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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

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

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

Man in Japan Refused by 25 Hospitals and Dies; Could This Happen in US?

An evacuee is carried to an ambulance atIf you logged on to Facebook, or for that matter, any social media yesterday, you probably saw the headline. 75 Year old Japanese man died after being turned away fro m 25 emergency rooms a total of 36 times in 2 hours. The hospitals involved claim they had no bed for him, and a shortage of doctors to treat any more patients. Unbelievable, I agree, and I know what you are thinking: “good thing that would never happen in America.” Unfortunately, it was not long ago that would never have happened in Japan either. 10 years ago if you would have suggested to experts this would happen, most would have laughed. So, could this happen here? We may just be a few years away from it becoming possible.

The America of today is eerily similar to the Japan of a decade ago. Though the mostly-government healthcare system has worked for a generation in Japan, it is now taking on water faster than the ageing population can bail it out. Japan has a rapidly aging population, and a falling birth rate; just like we do. The Japanese national debt is limiting their ability to sustain the ageing population, and the medical system is the clearest symptom of the problem. As a population ages it typically pays less taxes; retired people made up the bulk of Mitt Romney’s infamous 47%. But unless there are people to replace those retiring, either by immigration or birth, the government has less money to support the extra healthcare costs that also come with an aging population. Trying to do more with less has never been a quality the government can hang its hat on.

I wrote months ago why I believed Obamacare would not work; well, here it is in practice. Obamacare  will push tens of millions of people onto Medicaid, those who cannot afford the rising cost of insurance and those unfortunate enough to be demoted to part time hours, many elderly, and of course, those whose employers choose to pay the fine that is roughly 1/3 of what the cost would be if they were forced to provide insurance. The result of this will be placing the cost of healthcare for drshortmillions squarely on the shoulders of the government.

As we see in Japan, people who do not directly pay for their own healthcare have little incentive to stay out of the healthcare system. If the government is going to foot the bill, why not go to the doctor every time you sneeze? This seems to be the rationale in Japan, where clinics and hospitals are very over crowded, and patients often wait hours just to see the doctor for 30 to 90 seconds. I experienced this same pattern while living in Australia. This means that Japan is facing a doctor shortage due to the influx of patients; ergo, their overcrowding. Doctors often have to see 100 or more patients per day. This leads to patients depending more and more on medication and less and less on actual healthcare from their physician.

The United States has been facing a doctor shortage for a few years now, and it is only expected to get worse. Our national debt is climbing at alarming rates. Our population is ageing. Our healthcare system is becoming more and more subsidized. Our hospitals are already overcrowded. These are many of the same challenges Japan faced at the turn of the century.  Not to mention their economic slowdown from a collapse of their manufacturing.drspec

Might the path the United States is following lead to a 75 year old man dying because no emergency room could take him? The answer is, probably not. Immigration, one of our largest means by which we replace our work force, has long been almost non-existent in Japan. Also, the cost of healthcare has never come close to the cost in the United States. Furthermore, the Japanese healthcare system is much more centralized than Obamacare is—at least for now. Even still, the similarities are alarming. Many, myself included, feel many of the inefficiencies in Obamacare were designed to lead to a universal healthcare system. The older our population becomes the more we will need healthcare. If our doctor shortage continues, and we become a more universal healthcare system it is plausible that an ambulance in America may drive around for 2 hours begging 25 different hospitals to admit their patient.

–Matt Young

6 March 2013

Does Raising the Minimum Wage Really Raise Unemployment?

Republicans seem to think that just because a business has extra money they will hire a new employee. At least that is the message they sent during the campaign last year with their insistence that tax cuts for the wealthy trickle down to job creation because the wealthy will have a surplus. Now that President Obama has proposed raising the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour they insist again that this will kill the power of businesses to hire employees because of the higher cost. Well, corporate profits are at an all-time high, so where are the jobs again? Not only do we see their theory being disproved in practice, but it is disproved in logic as well. Extra money never dictates hiring patterns, demand does. Regardless how much money a business has they will not hire anyone if they do not need the help. With companies’ profitability continually growing in recent years they can certainly afford a minimum wage hike.

