Category Archives: Politics

Do You Care About Being Spied on?

I have written and deleted this column it seems like one hundred times since I first tweeted, minutes after the story broke, that the NSA was getting call records from millions of Verizon customers; but it seems like every hour we learn something new about the government spying on us, and it makes my previous ranting useless. Then, while all of this was coming out I realized something: people really do not care.

Think about it. Ask your co-workers, friends, and family what they think about being spied on, and I have found that most people–even random strangers I talk to have a really muted reaction. You would never guess it from the media outrage, but the general public is saying things like, “Oh well, Bush did it too”, or “is this really a surprise to people?” Of course, civil libertarians are freaking out (rightfully so), but it is not like people spent their Saturday protknoODbpesting in the streets, or marching on the Whitehouse. Not even the Republicans in Congress seem to mind. How ironic that the government would throw such a fit about the Chinese spying on them, then feel free to spy on us with no regard for privacy.

If President Obama had any credibility left after the IRS, Benghazi, Associated Press phone records, Fox Propaganda phone records, and Dora the Explorer scandals, it is surely gone now. He campaigned hard–really hard–on ending these kinds of things; that was lie number one. Now he tells us that when he got elected and looked at them they were not so bad after all. Then, in an attempt to try to calm everyone down he told us that every single member of Congress knew about these programs. Turns out that is not even close to true either. Now he is trying to tell us these surveillance techniques are not that serious; they are only minor privacy infractions that help keep the country safe, and do not reveal anything personal about anyone. What he is not telling you is that just by your phone metadata the government has the capability to predict exactly where you will be 24 hours from now. But do people really care? This is 2013; you do not need credibility to be a politician, you need popularity.

Just last week in his highly political speech, President Obama said terror groups are “focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based.” So, according to our Commander in Chief there are either a lot of terrorists based in America to warrant this breach of privacy, or he is lying to us telling us we need it. The purpose of the entire speech was to tell us that we are now much safer than we were immediately after 9/11, and therefore 9/11 style provisions and wars are no longer necessary. I suppose that does not include things like the Patriot Act and spying on your own citizens. But is that important?

Do Americans care that the NSA committed perjury in telling Congress that they do not collect data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans, or if they do it is by accident? Is it okay with the public that you and I go to prison for that, but nobody even raises an eyebrow when a presidential appointee lies? Does it even matter that our government is also carrying out these types of spying programs on just about everyone in the world? Have we come to accept that we have no privacy, and decided to just deal with it because of our first world privileges?

Members of Congress are not much more transparent; at least the ones that knew about it. Rep. Mike Rogers (R, MI), the House Intelligence Committee chair, hit the Sunday morning talk circuit to tell us how valuable these spying programs are. We have found out in the last few days that the government also spies on most major cell phone companies, as well as internet companies like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook and others. They also have access to your emails through a program called PRISM. And it is helping you immensely to be spied on; so much so in fact that Rep. Rogers thinks those responsible for the leaks should go to prison–and the Justice Department reportedly agrees. But does anyone care?

The most puzzling thing about Rep. Rogers  comments was that he only named one U.S. terror attack this information had helped stop. It apparently did nothing to help in the Boston Marathon bombings, or any one of the recent mass shootings. How much safer are we from this surveillance? If it can stop 90% of attacks, is it worth it? 50%? 10%? Or are the politicians telling the truth? If it has only stopped one attack, can it really be that big a deal? Or can anyone anywhere really be wire tapped at any time as Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower suggests?NSA pickup

But does it even matter that Rep. Rogers, even with all the information we have, said the public “doesn’t not have a clue” about what the spying programs can really do? There does not seem to be public outrage, anger, or even frustration from any of this information. It seems that as long as spying does not affect the day to day lives of average citizens, the majority of the public could not care less. It seems that is the determining factor: when government spying becomes inconvenient, when it makes us late for our dinner reservation, or interrupt our TIVOed Survivor episode, then we might throw a fit.

In fact, this may be closer to a reality than you might like to imagine. Even before 9/11 the NSA suggested rethinking the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against unlawful search and seizure, and is the basis for the argument against infractions such as racial profiling. This is the Amendment that mandates search warrants, and privacy guarantees. Were it to be “re-thought” big brother might come breaking down your door any time for no reason. When police or federal agents can come demand to see your computer, with no probably cause or warrant, America, will you become angry then?

–Matt Young

9 June, 2013

If Obama is Telling the Truth, it Could be Worse than Lies

To be fair to Republicans, improper use of the IRS was cited in the Nixon Impeachment articles, so they may not be totally off base, but certainly premature, in throwing around the “I” word when it comes to the week of scandals. President Obama’s defense is simple, he had no idea the IRS was targeting his political opponents. He was completely oblivious to one of his agencies placing special emphasis on the people most responsible for obstructing his agenda. It is plausible, and it sounds innocent enough except for the fact that the revelation of the lies told about Benghazi surfaced this week, along with the stunning news that the justice department seized two entire months of phone records from reporters and editors at the Associated Press.

