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Helping Kids is Bad, Robbing Kids is Good

If you were to believe the Department of Justice, it seems the wrong thing to do during our economic crisis is try to make life better for under privileged, at risk youth, and the right thing to do is take away from them what little economic development opportunities they had, and push even more children into poverty. The latest policy shift at the Department of Justice is to go after non-profit charities for their pennies, while we have yet to see them even touch the banks for their fortunes, largely maintained upon the backs of tax payers.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters of America foundation works with at risk and underprivileged children to kindle “higher aspirations, greater confidence, and better relationships; avoid risky behaviors; [and provide] educational success.” Volunteers take these at risk youth and pull them under their wing to help provide a role model and a stable course in life. Research has shown this practice reduces the chance that these at risk youth will drop out of school, experiment with drugs or gangs, and go to prison; but the Department of Justice is sending the message that this is a bad thing.

The federal grants that largely fund the Big Brothers Big Sisters foundation have been frozen following an audit from the office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice. The Audit found that Big Brothers Big Sisters could not account for about $19 million in grant money they have recently received. While that sounds severe it needs to be put into perspective. The audit did not accuse them of misusing the $19 million; their crime was not knowing exactly which of their expenses they used the grants for. Big Brothers Big Sisters made the mistake of pooling their grant money in with their general accounts, making it impossible to distinguish between the two.

On the other hand, during the TARP bailout program the Special Inspector General for TARP,  Neil Barofsky begged to require banks to report on how they used their tax payer funds. He was repeatedly told by administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that “all money is green“, meaning that once it was given to the banks, there was no way to track how it was used.

Ignoring the golden parachutes, excessive bonuses for ruining the economy, and corporate mergers (all on the back of the tax payers) that are the evidence of this lie, there is still the curious omission of any Justice Department action against the banks. The banks have hardly seen a disappointed scowl from our lawmen, let alone anything resembling real punishment. It was risky banking, pooling of troubled assets, over leveraged speculating, and dishonest bond sales that drove the economy into a ditch, leading to, not just $19 million, but trillions of dollars of tax payer bailouts to these banks without even a suggestion of accountability for this money. So why now? Why over the paltry amount of $19 million (five times less than the $100 million used to pay bonuses to the very men who tanked the economy)?bbbs

Of course I am guilty of over-simplifying the issue. The office of Inspector General ideally opperates independantly of the rest of the Department of Justice, so it is not as if Big Brothers Big Sisters was targetted (we hope).There are and should be stipulations to recieving grants, which Big Brothers Big Sisters failed to meet, and the remainder of the funds was frozen per those stipulations. These and many other issues make this situation more complicated than can be covered in 1,000 words, but the message the Department of Justice is sending is sickening. If there were exceptions made because, as Eric Holder said, the banks were too big to prosecute, why can exceptions not be made for a charity orgonization changing the lives of at risk children?

The charity is not being run into the ground, nor is it wasting money on lavish parties and meetings–which is more than we can say for some of the administration. The need to hold back further funding is non-existant. There are over 100,000 children on the waiting list to participate in this program, according to Big Brothers Big Sisters, and every dollar held back extends the wait for these at risk children who desperately need a mentor.

Don’t get me wrong; if taxes are going to be collected off the sweat and tears of hard working Americans, every single penny must be thoroughly accounted for. This is something Big Brother Big Sisters has already admitted and has promised to correct. The bigger issue here is they hypocrisy from our government. Because of the collective actions of Wall Street unemployment soared, hitting the lower class particularly hard. A new report shows almost 25% of all children in this country now live in poverty, putting even more children at an even higher risk, literally robbing opportunities from them. So for this the Justice Department decides not to punish the banks for their actions, but punish those who will work to clean up the mess the banks created. If I come across as overly passionate, I apologize. There have been very few times, including during my time overseas, that I have been ashamed to be an American. But if robbing at risk children means the government hands you money, and helping at risk children means they take it away, maybe we really are as bad as some people say.

–Matt Young

apologies to my readers. This article was written weeks ago, but I have not had time to post it.

So you Want to Arm the Syrian Rebels?

When the official announcement came this weekend that the United States Military will provide weapons to aid the Syrian rebels, my reaction was exactly this: “are we sure we wanna do this?” and polls show most of the country agrees with me.

