Posted tagged ‘Hillary Clinton’

Intelligence Is Overrated

October 29, 2009

The Coen Brothers, a multi-Oscar winning pair of neurotic and irreverent Hollywood filmmakers, made a so-so film in 2008 called “Burn After Reading” where the tagline was “Intelligence is Relative.”

The film deals with a CIA agent played by John Malkovich whose personal memoirs contained in a disk are accidentally discovered by two dimwitted gym trainers played by Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt. Though the film itself lacks the usual panache we have come to expect from Joel and Ethan Coen, the story is supposed to satirize the U.S. intelligence community and how everyday idiots can become bigger threats to national security than terrorists.

This film and Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 film “The Informant!” are both spoofs of the ineptitude of government agents and the people who are in power in our country. One would think the smartest people in our society would be the ones in power, but that is not always the case.

The general American public would argue that our previous president, George W. Bush, was not the brightest bulb in the drawer despite reaching the office of President of the United States. He only became Commander in Chief because of his family name (his pappy was once the Prez as well) and the very nice Supreme Court who ruled controversial ballots in his favor over his challenger, Al Gore.

In our current administration, several Obama cabinet and lower cabinet members had trouble paying their taxes. This is especially ironic considering Democrats are traditionally the ones who favor higher taxes over lower ones. This goes to show that everyone is capable of either being stupid or ignoring the law.

But indeed it does make one wonder who really is in charge of our country. Do we actually have the smartest people in high public offices; or do we have bumbling idiots whom enough folks were gullible enough to vote for?

Then again, sometimes you had no choice who to vote for. I don’t think too many Americans were enthusiastic about either Bush or Gore, or even John Kerry for that matter. This past election, where we had a choice between a charismatic African American and a well-respected Vietnam War veteran, was one of the first elections in a while where the person, not the party, counted more.

All this shows that perhaps the best people aren’t the ones who are in positions of power. Politics and the art of governing a country are often times two very different monsters. Politics is show, theatre, intrigue, social networking. Governing a country is an intellectual task that requires knowledge of history, economics, mathematics, political theory, and multi-cultural understanding.

Those who want to enter politics are often in it for a variety of reasons. Some want to genuinely change the country (or city, or county, or state) for the better, others are in it for the fame/money/reputation, and some people might be in it for no other reason other than it seems like the right thing to do.

Those who get elected aren’t necessarily the ones with the best ideas. They are the ones who seem the most trustworthy, kind, patriotic, charismatic, and/or partisan. If you live in a hardcore red or blue state, you better feed the base or you will have no chance of collecting votes.

I have always believed that the real people who are qualified to be president, or senator, or any high public office, are usually in academia. They are law professors, college professors, or political scientists working for a think tank. They could even be journalists who have studied politics for a long length of time. Either way, people who understand politics, international relations, and history at a deeper level.

This is not to say that our current elected leaders do not have that expertise. Barack Obama was a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. Most of our other leaders have university degrees in political science, international studies, or law. I am not implying that Washington D.C. is full of nothing but power hungry dunderheads, though sometimes that assumption is tempting to make.

But there is somewhat of a backlash against intellectualism. Obama and Hillary Clinton were accused of being “elitists” who couldn’t relate to the everyday working man or woman. This explains why Obama tried to go bowling (and failed miserably) and Hillary was seen at a tavern chasing down brewskis. Republicans already have the “good old boy” reputation down solid, so it’s the Dems who need “work” in that area.

Some people think politicians who are overtly smart and intelligent are prone to ignore the everyday “Joe Six Pack” and their common problems. Others feel we need the best and brightest running our country, not those who can best identify with the little people.

Intelligence may be relative, but there will always be a place for smart people. Smart people assist in improving technology, science, medicine, the arts, and any other kind of research that helps society become better. When it comes to running a country, that might be a whole other story.

How much of politics is scientific and how much of it is an art? That might come down to whether you value book or street smarts more. There might be something said for the classic debate between intelligence and wisdom. A wise person is not necessarily the smartest one in the room. They are the ones with the most insight, sensitivity, life experience, and observational power. Intelligence is something that cannot be learned.

But can wisdom be learned? Or does it come more natural to some people compared to others? We assume that wise people make the best decisions in life, but what about intelligent folks? How, for example, did the Kennedy administration get us into the colossal blunder that was the Vietnam War when everyday military grunts on the ground knew all along this would be a mistake? There must be something said for proximity to the problem.

 All these questions can boggle the mind. Maybe we need intelligent people to answer them.


North Korea’s Swan Song

May 27, 2009

North Korea’s recent underground nuclear test on Monday seems to be their swan song. It has to be. The repressive Communist regime doesn’t have much time left in their existence and they know it. Kim Jong-Il’s hold on power is slipping and so they pull off stunts like this to try and extend their existence as long as possible.

