5:48 AM Reporter: Felix 0 Responses

As of late I've noticed a lack of coherent criticism of the Obama administration.Some left leaning outfits like MSNBC don't really pan too much that the new administration does, while your right leaning Fox news prefers to often spew forth tinfoil hat conspiracy theories. While important legislation that will effect most reading this (and a lot more not reading this HAH!) is being pushed forth, we are once again in another cycle of faux news to ensure minimal coverage of what laws are being passed. Swine flu, American Idol, the ridiculous Guantanamo issue are the recent culprits and in that time the Barack Obama administration is backing off of a lot of policies that were a core foundation of the change platform that caused myself among many other Americans to vote for him.

During the campaign the issues that were closest to my heart were constitutional issues. Warrantless wiretapping, retroactive immunity for telecoms, habeus corpus, posse comitatus. It's no big secret that after winning the primary race against Hillary Clinton, Obama backed off of his claim of being against retroactive immunity for the telecoms. I wrote this off to perhaps him switching gears for the general election and using the old Nixon campaign strategy of starting off pandering to your base then running to the center. What I don't understand now, is why after being elected president the same thing occurs on a number of different issues.

Going back to warrantless wiretapping, I'm pretty sure we all remember Obama's position on the matter. If you don't here it is in his own words. I remember watching that speech and having it really resonate with me seeing that i am a huge fan of the constitution, and warrantless wiretapping pretty much craps all over the 4th amendment before throwing it out the window completely. It was particularly disappointing to me when I found out that since being elected warrantless wiretapping has not only continued under the new administration, but has actually expanded.

One of the few instances of something I feel Obama could be criticized for that actually did make it into the news cycle was deciding not to release the torture photos after saying he would. A blow to the claims of a more transparent government. The American people and the rest of the world deserve to see what we have done so that if necessary someone can be held accountable. A picture is worth a thousand words, and I'm very confident that should these photos be released, it would end this whole torture debate no matter what they do or do not depict.

These was also a promise made on the campaign trail about changing the way that Washington works by not putting lobbyists or former lobbyists into cabinet positions, as they could still be tainted by influence from the people that they used to lobby for. A logical step in theory, but we will never know for some of these cabinet positions like: Attorney General, Secretary of Agriculture, Deputy Defense Secretary, Deputy Health and Human services secretary, Deputy Interior Secretary nominee, Chief of Staff to Treasury Secretary, Deputy White House Chief of Staff, Domestic Policy Council Director, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, and White House Political Affairs Director as they have all been filled by lobbyists or former lobbyists. This in combination with deciding to keep Bush's secretary of defense Robert Gates, instead of appointing someone else like Colin Powell or Erik Shinkeki, in addition to putting Tim Geitner in charge of the treasury dept seeing as he was Henry Paulson's sidekick and helped craft the TARP program under the Bush administration.

Lastly there is the decision to keep up with the bush administration policy of indefinate incarceration with eventual military tribunals for all of the detainees we have in Guantanamo bay. It is a know fact that *some* of these people that have been locked up since as long as 2001 are innocent. Don't get me wrong. There are also some real bonafide terrorists and other scumbags who deserve to locked up a lot longer, but what ever happened to the ideal of justice. having innocent men locked up forever because they were suspects just doesn't pass my smell test.

That's really all I have to gripe about as far as broken campaign promises. Some may say that I'm being naive or too nit picky since no politician in the history of anywhere has done everything they say they when scrambling for votes, but this time was supposed to be a little different and some of the policies passed don't give me warm and fuzzies when I take a closer look.

I didn't agree with the government taking over the controlling stake in GM: one of the 3 large car companies that is an American trademark and "too big to fail", as I don't like the idea of socialized capitalism. That aside the shenanigans that are going on over there now are disgusting. After gaining an ownership stake in GM they will be outsourcing jobs to China to save money! Makes perfect sense with a rising unemployment rate! There is also a disturbing lack of change in our foreign policy. It does look like we will be pulling out of Iraq pretty soon, but it would be nice if those troops actually got to go home instead of just packing up and moving to Afghanistan for SURGE PART 2: THE SEQUEL. I won't go too much into that as I already wrote a post on it.

