June 21, 2009

Is this the end for Iran's Ayatollah?

This week's unprecedented events in Iran's streets represent a worst case scenario for the clerics and their puppets. The violence unleashed against the peaceful protesters and real martyrs of this green revolution is being amplified and twittered to all corners of the world. It's not an exaggeration to imply that Ahmadinejad is done with and the Ayatollah has clearly suffered a shattering setback.

In other news, Cuban and Venezuelan governments have jointly come out in favor of Ahmadinejad and have upheld the "ultra-democratic and fair" election results. Pathetic? Ultra.

But after watching a two-hour long, deep Iranian analysis on CNN's Fareed Zakaria where Brzezinski and other foreign policy analysts pondered the real consequences of Iran's post election struggle and Obama's position, it seems that this is beginning of the end for the Iranian regime.

The White House has been correct in their reluctance to meddle in this internal crisis in Iran. They don't want to add fuel to the hard-liners and neo-cons' fiery criticism of the West's evil involvement, a tool that has been used repeatedly to licentiously crack down the opposition.

Not only is this green revolution completely self-made, it is creating tectonic effects across the Middle East political landscape and could be a real catalyst for other clouded governments in the Arab world.

But the real question here is: Will all of this really shake up Iranian politics? The experts are hoping this will be the first and most critical blow before the beast collapses.

More on this topic

June 10, 2009

The National Deficit for Dummies

I just read David Leonhardt’s column in today’s New York Times and I praise it for its easy to grasp explanation of complex economic terms when it comes to the national deficit.

For those who still believe that Obama’s stimulus bill is sinking this country into steep deficits, I invite you to read the complete column here.If you are going to skip the column, this is the national debt explanation for dummies:

The Congressional Budget Office 2001 projection for the years 2009-12 was a surplus of $800 billion. The CBO 2009 Projection for 2009-12, the most recent one, shows a different picture: a deficit of $1.2 trillion.

Leonhardt argues that the roughly $2 trillion difference between these two estimates is due to 4 categories, which have and are still contributing to this projected deficit.

Of this $2 trillion deficit, 37% come from the business cycle. It’s a reflection of both the 2001 recession and the current one which have reduced tax revenues and required more spending on safety net programs.

The second category, 33%, comes from eight years of Bush’s policies, including tax cuts for the wealthy, the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Medicare prescription plan. Not only did the economic growth under Bush did not generate nearly enough tax revenue to pay for his agenda, it did not cover the increased interest payments to service our national debt which Asian countries have collected.

The third comes from Obama’s extension of Bush’s policies, at 20%, which include the continuation of the wars and a new tax cut for households making less than $250,000. It also includes the Wall Street Bailout, which Bush initiated and signed and Obama supported.

Only 7% of this projected $2 trillion deficit, the fourth category, comes from Obama’s stimulus bill, of which 3% accounts for healthcare reform, education reform, and energy reform.

Furthermore, White House officials say “the president is committed to a deficit equal to no more than 3% of total GDP within five to 10 years.” Insofar, the CBO discredits this by stating that they project a deficit of at least 4% of GDP for the next 10 years. Those White House economists are really good with their deficit projections!

So next time you are discussing this administration’s budgets tirades or sensing misplaced criticism or angst, remember this report and think how unfair it would be to blame Obama for incurring gigantic deficits and compromising our prosperity. The only blame we can put on this administration is its reluctance to fix this problem.

June 04, 2009

Obama's 100 Days: A Blueprint for Success

The rating of a US president’s first 100 days in office has become a must see media show in the coliseum of modern journalism. President Obama was no exception. A recent Pew poll showed Obama’s approval ratings for the first 100 days in office higher than Reagan’s. Unlike Reagan, who did not face the biggest recession since the Great Depression, Mr. Obama encounters unprecedented challenges in both the domestic and international fronts with a scattered but determined opposition, which seems to be slowly regrouping.

With a renewed and [innovative] sense of urgency, the White House has strived in the first 100 days to make government more accountable and transparent. The impetus of Mr. Obama’s message, amplified by his weekly radio addresses, frequent press conferences including a live network show appearance gained traction in the public’s perception. There was consensus among Obama’s supporters that the administration tried, and modestly accomplished, to steer away from business as usual, at least in the exceptionally high strung corridors of government. But if success is measured by perception, intent becomes the distinctive mark by which an administration is successfully appraised. President Obama’s first 100 days in office have been characterized by a new tone, a synchronized dance, a national dialogue much too different from the previous administration, whose pigeonhole approach to domestic issues contributed to their demise.

However, many suggest that the “house upon a rock” that Obama’s White House is trying to edify is too much too soon for the immense challenges we confront. Mr. Obama faces many obstacles on his uphill battle to fix Washington and America’s image in the world, and some of these sand blocks are within his own party, whose loyalties lie more with electoral demographics than with the President’s vision.

In the international arena, Mr. Obama’s new foundation found some adherence. In his trips abroad he provided an opening for dialogue between US and Iran and other regimes, including Cuba. His decision to close Guantanamo, release torture memos, put demands on Israel, set a date for pulling troops from Iraq, send more troops to Afghanistan and kill three Somali pirates are clear measures that change is taking place, albeit slowly and cautiously.

In the domestic front, things were slightly skewed for this administration. The passing of the stimulus bill, which set the tone for his economic agenda, was met with ebullient criticism. Reactions to the banking and the auto-industry bailouts were not unreasonable and the administration’s failure to cap Wall Street bonuses diminished their leverage among the American people to deal with the overall recession.

But Mr. Obama’s first 100 days showdown is over, and the real work of government has just begun. Finding common ground for all his measures will be hard, and even though change is part of our everyday parlance, the ‘house upon a rock” vision needs walls and a roof.

May 20, 2009

Winning means losing some

A win for credit card consumers, but a devastating loss for gun control and wildlife supporters.

When the win is a devastating loss, the only option is to keep your head high and your hopes higher.

US consumers obtained a sweeping victory yesterday after the Senate passed the first credit card reform bill in decades to stop interest rate spikes and penalty fees, which hurt consumers.

The new credit card rules give consumers more transparent information to manage their debt. The bill represents the first regulatory steps the Obama Administration is taking to reform the financial system.

But this bill does not come without a price. The hidden agenda is the amendment to allow loaded and concealed weapons in national parks and wildlife refuge centers. Confused? Me too.

The amendment was added as a last action measure by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) despite every legislative trick in the book by Democrats to prevent a vote on gun rights. Champions of the gun proposal relish this victory on the fact that recent Democratic ranks include senators and House members who represent Western states and more rural areas where gun ownership is popular and almost sacrosanct.

But the clear outmaneuver here is that Republicans are beginning to regroup and even if the Obama White House is lukewarm about gun control issues, the majority of Democrats see this as a devastating loss for environmental activists and wildlife supporters.

When this bill comes to effect in 2010, states will be the ones to legislate on gun control and safety, and this would clear the way for Congress to reinstate the Bush policy, which will further strip off federal responsibility to protect wildlife.

The bigger question to consider here is not whether the constitutional right to bear arms is upheld by the Federal government, but whether carrying a concealed, loaded firearm really protects lives. The reality is that this bill offers sanctuary for criminals to commit their crimes and endangers wildlife even further.

Gun control and conservation groups have urged lawmakers to insist on a credit card bill without such politically charged proposals attached to it, as in the case of a bill that grants DC full voting representation in the House, but which Republicans have attached gun rights initiatives.

This is a dirty game, attaching unrelated legislative proposals to bills, which Republicans are good at playing. Government seems to move one step forward and two steps backwards.