During the liberal insurgence in Latin America, charismatic leaders spoke eloquently to the desires of the working class majority in their respective countries. They desired to give the poor greater rights, to expand education, and to nationalize industries among other things. Their rhetoric connected with the people and following their elections, there was an uptick in newly formed government funded social programs. Unfortunately, Cold War politics reared its ugly head and the United States perceived these nationalistic actions as communism. The United States used economic and social powers to put pressure on these democratically elected leaders, fuel rage within the upper classes, cripple economies, and pave the way for the rise of oligarchic regimes. Many perceived stability from this change in leadership; however, it eventually resulted in decades of violence and human rights violations. Now, Latin America stands at an important moment in history. Most countries within the region are growing but they are still grappling with inequality and heightened poverty. My paper is directed at U.S. policy makers and offers suggestions in order to improve foreign policy within the region and support those who have been marginalized historically by both the United States and their countries’ governments.
Voting is one of the most empowering components of living in a democracy. It provides you the opportunity to share your opinions and impact the future of our country. Unfortunately, many take this privilege for granted. It seems as though many in our country believe their vote is futile and doesn’t mean much. Anyone who watched the 2000 Presidential Election results in Florida or the 2012 Republican Iowa caucus would likely disagree. Despite the elements of our government that frustrate us, the fact is that voter absenteeism only furthers corruption. Voters must take action to change the culture of Washington. Little change will occur when disgruntled voters aren’t making their voices heard. The overwhelmingly lopsided victory of President Barack Obama in 2008 proves the power that voters have when they are frustrated and desire change. Hold your leaders accountable for their promises.
The blog prompt this week asked that we develop a way to improve the world in 60 seconds. In my opinion, a careful selection of who leads the United States can have a profound impact not only domestically but also internationally. That is why it is important to engage in the political process and understand who you are voting for. Politicians can ultimately determine laws that protect or restrict personal freedoms and civil liberties. The President selects judges and justices who determine the legality of critical issues like civil rights, religion, and abortion. A President you vote for today may choose a judge that will determine social policy in the US for decades.
That being said, US politicians also impact other countries around the globe. These individuals make vital decisions with regards to foreign aid, defense, and trade. They determine who we will engage violently but also who we will support in peaceful operations. US foreign policy towards other countries can impact populations for years. This fact is evident in regions like Latin America. (See Guatemala)
So, learn about the candidates. Find a candidate, regardless of party, that falls in line with your personal beliefs. Then, go out and tell others about the election. Vote in every election (local, state or federal) to honor those who fought for this right. Don’t stop there. Start a campaign or movement knowing that the impacts of your efforts are limitless.
For my white paper, I plan to focus on poverty in America with a specific lens on the working poor. Through examining statistics about the working poor and poverty in America in general, I hope to get a better understanding of what causes poverty. I want to examine the socioeconomic, demographic, and educational components that together are consistent among individuals who comprise the working poor. While I don’t necessarily expect to fully explain what causes poverty, I hope to gain a better understanding of the wide variety of factors which come into play.
This week we were asked to take a trip to the library to identify sources which would help us in our research for the White Paper. I found a book that was particular helpful with regards to my focus on the working poor. Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder by Jody Heymann is a book which discusses the stories of businesses which have taken and alternative approach to business and employee treatment. Heymann examines twelve companies from nine countries with workforces which range from as small as 27 to over 100,000. These businesses are very different from one another and serve a diverse range of customers. Despite the significant differences between the businesses, each company has proven to do well financially, successfully implement a strategy that places emphasis on high quality working conditions for low-level employees, and has developed a wide range of other employee centered policies which have made them desirable places to work. Their financial successes have balanced the needs of various parties including owners, shareholders, and all employees of the firm. Some of the firms included are Costco, American Apparel, and Xerox.
