Recent Opinion Pieces

Recent Opinion Pieces

Greetings friends and readers, I decided to wait and post my last two pieces together, so that way you could understand my train of thought on the issue of the recent attempt to repeal Obamacare. Continue reading

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​The Nuclear Option: Congressional Brinksmanship

​The Nuclear Option: Congressional Brinksmanship

With the beginning of confirmation hearings for President Trump’s Cabinet appointments and eventually his Supreme Court nominee, I’m sure you’ve heard on television, radio, or read in a newspaper something about the “nuclear option.” You may recall it being discussed before, about 2013, after there was strong opposition given to some of President Obama’s appointments. The nuclear option is a ruling in “parliamentary procedure” that removes the typical threshold of Senators necessary to overcome a filibuster on a confirmation; instead of requiring 60 Senators for legislation, or 2/3rds of Senators for amending Senate rules, all it takes is a simple majority vote (50%+1). This translates into the ability of the Senate majority to ignore any serious effort by the minority to oppose appointments and force candidates and laws through the Senate. When the nuclear option was finally put into power in 2013 under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), it had long been a known issue in the Senate.

For instance, in 1917, 100 years ago, the nuclear option’s existence caused the Senate to reform their filibuster rules. At the time, Senator Thomas J. Walsh (D-MT) noted that while Senate required a 2/3rds majority to approve rule changes, the Constitution stated that “each House could determine its’ rules of proceedings” which meant either House could decide all decisions be resolved by a simple majority. His conclusion caused a shakeup in the understanding of procedures and new rules of cloture (cloture is the procedure to end a debate and take a vote) were adopted to fix the hole Walsh had noted in the rules of operations. In 1957, Vice President Richard Nixon wrote an opinion on the proceedings of the Senate that the US Constitution still granted the presiding officer the authority to override rules. In 1975, acting to make cloture more achievable, the new Democrat majority made the necessary amount of Senators 60 and “having been sworn in” rather than “present and voting”.

But after almost a hundred years of trying to avoid such a blatant crackdown on opposition in Congress, Senate Democrats ended the tense, but respected tradition. After the filibusters of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz occurred on intelligence appointments, Senator Harry Reid felt it was necessary to ensure that Republicans who protested the appointments be incapable of stalling their path to carrying out their duties.

Now in 2017, with Republicans in charge of the Senate again, and with a President amenable to their will in the White House, the nuclear option presents itself as a possibility again. When Senator Reid eliminated the ability of the filibuster to stand in as a protest of truly awful or corrupt appointments, I protested it and considered it a violation of the peace in Congress. Senator Harry Reid had turned to his associates and said “Peace or War” and when Republicans protested, he said “war.”

With the nuclear option being the new tradition, Senator Mitch McConnell has stated that Gorsuch will pass, but how he passes will depend on what Senate Democrats do. Facing the sword they once used on Republicans, Democrats are presented with McConnell saying “I would say that is up to our Democrat friends.” With the offer of “peace or war” on the table to Democrats, if Democrats decide to protest at the threat like Republicans did 4 years ago, here is what will happen.

Mitch McConnell will enact the Nuclear Option on Supreme Court nominees, ensuring that from this point forward the Justices that make it to the Supreme Court will not be non-partisan options favored by all, but be politicized warriors for whichever party holds the Senate. As a Republican and Conservative, this situation worries me gravely. For however we may talk about the President’s executive orders treading against the intent and tradition of the Constitution, the act of turning our last legislative institution that forces unity to become a battleground of politicization is a breaking of tradition I cannot stand.

The nuclear option is an admission that the two parties are irreconcilable. It is an agreement by the two parties to refuse to find common ground, to reject subduing of their hearts and ideologies for the sake of the people. And with Supreme Court nominees no longer needing 60 votes, the Court will go from a “4 Liberals/3 Conservatives/1 Moderate” makeup as it is now to eventually a “5/4” or “6/3” split that always favors one party or the other’s ideologies. Perhaps there will be appointments of good people, persons like Gorsuch who stand not for their personal values, but the Constitution’s. Institutionalizing the end of peace, the Era of the Nuclear Option will not see many such persons seated on the Supreme Court.

The Washington Post Argues for Philosophy

The Washington Post Argues for Philosophy

Today The Washington Post posted an article discussing why students in K-12 need philosophy and the education of the First Science. Steve Neumann is the original author, but Valerie Strauss decided to share it in regards to the idea of pushing education further, specifically talking about Obama’s 4 Billion dollars for Computer Science education. The reality is that Neumann’s piece is quite truthful and philosophy is a necessary part that children need in their education.

I don’t mean that we should teach kids philosophy the way they would encounter it in college. Adolescents don’t need to dive into dissertations on Plato’s theory of forms or Kant’s categorical imperative. (That kind of study is valuable, too, and should be included in secondary education somewhere, but that’s an argument for another day.) The kind of philosophy I have in mind helps kids become better citizens by turning the classroom into what the philosopher John Dewey called “embryonic society.

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Why Secretary Clinton is a Victim-Suspect in a Bureaucratic Crime. The Crime? Vague Standards that mean nothing.

Having done record retention while I worked at the State Department, I can state that the system was just beginning to be digitized, and I was helping the Logistics Management group, and the Chief of Contracts begin that move. It wasn’t the branch office’s fault, specifications on what would be required to do the move were never fully provided because the set of credentials to meet the specifications were and are INCREDIBLY VAGUE. (I had a Unclassified but Sensitive Information Ban on me, if I seem vague, its because my Patriotism and Nationalism prevent me from possibly hurting the government, or getting in trouble with it. I love America, and I loved the State Department. At least my branch office, A/LM/OPS/TTM/TM. Shameless plug)

I spent a lot of time with old documents, because prior to the digitization policy, there wasn’t even a specified limitation on how long files must be retained. Some branches and administrations inside the State Department used 5 years, some 10, some didn’t even have an amount.

