Category Archives: Foreign Affairs
It must be something about 80 year old dictators. First Tunisia, then came Egypt, and now it appears things are going tits up in Libya… you see, millions of protestors are fed up with this guy:
Col. Muammar Gaddafi is fighting to keep power in a country rife with protest and anger at the leader’s 40-year despotic rule. What started out as a small scale protest against Gaddafi’s crackdown on civil rights has transitioned into a full-blown revolution, with many members of the official militia and tribes around the region siding with the protesters. Many cities and rural areas have turned to the protesters, with the main city of Tripoli being the key hold by Gaddafi.
African mercenaries are now reportedly being sent to the area to join with pro-Gaddafi forces against the protestors in Tripoli and things are about to get a whole lot worse, since Gaddafi is adamantly refusing to step down. Al-Jazeera is keeping an incredible live blog of the events as they take place, I highly recommend viewing it. (UPDATE As of March 8: New blog up.) If the protests succeed, this will be the third dictatorship to fall in the Middle East in mere weeks. No matter how you shake it, these successful protests have been a real victory for human rights.
There is no question our Commander in Chief is quite happy right now. First, of course, he’s going to Hawaii. That would make pretty much everyone elated, especially those dealing with the freezing cold up here in Michigan. The biggie, however, is the massive amount of legislative victories and ability to reach across the aisle to those difficult-to-compromise-with Republicans over the past few weeks. Normally, the lame duck session, or the session following a Congressional election but preceding the formation of a new Congress, is quite uneventful. Rachel Maddow said on her 92Y special last night on MSNBC that pundits were expecting perhaps “a few post offices to be renamed.” But this could not be further from the truth, as we have seen this White House finally come out and fight hard for common-sense policy items that are heavily favored by the American people. Let’s go down the list, shall we?
New START Treaty ratified by the Senate. A treaty requires 67 votes to be ratified, or made law, in the US Senate. The New START treaty was one of the items on the lame duck agenda that Washington heavily pushed. All six living Republican secretaries of state supported it, as did the joint chiefs of staff, and Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Still, however, Republican leaders in the Senate headed by Jon Kyl, minority whip, asked for more time and more funding for “infrastructure”. In the end, this was pushed to a vote and made it in just three days before Christmas, ratified 71-26. Now, we don’t have to worry about a Second Cold War breaking out and all of humanity perishing as we know it. Yay!
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repealed. A major progressive victory no matter how you look at it, the House and Senate passed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and its full implementation across the board will only take a matter of months, according to Obama himself. Better late than never, as we were the second to last NATO country to allow homosexuals in, but no matter what all of Obama’s critics on the left have to admit this was a fantastic legislative accomplishment.
Food Safety Act passed. Anyone who has read Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation knows how loose FDA regulations are. This bill will help make America’s food safer across the board by imposing stricter regulations.
The 9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill passed (unanimously!) Despite Tea Party Republicans’ best attempts to stifle a bill giving health care to those who bravely risked their lives on September the 11th, a scathing indictment over the past week by Jon Stewart and others prompted the Senate into action. The bill passed without objection.
Pell Grants, Unemployed benefits Extended. The tax cut compromise proposed by Obama two weeks ago was roundly criticized by liberals, but within it were some golden nuggets that will really help those who need the help most- students and the unemployed. Pell Grants will continue to be funded at the current amount, and God knows for me that’s essentially the only way I can attend U of M. Also, for millions of Americans who are unemployed and were worried the Congress would play politics with their benefits, they can enjoy a nice meal for Christmas and rest a bit easier. Paul Krugman, one of the leading economists in the world, points to unemployment benefits as the best economic stimulus, as the impoverished need to spend the money on goods to keep going- stimulating business, ushering in new jobs, all that good stuff.
Sure, some post offices were probably renamed too, but you’d be hard pressed to find a time in Congressional history since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt where this much has been accomplished. The tax cut compromise allowed a temporary extension of tax cuts for the wealthy, and in exchange all this has been accomplished in a matter of days. According to a CNN poll released on December 22, voters approve of Obama’s handling of the lame duck session 56-41, while voters disapprove of Republicans’ handling 53-42. Similarly, on the issue of compromise, the tax cut decision went well with voters as 59-37 percent believe Obama has done enough to reach across the aisle, whereas 68% thought Republicans weren’t doing enough in return. This poll highlights what happens when Obama fights for the extremely popular policies that he championed when running for office. Now, for the next few days, Obama can rest easy, eat lots of food, and participate in those wonderful Hawaiian luaus and know that he has really proven himself as the leader of this nation. Merry Christmas to my fellow Dems, Happy Kwanzaa if you are so inclined, and Happy New Year. Huzzah.
There once was a meal we all tend to skip,
But alas, tomorrow, sweet syrup you’ll sip
So make your way all downtown
And wear a Dingellized crown
For the College Dems Pancake Breakfast will sure be a trip.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President Barack Obama.
