Why the “lame duck” Congress needs to act on the “fiscal cliff”

I am tired of hearing about the “fiscal cliff” – let’s spend less time talking and more time doing. Everyone needs to get off his or her high horse and come to an agreement. Compromise means that not everyone is going to get everything that he wants. Realize this. Understand it. Accept it. You don’t have to like it. It isn’t actually about you and your next election. It is about what needs to be done for the betterment of our country. Sometimes we all have to give up a little something so we can get to where we need to be.

The “lame duck congress” is not an excuse for inaction. Every time I hear someone in the media say something along the lines of “nothing will be accomplished until January” or “the lame duck congress may just come up with a temporary solution” I get so frustrated. Nowhere, anywhere, else would this be acceptable. Certainly not in business. Or in one’s personal life. I cannot say, “Well, I guess I will wait until I get a promotion (or bonus, etc.) before I’ll tackle that big project.” I wouldn’t be around long enough to ever do the project. The same should be true for Congress. Their terms are not over yet. If you cannot finish one term by actually doing your job, you should not be hired for the next.

The world will not end if an agreement on the budget is not reached. The county will, however, likely be in a worse condition. While politicians would likely fault the other party, they would only truly have themselves to blame.

Lame Duck Congress

Advertisements

What We Really Think About Jobs, The Economy, And Politics

To those who care about the United States,

Much has been said lately about how college students and recent graduates won’t stand for Obama to be reelected because the economy has not improved and job prospects are bleak. Instead of finding our dream jobs, we are moving back into our parents’ homes. While some of that may be true, here is another truth: we are smarter than you think – and we realize that Obama is not solely responsible for the economy.

I am employed and I am enjoying my job. Is it my dream job? Maybe, maybe not: but it is certainly putting me on the right path, whatever that is. Many of my friends who graduated in the past two years are employed across the country in just about every industry. And many other friends are still looking for jobs. Some had jobs, but left to look for other work or get another degree – because we aren’t here to settle.

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but we don’t want just any old job. We want to be happy and feel like we are contributing something to society. Many of us are willing to remain unemployed longer if it gives us the chance to end up where we want to be. Sure it sucks, and we wish the economy was better, but we also know that we have a lot to offer and we know that our turn will come.

Conversation about the economy has been hijacked to become a referendum on President Obama. Some say that Obama must not be reelected so anything he tries to do must be stopped. Therefore, any efforts Obama attempts to improve the economy are doomed to failure, or at least limited success. It is Congress and the states that prevent improvements to the economy when they refuse to participate in Obama’s plans if said plans could help Obama in the election. This isn’t solely Obama’s fault. It is those who refuse to work together. And this is not a pro-Democrat or anti-Republican analysis. It is the facts. Research them. We did and we will continue to do so.

Our generation is not content to sit back and be told what to think and who to blame. We have too much information at our fingertips. We will use it. And we want to pursue more and more opportunities. We believe in our future and in the future of the United States of America. What we do not believe in is the partisan attacks that prevent useful governance and which prevent our country from actually solving its problems. We demand that politicians work together, compromise, and understand that they are here to do something. Represent us – the future. We have voted and we will vote for or against you because this is how the economy affects us.

Sincerely,

College students and recent graduates

Understanding Healthcare Reform

I have not posted anything on here in a long time – my bad. I’ve been surprised at how busy life seems to be. Time is flying by. I’ll try to be better about posting again.

Anyway, Stuart (my brother) shared a video about healthcare reform in the U.S. with me. He had to watch it for a public health class he is taking. It is easy to follow and actually helps makes sense of the complicated healthcare reform policy upon which, just today, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments.

This is definitely something people should understand before deciding that they are for or against it. It is also relevant to the work I am doing professionally.

We The People

One of my friends posted this YouTube video on Facebook.  After watching it, I definitely want to share it.  Take a look at this video and think about its message.  Most of us learned about this concept of “we the people” sometime during our education, but how often do we think about what it actually means?  Especially after we have to.

This video does a good job of beginning the conversation of who “we the people” are.  And who the constitution is for.  We need to remember that this country is not just about people like “us” – whoever “us” is.  And as we begin this conversation, we should also start to think about who “we the people” are that wrote those words and who they were written for.

Quick Note on Last Night’s State of the Union

So I am behind on posting again, but that’s the way life goes.  It seems that even a slow week in Winter Quarter is a busy week.

I thought the State of the Union was great last night.  Obama’s speech was on point and effective.  He discussed a number of initiatives that are important moving forward – including some that reached across the aisle, as it were.  Equally important, if not more so, was the symbolic act of Democrats and Republicans sitting together.  It seems like a simple thing but the atmosphere of the entire event was different because of it – and different in a good way.  I’d like to see more collaboration in the years ahead.  It’s the only way to actually get anything done.