It happened by mere coincidence really. While browsing a few of my news feeds I read articles back to back that highlighted the state of ignorance President Obama held about the IRS scandal, and about the state departments dealings during Benghazi. It gave credibility to the conservative argument that he is lying to us about everything. There is no way he really does not know about these scandals? He is the President, he has to know something. Then, ever so slowly the wheels in my head started turning. What if he is telling the truth? What if he really has no idea that this stuff is going on? What if the President is honestly just an innocent bystander?98266174-obama-scandal-circus

Then I tried to stretch my memory back over the last five years (thank goodness for the internet) to a few other highly questionable events. I started with the election. President Obama had no idea the acorn scandal was happening; it was not him, it was lower level workers making independent decisions. When the Fast and Furious scandal leaked it was lower level officers and agents in the Justice Department and its various bureaucracies that carried out the program. During the TARP bailouts he had no idea what transparency requests were made to keep the tax payers from being ripped off. The deference to the banks while sticking it hard to the tax payers went no higher than the Treasury Department; it was all his lower level workers again. More recently, the lack of security in Benghazi was the fault of lower level State Department officials, and the changing of the talking points given to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice was an interagency process he had nothing to do with. Now he has no idea the IRS is singling out the group most responsible for his political woes as President. I have yet to hear his defenses for the American people being lied to about the drone program, or about the Justice Department spying on the AP, but it would not be too farfetched to guess he had no idea.

Whether you use the fooled me once, or the three strikes method for these types of things, this all comes up a little foul. But then I thought to myself again; what if he is telling the truth? That is when I realized, that might be even more alarming than lies.

obama scandals                It would mean a lot of things; none of them good for you and me. If President Obama really has no idea what is going on under his wing then we have a glorified speech giver at the head of our government. If he is telling the truth then he is simply a charismatic figure head, and un-elected party bosses are the real people making the decisions in the United States. The truth would mean that the Hollywood scenario or rouge government agencies accountable to no one really do have the ability to spy on and harass citizens as they please. It would mean the inmates are running the asylum–something we thought only Speaker Boehner had to deal with inside the Republican House of Representatives. If President Obama truly is in the dark about all of these issues then we have all had the wool pulled over our eyes. The government no longer serves the people, it only serves itself. We are regulated by criminals, and you and I essentially mean nothing.

If President Obama really us telling the truth, he has single handedly entirely validated the conservative case for smaller government. So…is he telling the truth, or not?

–Matt Young

14 May 2013

Gun Control Politics

It was much more heated than the town hall debate against Mitt Romney. “It’s not gonna happen because 90% of republicans voted against this idea” seemed to spew out of his mouth with venom and vitriol. I have never seen President Obama, or any President for that matter, as angry as he was on April 17th, in the White House Rose Garden, speaking about the Manchin Toomey Amendment to expand background checks.

Though Patriotslog has always been opposed to gun control because it does not work, we have always been in favor of expanding background checks; why would we not want to know who possesses deadly firearms? But that is not the point. By far, most Americans support expanding background checks, so I would be wasting my energy typing a few paragraphs to add to the tsunami of voices calling for their establishment. Rather, I would like to set aside a few paragraphs to talk about the politics around gun control–because they are repulsive.

In the same speech President Obama spend a few good minutes to make sure the voting people heard his message that they needed to vote against that 90% of Republicans who did not support an expansion of background checks. The entire speech was designed as a “them versus you” expose. The only positive sentence in the entire speech was telling us that 90% of Democrats voted for the bill–there was no other mention of the four Democratic Senators who voted against it. This was a clear political move for the President, and more importantly, for the Democratic Party. At no other time has President Obama taken to the podium so swiftly to rage against a failed amendment to a bill. Why now? Why with Gabby Giffords and victims of Newtown present? Well, he told you. He wants you to vote against Republicans.

Most left wingers have joined in the campaigning. It takes some real homework to find a mention of the four Democrats who voted against the amendment. But if you want to know who the Republicans are, just ask Gabby Giffords. The other day I heard a radio ad by her Super PAC Ameircans for Responsible Solutions telling me that Mitch McConnell does not listen to the people of Kentucky because he voted against expanded background checks. I took special interest in this because I was born and raised in Kentucky and I have seen all the things Senator McConnell has done for my state. Is he my favorite politician? No. However, he is not the monster Americans for Responsible solutions would have you think he is.

So I looked into these ads; as it turns out, they are being run against Republicans who voted against expanding the background checks. I have to emphasize Republican because as of my writing this sentence, there are no ads from Americans for Responsible solutions running against the four Democrats who opposed the measure. If passing the Minchin-Toomey amendment was really what Americans for Responsible Solutions wanted, it would not just be a campaign against republicans.Background Check Poll

Of course, none of this means Republicans are noble and gallant. The right wing politics on gun control are just as gruesome. For them it all comes down to re-election as well. For many Republicans a primary election is their biggest concern. Though nearly 90% of Americans support expanded background checks, that certainly does not mean they are willing to picket Pennsylvania Avenue to get them. In many polls I have analyzed much of the 90% who support it do so passively–it is not a driving issue for them. For this reason it is much easier for a Republican to tell voters in a general election that they were defending the Second Amendment than it is for them to try to tell primary voters–typically much, much more radical than the general population–that they voted for expanded background checks.

