Farewell to a Great Man


In about 40 minutes, President Barack Obama is going to give his farewell address to the world. And I for one will miss the hell out of him.

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Goodbye.

Let’s take a moment to realize just how incredible this president has been.

First, he’s not fully white. He’s also not fully black. He’s a mix of both, very much like our country itself. He’s also proof that, yes, in fact someone who isn’t completely white can indeed be elected to the presidency.

Second, he accomplished quite a bit and quite a bit was done during his time in office. Same-sex marriage is legal across the country. He restored our standing in the eyes of the world, and opened relations with Cuba, in addition to negotiating a deal with Iran. Obamacare/the ACA remains the law of the land and, really, isn’t likely to go completely away. As Biden once pointed out, bin Laden is dead, and GM is alive. Those are both because of things our president did.

And lastly, he managed to have a full eight years in office with not. One. Scandal. None. That’s pretty impressive. No blowjobs from interns, no torture of prisoners, no trading arms for hostages, no bugging the offices of his opposition, nothing. This is quite impressive, especially in the post-Watergate era.

Obama has not been everything he could have been. He faced unprecedented opposition from the Republicans who from day one were determined to not allow him to govern. He thought he could compromise and meet them halfway. But this was the crowed who believed compromise to be weakness, and they weren’t going to give him anything.

As a result, Obamacare was watered down, Gitmo was never closed, and we remain deep in the Middle East quagmire.

It is to our country’s great shame that this amazing man is being replaced by Donald Trump. It really disappoints me and boggles my mind. But Obama still remains the best president I’ve ever lived under, and I strongly doubt that’s going to change any time before 2021.

A Reminder of Who We Have Now


Our president. I feel quite pleased and honored to have lived during his time in office.

The Next Step


So we continue to discuss the torture report. *sigh* I’d like to think that we’ll be taking steps to do something about this, but we won’t; certainly not in a court of law. But allow me to discuss what I’d like to see in the next few years.

First off, if we don’t already have an independent, special prosecutor/team of such people investigating this with an eye toward filing charges, then we should.

Second, assuming there is enough evidence to go forward (and with Cheney bragging on TV about how we tortured people, I think this is likely), then charges need to be filed against everyone who was involved in this at all levels. Everyone from the CIA personnel who carried out the torture (and no, “I was just following orders” still isn’t a valid defense), on up to anyone who approved it being used to anyone who participated in covering-up it’s use. This would certainly include Cheney, probably Bush, and maybe Condeleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, among others.

Now I do want to emphasize that these people stand accused of, and in Cheney’s case have admitted to, breaking American laws. I’m not even looking at the international aspect of this.

It is also worth remembering that we don’t actually have a choice, legally, about prosecuting them. We signed several treaties about things like torture, and under the guidelines of those treaties (which carry the force of law in the USA), we are legally required to prosecute.

Once that’s all done, and we’ve finished with the trials, we then should turn over any evidence and suspects to an international war crimes tribunal. Yes, this in theory means that an ex-American President would be facing trial in a foreign court. If we don’t do this voluntarily, then I suggest the various national courts of other countries start going after those involved. This means things like extradition requests and the like.

Lest this come off as something partisan (and how being against torture can be a partisan issue is beyond me), allow me to state clearly that I think everyone involved in the torture and cover-up should face criminal charges. This means that if there is evidence Obama helped in the cover-up, then Obama should also face charges.

I’m completely in favor of a scorched earth policy here. It’s terrible, but so is what we did. We need to own up to that, and we need to face the consequences, otherwise this country we all love will be one of the nastier things on Earth: a rogue nation outside international laws.

Marching as to War


Tonight, President Obama will be doing a televised address to the country wherein it sounds like he’ll be sending us off to war in Iraq. Again. Yes, twice wasn’t enough; apparently third try’s the charm or something.

I’m really not happy about this. Yes, it’s going to be targeted airstrikes in Iraq and, apparently, Syria, and that’s better than actually invading again. But…well, it’s still us getting involved in a situation that is perhaps best left for those actually affected by it (Iraq, Turkey, Syria, the Kurds), to deal with; something which, you will notice, they aren’t generally concerned enough to do. Instead, we’re just going to muscle in and bomb shit.

And why? Because two Americans were killed.

Let me emphasize this: we’re about to begin airstrikes that will likely kill thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people, some of them civilians, because two Americans were killed.

ISIS/ISIL does not currently pose a threat to us. They may at some point in the future, but the same can be said for various religious terrorist groups around the world, from places like Sri Lanka to Ireland.

