Monday, 18 April 2011

Donald Trump for president?

Donald Trump recently tied in a poll for the Republican presidential candidacy, Trump along with other presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee both polled 19% with Sarah Palin a distant third with 12% of the vote. The question is, is Donald Trump really a viable candidate for the presidency?

Trump is currently attempting to paint himself as the white knight of U.S politics the reluctant candidate who is running purely out patriotism and love for his country, giving straight answers to questions, not beating around the bush and claiming he will get things done where others have failed. So far at least among Republicans and Republican leaning independents this image is resonating. His roots in the business world that would of once spelled the death knell for a potential political career are suddenly virtues in an economy where politicians and economists even those in the White House are perceived as not grasping the depth of the current economic turmoil. The media once said that Ronald Reagan could never be president and Arnold Schwarzenegger could never be governor of California, they were wrong, in everything especially politics anything can happen.

With so much momentum with the Republican party currently and the Obama administration almost constantly under political siege there has never been a better time for a man like Trump to "throw his hat in the ring", where once he would of been laughed off the political stage he is being taken increasingly seriously in the race for the White House.

The ability for a man such as Donald Trump to be taken seriously for the presidential candidacy is largely thanks to the current administration which is perceived as ineffectual and weak by both sides of the political spectrum. The Obama administration ran their campaign on the message of change and little to no change has actually occurred, Guantanamo Bay is still open, Health care is still deeply unaffordable and out of reach for many Americans and the United States is still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would be unfair to heap all of the blame on the White House, because in actual fact there is plenty of blame to go around on Capitol hill. The Democrats had a historic opportunity to ram through some real game changing legislation like true universal health care and ending the fiscally irresponsible tax cuts to the incredibly wealthy while they were in control of the house and senate but for some inexplicable reason they chose not to do so.

Trump recently said the following about Libya.
"Look at Libya. Look at this mess, we go in, we don't go in, he shouldn't be removed, we don't want to remove him, we don't want to touch him, but he should be removed. Nobody knows what they're doing on Gaddafi. I'd do one thing. Either I'd go in and take the oil or I don't go in at all. In the old days, when you have a war and you win, that nation is yours."

And had this to say on the issue of China.
"If you look at what China is doing, they're stealing our jobs, they're taking our money. They're then loaning our money back. It's amazing. They're making all of our products. They are also manipulating the currency that makes it almost impossible for our companies to compete with China."

This simple message in black and white will resonate with voters on both sides of politics who are tired of politicians spinning their opinion every which way, some may prefer a straight talking president even if he doesn't say what they want to hear. The aggressive tone of his rhetoric on U.S foreign policy especially towards the economic behaviour of China may be very successful in winning votes in a potential election especially considering the vast majority of politicians try to ignore China's ongoing march toward economic supremacy.

The race for the White House has scarcely begun and two things are certain with people like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin in the mix it will be very interesting and secondly Saturday night live will have a field day.

Middle class welfare coming to an end in Australia?

I have never really understood some citizens of the United States and its governments opposition to a balanced welfare system, where the out of work get enough money to live on till they find another job and people who need health care will have it provided to them free of charge. But today I find myself somewhat understanding their sentiments, while I don't agree with their perception of a welfare system what I do agree on is the fact that people who don't need welfare payments shouldn't have them. But I digress this particular piece isn't about the welfare system of the United States that's a whole nother story, this particular article is about the beginning of the fall of middle class welfare in Australia.

Largely thanks to the current economic climate both domestically and internationally the Australian government is rethinking the welfare system in an effort to save money and balance the budget. Of course proponents of stronger conditions for welfare payment recipients are applauding the governments efforts, I however have quite mixed thoughts on the issue. On one hand there are average Joe's just scraping by on the quite frankly pittance they receive from the government which currently stands at $237.45 per week but on the other hand the government is considering taking away the up to $7500 per child, child care rebate from couples earning over $150,000 per year.