But the gun lobby is still the elephant in the room. They may play the biggest factor in any general election. Not as powerful as it once was, the gun lobby can leverage the diminished influence by playing to the fears of radical conservatives during a primary. In 2012 alone the gun lobby spent well over $30 million. If every penny of that was spent to defeat Republican Senators up for re-election next year in their primaries it would total well over $1 million per primary: a massive amount for a primary race! Despite the limited success of gun rights groups in the general elections, cash like that would make a monumental impact in primaries. Now, the fact that the nation’s second largest gun rights group supported the expansion of background checks means not all of that would go toward defeating Senators who voted for expanded background checks, but the impact would still be enormous. These same Senators would much rather have this money spent on them and for them rather, not against them. With the likes of President Obama and Americans for Responsible Solutions trying to defeat them they will take all the help they can get.

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican you ought to be disgusted that your party would act in so manipulative a way. Unfortunately, we have put the entire political system in the hands of two private parties whose sole purpose for existing is to gain and maintain power, no matter how manipulative their propaganda. I am not saying that there are not politicians out there who truly want expanded background checks, there certainly are, and I believe they sincerely do. I am just saying that when it comes to expanded background checks, background checks take second place.

–Matt Young

29 April 2013

Wall Street; the New Capitol of America

“It’s time we stop subsidizing risky Wall Street practices. We’ve seen how too big to fail is also too big to manage, too big to regulate, and too big to jail.” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) does not hesitate to make his feelings known when it comes to the monster banks on Wall Street. He is one of the loudest and most ardent supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) new legislative proposal to break up these banks that gambled away our economic prosperity and sent ripples into the entire global economy.

Typically, I pay attention to Bernie Sanders for pure entertainment purposes only. He runs as an independent simply because there is not socialist party in America, so it is not often we see eye to eye on anything (in fact, this might be the first time), but I am all in with him on this one. Wall Street now runs America—unelected, private, for profit firms are calling the shots these days, and they do not answer to or care about anyone. Their checkbooks are their idol.

Unfortunately, Sen. Sanders’ proposal most likely headed to the same destination as gun control. There simply is not enough public support to make an honest man out of Congress, so Congress will keep their various financial mistresses until you and I demand the banks be held accountable.

Wait, this soap box rant sounds pretty anti-capitalist to me? Admittedly, it does, but I have not changed philosophies, a regulated capitalism is still the best economic system; I am just not sure we have that anymore. Breaking up the banks might be just what we need to reclaim it.

Wait, getting IN the way of free markets is how you reclaim capitalism? Ironic, I know, but my answer is emphatically YES! The problem is the markets are not really free anymore; we (rather, the government) sold our capitalist soul the day we bailed out Wall Street, then refused to even slap their wrists for what they did. Capitalism requires that you allow businesses to grow and fail based on their own merits, but we did not allow banks to fail, they have become too big for that. If they are too big to participate in our regulated capitalist economy that made us the greatest place to live in the world than they must be broken up to save that same regulated capitalism. Too big to fail is unacceptable; particularly when you and I will be punished for the misdeeds of these banks, which will then be bailed out by our tax dollars. Does that sound like capitalism to you?

So…the bailout was years ago; why are you suddenly so vocal about breaking up the banks? Simple. Because not only has this administration flat out refused to hold the banks accountable for what they have done, but now the administration is on record, through the voice of Attorney General Eric Holder, stating that the banks have become too big to prosecute for their crimes.

In a political system where money has become the determining factor in most elections, the center of the financial world becomes the political Mecca. Between political parties and special interests the Capitol Rotunda is beginning to resemble a puppets stage. If you have always found it a bit fishy that not a single Wall Street executive has had so much as an accusation thrown at them by law enforcement, your answer lies inside the beltway. Political parties are a separate bone to pick altogether, but last I checked there were five, yes, 5 Wall Street lobbyists for every member of Congress.

Wall Street spends about $1billion every election cycle to try to ensure the next Congress will be as banker friendly as possible. Why? So the government will turn a blind eye to their white collar crime. J.P. Morgan himself stated that if Americans knew how the banking system worked they would rise up in revolution. If any Congressman or Congresswoman becomes a threat to Wall Street, Wall Street will spend like crazy to get a new representative in that office. This is why monster banks have recently been funneling the larger part of their campaign contributions toward Republicans. With Occupy Wall Street and too big to fail becoming dinner table conversation topics, Democrats seem to be more of a threat.

Republicans fight the breakup of big banks, claiming that they are defending capitalism; they just fail to explain what part of capitalism there is to defend? If they hate wasteful spending and excess taxes as much as they say they do during election season, is there any better way to attack both then to ensure there will never again be a tax payer funded multi trillion dollar bailout of private financial firms with the sole purpose of making money? Republicans are not alone. President Obama has also been seduced by Wall Street harlotry every bit as much.th

Though he promised he would fight for the middle class he has done no such thing. The youth and minority populations still face staggering unemployment rates, the average income has dropped, and healthcare premiums are growing faster than ever. On the other hand, Wall Street and big banks have hardly seen a more prosperous time. The banks that we bailed out are now bigger–by translation that should probably read riskier–than ever, their profits are at an all-time high, and bonuses been large enough to purchase small sovereign nations. So pleased is Wall Street with the performance of President Obama that at one point 1/3 of his campaign contributions came from the monster banks. How is any of that working for the middle class? President Obama has adulterated his principals, and played in favor of the big banks.