The reality is, it wouldn’t be unusual that the Secretary would have physical printouts of emails brought to her, or that she accessed her email off site. And sometimes, it would be even plausible that she used her private email, as some of the staff I worked with would do so when dealing with issues officially on days they were sick and could not telecommute. (due to State Department policy on what constituted telecommuting)

I see the fears and worries that perhaps her internet and priority or sensitive information could have been leaked. That being said, that’s a security dilemma across the agency as they begin this digitization switch because if they don’t possess the football, who does? All options have hazards of access.

Was she jeopardizing national security by doing this? Maybe, but I feel that this is a particularly murky area, and one that I spent 3 months doing for an entire office group. I’m sorry, but for once and maybe the last time in my life, I won’t give Hillary a whopping here. Why? The environment isn’t filled with IT or Computer Specialists, its accountants and bureaucrats. There were several policies that dealt with “10 things smart people don’t do with computers.”

I had to work with my boss for two months on figuring these things out. It was in the last month that I actually began the process of digitization, and that’s because the Obama administration did not create a clear set of definitions for the carryout of the process. It was vague, unsatisfying, and my boss who didn’t like unsafe technology, was especially worried and rightly so, about the security of the government information.

Is Secretary Clinton not guilty of accidental leaks and the wrong eyes seeing sensitive, priority, classified, and secret information? No…but at the same time, anyone in the State Department who wasn’t an IT expert to do the digitization carryover would be guilty of the same. The problem here is that the process showcased an endemic issue of bureaucracies: They are slow to change, slow to progress, and failing in optimization. Anyone who expected a different result when the Obama Administration released a set of vague guidelines would be insane. And anyone who thought the Administration could create a comprehensive set of guidelines to follow without an IT expert leading the change would also be insane.

Basically, Secretary Clinton may be guilty of a crime, but the crime was committed because there might have not been anyway to carry out the process without the crime occurring. Meaning, there would be a possibility of information being vulnerable during this process, even if she was in her office getting her own documents. I am not saying let it slide, but rather than crucifying the former State Secretary, why not use this as impetus to create a set of guidelines that make sense, and use corporate and internet standards, and then work with those companies to achieve the digitization policy.

Because I don’t have a Computer Science Degree, and I don’t have qualifications in System Administration or Security. But I acquired the experience of it because of this situation. At best, I had Information Technology experience, and I could help with computer software and standard Windows issues. I am actually a Subject Matter Expert on Information Retention and Security thanks to a 3-month Internship at A/LM/OPS/TTM/TM. That symbol, as the State Department calls it, stands for “Administration/Logistics Management/Operations/Transportation and Travel Management/and Travel Management.” Basically, we got cargo to and from places, and we took care of your cargo in case of problems. There were contractors, State Department employees, government agencies, and frustrations were rampant in the branch office because the branch office is the bad guy of the State Department. They were the “NO” department.

Thinking about the Political Spectrum

After the recent HOBBY LOBBY Supreme Court Case, I find myself looking at politics, hearing people discussing them, and finding them, as politely as possible, ignorant on the matters that make one “Republican” or one “Democrat.” Much more frustrating to my hard-wiring as a scientist and political scientist, is that people assume that membership in some group means that the entirety of the groups act the same.

If one were to apply this outside of politics, one would be offended or find another offended at the prospect that if a black man was a criminal, then all black men are criminals. Or that if a Hispanic woman has multiple children, clearly all Hispanic women must have multiple children. It is indeed frightening; no it is intimidating to think that in the years since we “solved all the racial issues” in the Civil Rights Act, people still use prejudices and labels as ways to UNILATERALLY insult a group of people.

While I, as a pundit and person, have no problem with people being in groups, perhaps in some problem, is the association or definition of a group. For instance, what do people think of when think of a Tea Partier? What do they think of when they hear Marxist? Supremacist? Wealthy? Poor? What is causing our society to continually regress culturally, so that we must be at war with ourselves because of these labels? Why do we feel that being labelled something or seeing a label creates an immediately acceptable stereotype of that group?

In my own political thinking, I have been guilty in the past of grouping all Social Conservatives together in a terrible group. The same is with people I label Fiscal Liberals. The problem is that when people hear these terms, they think Social Conservative = Republican, and Fiscal Liberal = Democrat. Even worse, many people simply put Conservative with Republican only and Liberal with Democrat only. This creates a false reality in which clearly Fiscally Liberal men like Michael Bloomberg must be a Democrat, even if he was the REPUBLICAN Mayor of New York. Or this puts someone like Bob Beckel of Fox News, or Ed Schultz of MSNBC, who clearly espouse Socially Conservative values of preventing immigration, loving unions, and hating/being intolerant of Muslims as Republicans, despite the fact that both men see themselves as Democrats and Liberals, and vehemently oppose Republicans.

So perhaps the problem isn’t necessarily that we overuse the labels, but that the labels have come to equal “right-oriented” or “left-oriented” in politics, without regard to the fact that politics is simply not the left hand versus the right hand. Perhaps, what we need to do is explain why the Scale function of 1-10 in politics, where 1 is Liberal/Democrat/Left and 10 is Conservative/Republican/Right, is a completely false and terrible assumption.

