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Tired of the bigotry on both sides of the political spectrum

Bigotry is the state of mind of a bigot, defined by Merriam-Webster as “a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance”. Bigotry may be based on real or perceived characteristics, including age, disability, dissension from popular opinions, economic status, ethnicity, gender identity,language, nationality, political alignment, race, region, religious or spiritual belief, sex, or sexual orientation. Bigotry is sometimes developed into an ideology or world view.

So as I sit here, skimming Twitter and the news (thereby avoiding the task of writing a research paper), I sigh and sigh. As the presidential election creeps closer, it seems the attacks grow more vicious, the rhetoric more misleading and childish, the desperation for campaign contributions more feverish. The heated vitriol among the most loyal supporters has always been there, but now it spreads through everything like a virus, infecting even those who had been more moderate and tolerant in their opinions and commentary.

I know this seems like a pretty harsh observation, but understand that I am not singling out one campaign or another, one group or another. I am pointing to both. Those of us who are in between become swept up and overwashed by the tide of vicious attacks and false accusations. Some who do not wish to receive figurative black eyes from the fervent remain silent. Some dare to express their thoughts but do so in fear of being misjudged or misunderstood. Some just do not care, seeing the entire process as futile as in their eyes nothing will ever change. Those who attempt to educate themselves about issues become exhausted after sifting through a barrage of bias. One side calls Romney a liar saying that he flip-flops, will present whatever works to get elected, and only cares about the rich. The other side says that Obama is the liar, distorting and cherry-picking facts that only support him, placing the blame on others, and keeping his real agenda hidden. If one votes for Romney, he or she must be a racist, an elitist who doesn’t care about those less-fortunate. If one votes for Obama, he or she must be a radical feminist/environmentalist, poor and uneducated, or a socialist (socialism is NOT communism by the way). No matter how a person feels, no matter which issues are important to that person, no matter what beliefs are best supported, the other campaign and its lackeys seek to break that person down (or lift them up) to earn another vote for their candidate.

So here is how it is for me…An American citizen with very real concerns and beliefs that are shaped by my personal experiences…a person who has worked hard to educate myself about my opinions and the issues that are important to me so that I can reach an informed decision: I have spent many hours researching and reading articles, blogs, documents, and information. Some of it is biased, although I try to find both sides. Some of it is boring, tedious, “want to shoot myself in the head” rhetoric in the form of laws, bills, and statistics. The point is that I have not allowed ANYONE else to do my thinking for me. I have questioned everything, and I have made up my mind. I know who I will be voting for come the time. I know why I am making the choice- why I believe and feel what I do. My choice is popular with some and unpopular with others (about 50% either way according to polls).

Now, even though I have made up my mind and am not afraid to express myself, I do not wish to persuade anyone else to feel the same way. I will argue proudly for my own beliefs, but I will not dismiss someone else’s simply because they are different. I do not view someone else’s  opinion as inferior to my own. I might wonder to myself what motivates them, but that is because I recognize and understand that we are all very different individuals with different situations, experiences, and needs. I want to understand not change them. We are all at different places in life. Even if I might disagree with another person’s choices, I do not question the integrity or ability of others to make their own decisions. I fully embrace the right that each individual has to choose to vote or not. I embrace the right that each has to choose a candidate.  AND I am sick and tired of listening to those who put down, attack, and vilify others because they think differently. I am sick of hearing about “libtards” and “republictards”, “Socialists” and “Facists.” I am sick of the finger-pointing, name-calling, and nastiness that oozes from political  commentators, media outlets, and Americans. This is not high school. We are supposed to be rational, educated adults. So the likes of Rush Limbaugh resorting to calling Sandra Fluke a slut and Lawrence O’donnell challenging Mitt Romney’s son to a fistfight are infantile and unacceptable. Sadly enough, I could go on and on about this, but my entire point is that the behavior turns my stomach and serves nobody well.

In turn, I wish to be respected for my choices. I would like to be able to say something in a conversation without someone calling me “Darwinian” or “provincial.” I would like to be able to read and listen to civil, rational conversations. I would like to be able to read something that isn’t so heavily biased it makes my head spin. I would like people to quit implying that because I feel the way I do or believe what I believe there is something wrong with me.

When the election is over and done, when a president is sworn into office, life will continue regardless of who it is. My life will go on as it always has, and I will adapt accordingly as I always have. Some things will be harder; some things will be easier. I will do whatever I must to protect myself, my family, and my beliefs with integrity because in the end that is what really matters to me. Whether we have to change our lives completely will depend on how the tide flows. As always, I will find a way; my family will find a way; we will survive a President Obama or a President Romney.

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War on Women, or political viewpoints, or whatever is convenient to garner the vote…

Focus on the GOP's War on Women- jobs & the economy can waitI am an American woman, and there is a war being waged against me, at least according to many liberals, feminists, and democrats. According to them I should be outraged that the GOP, and any republican or conservative for that matter, is trying to revoke my rights. So I am left wondering whether or not I should be worried. I mean, after all, are we talking about women in America being subjected to many of the horrors of women in the Middle East such as Sharia Law? Are we in danger of becoming indentured servants to our fathers and husbands, being required to have four male witnesses for rape, or being stoned to death? Now that would be a true war on women, one that I would fight wholeheartedly.

As usual, I have sought to find a more clear and accurate definition that goes beyond the slogan. According to Karen Teegarden women should, “Watch TV news coverage. Read news stories in your morning paper. The War on Women is a war on reproductive rights. The evidence is clear” (1).  Dave Helfert defines it as, “… what Democrats call an onslaught of legislation in state capitals across the country and in Congress aimed at limiting women’s health and family planning services, curtailing women’s access to contraceptives and legal abortions, even restricting women’s ability to fight employment discrimination” (2). After reading these articles as well as many others, the main conclusion that I can draw is that the “War on Women” is supposedly a war being waged by republicans in controlling women through legislation- the majority of which focuses on contraception and abortion. There are also allegations that republicans are trying to dismantle equal pay laws and stand in the way of violence against women legislation. All of these anti-women measures are surely an attempt to strip American women of their rights and freedoms- rights to access birth control, receive equal pay, and escape from domestic violence.

Wait a minute….can they do that? Is this really what is happening?  

No.

You see, part of the problem in our society, and part of the reason that these types of attacks are so successful, is that many people cannot or do not read between the lines. They hear something and latch on rather than understanding the details and issues. Nothing is ever black and white, but many like to present it as such.

More appropriate would be a title such as the War on Abortionbut you will never hear that because it changes the gameNot all women support all types of abortion.  We are not talking about going back to an age where it is illegal to use birth control or an attack on women’s health services. Is it a stripping away of women’s access to health services if republicans argue that Planned Parenthood, who does provide abortion, should not receive taxpayer dollars to fund those services? It is a grey area. One side argues that the majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are for non-abortion things such as well-woman exams and counseling, and PP does not use federal funds for abortions. The other side argues that cutting off funding from America’s largest abortion provider would stop its ability to perform abortions. In my opinion, if Planned Parenthood is such a huge advocate for women’s health services, then it could easily find a way to separate tax-payer funded services from abortion- even breaking into two different groups. Maybe they could call it Planned Parenthood and Prevented Parenthood. That would quickly resolve the issue.

ImageAnd what about contraception? I mean, it is clear that republicans and conservatives want American women to be pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen, right? After all, if there is not mandated contraceptive coverage- free contraception that is– then women will not be able to avoid getting pregnant. According to Sandra Fluke, “…[women] have suffered financially and emotionally and medically because of this lack of coverage…contraception can cost a woman over $3,000…Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception….” (3). She said all of this and more in her testimony before Congress. Granted, she was specifically talking about women attending law school at Georgetown University. Yet, she never mentions the availability of free or low-cost options such as Planned Parenthood clinics and Walmart, who offers birth control prescriptions for as low as $9 per month. Maybe those options aren’t good enough for the Georgetown crowd or maybe they just don’t have access to Walmart. Even so, in the early 90’s when I was working for around $5.00 an hour as a fast food manager at McDonalds, I could afford my monthly prescriptions of birth control pills without insurance coverage or government intervention. The argument continues that it is not just about birth control but also about women who need the pills to help with medical problems such as PCOS and endometriosis. However, if you read the PPACA closely, free contraceptive coverage includes ALL US FDA approved methods and sterilization procedures: Male Condom, Female condom, Diaphragm with Spermicide, Sponge with Spermicide, Cervical Cap with Spermicide, Spermicide Alone, Oral Contraceptives (progestin-only) “The Minipill”, Combined Oral Contraceptives (Extended/Continuous Use)(estrogen and progestin) “The Pill”, Patch (estrogen and progestin), Vaginal Contraceptive Ring (estrogen and progestin), DMPA Shot/Injection (progestin), Emergency Contraceptives “The Morning After Pill”, Copper IUD, IUD with Progestin, Implantable Rod (progestin). The majority of these methods have nothing to do with medical necessity, and some are much more expensive than others. But anyone who pays taxes and insurance premiums will be footing the bill for women to have access to contraception because $9 per month is just too much of a burden to bear to avoid becoming pregnant. It is obvious that republicans, conservatives, and religious organizations are determined to strip all women of control over their reproductive rights by not supporting this legislation- isn’t it?

