Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Radical Extremism of America

                Throughout the entire world of Islam, from Libya to Indonesia there have been protests, some violent, stemming from the anger over an amateur video produced that blasphemes the prophet Muhammad. The State Department ran an ad campaign in Pakistan condemning the video, emphasizing the fact that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the production of the video. Throughout the country people are wondering how this can happen? President Obama has denounced the video, saying that this video is no excuse for extremism.

               Patriotslog sees hypocrisy in our nations denouncing of the radical extremism, and it is time we woke up to our own ideological problems. How can we as a nation expect radical Islamic extremists to suddenly rein in their passions and ideologies when we refuse to do the same? Of course there is a huge difference here; left and right wing extremism has not led to a terrorist attack or been the cause of death to anyone in our country, but the principal still stands. Our extremism is as harmful, or more so, to our nation than the heretics who distort the beauty of true Islam in an attempt to reduce America to a smoldering ash heap. It is only a matter of time before someone is killed because they disagree on a tax code, immigration, gay marriage, or environmental regulations.

                Civility is gone in American politics. Since the age of 24 hour cable propaganda stations, people refuse to look passed the end of their nose, let alone consider there might be something there. If we do not like the way something sounds, we ignore the facts so that we do not have to admit to whatever it is we do not like. Political debate is barred from the work place because we do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and presenting anyone with facts that contradict their opinion is now considered harassment. On the rare occasion that someone does engage in an intelligent political discussion–usually on a Sunday talk show–each side goes into the debate having already decided they are right and there is nothing that can change that. We consider Stephanie Cutter, Anne Coulter, Rachel Maddow, and Rush Limbaugh to be experts worthy of our attention. We actually believe they are unbiased enough to represent the truth. If a question would hurt their argument, they simply do not answer it, and refuse to acknowledge it has any relevance or significance. Is that how our nation advances? Blind to counterarguments and reason? Patriotslog maintains that if you cannot challenge your own beliefs for fear of what you may find, your beliefs are not worth having in the first place. If we consider all the arguments both for and against, we will almost always end up with the best conclusion.

Is our chronic fact ignoring any different than the fact ignoring a radical Imam practices in their recruitment of naive and innocent boys to strap explosives to themselves and run into a town square? Of course there is a difference in degree, which is why they become so violent, but it is only a matter of time before our extremism escalates to the level of violence as well. You cannot reason with a terrorist because they too, like a radical political pundit, have made up their mind before the encounter. Is the hate of a terrorist any different than the hate of Roseanne Barr, who thinks people against gay rights deserve cancer? Is our political propaganda, which is designed to make us hate and despise the other party any different than their political propaganda designed to make people hate America and the west? Why do we accept extremism in our world, but not in theirs?

The biggest problem is not the media, it is you. Each one of you reading this is thinking to yourself: “That is so true. The other political party is so guilty of all those things. They are ruining America. The other political party is almost like the terrorists. How long before the other political party escalates their extremism to violence? They never accept facts, they never show civility, and they care more for their ideology than for the country.” If you are thinking that right now, you, not the other political party, are the problem. Our rigid dichotomy of ideologies that leave no room for gray have left this nation charred black. We are burning ourselves to the ground–doing the work of the terrorists for them. We are enraged by the dysfunction in Congress, but praise our Representatives for refusing to budge. There is nothing wrong with us; it is the other side which never compromises. If we believe this we are as blind and extreme as those protesting outside American Embassies the world over.

We cannot embrace ideological radicalism on the one hand and then condemn religious radicalism on the other. That type of message only perpetuates the anti American propaganda the terrorists advertise to recruits. Extremism from without is not nearly as threatening to our sovereignty as extremism from within. As long as we are radical we cannot ask others to be moderate. How can we expect the protests to stop when those protesting see our own ideological warfare? If we do not return to civility someone will turn to violence because of our political extremism. We can only hope and pray our extremism does not escalate to a civil war.

 

–Matt Young

27, September 2012

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Mitt Romney’s 47%

                Mitt Romney is a terrible candidate. If elected, he may make a fantastic President, but as far as campaigns go, he fits in about a well as a figure skater on a football field. This week another political gaff has come to light: in May, Mitt Romney went on a rant about the 46.4% of Americans that do not pay federal income tax. This was videotaped in secret and released in the liberally biased blog Mother Jones. The Statistic that 46.4% of people do not pay income tax is the conservative response to President Obama’s proposition that the richest people in America “pay their fair share“. It has been the right wing rallying cry for the policy battle both sides have sides have escalated with ludicrous labels like “class warfare“. 46.4% of people not paying income tax is not an exaggeration, it is a fact; however, it is very misleading, and Patriotslog is sick of hearing it.

