Sarah Palin: Enough

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Filed Under Latest News on Jan 29 

Recently, former Governor Sarah Palin delivered a speech along with many other influential Republicans at the Iowa Freedom Summit. Many derogatory words can be used to describe her performance, I’ll just say it was cringe-making. For the sake of the GOP, it’s time to stop viewing Palin as some youthful (comparatively speaking) representative of the party but rather as an impediment to any attempt to expand the party outside of its base. I’m not sorry when I say that enough is enough, Palin is damaging to the Republican Party as a whole, especially at a time when the party is far from unified. It is time to stop providing her the attention she doesn’t deserve.

In 2008, then Governor Palin, was thrust onto the national stage by Senator John McCain by being chosen to be his running mate in the presidential campaign. I’m still boggled by the choice of Palin. Yes she brought youth and good looks to an otherwise and let’s be frank, old man campaign, yes she brought grass roots conservatism to an otherwise establishment campaign, and yes, the benefits of having a female running mate were real. Regardless, there were so many other choices available that could have provided the same. After McCain’s loss though she retained and in some ways gained support across the country .In my opinion though, her time in the light is over and she should just back off as she is now a danger to the party.

Truth be told, I’ve never been a firm believer in the idea of always voting along party lines, or showing absolute obedience to the party. The party is not infallible and I will never be that person who rushes to defend it due to some weird devotion and allegiance, when it is clearly wrong. I prefer individual candidates over the talking points of the national party. Not everyone is me though and unfortunately, rather than looking at individual candidates, many do and will use singular points to define a party; in this case, Palin will be used as she already is by some to generalize the Republican Party.

Now some might say I’m a bit too harsh on Palin and that my brand of Northeastern Republicanism is insignificant compared to the country Republicanism from which she derives her support. But can anyone say in all honesty that her recent “speech” at the Iowa Freedom Summit was anything more than a driveling, whiny, 35-minute embarrassment? Yes, people have bad days and not every speech will be a stunner though this isn’t isolated, rather a shining example of absurdity among a long line of absolute disasters. Between her gaffes on the campaign trail in 2008, to various statements made afterwards at conventions and as a talking head, to her channel (which I still don’t understand why it exists), we have now been blessed by this abomination.

This speech though came just as she was hinting that she might seek the GOP nomination for the 2016 presidential election. Many believe she is just blowing hot air, I think she might actually believe she has a chance. Whatever the case may be, this speech alone and the reaction to it can and should stand as reason enough for her to not even entertain the thought any more. Furthermore, Republicans should see this speech as indication that it is time to stop fueling the Palin cult of personality. I refuse to see otherwise excellent Republican candidates be criticized by those on the left who conjure up images of Palin and make electorally damaging connections between the two. By continuing to provide Palin with a seat at the table, the Republican brand is being damaged.

There are indications though that Palin may have crossed the line this time in the minds of some of her closest supporters. Several former supporters are now backtracking from her while others have become openly hostile and have ridiculed her. The speech which was half complaining and the other half a hodge-podge of criticisms against the left was simply that awful. Enough with the Mamma grizzly, folksy-speak, populist substituting for substantive rhetoric BS. The GOP should take warning. As long as Palin is put into positions where she is seen as a figurehead, role model, and spokesperson for the party, the GOP will actively hurt itself. This isn’t to say Palin should be silenced but rather sidelined to an extent. It’s been seven years since she was a vice-presidential candidate. Since then, apart from building her own base, she has raised money for some successful candidates and others who were total failures. Let Palin continue to do what she is doing in fundraising, just stop putting her in positions where she can be seen as a spokesperson for the party.

I live in the 11th congressional district of New York which encompasses all of Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. Now yes I acknowledge we are typically the butt of many jokes but our most recent election for congress is not only fodder for comedy but a sad reflection on the local state of politics in New York City but of the parties as well. This election saw GOP incumbent Rep. Michael Grimm who is currently facing a federal 20-count indictment, defeat Democratic opponent Domenic Recchia Jr. who had a massive fundraising advantage. Not only did he defeat Recchia, he clobbered him by 16 points. For the Democrats it was a massive embarrassment and for the local GOP, it was only a minor victory.

The congressional district that comprises Staten Island hasn’t been free of scandal over the past half century. This is probably the only district that has had two indicted representatives during that time period. The first was Democratic Rep. John Murphy who was brought down by ABSCAM in 1980 and now Rep. Grimm. Also, former Rep. Vito Fossella resigned in 2008 following a drunk driving incident which revealed that he was involved in an extra-marital affair. Rep. Grimm has been involved in numerous scandals and has been accused repeatedly of impropriety. From questions over why he suddenly left the FBI in 2006, to his questionable business partners which include felons and Mafia acolytes, to his fundraising in 2010 and relations with a mystical Rabbi who is facing numerous charges in Israel. One can never forget Grimm earlier this year threatening to throw a NY1 reporter off the balcony. For the Democrats, this seat represented a golden opportunity or so they thought.

Recchia was defeated by 13 points. The last Democrat to face Rep. Grimm was Mark Murphy who in 2012 was only defeated by 5 points. Murphy was the son of former Rep. John Murphy and waged a campaign with little funding and little to no help from the national party. Truth be told Recchia was an awful candidate who upon having been term-limited pout of the New York City Council sought a way to stay in elected office. He had intended to run for New York City Comptroller, then Brooklyn Borough President, then for the 11th congressional seat all within a period of less than four months. He was the only choice for local Democrats and they thought following the indictments against Grimm that the election would be a breeze.

Able to raise $2.3 million on his own and with an additional $1.6 million from the DCCC and $2 million from the House Majority PAC, Recchia clearly had the monetary advantage over Grimm. With those funds a campaign was waged that revolved solely around the indictments against Grimm. It was negative ad after another, some of which implied that Grimm was already found guilty. In over a year on the campaign trail Recchia failed to articulate a single policy position on his website until less than a month before the election. Never mind, the election wasn’t so much about him but about how bad Grimm was. The Democrats waged a campaign based on zero substance and thought that opposing a scandal scarred congressman under indictment would secure them victory.

Then Recchia began to be questioned by the media and any opportunity the Democrats had to take the seat was lost. Recchia showed time and time again he had a limited grasp of the issues that he would face if elected. It was gaffe after gaffe, some moments so cringe worthy that they made one wonder how he was able to pass the BAR exam. His ineptness was even picked up by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart where Stewart was unable to fathom how Grimm could be winning in the polls. At the time a poll had been released which showed Grimm up by several points. In the final week of the election a poll was released showing Grimm with a 16 point advantage over Recchia. It was at this same time that Recchia disappeared from the public view, apparently afraid to provide the media with any more gaffes.

Even local media outlets were so turned off by Recchia that they endorsed Rep. Grimm. Entitled Very Grimm Choice, The Daily News described Recchia as “a candidate so dumb, ill-informed, evasive and inarticulate that voting for a thuggish Republican who could wind up in a prison jumpsuit starts to make rational sense.” The Staten Island Advance gave what some call the greatest non-endorsement, endorsement of a candidate ever. In endorsing Grimm they noted the litany of scandals he has been involved in noted how he has helped to make Staten Island the “laughingstock of the nation.” At the same time though in arguing against Recchia they noted “…it’s fair to ask if these claims of his [Recchia] supposed “simplicity” are not just a cover. No one’s asking for slick, just knowledgeable.”

Rep. Grimm was able to secure a third term but there are those who believe he won’t last to see it through. There are rumors of a second set of indictments that are being prepared against him and the attorney that indicted him, Loretta Lynch has been nominated by President Obama for the position of District Attorney. One would think that her case against Grimm is solid. Also there are talks about who will replace Grimm in a special election next year. A good number of those who voted for Grimm didn’t vote for him necessarily but for the opportunity that he will be replaced next year in a special election.

