Afghan Hope

The elections in Afghanistan are about ready to begin. That faraway land is bravely attempting to elect leaders in the midst of war and attacks by the Taliban — who want nothing more than to intimidate voters into staying away from the polls and thereby failing to participate in democratic processes. This BBC story provides a good round-up.

Whether the country will be able to have a credible election under the circumstances is one of the questions that has to be answered. Still, you have to root for the underdog, and the underdog here is a fledgling democracy trying to get voting and democratic principles to take root in the face of enormous cultural, political, and military challenges. Good luck, Afghan friends!

Update:  The voting begins.

The New “Third Rail”? (Cont.)

Richard has expressed skepticism at my post questioning whether health care reform could be the new “third rail” of American politics.  I therefore feel compelled to post links to two recent surveys that strongly suggest that the focus on health care reform is hurting the approval ratings of both President Obama and the Democratic Party.

I’ve said before that I am suspicious of public opinion polling as a true measure of a President’s performance, and I hold to that position.  It’s hard to look at the trends in the polling, however, and argue that the focus on health care reform has had any kind of benefit for either President Obama or Congress generally.  Indeed, what is interesting about the Pew Research Center poll linked above is that while the approval ratings of Democrats have fallen precipitously, the approval ratings of Republicans have stayed steady.  In effect, the Democrats are just coming back to the field.  People who voted for Democrats in hopes that we would have a new, better approach have been disappointed, and they aren’t switching to the other party — they are just saying “a pox on both their houses.”  It makes me wonder whether the turnout in the 2010 elections will be much much lower than in 2008 or even 2006, as disaffected former voters decide that choosing between equally uninspiring candidates for spots in the House and Senate just isn’t worth it.

Tempers Flare !

I can’t believe some of the stuff that is happening at these town meetings. This one was one of the You Tube most popular today and happened in Las Vegas. It is a little hard to hear/follow, but it seems as though this Jewish gentleman was trying explain his personal experiences using our current healthcare set up and a conservative Republican woman yelled “Heil Hitler” at him. 

The woman made a crying baby face and then proceeds to go on a tirade about how she doesn’t want to have her tax dollars to go toward paying for abortions and someone else’s Friday night out on the town. It was my understanding that abortions were not going to be paid for in any of the legislation currently being drafted.

 What ever happened to civilized debate on issues where we disagree ?

Water Wealth

This story about dropping water table levels in India, apparently due to excessive groundwater pumping, just reaffirms what I think will become an increasingly obvious fact: one of the greatest attributes of the American Midwest is an abundance of water. According to the U.S. EPA, the Great Lakes hold more than one-fifth of the world’s supply of fresh water, and the only bigger source — the polar ice caps — aren’t exactly accessible. In addition to the water stored in the Great Lakes, the Midwest is home to large rivers, like the Ohio and the Father of Waters itself, the mighty Mississippi. Our winters aren’t exactly filled with brilliant blue skies, but they do feature lots of rain, and snow, and sleet, and freezing rain, and other forms of bone-chilling precipitation that cause us to cinch our overcoats tighter and mutter under our breath.

The Great Lakes, shown from space

The Great Lakes, shown from space

The question for the Midwest is how to maximize this resource and put it to best use. To their credit, the state governments of the eight Great Lakes states, including Ohio, have been proactive on the issue. They have entered into the Great Lakes Compact, which provides for management of the fresh water in the lakes and, for the most part, bans diversion of the waters to locations outside the Great Lakes basin. The Great Lakes States therefore have said to the world, if you want our water, you’ll need to come to the American Midwest to get it. I think people ultimately will do just that.