Saturday, May 2, 2009

Facing yourTransgressions

Living in a land that boasts of its “strong” and “fair” judicial system, the United States courts are intricate and can be very helpful. The Adversarial Legalism in this country welcomes as many lawyers as it can get, while always keeping in mind that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. However, not all court cases and tribunals are as simple as small claims, car accidents, or robbery. The world is as perfect as its various court systems and that isn’t saying much. Unfortunately, there are governments and political movements that are overcome with power and greed and evil. These types of institutions—many times throughout history—have posed threats to weaker sects of society. And, in some cases, there are mass, state orchestrated violence projected on the feeble minorities. For one example, Nazi Germany, lead by Fascist leader Adolf Hitler began using malicious propaganda against the Jews, homosexuals, and others alike in order to prepare for his Final Solution. Hitler’s plan was to exterminate all Jews and others he deemed as enemies.

After igniting World War II and exterminating millions of people in concentration camps, Hitler came close to completion of his game plan. However, the Nazis and their allies ended up losing the war. The only question after the war seemed to be, who will pay for these atrocities now that Hitler is dead? The prosecution of the Nazis and their allies would have to be large scale, and the selection of the lawyers is a problem in itself. In response to the Nazi atrocities, the Nuremberg Trials adjourned with many Nazi soldiers accused of various war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The trials concluded in 1949 with several members of the Nazi Party convicted for war crimes. The purpose of these war crimes tribunals was deemed to be necessary in order to potentially avoid other atrocities such as genocide or insidious military invasions. However, it wasn’t until 2002 when the United Nations, established in 1945 to replace the League of Nations, when the International Criminal Court was chartered. In response to the war crimes committed in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the International Criminal Court was applied to these violent incidents.

It is 2009 and the United States of America has still not ratified the International Criminal Court charter established by the United Nations. In fact, it took President Clinton some time before he even recognized the 1994 "situation" in Rwanda as genocide. The 1994 clash between Rwanda's Hutus and Tutsis led to the Hutu extermination of about one million Tutsis. These two factions are virtually identical, yet they have been enemies for quite some time. The Hutus became infamous for their use of machetes and even mass rapes with the intent of spreading the AIDS virus in order to eradicate Tutsi women.

The International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda was instituted to bring justice to this war torn region. These tribunals are important because they hold certain people and factions accountable for crimes in order to prevent any future occurrences. Maybe, if the whole world knew that crimes such as genocide and mass rape are punishable, then there might be fewer cases of this sort. In 1998, Jean-Paul Akayesu, a member of the Hutus, was convicted of multiple accounts for his role in several cases of rape of Tutsi women.

The United Sates of America's image as an independent nation is respectable and understandable, but we cannot claim to be the free nation and country of justice and hope if we do not support the fair trials of war criminals. People in Rwanda were being executed in record numbers considering the duration of the war. This is something that should never happen again. It would be a milestone step for our young country to take if we stood for international justice.

-Brittain Bush

Saturday, April 25, 2009

California Crisis: Water

As a country facing desperate times, we must begin to understand how water is our most important resource. The Klamath River Basin, which resides on the Oregon/California border, used to be the America's third most productive salmon river. However, due to the four dams and the fight over the land between the native tribes and the farmers, there have been massive fish kills; the most devastating occurring in 2002. The dams have prevented necessary water flow need to sustain the salmon. In addition, the salmon are an extremely significant part of the Yurok native tribe.

The farmers residing in Klamath also use much of the land to cultivate their crops. However, as the fight over land continues between the farmers and the native tribes, fish are dying. Many believe that a large reason for these fish deaths come from the runoff into the river from the pesticides and nutrients used by the farmers on their harvest. As the pesticides are washed away into the river, they become algae blooms that feed on the nutrients in the water. Much of these algae blooms can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning. Additionally, algae blooms have been known to create an aerosol neuro-toxin that can harm humans. On the other hand, these farmers must be able to control some land to continue their work.