I say this because it makes no sense for the North Koreans to launch their second nuclear test in three years other than to ease their way into legitimacy. Becoming a nuclear power puts you into a very exclusive club. And with that membership comes respect. Nations will not necessarily respect your leadership or what you stand for, but they will definitely respect your technological ability to wipe a country off the face of the map. It makes you legitimate. And military legitimacy is what Kim Jong-Il is seeking at this moment.

North Korea’s government continues to hold its firm grasp on power only because they have successfully kept their people afraid of outside influences. Marxism’s suspicion of bourgeois elitism makes the entire global capitalist world seem like one giant threat to North Korea’s existence.

Everybody is out to get them, as Kim would like his people to think. Those vicious Americans, Japan: its mortal enemy, their unfortunate anti-proletariat South Korean brethren, and even China, a Communist nation in name only. Kim justifies spending more money on military and nuclear might than food, education, and infrastructure because what is the point of any of those things after the Americans obliterate them from the face of the planet?

Bush used tough language against the North Koreans after an unsuccessful nuclear test in 2006 and a long range missile test in 2007. Last April a supposed satellite launch was conducted in order to test the young Obama administration’s foreign policy savvy. The language used by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been less harsh but stern nevertheless.

News has just come in that North Korea has launched an additional three missiles off their east coast on Tuesday, May 26. Japan has now talked about preparing for a pre-emptive attack against North Korea, despite a clause in their constitution prohibiting offensive military action. When a nation starts to prepare for a war that they are not allowed to conduct, that is when you know things are getting serious. As world leaders scramble to come up with a response to these disturbing developments, it is becoming evident that the global community will not stand idly by any longer.

North Korea owns more than 200 Nodong missiles that have the capability to strike either Japan or South Korea. The Japanese and the Americans fear Kim will use these missiles to transport a nuclear warhead someday. Though their ability to make a working nuclear missile is in doubt, there is obviously enough fear within U.S. intelligence to develop an anti-missile defense system in Japan with the purpose of shooting down any incoming aerial attack.

Which brings up the obvious question: why would North Korea pull such a stunt? A nuclear North Korea can only result in one thing: war. No matter how occupied the U.S. is in the Middle East, any kind of military action short of a full-out invasion is definitely on the table. And if a full-out invasion were to happen, one can assume it would consist of a coalition of nations other than the United States. A nuclear North Korea will not be tolerated by the global community.

Naval blockades, economic sanctions, and condemnation from the outside world is not enough to convince Kim to halt his nuclear proliferation program. He kicked out United Nations weapons inspectors and has made no effort to draw down anytime soon. The only logical explanation to explain Kim’s actions is that he wants to start a war.

Excuse me? He wants to start a war? How crazy is that? Who in their right mind would want the global community to start a war against you? I am no psychologist, but I think I know what is going through Kim Jong-Il’s insane mind. Just bear with me.

Kim knows his grip on power will not last forever. His own health is in question and no strong successor seems ready to take up his mantle. Communism as a system died out in 1991 and China is becoming more and more capitalistic. China will soon become one of the world’s largest economic powers, if they are not there already. Russia, one of North Korea’s strongest allies, has turned their back on them. The Kremlin wants to strengthen their hold on global power, so allying themselves with a poverty-stricken Communist nation would not be the way to do that.

Speaking of poverty, North Korea has one of the worst standards of living in the world. As I mentioned before, they spend more money on military and defense spending than anything else. The international community has to give them food in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis. How can you expect to protect your people when you can’t even adequately feed them?

A coup hasn’t happened yet because Kim has convinced the people that the current government is needed to protect them from dangerous outsiders. But I think people are seeing that the only thing that’s endangering North Korea’s national security is Kim Jong-Il, not the U.S., Japan, South Korea, or Europe. His reckless actions are making his enemies more likely to attack them than anything else.

That said, it makes sense that Kim would want an invasion, even if it’s small like a naval attack or an air strike, because it would convince his people that the current government is needed to protect the motherland. If Kim were to either successfully drive out a foreign invading force or survive an attack intact (similar to what Hezbollah achieved after Israel’s bombardment of them in the summer of 2006), it would strengthen their hold on power and further keep his people dependent on him. Kim is yet to show what his military can do. He needs a chance to prove to people that all his military spending is justified. A foreign invasion would do just the trick.

If the international community continues to take no action and North Korea’s economy continues to sink further into the toilet, the people will lose their confidence in the government and demand that something else take its place. Wait, a militaristic government’s reckless actions resulting in the people wanting change? Sounds familiar.

