Friday, April 8, 2011

Secure Jobs Now Insecure

It is common knowledge that if a student has no money, but wants to go to school, the military is the choice to make.  The military has lots of jobs and most of them don't promise certain death.  All a teenager has to do is sign over their rights and lives to an organization for a few years, go through training, become self-less, and possibly go into combat.  Whats not to love about a secure paycheck, occupation, and life-skill training?
Well, just recently this secure means of making a living is in danger.
In recent years, the government has been trying to downsize our military in order to reduce our government deficit.  Particularly on my campus, this has made a huge impact.  Many of the students that desired to go to a private medical school chose to enlist in ROTC because they otherwise couldn't attend due to financial circumstances, but with the recent cut backs fewer of the students are being accepted in the program and those who are rejected are forced to pay the money back or transfer out of the university.  The only upside to this situation was that those who were selected to be in the program had a secure future financial future in front of them.  However, as of yesterday, this too seems to be at risk.
The democratic and republican parties have come to a stale-mate about the new financial budget.  The conversation has degraded so much, that the president is having to plan on putting government organizations on shut down.  What does this mean for our military?  Well, persons enlisted in the active and reserve duty receive their paychecks from the government.  They, like every other American, have to pay mortgage, tuition, car payments, bills, family expenses, etc.  The shut down of the government would mean that all of these men and women who have given their time and effort to our country would not receive over-due paychecks for weeks.  They would be working without pay.  This could cause many of them to default on house payments and car payments, ruin their credit, or possibly make them lose some of their possessions.
What is our government coming to?  I am personally appalled at our governments failure to cooperate and take care of those persons who protect it.  I am not certain where our government will end up in the next few months.  Perhaps a revolution is in store.  I do not know what needs to be done, but something needs to change because the biases of government representatives are impairing so many people's lively hoods.  This is the exact opposite of what governments are supposed to do.  Perhaps, both sides should to concede to each other and start treating fellow representatives like persons instead of "the enemy," but this currently seems to be too much to ask from representatives of a Christian Democratic World Power.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sarah Palin On Entitlements

It's not really a secret that I am not a fan of the former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. I do, however, appreciate her significant presence on the national scene of politics and immense influence on conservative policy. She has a voice and it should be heard. I found this to be an interesting interview, as once again she was confronted by O'Reilly and actually had to describe her thoughts on specific policies and go beyond her simple platitudes (especially on the question the of the effects of Medicaid cuts on the poor and whether a safety net was needed). She did seem to get irritated as O'Reilly pushed for specifics and I wasn't really pleased with her over reliance on Paul Ryan's (R-WI) Roadmap To Success. She didn't convince me that she had really spent time thinking about her own policy prescriptions in reference to reforming entitlements. And yes, I realize that it's rare to find an original policy idea these days, but it just seemed like she was leaning on the Ryan plan because she didn't have much else to offer substantively to the conversation.

Maybe I'm being too hard on her. She did have a good grasp of figures and numbers in the interview. I think Sarah Palin could be a player in our upcoming nomination fight. Realistically, all she has to do is seem prepared, projecting great understanding of the issues and offering thoughtful, creative policy fixes for the fiscal challenges we face as a nation. Can she pull it off? I'm not sure. But since expectations are so low for her, there is definitely an opening.

Ultimately,  I don't know if she's running for President, but I do think she will continue to play important role in our political discourse as the 2012 election approaches.

Midterm 2010: Republicans Taking A Page Out Of Nixon's Playbook?

Hey guys, this is another one from my archives that I wrote write before the congressional elections, right before our historic victory in the House of Representatives. I was reading a biography on Nixon at the time, hence the inspiration. 

