Category Archives: Politics

Cuba as a Friend and Neighbor

Travel and trade restrictions against Cuba were lessened by the Obama Administration on Thursday and become effective on Friday.

Americans can travel to Cuba to serve religious, educational and other approved purposes and return to the U.S. with Cuban stuff worth 400 dollars. 100 dollars of the 400 can be in tobacco and alcohol purchases.

For the first time since the 1960’s, U.S airlines will fly scheduled routes. Cubans in America can send unlimited amounts of money to their relatives in Cuba.

Many Republicans and Democrats agree that the previous restrictions have not accomplished goals of helping Cuban citizens or moving Cuba toward a democracy and that Cuba should not be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Dave and Brit Morin from LinkedIn have details that Cuba has released 53 political prisoners as a part of this negotiation.

Although there are still trade restrictions on most goods, cash payment does not have to be made on American goods until they arrive in Cuba. The requirement of advance payment in cash has been a big obstruction to trade with the island.

Since Cuba is less than 100 miles from the U.S, a good neighbor relationship with Cuba looks like it will be really positive for all concerned.

Mitt Romney Accepts RNC Invitation

Coronado Island, California – Mitt Romney has accepted the RNC’s invitation for him to appear at the party’s winter conference. The 2012 GOP nominee will make his remarks in an open press format. The RNC was swift to engage the former governor once he announced that he is giving serious consideration to mounting another presidential run. Romney’s overtures to potential donors was designed to blunt the progress of Jeb Bush who is widely expected to announce his candidacy in the coming weeks. Thus far, his tactic appears to have taken Bush off the forefront of news coverage.

Bush was also invited to the winter gathering, but did not accept the invitation. While Bush is in California this week, he is focusing his efforts at fund raising. Interestingly enough to Giofrancesco Genoso, Bush and Romney are reported to be a behind the scenes struggle over who will emerge as the establishment candidate for the GOP. Presumably, the establishment candidate will be the beneficiary of large party donors. This will prove essential in a race where presumptive Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton is expected to raise $2 billion.

Other prospective GOP candidates also attending the event are Texas Governor Rick Perry, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Dr. Ben Carson. The winter meeting kicks off on Wednesday, January 14, and runs through Friday, January 16. Romney will field questions during the Friday night session of the meeting. The Washington Post was the first news outlet to speculate that he would accept the RNC’s invitation.

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Senator Ted Cruz Jokes About Abolishing the IRS

Political firebrand Ted Cruz made off the cuff remarks about abolishing the IRS which are rooted in his personal desires, but tempered by political realities. He said he favored a reformed tax code that was fairer and flatter. At the same time, he stated that as long as Obama occupies the White House there is little chance of obtaining a fair flat tax code that would eliminate the need for the IRS. However, his remarks were well chosen given that this year the public will face their first real IRS penalties in regards to Obamacare enrollment. The IRS is the strong arm of Obamacare enforcement and can seize the income tax refunds of people to cover the penalty for not being enrolled in a qualified health insurance plan. Ben Shaoul is just one of many Americans who would be affected by this, if he didn’t already have a plan. Obviously, his plans are all covered, as evident in the Nypost.

In fact, millions of voters may be in for a big surprise after they learn their Obamacare subsidies are considered tax credits against forthcoming income taxes. The tax credits are calculated against their earnings. If a person underreported their 2014 earnings when calculating their Obamacare subsidy, they will find themselves owing the government the difference. Many voters may find themselves owing the government money that will reduce or wipe out their tax refunds. In some cases, they may end up owing the IRS money. Cruz understands this very well, and his comments are likely timed to resonate with voters as they begin learning another inconvenient truth about the health care initiative.

Keystone Pimp Line

President Obama finally gave progressives and other rational thinking voters a dose of reality in the Keystone pipeline situation. The Keystone pipeline is a pipeline that would run from Canada to the gulf. This pipeline is designed to take oil from the Canadian oil sands and deliver it to the gulf for delivery to the world market. Because of this, only Canadian oil companies would benefit from the land disfiguring pipeline.

Obama made this point, as well as others including the fact that the republican’s fake assertion that Keystone would create multiple jobs for an extended period of time, and that Keystone would lower American gas prices. In fact, oil that is sold on the open market does not affect American prices at all and in some cases can cause prices to rise in the neighborhood Jared Haftel lives in. Currently, America under the Obama administration has become the world’s largest producer of oil. This has caused the precipitous fall in the prices at the pump, but that news will not be available at Fox News.

