Monday, October 19, 2009

A War on Words

For years it has been apparent that although many different news organizations claim to be an unbiased source of news, most have the tendencies to promote news that supports one political school of thought more than any other. This is often attributed to the personal views of the writers and usually overlooked by both readers and politicians, usually that is. For years now, left skewed news organizations have done their best to villanize the Bush administration as incompetent and acting solely in the interests of the "richest one percent". The Bush Administration overlooked this bias and continued to provide those news sources access to information from the Office of the President as well as the President himself. President Obama's Administration, however, feels that this equal access is not necessary now that they control the White House.

The White House has decided that it is no longer going to allow Fox News, one of the major news outlets, access to information or even access to the President in what in what Fox News exec Michael Clemente is calling a "war on a news organization". This "war" is not just one of idle rhetoric, this last weekend the White House sent the Administrations messages to all major new outlets save Fox News. When the President appeared on television this last Sunday morning to promote his healthcare bill, Obama appeared on all the major Sunday news shows accept for Fox News Sunday.

We all know that Fox News is clearly on the conservative side of the spectrum. It is often seen as the only conservative news group among all the major news networks. Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are outspoken and animated, often being labeled as over the top, conservative crusaders focused on bringing down the liberal government. While this label may not be that far from the truth, at what point did the government get the right to decided who could and could not report the news?

The White House's decision to not consider Fox News a news organization is one of the most egregious examples of the Democratic Party abusing the star power that the President commands. The President stated during the election that he felt that Fox News had cost his several polling points in the campaign. The Party is now using the freedom that they are receiving from the American people to silence their opposition. It is appalling that the White House is intentionally blocking a group from exercising one of the most basic principles of freedom that our government was founded on, a truly free press.

It is no surprise that people are going to disagree on any particular topic. The only time that we seem to agree is when the outcome is so trivial that it has no real effect on our lives or when it would be seen as inappropriate to disagree, but on any matter of real importance, we all want to do things differently and all feel that we have the best way of accomplishing our goals. We do however, pride ourselves on the fact that we are all allowed our own opinions and the freedom to express them.

The White House Communications Director stated that Fox News is almost "the communication arm of the Republican Party". While some might believe that this is more than enough reason to block the group from access to the news, that statement is the exact reason that the government, as well as the people, should be fighting to make sure that they receive the same access to the government and the President as any other news organization. We would then be reinforcing the rights that our forefathers fought and died for, and so many of our ancestors gave up everything for and moved to a strange new country that promised inalienable rights. When we start to allow the government to keep certain groups from having access to those rights and freedoms, we are giving up those rights altogether. How can we expect to have the protection of the First Amendment when we require it, if we do not protect that right for those are currently being denied them, regardless of how much we disagree with their views and opinions?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Misplaced Praise

It has become more and more difficult to surprise the American people with the praise that President Obama has been receiving from the international community, but it appears that there are still groups out there that are willing to rise to the challenge. This last Friday, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

It would not have been a surprise if the award had come a year from now, and many of Obama opponents would have agreed with the decision to award the prize to the current sitting president. The President has done many good thing in bring the world together. For example, the President recently spoke to the UN General Assembly in which he called for a new era in international cooperation. The one thing that really has many Americans concerned is the fact that these efforts have been just that, recent.

To receive a Nobel Peace Prize, you must be nominated. Those nominations are due by February 1st, only two week after the President took office. Are there really that many people that believe that the President accomplished enough goals to be awarded the Peace Prize in a meager two weeks?

Let us take a step back in time and think about what was happening in January. If you leave out the pomp and circumstance that is associated with the inauguration of a President of the United States there was a substantial list of things that needed to be done on the domestic front that were considered a much higher priority than international relations. The housing market had collapsed and along with it, the entire economy. Jobs were being lost, the Auto-Industry was on the brink of collapse, and the government was scrambling to pass a trillion dollar piece of legislation to try to prevent the country from entering a second Great-Depression, not to mention the thousands of positions that needed to be fill in President Obama's Cabinet. The President did not have the time to focus on international peace. The only thing he did was call the Heads-of-State of our allies.

It is clear that the President is a celebrity on the international stage. The last time that it was news that the President was taking his wife too dinner on their anniversary was back when John F. Kennedy was President. It seems that all the international community cares about is that of his celebrity status and keeping Obama's reputation clean in the international community.

Do not misunderstand, this was not the fault of President Obama or should he be personally ridiculed for the award. Rather, we should be concerned with the fact that those lacking basic requirements are being awarded the most respected award in the world, and suspect of the political motivation of those who give the award. They admit that the award was given in a political move, but does that undermine the underlying intentions of the awards?

That is a question that is not so easy to answer.

Monday, September 28, 2009

And Iran

There are many out there who seem to fear the progress that Iran has made in the last few years when it comes to nuclear technology. Many fear that once Iran has the ability to detonate a nuclear weapon, they will take that bomb and strap it to a missile in an attempt to destroy Israel. While these concerns are not without merit, there is not a very realistic chance that that will happen.

When we look back at the first and arguably only nuclear standoff, we know that the idea of mutually assured destruction can be an effective way of staving of nuclear attack. Some argue that there are those out there that would be willing to die to destroy their enemy, but this logic will not hold when it comes to entire governments. While it is clear that many leaders around the world are willing to sacrifice the needs and wants of their people in order to accomplish their goals, there is no evidence that those same leaders are willing to truly risk nuclear war to accomplish their goals.

What Iran tried to accomplish when it test fired several short and long-range missiles this weekend was nothing different that what North Korea did this last summer. Iran is positioning itself for negotiations with the international community which will begin the first week of October. This all come on the heals of the international community discovering that Iran has had a secret nuclear facility that it has been using to develop nuclear technology for the last several years.

Should the international community be concerned that another state may become nuclear in the the next few years? Absolutely, but not for fear of war. Many nuclear powers have fought wars without using nuclear weapons. Rather, they should be concerned that the technology is secure and that it cannot reach the hands of the small groups of individuals who do wish to start nuclear war.

While the media thrives on images of rockets and missiles being test fired as a show of force, the only real power that these images give a country is the fear that they create. There is no true threat that Iran will destroy the middle east in the next few year, that is unless they forget to lock up their nuclear weapons at night and one or two of them just "happen" to disappear.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Today, President Obama address the United Nations for the first time in a move that is being viewed as the first step in repairing relations in the international community. While speaking on several subjects, several points have been seen as major changes from United States international policy. While it is clear that the President is trying to repair what many felt was major damage caused by the Bush Administration, President Obama made it clear that the US was no longer willing to act independently of the international system. Obama address was mostly focused on a new age of international interaction in which the President called for the world to move past points of conflict in the past and focus on the major problems in the world today.

Was this a concession on the part of the United States caving to international pressure against the war in Iraq? No , the President made it clear that the world had a responsibility to work together to create peace and stability. He states, "The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise. And that treaties will be enforced, We must insist that the future does not belong to fear."