Fortunately, the stimulus bill, instituted by the Obama Administration, has given 260 million dollars to the California's water resources, 4 million of which is going towards Klamath River complements of Governor Schwarzenegger. Governor Schwarzenegger hopes that this crisis will be handled and that the salmon population will rise again. Salmon are a resource in itself that many native tribes rely on. Water is another resource in jeopardy and algae blooms are destroying this resource along with millions of fish.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April Madness

Today marked the first day in the NBA playoffs, and already the questions over the MVP and Rookie of the Year award have been answered. With 38 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers proved that they are a force to be reckoned with. James, the favorite for the MVP award this season, delivered with an extraordinary performance, as he has done all year long. Kobe Bryant, last year's winner, has been putting up big numbers, but nothing like King James. Watching James--who wears number 23--I sometimes forget that someone else once wore that same number and changed basketball forever. Whether LeBron scores with a half-court shot or a monster dunk, there is no one as good as he is.

In addition, the rookie class of this 2008-2009 season has been extremely impressive as well. OJ Mayo, the early favorite for the Rookie of the Year award, has since had some slow months. However, Derrick Rose has been coaxed throughout the season and was able to put up 36 points and 11 assists against none other than the defending champs, the Boston Celtics. Although the Celtics were without their star, Kevin Garnett, the Bulls from Chicago just seemed to outplay the Celtics on their own court. Fueled by pure youth, Rose continued to charge at the Celtics and show the world that the Bulls can win even without the previously mentioned number 23.

As the playoffs continue, I hope to see my Laker team destroy the opposition as they open with Utah tomorrow. However, I am afraid to say that Kobe isn't a shoe-in for the MVP award. Nevertheless, I do consider his team to be almost guaranteed in the big dance. Perhaps, the closest thing Kobe will be to the MVP award is if he plays against LeBron in the Finals.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

SEALs: An American Superpower

After reading United States Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell's book, "Lone Survivor," you can't help but feel slightly at ease to know that there is an elite group of warriors fighting for freedom, known as the Navy SEALs.

In his book, Luttrell articulates the dangers that he and his SEAL team encountered while in Afghanistan during Operation Red Wing in 2005. In search of a high ranking Taliban leader, Luttrell's SEAL team 10 came upon goat herders in some remote field in Afghanistan. However, the SEALs had some doubts about the legitimacy of these goat herders believing that they might be Taliban scouts. Regardless, the SEALs interrogated the herders and continued their mission. Consequently, Luttrell and his team are ambushed by hundreds of Taliban, who had been informed of the American SEAL team by the goat herders. Despite their efforts, every member of SEAL team 10, except for Luttrell, was killed. Luttrell had been taken captive by Taliban forces, but soon escaped only to tell the world of his courageous story.

Recently, Luttrell, living at home in Texas, was involved in a high speed chase following four men who had executed his golden Labrador, Dasy, that had been given to him for rehabilitation purposes. "Dasy," an acronym of Luttrell and his three SEAL team members, had been shot with a .357 magnum outside Luttrell's home. Trained to kill, Luttrell, however, allowed the police to arrest the four men.

America must remember to salute its fallen heroes, but also heroes like Marcus Luttrell. In addition, Captain Richard Phillips, hostage to Somalian pirates, has also been rescued by Navy SEALs. Hopefully, the world can see that we can be a good country filled with good people. However, we will always be protected by the courageous men and women of our military. As the Gadsden Flag says, "Don't Tread on Me."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Losing Afghanistan

There was much support by Americans of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks. However, it seems that the US has been losing its grip on the war torn country. As the Taliban are fighting their way back in, hopes for democracy are fading away. Just recently, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed into legislation a bill that would punish women if they were to leave the house without permission from their husbands.

Many critics of the bill even claim that this particular piece of legislation advocates the husband to rape his wife if she were to attempt to leave him. The law would only affect Shiite Muslims and not Sunnis. UNIFEM, or The United Nations Development Fund for Women, believes that this law is in direct violation of human rights. This bill could possibly reverse everything that Americans and Afghans have been fighting for since 2001.

There have been many positive political and societal changes in Afghanistan that have given women more power and freedom. This legislation could negate all of that. We cannot lose Afghanistan almost as much as they cannot lose themselves. Passing this bill would a be a victory for the very evil that was cast away from Afghanistan.