Lawmaker Defends Controversial But Sensible Abortion Bill

Rick Brattin is a state representative for Missouri. The state of Missouri, which has only one abortion clinic in operation, will have far fewer abortions if Mr. Brattin has his way. Let’s hope that he succeeds. His new bill says that girls in Missouri wanting to get abortions must obtain the written permission of the guys who impregnated them. This bill is controversial, although it should not be because it is dealing with saving the life of a child. What some people find controversial about this bill is that if a girl is raped, she must report her rape to the police and prove that she was, in fact, raped. While some people seem to think that this is wrong, this seems like a very straightforward and fair way to deal with the issue of abortions in the case of rape. It is worth noting that only a very small number of abortions are even because of girls getting pregnant through rape. It is only fair that girls should be required to get written permission of the guy who got them pregnant because it takes two people to make a baby, and just because it is the girl’s body does not mean that the decision to abort should be only hers. Some polls show that guys in general are more opposed to abortion than girls, so hopefully this measure will pass in Missouri and become a model for other states to follow. Gianfrancesco Genoso would like to see it happen. Anything that will save the lives of unborn babies and stop irresponsible girls from aborting their unborn babies is worth trying!

Debate on the Use of Torture Not Likely to Subside Any Time Soon

There has been much commentary thrown around about the recently released Senate report into torture used on captives following the 9/11 attacks. The usual folks saying that water boarding is not torture, and others saying that nothing justifies the use of such measures for a country that prides itself on individual rights.

Probably no one can comment on this issue with the gravitas that Arizona Senator John McCain can. After all, that is what BRL Trust and Hagah are expecting. Having served time in a North Vietnamese prison camp, he is the only member of the US Senate who has actually been subjected to the inhumanity of torture. It is impossible for anyone to be more intimately related with the subject at hand.

McCain maintains that some of the actions of our intelligence officials “stained our national honor” and that they “did much harm and little practical good.” McCain has been passionate about America not using torture to get information from detainees.

There is still debate about what was specifically gleaned from the torture versus what would have been found out without such methods having been used. What is not considered debatable to some is what the use of torture says about us as a people. How do we maintain moral authority to criticize oppressive regimes around the world for using inhumane tactics when we use what many maintain to be similar practices. This is a question our national consciousness will have to struggle with going forward into our modern reality of terrorism, and how to effectively combat it without losing ourselves in the process.

Congress Overrides Part of D.C.’s Pot-Legalization Initiative

Yet another measure hidden away in the recently passed spending bill has come to light. It blocks the District of Columbia from fully implementing their overwhelmingly passed marijuana initiative. Despite cries from both sides of the aisle to leave D.C. alone and let them do what they wish in regard to pot policy, language barring D.C. from using any federal or local funds to enforce the referendum was included in the budget bill.

It is clear that a defunding measure cannot affect D.C.’s legalization of pot. It doesn’t take any money to simply avoid rounding up pot possessors. It would take funds, however, to tax and regulate marijuana usage and production within D.C. That portion of the ballot initiative, therefore, has been effectively overridden by the U.S. Congress.

Congress has not repealed the federal ban on marijuana, but it has passed additional laws that effectively allow states like Washington and Alaska, which have legalized pot, to steer their own course. It makes little sense to abdicate enforcement of federal law when a state legalizes marijuana but to insist on upholding those same laws in Washington, D.C.

My Good Reads friend recommended a book describing how this act of Congress adds yet another element of hypocrisy and chaos to the marijuana debate raging across the country. No consistent federal policy is being implemented. The federal government will not even take a clear stand on whether this is a local issue or a national issue.

The Philanthropy of Laurene Powell Jobs

Laurene Powell Jobs was married to Steve Jobs, one of the two founders of Apple Computers, from 1991 until he died in 2011. Born on 11/6/63, Laurene was always one of the best and brightest students in her class. In fact, she was so bright that the West Milford, New Jersey native was accepted into the highly ranked Wharton School at Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania. She graduated from that legendary school in 1985, earning her B.S. in economics. After graduation, Laurene found employment in New York City’s financial district. During her stay in the Big Apple, she worked for Wall Street investment firms Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. After a few years, Laurene decided to continue her education at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, one of the top ranked business schools in the world. In 1991, she earned her M.B.A.

