Monday, January 21, 2013

Validation ~ by Tim Valentine

Those of you that follow my blog know that I never post material that is not my own... But I was so touched by this beautifully written piece, that I felt compelled to share it with you.

You can find out more about Mr. Valentine at Enjoy!

By: Tim Valentine

What it means to me as a Black man, a father of 3 boys to see President Obama in terms of race is simply VALIDATION of what I always knew about myself.

Everyone may not fully comprehend this validation in the same spirit as I and others like myself, speaking specifically of minorities, which includes women of any race as well. But for me it says that all of the unconscious discrimination and sociocultural obliviousness I've experience by the hands of Conservative White men and on rare occasion so-called Liberal White men as well may be a barrier, but an obstruction that I can overcome.

You see I was brought up in a very racially diverse environment at an early age. I was also brought up with first hand access to Black men of various levels of success and character. I got to see the person behind the pulpit, the local politician behind the podium and the businessman in his environment as well as the man who punched the clock everyday. I recognized their dignity and learned from it. So when I was told or treated like I was less than because of what I was, I never believed it. Perhaps it's why the gentleman who called me a Pompus Black Liberal Bastard was so mad at me. He realized I wasn't afraid or intimidated by what he was.

I had a very nice Muslim minister tell me many years ago, "Know who you are and where you're from." He didn't try to convert me to Islam, he respected my beliefs. I've had an obviously gay White man who received some terrible news while I was having a conversation with him cry on my shoulder in public. It wasn't about his relationship preferences, but that I validate who he is and not what others categorized him as. He was a good dude. I could keep on going, but to wrap this thought up, just like the Muslim minister who saw me for who I was and not what I was in terms of beliefs (Christian) he choose to validate my humanity with an encouraging action.

President Obama does that for me. I'm encouraged that I will make it too despite the hatred I've experience and continue to experience from primarily, from one segment of one group, Conservative White Men. I don't hate them, but just as aware of them as they are of me and so many others.

So as I read and listen to those who make excuses for why they've chosen to hate this President without addressing the questions they often seek to avoid or downplay, I've chosen to embrace this President, President Obama and Vice-President Biden because they've chosen to embrace me by validating who I am far above and beyond what I am.

Thank You Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., all who participated in the validation of me regardless of race and thank you again President Barack Obama for reenforcing those validations.

2013 Inaugural Address Transcript

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society's ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today's world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we'll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America's possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries — we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully — not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice — not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation's task — to make these words, these rights, these values — of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness — real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today's victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country's course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


"Those that deny freedoms to others
Deserve it not for themselves."
~Abraham Lincoln

I just returned from watching the acclaimed film “Lincoln.” Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Fields did a great job portraying the 16th President and First Lady, but I found that the movie lacked substance.  It could have been better, certainly Lincoln’s life was much more than just the civil war and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Among all the Presidents in the history of the United States, the one I have admired the most is Abraham Lincoln. Not only because of the Emancipation Proclamation, which is what the film concentrates on; but because against all odds, against adversity he reached the pinnacle in life and this alone should serve as an example.

I regret that the movie didn’t show the audience a little bit of Lincoln’s earlier life because I think it played such an important factor in shaping the morals and views of this president.

We all know that President Lincoln was born into poverty in a log cabin in Kentucky. Many might even know that his family acquired a small fortune that they lost when he was a child and caused the family to move from Kentucky to Indiana and life at Indiana was not an easy one.

The fact that influenced me and which I admired the most was the fact that Lincoln learned how to read and write by himself when he reached puberty and English is by no means an easy language to learn. He walked miles just so he could borrow a book; such was his insatiable desire to learn and to better himself.

By the time he was 21 years old, his family moved once again, this time to Illinois. After holding many different jobs that helped him develop some social skills he ventured into politics and by the time he was 25 years old he had been elected to the Illinois legislature as a member of the Whig Party. It is incredible that a self-taught man with no financial means reached such a position. Once elected, he decided to teach himself law by reading William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England and he was admitted to the bar in 1837, when he was 28 years old. He practiced law for a few years before he became a one-term Representative for the State of Illinois. His political views and openly speaking against the Mexican-American war made him very unpopular and once his term was over he returned to practice law, including serving as a lobbyist for the Illinois Central Railroad.

