Category Archives: Politics

My Thoughts on Obama’s Presidency

A little over eight years ago, I was on a business trip in Wilmington, Delaware on election night of 2008.  Later in the evening, when it became evident that Obama had won, I ran to the local Walgreen’s to pick up a few things.  There were a lot of people in the street in a very happy mood, most of them black people wearing Obama paraphernalia.  As I was in line at the store, a couple of black women embraced, tears of joy streaming down their cheeks at the prospect of a black president.  I remember thinking in that moment that Barack Obama had a chance to be a transcendental president and one that had a unique chance to heal a nation still bereft of racial tensions, especially in the inner cities.  I thought that Obama had a real chance to bring American together.

Unfortunately, eight years later, he has proven not to be the transcendental leader I thought he had the chance to be.  For me, Obama’s presidency has been a disappointment.  I feel like so much potential was left on the table, so much good that could have been done is sadly left undone.

One of Obama’s biggest challenges was that he was woefully unprepared for the heavy administrative duties of the Executive Office.  From the beginning he showed his inexperience.  But, I really don’t hold that against him.  Where he really failed in my eyes was his absolute inability and unwillingness to put aside is political ideology and show a desire to cross the aisle and work with the other side.  He felt he had a mandate to bring to pass the liberal panacea.  To be fair, the Republicans took a “we’re gonna block everything”strategy, but Obama never really got outside is beloved liberal ideology.  Because of this, he, the Democrats and the Republicans only further polarized American politics and deepened racial divides and tensions in the inner cities.  I would have liked to have seen him step up, show leadership and show his side and the other, that America comes first and that we can compromise.  But, there was no compromise, on his part or by the Republicans.

I don’t think my opinion is too far from reality, really.  Why do I say that?  Because Barack Obama’s failures in leadership has handed the presidency to the likes of Donald Trump.  And it is not just Trump.  Since Obama has been elected, the Democrats have lost 1,030 seats in government all over this country. That is an astounding number and in my mind, a unmistakable repudiation of Obama’s leadership and policies.  The American people have been voting against him and his party for the last four years.

Another huge problem with Obama was the fact that he was one of the only presidents to oversee 8 years of GDP that never, ever went beyond 3%, the national debt was increased by 12 trillion dollars.  That number just sickens me as generations of Americans will be saddled with the burden of this irresponsibility.  True it is that Obama doesn’t have the power of the purse, but his liberal policies and inability to work with the other side, drove up the debt without a budget.  In addition to the huge debt, 1/3 of the American population remains without a job or not in the workforce.  Nearly one third are on welfare assistance of some kind.  More and more Americans are struggling to find decent jobs with many working two jobs to equal what they had pre-Obama.  The USA has never really got out of the funk caused by the last recession, which begun in the waning days of the Bush administration.

Obama’s one and only signature policy was the Affordable Care Act, which while it helped a relatively small portion of the American population, has also grievously burdened the middle class and the self-employed with outrageous premiums and deductible hikes that have driven thousands to drop healthcare altogether, thereby defeating the purpose of the ACA.  Premiums for the self-employed and others have reached levels to where they are paying more for monthly healthcare premiums than for a mortgage and the deductibles are ridiculously out of reach.  ACA has been a major failure by all accounts, even by the honest Democrats.

Obama’s immigration policies were disgraceful and dangerous to America.  Essentially, because he disagreed with the current immigration law and because he could not work with Congress, he chose to ignore the laws on the books and encourage a disorganized free-for-all on the southern border that has put millions of people, both illegal immigrants and Americans at risk.

I thought his foreign policy was too weak, but I’m not surprised as it was quintessential liberal foreign policy thinking.  On some levels I agreed with his foreign policies such as avoiding further international conflicts, but he pulled out too quickly in Iraq and he flat out bungled the situations in Libya and Syria and thousands upon thousands have suffered greatly because of it.

But, despite all my disagreements with Obama politically, I can say that I have been deeply impressed with him as a man, a husband and a father.  By all accounts he loves and is faithful to his wife.  He loves his children and seems to be interested and involved in their lives.  I have to respect this as these are significantly important values to me.  His presidency was scandal free, especially of the salacious kind.  His rhetoric as president has largely been measured and fair, though I wish his actions more matched his words.  In addition to him, I thought Michelle Obama portrayed a very good example of what it means to be a strong woman, a partner to her husband and a good mother.