My issue is not as much with Mitt Romney as it is with the number in general. Though Mitt Romney classifying half the nation as welfare dependents that “rely on the government” is distasteful, the bigger problem is that people–apparently Mitt Romney included–do not understand the number. People see that nearly half the nation does not pay income tax and they get worked up into an ideological rage without actually understanding what it is that is spiking their blood pressure.

               It is true that 46.4% of people do not pay income taxes, but this does not tell the whole story. Many of the 46.4% (as much as 1/5) are retired. Retirees have paid taxes for decades and now have no earned income with which to pay taxes. Also, active duty military members are given special tax credits for their service to our nation; these credits often result in them being net non-income tax payers. These two groups contribute to a significant portion of those who pay no income tax. The other elephant in the room that is not discussed when people talk about 46.4% of the nation not paying income taxes is the fact that income taxes do not tell the whole story. Most of these people still pay taxes, just not income taxes. Consider this tax breakdown: a family with one or two children that has an income under $30,000 per year. Can you live off this income? Yes, it is possible, but money will be very tight. This is why they do not pay income taxes, but they do pay taxes. For a family that is living on $30,000 per year, odds are they will have to spend the bulk of that to live; maybe even upwards of 90%. Depending on where they live, sales taxes can be between 6%-10%. For those of you not following along with a calculator at home that means they are already paying as much as 8% or more of their income in taxes. Moreover, they also have to pay payroll taxes–FICA, unemployment, etc.–on each paycheck, and state income taxes. The point is, added all together these families which pay no income tax often pay between 9%-12% of their total income in taxes. For a man like Mitt Romney who has the bulk of his income generated by investments and capital gains, he will not pay the payroll taxes that most Americans pay. Where is the public outrage that the richest people in our nation pay no Social Security and Medicare taxes! The rest of the country is letting these privileged few become dependent on the government! This is class warfare! Everyone should pay taxes! How can we let them get away with this!

In all seriousness, the math is quite simple. Mitt Romney does not pay payroll taxes, and logic tells us that because of the size of his income he does not need to spend even close to 90% of it to survive. This means Mitt Romney’s total tax rate is not much higher than the 13% he says he pays. Factor in sales taxes and it is unlikely he pays more than 15-16% in taxes. In fact we can take him at his word when he says his effective tax rate was around 15%. To break that down for those of you still do not have a calculator (who knew politics could be a math lesson?) this means Mitt Romney, for all the fuss, hardly pays any more in taxes than the “dependents” that do not pay income taxes. So the best question to ask Mitt Romney is why this is a big deal? Is it right for these people to have their income taxed at 8%-10%, therefore making them pay more in taxes than Mitt Romney would?

There are two more aspects of the 46.4% number that I find comical, if not downright hypocritical. Republicans who fuss about some not paying income taxes seem to have forgotten; it was their party that demanded tax cuts. If the political right did not have an anti-tax religious conviction many of these people would be paying income taxes. They wanted to play in the mud, then cry when they have to clean up their mess. This is the anti-tax party, isn’t it? Why is the anti-tax party crying foul over people not paying taxes? This is the kind of thing that makes liberals believe the Republicans only care about the rich. Moreover, the income tax is only responsible for about 43% of the government’s revenue anyway. The second aspect is the Republican assertion that “we do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem“. Despite the fact that government spending is down, Patriotslog agrees that we have a spending problem; but Republicans need to see that we do have a revenue problem as well. We are well below the historical average for revenue, but that is beside the point. If Republicans insist that we do not have a revenue problem, why are they fussing about people not paying income tax? The standard answer is going to be “because that is fare”, but we need to remember. Those not retired or in active military service pay nearly as much in taxes as Mitt Romney, so fairness is not the issue. Moreover, the same fairness argument can be made the opposite way, and in fact it has. Warren Buffett revealed that his secretary pays more in taxes than he does. Is that fair? So if fairness is not the issue, revenue is. If Republicans believe we do not have a revenue problem, why does it matter that people are not paying taxes?

There is one more thing that I think most people who get angry about 46.4% of people not paying income tax do not understand. Many of them, Mitt Romney included, think that those not paying taxes “depend on the government” for much of their needs. This may be true, welfare spending has exploded; more on that later. However the assumption is that most of those who pay no income tax depend on the government and will vote for Obama.This may not be true. Dean Lacy, Professor of Government at Dartmouth, measured the amount of government money going into states and counties compared to the amount of money paid out in taxes. He found that states and counties that vote heavily Republican actually receive much more federal money as compared to the taxes they pay than do counties or states that vote heavily Democratic. So it would appear that the spending problem is not dependency of Democratic voters, rather, it is Republicans mooching off the Government.

