Tag Archives: President Barack Obama

Truth Amid the Obstruction


No time is right for a health pandemic, but COVID-19 couldn’t have arisen at a more inconvenient period for Americans: at the start of the 2020 presidential election race.  Things had been proceeding somewhat normally until March, when concerns about the “novel coronavirus” began altering the social landscape.  When I saw that this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo had been postponed – possibly to next year – I knew our world had been capsized by this invisible biological menace.  Viruses, like facts, always have a way of sneaking into our lives and making us rethink everything we’ve ever learned.  Facts, however, are good things.  But, while a crisis of any kind can bring out the best humanity has to offer, it can also bring out the worst.

Right now political conservatives in the U.S. are trying to finagle the COVID-19 miasma into an obstructionist nightmare for the voting populace.  Last week thousands of voters in Wisconsin were forced to leave their homes and venture out to designated polling places to cast their votes for a candidate in the Democratic primary.  On April 6, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, refused to allow an extension of absentee voting in Wisconsin; thus, forcing the primary to go on as planned on April 7.  On April 2, a federal judge had ruled that absentee voting can be extended.  But unsurprisingly, the Republican National Committee appealed the ruling, which landed on the docket of the High Court.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that “the court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement.”  She went on: “Because gathering at the polling place now poses dire health risks, an unprecedented number of Wisconsin voters – at the encouragement of public officials – have turned to voting absentee.  About one million more voters have requested absentee ballots in this election than in 2016.  Accommodating the surge of absentee ballot requests has heavily burdened election officials, resulting in a severe backlog of ballots requested but not promptly mailed to voters.”

Political conservatives don’t like it when people they consider insignificant actually have the audacity to practice their right to vote.  For a good part of American history, they’ve done just about everything they could – including intimidation and violence – to stifle voting rights; which, they’ve obviously forgotten, is one of the fundamentals of a democratic society.  The right to vote is clearly mentioned in the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution!  Then again, they may not necessarily forget about it, as they just ignore it.  And they always seem to skip over to focus attention on the 2nd Amendment, which addresses firearms.

Conservatives established and enforced such obstructionist tactics as “grandfather clauses”, literacy tests, and poll taxes.  Voting advocates had to fight for confidential voting.  Early feminists had to do the same to get the 19th Amendment ratified.  When President Lyndon Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law, he conceded that he and his fellow Democrats had probably handed the South to the Republican Party.  And he was right!  Slowly, but surely, over the ensuing decade, many White southerners began switching to the GOP.  A number of well-known U.S. politicians, such as Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, also changed their allegiances to the Republican Party.

The election of Barack Obama solidified in the minds of many conservatives the horrors of expanded voting.  They then launched a number of efforts – both at the national and state levels – to ensure that would never happen again.  A slew of voter identification rules were suddenly enacted.

The COVID-19 scourge has prompted calls across the nation for expanded absentee voting, such as mail-ins, which has been rebuffed by conservatives who holler voter fraud could result.  This week Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton opined that fear of catching the virus does not qualify voters to vote by mail

But State Judge Tim Sulak ruled that Texans afraid of catching COVID-19 should be allowed to vote by mail during the pandemic, using the state’s disability clause in the state’s election code, and said he will issue a temporary injunction.  The Texas Democratic Party and several had filed a lawsuit over concerns that voters in this July’s elections, including the primary runoffs, could come in contact with infected people when voting in person.

“Based on the plain language of the relevant statutory text, fear of contracting COVID-19 unaccompanied by a qualifying sickness or physical condition does not constitute a disability under the Election Code,” Deputy Attorney General Ryan M. Vassar wrote in a letter to Fort Worth State Rep. Stephanie Klick, a fellow Republican.

And, of course, Paxton was “disappointed” that Sulak had “ignored the plain text of the Texas election code to allow perfectly healthy voters to take advantage of special protections made available to Texans with actual illness or disabilities.”