Stephen Mack's blog

Thursday, April 2, 2009

America's New Sports Hero

Mohammed Ali. Knute Rockne. Lou Gehrig. These men have left their mark on the sports world in very similar ways. Although these three men participated in very different sports, they each made memorable moments through their respective famous speeches. America might possibly have its new sports hero in the 21st century: Florida Gator Quarterback, Tim Tebow.

Standing at 6 foot 3 inches and 240 pounds, Tebow is built unlike any other quarterback in college football. Tebow raised eyebrows in Gator Nation in the 2006 season when he backed up starting quarterback Chris Leak. However, Tebow wasn't necessarily throwing many passes. Instead, the coaching staff utilized his size and fearlessness to run with the ball. Many of these plays consisted of Tebow pounding his way through the goaline resulting--many times--in a touchdown. It was this style that gave Tebow the chance to help win a 2007 BCS National Championship over Ohio State. In the following season, The Gators would not be selected to the BCS game. Nevertheless, the team would find some solace as their starting quarterback, Tim Tebow was named Heisman winner.

As a USC Trojan, nothing bothers me more than to not see my Trojans in the BCS Championship game year after year since the loss to Texas in the Rose Bowl in 2006. Apparently the BCS has some "logical" method in selecting its championship teams. In addition, I will quite possibly never fully understand this method because my Trojans not only usually have as many wins and losses as the selected BCS Championship teams, but they also are nearly unstoppable in the Bowl season. Enough of this. Back to Tim Tebow.

There is no denying the fact that Tim Tebow is a true competitor and knows how to win. In this past college football season, the Florida Gators suffered an excruciating loss to Ole Miss at home. However, in a press conference following the loss, Tebow gave a brief but inspirational speech regarding the rest of the season. He said, "I'm extremely sorry...I promise you one will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season." These words were simple, concise, but were filled with determination of a work-horse.

The rest is history. The Gators won out beating the country's top ranked Alabama team in the SEC championship game. Florida then was selected as the BCS number one team against number two, Oklahoma. Not even Oklahoma's stunning offense could overwhelm Florida. In addition, it wasn't too surprising that Florida's quarterback, Tebow, threw two touchdowns for over 200 yards and rushed for over 100 yards in the victory.

Today, Florida head coach Urban Meyer has decided to glorify Tebow's speech with a placard of the entire oration in metal. It will hang there on the wall and shine in its immortality. Hopefully, with one more season at Florida in his pocket, Tebow can shine as well. His legacy continues.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Narcos: Drug Cartels and Trafficking from the Latin Americas.

Despite the diversity in Los Angeles, any Angeleno would agree that traffic sucks. It's quite possibly the only part of an Angeleno's day that makes he or she think that LA isn't a city of perfect weather and beautiful people, but instead, one big, loud, parking lot.
In Mexico, traffic might be perceived a little bit differently. Drug trafficking is another problem that not only negatively affects Los Angeles—due to its closeness in proximity to Mexico—but also all of the United States of America. The recent increase in civil instability in Mexico is also affecting our country in several ways; including the drug trafficking as well as the multiple U.S. government and private authorities and elements that are involved with the drug cartels and highly unequal distribution of wealth in Mexico. The drug cartels in Mexico, namely the Sinaloa Cartel, are very successful and brutal businesses, who believe that their power is derived from their products, money, and military-style weaponry.
However, the main source of power that these cartels maintain comes from its top consumers: Americans. The drug dependency of our great American citizens is what helps these cartels thrive.
The violence that has inundated the streets of Mexico is increasing as Mexican authorities augment their anti-drug agencies. Although these ruthless cartels are killing people in record numbers, America must understand that much of the illegal drugs purchased here come from these cartels. By purchasing these drugs, Americans are fueling the narcos with funding and worst of all, weapons. Since December of 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has built up police and military forces alike to stand against all Mexican drug cartels. Since then, over 9,000 people have lost their lives due to the cartels pushing back against the government. This is everyday life in towns like Tijuana and Culiacan. As more and more Americans buy drugs this risk of this violence spilling into American border cities increases. It is up to our government to protect its people from this seemingly uncontrollable violence. It seems as if the Obama Administration will have one more problem with which to concern themselves. All Americans must do is decide whether obtaining their drugs is as important as the horrific violence.