There is a point when defense becomes idiocy

4 Jul

Let me start off. I am not writing this post to say Israel did something morally wrong, because nobody knows, and let’s face it, it does not matter. Let me make this clear:  Anyone who thinks the state of the Gaza blockade before two weeks ago was legal or acceptable under international law (even after the easing of some restrictions, it still violates Section III of the Fourth Geneva Convention) is either ignorant, insane, or has a metaphysical connection to the State of Israel. I will now discuss the last point.

I would define “metaphysical connection” as someone who is defending the State of Israel purely because he feels he has a religious responsibility or connection to it. It may even be secular reasons, but you get my point. Basically an irrational defense backed up by no quotations of International Law, or even baseless contempt for it (including frivolous and hurtful accusations of anti-Semetism towards the UN and the UN Human Rights Council.). I respectfully ask these people to close the browser, and not read further. In fact, never come back. Your opinion is not wanted. There is no use debating someone with a mind that is made up.

I don’t hate Israel. I may condemn and criticize them often for their actions, but I don’t hate them, but I do hate (in a constructive way) the irrational defenders.

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Hall of Sadists (House of Representatives edition)

2 Jul

The following members of Congress voted against continuing benefits to 1.7 million people who lose their jobs in this recession, and have been unemployed for the past six months. Republicans are in italics, Democrats are in Times New Roman.

Source: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2010/roll423.xml

Aderholt
Akin
Austria
Bachmann
Bachus
Baird
Barrett (SC)
Bartlett
Barton (TX)
Berry
Biggert
Blackburn
Blunt
Boehner
Bonner
Boozman
Boustany
Brady (TX)
Bright
Broun (GA)
Brown (SC)
Brown-Waite, Ginny
Buchanan
Burgess
Burton (IN)
Buyer
Calvert
Camp
Campbell
Cantor
Carter
Cassidy
Chaffetz
Coble
Coffman (CO)
Cole
Conaway
Cooper
Crenshaw
Culberson
Davis (KY)
Djou
Dreier
Duncan
Emerson
Fallin
Flake
Fleming
Forbes
Fortenberry
Foxx

Franks (AZ)
Frelinghuysen
Gallegly
Garrett (NJ)
Gingrey (GA)
Gohmert
Goodlatte
Granger
Graves (GA)
Graves (MO)
Griffith
Guthrie
Hall (TX)
Harper
Hastings (WA)
Hensarling
Herger
Hill
Hunter
Inglis
Issa
Jenkins
Johnson, Sam
Jordan (OH)
King (IA)
King (NY)
Kingston
Kirk
Kline (MN)
Lamborn
Lance
Latham
Latta
Lee (NY)
Lewis (CA)
Linder
Lucas
Luetkemeyer
Lummis
Lungren, Daniel E.
Mack
Marchant
Markey (CO)
Marshall
McCarthy (CA)
McCaul
McClintock
McHenry
McIntyre
McKeon
McMorris Rodgers

Mica
Miller (FL)
Miller (MI)
Miller, Gary
Minnick
Moran (KS)
Myrick
Neugebauer
Nunes
Nye
Olson
Paul
Paulsen
Pence
Pitts
Poe (TX)
Price (GA)
Putnam
Rehberg
Roe (TN)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rohrabacher
Rooney
Roskam
Royce
Ryan (WI)
Scalise
Schmidt
Schock
Sensenbrenner
Sessions
Shadegg
Shimkus
Shuler
Shuster
Simpson
Smith (NE)
Smith (TX)
Stearns
Sullivan
Terry
Thompson (PA)
Thornberry
Tiahrt
Tiberi
Walden
Westmoreland
Wilson (SC)
Wittman
Wolf


Robert Byrd

29 Jun


Photo Credit: Democratic Party– DNC.org

I never always agreed with Bob Byrd. If I was alive during the debate of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I would have been livid about his filibuster. However he will no-doubt go down in history as the intellectual of the Senate. Whether or not you agreed with his all-out defense of Senate privileges like filibusters and the right of a single senator to hold up a president’s nomination, you knew he was legally correct. He also made the system more fair. Because of the rules of budget reconciliation that he wrote, Bill Clinton was able to pass his stimulus in 1993 which created 20 million jobs that decade. Because of Bob Byrd student loan companies will no longer be able to take more than 10% of a person’s income and for no longer than 20 years.

While Senator Byrd’s early life may be, to say the least, disturbing (he was in the Ku Klux Klan in the 1930’s), he is no doubt a changed man, and should be remembered as such.

