Monday, August 31, 2009

Internal Stress in Iran

Tensions Remain in Iranian Government

While street protests in Iran have been squashed, it appears from reports from the BBC that those protests have lead to significant tension and strain with in the Iranian government.

BBC - Fight resumes over Iran cabinet
Iranian MPs have resumed a heated debate on the nominees for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's new cabinet.

The Majlis holds a confidence vote on Wednesday, but correspondents say the president is struggling to win backing in the predominantly conservative body.

The latest objections by MPs have been levelled at his choice for education minister, one of three women nominees.

Iran is mired in political turmoil after Mr Ahmadinejad's re-election, which triggered huge street protests.

Iranian press reports described the exchanges between Mr Ahmadinejad and leading conservatives on the first day of the debate on Sunday as unprecedented.

Mr Ahmadinejad defended his government as the "cleanest" possible. He rejected accusations that he had simply chosen ministers who would be obedient "yes-men".

Conservatives and reformers alike accused him of nominating unqualified people without consulting MPs.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Learning from Reagan and Kennedy

The tributes to Senator Edward Kennedy pour in as the country starts to realize how many people's lives the Senator touched. Some of the most moving memories come from people like Senator Orin Hatch, a Republican who collaborated on several bills with Ted Kennedy. Hatch recalls how Kennedy could go to the floor Senate, give a blistering opposition speech, then come over and give him a hug. Senator Kennedy not only was a highly accomplished legislator, he represents a fading tradition in American politics. He's a person who had the ability to hold a decisive view point yet work with and befriend people that held opposing positions. Senator Kennedy was never mistaken for a conservative, but was willing to work with conservatives to get things done.

Today many politicians seem reluctant to work across party lines, as if it was a sign of weakness. Yet here is an example of a man that accomplished as much as any Senator in recent history, held a self-ascribed liberal point of view, and was beloved by people on both sides of the aisle.

President Reagan had a similar ability. No one mistook President Reagan for a liberal, but he too could make a tough partisan speech then go out for a drink with Speaker Tip O'Niell, a died in the wool liberal. It is a trait that is too rare in politics these days.

This is also a trait that is quickly forgotten by many partisans. Reagan has become an icon of the right, but many seem to forget that he didn't hate those on the left. The Kennedy family is iconic for those on the left, hopefuly it won't be forgotten that Senator Kennedy similarly didn't hate those on the right. It is not an inconsequential trait, as these two men were respected and trusted by members of both parties. When Kennedy and Reagan are held up as the ideal for their party they should be remembered for all their traits not just the ones that are convenient for partisan politics.

This iconic status, that certain important public figures take on, ignores an individual's humanity. These people aren't saints, they have flaws like all people do. In some ways this makes them even more exceptional, as they have overcome things that often limit other people. The issue isn't with the short-comings of public figures, it is the flaw in how they are remembered. They are framed as either saint or sinner, depending on ones own personal views, and this does not do any person justice.

The Kennedy's are an excellent example our idealized yet over simplified public memory. Ted Kennedy, it could be argued, has been the most politically effective Kennedy, but the tragic death of his brothers has turned them into icons reaching an exaulted untouchable status. Like their bother, they were human beings with positive and negative attributes, who accomplished remarkable things yet did not live perfect lives. The reason it is important to remeber that great people have flaws is not to denigrate their memory, but it is important to show what is possible for 'regular people.' Also, it is important to understand that their are no infallable 'perfect people.' Politicians that are viewed as perfect are either in a system that requires absolute loyalty, or they are being put in a virtually unwinnable situation where the public is almost guaranteed to be disappointed. Much can be learned from prominent public figures, yet the lesson is muted if they are transformed into 'all good' or 'all bad' caricatures for party politics, or for posterity.

What is the Lesson of Figures Like Kennedy and Reagan?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Federal Deficit Numbers Soar

As previously reported the Federal Deficit is Soaring with estimates for this year being between $1.6 trillion or $1.8 trillion. Now the projected deficit for the next 10 years is up $2 trillion. There are so many disturbing elements to this ever expanding deficit, not least of which is how the U.S. economy will recover with this level government debt. As the deficit shoots upwards so does the risk of inflation, making recovery increasingly more difficult. Not to mention that China owns so much of our debt that at this point they're practically a part owner of this country. The government seriously needs to reexamine its priorities and reign in its spending or this country will find itself in a world of hurt.

Major Garrett reports New 10-year Federal Deficit: $9 Trillion, Up from $7 Trillion
The Obama Office of Management and Budget tells Fox the federal deficit over the next decade is projected to be $2 trillion higher than previous estimates.
The new 10-year aggregate federal deficit is $9 trillion.

An official said the prolonged recession and the ensuing decline in federal revenue prompted a recalibration of the deficit numbers.

The numbers also reflect a projection that post-recession economic growth may not be as robust as after previous recessions, the official said.

An Unsustainable Federal Deficit

Friday, August 21, 2009

John Mackey Under Fire

Whole Foods is facing a boycott because its CEO John Mackey wrote an Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal opposing government run health care. Mackey's thoughtful article gave eight ideas for health care reform, and is not anywhere near what most rationale people consider provocative or radical. On the contrary, he is one of few public figures to put together a clear, concise, well-reasoned approach to health care reform. For his trouble he's being boycotted by those on the far left who can not accept that not everyone shares their point of view. The WSJ article is definitely worth a read for anyone interested in health care reform...

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare - Eight things we can do to improve health care without adding to the deficit.

The following excerpt Food Fight Over Health Care, from a transcript of On the Record with Greta Vansusteren, also illustrates that Mackey is good person who does right by his employees, and is absurdly being targeted for vocalizing his opinion on health care reform. Hopefully those who see the injustice in this will counter the boycott by stopping by a Whole Foods store and picking up some groceries.

BRIAN SULLIVAN, FOX BUSINESS NETWORK: The irony of this story, Greta, is that if John Mackey, who is the CEO of Whole Food who has been running the company, started the company in Austin Texas about 30 years ago, if he had positioned what he positioned in "The Journal" when we were not considering health care, this would have been considered radical reform. He said here are eight ideas as a successful CEO that I have, including tort reform, allowing insurers cross state lines, self-directed ideas. And yet he is vilified by some of the more liberal followers out there of the president's plan. They are, as you said, waging war against Whole Foods, 18,000 on Facebook in a boycott. There is Web page set up. And they are calling him, get this, Greta, a right-wing zealot. VAN SUSTEREN: This CEO of Whole Foods, in 2007, he said he had enough money to live comfortably, so in 2007 he cut his salary down to $1 a year, and he donated all of the proceeds from his stock option to charity. This does not sound like a guy who wants to stick it to the poor when it comes to health care. He had a different idea, and that was what was in the "Wall Street Journal." SULLIVAN: He is a self-described libertarian. And I do not know if that was angered some people. Not only was he taking $1, but he pushed this through, Greta, a $100,000 need-based fund for Whole Foods workers. They offer domestic partners same sex benefits at Whole Foods. Heretofore this has been considered a relatively progressive company. Now he comes out and says the government-run plan is not the way to go. And he is absolutely being slaughtered on the left side of the blogosphere.

A Misguided Boycott Of Whole Foods