Opinion Poll For Week Of June 29, 2009

The Debacle At Gitmo Continues

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Gitmo detainees that are tried by military commissions in the US could claim some constitutional rights. The Justice Department and the Office of Legal Counsel are pushing hard for these detainees to be granted “some” constitutional rights if they are tried in the US using military commisions. The main right being noted in the article deals with the information that was obtained as evidence against the individual using coercive methods would not be permissable during the hearing. This is a huge blow to anyone prosecuting these people. Most of the information obtained to be used against these detainees was obtained involuntarily. So what does this mean?

I feel that this is President Obama’s way of closing Gitmo in the time period he has hoped to have it closed in and lacking a real way to do it. The danger with this is that many detainees may not be able to be tried at all because the evidence that the US has against them would not be permitted because of how it was obtained. I don’t understand how we can detain someone whom we feel is a terrorist but then turn around and give them US Constitutional protection. This is completely outlandish. What will end up happening is that many of these detainees will have to be let go because we do not have anything to hold them on. As it stands now, according to the article, some detainees are being held not because we have evidence against them but because we are afraid if let free they would commit terrorist acts. So if we are going to give some consitutional rights, how can we legally hold someone whom we do not have any charges against just because we are afraid of how they may behave in general society. If any detainees are released, will they be given free reign to go wherever they please. This could be really dangerous. While in office former President Bush had stated that the detainees did not have any constitutional rights. Now this president is going to change that and allow them “certain rights”. Just where does this stop?

As it stands we are providing legal counsel for these detainees. Any half competent attorney is not going to stand for their client being given just a few consitutional rights at the discretion of the Justice Department. This is definitely a story worth following. Most of these detainees are being held because we obtained information on them that is strong terroristic evidence. Now because of a change in leadership and thinking, we are going to throw out our own evidence because it wasn’t obtained voluntarily. Former Vice President Cheney has criticized President Obama for making the country what he considers to be “less safe”. This appears to be evidence to support that assertion.

South Carolina In Turmoil

SC Governor Where

The status of the South Carolina state government is currently up in the air. Republican Governor Mark Sanford has admitted an extramarital affair with a lady in Argentina. Much has been talked about and written in the news over the last week about this situation. The week started with the whereabouts of Gov. Sanford being unknown. There were rumors that he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Then Gov. Sanford surfaced at a public announcement where he announced that he had been in Argentina for the previous 5 days. He then announced that he had been having an affair. His family had apparently been aware of the situation and, in fact, his wife had already asked him to leave. Chances of a reconciliation are still possible it seems.

Mr. Sanford has been a leader within the Republican Party. There were even thoughts that he may become the presidential nominee in the election in 2012. Ironically he was also a very loud critic of then President Clinton when his affair surfaced and was very outspoken in regards to the impeachment proceedings. He has always attempted to hold himself in high moral esteem and issues of integrity. All of this seems to have escaped him and he has allowed the temptation to cheat to get the best of him. There are lingering questions to be answered. What should happen with the governor seat? Will the Republican party be negatively impacted because of this admission?

In terms of his career, I feel the most important aspect to this situation is that the state of South Carolina was left without a leader for a period of time. This is very dangerous and certainly not a responsible decision by someone that is in a position of authority. If something were to happen that required an executive level decision, Gov. Sanford was not available. In fact the reports are that he had even turned off his cellphone. In my view, this is such a poor decision and shows complete lack of self control and responsibility. Having said that, I feel that he should resign from his position as governor of the state of South Carolina. A leader that shows the inability to lead and shows neglect to the office he has sworn to protect and uphold cannot go unpunished.

In respect to the Republican party, I believe that the path this situation takes will determine the affect on the Republican party. If Governor Sanford does not voluntarily resign, it will probably warrant an investigation at the request of the Democrats for impeachment from office. This will not reflect positively on the Governor or on the GOP as a whole. It would more than likely also drastically lower the chance of a Republican gaining control of the governorship in the next election. Voters do not forget scandals such as this one and would be a staple in the democratic campaign. However, if the Governor decides to put his country and the party first, he will make the correct decision to voluntarily resign. Obviously he has deservedly lost the trust of the citizens of South Carolina and his peers. It will be next to impossible to go forth with dignity and respect as governor. If he makes this difficult but necessary decision the Republican party can move forward without much, if any, adverse affects as a party.

