And the kindara (shoe) drops…

By Michael Vass | September 19, 2014

With the approval from the House of Representatives on Wednesday, and the Senate on September 18, 2014, for the Obama Administration plan to arm Syrian rebels attention has now focused on who are the Syrian rebels. One of the key names mentioned, for the first time by a US official, by James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, is the Khorasan Group. A name that goes directly to the fears of arming Syrian rebels.

As previously discussed, Islamic State (ISIS) was a fringe terrorist organization that gained a resurgence due to the Syrian civil war. In part, that resurgence is due to confiscation of arms and resources from the US. Those arms were meant for moderate anti-Assad forces in Syria, but have since been used in ISIS attempt to sweep through Iraq.

As stated by Secretary of State John Kerry, to Senator Bob Corker, on the question of what Arab nation will put boots on the ground as part of President Obama’s coalition to fight ISIS,

“At this moment, no country has been ask to put boots on the ground, or no country is talking of it, and we don’t think it’s a good idea right now. There is no discussion of that at this moment.”- @ 2:49 in the video above

Yet as stated by Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to the House Intelligence Committee on September 18, 2014,

“Half-hearted or tentative efforts, or airstrikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes’ credibility. We may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American boots on the ground.”

Thus with the lack of any foreign nation willing to apply necessary ground forces to the effort to defeat ISIS, including the US, President Obama turned to the Syrian rebels to provide the ground troops needed. Still, the main fear that has withheld arming these groups, since the proposal in 2013, has been that control over who receives the arms could not be guaranteed. The thought is that arming another, potential worse, threat will only cause the situation to continue under a new black hat.

That’s where Khorasan Group comes in. Khorasan is made up of veteran fighters from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe. Reports as recent as July 2014 have shown that Khorasan Group has been key in torture and interrogations on behalf of other militant groups that have occupied Northern Pakistan- just southeast of Kabul, Afghanistan.

 As reported by Bob Orr of CBS News, Khorasan

“… is focused on trying to build bombs capable of being sneaked onto airliners, and finding the Western jihadists in Syria who could try and carry them.”

This makes them a more immediate threat to the US, as has been reported. Yet military action as proposed so far ignores their presence. The very real concern is that attempts to arm moderate anti-Assad Syrian rebels will inevitably arm Khorasan or similar groups.

Considering the lack of detailed planning, the refusal and objection of all coalition members to provide essential ground troops, and the proven record of arms and supplies targeted for moderate Syrian rebels instead reaching anti-Assad forces that are equally anti-western nations (especially the US), the overview by Jon Stewart may best describe the situation,

“…the Obama Administration would like us to do the right thing in as chaotic and confused a way as possible.”

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Time for the plan C in Iraq

By Michael Vass | September 19, 2014

** as originally posted at Binghamton Political Buzz – with added updates**

Map of Syria and Iraq and influence of forces

The appearance of ISIS in Iraq, and the horrific actions taken against innocent American and British citizens, has resulted in a rollercoaster ride of political and military actions. With a 273-156 vote in the House of Representatives on Sept 17,2017 (and approval by the Senate 78-22 the next day), the stage is set for even more twists and turns in the near term.

The terrorist group known as Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) existed before Al Qaeda and has been in resurgence for years. One of the key groups involved in the civil war in Syria, they were feared to have been part of the anti-American forces that have commandeered resources targeted for more moderate anti-Assad rebels in Syria. Those fears were realized as throughout the year ISIS invaded and took control of numerous cities in Iraq, almost taking control of Baghdad by the time the US attention focused on them.

Once aware of the threat from ISIS, President Obama authorized humanitarian aid for the Yazidis ethnic group targeted by ISIS. In addition drone bombings were started to impede the spread of this group in Iraq. Which led to the beheading of 2 American citizens and 1 British citizen. International outrage followed.

This culminated in a national address by President Obama on September 10th. In that address President Obama announced efforts to remove the threat of ISIS, via aerial attacks and a coalition of nations – especially nations in the Middle East. The success of the coalition has been mixed, as 30 nations agreed to varying degrees of outrage, some offered support and combat air forces, but none were willing to provide ground troops (further confirmed by Secretary John Kerry). President Obama has already pledged that no US combat troops would be on the ground in Iraq to fend off ISIS.