Heymann thoroughly examines each example and makes the clear argument that it is beneficial for companies to invest in all employees at all levels. She also draws clear links to data to prove that this practice can be profitable for the companies, despite the investment. She utilizes specific references to prove that the rewards gained from the additional workforce investment outweigh the costs. The section of the book which I read discussed the companies of American Apparel and Jenkins Brick. In this chapter, the values of incentive policies and appealing salary scales were noted. The explicit link between these types of policies and increases in employee motivation and productivity are made. Furthermore, the heightened lower-level salaries results in recruitment of the most dependable employees. This section of the book also described the case studies of Autoliv Australia and Isola. In these examples, policies involving flexible scheduling of time off and extended leave created a greater sense of loyalty amongst employees along with increased job satisfaction. Both companies determined that more generous policies surrounding sick leave and time to care for family was very important to their respective staffs. After the policies were implemented, the companies experienced lower turnover rates, fewer missed days of work, lower costs, and wrongful use of sick days. The conclusion was that such policies lead to greater employee loyalty and connection to the firm.
Now, you might be wondering how this book applies to my topic of poverty amongst the working poor. This topic is largely “Society” focused. In order to bring in “Government” and “Business” into the picture, I need to offer valuable suggestions to policy makers at the federal level in addition to upper level executives in business. This book directly addresses the “Business” piece. It offers effective solutions to companies which will result in more productivity. Meanwhile, the policies mentioned lead to a better quality of life for ALL employees, even those at the “bottom of the ladder.” Many of those individuals comprise the working poor in America. All in all it was a successful trip to the library!
In 1648, just after the Thirty Years War, the state system was developed in Europe. The international behavior of the competing European states was regulated by a simple theory consistent with the general thinking of the time: the “balance of power.” The system was used for three hundred and fifty years. At that time people belonged to unified nations and they elected a leader who was expected to support the best interests of the constituents. (Asch, 1997) With the advent of communications technology and quicker transportation; however, the world’s mindset became that of billions of people as opposed to cohesive powerful nations. With the world changing rapidly and violence on the rise, the US as the world leader must change the way we cope with threats toward our nation. Nowadays we are often at war with an individual or group of individuals, not a nation. Why wage war with innocent citizens when their brutal dictators are the true enemies? The United States desperately needs a new, legal foreign policy strategy and by eliminating Executive Order 12333 section 2.11 to allow assassinations, it can better combat our adversaries abroad.
Back in 1648 it was vital to maintain a system that was mutually beneficial to all members of the global community. It created a legal understanding between the nation-states. (Asch, 1997) Unfortunately the present threat to our nation does not represent a country but rather rogue colonies of terrorists. Allowing assassination as a legal foreign policy will ultimately be a less violent method of combat. Nevertheless there will be those who argue that such a policy would break international law. Upon researching these laws; however, one will realize that there are no explicit restrictions on assassinations. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a United Nations treaty often used against assassinations. It was entered into the force on March 23, 1976. Once the senate ratified the ICCPR in 1992; however, it took a very weak stance on the issue. In congressional resolution S4781-84, the senate stated that “the provisions of article 1 through 26 of the covenant are not self exalting”. This means that if our congress was to pass legislation against the ICCPR then that legislation would supersede the prior rule. Thus congress could take action today to legally permit this strategy. The second treaty used against assassination is the Hague Convention of 1899. This was among the first statements of laws on war crimes. In addition to being outdated, when one examines Section IV of this convention, it is obvious that the United States is already in violation of this treaty. This section prohibits the launching of projectiles and explosives from balloons. (Masters) Seeing that this convention is already being ignored, it is not a valid argument against assassinations. Finally, the Geneva Convention Protocol 1 prohibits attacks that rely on “Perfidy”. This vague statement is manipulated quite often by governments that simply redefine the enemies targeted by their attacks.
What one must realize is that now more than ever, Executive Order 12333 section 2.11 is being manipulated to satisfy our country’s goals. The Bush administration usurped this order after the murders of Uday and Qusai Hussein were carried out. (Bazan, CRS3) Repealing this order would allow our nation’s leaders to legitimately consider the policy. Former White House press secretary Ari Fleisher once stated “the cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than the cost of war”. I must agree with his words and say that although this proposal might seem inherently violent, it will actually result in fewer deaths. When a few special soldiers are seeking out one or a few corrupt leaders as opposed to bombing an entire region, naturally there will be fewer civilian and troop deaths. The estimated toll of civilian deaths in Iraq is over 100,000 people. (BBC News) This proposal would avoid unnecessary wars in countries where our enemies are the dictators and not the citizenry. The US will spend billions later to repair the dismantled nation of Iraq when we could have avoided the destruction by targeting individual leaders of the Taliban with undercover Special Forces.
