Archive | January, 2012

Barry’s Best Week (In a Good Long While)

25 Jan

Coming off of a pretty resounding and  motivational State of The Union Address, The Obama Administration couldn’t have planned Tuesday any better, if they had hand-picked the joint sessions attendees themselves (or if they’d had the POTUS to end his speech with an encore rendition of Al’s Let’s Stay Together).

Like the rest of America, I’ve had my fill of talking points, bullet references and recycled stump speeches from both parties.  Last night, I was more interested in knowing where the President believed America really stood socially and economically, and what his plans were to resolve what has ailed us for so long.  And although he couldn’t have possibly given us an in-depth elucidation in the mere hour and change that he addressed the nation, I can say that I was satisfied with the fact that the President did address my big three.

National Security: Although not necessarily what I’d have opened with, right out of the gate, Barack Obama wanted to make sure that while some of America was pointing fingers and blaming him for any and everything, they were also reminded that Bin Laden had gotten “got” while on his watch…something the previous administration had only dreamed of doing (seeing as how they’d been playing a veritable game of Where’s Waldo with the man for the past ten years).  Prez also discussed the unacceptability of Iran constructing or acquiring nuclear weaponry and made clear his ardent stance (with or without peace negotiations or further sanctions) to ensure that Iran knew that although peace was always an option, America was not playing games with them and would respond swiftly and surely to their potential tomfoolery.

J-O-B-S: While the POTUS and his democratic supporters have been singing the same song for the last three years, Obama addressed the fact that like it or not, he had inherited the mess that had ultimately resulted in a not-so-fundamentally-strong economy and the loss of millions of jobs.  He also acknowledged that since in office, the economic rebound wasn’t as swift in coming as we all would have liked, but the Bailout out of companies like GM had in fact worked, resulting in more American jobs and the automaker reclaiming its throne as best in the business.  The President also expressed his willingness to work across party lines to get infrastructure jobs enacted, but challenged Congress to work to get a Bill on his desk that he could pass. Further, he suggested that incentives and tax relief be granted to American Companies that did not outsource American Jobs overseas.

Economic Equity:  Clearly the most divisive of political topics in the past few years (or ever), President Obama re-stressed his position that in order to stimulate the economy and provide opportunities that all Americans could benefit from, the nation’s majority (the 98 percent)who worked hard and did their fair share should be afforded some significant tax relief.  Becoming the poster child for this sentiment, Warren Buffet’s secretary (who notably makes substantially less money than her billionaire boss) was panned to many times during the speech, as Mr. Obama declared how senseless it was that those Americans who made significantly less money than their wealthy counterparts (the 2 percent), ultimately had to pay more in taxes.

Now, what I found so crucial about what the President discussed in The State of The Union Address last night was that so much of what he said could not have come at a better time.  For instance, yesterday’s release of Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s tax returns (in, let’s be honest, more grudging than perfunctory fashion) and the confirmation of SEAL Team 6’s rescue of two hostage aid workers in Somalia had to be a gift horse that the Obama Administration did not even consider looking into the mouth.  In the case of Romney, the situation clearly spoke to the distinct ideological contrast that while the President wants to provide tax breaks for the middle class, there is this potential Republican Presidential candidate who, in paying roughly 15% in Capital Gains Tax (because he is fortunate in the wealth department) believes that he should be paying less than that.  Where the SEALS are concerned, I wouldn’t go so far as to pat The President on the back for another mission accomplished, because let’s be for real for a sec, facilitating from the safety of a highly secure edifice is nothing like risking life and limb in the trenches; but it sure does look good for his presidential resume to be riding the wave of another military success.

As it were, I am not sure what last night’s address did to change the minds of staunch conservatives, or those who currently find themselves in the middle of the political road.  What I do know however is that from the various conversations that I’ve had over the past 24 hours, lots of Democrats seem pleased that the President is showing his aggressiveness; an almost forlorn trait that has now seemed to reenergize the democratic base.  I would be very interested to see what the Administration plans to do to maintain this momentum.

In the words of Rick Santorum (did I just do that??), Game On!

The Kobe System: Vanessa, You’re Welcome

23 Jan

If you haven’t seen the most recent exploits of the warm-up wearing, motivational speaking guru, The Black Mamba as he schools the World’s One Percenters on how to excel further despite their own individual greatness and success, then you must be watching all things Republican on a continuous C-Span loop.