I was disappointed though in the Republican response, given by Rep. Paul Ryan.  If fear mongering and apocalypse predicting were what we were grading speeches on then Mr. Ryan would have gotten an A+.  That was not, however, what was needed.  Apparently, Rep. Ryan did not pay full attention to President Obama’s speech either: President Obama spoke about plans to consolidate and shrink the federal government, yet Rep. Ryan accused him of planning to continue increasing the size of the federal government.  Somehow, he missed that one…

If you missed the State of the Union, you can watch it here:

Christine O’Donnell: What Are You Thinking?

I was not going to post anything about Christine O’Donnell, but every time I hear news about her it makes me more and more worried that she will get elected.  I hope Delaware is smarter than that.

Below is a video in which Christine O’Donnell claims that Separation of Church and State is not in the first amendment.  While that exact phrase is not in the amendment, who hasn’t heard it before?  And is that not what everyone understands it to mean (including the U.S. Supreme Court)?  Anderson Cooper’s comments that follow are very true – and Christine O’Donnell’s comments are very worrying.  This is especially true for someone who claims to be a “constitutional expert” – based on a seven day fellowship with a conservative foundation.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Hopefully, you’ve seen Christine O’Donnell’s ad claiming that she is not a witch, rather “I’m You.”

Seriously?  Christine, you are not me or anyone I know – and likely no one in Delaware, I’m sure.  If nothing else, none of us has to deny being a witch (A ridiculous claim in itself, mind you, that no one should have brought up as a serious issue for any candidate.).

SNL does a good job with this ad though:

Stewart and Colbert: Fixing America?

This may seem like a joke, but it isn’t.  Politics in America and the perception of what is happening in the country (promoted by America) have devolved into a game of name throwing, fear creation, and blame.  Interestingly, the government (I’m focusing mostly on the U.S. Congress, but this is broadly applicable) does not actually end up doing all that much.  You see, when politicians call each other names and degrade the positions of the other party to scare their constituents (as opposed to representatives actually representing their constituents), there is no chance for agreement on most policies.  The media has only made the situation worse.

Jon Stewart has announced his “Rally to Restore Sanity” to be held in Washington, DC on October 30.  Let’s make America sane again.  Stewart writes that the rally is for people “who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it’s appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Logically, Steven Colbert must then have a counter rally.  His is the “March to Keep Fear Alive“.  Note that he is being ironic here – something that seems to have been lost on some people.  Colbert says that “America, the Greatest Country God ever gave Man, was built on three bedrock principles: Freedom. Liberty. And Fear — that someone might take our Freedom and Liberty. But now, there are dark, optimistic forces trying to take away our Fear.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I guess we will find out how effective these two funnymen are at raising awareness of the dismal state of American politics.  We can only improve.  I look forward to the (utopian?) day when politicians represent their constituents instead of themselves.

Gaza Flotilla – Not About Freedom

Last night (U.S. Time), Israel attacked a flotilla that was bound for Gaza.  Israel has blockaded Gaza due to the rule of Hamas and terrorist activities.  While this blockade is well-known, some groups (mostly humanitarian but many with pro-Palestinian and/or pro-extremist ties) have tried to run the blockade and reach Gaza.  Israel and the UN allow humanitarian aid in and offered the flotilla the opportunity to pass the aid on, after a security check.  The offer was turned down.

After being warned to turn around/stop, Israeli soldiers boarded the flotilla ships.  They were attacked by the people on the ships.  According to one Israeli Navy commander, the people on board “came for war”.  The soldiers responded, believing their lives were in danger, and ended up killing several (10 – but number still uncertain) on board the ships and wounding others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been in Canada, canceled a trip to Washington to meet with Obama on Tuesday in order to return home and deal with the impending international crisis.  Obama called Netanyahu today and the two discussed the need to know the facts as soon as possible.  European leaders are already using the incident as a call to end the Gaza blockade and instead act against Israel.  Obama and Netanyahu plan to reschedule their meeting.

Israel has the right to stop ships and check their contents for security reasons (as do all sovereign countries), nevertheless, extremists are using the opportunity to call for attacks against Israel.  To some extent, Turkey is even giving credence to these calls and encouraging some sort of protest against Israel.

"A television grab from Turkish station Cihan shows Navy troops storming the Mavi Marmara" - From Times Online

While it is clear that my views are pro-Israel (which does not mean that I am anti-Palestinian), I try to have a fairly balanced view of situations like this.  The mainstream media, including the BBC article linked to above, almost always represent Israel negatively.  This is biased and untruthful, yet continues to happen.  As such, below are some notes and quotes on the situation, from Stand With Us.  Stand With Us is obviously pro-Israel, but I think these notes are obviously true regardless of whether or not one agrees with the situation that is unfolding.  Clearly we need more information on what actually happened – and it is unlikely to come from unbiased sources.