The President is not trying to remove blame from the US on their lack of international cooperation, but does admonish the world to set aside their mistrust and opposition to previous US policies assuring the UN that the US is now ready to work with the international community and not in spite of it. He states, "The United States stands ready to begin a new chapter of international cooperation -- one that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of all nations"

There are many in the US who fear that a weak stance on the world stage will hurt the US ability to influence world politics. They would be misperceiving what happened at the UN today. It is clear to everyone that President Obama's approach to international politics is much different that Bush's, but this is not necessary a bad thing. There will be times in the world where talks fail and countries solve problems though armed negations, but trying to bring the world together with the very real power the the US holds on the world stage is more beneficial than many would lead the American People to believe. When we make the effort to try to resolve differences in peaceful means, be it problems we have with other countries or ones that other countries have among themselves, we will not only prevent war, we will enhance our position of peace and create a trust among the major international sources of conflict in the world.

Anything we can do to increase trust and reduce fear in the world moves us towards a better world community. While not all of the changes President Obama has made in US Government has been for the good of the people, the call for international cooperation, even if it is simply lip service, is a call that can only help all people, living in the United States or abroad.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pay For It Yourself

Today, President Obama announced that the US Government would be throwing out the plans to create a missile defense shield in Europe and replacing it with an updated program. The President did not state what the new program would consist of, but he did state that the Joint-Chiefs of Staff were all in agreement over the change in systems.

This is once again an example of the President cutting out programs that President Bush worked so hard to get passed. Is this a bad thing? No it is not, but we need to keep a close eye on the actions of President Obama as he continues to cut programs in order to fund his own agenda. There has been too much waste on both sides of the aisle. There have been far too many Republican and Democratic projects that have been paid for by the Federal Government that are simply pork projects that need to be cut out of the Federal Budget. These projects, while helping the local areas, are more designed to keep politicians in office than they are to help the country as a whole. These projects should be paid for by the state and local governments. Only in those areas where there is not a substantial tax base, such as western Wyoming, should the Federal Government step in to take control.

This would not be a popular idea. The American people love it when others pay for their needs, but it should not be that way. This does not mean that we must raise taxes in order to pay for every new project, rather we should be spending the taxes in the area that they are being collected from. This would not only prevent wasteful spending and increase spending on the truly important projects, but it would also help the American people to have greater pride in the infrastructure of their communities. When you must pay for your own bridges and stop lights and libraries you are more likely to not only use these services, but also to take care of them.

The overall effect of this idea is that not only will we be wasting money on random projects, but the things that we use today will last longer. This only save the people more in taxes. President Obama should cut wasteful programs, but we must make sure that it is not so that he can just pay for his own "bridge to nowhere".

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Health Care and The Deathstar

Tonight we were once again addressed by the President of the United States in what can be seen as the end of the month long intermission that we have had from the healthcare reform debate. For months now we have heard about death panels and never ending lines in Japan as people wait to see a doctor. What the President wanted to do was to get his message to the people in a softer light than has been cast by so many in the last few months.

While there is no argument that the President is great at giving a speech, there are a few different points that need to be addressed. First off, there are some things that everyone agrees about. Those things include access for everyone to affordable health care, the right for people to group together to get better prices on insurance, including those who pay for their own insurance, the need for the people to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves and that insurance companies should be able to provide incentives for those who participate in wellness programs. While these all are very good thing that we need to see in the near future, it is more important to work on the things that there is so much disagreement on. The President tried to correct what he referred to as "misconceptions" in the healthcare reform bill, but there are flaws in what the President feels is solid health care reform.

First, the dreaded "Death Panels" that have been the source of so much debate. This come from the idea that there will be a panel that seniors will have to go before where the panel will decided if paying for health care for these individuals is worth the cost, or should they no longer provide coverage. The President firmly denies these allegations in a very Animal Farm type statement. I believe that the President and members of Congress believe with all of their hearts that these panels will not happen, but what they fail to realize is that the possibility of these panels is there. It will not come in the next 5 or even 10 years, but one day down the road, the bureaucracy of the US Government will start to work its wonders as the need for a set system of rules will bring the likelihood of the denial of benefits creeping closer and closer simply because they do not met a set standard of criteria. While this may not be the problem that it has been made out to be, it will be very important down the road when for the individual that is sitting before the board praying that the government will continue to pay for their treatment.

Second, in what is bound to be the most talked about moment from the speech, the President stated that the program would not cover any illegal aliens, to which Rep. Joe Wilson shouted out "You Lie!" This moment(above), which was clearly disrespectful and should be apologized for, only shows a small hint of a much larger argument of illegal immigration. The questions is who will pay for the hundreds and thousands of illegal aliens who cross the border simply because they are sick and know that they will receive health care free of charge because the people of America cannot stand to see a person in need turned away. Will the border hospitals be forced to continue the current practice of paying for the service of those who get help in their hospitals who cannot pay for themselves? This is a question that needs to be address and not simply brushed off, unless of course we can manage to build a fence that is 1000 feet tall and 1000 feet deep and extends the entire length of the border, and since we don't foresee that happening, we need to address the real problems of this health care that will be provided, coverage or not.

Last, the President wants this coverage to be mandatory for every American. He referred to auto insurance as a successful example of how it will work. Let us look at the problems with this. For one, there is an option with auto insurance. If you don't want to pay for the insurance, you can choose not to drive. That is a real option for some. The ability to remove oneself from the system is a right that we hold dear in America. Forcing everyone to have insurance is just not possible in the current system. How do we do this? We need to have the insurance eligibility based on taxes.

What do you mean taxes? Well simply, to get coverage you must file a valid tax return for the prior 3 to 5 years. This will do two things; first, it will make sure that the American taxpayers are the ones that are receiving the benefits from their taxes. The second, it will encourage a substantial increase in the paying of taxes in the United States. If you provide a benefit for paying taxes, as well as a punishment for the lack of doing such, the tax revenue would jump substantially. This would help pay for the program as well as encourage responsible government participation on the part of the people.

To make this work, there would need to be a punishment for the lack of participation. How can we do that? It is clear that we cannot deny emergency care for those who need it, regardless if they pay taxes or not. What we can do however, is to deny other government benefits to those who do not file tax returns for the last several years. What can these be? No student grants, no subsidies for businesses, and no benefit that helps someone in situations that do not risk the health of the individual. By doing this, the government would be able to encourage the payment of taxes, as well as the healthcare coverage for most of America.

It should be noted that even the President of the United States can see that there are healthcare systems that work, for example he noted the Intermountain Health Care Systems in Utah. It "provides above average healthcare, at below average prices" stated President Obama. It is clear that low cost healthcare is possible. The President was referring to the non-profit organization (including the insurance arm under the name of Select Health) that was started by the LDS Church that now provides some of the best medical care in the world, let alone the mid-west. They recently opened what has been come to be called the Deathstar, as it was believed the new state of the art hospital built in Salt Lake City would kill off any other hospital in the area. Yet this single organization now provides better coverage at lower cost, while always keeping the need and rights of the patients as their main concern and not how much money they can make for their share holders. Now if only the government could figure that out.