Democrats ran an awful candidate with a campaign base on zero issues. Republicans ran an indicted congressman with the hope of him being replaced in a special election the following year. What great choices we have.

It appears that President Obama now has a plan of sorts to deal with IS in Iraq and Syria. On the eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11, Obama delivered an address on IS and what actions the U.S. will take to counter it. I had low hopes for the speech and as anticipated, I was let down by it. In presenting his plan he prioritized rhetoric over details and answers to questions while doing little to instill confidence that he truly believed in what he was suggesting. Now it would appear that we are engaging in a half-hearted attempt to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS, a campaign that might extend into the next presidency. The plan is unrealistic, simplistic, and is a poorly crafted attempt to rectify the failure of this administration to generate a strategy against dealing with a group we’ve been fully aware for over a year.

I find the strategy put forth by the president as completely lacking. There are too many questions that remain unanswered while the plan itself seems simplistic and poorly conceived. One of my biggest problems is the military strategy. There is an absolute reluctance and opposition on the part of the president and many of the American people for the use of ground forces regardless if they are in combat or not. Obama insists that the eventual 1,000 troops we are sending will only advise and train the Iraqi military. Various analysts though have suggested that the troops sent are too few and upwards of 10,000 troops will be needed for such activities to be successful. To that end, our campaign against IS depends on using the forces of Iraq, militia groups, and Syrian rebel groups as our ground troops, all of whom have already proven to be less than capable of meeting this threat.

Our primary military contribution to the operation will be airpower. Airstrikes as they are being conducted now against IS in what is a piecemeal manner will not bring about the groups destruction. Airpower would have made a major difference when then ISIS was on the offensive and convoys were travelling in the open desert between cities. Now we are forced to engage a group no longer in the open but that is blending in with civilians in cities and towns. Our intelligence estimates on IS are sorely lacking and this will further hamper destroying them; just recently the CIA revealed that it had grossly underestimated the number of IS fighters in Iraq and Syria. When you are conducting an aerial campaign it tends to help when you can identify targets and know critical information about your enemy. It seems though that we know little about IS and as a result airstrikes will continue to be against targets as they present themselves rather than being truly focused. Prepare to be awed by videos of $60,000+ missiles being used to destroy random pickup trucks and tents while the administration insists that we have the upper hand.

Then there is the problem with arming and providing more assistance to moderate Syrian opposition groups which is part of Obamas plan. Just weeks ago Obama considered such a move as “fantasy” arguing that arming who are essentially “former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth” would make little difference in the fight against Assad. Well now that’s no longer the case; never mind that the moderate rebels also have to contend with fanatical IS fighters in addition to government forces. Then there is difficulty in choosing who to provide assistance as there is a history of groups we supported later turning on us. Also weapons we provide to supposedly moderate groups have a habit of falling into the hands of the enemy. Lastly there is the complexity of the situation itself in Syria; a conflict between the government, moderate opposition, and IS fanatics all of whom are backed by different actors internationally. Are we arming moderates to fight just IS or also Assad? What if IS is defeated and Assad is still in power, do we abandon the moderates or do we become militarily engaged against him as well?

Finally there is the issue of time and what will happen if IS is ultimately destroyed. Already the White House has said the campaign against IS might take three years, mind you a three year military campaign against a group the president earlier this year termed a “JV” basketball team. Now the situation might play out radically different. Sunni groups that had allied themselves with ISIS in a move that was seen by some to have been meant as a political message to the government, are now ready to fight against IS. The Iraqi military and the Kurds might successfully rally and go on a full offensive against IS. There is that chance that IS might be defeated by mid-2015, anything is possible. Regardless, if this administration is serious about defeating IS don’t say it can take three years because it looks like we aren’t serious. Furthermore how far have we planned this because I highly doubt that we will be able to just extract ourselves from this easily. Upon defeating IS we might be setting ourselves up for a military confrontation with Syria or the Kurds might push for greater independence from Baghdad; in either case we will remain heavily involved.

I want to see IS absolutely liquidated but that doesn’t mean I will support a plan that I don’t believe in. What has been proposed is a military strategy that is watered down to be politically acceptable and to reduce the footprint of U.S. involvement. Remember, Obama ended the war in Iraq and it is no doubt hurting him that we are returning to Iraq. If you engage in military conflict you do it to win, not a partial but an absolute victory; this plan speaks of an absolute victory but it doesn’t portray the realistic ways and means to achieve it. Furthermore I feel it is too open-ended and leaves us open to a military confrontation with Assad in Syria. I firmly believe IS must be dealt with though I would rather take the time now to create an effective strategy rather than rushing in with one that is so lacking.

Concerning the Democratic Party, it would appear as almost certain that Hillary Clinton will be a contender in 2016 for the party’s presidential nomination. Now though it appears that Vice President Joe Biden is making moves in anticipation of running himself. Biden has long been rumored to be seeking the presidency in 2016 but he has failed to make any significant moves himself until recently. If Biden were to run, it would be his third attempt at securing the Democratic nomination having failed before in 1988 and 2008. Now it must be said that in polls he is trailing Clinton by around fifty points in several polls though this doesn’t mean he should be discounted so early. Biden brings with him decades of experience in government and is well liked, both qualities which generate support.

Biden recently reached out to former staffers and campaign workers, a move he described as a long overdue attempt to keep in touch. Others though see this as a move by Biden to begin laying the groundwork for a potential campaign. Additionally he has increasingly been speaking before large and influential groups such as the NAACP and the Urban League, perhaps as a way to woo minority voters which have been critical two the Democrats in the last two presidential elections. This can also be part of an attempt to become the more liberal voice of possible 2016 contenders. Where Clinton is closer to the center, Biden might be seeking to gain the support of traditional liberals.

Earlier this month Biden conceded before Generation Progress that the “hope and change” promises that were made in 2008 have failed to materialize. This can be viewed as a way for Biden to distance himself from President Obama. While any Democratic contender will be linked to the president in one way or another, the fact that Biden served as Obama’s vice president makes his situation more precarious. With approval ratings of Obama as low as they are, being the No. 2 in the administration doesn’t generate a massive flood of positive support. Despite this and other instances where distancing from the president was evident, Obama remains loyal having recently told the New Yorker that Biden would make a “superb” president.

Compared to Clinton, Biden is in a unique position in some ways. His gaffes are comical while Clinton’s make one cringe. The talk by Clinton about her fake poverty upon leaving the White House has damaged her in some ways. Biden on the other hand can continue to play on the fact that he isn’t rich, his “regular Joe,” working class background which is ultimately more endearing. While Clinton comes off as cold and calculating, Biden is affable and his typical smile brings with it a measure of trust.

Any quest for the nomination by Biden though is hampered in several ways. A Pew and Washington Post survey asked people which single word they would use to describe Biden and it was found that “good” and “idiot” to be the most used. Mind you both responses were nearly equal in number. Neither speak very positively for a person who seeks the presidency. Of course “idiot” has its negative connotations while “good” can be equated to adequate, not a source of enthusiasm. Biden himself is experienced and is a generally affable person. It is rumored that Obama has sought his opinion on a variety of foreign policy situations. On the other hand Biden is prone to gaffes and with the nature of the media, the gaffe-prone Biden will be seen more than the experienced-Biden. Also the issue of age will be brought up; if Biden were to ultimately win the presidency in 2016, he will be 74, the oldest person to ever be inaugurates as president.

