I miss liking Obama

Obama_2008

In our darkest hour, at least that we millenials can remember, Obama gave us hope.  We had 8 years of fear, debt, a weak economy, and blind nationalism that sickened any of us with even the most basic critical thinking skills.  The Bush era was a nightmare for us.

I admit it.  The neocons had turned me off to America for a while.  To them, that is a mortal sin.  Everyone is supposed to love ‘mer’ca!  If you don’t, there must be something wrong with you.  And to them “America” is whatever they support.  Don’t support the war in Iraq?  Why do you hate ‘mer’ca?!  Don’t want to torture accused terrorists?  Why do you hate ‘mer’ca?!  Don’t like oil subsidies?  Well, you get the idea.

I escaped to England, thinking I would find something better in the land of my forefathers.  Well, it wasn’t England so much as it was London.  I’ll spare you the details, but know that when America suffered over here, I suffered over there.  I suffered over there, so I didn’t have to suffer over here…heh heh heh (Imagine my Bush voice).  When the economy tanked, my own finances likewise tanked.  When I thought all was lost, there was that enthusiastic progressive, multiracial, with and Islamic father and Christian mother, who represented an “America” I found far more appealing.  It was an America where people were free to be different, where hard work paid off.  It was an America of “hope and change”.  It was no longer the America of angry pseudo-conservatives watching endless FOX news, calling food stamps recipients “lazy” while ignoring subsidies for big business, and supporting every war against every nation of brown skinned Muslims since they all look like Osama bin Laden.  That America was dying, and a new one was being born.  That the rebirth was being led by a man who looked Muslim, that was just a plus for me.  Take that neocons!

Due to circumstances, I was moving back home.

When Obama was inaugurated, he declared “Change has come to America”.  To this day, I still think he meant that at the time, but he was wrong.  Change doesn’t come from inauguration.    (I’ve discussed my disappointments with Obama here and here).  Now the Republicans are in control of Congress, and rather than turning over a new leaf, they’re back to the same old tricks.  They are seeking more subsidies, more welfare for big banks, and cuts to school lunches.  We can’t afford decent food for our kids, but we can afford to back risky derivatives trading with FDIC insurance.  (Details in this article).  In all of their efforts to “cut spending”, you will hear no mention of ending oil subsidies, or auditing the Pentagon.  Actually, they will include more funding for weapons that the Pentagon didn’t even request.  But we can’t afford nutritious school lunches – sorry kids.  It’s the same old crony capitalism the Republicans have been pushing since the party was founded.  As the Republicans remind me of why I despise them so much (though I consider myself conservative), I can’t help but miss the Obama I voted for in 2008.  Now, more than ever, we need that Obama.  But he is a broken man now.

We partly have ourselves to blame.  Like Obama, we thought we had won when he took office.  We got lazy while the corporatists on the right and their FOX news viewing grunts got to work.  They obstructed everything, attacked Obama from all angles, and we stuck our heads in the sands.  Eventually, Obama gave in, and now we’ve got an Obama who supports indefinite detention, tolerates oil subsidies, invades countries without Congressional approval, and only faintly opposes torture.  John McCain has done more to end torture than Obama, and McCain is Mr. Neocon!

Still, no matter what Obama has done, I can’t hate him.  In 2008, in our darkest hour, in mine too, he restored my faith in this country.  I’m not an ‘mer’can, but I am a proud American.  But now I know that one man isn’t going to turn it around.  The FOX news viewers may think Obama hates this country because he’s half Kenyan and his father is a Muslim, but I know that Obama loved, and probably still loves, the America that I love.  It’s the America where the poor and downtrodden who don’t stand a chance in Europe can come and succeed.  It’s the land of opportunity, innovation, and progress.  I have little faith left in Obama, but I’ll never forget what he did for me, and all of us.  Remember what Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over, and over, and over again…and that’s why I succeed.”  We will move this country out of the neocon dark ages, but we will have to fail many times first.

