When the Soviet Union retreated from Afghanistan in 1988-89, Putin was a local KGB spy-master in East Germany. He was a few short years from entering political life as the final tanks rolled across the bridge, driven out by the muhajideen. Some of these sworn rebels were from the Arab world rather than Afghanis, as in Osama bin Laden himself. And Afghanistan is overwhelmingly Sunni as well. Is Putin – who seems to have a deep-seated drive to resurrect Soviet influence – determined to somehow redeem Russia in Syria? And how will his nacent coalition of Iranian Quds Forces, al-Assad’s regime, and Russian military personnel and weapons influence the current civil war?
ISIL is Sunni. The Putin gang allies are Shia. Assad is an alawite – a Shia minority sect in a majority Sunni nation. This major Sunni-Shia division sits like a fatal fault line under the current bloodshed and displacement in Syria and its neighbors. And America’s role in Syria – made even more excruciatingly difficult by Obama’s indecision – is a choice between untrustworthy partners, ambitious rivals, and fanatical enemies. Russia has displaced America in Syria. Is there any other way to put it? It may be that Syria proves to be a curse upon Putin’s ambitions, but the Russian President does not have to worry about Congressional approval or polling to the extent that any U.S. Chief executive does. Putin is autocratic and astonishingly popular in his home country. They have their czar and he will be as unscrupulous and ruthless as necessary in order to stake his claim to the Middle East, in a way not even the Soviets did.
Yes, there are political, secular goals at work. And what better strategy than to use the Sunni-Shia divide to gain greater control? But to state that Sunni-Shia conflicts are merely geo-political under the guise of conflicting branches of belief is to be nostalgic for the Cold War era. The era of conservative regimes like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan backed by the West against revolutionary Middle Eastern regimes backed by the Soviets has long since given way to atavistic and increasingly primitive sects using atrocity as a strategy as much as a tactic. The Iranian revolution opened the gates of hell for much of the Middle East and they remain wide open, three decades later and counting.
What, in this hell, can Obama do? To who, in this burning landscape, can he turn to? Not as towards an unwelcome partner whom one cannot trust, but as to an ally? The answer is clear. The tactics will have to be worked out quickly and carefully – an impossible balance. Who knows more about the Middle East than any other first-world democracy? More than America itself? It is time for Obama to repair the relationship with Israel. He may be incapable of doing so. But it must be done.
The First Lady, Michelle Obama, gave the commencement speech at Tuskegee University, and the speech centered on race and the obstacles she faced being African American. Tuskegee University is a historically and predominantly African American student body, so she was making an attempt to speak to her listeners.
However, somewhere lost in translation was the final message. She discusses all of the feelings and obstacles she face before becoming the First Lady living in the White House, but never addressed this is how we’ve overcome, corrected injustices, evolved and this can happen to you. The speech just took on a seemingly angry tone about race, the quite frankly is not more fuel we needed added to the critical status of racism in our nation at the moment. It just didn’t seem to connect, and it’s unfortunate. Rather than encouraging and believing in the future and hope of humanity, there was a lack of connecting the dots in that area.
It goes back to the Zimmerman trial when after the verdict President Obama said in his reaction, “Trayvon Martin could have been me.” It’s somewhat of a reverse form of racism because they think they’re relating to African Americans because they’re black. Isn’t that racism? Yet, their lives and circumstances are often very different than most of the people they’re talking to regardless of their race.
Perhaps in the near future historians will compare Obama’s years to Jimmy Carter’s. Both inherited an economy that had been wracked by a crisis, and while the oil embargo of the 70’s may not have been quite as severe a crisis as the financial meltdown of 2008, the effect of the embargo on unemployment and inflation were even worse than the unemployment numbers in this slow grind out of the great recession. And inflation, for now, is very subdued, unlike in the late 70’s. Perhaps, then, Obama has had it easier than Carter in terms of the economy, but there is at least one big difference between these Obama years and the Carter years. It’s called Senator Ted Kennedy.