There are many other things that need to be address, and we will continue with the discussion in the next post.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Photo Too Far

Many people as well as news sources often get their world news from one place, The Associated Press. While for years the AP has been considered one of the most reliable sources of news in the world, it seems that they have now gone too far. In August the AP made the decision to publish a photo of a Marine who had been struck by a rocket propelled grenade and died shortly after the photo was taken. This was done after the family of the Marine, Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, requested that the AP not release the photo to the public. After the AP received the request from the family, they made the decision to run the photo despite the request saying that the photo was needed to show the harsh realities of war.

Now Defense Secretary Robert Gates has joined the conversation. In a letter that he sent to the AP, Gates called the action "Appling" and that the action was a breach of "Common Decency". The letter, which Gates states is one of the first public opinions that he has made after taking his new position, forcefully beseeches the AP to reconsider the decision. He states:

"Out of respect for his family's wishes, I ask you in the strongest of terms to reconsider your decision. I do not make this request lightly. In one of my first public statements as Secretary of Defense, I stated that the media should not be treated as the enemy, and made it a point to thank journalists for revealing problems that need to be fixed – as was the case with Walter Reed."

"I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Lance Corporal Bernard's death has caused his family. Why your organization would purposefully defy the family's wishes knowing full well that it will lead to yet more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling. The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right – but judgment and common decency."

It is often that the media uncovers things that need attention. In that sense, the media is a needed part of society. They have to power to expose the abuse of the week by those in power. They can draw attention to things that would otherwise be ignored by the people and the leaders of our communities. However, it is clear that there is a line that can be crossed.

There are times where we forget the pain and devastation of war. It is an important role of the media to remind us of what can happen because of the actions of politicians, but in this case, the AP went from keeping an important issue at the forefront of our attention, to showing a sensationalized photo to sell papers. The disrespect that the AP has shown to a fallen member of the military is despicable. The fact that they were able to sit down and come to a decision to print a photo of a man about to die should remind us of the frenzy to get the last picture of Michael Jackson as they rushed his lifeless body to the hospital. That tabloid mentality that the AP used is something that should hurt their reputation as a leader in world news.

I made the decision not to look at the picture, and the lack of image above is not an error, it is a sign of respect for the sacrifice that was give for the freedoms of others. While the damage has been done, the lesson can still be learned, there is a line, and it is easy to cross.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Road Texters

It seems that the ever expanding digital age has fundamentally changed the way that we interact with one another. First we moved to the cell phones and email, suddenly we were able to speak to each other no matter where we were. We had the ability to send messages to someone across the country and it was there in seconds as opposed to days. It was as this time that we began to see the arguments for the safe use of these new means of communication while doing everything from flying to driving. Bans on speaking on a phone while in the car were reviewed in every state and report after report came out about how deadly talking on a cell phone can be while driving. We never did come together and agree on what was and was not appropriate use of phones while driving. But it appears that we are trying to avoid that same problem with texting.

Texting has become the primary source of communication for so many Americans, particularly young Americans. More and more the ability to speak to multiple individuals, all without saying a word, is becoming the preferred means for interpersonal relationships leading to thousand dollar phone bills and some very cramped thumbs. In the last few years, the same arguments that arose during the beginning of the cell phone age have begun to arise in the texting era. This time, however, the legislative bodies are trying to avoid the same disorganized effort that prevented all cell phones being banned from use on American roads.

While currently less than 20 states have banned texting while driving, a bill is being pushed forward that is moving the country to laws in every state that would ban texting while operating a vehicle. The bill was not free from running into its own potholes. One of the largest came when the Governors Highway Safety Association came out in opposition to the bill claiming that such a ban would be too difficult to enforce, that was, until the president of the organization actually went and spoke to the members of the association which comprises of the government officials that are responsible for highway safety in each state. Earlier this week, the group reversed its position stating the various studies from places like Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Now the bill, which will require that each and every state passes a law to ban texting while driving, is expected to make it through the legislative process and passed into law.

Is the federal government going too far? No, the need to protect drivers is the responsibility of federal government as well as the local governments. It has been ever since Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway system. For those who think that the ban may simply be over reacting to scare tactics used by supporters of the bill, think again. According to the University of Utah, drivers who are intoxicated are 4 times more likely to get into an accident than a sober individual while those who are texting while driving are 8 time more likely to get into an accident than a sober attentive driver. Why is texting so bad? Texting requires that the driver removes his eyes from his surrounding and focus on their cell phone, some times as long as 10 or 20 seconds.

We should be happy that the government is trying to protect us for others who fail to realize the severity of their actions until after the damage has been done. Those individuals like the bus driver in the video above often care more about their personal lives than they do about the safety of those around them on the road. This is when legislation is necessary. It protects those of us who know how dangerous it can be to drive while distracted. Most of us have see the car that is swerving to stay in their lane because the driver was looking down at their phone, and then 20 seconds later they have to swerve again because they just had to tell Stacy what Sue said.

We should also point out that the GHSA was right in seeing that they made a mistake and correcting it. Yes it might be inconvenient for someone to have to actually wait to send a message, but what is so hard about making a call instead. Keep your eyes on the road. We all want to get home safe. Lets help each other do that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Crime for Prayer

It is clear that times continue to change. I have been able to see the changes that we face in my short lifetime. Perhaps I am beginning to understand the phrase "back when". This was especially true this week when I laid down at night and turned on the TV only to see the changes we see happen from day to day. The story that I saw on the news, two school officials are facing charges for blessing their food.

This last week two Florida school district officials are facing contempt charges for offering a prayer at a luncheon to dedicate a new athletics building for the high school. All employees in the entire district had been banned from promoting any religion to students by a court order, and when the administrators offered a blessing on the food, they where apparently in contempt of court and face charges for their actions.

I recall as a 5th grader in my elementary school in TX, we had a prayer offered every morning as we started our day. We would hear the morning announcements, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and a student would offer a prayer. I offered the prayer myself on several occasions, not out of malice, rather I wanted to show the respect I had for my classmates by offering a prayer of gratitude for the fortune we had of getting an education.

Are we not taking the separation of church and state a little too far? When is it that the state can prevent a group of adults from offering a prayer? The luncheon was for adults only. There were not student present. The ACLU claims that there were students present, but what they fail to mention was that the students were members of the culinary arts class who were responsible for preparing the food and were completely separated from the event preparing the food.

We should all be concerned with our right not to have another's beliefs forced upon us. Should that not, however, also apply to those of us who do have religious beliefs? Why is it that we are forced to have the beliefs of those who do not believe in a higher power forced upon us? Many believe that we offer blessings on the food that we eat. It is a religious principle that has existed for thousands of years. Those who have the belief that it does not matter, and yes it is a religious view, are considered agnostic. Why is the agnostic community allowed to force their non-belief on those around them? If a teacher wants to offer a prayer, let them offer a prayer. If a teacher fails a student because he will not pray with the teacher, arrest the teacher. Why are we so scared of being sued by the ACLU that we are allowing this idea that to be a government worker or to attend a school that we must have no religion?