This in turn led to various parts of the Obama Administration to state America is either at war, or not at war, with ISIS – or to the degree that America is at war with Al Qaeda. The matter was further obfuscated when General Martin Dempsey stated that there is a likelihood that US troops will be needed to fight ISIS on the ground in Iraq.

“…I believe that will prove true but if it fails to be true and if there are threats to the United States then I of course would go back to the President and make a recommendation that we include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”

A statement that was quickly walked back by the Obama Administration. Yet this outcome seems to be the pivotal factor in coalition troops taking a stand on the ground behind US leadership. Even Iran has noted that “[ISIS] will not be eradicated by aerial bombardments.”

With the need for ground forces to directly confront ISIS, and a lack of any national body willing to provide front-line troops, President Obama turned toward to his political adversaries in Congress for support. The plan is to supply moderate Syrian anti-Assad forces with the means to take on ISIS. A plan that was described by Rep. Charlie Dent of PA as

“We’re sort of in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.”

So in summation, the US supplied weapons and funds to Syrian rebels (plan A), which helped strengthen ISIS not only in Syria but also Iraq. ISIS then swept through Iraq, causing the US to bomb them (Plan B), which garnered the beheading of innocent citizens. A rightly angered US called on the international community to remove the threat of ISIS, which resulted in near complete agreement without the conviction to actual take concrete steps to remove ISIS. This vacuum of leadership and strategy, in part, motivated the House of Representatives (a Republican majority) to approve once again arming Syrian rebels to take on what was originally Syrian rebels (Plan C).

As circular as the actions may seem it is not new strategy for the Middle East. Nor is the pattern of a regional conflict expanding and thus fueling the next round of fighters an uncommon historical situation to the Middle East. But this just blurs the fact that at its core, the world is apparently waiting for the US to take the lead that it is remiss in doing. The odds of an new global threat appearing within the next 10 years, with its inception from a global coalition, seem too probable to even contemplate.

One would only hope that the cycle of Wyle E. Coyote international policy will end before Plan D springs upon us.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

President Obama’s international coalition floundering

By Michael Vass | September 14, 2014

2003 BBC map

BBC map of potential Iraq coalition allies from 2003 mirrors 2014

In very familiar wording, on September 10, 2014, President Obama told the nation that a key component to fighting Islamic terrorist group ISIS will be a coalition of nations supporting US efforts. Also critical in that national address was the promise that American combat troops would not set foot in Iraq. It was stated that several hundred non-combat troops are either in or on their way to Iraq to help that nation’s infrastructure defenses.

So far the staunchest allies of the United States have stepped forward. Australia has offered 600 troops and 10 planes. None are combat troops. England, which recently had one of its citizens beheaded, has made a clear statement of supporting the US coalition. That support so far has not equated to joint airstrikes,  and has clearly emphasized a lack of combat troops. But British Prime Minister David Cameron was clear on the resolve of the British people on Sunday  Sept 14,2014,

“Step by step, we must drive back, dismantle and ultimately destroy ISIL [ISIS] and what it stands for. We will do so in a calm and deliberate way, but with an iron determination.” -

The call for coalition has also been raised with several Middle East nations. Egypt has stated that they support the US call for coalition. Egypt for its part though has offered neither combat nor support troops and planes. Turkey has followed Egypt in inaction, but the ramifications are far deeper.

Turkey is believed to have backed ISIS in its early stages. This tacit support allowed ISIS to engage Syrian forces that are not supported by Turkey. That implied support from Turkey may have changed when 49 Turkish hostages were taken by ISIS, further complicating the matter. Whatever the reasons though, Turkey has not committed troops, has not condemned ISIS, and will not allow NATO troops to use airbases or staging areas in the nation.

The summation of this brings with it a question. If Middle East nations are only willing to provide lip service to the US-led coalition, and the most ardent allies of America are not willing to have troops put a foot on the ground, how is ISIS supposed to be thwarted? As awesome and powerful as airstrikes may be, even the most rudimentary military strategist will note that airpower cannot take or hold ground positions. With all sides unwilling to commit combat troops, and the general agreement that Iraqi forces are not up to the task, the focus comes back to the US for leadership. A leadership that is needed to prevent a predictable outcome, as stated by Sir Richard Dannatt, former head of the British army,

“If we don’t confront and destroy these Islamic State Jihadi fighters then their influence will grow, their confidence will grow and the problem will get bigger.”

