used. It should be used as prevention.
Prevention for future crimes. So the test is whether a criminal has repeatedly committed
a crime over several instances. Not only does it self-validate the guilt of the accused,
but it also determines that the accused has pattern-behavior that he can't/won't control.
Therapy has failed by this point. The chance that this person will rape another person,
or commit a more serious crime, becomes rather high.
Thus capital punishment would be just. As it stands now, people are executed for one instance
of violence. They sit in the system for a long time as their guilt is put into question.
Why do prosecutors set the victims' families up like this, and why do they allow a defense
to prolong the process by choosing flimsy cases? Why do judges allow juries to employ this
severe punishment on less definite cases?
I don't have a problem with murdering terrorists either. I joined the Army to hunt them.
I don't have a problem with killing people. But the difference is that I am consistent in
my application of the right to life.
Americans are fat. Americans don't exercise. Americans eat too much. Americans live in community-destroying suburbs and single-passenger car culture. Whatever the cause, we are disgustingly obese and have lost our sense of self-respect. Combining more responsibility from companies for nutrition, adding parks and bike trails and public gyms, and giving people tax credits based on their percentage of fat are ways to curb this burden on the health care system and on our conscience. What message does it send when other countries see so many fat Americans living up to stereotypes?