We should offer prayer in school. It does not always have to be a Christen prayer. It should be Jewish, and Christen and Muslim. Diversity is not removing what makes us different, but embracing it. We are different. We always will be different, and trying to keep us from that is not helping. It only leads to well meaning school officials being brought up on criminal charges and facing jail time. It seems it is a pat on the back to believe nothing, and a crime from prayer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Downsized Education

It has been clear for some time now that the bubble has burst. No longer is "flipping" a house considered a secure way to make a living. So many that passed up the steady career choice out of college are now struggling to get by as the companies that prospered in the time of abundant growth are now forced to cut the people that were hired hoping for the chance to become the next millionaire CEO. No one argues that the sub-prime lending extravaganza led directly to the current economic state. But how far are we willing to let the cash strapped government bodies take their spending cuts?

For years, hordes of people flocked to California as the gold rush of the exploding housing market promised to make a man rich in a year. As long as the people were continuing to make good money, they let the state government create government program after government program that were paid for by the seemingly unimportant taxes that were taken out of every workers paycheck. Programs were created that funded schools, employed workers, provided healthcare for many and others that did everything imaginable to provide for those who could not do so for themselves. Soon there was a second rush of people as those who counted on the government for support flocked to the coast in search of the never ending source of government help.

Things then took a turn for the worst. The housing market collapsed, bringing with it one of the largest banks in the world, starting a chain reaction that saw thousands lose everything and millions more lose close to it. As the dominos fell, incomes were slashed and with them, the tax revenue that so many states count on, in particular California. Face with a budget short fall that rivals the GDP of many small countries, California is now faced with finding a way to fund hundreds of government sponsored programs with no money to do such. They are unable to even pay their current obligations, being forced to send out "IOU" Checks that cannot be cashed until the next fiscal year. Being forced to trim the fat from the various programs, where does the state turn? Education.

With cuts to the Education budget, the California State University system is being forced to find way to save a buck. They started with tuition increases, which are to be expected. Almost every university raises their tuition a small percentage to keep up with inflation. There are few, however, that find it necessary to raise their cost of an education by 30% in less than three months. Even with this steep increase in tuition, teaches will be forced to take a 10% cut in pay by taking two day furloughs every month, resulting in two days of classroom education missed by the students enrolled.

Why is it that so often the immediate effects outweigh the long term results? We know that the only way for a society to grow is through the education of the people. It does not matter in what the people receive an education, be it a degree in marketing or a course in car repair, all that matters is that the people are given a chance to reliably provide for themselves. Californian has always seemed to understand this as they have made higher education in there state more affordable than almost any other place in the country providing a chance at an education to thousands more that may have had the opportunity otherwise. Why is it then that one of the very first things they cut funding too is the education system.

Times are hard. There is no room for waste of resources, but the only way to overcome the current situation is to educate the people in a way that will allow them to provide for their families for years to come. A taxpaying worker is far more helpful to a society as a whole then is the man who still uses government programs to get by because the state cut funding for his education. Yes we need to feed the children, and yes we need to care for those who are physically unable to care for themselves, but close behind is our responsibility to help others provide for themselves. You can give a man a fish, or you can teach him how to work. Downsizing education will only make it more difficult to learn how to cast a line.

Safety Second

President Obama seems to be showing the people that he is not the level headed man that can focus on running the government and not the problems that surround race. When asked about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., a black Harvard professor who was taken from his home in handcuffs, the president responded that the Cambridge Police Dept had "acted stupidly" in choosing to arrest the man. The President then went on to say that quote…

"…there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latino being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately"

It is clear that the President is more concerned with the feelings of the professor, who Obama freely admits is a personal friend, than that of the safety of the Cambridge Police Officers, or any police officer for that matter. If he was to take to time to study the situation and standard police procedures, the President would realize that the initial confrontation did not involve any wrong doing on the part of the officer.

A report was made that a break-in was in progress at the professor's home. When the officer arrived, he was alone and began to address the report. Not knowing what the situation was, the officer asked the person inside the home to identify themselves. When Gates refused, the officer informed Gates that he was investigating a report of a break-in. Gates response was to open the door and state… "Why, because I'm a black man in America?". Gates then went on to refuse to identify himself to the officer, according to the report. It was not till later that he chose to identify himself and provide a Harvard faculty ID.

I find nothing wrong with the actions of the officer involved, Sgt. James Crowley. It is standard that a law enforcement officer asks an individual to identify themselves when they arrive at the scene of an alleged crime. Only through this information can an officer assess the situation and act appropriately. Far too often, when someone is in the middle of committing a crime, they will flatly refuse to identify themselves in the hope of being able to avoid prosecution. This is why it is a common law in most states that you must identify yourself when ask to do so by a law enforcement officer in the performance of his duties. Failure to do such is considered probable cause for arrest until you can be identified. By failing to do such, Gates was not only creating a problem where one did not exist, but was implying to the officer that he had something to hide. Personally, if a police officer arrived at my home, after confirming that he was an officer, I would gladly identify myself and thank the officer for trying to protect my home.

We should be concerned that Gates, a professor at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, would immediately turn a simple attempt to provide service by a civil servant into a racially motivated attempt to persecute another being. We should be even more concerned that the champion of "Change" would not find it prudent to abstain from comment on the arrest of his friend, when there are much more pressing matter that he is responsible. It is clear that the President was not showing sound judgment when he chose to use the word "stupidly" rather than something that showed he was acting more from a position of concern and not of emotion.

Race relationships are something that we need to continue to work on, but we cannot expect for things to get better when the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research does not seem to be able to avoid attacking the very men that are trying to protect his safety, or even worse, when the President of the United States of America does not find it prudent to avoid getting involved in a conflict in which there is so clearly a conflict of interest.

What will happen then next time that an officer is confronted with a man that is claiming racism when the officer asks the man to identify himself? Who will be responsible when that officer makes the decision not to place a man in handcuffs because he is concerned that the President of the United States may become involved, and then that officer is injured by the same individual in the commission of a crime.

If what the officer did was racially motivated, that the act is reprehensible, but it is not the true issue. We need to overcome our racial stereotypes, regardless of who we are: a police officer, a construction worker, and student, and stay at home mother or president of a country. Only then will we be able to fulfill the potential that we have as a people.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Vacation

Anyone who makes it a point to keep himself informed about what is happening in the world of US politics is aware that the biggest issue that faces lawmakers today is that of health care reform. We heard about it during the election season as every candidate laid out a plan for the best way to overhaul the system that we know will not survive longer than a few more years. There has been arguments for years about what will happen when the Social Security Fund runs dry and no longer will those of us who have been paying into the system our whole lives be able to receive any of the benefits that have been promised us when we reach the ripe old age of 65. Now, after years of complaints that the government is not doing anything to help, the time has come to start making some decisions, or at least think about making a decision.

President Obama is pushing his healthcare overhaul onto not only congress, but also the American People as he goes from press conference to town hall meeting trying to persuade us with his charm and his never ending slogan, "Change". This program is meeting resistance as people are beginning to understand just how much of a change Obama's plan really is. Democrats in congress have even decided that they are going to wait until after their month long break in August before they call for a vote on the bill. Is this a mistake? Absolutely not.