He has also let the banks get away with economic murder. As the head of the executive branch, and thereby the justice department, it is up to him to demand punishments for Wall Street. Instead, he has de facto pardoned them, sending the signal to these spoiled children that their actions are not just acceptable, but encouraged. I mean that literally–President Obama is telling banks to begin engaging in the same high risk lending that led to the meltdown.

How is it that high government officials can serve prison time over the Watergate scandal, but not a single high Wall Street executive has served time–much less, been charged with a crime– for what they have done? But we have seen exactly the opposite; instead, a government official who should be prosecuting the banks for their crimes leave to be hired to defend them from their crimes. This is not a free market; Wall Street is running an autocratic market. It is time to reclaim our own economy. We need to break up the biggest banks.

Dismantling to the point of nonexistence is not what needs to be done. Banks are needed, and often serve a useful purpose. What needs to be done is to divide these banks into several independent branches small enough to be accountable for their own actions. A tax payer funded bailout is the only reason many of these banks still operate today, this is more than enough justification to introduce a tax payer protective breakup. These monster banks grew because we supported them in their malpractice; this means in every sense of the word that we are their creditors. Now it is time to settle the books.

Thankfully the founding fathers had the foresight to create three branches of government. If the President will not execute his office we can only hope Congress will execute theirs. Sen. Sanders’ bill may not have everything right, but it is better than nothing. We cannot have banks betting on house money; we must keep our capitalist society breathing. Too big to fail is not acceptable. These monster banks must be cut down to size.

–Matt Young

8 April 2013

Does Obama Care?

It is a legitimate question. Now that Obamacare is three years old we can take some time to reflect on how it has unfolded. Obamacare was initially a derogatory term used by Republicans to insult the program, but during the Presidential campaign the president accepted the term as his own. He was proud of it and pleased with it, saying “I have no problem with people saying Obama cares. I do care”. But does he?

Someone who cares would clearly want what is most beneficial for those they were elected to serve. Someone who cares would make public welfare a higher priority than personal merit. The failures of Obamacare are in plain sight. So many promises have been broken, and so little benefit has come from the law, that it is time to really ask: does Obama care?Obamacare-tax

President Obama promised he would fight for the middle class; he promised he would not raise taxes on the middle class; he promised he would take care of the middle class. Obamacare does the opposite of these. In fighting for Obamacare President Obama raised taxes on the middle class by $1 trillion. Many of these taxes directly pass on the cost to patients, increasing the cost of healthcare.

President Obama promised that if you like your healthcare plan you will be able to keep it.

“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what. My view is that health care reform should be guided by a simple principle: Fix what’s broken and build on what works. And that’s what we intend to do.”
 

                Sound familiar? Instead, the Department of Health and Human Services tells us that may not be the case; in fact, estimates are as high as seven million for people who will have to find new healthcare plans. The cost of providing insurance to an employee is much higher than the fine levied for not providing it. Many employers are also laying workers off, or reducing them to part time hours in order to avoid the penalty at all. This will push many more people on to the expanding Medicaid system, which, in some states is so crowded already that it is difficult to find quality or timely healthcare.

Employers who can afford to offer the care for their employees may be in shock before too long. We are already learning that there will be a 32% increase in the cost of claims for employers. This is going to have a significant impact on business revenue. Consider this: the cut off for employer mandates under Obamacare is 50 employees. There are now two and a half times as many businesses with 49 employees than there are with 50. If this were not enough the government tried to remedy these problems and only made matters worse.

The Obamacare law states that “affordable” healthcare coverage from an employer must not exceed 9.5% of the annual household income of the worker; however, it has been decided that 9.5% will apply only to the employee, and not to their spouse or dependents. This means Obamacare still classifies a family spending 30% or more on healthcare as affordable, as long as the primary policy holder does not spend more than 9.5%. The Obamacare system places the burden of the costs on the shoulders of the employers and families: costs that keep increasing.

We were promised that Obamacare would not add a penny to the national debt. Earlier this year the Government Accountability Office released their estimate that Obamacare would add $6.2 trillion to the long term deficit.th

The pinnacle of promises may have crested on the fib that health care premiums would decrease $2,500 per year if Obamacare passed. In the two year period from 2010 to 2012 the average healthcare premium increased $3,000 per year; a difference of $5,500 in extra costs to you and me from the promise made by President Obama. The worst part is that experts expect costs to continue to rise.

The only solution offered by Obamacare to any of these broken promises is the expansion of Medicaid. Millions of Americans will take the risk of waiting too long for insufficient care. Many states’ Medicaid systems function very well, but if you cannot afford healthcare, or your employer is cutting you to part time hours hopefully your state is one of these. To the Americans not so fortunate Obamacare offers the following sympathy: “good luck”.

Remember when President Obama promised this would insure 50 million Americans currently without insurance? All these broken promises result in only 20 million more insured Americans–many of whom qualified for insurance before Obamacare but chose not to have it.

So again, I ask the question: does Obama really care? Maybe he does, just not about you and me. To keep this law in place with so many broken promises and so much lack of fulfillment shows that he cares more about his crowning legislative achievement than he does about those who elected him. If this is not the case I call on him to prove he does care, admit he was wrong, and repeal this law. Doing so would be the mark of a great President.