Look, I understand that we really have no choice: President Obama painted himself into a corner by saying that if the Assad regime used chemical weapons we would arm the rebels. President Obama has close to no credibility left internationally, and very little at home. He could not afford to make a liar out of himself one more time. But the national security of a nation should not ever take a back seat to a President’s pride.

To begin with, it is not like chemical weapons are being thrown around like water balloons. By the administration’s own estimate there has been a fraction of one percent of the casualties in the war killed by chemical weapons: not exactly a holocaust. Moreover, the United States government will not even release their evidence of the chemical weapon use for analysis or scrutiny. After the last few weeks of scandals are we really supposed to just trust them? Even without the scandals, would their word be enough? The Russians have said the findings are not credible, which is certainly bias because they have been on the Assad side of the war for a while; however, the U.N. also questions the claims. If the government really did find evidence of the use of chemical weapons, does the American public not deserve to see that evidence before our nation joins another war in our name that most of us do not want?

There is also evidence to suggest the rebels have also used chemical weapons. If both sides are equally guilty of crossing the same red line, why is it fit for us to pick sides? Obama could easily save his own credibility by taking no side, and giving this as the reason.

Aside from the questionable motives, the United States participation in Syria should also be called into question by history and logic. History has not been kind to us when our government picks sides in a foreign revolution. We picked sides in Iran, and ended up with the Ayatollahs that now hold power. We aided the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan and ended up with the Taliban Regime. We had an ambassador and three others killed in Libya after supporting their revolution. Human rights violations, minority discrimination and crackdown on descent are now common in Egypt. Hundreds of people die each month in terrorist attacks in Iraq, and that nation is now far from settled. This time around in Afghanistan there are reports of wide spread corruption in the new–and anything but stable–government. Many feel that if the Taliban continues their attacks, the Afghan public may prefer their return to power so long as they can guarantee safety and stability.

The point is, it has rarely been in the long term benefit of the United States to sacrifice stability in a regime–even if a bad one–for democracy. One might argue Vietnam is the only time it has worked in our favor.321217_m

Logic really does not urge us to arm the rebels either. Of course, the White House insists that we only arm “good” rebels, but unless the NSA data collection is far more omniscient than we are being told there is simply no way to guarantee this. Not even Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) could tell the difference. During his visit to the Syrian rebels, he may have had his picture taken with Ammar Al-Dadikhi, aka Abu Ibrahim–a man accused of kidnapping 11 people. Moreover, many people on the ground in Syria have reported that the “good” rebels, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), just turns and runs at the first sign of fighting. It is the Al Qaeda rebels that do the dirty work, and have most of the military power.

This tells us that if the FSA is given the weapons, Al Qaeda could easily just walk in to a base and demand they turn them over. American officials are also forgetting one major problem: money is not a standard in Syria. Weapons can and have been readily used for money in the Middle East. Giving the FSA weapons will likely result in many of them being sold, probably to Al Qaeda, if they do not just choose to take them. Weapons also do not have a quick shelf life. What will the FSA do with their arms when the conflict is over? If they have not sold them by then, they will certainly have little reason not to at that point.

Jumping into a war on the opposite side of Russia and Iran should raise some eyebrows. War makes strange bedfellows, and it may be the United States pairing with Al Qaeda to fight Hezbollah, Russia, and Iran. The evidence is not solid, the outcome is not certain, the future is questionable, and the idea is not safe. So, I will ask this one more time; do we really want to arm the Syrian rebels?

–Matt Young

17 June 2013

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

Fact Checking Obama’s Big Speech

The Obama administration is hemorrhaging credibility. His speech at the National Defense University was meant to help that. It was a moment in the national spotlight, a Memorial Day weekend speech that was supposed to set the tone for the weekend news cycle. A speech meant to bolster the Obama image to those losing faith in the promised hope and change that seem to elude his oversight. But many people were unimpressed, and the defining moment in the speech was not a policy, but a protestor.

“We unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our commitment to civilian courts, worked to align our policies with the rule of law, and expanded our consultations with Congress.”