There are two reasons while Congress should wait to vote on the current healthcare reform bill. First, as has been discussed before, it is important that each side have an opportunity to argue their case. A month long break gives not only the GOP the opportunity to come out against the bill, arguing that it is a socialist program that would only move us farther from the democracy that we cherish, but also give the Democratic Party the opportunity to get their message out to the people. A break will only give the American People the chance to become informed and make a decision based on a better understanding of the issue. They can then relate their feelings back to their representatives in congress, and hopefully, the members of congress will take the desires of their constituents into consideration when they then cast their votes on the issue.

Second, the cost of any major overhaul of Government policy has effects that can last for decades. Take the New Deal that came around as a result of the Great Depression. It had some good effects and some that did not go over quite so well. We now have a highway system that allows not only for travel, but growth, expansion and commerce in ways that were not possible 75 years ago. We also got Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and several other government programs that, while they have done some good for people in need, have always been a broken system, and have placed us in the predicament we now face.

Would it not be prudent then, too take the time to think about what the long term effects will be of any major change. How are we going to pay for these systems? Will the systems hold up under government control? Or will this new, and rather costly, universal coverage only be a temporary patch for a problem that could fill the hole in the ozone.

For Congress, they should enjoy their summer vacation, but they must remember that the choice they make when they come back will have consequences that last long after they leave office. Maybe between the parties and the cabins they can take some time and think about the problem placed before them. Who knows? We might just end up with a better system than we started with.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Absolute Power

We have all heard the saying that "absolute power corrupts absolutely", but how often do we think about its meaning. Whenever there is a person or group that has complete control, they are almost assured of abusing that power. This was the argument that was pushed by democrats for years. The Republican run government was abusing their power and passing legislation that was only setting up the country for a major economic disaster. Time and time again they told the people that the only way for the democratic system to work properly is to have a system of checks and balances. The members of the minority party in Congress told us over and over that nothing was worse than having one party that completely controlled the US Government, as they will unquestioningly take advantage of the situation, and I will, on this rather rare occasion, completely agree with the Democratic Party line, or what it was a year ago.

Then we had the primaries. We all remember the Saturday Night Live skits with Tina Fey and her flawless impersonation of Gov. Palin, or the never ending coverage of the democratic primaries and the praise that Obama received from the media while Clinton was viewed as … well let's just say that it appeared that the media did not like Senator Clinton. We remember the way that McCain, and the rest of the Republican Party for that matter, tried to get as far away from President Bush as humanly possible. Then there was the election and then everything changed. Remember… It was about "Change"?

In one move, the control of the US Government was summarily handed over to the Democrats. From the President to Congress the Republicans had lost all power, with nothing left to hold on too as their own. With nothing left to stop the Democrats from repealing the laws passed in the last few years, the Republicans fell back on their one remaining defense, the filibuster. We often think of old men reading the phone book when we hear the word filibuster, and while the different ways that have been found to carry out this stall tactic have ranged from the phone book to bringing in cots to the room to allow others to sleep, the principle is important. The filibuster gives the minority party time to argue their case with the members of congress when otherwise they lose their opportunity when the votes are simply cast across party lines.

This all change with Al Franken, the television star, who for years spent his time on SNL making fun of government figures. Franken made the decision to run for the US Senate and won. Eight months later, and after a lengthy court battle, he was recently confirmed to his seat. This brought the total number of Democratic held seats to 60, the magic number, the filibuster-proof number. If all member of the party vote together, they can override any filibuster that the Republicans attempt.

What so many Democrats now fail to mention is that they now have absolute power. The is not anything that the Republican party can do now to stop the Democratic train that the Democrats could do two years ago to stop the Republican Express. But where is the outrage? Where are the arguments for equality and checks and balances? The democrats would hope that we would simply forget about those ideas and focus on the "Voter Mandate", the idea that the complete flip in power is the voters' way of mandating that the Democrats use their power to its full extent. As far as I remember, there was no "Voter Mandate" section when I voted last November.

Maybe we should take a different tone. Instead of moving down the path of separation where power flops back and forth between the different parties, where we will just end up in the same place as the UK Parliament, we should move towards working together, even if we don't agree, so that we have the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers placed in our government in such an inspired move. One party will always be a majority and the other will be the minority. Which party is which will change over time, right now the Democrats are in power, but that will not last forever. We must move towards a future that includes one another, regardless of race, sex, religion, age or which political party has control of the government.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Smokeless Battlefield

As the world's understanding of the effects of lighting up a cigarette continues to expand, governments around the world are working to not only make it more difficult to smoke, but to ban smoking all together. Not to be outdone, the United States Military is making recommendations that smoking among soldiers be ban over the next 5 to 10 years.

This is a move that is being seen in two very different lights. Current smokers believe that there is no need for a smoking ban in the military. Some of the top officers even feel that a hit of nicotine is needed during the stressful times of war. What those top officials fail to realize is the overall benefit that a smoking ban would have on the US Armed Forces.

There are three major problems with the current rules towards tobacco in the Armed Forces. First is the relative cost that we require soldiers to pay for their tobacco. For years the taxes associated with tobacco sales have increased, paying for government program after government program. We have come to realize that because people will buy tobacco no matter how much it cost, it is a good way to fund programs that my otherwise not exist. In particular, programs that provide healthcare for large groups choose to tax tobacco because tobacco use is the single most expensive factor in increasing the overall cost of healthcare in the United States. While this method has been used for years to discourage people from smoking, one very large group has been exempt from its effects. As many know, goods purchased on a military base are provided tax free. This includes tobacco products. A carton of cigarettes that may cost $45 or $50 to a civilian may only cost $20 to a member of the military. When taxes are placed on the tobacco products, it has no effect on the cost of tobacco for a soldier. This can be seen clearly as the average number of smokers in the US military is one in three, while the rest of the country, including smokers in the military, only comes to one smoker for every five Americans. If we continue to do nothing to discourage soldiers from smoking, the difference will become even greater.

The second major problem with soldiers smoking is the ever present health effects. There are very few in the United States who do not know that smoking is bad for their health. Those who choose not to believe in the health risks are simply ignoring the wealth of information to continue indulging themselves in their habits. We know that smoking leads to some of the most horrible cancers and diseases that we still face in modern medicine. We have all seen the pictures of diseased lungs and hearts, and the physical destruction that smoking can do to our bodies. We even know that one in three smokers will eventually suffer a smoking related death. Then there are the short term effects that soldiers should care about. Shortness of breath is one of the last things that a soldiers needs when he is in a fight for his life.

The last problem is one that almost everyone tends to care about, money. The overall cost to the government that is a direct result of smoking is astronomical. First you have the cost of the tobacco. For years, every soldier was issued tobacco with every meal, costing the government hundreds of millions a year. Then there are the medical costs. Soldiers are given a unique benefit for their service, free health care for life. When soldiers are allowed to smoke, they are all but guaranteeing that the government will spend thousands, if not millions, more on the healthcare cost for that single individual. If the government was not forced to pay this healthcare costs, the money spent could be used to provide for hundreds of other government sponsored programs, or maybe even put back into the pockets of every American that pays taxes.