So the war on women’s health care access is really a war about the funding of Planned Parenthood and abortion. The war on reproductive rights is really a war on mandated coverage, or free, birth control.

What about equal pay for women?  The White House and democrats tout statistics that state women earn 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns.  However, many of the articles I have read point out that these numbers are not necessarily accurate as they are based on a broad range of data. There are indications that there is still a gap in pay, but it may not be as large as some purport. Personally, I have never encountered discriminatory pay. I admit that I often feel like I am living on a different planet because my experiences must not be typical considering the issues at hand. Nonetheless, when I was a public high school teacher, my salary was set by the county and published for all to see. My salary was based on my level of education and years of experience. It was the same for my male counterparts, and the only way we received a pay increase was through step (year of teaching), cost of living, or contract negotiation with the union. I find this ironic as some of the articles I read claimed that female teachers earned less than their male counterparts, which leads me to believe that some of the data is definitely misleading or faulty. Or maybe they were just referencing teachers in private institutions. Even though The Equal Pay Act, which clearly prohibits pay discrimination, was enacted in 1963, many claim that it is not enough to fight wage disparity between men and women. A new law has been proposed, the Paycheck Fairness Act, that will supposedly give the original act more strength. The law has not passed the Senate because of those nasty, women-hating republicans. Unfortunately, there are many hidden facets in the PFA that make it excessive and burdensome to business. For example, The EPA already prohibits discrimination, but there are some elements that could be used as loopholes in lawsuits. Supposedly, the PFA remedies this. However, it also would make it extremely difficult for businesses and HR departments to use their professional judgments to make salary offers and pay decisions. It also would make it easier for lawsuits (including class action) against employers with no limit on punitive damages (except for the federal government) and would require businesses to disclose detailed salary information to the government. As with anything, there are obvious pros and cons to the act. Nevertheless, I do not believe that it is a war on women because some republicans and conservatives do not support it. Rather than trying to find a compromise and rewrite the act so that it truly helps women and businesses, it has become a rallying cry for democrats and liberals.

So the war on women’s equality in pay is really a war about playing politics for women’s votes.

What about the Violence Against Women Act? Are republicans holding it hostage as another attack on women? The act originated in 1994 and provides assistance to victims of domestic violence. It has been renewed twice before and is up for renewal again. This should be a no-brainer, right? So why is that republicans are holding out? It is not as simple as republicans refusing to support the law. In reality, the original law has had strong support from both sides of the aisle. The real debate involves two different versions, a republican bill that the house passed and an expanded version passed by the senate. The battle is not over the basics in the original law but rather the expanded provisions in the senate version. The new items in the senate version are as follows: “One would subject non-Indian suspects of domestic violence to prosecution before tribal courts for crimes allegedly committed on reservations. Another would expand the number of temporary visas for illegal immigrant victims of domestic violence [from 10,000 to 15,000]. The last would expand Violence Against Women Act protections to gay, bisexual or transgender victims of domestic abuse” (4). There are plenty of arguments for and against the new additions, which I would expect on any piece of legislation. The problem here is not that those nasty, evil, women-hating republicans want to eliminate assistance for victims of domestic violence. It is that they do not all agree with the new provisions that democrats are pushing. So, once again, instead of Congress working together to find compromises in a bill that all can agree upon, they are turning it into a bitter debate. To make matters worse, democrats are using it as another example of the republican war on women.

So the war on stopping violence against women is really a war between political parties over the fine print.

I am deeply offended by the gross rhetoric being spewed forth. The War on Women is nothing more than political propaganda geared at gaining women’s support by using misleading phrases. Women such as Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Nancy Pelosi, Sandra Fluke, Andrea Mitchell, Rachel Maddow, and others in the group of liberal women and leftist media infuriate me. They believe they can speak for ALL women. They have no idea what I want or think. Me, the suburban mom who is literate, educated, professional, and American. I don’t give two flips about free birth control, funding for Planned Parenthood, more legislation to allow the government to regulate business and encourage litigation, or adding provisions to the VAWA. What I care about is the future of this country- economically. I care about my husband and I having jobs, paying the bills, my children’s futures. I care about being able to afford the gasoline that we need to get to our jobs and school while still keeping the lights on and buying groceries. I care about the housing market and how we are so upside down in our mortgage that there is no way we will be able to sell and move for years, even though the jobs we now have require longer commutes, and more gas.  I care about personal freedom being protected and personal responsibility being endorsed. Those are the issues that are important to me, and none of them exist in the supposed War on Women.

My extensive reading list…(yes, I read all of these) 

(1) The War on Women: Why We’re Fighting
(2) From the Frontlines of the War on Women
(3) Transcript of testimony by Sandra Fluke
(4) Senate Votes to Reauthorize Domestic Violence Act

Bloomberg’s War on Women

No bottlesHe’s done it again. New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has made the headlines for his extreme measures to control the behavior and limit the choices of his constituents through nanny-state policies and programs. While some could argue that the salt and trans fats bans have a direct impact on consumer health and there are many potential benefits, the latest measures reek of pure idiocy. I wrote previously on how ridiculous I felt the soda ban was. Another absurd ban is the donation of foods to homeless shelters because the Department of Homeless Services cannot measure the nutritional content of donated food- or in other words, it may contain too much salt. Now it seems that the brazen Bloomberg is reaching even further into the private lives of individuals. It is a true war on women (unlike the war fabricated by proponents of the PPACA that included free birth control).

The program to “encourage” new mothers to breastfeed is set to begin in September and affects New York hospitals.   It begins with “ ‘the city keep[ing] tabs on the number of bottles that participating hospitals stock and use’ ” (3). Then it outlines that new mothers who want formula for their babies must wait for a nurse sign out the formula like a medication. Not only must mom ask and wait, but she must then sit through a lecture about how breastfeeding is the better option each time she receives a bottle. I am sure this “mandated talk” will be generic and scripted by someone beforehand.  Most likely, it will be the same information that she has encountered throughout her maternity care and in advertising. But it does not stop there. To make this measure even more sinister, the hospital staff must document a medical reason for providing the formula. Granted,  “The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene…is strongly encouraging — though not yet requiring —” this new program (3). My question is how long it will be before it becomes mandatory, and what if any provisions are set for those who have exetenuating circumstances.

There are several reasons I question Bloomberg’s motivation and reasoning. First of all, breastfeeding statistics for New York City mothers would indicate that the majority do breastfeed initially. According to an article by Lauren Swanson from a Kansas news station,”Ninety percent of new moms in New York breast feed exclusively at first, but only 31 percent keep it up past the first 2 months” (7). Therefore, one has to wonder if 90% of new moms breastfeed, then why is there such a push to restrict formula in the hospitals. Another question to consider is why the percentage drops so significantly after 2 months. Is there any evidence that clearly demonstrates how this initiative addresses the second statistic? It would seem an illogical conclusion to assert that restricting access to formula in hospitals during the first days of life will greatly affect the outcome of the number of mothers who breastfeed 2 months later. (It is recommended that mothers breastfeed for at least the first 6 months of life.)

Besides the outward appearance of an effort to promote and encourage breastfeeding, I also believe there is a hidden motivation. According to Micheal Tennant from The New American, “A near ban on infant formula is, it seems, the ultimate objective of the United Nations. Its World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched a program called the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in 1991 with the express purpose of getting governments the world over to promote heavily, if not mandate, ‘exclusive breastfeeding from birth for 6 months, and continued breastfeeding with timely and appropriate complementary feeding for two years or longer’ ” (3). I skimmed through the BFHI (4) and found that the initiative by Bloomberg does indeed fall into some of the guidelines set forth in this document. I can only concur with Tennant’s statement that “Bloomberg’s program — which, according to the Huffington Post, is “sponsored by” the WHO — represents just the tip of the iceberg” (3).

