Monday, January 31, 2011

Startup America

Startup America is the White House initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation. Watch the launch live starting at and learn more at

"Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the idea that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country. And in fulfilling this promise, entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs."
President Barack Obama, January 31, 2011

A Refreshing Model of Free Markets

An anecdote by Zach Foster

Today as I was driving home from the gym I saw a couple of kids had set up a lemonade stand on the corner near their home.  I’d just finished working out and was pretty thirsty, plus it’s always great to see kids earning their own cash, so I stopped and bought a glass of lemonade (which was delicious, they did a good job).  I evaluated the situation and was highly pleased with what I saw.

These two kids got their parents permission to pick some lemons from the tree in their yard and used them to make the sweet drink I was currently enjoying.  They also invested in buying plastic cups from the discount store.  Then they set up a stand which was attracting the business of thirsty passers by.  These kids, plain and simple, made a financial investment and created a job for themselves, in which they were turning a good profit.

Better yet, they also hired their little brother, who was a few years younger than them, to hold up their sign for drivers to see as they passed.  They not only created their own jobs, but also a job for their little brother.  He wasn’t making anywhere near as much money as his older siblings, but he was very young, probably too young to have the skills to set up his own stand.  He was very happy that he was making money.  What he didn’t realize was that on top of the money he was earning by working for his enterprising siblings, he was learning valuable skills so that he might one day set up his own lemonade stand.

After their business day was done, these kids most likely would have spent the money they made at the local toy store or candy store, thus stimulating the economy.  What these kids were doing was practicing a perfect model of the free market system.  I was genuinely impressed!  Then I chuckled, realizing that I had just supported not only these young entrepreneurs, but also the free market system in my community.  Then I laughed, knowing this would have infuriated my Marxist friends.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Interview with Candy Crowley of CNN's State Of The Union

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 30, 2011

QUESTION: Joining me now from the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Madam Secretary, thank you for being here.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Candy.

QUESTION: It seems to me that when this started out, and we saw the signs and the protestors in the street, they were anti-Mubarak. Now, if you are watching, we are seeing signs that say, “U.S., Stop Backing Mubarak.” What side is the U.S. on, Mubarak, or the people in the streets?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there’s another choice: it’s the Egyptian people. We’re on the side, as we have been for more than 30 years, of a democratic Egypt that provides both political and economic rights to its people, that respects the universal rights of all Egyptians. And that is the message that every ambassador, whether Republican or Democratic president, everyone has conveyed for over 30 years.

What happens is truly up to the Egyptian people. And what the United States is doing is sending a very clear message – we wish to see everyone refrain from violence. The Army is now fulfilling security responsibilities. They are a respected institution in Egyptian society, and we know they have a delicate line to walk, because they want to protect peaceful protest, but they also don’t want to see any city descend into chaos with looting and criminal activity. And we are encouraging a very careful approach that respects the rights of people.

We are also very much behind the kind of concrete steps that need to be taken for economic and political reform. We have, over the past 30 years, supported civil society groups, we have supported women’s groups, we have tried to help build up a lot of the elements within Egyptian society that are going to be necessary when there is a national dialogue, as we are urging, to determine the path forward.

And clearly, Candy, this is a complex, very difficult situation. Egypt has been a partner of the United States over the last 30 years, has been instrumental in keeping the peace in the Middle East between Egypt and Israel, which is a critical accomplishment that has meant so much to so many people. So I think we have to keep on the message we’ve been on, convey that publicly and privately, as we are doing, and stand ready to help with the kind of transition that will lead to greater political and economic freedom.

QUESTION: The President’s remarks, in which he said much of what you just said, warning against huge crackdowns against peaceful protestors, saying we’ve got to see some concrete steps towards opening up political reform and advancing it, it’s been interpreted here by many, and some overseas, as a beginning to back away from President Mubarak. Do you argue with that translation?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We do not want to send any message about backing forward or backing back. What we’re trying to do is to help clear the air, so that those who remain in power, starting with President Mubarak, with his new vice president, with the new prime minister, will begin a process of reaching out, of creating a dialogue that will bring in peaceful activists and representatives of civil society to plan a way forward that will meet the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people.

There is no easy answer. And clearly, increasing chaos or even violence in the streets, prison breaks which we have had reports about, that is not the way to go. We want to see this peaceful uprising on the part of the Egyptian people to demand their rights, to be responded to in a very clear, unambiguous way by the government, and then a process of national dialogue that will lead to the changes that the Egyptian people seek and that they deserve.

Now, that will take time. It is unlikely to be done overnight without very grave consequences for everyone involved. So what we want to see is, as we have said over and over again, the concrete steps taken. It took 30 years to have a vice president appointed. We want to see both the existing and any new members of any government continue to put real life into what President Mubarak himself said, which were concrete steps toward democratic and economic reform.

QUESTION: If I could, the people that we are seeing – and certainly that you are seeing – don’t seem like the type that want to wait another 30 years for a full democracy. So –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, of course not.