Let’s begin with the simplest Reason why a line where 1 to 10 is the political gambit is wrong: MONEY. That’s right, money is actually the easiest way to determine if the system of gauging political values is wrong. Let’s take Warren Buffett, a classically labelled and accurate in that labelling “LIBERAL” He’s as 1 as you can get on money. Now let’s put Ron Paul at a 10, because he hates taxes vehemently, and has stated he would love to have a 0% income tax.

Now wait a minute, Ron Paul is a “libertarian!” Nope, not on this scale, he’s a Conservative, and therefore he must oppose legalization of drugs, gay marriage, abortion rights, military spending cuts, a strong foreign policy, big government, and believes that Christianity must be tied to the state or become the State Religion. Well clearly Mr. Ron Paul doesn’t hold all of these to be true, as he has favored legalization of cannabis, has stated he wouldn’t enforce his personal opinions on abortion rights, he wants to cut the military, and he favors a small, decentralized, non-international government, and he definitely wants to create more separation between church and state. Well clearly, he’s no longer a 10 on the Conservative-Liberal, even though he was just a 10 on the money issue. Well, then either my example was bad, or the scale of measurement is terrible.

I’ll just mention a few names, and you can try to place on a 1-10 scale of Money (Conservative-Liberal) and Overall (Conservative-Liberal). If you identify any of the following names as being the same in value or position on both scales, then please inform me, because I would love to know who is this logically constricted and consistent in their values.

Here are the names:

  • President Barack Obama
  • President Bill Clinton
  • President George Bush
  • Governor Sarah Palin
  • Governor Mitt Romney
  • Mayor Rudy Giuliani
  • Speaker John Boehner
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
  • Secretary Hillary Clinton
  • Secretary John Kerry
  • Vice President Joseph Biden
  • Vice President Al Gore
  • Warren Buffett
  • Donald Trump
  • Senator Ron Paul
  • Senator Rick Santorum
  • Senator Ted Cruz
  • Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Senator Rand Paul
  • Senator John McCain

Okay, so maybe you’re thinking “SELECTION BIAS” and that I am some terrible scientist because of these examples. The good news, none of the 535 Congressman, 9 Justices, or the President’s Staff would fit well on this scale. Back in 2009, President Obama opposed Gay Marriage. John McCain doesn’t want small government that is decentralized, and for that matter very few Republicans ACTUALLY want that conservative value.

The reality is at the end of this week’s lesson perhaps, it is better to have a mathematical x/y graph. You know, those graphs they made you draw lines and other equations on in high school. Those terrible times in Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus? Well Basically for this week’s lesson, try to take the previous list of names and put them on a graph that has Liberal and Conservative going across horizontally (or the x-axis, and if you are still lost draw a Christian Cross and look at the bar on its side, not the one standing up). Then make the y-axis (standing line on your cross, the vertical line) Big Government vs. Small Government. Liberal will still be the left side and Conservative the Right Side, but Small Government will be on the bottom and Big Government on the top. See the below example for how to do this. Then spend some time putting these names, and even yourself on this.

A couple of question you can ask yourself based on values can help assist you if don’t exactly know where you belong. You should start at 0 on both lines and move correspondingly based on the changes. If you see two values for an answer, choose one. However, if you really feel strongly about the answer, then choose both:

-Do you believe in the Sanctity of Marriage and believe the government should prevent homosexuals from attaining the right to marriage? Yes (Big Government 2, Conservative 1); No (Small Government 1, Liberal 2)

-Do you believe that Abortion should not be legalized because life begins at conception? Yes (Big Government 3, Conservative 1); No (Small Government 2, Liberal 2)

-Do you believe that there should be a national registry for guns, and enforced in any location where guns are exchanged? Yes (Big Government 4, Liberal 2); No (Small Government 2, Conservative 3)

-Do you believe the Wealthy should pay more in taxes? Yes (Big Government 2, Liberal 2); No (Small Government 1, Conservative 3)

-Do you believe that the Government should enforce carbon emission regulations on companies to reduce man-made carbon pollution? Yes (Big Government 1, Liberal 3); No (Small Government 3, Conservative 1)

-Did you vote for President Barack Obama in 2008? Yes (Liberal 2); No (Conservative 2)

-Did you vote for President Barack Obama in 2012? Yes (Big Government 3); No (Small Government 3)

-Did you vote for an Incumbent in the last Senate or Representative election? Yes (Conservative 1); No (Liberal 1)

-Do you believe that the Troops should stay in Iraq? Yes (Conservative 3); No (Liberal 1, Small Government 1)

-Do you believe that Cannabis/Marijuana/Hemp should be legalized? Yes (Small Government 3); No (Conservative 3)

-Do you believe that Seatbelt laws should exist and be enforced? Yes (Big Government 1); No (Small Government 1)

-Do you believe that Speed Limit laws should exist and be enforced? Yes (Big Government 1); No (Small Government 1)

-Have you ever consumed any illegal substance, participated in alcohol consumption underage, or broke the speed limit, or any other “petty crime”? Yes (Liberal 2); No (Conservative 2)

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Should you hit the Maximum Limit you stay there. Unless you want to get ahead for next week, then you should place yourself at the opposite end. For example I am at Big Government 10, I get 2 points of Big Government, I now am -8 Small Government. Play the Game and see where you wind up.