Lincoln was never in favor of slavery, nor was his family. It has been said that he didn’t consider black people his equals – we have to bare in mind the times he lived in – but he certainly believed that according to the Constitution all men were created with certain inalienable rights and that included black people or “negroes” as they were called back then.

I like to believe that he felt so strongly about this because of his own roots. He was not born into the lap of luxury and he had taught himself everything he knew and besides his personal freedom, his childhood and youth was parallel to those of the emancipated slaves of the times.

Lincoln didn’t live to see the fruits of his harvest, his life was cut short on the fateful night of April 14th, 1865 where was shot by John Wikes Booth while attending the play “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater in Washington and was declared dead the next morning.

When Lincoln was President, he belonged to the Republican Party, sadly the Republican Party of today is fighting with all their might against the first black man elected President in the United States and by their actions, they’re going against the principle of the best President in the history of the Republican Party and the United States of America.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

President Obama's Executive Order... Unveiled.

I have been eagerly waiting for the gun control new laws that were to be unveiled today by President Obama, after all, they promised it was going to be “the most aggressive and expansive national gun-control agenda in generations."
I was moved by Vice President Joe Biden’s speech, it was very touching. I was also extremely excited to hear the President mention putting a limit of 10 bullets per magazine and banning assault weapons. I was excited to hear that there will be universal background checks and he did mention health somewhere in the equation.
Then I waited and waited to hear all the 23 points that I knew he was signing today… nothing.
I went searching at the White House website and again, nothing. It was on Facebook that someone shared with me the 23 points as published on TPM and my heart sank to the basement. These are the 23 points contained in the Executive Order, you can click Observation to read my opinion:
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system. Observation
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system. Observation
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.  Observation
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.  Observation
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.  Observation
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.  Observation
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.  Observation
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).  Observation
9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.  Observation
10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.  Observation
11. Nominate an ATF director.  Observation
12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.  Observation
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.  Observation
14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.  Observation
15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.  Observation
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.  Observation
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.  Observation
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.  Observation
19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.  Observation
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.  Observation
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.  Observation
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.  Observation
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.  Observation

My question is… Why the need of an Executive Order and the fanfare for the majority of these points? As I see it, most didn’t need an EO. There is no mention about what should be removed from the market; there is no mention about banning, limiting, insurance or testing. Testing should be a must, even police officers must take a psychological test, why not an individual, untrained and armed not be required to pass a psychological test? And why not make mandatory to have liability insurance when car owners are forced to have one?
President Obama is leaving the legalities to Congress which means that nothing will be done. There is no way Republicans in Congress will ban any guns or set a limit on the number of bullets a magazine can hold or dare to do anything that will upset the NRA.
So stay tuned, don’t miss the next massacre coming to a town near you!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Basement Militant

Such is the text of the Second Amendment, adopted in the Bill of Rights back on December 15th, 1791.

During the War of Independence, George Washington lead what was known as the Continental Army, created on June 14, 1775. Men who had served in the British army and the colonial militia composed this army.

We won our independence on July 2, 1776 and signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. After the war, the Continental Army was dismantled, and it was up to the State's militia to defend the new nation. The sovereignty of the country depended on the brave men that after the war were tending to the lands given to them by the new Republic as payment for their valor. At that time, the settlers were still battling the Natives and their priority was to defend their families and homestead so in 1791 Congress created the Legion of the United States to protect the settlers from the Natives and to protect the country, but that lasted for only 5 years, and it was disbanded in 1796.

The United States Army was created on June 3, 1784. The entire population of the United States back in those days according to the first Census was 3,893,635. That figure included women, slaves, children, men and "other free people" which I am assuming were free people from other races such as Asians. Only 807,094 were free men over the age of 16, but it is not specified up to what age so we can safely assume that seniors are included in that figure nor was it specified that these males were all in good health or if some of them were physically impaired due to the recent independence war. Regardless, during the Revolutionary war, according to Wikipedia, our forces at the height of the war consisted of 35,000 men in the Continental army, 44,500 in the militia and 5,000 in the Continental Navy. We had the support of 12,000 French that fought with us in America and approximately 60,000 French and Spanish that were helping us in Europe. The total able bodies we had during the prime of the war was a total of 96,500. The British empire, on the other hand, had 56,000 in the army, 171,000 sailors, and their allies were fighting alongside with them like Germany with 30,000 men, the Loyalists (traitors of the revolution) 50,000 and Natives with 13,000 totaling 320,000 men. The British navy alone had more men that the entire forces of the Revolutionary army!