QUESTION: So, what I – when we look at these demonstrations, when we talk to some of the people involved in it, it does not seem that even if President Mubarak were to do everything you have now laid out, that he is at all acceptable. Do you think that President Mubarak can survive this?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Again, Candy, this is going to be up to the Egyptian people. But let’s look at what we have. We have a calendar that already has elections for the next president scheduled. So there is an action-enforcing event that is already on the calendar. Can there be efforts made to really respond to the political desires of the people so that such an election is free and fair and credible?

There are many steps that can be taken by reaching out to those who have advocated a peaceful, orderly transition to greater democracy, where the Egyptian people themselves get to express their views.

QUESTION: But from what you’ve seen –

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s what we wish to see.

QUESTION: From what you have seen, will that be enough? If he takes those steps and says, “Hey, we have already got pre-scheduled elections coming up,” is that enough to keep him in power?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, no. Much has to be done. And we are not advocating any specific outcome. We are advocating that the government, the representatives of the civil society, the political opposition and activists begin a dialogue to chart a course. Egypt is a large, complex, very important country. I don’t think the Egyptian people want to see what is a very clear effort to obtain political and economic rights turn into any kind of new form of oppression or suppression or violence or letting loose criminal elements. That’s not what they’re in the streets protesting for.

So, how do we get from where they are today to where they would like to be? It needs to be done immediately, with a process that brings people to the table, and that the Egyptian people can see, “Oh, I know So-and-So. He represents a group that has been advocating for democracy for many years.” This is going to be a legitimate effort that is going to result in changes that will have responded to the needs and the voices of the people who have been protesting.

QUESTION: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a busy woman these days. We thank you for your time.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Candy.

This transcript was released to the public by the State Department.

Interview with Bob Schieffer of CBS's Face the Nation

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateWashington, DC
January 30, 2011

QUESTION: We’re just off the line with Liz Palmer, our person in Cairo, and during her report, F-16s, Egyptian air force warplanes, apparently were flying low over the demonstrators in the main part of Cairo. Do you know what this is about?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Bob, I don’t, and let me repeat again what President Obama and I have been saying, and that is to urge the Egyptian security forces to show restraint, to not respond in any way through violence or intimidation. That falls upon the peaceful protestors who are demanding that their grievances be heard. And obviously, our reports up until now have been that the Egyptian army had taken up positions, that they were showing such restraint. And we strongly urge that that continue.

What the people who are in
Tahrir Square
and elsewhere in Egypt are protesting for is the right to participate in their government, to have economic opportunity, for their human rights to be respected. We are very clearly asking both in public and private that the Egyptian authorities respond to that, that they start a process of national dialogue that will lead to a transition to such democracy, and what President Mubarak himself said the other day – that they would begin to take concrete steps for democratic and economic reform – we expect to see happen.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, do you think those things are possible if President Mubarak stays in office, or is he eventually going to have to leave?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to speculate, Bob. What we are focused on now is a transition that will meet the needs of the Egyptian people and that will truly establish democracy, not just for one election and then no more elections after that, or not for radicals, extremists, violent elements to take over. We want to see the – what really was at the core of the protests, which were people saying, “Hey, we deserve a better life. We deserve more opportunity to be respected and responded to.” And that is what we’ve been conveying and that’s what we will continue to make very clear, and we stand ready to assist.

QUESTION: Do you – are you concerned that if President Mubarak does go, it may give an opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been the opposition to his government for so many years, could somehow come to power? I think most people agree they were not the start of this or the cause of these demonstrations. But where do you see – what role do you see them playing if Mr. – President Mubarak should go?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I’m not speculating about who goes or who stays. And I’m not prepared to comment on what kind of democratic process the Egyptian people can construct for themselves. But we obviously want to see people who are truly committed to democracy, not to imposing any ideology on Egyptians. And therefore, we would like to encourage that people who have been the voice of protest and been the voice of civil society be the ones at the table trying to design what would be an orderly transition to meet the democratic and economic needs of the people.

Bob, we’re all very conscious of the fact that Egypt is an incredibly important country, a large country with great influence in the region and meaning for the Arab world. And we want to see the outcome of what started as peaceful protests legitimately demanding redress for grievances to result in a true democracy. Not a phony one like we saw with Iranian elections, not to see a small group that doesn’t represent the full diversity of Egyptian society take over and try to impose their own religious or ideological beliefs. We want to see the full diversity and dynamism of Egyptian society represented.

QUESTION: Do you believe that his appointment of a new vice president – is that helpful?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s something that American Government representatives have been urging and requesting for 30 years. I talked – I’ve talked with former ambassadors over the last weeks who have said, “Boy, I remember when I went in in 1980-this or 1990-that.” So yes, it’s something we have said is absolutely imperative. It finally has happened. There are some new people taking responsibility in government. We hope that they can contribute to the kind of democratic and economic reforms that the people of Egypt deserve.