Thus, once again, the world is looking to America to place the majority of combat troops on Iraqi soil to take the brunt of the battle with ISIS. A prospect that is unlikely to change even after President Obama speaks to the UN Security Council. A prospect that will once again place President Obama in the unwelcome spot of either having directly lied to the American people or allowing a problem for the nation to grow.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Op-Ed: The unspoken price of silence

By Michael Vass | September 12, 2014

Dear friends,

This has been quite the week. We started off with the anticipation of the Statewide primaries. Then came the President’s resolution to the threat of ISIS. Of course there was the remembrance of those we lost 13 years ago. A very emotional week, with very different emotions.

Let me start by saying that we should never forget what happened 13 years ago. The feeling of shock, the fear for our loved ones across the nation, and the realization that if we turn our backs on what is happening in the world the result may not be in our best interest. Remember as well the fact that in the days after 9/11, we were a nation unified. We were all Americans, period. It is a feeling and reality that we must strive for every day, especially for those of us in politics.

I won’t address the speech by the President. You can read my thoughts at Reaction to President Obama’s kitchen sink address – expanded political commentary.

The thing I really want to share with you all is about the primaries on Sept. 9th. Regardless of the candidates, the turnout of voters was poor overall. Specifically in Broome County a mere 14.2% of registered voters cast a vote. Other parts of the 22nd district and State were similar in their results (Chenango 10.3%, Cortland 4.4%, Madison 7.4%, Oneida 14.7%). This is horrendous.

Nearly 9 out of 10 New York registered voters were silent on 9/9/14. Some would say ‘why does that matter?‘ The answer is because that is as much of a vote as is picking one candidate or another. In fact, it is even more important.

When some 89.8% of voters don’t show up, it clearly states that the majority don’t care. They don’t care how much they pay in property/school/city/State taxes. That they don’t care if there is corruption on-going. That they don’t care if political spies are being hired or if laws are being passed that restrict our rights.

When 9 out of 10 people don’t care who is in office, when they speak out to their politicians – which is what their vote does – and say it just doesn’t matter by not voting, we get the type of Government we have. In New York that means a Governor who’s corruption commission was corrupt. It means that at the local level we have Mayor’s that won’t account for funds that seem to have vanished from the budget. At every level it affects every person in this State.

Some will say, it was just a primary. But the people we pick today may well be the ones that make the laws tomorrow. No matter who wins in November, they all listened to the votes and learned how many people are really paying attention.

This is why it is all the more important that we continue to register voters and even more importantly that we motivate them to vote. Our votes are our voices, and we speak even when we do nothing. The consequences though are profound.

Michael Vasquez registering voters at Southern Tier Latinos event
I know that this is preaching to the faithful. I have no doubt that each of you reading this voted in the primaries and plans to vote in November. I personally know some of you have also gone out, as I have, to register voters. But I encourage each of you to press on, because it’s not over.

New York has ranked among the worst in voter turnout among the States. With your help I want to turn this around. If we can, it can only help to prevent the future corruption and scandals. Active voter participation is the only way to ensure we have a Government (at all levels) that is improving instead of devolving.

As I have in the past, I offer whatever help I can to any effort to register voters and motivate them to vote. I recommend the sharing of this letter, if it can help, and welcome any offers to speak at any event.

I will leave you with this final thought, that I am working on setting up as a series of Youtube videos:

The next time you learn about a law or tax you think is unfair, remember if you voted. Your voice is your vote – if you didn’t vote then the politicians didn’t hear you or your concerns. Don’t be surprised when they pass laws and taxes you don’t like.

Sincerely

Michael “Vass” Vasquez
President – M V Consulting, Inc
Former candidate for the NY-22 congressional district

Rating 4.00 out of 5

Reaction to President Obama’s kitchen sink address – expanded political commentary

By Michael Vass | September 12, 2014

** Expanded from the original article at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner **
President Obama during 1 of 115 rounds of golf

Like all Americans, our concerns over the threat of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq is a growing sense of caution and need for action. Caution in providing a response strong enough to remove this threat to our nation without provoking the creation of yet another terrorist fanatical organization to take its place once gone. Action to decisively remind the world that America carries a big stick and will use it if provoked. This is what was hoped for in the prime-time address to the nation by President Obama on September 10, 2014.