I am mentioning all of the above to emphasize the importance the militia had back in those days and why the second amendment was redacted. The country didn't have enough men to sustain a strong enough army to defend this country from an invasion. Every able man would have been called to serve in case of an invasion, and they had to be ready to defend the country, every single one of them, or they would have faced severe penalties.

The only time in modern history when the United States called upon its citizens to fight in a war, not voluntarily, was during the Vietnam War. That created an uproar among the citizens who did not want to serve and most were against the war and refused to serve. Among those that refused was Cassius Clay or as he is called today Muhammad Ali. Those were difficult times that led to massive manifestations in every city of this country and to an unwritten promise from the government that the hateful draft will not be implemented again. So there the militia and part of the second amendment went... except for the part of holding on to their precious guns at all cost!

Now, the argument of gun control is on the table once again. Again we hear the typical outcries that "over my dead body will the government take away my guns," or "it is my Constitutional right to bear arms" etc. Most of these gun owners, men and women alike, have not volunteered to fight in any of the current wars being fought - and they have had plenty of time to do so; we've been fighting these wars for 12 long years - but most haven't even thought of putting their life on the line. No, they couldn't care less about the militia part of the Second Amendment, all they care for is their right to bear arms but, for what purpose and intent?

According to them, it's to defend themselves and to defend the country against the tyranny of the government. To defend yourself, you don't need an unlimited number of guns since you only have two hands and, to defend the country I am sorry to say that those guns - including assault weapons - will render themselves useless if faced with a real army, especially our army with unlimited funds and with every thinkable and unthinkable weapon at their disposal so that argument it's a pitiful one.

Another argument it has been repeated to no end is the one "now is not the time" to discuss gun control. When is the "right time" to talk about bringing sense back to the American people?

On July 27th, 2008 Jim David Adkisson fired a shotgun at a congregation at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church with the intent to kill liberals and Democrats. Mr. Adkisson decided to do his deed during a performance of a musical presentation by youngsters in the Church, killing two people and injuring seven. That event was swept under the carpet because "it wasn't the right time" to discuss gun control.

We had Congresswoman Gaby Giffords January 8, 2011 shot during a public meeting where eighteen people where shot and out of the eighteen, eight died. We let that horrible occurrence slide because it "wasn't the time."

Then, on October 24, 2012 Floyd Palmer shot and killed Gregory McDowell who was leading a prayer inside the World Changers Church International in Georgia. It barely made the news, "it wasn't the right time" to discuss gun control after all the suspect killed only one man. Again we must wait for the elusive "right time" to discuss the issue.

Barely a month later, in California, on November 4, 2012 Andres Ordonez was shot and killed as he was coming out of the Principe de Paz Church. Another man shot, no big deal... It is still "not the right time" to engage in any conversation about gun control.

December was a terrible month. On December 14th, 2012 in Connecticut, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the worst carnage we have seen occurred. On that fateful day, twenty young children ranging from 5 to 6 years of age and five adults were shot several times by Adam Lanza for no apparent reason. The country was in shock, the majority of sensible and responsible adults, including some gun owners demanded a reform to our gun laws.

A week to the day later, on December 21st, Jeffrey Lee Michael killed 4 people in Pennsylvania. One of the victims, Kimberly A. Scott (58 years old), was killed inside the church while she was putting up the Christmas Decorations.

After these two last shootings, the NRA and gun fanatics are still claiming "this is not the right time" to talk about gun control. If the killing of 20 young, innocent children inside an elementary school is not a strong enough argument to initiate a conversation to reach some changes we can agree with... what will it take and when will the right time be?

