Monday, February 11, 2013

Your View: What's the State of our Union?

The State of the Union address has its pomp and pageantry.  President Obama will press the flesh of eager hand-shakers as he enters, and the audience will include a number of Americans who will be used as symbols to emphasize his priorities.

But symbolism aside, the State of the Union speech can be more than political theater. In 1823, President James Monroe used it to explain what became known as the Monroe Doctrine urging European nations to end their practice of western colonization. Abraham Lincoln used it to profess in 1862 his desire for slavery to be abolished. In 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his famous Four Freedoms speech. Lyndon Baines Johnson pressed for an end to poverty and launched a major initiative in 1964. In 2002, George W. Bush announced his war on terrorism.

With the nation still suffering economically, President Obama has an opportunity to use this speech to provide direction and vision, with a detailed agenda, on how to tackle the nation's continuing economic woes. The Observer's editorial board gave our assessment of where the State of the Union stands and what's needed in Obama's speech in commentary on the editorial page. But we'd like your assessment.

Listen to Obama's State of the Union speech and tell us if you agree with his assessment. But even if you don't listen to the speech , join our conversation. We'd like to hear from you what your assessment is of the State of our Union, and what needs to be done to tackle our challenges.


Tvan said...

My view of the Union is this: we're split and polarized because our elected officials REFUSE to work together. This also includes the President. Too many times, the message from Washington is "I/We blame the other side for this mess" when in reality, BOTH sides are responsible for where we are today. Our economy is very fragile, we're in the midst of social, class and education warfare and to top it all off, we keep buying into the message that Washington is telling us without really making change.

I had hope that President Obama would have been someone that brought about change to Washington. Instead, he has brought the same level of partisan politics, and worse, that has been in Washington since his predecessor, President George W Bush. Say what you will about President Clinton, but he was the last President in which the House, Senate and Oval Office actually worked together for the greater good of the Union. Sure there were some slip ups and issues, but I would much rather go back to those times than continue under what we currently have.

Joe Miller said...

The state of our union is not good.

We are in the most precarious position we have been since December 6th, 1941. We were, that day, still in a depression and on the eve of World War II.

Today we are technically not in a depression but trying to recover from a severe recession. Some say we are headed back into a recession. Some say we are at a "new normal" with 8% unemployment and yet others say we are beginning a five year long slog to get back to 5% unemployment. The first two possibilities will relegate our nation to second class status. The only possibility which will bring us back from the brink is to get back to 5% unemployment.

We are on the brink of becoming a second rate military power. China is on the road to becoming a first rate military power - perhaps in the 10 to 20 year range.

We are faced with a resurgence of a Caliphate which will range from the Pakistan/India border on the East, all across the Middle East and North Africa right up to the Atlantic Ocean on the Western coast of Africa. This will be accompanied by a growing Islamic minority in Germany, France, Spain and Italy which could become a majority in 20 years.

We are faced with the endogenous force of moving away from capitalism towards socialism. Right now we are a 50-50 nation on that subject. After the next four years we will fall to one side or the other.

Today we are faced with the growing exogenous force of radical Islamism which will unite to form a Caliphate similar in geography to what existed in 750 AD. The only difference being that the new Caliphate of the 21st Century will have nuclear weapons. This eventuality can be stopped but we are the only nation which can lead Western Civilization in efforts to stop the development of this resurgent Caliphate.

Garth Vader said...

@ Joe Miller,

We actually ARE in a Depression, if you measure the economy with metrics similar to those of that time, and if you remove the explosion in government spending that masks the erosion of the private sector.

While you are partly correct on economics, you are shockingly wrong on foreign affairs. The US military budget is more than FIVE TIMES China's. It is more than the next TWENTY largest military budgets COMBINED.

Your paranoia regarding Islam could, with the replacement of only a couple of words, have been spoken by a National Socialist in 1930s Germany.

Jake said...

The current state of the union is just about like it has always been. Lot of people complaining as usual but life keeps going. The bars are full, the beaches are full, people are buying cars and houses and going out to eat. People complain but then there has always been sadness in the world. Same ol', same ol'.......just a different year.