In less than 15 minutes, the world audience was instead treated to the kitchen sink approach to politics. A mix of soft and hard statements, with irrelevant gibbering tossed in for an effect akin to the feeling one might have looking at a pizza that was just picked up off the ground. The pizza visibly covered in stray bits of pebbles and dirt, minute pieces of what might have been organic matter, and odd bits that just don’t make sense. The totality leaving the viewer with a feeling of loss for what previously was available and now gone.

President Obama waxed and waned on this national appearance, hop scotching from the threat of ISIS and terrorism, to the US economy, to Ebola, to the Ukraine, and back to the Middle East. It is a task that an orator of less skill could not pull off. Even so, the impression of the greatness of America, repeated over and over in the speech, took on a resemblance to that dirt covered pizza.

What may have made this even worse, beyond the all encompassing nature of the speech, where the moments that just instantly rang a bell of wrong answer. Moments like the following selected quotes:

“Tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL…”

Instantly one has to think about the current status of the US and the rest of the world. In that thought, try to picture any nation that is on friendlier or deeper terms with America than it was in 2009. England has been distanced. Israel has been, at times, thrown to the wolves. Russia is all but reinstating the Cold War. North Korea and Iran have both seen a resurgence of vitriol against America. Perhaps one could argue that Canada is still on as good terms as in the past, until the chilling effect of the blockage of the Keystone Pipeline is remembered.

“As Commander-and-Chief my highest priority is the security of the American people…”

Yet, not even a year ago, 5 of the most dangerous detainees in Guantanamo Bay were traded off for what has been pretty definitively confirmed to be a traitor. A deal hidden from a Congress that by law needed to be informed prior to action. A deal that resulted in the admission that some or all those involved will likely become threats to the American people again.

“…while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan where our combat mission will end later this year…”

Which is exactly what some believe is the reason why ISIS exists today. It is also the key reason why so much of Iraq has been captured by ISIS forces just in this summer alone. Afghanistan for its part has already begun to take on the early stages of the downfall seen in Iraq.

“…and Syria’s civil war…”

Where the US, under the guidance of President Obama’s Middle East strategy, has given weapons and aide to various groups fighting Syria’s government. Those groups include Al Qaeda and ISIS. Both of which have used the supplies and arms to fuel their efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“And in acts of barbarism they took the lives of two American journalists. Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Barbaric indeed. Heinous acts that were unprovoked and disgusting. But it was President Obama himself, after denouncing the first of these atrocities, who went off and immediately hit the golf course after speaking to the press. An act many feel is no less disgusting.

“…if left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region…”

Is President Obama channeling President Bush? Is that not part of the reason for the invasion of Iraq? The threat of WMD’s. A stance that Senator Obama attacked heartily on the campaign trail, and boldly denounced the surge strategy enacted to contain and remove the threat of Al Qaeda at the time. So is it being said that this was the right strategy all along? That America must repeat this process that was dismantled by President Obama in the first place?

“…and some American have joined them [ISIS]…”

Is this the justification for the Justice Department memo authorizing the killing of Americans without trial via drone bomb attacks? Is there a known threat to the nation from American that have joined ISIS? Is anything being done to protect citizens domestically? What proof is there that Americans have joined ISIS?

“…since then we have conducted over 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq…”

No war has ever been won solely by bombing the enemy. Ever. Troops have always been required. Otherwise the air strikes that have been on-going since 2009 in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq would have already resolved the problems years ago. Airstrikes are not an answer by themselves, as impressive as 150 may sound.

“This is a core principle of my presidency. If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

Except if you go to Iran. Or North Korea. Or Pakistan. Egypt and Libya are touch and go. Russia and China might indirectly help without serious comment from us too. But otherwise no safe haven. Unless you are in Africa where America generally doesn’t pay attention. This is a core principle of the Obama international policy.

“Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians…”

Except if they are in the Sudan. Darfur, which was classified as a genocide by the UN when President Obama was still a Senator. Other parts of the world that have similar humanitarian needs may well be overlooked as well, as they are currently.

“This is American leadership at its best.”

No it is not. World War II was American leadership at its best. The creation of the internet and modern technology is American leadership examples. The aid of individual Americans to Haiti and Indonesia after natural disasters is American leadership. The international policy of the Obama Administration does not compare, if we are honest.

“I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL…”

No, you don’t. Many in Congress have stated they believe an extended conflict requires authorization directly from Congress. Even stalwart Democrat politicians like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are wavering on the authority the Executive Branch has in this situation.