We’ll see if that graph holds up next week, but for now in this political science course, you are no longer “liberal or conservative” but now “big government liberal, small government liberal, big government conservative, or small government conservative.” Secret: You can put me on your graph to see where you lay compared to me. I’ll be so humble as to provide my point on the above example. I am a self-professed and duly labelled “Small-Government Conservative”. This isn’t officially anything, but many self-professed Business Conservatives should wind up near me. Next week, you’ll learn the fun labels society has created for these four groups, and one you now know: Business Conservative. If you can figure out the other 3, Extra Credit for you, worth 0 points!

Remember, you don’t need to share your results with me, however, if you would like to, you can submit them in the comments on this blog. When we go deeper, you may be asked to dive again into the questions, so we can better understand how diverse our political culture is and how wrong “being conservative or being liberal” really is in defining someone’s politics.

 

On a sidenote, I have been out for awhile due to various things, mostly that I am working at the State Department. The 8-5 gambit prevents a lot of political action and writing, but as I come closer to the finishing of that experience, this will begin to pick up again.

Memorandum on Ukraine

I have been missing for a few weeks as I have become absorbed in ending of semester papers and finals. I will create a poll as I usually do and I am curious as to how you feel about the proposals, and if you have an idea to further this, I would suggest you comment them. In fact, if you so desire, if you have a great idea, in your opinion, send me an email at archangel620@gmail.com. I will post it up as a reply to this article.

THE WHITE HOUSE

Washington, D.C.

4/23/2014

DECISION MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

From: Michael Arthur McKinney

Subject: Options for preventing escalation of Russo-Ukrainian crisis

Summary: This memo provides options and a recommendation for addressing preventative measures against escalation of the recent Russo-Ukrainian Crisis

Goals: Establish international support for the integrity of borders of states; reaffirm the rights of individuals to self-determination of the government of their choosing; create overt and strong support for the Ukrainian government from the international community

Background: Following the recent revolution in Ukraine, unmarked armed forces began to occupy the Crimean Peninsula. While the identity of these forces is unknown, their actions coincide with Russian rhetoric. On February 27, Crimean units and the unmarked vehicles began seizing checkpoints and had armored personnel carriers, in addition to light and heavy personal weapons. These unassociated assailants forced out the Prime Minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and put in a pro-Russian figure, while also replacing the Ukrainian flag with a Russian flag. In addition to the unmarked and Crimean-associated forces, on February 28, Russian units moved into Rostov-on-Don, a border city. On March 1, the Russian representative to the United Nations presented a photocopy of a letter that was signed by ousted President Yanukovych calling for Russian military intervention.
The first issue is how to foster credibility and legitimacy for the new Ukrainian government. A second issue is the integrity of borders for Ukraine and the right to defend itself from military intervention. A third concern, is the transition of fair and free elections, and how one would ensure these provinces their right to self-determination. A final concern, should be the future security of Ukraine from further military occupation or annexation by Russia.
On the international stage, there are two major groups that have reacted to this situation: NATO and the European Union. NATO Secretary General Rasmussen has publicly called on Russia to de-escalate from this crisis, to pull back troops from Ukraine’s borders, to stop further destabilization operations, and establish clearly that Putin will not support violent actions by pro-Russian separatists and protestors. NATO has increased air patrols in the Baltic States and additional naval vessels to be moved closer to Ukraine. NATO has also called for military personnel to conduct military exercises in Eastern Europe. NATO has estimated nearly 40,000 Russian forces are near the border.
The European Union has stated that Russia has acted deplorably in using military force in Ukraine. It considers the military activity to be unwarranted escalation of tensions, and supports dialogue between states, while respecting Ukrainian sovereignty and international law.
The need for action has been present since Russian military intervention began on March 1. However, the Ukrainian government has recently begun a campaign to use its military to strike back against pro-Russian separatists and protestors in Eastern Ukraine. With the Ukrainians finally using military force to quell the domestic unrest, and Russians threatening greater military action if pro-Russian protestors or separatists are harmed, it is clear that previous rhetoric and actions by the United States and our allies have failed.

NATO Option:  In order for NATO to effectively act on this issue, NATO members must reconsider their defense to be a priority. It can no longer be stressed that American resources can fight and defend NATO’s interests. To push this idea, in states where defense is limited, we must create opportunities for them to expand their arsenal, and be able to effectively guard themselves. As this crisis has unfolded, it is quite clear that expectations on America are far too high and outside of reality. Nations such as Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, or Hungary, which share a border with either Russia or Ukraine have made statements of concern that their current defenses are not enough, and they seek to expand their arsenal, though their own options to build and increase them are limited.
There are currently military exercises occurring in Poland with NATO forces, in part training the various member states’ armies. This program should be kept up until the situation is fully de-escalated. Using this as a premise, and under consideration of the border member states, missile bases can and should be built, along with creation of joint NATO bases close to the Russian-shared borders. Air patrols should be doubled in size and commitment, and American personnel should begin advisory roles in the Baltic States on further air coordination and training. Finally, coordination to build NATO-sponsored hospital ships in the Baltic and Black Sea should begin.
The expected result from this is that Russia will see our commitment to border integrity. These numbers will also show that we not only speak of supporting fellow NATO states, but ensuring them through physical displays our support for fellow NATO member states. The real goal of this is to rekindle positive attitudes to the integrity of NATO and strengthen the alliance, after several recent remarks by NATO members. These remarks while not directly suggestive of a break in the alliance, can be seen as a weak point, and if not corrected, as failed diplomacy by NATO and America to its allies.