Now I know Obama has a high approval rating, and before anyone gets too upset that I'm bashing some stuff that Obama is doing that I don't agree with I will state that it is not all bad. There are some policies that I think are a real positive, and If I leave any out you can feel free to add to this list via the comments section. I was a huge fan of the decision to reverse the ban on stem cell research. This research could hold the next breakthrough in medical science and has the potential to cure blindness, paralysis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, just to name a few. If United states led breakthroughs occur soon it could be a large part in creating a prosperous new sector in our struggling economy.

The equal pay act that was passed a few months ago is another policy that I feel is overall a positive one. I was actually very surprised when I found out how large the divide was between the wages that men made and the wages that women made for doing the same job in a lot of different sectors. It wasn't really made clear to me until the legislation was passed how prevalent it had been since, well forever, and equal pay for equal work is always a positive in my eyes.

The famed trip around the world that our new president made shortly after taking office was another positive action taken that I feel was a very important step to take for our country. Bush like him or hate him severely damaged foreign relations with a lot of the world, and restoring those relations and bringing back some of America's credibility is very important so that we may move forward from the past 8 years of policies and start anew. The president in some ways is a mascot for the country they preside over. Having one that is reviled across the globe is never really a great thing.

There is also some talk about cracking down on corporations who funnel profits to out of country subsidiaries as well as the corporations that have overseas tax shelters in the Bahamas. People are having to tighten their belts because of the economic downturn, and it is only fair that these corporations start actually paying their taxes for the money they earn instead of evading their responsibilities especially during the tough times.

While I feel like the intention of the media outlets may be to keep political coverage somewhat positive in the wake of so many people pouring their hopes and dreams into Barack Obama and hoping he is the one that can set some of the things right that have gone astray in this country, it is important to give some criticism where criticism is due so that we don't get caught up in a state of hopenosys.


Guns in America

7:18 AM Reporter: Felix 1 Response

Alot of news coverage following recent shooting incidents has generated a bit of an anti gun sentiment in the media. The actions perpetrated by these individuals led to terrible tragedies that have been rightly condemned by these news stories, but there seems to be an undertone of anti gun ownership for even law biding Americans. Three of the more recent shootings were perpetrated by individuals that had obtained their licence to carry firearms legally, and as happens often after tragedies of this nature gun control arguments have started to pop up across both the traditional media and the blogosphere.

There is a particular argument raised by some individuals and groups that certain types of weapons should not be available to citizens (fully automatic or assault rifles) because of their intended purpose of being built as anti personnel weapons rather as hunting or hobby purposes. While I can understand this point of view being put forth, I must disagree when taking a closer look at our constitution. The second amendment states: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. This means that the right to bear arms is not just for the purposes of gaming or personal defense. The right to bear arms is one of our fundamental rights to ensure that every American citizen can be prepared to take up arms in a militia in the event that the United States comes under a major attack.

Many that would make the previously stated argument may think that this notion is antiquated and not relevant to modern day society, but many empirical and imperialist powers throughout history have fallen because of comfortable complacency and idea that their society is invincible. The fall of Rome comes to mind as it was a surprise to many roman citizens. It would be foolish to disregard the history of human civilization and assume that our society is somehow immune or different. I don't contest that such an event is more likely these days compared to the past when it isn't, but having this level of preparation was extremely important to our founding fathers. Hell, this is the second thing that they thought of. The founders of our nation recognized the great importance of being able to draw up armed militias from the civilian population.

In an era where people are more and more willing to give up constitutional rights in the name of security, I can't think of a more important right to preserve. Touching back on individuals that may abuse their second amendment rights to perpetrate crime or harm others in their communities, limiting what types of guns people can get or banning firearms completely in my opinion would not prevent these things from happening. The funny thing about cliches is that they stand the test of time for a reason. That reason is there usually being at least a degree of truth to them.there is a cliche that is very appropriate when talking about second amendment issues, and you have undoubtedly seen it on a bumper sticker, T-shirt, or shouted at an NRA rally: When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns.

This issue is always very divisive and incendiary, so I am especially interested in getting thoughts and insights from all sides of the political spectrum. Agree? Disagree? Weigh in and let me know where you stand!


Afghanistan: Past, Present, and Future Conflicts

6:32 AM Reporter: Felix 0 Responses

Afghanistan is what I consider to be this generation's forgotten war. If you compare the coverage of Iraq vs Afghanistan in both online and conventional coverage, I think it may be fairly obvious why I make this assertion. It was because of this gap in coverage that I wanted to take a moment to take a brief look at some of the history of conflict in the area before delving into some contemporary issues occurring today.