By attacking ISIS/ISIL, all we’re doing is playing into their hands. All we’re doing is being everything they accuse us of being. We might well wipe them out, it is true, though we haven’t managed that with Al Qaeda after thirteen years of effort, but if we do wipe them out, what do you think will happen? A new terrorist group will spring up in their place. Well, I say “a” up there. More likely it’ll be a few dozen, and it will be made up of young Syrians and Iraqis who will say, “Those Americans killed my mother when they bombed us! They will pay!”

We’re also sending a message to the world about how easy it is to make us dance to their tune, and about how we’re willing to act based on emotion, especially fear, rather than what’s logical and best. This is not something that I had expected from our President, and I’m quite disappointed in him right now.

I also really hope Congress continues to step up in this case and demand that the President come to them for approval on this plan. I’d frankly like to see severe restrictions on the President’s ability to send our military around the world and engage in combat. The Constitution says only Congress can declare war. Happy day, that means we haven’t been at war since 1945.

This whole thing strikes me as a bad, stupid idea that will do nothing but backfire spectacularly. I hope I’m wrong, but I think I’m not.

As Past Becomes Present


Say hello to the history of the now.

Live-Blogging the State of the Union, 2014


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7:05pm MST – Well, here we are, ready for another year of blogging the State of the Union. I’m a bit late starting up on this, but they’re still doing the pre-game show, so that’s ok. Why am I late starting? Because I am using a brand-new computer! Yay!

As always, feel free to hit F5 at any time for frequent updates!

7:13 – Watching CBS’ coverage, where someone just made the sage observation that a fifty-year-old man is going grey. What a shock!

7:15 – Starting off by touting all the successes, like higher graduation rates, and lower unemployment rates. Not bad. I’m tired of the “the state of our union is strong!” boilerplate.

7:16 – As he lists off these people and their successes, I can’t help but notice that he doesn’t add, “The billionaire, sitting in his mansion, creating jobs.”

7:19 – Some not subtle jabs at the Republicans for their fiscal irresponsibility. I hope we get more of that.

7:20 – Create new jobs, not new crises. I like the idea, but will the Republicans let that happen?

7:22 – Talking now about the lack of upward mobility and the income inequality. We knew this was going to happen. I’m pleased to see a sitting president take on these issues, but I wonder if it’s something he can do anything about. Let’s see what he suggests.

7:24 – I remain baffled that people can look on this president with hate, and that they can call him some radical socialist. I see a political moderate who is trying the best he can against an insane opposition.

7:26 – Here we go. Incentives for companies to move jobs back to America and a cut to their tax rates. I’m ok with those ideas.

7:29 – Lots of stuff about encouraging innovation. It is important to remember that things like the internet came about because of government investment.

7:31 – Lots of stuff now about natural gas and what a great thing it is. I agree that it has plenty of potential, but like we see in any and all situations like this, we need strong regulation in addition to development of gas.

7:32 – I am all in favor of taxing away tax subsidies for multi-billion dollar oil companies and funneling those off to development of solar. But politicians on both sides are most certainly not in favor of it. We shall see what happens.

7:34 – “The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” I am baffled again, because I know, know that is a controversial statement. The mere fact that many Republicans didn’t applaud tells you all you need to know. Sad.

7:37 – Kind of meaningless boilerplate about having the VP head up some group to improve the way we train new workers. We shall see if it comes to anything, but I’m not holding my breath. The stuff about needing to extend unemployment benefits is much more solid.

7:42 – A call for high-quality education for all. That’s basic, but needs to be said. We do have the best educational system in the world…for those who can access private schools. We need to spread that around.

7:43 – To the older generation, having high-speed, broadband internet access sounds like a luxury. To people my age and younger, it’s pretty much a necessity. The internet remains one of the greatest inventions in human history and everyone needs to be able to access it.

7:46 – Good lord. Who is that person wearing orange with green glasses?!

7:48 – Here comes the minimum wage push. Pushing, I should note, not just Congress, but pushing business owners, too.

7:51 – A $10.10 minimum wage would be nice, but I don’t think it is likely. Still, he is right. It would help American workers, and give people more money to spend, thus improving the economy and improving businesses.

7:52 – Hmmmm. A new savings bond idea just for workers to save for retirement. I’m interested. Do tell me more.

7:54 – Personalizing the health care reform is a very smart idea. I know I have coverage I wouldn’t have otherwise, as do my two best friends and my mom.

7:55 – I love that the Republicans are so deep in denial that they can’t even applaud the idea of people not being excluded for pre-existing conditions. What a group of assholes.

8:00 – Here comes the suck-up to the military.

8:04 – Well, now, there’s a thinly-veiled swipe at the way Bush handled Iraq and Afghanistan. Good.

8:05 – Boehner can’t even applaud the idea of protecting privacy?

8:07 – Sucking-up to Israel. That got everyone on their feet!

