Shall we shut down the government? Again?

As of this moment, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are at an impasse over the 2011 budget.   Budget hawks in the Republican party have insisted on cutting President Obama’s spending plan.  Democrats have agreed to some $30 billion in cuts, but that is not enough for a key segment of Republicans.  If a budget doesn’t pass, the government shuts down on Friday.  (Well, “essential services” won’t, but still. . . .)

You may recall another time when Republicans scored a big Congressional victory over an unpopular Democratic president.  They demanded that the budget be cut and stood firm and uncompromising on that principle.  The government shut down.  Whereupon the public reacted against the Republicans, President Clinton’s popularity shot up, and he won re-election.

Is this a repeat of history?  Are the Republicans over-reaching, again? Will this mean the re-election of Barack Obama?  Is there anything different this time?

And here is a deeper question:  Will the American public tolerate a tough, trimmed down budget?  With so many Americans beholden in some way on federal money–getting social security, medicare, farm subsidies, business subsidies, government contracts, job-creating pork, federal programs, college loans, etc., etc.–even though they express worry about the deficit in the abstract, will they turn against any Republican or conservative who threatens to defund popular programs?

 

Government shutdown: Potential furloughs for 800k federal workers, disruption of D.C. services – The Washington Post.

The new leaders of the free world

Americans are the new French.  And the French (and British) are the new Americans.  At least when it comes to foreign policy.

Whatever happened to the good old days when the U.S. aggressively confronted evil-doers and France screamed about our defiling the altar of the United Nations? Now, it is France and other European allies who are leading the way in confronting brutal dictators while the U.S. drags its feet so as not to look like an anti-Muslim resource-grabber. And while the U.S. dithers on Libya despite direct requests for help, suspicions in the Arab mind are being reconfirmed that it cares about their well-being as much as Charlie Sheen cares about sobriety.

Western Europe, not the U.S., has acted as the leaders of the free world since the Libya crisis began. When President Obama finally addressed it, he did not mention Gaddafi by name. He didn’t call for his removal until late last week. The British were the ones who began contacting Libyan officers to tell them they could be prosecuted for war crimes if they did not defect. It was French President Sarkozy, not U.S. President Obama, who first called for a NATO-imposed no-fly zone on February 23. Since then, British Prime Minister Cameron has become the loudest voice in the free world to support it.

There are now mixed messages coming out of France with the foreign minister saying any no-fly zone must be under UN authority, even though Russia opposes it, but we know where Sarkozy stands. Meanwhile, in the U.S., Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen say say there is no confirmation that Gaddafi’s forces are carrying out air strikes despite countless accounts from Libyans, reporters, and pilots who defected. Gates is warning about what it will look like to attack another Middle Eastern country and Secretary of State Clinton says that intervention has been resisted to avoid the perception that we’re trying to take Libyan oil. Ironically, the military commander who defected in Tobruk is suggesting that the West’s oil business with Gaddafi is the reason why it is not coming to their rescue.

via Pajamas Media » Europe Takes the Lead in Defending Freedom and Western Values.

This just in:  France has extended diplomatic recognition to the rebel government.

Then there is this from the Washington Post:

President Obama is content to let other nations publicly lead the search for solutions to the Libyan conflict, his advisers say, a stance that reflects the more humble tone he has sought to bring to U.S. foreign policy but one that also opens him to criticism that he is a weak leader.

So what do you think?  America is probably not in a position to begin a third war.  But do you appreciate the president’s “humble” approach?   Is it time to give up our leadership on the world stage?

Reapportionment Favors Republicans

The constitutionally-mandated reappportionment of congressional delegates (and thus electoral votes) according to the latest census is looking good for Republicans.

States gaining Congressional seats: Arizona (1), Florida (2), Georgia (1), Nevada (1), South Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1).

States losing Congressional seats: Illinois (1), Iowa (1), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (1), New Jersey (1), New York (2), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (1).

via Pajamas Media » Reapportionment Favors the Red States.

Of those gaining representatives, only Nevada and Washington voted Democratic in the 2008 presidential election.  Of those losing representatives, only Louisiana and Missouri went for the Republican.

Why do you think the population shift and demographic changes favors Republicans?  Aren’t the progressives supposed to be the wave of the future?

Americans have gotten pessimistic

Engrained in the American character, it seemed, was optimism.  Liberals believe in progress and Conservatives believe in Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America.”  Now, though, we are seeing something very different:

Americans are deeply pessimistic about the state of the country and its future, according to a series of new national polls, a negativity that puts politicians in a difficult place as they try to woo voters and keep hold on office.

In the new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent said the country was headed in the wrong direction, the highest number in President Obama’s term to date. A similar 67 percent said the country was headed off on the wrong track in a Washington Post/ABC News survey released earlier this week.