This ban is far past due. It is possible to fight and not need a cigarette. Two thirds of the Armed Forces manage to accomplish it. We should encourage the government to implement the ban, even if it takes ten years. Our soldiers should be fighting the enemy, and not lung cancer.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Government Sponsored Terrorism

In a new report to the Federal Government this week, it was revealed that investigators for the Federal Protective Service, the branch of government that is assigned the responsibility of protecting most Federal Buildings in the country, we able to smuggle in bomb components into 10 different Federal Buildings around the country, assemble the bombs in the bathrooms, and then freely walk around the buildings and into the Government Offices. Many have said that this is completely unacceptable and that changes need to be made. While we must agree that the ability to build bombs in any government building is unacceptable, there may be more to be happy about than we realize.

What many of the media outlets have failed to focus on, is the fact that the FPS was the agency that brought this information to light. They did not sweep it under the rug, or quietly try to fix the problem; rather they monitored their own practices and discovered that there was a problem. They did not stall the release of the information, but instead shared it with congress, acknowledging that they had a problem and holding themselves accountable for the mistakes. Now that the problem has been brought to light, they will now have the support that they need to provide the security to those government offices that help to keep our county moving.

Instead of criticizing the FPS for their problems, let's applaud them for recognizing a problem and then doing all that they can to fix it in a timely fashion. We should be grateful that there is an agency out there trying to fix problems, instead of just hiding and pointing fingers when they get caught making a mistake.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Misguided Efforts

As the fiscal year for many states expired on June 30th and began again on July 1st, many states use this date as the official enforcement date for any new laws passed in the previous legislative session. This year, the state of Utah had several highly publicized laws go into effect. Some were met with little resistance and even some celebration, as was true with the new liquor laws. Others, on the other hand, have not received such a high approval rating from the local communities. One in particular concerns the much debated topic of immigration.

Senate Bill 81 sets ups guidelines for what employers must do to verify that workers in the state are not here illegally, and makes it a crime to knowingly transport or harbor an illegal alien. Many in the local communities, particularly those communities composed of a large percentage of Latinos, have become very outspoken against the bill. They fear that any law enforcement officer will be able to question them regarding their legal status when they are pulled over for a traffic violation. They are expending their efforts in the hope of having the bill repealed if possible, postponed if not.

For years now, the fight of those who support the bill has been to build bigger, longer, and deeper, to keep illegal community from entering into our country while providing a harsher punishment for those who do break the law. This system has failed to provide the security that so many want. It seems that the government just does not have the resources needed to provide the level of security that the "Minute Men" feel they need to provide. And now, as the government tosses back and forth the idea of allowing the illegal community access to the Social Security fund, of which they have made no contribution, outrage is beginning to pour into Washington as so many who have been paying into the government plan their whole lives, will not be able to access any of the money that the government has forced them to contribute while other who have paid nothing will receive their benefits.

It appears that there is only one true way to fix this problem. Rather than spending time asking how legal it is for a police officer to ask your immigration status is, let us work together to find a way to change the status of so many illegal aliens, to that of legal, tax paying members of the community. Would it not be better for those who are now being paid under the table, tax free, to help pay for the many services that the government provides. They too would then be paying the taxes towards Social Security and FICA. No longer would there even be an argument over the legality of a question as each and every member of the community would be paying for the benefits of living here in this wonderful country.

We should focus our efforts on the laws that can make a true difference in the argument. Fighting over the same things that have moved us nowhere only creates hate and anger towards those who should be our friends. Instead, we should work together to make it possible to each and every one of us to become productive members of society, regardless of where we were born.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The King and The Troops and The Fourth

There have been some very tragic events in the last few weeks. We have all heard of the many celebrity deaths, some of which have come with great surprise, and others that have been expected for months. These deaths have been tragic for not only the families of those who have passed on, and also for the many fans which have been following the lives of their beloved heroes.

The death of most discussion has been that of the late Michael Jackson, the proclaimed "King of Pop", whose death came as a great surprise to most. What is no surprise is the amount of media attention has been placed on the death and subsequent events that have occurred during the investigation of the cause and what will happen to his estate. As the major news networks have struggled get any information from the local authorities, the music networks have run his music videos around the clock, digging deep into the archives to find the most rare and unique pieces of footage spanning the entire life of the music icon.

While this level of media coverage is expected for the person who is possibly the most famous person on earth, it has become clear that there are many other stories that are slipping through the cracks of the total Michael Jackson coverage. The ever escalating situation in North Korea, the exile of the President of Honduras, and the election problems in Iran, are only a few of the things which we seem to care very little about judging from the level of media coverage in the last few days.

There is one story that has been overlooked, which should be the one that is receiving the level of attention that the "King's" death has received. I am speaking of the pullback of Unites States Military Forces from the cities in Iraq. This is a wonderful day in the world, where international leaders now feel that the newly (in the historical sense of the word) liberated country has the ability to keep the peace and govern themselves in a sustained way. This is possibly the greatest victory in modern years. After a major war, and years of insurgent fighting, while the fledgling government has struggled to find itself, the people of Iraq have become capable of leading themselves in a peaceful manner, and it is being completely overlooked by the media.

This lack of media coverage is exemplified by the website for CNN. At 3:13 p.m. mountain time, the total number of stories related to the troop pullback was zero. In contrast, the total number of stories or links to the coverage of Michael Jackson's death was 15. The only mention of the troop pullback was this online survey… - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News
Screen clipping taken: 6/30/2009, 3:13 PM

Is this not a sad commentary on what we as a people find important? We would rather hear that the Michael Jackson cut his father out of his will, than the next major step in the complete removal of US troops from an active war zone. We care more about the death of a celebrity, than we do about the men and women who are putting their lives in danger every day so that we can have the IPods and 50 inch plasmas and the high speed broadband, which allow us to watch the streaming video of the tribute to Jackson at the Apollo Theater.

We should be ashamed of where we allow our focus to remain, and strive to remember what is that our brothers and sisters are trying to achieve, and by most judgments, are managing to accomplish.

This weekend, as we celebrate the liberty that we so jealously enjoy, let's remember the true source of our happiness. Let us remember that we live in a place that, not only do we have the right to enjoy the music we choose, but we also have the right to choose which God we believe in. We have the right to make choices… in what we where, where we go, who we know, and even who and what we what to allow into our homes. This is a gift that so many lack, and so many others are trying to share with those around the world.

As I use my freedom this weekend to lie in the grass, in a park, staring up at the patriotic displays that so many of us love, I will take a moment, and thank not only my God, but also those who have fought and died to give me that freedom. I will remember that the death of someone fighting for the freedom of others, deserved just as much attention as the death of a pop star, and the actions preformed to help others, are insurmountably more important than the contents of a will.

With that said, I will take a rare opportunity to deviate from my normal pattern. I would like to thank so many for what they have done for me.

My Father, for leaving his wife and children so many years ago to go fight for a people, oppressed by a dictator, and then returning home to teach me about the truly important things in life.

My Mother, who showed me that even though it may be difficult, supporting those who are fighting for the freedoms of other was always the right thing to do.

My Brother, for leaving his family to protect so many other from the radicals who believe that a United States Military presence in Iraq, must be resisted by lethal force. Who has experienced things that I would never wish on another, but continues to fight, knowing that the outcome is worth the sacrifice.