For the benefit of his country and his family, Governor Sanford should resign. He has damaged the family bond that once held his family together. He needs to concentrate his efforts on rebuilding that relationship if his wife decides to give him the chance to do so. Secondly, he needs to realize his professional record is now tarnished and is something that would be next to impossible to be repaired as far as his public service goes. Let’s all learn from this and move forward for the benefit of the citizens of South Carolina.

10 Impacted Lives

The recent announcement that Jon and Kate are getting divorced has left viewers to wonder what will become of the family that so many people fell in love with. This family is left to not only deal with the pain that a divorced family can bring, they are also left to deal with the relentless media that I’m sure will not leave them alone. This family has allowed the entire country into their lives in a way that cannot be reversed. Viewers obsess with knowing every detail of their lives and they are the brunt of conversations everywhere today. What will happen to the family, what will happen to the kids, who’s fault is the divorce, and who will move on first? This is so very tragic. In my view, the media and viewers should move on. Let’s not obsess over what happens to this family and allow them to search themselves.

Divorce can be very painful. In this country, divorce has become the accepted norm when a family decides to take the easy road and escape their problems. Part of my strong feeling is due to my moral bias on divorce. The other is just genuinely what is best for their family and most importantly their children. This family has put so many things ahead of what is truly best for their family. Maybe if their lives were not so public, they would be able to take the time to stand back, take a look at their problems and work them out. But instead, the pressure to make a decision did not allow for resolve. This is due to the fact that they were in the media spotlight and have to decide what their future holds in reference to television and their careers.

I really do feel sorry for the children that were put in the midst of this situation without any say. They are still forced to deal with the situation and have to live a life in the spotlight because of, in my view, the greed that consumed their parents. Based on their per show earnings, for 40 shows they earn approximately $3 Million Dollars. Hence the reason for the lavish house that they have decided to keep and allow the children to live in while switching parental supervision in their own reality show version of custody. I guess that arrangement will keep the viewer faithful watching as the show progresses with the same household backdrop.

I just wish that Jon and Kate had not put their family in this situation. There will be enough hurt to go around as was displayed on their show last night. Who is responsible for the divorce, who will move on first really shouldn’t matter. They need to take time in their own private way and do a soul search to make sure that this is really what they both want. I am not totally convinced that if they do that, the result will be as it currently is. Family should be defended whenever possible. A family together is always better than one that is broken.

Opinion Poll for Week of June 22, 2009

The PA Budget Battle

As most Pennsylvania residents, I’m sure, are aware it is that time of year again. The House and Senate are planning on working weekends and evenings to get the elusive budget passed. This yearly debacle is something that residents just expect. There are many facets to this year’s budget. The major issue is that our country is currently in the midst of a recession. Why is this important? It is important because revenues are down and a major cause for the current state budget deficit. As of June 1, the state budget deficit topped $2.8 Billion Dollars. At this time, there have been few budget negotiations within either the House or the Senate. The Republican majority Senate did introduce SB850 which passed the Senate but did not make it out of the House Appropriations Committee. That bill did not increase taxes, but did introduce very serious cuts to existing programs. These programs include education, health, welfare, and public safety. The Democratically controlled House has yet to introduce their budget bill. So where does this leave us, it leaves us with 8 days to pass a budget and little to no real negotiations.