The voter fraud claim is the default mantra of right-wing politicians every time they enact legislation that impacts the voting process.  Texas Republicans have long opposed the expansion of mail-in voting.  In 2017 the GOP-dominated state legislature stiffened penalties for election fraud.

“Our state is better off when more Texans participate in our democracy,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party.  “Voting by mail is safe, secure and accessible.  It allows more voters to participate in our democracy, and it’s a common sense way to run an election, especially during a public health crisis.”

Like the Texas Innocence Project, you know the Texas Democratic Party has their work cut out for them!

Currently, residents over age 65, military members, those who will be away from their residence during voting and people with disabilities can request mail-in ballots.  Democrats argue that a disability, defined as a “sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring voters’ health,” covers all Texas voters under the age of 65, including those who are afraid to catch the COVID-19 virus.

In his letter to Klick, Vassar naturally disagreed, stating that fears of catching the virus is neither a sickness nor a physical condition, but an emotional reaction to the pandemic is not “sufficient to meet the definition of disability”.

It’s ironic that Vassar regards concerns of contracting COVID-19 as emotional.  Throughout Obama’s presidency, conservatives screamed that his administration would ban all firearms, abandon Israel, and force churches to conduct same-sex weddings.  None of that happened.  It never has and most likely it never will.  Yet, liberals are always justifiably concerned that voter suppression is a real possibility when conservatives are elected to office.  Justifiably concerned because many state legislatures, such as Texas, actually have moved to enact legislation to combat the ubiquitous pandemic of voter fraud.

During Black civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, news cameras captured horrific scenes of police physically assaulting individuals or using water hoses to attack groups of African-Americans.  I’ve seen some of that footage – startling black-and-white images of mostly peaceful citizens wanting to vote or be able to enter a restaurant and have a meal.  We don’t see that now.  Instead, we see elected officials use the power of their position to suppress voting.  Firearms have metamorphosed into pens – but they pose no less of a risk.

While I have my own doubts about the effectiveness of the voting process – the fraud-ridden elections of George W. Bush and Donald Trump being the most recent examples – people in any truly democratic society have the right to cast a ballot.  And eventually, the obstructionist tactics of those elected (not ordained) politicians will reveal the truth behind their dubious motives.

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Best Quote of the Week – December 20, 2019

“I’m absolutely confident that, for two years if every nation on Earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything… living standards and outcomes.”

President Barack Obama, speaking in Singapore

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How a REAL President Responds to a Tragedy

This is the official response President Barack Obama issue to the dual tragedies in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

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Said Again

I keep having to look at the slew of calendars I have scattered throughout the house – the National Geographic, ASPCA, military veterans and one displaying houses I get every year from my real estate friend.  They all assure me of the same thing: it’s 2019 – not 1919.  Or 1969.  Or even 1999.  Nope!  It’s 2019, my friends.  We’re at the end of the second decade of the 21st century.  Oh wait!  Yes.  I had to check again: 2019 – the two and the zero being the key factors here.

I have to do this because of the recent series of tirades Donald Trump has lavished upon certain members of Congress.  Would somebody get the damn phone away from him?!

As if anyone should be surprised, our Dear Leader hasn’t quieted down verbal attacks against non-Whites who dare to speak their minds against him.  Via his Twitter feed while safely ensconced in the White House, he created quite a stir recently, when he assailed four alphamore U.S. congresswomen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.  Denouncing them as “The Squad”, he became enraged, after they criticized him for his response to the growing migrant crisis along the southern border – among other issues.

Ocasio-Cortez had already identified herself as a socialist when she won New York’s 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens boroughs – both of which have large non-White populations.  In fact, I think non-Hispanic Whites are so scarce in the Bronx they might qualify for endangered species status.