I hate guns, however, I accept them. I accept that there will always be those that in order to feel secure must have their guns. I accept one or two guns and perhaps a rifle to hunt, even when I despise hunting, I must not impose my views on others. My questions to the gun fanatics that defend their rights above else are: What about my rights? Why are my rights not as weighty as yours? Why, if I am capable of accepting your ballistic attitude but you are not capable of accepting my peaceful one? Can we find a middle ground where we can respect our individual rights or is it that because you have a gun and I don't, your rights are more valuable than mine?

There is no need for a 100-bullet magazine unless we're fighting a war. We are mature adults, and part of that maturity is the capability to understand that we don't live in an ideal world; we can't have everything our hearts' desire or do whatever we want. There must be boundaries because the obsession of gun owners interferes with the obsession of pacifists. I can't understand why I must sacrifice my rights in order for the gun lovers to have as many and different weapons as they wish. If it were for me, all guns would be banned, but I do realize it is an impossible dream. If I accept for people to have guns, why are gun owners reluctant to give an inch and accept that there are certain weapons that do not belong in the hands of the public? Why are pacifists the ones that must accept the wishes of those who seem to be more immature and aggressive? Is it the guns they possess that give them that power? Is it because they can shut us up with a bullet? I refuse to give in to their manipulation. If they have rights, I do too. Either we meet in the middle, or we are going to demand a reform to the second amendment. For starters if you are part of a "well regulated militia" then go and fight in the war; those that have remained here during these long twelve years should pay a hefty fine after all, our economy is in desperate need of funds and what this country has in excess are basement militants.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Republican the GOP Doesn't Like

"To question your government is not unpatriotic — to not question your government is unpatriotic."~ Chuck Hagel
"I took an oath of office to the Constitution, I didn't take an oath of office to my party or my president."    ~ Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel, as all of us know, has been nominated by President Obama to be our next Secretary of Defense. This nomination has created turmoil on both sides of the isle and for different reasons. Democrats are aerated because a Democrat wasn’t nominated to hold that position, but truth be told… which of the two Parties is predominantly more aggressive? I think you’ll agree with me that Democrats are more the “peace and love” bunch in Washington where Republicans are more the war mongering type. I know I am stereotyping, and there are always exceptions to the rule, but it is my opinion that to lead an army you have to have a soldier’s mentality.

Mr. Hagel served in the Vietnam War as a Sergeant along with his brother and received several medals for his valor; he was awarded two purple hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge. If someone knows what it entails to be in a war, that’s Chuck Hagel.
I must admit that I wasn’t pleased when the rumors began that President Obama was going to appoint him to be the Secretary of Defense. Mr. Hagel is extremely controversial and outspoken; he made comments and voted against homosexuals while he was Senator and he has made several questionable comments about Israel and the Palestine conflict. However, I rather have a person that speaks his mind without concern about what is politically correct than a hypocrite that will say one thing and do another when away from the public eye. That is not the case with Mr. Hagel, he will tell it as he sees it. Ultimately, all the decisions about civil rights and the relationship between The United States and Israel, how to approach the Palestine or any other global conflict lies with the President, not the Secretary of Defense.
But if we are honest, the positions he has taken throughout his political career are for the most part commendable. He is not like the Republicans we have become accustomed to, those that will vote against their principle just to stick with their Party. Not Mr. Hagel. He publicly criticized the Bush Administration when he said that the administration was “the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus—almost every area" of any presidency in the last forty years."
A lot has been said about Mr. Hagel being Anti-Semite. For what I have read, Mr. Hagel wants for Israel and the Islamic nations to have more of a diplomatic approach to resolve their conflict instead of a ballistic one. He is also against the United States to offer military support to Israel regardless of the situation without first demanding a peaceful resolution. The following is a direct quote from Wikipedia: “In July 2006, Hagel criticized the Bush administration on its handling of the Israel-Lebanon issue, saying "The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now. President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop." He also said "Our relationship with Israel is special and historic... But it need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice.”" It is for this type of comments that he is considered Anti-Semite, I don’t see it that way, I see it as a man that has seen too many unnecessary deaths because of wars and prefers to resolve differences in a more civilized manner, whenever possible.