Almost continuously since ancient times Afghanistan has had many conflicts. It would be unlikely that I would have the attention span to list all of them out, but some of the larger ones include the Afghans facing some serious historic powerhouse opponents including Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the Turks, and the Indo-Greeks to name a few. When the Afghans weren't repelling would be invaders and conquerors they were keeping their combat skills sharp through various civil and sectarian conflicts leading up to the 3 Anglo Afghan wars in the 19th century against the British. I'm not going to focus too much on the older conflicts, as I wanted to mainly talk about the events that have happened in the region since 1978, and I'm pretty sure most people that may be reading this would slip into a coma if I tried to cover that much ground.

Right before the Soviets moved 100,000 troops into the region, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan had overthrown the ruling monarchy in April 1978. Nur Muhammad Taraki had assumed power under the PDPA and was beginning to institute policies considered socialist and secular in nature such as equal rights for women, debt forgiveness for farmers and agricultural workers, and freedom of religion. Many Afghans who preferred Islamic tradition were not huge fans of this move, and decided to exile themselves to Pakistan, while others declared a jihad and formed resistance groups against the new government. The US government was also not a big fan of this move, not because of these policies being instated, but for another reason. Tariki desired closer relations with and limited military support from Russia to help distance the Afghans from neighboring Pakistan where most of self exiled enemies of the new government relocated. It was this that caused the US to begin to provide some aid to the anti government rebellion dubbed the Mujahideen.

Taraki's presidency was short lived as he was murdered and replaced by a political rival in the PDPA named Hafizullah Amin. This unexpected coup made the Soviets very nervous and ultimately they decided to invade with the goals of crushing the uprising, installing a pro-Moscow communist government, and supporting that new government. Upon installing this new puppet government, reactions to uprisings and protest became increasingly brutal. The brutality was best put into perspective for me by the massacre of 27,000 political prisoners at Pul-e-Charkhi prison. At this point in time casualties of the brutal Soviet occupation had reached about 1 million people, and the US decided to ramp up support for the Mujahideeen by training them and arming them with better weapons like Redeye anti-air missiles

This conflict continued on for about 10 years until 1989. International pressure as well as the financial toll that a decade for fighting unconventional warfare was taking on Russia's already strained economy convinced the Russians that they've had enough; the region wasn't worth it to them anymore. The biggest folly of all in this whole event was what followed after the Soviet withdrawal. The US pretty much withdrew as well. We were more interested in hurting the Russians rather than helping the Afghan people rebuild, and nothing makes it more apparent than the fact that we helped these people fight, but offered virtually no assistance in picking up the pieces of a country ravaged by a decade of war.

Ok, quick rundown leading into present day Afghanistan if anyone is still left at this point. The Russians blow everything up. We give the Mujahideen guns and training to fight back. The Soviets last 10 year before saying, "screw this" and left. Being the battle hardened warlords they are many Mujahideen begin infighting and struggling for power, until the Taliban gain influence and eventually take power in 1996. By 2000 Taliban rule with harsh Sharia law had spread to 95% of Afghanistan. The fall of the Taliban should be familiar to everyone reading following the US bombing the hell out of them during the US invasion in response to the 9/11 attacks. We were very effective in removing Taliban from power in the country, but the present day piece of this saga is the piece that has largely been ignored by the media outlets.

The Taliban is making a comeback in Afghanistan. This is becoming frighteningly obvious when you notice that their attacks are up 300%. This sharp increase in Taliban action can be directly linked to the goings on in Pakistan our "ally". I make assertion without because of two factors. First, since the 2001 US invasion, many of the ousted Taliban fled to Pakistan. The Pakistani government either through incompetence or through lack of desire to do so have failed to provide even rudimentary border control to prevent arms and reinforcements to the Taliban. The second factor is the recent imposition of Sharia law in the Swat Valley, a region in Pakistan that sits on Afghanistan's eastern border controlled by the Taliban. That's right. Our Nuclear armed allies in the Pakistani government gave the Taliban; a fundamentalist militia group that we are fighting right next door to them a strip of land on that very border. This in my opinion is not ok.