 

–Matt Young

2 April, 2013

Gay Marriage

I suppose it is unavoidable now because the Supreme Court is set to hear two cases this week that may ultimately pivot history and decide the fate of gay marriage in our nation. Tuesday and Wednesday the highest court in the land will hear arguments for the famous–or infamous, depending on your point of view–California Proposition 8 defining marriage between a man and a woman, and the Defense of Marriage Act stating that a homosexual union in one state need not be recognized by another.

I have avoided writing about gay marriage for as long as possible simply because of the ferocious passion on each side of the debate. I have no problem taking a stand in the face of vehement opposition, that is actually why I started writing. The problem is that both proponents of and opponents to gay marriage believe they are on a righteous quest, and, like jihadists do, they will settle for nothing less than complete and utter annihilation of their enemies. It is impossible to have a civil discussion about gay marriage with either side—disagreeing means you are insane. But with the hearings this week so many friends and readers have asked what if think of gay marriage, so I guess it is time to attempt a civil discussion.

So what do I think about gay marriage? It doesn’t matter. The lines of right and wrong intersect with gay marriage. To some, homosexuality is wrong, and a sin, and therefore gay marriage must never be considered. To others it is wrong to privileges or rights away from real people because of sexual orientation. This is exactly why the Constitution does not legislate right or wrong; they are fluid concepts relative to the perspective of the citizen. Slavery used to be viewed as right, as did burning witches, stoning adulterers, and abandoning babies with birth defects.

The argument against gay marriage is desperate at best. Most people who oppose gay marriage do so holding the belief that homosexuality is a sin. This argument lacks integrity because sins are decided by God, not the government. Is being married a sin? Most people would say no. So if marriage is not a sin, than two gay people being married is not a sin. It is being gay, not getting married that is a sin. Marriage does not make homosexuality any more of a sin than it otherwise is. So opposing gay marriage on those grounds is frivolous.

Many others say gay marriage poses a threat to traditional values, to which I ask, what are traditional values? If traditional values are a mother, father, kids, dog, minivan and church on Sunday than 2013 is a much bigger threat to traditional values than gay marriage. Divorce is not just common, it is practically expected. Single parent households are normal, and the statistics on children raised in these single parent homes are frightening. Most couples live together without being married, even if they are married later on. I find it very ironic that open marriages, swinging, and one night stands apparently pose less of a threat to traditional values than people who actually want to get married. Is a lasting, loving marriage between two men or two women really more destructive to the institution of marriage than Kim Kardashian? It seems gay people are the only ones fighting for marriage.

But Gay marriage is much more than just religious morality versus human rights. Marriage itself is recognized by the government not for religious reasons, but for civil reasons. A married couple expectedly will raise a family–a function any government has a vested interest in because of is necessity for a nation to survive–therefore, a married couple is given special tax consideration. They are allowed to file jointly, and their income bracket is raised. Because it is biologically impossible for two people of the same sex to conceive a child it is a valid question to ask whether or not gay marriage ought to be recognized by the government on basis of equality. Oddly ironic to argue against gay marriage using equality, I know, but it is clearly inequality to grant the same civil consideration to homosexual couples given that they cannot grow the population. This would be similar to granting every citizen the same consideration members of the military receive despite the fact they do not defend our country.

A predictable rebuttal to this would be that gay couples can always adopt, and, any special tax consideration given to adopting heterosexual couples would also need to be given to homosexual couples, but adopting does not grow the population. In regards to adoption I have heard many people say children raised by a gay couple face developmental hindrances, and so this should not be allowed. The science is still out on the subject; it is not yet clear if or what hindrances children might consistently face. Then again, would it be any worse than a single parent household? If marriage were simply just a name on a paper then the gay marriage issue may be as simple as a state’s vote–the way the 10th Amendment tells us to decide these issues.

Either way, the question is not what is right or wrong, but what is legal, and what is Constitutional. That is what the Supreme Court will consider this week. Proposition 8 was overturned (meaning marriage could not be defined as being between a man and a woman) by a federal judge on the basis of discrimination. Whether or not it is ruled discriminatory may well hinge on the arguments already made. Does or does not the 10th Amendment provides the freedom for citizens to decide such matters?

The Defense of Marriage Act case will be equally as gripping. Currently states are required to give ‘full faith and credit’ to the legal documents of other states, meaning that if you have a driver’s license in California you can drive to Miami and it will still be valid for spring break. The DOMA essentially states that this does not apply to a same-sex marriage, meaning a gay couple married in Massachusetts can move to Tennessee and the state does not have to recognize that marriage. The question up for debate is whether or not this violates the Constitution, or if a state has the authority to make this choice? One might immediately think “how could it not violate the Constitution to not give full faith and credit to a marriage certificate?”

The clause is written very vaguely, leaving for a lot of room for interpretation. “Public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings” does not really pin anything down. Currently a permit or license for a firearm or concealed weapon is issued in state A, and not valid in state B unless state B specifically lists it as being so. Permits to practice law, medicine, real estate, and insurance are currently not recognized across state lines. If these do not violate the full faith and credit clause why would a marriage certificate? Perhaps a better question is whether or not a state can refuse to acknowledge a heterosexual marriage? If a state can only choose to refuse same-sex marriages than this is clearly a discriminatory practice.