Obama has handled the transfer of power with great class.  I can imagine that it must be hard to hand over the office to the likes of Donald Trump, but to his credit he has respected the will of the people and the Constitution.  He has not got down in the gutter but has respected the process.  My hat is off to him for that as it is so important to promote a peaceful transfer of power.

I am happy Obama is leaving office, mostly because change is needed and change is good. The change in power concept afforded by the Unites States Constitution is an awesome thing. Unfortunately, in this instance, the change brings us Donald J. Trump.  I will keep my fingers crossed for my country these next four years.

I believe in the rear view mirror of history, Obama will be viewed as a largely ineffective president.  His biggest claim to fame will be that he was the first black president.  He could have been much, much more than that.  He came in promising hope and change.  For me, there wasn’t much to be hopeful for and we certainly didn’t get the change we needed.

Thoughts on voting in 2016

United States of America Election Day. Vote badges. Voting.People vote for all kinds of reasons.  I’ve come to learn that fact over the years.  But, I’ve been really amazed to see so many do all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify their vote this year, especially those who voted for a presidential candidate of the two major parties.

I know my way of voting is not the same for everyone else.  I get that.  I respect your right to vote and your ability to form your own opinion.  But I just don’t see how anyone can justify voting for the presidential nominee of the two major political parties in the 2016 election.  Perhaps my idea of voting is a bit too romantic, I don’t know.  When I vote, first and foremost,  have to see the person who I’m voting for.  Who is this person?  What are their values?  These values don’t necessarily have to match mine exactly, but I need to know that my vote is going for someone who at their core values things like: honesty, integrity, respect for others,  and a love for constitutional principles.  If we don’t get these basic fundamental qualities in a candidate, what do we have left?  I have to see these things first, before I see party affiliation, issues they support or any other factor.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve never seen two more poorly qualified candidates than we have now representing the two major political parties.  Neither come anywhere close to meeting my value conditions.  Donald Trump is a narcissist.  This alone is a very dangerous quality to possess while at the same time holding great power.  He is a proven misogynist.  He clearly has used dishonest tactics to get ahead in business and make money.  Remarkably, has been completely frank and candid about who he is this entire race.  Yet, despite these very glaring and troublesome characteristics, people will happily vote for him.  I ask sincerely, “Will he simply stop being who he is once he is cloaked in the considerable power of the United States Presidency?”  It is dangerous to put power in hands of one like him.

Then there is Hillary Clinton.  A lifetime politician who has been proven over and over again to have colluded with law enforcement and foreign entities, accepted large sums of money from corporations and foreign persons that were intended to gain favors and access while she was Secretary of State.  She has taken millions of dollars from Wall Street companies where she has said what they wanted to hear contrary to her own party’s platform.  She is bought and paid for.  She is everything that is wrong with the current state of politics in the United States.  She has been shown to disregard the laws of the country with this recent email scandal, purposefully destroying evidence after a subpoena. Just think about that for a moment.  She does not meet my standard of honesty and integrity.  Again, I ask, “Will she suddenly stop being who she has proven to be once she is clothed in the mantel of the presidency?”  I think not.  We will get more of the same.

When you vote for a candidate, you are voting for them and all that they bring.  You are not voting for Hillary just because she is a woman and would break a long awaited glass ceiling.  You are not voting just for the repeal of Obamacare if you vote for Trump.  If you vote for Trump, you are not doing so just to avoid a Hillary presidency.  You are not merely voting to support a party.  No, you are voting for everything in that candidate, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Look, I get it.  No candidate is perfect.  I’m not looking for that.  But, I think that one has to consider the big picture and see the candidates for who they are and demand, through our votes and through our participation, that people hold up values that will represent us and that will protect us.  The two party system has failed us this election cycle by offering two poor choices.  There are consequences with elections and the responsible party is us, the people, for putting them there.