Who can tell what will transpire in 2016? Personally, I don’t believe Biden has a chance to win the Democratic nomination. This despite the fact that no incumbent vice president has ever lost the nomination of their party if memory serves me correct. Biden was offered vice president for his foreign policy experience and to have a familiar face in the administration. In that role he is fine but as presidential material, I don’t believe so. I have been wrong though before. Honestly though, the GOP would have a field day with Biden if he won the nomination and I can assure one thing, 2016 will be a bad year for the left. Personally I feel that Biden will continue to show interest in seeking the nomination and pursue it to a degree but will stop short of declaring himself as a candidate right as other competitors declare their candidacies. The realization of the upward struggle he would face would lead to this decision.

On Thursday July 17th, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. On board were 298 passengers and crew who perished. Immediately a blame game emerged between the Ukrainian, Russian, and pro-Russian separatists as to who was responsible. So far it seems most likely that the separatists shot down MH17 after confusing it for a Ukrainian military transport. There are also reports that the Russians gave assistance to the separatists in using the missile system and are now helping to destroy evidence. This is an absolute tragedy but in that tragedy, there is a glimmer of hope; it is up to the international community to use the memory of those murdered to end this conflict now.

The shoot down of MH17 represents a game changer for the conflict in the Ukraine. Right now, it is strongly suspected that the missile which downed the jet was a Buk missile launched by pro-Russian separatists. If it is true that the separatists were responsible, support for the Ukraine to defeat them will swell. Already the Ukrainian military which has scored numerous successes against the separatists in recent weeks seems hell bent on finishing the job. Russia has without a doubt already questioned the degree to which it will continue to arm the separatists lest they become any further embroiled in any future tragedy. And if Russia is found to have played a part in this the outrage from the world, particularly the EU will be enormous. This isn’t a situation of a few foreigners getting killed in a conflict zone; this is 298 innocents needlessly murdered.

Additionally, MH17 has forced the world to turn its attention again to the Ukraine. In U.S. news media particularly, the conflict in the Ukraine has for the most part been ignored since Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. The media must stop saying that the situation is inching closer to civil war; it has been a civil war for some time now and to say otherwise is to sugarcoat it. In recent days the level of violence has escalated with some even considering the near-term possibility of the Ukraine and Russia engaging each other in conflict. The tragedy of MH17 should provide the impetus for the international community to work towards solving this savage conflict.

Also, the shoot down of MH17 should send a message to the airlines and to civil aviation authorities. Many airlines have chosen even prior to this to circumvent the Ukraine. It is an active war zone where SAMs (surface to air missiles) have been in use. True, changing flight routes to avoid eastern Ukraine does come at a price which is increased fuel consumption. On the other hand, I as a passenger would gladly pay a surcharge on my ticket if I knew my flight would not be placed in harm’s way. Regardless of how many planes have safely traversed the Ukraine, the airline should value safety first. Bear in mind, this isn’t the first airliner to be shot down over a conflict zone.

If we allow the tragedy of MH17 to just fade away we will be doing a massive disservice to those who were died. In their memory, the international community must work to stop this conflict. Russia must stop supporting these separatists; the fact that the separatists are impeding the investigation of MH17 speaks volumes about their integrity. The world must take an active interest again. President Obama was right to come out immediately about the incident but he must take further steps. The new sanctions placed on Russia had already been in the works. He should go further. Furthermore, the airlines should work towards agreeing on new rules for future flight plans to avoid such a tragedy from occurring again. 289 innocents have died; we must not allow them to be forgotten.

Recently a scandal has emerged in Germany concerning U.S. intelligence activities in that country. A senior CIA official at the U.S. embassy in Berlin has been expelled from the country in response to two instances of alleged spying by the U.S. This comes at a bad time for the U.S. whose intelligence agencies have already been implicated in a variety of otherwise questionable activities over the past few years between domestic spying and spying on allies. In light of all that has happened one would think that the U.S. would take more precaution to avoid situations such as this, especially at a time when U.S. world power is slipping. Regardless, what has transpired should have been prevented if this administration actually cared to learn from its mistakes.

Now let’s be honest for a minute. The issue of the U.S. spying on its allies isn’t anything new; this is what we do, this is what many others so though it doesn’t make it right. Nor does it improve the image of the U.S. at a time when the world is in flames, our power is diminishing, and when we need friends the most. Germany is unarguably the powerhouse of Europe and is a major world player economically. We have been strong allies for over a half century and though that relationship has had its ups and downs, it is a strong relationship and one we should be keen to maintain. Unfortunately we are doing the exact opposite.

The Germans view spying in a somewhat different light than Americans. Remember that up until a decade and half ago, Germany was a divided state. Those who lived in the DDR (East Germany) remember all too well the activities of the Stasi, the state security service of the DDR. A combination of secret police and an intelligence agency, the Stasi is regarded as one of the most effective organizations of its type in history. The Stasi was brutally efficient in spying on citizens, turning citizens into informants, turning families and friends against each other and rooting out opposition. In a state where one can never be too sure if the person they are talking to is friend or foe, naturally the idea of spying is one to be hated. Now the issue of friend spying on friends has returned.

This matter is made all the worse as German Chancellor Angela Merkel was born and raised in the DDR. The memories of spying are ingrained in her mind. In December 2013, revelations emerged in the German news magazine Der Spiegel that the NSA was listening in on her personal mobile phone. At the time Merkel was furious and rightfully so, even confronting President Obama and stating “This is like the Stasi.” Angered not only by the possibility that her phone may have been tapped for over 10 years and that the U.S. had an extensive electronic surveillance program in Berlin was that the U.S. couldn’t be trusted with information it gathered as evidenced by the massive leaks from Edward Snowden.

Now I understand the president doesn’t know everything that is going on and can’t sign off on every decision for our intelligence agencies. One would think though that after the revelations last year, the president would sign an executive order to our intelligence agencies to stop such activities in Germany. Unfortunately it seems that Obama has failed to and now we are where we are today. So much for Obamas promises that we wouldn’t spy on our allies overseas anymore. Though one could have foreseen a situation such as this occurring since Obama rejected a proposed “no-spy” agreement with Germany that Merkel was pushing for. Now we find that the NSA has been using two Germans, one in the German defense ministry and another in the BND (the German equivalent to our CIA) to gather documents of interest. In response Germany has demanded a CIA official at the embassy in Berlin to be expelled from the country immediately.

What has the U.S. gained from these spying programs? Reportedly one of the Germans was gathering documents concerning a German parliamentary group that has been established to research U.S. spy programs in Germany. Additionally the Germans have claimed that the information gathered for the NSA was of little value. If such allegations are true, then the U.S. has sacrificed much for very little. Already Germans are screaming for a harsh rebuke of the U.S. and polls recently conducted find that Germans overwhelmingly view the U.S. as untrustworthy. For the Germans, who needs enemies when you have the U.S. as a friend, a U.S. which mind you in a situation such as this is its own worst enemy.

The relationship with Germany is at an all-time low. Merkel who has in the past been able to balance support and criticism for the U.S. might not be able to do so much longer. These latest spying allegations have brought Germany to a tipping point and it’s not only the opposition screaming but a majority of the country. There is a distinct deficit of trust that is only worsening. We could have stopped our spying activities after last year’s revelations but we didn’t. Because the president has failed to take action and to restrain the NSA and work towards treating Germany as an actual friend and ally, we have repeated the same mistakes but now the repercussions are for worse.