How badly the malevolently ambitious Massachusetts senator screwed over Carter’s presidency is a matter of debate, but it is not an inconsequential thing. He undermined the president at every opportunity, especially in foreign policy. His secret kissing up to the Soviets – yes it was Carter that planted a wet one on Brezhnev’s cheek – in cloaked communications with Moscow betrayed a posture even more progressive and pacifist than Carter’s. One shudders to think what the 80’s would have been like had Ted Kennedy won the nomination and, God forbid, the elections in 1980. He didn’t and Reagan changed the world in a few years.
Unlike Carter, Obama has no bogeyman lurking in the senate to blame for his foreign policy. But there is something else that separates him from Jimmy Carter. Obama isn’t a dove, he’s an internationalist who wants to reposition America on the world stage. Over there towards the left-hand-side exit a little more please. And his policies come straight from the White House, and his close circle of advisors like Samantha Power. Obama does not hold a naive view of Islamic radicalism. He grew up with Islam, albeit as a Christian, but one with as many Muslim roots as Christian ones. He knows and understands Islam. So his appeasement of Iran, for example, cannot be blamed on a scheming senator or a naive world view. His is a militant view as well, forged in the politically correct halls of progressive academia. And his attempts at a crisp no-nonsense midwest persona when justifying his foreign policy, betray a deep ambivalence on his part regarding not just America’s role in the world; but America’s identity itself. No, Obama is no Jimmy Carter.
It’s not just Ted Kennedy, but the Kennedys just don’t have the best run of luck, or it could also be karma. However, the fact that President Obama is speaking in Ted Kennedy’s honor at Edward M. Kennedy Institute makes for a lot of distasteful humor because of one not-so-tiny, but selectively forgotten by Democrats and that is the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.
Ted Kennedy was driving the vehicle and Mary Jo was the passenger when it drove over a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island, and controversy has ensued every since then because Ted Kennedy didn’t report it for many hours later and somehow walked away without any responsibility and became a Senator for decades and now our President is singing his praises.
Obama said at the EMK Institute, “What if we carried ourselves more like Ted Kennedy?” Well, I bet a lot of criminals wish they carried themselves more like Ted Kennedy. Vice President Joe Biden said, “He was an anchor for many of us in our personal lives.” Oh the irony… Ted Kennedy’s Oldsmobile was also the anchor to Mary Jo Kopechne’s life.
You have to question the integrity and ethics of a person who praises and applauds a tainted character like Ted Kennedy. In the wise words of Dennis Miller, “If Ted Kennedy is such a gentleman, why does it take him nine hours to open a car door for a lady?” Now that would have been more of a truth for the President to say.
Nothing is a surprise anymore. There should no longer be any question about the celebrity attention President Obama seeks. Last night, the Celebrity in Chief appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and participated in a celebrity segment called “Mean Tweets.” According to ABC, ” It’s important to remember that Presidents are people too. From time to time, Jimmy Kimmel gives celebrities a chance to read some of the mean things people tweet about them. And tonight, he extended that same courtesy to our Commander in Chief. ”
It’s about time liberal media addressed the celebrity that is our President. You can watch the video to see the President preparing for his acting career in Hollywood at the end of his presidency. We have a President that turns America’s gripes into comedy, which is more insulting to viewers than humorous. Enough is enough.
There is one nefarious consequence of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare to most, that is not mentioned as much as it should be: the damage to eyesight to anyone actually trying to read even a small portion of the act. For example, consider one relatively modest item under the act; reforms to the Medicare payment system. This entails moving from a fee-for-service reimbursement scheme to a bundled-payments reimbursement scheme. While fee-for-service is reasonably self-explanatory, try wrapping your head around the tantalizing concept of a bundled payment reimbursement scheme: the reimbursement of health-care providers on the basis of expected costs for clinically-defined episodes of care. Essentially, it is a middle ground between fee-for-service and lump-sum payments per patient treated. And those clinically defined episodes of care are usually complex and expensive procedures like heart surgery, obviously important in age-based schemes like Medicare.
The concept started in Texas apparently back in the mid 80’s and various projects since that time claim to have saved HMO’s money, did not cost hospitals money, and paid the surgeon and his or her crew, if you will, additional money. The question is, where did the savings come from? Or more precisely, who lost out on some of that cash? Into whose pocket were those systematic inefficiencies going that bundled payments miraculously moved to all the good guys? Did the insurance companies lose out? Between private insurance, HMO’s, PPO’s, specialists and staff, and patients themselves, not to forget attorneys and their litigation, the collection of players – each with their own strategies and often conflicting goals around literally life and death situations – means healthcare’s complexity is overwhelming and continually increasing. Oh, and that additional player not listed just now, the government. Imposing regulations, handing out subsidies to level a playing field that’s really a dense thicket of data, policy and regulations, and opinions.