For those of you however as amused as I was by Serena’s Grander Slam, Sir Richard Branson’s planet purchase, Jerry Rice wanting to understand the words coming out of Kobe’s mouth or Kanye actually considering someone else’s advice for a change, know that this latest Nike brainchild had to have been developed of authentic and necessary origins.  I mean, whether you love him or loathe him, Kobe Bryant has had an epic and undoubtedly future Basketball Hall of Fame career.  He has been likened to The Great One in just about every aspect of the game and even in his many lucrative endorsement deals.

Unfortunately also like Mike, Mr. Bryant has recently had to endure the ill effects of his dirty laundry being aired to the world and his marriage ultimately becoming collateral damage.  And in a dunder-headed move of having no prenuptial agreement, Kobe’s pockets have become nearly $150 Million lighter almost overnight.

So yes, the notion of Kobe motivating the Über-successful into being even more so is a unique and cheeky idea which makes for a great shoe selling advertising campaign, but know that in 2012, every commercial, fade away, public speaking outing, behind the back pass and 3-point shot are all simply motivational mechanisms for #24…The man’s got a lot of monetary recouping to do!

Rage Against The Machine: Where’s Wiki?

18 Jan

Call me frugal.  Call me a sponge.  But as thirsty as I am for free knowledge, ever since I discovered the internet and packed away my Encyclopedia Britannica set, Wikipedia has been my go-to source for a quick reference on just about EVERYTHING!

Now, as sucky as it is that Jimmy Wales has blacked out the internet encyclopedia site for 24-hours today in protest of the proposed congressional legislation known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (aka SOPA), I do “get it”.

I mean really, if today was to give us all a taste of what could happen if big government were to decide that it would be responsible for regulating the way that the free and open internet was managed…well, “suck” again comes to mind.

So, if you feel like me OR you just want to ensure that your congressional representative is actually doing his or her job in representing your interests, then click here and you too can rage with Wiki.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Day of Service, Not a Day Off

16 Jan

Happy MLK Jr. Day family (even to those few of you in New Hampshire and Arizona, who after all this time still grudgingly stay home from work)!

It seems as though I say it every year, but even in the face of virtually no rush hour traffic, the lack of mail delivery or the premiere parking in the company parking lot; today is not simply a day to stay home from work and catch-up on your TiVO and DVR recordings.

The observance of MLK Jr. Day is a day not only to reflect on the legacy of this memorable and outspoken civil rights leader, but it is also a day to give back to our country, our society, our communities.

You don’t know what to do or how to get started, you say?  Well, let this be an integral, each-one-teach-one moment.  Click Here to find a service project in your area to be a part of, or start a service event of your own. Oh, and remember: although we all ought to make a small sacrifice to serve our fellow man today, service is a 365 commitment.  Feel free to be a part of something great all year long!

This has been a Fanny Pack Public Service Announcement

America’s War on Terror: The PISS de Résistance?

14 Jan

Graphic: Scroll to the end of this post  for video of Marines caught urinating over Afghan bodies. 

Upon first hearing of this defilement and having since had several intense conversations with friends, family and social media followers alike, I could not help but to be sickened by the alleged actions of members of our otherwise highly regarded armed forces, and even some of the commentary which has teetered almost on excusing said behavior.

For those not familiar with the story, an anonymous source posted a video to the internet which depicts four members of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, in combat gear standing over three Afghan corpses with their genitals exposed as they relieve themselves.

While the men aren’t readily identifiable in the shocking viral spectacle, they can be heard joking and making statements like ‘Have a great day, buddy’, ‘Golden like a shower’ and ‘Yeahhhh!’ as they moan in apparent relief and release.

From the White House to local barbershops, within hours of the video’s release, most anyone with a heart, conscience, a moral compass or a at least a modicum or respect for humanity had been vocal in speaking out against this disgusting display.  Not surprisingly though, there have been those who were equally as vocal in (almost) defending the alleged actions of these soldiers.

Though speaking from a place of experience and understanding, Ex-Army Lieutenant Colonel and current Florida Rep. Allen West insisted that the Marines were wrong but angrily defended:

“As for everyone else, unless you have been shot at by the Taliban, shut your mouth.  War is hell.”

 The “everyone else” that Mr. West referred to included (but was clearly not limited to) political pundits who he deemed over-emotional, self-righteous and armchair quarterbacks over their opinions on the future of the men and the disgrace that they’ve brought the armed forces.