PS  I’m clearly not a typical Rand Paul supporter, but I am a supporter.  I don’t care if it comes from the left wing, the right wing, or a chicken wing on a string at burger king.  I’m not a progressive, but I supported Obama.  I’m not a libertarian, but I support Paul.  I just know that the old left-right paradigm needs to end, and I’ll support any candidate who can make progress towards that goal.

Small Talk – Top 5 Most Annoying Workplace Cliches

SmallTalk

You don’t actually want to know how I’m doing, and I don’t actually want to know the details of your life as you’re passing by.  It doesn’t mean I don’t like you, or don’t care about you.  It’s just that we can’t have a serious conversation in the next two minutes, and I don’t care to spend two minutes reciting meaningless pleasantries.  All we’re really saying to each other is, “I acknowledge your existence” and “I acknowledge your existence, too”.

So, without further ado, here is my top five list of annoying workplace conversational clichés, in descending order from least to most annoying.

5.  “Working hard, or hardly working?” This was a little funny the first time I heard it, 20 years ago!  Now it’s just dumb.

4.  “Thank goodness it’s Friday!” For one thing, not everyone is lucky enough to have a Mon – Fri schedule these days.  Besides, is work really so bad that you count the minutes until it’s over?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t do jobs that I hate.  Don’t get me wrong, I like time off, but I don’t get any pleasure by pretending that every waking moment of work it utter agony and that going home will be like getting out of prison after a 20 year sentence.

3.  “Don’t work too hard.” If I have a lot to do, I’ll probably work harder.  If not, I won’t work so hard.  But these 4 words have been repeated for so many decades now that they’ve lost all meaning.  I think they were intended to be a joke towards someone who has an easy job.

2.  “How was your weekend?” Unless you actually want to sit down and talk about our weekends, don’t ask.  I have no interest in saying “it was fine,” and then asking you the same question just so that you can give a similar response.  I once had an interesting coworker who told me of his weekends fishing, camping, or ghost hunting.  Now that, I’ll gladly ask about.

  1.  You - “How’s it going?” Me – “Fine”  You – “Well, I’m glad that you’re fine”.  When people ask how I’m doing, I just say “fine” and leave it at that.  I’m not going to follow that with “And how are you doing?” just to hear you also say “fine”.  It’s not to be inconsiderate, but let’s be honest, you didn’t actually care how I was doing either did you?

Have any of you reading this ever tried to actually tell someone how you’re doing when they ask?  You’ll likely find they quickly exit the conversation, as they had little interest to begin with.  So I for one see no reason we can’t just say, “good morning” and “good morning”, and leave it at that.  I once worked in a building with a man who didn’t even do that.  He just nodded.  When I was trained, my coworkers told me “On he’s a nice man, he just isn’t much for small talk”.  For them, his morning head nod was awkward, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air.  Is there a more efficient way to acknowledge someone’s existence than with a simple head nod?  Working with him was far more pleasant than working with most people, who mean well, but really just wear my patience with superficial small talk.

Interesting Links for further thought:

Interesting article on small talk as it relates to happiness

As annoying as is small talk, this article makes a case for why it is important

An amusing blog post by someone who fears succumbing to work place small talk

Leonard and Penny – Believable?

Penny and Leonard image

Be honest!  If you saw a couple like Big Bang Theory’s Leonard and Penny walking down the street, you’d probably think poor Leonard was in the “friend-zone”.  Either that, or he has a lot of money.  Penny is very much the quintessential “hot blonde”, from her blonde hair and blue eyes, to her breasts that “defy gravity” (according to the “Amy” character), her legs, her assets.  Leonard is kinda cute in his own nerdy way, but he’s short, he’s no Brad Pitt, he wears glasses, and is too much of a nice guy.  Guys like Leonard are usually “just friends” with girls like Penny.  Yet, as Big Bang Theory enters its 8th Season, there they are together again…and engaged!