Now there is no measurement for sheer welfare spending in that study, and there are many more aspects which go into that research, so Republicans may still be right, it just does not appear so. However, Mitt Romney is right when he talks about welfare spending. It has grown exponentially–up 724% since 1960. Taking into account inflation and population growth and that number is not quite so extreme, but the point remains: welfare spending continues to grow, and if it keeps the current pace this nation will have to be a nation that takes from the rich to give to the poor. The more welfare there is the more taxes there must be in order to keep a balanced budget. This means those with money have to provide for those without–that system is not fair and can lead to major problems. We currently have more people on food stamps than any other time in history. Now, welfare is not bad, but welfare abuse is. Government welfare should only be available as a last option. The tax payers can and should support those truly in need, but the government owes it to the tax payers to ensure there are not scammers and free-loaders abusing the generosity of the American people. Welfare is growing, and that can lead to dependency, but Mitt Romney should not assume that people are dependent because they are in need. For conservatives to be upset that 46.4% of people do not pay income tax is not only hypocritical, it is misleading, and the general attitude is derogatory.

–Matt Young

19 September, 2012

Sex Change in Prison

The title alone is going to be enough to make some people angry; this is the climate in our nation. Is a sex change a legitimate medical surgery? Or is it merely a cosmetic procedure to make a person more comfortable with their own body? Is there even a correct answer? Surely somebody who feels they are stuck in the wrong body; that their mind and body do not match gender, is not in any medical danger which would require surgery. Then again, when I nearly severed two fingers and had to have all major structures repaired in surgery, one could argue that I was not in any medical danger. If I cleaned and bandaged up the wounds, or just cut off the little remaining skin there was, I could live without being in medical danger minus two fingers. Then again, a sex change is elective, whereas cutting my fingers off was not. Moreover, with my fingers there was a chance for major blood loss and infection.

As if a sex change surgery alone is not controversial enough, my next question only intensifies the debate. Should a convicted murderer be allowed to have a sex change surgery in prison, paid for by tax payer dollars? That is exactly what U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf has done in Massachusetts for a convicted murderer in Massachusetts who sued for a sex change. A man–at least for now–in a Massachusetts prison strangled his wife to death, and was convicted with a life sentence. Now Michelle Kosilek will have a sex change surgery, and you and I will pay for it. Read the rest of this entry

American Ambassador to Libya Killed in Attack

                Early this morning, U.S. time, an angry mob stormed the American consulate in Benghazi, the birthplace of the recent Libyan revolution, apparently setting fire to and using grenades on the building and the state department officials there. Early reports are that four officials have died, including the American Ambassador to Libya, 52 year old Chris Stevens. Stevens, and the other three officials whose names have not been released, were reportedly leading and evacuation of the consulate, and died due to smoke inhalation. President Obama has stated that these four Americans “exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.” The United States has promised retaliation.

The attack follows a similar attack in Egypt, in which the protestors stormed the compound and tore down the American flag, destroying it and replacing it with a black flag. These attacks are reportedly in response to a video produced by an American in which Muhammad is profaned according to Islam. Our hearts and prayers go out to family and loved ones of the four victims, and we hope for safety for the rest of the State Department officials who are now seeking safety.

To Patriotslog this attack, as tragic as it is, is framed in a larger light: the civil war in Syria. Many public officials, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) a leader among them, are calling for the United States to take a much larger role in liberating Syria from the dictatorship of Bashar al Assad. While liberty is most certainly a human right, and living under a dictator is something we never wish upon anyone, there is a delicate balance between liberty and security. The Constitution specifies that security is a primary concern of the Federal Government; as important as the liberty of others is, that cannot take priority over the security of our own nation. History has shown that removing dictators may not be in our best security interests.

I wish it were safe to provide liberty to other nations, however, it seems that many nations, particularly in the Middle East, use us to help overthrow a dictator, then once they have what they want, they throw us out as fast as a spoiled glamour girl gets rid of a boyfriend that had to take a pay cut. The simple fact us, we just cannot be sure whom we are helping in these other nations.

The first and foremost example is Afghanistan. Though we did not help to overthrow a dictator, we did give weapons and training to Afghan militia to help defeat the Soviet Union when they invaded Afghanistan. The problem is we did not know who the militia was. It turned out to be terrorists. The CIA gave weapons and training to Osama bin Laden as well as what would become the Taliban. That story did not turn out pretty.