Only time will tell if the President’s decision to nominate Mr. Hagel was a good decision. I don’t agree with many of Mr. Hagel’s points of views, but I do like a man that speaks his mind, that says that which he believes to be his fundamental principles for what he thinks it’s the good of the country. It’s refreshing to see a Republican step outside the box where they seem to be stuck in and since the majority of Republicans are desperately trying to trash the name of Mr. Hagel, that is enough for me to endorse him!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Ball Never Left Their Court...

On January 1st, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was pointing the accusing finger of accusation at Congress and particularly at the President for the amount of time it took to come to an agreement to prevent going over the financial cliff, and he did this with a straight face! The man that will go down in history for being the first, and probably the only one, to ever filibuster his own bill, the man that openly said his main concern was for Obama to be a one term president, putting aside and on a back burner what was needed to do to save the country.

First of all, it is up to the House of Representatives to create a bill and negotiate the points presented in the President’s plan. John Boehner failed to do this; he even failed to pass his own plan with his own caucus! Boehner’s unprofessionalism and failure to lead, simply shrugged his shoulders, passed the bucket to the Senate and he and the entire House of Representatives went their merry way to enjoy their very undeserved Holiday vacation.

When John Boehner left this important task to the Senate, he did it knowing all too well that even when the Senate could come to an agreement to resolve the matter he was not capable of doing, this agreement would return to the House for approval and, most likely the Republican Representatives will not pass it.

But going back to McConnell and the statement he gave on the Senate Floor trying to blame Democrats for the failures displayed by the Republicans, I would like to mention that since winning the re-election President Obama has asked Congress to negotiate and come to an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff. Since November 8th, 2012 the President has made this plea twelve times...

On November 9th, the very next day after his re-election the President said: “Now, already, I’ve put forward a detailed plan that allows us to make these investments while reducing our deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade. I want to be clear -- I’m not wedded to every detail of my plan. I’m open to compromise. I’m open to new ideas. I’m committed to solving our fiscal challenges. But I refuse to accept any approach that isn’t balanced. I am not going to ask students and seniors and middle-class families to pay down the entire deficit while people like me, making over $250,000, aren’t asked to pay a dime more in taxes. I'm not going to do that.

The next day on November 10th during his weekly address he once more addressed the issue by saying “...We need a majority in Congress to listen – and they should start by making sure taxes don’t go up on the 98% of Americans making under $250,000 a year starting January 1. This is something we all agree on. Even as we negotiate a broader deficit reduction package, Congress should extend middle-class tax cuts right now. It’s a step that would give millions of families and 97% of small businesses the peace of mind that will lead to new jobs and faster growth. There’s no reason to wait.

Four days later on November 14th he tackled the subject once more, “As I’ve said before, I’m open to compromise and I’m open to new ideas. And I’ve been encouraged over the past week to hear Republican after Republican agree on the need for more revenue from the wealthiest Americans as part of our arithmetic if we’re going to be serious about reducing the deficit. 
Because when it comes to taxes, there are two pathways available: Option one, if Congress fails to act by the end of the year, everybody’s taxes will automatically go up -- including the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year and the 97 percent of small businesses who earn less than $250,000 a year. That doesn’t make sense. Our economy can’t afford that right now. Certainly no middle-class family can afford that right now. And nobody in either party says that they want it to happen.

On November 16th, on John Boehner’s birthday the President approached the leaders of the house at a congressional meeting making it clear what was critical for them to resolve when he opened the session by saying “Well, I want to welcome the congressional leadership here and thank them for their time. I think we're all aware that we have some urgent business to do. We've got to make sure that taxes don't go up on middle-class families, that our economy remains strong, that we're creating jobs. And that's an agenda that Democrats and Republicans and independents, people all across the country share.

The very next day, on November 17th the President stated “We shouldn’t hold the middle class hostage while Congress debates tax cuts for the wealthy. Let’s begin our work by actually doing what we all agree on. Let’s keep taxes low for the middle class. And let’s get it done soon – so we can give families and businesses some good news going into the holiday season.