On Tuesday, July 1st, Russian President Vladimir delivered a boisterous foreign policy speech to assembled Russian diplomats in Moscow. In it he addressed the situation in the Ukraine and the issue of western interference in the near abroad (the independent republics that emerged out of the Soviet Union upon its disintegration). Among his arguments were numerous scathing criticisms of Washington and its foreign policy. Putin came off as highly hypocritical on numerous points in his speech but one must also admit that some of his views are not without merit.

For starters Putin spoke of the issue in the Ukraine, a situation which has largely receded from U.S. news outlets. Putin blames increasing violence squarely on the shoulders of Ukrainian President Poroshenko. Poroshenko has the Ukrainian military engaged in a large offensive against pro-Russian separatist forces across the entire Eastern part of the Ukraine. Blaming the Ukrainians solely for the situation is absurd; then again Putin claimed that the pro-Russian forces in the Crimea prior to its annexation were most certainly not Russian forces so the veracity of his claims are questionable. Never mind that those “separatists” were equipped with the newest Russian body armor and in pristine new vehicles.

On the other hand he spoke of the non-interference principle regarding the West and the Ukraine and the potential for disastrous consequences. Truth be told, there is little doubt in my mind that western nations had a hand in Euromaiden, the riots which eventually brought about the collapse of the pro-Russian Ukrainian government. True, the Ukraine is part of Russia’s near abroad and Putin is keen on preventing further encroachment by the West in the forms of the EU and NATO in bordering countries. Though the interference of the west is minuscule next to that of Russia, a Russia which mind you immediately swept into a sovereign Ukraine and annexed and incorporated the Crimea. Do Putin’s ideas of non-interference extend to also arming groups engaged in internal struggles in foreign nations? Last time I looked it’s Putin arming pro-Russian rebels in the Ukraine. If Putin is sincere also regarding his stand that Russia won’t interfere in Ukrainian internal affairs, then perhaps he should make good on his statement.

Putin also spoke of how the West should stop turning the world into a “global barracks.” He claimed that we should push our agendas and political ambitions aside in the interest of building better relations with the rest of the world. Since when did Russia become the friend of the world? Furthermore, since when did Putin decide to ditch his agenda and become the standard-bearer of world peace? Russia, along with China routinely overlook human rights violations in the world when votes come up to the UN Security Council while both nations sell weapons to whoever will buy them. Indeed Putin points to the Russia-China relationship as one which the West should seek to emulate as it is built not on a military alliance but cooperation.

Putin is a blatant hypocrite though this isn’t to say that the west, particularly the U.S. pursue an ideal foreign policy. We scream about Russia breaking international law by invading the sovereign states of Georgia and the Ukraine over the past several years. The truth is we do it as well, be it in Iraq or with our repeated drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere. We rail about Russia interfering in the affairs of countries along its borders while we interfere in the affairs of countries across the world. We demand that Russia take a more active interest in the conflicts of nations it sells its weapons to while we actively support rebel groups with aid and weapons.

Ultimately speeches of the type that Putin gave are meant to excite audiences and to provide strength to a leader on the world stage. Rarely are they translated into direct policy or for that matter even reflect existing policy. Was Putin’s speech hypocritical? Yes. Did he know it? Most certainly yes. It’s no different from foreign policy speeches of other world leaders who rail about one thing yet a cursory examination of their policy reveals them to be liars as well. Ultimately, these speeches typically tend to have tucked in them messages that represent reality. In this speech it was Putin recognizing the need for continued U.S.-Russia relations and that any calls to end them are essentially foolish.

Foreign policy, a collection of lies, innuendos, obfuscation, and agendas.

Just this week the Supreme Court declared in a 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that businesses need not be required under the ACA to provide emergency contraceptives to their employees. Under this ruling a closely held company claiming to hold a religious belief can be exempt from offering something its owners religiously disagree with. Under the ACA, companies were required under the contraceptive mandate to provide them to employees. This decision has caused a bit of a firestorm over women’s rights, the freedom of companies to do as they please, the limits of freedom of religion, etc. All of these issues are extremely important but I believe that the issue of personal responsibility is one of the most important.

Now companies do provide healthcare to their employees. Companies do have a vested interest in their employees and the interests of keeping them healthy should extend to a genuine concern for the welfare of an employee beyond maintaining staffing levels. At the same time though, why should companies be mandated to provide emergency contraceptives? Should companies also provide e-cigarettes to smokers and non-alcoholic beverages to alcoholics? No. While it might behoove a company to have fewer employees out on maternity leave for cost purposes, where does it behoove a company to baby its employees? Provide routine eye care to employees; yes. Provide contraceptives to careless employees who disregard the possible burden an unintended child might have; no.

The decision reached in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby removes the mandate on companies providing contraceptives on religious grounds. Frankly I can’t understand why such a mandate exists in the first place. Granted large sums of money are saved by the use of contraceptives when one looks at the overall expenses paid by the state for unintended pregnancies in the forms of medical care, welfare programs, education, etc. At the same time though if half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, why isn’t action taken to decrease the cost of contraceptives in the first place? Instead of at least making an attempt to address the situation of unintended pregnancies earlier on such as dealing with the costs of contraceptives, this administration prefers to have employers provide to employees what the latter failed to provide for themselves. Ultimately, bad careless decisions will still be made.

This issue in my mind is more about personal responsibility or the lack of it and with the government and its authority being used as a bailout. Initially the contraceptive mandate was ruled out for churches and other organizations that had clear religious differences. For example asking the Catholic Church to provide contraceptives is tantamount to asking parishioners to steal if necessary to provide money to the church. It’s wrong. Now in some ways such as with Hobby Lobby, the grounds for claiming religious freedom are harder to prove. Regardless I think it’s absurd. Never mind the fact that the contraceptive mandate failed to cover male contraceptives. I don’t hear the left screaming about the lack of equality.

In my family we believe in the idea that you sleep in the bed you make. You don’t expect others to bail you out for something you could’ve easily prevented and you most certainly don’t force others to do so. I’m happy that Hobby Lobby has had this victory and that the SCOTUS reached this decision. Though the issue I believe extends beyond the religious sentiments of an organization. It is a matter of personal responsibility and requiring employers to rectify issues that employees could’ve easily avoided in the first place is not the answer.

The situations in Iraq and Syria are tense and horrific to say the least. Bad enough we have an administration that is more concerned with its own poll numbers than securing American security and foreign stability but now we have Senator Rand Paul railing against any possible action in Iraq. Paul believes as he has stated recently in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that we should essentially dismiss ISIS in Iraq. Paul cites the 2003 Iraq War as a massive policy failure which in many ways it is and believes we shouldn’t commit ourselves to taking sides in Iraq today. At the same time though he completely dismisses the destabilizing effect of ISIS on the region and ultimately its threat to the United States and our interests. This view I can’t agree with.

Granted I understand the position of libertarians which Sen. Paul believes he is in that we should mind our own business overseas. There is some truth to that; our under thought actions over the decades have produced some extremely negative repercussions such as in Iraq which Paul focuses on as an example. In this case though and with Sen. Paul in particular I find fault. Paul is a far cry from his father, a man who I disagreed with heavily but still hold enormous respect for because I feel that he spoke of what he truly believed in. His son though is a political opportunist, detached from reality and bent on securing a future political position regardless of what he believes in. In the case of ISIS in Iraq, Sen. Paul is dead wrong and unrealistic.

Sen. Paul claims that ISIS has been emboldened to move into Iraq because we are arming Syrian rebels and their allies such as al Qaeda. Oh really? I’m sorry I didn’t get the memo but last I heard ISIS and al Qaeda aren’t exactly on friendly terms and are in fact in open opposition to each other. Indeed ISIS is fighting both the Assad government and most other rebel groups in Syria. Paul needs to get his facts straight before offering his assessments. Additionally, where are we arming ISIS? The CIA has been arming groups such as the FSA but not ISIS and in very limited ways that are a far cry from U.S. lethal aid provided to the mujaheddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Perhaps some weaponry has fallen into the hands of ISIS but to say we are directly arming them is an outright lie.