Iran gives us another example. The CIA helped in a coup that overthrew the government of Mohammad Mossedeq. The United States then aided the Shah and was very friendly to his government, which was then overthrown, and the current extreme regime was brought into power. Reports are that the US is now on the verge of armed conflict with Iran over their nuclear weapons program.

Now the United States consulate has been attacked by armed militants in Benghazi that we provided weapons to as part of their revolution to oust long time dictator colonel Moammar Gadhafi.

The point is that these revolutions which get rid of dictators do not always bring a desirable result. The stability provided by Saddam Hussein in Iraq has been replaced by endless question marks and terrorist attacks in that country. We can only hope those attacks never make it to our shores. This is why we have to use caution with the Syria civil war. Arming and training a rebellion may end up arming and training a foe down the road. The fact is we just do not know who will take power should the Assad regime actually fall. In fact, we do not even know if the people will have liberty with whatever succeeding government may come. If it ends up being a Taliban type government, they certainly would be less free than they are under Assad. Jumping off a diving board is never a good idea until you know how deep the water is.

              The attacks this morning, and the tragic deaths of Ambassador Stevens and his three associates should be a strong reminder of this. The loss of life of these people who gave their lives to serve our nation, just as so many soldiers have, needs to be remembered and the all consequences need to be weighed. We would hate to have to lose more lives because of an intervention with Syria. America is not the police force for justice; we need to put our own security first because EVERY life is important. We must remember the cost of intervention. Ambassador Stevens and his associates served our nation with courage and dedication. Their lives lost mark a tragic day for our country; we need to remember this before we make a decision with Syria.

–Matt Young

12 September 2012

Energy Independence and Economic Growth

Mitt Romney has promised that if he is elected he will create 12 million jobs; ironic considering he insists government cannot create jobs, but that is beside the point. 12 million is a huge goal; to date, President Obama has only created about 4 million. 12 million would almost eliminate our current unemployed. Of course others have stopped looking for jobs, but if the work force stayed as is, Mitt Romney claims he could almost completely rid our nation of unemployment. Mitt has given no time frame, so because he is comparing economic production to one Obama term, we assume he is giving first term creation numbers.

Aiming so high almost certainly sets the stage for a pass/fail Presidency; there is not much room for middle ground with this promise. Then again, President Obama has shown that a President can run a campaign while completely avoiding their record and promises made. Either way, Mitt Romney has set his own standard, and has given us a plan–or at least a few aspects of one. The campaign has put the energy sector first and foremost on their economic platform, and for good reason. Mitt Romney has set a goal to be energy independent by 2020; if that is done, millions of jobs will be created by consequence.

At the base of Mitt Romney’s plan is domestic fossil fuel production. Little known to most people is the fact that many of the western states have public lands largely owned by the federal government. This does not make sense to me either. Counties and municipalities have to walk though federal bureaucratic red tape in order to even access their land. Some counties are as much as 90% owned by the federal government! I have a friend in Utah who wanted to trade a large piece of unusable land for a smaller piece of accessible land which he could use to graze horses; it took the government–and I am not kidding–about 20 years to approve that trade! If jobs are available now, why would we waste 20 years of bureaucratic B.S. accessing those when the average American family has lost $4,000 in income? Mitt Romney wants to cut through tape, and give local governments access to this land. It makes sense; someone living on or near the land ought to be the manager of the land. A Washington bureaucrat rarely even sees the land they control.

States like Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Alaska are energy rich, but are not producing. States like North Dakota are energy rich and are booming. Unemployment in North Dakota is only 3%! Reports are that you cannot even drive through the state without being offered a job. If that is a possibility for other states, 12 million jobs may be within grasp. The United States has huge oil reserves. I know that topic is up for

political debate because of the technical definition of the word “reserves”, but Patriotslog does not care for semantics. The fact is there are vast amounts of oil available to the United States, and even by the most conservative estimates, the amount of oil keeps growing. We may have as much as 200 years of oil available to us–or more.

Many people scoff at the idea that the United States could be completely energy independent by 2020, but it might not be so farfetched. Last year, for the first time in over 60 years the United States exported more oil than it imported. Obviously, to be independent we need more crude oil, but drilling on federal lands and in the oceans could produce that, and we may not need as much as you might think. The United States also is using less petroleum now than in times past. Moreover, new laws have been passed to double the average fuel efficiency in a fleet of vehicles. Patriotslog heavily doubts this is achievable by the 2025 goal, but any improvement will help. Fleets reaching an average of 50mpgs are about as likely as our presidential candidates telling the truth, but if we get to 30 or 35 that will still make a significant impact. To be energy independent we may also need more refineries, but that would be more jobs on top of the production jobs. All of these factors can combine into an energy independent United States. By 2020, this is much more reachable than many realize, and it actually is plausible.