To give those unfamiliar with Australian rent and food prices a bit more perspective the median rent for Melbourne (Australia's second largest city) is $360 per week, so even if a recently unemployed person moved in with a friend in the average Melbourne residence they would still only have $115.65 per week to live on after government payments for proving assistance with rental expenses. Simply put not enough for an individual to live off of especially if they have previous financial commitments like loans or contracts for services for example a mobile phone plan.

Now for the scary part, families in Australia are claiming up to $7500 per child regardless of whether their income is $30,000 per year or $300,000 per year. I am all for families being compensated in some way for their child car expenses especially considering they are not tax deductible, but to give every family with a child in care in Australia such a large sum of money irrespective of income is fiscal insanity. The most shocking thing about this issue is the backlash from these families who are allegedly struggling to make ends meet. For example a family with 2 children living in one of Australia's wealthiest suburbs were complaining about not being able to renovate their house if the rebate is taken away, I'm sorry but if your earning $190,000 a year you should be able to afford to renovate your house and then some.

I know this is quite a departure from my usual "big picture" articles but it really gets up my nose the way people who are for all intensive purposes rich complaining about not getting government handouts while the average unemployed Australian struggles to get by. It seems I have come full circle, while I understand the opposition to the welfare state from some parts of American politics, I much more strongly identify with those who believe in proving help for the needy and not subsidising the lifestyles of the wealthy.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Libyan Rebels request help from NATO ground forces

Since my previous article the strategic situation in Libya has changed dramatically. After the miraculous defence of Benghazi by rebel forces ,the rebels pushed back Gaddafi loyalist forces out of the area for NATO aircraft to strike without fear of collateral damage and civilian casualties. After the initial "shock and awe" attacks by NATO air forces destroyed loyalist armour and aircraft out in the open, the situation on the ground quickly deteriorated for Libyan rebels. After a strong counter offensive by the rebels pushing Gaddafi's forces further west with NATO forces proving air support, Loyalist forces quickly reasserted their dominance in both organisation and equipment.

Currently Gaddafi's forces are besieging the Misrata, the last rebel held town in Western Libya. Rebel forces are being pushed back on all fronts in spite of NATO air strikes. This turn of events predicted by myself and a number of military analysts is turning into a disaster for Libyan rebels who were spurred on by NATO air strikes and also for NATO itself with Gaddafi's forces increasingly looking like emerging victorious. Large cracks are already appearing in the rhetoric and political position of NATO nations on the issue of Libya, the U.K and France are calling for more air strikes to be made mostly by aircraft of the United States while other nations are only in favour of the no-fly zone with no air strikes. What is not commonly understood is that only a fraction of NATO members are actually taking part in air strikes, with only 6 out NATO's 28 members are actually taking part in air strikes.

The situation in Libya has show the systemic problems without NATO both politically and within its command structure. Its very difficult for the different nations to decide on a course of action and like in Bosnia, there by not being able to provide any real assistance till its too late for far too many civilians. NATO and the United Nations need to be organisations who should install fear in those who would oppress their people or visit death on civilians and by doing so prevent dictators like Muammar Gaddafi from ever coming to power. Instead of this ideal situation where the people of the world could be free we have largely ineffectual organisations who are only taken seriously by nations not powerful enough to ignore them.

As I previously suggested ground intervention is the only way this war can end without either Gaddafi remaining in power or unacceptable civilian casualties on both sides. Despite earlier calls by the rebels for NATO to stay out of the ground war they are now calling for NATO ground forces to join the fight. 

"This reluctance and hesitation is allowing him  [Gaddafi] to suffocate the city. It's unbearable. It's getting to the point where it's troops on the ground – or it's over. We are so grateful and relieved by the international community's efforts, it's just that they didn't go the extra steps, and that has played into the tyrant's hands.
He [Gaddafi] will massacre the people of Misrata. If a massacre happens, [Nato's] credibility is on the line. Either they intervene immediately with troops on the ground – now, now, now – or we will all regret this. It's murderous and mad, the people of Misrata are paying the price."

The desperation in the language of the rebels shows how dire the straits are without intervention by NATO ground forces and that without help soon the Libyan rebellion will be crushed. Once again I fear that politics and bureaucracy of both NATO and the United Nations will not provide help in time and once again provide too little, far too late.