Resources Required: A large amount resources will be required in the immediate period. A full operation by the Combat Commander in the region along, with increased NATO commitment will expend resources. It is encouraged to seek State and USAID support for the hospital ships as well, as these will not be operated by the United States, but by NATO. Clearly NATO cooperation is necessary, but specifically the cooperation of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Bulgaria, as well as any other state seeking to invest in these endeavors. I estimate that at least an American contribution of $500 Million dollars for the building of the two hospital ships. For at least the Polish missile defense system, it would cost at least $5 Billion to build.

Pros: Re-alignment of the NATO alliance to trusting each other and rebuilding a perceived lack of commitment and resolve by the United States as well as Western European states. Poland would be quite pleased as this would be consenting to its recent request for increased NATO infrastructure and defensive capabilities.

Cons: The Russian will see this as a direct challenge and have expressed before that it would be perceived as such.

Metrics: Success in this plan is dependent on preventing further Russian expansionism. This plan does not address the current Russian invasion, but is about preventing actions Westward by the Russians. In the immediate, success would be Poland approving of NATO military bases and a missile defense system. Another piece of this success is dependent on the costs that America expends. If other member states can at least meet half the costs for the operations, cooperation will show the alliance is still strong, and that will be important in showing that NATO is still a strong alliance against aggression.

Level of Overtness/Covertness: Highly Overt

Level of Confidence of Success: Medium-Low Confidence

Risks of this approach: The Russia Leader, Putin, will see this as an escalation on the matter of Ukraine, rather than a de-escalatory tactic. Ukraine may also see this, if done solely, as a sign of complacency on their current political situation. Finally, citizens of various NATO states have expressed in some manner a desire to not interfere. This could have unintended political consequences that might severely affect the process mid-term financially or in manpower.

European plan I:  With the crisis in the Ukraine, it’s become quite clear that the European Union is still far too dependent on one source, Russia, for all of its petrochemicals, including natural gas and oil. This energy dependency needs to end, and it will alleviate some of the diplomatic power the Russian government has when dealing with the European Union.
As part of our own government subsidies that assist the oil industry, we should place pressure on our companies to give lower and better deals with the European states. This strategy will be used to undercut the Russian hold on the European natural gas and oil market. We can also utilize the suspension on various military deals to sell or buy the different military deals that EU members have currently tied to the Russians.
Another piece of the cooperation between the EU in regards to the Russo-Ukraine Crisis should be the furthering of the diplomatic and economic talks that the European Union had prior to the crisis. These talks should not only be between the European Union and Ukraine, but should also include Moldova and Georgia, and be interested in helping these countries be able to stand on their own. Together with the European Union, an economic aid package should be designed, so as to alleviate the struggling economic situation the Ukrainian people find themselves in.

Resources Required: In this option, the IMF and USAID, along with European Union members will have to draft an aid package that will adequately assist the Ukraine. Gas company subsidies will have to be convinced to carry this change through, which leads to changing the bureaucracy.

Pros: The separation of the European Union from the dependency on Russian gas and oil will lead to a more diplomatically independent and stalwart Europe, meaning that organizations such as NATO and the United Nations will have more credibility through the EU being economically stronger.

Cons: Exposes the US market to sharper fluctuation as oil companies provide less oil and natural gas supply to the domestic market. A chance that Ukraine will not make a budget in which the debt of their state will be adequately resolved and an economic aid package will therefore be moot in assisting Ukraine.

Metrics: One metric we could account for would the overall dependence on Russian natural gas and oil out of the total European Union consumption. If we can even reduce the consumption by 2% on average between the member states, success as a whole could be considered. Also, as a long-term goal to consider, success would be a budget in Ukraine in which at least a $1 Billion reduction in the deficit and at least a 2% reduction in the % of the GDP that the debt covers.

Level of Overtness/Covertness: This plan can have covert options, especially through the oil companies. However, as a whole, this plan is still at a high level of overtness.

Level of Confidence of Success: Low confidence of success due too many moving parts

Risks of this approach: This will be seen as a direct challenge by the United States from the Russia. Relying on one, the European Union making economic long-term changes, and two, relying on cooperation from the oil companies places this plan in a position of really being outside the United States control.

European Plan II:  Utilizing the overall package of the previous plan, rather than pressuring oil and natural gas companies in the United States to reduce prices, pressure will be placed on other oil-exporting and natural gas-exporting states to provide cheaper prices to the European Union. Organizations such as the Arab League, as well as Canada and Norway should be considered for this. Nations that are willing to offer cheaper than Russian prices to the Russians will receive cheaper military prices, as well as creation of various exchanges between states.
This strategy will be used to undercut the Russian hold on the European natural gas and oil market. We can also utilize the suspension on various military deals to sell or buy the different military deals that EU members have currently tied to the Russians. In consideration with the Canadian exporting, we could officially approve and begin construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Another piece of the cooperation between the EU in regards to the Russo-Ukraine Crisis should be the furthering of the diplomatic and economic talks that the European Union had prior to the crisis. These talks should not only be between the European Union and Ukraine, but should also include Moldova and Georgia, and be interested in helping these countries be able to stand on their own. Together with the European Union, an economic aid package should be designed, so as to alleviate the struggling economic situation the Ukrainian people find

Resources Required: In this option, the IMF and USAID, along with European Union members will have to draft an aid package that will adequately assist the Ukraine. At the same time, cultural and educational exchanges will be established between these states and the United States. Plans to sell military equipment, such as aircraft, and other necessary devices will also be laid with these nations, at cheaper prices through military grants to help these cooperating nations sell to the European Union.