This really depends on how you define torture. When making this change President Obama required that all interrogations follow the guidelines of the Army Field Manual. The thing is, when the Justice Department reviewed the manual, it recommended no changes be made for the administration that was “banning” torture. Now this is not to say the situation has not improved, but many still argue that the Army Field Manual has “torture loopholes” that have been and continue to be exploited under the Obama administration.

“Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat.  Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us.”

Many military experts contradict this claim. While most of the senior Al Qaeda leadership is dead, we have precious little information (at least publically) about whether or not others were promoted to senior leadership to fill the spots of those killed. Moreover, the Haqqani network, an Al Qaeda affiliate is alive and strong in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, and there is much to suggest that after our combat mission in Afghanistan ends next year Al Qaeda and the Taliban will return to the new and vulnerable Afghanistan from the mountainous border regions they now inhabit.

“And while we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based.”

This statement is mostly true, but it is misleading and deceptive, and one a President should be clearer about. Most of the Al Qaeda operations have been in other nations, true, but the President seems to suggest this is their goal; their “focus”. If a terror organization is focused on their own region, this would suggest that American and western targets are secondary, and that we are safer because of that. Local terrorists are not local by choice, but by limitation. While the Obama administration deserves much credit–which I happily and thankfully give them–for these limitations, given the chance, as President Obama states in his speech, these terrorists “right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first.” America is the pinnacle Al Qaeda and many other terror organizations focus, and President Obama should not assert a false sense of security by suggesting otherwise.

“[W]e’ll face more localized threats like what we saw in Benghazi, or the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives — perhaps in loose affiliation with regional networks — launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their operations. So that’s the current threat — lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates; threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad; homegrown extremists.  This is the future of terrorism. We have to take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them.  But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11.”

This statement is a resounding truth. Nothing like 9/11 has happened on any other day before or after that tragic morning. So long as we keep our intelligence and surveillance active, this type of attack is, though possible, difficult approaching impossible. However, the intelligence community is not perfect, and no one can guarantee it will not happen again, but it would take another perfect storm, so to speak. You and I, sitting in our comfortable homes in America, are more likely to be killed by dogs than terrorists.

“Dozens of highly skilled al Qaeda commanders, trainers, bomb makers and operatives have been taken off the battlefield. Plots have been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S. transit systems, European cities and our troops in Afghanistan. Simply put, these strikes have saved lives.”

While this is also true, there is no mention of the civilian life lost to drone strikes. Patriotslog overall is a supporter of drone use in combat, though I would like to see more prudence than the Obama administration has shown in their drone use. Drones do save more lives then they end, even when civilians are taken into account. But a perfectly honest President would have addressed civilian collateral damage. This seems to suggest drones only save lives.

“Moreover, America’s actions are legal.  We were attacked on 9/11.  Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force.  Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces.  We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first.  So this is a just war a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.”

This is the perfect factual and legal justification for drone strikes. Completely true, and eloquently stated.

“Over the last four years, my administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists –- insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability.”

Evidence shows that, though legal and justified as stated above, drone use by the Obama administration has been reckless. The err has not been on the side of caution, but action under President Obama. This is why there have been so many reports of civilian casualties.

“…by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we’ve made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.”

To reduce the need is a very vague goal; particularly when one considers the lack of information we have on what current operational numbers actually are. This statement is nothing but a spoonful of sugar to those who oppose drones unless we get specific information on how much and to what level the administration intends to reduce strikes.

“And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.”

As stated before, the default seems to be on the side of action, not caution. Leaked information shows the disturbing reality of the default use of drones by this administration.

“To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties — not just in our cities at home and our facilities abroad, but also in the very places like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu where terrorists seek a foothold.  Remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.  So doing nothing is not an option.”

This is perhaps the most important statement in the entire speech. Terrorism kills more Muslims, by a huge proportion, than it does westerners. It is a weekly, sometimes daily it seems, event that a downtown bombing in an Afghan or Iraqi town kills scores of innocent Muslim civilians. “I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion we need to have about a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy — because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe.” This message should be the core of our counterterrorism approach. Public relations are as important, or more so, than military force. Without drone strikes, without American soldiers, without military force, many, many more Muslim civilians would die.

