Monday, July 11, 2005

Why have I started blogging on politics?

Long-term readers may remember that when I started this blog, I explicitly said that I would not blog on political topics. At the time, my idea was to focus on biology, education, and other topics that interested me; I decided that I'd rather stay out of the frenzied fray that political blogging often becomes, and I didn't think I had much to add to the political arena.

However, a quick look through my recent posts demonstrates that I've abandoned any notion of being apolitical, and, if anything, I'm now focusing more on politically-related topics than biology and education. I'm not altogether happy about this shift (I am a biologist and an educator, darnit), but I thought I'd outline the reasons for the change.

In the time since I started this blog, many things have happened. First, I've watched as California's governor has cheated education out of $2 billion dollars, and I, and more importantly my students, have suffered as a result. And the governor isn't satisfied with stealing just $2 billion dollars; he wants to permanently decrease the funding for education, legislate how teachers get tenure via a ballot initiative, and give himself sole discretion to enact large mid-year budget cuts to education in the future (posted about here).

I've also watched a presidential election occur, and was awestruck as the media and public blithely ignored the numerous reports that there may have been election fraud. There wasn't even a thorough public investigation. I also discovered, during the election, that a decent fraction of the people who supported Bush didn't even understand his basic policy positions, and thus didn't know who they were voting for. During the election I read a lot of posts describing how the current administration was against science, and against sanity (like, say, the realization that climate change is occurring), yet the current administration is still in place.

In just the past few months, I've seen even more evidence that climate change and environmental impact reports have been doctored so that the "scientific" conclusions justify the administration's policies, whitewashing the real science in the process. Even worse, agencies in the government are actively working to hinder consumer safety; for instance, they prevented food producers from testing their food (at their own expense) to ensure it's safe, and have failed to mandate safeguards to prevent the transmission of easily preventable diseases, such as mad cow disease.

And we can't forget the war in Iraq. Evidence has surfaced showing that the administration may have lied to the American public, and the world, in order to invent reasons to justify an invasion of Iraq. Documents state that the UN and "diplomacy" were used solely as smokescreens to "trip up" Saddam Hussein. These are lies that, if true, have led to the deaths of more than 1,700 Americans, tens of thousands of Iraqis, and the injuries of tens of thousands more people. More than half a million Americans signed a letter asking for clarification on whether the administration did in fact lie, and how did the administration respond? They said that they had no intention of responding. What did the media do? Largely ignore the issue.

And in the course of this war, has the administration ensured that people are treated humanely and fairly? No. The administration has decided that the Geneva Conventions don't apply to prisoners captured on battlefields, and is holding people indefinitely, in legal limbo, in offshore prisons. Some people have been held for years without trials or criminal charges, while others face the possibility of having their torture-extracted confessions used against them in secret trials. The United States is torturing prisoners. I thought I would never write that about my country. But there it is, backed up by (among other things) a 500-plus-citation work by a major international organization specializing in international relations.

In short, I've watched as my country has done things I never thought it capable of.

When I started this blog, I didn't want to be defined as just another liberal-freak blogger, and I didn't want to get caught up in flame wars that distracted me from my planned focus on biology, education, and personal topics. However, my sense of outrage has since grown enough to overcome those concerns, and I've also come to believe that engaging in a public dialog about our nation's policies can be an important use of a blog, if only because it motivates me to learn more about current political events.

I will try, as I have so far, to treat political issues as factually as possible. I don't particularly enjoy reading long rants about topics, and I don't plan on writing many. But I will keep writing about things that I find to be particularly outrageous, or of some special interest, and I hope that in doing so I can do some small bit of good.

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