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.