“So it is false to assert that putting boots on the ground is less likely to result in civilian deaths or less likely to create enemies in the Muslim world.”

This is true. Studies have concluded that the two major causes of anger toward the United States from Islamic communities and from Islamic extremists are the feeling that we occupy their land, and our alliance with Israel. While drones are beginning to have this same effect, if we can convey the message that they will ultimately save lives, drone strikes can result in less civilian deaths and create less enemies.drone_strike

“The very precision of drone strikes and the necessary secrecy often involved in such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites.  It can also lead a President and his team to view drone strikes as a cure-all for terrorism.”

What you don’t realize is that President Obama actually finished this statement with a silent parenthetical “trust me on this one, I am speaking from experience.” Drone strikes have been the default; not that that is necessarily a bad thing, as long as caution and prudence is used, which appears not to be the case with this administration.

“This means patiently supporting transitions to democracy in places like Egypt and Tunisia and Libya–because the peaceful realization of individual aspirations will serve as a rebuke to violent extremists. We must strengthen the opposition in Syria, while isolating the extremist elements.”

So far, supporting revolutions has not worked out well for us. Iran and Afghanistan are the most convincing examples. Substituting stability for democracy is not always the best choice. The extremist elements in Syria will continue fighting long after the revolution is over until they gain power. Fighting against Assad may come back to haunt us as was the case in Benghazi. Egypt used to be an ally, now they are an unstable wildcard, as are Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan. Iran is a flat out enemy now. Picking sides in a civil war or revolution has rarely turned out well for the United States, and it may not turn out well in Syria.

“Thwarting homegrown plots presents particular challenges in part because of our proud commitment to civil liberties for all who call America home.”

Just curious; is he talking about the civil liberties of the Associated Press and Fox Propaganda, where he hacked their phones?

“But a free press is also essential for our democracy.  That’s who we are.  And I’m troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their job.”

Just curious again; is he talking about the legal risks like being charged under the espionage act the way Fox Propaganda reporter James Rosen was–the only journalist ever to be charged like this?

“During a time of budget cuts, we spend $150 million each year to imprison 166 people — almost $1 million per prisoner.  And the Department of Defense estimates that we must spend another $200 million to keep GTMO open at a time when we’re cutting investments in education and research here at home, and when the Pentagon is struggling with sequester and budget cuts.”

Now, I am not saying we should keep GTMO open; it works as an effective recruiting tool for terrorists, and we could accomplish the same goal through other prisons. However, it is hypocritical, if not downright deceitful, for President Obama to suggest that international aid is not a large expense on the budget (though he is correct, $20+ billion is around 1% of the budget) but turn around and emphasize the $150 million per year for GTMO, as if that were a large expense. There may be many reasons for closing Guantanamo Bay, but money is not one of them.

The speech seemed to be aimed at scoring political points, not real policy reform. While I think it is the best policy for America to wind down international involvement, rein in our drone trigger finger, relay a strong message that terrorism kills more Muslims than anyone else, and focus more on local terror threats the speech itself was very underwhelming. There were too few commitments, too little substance, and too many vague details to really get me excited about anything President Obama suggested he would do.

–Matt Young

25 May 2014

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

Is Obama Abandoning Obamacare?

Obamacare was not President Obama’s first choice; it was a submission. “The time has come for universal healthcare in America…I am absolutely determined that by the end of the first term of the next President we should have universal healthcare in this country,” he declared to the glee of liberals back in 2007 just after declaring his Presidential candidacy. But with Hillary Clinton running as such a heavy favorite at the time, how was he to know that the executive he was to hold responsible for healthcare would be himself? The Republican idea of an individual mandate, the fact that tens of millions will still be uninsured despite his claims, and the fact that even insurance companies are admitting premiums might triple, not drop by $2,500 as Obama promised, do not represent a crowning achievement–the represent a blunt and brutal failure to President Obama.

Obamacare is the mate he must wake up beside every morning reminding him he was not able to land his first choice. It was the one night stand he is not proud of, but cannot get rid of, which is exactly why he has avoided it as much as possible during his second term. But it is not just President Obama; Democrats everywhere refuse to be seen with Obamacare. Obamacare has become the mistake everyone on the left tries to forget ever happened. Realizing their one night stand may have cost them their political soul; Democrats from Max Baucus to Elizabeth Colbert Bush have taken to the microphone to try to break it off all together. Our President on the other hand, is the one who must live with Obamacare, so he remains resoundingly, blaringly, deafeningly silent.