Behind all this lurks the economic concept of pooling: Based on your predisposition to certain illnesses as well as your age and other health factors, an insurance company may price your risk and associated payments beyond any reasonable capability for you to pay. The opposing concept is moral hazard and the risk that people will take advantage of any subsidies and demand unnecessary treatments. And any trade-off between these two is essentially a political choice, aside from any real inefficiencies that are actually weeded out by, in this case, a bundled payments system. However, there is a third factor and that’s the ever-expanding technologies, including prescription drugs, that are coming on the market. On the market, meaning the billions, or trillions, spent on R&D have to be recouped. Does this factor get gamed as well? Undoubtedly, but making sure all have fair, (not even Obama’s policy advisers are quite going as far as suggesting equal, as of yet at least), access to healthcare still hits the wall of having to pay for the subsidies both to patients and sometimes to providers and others.
And that means asking how much bang for the buck is Obamacare producing? The CBO projects that over the next decade, Obamacare will increase insurance coverage by a net of around 27 million patients. The cost is projected to be around $ 2 trillion in total for the same time period. That’s slightly more than $74,000 per added patient over a decade. That’s a 2015 Ford F series truck plus a slightly used Toyota Corolla. Or a very nice downpayment on most homes between California and New York City. A not insubstantial amount. Is it worth it? For some, clearly yes. For others, it’s a further invasion of big government in their lives, whether they actually are forced to enter the scheme or merely have to pay for it through their taxes. And remember, we’re talking about a government office estimate. It could be better, or it could be a whole lot worse in 2025.
Keystone is alive and well, but not in Louisiana. What was voted down in the Senate is Keystone XL, an extension to an already existing pipeline system that runs all the way down to Houston (or will by next year). Senator Landrieu was given the dubious favor by Harry Reid of having a vote in the Senate on Keystone XL, her last gasp attempt to convince voters in her state that she holds a certain amount of leverage in the upper chamber. With the runoff elections coming up soon, she now has this defeat hanging heavy over her and voters may well decide that despite her support for the energy industry, it would be far better for Louisiana to have a GOP senator advocating their interests in Washington. Obama gets a free pass, for now, on having to veto legislation giving the go ahead to Keystone XL. Rumor has it that Barak is no fan of Mary, her tactics to try and get a favorable ruling having angered the White House and ultimately backfired.
If you ask Bill Cassidy, the GOP Representative for Baton Rouge who will face Landrieu on Dec. 6, he’ll say she’s on the wrong team. He would know. The Chicago-born physician was a Democrat and actually supported Landrieu in 2002. He switched teams when the bureaucracy of the public health care system drove him to the view that big government was not the solution. And he’s backed up that change of heart with real action on the ground providing health care to the needy in his state in admirable and innovative grass roots projects. He of course, should he win and the odds look pretty good, will have a seat on the Senate Energy Committee in a GOP controlled Senate. And he will be part of a GOP majority that will re-introduce Keystone XL and force Obama to approve it or veto it. Rather than having Landrieu desperately trying to line up support for the measure among her colleagues, there will be one more GOP senate seat in an increasingly solid majority determined to re-introduce the bill. That’s a bet that Louisiana voters, whose jobs, in large part, depend on a thriving energy sector and an extended Keystone pipeline, seem to be increasingly willing to take.
In an unusual display, the undeniably talented cast of Saturday Night Live performed a monologue slamming President Obama and his
lack of handling of the current ebola crisis. We’ve seen SNL poke fun at politicians for ages, but this really seems like the first time to actually bash the president. The second half of the video mocks the newly appointed Ebola Czar, Ron Kain. Again, SNL got it right this week. Check out the video.