The party of no. That's the all too familiar label that National Democrats have been using for months to describe their congressional counterparts. Way before the realization that Republicans could take the 39 seats necessary to introduce a Speaker Boehner, Democrats began the narrative in early 2009 that Republicans stood for absolutely nothing and only were concerned with saying no to the then new President's policies. Whether it was healthcare or cap and trade, the Republicans stood united in opposition. With midterms quickly approaching and my own personal judgement that Republicans had really not offered many high profile, viable alternatives to the Obama agenda, I began asking myself as a political analyst the same question I asked my Politics 101 professor last January. I know that there are many other factors such as the viability of individual candidates (cough, cough Sharon Angle), fundraising, national trends, and the economy that will shape the Republicans' political fortunes to a greater extent than the question I pose, but I still had to know: Was this a political strategy that would work in November?
The answer I got back in January was in great contradiction with my political instinct. My professor, pundits on CNN, and New York Times columnists all seemed to speak in unison. The answer was simply no. It wasn't enough. It wasn't effective. Why? Because history has shown more times than not, that a party or a candidate has to have something positive to offer in order to win an election and that raising the negatives of an opponent or simply saying no to the ideas of the party in power did not clinch victory. I wondered though, if there was a distinct example of the opposite dynamic occurring in an election. An example of the apparent Republican Strategy of 2010 or the unfair characterization by the Democrats (however you may see it) resulting in victory came from an unlikely source:  the former president, Richard Nixon. In both his 12th Congressional District Race in 1946 against a five term New Deal Democrat, and his 1950 California Senate Race against Helen Douglas, a wife of a movie star, he was able to win, not by promoting the positives of his candidacy or knowing California issues better than anyone else in each respective race, but by seizing on the extreme anti-Communism mood of Californians at that time. As stated by Robert Dallek in Nixon and Kissinger, " His success had almost nothing to do with interest politics or the economic well-being of Californians....Nixon's appeal rested on his ability to reflect voter fears and principles."
Comparable to the anti-Communist mood of the 1950's and 1960's by measure of intensity (by no means am I equating Democrats with Communists), Americans find ourselves in an anti-Big Government, anti-spending, and anti-deficit mood that is strongly linked, in many voters' minds, with the bad economy. Unfortunately for the Obama White House, the administration is associated with those words that come after the anti-. Democrats may think that pointing out that Republicans are short on new ideas relating to job creation makes sense and will resonate with voters. I ,however, don't agree. No matter the validity of the Democratic attacks against Republicans may be, being successful in politics often is tied to being able to make the voters see you as one of them. For the time being, a majority of the country, or at least the majority of districts and states with elections this year, seem to label Republicans as one of them while President Obama has been relegated the guy with in charge of those anti-American people who is responsible for all that spending and the failed economic policies of late. A pretty bad label for your party's leader to have going into a midterm.
Like I thought almost a year ago, Republicans don't have to make positive arguments or put out new innovative ideas. Saying no to the unpopular Obama agenda may just be enough to secure impressive gains in this year's midterms as long as they are able to follow the Nixon model and accurately reflect voter feeling. Whatever criticisms you may have of Republicans or the Tea Party, they have effectively channeled voters uncertainty and fears (Nixon's winning strategy) with America's current state of affairs by saying no to the Obama agenda, something that conservative and independent voters are growing more and more disenchanted with. And if Republican's are taking a page out of Nixon's playbook in relation to Congressional races, I'd say they are in pretty good shape. As long as the don't follow it to a tee. There was that whole Watergate thing after all....

Update: I do think however that this same strategy fails to work in a presidential election. You have to offer the American a positive vision for this country's future in order to get 50% + 1 to win an election.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

And So It Begins...with a Newt?

So today was the day that all political junkies have been waiting for. The first entrance into the Republican primary field to unseat President Obama. Well almost. Today Newt Gingrich announced that he is in what can be describes as a so-called "explore phase" for running for President and has formed a new fundraising committee aptly titled Newt Exploratory 2012 (He has also started a new website which you can find here: Translation? Instead of forming an official exploratory committee, subject to federal regulations, he wants to avoid those silly Federal Election Committee rules that would limit his ability to use money made via his various commercial interests and his non-profit 527, the infamous American Solutions for Winning The Future, for travel and advocating for his candidacy. Fox News (a.k.a. known the most awesomest cable news network) has already suspended his one million dollar a year contributor contract, a very lucrative thing just to give up for "exploring" running for President. I think we can safely assume that he's going to be in it for the long haul. The real question on my mind? Can Newt grab our party's nomination?

Well judging based upon the way Newt's first staged public event of the primary cycle, he's really going to need this head start. This week showed a lack of discipline from Newt's political circle as there was confusion among most of the political chattering class about the exact nature of today's event. Politico (a.k.a the most awesomest political website ever) says it best.