U.S. Predator drone

“This strategy of taking out terrorist who threaten while supporting partners on the front lines is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

Yet the terrorist threats in Yemen and Somalia are as vigorous and active as they have been for years. In neither example have Al Qaeda or any splinter terrorist group been defeated or ousted. The success that is touted is not apparent in the examples used.

“Next week marks 6 years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression…”

What in the world does this have to do with ISIS and terrorism? Is President Obama saying that the sub-prime housing bubble was a terrorist plot? Even worse is the fact that the economy has yet to recover. More people are out of work and not counted as unemployed than almost at the peak of the recession. Growth of GDP remains underwhelming. The Obama Stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, and the takeover of the auto industry all failed to create long-term jobs. The situation is so bad that no Democrat has used the word stimulus in 4 years, and even the President has made a joke out of the phrase “shovel-ready jobs”.

It at this point that the speech devolves into a kitchen sink with everything thrown in for good measure. Any topic in the headlines is used. All of it phrased as if there is a silver-lining hiding just behind a cloud that is about to pass. Every word is perfect for winning an election, that President Obama will never again be running in.

Every word from this point on has nothing to do with ISIS or the threat terrorism poses to America. With each new unrelated topic, the speech weakens the resolve it hastily insisted existed and demeans the entire process to little more than a political attempt to curry favor in the November elections. It is a display of Obama the campaigner-n-chief, and implies a lack of fortitude to complete the tasks the majority of the speech was predicated on.

Every word from this point on has nothing to do with ISIS or the threat terrorism poses to America. With each new unrelated topic, the speech weakens the resolve it hastily insisted existed and demeans the entire process to little more than a political attempt to curry favor in the November elections. It is a display of Obama the campaigner-n-chief, and implies a lack of fortitude to complete the tasks the majority of the speech was predicated on.

To summarize the reaction to this national address you could say it was just more of the same. Some saber rattling, some smoke and mirror distractions, a vague plan that sounds incredibly ineffective if thought about for a few moments. Hardly a speech to rebound from the lack of a plan announced just a week ago. Definitely not a speech to make terrorists around the world any more concerned than they were even a day ago.

President Obama has set the stage. America has a big stick… and some job growth, and nice schools, and Apple just came out with smart watches, and coal power is still bad, and so is Russia, and so is that Ebola thing. But America has a big stick, and we may or may not actually use it. So ISIS better be scared.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

State primary results reveal more than just winners and losers

By Michael Vass | September 12, 2014

**as originally written at http://www.examiner.com/political-buzz-in-binghamton/michael-vass** and updated

NYS Sen. Tom Libous

The September 10, 2014 headlines in much of Broome County, New York will be focused squarely on the primary election results. The story that will be conveyed is that the NY 52nd State District Senator Tom Libous defeated his Republican challenger Denver Jones. But that obfuscates the real story of importance.

The result from the 2014 Primary was 7,003 votes (or 63.9%) for incumbent Senator Libous. The challenger Denver Jones tallied 3,953 votes (or 36.1%) based on the early data. A net total of 10,956 Republicans came out to have their voices, via ballots, counted throughout the county.

Of course no story on the State Senate race will be complete without certain facts about Senator Libous. This includes that Senator Libous has previously run unopposed since 2004 (according to immediately available records from the Broome County Board of Elections). That he has been re-elected to the State Senate continuously since 1988. But the main item of reportage will be the July 1, 2014 indictment for lying to a FBI agent. Senator Libous has plead not guilty to this charge.

But what may be far more significant is that there were some 6,780 additional votes cast – Republican, Democrats, Conservatives and Independents combined – for a grand total of at least 17,736 vote cast on September 9, 2014 in Broome County alone. Ignoring that some races in the County allowed for multiple votes, the turnout is abysmal. According to the 2010 Census, there are at least 108,546 registered voters in Broome County alone. This means only 16.3% voter activity.

UPDATE – based on total registered voter data from the NY State Board of Elections (2012), the percentage of voter turnout in the NY-22 (total of 10.2%) is as follows:

    Broome County – 14.2%
    Chenango County – 10.3%
    Cortland County – 4.4%
    Madison County – 7.4%
    Oneida County – 14.7%

Herkimer, Oswego, and Tioga counties are split counties and therefore are not counted in this example of the NY-22 voter turnout.