• Activists carried out a pre-planned violence, armed with knives and metal bars, each sailor being attacked by a mob of a dozen extremists

• The provocateurs were organized by an Islamist organization that has links to fundamentalist jihadi groups.

• The extremists brought small children on board knowing that they intended to violate international maritime law.

• Israel offered to transfer the aid to Gaza again and again – they refused – and chose confrontation.

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “Weapons found on board; the organizers intent was violent, their method was violent and the result was, unfortunately violent”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “We repeatedly called on the organizers to stop this provocation”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: “The maritime blockade in Gaza is because of the terrorism of Hamas”

• Israeli Minister Danny Ayalon: Allowing the illegal flotilla to reach Hamas would have opened a corridor of smuggling of weapons to Gaza and resulting in civilian deaths.

• Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza.

• “We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us, they are going to have to forcefully stop us,” said one of the flotilla’s organizers

• Using the Arabic term ‘intifada,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said “We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world.

• Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said this week: “If the ships reach Gaza it is a victory; if they are intercepted, it will be a victory too”; Hamas is responsible for the suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis.

• Israel left Gaza in hopes of peace in 2005 and in return received more than 10,000 rockets and terrorist attacks.

• Israel has said that it will deliver any humanitarian aid to Gaza, as it does daily.

• No country would allow illegal entry of any vessel into their waters without a security check.

• Any police force in the world would respond to aggression; the provocation is the reason for this regrettable outcome.

• Wounded, including violent activists, are receiving medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.

Al-Jazeera TV Report from “Freedom Flotilla” Before Its Departure for Gaza: Activists on Board Chant Intifada Songs and Praise Martyrdom.
http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2489.htm

Israeli Navy addresses a ship in the flotilla and offers it to dock in the Ashdod port:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKOmLP4yHb4

BBC report shows violent, masked activists on ship:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/10195838.stm

Read StandWithUs Statement:
http://www.standwithus.com/app/iNews/view_n.asp?ID=1444

Ironically, all of this is unfolding on the United States’ Memorial Day.  The flotilla claimed to be pro-freedom, but their preparation for violent attacks and resulting occurrences show that freedom may not have been the main or entire purpose of this group.

My friend offered the following thoughts on Facebook:

Dear Palestinian “Peace Activists,” You don’t approach an area under blockade and NOT expect to be stopped. THOUSANDS of heavy weapons have historically been smuggled into Gaza so don’t blame Israel for wanting to ensure its own security by searching your ship. Moreover, why not just submit to the search and be on your way… No, go ahead and attack Israeli commandos and see how that works out for ya. Morons. That said, its truly sad for so much loss of life…

Syria and Lebanon claim the attack could lead to war.  This is not surprising and could be a way to once again delay any sort of peace process.

Three Jews and Six Catholics Walked Into The Supreme Court

Obama is said to have selected Elena Kagan, the current Solicitor General, as his choice to replace Justice John Paul Stevens upon his retirement.

Kagan in 2009; Source: The New York Times

Interestingly, religion plays into Supreme Court nominations.  Obama was considering two Jewish people for the Supreme Court nomination.  Stevens is Protestant – and apparently the only current Protestant Supreme Court Justice.  With Obama’s choice of Kagan, assuming she is confirmed, there will be no Protestant Justice.  This is interesting in the United States, with the country’s White Anglo-Saxon Protestant background.  Perhaps this is a step towards a more diverse country?  I’m sure Obama will be attacked for that one by someone.  Clearly diversity is bad.  Oh wait…

Interestingly, one Rabbi stated “that possibly having no Protestant justice member on the court could be seen as a lack of diversity, but he also stressed that this has more to do with the court having six Catholic justices.”  How ironic.

Kagan is said to have views that are in line with the Jewish community.  That could prove to be good for the Jewish community.  She is also said to be liberal, but fairly moderate.  That should get her Republican support.  I hope that she rules without political bias though, the same way I believe all Supreme Court Justices should.  That may be a little utopian though.

The religious makeup of the Supreme Court has changed dramatically over time.  In 1800, it looked like this:

Source: adherents.com on NPR

And in 2000, before Stevens’ retirement, it looks like:

Source: adherents.com on NPR

According to an author quoted by NPR, “religion is the third rail of Supreme Court politics. It’s not something that’s talked about in polite company”.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the Senate over the next few weeks and what the commentators have to say.

Goldman Sachs/SEC/Congress

Just a quick note: I would prefer if Congress would focus on things other than spending days lambasting Goldman Sachs.  If they did something illegal, then hold them accountable.  Otherwise, fix the laws.  Goldman Sachs may have done something you don’t like, but that’s not illegal.  If they found ways around road blocks and they made money then good for them.  It may suck for the consumer, but then the government should fix the problems.  That would be productive and useful to the U.S. citizens the government is supposed to represent.