Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quick Notes: Your Turn

I am looking at making a few changes here at Political Friends. Over the next couple of weeks there are some small changes I want to incorporate here, and I am thinking of making some larger ones. I have always wanted this site to be about political discussion. My goal is to keep people from both sides of the aisle coming back to discuss the issues of the day. To that end, I want to revamp a few things around here. This is where you come in.

In this post, I am looking for comments about what you like or don't like about this site. What would you like to see different. Is there a particular topic you feel should be covered more? Is there something you think I have wrong that you are dying for one more debate about? Same rules of no insulting, but anything else is open. I appreciate any input you have, and thanks for reading Political Friends.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hope and Change in Iran?

Imagine a country ruled by an older group of religious experts. They decide the path for the nation. They decide who can and can’t run in elections. They also decide who wins those elections. Now let’s pretend that during the recent election, the citizens of this country get fed up with this religious council’s domination of their lives. They decide to protest in the streets. These protesters are sometimes beaten or shot by military snipers under the control of the religious council. The religious leaders force all foreign journalists to stay under guard in their hotels. They close off access to the outside world for the protestors by shutting down or restricting access to the internet and cell phones. The protestors, led by students and women, continue to demand their voice be heard in spite of increasing violence. As the protests continue, the religious group gets more violent and they begin snatching protest leaders in the dead of night from schools, homes, and even hospitals where they seek treatment for the wounds inflicted by the state controlled police. In this imaginary world, where would a Democratic President, one who campaigned on “hope” and “change”, one who got his rise into politics as a community organizer side? Surely he would work with the students seeking change in their own government through peaceful means.

President Obama has shown us that the obvious answer isn’t always the one he will pick. In the not so thinly veiled references to Iran above, President Obama has decided to align with the Mullahs and with President Ahmadinejad. In trying to look neutral, in trying to avoid “meddling” in Iran, the President has given a victory to the ruling clerics. A silent American President helps the Mullahs and hurts the students.

However, as of this writing, it is not too late. President Obama can still align himself with the protesters and the side of democracy in Iran. He can send a clear message that the United States will support the democratic process in Iran. And he can make a difference. Instead of inviting Iranian ambassadors to a Fourth of July cookout, call opposition leaders in Iran and check on their safety. Instead of sending mixed messages about the “debate” in Iran, get prepaid phone cards into the hands of students and protesters. Instead of saying we can’t be seen as meddlers in Iran, demand international journalists be given the freedom to cover the news inside of Iran.

President Obama can work to promote democracy in Iran and help U.S. interests at the same time, and without using the military. If the protesters have their way, there could be a very different Iran in a short time. If there is regime change from these protests, it will be regime change brought about by the people of Iran, not the United States. However, the protests can’t continue without support from the outside world. There are people friendly to the U.S. inside of Iran. If we support their efforts towards democracy, they may create a friendlier attitude towards our nation.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What if.....?

Imagine this as a commercial for health insurance....

What if health insurance companies competed like this? What if Congress realized health insurance isn't a "one size fits all" solution?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Health Care Part Two

This post is my second post discussing health care and health insurance. In the first post, I discussed a few ground rules that seem to get forgotten whenever politicians start talking about health insurance. These were 1) you don't have a right to health insurance, and 2) doctors, nurses, hospitals, and health insurance companies are in business to make a profit. I also pointed out that the jury is still out regarding some of the early initiatives of President Obama and the new Congress. The health care we receive in the United States is some of the best care in the world. Why rush to "fix" this if we aren't sure the people in Washington are up to the task?

In this installment, I want to look at a few problems with the current health care proposal by the Democrats. The current bill, referred to as the Kennedy-Dodd bill, is incomplete. An incomplete bill won't stop Democrats. They have introduced the bill and are trying to get it discussed and voted on anyway.

The non-partisan CBO has estimated the price tag of the bill as currently written at just over $1 Trillion. Democrats have complained that it isn't fair to put a price tag on this bill when it isn't complete. I would tell Democrats to finish the bill, let the CBO score it, then debate it. Another fun fact of the Kennedy-Dodd bill: it won't cover everyone who isn't covered today. I have heard different commentators claim as many as 49 million people don't have health insurance. The CBO says that not all of these uninsured will be covered under the Kennedy-Dodd bill. If we must cover everyone, why doesn't this bill cover everyone?

The Kennedy-Dodd bill will also include some sort of "public option" health insurance. It is hard to tell if this option would be paid for by taxes people who get employer provided health insurance, or by increasing our deficit again. Either way, a public option would eventually drive private insurance companies out of business. Senator Dodd has stated frankly that private insurance companies need a public version to reduce the profit of insurance companies. If the public option doesn't have to make a profit, how is a private insurance company going to make a profit or stay in business?