That is the real story. Voters just didn’t show up. Whether they are Republicans or Democrats, Conservative or Independent, in the 52nd State Senate District or not, voters overwhelmingly stayed at home. The results are so poor that, if similar trends occurred across the State, it may result in New York State accomplishing the goal of being ranked 50th in voter turnout (in the 2010 mid-terms NY ranked 48th).

It is results like this that lead to polling that shows 48% of American either don’t know what Party their representative is in, or are wrong in what party they believe their representative is in. It’s these results that caused national predictions like this one from Peyton M. Craighill and Scott Clement,

“Despite negative views of incumbent officeholders, the impact on incumbents’ actual reelection hopes is likely modest, with the vast majority of officeholders expected to win reelection in November.”

New York incumbents are likely to find great safety in the turnout numbers. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is facing Federal investigation over his actions with the Moreland Commission, is sure to hope that the Washington Post is accurate. But how is this a benefit to the public at large? Especially if out of the 1 in 6 that vote, only half know who they are voting for?

None of this will be addressed in major media coverage though. The only news to really be covered will be the results, and the headlines will convey that message. Because the truth about the consequences of voter apathy will never sell as well as a title of landslide win.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Sen. Gillibrand is the hawkish dove of New York Democrats

By Michael Vass | September 12, 2014

**as originally written at http://www.examiner.com/political-buzz-in-binghamton/michael-vass**

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

There is no secret that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is a political horse of many colors. As a Congresswoman she was a staunch gun control opponent and fought immigration reform. Not odd things for a Republican, but a stark contrast to the Democrats she counts herself among. Especially in the ultra-blue state of New York. But then she became the junior Senator behind Sen. Charles Schumer and quickly fell in the Democrat line, becoming what many see as a yes-woman for the Party.

This is of course old news. It was well covered in 2008 when Sen. Gillibrand was appointed to the seat vacated by the far-Left former occupant, Hillary Clinton. It was covered again in 2009 on the issue of gun control. But there is no end of the flip-flops on political positions that Sen. Gillibrand maintains.

The latest twist finds Senator Gillibrand changing course on Middle East policy. To be specific, as reported by the AP on September 9, 2014, the junior Senator is on the bandwagon to fight ISIS as well as concede that President Obama may need authorization for a prolonged effort to combat this latest terrorist global threat. A position that falls mostly in line with the goals of President Obama, as he has detailed them at the moment.

But it was just March 2011 when Senator Gillibrand was calling for a definitive retreat from Afghanistan. In 2007 Rep. Gillibrand was a clear opponent to the surge in Iraq, stating

“That the answers in sustaining peace in Iraq lie in the political, diplomatic and economic solutions. Not in the military ones.”

Thus it might seem strange for the casual consumer of politics. Is Senator Gillibrand a supporter of non-military action in the Middle East? Does she seek to rid the world of ISIS by diplomacy and economics as was the case with Al Queada in Iraq? Or is she in favor of direct military action, similar to the very surge she is on record opposing?

It is a complex web that is a direct reflection of the Obama Administration’s international policy – especially when it comes to the Middle East. As we noted in our article on the Administration’s policy,

“It is a policy of retreat on one front and aggression on another. A policy of non-interference in the sovereign actions of nations, while injecting action under the call for humanitarian aid in other (and sometimes the same) sovereign nations.”

Senator Gillibrand has earned her stripes in the New York political machine. She has flipped and twisted her positions to match and generally support whole-heartedly whatever the President and the Democrat Party stance of the day may be. Thus in 2007 she was a dove, and in 2014 she is a hawk – but still a dove when it comes to other parts of the Middle East. It is anyone’s guess what she might be in 2016.

Yet, it would seem that the best (or perhaps only) way for New York constituents to get a consistent answer from their junior Senator is for the President to pick a definitive role. Of course that is an option that the world has been waiting for, and apparently will keep waiting a bit longer to get.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

The urgency of immigration reform, on the backburner again

By Michael Vass | September 12, 2014

**As originally posted by us at http://www.examiner.com/political-buzz-in-binghamton/michael-vass**

Illegal immigration sign

A question that just begs to be asked, in regard to immigration policy, is that if it is such a boon to the nation and so necessary as to circumvent Congress then why is it being delayed until after the mid-term elections? That is essentially the question being asked by various pro-immigration groups over the weekend and Republicans on Monday. It is a question the White House has failed to overcome, even as pressure against this unilateral Executive action takes place.