Now that we have covered a little bit of history, and a little bit of current events I'd like to look a bit to the future plans that the Obama administration has mentioned so far. They are going to go with the good ole' surge tactic of 21,000 troops. That actually helped quell violence in Iraq, (If only we would leave like Iraq is asking us to, but that's a different post.) but I feel that this is a disastrous tactic for dealing with a completely different kind of conflict. The Taliban are not like the insurgency in Iraq. These are hardened fighters trained in guerrilla warfare against larger and better armed forces as opposed to a largely unorganized Iraqi insurgency. Combine this with the outside arms and troops funneling in from Pakistan, and this is the recipe for a potential quagmire that could last decades while bleeding our economy and troops just like the Russians painfully experienced. We have already been over there nearly as long as the Russians, and if we do proceed with this surge tactic I can see our involvement in the area lasting another 10 to 20 years. The Pakistani government needs to play ball and stop supporting these people or let us conduct ground operations in those areas before any real progress can be made in that area.


TARP/Bailout Madness

6:19 AM Reporter: Felix 2 Responses

In today's news and media climate it is a rarity to go back and follow up on the headline toppers of yester-month. Case in point: how long ago does the Blagojevich scandal seem already? Exactly, and that was only 6 months ago! Time flies when you're having fun right? I ask you to indulge me in recalling one of the larger headline toppers for just a few mere months ago. I am of course talking about our first $700 billion bailout package.

As you may recall (and for those who don't) The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 or the "bailout" was passed in October of 2008 when the damage done by the bust of the housing bubble was really starting to show its severity. The extension of credit to individuals, as well as businesses large and small alike came to a screeching halt. These businesses were at risk of not making payroll. Individuals couldn't get loans they needed to buy cars and homes regardless of credit rating. The banks just didn't have the cash to give out.

The $700 billion dollars was supposed to solve this problem. It was split into 2 halves and placed into a fund called the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The first $350 billion was to be used immediately by our then president George Bush to get the ball rolling ASAP to get the credit market flowing again, and the second $350 billion was to be saved for later use by the Obama administration.

I would agree that this all seems logical so far, but what happened next was not what was sold to the American people who at the time were not very happy with this legislation. The banks after receiving their TARP funds did not use that money to lend out to the individuals and businesses. They used it to take advantage of the shattered stock market and buy up weaker struggling banks instead! This was because the money was given to them without provisions in place to ensure the money was used appropriately. We sacrificed oversight for expedience. Remember the speech the president made prior to the passage of the bill threatening the deterioration of our way of life up to even martial law?

To those that would argue that speed was needed because of the severity of the crisis I say look at the Europeans. The European Union passed a very similar program as they were experiencing a slowdown in the credit market, but there was one difference. They put in a provision that stated the banks had to use the funds they received to lend out to individuals and businesses. Can you guess what they did? That's right! They lent it out!

What bothers me the most about this whole fiasco is the simple fact that people aren't outraged after the fact. In my opinion this was a robbery of the American taxpayer. There are some that will take that statement as overreaction or hyperbole, but before you dismiss it as such let me present this. Take a moment if you will to put the sheer amount of money that has been given out in perspective. Bianco Research has conducted a study where they have taken a look at the large expenditures that government has made over the years, and adjusted them for inflation:

The Marshall Plan - Rebuild much of Europe after WWII it cost $12.7 billion in 1948 adjusted for today it would be $115 billion.

The Louisiana Purchase - Purchased entire states from the French in 1803. Back then it cost $15 million. Today that would be $217 Billion

The Race to the Moon - Racing the Russians to the moon in the 1960s cost us 36.4 billion. Adjusted for today that's $237 Billion

The Korean War - In 1950s monies cost $54 billion. Today that would be $454 billion

The New Deal - Passed by FDR to end the great depression cost $32 billion back then. Adjusted that is $500 billion.

The Iraq War - no adjustments really needed. We have spent around $600 billion there already and rising.

Vietnam - Vietnam cost us $111 billion. Adjusted for today is $698 billion.

And here's a fun one.....
NASA complete funding since its inception in 1958 including all research production and mission costs has put us back $416.7 billion. Adjusted for today: $851.2 billion

Judge for yourself. This was the largest transfer of taxpayer funds to private companies, and they didn't do what they were supposed to. I guess Octo-mom and Chris Brown are more important in the news cycle these days.