So where will the Supreme Court rule? Given their record I doubt they will overturn a ballot initiative like Proposition 8, especially considering the Constitution, in the 10th Amendment leaves to the decision of the states of the people any issue not delegated or prohibited by the constitution. I expect the Supreme Court will leave it up to each state to decide whether or not to legalize gay marriage. The more interesting question will be whether or not other states must recognize this decision in the DOMA ruling. Might the Supreme Court rule DOMA unconstitutional, thereby forcing one state to recognize another states’ marriage–whether gay or straight? If so, will they rule on how a same-sex marriage is to be treated by the IRS? Will they rule that states have the right to determine their own welfare, as they do with other licenses not recognized nationwide? Perhaps this week will be a perfect example of why Patriotslog feels the Supreme Court is the most powerful body in government.

I hope that in reading this you have realized that gay marriage is not a right or wrong issue. It is not a morality versus human rights issue. Most importantly I hope you understand that what I, or any one person, thinks of gay marriage does not matter. It is not a question of whether or not it is good for society, moral for our culture, or needed for human rights. Individually these may be our greatest concerns, they may be our driving force to oppose or support it, but whether or not it can reasonably be granted or denied on solid legal and constitutional grounds is what will determine the outcome. The Supreme Court is standing at histories’ crossroads. Either way, the controversy is not going away after they make their decision.

 

–Matt Young

25 March 2013

Executive Activism Will Erode Democracy

Political Parties are robbing us of democracy.

Political Parties are robbing us of democracy.

Political parties suck. They are private institutions that have collectively gained control over our government. The sole goal of political parties is to obtain and maintain power. When Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) became Speaker of the House she stated that her most important job was not to be the third in line to succeed the President in a national crisis; not to lead the largest body of directly elected representatives in our nation; not to safeguard the rights of the people; and not to work for her constituents that elected her. No, her most important job was to get more Democrats elected. Similarly, of all the important tasks one could emphasize for a Senate minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that his number one priority was to make Barack Obama a one term President. A Senator’s top priority was not even in the Senate, it was in the White House. Clearly these leaders of their parties were working against the will and good of the people.

It is not that being liberal, libertarian, or conservative is a problem; the problem is that these parties serve themselves, not the United States. Perhaps the most dangerous symptom of this the fact that party loyalists quite literally become convinced that the other party is evil–not just bad, but knowingly, deceitfully, intentionally evil. (If you don’t believe that go to one of the wingnut radical blogs like redstate or dailykos, or even Rachel Maddow or CNS news and read the comments) If you literally believe someone or something is evil it becomes not just easy, but necessary to oppose them, even if you are breaking a law to do so. This, I really fear, is going to become regular occurrence if we allow the party beasts to continue to feed themselves. Elected officials swear to uphold and defend the Constitution; however, because we have created an incentive system that rewards radicalism, more often than not politicians are more concerned with upholding and defending their political party. And why shouldn’t they be? We have allowed losing the next election to become the worst punishment a politician can face.

Breaking a law to oppose another party, or to uphold one’s own ideology is deplorable for a citizen, but detestable for a politician. The problem is the citizen is punished by our legal system, but who is to punish the politician? This week Gov. Hickenlooper of Colorado signed into law a set of gun control measures, including a magazine capacity limit. Weld County Sheriff, John Cooke, went out of his way to let everyone he could reach know that he will not be enforcing this law, and he knows many other Sheriffs that also will not. Sheriff Cooke even made an appearance on Fox Propaganda to tell us this.

I have opposed gun control because research shows it does nothing to reduce crime, but a sheriff deliberately ignoring a law, even if to oppose gun control, does more to eliminate freedom than any gun control measure. If Sheriff Cooke wants to make laws he can run for the legislature. Unfortunately, Sheriff Cooke is not alone in his refusal to accept the laws. He is only following in the footsteps of one Barack Obama.

The constitution clearly points out that it is the duty of the Executive Branch to enforce the laws made by the Legislative Branch. Congress passed an immigration bill, and since his inauguration, President Obama has decided to use it as toilet paper. Not only has he deliberately decided not to enforce immigration laws, he sent the justice department to the Supreme Court to argue against an Arizona immigration law that mirrored the Federal law; a law Arizona felt they had to pass because President Obama refused to enforce the existing one. On top of that he implemented the Dream Act without a Congressional approval.

I am very much in favor of immigration reform, and a path to citizenship or something close to it, but the law is the law. If President Obama wanted to make laws, he should have stayed in the Senate. A President must uphold the office. Part of this means having enough integrity to enforce a law Congress has passed even if the president disagrees with it–no matter the law, no matter the President. Instead, President Obama refuses to send his administration before the Supreme Court to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. I understand that he supports gay marriage, and I respect that, but nowhere in the Constitution does it allow a President to choose which laws hold merit because of his personal beliefs.

John Roberts said it best. Though I have been an opponent of Obamacare from the beginning I have to agree with Chief Justice Roberts. It is up to Congress to make the laws; the Supreme Court does not determine which laws are good laws, only which laws violate the Constitution. It is not up to Governors whether or not to follow Obamacare. Every elected official must have this same amount of respect for democracy in order to ensure democracy is living a century from now. People angry about judicial activism ought to be equally as angry about Executive activism. If a President wants to change a law, do as Lincoln did; push, pull, pry, preach, beg, and put together a public campaign to pass a law or amendment. But a President is an executive, not a legislator.