My Sister-in law, who is not only supporting my brother, but who serves herself in the Air Force, for supporting my brother in the ways that I cannot.

J. M., who fought alongside my brother, being wounded in action, for being the brother that my brother needed while away from his family. You acted as a Hero, in a way that will never be forgotten.

All of the men and women in the world, who fight for the rights of others, even at great risk to their own lives.

And finally, To the men and women who have died in the service of others,, whether in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or the Marines, the men and women of police, fire, and medical departments who rush into danger, for the chance of saving another, to all those who have lost their lives, giving another the chance at their own. I thank you.

Have a Happy 4th of July

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Power of The Post

The recent elections in the country of Iran have caused uproar around the world as the opposition to the current leader Ahmadinejad, has cried foul as the election results have come in. The more conservative runner up Moussavi has claimed that there was major election fraud including the lack of available ballots to perspective voters. The United States has not recognized Ahmadinejad as the elected leader and protests have sprung up around the world as Iranians have tried to voice their distaste with the election. Why should the American people be concerned with the elections half way across the world? It all goes back to the nuclear problem. Should Iran be allowed to have a nuclear weapons program and if not, how does the international community… and by the international community I mean the United States, stop them from developing their programs.
The difference between Ahmadinejad and Moussavi is the difference between Bush and Obama. One is a man who believes that the only way to accomplish the difficulty things in politics is through force. The other believes that there in a greater need for the leaders of the world government to talk to each other and work together to overcome the differences that separate us. For years the combination of Bush and M have led to the ever increasing distrust of one another and the aggressive stance that each has taken towards the other. In the United States, the people have said “enough”, clearly voting for the ideals that Obama has promised and hoping that the “Change” offered is more than just a clever and catchy campaign slogan.
It appears that a good chunk of the people of Iran feel the same way. Tired of a man who acts as a dictator and hoping for a man who will work with the new American President in a way that benefits the people and not simply the government’s stance on the world stage. While I am still unsure of how President Obama is doing, it is clear that he is reaching out to the world in a way that has not been seen in almost a decade.
I will say that I support an open discussion with Iran on their nuclear program. We need more allies in the Middle East. We are dangerously close to the complete breakdown of relations with North Korea. We still have massive number of troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. While the US has one of the biggest and best funded armies in the world, the toll that the wars have taken on the American People, let alone the military forces, will not be seen for years to come.
While we have no control over the outcome of the elections, we can learn from others, and while the Iranians may spend the next few years with the same Bush like, aggressive leader, we can hope and pray that those with the presence of mind to take a step back and think first, act second, will come to power, overlooking the power of their post, creating a safer world and possibly a Zion like place for the people they lead.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Cast and A Court

This last Monday Supreme Court Nominee Sotomayor tripped and fell fracturing her ankle at the airport. She spends the rest of the day on crutches and in a cast as she managed to keep all of her appointments for the rest of the day. This led to a full article from the associated press about her injury. My question is … Who cares? This seems to be more of a way to avoid talking about the problems with Sotomayor’s judicial history as it concerns her Supreme Court nomination. The problems are not the fact that she is a woman or that she is a minority. More so that she is a woman and a minority. Let me explain.

Over the course of the history of the Supreme Court, 150 of the 150 something have been white men. Naturally the democratically controlled government is trying their best to do … well, anything that the Bush administration did not do. To do such, naturally President Obama selected Sotomayor as the next nominee for Supreme Court justice. The main problem is that the biggest reason she is being considered is because she is a female minority.

Sotomayor has several warning signs from her career as a judge. I direct you back to a speech she gave at Duke University Law School, where she said “All of the legal defense funds out there, they’re looking for people with court of appeals experience. Because it is – court of appeals is where policy is made.”

The point of a judge is not to legislate from the bench, but rather to decide if actions fall within the legality of the laws and the constitution. When that power is bestowed on an individual, the power to impose one’s individual ideals and beliefs on the entire community is also given. This is not a power that the founding fathers intended, but the very nature of the position allows for it. The most important point then becomes the ability of an individual to overlook their own ideals and beliefs and subject themselves to the laws that have been placed before them. This responsibility is all too often overlooked by our Supreme Court justices and for the last 30 to 50 years, they have taken it upon themselves to inflict the beliefs of 5 to 7 individuals on the whole of the American people.

I fully believe that all should be equal. If there is an under representation in the Supreme Court, by all means, let’s fix that, but not at the expense of not only the morality and ethical standing of the system, but also the legality of it. Once we allow individuals to hold absolute power in the government, we move right back to the same system of government that the men and women or our armed forces fight against. Let us remember that we need to choose those who lead us on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pushing His Luck

This last week the government of North Korea sentenced two American journalists to 12 years of hard labor in a prison camp. The two female journalists were arrested along the Chinese, North Korean border by North Korean border guards. This step has only further strained the relationship between the North Korean Government and the rest of the world as North Korea continues to advance its nuclear weapons program despite outrage expressed by the international community. The arrest of the two journalists has raise the stakes a Kim Jong Ill has work hard to remain the focus of attention in the international community. It is still unclear if the arrest was legal or if the journalist were even in North Korean territory when the arrest took place.
While I have commented several times about the North Korean Government’s need to remain the center of attention, at times comparing Kim Jong Ill to an overgrown child, it is becoming clear that his is an overgrown child with the ability to start an international war. While his past record has shown that he will push the boundaries until he gets what he wants, these recent tantrums have shown us just how far he is willing to go to get his way. Ill is taunting the international community to push back. Once they do, he uses the “international sanctions” as an excuse to threaten war.
Will Kim Jong Ill take this episode to the point of invading South Korea or launching a nuclear warhead at Japan? I don’t know. We must, however, start to consider if he is truly crazy enough to take it that far. It must be unclear if Kim Jong Ill is crazy to Washington if the President and democratically controlled congress have already given their support to military actions in Korea. Committing to a third war when they are doing everything they can to act like they are ending the other two. Do I believe that we will go back to war with North Korea (remember that we never actually ended the Korean War of the 50’s)? I don’t believe so, but Kim Jong Ill has done a great job of convincing us that he may be just crazy enough to do so. Chalk one up for North Korea

Monday, May 25, 2009

That Didn’t Take Long

North Korea's announcement that it had detonated a second nuclear weapon this morning was confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey who recorded a 4.7 magnitude seismic event at the same site that North Korea tested its first nuclear device in October of 2006. The immediate reaction from the international community was expected and consistent. All major players in the nuclear world came out and condemned the move, going as far as having President Obama say the test was "directly and recklessly challenging the international community." There was only one surprise in the reactions of the international community. China, who has been North Korea's strongest ally, "expresses firm opposition" which is in stark contrast to its previous support. Is this a sign that China now believes that Kim Jong Il has gone too far?

