Update! Please Read!

In addition to posting political articles on this website, I will now be posting photography on a new site: qschwab.com. Alongside political inquiry, photography is one of my passions! Here are examples of some of the images recently posted on my new photography portfolio.

Mouth Wall - Multiple HDR1 Olympian Wall

Thanks! I hope you guys check this new site out.

 

Responding to the Russian Intervention in Crimea

The United States must address the invasion of Russian troops who have seized control of the Crimean peninsula (see map below).

road-map-of-Ukraine

It is very unclear how we should proceed during this conflict, however. Here are some of our options:

1. Military

It would be extremely risky to use military force to push Russian troops out of Crimea. If the United States acted alone and involved its Cold War opponent in an attempt to limit their influence, we could face a serious international crisis. If an international coalition rose up in protest of Russia’s actions, however, a successful military effort could be effective. Provided Russia does not advance its troops into the heart of Ukraine, it seems unlikely that world leaders would use force in defense of a primarily Russian populated peninsula. If Russia had launched an all-out assault on Eastern Europe, this would be an entirely different situation, but chances are, military force will not be used to counter the Russian takeover.

2. Sanctions

Economic sanctions have proved moderately effective against countries such as Iran and North Korea, and they provide an intriguing option in the midst of this conflict. Here’s the problem: Russia is not Iran or North Korea. Instead, they are a powerful world power, and due to their close economic ties with Europe (Europe imports approximately one-third of their oil from Russia alone), many significant members of the European Union are reluctant to utilize sanctions. While the United States does not foster these same economic ties, sanctions are unlikely to scare the Russians out of Crimea.

3. Diplomacy

Diplomacy is the best option in order to quickly and painlessly resolve the crisis in Crimea. In an interview on CBS, John Kerry stated, “President Obama wants to emphasize to the Russians that there are a right set of choices that can still be made to address any concerns they have about Crimea, about their citizens, but you don’t choose to invade a country in order to do that.” If an international coalition can ease Russian concerns about the largely Russian population on the Crimean peninsula, there may be a solution. Essentially, Russian leaders contend that they have the responsibility to defend the interests of Russians in Eastern Ukraine. While this may be the simple facade of a power grab, the Russian claims do garner some merit. If the United States and EU leaders can address these concerns, there may be a peaceful resolution involving a new special designation for Crimea (or something to that effect), that could end the significant military presence on the peninsula.

Please leave a comment about what you think about the Russian intervention in Crimea, and tell me if you see any feasible solutions! Thanks.

Alzheimer’s Disease

I came across this video of Seth Rogan testifying in front of the Senate Appropriations Subcommitee on Labor, Health, and Human Services. It was a brilliant speech, and while Rogan’s comedic character was evident (although perhaps excessive), his message was clear. Alzheimer’s is a deadly, incurable disease which affects 5 million Americans. Without government funding, research for solutions to Alzheimer’s will be stunted, and considering the fact that the number of individuals diagnosed each year is skyrocketing, our government must allocate funds accordingly.

This quote is taken directly from the Alzheimer’s Association:

“In 2013, the direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s to American society will total an estimated $203 billion, including $142 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Total payments for health care, long-term care and hospice for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are projected to increase from $203 billion in 2013 to $1.2 trillion in 2050 (in current dollars). This dramatic rise includes a 500% increase in combined Medicare and Medicaid spending.”

I write to you today to pose a question, one which I myself cannot answer. How is the government supposed to allocate its money for medical research? Considering our deficit, how must we proceed? The US government is the largest sponsor for medical research, and without federal funding, can we fight the spread of diseases such as Alzheimer’s?

Let me know what you think, and enjoy this testimony from Seth Rogan.