Shortly before the trip to Atlanta, longtime Gingrich adviser Joe Gaylord had said that the former House Speaker would open “exactly that, an exploratory committee” - but five hours later, Gingrich’s spokesman, Rick Tyler, sent out a press release stating that no such announcement would be made.

Read more:

It also worth noting that at today's press conference, he only took one question (Are you running for President in 2012?). He gave a carefully staged answer before rushing from the podium. Now, there was nothing remotely wrong with the answer he gave. He said that he was still deliberating and articulating his vision of the country he would like to see. Actually he carefully ticked off all the things we conservatives like to hear: a belief in reducing the size of government, cutting the unemployment rate, raising personal income, and restoring the belief in American exceptionalism, proclaiming that "America's best years are ahead of of us". The fact that he rushed off stage after one softball question raises doubts in my mind in his self- confidence to go off the cuff. This plays right into Gingrich's critics who say that the former House Speaker, who led the Republican Revolution in 1994, seems to still lack the discipline and natural political instinct needed for the two year campaign for the presidency. The same lack of discipline that most political observers point to in his PR defeats to Bill Clinton over the government shutdowns and his eventual political implosion in 1998. 

The second problem seems to rest with his tumultuous personal life. He happens to be on marriage number three. Gingrich and his wife, Callista, actually had an affair while he was still married to his second wife. Complicated stuff, I know. Personally, I don't care. Recognizing the numerous faults within myself, I have a policy of preventing myself to disqualify someone for public office simply because of their past personal mistakes. I try to just look squarely at who I like (cause let's face it, emotional connection and approval of a candidate matter in elections) and who I feel can do the best job for my city, my state, and my country. Unfortunately for Newt Gingrich, Christian Evangelicals in Iowa may feel a tad bit differently on the morality of his marriage. Ironically, one of the reasons that I dislike Gingrich has to do with the same issue (for a very different reason). Being a gay individual, who hopes to be in a committed relationship/civil union/marriage, I cannot understand his opposition to my rights, especially the right to marriage. To claim that allowing me to marry who I love would somehow devalue the institution of marriage, while his two divorces and affair have not... I find difficult to reconcile. It is hypocritical and gives him little legitimacy on the issue. You can forcefully disagree with me on gay marriage and it's effect on the institution, but you will be hard pressed to disagree with the the latter point. 

Even though I feel that Newt Gingrich is the wrong candidate to carry and represent our party in 2012, as we try to beat back the massive expansion of government (Obamacare, The Auto Bailouts, The "so-called" Stimulus) that has occurred under President Obama, there's no doubt that he has quite the intellect. Everyone seems to agree that his ability to construct and analyze policy from a conservative point of view is nearly unrivaled. He has strong convictions and beliefs when it comes to the role this country should play in the world and how to get the economy back on track. While Speaker of the House, he worked with a Democratic President on welfare reform and produced balanced budgets from Congress that helped set up the budget surpluses at the end of the 90's. He has political capital to spend in this climate of fiscal austerity, and could very well leverage those accomplishments into support among the tea party and fiscal conservatives, as social issues seem to be fading into the background (to the dismay of many social conservatives) in this upcoming election cycle. 

The questions that he has to answer for Republican Primary voters are simple. Can he openly talk about his personal skeletons? Can he be presidential? Can he be measured in his words and actions? Can he play the political game and not fumble? Can he win? All I know is that the Republican Primary will be unlike any others that we have seen in recent political history. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

U.S. No-Fly Zone A No-Go?

I must start this post by emphatically stating my utter disgust for the Libyan Regime of Moammar Gaddafi. While I was up watching some TV early this morning, I witnessed the bombing of an oil rich Libyan city of Brega by the Libyan Air Force. Brega has now become a key strategic point in this country's civil war, as control of the city means control to the natural gas that powers the Eastern part of the country, the stronghold of the rebels. CNN has reported that Gaddafi seems to be strengthening his hold on the capitol of Tripoli, proving to be recalcitrant in the face of growing international pressure. The situation is developing at a rapid pace, once again catching the Obama Administration (Where is Obama these days anyway? It seems like that he is shrinking in the presidency, something that happened to Jimmy Carter) flat-footed and putting them into a precarious international situation. As internal conflicts amongst administration officials are seeming to form (Secretary of Defense Robert Gates seemingly be against U.S. military action and implementation of a No-Fly Zone, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems more open to the idea), the U.S faces a vital question? Should the U.S intervene in this Libyan Civil War on the basis of humanitarian grounds?