Proponents of the program argue that it will foster breastfeeding. According to Lisa Paladino of Staten Island University Hospital: “The key to getting more moms to breastfeed is making the formula less accessible. This way, the RN has to sign out the formula like any other medication. The nurse’s aide can’t just go grab another bottle” (1). The National Alliance for Breast-feeding Advocacy also claims that it is a good program because,”… keeping baby formula under lock and key, like medicines are kept, helps prevent hospital staffers from reaching for a bottle first, instead of encouraging new mothers to nurse their babies”(5). Both statements imply that there is laziness on the part of medical staff, perhaps even some measure to discourage breastfeeding. In May, when he introduced Latch On NYC, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said, “Human breast milk is best for babies and mothers…With this initiative the New York City health community is joining together to support mothers who choose to breastfeed” (2). His statement would indicate that there is not currently a support system for mothers. On the other hand, a commentator in a CNN video states that, “Just want to make it a little more difficult and put an extra step…you want to have the mom think about the choice” (8). This statement would imply that new mothers are not aware of their options and have not thoroughly considered their choice. All of these statements imply that hospital staffers and mothers lack the proper knowledge to make a decision about whether or not to breastfeed; they lack the support of the community; and they are simply too lazy to commit to breastfeeding. That is an oversimplification at its worst and highly insulting to all of the mothers who make conscious, educated decisions and the professionals who provide supportive, compassionate care. As Tennant states,  “A mother’s choice not to breastfeed, on the other hand, will not be supported” (3).

Being a mother of two, I can draw from personal experience to see how invasive this initiative is. I know what it is like to feel pressured and judged. I know the overwhelming guilt and worry a mother faces when she has to make decisions that may not be the popular choice. Not only have I experienced these things, but I have experienced them at two very different periods in my life in two very different sets of circumstances.

I was only 20 when I had my son. Although I was young, I was excited and fully embraced the responsibilities of motherhood. Throughout my pregnancy I read voraciously on the topics of pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care. I asked my doctors plenty of questions, referred to advice from loved ones, and gathered books and pamphlets educating myself as much as possible. This was in 1993, so I did not have the Internet for reference, but there was a wealth of information available to me regardless. At the time, breastfeeding was strongly encouraged, and I fully intended to start that way. Unfortunately, other factors came into play, and I was only able to nurse my son for 3 weeks before I switched solely to formula. Now many would argue that I faced tremendous circumstances, and that this initiative is not geared for women in that position.  I hesitate to relate my experience knowing that. Nevertheless, they are so many factors that I think too many people do not understand, any one of which is important and not taken into consideration by a majority of those who advocate blindly for such policies.

First of all, my son was breech; therefore, I had to undergo a c-section. That in and of itself is no easy task as any mother who has had one will testify. It is painful and can have many lasting effects, some of which may make breastfeeding uncomfortable and difficult. To add to it, my son was born with myelomeningocele, a form of spina bifida. The nerves on his lower spine were completely exposed, which required surgery within a few hours of birth. Therefore, not only was I not able to hold him, I did not even get to see him except for a brief moment to touch his foot. With, and because of, the support of hospital staff, I did use a pump while I waited for word on the outcome of the surgery. When I was finally able to breastfeed him, it was in the NICU. Once again, I had the full encouragement and support of the nurses and staff. Unfortunately, my son had difficulty latching on and was not gaining enough weight. I had to supplement with formula for my son’s survival and well-being. It was especially crucial because he then developed hydrocephalus and had to undergo another surgery when he was 1 week old. It was crucial that he weigh enough to survive the surgery. The entire two weeks that my son was in the NICU the staff provided me with plenty of support, privacy, and encouragement in breastfeeding and caring for my son. What made it even easier for me to be independent and bond with him was that I had the ability to feed him on my own. Yes, I was able to nurse him, but I was also able to access formula myself so that I could make his supplemental bottles. It was one of the few things that gave me comfort during that difficult period. I did not have to listen to speeches about how I should try harder or focus on breastfeeding. I did not have to rely on a nurse to bring me formula. I did not have to feel embarrassed or pressured. Despite a rough start and often having to rely on a pump, I did continue to breastfeed my son when I brought him home. Nevertheless, it was extremely difficult and stressful as we could not ease into a feeding schedule, and he teetered between maintaining and losing weight. The third week of his young was filled with hours spent traveling and waiting because every day we had to visit different doctors: a pediatrician, the neurologist, the orthopedic specialist, etc. At the end of that week, knowing that many more months would continue in the same way, I decided to stop breastfeeding. I knew all of the benefits of continuing, but I had to weigh my own personal feelings and the stresses we were to endure. I felt an immense amount of guilt and pressure to continue, but I was mentally and physically exhausted. I just could not do it.

I will grant the fact that the majority of women do not experience what I did with my son. One might argue that there were extenuating circumstances well beyond my control, which is true. But that does not diminish the immense pressure I felt to breastfeed him, or the immense guilt I grappled with when I quit. That is part of the reason why when I became pregnant with my daughter 15 years later I was determined to breastfeed her for as long as I could. Fortunately, everything progressed “normally,” and I was able to deliver her naturally. She was a healthy baby, and I was able to see and hold her immediately.  Once again, the hospital staff were very supportive of my choice to breastfeed. My husband and I attended a class for new parents, and we read literature and followed advice. It took her a couple days to latch on fully, but we did not despair and continued trying. The first month she was not gaining weight as she should, and the pediatrician recommended that we consider supplementing. I thought about this for quite a while, but when I admitted that she was still hungry after nursing I conceded that we needed to do the right and best thing for her. So we began to supplement her feedings with formula. I always breastfed her first and then allowed her to feed from the bottle afterwards. She took to both and began thriving. It was when she was around three months old that I noticed she needed more and more formula. Once again, I felt an overwhelming amount of worry and guilt. Had I made the wrong decision to supplement? In doing so, had I made her more reliant on formula? Was she beginning to reject breastfeeding for the bottle? In a relatively short time I had my answer. The reason had nothing to do with any of those factors. It had to do with me. I had become hypothyroid, and quite simply, my body stopped producing breast milk. By the time I was diagnosed and began taking medication, it was too late.

The sad part about all of this is that it puts an extreme amount of unnecessary and unfair pressure on women who have educated themselves about the options and made a clear choice.  Many people arguing in favor of the initiative cite reasons why breastfeeding is the best choice (clearly not what should be the focus here) and throw out false and ridiculous generalizations about mothers who choose not to breastfeed such as they are not educated enough, formula manufacturers sway them with swag and advertising, or that they are being coerced into using formula. Also the assertions that nurses are too lazy to support breastfeeding mothers and circumvent the process by offering babies bottles instead is pure fabrication.

It astonishes and baffles me how many stood up and claimed it was a war on a woman’s right to choose when anyone objected to provisions for free birth control and the mandate on Catholic institutions to provide it set forth in the PPACA , yet they do not argue that this is an infringement on a woman’s choice. It seems that it is acceptable when Bloomberg and other organizations attempt to coerce individuals by limiting access and adding undue pressure. It also leads to judgment against mothers who choose to bottle-feed their babies at a time when all mothers should be encouraged and empowered to decide for themselves what works best for them. (If you don’t believe that there is judgment and pressure out there against mothers who choose not to breastfeed, read Stephanie Wilder-Taylor’s blog entry In Defense of Formula. Be sure to read all of the comments at the end as well.)

On a final note, I think every American should be concerned with this new trend by Bloomberg and the nanny-state. How many other officials will follow (or at least attempt to) in Bloomberg’s footsteps? Will it stop with this initiative or is this just the beginning? Will mothers in the future who are unable or choose not to breastfeed be required to use surrogate breast milk? Will they be required to hire a wet nurse? After all, why should one stop short of restricting access to formula? Why not just outlaw it altogether? Maybe I exaggerate, but who can predict the limits of tyranny?

References

(1) Bloomy’s bottle boner: An Rx for distraught moms
(2) Bloomberg’s Breastfeeding Program, ‘Latch On NYC,’ Wants Hospitals To Change Baby Formula Protocol
(3) After Soda, Bloomberg Sets His Sights on Baby Formula
(4) BABY-FRIENDLY HOSPITAL INITIATIVE: Revised, Updated and Expanded  for Integrated Care
(UNICEF / WHO publication)
(5) Mayor Bloomberg’s infant formula plan aimed at promoting breast-feeding in NYC hospitals
(6) Mayor Bloomberg’s breast-feeding initiative urges hospitals to lock up baby formula
(7) Bloomberg promotes breastfeeding, targets formula
(8) NYC mayor pushes baby formula crackdown
NYC Hospitals’ Baby Formula Plan Rankles Mommy Bloggers
A Woman’s Right to Choose (Not to Breastfeed)
In Defense of Formula.
Mayor Bloomberg: Breastfeed or Else

What I really meant to say…

Should politicians be held accountable for the things that they say? Is there a difference between a harmless gaffe, a slip of the tongue, and a true reflection of the individual’s personal agenda? If so, how can the average person determine the difference?

