Tag Archives: drones

What You Need to Know About the State of the Union

State of the UnionTalking about politics is a touchy thing (and we don’t try to hide that we’re pretty liberal here at Intent – but we do promote listening to contrary opinions with an open ear and encourage healthy, respectful debate!). However, the annual State of the Union address isn’t really about which side of the aisle you vote for – it’s about civic responsibility to  be informed about the state of affairs of the country.

Last night the President covered several important topics from raging minimum wage, increasing America’s clean energy initiatives, creating greater access to higher education and ending the war in Afghanistan. He repeatedly called out Congress’ tendency to gridlock in debate rather than create legislation to help Americans move out of a recession and lead the way in the 21st century. He also re-iterated on several fronts, including minimum wage and infrastructure policy – that he will take whatever action he can without legislation to promote American progress, circumventing the roadblocks often created by tension in the House of Representatives.

The President’s most powerful moment however came at the end of the address when he called out  Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg who was severely injured during his 10th deployment to Afghanistan. After being hit by a bomb while on duty, Cory was left unable to speak and barely move. After dozens of surgeries, hours of grueling physical therapy today, Cory has relearned to talk, stand and walk. He still has trouble with his left side but he and his father were both present for the State of the Union address. His presence garnered an extended applause and standing ovation from the entire assembly. “Cory reminds us what is best about America,” the President said.

If you missed the State of the Union, we’ve compiled some of President Obama’s most compelling quotes from last night:

On Congress’s responsibility to the American public: “If our business is shutting down the Government or ruining the good faith and credit in America then we are not doing right by the American people.”

On creating a bi-partisan Federal budget: ‘The budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crisis.”

On American wages: “But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

On American troops and military involvement abroad: “I will not mire our sons and daughters in open ended war entanglements. We must fight battles that need to be fought, but not those that terrorists prefer for us. America must move off it’s permanent war footing.”

Closing statement: “If we work together, if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it is within our reach.”

To see these quotes in context and to hear the President’s point by point plans for energy initiatives, healthcare progress and the path to comprehensive immigration reform you can watch the full State of the Union Address below:

What do you think of the State of the Union? Leave your opinion in the comments below. Remember to be respectful of those that disagree!

*Picture credit to WhiteHouse.Gov

The Taliban within.

 Almost every day we come across some news or another about the atrocities of the Talibans in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Most of us have been viewing this issue as some incomprehensible disease in a remote and perennially troubled part of the world. The truth is, as we have all come to learn through the proliferating power of media and the internet that it is not so much a remote part of the world anymore.

The world has become such a global village that needless to say, no matter where we are, we cannot but feel the ripple effect in some shape or form of whatever goes on outside our countries’ borders.

 9/11 was that severe shock that changed the perspective of our isolated, insulated world. No longer is America immune to dealing with the repercussions of its often biased foreign policy.

We all know that the then Mujahideen were America’s preferred soldiers in the war against Russia in the late 1970’s. Osama bin Laden was once the CIA’s ‘blue-eyed boy,’ well that relationship has turned awry as we know, and now the force that is the Taliban are making their presence felt. And in some ways the persisten Taliban problem and 9/11 is America’s own karma.

 But this is not just America’s or the West’s problem, the issue of the Taliban is being felt viscerally within that region itself. The Taliban do NOT enjoy public favor or opinion in Pakistan. The region, Swat, which they have come to dominate by flexing their barbaric muscle under the umbrella of an utterly emasculated government, shows a 70-90% dislike of this group.

 These so-called ‘defenders of faith’ or ‘holy warriors’ have done more to harm the faith than anything else. The Taliban are the Billboard that loudly advertises the conflict within society today. In some ways it is the have-nots that have lashed out so demonically at the other, more relatively privileged part of society.

 The young boys that join these Jihadi’s or Holy Warriors are ill-educated, they come from downtrodden and desolate circumstances, and have no hope of employment and livelihood in their country.  Pakistan is a third world country, with meager resources and an enervated economic infrastructure. In such an environment wealth from ill-gotten means creates a stark demarcation in the society, within the classes. While a handful enjoy the benefits of the ‘good life’ there is an ever increasing number of disenfranchised souls on the same land. Hence the ever increasing power of the Taliban in numbers.

It is a known fact that when people are able to provide for their families and send their children to schools and not have to worry about the next meal, they are fully immersed in the business of living. And not the business of destroying or killing, as we see in the case of these young men.

Emptiness and hopelessness has created a void in these people to the point where this gnawing hunger can only be satisfied with something violent and all-encompassing. Religion then, becomes the perfect filler. When living does not comprise of the usual, ordinary definition of going to work and being able to feed the children, then only a hard-line purpose makes existence meaningful and helps ease the often accompanying worthlessness that goes with being unemployed.

But now of course, we are at a point where the cancer has metastasized greatly. The feeble Pakistani police tries to control this issue, but inevitably gets ruthlessly punished by these self-entitled vigilantes. The Obama Administration carried out drone attacks, which resulted in more civilians getting killed than perpetrators. We can design many strategies to ‘wipe’ these people out, but as we have seen, despite the Afghanistan war that started eight years ago, they only seem to only have grown in might and number.

 So, what is the answer? Perhaps we need a different approach. While boots on the ground might help control and localize the problem presently, a deeper, grass root level reform needs to occur.

At the end of the day, we are all humans. And at the core of our existence we are all concerned with survival. An overhaul of the entire system, beginning from the level of creating primary and secondary school system is what is desperately needed in a country like Pakistan. This followed by opportunities to work with dignity would be a starting point with lasting effects.

For this of course one needs a government one can trust to funnel resources towards the building of basic infrastructure. To that end,  Pakistan suffers the rule of a ‘default’ government, for lack of a better term. President Zardari has become a leader more out of default than valid political credentials. Although now that he is in that position, he can at least try to dispel grievances by seizing this opportunity to prove his worth by categorically focusing on the problems within. However, all that remains to be seen and public opinion is not particularly optimistic at this point.

Conclusively, at any given time, what goes on in the world is a mirror image of the collective consciousness of the people. The economic downfall, the pervasive political break down in so many parts of the world today, is a reflection of where we have brought ourselves thus far. The Taliban too, are a reflection of our own mental dichotomies and double standards with regard to our policies, our lip service and our actions. And for lasting change, perhaps the thing to do is to begin instilling the concept of responsibility and accountability in our own schemata and applying it to our own lives first, before hoping to see it outside in the world at large.  

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