My first instinct is to say, “only on TV”.  However, I’m a big fan of the show and have paid close attention to these two since the beginning.  A younger, naïve Penny likely would have seen Leonard as a sweet guy who could be a good “friend”.  Many girls with Penny’s looks and insecurity would happily string poor Leonard along to give themselves an ego boost between dating, as Penny calls them, “dumb guys from the gym”.  Penny has certainly been around, as the Big Bang series began with Penny heartbroken from dating a big jerk with huge muscles and a bad attitude.  As the series continues, we learn more about Penny’s promiscuous past.  However, from day 1, she was always warm, open minded, but deeply flawed.  Some fans of the show claim that Penny only uses Leonard when she’s depressed, insecure, or just wants a man and has nobody else available.  Genuine friends do lean on each other when they’re depressed or insecure.  There was also one particular episode when Penny was drunk and attempted to have a one-night stand with Leonard.  However, she turned down Zack (a rather handsome “dumb guy from the gym” type) to be with Leonard that night.  While it certainly wasn’t Penny’s finest moment, I think it shows that deep down, her feelings for Leonard were developing.

Consider also how Penny has gone out of her way to make Leonard happy as well.  She threw him his first birthday party late in the first season, because he never had them growing up.  Despite her financial woes, she bought him several thoughtful gifts that she herself has no interest in, such as a vintage Star Trek transporter toy.  Furthermore, during those periods when they weren’t dating, Penny often gave Leonard helpful advice with women.  Lastly on this point, she cried when Leonard left for his trip to the North Pole.  Penny may be insecure, reckless, and yes, willing to turn to Leonard to bail her out of bad situations she’s put herself into, but she’s also kind, considerate, and loyal as a friend.  Women as attractive as Penny are often shallow and stuck up but not Penny.  She sees beneath the surface.

I think that after that 4 year relationship that Penny was in before the series began, she grew as a person.  That continued bad experiences with that ex-boyfriend matured her to the point where she would finally consider a sweet guy like Leonard.  She finds him cute, and definitely cares about him.  Does she have a strong, bestial attraction to him?  Nope!  And why is that necessary?  I know this is just a TV show, but while Penny and Leonard’s relationship is unusual, I do find it believable.  Rare, but believable.  Penny may not be a science genius like Leonard or Sheldon, but she has street smarts.  Her street smarts led her to a wise decision to invest her love in Leonard, and I look forward to seeing it continue.  As for Leonard, his biggest flaw with Penny has always been his – to put it bluntly – his spinelessness.  Once when they were on a weird, “friendship” “not really a date” type…whatever it was, Leonard started being more assertive and Penny liked that.  I think Penny wants Leonard to be more assertive, in part because she cares about him, but also because she’s a woman, and women are attracted to that.  It’s just human nature.  So, in conclusion, if Leonard is assertive, makes Penny happy but doesn’t bend over backwards trying to appease her, I think they both will have a bright future indeed.  Well, the new season starts tonight, and I can’t wait!

Why Aren’t American workers earning more money? (It’s not because of a low minimum wage)

WageGraph

“Low wages are the most costly any employer can pay” – Henry Ford

At times like these, many are tempted to support a minimum wage increase.  The cost of living is increasing (mainly food prices), our economy is growing, yet wages for the lower middle class are stagnant and the upper middle class is shrinking.  A few wealthy people are reaping the benefits of global industrialization while the rest of us scrap to get by.  Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see a meme or a quote from the Sen. Bernie Sanders on the subject, and he means well in his efforts to raise the minimum wage.  This, however, treats the symptom rather than the cause.

Our stagnant wage growth in relation to the cost of living is caused by two factors:  “free trade” resulting in job outsourcing, and hidden inflation of the US Dollar.  Of these two causes, I find “free trade” to be the most serious.  This all started with Bush Sr. and Clinton…mostly Clinton.  They believed that if we signed “free trade” agreements with low wage countries such as Mexico, China, etc. that are hard manual labor based jobs would go to these countries, allowing highly educated American workers to focus on technology and high areas with a high skill set.  This economic model has worked well for countries like Ireland, with its mere 4.5 million population.  The US, however, has a population of over 360 million, about 80 times the size of Ireland’s.  There is not enough demand for these high skill set products and services in the entire world to keep America employed.  Our tech sector does well, and does provide some excellent jobs, but it will never be enough.