Pros: First this option places the brunt of the Russian irritation on the international community as a whole, rather than the United States. Second, it will allow for some revenue to the American government as we sell supplies from our currently-being reduced military. Thirdly, we create opportunities for soft power to affect change and cooperation in states that would ordinarily have a hostile attitude to the United States. Finally, the opportunity to increase our own access to natural gas and oil.

Cons: The United States might pass through this plan without ever being directly acknowledged as having done some good. We may also suffer some at-home political backlash for being unwilling to use our own natural gas and oil exporting capacity. Finally, this plan will not make up for the loss face we have suffered during the Russo-Ukraine crisis. Some minor political backlash to approving Keystone XL pipeline, as legalists and environmentalists have tried to foster opposition to its passage and building.

Metrics: One metric we could account for would the overall dependence on Russian natural gas and oil out of the total European Union consumption. If we can even reduce the importing of Russian petro products by 2% on average between the member states, success as a whole could be considered. Also, as a long-term goal to consider, success would be a budget in Ukraine in which at least a $1 Billion reduction in the deficit and at least a 2% reduction in the % of the GDP that the debt covers is achieved.

Level of Overtness/Covertness: Low level covert opportunities to influence Muslim states through non-direct means. Medium Level overtness through the IMF and USAID economic aid packages.

Level of Confidence of Success: Medium level of success as less bureaucracy to face and greater opportunities to show direct benefit for American participation in the crisis.

Risks of this approach: Continues an intentional effort to reduce our own military capacity. Can be seen as paying non-allies for something that doesn’t immediately help the taxpayers. Over-reliance on outside, non-aligned states to keep their agreements.

Recommendation:The recommendation is that you approve European Plan II and also consider approving the NATO option as well. By using our own military capacity that is being currently reduced, and leasing or selling it to strategic partners near or bordering Russia, we can reduce the military budget without permanently destroying the tools we have access to. The options combined also allows for re-affirmation of support to worried allies in the region, as well as increasing cooperation with other states that we have limited or tense relations with right now. Also, with the availability to Canadian natural gas and oil, we may be able to create incentive for lower petro prices in our domestic market and thus gain public approval. If we are going to intervene, we need to convince the American public that there is some benefit that they will experience.

4 Candidates, 4 Ways to Win

Political Fact of the Day: A flat tax means that despite your earnings, everyone pays the same percentage, though typically a minimum amount of income is necessary to pay the tax. In a progressive tax system, the more you earn, the more you pay in taxes, and the percentage of your income that is taxed. However, the percentage has a maximum value that can never go higher, and once again, there is a minimum income necessary to begin paying the tax. Flat taxes favor anyone who earns middle-class or higher wages, while Progressive taxes typically favor poor income families and those living in poverty. Flat Taxes are called flat because the rates are flat, or equal; Progressive taxes because the rates progressively increase, significantly increase.

Illinois Citizens Should Know: The current state Minimum Wage is $8.25 per hour with proposals for this to increase over the next ten years. Currently all states bordering Illinois have Minimum wages at $7.25 (Missouri has theirs at 7.50). It should also be noted that Illinois’ law only applies to businesses with four or more employees, excluding family member staff, while most of the bordering states have no exclusion or have the exclusion for number of employees being lower, and without the family exemption.

Illinois, 2014 Governor’s Race, THE GOP CANDIDATES

Bruce Rauner “The Chicago Republican”

Chairman of the R8 Capital Partners, he is one of several candidates for the Republican primary for governor. Currently he is the front-runner, and he hails from Chicago. For the Purposes of this subject, he will earn the effective label “Chicago Republican”. He graduated from Dartmouth College with a BA in Economics and then went to Harvard University to receive his MBA. He currently is the Chairman of the Education Committee of the Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago. Rauner also was Co-chair of the Chicago-China Initiative, and was chairman of the ACT Charter School. He is a former Chairman of Choose Chicago, and was a former Chairman of the Chicago Public Education Fund.

There are some ‘scandals’ associated with him. In 2008, his daughter failed to be given admission through regular processes at Walter Payton Prep School in Chicago. Later on, his daughter was admitted to the school through a principal picks process, in which the principal gives special dispensation for a student to be admitted into the school. The CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Arne Duncan claims to have told him about the process, of which Rauner claims he never had the conversation. He then proceeded to donate $250,000 to the school in its next academic year.

This time last year, Rauner had been improperly claiming homestead exemptions. He had done this for several years on two of his homes, and when an article from the Daily Herald reported the information, he responded immediately. He immediately paid back the $1,616 he owed in savings for misfiling and distributed through his own press that he had made a mistake and he had gone about correcting it. These improper exemptions occurred from 2008 to 2011.

Bruce Rauner’s current campaign issues are Jobs, Spending, Taxes, Pension Reform, Government Reform, and Education.

On Jobs & Taxes, he wants to remove the Quinn-Madigan tax increases, and try to “fair” out the tax code entirely, this typically means aiming for a flatter tax on citizens, rather than the current progressive one.
He wants to institute Right-To-Work zones, and allow workers to decide if they have to join a union to receive employment.
He wants to enact tort reform and reduce lawsuit abuse.
Finally he wants to make the Illinois’ minimum wage laws competitive with other states, meaning he would reduce the state minimum wage.

Bill Brady, “The Social Conservative”

State Senator Brady has been on this track twice before. Brady graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University, and after graduation began to work in the family real-estate developing industry. Brady currently co-owns Brady Homes, which is one of the largest Home Builders in Central Illinois, and he runs it with his father. He has been representing the 44th Legislative District since being appointed to it in May 2002. He served previously in the Illinois House of Representatives, representing the 88th district from 1993 to 2000. In 2006 he ran for Governor of Illinois the first time, and lost in the primaries. In 2010, Bill Brady won the primaries, but failed to beat Incumbent Pat Quinn by 32,000 votes.