One media pundit not fitting into Mr. West’s mold however is CNN correspondent and conservative radio host Dana Loesch.  Sharing her views on a St. Louis radio station this week, Loesch made her opinion clear:

 “’C’mon people, this is a war.  Do I have a problem with that as a citizen of the United States? No, I don’t.”

She also said that she would give a million cool points to these guys and would be willing to join them.

Classy lady.

Realistically though, I do get it.  Though never personally having had the remarkable courage or desire to serve my country in the armed forces, I have had family to serve in Vietnam and even members who’ve done multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The horrendous stories I have been told of survival and daily life in those war-torn regions are cringe-worthy tales that I still cannot even wrap my mind around, so yes, I am sympathetic.  Living through an ordeal like that; I am sure continues to be a nightmare within itself.

In that regard, Mr. West is absolutely correct.  It is easy for civilians to pass judgment and make baseless comments about behaviors enacted in war when they have never stared death in the face or had to decide between their lives or that of the insurgent trying to blow their heads off.  Still, like I tweeted earlier this week, I honestly do understand the whole “psychology” of a solider and cringe at all they are liable to see and required to do, but the standard of The United States and that of our Marine Corp. is just too high for that behavior.  In this country, we cannot insist that we be recognized as beacons of the free world, yet relegate ourselves to urinating on people…dead people, for kicks.

Healing in Haiti: Two Years Later

12 Jan

It is incredible sometimes how quickly time seems to speed past some, yet remains completely motionless for others.  The stunning, grotesque and heartbreaking images from January 12, 2010 have been so seared into my mind that they are as emotionally potent today as they were two years ago.  Seeing how a 7.0 magnitude earthquake could hit the island of Hispaniola; ravish the country of Haiti and demolish the City of Port-au-Prince not only left me physically and emotionally spent, but it showed how even as political rivals in this country have bickered across party lines about ideology and have continued to lay social and economic fault at the feet of one another (from their luxurious hills on high), thousands of people in a third-worldly region laid dead and dying; millions of their brethren suffering through lives irrevocably battered and broken.

With the anniversary of the earthquake that rocked Haiti (recognized by native Haitians only as January 12th) and the many news reports and features that are coming out of the Caribbean nation, it is reassuring to see and hear that so many people are making a concerted effort to rebuild their lives.  Unfortunately (and realistically) however, there are many more who are still struggling day-to-day to survive, just as they were two years ago.  Yes, humanitarian aid has continued to flow into the country and the national infrastructure remains a work in progress, but the sad reality is that for as much international assistance and political restructuring that has filtered through Haiti, the country has still been riddled with corruptness (insert various questionable foundations and funds misuse, missionary border-crossing fees and tenement land taxation for the homeless scenarios here).

Still, the resiliency of The People is not only encouraging, it seems addictive.  They are returning to work.  They are attending school.

They are adopting the children of the fallen.

They are mending families.

In many ways, they are embodying “community”.

January 12th was the great equalizer.  For all intents and purposes, it was as though the haves were introduced to a life just marginally worse than the one the have nots had been living previously, and in residing on common ground, forced both groups to become a village; impoverished and fragmented, but a village nonetheless.  Today, in the face of despair, dire straits and an unforeseeable future, The People aren’t waiting for what the rest of the world will do for them; they are figuratively and literally digging through the rubble left in the wake of January 12th and rebuilding their lives one day at a time.

Yes.  Even in a wealthy nation not used to suffering through an 8.5% unemployment rate, the plight of Haiti and her people still really does put “poverty” and “having a hard day” into perspective now doesn’t it?

 Listen here to Dick Gordon from NPR’s “The Story” as he travels to Haiti in this second of three-part special Re-Inventing Haiti.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Will Get You Fired!

11 Jan

Okay listen.  Just like most, I find true entertainment in music and sports.  And on that rare occasion when the two are perfectly blended, I have no problem with a good time being had by all.

THIS however, was not one of those instances.  Sure, this is gut-bursting hilarity funny, clearly executed for the sake of the on-looking baseball population, and was likely a little bit staged, but let us be serious for one minute.

This man’s job is not to be a Luke Dancer or Beyonce’s drop-it-like-it’s-hot surrogate.  He is a snug-blue-shirt-wearing security guard, hired to ensure that the Tampa Bay Rays’ outfielders and third baseman were protected from rogue fruit individuals seeking to disrupt the sanctity of American’s (former) favorite pastime.

Besides, is he not aware that with the black unemployment rate currently at 15.8%, booty-clapping in left-field could result in a banana in the tailpipe a pink slip?

 

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