QUESTION: So far, though, it does not seem that anything that Mr. Mubarak has said or done up until this point has, in any way, tempered these demonstrations. I mean, things seem to be getting worse rather than better.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think there are several things going on. But first and foremost, words alone are not enough. There have to be actions. There has to be a demonstrable commitment to the kind of reforms that we all know are needed and desired, but also too, there is now, unfortunately, in addition to the legitimate, peaceful protests that are going on, lots of reports of looting, prison breaks, and the like. So it makes the situation much more complicated than it even was before, because everyone wants to ensure that the right of assembly, the right of association, the right of free expression be protected, that there be no violence against the protests.

At the same time, people in the streets have to refrain from violence themselves. And I’ve heard many stories of Egyptians protecting their national museum, protecting their homes. And they’re protecting them from looters and from criminals. So this is an incredibly complex set of circumstances, and we are hoping and praying that the authorities will be able to respond to the legitimate requests for participation by the peaceful protestors. Let’s begin to see some meetings with representatives of the government and representatives of civil society. Let’s begin to see some steps taken that will lead toward free, fair, and credible elections in the future.

Those will begin to put some substance behind the words and give the protestors who are trying to see a future for Egypt that is responsive to their needs a reality that they can hang onto.

QUESTION: All right. Madam Secretary, thank you so much.


This transcript was released to the public by the State Department

Situation in Egypt: Interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday

Interview with Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 30, 2011

QUESTION: Joining us now from the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Secretary, President Obama on Friday called on Mubarak to recognize the rights of the Egyptian people. Are you satisfied with the steps that Mubarak has taken so far?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I don’t think anyone is satisfied, least of all the Egyptian the people, who have legitimate grievances and are seeking greater political freedom, a real path to democracy, and economic opportunity. And for 30 years, the United States, through Republican and Democratic administrations, has been urging the Mubarak government to take certain steps. In fact, we’ve been urging that a vice president be appointed for decades, and that finally has happened.

But there’s a long way to go, Chris, and our hope is that we do not see violence; we see a dialogue opening that reflects the full diversity of Egyptian civil society, that has the concrete steps for democratic and economic reform that President Mubarak himself said that he was going to pursue, and that we see the respect for human rights for Egyptian people and the kind of progress that will lead to a much more open, political, and economic set of opportunities for the Egyptian people.

QUESTION: Secretary, all of your answer has been couched in terms of President Mubarak. Does that mean that the Obama Administration still backs Mubarak as the legitimate president of Egypt?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have been very clear that we want to see a transition to democracy, and we want to see the kind of steps taken that will bring that about. We also want to see an orderly transition. Right now, from everything we know, the army has taken up positions. They are responding very positively thus far to the peaceful protests. But at the same time, we have a lot of reports of looting and criminal activity that is not going to be particularly helpful to what we want to see happen, and that has to be dealt with.

So there are many, many steps along the journey that has been started by the Egyptian people themselves, and we wish to support that.

QUESTION: Secretary, you talk about an orderly transition. How concerned are you that if Mubarak were to be suddenly thrown from power that Islamic radicals could fill the void?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Chris, we want to see an orderly transition so that no one fills a void, that there not be a void – that there be a well thought out plan that will bring about a democratic, participatory government. And I also believe strongly that this is in Egypt’s long-term interests, it’s in the interests of the partnership that the United States has with Egypt. So that is what we are attempting to promote and support, because clearly, what we don’t want is chaos. I don’t think the Egyptian people want that. They want their grievances to be addressed. We also don’t want to see some takeover that would lead not to democracy, but to oppression and the end of the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

So this is an intensely complex situation. It does not lend itself to quick yes-or-no, easy answers, but instead, I think the path that President Obama has charted, that we are pursuing, that calls for no violence, that supports the aspirations and human rights of the Egyptian people, that stands behind concrete steps toward democratic and economic reform is the right path for all of us to be on.

QUESTION: Secretary, on Tuesday, after the protests had already started in Cairo, you said this:

SECRETARY CLINTON: Our assessment is that the Egyptian Government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.

QUESTION: A number of protestors in the streets said based on that remark and other actions that the U.S. was acting on the side of the regime, not of the protestors. Was that statement by you a mistake?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Chris, we recognize the volatility of the situation, and we are trying to do exactly what I have just said – to promote orderly transition and change that will respond to the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, which is what the protests are all about. I don’t think anyone wants to see instability, chaos, increasing violence. That is not in anyone’s interest.

So what President Obama and I have been doing is sending a very clear message about where the United States stands. We want to see an orderly transition to a democratic government, to economic reforms – exactly what the protestors are seeking. At the same time, we want to recognize Egypt has been our partner. They’ve been our partner in a peace process that has kept the region from war for over 30 years, which has saved a lot of lives – Egyptian lives, Israeli lives, other lives.

