Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Tipping Point

What started out as food riots in Egypt have grown into an uprising against the 30 year reign of President Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian government has been an ally to the United States and a stabilizing force in this very volitile area. With the recent revolution in Tunisia, is Egypt the next domino to fall?

The Obama administration failed to capitalize on the popular uprising in Tunisia against strongman Zine al-Abadine Ben Ali. We sat on the sidelines while our President mulled over the situation. This sort of thing cannot happen in Egypt.

We have a choice here. We can live true to our ideals and support the pro-freedom citizens of Egypt, or we can support the Dictator Mubarak (sorry VP Biden, but he IS a dictator). Seems like a simple choice ... but not so fast.

This is a way too simplistic way of looking at things. Even as every fiber of my pro-democracy, freedom loving being screams to support the citizens ... I have to ask, "What's best for the USA?" The obvious answer is a free, democratic Egypt ... but is that what we will get? The best possible scenario is that we use our $1.3 billion in annual military aid as a bargaining chip to get the Egyptian military to support the citizens and establish a Democracy. The problems with this scenario are that we don't know for sure that such a government will last, and if it falls, what will take its' place. The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest opposition in Egypt ... and absolutely cannot be allowed to come to power. Also, what does turning on our ally (Mubarak) say to the other dictators in the region that we support (King Abdullah al-Saud in Saudi Arabia and King Abdullah II in Jordan). In a perfect world, all of our allies in the Mid-East would be peaceful democracies ... in reality there are only two democracies in the region, Israel and Iraq.

Our other option is to support Mubarak, and 82 year old despot that tortures his citizens, arrests and jails dissidents and acts very much like the Shah of Iran. The problem is, as vile as this evil man is ... he is not hostile to Israel, he helps to control the Gaza Strip, and he keeps the Suez Canal open. At 82, he won't last forever and while he has been grooming his son to take over as President, there is no way that the populace will allow his son to take over after Mubarak's death. Supporting Mubarak will also fuel anti-American hostility through-out the region. Our enemies will gladly use this to say, "see ... the Americans don't care about freedom". In 1979, the Carter Administration pulled the rug out from under the Shah of Iran ... and we all know how well that went. There is some evidence that the Carter Administration actually helped orchestrate the Shahs' downfall. I truly pray that the Obama Administration had nothing to do with this uprising in Egypt. I don't think the Nation could recover from the black eye that this would give us in the region.

Thankfully this decision is WAY above my pay grade. I just know that a decision MUST be made. It seems the Obama Administration is trying to take a middle of the road type policy on this one ... It's time for our President to show some leadership in international affairs. Keeping to the sidelines is a recipe for disaster.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wandering Thoughts

This week, as an homage to the tragedy in Scottsdale Arizona, Representative Mark Udall (D-CO) has proposed that Republicans and Democrats sit together during the State of the Union Address this year. My first reaction was to recall the famous Bill Murray quote from the movie Ghost Busters about the beginning of Armageddon with cats and dogs sitting together. What a dog and pony show! Then I began to ponder about it, in that annoying way that my mind works ... and ... low and behold ... I like the idea.

I started to wonder, why do our Representatives sit apart? Who came up with the idea of "opposite sides of the aisle? So, many google searches later, the nearest I could glean was the "tradition" of sitting on opposite sides of the aisle started around the time of Thomas Jefferson. He and John Adams may have been the first partisan warriors.

It would seem that a more natural divide would have our Representatives sitting with their state delegations ... much like in the presidential nominating conventions. Don't we send these people to Washington to represent us, the constituents? I don't think we send them there to represent the party.

Most Americans want our government to work to make OUR lives better ... and that is backed by the Constitution ... Pursuit of happiness and all that. How can we pursue our happiness when Washington keeps putting up road-blocks by catering to the special interests. A lot of rhetoric is put out there every election cycle about "the evil" special interests ... but as soon as the election is over, it's back to business as usual. The Democrats pander to the unions, environmentalists and the poor, while the Republicans pander to big business and the rich.

It's time our Representatives pander to US. Maybe that starts with bi-partisan seating ... maybe it IS just a dog and pony show ... but at least it won't add to the deficit.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Debt Ceiling and other Washington Chicanery

During the Holidays, the National Debt quietly creeped over 14 trillion dollars. Our current debt ceiling (the amount of money that the government is allowed to owe) is now $14.3 trillion. Very soon now, Congress will have to raise this limit or we as a nation will start to default on our debt ... or we will have to arbitrarily start to defund programs.

Some folks are against raising this ceiling, and if we have to default or cut programs ... so be it! I say ... raise the ceiling gradually. Each time the ceiling is raised, get some concessions from the White House. You want to raise it to $14.7 trillion ... let's cut 10% across the board on all discretionary spending. Later on, if you want to raise it to $15 trillion, another 10% and a balanced budget agreement. Conservatives only control the House, this is a way to leverage that control to get things that they normally can't get through.

Now how about this 2% payroll tax reduction that the President put into the tax bill for this year? I've wondered why he didn't just cut income tax by 2%, then I realized why. 48% of Americans don't pay any income tax at all ... cutting the income tax does nothing for them. Let's not forget ... when an illegal gains employment, he immediately fills out his W-2 form with Married 12 dependants ... the only taxes he pays are the social security taxes. The President was just looking out for his constituency. Now we all can see how serious this Administration is about the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund.

The Constitution was read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives last week. This might have been the first time that some of our law-makers have every read the Constitution in its entirety. I hope they were taking notes.

This coming week the House will vote on repealing Obama-Care. Some say that it is an exercise in futility ... some say it is a colossal waste of time. I don't know about you, but I will be very interested in which members vote against this bill. This will translate into my vote come next election day.

So much for my first rant of the New Year ... may God bless you and our country.

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