It is not a Sheriff, Governor, or President’s job to determine laws. In a Democracy we govern ourselves. We have a Congress that makes laws, and if we disapprove, we vote for new members. If a law is unjust or unconstitutional, we (or even the President, Governor, or Sheriff) can try that law in the courts. This is the system devised to ensure the rights of life, liberty, and property to all citizens of the United States. A law does not become invalid simply it does not fit with the current desires of a figure head. The last time one figure head determined the law for all Americans to follow declared independence and fought a revolution. We vote for representatives and executives, not monarchs. No matter how you feel about a law, seeing an elected official refuse to follow that law should make you cringe. If this becomes a pattern, our democracy will erode from under our feet.

–Matt Young

21 March 2013

Debt is what Upsets me Most about Gun Control

“ The oath I have sworn before you today…was an oath to God and country, not party or faction and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.”  The charisma and stature of President Obama rang clear once more at his second inaugural address today. His passion, his fire, and his oratory are among the most impressive in modern time. Sometimes it feels like there is nothing he cannot accomplish. 72% of people say they like him personally. By comparison, only 18% like Congress. But he rarely risks his popularity by throwing his political weight behind a cause. He has now done this with gun control.

Like most of my fellow Kentuckians I enjoy firearms, and oppose gun control; not because I like them, but because the research is clear. Fewer guns do not result in less crime. In fact, when gun control measures are taken, we often see violent crime increase. But what frustrates me most about President Obama’s support of gun control is the lack of risk he takes now that he is taking a stand.

“We were made for this moment and we will seize it so long as we seize it together,” he said in his address. But he seems to have little interest in any togetherness. His 23 executive actions on gun control and his Congressional proposals are nothing but a poke in the eye of his opponents. He has thrown his passion against his enemies only. Now, I am not one to blame fast food for making one fat, but I find it very interesting that President Obama did nothing the challenge Hollywood, the entertainment industry, or the violence in our culture when he decided to take on gun control.

It is only going to get worse,

It is only going to get worse,

It does not say much for the character of a man if he uses his power for things that benefit him.  On the other hand, it speaks volumes of his character if he will use his power for things that benefit everyone. President Obama is leaving his allies conspicuously unscathed in gun control and debt. He has not challenged them because they are his breadwinners. Money and influence flooded in by the barge load to his campaign from Hollywood and Liberals that love entitlements, so he has left them alone as he has Democrats when it comes to debt. Instead, he has directly challenged his foes, and done nothing to challenge his allies.

His failure to challenge his allies is a pattern that repeats throughout his presidency. Our debt and deficit are far more threatening to this nation than the 300 deaths per year from rifles. At least twice in his first term Speaker Boehner put $800 billion of revenue on the table—a massive political risk—because he knew our fiscal situation was disastrous. Now we have even seen the Republicans pass more revenue in the fiscal cliff deal, but we have not seen any pressure from President Obama to cut entitlements—about 2/3 of our budget. Instead, he defends them and tells Republicans he will not negotiate.

Entitlements are not bad, but the debt they drive is a time bomb, and time is running out. It is time for Obama to use his influence and show he has character. His friends need to be challenged as he has challenged his foes. If he is as serous about a balanced approach to debt as he publically claims he is then it is time for the cards to be on the table. He must walk the walk. A true leader would fight for a fix, not for his political party.

Republicans have already crossed their red line and agreed to increase taxes. If President Obama has any integrity he will pull his party across their red line and reform entitlements. We need leadership and President Obama might be the most capable man for the job.

“America’s possibilities are endless” he said to a crowd scores of thousands strong. But if you listen to his newly appointed Treasury Secretary that is not true unless we fix our long term debt crisis. In 10 years Medicare and Medicaid spending alone is projected to be 100% of our budget. If we want our children to have possibilities as endless as ours we need to act now. He needs to act now. It has come time to put off the act of a strong leader and walk the walk. Be the man you pretend to be in your speeches. Be the man you are to the opposition on gun control.

Spending and debt are such uncontrollable problems, and such trophies to conservatives that I believe President Obama could kill two birds with one stone. Should he put his weight behind deficit reduction—real deficit reduction that must include entitlement reform—I believe conservatives would concede a compromise of much of what President Obama wants on gun control.

Now is the time for leadership.

Now is the time for leadership.

Here is a deal worth thinking about; entitlement cuts in exchange for defense cuts, more revenue through tax reform, and gun control. And I do not want to hear about how Social Security is not a driver of our debt, we are already paying out more than we are taking in and the nation is getting older, not younger. The trust fund has been raided for decades and workers cannot afford to pay the benefits for those coming up on retirement. So we need to raise the age for Social Security and Medicare; 68 at least, preferably to 70 within a few years. People are still typically very healthy into their 70’s, benefits at 65 are no longer a necessity. Medicaid is also exploding. We have to look into Medicaid savings, particularly with the Obamacare takeover, millions more will be pushed onto Medicaid. Right now is the time to save some money. We need to cut the military budget; we do not need a military budget larger than the next 10 largest in the world combined. Those four programs alone cover close to 85% of our budget, cut them, we cut the deficit.

