Tag Archives: politics

Israel Sends The Wrong Message

At some point in the near future, apparently the date is being kept a secret, a groups of ships, called the Freedom Flotilla 2, will be sailing from Greece to the Gaza Strip. You may remember that this happened about a year ago. In that case, nine people were killed by Israeli soldiers in what was a complete debacle for the Israeli Defense Forces. Let me be clear that I think Israel has every right to be wary of this situation. The Gaza Strip is controlled by a group that does not recognize Israel, and has made the destruction of Israel its top priority for years. I believe that Israel has every right to ensure that the supplies carried on this convoy are for humanitarian uses only. If there are any weapons they should be confiscated as that would surely be illegal weapons trafficking. Israel, however, is making me question the validity have their concern. Namely, they are engaging in a tactic that is akin to dictators. They’re threatening journalists.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor reports that Israel is threatening to ban journalists from the country for up to a decade if they are on one of these ships. Journalists go where the story is. It is true that they often go where there is no story also, but trying to keep the media out of this just leads to the idea that Israel wants to suppress the story. Journalists are banned from Syria right now for exactly that reason. The Syrian government does not want the truth to get out about what they are doing. By keeping journalists out they are preventing an accurate narrative to be written. This allows them to fill the void with the story they want everyone to hear.

I don’t think Israel is comparable to Syria. Israel is a democracy that does not oppress its people. Some will argue that instead Israel oppresses the Palestinians, who it is worth noting, were kicked out of their homes in the late 1940s. Palestinians have a legitimate problem with Israel and the Western world. So when Israel engages in suppressing journalists, it makes them look like they have something to hide. More importantly this tactic will not work. We’ve seen it in Arab countries all year. The mainstream media isn’t needed for information anymore. The use of Facebook and YouTube has exploded. Through the internet videos will be seen, information will spread. Israel can count on one thing. The YouTube videos, and Twitter feeds will not be favorable.  The mainstream media uses a code of ethics in what it reports. The social media world does not. Israel’s opponents will use all of these outlets to spread their message whether it is fair or not. The mainstream media is the only hope Israel has of getting an objective story out there.

Israel’s best plan is to stop this flotilla as peacefully as possible. Inspect the cargo, and make sure that CBS, CNN, The New York Times and others get a good look at it. If anything is illegal or bound for violent use, it will get reported and Israel will be vindicated. If it is all humanitarian aid, everyone will know. Then Israel can say it was protecting itself, but found nothing illicit. There is nothing wrong with Israel trying to prevent weapons from entering Gaza so that they can be used to hurt Israelis. Trying to suppress journalists, however, sends a terrible signal. It says that Israel isn’t sure that they are protecting themselves. This effort will hurt the Israeli cause not help it.

A Short Question. A Longer Answer

I wish to propose a question. It’s likely to be held in contempt by a number of people. Some might even condemn me to Hell. However, society has gotten nowhere by keeping its mouth shut. It progresses by the asking of questions. So here I go.

Are Judaism and it’s spin-off of Christianity supposed to be monotheistic religions?

Most people would probably say yes. Jews and Christians worship one God, not many Gods. That answer misses the point of the question. I’m not asking if they do worship one God. Instead I am asking if they are supposed to believe that there is only one God. Let’s look at the 1st Commandment:

6 I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 7 you shall have no other gods before me.” Deuteronomy 5:6-7

That doesn’t say there is only one God. It just says you only get to worship one God. Maybe it’s heretical, but I’m just trying to ask a question that I don’t hear anyone asking. Like I said, society progresses through the asking of questions and the search for answers. That is what made Newton question why things fall to the ground. It led Franklin to investigate lightning. In 1969 that spirit put a man on the moon. We should stop accepting what we have been told and go out and discover for ourselves.

It is of interest that this is the very problem with American political participation. We are far too willing to accept something that is said to us repeatedly. Karl Rove can raise millions of dollars and use it to sway elections because a 30 second attack ad is easier to absorb than a complicated argument. Everyone complains about attack ads during a campaign, but they are there because they work. It easier to say, “raising taxes is bad.,” than it is to go out and find the information that shows those tax increases would be on %2 of the population. Guess what? You’re not one of them.

What truly saddens me is that we don’t have the desire to even question the most simplistic statements. If we can’t get past those, then no one questions the 1st commandment. Many people would tell me that my argument about Deuteronomy isn’t really that important. There are roughly 2 billion Christians in the world. How is it not important?

Questioning our leaders, in our communities, government, or churches is very important. One fact that is often forgotten is that those people work for us. Ministers are supposed to be servants of their congregations. Government employees work for the public good. We are their boss, and any good boss pays attention to what his employees are doing. I’d say it’s about time we check in on ours.

Stand Your Ground, Mr. President

After scanning the news one particular thing stuck out at me. We can’t borrow anymore money. That’s correct the U.S. has reached its debt limit. Apparently due to some fancy accounting we are still paying our bills, but only for a few months. The President has called for the debt limit to be raised. Treasury Secretary Geithner has warned of dire economic conditions if it is not. The general consensus among economists and most politicians is that this must happen. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal even said:

“The first sign that a debt crisis has arrived is that bond investors lose confidence in a government’s ability to pay its debts – and by that point, it is usually too late to avoid severe disruption and economic pain.” Rep. Ryan’s Budget Proposal Pg. 21

Defaulting on our debt will certainly cause investors to lose confidence. So why hasn’t an increase passed it? Republican’s want more spending cuts.