HUH?According to George Will, “A politician’s words reveal less about what he thinks about his subject than what he thinks about his audience” (1). So the question remains whether we should we judge politicians by their words, especially if we do not have a clear view or record of their actions. Nevertheless, many politicians have said things that when taken out of context could easily be misinterpreted. This is especially true for prominent individuals, and I doubt that there has been one who has not made some sort of gaffe.

The following video is a compilation of awkward moments and worth a laugh.

According to columnist Michael Kinsley, ” A gaffe is not necessarily when a politician tells the truth. It’s when a politician says what’s really on his or her mind, which may or may not be the truth” (3). In the game of politics and elections, it is only natural that the opposition will pick up on any gaffe and use it to their advantage by either taking it out of context, exaggerating it, or misrepresenting it. We have seen this repeatedly during election cycles, especially now. Kinsley argues that ” Either the remark is being misinterpreted by opponents, or it is what used to be called a Freudian slip, unintentionally revealing an attitude or prejudice that the candidate was trying to suppress” (3). He also argues that politicians are so well-trained on their talking points, especially those in major elections, that it would be unlikely that one would actually slip and say what is really on his or her mind.

I would agree with Kinsley on some of his points; however, I also know that politicians, especially those in big elections, have people who write their speeches for them. These speeches are riddled with the well-rehearsed talking points that we so often hear repeated over and over by all who are a part of the campaign and support it. There is often little variation in the substance, and the politician giving the speech typically uses a teleprompter. A 2009 article in The New York Times suggests that President Obama relies on a teleprompter “extensively” and “…uses them for routine announcements…” (4). The author of the article goes so far as to assert “For Mr. Obama, a teleprompter means message discipline, sticking close to the intended words. While some presidents prefer extemporizing, Mr. Obama likes the message to be just so” (4). Although I was not a big supporter of Rick Santorum, I do agree with a statement he made regarding the use of teleprompters:

“See, I always believed that when you run for president of the United States, it should be illegal to read off a  
     teleprompter.  Because all you’re doing is reading someone else’s words to people.You’re voting for someone who 
     is going to be the leader of our government.  It’s important for you to understand who that person is in their own 
     words, see them, look them in the eye…hear what’s (in their) heart.You’re choosing a leader. A leader isn’t just 
     about what’s written on a piece of paper” (2). 

Perhaps in an effort to appear more genuine or in-touch with people, President Obama seems to speaking more freely during his campaign stops. I do not know whether or not he is still relying on a teleprompter for the smaller events, but my instinct tells me he is not. Nick Wing from The Huffington Post states that “Team Obama thinks the switch, or partial switch — the president is not giving up the teleprompter entirely — will help him better connect with voters” (5). Unfortunately, Obama has made many gaffes in recent months, ones that the republican party is quick to dissect. I cannot say whether or not this a result of Obama’s diminishing reliance on teleprompters and growing attempts to be more extemporaneous.

Most gaffes are harmless, perhaps an insensitive or misdirected attempt by a politician to connect with his or her audience.  There are plenty of examples from which to draw (I will focus solely on Obama and Romney). For example, in January Mitt Romney said, “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”  When read by itself, that statement appears to be poorly constructed and paints the speaker as a ruthless tyrant. Nevertheless, when one reviews the entire speech, the meaning is clearly a continuation of his assertion that people should have choice and be able to fire health insurance companies that do not provide adequate or service to their customers. In February when he stated,  “[My wife] drives a couple of Cadillacs” he showed his struggle to connect to the average American and appeared somewhat insensitive. But given Romney’s financial background, it would be naive for anyone to expect that on occasion he may slip and reveal glimpses of his wealth. And, when taken in the context of his speech, the message was clear that he was showing his support for the American auto industry, not flaunting his wealth.  In September of 2011, Obama commented “Now, we used to have the best infrastructure in the world here in America.  We’re the country that built the Intercontinental Railroad…”  Obviously this is a harmless slip of the tongue to which any person could fall victim. It would be very easy to say intercontinental instead of transcontinental, and it does not demonstrate a lack of knowledge on Obama’s part. This June he had an “oops” moment when, according to White House transcripts, he said, “I want to thank my wonderful friend [Ellen DeGeneres] who accepts a little bit of teasing about Michelle beating her in pushups — (laughter) — but I think she claims Michelle didn’t go all the way down. (Laughter) ”  It is unlikely that he realized or intended any sort of sexual innuendo in the comment.

So how does an average person such as myself determine what is in a candidate’s mind and heart? What information can I use to determine whether or not a verbal slip by a politician is merely poorly chosen words or a glimpse of more? I do not wish to form my opinions strictly based on those of conservative and liberal talking heads, like FOX and MSNBC. Therefore, the first thing I do is eliminate anything that is merely a regurgitation of a talking point. Then I spend an inordinate amount of time reading articles and opinion pieces. Yes, they are often biased, but I review ones that are representative of both sides. I also draw conclusions through my own analysis. I refer not only to the context of the speech but also the speaker’s tone, body language, and word choice.

On July 13, President Obama gave a speech in Roanoke, Virginia during a campaign event. The content, and obvious gaffe, has been the subject of much debate as well as fodder for the Romney campaign. In her article for The Hill, Amie Parnes writes, “Republicans say the seemingly unscripted ‘you didn’t build that’ moment…exposed what they say are Obama’s dismissive feelings for the role of business and the private sector” (6). Although my initial reaction upon hearing the speech was insult and anger, I gave it deep consideration.  Rather than focusing on sound bites and isolated lines, I read the 38 minute speech for myself. I also watched the video. Despite the many platitudes, ideals, and personal reflections contained within, there was only one portion that stood out to me, and it still insulted and angered me. The following excerpt, approximately 33 minutes into the speech, is what I believe deserves analysis:

     There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something
back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get
there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.
There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me
tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.  (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in
your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.
Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else
made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that
all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do
things together. (7)

I realize that the conservative media and republican party have picked lines from this section of the speech to strengthen their attack on Obama. Nevertheless, that is not specifically why I chose it. As a matter of fact, I feel that in this instance they are fully justified in their attacks. Despite the fact that Obama’s main message is that everyone works together and relies on others to accomplish goals, which I support, I think there is also a hidden message here. I see some very disturbing and telling things in these spoken lines.

It is obvious that Obama is not following a script at this point as he says “They know they didn’t — look…” The shift in his sentence structure and a brief pause indicate a change in direction, and his expression and tone clearly demonstrate deliberate thought. As he continues, his facial expression, body language, cadence, and tone all change. When Obama says “I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there,” he appears agitated, almost angry. I would even go so far as to say he has the beginnings of a smirk or sneer on his face. Then he continues to attack some invisible adversary as he lectures, ” It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.” All of this combined forces me to question his real target. Is it Mitt Romney? Is it those who earn $250,000 or more a year? Is it the individuals who have taken pride in establishing their own businesses? Just whom is he addressing and berating? I also wonder if this is how he views the mindset of “successful” Americans (I’m so smart and worked harder). Does Obama define success by wealth?

These questions all lead me to wonder exactly what Obama means when he says, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” I now know that the object of his derision is the business owner. Obama’s tone is still accusatory and bitter. His body language and expressions continue to indicate agitation. His curved fingers and lowered eyelids as he expresses his thoughts signify anger. Unfortunately, he does not pause to define who that “somebody else” is that made things happen. Is he speaking of the government? middle-class Americans? other businesses? Just who is the “somebody else”?

The next two lines in the speech absolutely define who Obama thinks “somebody else” is- the government. He states, “The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.” This may be two short lines, but they resonate loudly as a clear example of Obama’s point. Companies (aka businesses) are successful (aka rich) because the government provided the Internet (aka means). The statement is faulty logic (post hoc I believe), and also plays off the fact that most people do not distinguish between the Internet and the World Wide Web- which I will save for another post.

Obama’s words are clear here, and no spin, retraction, or “what I meant” can make it any less shocking to me. The obvious disdain and vexation with which Obama speaks, the facial expressions, the body language, all paint a very vivid picture for me. I am no expert in body language, but I sense the change at this point in the speech. I see the sneer, sense the slight variation in his voice, notice the tension in his body. All indicate to me a strong, deep, personal feeling about something.

Gaffes are a part of human nature. Sometimes they are a harmless slip of the tongue signifying nothing. Sometimes they provide material for late night talk show hosts and opponents. Sometimes they reflect the true beliefs and feelings of the speaker. In the case of Obama’s speech I feel it is the latter. I believe that he meant exactly what he said.