Kansas HB 2453: A Facade of Religious Freedom, with Discriminatory Intentions

Today, I was relieved to see an article detailing the failure of an anti-gay bill moving through the state legislature of Kansas. The bill, which passed the House by a margin of 72-49, appears to face defeat in the Senate, as Republican leaders have recognized the discriminatory implications of the law. HB 2453 has been labeled “an act concerning religious freedoms with respect to marriage.” The bill would enable Kansas citizens to retain the right to refuse gay men and women “any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits.” Essentially, a hotel could refuse to give a gay couple a hotel room, because to do so would perhaps violate their “religious freedom.”

Though the bill passed Kansas’s lower house by a significant majority, Senate leader Susan Wagle announced that she would instruct her fellow Republicans to vote against the bill. “A strong majority of my members support laws that define traditional marriage, protect religious institutions, and protect individuals from being forced to violate their personal moral values. However, my members also don’t condone discrimination. If we cannot find ample common ground to ease legitimate concerns, I believe a majority of my caucus will not support the bill,” Wagle contended.

Ironically, one of the more staunch opponents of the bill is a group of ministers. “Ostensibly, this bill is being presented as a bill about religious freedom,” minister Aaron Roberts said. “It’s actually a license for bigotry.” Two bishops agreed, admitting that “this proposed legislation is reminiscent of the worst laws that permitted discrimination against people on the basis of color, sex or nation of origin.” I concur. I truly believe that such discrimination is just as malicious as that based upon any other characteristic, whether it race, religious values, or gender.

What if the tables were turned? What if people widely considered heterosexuality to be sinful and immoral? What if you faced discrimination based upon your sexual identity? Would you support a similar bill? If the purpose of freedom of religion is to prohibit discrimination towards those who value a particular belief system, why should that be the basis for discrimination towards other groups?

Briefly, I found an editorial on why this bill SHOULD pass. Check it out: http://cjonline.com/blog-post/contra-mundum/2014-02-14/why-hb-2453-needed-now

In their article, they stated.. “All people are created equal. However, not all behaviors, not all sexual and moral choices, not all marriages, are created equal.”

I could contend that any religion that promotes discrimination is an immoral belief system. However, that does not enable me to refuse certain religious groups a service or accomodation. And yes, religious affiliation is a choice. According the most experts, sexual orientation is not a choice and, therefore, cannot be changed (whereas religion can). So if you condone discrimination based on an inherent quality, why not extend that discrimination towards those with blue eyes, or those with blonde hair? Shall we promote equal rights or regress to a time where harsh discrimination dominated legislation throughout the United States?

Please leave your thoughts.

The State of The Union: A Quick Follow Up!

I was recently asked by my school newspaper to write an article on the State of the Union, and I based it primarily off of my “Dissecting the State of the Union Address” piece that I wrote at the end of January. I was asked to provide a conservative viewpoint (another student was tasked with writing the liberal interpretation), so I tweaked the article as necessary (primarily the conclusion). Here is a photo of the published piece, and below is the full transcript of the text.

sotu

(Note: Certain areas have been blurred for confidentiality)

Let’s face it. The State of the Union is merely a political charade. Early into his speech, President Obama proclaimed, “Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent.” It is a pleasant thought, idealizing a joint session of Congress as both cohesive and undivided, but anyone who has any trace of knowledge concerning modern politics knows these words as a fallacy. In fact, the bored, unexpressive face of Rep. John Boehner, adjacent from a glistening Joe Biden, revealed the true fabrication of any apparent unity between the two parties.

Soon after, Obama acknowledged that if “debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy – when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States – then we are not doing right by the American people.” I concur. However, this statement was nothing more than a disguised jab at Republican leaders, who Obama has blamed for manufacturing an unnecessary government shutdown. “This chamber speaks with one voice”? Doubtful.

Recognizing the importance of job creation and economic opportunity, Obama laid out several proposals to expand the middle class. Let’s “close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home,” he declared, offering to “create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes” (a possible nod to “Bridgegate,” which is tarnishing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration). Next, Obama addressed the value of keeping “high-tech manufacturing jobs” in the United States, and promoting “goods stamped ‘Made in the USA.’” He also proposed patent reform, an increase in natural gas production, setting standards for trucks’ fuel consumption, and overdue immigration reform. This all sounds fantastic… it truly does. However, can we expect all of these changes in the next year? I would honestly like to believe that we can accomplish all of these things, but if we are failing to pass basic appropriations measures, will the focus of Congress really shift to patent reform?