We want to continue to make it absolutely a American priority that – what we’ve been saying for 30 years – is that real stability rests in democracy, participation, economic opportunity. How we get from where we are to where we know the Egyptian people want to be and deserve to be is what this is about now. So we are urging the Mubarak government, which is still in power; we are urging the military, which is a very respected institution in Egypt, to do what is necessary to facilitate that kind of orderly transition.

QUESTION: And briefly, Secretary, should Americans currently in Egypt leave the country?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are following the conditions for American citizens extremely closely. This is one of my highest responsibilities, Chris. And we have authorized voluntary departure, which means that we will assist American citizens to leave Egypt. We have warned that there should not be any nonessential travel to Egypt. Thankfully, right now, there are no reports of Americans killed or injured. Again, I thank the Egyptian army for the support and security that they have provided. But we are watching it closely and we are assisting Americans who wish to leave.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, we want to thank you so much for talking with us today.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.

This transcript was released to the public by the State Department.

Your Weekly Address: Out-Innovating, Out-Educating, and Out-Building Our Competitors

The President discusses his visit to a company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and how it exemplified his agenda for America to “win the future” spelled out in the State of the Union Address.

Watch the video at

Reader Response to ‘The Revolution in Egypt’

The Revolution in Egypt’ received a interesting and thought-provoking response by Palmetto Patriot, one of our occasional contributors at the Political Spectrum.  What he wrote may be read on the original story page.  Thanks for the input, Michael!

The tragedy of the Spanish Civil War is that fascism became an official system of government, and by the second year of the war it was pretty much Team Red Imperialist vs. Team Fascist Imperialist.  To his credit, Franco's regime stayed within Spain's borders, but Nazi Germany/Italy and the USSR, who all sent troops ("advisors/"volunteers") to their selected teams, sure as hell didn't honor boundaries in their tenures.  Many of the war crimes in Spain were committed by these foreign fighters (ex: Picasso's Guernica, conveying the aftermath of a German bombing).  The only difference between Red Internationalism and Fascism is that Fascism puts one people and nation above all others and subject to impose on all others, while Red Internationalism recognizes no other nations and only the rights of the working class (on the collective level, NOT the individual level) as we are all in "solidarity".  Many Communist countries have done their “internationalist duty” of bringing Communism to other countries, be it by funding political parties or committing “liberations” via military force (ex: Georgia 1921, Hungary 1956, Tibet 1950). Damn, now it seems like there's not much of a difference at all.

The tragedy in Spain is quite similar to the Chinese Civil War, which was fought between the armies of Mao, a totalitarian Communist, and Chiang, a totalitarian fascist.  I cannot support the Fascists because they resorted to insurgency and force of arms not to secede from, but to overthrow an existing democratically elected government.  Nonetheless, those who were fighting at the end of the war were not the same people who fought in the beginning.  By 1938-39 it became a matter of which side was less evil.

In regards to your statistic about how many countries U.S. troops are stationed in, that is very true.  While I am a Unionist and do support the occupation of the Axis countries defeated in World War II (case in point: the Holocaust, Nanking and Shanghai, and gassed Ethiopia), I agree with your opinion that we definitely don’t need troops in all those countries.  While some governments have actually invited or asked us to send troops to protect them from foreign aggressors (like Kuwait after being annexed by Iraq in 1990, and Belgium and Luxembourg, twice invaded and brutalized by Germany) many countries simply don’t need an American presence and, frankly, don’t deserve them.  Is the United States planning to colonize all those territories?  Either it is or it isn’t.  If there will be a formal annexation of foreign territory, I recommend at least having the decency to turn these annexed territories into full and formal states with two senators on Capitol Hill, rather than allow the indigenous peoples to remain imperial lackeys.

In the case of Egypt, I’m impressed with the President and the State Department for not intervening in this affair.  The Egyptian people deserve their chance at democracy and self determination and this may be their only one.  I was inspired by reading Congressman Ron Paul’s The Revolution, and since reading that book in early 2009 I’ve been kicking myself endlessly for not voting for him.  Any other reader responses or essay submissions are welcome.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

State of the Union: The Revolution In Egypt

By Zach Foster

This is one in a series of articles responding to issues discussed by the President in his 2011 State of the Union address.

There is political turmoil in Egypt as the future of the Arab Republic is unknown.  People have been taking to the streets, protesting, even rioting, calling for an immediate end to the current twenty-nine year-old Presidency of Hosni Mubarak, as well as an end of the tenures of many members of the government.  This five-day old revolution has begun a critical point in which the people have rejected government authority and are demonstrating how they are no longer under its control.  Mubarak instituted martial law and a curfew which police and the army are actively failing to enforce as they take a semi-neutral stance in the matter.  Many government officials as well as members of the parliament have simply packed up and left the country.  It is clear that the Egyptian people are tired of the current regime and they simply want true democracy and self determination.  The popular uprising may turn the Arab Republic into a phoenix, as the regime is poised to fall while from its ashes the republic is ready to be reborn in democracy that comes about of the people, by the people, and for the people.