At the heart of the current immigration impasse is the June announcement by the Obama Administration that it will be issuing, via Executive Branch powers alone, new immigration standards for the nation. Executive action that was immediately rejected by Republicans and Conservatives for its overreach of power. It was also opposed by Democrats fighting to win elections, as they did not wish to have to defend amnesty at this critical time. The actual announcement was expected to be made at the end of summer.

The latest update, as of September 9, 2014, on this unilateral immigration action is that President Obama has decided to wait until November, after the mid-term elections, to move forward. President Obama has blamed the attention given to the border crisis, where there was the massive influx of unattended illegal alien minors, for changing the political atmosphere and requiring a delay. The response from immigration groups has been a voicing of frustration, while Democrats running for office are somewhat relieved.

“We are bitterly disappointed in the president. The president and Senate Democrats have chosen politics over people.” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the group America’s Voice.

In an odd pairing, Republicans have equally joined in the denouncement of the delay. Though the reasoning is not for an advancement of legislation (or Executive actions) to grant various forms of amnesty to illegal aliens. Republicans are claiming that the actions of the President are a deception being enacted on the American public.

“The president and Senate Democrats are playing a cynical game, and by blatantly trying to deceive voters…” – National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring

Ultimately the core question remains unanswered. Advocates of amnesty for illegal aliens are hard pressed to define the urgency of the matter that has sat unacted upon since the promises of the 2008 Obama campaign. Those supporting H1B visas (HR 2131 - SKILLS Visa Act), that will give American jobs to foreigners at a time whenforecasts predict slow job growth while worker benefits will be cut, have equally joined in blaming politics, while trying to take advantage of the political strategy being employed.

The resulting message out of the White House has served to enrage the far Left and Conservatives at the same time. It has resulted in all sides feeling that they are being betrayed. That President Obama is playing politics on an issue that has passionate followers on both sides. Debra J. Saunders of SFGate.com summed it well

“What Obama couldn’t quite say is that, if he further undermines immigration law, the Democrats will lose the Senate. And he couldn’t exactly blame Republicans for his decision to not act as promised. Ergo, gobbledygook.”

The summation is that everyone might just lose in the end. Without the political courage, and a public message to match, to stand by the call for unilateral change to immigration law the impression of urgency is evaporated. At the same time the justification of opposing what could be an impeachable overreach of Executive action becomes more credible. The gridlock of partisanship on the issue becomes far more entrenched, making compromise untenable for all involved. Lastly, if in fact the President takes action after mid-term elections, there is sure to be a backlash from the public in a loss of credibility in the Executive Branch and trust in Government.

Thus the answer to the question appears to be that there is no more urgency than in 2009 for immigration reform. Bi-partisan action is less desired than political one-upmanship. The needs of the Democrat Party supersede the purported benefit to the nation. All of this wrapped so thinly in political smoke and mirrors as to be the only real justification of the promise for a transparent Obama Administration.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Obamacare may eat your tax refund

By Michael Vass | August 25, 2014

Affordable Care Act

There is perhaps nothing more consistent in creating unintended consequences than politics and legislation. This aptitude for unexpected and often unwanted results is only amplified when coupled with partisan (in)action, rushed legislation, and/or a failure of politicians to read legislation before passage. King of these would be the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

In the short history of the Affordable Care Act there have been many unforeseen consequences as well as several timely predictions. But it should not be taken as an isolated legislation with negative results once enacted. There was the Obama Stimulus which resulted in an estimated 344,000 Americans losing food stamps. There was the much hyped Cash for Clunkers, meant to help the auto industry in 2009, which ultimately had the effect of an estimated $1 billion in losses.

But Obamcare stands out among the many rushed quick fixes that Government is eager to pass. From the required documentation for small businesses, meant to cut costs, that increased costs to the Healthcare.gov website that currently has cost almost $1 billion and is still yet to be 100% operational. Then there are the predicted health care cost increases for 2015, which may hit double digits in some States. All this and there is still the employer mandate, and loss of unqualified health care plans, still to come.

Yet the thing that may truly catch the ire of some Americans will be the undisclosed impact of Obamacare on tax returns as has just been realized due to the latest update on 2015 tax forms by the IRS. In what can be described as a punishment for success, Americans that see their incomes increase during 2014 may find that Obamacare will lessen their tax returns. In some cases Americans will owe money to the IRS, because of Obamacare, just because they made more money.