In an attempt to avoid the Congressional stalemate, Obama announced that “in the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.” Essentially, after stressing the value of compromise and unity throughout his speech, Obama chose to use his powers as president to cut Republican leaders out of a discussion about minimum wage.

All in all, the State of the Union was ridden with contradictions, inconsistency, and irrelevant and improbable proposals. The speech was simply an extension of a promise that President Obama has failed to uphold to the American people: to bring substantial change and reform during his tenure. While Obama may employ a commanding oratory presence, any strength gained from his skill at the podium is ultimately tarnished by his substandard record as president. 

Dissecting the State of the Union Address

Let’s face it. The State of the Union is merely a political charade. Early into his speech, Obama proclaimed, “Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent.” Honestly, this was downright ridiculous. It is a pleasant thought, idealizing a joint session of Congress as both cohesive and undivided, but anyone who has any trace of knowledge concerning modern politics knows these words as a fallacy. In fact, the bored, unexpressive face of Rep. John Boehner, adjacent from a glistening Joe Biden, revealed the true fabrication of any apparent unity between both parties.

Soon after, Obama acknowledged that if “debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy – when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States – then we are not doing right by the American people.” I concur. However, this statement was nothing more than a disguised jab at Republican leaders, who Obama has blamed for, in his eyes, manufacturing an unnecessary government shutdown. “This chamber speaks with one voice”? Doubtful.

Next, the president addressed the recent budget compromise, arguing that due “to the work of Democrats and Republicans, this Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year’s severe cuts.” If you haven’t already read my recent piece on the Ryan-Murray budget, you would know that I consider it to be generally unimpressive, as it ultimately fails to address the true concerns that will continue to deepen the federal deficit for years to come: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The next bit of Obama’s speech was, in my opinion, the most well-crafted piece of the entire address. The president attributed the success of Americans to “the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.” He went on to add, “It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House; how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth.” Whoever actually wrote this section of the State of the Union hit upon the central idea of the American dream, a concept which truly does inspire and enthuse individuals. Well done.

Recognizing the importance of job creation and economic opportunity, Obama laid out several proposals to expand the middle class. Let’s “close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs here at home,” he declared, offering to “create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes” (a possible nod to “Bridgegate,” which is tarnishing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration). Next, Obama addressed the value of keeping “high-tech manufacturing jobs” in the United States, and promoting “goods stamped ‘Made in the USA.’” He also proposed patent reform, an increase in natural gas production, setting standards for truck’s fuel consumption, and overdue immigration reform. This all sounds fantastic… it truly does. However, can we expect all of these changes in the next year? I doubt it. I would honestly like to believe that we can accomplish all of these things, but if we are failing to pass basic appropriations measures, will the focus of Congress really shift to patent reform?

Next, Obama addressed Congress’s failure to renew unemployment insurance. While I do support the restoration of such a program, the unemployment system must be reformed as well. The president seemed to agree: “we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy.” Yes, I agree, but I would have liked to hear a proposal on how to effectively reform the unemployment system.

After addressing education reform, Obama added that “women make up about half our workforce.  But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.” Well, according to the Equal Pay Act of 1963, it is illegal to provide women and men different salaries who maintain the same profession and title within a company. The “77 cents” comment is misleading: it is based on the difference in annual median income between men in women, and does not take into account differences in professions. I do believe that this gap ought to be closed, but this remark is an example of the use of misleading statistics used in political speeches, which I do not condone.

In an attempt to work around Congressional polarization, Obama announced that “in the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour.” Essentially, after stressing the value of compromise and unity throughout his speech, Obama chose to use his powers as president to cut Republican leaders out of the minimum wage debate. I fully support this measure, but I just find his message to be inconsistent.