The debt ceiling debate is driving me crazy. Speaker John Boehner is out calling for spending cuts equal to the increase in the debt ceiling. That’s ridiculous and impossible. We can’t cut spending by the amount the debt ceiling will need to go up. If we did it wouldn’t be long before we completely defund the federal government. The possible implications of not raising the debt ceiling are huge. Everyone seems to agree that if the U.S. stops paying its bills the effect on the global economy would be catastrophic. The result in this country would be unimaginable. The worst part is that John Boehner isn’t against raising the debt ceiling. He’s just against it when a Democrat is President. Not that his hypocrisy doesn’t exist across the aisle. Democrats are eager to raise the debt limit now, but they were more that happy to complain about it just a few years ago. For his part, Mr. Boehner has voted to raise the debt ceiling multiple times in the past. A number of these votes are hard to find, because under House rules some legislation is passed without anyone’s vote being recorded. How’s that for open government? It is record that in 2002 and 2004 (when President Bush was in office) he voted to raise the debt limit. He voted that way because it was necessary and John Boehner isn’t a lunatic. At least I hope he still isn’t. I should note that President Obama is calling for a raise in the debt limit, but when President Bush sat in the Oval Office, then Sen. Obama, along with many Democrats, voted against the increase. He now says that was a mistake. It was.

When it comes to budget deficits, debt limits and other things involving money, the reality is that it’s all politics. This is a non-partisan issue being used for partisan gain. Do you want evidence? We’ve had a budget deficit for 10 years. Republican’s just got angry about it when a Democrat was in the White House. Congress has voted to raise the debt ceiling a number of times in the past decade. Republicans supported it all of them until President Obama took office. Democrats were against them at that same time. Then a magical thing happened. On Jan. 20th, 2009, President Obama was sworn in and everybody changed sides. It’s like everybody was suddenly persuaded by the other side’s point of view. If only one argument had been so compelling, we wouldn’t have this stalemate. Unfortunately, both sides were so convincing we just ended up right back where we were. Sentences like that make me wish there was a “sarcasm key” on your standard QWERTY keyboard.

This should not be an argument. We have to pay our bills, and bickering over some arbitrary limit imposed on the government nearly one hundred years ago is childish. I like that the debt ceiling brings public attention to our national debt. It’s important that we pay attention to what we are spending. Using that attention to promote a drastic partisan agenda, however, is irresponsible. John Boehner seems to think that spending isn’t getting enough national attention. We’ve been talking about spending for months. There are groups in both the House and the Senate working on budget compromises. Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled the Republican ideas for reducing the deficit weeks ago. President Obama released his proposal shortly thereafter. THIS ISN’T ABOUT THE BUDGET. This about whether or not we will live up to the commitments we have made. The budget should be a different debate, and it is a debate we are having.

That’s why I believe the President should stand his ground and not give in. For what might be the first time in his Presidency, he’s in a game of political “chicken” and he doesn’t need to flinch. Everybody knows that this has to happen. Yes, some of the new Tea Party supported members of Congress may be clamoring for spending cuts. I think that why Boehner is out causing a ruckus. In the end, the establishment of the Republican party will make sure our economy doesn’t collapse, and will continue the spending debate as they prepare the next budget.

The vote over the debt ceiling shouldn’t even be big news. It would be to the political advantage of both parties to quietly pass it instead of engaging in such obvious hypocrisy. If they don’t get what they want enough of them will still vote for it that the increase passes. Republicans just want the best political advantage they can get going into the next election. They will look at swing districts where a Republican is the incumbent, and a no vote will be popular and those members will vote no. They will look at districts where a Democrat is the incumbent, and a no vote would be popular and special interests will make huge ad buys in the 2012 election.

We have to raise the debt limit and we all know it. So, John Boehner can raise a ruckus about spending. Democrats and Republicans can hope that the public ignores how hypocritical they have been on this issue. Republicans will jump on any notion of conciliation from the White House. If the White House doesn’t give them the chance, they will still pass the debt limit increase.

Stand your ground, Mr. President. This is one fight you’re going to win.

Irony Has Met Its Limits

We have reached the absolute pinnacle of irony in this country. It’s over. We can’t possibly beat this one. Two Muslim men were removed from a flight on May 6th. They were travelling from Atlanta to Charlotte, NC. The pilot refused to fly the two men, who were dressed in traditional clothing. They were the equivalent of a priest wearing his collar. The two men had been through security, and also a second security check. The pilot said that they made the passengers uncomfortable and ordered them off the plane. This is the good part. The two Muslims were on the way to a conference about prejudice against Islam. How did that happen?  Apparently, the men were put on another flight and when they got to Charlotte, they called their lawyer.