Don’t stop the spending

28 Jun


Photo Credit: http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/Sb_JjUWazWy/Paper+Currency+Designed+Printed+Bureau+Engraving/0xw8VOH5BBT

In today’s New York Times, Nobel laureate in economics, Paul Krugman warns that stopping spending can lead to a double dip recession, and possibly even a depression. Concerns about the US’s spending has also been brought up Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to the Senate Banking Committee.

Krugman is right, but I only think this applies to countries that are still in recovery. For example, Britain has less than 8% unemployment and a positive GDP%, they are back to normal, not in a recovery stage like the US is in with nearly 10% unemployment. Also, compared to Europe’s spending, the US has not even gotten close. Not counting Federal Reserve and Treasury schemes, the US has spent about $1.9 trillion on bailouts and stimulus packages*. The total wealth in the US is around $62.3 trillion. (Based on a Federal Reserve paper that says the wealthiest Americans own 87% of the wealth, which is around $54.2 trillion. If I still have my algebra in me, I did a proportion to figure out total wealth). The spending is negligible when compared to total wealth, and surely is to how much our economy is worth. The spending simply isn’t enough.

_____________________________________________

* I am basing this on adding the costs of the following pieces of legislation: Bailouts of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG; Economic Stimulus Bill of 2008; Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008; The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. I did not include certain bailouts or omnibus spending bills.

Thomas L. Friedman could not be more right on Israel

27 Jun

Today I remembered why I still pay $47 a-month for home delivery of The New York Times. Thomas L. Friedman, the long time opinion columnist for The Times, and three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize (including one for his coverage of Israel), wrote a spot-on OP-ED today on the situation in the Middle East.

Friedman points out that there is a pattern in the recent conflicts in the Middle East: they all end quickly and are followed by a “timeout”. However, Friedman, who has been both criticized by the right and the left for his opinions on the Middle East, went into so-called dangerous waters. Friedman went after Israel’s tactics in their previous wars, and compared them to those used by former President Hafez el-Assad of Syria.

“What is different about these three wars, though, is that Israel won them using what I call “Hama Rules” — which are no rules at all. “Hama Rules” are named after the Syrian town of Hama, where, in 1982, then-President Hafez el-Assad of Syria put down a Muslim fundamentalist uprising by shelling and then bulldozing their neighborhoods, killing more than 10,000 of his own people.”

Some will say this criticism is strict or harsh, some will say it is good criticism, I will just call it, “fair game”. Israel has used unacceptable methods of warfare such as cluster bombing populated cities. However, they were almost never the instigators (an exception to this rule would be their continued shelling of Lebanon in 2006 because Hezbollah was, “stockpiling weapons”. Jeez, if we attacked every hostile nation that stockpiled weapons, we would be in World War VI.). However, I believe we need to move on from the past, and let the International Criminal Court at the Hague decide these matters. Peace is more important.

Friedman brings up the best case to bring about peace during this ‘timeout’: the success of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad in the West Bank.  They have stabalized the region, and are rooting out terrorism. As Friedman said, “[they] are the real deal”.

I consider myself to be a “Pro-Israel’s existence” American. I will not defend every action Israel does no matter the circumstance of the action. Because that is no longer being pro-Israel: that is being an ignoramus. Israel has an opportunity this ‘timeout’ to make pace. Possibly the best opportunity since the Taba talks in 2001. The ball is in Israel’s court. Let’s just hope Isaiah Thomas isn’t calling the shots.

Budget 2010-2011; A Fresh Start for Britain

23 Jun


Photo credit: http://parliament.gov.uk

“A Fresh Start for Britain” was a slogan used by Nick Clegg in early 2009 to draw support to his party, whose conference was coming up in weeks. I believe, that after today’s emergency budget, they have delivered on that promise.

With debt reaching 62% of the GDP (£903bn), and an unsustainable budget deficit, cuts were inevitable. The only question that remained, was when? While I quite agree with Nobel-prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, that it would be the smarter decision to spend now, and cut later, a certain element of the budget process has and will prevent Britain from slipping into a double-dip recession: the genius that is George Osborne.

