Thursday, August 11, 2011

If not now...when?

So, I have had several conversations lately with friends and family about the current state of the state. I have realized that ties to the traditional parties are very strong. Even to the educated or well informed. I have come to a few conclusions of my own...

I believe we have come to a point in this country where the political structure has, if not completely broken down,  reached the point of "when" not "if". We have reached a point where the government is completely out of touch with a majority of the population. It is impossible to make decisions in regards to the welfare and and best interests of a population you do not understand. Not only do they not understand, they do not care. They are to focused on scoring political points for their party to use in the next election  to make any kind of rational choices. But the politicians are not the only ones to blame here. They are the end point of a much larger problem. The huge private and corporate donors give money to the parties. The parties use that money to field candidates. Along with the fundraising the candidate does on his own. This automatically shapes a large part of the candidates priorities. Raise taxes? Lose party money. We all know that without money you cannot win an election. The parties are buying the candidate that will serve their purpose. This leaves little room for any creative problem solving or original thought. The result....GRIDLOCK. The system is broken.
Once the election cycle is over the real fun begins. Highlighted by the farcical debt crisis. We have reached a point where one side will automatically denounce or reject the others ideas just for the fact it came from the other side. There is no longer any room for compromise or debate. Small radical factions of parties have managed to dictate to the rest what will be the message. They have no interest in what anyone else has to say, let alone the people of this country that put them there.
The people that put them there...let's talk about the voting public for a second. First, only a little more than half of us take the time to vote in presidential elections. But that is not the real problem. Most of the that 50 percent are so biased toward one party or another, they walk into the booth and vote straight down the left or straight down the right. I would say these people are at least aware of politics going on around them but would never dare speak against their party of choice at all costs. The most disgusting are the ones that watch FOX news every evening taking in whatever tripe is being served. As with the ones that will only watch CNN or MSNBC (all two of you MSNBC fans out there :-)) That leaves a small percentage of that original 50 that actually take the time to to think about what they are doing. But it really doesn't matter, the numbers are to small. Sounds like a hopeless situation.
There is hope! On September 24th and 25th at Harvard Law School, A Conference on the Constitutional Convention will take place.  Here is an excerp from the site.

From the Right and the Left, citizens are increasingly coming to recognize that our Republic does not work as our Framers intended. Reform of any kind is stalled by a status quo that profits from blocking change. No side in the political debate benefits from this inertia.

The Framers created a method for escaping from captured government—an Article V Constitutional Convention. If two-thirds of the states pass resolutions calling for a convention, then all sides will have the opportunity to argue for the changes they believe will restore our Republic. Any amendment proposed must then be ratified by three fourths of the states to become law.

It is time, we must do something to restore some sanity in our government. This event will be debated and discussed by people who care about this country and not their own re election. Who want to see government work towards the betterment of this great nation not just the betterment of their bank accounts. Who are not to donors, parties, or special interest groups but only beholden to their own ideals and a hope that we can save our country from ruin. 

See you in Boston.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Najib Mikati- March 8th- STL-New Cabinet

I cannot help but get the feeling things are coming to a head in Beirut these days. It would only seem fitting that as soon as a cabinet is formed, as questionable as it may be, that something would come along and blow any progress all to hell.  Prime Minister Najib Mikati came out with statements proclaiming Lebanon's respect for UN resolutions and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. This must have been a wee bit painful for certain  parties to hear. Even if it is just lip service.

I do not think anyone is kidding themselves and thinks there will be no unrest when the STL comes out. Whenever that could very well be within the next month. I almost feel silly making that last statement consider the delays already put on by the tribunal. But the relative progress gives me more reason than anything other development to think it just may be handed down. That, in itself, is testament to how things work in Lebanon.

So we have mentioned Mikati, March 8th, and the new cabinet.....what is missing...ahh the other Hariri. Saad that is. He has been nearly invisible in the past few months. I think he is simply waiting for the STL to release it's fury in Beirut. He may be simply trying to stay alive to see the STL come out. If he can muster just an ounce of the passion he put into his speech February 14th....well who knows. Maybe it is due to my not residing in Lebanon but I view Hariri the younger to have truly honorable intentions in regard to the people of Lebanon. Naive? Maybe, but sometimes viewing things from the outside looking in gives a unique perspective.