President Obama was on a trip to Asia the week of November 24th and is the only week where he did not plead with Congress to act before the Fiscal Cliff’s deadline, at least not publicly. Upon his return he went at it again and on November 28th during the Cabinet meeting he stated the topics in need of prompt attention. The first topic was the need to create jobs but the second was avoiding the financial cliff and this is what he said: “The second thing that we’ll be talking about, obviously, is what’s on the minds of a lot of American families across the country, and that is making sure that we’ve got this fiscal cliff dealt with and that middle-class taxes don’t go up. I already spoke extensively about that today. I’ll just repeat: There is no reason why taxes on middle-class families should go up. It would be bad for the economy. It would be bad for those families. In fact, it would be bad for the world economy. And so I think it’s very important that we get that resolved, and I am very open to a fair and balanced approach to reduce our deficit and provide the kind of certainty that businesses and consumers need so that we can keep this recovery going.

On November 30th, during a visit to Rodon Group Manufacturing he brought the subject up to those present, expressing what worried him the most. He said “But in Washington, nothing is easy, so there is going to be some prolonged negotiations. And all of us are going to have to get out of our comfort zones to make that happen. I’m willing to do that, and I’m hopeful that enough members of Congress in both parties are willing to do that as well. We can solve these problems. But where the clock is really ticking right now is on middle-class taxes. At the end of the year, middle-class taxes that are currently in place are set to expire -- middle-class tax cuts that are currently in place are set to expire.

There are two things that can happen. If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their income taxes automatically go up on January 1st. Every family, everybody here, you’ll see your taxes go up on January 1st. I mean, I’m assuming that doesn’t sound too good to you.

On December 1st during his Weekly Address, he mentioned again the need to resolve the Fiscal Cliff matter and asked Americans to urge Congress to act when he said: “So let’s begin by doing what we all agree on. Both parties say we should keep middle-class taxes low. The Senate has already passed a bill to keep income taxes from going up on middle-class families. Democrats in the House are ready to do the same thing. And if we can just get a few House Republicans on board, I’ll sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way.

But it’s unacceptable for some Republicans in Congress to hold middle class tax cuts hostage simply because they refuse to let tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans. And if you agree with me, then I could use your help. Let your congressman know what $2,000 means to you. Give them a call. Write them an email. Or tweet them using the hashtag “My2K.” That’s My2K.

On December 8th on the Weekly Address, the President again urged Congress to act “Now, Congress can avoid all this by passing a law that prevents a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income. That means 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses wouldn’t see their income taxes go up by a single dime. Even the wealthiest Americans would get a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income. And families everywhere would enjoy some peace of mind.

The Senate has already done their part. Now we’re just waiting for Republicans in the House to do the same thing. But so far, they’ve put forward an unbalanced plan that actually lowers rates for the wealthiest Americans. If we want to protect the middle class, then the math just doesn’t work.

Because the failure shown by Republicans, on December 21st the President faced the nation and said “I just spoke to Speaker Boehner and I also met with Senator Reid. In the next few days, I've asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction. That's an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days.

Once this legislation is agreed to, I expect Democrats and Republicans to get back to Washington and have it pass both chambers. And I will immediately sign that legislation into law, before January 1st of next year. It’s that simple.

By December 28th, nothing had been done and it was on this day that he gave an ultimatum, which is why I believe Mitch McConnell came to an agreement with Harry Reid, that otherwise he would not have. On this day, the President gave precise instructions to avoid the Fiscal Cliff. Following is the full transcript of the President’s speech.
“Good afternoon, everybody. For the past couple of months, I’ve been working with leaders of both parties to try and forge an agreement that would grow our economy and shrink the deficit -- a balanced plan that would cut spending in a responsible way but also ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, and, above all, protect our middle class and everybody who is striving to get into the middle class.

I still want to get this done. It’s the right thing to do for our families, for our businesses, and for our entire economy. But the hour for immediate action is here. It is now.

We’re now at the point where, in just four days, every American’s tax rates are scheduled to go up by law. Every American’s paycheck will get considerably smaller. And that would be the wrong thing to do for our economy, it would be bad for middle-class families, and it would be bad for businesses that depend on family spending. Fortunately, Congress can prevent it from happening if they act right now.

I just had a good and constructive discussion here at the White House with Senate and House leadership about how to prevent this tax hike on the middle class, and I’m optimistic we may still be able to reach an agreement that can pass both houses in time. Senators Reid and McConnell are working on such an agreement as we speak.