Most of the western U.S. is Federally owned

Of course Mitt Romney’s plan is not perfect. In fact, it makes a lot of people unhappy. One argument Patriotslog has no patience for is that increasing drilling will contribute to global warming. Calm down, I am not suggesting global warming does not exist, but here are a few facts to chew on. Carbon emissions are lower in the United States than they have been in decades, and they are still going down! I know liberals hate to hear this, but we do not need the EPA. Regulations are not needed to clean up our emissions. It is clear that if consumers are offered cleaner options that are affordable and practical, we will regulate ourselves. If we become aware of the issues we have shown we will use our education to make a difference. These carbon emissions continue to drop despite the highly controversial fracking and natural gas productions that continue to grow. Clearly, we have developed safe and clean ways to produce, refine, and use oil. More drilling does not necessarily mean more emissions. Moreover, the more we drill the smaller the demand on other areas of the world to drill; therefore, the less they drill. Because we have cleaner and more efficient ways to do this, we may actually see carbon emission decrease with more drilling.

While emissions are not an issue, alternative energy is. Of course clean energy will produce no emissions, which is better than the drilling, but one way or another, we cannot–and with the price of gas, we should not–rely on coal/petroleum energy forever. The Romney plan, most likely in an effort to cut spending, will end the clean energy tax credit. Funding will no longer be available for alternative energy development. Patriotslog thinks this idea will work out as well as eliminating a core education subject in public school. Individual innovation creates most technological and medical advancements, but very often, the research is subsidized by the government. Things like the nuclear bomb and the internet have produced millions and millions of jobs, and would most likely not exist without the government research and development funding. Of course Solyndra was a bust, but not even Mitt Romney can claim they have never made a bad investment. Just like at Bain Capital, you are hit and miss with investments. Solyndra was a bigger miss than a Kardashian marriage, but that does not mean the government should stop funding research and development. Look at the huge strides in the battery market in just the last decade. There could be vast potential none of us are even aware of right now in the battery market that may never be reached without funding–funding Mitt Romney would cut. Just because it is a good idea to develop the oil potential in our country does not mean it is a good idea to stop developing all other forms of energy.

The biggest reason to continue other research is the price of gas. Energy independence may not mean lower gas prices, because petroleum is a global industry. When the Libyan civil war broke out the price of gas rose by a higher percentage in Canada than in the Middle East. Independence could make a difference here, but research shows it is not likely.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the Romney plan would only produce $7 billion in new revenue; but that may not tell the whole story. That number is highly disputed, but either way it does not take into account the taxes from jobs created in the industry. If Mitt Romney can achieve 12 million jobs, the revenue will be substantial. While the trickle-down effect works about as well as a Hollywood actress transitioning to a singer, the ripple effect does work. All the new jobs created by energy independence will ripple into the economy. Not only does it mean less government spending for welfare with the unemployed, but it means more consumers spending. More consumer spending means more sales taxes, more income taxes, more economic growth, and more jobs created. This effect is then repeated over and over. Energy independence is not a perfect plan, but it can go a long way to economic growth.

 

–Matt Young

7 September, 2012

The Slow Economic Recover

It has been five years now. In case you have recently woken up from a coma, five years ago a deregulated Wall Street (yes, it is already obvious to tell where this is going. We deregulated Wall Street as if we thought they cared about the livelihood of the American people, and might actually act ethically) bundled together some ridiculous, high risk loans and sold then to investors around the world in order to make a profit on the booming American housing market. Investors thought it was a win-win to buy in on the flaming hot real estate enterprise, not knowing that the banks had bundled together the most dangerous assets to sell them. In many cases this was illegal, and in every case this was unethical, but now it is what it is. So during your coma the political sphere has been endlessly bickering like spoiled homecoming royalty about how to rebuild our economy. Buckle up, because for all the energy and attention given we are recovering at great depression speeds! Five years later we still have 44 out of 50 states with rising unemployment. Likewise, consumer confidence is barely above 60%; that is a good number for a president’s approval rating; in fact, if that was his approval rating, I would probably not need to write this article, but for consumer confidence, that number is disparaging. Read the rest of this entry

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