I really like the points that Patrick Gage makes in his blog regarding Obama’s speech. He poses a good argument to support his assertion that “Obama believes that government is the foremost creator of economic prosperity in America.” Please take a moment to read it.

Obama: Government Creates Business

References

(1) Famous Quotes About Politicians and Politics
(2) Politicians (Barack Obama) Who Use a Teleprompter Can’t Think for Themselves
(3) The Gaffe-termath of Political Slips
(4) President Sticks to the Script, With a Little Help
(5) Obama Teleprompter Getting Less Use On Campaign Trail
(6) ‘You didn’t build that’ remarks won’t change Obama’s strategy on the stump
(7) Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event in Roanoke, Virginia
10 Most Awkward Political Gaffes (video)
TheTeleprompterPresident.com
Dumb Mitt Romney Quotes
Romney: ‘I like being able to fire people who provide services to me’
Mitt Romney: Wife Ann drives ‘a couple of Cadillacs’
Obamaisms: Dumb Quotes and Gaffes by Barack Obama
President Obama’s ‘private sector’ gaffe a possible window to soul like other recent gaffes?

Thou shalt release thy tax returns

Uncle Sam says pay up

I must admit that I am somewhat torn by the current debate over whether or not Mitt Romney should release more tax returns. I have listened to arguments on all sides, and I feel somewhat divided on the issue. The one conclusion that I have drawn, however, is that many of the politicians calling for the release of his tax returns are quite hypocritical.

The argument that the opposition is putting forth is that anyone who runs for the office of president should be transparent. In addition, they claim that it is tradition for presidential candidates to release many years. Many top Democratic officials have gone so far as to imply that Romney will not release his returns because he is hiding something nefarious. Some have not gone quite that far but are willing to speculate that there are years when Romney did not pay any taxes or that he is avoiding paying taxes by “hiding” his money in offshore accounts. It is all speculation of course, laced with the worst kinds of innuendo designed to discredit and paint the Republican candidate in a negative light.

One example of this practice is in a statement by Obama’s campaign manager, ” ‘The President and the Vice President released their tax returns today so that Americans can review their personal finances, understand how they earn their income and ensure there are no conflicts with the interests of the nation…But on the eve of April 17th, Governor Romney has yet to provide tax returns from the period in which he made hundreds of millions as a corporate buyout specialist, or as governor of Massachusetts, the experience he says qualifies him to be president’ “(3).  Senator Reid gave a speech to the Senate in which he asked, “ ‘We’d like to know what’s in those tax returns that he refuses to show to the American public. Did he pay any taxes?’ ” He has even gone so far as to suggest that “Romney’s refusal to release more than two years of tax returns would make him ineligible to serve even as dogcatcher” (9). Another example of the innuendo is when “Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee,…harangued Romney for refusing to release more tax returns, calling it a ‘penchant for secrecy‘ ” (9).

On the other hand, Romney supporters argue that this issue is just a way for Democrats to distract the voters from the real issues at hand such as the economy and President Obama’s poor record in office. According to John D. McKinnon, “Democrats see a way to deflect voter dissatisfaction over the weak economy and diminish the GOP’s advantage on tax issues by attacking what they describe as tax breaks that have unfairly benefited wealthy people and big corporations and drawn jobs and investment away from the U.S.” (5). Supporters also claim that even if Romney did release more returns, it would not be enough to silence the opposition, and the returns would become a tool that the Obama campaign would use to manipulate Romney’s image as a fat cat who only cares about the wealthy. The tax code is so complicated that even if the public did review Romney’s returns, it might not understand many items such as investment dividends, which would make it very easy for the opposition to distort.  ” ‘In the political environment that exists today, the opposition research of the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy,’ Romney told Costa. ‘And I’m simply not enthusiastic about giving them hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort and lie about’ ” (6). An article in The Washington Post states, “Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry said that by calling for the tax returns, Obama “wants people to be jealous of and resent wealth” and that the president “is without question wanting a street fight in this campaign.” (7)

As always, I try not to be swayed by the media or political talking heads. I want to form my own opinions on issues, and part of that requires that I educate myself as much as I can. So, the first question I asked myself is what value there is in reviewing Romney’s tax returns. I wonder how many people would actually take the time to read through the tax returns themselves and how many would rely on political analysts and strategists to do it for them. There are two problems I see here. First of all, as I have already pointed out, tax returns can be very complicated and difficult to understand. Most people don’t even want to look at their own tax returns, and many who have itemized deductions and other complicated financial issues hire a professional to do the work. So would the average American glean much from Romney’s tax return? The second issue is that if voters rely on others to interpret the information for them, then it will likely be biased. It is easy to manipulate numbers, omit certain information, and misrepresent other information to support a point.

In order to see how I would interpret such information, I reviewed all of Obama’s returns and the two for Romney. To be honest, I did not have the patience of will to understand what was in half of them. The two things I did pay attention to were the adjusted gross income and gifts that each gave to charity. (I have listed both below.) I was not sure what it meant when I saw foreign income listed on Obama’s return, nor did I understand what the $24,000 gifts the Obama’s gave to their daughters was. Romney’s return has sections that went completely over my head.

The conclusions I drew are simple.

  1. I really have no idea exactly how they made their money. I do understand some of the employment, but once it goes into investments- capital gains and losses- etc, I am lost.
  2. I do not have the patience or will to determine what tax rate they paid.
  3. Seeing the returns has not influenced me in favor of one or the other one bit, although I must admit that I am somewhat impressed by how well Romney seems to have chosen his investments and done for himself.
  4. Both men are far richer than I have ever been and probably ever will be.  Neither can empathize with MY financial life or know what I truly need and want nor should he need to.
  5. I would expect any individual who runs for the office of president to have acquired some wealth. I would want that because if he (or she) has been successful in his (or her) financial life, then that individual should be able to transfer the knowledge and skills to handling the economy.
  6. Both men are far richer than I have ever been and probably ever will be.

Obama (1)

2000         AGI $240,505                Gift $2,350

2001         AGI $272,759                Gift $1,470

2002         AGI $259,394                Gift $1,050

2003         AGI $238,327                Gift $3,400

2004         AGI $207,647                Gift $2,500

2005         AGI $1,655,106             Gift $77,315

2006         AGI $983,826                 Gift $60,307

2007         AGI $4,139,965             Gift $240,370

2008         AGI $2,656,902            Gift $172,050

2009         AGI $5,505,409           Gift $329,100

2010         AGI $1,728,096   *822,322 foreign income      Gift $245,075       *$24,000 to daughters

2011        AGI $789,674        *269,710 foreign income       Gift $172,130        *24,000 to daughters          
             *2,768,000 treasury bills redeemed

Romney (2)

2010       AGI $21,646,507              Gift $2,984,974

2011       AGI $20,901, 075              Gift $4,020,572 
Personally, I find very little value in reading someone’s tax returns. It does not speak to me about the individual’s character or values. It does not show me his philosophical views or how well he will lead the country. It is just a matter of numbers on paper that mean nothing.

Another question I have to ask myself is if Romney is hiding something potentially damaging. I have a difficult time arguing against this because I have often felt that if someone refuses to share information, it is because it is something that is not in their best interest so to speak. Nevertheless, that is speculation of the worst kind and makes me no better than those who use this issue to debase an opponent without actual evidence. The logical side of me has to weigh other factors. First, Romney did give the 2008 McCain campaign 23 years of returns when he was considered as a running mate.(3) If the McCain campaign had found something, I am fairly certain it would have surfaced by now. In addition, if there were something illegal in those returns, the IRS should have caught it and acted. That’s what the IRS is for, right? And if government organizations are efficient and effective, then they should be able to follow through.

So what about the idea of tradition? Should Romney release his returns because it is what presidential candidates have done in the past? The Tax History Project is a website that lists past presidents, recent candidates, and their tax returns. Upon review, I found that the number of returns varies from 1 to 13. Jimmy Carter and George Bush only released 3 years while Biden has released 13. In some cases, the candidate only released a partial return or summary data. So I guess there is no firm tradition.

Finally, I have to ask myself what kind of backlash Romney could face if he did release more returns (that being one of his campaign’s main arguments). I tried to research past campaigns to find out how big of an issue this has been before. One interesting thing I found was that “Republican candidate John McCain released two years of tax returns for the years of 2006 and 2007 in April 2008, less than a month after Mr. Obama. The Obama campaign was not satisfied because the candidate, who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress due to his wife’s income, did not release his wife’s tax returns” (10). This is an age-old argument that can be traced all the way back to 1980 when Reagan ran against Carter. It has been a relentless form of attack where either the candidate or his spouse faced enormous pressure. Sometimes some potentially embarrassing things were revealed. Ironically, these did not affect the election of the candidate to office. For example, “According to a separate Associated Press report, Reagan experienced “one of the most embarrassing incidents of his career” after his 1970 tax returns were released to the press. The reason? The millionaire former actor and governor, worth up to $4 million, paid no state taxes because of business losses and tax shelters” (10).