Before you let a Republican tell you that studies show a higher minimum wage leads to higher unemployment you need to know that an equal (or greater from my research) amount of studies show exactly the opposite. The fact is there is no clear evidence to suggest raising the minimum wage will result in higher unemployment. Much of the evidence that I have seen from the right argues that states with a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage have a higher unemployment rate among younger workers. This, many assert is proof that a higher minimum wage will result in higher unemployment.corporate-profits

But if we break it down we see that this correlation does not compute. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25, which means if a state chooses to set their minimum wage at $8.25 they are at a competitive disadvantage compared to states that follow the federal rate. Given the option, of course a company will choose to invest in states that will require lower fixed costs, such as hourly rate. This competitive edge takes away jobs from states with higher minimum wages. However, if both the minimum wage were increased, both of these two states would have a $9.00 per hour minimum wage, eliminating the competitive edge. Making this particular cost equal, all else being the same, there is now no reason for a company to avoid opportunities in these higher unemployment states. In fact, because more people are unemployed, one could argue there would be a more skilled candidate pool to choose from, and hiring in a state the used to have a higher minimum wage may increase productivity for a company. Either way, it is clear that it is a competitive advantage, not a higher minimum wage that makes for lower unemployment certain states.

Another popular argument is that an employer will not be able to afford to higher help if they are forced to pay $9.00 per hour (I am actually snickering to myself as I type that). This argument again hinges on the logical fallacy that you hire someone because you have extra money. This is nonsense, as I made clear earlier. Demand dictates how much help you need, and if your demand is high enough to need help, it is also high enough to pay an accordant $70 per week for that extra help, assuming you need that help for a full 40 hours. Moreover, as addressed earlier, corporate profits are at an historical high; companies are doing just fine right now, they can handle it. One last interesting fact on this is that currently only 3.4% of the workforce works for minimum wage.  Clearly, companies are not hiring many people at minimum wage, or, if they are, they can easily afford to give them a raise shortly thereafter. This is another clear indicator that employers can afford a minimum wage increase. This number also shows us that about one out of every 29 jobs pays minimum wage. So people looking for work will still have 96.4% of potential jobs to choose from, even if a minimum wage increase meant companies paying minimum wage would not be able to hire.

It is time to for Republicans to admit their economic philosophies have not panned out. The trickle-down effect does not work; it has never worked. Raising taxes on the rich does not, nor has it effected investment; in fact, there is some evidence to show that it increases it. Tax cuts do not pay for themselves. Leaving businesses (banks in particular) largely unregulated ends up hurting the economy. And a minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $9.00 will not cost millions of jobs. Talk to me when someone proposes a hike from $9.00 to $22.00; that might be something businesses cannot afford. But I do have to give them credit. The Republeconomists are probably on to something with this Obamacare thing.

Anyway, if the minimum wage increase will not hurt jobs, what will it do? Glad you asked. Income inequality (no my good conservative friends, that is not code for class warfare) was a major cause of the Great Depression and the 2008 collapse. Though it is modest, and will only affect maybe five percent of jobs, a hike in the minimum wage will help that. It will also put more money—buying power—into the pockets of the middle and lower income citizens. If the buying power increases, demand will likely increase leading to more companies needing more help. This is real economic growth.

JoblosschartNow, being completely unbiased I have to say that there is also no absolute evidence that raising the minimum wage will not increase unemployment; this entire issue is still one hotly debated by economists everywhere. One thing we do know for certain is that when the minimum wage increased in 2009 the rate of job loss slowed. I am not suggesting it was because of the minimum wage, simply illustrating that an increase does not add to unemployment the way right wingers insist it does. Because businesses can afford this particular increase, because it will help workers, and because recent history suggests it will not, the burden should be on conservatives to prove raising the minimum wage will cause harm. As of yet, nobody has been able to do this.

 

–Matt Young

19 February 2013

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