It’s hard to think of an appropriate sports metaphor to extend that of the NY Times headlines that basically stated that the Democrats have benched Obama, and turned to Hillary as the effective leader of their party. After all, she was precisely that – or more specifically the Clintons had been since 1992 – until Obama suddenly upstaged her in 2007 – 2008. Former star rookie replaced by former Coach’s wife? The left has no one left to turn to but Hillary. Her voting record as senator suggests she is a somewhat hawkish liberal, but who else can they turn to? Perhaps Elizabeth Warren, and stories have circulated in the last few months that Obama himself might consider backing the senior Senator from Massachusetts, as he feels she would be more activist and left-leaning and Hillary more of a pragmatic centrist. But given the president’s isolation, (one wonders if he actually wandered over to the bench himself, or up into the stands, or out into the parking lot, rather than being benched by his party), will Obama’s possible support of an Elizabeth Warren run for president make much of a difference? It certainly wouldn’t unite his own party, and would be one more barb between himself and the Clintons.
Time will tell on that one, but Obama’s isolation seems to be growing by the day. Whether he has the inclination to attempt to recognize and fix some of the shortcomings of his administration is a question for Hillary’s team who have to somehow rescue their party’s legacy before November, 2016. But then again, Obama’s isolation can be seen directly as a product of the Clinton’s return to center-stage politics and they seem to be not at all unhappy – to not say joyful – about the President’s sorry state in the polls. One nasty night in November in a few weeks, and then the Dems can really start cleaning house and prepare the way for the returning royalty. They seem certain that they – Hillary and Bill we have to start saying now – can regain the balance and drive the party completely lacks and whip things into shape. The GOP, once they have counted up their seats in the Senate, will need to move with purpose and ideas to make sure Hill & Bill don’t make hay by dancing on a sitting president’s grave come this November.
As a recent Gallup poll demonstrates, voter opposition to Obama is at a 16 year high, when comparing those who want to send a message opposing the president at 32%, against those who wished to send a message of support, at 20%. That’s noticably worse than what Clinton faced in 98 in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. So in a perverse sort of logic, we now have Clinton working the stumps in Arkansas to desperately separate Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor from the president. Unfortunately for Pryor, his Republican challenger Tom Cotton has managed to use Pryor’s voting record – he voted 93% of the time with the Obama’s proposals according to Cotton – to keep precious little daylight between the sitting Arkansas senator and Obama. In Arkansas, Obama’s job approval rating is at 31% with a disapproval rating of 62%. While the race for senator in Arkansas is reasonably close, Cotton is clearly ahead in a majority of the polls and seems to have numbers that are very solid and are holding up well in the final weeks leading up to November. By using Pryor’s voting record as a proxy for the Democratic senator’s approval of the job Obama is doing, he has forged an effective rhetorical weapon that he uses every time he hits the stage during the final run of his campaign to unseat Pryor. In a state with a 31% approval rating, where in the world can you find someone who gives Obama a 93% approval rating? That’s how Cotton starts off most speeches and it certainly seems to play very well in Arkansas.
Mark Pryor is, of course, the son of former Arkansas Governor and U.S. Senator David Hampton Pryor, who served in the US Senate from 1979 until 1997. He is currently considered one of the more vulnerable candidates in the upcoming elections and maybe Arkansas is more than ready for a change. Tom Cotton, the son of Vietnam veteran, and a veteran himself with several decorated tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, is also a Harvard educated lawyer. To say he is an achiever is an understatement. With Tea Party ties and also the support of John McCain as well as Mitt Romney, he has built up solid relations within the GOP within a relatively short time. His famous letter – it was an email in fact, sent by the young lieutenant – to the NY Times, calling for charges of treason to be laid against reporters that revealed key details of a secret program against terrorist financial backers, has been used against him when he first ran for a House seat in 2010. It did not work, and despite the discomfort certain defenders of the 1st amendment might feel, it was a legitimate criticism of an editorial decision that likely ended up compromising the program itself, and costing lives. Lives like those of the soldiers under Tom Cotton’s command. What he wrote in that email is what many felt at the time, whether a majority or not. It was a bold and risky, even intemperate act to send that email, and it shows something about who Tom Cotton is. We will likely be finding out a lot more about who Tom Cotton is and what he believes over the following years.