Now some might say that if China, Mexico, etc. are cheaper, than why shouldn’t it be made there?  It benefits US because we get cheap stuff, right?  Well, let’s start with Mexico.  Jobs were sent to Mexico in the 1990s, and their economy grew.  We felt it, we lost SOME manufacturing jobs, but our economy grew none the less.  Jobs grew, wages grew, and many thought Clinton was a wonderful President because of this.  However, as Mexico’s economy grew, their wages grew also.  The eventual result probably would have been a level playing field between Mexico and the US.  As the supply of jobs in Mexico would have outgrown the demand for those jobs, companies would have had to pay Mexicans a fair wage or else lose them to other companies who would.  Which brings us to China.

The market forces that normally allow wages to increase…well these forces are suppressed in China.  If workers demand better wages, they turn up missing.  If they form labor unions, they are slaughtered.  If they work 80 hours, and only get paid for 50 hours, they file a complaint with their local government and such complaints are largely ignored.  Furthermore, China devalues their currency making their good artificially cheap.  Even the Grandfather of Capitalism himself, Adam Smith, knew that free trade would only work if all nations involved had reliable currency values.  Yet our naïve (if not crooked) politicians tell us that “free trade” is creates jobs for everyone, and is more efficient.  Meanwhile, our economy has plenty of minimum wage jobs, and jobs that pay $8 or $9 an hour, but many of us remember the 1990s when a reasonably skilled and intelligent college student could find a $10 hour part time jobs.  I have not adjusted for inflation here.  That was $10 an hour back when you could go to the grocery store and buy ground chuck for 99c a pound.  (Now you’re lucky to find it for under $4 a pound).

If we want wage growth, increasing the minimum wage will help very little.  Companies who hire the bare minimum of employees, such as Walmart, will be forced to pay a little more.  But smaller companies attempting to grow may find this burdensome and simply hire less new employees.  Furthermore, it doesn’t address the real problem.  We need a pragmatic trade and industrial strategy in the US if we want real wage growth.  We need a simpler, more sensible corporate tax code so that companies can pay a modest tax rate without having to hire a department of accountants and former bureaucrats to figure it out.  Companies who hire Americans should pay relatively low taxes, while companies who outsource and then import those products back to the US should bare a much larger portion of the tax burden.  Lower and simplify the corporate tax rate, and raise tariffs.  This will bring jobs back to America, and increase revenue, thereby lowering the US deficit.  Doing so will at least help to curb inflation, which is in reality much higher than we are told by the US Department of Labor.  If you really think inflation is less than 3% per year, think about that the next time you are buying groceries.

Rick Santorum and the Democratic Party – Strange Bedfellows

 

santorum-clinton

 

What do establishment Democrats and neocon Republicans have in common?  They are both powerful, incompetent, and think they speak for America!  As Rand Paul has wisely advocated a very consistent defense based foreign policy, the establishments of the left and right are blasting Paul for “blaming America”.  The left/right establishment from Hillary Clinton to Rick Santorum, and to a lesser extent President Obama, have advocated arming “the rebels” in Syria, while at the same time fighting against ISIS.  Never mind that ISIS actually came from those very “rebels” in Syria that the establishment helped.  Never mind that ISIS actually has many of those very weapons that the left/right establishment sent them.  To the left/right establishment, this arm your enemies, and blow ‘em up later approach to foreign policy makes perfect sense.  To anyone whose head is located atop the shoulders, instead of between to big hairy cheeks, this makes no sense at all.

