European nations compelled to confront unemployment worries

In an e-mail newsletter, Deutschewelle suggests that unemployment worries lay behind the French defeat for the EU constitution, among other things…

“More and more the French are afraid of losing their jobs in a globalised economy and falling prey to capitalism the Anglo-American way. In Germany, unemployment was by far the most important issue for voters in the country’s most industrialised state of North Rhine-Westphalia. There Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats suffered a devastating defeat to the opposition Christian Democrats two weeks ago. The fall of the traditional Social Democrat stronghold, where for the first time ever more than one million people are unemployed, prompted Schroeder to call for federal elections in September – one year earlier than scheduled.”

So apparently in some parts of the world, people hold government responsible for destroying their livelihoods through economic mismanagement.

Forbes argues for flat tax

Steve Forbes has testified before Congress, in support of a 17% flat tax. First, it is not a “pure” flat tax. “Exemptions for individuals and children would be expanded so that a family of four would pay no federal income taxes on its first $46,165 of income. Anything over $46,165 would be taxed at a fair and flat rate of 17%. Millions of people would be off the federal income-tax rolls.” Second, 17% sounds attractive even to the working poor, who typically see a quarter of their checks squandered by deductions, but they need to look again at their paystub: Federal income tax is a small portion of their total withholding, so this isn’t nearly as attractive as it might sound.

General refutes himself

The story is in the Washington Times. See if you can spot all the things that are wrong:

Gen. Richard B. Myers yesterday condemned as “absolutely irresponsible” an Amnesty International report that compared prisoner treatment at Guantanamo Bay to the Soviet gulag, adding that 100 out of 68,000 detainees held in the war against terrorism were abused…

Amnesty International also suggested that foreign governments investigate senior U.S. officials involved in “torture scandals” and arrest and question Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, former CIA Director William Tenet, and Vice President Dick Cheney.
“I think it’s irresponsible. I think it’s absolutely irresponsible,” Gen. Myers told “Fox News Sunday…”

“I think Congress has a responsibility in a mature fashion to continue to hold hearings on this issue to make sure that we’re exercising our proper oversight responsibilities and those of us who have traveled in the region cannot overstate the impact that Abu Ghraib and other things that have happened have damaged the image of the United States of America in the Middle East,” [Senator John] McCain said…

Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident sentenced to the gulag, also criticized the Guantanamo comparison, telling Time magazine this week that the Amnesty report lacks credibility.

“I have very serious criticisms of Amnesty. There is no moral clarity. It doesn’t differentiate between what I call fear societies and free societies,” Mr. Sharansky said.

“In the democratic world, there are violations of human rights, but they are revealed and dealt with. In a fear society, there are no violations of human rights because human rights just don’t exist,” said Mr. Sharansky, who now lives in Israel and has served in its parliament and Cabinet. “Amnesty International says it doesn’t support or oppose any political system, so it ends up with reports that show a moral equivalence” among regimes.

  1. What are we doing with 68,000 people in detention?
  2. Given well-documented Israeli abuses of the Palestinian people, why is someone connected to the Israeli government being treated as an authority on human rights abuses against an Arab population?
  3. How are we to reconcile Sharansky’s claim that in “fear societies” there are “no violations of human rights” with Bush administration policy that human rights violations, e.g. in Iraq, justify military intervention?
  4. Why does the story only treat General Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a subordinate to Rumsfeld and Cheney, as authoritative and diminish the voice of Amnesty International and other human rights organizations?
  5. John McCain uses the word “mature,” implying that those who suggest that war crimes ought to be treated like–well, crimes against humanity–are behaving immaturely. Why is he not being challenged on this?

I’m sure I’m overlooking something…

France rejects EU constitution

(Updated) “French voters delivered a stunning blow to the European Union and their own political establishment yesterday, rejecting the EU constitution by a 10-point margin in a referendum that also inflicted humiliation on President Chirac,” according to the Times. “[C]ampaigners of both Left and Right hailed what they called a popular revolt against both an undemocratic EU and an out-of-touch Government.” It’s bad enough that the constitution ” needs to be ratified by all 25 members states” but France and Germany are the two nations which have been most visible in supporting European integration–and France has rejected it, resoundingly. “The rejection ensured a grim final two years in office for M Chirac, President since 1995. It was he who had proposed the constitution to Europe and ensured that it carried a French stamp. No French President has lost a referendum since 1969 when Charles de Gaulle resigned after voters rejected a minor reform.”

Green ship powered by the sun, the wind, and the waves–not just for fun

Reuters reports on a freighter being launched that relies on green sources for power. “The albatross gets 98 per cent of its energy for flight from the wind and two per cent from its wings,” says Lena Blomqvist, Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s vice president with responsibility for the environment. According to the story, “[p]ropulsion for the five-hulled ship, named after an endangered species of dolphin, would come from high-tech sails and a set of pods below the water line that would trap the energy of the waves. Additionally, solar cells in the sails would charge fuel cells to power electric motors.”

Looking bleak in Iraq

[Updated] The Christian Science Monitor carries a troubling summary of news stories on our military adventure in Iraq. “[U]nless the new Iraq government gives Iraqis something to believe in,” a senior official said, “‘I think that this could still fail.'” Of course, Iraqi insurgents don’t accept the “Pottery Barn analogy” which claims, “We broke it, we bought it;” they just want us out, now.

Even the Shi’ites, who largely prevailed in the dubious January election, and are friendly with Iran, have opposed the US presence, demanding “a timetable for US military withdrawal.” An Associated Press story reports that “[t]housands of Shiites stomped on American flags painted on roads outside mosques in a show of anger over the U.S. presence in Iraq.”

Even if Iraq was available for purchase under the “Pottery Barn analogy,” it would be at a price the US is unlikely to be able to afford. Our involvement there is unsustainable, recruiting is “more difficult than at any point since the end of the draft in 1973,” and we will have to decide between two unpalatable (to the Bush administration) options: imposing a draft or retreating.

Mars: in the next frontier

NASA is beginning to flesh out plans for a manned expedition to Mars, according to a story on The rovers presently on Mars have been more successful than imagined and plans for their successor, the Mars Science Laboratory are under review for a launch either in 2009 or 2011.

Graduation date

[Updated] It appears I will graduate from California State University, East Bay, with a B.A. in Communication at the end of Fall Quarter, in December 2005. It is my plan to continue my studies at the university’s graduate program.