One of the biggest flaws with Kennedy-Dodd is that it is 615 pages long. Very few Senators (Republican or Democrat) are going to read a 615 page bill before voting on it. There have been a number of problems with the Omnibus spending bill congress passed a few months back for this exact same reason. Lawmakers don't read the bill until after it passes.

Kennedy-Dodd is a bad bill for a number of reasons: it costs to much, it won't cover as many people as the authors say it will, and it will drive private insurance out of business. Do you want a politician deciding what health care is most "efficient" for you? We may need health care reform. Kennedy-Dodd isn't it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Healthcare Debate, Part One

President Barack Obama and many Democrats would like to implement is sweeping healthcare reform. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the Presidents health care reform at around $1.5 Trillion. They have discussed universal health care, single-payer health care, and government run healthcare. For the most part, these three terms are interchangeable. Republicans introduced their own healthcare reform prior to the Democrats and are waiting for the Democrat version to be introduced. Other ideas that have been batted about include taxing existing health care, health care credits, allowing individuals to use Social Security to pay for healthcare, and health insurance co-operatives.

Before any meaningful discussion of health care can begin it might be helpful to review a couple of facts that seem to get lost in this discussion. First, and maybe most importantly, you do not have a right to health insurance. Health insurance is not required by law, and is not listed in the Bill of Rights. Whenever anyone takes a new job, or is evaluating job benefits, you need to weigh the health benefits just as you would the starting salary. This seems like remedial politics, but I think most Americans have forgotten this. There was a time when people evaluated the benefits of the job, as well as the salary, when trying to decide where to work.

Secondly, Doctors, Hospitals, and Insurance Companies are generally in business to make a profit. Think about it this way, when you go to work, do you expect a pay check, or do you let your employer keep your pay check? Most of us work to pay our bills. Some of us even enjoy our job. At the end of the day, we work to pay bills, put a roof over our head, and take care of our family. Doctors and Insurance agents are the same way. Once again, this sounds like remedial civics, but I am not sure House Democrats, or the President, understand this. Profit is good. Getting paid is good.

If we keep these rules in mind, any sort of Universal health care, single payer system, or government run insurance agency, starts to look a little silly. Supporters of these options want to tax people who work in order to provide health care for all. Remember, you do not have a right to health care. Therefore, the President is really asking to tax the middle and upper class in order to provide a luxury item to everyone. Any government run healthcare will drive private firms out of business. Why? The government doesn't try to make a profit. They also get to steal money from the taxpayers whenever they wish. No private firm can compete against that.

The President and his staff insist that we must pass health care reform today. This isn't the case. While not everyone is happy with their health insurance, many are. We have been told that our health insurance spending is a crisis. If we don't fix it, it will be a ticking time bomb on our economy. But we have been here before. We were told that TARP, the Stimulus plan, and the Omnibus spending bills all had to be passed as well, or the results would destroy our economy. These were all passed in spite of their massive pork. What happened? The jury is still out. Most of the Stimulus money hasn't been spent. The day after TARP was passed, the Treasury started using it in ways they never informed Congress they were going to do. The White House projected unemployment would max out at 8%. Today, it has passed 9.4% and is still rising. We still don't know what is going to be the result of these massive spending programs, and the Democrats want us to take on more spending. In our economy, do we really need to raise taxes to provide a luxury item to people?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Perfect Storm

Rarely do you see The Daily Kos, Michelle Malkin, Red State, and U.S. News and World Report agree on something. So when all of these are arguing against a Democrat sponsored bailout of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), we should probably take a minute to hear them out.

This started with a commitment by President Obama to send $108 Billion to the IMF. Now Rahm Emanual and Nancy Pelosi are trying to bully House Democrats into voting for a war funding bill with an amendment attached to provide $108 Billion to bail out the International Monetary Fund. Nancy Pelosi wants Democrats to sneak this bailout through becuase no one believes a bill bailing out the IMF could make it on it's own. The American public has reached their limit of bailouts. Strategists on both sides are predicting losses for elected officials voting for bailouts in 2010.

The funny part is the coalition lining up to defeat this. Red State has listed the names and contact info for the Democrats most likely to be flipped. Eric at Red State is encouraging everyone to call them. Peter Roff writing at U.S. News and World Report has listed the top ten reasons to vote against this. The Daily Kos has gone so far as to write supportive profiles of Democrats likely to defeat those Democrats who might vote for this bill.