Trump didn’t hold anything back when he assailed the four congresswomen (an attribute his devotees love) that, if the lawmakers “hate our country,” they can “go back” to the “broken and crime-infested” countries “from which they came”.  For the record, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib were all born and raised here in the United States; thus making them, well, natural-born Americans.  Omar emigrated to the U.S. with her family as a child; the clan fleeing their Somali homeland, as it sunk further into political and social chaos.  But she is now an American citizen.  Omar has been openly critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, which garners the usual cries of anti-Semitism from all sides.  But a statement about the 09/11 terrorist attacks as “some people did something” makes me think suspiciously of her.  Yet, one has to look at that verbiage within the context of her entire speech.  To her credit, she’s also said: “I do not blame every single white person when we have a white man who massacres children at a school, or moviegoers in a movie theatre.  And I think this really horrendous narrative that says, as a Muslim, I’m supposed to explain, apologize, for the actions of someone who’s also terrorizing me, is absurd.”

Now Trump has gone after Congressman Elijah Cummings who represents Maryland’s 7th District, which includes Baltimore.  Describing the majority-Black area as a “rodent-infested mess” where “no human being would want to live”, he drew widespread condemnation from Democrats and independents.  I don’t know what incited that particular discourse, but it’s obvious Trump likes to play the proverbial race card when things get rough in the political arena, which is something like, oh…100% of the time.  And I’ve found that, if you go for the jugular by mentioning race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality, you’ve essentially lost the debate.  You’ve run out of legitimate things to say; you’ve exhausted your gallery of facts and logical points, but you want to keep arguing because you just absolutely have to have the last word.

As I’ve stated before, not everything wrong with America is the fault of White males.  But again, I have to look at one of my calendars.  Seriously?!  We’re still dealing with this shit in 2019?!  I heard that “go back” crap when I was in high school!  It was a similar comment from a fellow student that propelled me into my first and only fight in high school – towards the end of my senior year.  During my alphamore year a substitute teacher said my last name is un-Christian.  I took that up with the school principal before I told my parents about it.  I was concerned my proud father would go to the school and want to kick some old White ass.

I heard a little less racist language while in college.  Key words – “a little less”.  Occasionally, some idiot would throw a “you people” in my face, and I was just as quick to slur right back at them.  By the 1990s, ironically, the people slinging racist vitriol at me the most were Black or other Hispanics.

So, how is it that this kind of talk has worked its way back into the mainstream?  Retro may be cool in some nightclub situations, such as retro-70s.  (I try to ignore “Retro 90s” nights!)  But it’s not necessarily cool with a spoken language.  Never mind that Trump’s “go back” comment might be illegal in a workplace setting.  I’m still perplexed that we’ve gone from No-Drama-Obama to Czar Trump in a virtual blink of our collective eyes.

But, after 200 or so years of civil rights progress, it seems we’ve now started rolling backwards.  To we Trump detractors, this is not news.  Trump had pumped fuel into the “Birther” movement: the band of morons who questioned the birthright of President Obama.  He never acknowledged he’d been wrong when he said his “researchers” had learned some odd things about Obama.  Yet, he sat in the Oval Office next to Obama and called him a great man.  Amazing how brave some people get when they’re behind a phone or a computer, isn’t it?  It’s so different in person.

Thinking back to my high school tenure doesn’t bring back many good memories.  I was so shy and introverted I often fell prey to bullies.  So I try NOT to think about that period.  It was so long ago anyway.  Yet, that “go back” shit slammed into my conscious harder than seeing a Windows 3 screen.

My mother used to recount the number of times people had called her “half-breed” because her father was German-American and her mother was Mexican.  My father told me of the day an older White woman at the printing shop where he worked said she saw “a bunch of Mexicans” working on a lawn and thought of him.  He responded by saying something like, “Well, I saw a herd of cows in a field on my way to work and thought of you.”

A friend of mine once asked how is it that, in such a large city as Dallas, our fathers happened to know each other.

“All those old Mexicans knew each other!” I replied.  “They were all crammed into the same neighborhoods and went to the same schools.  They had to stick together.  It was a matter of survival.”