“More than a third of tax credit recipients will owe some money back, and (that) can lead to some pretty hefty repayment liabilities,” said George Brandes, vice president for health care programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.”

The problem is that of the some 7 million that gained health care insurance via Obamacare most have some amount of tax credit currently provided by the Government to help pay for the plans. Those credits are pegged to income levels. Thus getting a raise, a promotion, or changing jobs for a better paying one, can all cause the credit from the Government to decrease. The net outcome can be a hit to tax refunds or even requiring payment to the IRS for the difference after the refund is wiped out.

Clearly, at no point has any advocate of the Affordable Care Act ever mentioned that getting a raise or better job could take away your IRS refund. No hint has ever been made by the defenders of Obamacare that improving finances of American families could mean that they will owe more in taxes, because they followed the law and got healthcare coverage. Even as the news is being learned, and tax preparers are learning the complicated steps to determine if, and how much, an income change would effect tax returns the public at large remains oblivious to the news.

Considering the negative impact, and lack of public information, it would appear that the loss of tax refunds to the Affodable Care Act was unintended. But in this case that’s a hard sell. It was known from the beginning that the tax credit would be tied directly to income. It just wasn’t conveyed to the public at any point. Therefore, at some point in the early months of 2015, expect to hear another revelation that this was a known consequence that just wasn’t clarified enough asSen. Kirsten Gillibrand stated about the Doctor Promise in 2013.

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Voter registration efforts to combat voter apathy

By Michael Vass | August 22, 2014

**Article contains updates from our original post at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com**

With the quickly upcoming New York State primaries just over 2 weeks away, the stage for the 2014 mid-term elections is almost set. In quick order the candidates for State and local offices will be finalized and campaign season will begin in earnest. The only real question is if voters will notice.

According to the NY State Bar Association, in a Jan. 2013 study, the 2010 mid-term elections resulted in New York being ranked 48th in voter turnout. That same study showed less than 64% of eligible voters took part in the mid-terms and voter registration for New York was the sixteenth worst in the nation.

This news, combined with the comments of pollsters (discussed in our article The biggest loser in 2014 could be… You) stating that lower than average voter turnout is expected nationally creates a disturbing picture. A picture that bodes well for incumbent politicians by default – regardless of indictments and investigations of corruption. Even the attempts at political espionage or the outright desertion of political party members can be excused if voters just don’t come out and vote.

To combat this potential win via voter apathy, several organizations and individuals are working together to register voters and motivate the public. A critical part of this action is the non-partisan nature of the desire to increase voter turnout. The deadline for registering for the November elections is October 15, 2014.

A key spokesperson has been our own Michael Vasquez. On August 14, 2014 Mr. Vasquez was interviewed on WUTQ’s Talk of the Town with Mark Piersma to discuss the problem and the potential result of voter apathy. On Saturday, the Southern Tier Latinos organization, voter registration forms were made available to members attending the organization’s monthly dance celebration. Jose Caceres, leader of the organization said,

Southern Tier Latinos would like to thank Michael Vasquez for providing the voting registration forms during our last dance. It is part of making sure our votes count… we support and we are committed to increasing the number of voters during the next election.

On Monday, August 18, 2014, Mr. Vasquez appeared at the monthly meeting of the American for the Restoration of the Constitution at the Vestal Public Library to discuss the matter.

The efforts of these groups and individuals to spur non- partisan voter registration, coupled with the response to the NY-22 congressional primary which nearly doubled the voter turnout from 2010, could help to prove the pollsters and recent history of New York wrong. But the final tally is far from clear or predictable. Especially in a state that from 2008 – 2012 lost registered voters.

However many voters do show up, they will vote on significant issues that may alter the course of New York State. From a choice of Governor that on the one hand is being investigated for corruption of a corruption commission, to the other hand where Hydrofracking would finally find a home in the State. The choices don’t diminish as they reach the local level. Broome County, as an example, has the explosive revelation of a political party trying to hire a political spy which is sure to ignite campaign debates at all levels.

Ultimately every vote will count, and those that do not vote might even matter more in what could have been done. But only time will tell.

**Update**
Part 2 of the discussion by Michael “Vass” Vasquez, on the power of social media for grassroots organizations.

To learn more about how you can help get out the vote, contact your local political party or grassroots organization, or contact M V Consulting, Inc

Rating 3.00 out of 5