Many in the media have asked why he does not defend Obamacare. Why is he dropping the ball on the rollout of the law? Why has there been no marketing, no public relations campaign on Obamacare? Surely it has a few good things to offer or it would not have slept its way from the dark pits of Congress up through members offices, into the hotels of the Democratic leadership, and finally into the bed of the President? (Ok, obviously that is not how a bill works, but I am sticking with my Obamacare as a prostitute metaphor. It promises great things, under delivers, leaves you with heavy regrets, makes you hope you did not catch a disease, and then charges you way more than you ever imagined for something you now realize you never wanted…seems reasonable to me.) The President should at least by talking about what Obamacare got right, right?

There are only two reasonable explanations for this: 1) President Obama believes there is a legitimate chance of gaining control of the House and keeping control of the Senate during the midterm elections and he does not want to impassion the opposition or attach Democrats to a vastly unpopular law; or 2) He still believes there might be a chance he can get universal healthcare. Given that Democrats won the 2012 elections by a margin comfortable enough to shock most political observers and give a stroke to most Republicans I have to believe it is the latter of the two. Well, that and the fact that I have been saying for over a year that Obamacare may have been designed to fail so that we have no other choice but universal healthcare. But the silence from the White House has started to make me believe that really is the plan. Now I have a legitimate opportunity to defend my theory. Of course, a House controlled by Democrats would not hurt the cause of universal healthcare either.

Healthcare premiums have not gone down at all, they have gone up $3,000 since Obamacare was signed–a $5,500 difference from the promise made during the campaign. You also pay $1 trillion more in taxes. Employers are cutting hours back to part time to avoid providing healthcare to their employees. Small businesses are refusing to hire past 49 people so they can avoid the employer provided healthcare mandate. People are losing their insurance plan–a direct contradiction of the promise, if you like your insurance plan, you will be able to keep it. “Affordable” insurance will now be defined by the head of household, possibly costing thousands to a family that will then not qualify for help. And, of course, if you do not buy insurance, the government will fine you. And I am still not even sure Nancy Pelosi knows what is in Obamacare (had to do it. It is one of my favorite quotes of all time).

I could waste your day giving many more examples, but you get the picture. Obamacare is nothing close to what we were told it will be, and Americans are not happy about it. But of course neither is Obama. Yet, all of this was so obvious to so many of us, (by us, I mean public policy junkies, not the Fox Propaganda, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter crowd) including the American Medical Association, insurance companies, and doctors, how could the administration not have seen this coming? They had to know it would happen right, right? Our government cannot be that stupid…can it? (I am only asking that rhetorically because I am not sure I want to know the real answer.)

If Obamacare is a “crowning” piece of legislation, a policy to build a legacy one, or even just a law worth more than the paper it was written on then one could reasonably expect the champion of that law to defend it, endorse it, or at least support it. Since November 6th, he has hardly even mentioned it, even when states are declaring it null and void. I understand that the debt and tax showdowns with Republicans kept him busy, but if you want to use that as an excuse you better hope Obamacare includes generous mental health provisions too—the man was able to write the law while facing a total financial meltdown, not just a manufactured political crisis; if he wanted this done, it would be done. So, because it is not, I am led to believe he does not; particularly because he never did.

During the Presidential campaign Michele Bachmann told us it was now or never to repeal Obamacare. If it was not done quickly and completely we would be stuck with it forever, she argued. While it may have just been a campaign pitch, it might be the only time President Obama ever hopes Michele Bachmann is right; it may be exactly what he is banking on.

It is tough to pull the break on a runaway locomotive with suicidal tendencies. If Obama knows, or thinks that Obamacare can never go away, at least not without major consequences, it may be in his best interest to lay low until the train jumps the track, and the only way to clean up the mess is a stronger track. Enter universal healthcare, the track he will tell you is stronger, more efficient, less expensive, and more durable than the first track he built. But proceed with caution. He used that sales pitch once before.

–Matt Young

7 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

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