Now I understand Paul is a proponent of isolationism and non-interventionism. There is a difference though between ignoring something that isn’t a threat and something that is. Argue whichever position you have on dealing with ISIS in Iraq, boots on the ground, airstrikes, arming the Iraqis, and training the Iraqis, whatever. Taking the position to sit this out and watch though is not a viable option. A massive power vacuum in Syria and Iraq in the Middle East that can spread into Jordan and other states is something that has the ability to impact the U.S. in a very real way.

It’s thinking such as this that foreign policy is conducted and occurs in closed environments which ultimately lead to trouble. The idea that if it doesn’t directly affect us on American soil we should ignore it fails to take into account the complexities and interconnectedness of the world today. An ISIS state would be disastrous to regional stability, security, and the global economy. Worrying about it down the road as Paul suggests is careless and just plain wrong and reveals a man whose foreign policy opinions are more rooted in following a strict philosophy than dealing with them realistically.

Two weeks ago GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was soundly and unexpectedly beaten by tea party favorite David Brat in Virginia. Immediately the left was screaming that radicals had come to dominate or at least control the agenda of the GOP. Meanwhile on the right, tea party types declared it an absolute victory while the establishment sought to find excuses for the loss. More importantly, Cantor’s loss was seen as the beginning of a possible trend that would be played out across the country in the weeks that followed where establishment incumbents would be ousted by more conservative opponents in primaries. If the results of Tuesday’s primaries are any indication though, the tea party is in no position of dominance.

In primaries from New York to Oklahoma, from Mississippi to Colorado, tea party affiliated candidates were defeated. Now this isn’t to say that it was a total drubbing for conservatives as several races were extremely close. This is most true of the Senate race in Mississippi where incumbent Senator Thad Cochran had been trailing his tea party opponent Chris McDaniel. Cochran’s campaign team got their act together in the final week leading to less than a 2 point margin of victory over McDaniel. Though one must consider that Cochran’s extremely narrow victory was had by the votes of Democrats. Cochran had lost in the weeks prior to McDaniel but since neither secured over 50% of the vote a runoff was necessary, a runoff which non-Republicans could vote in.

Where Cochran’s margin of victory was minimal others weren’t such as Oklahoma Representative James Lankford who resoundingly defeated T.W. Shannon by over 25 points in a race to succeed retiring Senator Coburn. T.W. Shannon received the backing of numerous tea party groups while having the support of tea party favorite Senator Cruz. Elsewhere, incumbents cruised to victory over tea party opponents, several in races where both establishment and tea party groups had invested heavily in candidates.

So what does this all mean? Cantors loss was blown up into something it wasn’t. It was an aberration this year, not a trendsetter and most certainly not an indication of tea party dominance. Cantor acting as House Majority Leader is a national Republican and ambitious and in so much, he lost the support of his constituency. Furthermore his campaign was sloppy believing that victory was all but assured and buoyed by Cantor’s 2012 79 point victory of his tea party challenger then. Additionally several polls showed the complete opposite of what would transpire no doubt leading to overconfidence in Cantor team. Negative campaigning and political attacks on Brat also served to garner more support for the latter.

Despite all of this one can’t discount the tea party. Though small it has the power to make the difference in close elections. Despite losing in primaries, ideas of the tea party will find their way into establishment incumbents and candidates. Again though, the message is cast again that tea party candidates either can’t win or face tremendous hurdles in winning. In certain cases it is good for the party that tea party candidates didn’t prevail. In several races, their victory would have cast doubt on the potential for victory in November in seats that would otherwise be easily won by moderate Republicans. Furthermore, the GOP would be saved from pouring money into the campaigns of candidates whose eventual success would be in doubt.

Finally, I think one must take a step back and rebuke the talking point of the left that the tea party “radicals” control the GOP agenda. One needs to only look at the primaries that have been held this year to see that such an accusation or belief is false. I for one take joy in the left losing that talking point. Whatever the case, the Tuesday primaries showed that the moderates and establishment do and will continue to prevail. At the same time, they show that the tea party is still a force that has influence.

Last year, Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Unit came into prominence due to revelations that her unit had specifically targeted a number of conservative tax-exempt organizations. Immediately the right slammed the IRS for its supposed selective treatment under a Democratic presidency. Lerner in a subsequent Treasury Inspector General audit into the matter answered what she knew to be and later revealed as planted questions concerning the matter and attempted to deflect the blame for the situation to subordinates even though this was proven wrong. Later after repeatedly invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to testify before congressional hearings she was found in contempt of Congress in 2014 over her refusal to testify. Now in further investigation, it has been revealed that e-mails from her time as director have been lost. Foul play or bureaucracy stupidity, you decide, whatever the case, awful.

Apparently, all the e-mails associated with the tenure in question of Lerner have been lost. Lerner has offered her explanation, “Sometimes stuff just happens.” Meanwhile the IRS has offered that it was a catastrophic computer crash that destroyed everything. Convenient when one considers how much this government spends a year on retaining information about private citizens through a variety of mediums. Now the IRS has stated that due to financial and computing constraints, emails on individuals’, computers from January 2009 to April 2011 “no longer exist.” The U.S. is willing to spend over $300 million on a fighter plane that doesn’t work but it can’t supply its senior bureaucrats with backup memory to cover even 100 gigabytes each of a single years’ worth of e-mails for the sake of record and ultimately transparency? Even if the story is true from Lerner and the IRS it is disgraceful in the end.

What I just can’t figure out is how conveniently her e-mails in question have disappeared. More revelations have revealed that the IRS has some fairly short term aimed e-mail policies that ultimately limit the amount of e-mail data that can be stored for a single year and furthermore, once a limit has been reached backup tapes are recorded over. What is the cost of backup records when one looks at the big picture? Though at the same time, e-mails that are “created or received in the transaction of agency business,” and or “appropriate for preservation as evidence of the government’s function or activities,” or “valuable because of the information they contain” are kept on record at the discretion though of the receiver.

Why isn’t there a standard policy on what is considered “official record” as such emails would be? Perhaps leaving the question to be answered by bureaucrats allows for questionable activity to occur which can be hard for investigators to follow and behooves many to push for the preservation of the system at hand. Or perhaps it’s a simple mistake, the gravity of which has escaped our bureaucracy until now when confronted with such a situation.

Is Lois Lerner lying? Who knows, she pled the Fifth enough and showed as much indifference to the situation where one might assume that she is. If she isn’t, well that shows that the American people can’t expect the bureaucracy to be held accountable to anything then if record keeping of its own actions is so poor. Regardless how the Lerner and IRS scandal play out, I firmly believe a more concerted effort should be made to increase the longevity of stored documents pertaining to correspondence between senior bureaucrats, I mean, this is a country that prides itself on transparency, right?

In the past several days, the Sunni militia group ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has made massive gains in its campaign against the Iraqi government by taking Tikrit and Mosul. While some Iraqi military units have fought valiantly against these fundamentalists, many have just evaporated before the group. At no time in the past several years has Iraq faced a crisis as grave as this and if not dealt with soon, the government is in danger of falling. The Iraq of today which has cost the U.S. and our allies so heavily in blood and treasure since 2003 is coming undone and the President is dithering.