This is just the lastest in a long trend of anti-Islam feeling going on in this country. Some of it can be understood. We were attacked by people claiming to fight in the name of Islam, but that was nearly ten years ago. It’s about time that we figure out that most Muslims are not bad people. Misconceptions about Islam are as rididculous as misconceptions in the Arab world about the United States.  I took a comparative politics class once in which a kid asked what was the difference between an Arab and a Muslim . I even saw it reported by a news organization ( I think it was ABC, but I can’t find the article) as 5 things Americans should know about Muslims.  It was considered news that not all Muslims are Arabs. In every culture and every country, there will be those who are ill-educated about certain issues, and far too accepting of anything they hear or read. In this country, it is getting a little too mainstream.

Logic would tell you that these men weren’t terrorists. For one, what did they wish to accomplish with a commuter flight from Atlanta to Charlotte. There’s no symbolism, no grand point to be made. Even if they just wanted to blow up an airplane, why would they obviously identify themselves as Muslims. The people dressed as Imams are the first ones I’m not afraid of. In the end I just couldn’t believe that someone managed to be prejudiced against a couple of men going to a conference on that very subject. That’s some kind of PR for our country.

What’s The Problem With Promoting Morals? You Have To Actually Have Them.

Nevada Senator John Ensign is resigning. He is facing an ethics investigation over an affair with a campaign aide. A story about a politician and adultery may not seem that newsworthy anymore. Ensign is a Republican though and that warrants attention. If you ask yourself why so many Republicans fall into this trap and get news coverage, the answer is easy. It’s because they spend they’re public lives attacking people who do these things and then they go and do the same things. It’s simple hypocrisy. When Mark Foley says he’s gay, or Larry Craig tries to solicit gay sex in an airport bathroom, it’s news. If Barney Frank did it, no one would care. Why? Barney Frank is openly gay. The trouble with defending morals and “traditional family values” is that you have to live up to them. John Ensign argued against gay marriage citing the sanctity of the institution. He was having an affair with a campaign aide, whose husband was a friend and aide of the Senator. He apparently forgot about, “Don’t covet thy neighbor’s wife.”

I’m working on a big post about the current attack on teachers that is occuring in this country. It’s insane to think that cutting teachers pay, and benefits will reap any positive rewards, but the research to prove that is taking some time. In the meantime I wanted to say a little bit about this issue. On a sidenote, John Ensign had already said he wouldn’t run for another term in the Senate. As the LA Times reports, when asked if he was concerned about an ethics investigation he apparently said, “If I was concerned about that, I’d resign.”  I guess he’s living up to his word.

I Need A Conservative Blog

Let me explain. I am a regular reader of the Kansas Free Press. There are a number of people who blog there and it is something you should read, especially if you live in Kansas. On that site there are a few people who regularly comment. A couple are more conservative than most of the contributors. They make comments knowing that most people who read the site will disagree with them. They made me think that I need to read and comment on blogs more conservative than mine. I can write all I want, but if I don’t go out and challenge others what’s the point.  As a country we should have a discussion. My problem is that I haven’t found any. Let me clarify I haven’t found any reasonable ones.  There are plenty of conservative blogs that spout Obama myths and have comment sections purely about the evils of liberalism, but I want one with a genuine discussion. The comment section at the Kansas Free Press is great. The discussion is meaningful and respectful. I can’t believe there are no conservative sites that are the same. There have to be. While I may disagree with conservatives on any number of issues, I have known many with whom I could have a great conversation. We have genuine disagreements and we should talk about them. So I’m asking if anyone knows a good conservative blog tell me about it. Not the big ones. I don’t care about Ann Coulter. I’m looking for normal everyday people. If you have any suggestions let me know.

A Special Thank You

I’ve been using my Netflix subscription to re-watch the TV show “The West Wing.” If you haven’t seen it, you should. It is easily one of the most well written shows in television history. It had a great cast, and was all around good drama. I was supposed to receive the final disc of the second season last weekend. It never made it. I was lazy and didn’t get around to reporting it to Netflix until the middle of this week. They kindly shipped me another disc and it was supposed to arrive today.

So yesterday, I’m listening to the news and all the talk is about a government shutdown.
Congress and the President can’t make a deal. The Tea Party wants to defund everything, Democrats would rather do nothing and stuck in the middle is me, and you, but mostly me waiting on a DVD.

If they had not come to an agreement, the government would stop working. The Post Office is a part of government. In fact they are the part of government that brings my Netflix DVD’s to me. All day yesterday I was worried about a shutdown of one of the more important things in my life; “The West Wing.” It would be sitting in a dark post office not half a mile from my house and I would have no way to reach it. It was a terrible feeling.

However, I awoke today to the greatest of news. A deal had been reached. The government stayed open. This afternoon my disc arrived. Today we will answer the persistent question, “Will President Bartlet run for a second term?”

It is therefore necessary to extend my thanks. Thank you President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and Sen. Reid for finding a solution. Thank you to the Tea Party Republicans for taking fewer spending cuts than you wanted. Thank you to Democrats for allowing cuts you did not want. For the next 2 1/2 hours I will be watching show about American government. A show where, in general, the government functions a lot better than any of you allow in reality.