With a jacket in one had and a cup of coffee in the other, President Obama disembarked Marine One, and raised his cup-o-joe to the saluting Marine. A pitiful display of our Commander in Chief. No, he never served in the military, but he is the Commander in Chief who is the leader of our military, and they deserve more respect than that. The behavior displays a lack of respect to his position as POTUS, so how are people supposed to respect his position when he doesn’t even show respect for it?
The White House shared a video of the moment as Obama was returning from a United Nations meeting in regards to Climate Change and airstrikes in Syria. Is it proper respect and etiquette for the President to salute? Yes. However, in this case he would’ve been better off not saluting at all. This isn’t something that politically biased to a party, or something dems will accuse FOX news for blowing out of proportion. Democrats, Republicans and others just aren’t impressed with this display. Bottom line, the President should be ashamed.
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.
Rates are going up for Obamacare. What a surprise. The Affordable Care Act has as its goals, increasing coverage, reducing costs, improving affordability, and increasing the quality of healthcare. This is an absurd mixture of conflicting goals; but you can’t say that because it’s health care. Even under the – somewhat – more efficient system of private insurance, these goals imply trade-offs. There is no way around this fact in the real world. No amount of intelligent organization – leaving aside the fact that the ACA is less of an improvement and more of an added layer of bureaucratic complexity – can erase this trade-off. How can you possibly increase the quality of healthcare for millions of Americans and not pay for it? How can you increase coverage for patients who either couldn’t afford or were seen as high risk by insurers and not have rate increases to cover at least some of the added cost?
Well you do it by a delicate balancing act that inevitably ends up landing on its backside. The two forces at work here, in economic terms, are pooling and moral hazard. At one end of the spectrum, with a free market solution, insurers are drawn to pooling as the more profitable strategy: lower-risk, healthier patients are accepted while higher risk patients are either not accepted or must pay much higher rates. Moral hazard in this case is very low; patients will not over consume health care services and clog the system. At the other end you have a single payer system that funtions with rationing; you need a hip replacement? WeÂ´ll wait a few years and see if you die first to save on costs. There is little pooling, everyone is in the same state-run boat and have to wait their turn to one day hopefully get the treatment they need. Except government officials of course, who seem to get prompt attention under any system. Moral hazard, the wasteful use of resources because there are no disincentives against wasteful or risky behavior, is very high in this case.
Most health care systems in the developed world are some mixture of these two. That means trade-offs, and managing those trade-offs to produce the result aimed for is no easy matter. In the case of Obamacare, patients are passive recipients. In free market solutions, like those proposed by Dr. Ben Carson, patients can take charge of their health the same way people have learned to do with their retirement savings. It still leaves the problem of catastrophe insurance – a bad accident, a fatal disease – and that is where state subsidies should really focus. But when you launch a boat as big as Obamacare, added decks inevitably get built. The result is titanic, but rather than an iceberg that will sink you in the blink of an eye, what you get is a slowly sinking ship that has to bailed out – both by taxpayers and Obamacare users themselves. Rates are going up? No kidding.
House Republicans want to ensure that the $3.7 billion package that is being requested by President Obama to deal with the border crisis is focused on border security measures and does not end up being a blank check that can be spent on anything from daycare for recently arrived illegal minors to the construction of lavish detention centers where the minors would be cared for before being placed with their supposed families in the US. Their counter proposal could theorectically be married with the original legislation that was supposed to deal with sex-trafficking of minors, and ended up having, as they say, unintended consequences. Will the House and Obama be able to agree on some sort of package?
A study by MacGillivray and Smith at NYU on agent-specific punishments examines how conditional punishment strategies make cooperation between states possible. In other words, if America conditions its punishment of a rougue state on that state removing its leader, it incentivizes the rouge state to replace its leader and change its policies. It depends on the long-term gains of cooperating outweighing the short-term benefits of exploiting the partner, i.e. America. The problem with the border crisis is how to decide who is the agent that you should direct your punishment against. Is it the government of Mexico, or El Salvador, or Guatemala, or Honduras? Is it the smugglers, of people, drugs, or weapons, that work the southern border? Or is the agent, if you are a member of the House majority, the administration and its various departments?