But if an agreement isn’t reached in time between Senator Reid and Senator McConnell, then I will urge Senator Reid to bring to the floor a basic package for an up-or-down vote –- one that protects the middle class from an income tax hike, extends the vital lifeline of unemployment insurance to two million Americans looking for a job, and lays the groundwork for future cooperation on more economic growth and deficit reduction.

I believe such a proposal could pass both houses with bipartisan majorities as long as those leaders allow it to actually come to a vote. If members of the House or the Senate want to vote no, they can –- but we should let everybody vote. That’s the way this is supposed to work. If you can get a majority in the House and you can get a majority in the Senate, then we should be able to pass a bill.

So the American people are watching what we do here. Obviously, their patience is already thin. This is déjà vu all over again. America wonders why it is that in this town, for some reason, you can't get stuff done in an organized timetable; why everything always has to wait until the last minute. Well, we're now at the last minute, and the American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy. Not right now.

The economy is growing, but sustaining that trend is going to require elected officials to do their jobs. The housing market is recovering, but that could be impacted if folks are seeing smaller paychecks. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008, but already you're seeing businesses and consumers starting to hold back because of the dysfunction that they see in Washington.

Economists, business leaders all think that we’re poised to grow in 2013 –- as long as politics in Washington don’t get in the way of America’s progress.

So we've got to get this done. I just want to repeat -- we had a constructive meeting today. Senators Reid and McConnell are discussing a potential agreement where we can get a bipartisan bill out of the Senate, over to the House and done in a timely fashion so that we've met the December 31st deadline. But given how things have been working in this town, we always have to wait and see until it actually happens. The one thing that the American people should not have to wait and see is some sort of action.

So if we don’t see an agreement between the two leaders in the Senate, I expect a bill to go on the floor -- and I've asked Senator Reid to do this -- put a bill on the floor that makes sure that taxes on middle-class families don’t go up, that unemployment insurance is still available for two million people, and that lays the groundwork, then, for additional deficit reduction and economic growth steps that we can take in the New Year.

But let's not miss this deadline. That’s the bare minimum that we should be able to get done, and it shouldn’t be that hard since Democrats and Republicans both say they don’t want to see taxes go up on middle-class families.

I just have to repeat -- outside of Washington, nobody understands how it is that this seems to be a repeat pattern over and over again. Ordinary folks, they do their jobs. They meet deadlines. They sit down and they discuss things, and then things happen. If there are disagreements, they sort through the disagreements. The notion that our elected leadership can't do the same thing is mind-boggling to them. It needs to stop.

So I'm modestly optimistic that an agreement can be achieved. Nobody is going to get 100 percent of what they want, but let's make sure that middle-class families and the American economy -- and, in fact, the world economy -- aren't adversely impacted because people can't do their jobs.

Thank you very much, everybody.”
The President gave two more speeches on the subject, one on December 29th and another on December 31st urging Congress to reach an agreement.
In order to avoid an up and down vote where Republicans would have been exposed as the ones highjacking our economy, McConnell came into an agreement with the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. Republicans, and particularly McConnell, refused to do anything that the President requested from them, even if it’s for the good of the country. Their refusal is so obvious that McConnell on his Senate Floor Statement couldn’t thank the President for his relentless effort to save the economy and the country, instead he only thanked the Vice President – a white man – by saying: “I also want to thank the Vice President for recognizing the importance of preventing this tax hike on the American people and stepping up to play a crucial role in getting us there. 

What McConnell did was to kick the can down the road - basically the only thing Republicans know how to do when they know they must legislate or face the consequences.  Republicans just put a band-aid on the economy, but they are incapable of performing their job.

It shouldn’t have taken this long to come to an agreement, and this shouldn’t be the model for how we do things around here, but I appreciate his willingness to get this done for the country.”

I agree, it shouldn’t have taken this long but who were the ones that did nothing? Who were the ones that went on vacation when a matter this important was pending? Who were the ones that didn’t care for the middle class, the children, the seniors and the unemployed? I’m sorry McConnell, you and the Republicans in Congress are not worthy of holding such powers, you are not worthy of receiving the salaries we are paying you and I call to the American people to call for their resignation. They work for us, they work because of us and since they are not doing the job they were hired to do I think they should take their turn at the unemployment lines.