Larry Comrades said...

Things are going along at just as they should.

Thank you Comrades!

Larry Comrades said...

Things are just peachy.

Thank You Comrades!

Wiley Coyote said...

The state of our union is great!

Just ask Obama or Biden or any number of Democrats. They'll tell you.

And if you don't know any of them, watch MSNBC, they are on 24 hours a day funneling the President's talking points so you will know everything in America is soooo good!

Joe Miller said...

@ Garth Vader:

You are incorrect when yur wrote, "We actually ARE in a Depression, if you measure the economy with metrics similar to those of that time......" The fact is that the same metrics as the Census Bureau uses today started in 1937. You can verify that by going to this url:

As regards your criticism of my comments re China's military, I wrote, " We are on the brink of becoming a second rate military power. China is on the road to becoming a first rate military power - perhaps in the 10 to 20 year range." I think I'll stick with my statement especially in light of the fact that President Obama, in his State of the Union address, will announce that he is going to cut our nuclear weapon capability by 40% while China continues to expand its nuclear weapons and its delivery systems.

Then finally you wrote, "Your paranoia regarding Islam....." Paranoia, as you used it, means "baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others."

On 2/23/1998 Osama bin Laden et. al issued a Fatwah which was a war declaration against the West, Jews and Crusaders. This Fatwah became the al-Qaeda manifest. It is still in effect. It is factual to write that al-Qaeda is continuing a war against all those named in the 1998 Fatwah. It is factual to write that al-Qaeda grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is factual to write that the goal as they, along with Iran, claim, is a Caliphate consisting of the geographical areas menitioned in my original comments.

And don't forget, just today North Korea detonated a smaller nuclear device apparently of a size suitable to put atop an ICBM. Further, North Korea will surely sell their technology to Iran.

Perhaps instead of my alleged paranoia, our readers should consider your failure to recognize reality is more dangerous to the ultimate survival of our country.

Garth Vader said...

@ Joe Miller,

The Census Bureau has nothing to do with calculations of GDP or unemployment. GDP is calculated by The US Department of Commerce/Bureau of Economic Analysis while unemployment is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Today's commonly-used unemployment number is U3, which discounts "discouraged workers" (those who have given up looking for work because the economy is so bad), while U6 (which includes discouraged workers) is how unemployment was calculated in the 1930s.

The number of individuals "not in the labor force" has increased by over a million just in the last year:

I note that regarding China and the military, you do not dispute my numbers and instead focus on one weapon system (nuclear warheads, which have been used twice in world history) rather than on total military spending and the startling number of current US interventions. Just this week the administration announced that the operation in Mali is now expanding to Chad and may spread to Algeria.

Yes I am familiar with OBL's fatwah. You know who OBL's ally was in the 1980s, right? The US. We helped OBL and the Mujahideen to expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan under the pretext that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Surely this was the type of foolishness Thomas Jefferson and George Washington warned against (Jefferson: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.")

The three policies OBL mentioned in the fatwah also conflict with the Jefferson/Washington model for proper foreign policy:

1. Stationing of US troops on holy Islamic lands in Saudi Arabia. The Constitution provides for the common defense of the United States, not for aggressive forward deployment of troops.

2. Economic sanctions against Iraq. These are the sanctions responsible for the deaths of a half million Iraqi children, the mention of which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declared "worth it". Again Jefferson: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none."

3. Unconditional support of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and (quoting OBL) "its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there", along with our (quoting again) "eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets". Again, anti-Jeffersonian meddling.

Do any of these grievances justify the hijacking of airplanes and the murder of 3,000 civilians? Absolutely not. However, when these particular policies are held up to the mirror of the Founders, they are found in conflict. And we should not be surprised that they invite what the CIA has termed "blowback". Our current foreign policy is deadly, unaffordable, unsustainable, and unconstitutional.

Regarding the alleged nuclear ambitions of Iran:

1. If you are such an expert in Islam then you know that Iran's supreme ruler Khamenei issued a fatwah of arguably greater weight than OBL's, declaring that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons was forbidden under Islam.

2. Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel is not.

3. Paranoid warmongers like yourself have been squealing about Iran's alleged nuclear weaponry since the 1980s (see: "'Ayatollah' Bomb in Production for Iran", United Press International, 1984; "Senator says Iran, Iraq seek N-Bomb," NY Times, 1984; "Atomic Ayatollahs: Just What the Mideast Needs – an Iranian Bomb", Washington Post, 1987).

You and yours were wrong then. You are wrong now. And we have neither the blood nor treasure to waste on your ignorance any more. Be gone!

Joe Miller said...

@ Garth Vader

You wrote, "The Census Bureau has nothing to do with the unemployment rate." You are wrong again. By going to you will read this introductory paragraph:

"The Current Population Survey (CPS), sponsored jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is the primary source of labor force statistics for the population of the United States. The CPS is the source of numerous high-profile economic statistics, including the national unemployment rate, and provides data on a wide range of issues relating to employment and earnings. The CPS also collects extensive demographic data that complement and enhance our understanding of labor market conditions in the nation overall, among many different population groups, in the states and in substate areas."

You wrote, "Today's commonly-used unemployment number is U3, which discounts "discouraged workers" (those who have given up looking for work because the economy is so bad), while U6 (which includes discouraged workers) is how unemployment was calculated in the 1930s."

Originally you wrote that the metrics of calculating unemployment today are different than in 1940. As I pointed out, the metrics today are the same as they were beginning in 1937.

You wrote, "If you are such an expert in Islam then you know that Iran's supreme ruler Khamenei issued a fatwah of arguably greater weight than OBL's, declaring that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons was forbidden under Islam."

I have never claimed to be "an expert in Islam," but do claim to be a student of the stated goals of radical Islam. Those goals include the establishment of a Caliphate similar to the Caliphate of 750 AD.

Furthermore upon careful research and analysis it is impossible to find anywhere on the Internet a copy of such a fatwah nor can one find such a fatwah on Khamenei's official or personal website. The reference to such a fatwah is a myth. If you are correct, please provide the url where one can read the fatwah to which you refer.

You ended with this: "You and yours were wrong then. You are wrong now. And we have neither the blood nor treasure to waste on your ignorance any more. Be gone!"

You have now referred to me as "paranoid" and as "ignorant."

It is not my style to use emotional, denigrating adjectives to describe others. Your writings in these exchanges have stated some undisputed facts sprinkled with non-facts. That is generally described as the way to spread propaganda.

As to your invective, "Be gone!" let me say this. The day will come when those with your exalted view of Islam will say, "We should have paid more attention to what radical Islam was claiming as their goals for world domination."

Garth Vader said...

@ Joe,

I'm done with your xenophobic and paranoid hatred, which as I stated before is reminiscent of 1930's Germany. The most pathetic example of humanity is the person who needs to constantly invent enemies to distract himself from his own lack of self-worth.

For the rational people who are reading this, here's the explanation of the Khamenei fatwah:

Here is the US government transcription, published in 2005, of the relevant portions of the IRNA publication of the official Iranian statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Interestingly, the statement points to hydrocarbon-fueled global warming as one reason for which countries such as Iran need to turn to nuclear energy production:

“Iran Issues Statement at IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
Corrected version: added additional material after IRNA update
Wednesday, August 10, 2005 T11:39:36Z
Journal Code: 2736 Language: ENGLISH Record Type: FULLTEXT
Document Type: FBIS Transcribed Text
Word Count: 1,962

Vienna, Aug 10, IRNA — Iran is a nuclear fuel cycle technology holder, a capability which is exclusively for peaceful purposes, a statement issued by the Islamic Republic at the emergency meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) read here Tuesday evening.

The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued the fatwa (religious decree) that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that Iran shall never acquire these weapons, it added…

“Madam chair, colleagues…

“The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued the fatwa that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who took office just recently, in his inaugural address reiterated that his government is against weapons of mass destruction and will only pursue nuclear activities in the peaceful domain. The leadership of Iran has pledged at the highest level that Iran will remain a non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT and has placed the entire scope of its nuclear activities under IAEA safeguards and Additional Protocol, in addition to undertaking voluntary transparency measures with the agency that have even gone beyond the requirements of the agency’s safeguard system.