Last week during Spring Break 2012, I was lucky to visit the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala. I am working on an interdisciplinary project with a group of Mechanical Engineers to help bring affordable eye care to rural regions of developing countries. Essentially, our goal is to establish a sustainable business in Guatemala (our first stop) that can provide affordable eye care to those who currently can’t afford the high prices. Our business would not conduct surgery but rather focus on diagnostics and prescriptions. Our colleagues in Mechanical Engineering are helping to provide the tools necessary to make diagnoses at an affordable price.
After visiting Lake Atitlan, I was struck by the strong indigenous culture and physical beauty of the region. Lake Atitlan has become one of Guatemala’s top tourist destinations. It is located in the department of Solola in the Guatemalan highlands. The lake is immediately surrounded by volcanoes and mountains which makes travel to the lake a bit more challenging. The three volcanoes which circle the lake are San Pedro, Toliman, and Atitlan. The lake itself was formed about 85,000 years ago as a result of a huge volcanic eruption which created a depression in the landscape. That depression filled with water and became the freshwater lake that we know today. There are several villages that border the lake. I was able to stop in five of them during my stay: San Pedro, Santiago, Panajachel, Solola, and San Juan. Panajachel is the most touristy of the lake villages and has about 14,000 residents. Despite the commercialization, Mayan culture and traditions remain a strong influence in the other towns around the lake.
I want to revisit Guatemala because I feel that I have a lot more to learn. More time in the Lake Atitlan region would be beneficial; however, there is a lot more to see. Cities like Antigua would add to my understanding of the culture. In addition, I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see any Mayan ruins. Cities with the ruins, Tikal and Yaxha, are on the other side of the country. Also, our team only spent one day in Guatemala City, visiting hospitals and universities. Additional time in the capital to visit with politicians, lawyers, and micro-finance initiatives would be incredible.
I repeatedly find myself following the political pundits and updates from the campaign trail. This is especially true with the crucial 2012 Presidential election upcoming. There were two speeches made by Rick Santorum which elicited frustrated responses from me. One thing that amazes me as I listen to the candidates out on the campaign trail is some of the inflammatory remarks that are made which are both untrue and offensive. These comments further stereotypes and alienate historically marginalized groups from the mainstream. The most consistent repeated culprit is Rick Santorum. I want to use this blog post to examine the some of the comments that he has made, question their validity, and put them in the broader context of realities about gender and race in the United States. Furthermore, I will prove how these archaic and bigoted remarks will lead to further inequality in our country which is still recovering from both the civil rights and women’s rights movements.
The first video above provides Rick Santorum’s remarks following a Pentagon decision to allow military women to serve in important roles closer to front line combat. While many would believe that this is an important step towards equality in our country, Santorum immediately communicated “concerns” about this change citing “other types of emotions that are involved.”
Santorum said: “I want to create every opportunity for women to be able to serve this country.” He followed that statement up with: “I do have concerns about women in front line combat. I think that could be a very compromising situation where – where people naturally, you know, may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.”
Santorum continued his shaky defense by saying: “probably, you know, it already happens, of course, due to the camaraderie of men in combat.” He concluded by saying that women serving on the front lines is not in the best interest of any party involved.
Santorum must have ignored the fact that women were already serving in the roles granted to them by the new Pentagon guidelines in temporary positions prior. He certainly didn’t cite any evidence that the “camaraderie” was disrupted or that “emotions” prevented unit cohesion. His claims are not grounded in fact but rather scripture.
To this day, in 2012, women cannot serve on the front lines. The new guidelines further restrictions on women in infantry roles, for example. This begs the question: If women want to serve on the front lines; why can’t they? I know plenty of strong women.
The problem is leadership in this country that clings to archaic and outdated approaches to life which aren’t in line with the current views of the US citizenry. Santorum tries to portray individuals fighting for equality as “elitist academics” instead of looking in the mirror and seeing who truly is trying to enforce their life views on others.
Santorum followed up in another interview that: “It’s not a matter of putting women in dangerous roles.” He mentioned in an interview that women were certainly able to “fly small planes.” It seems like Santorum; however, would like to keep the heavy weapon clad aircraft for the men. It is not surprising that a Santorum continues to employ a staffer that once claimed that: “having a female president is against God’s plan.” The gender roles of men and women are socially constructed and can be reversed.