The only scandal to Bill Brady’s name currently is the fact that as of 2014, Brady Homes, whom he shares ownership in with his father, has been sued twice for defaulting on their loans.

In the State Legislatures, Brady has made several attempts to enact a “dime cut from every dollar spent” reform to the budget and its deficit. Currently, Illinois’ budget deficit is $13 Billion, with the overall economy of Illinois recently being rated worst in the nation.

On Education, Bill Brady seeks to replace the State Board of Education with a smaller agency that would receive half the funding it has now. He believes that Intelligent Design has a place in academia, while he believes the Bible should be advocated as part of a child’s curriculum, he has stated that the children should have access to the Bible and to other books, such as the Qur’an. He believes that local school boards should be able to decide their stances on intelligent design in the schools, and should be able to dictate whether they want to participate in a school prayer. Brady additionally believes that there should be incentives in place for private schools where the tuitions are funded in equal part to public and private schools by the state.

On Employment, Bill Brady has established he would like to reduce the Minimum wage law to the 7.25 per hour amount that bordering states have. Bill Brady has stated that he would freeze the state minimum wage law and then have the state maintain its rate at the same level as the federal minimum wage. He doesn’t believe that government heavy-handedness in the market is long-term effective.

Bill Brady has previously sought to have the suspension of the death penalty lifted.

On Abortion issues, Bill Brady pronounces himself pro-life. He seeks to abolition all forms of abortion, including accounts of rape and incest. He does allow an exception for when the mother’s life is put in danger. Brady has supported legislation in the past that would allow pharmacists to not sell contraceptives from their stores.

On Same-Sex Marriage, Bill Brady on February 10, 2010 introduced a state constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as being between “one man and one woman”. It would have also denied same-sex couples to seek other forms of legal unions by denying validity or recognition of any same sex civil union, domestic partnership, or any such relationship. Brady feels opposed to any institution being adopted that would grant legal status in any shape or form to same-sex couples.

On Medicaid, Brady seeks to reduce funding for the state program. He has offered to institute a Welfare Fraud Department, which would help clean up claims in the system. He has also voiced support for a transition from the current Medicaid system to a HMO-style approach for Medicaid recipients, so that costs in the healthcare system could be reduced.

Bill Brady on other issues has voted close to what his label of him would be, Social Conservative. He has voted against Stem Cell Research, Marijuana Legalization, and forcing Private Insurers to offer contraception drug coverage. He has supported concealed carry legalization, the institution of term limits in both State Legislatures, a reduction in Sales Taxes, Mass Euthanasia of cats and dogs, and Capping Campaign Donations.

Kirk W. Dillard, “Old-School Establishment”

State Senator Dillard is another of the 4 major contenders in this year’s Republican Primary. Prior to His time as State Senator, Dillard was Chairman of the DuPage County Republican Party. Dillard currently is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, serving as the Illinois state leader. He took office as Senator of the 24th district of Illinois back in 1994, and has since been their Senator. Senator Dillard graduated from Western Illinois University, and then attained his Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law. He also serves at the University of Chicago as a Public Policy mentor.

In 1991, he served as Chief of Staff for then Governor Jim Edgar, during Edgar’s first term. He also served as Governor James Thompson’s Director of Legislative Affairs. From 1987-1991, Dillard was a judge on the Illinois Court of Claims and served as a member on the Republican Illinois State Central Committee. He currently is on the Board of Directors for Robert Crown Center for Health Education and a practicing partner at Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP.

In his tenure as State Senator, he served as a Republican Party Whip and was Assistant Minority Leader. In 2007, he appeared in advertisement that gave an endorsement to then Democrat candidate hopeful, Barack Obama. Dillard is active in a handful of Senate committees and currently chairs the Judiciary Committee and the High Technology Task Force.

He has run for governor in the past, using his association with campaign finance reform to make broad statements about his attempts to reform the system and make the state more financially responsible to the taxpayers. Even though Dillard barely lost the primary to Bill Brady, he refused to concede he had lost his opportunity for some time.

On Campaign Financing, he sponsored the bill that would become Illinois’ first donations reform in 25 years. This was his platform in 2010, and is the issue discussed by him in his 2014 campaign.

On the Budget, Dillard seeks to establish a constitutional amendment that would force legislators to pass a balanced, zeroed budget at the expense of their paychecks covering the deficit.

On Gun Rights, Dillard admits that his family is filled with hunters and sportsmen and that gun rights are a necessary part of Illinois as they are part of the Constitution. He also states he was the first to sponsor concealed-carry legislation and received the NRA’s endorsement during the 2010 gubernatorial primary race.

On Abortion, Kirk takes credit for the Parental Notice Law and the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. He also claims to have the unanimous support of 32 pro-life organizations over the other 2014 gubernatorial candidates.

Dan Rutherford, “The Fiscal Conservative”

Dan Rutherford serves as Treasurer of Illinois, having taken the office when then Treasurer Giannoulias stepped down from office. Until then, Rutherford had served as Senator for the 53rd district of Illinois from 2003 to 2011; prior to that he was the Representative for the 87th district in the Illinois House from 1993 to 2003. Rutherford attended Illinois State University and in 1980 became a legislative assistant in Springfield, Illinois. Because he helped coordinate a congressional district for the Governor’s campaign, Rutherford was brought on the Reagan-Bush 1980 campaign as the Executive Director.