“Nuclear energy is expected to become once again a primary source of energy, with the rising demand for oil and gas and the ensuing increase in the prices, which incidentally can sharply accelerate for any political provocation. We should add to this the concerns about the environment, and the world will have no alternative but to revert back to nuclear energy, at least for decades to come… ”
(Description of Source: Tehran IRNA (Internet Version-WWW) in English — official state-run news agency) …

Note also that among the major followers of Khamenei’s fatwas are Shiites of South Lebanon, especially Hizbullah. Hizbullah’s al-Manar news service carried on 13 April 2005 a repost of an item about official Iranian negotiator on nuclear issues, Hassan Rowhani, who met with the the Danish FM and:

“Rowhani stressed during his meeting with the Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller that obeying the fatwa of Khamenei ‘is more important for us than the articles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its additional protocol.’ He explained that the fatwa of the Guide forbids the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons, and that the fatwa is, in the Islamic Republic, an obligatory law.”

أكد روحاني خلال لقائه وزير الخارجية الدنماركي ستيغ مولر أن الأخذ بفتوى خامنئي «اكثر أهمية بالنسبة الينا من بنود معاهدة حظر انتشار الأسلحة النووية والبروتوكول الملحق بها». وأوضح روحاني أن فتوى المرشد تحرم إنتاج وتخزين واستخدام الأسلحة النووية، والفتوى في الجمهورية الإسلامية قانون ملزم.

Garth Vader said...

As I said, the fatwa not only was issued, widely acknowledged by high officials of the Islamic Republic, and considered by them to be binding law, but it has been reaffirmed numerous times. Here is an item from the conservative Iranian news agency Mehr dated April 11, 2012:

“The fatwa that the Supreme Leader has issued is the best guarantee that Iran will never seek to produce nuclear weapons, Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani said on Wednesday.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa declaring that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are all haram (prohibited in Islam).”

I think the head of the Iranian judiciary knows a little bit better whether Khamenei issued a fatwa than does a project of Israeli military intelligence.

But let me just add that it is important to understand what a fatwa is. In Islam the laity ask their clerics about how to follow Islamic law. The cleric replies with a considered opinion on the purport of the law, which is called a fatwa. In the Usuli school of Shiite Islam, deriving the law from the relevant sacred texts is achieved in part through the application to them of legal reasoning. That is, the law in some senses inheres in the mind of the jurisprudent. If he reconsiders a case and comes to a different, more mature conclusion later on, he is bound to reverse himself. His followers are bound to follow his most recent conclusions.

A high-ranking cleric appointed as a jurisconsult to the state, who gives official fatwas, is called a mufti. But any trained clerical jurisprudent can issue a fatwa. (The system is virtually identical in Judaism, where rabbis answer the questions of the faithful about halakha or Jewish law with responsa.)

So a fatwa is not like an American law that has to be published in the Congressional Record and in official law books. It is just the conclusion to which a cleric’s reasoning leads him, and which he makes known, even in a letter. In Shiite Islam, laypersons who follow a particular ayatollah are bound by his fatwas. When an ayatollah such as Khamenei delivers oral remarks in public, these have the force of a fatwa and are accepted as such by his followers. That is, Khamenei’s recent statement forbidding nuclear weapons in a speech is in fact a fatwa:

“the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

There is another consideration. Since Khamenei is not only an ayatollah but also the Supreme Leader, it may well be that this statement is actually more important than a fatwa. It may be considered a hukm or decree of the Supreme Jurisprudent (Vali-yi Faqih), who is charged with setting the legal framework of the Islamic Republic in accordance with revealed Islamic law.

(Source: Informed Comment)

Garth Vader said...

Gallup Poll: 92% of Pakistan disapproves of the United States

Is it any wonder, when we are drone-bombing the he!! out of their villages?