The real concern now is how to respond. The UN Security Council will meet this afternoon to discuss the test and most likely condemn the action with a strongly worded letter. Where the true concern should lie, is what will be the response of the individual counties in the world. Will the US feel the need to stop Kim Jong from developing weapons that can reach the United States? If the US does decide to take action, will China step in and provide them support, or will the alliance break under the strain of the North Korean determination to be a 1st world country? We must wait and see, but most likely North Korea just upset that no one is paying them any attention.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Not So Fast

When President Obama took office last January, one of the very first promises that he made was to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before the end of January next year. This last Tuesday, under great pressure from the Republican Party, the democratically controlled Congress pulled funding for the closure of the base. The new "War Supplemental Bill," which provides funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was stripped of the $80 million to pay for the closing of the prison and was changed to include a ban on providing funding until the President provides Congress with a plan for closing the prison, and more importantly, what to do with the suspected terrorist that are now held there.

This move was a clear contrast with the near rubber stamping policy that the Congress has provided to the President since he has taken office, and may be a sign of the problems the Democratic Party has begun to face. From the recent backtracking of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Palosi, in regards to her being briefed about water boarding, to the slow decline of the President's approval ratings, there are signs that the Democrat controlled government may not have a free ride for the next 4 years. It is more likely that the American People have longer memories than some may have expected.

It is clear that the American People remember the last few years of having the government controlled by one party. Under the Bush Administration, law after law was passed that had no real input from the Democrats. While many viewed this as a productive government, others (usually democrats) felt that the very principle of democracy was in jeopardy. By not allowing both sides to have a say in the process, many felt that we were moving back to the Good ol' Boys system where only the elite had a say.

The American People changed their stance and shifted the power in Congress to the Democrats at election time. While this stopped the passage of many pieces of legislation, it also had the effect of slowing the government as a whole. Not only was the Republican agenda stopped, but any new legislation produced by the Democrats was vetoed by President Bush. This brought the process to almost a complete stop with the fight over the budget for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when the democrats fought with everything they had to force a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from the Middle East, while President Bush vowed to veto any budget that had a withdrawal requirement. The Democrats were eventually forced to give in and provide a withdrawal-free budget. Once the economy began to crash however, President Bush was left out in the wind as Republican Presidential hopefuls scrambled to distance themselves from the black hole that was President Bush. This ultimately played in Obama's favor as the country looked for someone to bring change.

The mistake that the Democrats have made is clear, they assume that because they now control both Congress and the Presidency, they can run the government the same way it was for the last eight years. Now, only a few months into the new administration, they are starting to see what will happen if they continue down this path. If they continue to do what they want simply because they can, the results will most definitely be as disastrous as it was for the Republican Party.

The American People remember what it was like to feel that the government did not care about them. As they begin to see past the excitement of "Yes We Can" and begin to see the "Because We Can" attitude of Congress, it will become much more difficult for Congress to do as they please. As Congress begins to tell the President "No", however, they are only strengthening their hold on the government for the next few years.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Politics of The Mouse

On a recent trip to southern California, I spent a few days at a not so specific amusement park with an adorable not so specific rodent as their spokesman. While the majority of the trip was all that it was expected to be, a unique interaction with the employees there taught me a few things about politics. It came of the second day that we were in the park, or should I say it came the second day before we were "supposed" to be in the park.

As is common in many parks, guests are allowed into the park up to a half hour early to shop and buy things so when the time comes around to open the park, a rope is dropped that allows everyone into the park at the same time and avoids congestion at the ticket gate. After being admitted through the ticket gate and into the shopping area, I will call it All-American Ave, we entered the shop at the end of the Ave and was promptly ushered through a door by an employee. This door led us out into the park behind the rope holding back the rest of the guest eager to enter the park. Amazed at our luck, we quickly walked to the ride we wanted to enjoy and were amazed that we were the only guest that were in the park, even stopping to take pictures of the completely empty park.

After passing several employees who said nothing to us, we arrived at a ride themed around a cute little fish that every child between the age of 2 and 20 knows by name. Seeing that the ride was not open yet, being that we are in the park about 10 minutes before it opened, we stopped and talk to the employee standing at the entrance of the ride. After talking to this very nice employee for a few minutes a second employee, who appeared much older and much more in charge, ran over to us and very curtly asked us how we got into the park. After telling her that we were not quite sure, and responding to some other not so kind questions, we were told that the park was not open and that we were not supposed to be in the park yet. We were then instructed to go sit down and wait for the park to open, which we did without question.

No more than two minutes later, we look across the park and see a uniformed security officer running towards us in an obvious hurry. Out of breath, the officer begins to ask us the very same questions that the last employee had asked us. After once again telling us in a rather unkind way that we were not supposed to be there, we were told that we needed to follow the officer back to the main gate to wait for the park to open. We did as we were asked and before we made it back to the front of the park, the park opened and we were allowed to go enjoy our day.

This interaction taught me a major lesson when it comes to politics. You must communicate, and if you don't, it will only cause problems. I was clear that the lack of communication between the employees in the park lead to us not only getting into the park unintentionally, but also a rather unkind interaction with several employees. This same principle should apply to government and politics. If the leaders of government communicate with the people, it will be easier for the people to understand what it is we need to do to make the world a happier place. If this simple communication takes place, a great number of problems can be avoided to begin with.

At times when problems with the people cannot be avoided, simply communicating with other departments within the government can help to create a clear front and avoid the simple battles that only lead to more problems. Let's work on cutting through the red tape that keeps us from talking with one another. If the right hand knows what the left hand is doing, they can work together and help in a world that is in desperate need of the very things the government was designed to do, rather than competing over the things that could do some real good.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

To Spend or Not To Spend?

Photo:President Obama address the press at the White House.

As more and more people compare our current national economic state to that of the Great Depression, the response of the Democrat controlled congress is clear to see… throw money at it. A Trillion dollars later, there is no true sign that the economy is turning around. So what does the President do? He takes a hard stand against over-spendin….ehr… inefficiency.

Today President Obama recommended to congress that 121 federal programs be cut from next year's budget. These cuts are not necessarily a bad thing. Spending millions on a long range navigation system that was made obsolete years ago by GPS technology is absurd, as is paying for two separate programs that provide the same services to the same people. What should concern us is the reason that President Obama wants to make the cuts, so that he can pay for his own programs. In a statement made by the President he states, "To put this in perspective, this is more than enough savings to pay for a $2,500 tuition tax credit for millions of students as well as a larger Pell Grant -- with enough money left over to pay for everything we do to protect the National Parks," both of these projects have been goals the President has been pushing for since the campaign.

I firmly believe that we need to control our spending. We must balance our budget and cut the programs that are a waste of money. The only way that we as a country can have a sound economy is to follow the same basic principles that ever fiscally secure person follows, make more than we spend and pay off our debt as soon as we can. We must not however, cut spending in one place so that we can simply spend it somewhere else. That would be like paying off some of our credit card, just so we can buy a new 57" flat screen TV. We still don't have the money to begin with, and when it comes time to pay, we are going to realize that maybe we could have gotten by with the 19" we had to begin with.

We need to focus on making do with what we have. Most new programs can wait. Sure, it's great to reduce our spending by $17 billion, but if we turn around and spend another $20 billion, was it really that great to begin with. Let's make cuts, but with the mindset that we are trying to live within our means and not that we simply are trying to free up some space on the MasterCard.