To expect cooperation from Mexico or any Central American state on controlling illegal immigration is a non-starter. They conveniently define away illegal immigration as undocumented workers and they tout the rights they should have. That leaves two possible agents: the smugglers, or the administration itself. In this case, maybe House Republicans are already following a conditional-punishment strategy on both levels. Beefing up border security means getting serious with the coyotes that run people, narcotics, and weapons over the border. Withholding approval of the emergency package means letting Obama know that the House wants to be sure the money will be spent on things that solve the crisis and don’t encourage further illegal minors to try their luck at the border. The House should use it’s financial levers to ensure this package helps and does not make things worse. If that involves sending clear messages about consequences to the White House, all the better.
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.
Alfonso Aguilar, ex Chief of US Office of Citizenship under George W. Bush, has criticized President Obama’s unwillingness to explain his deportation numbers, which are robustly high according to the Administration, That is, when Obama is speaking to a more conservative audience. What the President doesn’t do is explain the deportations to a Democratic, read Hispanic, audience. Aguilar is executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, launched in 2010 by the American Principles Project and focused on developing conservative grass roots movements in the Hispanic community. They have a five part immigration strategy: strengthening border security, a guest worker program that is generous, the promotion of patriotic assimilation, giving priority to criminal cases in domestic enforcement, and legalizing illegal immigrants but with a penalty attached rather than out and out amnesty. That’s an impressive agenda, and it throws up some interesting ideas but one of the main problems is where do you start? Which one comes first or do you try all 5 at once?
This is no easy matter, nor should it be. The aim of their reform has to be stemming the flow of illegals across the border and it makes sense to have a multi-pronged attack that makes it tougher to sneak across the border and lowers incentives to do so illegally. Tighter border security is obvious but how to spend an increased budget to get that done is key. A guest worker program depends on what business needs and wants but it also should depend on what registered voters want. How generous should it be while still claiming to be conservative? Patriotic assimilation seems tautological; shouldn’t all assimilation produce patriots who love the country they have chosen to move to? Whatever their creed or ideology? Well no, but that unfortunately is for another topic. Giving police the resources, legal as well as material, to pursue criminals who cross the border seems painfully obvious, but again necessary to state explicitly in these times. Legalizing with a penalty seems a tricky balance to achieve in practice but is far better than outright amnesty.
So Aguilar’s group has a plan that may help but implementing it will be difficult and most difficult of all, just like the difficulties the President is avoiding, will be convincing conservatives and Hispanics that it is a worthwhile solution in the quest for immigration reform. Let’s hope that the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles continues to make the hard choices when speaking to their own community.
You can’t help but come away energized after listening to Ben Carson. Energized, not necessarily empowered. His clear and convincing proposal to provide an alternative to Obama’s healthcare plan starts with Health Care Savings Accounts, HSA’s, and makes us realize that the viewer can control his or her medical care to a much greater extent than many think possible. By providing that crucial supplement to a High-Deductible Health Plan, or HDHP, an HSA gives the taxpayer control. Not big government, not big insurance. How much to set side, how and where to spend it: you decide that. You take it from job to job and you roll over any unused amounts at year end. Yes, health is unpredictable and serious illness can be very costly. That’s why HDHP plans exist to essentially provide catastrophic insurance and there are still government and other options to cover any expenses left over. We have accepted the change from defined benefit to defined contributions when it comes to pension plans. And despite a financial crisis and a long recession, that process continues. The problem of making an informed choice applies both in pension plans and HSA’s and likely overwhelms many. But ask yourself; do you want an insurance bureaucrat or government employee limiting your choices or do you want to educate yourself about the options and make a reasonably informed choice? That is taking charge, and that is energizing.
But not necessarily empowering. Where does the term empowering come from? It seems to have its birth in social activism of a century ago, and that means the hard left in most cases. The term was coined in a book by Barbara H (not Barbara Probst Solomon) Solomon, Black Empowerment, published in 1976. In other words, the term empowerment comes from various applications of marxist liberation theory and how it was applied to gender and race and sexual orientation and other groups by left wing radicals trying to find their place in the 70’s. The term appears here to stay as it is adopted in a wider variety of settings, among corporate stakeholders, to use one example. Dr. Ben Carson does not need reminding of any of this; he will surely use the term empowerment. When he does, it means something very different from radical sociologists trying to gain converts. Few of us can match the talents of a brilliant mind like his. But we can share his faith that each of us can work towards solving the challenges in our lives. Reading up a little on his site, SaveOurHealthcare.org is one good one way to start. Dr. Ben Carson, take back empowerment! For all of us.