All of the research and reading I did lead me to another issue that I have not considered before. If the president should be transparent, shouldn’t all high-level politicians, including members of Congress who write and potentially benefit from the laws they pass?  This is where I see the hypocrisy seeping in on this issue. It seems that in Washington there is a double standard, especially when it comes to a critical election year. Some of the following quotes support this:

“Like Romney, many members of Congress are far wealthier than the average American. And like the president of the United States, those congressmen stand to benefit from the tax policies they shape. Currently, the law only requires members of Congress to report their wealth and liabilities in broad ranges. Asked why the rules should be different for members of Congress, she [Nancy Pelosi] said, ‘When I run for president of the United States, you can hold me to that standard’ ” (8).

“The widespread secrecy in one branch of the government suggests a self-imposed double standard. Yet while American politics has come to expect candidates for the presidency to release their tax returns, the president isn’t alone in having a say over the nation’s tax laws. Congress also stands to gain or lose by the very tax policies it enacts, and tax records – more than any broad financial disclosure rules now in place – offer the chance to see whether the leaders of the government stand to benefit from their own actions” (9).

“All three [Pelosi, Reid, and Wasserman Schultz] refused repeated requests from McClatchy to release their own returns, requests that started before the flap over Romney’s records” (9).

I do wish that Romney would release his tax returns. Mainly I wish this because I am tired of hearing about it and would like to get back to the real issues. The other side of me applauds Romney for not caving to the pressure and ridiculous innuendo the other side is throwing to the media. I am sure the returns will surface at some point, but I hope it is on Romney’s terms.

(1) President Obama and Vice President Biden: 12 Years of Tax Returns
(2) Tax history Project: Presidential Tax Returns
(3) Obama releases 2011 tax returns as campaign attacks Romney
(4) Obama, Like Buffett, Had Lower Tax Rate Than His Secretary
(5) Ann Romney: No More Tax Returns
(6) Romney: Releasing past tax returns would give Obama more to ‘distort and lie about’
(7) Romney, under pressure to release tax returns, turns fire on Obama
(8) Few in Congress have released tax returns, report shows
(9) Most members of Congress keep their tax returns secret
(10) Outrage over tax returns a replay of past campaigns
The 3 Reasons Why Romney Won’t Release Those Tax Returns
Why is Congress a millionaires club?
Republicans Step Up Calls for Romney to Release More Tax Returns
Romney’s Tax Returns Are Only the Beginning
Still more holes in Mitt Romney’s tax returns?
What’s Romney Hiding in His Tax Returns?
Why won’t Romney release more tax returns?
Gov. Romney: Just Release the Tax Returns

“He that cannot obey, cannot command.” — Benjamin Franklin

No GuaranteesOn Friday, the Obama Administration changed its policy on another hot-button political issue, deportation of illegal immigrants. This of course does not include all illegal immigrants. It focuses on those who entered the United States as children (under the age of 16), are currently under 30, and meet certain requirements such as residing in the US for five years and attending school (or graduated/earned a GED) or serving in the armed forces (or honorably discharged from). In addition, the individual cannot have any felony or significant misdemeanor convictions and must not pose a threat to national security. (Read Napolitano’s memo for specifics). The executive order grants those who qualify a 2 year reprieve from deportation and will allow them to apply for work permits.

So, What is the big deal one might ask. It seems like a reasonable compromise to make for a small population (approximately 800,000) of illegal immigrants who are here due to no fault of their own. In addition, as Napolitano argues, “The change is part of a department effort to target resources at illegal immigrants who pose a greater threat, such as criminals and those trying to enter the country now,…” (15). Actually, it is very similar to provisions outlined in the DREAM Act. The order does not provide amnesty or guarantee citizenship, nor does it provide a permanent or lasting solution.

While I have strong feelings about illegal immigration and the United States’ policies toward it, I am neither hard to the left or right. There are many things that Obama outlined in his vision for immigration reform that I could get behind. Some of the proposals include holding business accountable, establishing E-verify, requiring illegal immigrants to submit to rigorous security checks, deporting felons and convicts, requiring the learning of English and American civics, etc (9). Nevertheless, while I would support the policy outlined in Obama’s executive order, I DO NOT SUPPORT the method, motivation, and timing behind it. As a matter of fact, I am actually quite disenchanted, to put it mildly.   

Many of the individuals I know or speak with associate the DREAM Act with President Obama. I know in my case it is mainly because I have not had much political awareness up until the last two years. Nevertheless, The DREAM Act was first introduced in the Senate in 2001 by Dick Durbin and Orin Hatch. This act has had a long history of votes, revisions, and re-introductions. However, it has never passed. One could cite many arguments and reasons. One could choose blame Republicans and/or Democrats. However, the main point is that this act was developed and argued for a good 7 years before Obama stepped into office. It is not a new issue by any stretch of the imagination.

When Obama ran for office in 2008, he made many promises such as tackling immigration reform in his first year in office. He didn’t, and that upset much of the Latino community who had supported him. So, now, here we are facing another election year, and Obama is right out there trying to present himself as the candidate who cares about important issues, at least the ones that are important that week to garner support and fundraise. To me, this executive order is disturbing on several levels. First, It is purely a political tactic used to shore up votes. Second, this act is an overreach of executive power and a clear example of Obama’s inability to work with others as well as his incompetence as a leader.

There are many reasons why I label this act as a political tactic- some of which are just plain common sense. One only has to go as far as Obama’s own words and actions to come to this conclusion. For example,  “Prior to this decision, immigrant rights activists had criticised Obama for increasing the number of deportations by 30 per cent since George Bush, the former US president, left office”(6). As a matter of fact, under the Obama administration, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants had been deported in a single year. In addition, the timing of the measure is highly suspect. The following direct quotes support this:

“Obama’s order was the second time in two months that he has reached out to a key Democratic voting   constituency. Last month, he said for the first time that he supports legalizing gay marriages, a move that while largely symbolic, won him praise and campaign donations from the gay and lesbian community.Friday’s appeal to Hispanics came at a time when Obama’s popularity has dipped amid new worries of a weakening economy and a deepening European financial crisis that further threatens American jobs.

Obama’s order came a week before he is scheduled to address a meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Florida. Romney also is set to address the group next week.” (4)

“Many Hispanic leaders had been critical of the president for not doing more to address immigration. But on Friday, they said they welcomed his move, whatever his motivation. ‘We know this is political — we like that it’s political,’ said Robert Meza, a Democratic state senator from Phoenix. ‘People are smart enough to know that of course it’s politics, but if their agenda moves forward, they’re happy’ ” (10). 

Besides being a political tactic, this move by President Obama is an overreach of executive power and serves to do nothing but further divide politicians and citizens in this country. Although there is a clear law on the books that has been passed, the executive branch has declared that it will not enforce it. In my view that is a passive/aggressive way of asserting one’s own will on those who disagree. I equate it to a 5-year-old saying, “I can’t get my way, so I’m not going to play anymore” or “I don’t like your rules, so I’ll make my own.”

“His moves ‘fit a disturbing pattern of expansion of executive power,’ constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, who usually sides with progressive ideals, tells Politico. ‘This is a President who is now functioning as a super legislator’ who is ‘effectively negating parts of the criminal code because he disagrees with them. That does go beyond the pale’ ” (11).

Obama has repeatedly showed his incompetence as a leader by not being able to work with Congress finding compromises and solutions to problems. He has even set himself up as a hypocrit.

In transcripts from a speech that President Obama gave in El Paso, Texas on May 10, 2011:

“And sometimes when I talk to immigration advocates, they wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself.  But that’s not how a democracy works.  What we really need to do is to keep up the fight to pass genuine, comprehensive reform.  That is the ultimate solution to this problem.  That’s what I’m committed to doing.  (Applause.)……” ( 8)

What astounds me is that the Obama Administration makes no apologies for doing everything it can to circumvent Congress, and the system of checks and balances our constitution sets forth, without actually violating The Constitution. They make it very clear that they have no interest in listening to the voices of anyone who may dissent from their goals, nor do they care to represent all Americans.

” ‘When Congress blocks Obama’s agenda,’ the unnamed spokesman said, ‘we look to pursue other appropriate means of achieving our policy goals. Sometimes this makes for less than ideal policy situations – such as the action we took on immigration – but the President isn’t going to be stonewalled by politics‘ ” (11).  