I voted for a third part this year for president.  I consider myself a conservative minded individual, but I voted for some Democrats as well.  We must get out of our silo thinking regarding party and issues.  We don’t vote for parties.  We don’t vote for issues.  We vote for people.  And we must take great care to ensure that those we vote for have as high of a moral fiber and as we can find.  In my humble opinion, voting for an issue or a parry or any other thing, without considering the person is shallow and irresponsible thinking.

There.  I finally got that off my chest and can now happily go about my Wednesday.

Why the Gun Control Debate is a Waste of Energy

If you turn on news these days and watch it regularly for any amount of time, you would likely come away with two conclusions about life in America.  Those conclusions would probably be:  1.  Deaths by gun are rampant and out of control and 2. Deaths by terrorists are at an all time high.  You will likely come away fearful or apprehensive about your safety and the future of our country.

Every time that I hear of a mass shooting it saddens me greatly.  What a horrific, cowardly act for someone to indiscriminately shoot other human beings and take their lives.  It is senseless and I will never quite understand the sickness, hatred and/or desperation that drives a human being to so ruthlessly take the life of another.

The news coverage following these events is hard to watch.  The bias of the different media organizations comes through as do the political agendas of so many who have that platform at their disposal.  Politicians unashamadley  use the victims to push a political agenda.  Unfortunately, these platforms and agendas are often abused by complete fabrications, half truths and fear mongering with the ultimate goal of selling copies of a given publication, thereby driving up TV ratings or passing legislation.

My attitude about these shootings is almost always the same.  I think of what a great tragedy they are and then ponder over how can we as a society help those who would act in such a manner.  There must be constructive ways to help avoid such ruthless and disturbing actions.  I think my reaction is similar to a lot of Americans.  Yet, when you listen to the talking heads of radio and TV, it is almost always the same.  It always gets boiled down to a miserably inaccurate and overly emotional debate about the place of guns in American society.  Too many of us blindly swallow what the news media tells us without really making the effort to challenge and prove out what we are hearing.

The Truth About Deaths by Guns

When you take a step back and look at the statistics of deaths by cause in America, it paints a drastically different picture than that portrayed by journalists and the news media outlets.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) publishes annual statistics detailing the cause of death in Amerca each year.  For purposes of this blog entry, I will use the statistics of 2012, which can be found on the CDC’s website (www.cdc.gov).  In 2012, nearly 50% of all deaths in the United States were caused by heart disease (23.5%) and cancer (22.5%) for a total of 1.2 million deaths between the two causes.  After that the percentages drop dramatically and includes the next two highest causes:  respiratory diseases (5.7%) and then accidents or unintentional injuries (5.0%).  Death by firearms, of which mass shootings are included, totaled  33,636 of which about 64% (http://www.newsweek.com/2015/10/02/americas-biggest-gun-problem-suicide-374547.html) were ruled suicides.  That leaves us with around 12,000 deaths that were homicides by firearm.  This number would place death by firearm well below 15th place on the list of causes of death among Americans.  Suicide by firearm incidentally would rank squarely at the 15th place of causes of death.  Ironically, when the media talks about the suicide issue in America, guns are hardly ever pegged as the main problem, but rather they cite things such as “clinical depression, financial woes and drug problems”.

However, when you look at the top 15 news stories of 2012 (http://www.people-press.org/2012/12/20/timeline-top-news-stories-of-2012/), you will find extensive coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting, the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the terrorist attack in Benghazi and the Trayvon Martin shooting.  Those four stories represented 26% of the top news stories for 2012.  It seems to me to be far out of proportion given the actual statistics of deaths by terrorism and gunfire, each cause respectively well below 5% of total deaths.  So, given these cold, hard facts, why is it that we spend so much time and energy talking and debating about gun control when statistically speaking, it does not appear to be a problem worth the energy?  Really, if we were honest with ourselves, the leading news stories each night and the debates in the public square and Congress ought to be how we can reduce deaths by heart attack and cancer, which are gigantic problems, statistically speaking.  You have far greater odds of dying from falling down the stairs than of being killed by gunfire (http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/02/daily-chart-7?fsrc=scn/tw/te/dc/dangerofdeath).