When thinking in terms of the state budget situation one must first realize that it is not an easy task. It has to pass both the House and the Senate and be approved by the Governor. The real challenge to this is that the Senate is Republican controlled and the House is Democratically controlled. This makes negotiations much more difficult. However, I feel that parties should not play a part in this. We all know that the budget is something that must be balanced and passed each and every year. So therefore, discussions and debates should be an ongoing process. Not just one that occurrs every June. It takes a bipartisan approach to work thought the roadblocks that arise during these negotiations. The problem this year is that the current budget deficit is getting worse by the minute. So how would one begin to balance this budget situation since projections were so far off? To start with, cuts are necessary in spending. The Governor is proposing to increase spending so therefore cuts in programs are a necessity. There is no feasible way that this budget can be dealt with without realizing that cuts are necessary. Cuts are always difficult. Many people count on money to fund the important services that our citizens require or enjoy. Those being such things as disability services, education, and public safety. So the next question is how much to cut. The amount to cut is dependent on the depth of the next facet to the negotiations. The other facet to the budget negotiations is a tax increase. No one, including myself, likes the idea of a tax increase but it has to be a part of negotiations to alleviate the severe budget deficit. The two sides need to sit down and realize that no option should be off the table. I just do not see a way around a tax increase in some form or another. I think all other options such as cuts should be the first portion of the negotiations and then legislators should move into tax increases. Looking at the budget deficit, one would have to think that a tax increase would be coming. Governor Rendell has proposed increasing the personal income tax from 3.07% to 3.57%. This would amount to approximately $5.00 a week for someone earning $40,000 per year. So yes it is an increase, but one that could be managed within family budgets. Pennsylvania currently enjoys the second lowest personal income tax in the nation with Illinois being the only lower state and that is at 3.00%. The decisions to be made with respect to cuts to the proposed budget and tax increases are not popular decisions, but ones that need to be made in this tough economy.

When looking at the overall budget picture this year’s budget is difficult. The economic situation as a nation has made it more difficult, but one that can be negotiated with legislators that are willing to conduct themselves in a bipartisan manner. Both parties stand on their own platform, but that platform needs to be negotiable to the benefit of the citizens of Pennsylvania. Let’s all put our personal agendas aside and work together for the common good of the state!

Is Our Country Safe?

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been on a speaking tour of late criticizing some of President Obama’s decisions. He has generated a lot of conversation with one particular statement that he made. In his interviews with Bob Schieffer on Face The Nation and with Sean Hannity he talked about how he feels that our country is less safe with President Obama in charge. This opinion is based on some of the choices that President Obama has made in his first few months in office. I don’t believe that Mr. Cheney intends to scare us with his assessment, I think he hopes to put in the spotlight some of the decisions that have been made in an attempt to draw more talk about them. Mr. Cheney basis his opinion on two real key areas. The first the closing of Guantanamo and secondly President Obama’s decision to end what he calls torture techniques that the Bush Administration had used to their advantage.

I also believe that those two decisions were poor ones. Now whether or not they make us less safe is still up for debate. I think to say you are closing Guantanamo is one thing, but you need to have the plans in place to deal with the terrorist that are currently housed there. President Obama allowed his emotions to make the decision without really thinking about how it would be handled. We are now seeing that a few of the detainees have been transferred to Bermuda. They are staying at a lavish resort and photos surfaced of the detainees swimming in the ocean enjoying themselves. Many countries are refusing to accept the detainees and I think most states in our great nation would do the same. I know that I would prefer not to house any of the detainees in Pennsylvania. If the detainees were brought into The United States, then we could say that this decision is making us less safe. Until then, I don’t see how just closing Guantanamo makes us less safe.

The second area dealing with the interrogation techniques could make us less safe. I don’t believe the effectiveness of waterboarding and the intelligence we gained from it can be debated. Now from a moral standpoint the arguement that the costs outweigh the gains could be made. Most folks that oppose the use of interrogation methods do so under the theory that the same intelligence could be gained by using other “non-torture” methods. Now whether or not waterboarding is torture is a debate that could go on forever. That doesn’t speak to whether or not the act itself makes us more secure. Time will tell whether or not we are able to gain the proper intelligence from known or suspected terrorists by using other less controversial methods. By the way those other methods have yet to be identified. I can easily see how we may lose the ability to gain information from detainees without the threat of more invasive procedures to obtain the required intelligence. Mr. Cheney has argued that intelligence that the Bush Administration gained from captured terrorist would not have been obtained without the use of waterboarding.