For all of this I have no doubts Republicans would agree to at least another $300-$400 billion in revenue. On top of the $620 billion from the fiscal cliff that puts us roughly at $1 trillion. Through in another $1 trillion from Overseas Contingency Operations (the closing of the Afghan war in 2014) and we have $2.5 trillion in revenue—more than Obama has asked for. These cuts would be such an achievement for right wingers that I think you could get this compromise on gun control: universal background checks, registration of all assault rifles, possibly permits for assault rifles similar to the permits we have currently for concealed weapons, a ban on body armor (by the way, why is nobody talking about these last two?), and a limit on magazine size at 30 or possibly even 20. I do not think 10 is a realistic agreement, and I do not think a total ban on assault weapons is a realistic agreement either, but this gives President Obama almost everything he wanted from gun control.

But all this would take a true leader. Someone the public likes and admires not afraid of a fight—not afraid of his own allies. If President Obama would put the energy and passion for gun control behind deficit reduction he might end up with both, and become one of the greatest Presidents of all time along the way. But taking on your allies requires the type of character we just have not yet seen from Barack Obama. This term will be the test of that character.

–Matt Young

21 January 2013

Hurricane Sandy Relief and the Debt Ceiling

179 Republicans do not think this is worth cleaning up.

179 Republicans do not think this is worth cleaning up.

So we have another standoff on the debt limit, this seriously cannot surprise anyone. House Republicans are threatening to default if there are not spending cuts while President Obama has refused to negotiate with “terrorists”. At a breakfast I had with Speaker Boehner at the end of last year, he said that Congress would raise the debt limit because it was their responsibility to do so. Now I am not convinced this will happen. The sanity of Speaker Boehner is being vetoed by the extremism of the Republican Party. The Speaker is coming dangerously close to losing control of his members.

Why do I suddenly think Republicans might push us into default? Hurricane Sandy. The fact that 179 of 233 House Republicans voted against giving aid to Hurricane Sandy victims shows they would rather make an ideological stand than help the American people. No matter how bad it hurts the American people and economy, Republicans might push us to bankruptcy to prove a point.

Patriotslog has been a loud advocate for spending cuts since our beginning, so I understand the Republican concern. But I find myself more in the President’s corner on this issue. The simplest way to explain the debt ceiling standoff, in case you just returned from Gilligan’s Island and have not heard anything about it, is that Congress passes laws telling the Government how much it can tax, then passes laws telling the Government how much it can spend. Now a significant group of Congress is telling the President he must break one of those laws they passed by taxing more or spending less than they have allowed, or our nation will have to declare bankruptcy. Congress has racked up the credit card bill, now half of them are suggesting we refuse to pay it. Maybe Warren Buffett was right. Jokes aside, our deficit problem would go away faster than Michele Bachmann’s support for her presidential campaign if these guys were disqualified for re-election because of too much red ink.

77% of Republicans voted against the aid package for Hurricane Sandy victims. Many of whom are the same Republicans who voted for more defense spending. It is crazy that these people would rather see our military–already bigger than the next ten largest militaries combined–get even larger than help someone rebuild their home, their business, their school, and their life after blunting the second most destructive hurricane in our history. Only Hurricane Katrina was more destructive.

So I got to thinking, how many Republicans voted against Hurricane Katrina relief? Only 11. Then I decided to look further than that. I looked at every disaster I could find since 2000 with over $10 billion in damages, and what I found made me even more concerned about the Hurricane Sandy relief vote. The 9/11 relief package had zero Republicans oppose. Ditto for Hurricane Ivan. Hurricane Rita? Only 19. When additional hurricane damage burdened the gulf region zero Republicans opposed additional aid. There was no vote for wildfire relief, but I think it is safe to assume it would have had large support.

So why the lack of support now? It could be because the Sandy hit heavily Democratic states, so it provided a convenient opportunity for Republicans to prove a point. If this sounds farfetched, consider–this and keep in mind I am not a Democrat, so I have no party bias against Republicans. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, cut his own states firefighting budget, then criticized FEMA because he thought Texas deserved more aid for wildfires. Republican Congressman Steven Polazzo of Mississippi lobbied heavily for Hurricane Katrina relief, then voted against Hurricane Sandy relief. The Kansas City Star highlighted a handful of Congressman that voted against Hurricane Sandy relief after heavily benefitting from federal disaster aid themselves.

So the question that I think all 179 Republicans need to be asked is, “if your district had needed the disaster relief, would it have changed your vote?” I would have serious moral concerns about any representative that answers yes. American people are suffering; United we stand, divided we fall. To discriminate aid and relief because of geographical location or political party is beyond low. If these Republicans would vote against aid to every district, including their own, this might not concern me, but I just cannot believe that would happen. It would appear they care less for the good of the American people than the finances of the nation. That is why I cannot be so sure our debt ceiling will be raised. Default would be catastrophic both for our nation and the world. But if pulling the rug out from under our economy and livelihood proves a point, it seems conservatives are all for it.

What concerns me most is that last year’s ultra-conservative caucus–Representatives like Eric Cantor, Tom Cole, Scott Garrett, and Frank Lucas –voted for the relief bill. So exactly how extreme is this new Republican House to vote overwhelmingly against it? Extreme enough to take the unprecidented measure of default? It seems plausable to think so now.

 

–Matt Young

16 January, 2012

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