The idea of a dictator violently cracking down on his own people, with the death toll reportedly over 2,000, awakens my deepest sympathies for the Libyan people. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a humanitarian crisis. I do not however believe in the calls from various U.S Senators like Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to implement a unilateral U.S. No-Fly Zone. There are so many problems with that proposed solution. The primary oncern being further stoking of anti-American sentiment in the region. In order to implement the No-Fly Zone, an extensive bombing campaign would have to take place targeting Libya's anti-aircraft missile and radar defenses, so that they could not be used against our men and women as we clear all Libyan air power out of the skies. The image of U.S. planes bombing Libyan strategic targets would play into the hands of many anti-American coalitions in the region. Unilateral military action by the U.S would almost surely taint the legitimacy of the movement, while arming Gaddafi with propaganda and leverage in the international community (with a friendly audience with China and Russia).

There has also been talk of arming the rebels that have taken control of the Eastern part of the country. This way you would circumvent the geo-political fallout of direct U.S. military intervention into a sovereign nation. Unfortunately the U.S has a very mixed results when it comes to the arming of political factions in opposition of a government ( The Bay of Pigs for example), and other than a supposed newly formed Provisional Government, there seems to be no consensus in western foreign policy circles on who is in charge. Therefore, there is no one to give the weapons too. Finally, we do not want these arms to fall into the wrong hands. The U.S. must be very careful in these considerations.

Based on my limited foreign policy experience and most mainstream opinions, the best option seems to be using a NATO multinational coalition to enforce a No-Fly Zone and collectively develop a policy towards the unrest (while providing humanitarian aid), only at the request of a united front of opposition (to insure U.S. political protection and insulate us from the accusation of a neoconservative foreign policy). Ideally, we want any kind of multinational coalition to include players in the region. The sweeping unrest across the region, however, has sidelined many potential partners like Egypt and Tunisia. The U.N., once again showcasing it's weakness as a body (don't get me started), is a non-starter due to the fact that Russia and China would veto any resolution committing U.N. coalition forces. Russia and China are not particularly favorable to the idea of setting a precedent of international support for a No-Fly Zone every time there is a conflict that can be construed as having humanitarian concerns, especially when the conflict involves them.

Overall, I think it is a waiting game that we will have to play. Unfortunately, the longer we wait, the longer we sit on the sidelines, the more Libyan opposition members are massacred by their own leader, a fellow Libyan. And that as a fellow human being, makes me sick.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Three Myths The Mainstream Media Wants You To Believe About Wisc. Union Battle

Myth #1: The legislation before the state senate would take away all collective bargaining for public sector unions.

Whether you agree or disagree philosophically with the idea of public sector unions possessing the so-called "right" to collectively bargain, the perception that has been pushed in the media is that Gov. Scott Walker is seeking to abolish all collective bargaining. That is simply not true. The proposal would keep in place the ability for public sectors to bargain in regards to their wages, despite the fact they are already receiving a dream boat deal in regards to their defined-benefit pensions and their health care premiums. The idea that they still have ability to get more tax payer money into their pay checks, yet union leaders are claiming foul play (might have something to do with the fact that in Wisconsin, dues our deducted automatically out of workers paychecks and go toward union political operations to elect public officials more favorable in negotiations), shows the growing arrogance of public sector union structure.

Myth #2: This fight over collective bargaining is not really about the budget, but rather "union busting" on the part of conservatives.

