Ben Buchwalter

Ceasefire in DRC
October 31, 2008, 5:19 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs | Tags: ,

See articles below for more information. But I am skeptical of the ceasfire. Though I hope it will stick, it doesn’t seem likely. Keep an eye out for articles and let me know if you see any. 

Also, I still havn’t heard either of the candidates talk about the crisis in the Congo. Has anyone?

The Economist

Washington Post


NY Times


Shame on… Obama?
October 31, 2008, 3:30 pm
Filed under: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, General Politics | Tags: , ,

In recent weeks, rising in the polls, has Obama started to embrace the ultra-left side of the Democratic Party? All election season, I have been criticizing McCain’s decision to snub all media outlets except the ultra-right FOX news, and kicking off the liberal columnists Joe Klein of Time Magazine and Maureen Dowd of the New York Times. I am disappointed to see that Obama is trending the same way.

Just today, it has been reported that the Obama campaign has ousted representatives of the conservative-leaning Washington Times, New York Post, and Dallas Morning News from its campaign detail. The choice was made because, according to Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton, “We’re trying to reach as many swing voters that we can and unfortunately had to make some tough choices. But we are accommodating these folks in every way possible.”

I understand the reasoning, but it looks bad. Also, if you are trying to reach swing voters, it is probably useful to include the readership of conservative leaning publications, instead of, well, The New York Times.

Mostly, we should hold our candidate to a higher standard. Sure, McCain kicks liberals off his press detail because he is spiteful and Republicans are evil. But we shouldn’t be like that. Keep those who disagree with you close by so that they can ask the difficult questions. That is why the press follows candidates in the first place.

While I like to see Obama appealing to the lefties (sitting for an interview for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow), I still wonder if this could be his undoing on Election Day. I still think he will win, but if there is something that could bring him down, it will be an external event like Osama bin Laden’s video four days before the 2004 election, or an internal unraveling that gives conservatives a chance to attack Obama’s liberalism.

Where Did the Poor Go?
October 30, 2008, 9:15 pm
Filed under: 2008 Election, Economy | Tags: , ,

Another of Nielsen’s Blogs, Nielsen Wire, shows that Obama’s “infomercial” had a huge impact on the Primetime TV crowd last night. A few thoughts.

I thought that Obama’s infomercial was pretty good. I definitely felt inspired at times when he was talking about his general message and some of the vignettes about the regular working Americans worked well. In addition to targeting working class Americans in middle America, they were just interesting stories about people that I don’t hear much here in Philadelphia. I think that the infomercial did no harm and was just pretty good. I mean, if you have tons of money to waste, it was a good way to do it.

I did start thinking, though, about what it means that we are so obsessed with working class Americans. The middle class is VERY important and I’m obviously not saying that we need to be paying more attention to the most wealthy of us. But what happened to the extremely poor?

Though I wasn’t around for it, I get the feeling that Robert F. Kennedy’s Poverty Tour was focused on those who truly needed more help from the government in order to survive. The same is true for the welfare program, which has been reformed so many times that it barely exists today. Now we have the Earned Income Tax Credit program, which provides (not enough) funds for people who earn low wages, but almost nothing for those who just don’t work. But we aren’t talking about those people. Voters are not interested in helping out the extremely poor, whether they are homeless or mentally unstable or both. Voters are more accepting, though, of government programs that help the middle class, many of whom have lost jobs or are losing jobs because of the deindustrialization of the past few decades.

I am not saying that candidates should abandon the middle class in favor of the extremely poor. But it has become a foregone conclusion at this point that the election is a referendum on the economy. So let’s put the middle class and the extremely poor front and center and think about solving the economic woes for both of these groups.

Focusing only on the middle class while wiping the problem of homelessness under the rug indicates the cynicism of American candidates who will only adopt policies that benefit large voting blocks. In this election, that means working class voters are coddled to the detriment of those who are even poorer.

Barack’s infomercial definitely made a play for working class white Americans. But I’d like to see some acknowledgement of the poor as well.

October 30, 2008, 12:43 pm
Filed under: Random | Tags: , , ,

A Disturbing Truth
October 29, 2008, 4:57 pm
Filed under: 2008 Election, Foreign Affairs | Tags: , ,

You probably remember when Russia invaded Georgia only a few months ago. Seeming a threat to revive the Cold War, Russia’s invasion was all over the news. The United States quickly declared its support of Georgia and this became a pressing issue in the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama. John McCain even sent his own delegation to Georgia to assess the situation. Joe Biden suggested that the United States pledge $1 Billion in aid, a suggestion that was eventually adopted. This week, a group of Western donors pledged more than $4.5 Billion in aid to the post-soviet country. 