The current events in North Korea is of concern to me in terms of national security. In my opinion we are not being aggressive enough to control the situation. President Obama is allowing the situation to control him and his decisions. If North Korea is able to develop Nuclear Weapons and is able to team up with some other countries most notably Iran then we are in danger. We need to be proactive in handling this situation and making sure it doesn’t get out of control. The jury is still out on this situation as well. Whoever wins the election in Iran has spoken out in favor of nuclear weapons in the past. So it is a situation that we need to address.

I do not feel that right now we are less safe as a nation, but I do feel that in the coming weeks and months that could change. As the detainees from Guantanamo are relocated, we will be able to make a better assessment of how dangerous this situation will become. As suspected terrorist are captured and subsequent intelligence is or is not gained will determine the danger in that. Finally as the situation in North Korea continues to develop and the outcome of the election in Iran is known we will have a better idea of what danger that situation poses to us as well. Something definitely to keep an eye on in the news in the days ahead. Coming tomorrow…the Pennsylvania Budget Battle continues as the deadline approaches…..the effects of the budget on working Pennsylvanians and the services available to it’s citizens.

What To Do With North Korea?

kim_jong_ilAs I”m sure you are already aware, North Korea is becoming very dangerous. They have already tested a long range missile and have tested their nuclear capabilities. I feel these are very prevocative acts that demand a response. It has been in the news that they are about to test another long range missile that may have the capability to reach Hawaii. In response Secretary Gates has ordered a radar to be set up off the coast of Hawaii to monitor the situation. Obviously if a missile were to be launched and appeared to have the potential to reach Hawaii it would be shot down. But I think that President Obama should be reacting now. We waited to sanction North Korea after their test of the first long range missile. We now are able to intercept any vessel that is believed to be carrying nuclear products. However that is where our power ends. We still would have to obtain permission to board the ship to conduct further inspection. North Korea is not going to grant permission for any country to board the ship to investigage. Secondly they have already made it clear that any attempt to intercept their ships would be considered an act of war. Instead of constantly being reactive, we need to be proactive. We need to destroy any nuclear capability that they currently posess instead of waiting for them to make a move. Being reactive as opposed to proactive in situations like these is very dangerous. President Obama, in his decisions thus far as president, seems to be unsure of how to respond to these major situations. This is cause for major concern. He has apologized for the actions of the United States as if we have something to be apologize for. We are fortunate to live in such a great nation. But I suppose one could go back to the remarks that surfaced during the campaign that Michelle Obama made, and I am paraphrasing, about for the first time in her life being proud to be an American. We shouldn’t be surprised now should we? His indecisiveness and poor decision making is causing our country, in the words of former VP Dick Cheney, to be less safe. It is sadly true. This is the topic for tomorrow’s post. What are your feelings about the situation in North Korea and how we are handling this situation?

This Week’s Opinion Poll

Do you approve of President Obama’s overall performance thus far as President?(polls)

Next Democratic Leader

Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images | Source: Washington Post

Photo: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images | Source: Washington Post

So much is made in the news of the status of the GOP. They appear to be leaderless and in turmoil after losing the election and seats in the General Assembly. Several names are being floated around as to who will challenge President Obama in 2012. However it would appear that with the exception of President Obama, the Democrats would be in the same position. Minus the appeal and approval rating of President Obama, one would be hard pressed to find the next leader of the party. Vice President Biden seems to stick his foot in his mouth just about as many times as he opens it. His leadership ability seems to be very shaky at best. Speaker Pelosi is having her own problems with what she knew about the interrogations going on during the Bush Administration. Harry Reid doesn’t have a very favorable rating either. You really have to do some research to find the next leader of that party as well. So when compared, the Republicans are not that much worse off than the Democrats minus the President. What are your opinions of the next leader of either party?