This has to be the most outrageous of the narrative beginning to take hold in the mainstream media. As Gov. Scott Walker has articulated, time after time in each and every interview he has done up until this point, this is about untying the hands of local municipalities, who must balance their very own budgets at the local level and negotiate their own contracts with the public sector unions. This is one of the reasons I remain pretty skeptical about the so-called concessions offered up by Wisconsin state union leaders. As the state moves in the right direction towards fiscal responsibility and closing their 3.7 billion dollar deficit (yes that's billion with a b), state funding to local municipalities is logically going to lessen. Under these tight financial constraints, local municipalities will have to find a way to cut costs. Don't believe that? Look at Gov. Mitch Daniels record of fiscal restraint in Indiana. He chose to limit collective bargaining in his state by executive order in his first year in office. Gov. Daniels turned a 600 million dollar deficit into a budget surplus of 370 million dollars, in just one year. In his second term as governor, he has amassed an Indiana state rainy day fund of over 800 million dollars. That's leadership. By limiting collective bargaining, municipalities will be able to have the power and tools they need to lower costs and get the state finances right on track. After all, Scott Walker would know. He was a county executive.

Myth #3: State Senators hiding out in neighboring states is just....fine!?!

Apparently the media has decided that it's okay to block democracy. It's okay to mitigate the results of an election. While yes, I'll concede that there have been a couple of questions here or there about the behavior of those 14 Democratic state senators who fled Wisconsin a couple of weeks ago in order to avoid a vote on the proposal in question (and who still have not returned), the lack of media attention has been jaw-dropping. Why has their not been outrage over this blatant disrespect to a fundamental principle to this county? Democracy means playing in the arena. It means elections. It means that you argue your point of view, you take a vote, and you either win or you lose. Can you imagine if it had been conservative Republican state lawmakers that had fled the state? There would have been pure outcry by the mainstream media and liberal cable outlets. But nothing. Barely a whisper. But that's not what I'm worried about. We should all be cognisant of the dangerous precedent that has been set by these irresponsible lawmakers. The precedent of whenever one side simply disagrees with the other side and a policy that they are about to enact, they stop debating, they don't vote. They just leave. Like small children trying to get their way. The minority, after the democratic process of elections, halts the entire process. This is dangerous thing to do on both sides, and I would be just as critical if Republicans did it. Oh, and the final straw for me? They still have the audacity to take tax payer money for their pay check. I guess it is no surprise that these lawmakers staunchly support the public unions and their willingness to grab more of our tax payer dollars.

My personal opinion, I think that Scott Walker has the right idea. Almost. I think for the next couple of years this steps are needed to restore fiscal sanity. But I generally don't agree with totally doing away with collective bargaining. I think Gov. Walker should some leadership, and take into close counsel what some of the Republicans in the legislature have considered. The idea of a sunset provision, essentially putting an expiration date on the bill and its effects on the unions. And then approach it again in a couple of years. That's compromise. That's governing.

Fellow Red Light District readers, I ask you to find the facts for yourself and question, question, question, the mainstream media constantly. There's bias in everything, including my posts, so it's important that we as citizens take in as much information as possible and evaluate the sources of that information.Whether it be ABC News, or CNN , or Fox News, it's up to us to find the truth and come to our own conclusion, whatever they may be.

Are National Polls Irrelevant?

I will preface this post by saying this was my first attempt at political writing all the way back in 2008, and I believe that the subject matter is very topical in anticipation of the upcoming Republican Primary season. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be posting bits and pieces of my personal archives. Enjoy!

Everyday on CNN and MSNBC, we see the poll of polls and the daily gallup tracking poll reported on as if they have great significance to the election. Right now Obama has a 2-3 point lead over McCain in the national polls, but what does that mean? National polls are good for telling the feeling of the race. For example, right now they are conveying a lead for obama, which seems to be the consensus among pundits (although since when are pundits credible analysts?). Anyway, I think the case can be made that the national polls are just a temperature taker of the election, otherwise they have no real relevance...seeing as we do not elect presidents on the national popular vote (which democrats learned painfully in 2000) but with electoral votes. I think anyone who wants to see who is ahead should look at state polls in battlegrounds such as Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, so forth and so forth. If you look at the states leaning towards each candidate combined with the states each candidate has firmly in his column (like California for Obama or Texas for McCain), Barack Obama has 243 electoral votes while John McCain has only 189 (a difference of 54 electoral votes). The winner of the election must have 270 electoral votes when all is said and done. When Barack Obama needs only 27 more electoral votes to win (keeping in mind we are still far away from the election and that anything can change), McCain has a steep hill not saying he can't climb it, it's just pretty steep even with republican superstar Sarah Palin. So maybe we should stop paying such close attention to the daily gallup tracking poll and start going to and checking out that electoral map.