It’s not that this funding was inappropriate. I think that the international community was right to help this democracy after it was attacked by the former superpower that controlled it.

But I cannot help but wonder why this attack became such an international issue while the crisis in the Congo has flown under the radar. Since August, the deteriorating situation between the Congolese government and a rebel army led by Laurent Nkunda, who calls himself the protector of the Tutsis, has displaced more than 250,000 people.

This war could have a much more drastic result than the Georgia invasion if it does not conclude quickly. Congo’s Second Civil War (1998-2003) is often referred to as Africa’s World War because so many neighboring governments were pulled into the fighting. The civil war and the crisis that followed it has resulted in nearly 5.5 Million murders. As of January, 45,000 civilians continued to die per month, the same rate as directly after the Civil War.

Most haunting, is how the rival factions largely mirrored the Hutu/Tutsi conflict that led to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Rwanda borders the DRC to the east and could be pulled into their struggle if it remains a battle based on decades of Hutu/Tutsi hatred. After nearly being wiped out by the genocide in 1994, Rwandan Tutsis have consolidated control of the country and many have claimed that they are unlawfully suppressing the country’s Hutu majority, a claim that existed before the Hutus rose up to exterminate Tutsis in the 1990s. The fighting in the Congo could spill over to incite that hatred once again.

The New York Times has published a few articles about the crisis in the Congo, but the issue remains largely hushed within American politics. While we discuss Barack Obama’s character and John McCain’s age, people continue to be killed and displaced in central Africa because of their ethnic origin or ideological beliefs.

Are we still too afraid of the Dark Continent to protect it as we would countries with white majorities?

UPDATE: New NYT article. This situation could get a lot worse. Keep an eye out for it.

Latest McCain Scandal
October 29, 2008, 2:23 am
Filed under: Scandals

Obama’s First 100
October 28, 2008, 12:57 pm
Filed under: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, General Politics | Tags: , ,

So close to the end of this blockbuster campaign, it is time to start thinking about how these guys would actually govern. We should actually sit down and try to visualize what an Obama and McCain presidency would look like and what policies they would put through congress in the first year instead of focusing only on their generalities.

This morning, Pat Buchanan has written a dooming article about Obama’s first 100 days in office. It is a useful article because it talks specifically about what an Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate would try to accomplish in its first few months. The funny thing is, Buchanan is clearly presenting these accomplishments as negative. Here are a few examples:

Swift amnesty for 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens and a drive to make them citizens and register them, as in the Bill Clinton years. This will mean that Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona will soon move out of reach for GOP presidential candidates, as has California.

Taxes will be raised on the top 5 percent of wage-earners, who now carry 60 percent of the U.S. income tax burden, and tens of millions of checks will be sent out to the 40 percent of wage-earners who pay no federal income tax. Like the man said, redistribute the wealth, spread it around.

Two or three more liberal activists of the Ruth Bader Ginsberg-John Paul Stevens stripe will be named to the Supreme Court. U.S. district and appellate courts will be stacked with “progressives.”

The homosexual marriages that state judges have forced California, Massachusetts and Connecticut to recognize, an Obama Congress or Obama court will require all 50 states to recognize.

Affirmative action — hiring and promotions based on race, sex and sexual orientation until specified quotas are reached — will be rigorously enforced throughout the U.S. government and private sector.

Universal health insurance will be enacted, covering legal and illegal immigrants, providing another powerful magnet for the world to come to America, if necessary by breaching her borders.

The end of the article mocks, “Welcome to Obamaland.” There is so much wrong with his tone that I don’t know where to start. Let’s start, then, with the fact that Democrats, even if they wanted to, would never be able to do all of this in barely more than three months. They are too scared to lose their majority in the 2010 midterm elections to take such risks.

More important, though, is that Buchanan is essentially saying that these initiatives are negative. Even if you take his word for it, and accept the examples above as what the Democrats will actually do, they will restore the United States as a beacon of hope through immigration reform and universal health care, restore equality in the forms of affirmative action and gay rights, and appoint judges who will counteract the ruthless conservatives of Bush’s appointments Roberts and Alito.

Errr…. Bring it on. Buchanan seems to say that these policies represent an American doomsday with Obama as its messenger. But it all sounds pretty good to me.