New Pew data paints an even darker picture of Americans’ views about our current standing — particularly in regards the economy. Nearly nine in ten Americans say the current economic conditions are either “fair” or “poor” and there is an overwhelming sense that we as a country are losing ground.

Fully 67 percent of the sample said the country was “losing ground” on the budget deficit — today’s expected House vote on the tax cut compromise won’t help there — while 64 percent say ground is being lost on “cost of living”. Two thirds (63 percent) said the country is losing ground on the “availability of good-paying jobs” and 58 percent said the same about the “rich-poor gap”.

The numbers are startling and make clear the challenge before President Obama — or any politician — hoping to convince people that better days are indeed ahead.

via The Fix – America the pessimistic.

So, are you pessimistic, or have you found some grounds for optimism?  Might this new pessimistic phase be healthy for Americans?  Or the contrary?  And what does Christianity have to say about this?

We have no cynicism

Kathleen Parker, writing about diplomatic  fallout from the Wikileak documents, includes a poignant reaction:

Writing for the center-right Le Figaro, French journalist Renaud Girard said: “What is most fascinating is that we see no cynicism in U.S. diplomacy. They really believe in human rights in Africa and China and Russia and Asia. They really believe in democracy and human rights.”

Yes, we really do.

If Americans are guilty of anything, he said, it is being a little naive. Let’s plead guilty as charged and get on with it.

via Kathleen Parker – Can we become an America WikiLeaks can’t assail?.

I guess the rest of the world doesn’t really believe in all that stuff about democracy and human rights like we do.  So in our idealism we naively try to help the world and just get beaten around for our trouble.  I know that critics of America ascribe sinister motives to our policies–they are just in Iraq for the oil, etc.–but I think our real problem has been our good intentions, which just don’t work out the way our optimistic national character expects them to.

And yet I think it’s good not to be cynical about democracy, freedom, human rights, etc.  Is there a way to keep our ideals without being naive?

Wikileaks’ head as James Bond villain

British police are reportedly closing in on Julian Assange, the man behind Wikileaks, with plans to arrrest him on Swedish sexual assault charges. But now Assange, playing the role of a James Bond villain, has devised a doomsday weapon set to go off if anyone interferes with his fiendish plans:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has reportedly released an encrypted “poison pill” file that contains sensitive data related to Guantanamo Bay, Afghan military ops, Bank of America and the BP oil spill.

The file – known as insurance.aes256 – is locked-down with a 256-digit key deemed virtually unbreakable by even the US Department of Defense (DoD).

Assange, who is using the sensitive data to hold governments hostage, states: “We have over a long period of time distributed encrypted backups of material we have yet to release. All we have to do is release the password to that material, and it is instantly available.”

WikiLeaks threatens “poison pill” if site shut down Assange explains that if any government tries to stop WikiLeaks by downing the website or detaining him, he will disseminate the “poison pill” password, allowing anyone to access the highly-embarrassing documents.

Meanwhile, the leaks keep coming.  The latest goes far beyond diplomatic embarrassments.  It is a direct attack on U.S. national security tailor made for international terrorists:

A long list of key facilities around the world that the US describes as vital to its national security has been released by Wikileaks.

In February 2009 the State Department asked all US missions abroad to list all installations whose loss could critically affect US national security.

The list includes pipelines, communication and transport hubs.

Several UK sites are listed, including cable locations, satellite sites and BAE Systems plants.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says this is probably the most controversial document yet from the Wikileaks organisation.

The definition of US national security revealed by the cable is broad and all embracing, he says.

There are obvious pieces of strategic infrastructure like communications hubs, gas pipelines and so on. However, other facilities on the list include:

* Cobalt mine in Congo

* Anti-snake venom factory in Australia

* Insulin plant in Denmark

In Britain, the list ranges from Cornwall to Scotland, including key satellite communications sites and the places where trans-Atlantic cables make landfall.

A number of BAE Systems plants involved in joint weapons programmes with the Americans are listed, along with a marine engineering firm in Edinburgh which is said to be “critical” for nuclear powered submarines. . . .

The geographical range of the document on installations is extraordinary, our correspondent says.

If the US sees itself as waging a “global war on terror” then this represents a global directory of the key installations and facilities – many of them medical or industrial – that are seen as being of vital importance to Washington.

Some locations are given unique billing. The Nadym gas pipeline junction in western Siberia, for example, is described as “the most critical gas facility in the world”.

It is a crucial transit point for Russian gas heading for western Europe.

In some cases, specific pharmaceutical plants or those making blood products are highlighted for their crucial importance to the global supply chain.

The critical question is whether this really is a listing of potential targets that might be of use to a terrorist.

via BBC News – List of facilities ‘vital to US security’ leaked.


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