Many will argue that this is just the nature of politics- that all politicians do it. They will cite examples in past administrations (Republican and Democrat). They will argue that Obama had no choice because Congress would not work with him. Honestly, I don’t care about any of these excuses. I am tired of it. What I do care about is the fact that our president seems to be ruthless when it comes to making his policies the law of the land. He has no real regard for the American Constitution unless it suits his needs, and he is clearly ready to do anything he can to show he is in power. My fear is that it won’t end here.

SOURCES
(1) Obama Immigration Decision Boosts Latino Enthusiasm: PollObama’s Immigration Symbolism
(2) Obama’s Immigration Announcement: Another Loss for the Middle Class
(3) Obama’s immigration move wins support in battleground states
(4) Obama spares many illegal immigrants deportation
(5) President Obama made a political decision on immigration. So what?
(6) Obama’s immigration call: A reason to dream?
(7) Fixing the Immigration System for America’s 21st Century Economy
(8) Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in El Paso, Texas
(9) BUILDING A 21ST CENTURY IMMIGRATION SYSTEM
(10) Obama’s Announcement Seizes Initiative and Puts Pressure on Romney
(11) Obama immigration order: Does ‘audacity of hope’ mean unchecked presidential power?
(12) Live Free or Die Alliance
(13) Obama’s Immigration Announcement: Another Loss for the Middle Class
(14) Analysis: Obama takes a risk on immigration front
(15) Obama administration to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants
(16) Facts on immigration in the United States
(17) President Obama should reconsider, reverse immigration executive order

Fun Facts Every American should know…

PresidentsSo let’s play hypothetical for a moment. Your child has to complete a research project on former US Presidents. Where does he/she turn?

Before the advent of computers, one would rely on a trip to the library and head straight for the reference section, most likely choosing an encyclopedia and a few non-fiction books. However, those days are long gone, and now a student does not even need to leave his/her home provided that there is an internet connection. The only caution the student must use is that the sources he/she finds must be reliable ones. In other words, most teachers will ban Wiki’s, blogs, and personal websites.

So what could be one of the most reliable sources on the history of US President? I know where I would start: http://www.whitehouse.gov.

It only seems logical that the official White House website should have a section dedicated to the biographies of presidents, and it does. By clicking on the name of any one of the 44 presidents, a student can find a concise biography that highlights important or interesting background information, events, and accomplishments as well as obstacles faced during the term . According to the website, “The Presidential biographies on WhiteHouse.gov are from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Michael Beschloss and Hugh Sidey. Copyright 2009 by the White House Historical Association.” (1) **** Just a little note here that a book title should be italicized, not placed within quotations*** The book, last published in 2009, would appear to be mostly objective, although I have not read it and cannot verify. One author, Michael Beschloss, has been described by Newsweek as “the nation’s leading Presidential historian”, has written 8 other books, and works with NBC News and PBS (2). Hugh Sidey, who passed away in 2005, was a journalist for Time Magazine and covered the White House and several presidents as well as serving as president of the White House Historical Association, which publishes this book (3) (4). Based on this information, I would assume that both authors possessed the qualifications and knowledge necessary for writing such a book.

So far so good….seems like reliable, factual, historical information is readily at hand. And for the most part, I must admit that it is.

BUT……

Once you reach Calvin Coolidge, there is extra material added at the end presented in the form of a “fun fact”.

Did you know?

  • On Feb. 22, 1924 Calvin Coolidge became the first president to make a public radio address to the American people. President Coolidge later helped create the Federal Radio Commission, which has now evolved to become the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).   President Obama became the first president to hold virtual gatherings and town halls using Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. (5)

Although the detail first appears to be a fun fact about Calvin Coolidge, the reality is that this is more about President Obama.  And these “fun facts” continue on each president’s bio thereafter, with the exception of Ford. That is 13 former presidents, and Obama is there tagged on to each one.

According to ABC News, the Obama administration added these blurbs to the bios on May 14, 2012. The online article also states, ” But White House sources say the additions of  items with hyperlinks are a commonly used Internet best practice to encourage people to browse more pages on a site” (6). The items in question do provide links to other pages on the site, so there is some truth to this. At the very least, it is a plausible excuse.

The only attempt at rational argument in support that I found was that the additional material is merely an elaboration on things done and/or passed before Obama became president (7). Instead, the majority of Obama fans and supporters rant about how it is a twisted argument pushed ahead by conservatives, republicans, and right-wing media. They shift the subject to an attack on previous presidents’ records, blaming them for every current failure, and swiftly move to the typical destructive rhetoric currently being exchanged between members and supporters of both parties. So without having found any reasonable justification, I am left to draw my own conclusions.

I find this practice questionable. I cannot help but wonder why, and there are definitely many strong opinions out there questioning the logic as well (see articles). Is this a campaign tactic to foster support for Obama? Is it as harmless as the White House makes it out to be? If it is not a campaign tactic, then why is more detailed information left out such as,
” ‘President Reagan designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday;  today the Obama Administration honors this tradition, with the First and Second Families participating in service projects on this day.’ Left unsaid in this addition: Reagan initially opposed the creation of a holiday to honor the memory of the slain civil rights leader, though when the bill came before him after passing the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities, he signed it…” (6).

If it is not a campaign tactic, then why did the changes occur just as the campaign begins to shift into full gear and is really heating up? If it is not a campaign tactic, then why aren’t these “fun facts” and links on President Obama’s bio page, which is much more appropriate as they all highlight him and his administration. Is it simply that Obama (yes he is responsible for anything that includes his name even if he did not write it himself) and his administration are so full of themselves that they feel the need to flaunt it?

I try very hard not to jump to form an opinion, which is why I read and research as much as I can. Nevertheless, I have seen nothing to support the addition of these “fun facts” and can only come to the conclusion that they are either a campaign tactic or an act of hubris by the Obama administration. I am sorry, but I have to agree with the conservatives and right-wing media on this one. If something smells rotten, it probably is. And honestly, I fully support the mocking and satire such a STUPID act deserves. This may not be a major issue, but it sure says something about our current president and administration. And honestly, I’m not sure I can stomach such reckless self-promotion.

*for examples of some of the mocking, visit http://obamainhistory.tumblr.com/. I found it quite humorous.

References
(1) http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/georgewashington
(2) http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Michael-R-Beschloss/1884445/biography
(3) http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1133407,00.html
(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Sidey
(5) http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/calvincoolidge
(6) http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/05/white-house-augments-presidential-bios-with-obama-trivia/
(7)  http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/05/15/President-Obama-White-House-biographies

Other Articles

Listen up Americans. You are too fat and stupid to make your own decisions, so we will do it for you.

No soda for you

A 32 oz soda has approximately 300 calories

One of the current news headlines “New York Plans to Ban Sale of Big Sizes of Sugary Drinks” makes me shake my head, throw up my hands in despair, and sigh most emphatically. I see it as yet another attempt to regulate American life (for the supposed good of society). Rather than advocate personal choice and responsibility, politicians are again sending Americans the implied message that we are either too stupid or simply incapable of knowing what is and what isn’t good for us. They know that most will only listen to the rhetoric, however biased or misleading it may be, instead of forming educated opinions. And no matter what spin anyone puts on this issue, it is really just another overstep by officials to dictate American choice.

Throughout history, there have been many efforts to help foster a healthier society.  ” Federal regulation of the industry began on a large scale in the early twentieth century when Congress enacted the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906″(4). Most food regulation is for good reasons such as avoiding the adulteration of food and drug products that could pose health risks for consumers. In 2008, New York became the first American city to require that restaurants publish the calorie content of their items on menus (5), and despite protestation from critics, it has become somewhat of a standard throughout America today. Even the current trend towards public smoking bans seems reasonable. In all of these instances, the regulations and laws work to inform consumers so that they may make educated choices in regards to their own health and to protect non-smoking individuals from exposure to possibly toxic factors such as second-hand smoke. However, I believe that there is a difference between these types of regulations and the more recent attempts to control what Americans eat and drink, all under the guise of public health.

 

Some of the more recent items banned in some cities and states (California and New York leading the way) have been trans fats, table salt, and food trucks. Even froi gras is now on the chopping block in California (8). Other efforts are not direct bans or regulations of food, but have a similar approach such as a ban on toys in kid’s meals in California (9). Supporters and politicians claim that all of these things are in the public’s best interest.  “Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels.  Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke.  It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes” (10) . Too much sodium can lead to problems with high blood pressure and heart disease. Too much sugar can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. In regards to large sodas, Walter Millet states that “High intake of these beverages (the standard 20-ounce soda contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar) increases the risks of obesity and diabetes and is clearly unsafe for anyone” (1) .