The world is watching the Egyptian people of the Arab Republic, especially in the United States.  Socialist and Communist parties and organizations are waving red flags, raising banners, and claiming solidarity with the working class of Egypt.  This is what Socialists and Communists do whenever there is a major change in the world: they shout solidarity, pledge moral support, and ride the coat tails of revolutions and secular political movements from the safety of their college campuses and video blogs.  Not since the days of the Abraham Lincoln brigade have American Reds had the courage to actually fight to oppose tyranny.  Yet here they are, having their political demonstrations, looking good for the newspapers and the cameras.  However, their bubble of delusion must be burst.  The uprising in Egypt is not a proletarian revolution, but rather a movement of all the Egyptian people, rich or poor, land-owning or not, who have felt betrayed or victimized by the abuses of the Mubarak regime.  The Egyptian people of all classes do not identify with Western leftist “intellectuals,” nor do they wish to.

On the right, American conservatives are watching the revolution and wondering what Barack Obama is going to do about it, waiting intently and hungrily to have something else with which to demonize his Presidency.  There is much talk of the Suez canal.  “Oh no!  Egypt controls the Suez canal!  What will this do to world peace?  What is Barack Obama going to do about this?!”  The answer is: nothing.  There is nothing the President can do, nor anything that he should do.  It is true that there are several hundred American troops there as part of the 1,500~ strong Multinational Force and Observers on the Sinai Peninsula.  They are not in danger.  The MFO’s mission is strictly to deter Egypt and Israel from going to war, nothing more.  The Constitution makes no provisions whatsoever for intervention in foreign affairs, and Congress takes no actions against peaceful movements.  The fate of the Arab Republic is up to the Egyptian people and no one else.  Let peace and democracy reign in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.

Friday, January 28, 2011

State of the Union: Restoration of Education, Part 1

By Zach Foster

This is one in a series of articles responding to issues discussed by the President in his 2011 State of the Union address.

One critical element the President mentioned that needs improvement is education.  He cited that half the jobs in America require higher education, yet one out of four American teens does continue with education past high school.  This is indeed a problem, and one that is attributed to multiple factors in today’s society.

The greatest contributing factor to the rate of college graduates (and the quality of education) water sliding down into oblivion is the hollowness of standards and curriculum.  Fifty years ago, the basic curriculum of most American high schools was entirely more worldly and sophisticated than it is today.  Students used to read Shakespeare in middle school and they would learn advanced algebra and read the ancient philosophers in high school.  One social critic named Tom R, a politically active Republican from Mariposa County and a good friend of the author’s, stated that “I saw the math and English homework my son was working on in his second year of college and I instantly recognized it.  It was the same material I’d mastered by my sophomore year in high school.”  This is a testimony to the severe dumbing down of curriculum in high schools and colleges alike.  Why would teachers and professors destroy the curriculum?  There are many causes to speculate.

Jack Wood, an English and Advanced Rhetoric teacher at Citrus College, writes about the travesty of today’s education in his book The Voice of Reason.  He elaborates on several absurdities:

“Second and third-rate colleges in America are now run like Soviet committees after the Revolution.  Everything that ruined education in America began in the sixties, when liberals replaced something that worked with something that sounded good.  As if they were the only people who ever thought of it, half-bright professors at colleges where it was easy to get a job changed the job description of professor from ‘teaching the basucs’ to ‘taking a more activist role in changing society.’”

“Once again, the time frame of reference is about the same: 30 years ago.  That’s when the serious, analytical study of literature for its own sake—as a treasure of knowledge and art, was mugged and taken over by charlatans with a sociological agenda—who use literature to advance their own personal causes.”

The author of this article was talking with his sister about her son (his nephew), and the major complaint regarded his history teacher: “She actually said to my face, ‘Oh, history’s not important.  We just teach the kids how to pass a test.’”

All these anecdotes are testimony of the watering down of academic curriculum in public schools.  They also testify that mediocrity not only prevails, but has become a standard in its own right.  The first step to restoring education in America is doing away with mediocrity (in both public and private schools).  Standards must be raised.  Unfortunately, because of massive deficiencies in education, standards will have to be raised slowly over a period of five to ten years in order to not destroy the students of this generation who have no control over the mediocrity forced into their brains.

Part 2: Turn the tables! Reeducate the teachers!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

State of the Union: Why Afghanistan? Part 2 of 2

By Zach Foster

This is the first in a series of responses to the many issues brought up in President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address.

Continued from Part 1.

Osama Bin Laden has proven to be actively involved in leading both Al Qaeda and the Taliban to wage jihad against the West.  At this point in time, Al Qaeda is out of Afghanistan, but the Taliban remain, and they have fought and clawed for every inch of ground the Coalition has taken from them.  They are terrorists who continuously use violence and murder against civilians to bring about their warped vision of a radical fundamentalist Islamic utopia.