At the Group of 20 economic summit held last Wednesday in London, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and our President Barack Obama took the fledgling steps to thaw the characteristically frosty relationship between the two countries.Â Both leaders have stated their interest in reducing their nuclear warheads and have agreed to begin talks — the first in more than a decade (BBC). Not only did Medvedev extend an invitation to Moscow, Obama whole-heartedly accepted it, saying the relationship between Washington and Moscow should be “reset.”
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which currently limits the U.S. and Russian arsenals to 1700 to 2200 warheads, is due to expire at the end of the year, making it even more essential for Russia and the United States to begin talking on good terms. The presidents both echoed the necessity for Iran to cooperate with the UN to ensure their nuclear program is peaceful. They also “agreed to work together on Afghanistan and expressed concern about an upcoming North Korean rocket launch,” a fact which certainly pleased President Obama (BBC). In addition, Obama agreed to support Russia’s World Trade Organization bid and seek U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty — two things Moscow has wanted for a while.
There is no doubt that there are many issues between the two countries that have yet to be resolved and will definitely have to be addressed in the future (e.g. missile shield, expansion of NATO). On the same note, I am glad Obama is taking the required steps for a good relationship with Russia and generally attempting to promote friendlier, but firm, foreign policy altogether. There is no better time than now.
The details are still sketchy, but it appears that a Syrian man was planning on assassinating the President while overseas, but was caught late last week. US officials are taking this threat “very seriously.” From CNN:
The Saudi paper [al-Watan] reported the suspect, who was carrying an Al-Jazeera TV press credential in the name of “M.G.,” confessed to authorities after his arrest that he and three alleged accomplices plotted to stab Obama with a knife during the Alliance of Civilizations Summit in Istanbul, which Obama attended on Monday evening. The U.S. officials confirmed those allegations, but stressed to CNN that the information provided by the man is still being verified.
Officials were quick to point out that assassination plots are common, especially when the President is overseas:
But the officials strongly cautioned that American presidents are frequent targets of threats that are all watched very carefully, and in this case the alleged plotter did not appear to get anywhere close to Obama during his European tour.
Here are some take-away points from this, however:
1) Mad props to the Secret Service and any other relevant agency.
2) Although we won’t know this for a while, it appears to me that this man confessed freely, and without the use of torture.
3) Terrorist attacks and assassination plots are real, but this president won’t make up fake terrorist plots at key times to aid him politically, unlike W.
If any more information comes out, please post it in the comments! The details are still fairly sketchy.
With all the excitement over gifts and queen-touching (not to mention the whole world-wide depression thing), few people heard about the wonderful gift the Dutch gave to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a large bouquet of her strain of tulips! According to Daily Intel,
In 1994 the Dutch were apparently so enamored with Clinton that they created and named a new strain of tulip just for her.
In case you want more information on the Tulipa Triumph “Hillary Clinton,” check out ADR Bulbs. Now, if only I could get my own strain. That would be kick ass.
“The US embargo on Cuba is a 50-year failure, and lifting the ban on travel is a good first step toward a more rational policy.” -Myron Brilliant, US Chamber of Commerce
I have always wanted to travel to Cuba. A few years ago my Aunt, Uncle and cousins took advantage of a program that allowed them to vacation there, open only for a short period of time. It was an incredible vacation, they said there was always music playing in the streets, the people were friendly and quaint and the country has not become over run by tourists. It’s a strange paradox, when I travel I am usually disgusted by the presence of other tourists and find them to be quite obnoxious. Thus for that reason, Cuba really attracts me. I also love Cuban food. La ropa vieja y platanos son deliciosos. However Americans are currently only permitted to travel to Cuba under very specific circumstances. If you are going for an academic conference, studying there for at least 3 months…. there are a couple other but none of them fall under the “leisure and interest” category. Since 1962 we have had a trade embargo with Cuba, at which time travel restrictions were also enforced that have prevented us to travel there. Recently there have been changes to allow Cuban Americans more opportunities to travel there with the purpose of visiting family but as I am not Â Cuban those changes haven’t helped me.
However, yesterday senators Byron Dorgan (South Dakota-D) and Mike Enzi (Wyoming-R) introduced a bill that would allow Americans to travel to Cuba for leisure, appropriately called the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act”. 20 other senators are co-sponsoring the bill and Â the house has 121 cosponsors. Hopefully we’ll see some change!
Stephen Harper on a pleasant stroll through Times Square
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper went on a media blitz in New York City recently. He went to the United Nations, stopped by Fox News for an interview and continued to express displeasure with renewed American protectionism. Harper fears American protectionism will hurt trade with Canada and ultimately the economy as a whole. “Buy American” provisions in the stimulus bill are of particular concern to Harper’s government. Here are a few tidbits:
We don’t have a mortgage problem. Certainly we have a downturn in our housing sector, but it’s not structural — there will be no government bailout of mortgages in Canada.
On Obama’s visit to Canada as his first official trip as President:
Because we’re not a squeaky wheel, we often don’t get the grease and we’re forgotten. So it was great to have that kind of attention from our great friends in the United States.