It is with my most heartfelt sincerity and hope I say what I say. In the end I only want the people of Lebanon to win. Not one party or sect or politician. I say this with the people I care about in Beirut and the acquaintances I have come across in the foremost of my mind.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama Bin Laden and Beyond

I had a somewhat more reserved reaction to the death of the number one terrorist in the entire world. At least compared to my co workers and most of my family. I think it was mostly because I tend to follow matters such as these closer than most of the people mentioned above. I would agree with a lot of the talking heads that his death was mostly symbolic, all be it a very strong statement that will anger and upset a lot extremist around the world. Some will no doubt get to work wanting to avenge the death of their dear figure head.
My attention was more focused on the reaction not at home in the states, but more importantly in the near and middle east. I turned to my middle eastern friends and contacts to carefully dissect what was being said. As it turns out, the thoughts and opinions did not take any careful thought or consideration. They were extremely well stated and very clear.  There was a very marked difference in the tone ans overall message of the response. I will generalize the two.

The private citizen response went like this: We are glad Bin Laden is dead. He was a horrible person that murdered 3000 innocent people. The US has been obsessed with finding him, sending thousands of service men to our country as well as launching drone attacks at will that sometimes resulted in our our own innocent people dying. We are tired of living in fear in our own homes for something none of us did. So the real question is, now that he is gone...does this mean the US military will be on their way out? We all hope so. We are tired and war weary.

The talking heads in the middle east went more like this:  Congratulations to the US government for finally getting Bin Laden. He was a horrible person that murdered 3000 innocent people. We understand your obsession and even the decision to send thousands of your servicemen to our country(s) in search of him. Although we are sad to see and condemn more innocent people dying in the name of your search, we will tolerate your presence. Especially if it means the flow of millions of dollars in aid to our country. Please do not think the killing of one man means you are done here, if you leave we are fearful that our country will fall into civil war.  Plus we are pretty sure the money will stop.

Of course these statements are extremely general. So if you find yourself in one of these categories and do not agree, no harm intended. They are simply my unscientific observations from the many responses I read. I believe these general statements are the sort of thing causing general frustration here in the US. I believe this is especially true in the largest demographic here in the US. The die hard FOX news watcher and the die hard CNN/MSNBC news watcher.

The ardent CNN/MSNBC fan reads or hears the middle eastern talking head and takes offense. This mostly because these viewers have been calling for a withdraw and end to the wars for years now.

The steadfast FOX news viewer reads or hears the average citizen response and is highly offended that anyone would hold anything less than undying gratitude to the country (USA) that came to their aid in such a time of need.

This rather large gap in opinion puts the US government in a very tough spot. It is so split and the feelings run so high on this issue, it really cannot make the right choice. This is where we stand. I believe the US needs to make take a stand one way or another. Either go all in or all out. I am convinced that straddling the fence will not solve the problem but make this horrible chapter in our history stretch beyond what any of us can imagine.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oversimplification of Wealth Distribution

Since the election of Mr.Obama there has been a lot of talk of income redistribution. I think a better way to frame the conversation is to talk about the issue of income distribution. I decided to write about this because I have been seeing an increase of the conservatives making the same old statements. Let me go ahead and throw a few out there.

"What incentive is there to work hard if my money is going to be taken away and given to others?"

"Well, I'll just quit working and let others pay for me if we are going to redistribute wealth."

"Why should rich and successful people be punished for making a lot of money?"

These are just a few of my favorites. I'm sure a quick google search would reveal a few more gems. Ok, here is the problem with statements such as these. They are a gross oversimplification of the issue. 

Nobody and I say NOBODY that supports income distribution is under the allusion that there will be people sitting around raking in the cash of others and not lifting a finger. That is just silly. Because that would not give anybody an incentive to work and be productive. Nobody and I say NOBODY that supports income distribution sees it as an alternative to working and making a living. That is just silly. Lastly, nobody that supports income distribution sees it as any kind of retribution or punishment to people making a lot of money. So in order to have a grown up discussion on a complicated issue can we please stop with statements such as referenced above?

**Just a quick disclaimer, this is only one opinion of what benefits income redistribution would have. There are many schools of thought on the subject. Remember this is a complicated grown up issue.** 

Most of us get up everyday and go to work to feed and support either ourselves or our families. Due to a myriad of circumstances and life events we all earn on different levels. We all have differing levels of education and aptitude. Some make incredible salaries and even fewer still bring in incredible amounts of money all by themselves (entrpenures, sports figures, entertainers, ect.)

Now, the idea is that the top income brackets (this is where there is an obvious bone of contention) contributed a percentage to help the people in the lower income brackets. This does not mean the lower brackets actually get cash payments from anybody. The money could be used in many different way to aid these people. Services such as reducing the cost of higher education or technical training. Programs to teach effective money management and so on and so on. The top helps the middle and the top and the middle help the bottom, by a sliding percentage. By no stretch of the imagination does this even come close to meaning that EVERYBODY gets the same amount of money at the end of the day. There will always be have and have nots. The idea is closing the gab between the two for the overall betterment of society.