Many people say, “Al Qaeda is gone, and as long as the Taliban stays inside Afghanistan, what goes on in that country is none of our business.  We have no business in Afghanistan!”  This falsehood is the result of grievously misguided judgments.  First and foremost, there is a war on and the present situation applies to the old shop proverb “You break it, you buy it.”  The United States military decapitated the Taliban government and leadership, and it would be completely irresponsible to abandon the new fledgling democratic Afghan government, since Afghanistan’s history has shown that fledgling democracies are quickly preyed on by the wolves.

American presence and assistance has been requested by the people of Afghanistan who dared to live outside of Taliban totalitarianism.  What many don’t know about the country is that it has been in a continuous state of civil war since 1977.  Nearly sixty years of peace in Afghanistan were interrupted in 1977 when the Communist party took over in a coup, actively taking steps to remove freedom of religion from the Afghan people.  The Communist phase, which included ten years of Soviet intervention, lasted until 1992. From 1992 to 1996 was the most chaotic phase of civil war, most of the time being fought three ways by three or more factions, ending with the victory of the Taliban.  Then from 1996 to 2001 saw the resistance against the Taliban by the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (the Northern Alliance)—our allies against the Taliban—who wanted nothing but to live free of radical religious totalitarian violence.  For years the Northern Alliance begged the world for help.  This help was ironically delivered into their hands when Al Qaeda brought down the towers.

Since then, with American intervention and the precious investment of American blood, the veterans of the Northern Alliance who bravely fought for freedom are now the leaders and a large portion of the ranks of what we know today as the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.  Even better, the people of Afghanistan are voting in their own elections and slowly practicing free market.  The U.S.’s current mission for Afghanistan is to help their government to grow strong enough to take over its own fighting and to eventually stabilize its own country.  This mission has been working in Iraq.  Regardless of how people felt about the morality of the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, we broke it, so it was our responsibility to fix it.  Now the Iraqi army and police are fighting their own war against insurgents, which has greatly wound down.  The Iraq War has been long, but the end is in sight, and it will be worth it.

Will peace and stability happen quickly?  No.  After the end of the Korean War, there was still much violence on the Demilitarized Zone, but with American assistance, the South Koreans were able to build up their military and their economy.  It took nearly three decades for South Korea to become a pure democracy, but today it is a model country.  South Korea is democratic and an industrial and military powerhouse, because the United States protected it from the North.  In 1972 and 1973, Vietnamization was working in favor of the South Vietnamese, who were able to win military victories against the North Vietnamese, with some American air power assisting them, such as in the battle of An Loc.  The South Vietnamese stopped a major North Vietnamese offensive in 1972.  However, Americans lost faith in the war and Congress broke the defense treaty with South Vietnam, and the people of the South were left defenseless against the North, which violated peace agreements, rebuilt its army, and launched a once-and-for-all massive invasion.

It will be a long road, but we must not abandon the Afghan people in their time of need.  Three decades from now, Afghanistan and Iraq can be like South Korea.  It is our responsibility to protect the Afghan people from the wolves a little longer, so that Afghanistan does not become the Taliban’s prey like South Vietnam was for the north.

President Obama's YouTube Interview

Today at President Obama participated in a live interview to answer citizens' questions submitted on YouTube.

And throughout the day policy experts from the White House and around the Administration answered questions about the State of the Union. Check out the full line-up and tune in at

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union: Why Afghanistan? Part 1 of 2

By Zach Foster

This is the first in a series of responses to the many issues brought up in President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address.

The President praised our armed forces and the people of Afghanistan and Iraq’s hard work in bringing about greater success in the Middle East.  He credited the armed forces with raising up the Iraqi armed forces, enabling them to take over combat duties against insurgents.  He reminded the American people that this is also our goal for Afghanistan’s armed forces in the war against the Taliban.  Most of Congress applauded this praise of the American, Afghan, and Iraqi armed forces.  After all, what member of Congress would dare not show support for the troops?  Publicly, few or none.  Privately, many of them harbor massive doubts to the morality of the mission in Afghanistan and the likelihood of success.  What doubts these individuals harbor privately, many American citizens voice publicly.

Many ask the question, “Why Afghanistan?”  The immediate response should be “How could you have forgotten?”  After all, unlike the 2003 invasion of Iraq which was loosely at best linked with Al Qaeda, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was a direct response.  Most Americans can easily remember what happened in 2001 and mentioning it here would be redundant.  Nonetheless, in 2001, Al Qaeda was very actively involved in operating jihad from within Afghanistan’s borders as well as influencing many of the country’s affairs.

Many would say, “Al Qaeda no longer has a presence in Afghanistan.  We shouldn’t be there anymore!  What does Al Qaeda have to do with the Taliban?”  The answer is: everything.  The Taliban was originally a fraternal organization to Al Qaeda, which openly allowed Al Qaeda to wage jihad from within Afghan borders, as well as occasionally aiding them.  The Taliban represent radical fundamentalist jihadist terror in Afghanistan.  Al Qaeda represents radical fundamentalist jihadist terror throughout the world.  Al Qaeda may be out of Afghanistan, but the Taliban remains a force to be reckoned with.  Furthermore, the two organizations share leadership.  The founder and number one leader of Al Qaeda is Osama Bin Laden, who is also the number two leader of the Taliban.