I just read probably the worst article ever published in the Huffington, puffington Post.  Rand Paul wisely opposed arming “the rebels” in Syria, and now blames the political establishment, left and right, for having done so and inadvertently aided ISIS.  Instead of admitting their mistakes, “both sides” claim that Rand Paul is “blaming America”.  Well, I’m an American.  Ted Cruz is American.  Bernie Sanders – American.  Pat Buchanan – well you get the idea.  I’ve never heard Rand Paul blame any of us for ISIS.  You who read this, has Rand Paul blamed you?  Are you American?  Rand Paul blames particular political leaders who have made foolish policies that helped ISIS.  Is it blaming America anytime any American blames a politician for their mistakes?  Who would have thought that Rick Santorum, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham would find themselves on the same side as the Democratic National Committee?  Some of my hardcore paleocon/libertarian friends will call them RINOs.  I just call them insane.  Hey, here’s a brilliant idea.  Next time there’s a forest fire – don’t put it out right away.  Pour gasoline on it first, then when it gets really bad, we can start putting it out.  That makes about as much sense as arming the rebels in Syria.

Now, let me be serious.  In conclusion, ISIS must be stopped.  If that means bombs, then let’s drop bombs.  If it means arming Kurds, let’s arm the Kurds.  If it means allying with forces we don’t normally like very much, like Iran or Syria…so be it.  But the greatest threat to our safety comes not from those who hate us from abroad, but our incompetent political leaders and their self-destructive policies that are based more on Cold War prejudices and silly globalist ideologies than America’s best interests.  As Dave Mustaine said, “Yesterday’s answers have nothing to do with today’s questions”.  For America to move forward, we must remove the neocons and the interventionist “liberals” from power at the ballot box.  Is it 2016 yet?

P.S. and No, Dave Mustaine never endorsed Santorum.  He merely complemented Santorum for his devotion to his family.

The Right Way to Criticize Obama, and the Inbred Way

Birthers Certified

Anyone with a basic understanding American politics can find plenty of legitimate criticisms of the Obama administration that deserve robust debate.  Obama needs to be held accountable for his broken promise to reform health care by providing a “public option”, instead of the corporatist individual mandate we got instead.  He needs to answer for the unauthorized airstrikes on Libya, arming rebels in Syria (which ended up arming ISIS), and the current unauthorized airstrikes on Iraq*.  We could also criticize the soaring national debt, the half-hearted attempts to slow outsourcing to China, the weakening of the US Dollar, the Solyndra bailout, NDAA of 2012, extensions of the Patriot Act (though he used to criticize Bush for this)…I could go on.

However, from the time I was an Obama supporter until now, as an Obama critic, I have been frustrated by the pathetic and often bigoted criticisms against Obama by a bunch of ignorant Uh’mer’cans who miss Bush!  These criticisms do nothing to help the Republican Party, our country as a whole, and nothing to actually hurt Obama.  They just legitimize Obama, and they have made people like me all the more reluctant to criticize Obama when needed. 

Now that I’ve made my serious points, I’d like to lay out these absurd, inbred criticisms of Obama.  I realize that my labeling these people as “inbred” is an ad hominem, but hey, it’s not like these people are interested in a serious debate…so let’s have some fun.  I’m about to make a bunch of cheap, under the belt, sweeping generalizations, because these morons don’t deserve anything more thoughtful.  For the record, I’m fully aware that plenty of the stereotyped “rednecks” and “hillbillies” are often much smarter than they are perceived to be, and not necessarily into this stuff, (and few are actually inbred).  With no further disclaimers, here are the 3 main inbred criticisms of Obama, in order of least to most absurd:

3.  The Birthers Even now about 6 years into Obama’s administration, these people just won’t stop! The burden of proof is always on the accuser, not the accused.  Despite that, Obama showed his short form birth certificate, and then his long form.  However, they still aren’t satisfied!  They say, “Why did it take so long?”  Gee, maybe because the President of the United States has more important responsibilities than refuting a bunch of cousin loving bigots who think Obama should go to the back of the bus!  Get over it!  America is a more diverse country now, and your children go to school with the coloreds.  Some of us consider it a plus that Obama’s been around.  He has a better perspective.** 

2.  “He’s a Communist!” There’s nothing knew about racist pricks calling black leaders “communists”.  Martin Luther King was called a communist, along with his supporters.  Obama’s politics are on the left side of the old dichotomy, and he’s black.  That hardly makes him a communist!  Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, and the rate to go to a whopping 39%, instead of 35%, is a far cry from communism.  We had a 92% marginal tax rate under Eisenhower!  Ike didn’t want to cut taxes until the budget was balanced.  Was Ike a communist!  Some of you might be thinking, “What about Obamacare?”  Obamacare is a form of crony capitalism, having nothing to do with socialism or communism.  I give a better explanation of this in (this video) about half way through.