According to an online debate, 65% of respondents argue that the government should NOT regulate fast food (12). Although this is an informal site and bears no significant recording of public opinion, it is an insight into how people feel about the issue. There are arguments for and against, and it is always productive to see both sides of an issue. One of the the things that bothers me about some of the responses is what I believe is indicative in much of our current society. Individuals do not attempt to do the research on their own in order to form educated and informed opinions. I mean, why bother to read the research and learn about the science behind the issues? It is time consuming (as I can verify through the amount of time it has taken me to complete this post). Much of the information is contradictory and confusing, especially when it comes down to interpreting statistical data. And honestly, it is just that much easier to listen to what we want to hear in order to support our own opinions. So maybe the government is right and we are just too stupid- or at least too lazy- to make our own choices. At the very least this is what these public officials are counting on.

There are several things that I have come across in my “research” that demonstrate to me how much rhetoric plays a factor over actual evidence.

For example, one of the claims in support of the soda ban is the idea that  high consumption increases the risk of obesity and type-2 diabetes. Well, I suppose that could be true if one wanted to generalize. But so can a high intake of funnel cakes and cream puffs, and I don’t see anyone discussing the perils of those food items. Since this is one of the main arguments for the ban, I searched to find out exactly what role sugar consumption plays. Ironically I learned that  “The American Diabetes Association doesn’t even mention sugars in its 2008 nutrition recommendations for preventing diabetes. Instead, it concentrates on “energy”. Excessive energy intake of any sort – whether from starch or sugar, fat or protein – will eventually produce obesity, which is the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes (the most common from of diabetes)” (11).  So the argument proponents (see Walter Millet) make is a faulty, or at very least misleading, one. Sugar does not cause obesity or type-2 diabetes. It is simply one of many factors in an unhealthy lifestyle that pose a risk. I found a similar problem with the argument for banning salt from tables and food preparation in restaurants. The rhetoric focuses on how salt consumption is unhealthy. However, rather than also discussing how a little salt is healthy and necessary, especially iodized salt, the public is lead to believe that salt in general is bad. According to WebMD, ” Too little salt — iodized salt, that is — is dangerous, too” (13). Iodine is important for thyroid function and brain development. Americans are taking in less iodine now than they did years ago. And most people are not aware that ” Sea salt and most salt substitutes are not iodized. Unless fruits and vegetables are grown in iodine-rich soil, they will not contain iodine” (13). Therefore, while government entities justify their ban on salt as in the interest of public health, they do nothing to address this issue. Perhaps instead of outlawing all salt, as New York did (7), a better approach would have been to regulate the use of iodized salt instead. The problem with rhetoric versus evidence is that the majority of people only hear the rhetoric, not the facts. And if I had not taken the time to do the research, then I myself may have fallen into the trap of believing it.

Going back to the ban on soda, where the argument is that it will help curb obesity, one should also consider exactly what obesity is and what causes it. According to to WebMD, ” Obesity is an excess proportion of total body fat. A person is considered obese when his or her weight is 20% or more above normal weight” (14). Obesity is usually calculated using BMI, and an individual with a BMI over 25 is considered overweight while a person with a BMI over 30 is considered obese. For example, I am approximately 5’9″ and I weigh around 130 lbs. If I were to calculate my BMI, I would discover that it ranges around 19. I would need to gain another 70 lbs in order to become obese, which would require an immense increase in my daily caloric intake. Perhaps if I drank eight to ten 32 oz sodas a day, I could accomplish this. All sarcasm aside, I do not want to imply that I am healthy by any means. I do not exercise or watch my diet. If “Obesity occurs when a person consumes more calories than he or she burns. For many people this boils down to eating too much and exercising too little” (14), then why am I not obese as well? There are numerous other influences on weight other than lifestyle such as age, gender, genetics, environment, psychological factors and eating habits, as well as illness and medications (I gained nearly 50 lbs when I became hypothyroid after the birth of my daughter, but later lost it as my thyroid regulated). SO another question to consider is why obesity has been on the increase in much of society. There are many reasons such as the changes in food production and eating habits as well as the decrease in  physical activity. ” There has been a global shift in diet towards increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars but low in vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients and this along with a trend towards decreased physical activity has had a large impact on worldwide increase in obesity rates. The increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization have added to the problem” (15). Most disturbing is the increase in obesity in children, which I think most people would agree also relates to not only poor eating habits, but also the immense decrease in physical activity evidenced by the cuts in physical education and other school-based activities, increased use of computers and video games, and other sedentary ways of life. So my question is, how will a ban on 32 oz sodas actually help in an appreciable way where the ends justifies the means. Or is this just one in many steps the mayor is taking in his progressive agenda for control over public consumption?

Whatever justification political officials use, I still see these bans and regulations as an attempt to dictate choice in American society. There are several comments I have read that clearly illustrate this attitude, two of which stand out the most:
“County supervisor Ken Yeager said Tuesday that the ordinance (banning toys) ‘prevents restaurants from preying on children’s love of toys to peddle high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium kids’ meals,’ and would help fight childhood obesity” (10).      

“Cheryl Anderson, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said ‘We can’t just rely on the individual to do something’ ” 
(6)

Rather than discussing personal choice and responsibility, it is easier for these officials to legislate morality and public good. As one points out, society cannot rely on parents to make appropriate choices for their children because the children are being brainwashed by restaurants, and the parents have no control over their children. The other says it just like it is- the individual does not count. It could make many people very angry if someone actually stood up and said that individuals are responsible for their actions and lifestyle choices; that the majority of issues in their lives are within individual control; and the results (good or bad) are rooted in personal behavior. God forbid that we should actually say that perhaps part of the problem with obesity is the individual making poor choices in life. Let’s just take that out of the equation and do it for them instead (note sarcastic tone here).

My thoughts on this issue are pretty simple.  Mayor Bloomberg, I do not appreciate you or other officials dictating what I can and cannot have. SHAME ON YOU FOR ATTEMPTING TO REGULATE AMERICAN CITIZENS BY LIMITING THEIR CHOICES. You may not be directly telling me that I cannot purchase a large soda, which would be unconstitutional, but you are doing so by attempting to limit my choices. If I want to purchase a 32 oz soda, I should be able to do so. I may drink it myself, share it with my husband, or throw half of it away. I am fully aware of the possible long-term consequences for my choice, and it is my prerogative.  In the same vein, I would like to argue that while I have the right to choose, I also believe that businesses should have the right to offer me that choice. The relationship is entirely between me (the consumer) and the business (free market). Period. And I want you to stay out of it, even if you might think the relationship is a dysfunctional one.

I am sorry that a portion of American society is struggling with obesity. However, this type of regulation will not address the real issues or causes behind it. Proponents may use whatever rhetoric they choose and manipulate statistics to benefit their arguments, but I am not stupid enough to fall for them. Sadly enough, I also believe that until more Americans are ready to stand up and take responsibility for their lives and actions as well as educate themselves about the truth behind many of these policies, there will continue to be more of this “Nanny-state” as so many label it.

  • Just for fun, I wanted to include McDonald’s response on Twitter:  ” .@MikeBloomberg We trust our customers to make the choices that are best for them.” (3) THANK YOU MCDONALDS FOR STANDING UP!!!!

Links to research and related articles
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/nyregion/bloomberg-plans-a-ban-on-large-sugared-drinks.html?pagewanted=1
(1) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/02/opinion/bloombergs-supersize-soda-ban.html
(2) http://reason.com/archives/2012/06/02/why-is-mayor-bloomberg-regulating-new-yo/1
(3) https://twitter.com/McDonalds/status/208610928319672320
(4) http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/Law.Food.and.Drug.Regulation
(5) http://www.economist.com/node/12010393
(6)  http://gothamist.com/2010/04/20/fda_joins_salt-ban_bandwagon.php
(7)http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/10/pass-the-salt-ban/
(8) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/foie-gras-ban
(9) http://articles.cnn.com/2010-04-28/living/fast.food.toys.california_1_kids-meals-toys-ordinance?_s=PM:LIVING http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/11/more-on-the-ny-salt-ban-bill
(10)  http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Trans-Fats_UCM_301120_Article.jsp
(11)  http://www.medcarehealth.com/diabetes/debunking-the-myth-high-sugar-intake-causes-diabetes/
(12)  http://debates.juggle.com/should-the-government-regulate-fast-food
(13)  http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/salt-dont-ban-entirely
(14)  http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/what-is-obesity
(15)  http://www.news-medical.net/health/Causes-of-Obesity-and-Overweight.aspx
http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/ http://phlc.stylefish.com/topics/tobacco-control/smoking-regulation
http://www.livestrong.com/article/518115-is-sodium-bad-for-you/
http://www.aslme.org/media/downloadable/files/links/2/0/20.Diller.pdf

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