How did he become a man of two hats?  First, he attained a high position of leadership in the Mujahideen during the Soviet War.  He eventually returned to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, after the three-way phase of the Afghan civil war, to guide Al Qaeda and the Taliban in waging jihad against the West.  He praised the Taliban’s Afghanistan as “the only true Muslim country in the world.”  Then the towers and the Pentagon were attacked.

Part 2: propping Afghanistan and Iraq to be the Middle East’s South Korea, NOT the next South Vietnam

Reader Submission: The TSA and Airline Terror!

This graphic was submitted by one our readers, Lauren J, regarding the TSA and the terrors of airport security.  The graphic is visually creative in communicating various statistics and bits of information.  It can also be found at  You can also find the html code there in case you'd like to add it to your own web page.  Thanks, Lauren!

Anyone else with an original image or article relevant to political issues and current events may email submissions here.  Keep in mind that we will not post anything spouting hatred or intolerance, inciting violence, or depicting obscenity.

--Representative Zach Foster

Remarks With Sudanese Foreign Minister Ahmen Ali Karti

January 26, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: I am pleased to welcome to the State Department today the foreign minister of Sudan. Minister Karti is here consulting with our government on a number of the issues that Sudan is dealing with in the very important period of what is occurring with the South and their vote and the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

We very much appreciate the Government of Sudan’s cooperation and assistance in ensuring a peaceful referendum, and we look forward to continuing to work with the minister and the government as we move forward.

FOREIGN MINISTER KARTI: Well, I thank you. I’ve been here for the first visit – first official visit to State and I very much commend the way and thank the way I was received and welcomed. And all doors were open for me to discuss the issues of bilateral relations and issues both of standing issues, also brand new issues in Sudan. We have been able to go on with the process with the South and for sure with the assistance and help of U.S.

We came here also to thank U.S. Administration for all they had done for the people of Sudan and for making it possible for us, two partners, to sit down together, go on until concludes that agreement and throughout the implementation till it is peacefully a point, a very important point of time. And we are here also to look toward the future and are also ready to cooperate and work together with (inaudible) the Secretary and everybody who is here.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Minister.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.

Inauguration of the Afghan Parliament

Philip J. Crowley
Washington, DC
January 26, 2011

The United States congratulates the Government and people of Afghanistan on the inauguration of their Parliament. We commend the voters, in particular, who have steadfastly and courageously supported peace and democracy despite tremendous challenges. We look forward to supporting the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as the executive, legislative, and judicial branches work together to advance the priorities of the Afghan people.

The President's Speech and Your Questions

Good afternoon,

Did you catch President Obama's State of the Union Address last night?  If you missed it, it's worth a watch:

As the President said last night, the most important contest we face as a nation is not between our political parties – it's a contest among our competitors across the globe for the jobs and industries of the future. It’s about winning the future.

To win that contest, we must out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.  We must take responsibility for our deficit and reform the way government works, so that it’s leaner, smarter and better equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

But last night's speech was just the start of this conversation.

We want to hear directly from you, and President Obama himself will be answering some of your questions in a live interview tomorrow at   And throughout the day tomorrow, policy experts from the White House and around the Administration will be available for in-depth discussions on some of the critical issues that affect you.

Learn more about these events and find out how you can submit your questions:
Here's the lineup for tomorrow on
: Economy Roundtable with Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers
: Foreign Policy Roundtable with Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor
: Live YouTube interview with President Barack Obama
: Education Roundtable with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
: Health Care Roundtable with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius

We're looking forward to answering your questions tomorrow.

David Plouffe
Senior Advisor to the President

Libertarian response to State of the Union and Republicans

WASHINGTON - This evening, Libertarian Party Executive Director Wes Benedict spoke in response to the addresses from President Barack Obama and Congressman Paul Ryan.

Mr. Benedict's speech may be viewed online here.

A transcript of Mr. Benedict's speech follows:

Good evening and thank you for your interest in the State of our Union.

My name is Wes Benedict. I'm the executive director of the Libertarian National Committee here in Washington, DC. The Libertarian Party stands for free markets, civil liberties, and peace.

Tonight we heard from President Barack Obama and a response from Republican Congressman Paul Ryan.

President Obama says he wants a freeze in non-security, discretionary spending. In the unlikely event that happens, it won't really matter, because to make a real dent in the deficit, it's necessary to cut spending on the military and entitlements. The president promised big government in the past, and he delivered. I expect more of the same.

However, Obama has truly been a hypocrite on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a candidate, he promised to end them. Tonight we heard more hollow promises. The fact is, as president, he has kept those wars going, and has greatly escalated the war in Afghanistan. As a percentage of GDP, military spending is higher now than it was during any year of the George W. Bush administration.