I feel like our society has went away from giving two cents about where we are going as a nation and a society. That we are more concerned about only ourselves and have lost the notion that our country can only be strong if we are in this together. I fear we are not...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Breaking News: U.S. wants to pretect it's interests

I have seen many news articles and Twitter posts recently slamming the US for acting in Libya to protect its interests...namely the oil fields. Well...pardon my language but, no shit Sherlock.

I know it is cool and the "in" thing to bash the United States at every turn. But to slam them for acting in Libya is just plain dumb. Yes, the US is in a precarious spot concerning all the Arab activity in the past few months. Yes, it is largely no fault but our own. But to slam a country for protecting their own interests makes no sense to me. That is the primary responsibility of a state. Off the top of my head I would say that responsibility goes like this: Safety and security of it's citizens, to provide opportunity and financial prosperity (you know, things like oil) Then somewhere down the line is providing international support for struggling countries. Let's not forget the billions of dollars that the US government spends around the world. Not even counting the millions if not billions that US non-profits and citizens (Bill Gates) spends around the world helping people. We are not ALL bad.

So, I understand we are an easy target to slam for anything and everything we do. Especially because you are almost guaranteed to face no opposition to whatever statement you make. Can we please keep it rational. I know it is asking a lot, but maybe even give credit where credit is due...once or twice.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The sanctions on Libya?

It looks like the U.S. is set to impose some economic sanctions on Libya. From what I have read they include Gadhafi and his four children. I suppose it is something, but who are we kidding. As crazy as he may be, I'm sure he has found a way to hide most of his loot. We have to remember Gadhafi has been at this for a long time. I can only assume these sanctions were put in place for a couple reasons. First, to show the U.S. is doing SOMETHING. Two, because we also know it will really not do much.

So while this is going on:

I guess they can take comfort in knowing we have frozen his assets...

My only guess to the way the U.S. has reacted to the situation is it feels the people are doing a pretty good job on their own. The less the U.S. has to get involved the better. Seeing what a rock and a hard place it finds itself these days concerning the ongoing popular revolutions. After having backed these horrible rulers for so long, the hypocrisy is the 900 pound gorilla sitting in the room.

Even with the horror that has already taken place in Tripoli and Benghazi, the United States worst nightmare is if Gadhafi takes this to the next level and starts mowing down row after row of protesters. Something he has already vowed to do.

God be with these people while they fight for their freedom. As the most powerful nation in the world sits by freezing bank accounts. Not because they cannot do anything, but because they are the ones who has kept the murderer in place for years and does not want to lose any more face.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The disconnect

With the remarkable events that transpired in Egypt and the ongoing protest in Iran and other places I am struck by the anti American sentiment that seems to have coincided with these events. I understand that  the success in Egypt may give people the momentum to make bolder statements, and hating on USA seems to be a popular target. I am an American, but I do not blindly endorse the actions of my government across the board blindly.

I do think there is a disconnect in understanding the wants and desires of a people and the function of a state. People want, need, deserve to be free. Nobody deserves to live under the rule of a tyrant. I believe that, as a people, we Americans believe very strongly in the democratic process and very much want to see other countries escape poverty and bad government. These beliefs are central to what our country was founded on. To doubt the sincerity of Americans that express these ideas is a mistake. Here is the complicated part.

The role of the state is to provide security and prosperity to its people. These things are first and foremost. Let's take Egypt for example. I see a lot of negative comments about the American support for Mubarak during his tenure as President. From a personal perspective, yes it is despicable. But it made sense from a political standpoint. For most of those 30 years the Egyptian people were mostly quiet. The US took a stance of "if the people are under control, everything is ok"  The peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel solidified the complicit attitude we took. It is in our best interest to keep relative peace in the Middle East for a number of reasons. When the Jan25th revolution took place in put US foreign policy in the middle of this disconnect. Yes, we want to promote freedom and peoples rights, but from a foreign policy standpoint we had to sit on the fence

I, as an American, do not like the reality of the situation.  It fills me with joy to see what the Egyptian people have done. I pray the transition is left to complete its mission of free elections. I also believe it would be a grave mistake to dismiss any aid or support from the US. Yes, we make mistakes and our policy may not represent everything you believe in but it can be advantageous to your goals. Politics are not what should be, there are what is. It is a dirty self serving enterprise. It is up to the people to keep the government from running completely foul.

Stay strong and keep fighting for what is right. The American PEOPLE are behind you. Let us pray that in the future all of our politicians make better choices and act on the the side of Justice.