Now, lest you accuse me of being an insensitive jerk, my argument is not to say that we shouldn’t do anything to try and reduce homicides by gunfire, instead my argument is that we are allowing ourselves to be driven into a debate that could potentially result in limited personal freedoms by the sensationalistic news media that is fear-mongering its agenda right into your life.  I’m simply saying that we should stand back from the ledge of irrational fear and examine the problem for what it really is:  not much of a problem at all.  Statistically speaking, there are much bigger problems in America that deserve our attention and energy.

The political left loves to indulge in the emotional, heart-string-tugging, tear-jerk anecdotal stories to make its argument about taking guns away or severely restricting their use by citizens.  The political right uses fantastically ridiculous arguments such as that armed citizens reduce crime, that more guns means less crime and that if you register your gun it is only so the government has a list of gun owners so that they know who you are when the time comes to confiscate your gun.  In my opinion, given the aforementioned cited statistics, it is just as ridiculous to make an argument that you need to carry a gun for your protection as it is to say that confiscating guns will result in greater public safety.

The reality is that there are more guns than ever  in America and yet gun violence has dropped dramatically after 1990 and has remained relatively stable for the last 15 years or so (http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2015/08/graphics-americas-guns).  So, I think it reasonable to conclude that no amount of laws or lack of laws seems to be contributing to much of a change in the rate of gun deaths.  Deaths by gun violence is not even a blip on the radar of death causes.  Yet in spite of this, we continue to beat the proverbial dead horse, using ridiculous emotional and hyperbolic arguments to defend our positions.  It is energy that could be better used to solve a whole host of other, more pressing and real national problems.

Truth About Death by Terrorists

The same logic applies when considering the current state of threat from terrorist organizations.  For the sake of consistency, I will use statistics for 2012 to make a similar point regarding deaths by terrorists.  In 2012, according to CNN, the total American deaths by terrorist were 18.  Yes, that number is correct.  Since September 11, 2001 (an outlier year), the number of terrorist caused deaths has declined and remained fairly consistent year after year (http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/02/us/oregon-shooting-terrorism-gun-violence/).  Yet, that statistic probably surprises you given the inflated amount of news time and political speech spent on the horrors of ISIS and other terrorist organizations.  The Atlantic Magazine reported that “a comparable number of Americans are crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year (http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/06/americans-are-as-likely-to-be-killed-by-their-own-furniture-as-by-terrorism/258156/).  It makes you wonder why we spend so much time, energy and  American resources into fighting terrorism, which we do it rather ineffectively, in my opinon.

There is no doubt in my mind that ISIS and other terrorist organizations constitute a genuine treat to America, its people and interests.  We certainly can’t ignore the threat.  However, I wonder how much better off we would be if we avoided inciting hatred in a relative handful of religious extremist nut-jobs by not meddling in parts of the world we should avoid in the first place.  Does the notorious threat levels that our government issue help us or hurt us?  How much more helpful to the American physche would  it be if the news media placed the terrorist threat in the appropriate context?

It is very easy to point the finger at the news media, though in my opinion they do shoulder a large portion of the blame.  Yet we as consumers of the media readily fall prey to our intrinsic need to rubber-neck at the traffic accident.  We want the salacious, gory and sensational stories.  The fact that Mr. Robinson died of a heart attack yesterday morning doesn’t do it for us.  We are the ones that look to our government with irrational fears and beg them, at the expense of our own personal freedoms,  to protect us from a statistically improbable event.  We don’t watch the news unless something crazy is occurring.  The media knows this better than anyone and so do politicians, ever looking for an excuse to increase their own power base.  Ultimately, it is our fault, for we feed the beast through our inability to do a little homework and think for ourselves.

It is easy to get caught up in the tidal wave of fear and hopelessness that the media, especially the 24 hour cable news stations, who consistently and irresponsibly beat an incessant drumbeat of fear and sensationalism to drive up ratings.  My challenge and the point of this blog entry, is that no matter your political position, to just take a breath and chill.  Think things through and see the bias of others and look to the facts.  The probabilities of you dying by gunshot or terrorist bomb are so ridiculously low that it is pointless to worry or fret over it, much less willingly surrender your freedom because of it.