Unlike President Obama, Libertarians would bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and reduce the military budget.

On the Republican side, I found Congressman Paul Ryan's hypocrisy appalling. He claims to want big cuts in government spending. But he didn't seem to be too worried about cutting spending when Republicans were in charge. He supported the huge Medicare expansion in 2003, and the expensive No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. He supports the expensive War on Drugs. In 2008, he put hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars at risk by voting for the massive TARP bailout, and he even voted to spend billions on the GM and Chrysler bailout.

Just one month ago, Congressman Ryan voted for the tax compromise that included a big increase in unemployment spending, and even extensions of government spending on ethanol.

Republicans don't want to cut spending -- they want to talk about cutting spending.

Congressman Paul Ryan is a perfect example of why Republicans are bad for America.

Republicans' plans for Social Security and Medicare are little more than a distraction. It's time for someone to have the guts to tell seniors the truth: You were promised way too much, and now we've got to make major cuts. I'm asking retirees to think about the enormous debts piling up on your children and grandchildren.

Libertarians would stop spending billions on bailouts, the War on Drugs, federal education programs, and we would end mandatory Social Security and Medicare.

Today, America is a country that attracts hardworking immigrants from Mexico and around the world, leaving countries that are less free and prosperous. Libertarians welcome these immigrants warmly. But I often wonder if -- in 20 years -- America will still be a great place to live, or if it will be another declining civilization fraught with poverty and abuse that your children want to leave.

The future of America may depend on the Libertarian Party steering us towards liberty and away from tyranny.

The Libertarian Party is America's third-largest party, and one of the most successful alternative parties in American history.

We are recruiting bold, principled men and women dedicated to freedom to fill leadership positions and to run for office as Libertarians.

You don't have to agree with every single Libertarian position to join the Libertarian Party. You can still make a difference and help us move our country towards freedom.

The Libertarian Party has more information at our website, Please visit and join the Libertarian Party today.

Thank you and good night.

For more information, or to arrange an interview, call LP Executive Director Wes Benedict at 202-333-0008 ext. 222.

The LP is America's third-largest political party, founded in 1971. The Libertarian Party stands for free markets, civil liberties, and peace. You can find more information on the Libertarian Party at our website.

P.S. If you have not already done so, please join the Libertarian Party. We are the only political party dedicated to free markets and civil liberties. You can also renew your membership. Or, you can make a contribution separate from membership.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The State of the Union, 2011 (Full speech) Part 5

Remarks of President Barack Obama in State of the Union Address
State of the Union Address, Washington, DC

Recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be our power – it must be the purpose behind it.  In South Sudan – with our assistance – the people were finally able to vote for independence after years of war. Thousands lined up before dawn. People danced in the streets. One man who lost four of his brothers at war summed up the scene around him: “This was a battlefield for most of my life. Now we want to be free.”

We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.

We must never forget that the things we’ve struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country.

Tonight, let us speak with one voice in reaffirming that our nation is united in support of our troops and their families.  Let us serve them as well as they have served us – by giving them the equipment they need; by providing them with the care and benefits they have earned; and by enlisting our veterans in the great task of building our own nation.

Our troops come from every corner of this country – they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.  And with that change, I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.

We should have no illusions about the work ahead of us. Reforming our schools; changing the way we use energy; reducing our deficit – none of this is easy. All of it will take time. And it will be harder because we will argue about everything. The cost. The details. The letter of every law.

Of course, some countries don’t have this problem. If the central government wants a railroad, they get a railroad – no matter how many homes are bulldozed. If they don’t want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn’t get written.

And yet, as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.

We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything’s possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.

That dream is why I can stand here before you tonight. That dream is why a working class kid from Scranton can stand behind me.  That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.

That dream – that American Dream – is what drove the Allen Brothers to reinvent their roofing company for a new era. It’s what drove those students at Forsyth Tech to learn a new skill and work towards the future. And that dream is the story of a small business owner named Brandon Fisher.

Brandon started a company in Berlin, Pennsylvania that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. One day last summer, he saw the news that halfway across the world, 33 men were trapped in a Chilean mine, and no one knew how to save them.

But Brandon thought his company could help. And so he designed a rescue that would come to be known as Plan B. His employees worked around the clock to manufacture the necessary drilling equipment. And Brandon left for Chile.

Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000 foot hole into the ground, working three or four days at a time with no sleep. Thirty-seven days later, Plan B succeeded, and the miners were rescued. But because he didn’t want all of the attention, Brandon wasn’t there when the miners emerged. He had already gone home, back to work on his next project.

Later, one of his employees said of the rescue, “We proved that Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things.”

We do big things.

From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That’s how we win the future.

We are a nation that says, “I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company. I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree. I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try. I’m not sure how we’ll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we’ll get there. I know we will.”

We do big things.

The idea of America endures. Our destiny remains our choice. And tonight, more than two centuries later, it is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.

Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.