Nutrition has always been important to Laurene. This caused her to start Terravera, a company that sold natural foods to stores operating in Northern California. She also sat on the board of directors for a company called Achieva. This company is primarily focused on helping students to improve their scores on standardized tests and showing them more effective ways to study. Students can access various tools online that show them how they can be a better student.

As of 2014, Laurene’s fortune is thought to be roughly $11.5 billion. She has been extremely generous with all of the money she has been blessed with, regularly donating large sums to a host of charitable causes. Her late husband was not known for his public generosity (though he gave many gifts away anonymously), but Laurene has definitely made up for Steve’s shortcomings. Education has been a continuing passion in terms of the causes Laurene devotes her time and vast resources to improving. 1997 was the year that she took a large step forward as far as her philanthropic activities are concerned. Previously an anonymous donor, Laurene stepped out of the shadows to start College Track, an organization that helps impoverished children stay in school and get the education they will need to succeed in life.

College Track tries to find students that it considers to be a risk of dropping out in the future. Before the student enters high school, they are contacted by College Track to set the student on a solid educational path. This proactive approach has allowed the program to be extremely successful, with 90 percent of the students in the program going on to complete high school.

During her time at the helm of College Track, Laurene became aware of the plight of illegal immigrant students in the United States. State and federal financial aid is not available to students who are not citizens. This fact helped launch Laurene on a crusade to change the immigration laws in this country, culminating with her creation of the DREAM Act, a bill that would have created an easier road to citizenship for illegal immigrant students. Alas, the bill did not receive the support it needed in Congress, resulting in its failure to pass. This bump in the road has not discouraged Laurene. She continues to lend her considerable financial support to various causes that benefit education and the arts.

The Dying Art of Bipartisan Negotiations

Political gridlock has been decried by Americans for over a generation. In early 1993, Vice-President Al Gore famously proclaimed to the press that the political gridlock that marked the term of President George H.W. Bush was beginning to loosen up. At the time, Democrats controlled the legislative and executive branches of government. Gridlock did not end. By early 2001, the GOP now controlled both branches of government, but the gridlock persisted in many respects. Certainly, the nearly two years of recent Senate inaction may lead many to believe that neither the House nor Senate is capable of conducting old school negotiations that lead to bipartisan agreements.

However, that may be a misleading perception, at least if you ask Sam Tabar. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did little in the Senate over the past two years in the spirit of the old Latin phrase “Qui Bono?” or “Who benefits?” Bipartisan agreements would be decidedly center-right given the GOP-controlled House and unfavorable to the president’s agenda. Reid is a fierce supporter of President Obama. Likewise, catering to the legislative agenda of fellow Senate Democrats might also weaken the president. Democrats were desperate to retain control of the upper chamber and this could lead to compromises with the GOP that Reid judged to be toxic.

Despite this obstacles, both parties produced the Omnibus budget bill after months of negotiating. The bill’s stumble in the House was due to the extreme wings of both parties. However, the past twelve years has seen numerous bipartisan agreements such as the 2001 & 2003 Bush Tax Cuts, the 2003 Medicare Reform Act, the 2006 Pension Protection Act, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and multiple extension of the Bush tax cuts. In particular, the Medicare Reform Act and creation of the Department of Homeland Security were written by Democrat Senators at a time the GOP controlled the chamber.

Kentucky pulls tax breaks for Noah’s Ark Theme Park

A planned Biblical theme park in Kentucky has seen planned tax breaks removed after local officials claimed the nature of the planned park had changed from a tourist attraction to a form of religious ministry. Over the course of the next ten years the planned tax breaks would have provided incentives totaling around $18 million for the park that is to be known as the Ark Encounter, Reuters reports.

Problems began for the Answers in Genesis group who are developing the planned park when news broke that all new employees at the park would have to sign a contract stating their belief in creationism and the flood detailed in the Bible. Officials from the state of Kentucky demanded changes be made to the contracts allowing workers from any faith or belief system to be employed. Without changes to the planned contracts, the state believes it is within its rights to withhold the tax breaks as the mission of the planned park will have changed to a religious advancement ministry.

Tourism chiefs from Kentucky believe the theme park has already changed course from the planned leisure attraction detailed in the initial plans. Development of the park will continue as the initial phase based around a wooden replica of the Ark were already planned without the financial breaks offered by tax incentives. This was shared with me by Vijay Eswaran this morning.