Thus explains why I believe this recent nuclear experiment is North Korea’s swan song. North Korea as we know it is coming to an end. Kim’s repressive regime will take either one of two directions: it will implode internally, resulting in a coup or an abdication of power, or a foreign invasion will come in and create a “regime change” similar to what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. Either way, this small Communist country’s days are now numbered. And Kim knows it.

I predict North Korea will change governments, open up to the global community, and even consider reuniting with the South (though that is a very distant dream) within 15 to 20 years. Maybe that day will come even sooner. What happens as a result of this recent feat will determine what the future of Northeast Asia will look like. In other words, the Obama administration can single handedly affect what happens to the Korean peninsula in the next decade. Hillary Clinton should pick her battles wisely.

And so should Kim. If wants to prepare for a war, he should literally prepare for a war. Any additional nuclear proliferation in his country will not go on deaf ears. The United States may not have found weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq, but they will definitely find some in Kim’s lap if he does anything else foolish.

And knowing his track record, that is not hard to imagine.

It’s Time to Put Newspaper Political Endorsements to Bed

April 8, 2009

Newspapers are supposed to give us the news fairly, accurately, truthfully, and as objectively as possible.

If this is the case, why should newspapers officially endorse candidates for political office?

The Whitworthian, the newspaper of which I am a proud staff writer, is the official newspaper of Whitworth University, a small Presbyterian private university in Spokane, Washington. The school is in the middle of elections for next year’s ASWU (Associated Students of Whitworth University) executive positions.

Last year the Whitworthian endorsed Obe Quarless for ASWU President over Peter Cleary. Quarless ended up winning by the slimmest of margins. I’ve heard through the grapevine that he won by less than 10 votes.

With a student body of about 2,400 undergraduate students, it is not hard to imagine that the Whitworthian’s endorsement pushed Quarless over the edge. Whether he is a better president than Clearly would have been is beside the point. The point is that the newspaper swayed the election. The media, one could argue, decided the outcome.

This is not a new phenomena. Newspapers have endorsed presidential candidates since the early days of daily papers. In the 2004 presidential election, 418 newspapers across the country endorsed a candidate, or about 29 percent of newspapers in America. Most endorsed either George W. Bush or John Kerry.

The New York Times proudly says that its first endorsement was Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Afterward, the Times mostly endorsed Republicans. After Woodrow Wilson’s victory in 1912, they shifted to mostly endorsing Democrats. From John F. Kennedy onward, the Times have endorsed only Democrats. This should come as a surprise to no one.

But what is the point? If newspapers are supposed to give us fair and objective news, how can we trust their credibility if we know who they wish to see win an election? If a newspaper officially endorses Barack Obama, how do I know their coverage of Hillary Clinton and John McCain will be fair? We have legitimate reasons to doubt.

The media have many skeptics these days. It seems “the media” are blamed for every social problem facing our country today. People, especially young people, see the mainstream mass media as bias toward either the left or right. This might explain why people are either turning to alternative news sources (Jon Stewart, anyone?) or ignoring the news all together.

This must stop. But seeing newspapers endorsing candidates will do no good. The media are supposed to educate, enlighten, and inform us; not manipulate us. The Whitworthian is the only news source available to students regarding campus affairs. They have a monopoly on political and news coverage. By endorsing a specific candidate, they hold more power than other papers around the country do. Other newspapers have nation-wide competition. The Whitworthian has none.

I believe newspapers should stop endorsing candidates in order to protect their integrity, reputation, and fairness. I have no problem with specific writers endorsing candidates, but the editorial board should never take sides. The entity of the newspaper itself should stay neutral and only report the facts about the candidates and let their readers make the decisions for themselves.

I have no beef with the Whitworthian and am not criticizing their journalistic practices at all. I know the people on the staff and respect their free speech rights to endorse whomever they want. All I am saying is that I respectfully disagree with their decision to choose someone they want to see get elected.

Objectivity may be an illusion, but there are certain steps one can take to restore as much fairness as possible to journalism as the fourth estate of government. Journalists are supposed to keep the government in check, not choose who gets to be in government.

As for this upcoming ASWU election, I hope students will read the Whitworthian’s coverage of the candidate’s positions and disregard who has been endorsed.

We don’t need any more authority figures telling the people what to think. It’s time the media inform the people, not dictate to them how to behave. If more newspapers across the country follow this notion and stay neutral in political campaigns, the negative stigma placed against the media may dissipate.

If not, I may have to find a new profession.

*I would like to note that although I am a member of the Whitworthian staff, the views supplied on this blog do reflect the views of the newspaper. The Whitworthian should not be held responsible for my personal views and beliefs. I would also like to note that I am not making any commentary on Obe Quarless’ performance as ASWU President or Peter Cleary’s candidacy. That is all.