The Senate’s quality of equal representation is a problem for President Obama. All the voters in New York and California, presumed liberal and Democrats in the majority by the frustrated Commander In Chief, only get two senators each. Just like Alaska or Wyoming, the latter state being the example Obama used at a fundraiser in Chicago this past week. Does the President feel that all that gridlock would magically unwind if Senate seats were apportioned by population, making the upper chamber more like the House of Representatives? One hopes his frustrations wouldn’t lead him that far, but it is clear that he is certainly not beyond criticising the Founding Fathers, and especially Roger Sherman, the man most responsible for the Connecticut or Great Compromise of 1787.
To resolve the split among states between the Virginia plan, which favored delegates based on a state’s population, and the New Jersey plan, which favored an equal number of delegates, the idea was arrived at to split what was to have been a single chamber into two houses. The lower chamber would have proportional representation and the upper, equal representation. The authors of this compromise were Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth. Roger Sherman’s life is not merely inspriing, it is astonishing. A self-taught man who established himself at a young age in commerce and local politics in Connecticut, he was asked to read for the bar exam and ended up as justice of the Superior Court of Connecticut from which he departed to join Congress. He is the only person to sign The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Association, The Articles of Confederation and The United States Constitution. He is,of course, a Founding Father and the internal checks and balances between the House of Representatives and the Senate are, in part, the work of his practicality and genius. The Constitution stands over two centuries later as a shimmering example of men like Roger Sherman and their genius, while other attempts at forging Democratic Representative Governments around the world have risen and fallen or collapsed before they could even get a good start.
Roger Sherman’s father, a parish minister whose personal library was the intellectual food for his son’s journey and who died long before he could witness his achievements, was educated at Harvard. Obama had to read some history while at Harvard we can presume. While complaining at that fundraiser in Chicago, perhaps he forgot Thomas Jeffreson’s famous words of introduction, ” This is Roger Sherman, of Connectict, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life.”
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.
Last week, Vice President Biden was talking tough in the Ukraine. He called on Russia to get the pro-Russian militias in East Ukraine to leave the buildings that they are occupying. Otherwise, Russia might find itself “isolated”. Is Putin shaking in his KGB boots? Hardly. When not making harsh statements about possible military action in the neighboring state, where Russian forces are already at work by all indications, he’s on the phone with President Obama. So as the VP gets as blunt as a European diplomat during the Balkans War, the President negotiates with Putin, or at least chats on the phone with him. In this political theatre — There are real deaths occurring in Donetsk as this theatre plays out — does anyone believe that Russia will adhere to the frayed, if not collapsed, Geneva Accord?
One is sorely tempted to ask: what would President Reagan have done? But perhaps we need to turn to another leader that Reagan surely admired. What would Churchill have done? What is happening in East Ukraine seems to resemble the late forties and the Soviet occupation of Europe, all over again. Donetsk is not Berlin or Prague, but it is a sovereign state under siege if not yet invasion by Russia, where Putin’s ambition to recreate some form of the Soviet Union if not the Warsaw Pact is fairly clear. By the late forties Churchill was out of power and had lost the battle with Roosevelt over whether to confront their former wartime ally. The Iron Curtain had fallen and Operation Unthinkable, the British code name for a planned war with the Soviets, had been shelved. It would have been costly in life and treasure and would have prolonged the war, but might have freed Eastern Europe from Soviet occupation. Does 2014 resemble 1946? That would be dramatic, but Europe’s willingness to stand up to Putin seems to depend on how much gas flows from East to West. In other words, no one wants to confront Putin. There is no Churchill, or Pope John Paul II, or Thatcher, and the best we can hope for is that the ties of commerce and trade that bind Russia with her neighbors to the West will ultimately force Putin and his wealthy backers to show some restraint. And for that, we have President Reagan to thank, who turned the world back towards freedom and achieved what most at the time had believed impossible: he took on the Soviets and won.