Next, the president finally touched on Obamacare. He criticized Republicans for their failed attempts to repeal his signature legislation, adding that “the first forty [votes] were plenty.” He urged all Americans to sign up for health insurance programs by March 31st.

Lastly, Obama discussed foreign policy. He declared that “by the end of this year… America’s longest war will finally be over” stressing the importance of reducing troop involvement overseas. However, the president asserted America’s role in the world, and promised that he “will never hesitate” in using force abroad when necessary. Interestingly enough, Obama openly supported “talks to end the conflict there [in Israel]; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel.” The creation of a Palestinian state has been a concept rarely addressed by presidents in the past. Obama mentioned America’s role in ending conflict in Syria, disarming Iran, and concluded by telling the tragic story of Cory Remsburg, an Army Ranger who was brutally attacked in Kandahar.

Overall, the State of the Union was mediocre. Though there were some inspiring moments, I felt as though there was a little too much talk and less of a discussion of the previous year’s accomplishments (possibly because there were very few accomplishments in 2013?). Anyways, check out this article. I found it especially revealing. Leave a comment with your opinion of the State of the Union Address!

Note: All text is quoted from the full transcript of the State of the Union address, available here.

Chris Christie: How the George Washington Bridge Scandal May Impact his Presidential Nomination

Last September, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey closed all but one lane on the George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson River to connect Manhattan and New Jersey. The bridge is often referred to as one of the world’s busiest bridges, carrying over 100 million vehicles in 2013. As one could imagine, lane closures resulted in a massive traffic jam, lasting for nearly an entire week. Accordingly to the Port Authority, a traffic study was performed, but there is little evidence to suggest that one actually occurred. Furthermore, what type of study would you perform on such a trafficked bridge? One that would undoubtedly show that lane closures create severe traffic problems? The running theory is that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was behind the traffic jam for retribution against Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who refused to endorse his campaign. There is evidence that clearly shows that some of Christie’s highest staffers were involved in creating the traffic jam. Leaked emails show that Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff, declared, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” just before the lane closures began. Since this scandal broke, Kelly has been fired, and Governor Christie remains adamant in stating that he was unaware of his staff’s activities. Here’s why this scandal may just be the end of Christie’s chances for a Republican nomination for president in 2016.

If Governor Christie was behind the lane closures for political retribution: 

It’s petty. It’s actually so petty that it’s pathetic. Chris Christie won his gubernatorial election in a landslide, and if he decided to seek retribution against a Democratic mayor of a small town in New Jersey for not supporting him in his overwhelmingly successful campaign, it makes him look small and immature. It makes him look like a bully for using his power as governor to disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of commuters. It makes him look entirely unfit for a presidential nomination.

If Governor Christie was actually unaware of his top aides’ activities:

Christie denies any involvement in the lane closures, and though he fired members of his staff who were implicated, it’s hard to believe that the governor was unaware of his employees’ activities. However, if he was not informed of their actions, he appears weak, and not in control of his office of governor. Would the American people want to elect a leader who gives his staff the authority to make significant decisions without his consultation? Ana Navarro, a Republican consultant, argues that the “pettiness and vindictiveness of his close aides reflect poorly on Christie’s own judgment. This speaks to character and to leadership.” I could not agree more.

Here’s why it may not matter:

Political memory is notoriously short. The national election in 2016 is just under two years away, and while Christie would announce his campaign much sooner than that, there is still over a year until primary elections begin. Though the Fort Lee scandal is currently dominating the media, unless Christie himself is proven to have pursued political retribution against Fort Lee, the rumors will fade. This is no Watergate. This is no Teapot Dome. Even recent scandals such as the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups have largely disappeared from the public’s memory. If Christie does run for president, his popularity may just outweigh his possible involvement in the shutdown of the George Washington Bridge. Only time will tell.

The Premiere Home for Political Debate and Discussion

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 866 other followers