First thing first: Bush has to go. I can't even believe the current polls have him leading over Kerry. How the **** can people even consider re-electing him for a second term? He's dragged the U.S. into this war in Iraq that had no justification for beginning in the first place. There is no evidence of any weapons of mass destruction and the conflict has only further pitted the Middle East countries against the Western world, particularly the U.S. As if they didn't already hate us enough. And the fact that he called for the invasion into Iraq without the support of the U.N. has pitted other countries that would otherwise be our allies against us.
We can't go barging into other countries 1) without just cause (not just what seemed to be a hunch) and 2) a unified front (and not unilaterally with a handful of minor supporters). The fact that so many countries in the U.N. were against the invasion should have been a sign that it was not a good idea. And now the U.S. has lost over 1,000 lives over there and I'm willing to bet the friends and families of those who lost their lives feel that their loss was worth it. Sure, we got Saddam Hussein out of power. Yes, I will agree that is one good outcome of all this, but I don't think the world is any safer now than it was before he was removed from power.
I can't say and I won't speculate if things would be better if Gore had been President (and in my opinion, he won the election ... I can't even understand how Bush managed to weasel his way into the Oval Office). He certainly would have handled things differently, but I don't know if it would be better. And at the moment, I don't know if I like Kerry enough to say that I'm going to vote for him. If there was any chance of victory for the Green Party, I wouldn't hesitate to vote Green, but unfortunately, the chances of Nader getting elected is almost zero and those votes would take away from votes that would otherwise go to Kerry and possibly be enough to defeat Bush. But that's just speculation. Honestly, I don't know who I'm going to vote for just yet, but I think I will be happy with ANYBODY BUT BUSH!
A couple more footnotes on this: the Shrub (i.e. Bush) has done NOTHING for education, health care, and the economy (among other things). His "No Child Left Behind" program had good intentions but went about it entirely the wrong way. And the economy ... there are charts illustrating how much the economy spiraled downward while Bush has been in power. The national surplus we had while Clinton was in office has turned into what is projected to be trillions of debt. And much of that is because an insane amount of money is spent on defense and military, and neglecting education and health care -- spending that I wouldn't be so irritated about if we really have to be in debt.
While I think it's important to step into international affairs when necessary (in my opinion: AIDS, hunger, human rights), I don't understand why the people of the United States have to take a back seat to the rest of the world. The President of the United States is not the leader of the world. The President is the leader of the United States, hence the title. The first priority should be the fundamental, basic needs that every American is entitled to. Sure, nowadays American safety is intimately tied with affairs and relationships with other countries, but it doesn't make sense that we're trying to "rescue" Middle East countries when so many Americans are suffering from poverty, hunger, homelessness, diseases, etc. Once all that is taken care of, then we can address problems outside our borders.
Weapons Ban/Gun Control
This one infuriates me. I can't believe this even is an issue -- of course I think the ban should be renewed. I'm watching something on CNN right now and one of the senators talking is happy that the ban expired. He says that the ban made no difference between related crimes before and after the ban went into effect, and quoted some numerical statistic. Statistics don't mean anything. When you look at the horrendous crimes that have been carried out, they are almost never a significant proportion of a statistic. And yet, the events stand out in our mind not because of how frequently they happen but because of how atrocious they are. So, without renewing this ban, almost anyone can get their hands on a semi-automatic weapon, and with the way tensions are growing between countries of this world and between people within our own country, it scares me to think how some nut can open fire on some random crowd and take many innocent lives. There are certainly enough nutcases out there capable of doing that, and making semi-automatics more accessible to them is just asking for trouble.
The other part of this is the general issue of gun control -- how the NRA and gun ownership proponents claim that it is their "Second Amendment right" to bear arms, and that denying them from owning guns is unconstitutional. This isn't the 18th century! The Second Amendment was written to back up the military in case of an attack. But we don't live in a military-dominated country anymore. There is NO reason for civilians to carry guns. People often say they keep guns in their homes to protect their families in case of a robber or someone breaks in, but the number of deaths caused by the easy access of guns being in the home is astounding if you think about it. The worst case I can think of is children who find their way into the clothes drawer where their parents hide their gun. I don't even want to elaborate on that idea because it is just so disheartening. And you know it happens. The fact that so many people in the U.S. own, keep, and carry guns is a factor in the relatively high rate of violence. All it takes is one person who is carrying a gun to get pissed off. Like I said, there is no reason for the everyday person who is not involved in the military or law enforcement to carry a firearm.
My own father told me a few years ago that he considered getting a gun to keep in the house for protection. I was floored. Dumbstruck. Literally in shock. I couldn't believe I heard those words come from my dad's mouth. He was one of the last people I would expect to buy a gun, and we got into a heated debate. In the end, I told him that if he ever purchased a gun, I would not step foot in the house. It's not that I'm afraid of guns (well, I am a little bit) but it's the fundamental issue that I am so strongly against.
Stem Cell Research
Granted, I am a scientist, so it seems natural that I would be a proponent of stem cell research. That may be true, but I feel that those who support the ban made by the Shrub on developing any more stem cell lines with government funding don't really understand the science behind stem cell research. For one (and this isn't exactly a scientific point but I figure I should start with it), the religious conservatives claim it is morally wrong to sacrifice embryos to obtain stem cells because those embryos are human beings and that it is murder. If that's the case, then are they against in vitro fertilization? Because when a couple goes in to have such a procedure done, only a fraction of fertilized eggs are actually implanted into the potential mother. The rest of the embryos are destroyed. This is where the majority of embryonic stem cells are obtained. These embryos are at least being put to good use, rather than being thrown out useless in the trash.
Secondly, Bush and his supporters on this issue claim that the existing stem cell lines that have already been established and are being allowed to be worked on with government funding are enough to carry out research. Wrong. These existing lines simply don't represent enough of the vast range of cells and the interactions between cells to truly understand the mechanism of diseases. In addition, these stem cells, contrary to popular belief, do not last forever. Yes, they can lead to formation of new cell types but that doesn't mean they can live infinitely. All cells have a finite life span and have a limited number of times they can divide. Without getting too much into the details, this is the dominant theory of why we age, how cells can become cancerous, etc. In short, limiting research to just these stem cell lines is stifling the potential we could reap from them in finding cures for Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes, etc. The government needs to expand its funding to support open research on stem cell research because the more brains we have working, and the more angles we go at a particular problem, the better the likelihood of finding a solution.
Much of the scientific and medical knowledge that we have today was obtained from doing research, and much of it was through what were considered controversial methods. That isn't to say I support unethical tests and inhumane experiments. Doing unfounded tests on humans and animals without solid scientifically supported hypotheses is unethical. That of course brings up the question of where to draw the line. There comes a point where it's hard to say whether one thing is unethical while another thing isn't. The answer to that, I don't know.
more to come ...