1.  “He’s a Muslim!” This is the most absurd, and infuriating of all.  It’s used in part because though anyone who actually believes this was probably dropped on their heads as infants many, many times by their alcoholic mother, it’s actually a loaded accusation.  The real point isn’t to argue about Obama’s religion, but to get that undertone of Islamophobia out there.  If someone says, “He’s a Muslim”, and I say, “no he’s not”, the premise is that there’s actually something wrong with being a Muslim.  In a way, it’s actually clever form Islamophobes, because they can spread their hatred and have us distracted over Obama’s religion instead of defending the right of any American, including the president, to practice any religion, including Islam.  So now that this is established, that it wouldn’t matter if Obama actually were a Muslim, let me explain why he’s not.  He eats pork!  He doesn’t pray to Mecca!  He drinks in public!  And he goes to a Christian church!  Maybe he’s been to a Mosque at some point in his life.  His father was Islamic after all, so I imagine he’s been at least curious about Islam.  But he doesn’t practice Islam!  I almost wish he did, because I’d love to tell these cousin-loving morons, “Your president is a Muslim!  Deal with it!”  The Vlogbrothers actually had the patience to examine the evidence more thoroughly…if interested, click here.

Lastly, to my fellow Rand Paul supporters, you won’t help Rand if you fall into any of these 3 categories.  If you do, please keep it to yourself if you actually want Rand to have a good shot in 2016.  We need level headed swing voters, and they will be turned off by the above 3.

*For the record, I support doing what is necessary to stop ISIS, including these airstrikes, but Obama needs authorization from Congress to comply with the Constitution.

**On a personal note, I know that my time abroad gave me a better perspective of the world, but also restored my love for the good ol’ US of A.  (But these kind of people had nearly killed my faith in this country when I was in my early twenties, which is why I left for a while.)

What I didn’t include and why.

I didn’t include the whole “he plays too much golf” stuff because that seems to be thrown at every president.  They all play golf, and they all have to take calls, make decisions, even on the golf course.  They need to clear their heads whenever they can, so I don’t fault them for playing golf if that helps.  I also didn’t include the “deathers”, who question the death of Osama bin Laden.  I am not a “deather” myself, but I don’t think it’s crazy to question this.  We never actually saw the body, after all.  Still, I think he’s dead because if he were alive, Al Qaeda would love to show some new video of his to make us look the fool.

Ann Coulter really is an idiot – further proof

Ann Coulter Meme

Back in my “Blue Dog Radio” days, I did a piece exposing Ann Coulter’s partisan hypocrisy (Listen to it here if you like).   I have new evidence further proving her idiocy.  As you can see in the meme above, Ann Coulter rightly understands how big government “liberals” create problems, and then want to use yet more government to solve the very problems they create.  On that point, I agree with her completely.

However, this is the same Ann Coulter who supported the invasion of Iraq from the beginning, and now criticized Obama for not doing MORE to stop ISIS.  In other words, she supported a government solution to the lesser evil, Saddam Hussein, which helped create this environment that led to the very existence of ISIS.  Now she wants yet MORE GOVERNMENT to fix the very problem that people like her created?  Sorry Ann, but I must quote thy God, Ronald Reagan – “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem”.

If we had never done what Coulter and her kind wanted, ISIS would be no match for Saddam Hussein.  If we had just backed off and never gotten involved in Syria, Assad and his Russian allies would have defeated ISIS in Syria.  I’m not prepared to trust our current government run by neocons and globalist-liberals again.  As George Will once said, “conservatism seems to be saying government can’t run Amtrak, but it can run the Middle East.”  What sane person would support small government at home, but big government abroad?