ISIS was formed shortly after the 2003 invasion in Iraq by Sunni extremists bent on creating a new Islamic caliphate. It has been responsible for numerous attacks in the past against Coalition forces and has had a strong presence in Syria. For numerous reasons, ISIS is hostile with many groups, some contradictory like the forces of Syria’s Assad and its opponent the FSA (Free Syrian Army). This is primarily due to their brutal tactics, inability to have sustainable working relationships with other groups and their ultimate goal which is incompatible with other groups. Al Qaeda has even viewed ISIS as too extreme. Regardless, ISIS has formed itself into a well-organized fighting force and its recent success in Iraq prove as much.

While ISIS has been a known threat for some time in Iraq, the most recent events are predated by the capture of Fallujah by ISIS this January. Fallujah is a mere 43 miles west of the capital Baghdad and since January, the Iraqi government has not been able to wrest control of it back. Now ISIS is preparing to advance further south into Shia regions (regarded by ISIS as infidels) and into Baghdad itself. I get the distinct impression that this was a threat that we should have been far more aware of and should’ve taken a much closer look at.

So why should the U.S. care? As I already said, we’ve spilt too much blood and spent too much treasure to have Iraq fall into flames. To allow such a situation to happen is a slap in the face to all the sacrifices made by the U.S., our allies, and the 100,000 plus Iraqis who have died over the past decade. Now I know the President is happy because in his mind he ended the war in Iraq as ending a war is something as simple as pulling out troops. Initially the administration offered limited response to this crisis, mainly typical ineffectual White House calls to end the violence and that we’re watching the situation closely with great interest. Now though the administration is considering the possibility of military action.

What I don’t understand is that in Iraq, a country we invested so heavily in that the preparation for the assault of Mosul and Tikrit by thousands of armed militiamen in an organized operation went apparently unnoticed. Is our intelligence in Iraq that bad that we failed to foresee this? Furthermore, the Iraqi government has requested U.S. airstrikes against ISIS, requests we immediately rebuffed. Only now is Obama saying that airstrikes are on the table but given the actions of this president in other situations I’ve learned to place a very small value on his words.

Iraq is falling. The government of Maliki is losing its support while the Iraqi military is running from fighting this tyrannical group. The Kurds seeing that the government can’t protect its citizens have called up the Peshmerga (Kurdish fighters) to occupy cities that the Iraqi military has withdrawn from while Shia groups are preparing to do defend themselves and do battle against ISIS. The government is teetering while the threat of full blown sectarian violence is real. This isn’t Syria or the Ukraine, this is Iraq, a country that for many Americans is much closer to home.

We have no problem launching drone strikes all over the Middle East to kill some bomb maker in this country or a propaganda chief in another. But when an ally is collapsing, we sit back. Now I’m not saying we need troops on the ground and I wouldn’t support that. This doesn’t mean we don’t have other options. We can provide intelligence that the Iraqi government seeks, the airstrikes which the Iraqi military isn’t capable of performing, and the public support that can show our resolve is real. In this situation, I just can’t fathom the indecisiveness and indifference by my president.

Now after well over a week since the prisoner swap story over Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl story broke, the Obama administration has decided to shift responsibility for it to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. After Hagel stated that the decision had been made by a group, the White House is now claiming that he “signed off” on the deal to hand the Sgt. over in exchange for the five Taliban prisoners. Now by law, Secretary of Defense Hagel is required to sign off on such a deal but I get the distinct impression that the administration is using Hagel as a scapegoat in light of the backlash it has received concerning the swap from all political corners. Regardless of how people might feel about Hagel and his policies and views, it is downright disrespectful and shameful for the administration to throw him under the bus this way.

I still have many questions over the story of Sgt. Bergdahl but I will reserve judgment on them until more information is released to the public and an investigation is conducted. I refuse to condemn the man and his plight over the past 5 years until the truth is revealed. What I will not stand for though is a man such as Secretary of Defense Hagel receiving the full brunt of criticism for this exchange before a full investigation is carried out. Fault Hagel for multiple defense-related issues that one might not agree with but to have him take the fall for this administration to save President Obama’s approval ratings from further falling is disgusting.

Secretary of Defense Hagel was brought into this administration under many questions from the right. For starters, he was a Republican who during his Senate tenure was very outspoken against the war in Iraq during the Bush administration, a position which failed to earn him any points in the heart of conservatives or those Americans interested in an active foreign policy. During his confirmation hearings in the Senate last year though, he for the most part faced criticism over his failure to adopt a highly supportive position on Israel and a hawkish stance on Iran; it was perhaps this issue that drew the most criticism of him and not issues that truly affect the U.S. military such as the dangerous increase in suicides or our declining technological advantage against certain possible future opponents.

Whatever the case, Hagel was confirmed as Secretary of Defense. Since then, Hagel has been accused of directly downsizing the U.S. military to dangerous levels, reducing the security of Israel, and caving into the Russians and Chinese to the detriment of U.S. security among other things. Now, while it may be true that SoD Hagel has supported positions that have played into these negatives, he isn’t the executive who signs off on them. While the SoD is “the principal assistant to the President in all matters relating to Department of Defense” large issues are not handled independently of the president. Don’t think for a second that the SoD operates in a closed environment.

Now to believe that the POTUS wasn’t highly involved in the Bergdahl exchange as this was the first time in how long that the U.S. has conducted a prisoner swap is absurd. Regardless, despite however you feel about the swap, one must accept the fact that it wasn’t solely the result of a decision made by the SoD but of multiple administration officials and at the top, the POTUS himself. Ever since the swap though, public approval of it has rapidly deteriorated as more negative information has emerged. Unfortunately for SoD Hagel, as public disapproval has mounted, so has the blame by the administration for the prisoner swap transitioned from the POTUS to Hagel.

Now I accept the fact that as a member of the public I’m not privy to all the information that is available and the absolute truth might never be known. Regardless whatever the situation concerning Bergdahl may be, it’s the approval granted by the POTUS and not SoD Hagel that secured his release. I for one am sick and tired of this administration and president deflecting blame for every action it takes and placing it on a subordinate. When will this administration adopt the policy of the “buck stops here” rather than always conveniently seeking out a scapegoat.

Ever since the Russian annexation and incorporation of the Crimea earlier this year, news in the United States concerning the situation in the Ukraine has slowly dropped to a trickle. Americans like others have news fatigue and it’s inevitable that interest in stories will wane as time goes on. Unfortunately, the situation in the Ukraine, particularly in the East has vastly deteriorated and the region is now inching towards a civil war.

In recent weeks, the Ukrainian military has gone from being easily disarmed by unarmed pro-Russian protesters to actively engaging armed pro-Russian militants. While some may take comfort in the fact that sizable Russian military forces that had been amassed on the Ukraine-Russia border have since been withdrawn, a potentially more dangerous situation has emerged. A conflict between Russia and the Ukraine would be awful, disastrous for the Ukraine but would draw enough international attention and condemnation that it would be relatively short. The same can’t be said of an expanded conflict between a pro-Russian insurgency and the Ukrainian military which would be a long, drawn-out fight that would ultimately see increased civilian casualties.

While the Russian takeover of the Crimea was done with little blood, the fight to retake revolting portions of Eastern Ukraine hasn’t been, far from it. In recent weeks multiple ambushes and attacks have occurred with loss of life on both sides to the tune of over 200 and it is only getting worse. What’s more unnerving is that the pro-Russian insurgent’s aren’t solely using small arms such as pistols and sub-machine guns and improvised weapons such as Molotov cocktails. They’ve also been using RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and other more deadly weaponry that can only have been obtained by raiding Ukrainian military munition dumps or which are being provided to them by external entities such as Russia.