In this age of new politics, Republicans and Democrats can unite together to tell Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi Americans are tired of bailouts. We are tired of bailouts, and we don't want to bailout European banks. If Pelosi thinks this is important, let her put this bailout on a bill by itself. If she can't get the votes for it by iteslf, don't try to sneak it through.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Three Great Minds

Some of you may remember that I attended the "Obama First 100 Days" put on by a local talk radio station. While at the event, I got my picture taken with Dennis Prager and Bill Bennett. I thought my readers would enjoy a picture of three great conservative minds...

I really enjoy the event. It was my first time attending a large event like this with a number of conservative commentators. I hope I am able to do it again in the future. I would encourage everyone to attend events like this in order to become more knowledgeable on the events of the day.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Quick Notes: Special BHO Edition

For the first time in my adult life since the inauguration in January, the President has done something that has made me feel truly liberated. I know I criticize President and GM CEO Barack Hussein "Hopey-Change" Obama a lot on this site. In his honor, this edition of Quick Notes , and special 300th blog post of Political Friends, is dedicated exclusively to him!

President Obama's New Found Faith. You may remember during the campaign last year unscrupulous Republicans and Conservatives had the Audacity to use then junior Senator Obama's middle name, Hussein. As Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report on ABC News, the Obama campaign even had to address this on their Fight the Smears website saying:

"Barack Obama is a committed Christian. He was sworn into the Senate on his family Bible. He has regularly attended church with his wife and daughters for years. But shameful, shadowy attackers have been lying about Barack's religion, claiming he is a Muslim instead of a committed Christian. When people fabricate stories about someone's faith to denigrate them politically, that's an attack on people of all faiths. Make sure everyone you know is aware of this deception."

During the campaign, Senator Obama even stated his father was agnostic. Now the White House is playing up not just his middle name, but his Muslim connections. Again, according to ABC:

"During a conference call in preparation for President Obama's trip to Cairo, Egypt, where he will address the Muslim world, deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Denis McDonough said 'the President himself experienced Islam on three continents before he was able to -- or before he's been able to visit, really, the heart of the Islamic world -- you know, growing up in Indonesia, having a Muslim father -- obviously Muslim Americans (are) a key part of Illinois and Chicago.'"

While I am quite excited about the freedom to use the President (CEO's?) middle name, I am a little concerned about the President's comments that America is one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. The President was very specific that the number of American Muslim's living in the US makes it one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. That simply isn't true. As Toby Harnden writes on the UK Telegraph blog, we are either the 34th or 48th largest Muslim country if you actually do the math (depending on whose head counts you use). We aren't even in the top ten. Is this a lie, bad number crunching, or simple pandering?

Nuclear Power is OK for Iran, and UAE, but not the United States. President Obama has been very careful with what he has said regarding nuclear power in the United States. Any serious clean energy plan for our nation must include nuclear energy. According to Newsweek, nuclear energy accounts for 20% of our energy, and 70% of our nation's emission free energy . However, President Obama hasn't come out in favor of nuclear power, and by moving to shut down Yucca Mountain, he has made it much more difficult to increase our nuclear energy production.

Just because the President doesn't like nuclear power in the United States doesn't mean he believes it isn't good for the United Arab Emirates and Iran. In May, he proceeded with a deal to allow the United States to help the UAE become the first Arab nation with a nuclear power plant. The construction work in the UAE associated with this deal could provide U.S. companies with $41 Billion in contracts.

President Barack Hussein Obama has said, and reiterated in the last few days that he feels Iran has some right to nuclear power, just not nuclear weapons. I can't begin to cover all of the problems with this statement. The top two: Do you really think Iran will accept nuclear power and not create a nuclear weapon? What position does this put our ally Israel in?

President Obama quiet on murder? On Sunday, when Dr. George Tiller was shot at his church, the White House was quick to release a statement. In part it said that the President was "shocked and outraged" by the church shooting of a doctor who was known to perform late-term abortions. He went on to say, "However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence." So far, I agree with the President. However, the President puts himself in a very bad position when he comments on something like this. Why? Because what happens when another person is murdered and the President is silent on it?

For example, the next day, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad shot two Army soldiers in front of a recruiting office in Arkansas. One soldier was killed, the other wounded. Muhammad shot the soldiers because of what he felt the Army had done to Muslims. Details have come out today that Muhammad may have had other targets in mind based on information the FBI and Homeland Security Department found on a computer "linked" to Muhamad. As of this writing, the President has been silent on the murder and shooting of Army soldiers on American soil by a man who had converted to Islam. Whether he is intentionally placing different values on the life of Dr. Tiller versus Private William Long or Private Quinton Ezeagwula, he is giving the appearance that he doesn't consider these individuals, or their murders, equal.