8:09 – So, check it. We have sanctions against Iran to force them to the negotiating table. Now that is happening, and yet people still don’t think we should be negotiating with them. That seems to include all the Republicans and most Democrats. Sad.

8:16 – I really, really dislike the level of importance the military has in American political life. Do you know, back in the early days of the republic, there was serious discussion about whether or not a healthy democracy should have a standing military? We should, but it needs to be way smaller and have way less influence in our political arenas.

Well, that’s that. A good speech. I think that if the Democrats are smart, they will spend 2014 running on the successes of Obama’s presidency, and running in favor of things like Obamacare. I don’t see that being a losing proposition except in places where Democrats aren’t likely to win anyhow. An all-around great speech.

Live-Blogging the 2013 State of the Union Address


President_Barack_Obama

So overall I thought this was a good SOTU. Nothing very earth-shattering, but good stuff that needed to be said. I’m confident that the future will be better than the present or the past, and I’m reminded just how lucky we are to have a president like this one.

8:16 – Ending on a strong note, though I could have done without the usual “God bless the United States of America” hooey.

8:12 – “They deserve a simple vote!” At a bare minimum, yes.

8:11 – A bit of shameless manipulation here, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

8:09 – Now asking for at least a vote on common sense gun legislation. It won’t happen, but I can dream.

8:07 – Voting reform is an excellent idea, but he doesn’t go far enough. Hold elections on the weekends. Hold voting in more places. Move the national election date up to September, so that weather won’t be such an issue.

8:05 – No sign of love from the GOP when it comes to gay rights. Fuckin’ GOP wonder why…oh, never mind. They’re ossified tools, and we all know it.

8:03 – Gratsing Burma while making it clear that we need to serve as a democratic inspiration to the rest of the world, too. That I can wholeheartedly support.

7:58 – He’s promising a bit more transparency on the way we’re fighting the War on Terror. That’s a good thing, but it should be very nearly completely transparent in a democracy.

7:55 – The core of Al Qaeda was defeated long, long ago. They don’t represent a serious threat anymore, and arguably never did. They got very, very lucky on 9/11, but most of the damage to us since then has been self-inflicted.

7:52 – Now he wants to tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, making it basically a living wage. I think that’s another excellent, long overdue idea.

7:51 – Now calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. Republicans don’t applaud. Fuckin’ GOP wonder why they have a problem with the poor? There’s your answer.

7:49 – The fact that anyone, anywhere, would have to be encouraged to sign the Violence Against Women Act is just stupid. Fuckin’ GOP wonder why they have a problem with women? There’s your answer.

7:47 – The first notable negative noises of the night come when immigration reform is mentioned. Fuckin’ GOP wonder why they have a problem with Hispanics? There’s your answer.

7:46 – A plan to reform federal aid for colleges. A good idea, if it can help reduce costs while keeping up quality.

7:44 – Modeling our schools along what the Germans are doing. Well, it worked before. Let’s try it again!

7:42 – Now onto high quality pre-school for all. I suppose if everyone is doing it, we could just call it “school”, but never mind that. Has it really been shown to make a huge difference? If so, I’m certainly all in favor.

7:39 – A real emphasis on repairing our infrastructure. A great idea, and long overdue. Interest rates are at an all time low. It will never, ever be cheaper to fix these problems than it is right now.

7:37 – Cut in half the energy wasted by homes and businesses in the next two decades. A good idea, and well worth pursuing.

7:36 – Making it clear that if Congress won’t act, he will. I can’t wait to see what comes of that!

7:35 – Glad Obama is emphasizing the importance of dealing with climate change.

7:32 – Boehner is spending most of the speech looking like he’s got a lemon in his mouth.

7:31 – Deficit neutral policies, he says. We shall see.

7:28 – Pointing out that none of us will get everything we want, and trying to put part interests aside. Sounds good to me. The “investments in our future” part is especially good. Our infrastructure needs repairing, and it will never be cheaper to fix than it is now.

7:26 – Loophole closing, something I’m sure the GOP types will love.

7:25 – Now embracing Simpsons-Bowles and highlighting the cost savings of health care reform and the like.

7:19 – “…no matter what you look like, or who you love.” He really does seem to have fully embraced the gay rights movement, hasn’t he?

7:18 – Biden and Boehner…worst seats in the House. Can you imagine just staring at the back of someone’s head for over an hour, knowing that you’re on camera the entire time?

7:17 – Starting with a somewhat conciliatory quote from JFK, and talking about the end of the war(s).

7:15 – Six minutes later, he gets to the podium.

7:09 – And now, the President has arrived.

7:05pm MST – So it’s about to start. I have no hopes for anything Earth shattering. The best, most interesting thing that might happen is one of the GOP congressmen acting like an ass yet again. But we shall see.