On May 29th, a Ukrainian Mi-8 helicopter was shot down by militants resulting in the loss of life of 14 Ukrainian servicemen including a Ukrainian general. This by no means is the first nor will it be the last shoot down of a Ukrainian helicopter by pro-Russian forces. The shooting down of helicopters is not a hallmark of low-level domestic crises. This is a dangerous situation and unfortunately one that is now being too under reported. What’s worse, if the Russians feel that the Ukrainians are going too far, President Putin will have in his mind and under Russian law his mandate to intervene militarily in Eastern Ukraine to protect Russian citizens. Though I’d be hard pressed to find a person not from the Kremlin who believes that Putin doesn’t have a direct hand in this already.

On Friday, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) routed the ruling Indian National Congress (INC) to gain an outright majority, the first time a single party has won a majority in 30 years and the greatest electoral defeat ever experienced by the INC. This is seen as a response to increasing corruption scandals in India as well as anemic economic growth and with this victory, opposition leader Narendra Modi will soon become the new Indian prime minister. This presents an opportunity for both the U.S. and India. The relationship between the U.S. and India can best be described as at times ambiguous and at others an afterthought. Now though, with the growing importance of Asia, our “Asian Pivot” and with a new government in India, Washington must take advantage of this situation and approach the world’s most populous democracy with arms open.

Historically, Indias relations with other countries have been all over the map. During the Cold War India was a founding member of the Non-Alignment Pact but developed a close relationship with the Soviet Union, a relationship that continues with Russia today. Yet India maintained relationships with the U.S., European states and others; it can be said India is a prime example of a country that eschews the idea of entering into entangling alliances. In recent years, India has sought greater connections with disparate nations owing to a changing regional environment. The rise of China has led India to seek a balancing coalition against it, while the deterioration of U.S. -Pakistan relations over the years has created an open window for greater engagement with the U.S.

The Bush administration made several advances towards India including reversing the U.S. opposition to India’s nuclear program, assisting in tsunami search and rescue efforts, and promoting easier trade. A variety of factors helped to further this relationship and many felt positive by President Obamas trip to India in late 2010 when he backed India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. But little has been done since then to bolster the relationship. Despite the numerous shared concerns held by both nations, and the “Asian Pivot,” India has been practically ignored while certain events have served to set back the relationship. Furthermore, PM-elect Modi has been essentially blacklisted by the U.S. since the early 2000s due to charges of his involvement, or lack of in violent sectarian riots that killed more than 1,000.

Regardless of these problems, the U.S. must act now and embrace India. We can’t ignore its leadership which has been provided an overwhelming mandate by the people. India is the second-most populous country in the world, the most populous of any democracy; it is an emerging power with an economy that is currently eleventh in the world by nominal GDP. There is no reason why the U.S. shouldn’t make enhanced engagement with India a top priority. In a time when the Asia-Pacific region is growing in importance and what some may say has already overshadowed Europe in economic importance, it is vital that the U.S. engage countries such as India. To fail to do so will only serve to set this country back.

The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad, more commonly known as Boko Haram has thrust itself into the media spotlight as of late with its kidnapping of over 230 schoolgirls. This group seeks to end Westernization (while using weapons that are products of the west) in a region encompassing parts of Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger while working towards installing a “pure” Islamic state ruled by sharia. I’m the type that believes in respecting the ideals of any group, even those that I’m opposed to because who am I to judge the beliefs of others; in this case though, I see this as a particularly despicable group of animals. As a sign of solidarity with the girls, First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted a photo of her holding a sign saying “#BringBackOurGirls.” You tell them First Lady!

So why were these girls captured by this ever so noble group? Well its leader, Abubakar Shekau believes that girls should be denied an education and should instead be married even as young as nine. Since these poor girls defied that, they should now be sold into slavery as Shekau states “slavery is allowed in my religion.” Even sadder, most of these girls are not Muslim but Christian and one must fear ultimately what their fate will be. And this violence isn’t new for them. Driven by fanatics, they’ve killed over 10,000 Muslims and Christians in the past decade in their quest to create a state that contributes nothing to society as a whole.

What should be done? The options at least for the United States are limited. We are providing assistance in finding the abducted girls while military assistance is off the table unless requested by the Nigerian government, a government which mind you had advanced warning of the attack but was unable to respond. Furthermore, morale in the Nigerian army is low; just recently, Nigerian troops fired on a Major General who was blamed for a Boko Haram ambush that killed several Nigerian soldiers. The international community, in the west has been increasing its support against Boko Haram while several high profile Muslim groups and leaders have condemned the group as misguided and acting in contradiction to Islam. Indeed, it has been reported that this group operates with relatively little external support or connections to other Islamic terrorist groups.

So what we have are a group of absolutely crazed fanatics, operating in contradiction to Islam who are either driven by blood lust or borderline intelligence or both. Absolutely disgusting. Now as for the First Lady, her tweet is part of a global campaign for the group to let these girls go. I’m sorry, but a tweet doesn’t cut it in this case. Despite our options being limited, I believe the First Lady can do far more than a simple tweet. Bear in mind, she is the mother of two young girls who are currently in school. I’m tired of this Administration screaming about how we must be respectful to others and that we must be more diplomatic; what we need to do is stop mincing our words. This is a group that deserves neither; what it deserves is to be liquidated. A tweet more along those lines I believe is what this situation calls for.

My thoughts and prayers are with these poor girls and their families. A truly heinous event.

I am no fan of my representative, Michael Grimm (NY-11). I have seen him as a man motivated more by photo ops and television appearances and stroking his own ego than for the task at hand. Additionally, he has been marred by scandals and unanswered questions dating back to his first primary campaign. Recently he was indicted after a two-plus year investigation by the DoJ on 20 federal charges. Unfortunately, I must question the charges against him by the federal government.

Originally, Rep. Grimm was accused of campaign finance impropriety linked to a scandal-scarred Rabbi who himself has just been offered a plea deal in Israel for a bribery case involving a top Israeli police official. For over two years the federal government has investigated Rep. Grimm on campaign charges all the while additional accusations appeared about other acts of questionable behavior, dealings, and associations.

Finally, in late April after all this time, Rep. Grimm was indicted on 20 counts including perjury, obstruction of justice, and tax evasion revolving around a health food restaurant he had prior to his congressional career. Essentially he is accused of paying workers in cash to circumvent several taxes, of actually planning this and using managers to assist him, of hiring undocumented workers, and of lying to federal agents when questioned. I must ask though, where are the charges in connection to the accusations that were originally levied against him?

I’m sorry, but as much as I dislike him, I feel unsatisfied with these charges and actually begin to feel that certain figures decided to launch a quest to destroy Rep. Grimm no matter what. If he is found guilty which I personally would not doubt for a second, then he must pay the price. But what he is accused of can probably be charged against a great many of restaurant owners in New York City; hiring undocumented workers, paying off the books to avoid taxes. That in no way makes it right but over 2 years were spent and who knows what sums of money spent in investigating something that leads to this. Furthermore, Rep. Grimm was indicted just after the deadline for replacing him on the ballot, greatly limiting the chances to replace him if his reelection campaign spirals out of control or he is found guilty.

Rep. Grimm is the only GOP representative in New York City, is an incredible fundraiser, and in his last election, faced an impotent Democratic challenger. The left wants this seat and in so much, there is the chance that certain prosecutors and investigators may’ve been overzealous in going after Grimm. There is also the chance that the feds know Grimm is guilty of what he was originally accused of and have more than enough evidence but dug so deep so as to indict him on something that wouldn’t come back to them. Rep. Grimm is a former FBI agent who had an interesting and storied career but who also left before retirement, some say “escorted out.”