Before we can look at the impact the cuts will have on the economy, let us first determine what spending cuts would hurt the economy as a whole. Red_Nick, a Labour supporter Twitterer, attempted to make the point that no matter where the spending cuts come from, they will have a negative impact on the economy. Well I disagree with that. If you were to cut spending within governmental departments, without cutting pay, or cutting the workforce, I do not see it as likely that it will effect the private sector, which is the driving-force of any economy. The only cuts that would directly hurt the economy, as of this year, would be to divest from promises made by the previous government to banks and businesses. Below are some of the smart cuts, tax increases, and tax decreases/tax eliminations Osborne made.

1) Reducing the main corporation tax from 28% to 25%, and to 24% by 2014. This will enable businesses to have a newfound incentive to hire people. Similar to President Obama’s “Hire Act,” this move will create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

2) An increase from 17.5% to 20% in the VAT. While no one likes an increase in taxes on the working class, especially in a recovery, this was inevitable. Even Labour refused to rule it out in their 2010 manifesto. This new tax increase will raise £12bn for the government this year alone, and therefore more cuts have been avoided.

3) Public sector pay freeze. If I had to choose one new policy as the smartest move in the emergency budget, it would be this. Not because it would save a lot of money, but because it is the easiest money to save. First, there is no moral dilemma here since the most vulnerable will not be hit (only for those earning more than £21,000. And teachers are not impacted until next year). George Osborne is correct to say it is unfair that people who did nothing wrong but do their job and live their lives to pay for the mess (that American bankers made) that was made. However, when times are tough, we all need to tighten our budgets. Second, this is a two year freeze. So even with inflation, this should not bankrupt families.

4) As a result of the above cuts and many more factors, the budget deficit Britain faces will practically be history by 2015

The negative impact of the budget:

Welfare cuts. Even though these were limited, and inevitable, I believe they should have waited another two years. These cuts will hurt families, and worst of all, they have little time to prepare for them.

Labour’s folly: Overall, the budget the House of Commons will be voting on soon, is the 2014 would-be Labour budget.  And I think they should be god-damn honest about it. While I would have preferred the some of the cuts made to be deferred, they needed to be made. Some have argued Labour could not have helped, but that is wrong. While Britain is a parliamentary democracy and the ropes of partisanship are tighter than in places like the United States, where it is almost needed to have a super-majority of The United States Senate to even allow a vote on an issue (note: I don’t believe that system is perfect by any means). But I do not think this is the case when no single party or ideology has a majority. The Conservatives were already having to negotiating with the Liberal Democrats, which is a very diverse party ideologically anyway. There are some in there that are more conservative than the Tories, and some more socialist than John McDonnell. Labour could have easily offered a compromise without much political consequence, but they didn’t. Today was opposing for the sake of opposition, similar to those of the US Republican Party.  Some said the Tories would laugh them away. But I don’t think so. I have sent messages to various Tory MPs, asking them if they would laugh away an honest attempt by Labour to make a good budget, better. I highly doubt the answer will be “Of course hahahha”. And just because in the past partisanship reigned, does not mean in extraordinary circumstances it should too. Remember, David Cameron backed the original Brown bank bailouts. This is an extraordinary circumstance as well.

So in all, I urge MPs to cast a “Yes” vote on this harsh, but equally as important budget. Don’t get me wrong. I still, and will continue to support the Labour Party. Though I am disappointed, to say the least, by their ignorance.

On the UK Budget

22 Jun

As a casual follower of UK politics, and supporter of the opposition Labour Party, it came as a shock to me that die-hard Labour supporters are becoming like the Republicans: oppose for no other reason other than for the sake of opposition. Sure there are bad parts to this budget. While Labour should vote against this budget out of principle, this is not the end of the world by any means. Some pros of this budget include the elimination of tax for 850,000 of the poorest of the poor, and a stronger pound. Cons include the raising of the VAT, similar to the sales tax in some states in the US.

The way some have reacted is beyond me. Of course cutting spending during a recovery is never a good thing, but this budget is not the end of the world. As a Democrat, I know what compromise is, and I never liked it. However, I accepted it.

To die-hard Labour supporters: Elections have consequences. Be thankful it was only a centrist-liberal consequence.

UPDATE: After hours of fighting with Labour supporters on Twitter, I felt I needed to make an extension and to reiterate what I said before. I do not support this budget. However, it is nothing to moan over. But for those Labour MP’s who are moaning, where were you during the budget process? Why didn’t YOU offer any solutions that could be helpful. Of course in a parliamentary government there isn’t really any bipartisanship, but the Tories were already compromising their hard line. It does not hurt to offer them. If the Tories refuse to hear you out, then shame on them. But for now, shame on you.