Following his time in the campaign, Rutherford began to travel, and in Japan in 1984, became acquainted with the ServiceMaster Company. The next year, he joined Downers Grove as an executive and eventually became responsible for the company’s international expansion into other businesses. His international business dealings were primarily in licensing services. Downers Grove was a part of the ServiceMaster Company, and today companies such as Terminix, Tru-Green, Merry Maids, American Home Shield, and Rescue Rooter are all part of the ServiceMaster Company.

While serving as Senator, Rutherford sponsored legislation that would have impacted the repayment to nursing homes for elderly care. The new system considered the needs of the resident, rather than their geographical location. In 2005, Rutherford attempted to challenge Secretary of State Jesse White for his office. In the 2010 Illinois Treasurer’s Race, Rutherford competed with 3 other candidates for the open seat.

Rutherford most recently has been accused of sexual harassment. Edmund Michalowski, a former employee of Mr. Rutherford, filed a federal complaint that he had been harassed by Rutherford and that he had received pressure to contribute to the political campaign while being on the state’s time. Rutherford has denied the allegations, saying that Rauner paid Michalowski to put this out, as an attempt to smear Rutherford’s chances.

Rutherford has several papers out, detailing his opinions on various things. He seeks to increase state support for the coal industry and the pursuit of clean coal technologies. He is utilizing his reforming of nursing home system to point out his dedication to efficiently using state resources and cutting excess. Dan Rutherford does not seek to increase or decrease the state Minimum Wage law at this time. He claims to be able to refocus and provide long-term planning and strategy to the prison and mental institutions of Illinois. Rutherford believes that reductions alone will not solve the Illinois deficit, but balancing the budget will be a top priority of his administration.

He supports concealed carry as how the laws of other states have concealed carry. Due to the federal illegality of marijuana, Rutherford does not support legalization at the state level at this time. Rutherford supports an initiative that would entrust an 11-member “Bipartisan Commission” to redraw the legislative districts of Illinois without all the gerrymandering. Rutherford supports the expansion of gaming as long as proper oversight and regulation is implemented prior to the licensing of a casino. Rutherford appears to be mixed on his support for tax credits to business. He doesn’t feel it’s the agenda of the state to give some citizens breaks without access to the breaks for all citizens.

As a side note, he is currently supportive of adding Poland to the Visa Waivers list that contains other countries that America gives preferential entry into the US.

So who is the best candidate for your ideals?

When examining these four guys, and considering the policies that each of them suggest or have previously fought for, it is not easy to say there is one clearly superior candidate. Clearly if you feel really strongly against gay marriage and abortion rights, you’ll support Bill Brady, and or maybe Kirk Dillard. However of these two individuals, Bill Brady has more ideas on how to effectively handle the economics of Illinois. That being said, he is the more conservative of the two candidates. That’s just simple fact and despite all negative ads Dillard can use, he’ll always be that Moderate Conservative to Bill Brady’s Social Conservative. Especially with that attractive ad endorsing future Democrat candidate Barack Obama. Anyone who claims to be a friend and agree with the values of President Obama either is lying to themselves about being Republican, or they are con man.

Looking at Dan Rutherford versus Bruce Rauner on the “Fiscal Conservative” side of arguments, well, I just cannot take Mr. Rauner as a serious Republican. Rauner has a lot of political clout in Chicago, and to his defense, he’s done a lot of good there in Chicago. BUT, once a Chicago politician, always a Chicago politician. Rauner is a wealthy man, but he’s not a “traditional” business man, he is a Wall Street guy, and if you find yourself irritated with wealthy, moderate Republicans dictating policy, I don’t think you’ll find solace in him. Mr. Rutherford, well, I guess it really depends on how you feel about the men he’s established as being tied to. If you liked James Thompson and Jim Edgar, former Governors of Illinois, then I am sure you can expect similar policies. Some things to note though: Rutherford has a history of being acceptable of gay marriage and associating with folks who are lobby for the right to marriage. He also believes in some exclusions on gay marriage, at least in part on how he has voted in the General Asssembly of Illinois.

At that point, it’s Bill Brady versus Dan Rutherford as the legitimate candidates representing sincere Republican values, not Chicago values or wishy-washy moderate values. So choose for yourselves this day, for whom you shall stand! Shall you be a Fiscal Conservative and bet on Dan Rutherford to turn the economy around? Or shall you be a Social Conservative and bet on Bill Brady to restore the moral fabric of Illinois?

As a voter in this primary election, I can honestly say that Bill Brady is a genuine man who can easily be portrayed as a hatemonger because of his beliefs, but he honestly tries to do a good job for his district. But I find myself liking Rutherford, despite the “scandal of harassment” because anyone that requires being taken down by a Chicago-style scandal must truly be of worth. Oh and, I don’t mind offering Equal Protection Under The Law that has been given to us, the American people, by the Highest Law of the Land, the American Constitution. I find candidates who campaign on moral woes rather than solving problems that can be solved to be frustrating.

But hey, I am a Libertarian, and this is just my ideas.

The Republican Primary ballot vote is March 18, 2014. Please remember to vote. One vote won’t decide the election, but a choir of votes joined together in ideals can swing the election around. Convince your neighbors, your friends, and family in Illinois to vote. 1 person can’t change much, 10 can do little, but 100, or even 1000 can swing the election from one candidate to another. It only took 32,000 for Quinn to win in 2010, and in that same election cycle, Bill Brady beat Kirk Dillard last primary by 200 VOTES.