Whatever the case, Rep. Grimm has been accused of campaign finance scandals, indecent sexual acts, mob ties, blackmail, embezzlement, and was taped verbally threatening the physical well being of a reporter. After over two years of investigation he is indicted on charges that are in no way rare in New York City and not connected to campaign finance. I’m sorry, there is more to this story and if Rep. Grimm is to go down, I hope it is not due to these charges but what his opponents originally levied against him.

Friday morning, embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced she would step down from her post. In response President Obama lauded her accomplishments and claimed due to her work with the ACA, she’s earned the right to retire. Hmm, in the private sector she would’ve been canned months ago.

True Sebelius has done some beneficial things in the healthcare field but her tenure as HHS Secretary will be remembered for one thing, the botched rollout of the ACA. Now she did lead up the roll out of the ACA and oversaw it so one can say the blame for its numerous problems can be placed squarely on her shoulders. I for one disagree to a point on that. The blame should be shared by those subordinates who failed to fulfill their duties, her for failing to run a tighter ship, and the President for failing to further reign in what is the hallmark of his administration.

Sebelius is credited with helping to rectify the problems initially encountered with Healthcare.gov but the problems initially faced should never have been of the magnitude they were. It is unfathomable how the ACA, a sweeping government program that is costing so much and effects so many can be so poorly implemented. I’m not even talking about the actual substance of the ACA which is another story, instead the actual public unveiling. If the government can’t even effectively unveil a series of websites and state exchanges for a program of such great importance and set to cost trillions, imagine how haphazard lesser programs are handled.

And then to hear the President go on about how he will miss her advice and friendship. Oh really. From summer 2010 to two months after the rollout of the ACA, November 2013, the two failed to meet even once for a one-on-one discussion according to the White House calendar. Now I understand when leaders place faith in people and leave them to their own devices. The problem though is this is not just some government program, it’s the Presidents hallmark law. Where was the interest? Furthermore, the President waits until two months after its initial roll out to have a personal meeting. Yes communication was had through different mediums but in all honesty, this required the down to earth discussions that can only be had, through one-on-one meetings.

Rightfully so, much blame has been and will continue to be placed on Sibelius for the disastrous roll out of the ACA. But remember one thing, just as much blame should be placed on her superior, the President for allowing this to happen. Instead of doing the right thing and listening to his advisors, he chose to keep her on so as to not have the Administration appear to be in the midst of a civil war. My memory of this debacle will not be of the mistakes of Sibelius but of the lack of leadership.

Earlier today I attended the launch of the new Asia Society Policy Institute in New York. Among its speakers were two ambassadors to the U.S., a former Pakistani Prime Minister, several prominent foreign affairs scholars and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Several things were mentioned that provoked further thought but most important was a statement by Kissinger that struck me. He said the power the U.S. had in the 20th century can’t be repeated in the 21st century. One need only look at a newspaper today to see how right he is.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the U.S. and its allies faced off against the USSR and it set of allies while the majority of the world’s nations tried to stay out of the fray. Today the world is different. We don’t have an “enemy” as we did in the Cold War. No foreign sovereign nation today poses an immediate existential threat to us. The lines are blurred thanks to globalization and economics and today an enemy on one issue is a friend on another. Truth be told, the Soviet Union wasn’t an economic threat but solely a military threat. Today though, we are facing countries that aren’t solely military threats but economic threats as well. But these same countries, such as China aren’t true enemies of the type we squared off against just two and a half decades ago.

Now this isn’t to say we are in the clear. The world is different today and we are moving from a unipolar to a multipolar world. No single country will be able to exercise the power the U.S. did in the world following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. True, the U.S. itself will never be able to replicate its 20th century power in this century. Though this doesn’t mean we should become a nonentity and it’s this that I fear we are moving towards under the current administration.
If you want to believe that the Bush Administration damaged our world reputation, fine. Understand though that the Obama Administration is damaging our actual power in the world. Opponents of Obama will cite “leading from behind” in Libya as an example but it shouldn’t be. That was a UN mandated operation that if anything provided our allies such as France with leadership and combat experience and training for their military forces. The U.S. had no reason to be the absolute leader in military operations against Libya as other nations were far more vocal about involvement than we were.

If you want to see the true examples of the damage done by this administration in the realm of foreign policy, then look no further than Syria and the Ukraine. A foreign policy which sets limits, dictates lines for action, and then fails to follow up on them is dangerous. What’s of greater concern is that events in these two countries occurred just months apart, long enough for the Administration to learn from its mistakes. Obviously it didn’t. In either situation, it’s debatable just what the U.S. would’ve been capable of doing. What isn’t debatable is that establishing foolish limits and consequences were set that failed to be acted upon.

Strong words don’t make a strong foreign policy unless others see a country act upon their words. In Syria, the world saw us fail to live up to our threats and we repeated the same mistake just a month ago. This Administration has showed the world the limits of American resolve. Behind our bluster is a country that is losing its weight in the world. The U.S. can’t return to its position of power it held at the end of the 20th century. The world has changed and not only is it impossible but for various reasons we shouldn’t and should embrace shared power. But in no way does that imply that we should willingly surrender what power and recognition we have due to an Administration whose foreign policy is naïve, toothless, and foolishly idealistic.

Liberal comedian Bill Maher’s “Flip a District” campaign is both questionable and possibly self-defeating. The recently announced “Flip a District” campaign to find the “worst representative in the country” has the ultimate goal of booting current representatives from office; to the benefit of the Democratic Party. I actually live in the district of one of the first announced representatives in his crosshairs, Rep. Michael Grimm (R, NY-11) whose district covers Staten Island and part of Brooklyn.

At least once a month Rep. Grimm finds himself in the middle of a scandal while he is consistently ranked as one of the three least conservative members of the House. I’m no fan of him but when juxtaposed with his opponent one must ask, does Maher care about representation of this district or is he solely concerned with getting Democrats elected no matter how awful they are. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.

If Maher’s goal is to attract increased national attention to the race then he has succeeded. But that is a double-edged sword. Sure Grimm’s opponent, former New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia will gain more attention and could see a bump in his campaign war chest. But by the very same measure, so will Grimm when national Republicans see his opponent. In fact, Grimm has recently been fundraising off of this, claiming that Maher is anti-Catholic and stands in contrast to traditional American values.

Within the district, I fail to see how the impact will be significant. Conservative Republicans who might otherwise have stayed home this year than vote for Grimm, might feel obligated now to come out and support him owing to Maher’s involvement and “meddling”. Maher isn’t just some random liberal comedian or commentator but instead a truly polarizing figure who detests anything right of center. The Grimm campaign can spin the race due to his involvement as a battle between a moderate and the ultra-left in a traditionally red district.

So Maher wants to replace a troubled Grimm with a candidate equally as troubled. A term-limited Recchia over the past year has sought to run for Brooklyn Borough President, and NYC Comptroller before finally deciding on running for the 11th congressional district seat. He has raised around $1 million over the past year despite lacking any clear, stated policy positions. His background is littered with questionable relationships to organizations, persons, and politicians who have come under the lens of investigative agencies. So far his campaign is nothing more than a rehash of DCCC talking points and labeling Grimm a Tea Party conservative which he isn’t. Concerning campaign strategy, he firmly believes that due to his Italian last name, all the Italian-Americans on the South Shore of Staten Island who traditionally vote Republican, will vote for him. Being of Italian ancestry, I must say I don’t take kindly to that at all and neither do others. This is the man that Maher wants to replace Grimm with?

For NY’s 11th CD, it is clear that Maher has no intention of getting a better candidate elected, rather just ousting a Republican regardless of the quality of the Democratic replacement. Truth be told, I’m not surprised.