She’s only a few years younger than me, and my answer seemed to surprise her.  But she understood what I was saying.

In high school – and to some extent, even in college – I often felt isolated because I was one of the few Hispanic kids.  But I was as much American as I was then and still am now.  Some of my Spanish ancestors were here in Texas long before the Mayflower pilgrims; my Indian ancestors long before them.  So I always pulled that from the depths of my mind whenever some fool threw a “go back” at me.

I suspect Donald Trump’s presidency is the final battle cry of the “Angry White Male” – the withering group of individuals who still feel they should run everything and should be allowed to say what they want.  But, as a mostly White male myself, I know Trump gives all White men a bad name.  I’ll never criticize people who voted for him in 2016.  They had that right, and it’s not up to anyone else to decide what their selection should be.  I definitely disagree with a recent essay by Pastor John Pavlovitz about Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” comment three years ago.

But still…“go back”?  I’m hearing that again?  From the president of the United States?  Pardon me just a moment.  Yes…still 2019.  Time just won’t stop or roll backwards, no matter how much we beg.

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Morass

yelling

As of 12:00 A.M. today, October 1, the United States government – for all intents and purposes – has stopped functioning.  I know it seems nothing has changed.  I mean, seriously – is there any difference?  But, the painful reality is that some 2 million government employees will not get paid and national parks have closed.  That’s the immediate effect.  It gets worse if the shutdown continues: military veterans won’t receive their benefits; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) will have to halt its flu vaccination program – just as flu season approaches; some food safety operations will stop (and in a nation where behemoth butts have become the norm, that spells catastrophe); small business financing will stop; Head Start programs will start closing; disability benefits could be interrupted; funding for disease treatment through the National Institutes of Health could cease.

In the meantime, every member of both houses of Congress will receive their paychecks; their own health care won’t be adversely impacted.  Ironic, though, considering that the Affordable Care Act is the genesis of the squabble between the 2 principal political parties.  Most Republicans – especially the “Tea Party” clowns – despise the ACA, which they’ve derisively called “Obamacare.”  And, in an attempt to stop funding for the President’s signature law, the GOP is willing to risk what little integrity they have in their xenophobic bones and shut down the government.

Over the weekend, one particular “Tea Party” darling, Senator Ted Cruz, launched into a staunch tirade against the ACA.  Hoping to make a name for himself, the Canadian-born, Cuban-Italian Cruz has been campaigning for president since he took office back in January.  Representing my beloved home state of Texas, Cruz has done little else with his time and energy except commandeer the Republican Party’s vitriolic bandwagon and try to obstruct President Obama in any way possible.

Altogether congress has about a 10% approval rating.  I think ptomaine poisoning and getting stranded in the desert without water or cell phone service rank just above them.  Last year I wrote about the ongoing lack of progress from the Senate and the House of Representatives.  My wishful demand was for every elected official in Washington to get impeached, so we – the average, hard-working Americans – can elect more level-headed people to fill the apathetic void.  A million dollars in gold bullion has a greater chance of landing on my doorstep tomorrow morning.

I clearly remember the 1995 – 96 government shutdown in which a beleaguered President Bill Clinton ran head first into a recalcitrant Republican Party (led by the self-righteous Newt Gingrich) – and won.  It was a different time though.  The GOP held strong majorities in both houses of Congress; we weren’t at war; and the economy exploded into profitability for everyone shortly thereafter.  Clinton didn’t back down, thus forcing the GOP into embarrassingly humble defeat.

Today, the U.S. economy is still reeling from the worst downturn in 80 years; we have troops in Afghanistan and Iraq; and Republicans control only the House of Representatives.  Regardless, I’ve lost all respect for our elected officials.  Obama still hasn’t found any steel bars to inject into his spine, and the GOP has let itself be dominated by right-wing extremists.  I’m trying to imagine how things could get any worse.  If they do, colonizing Mars looks better all the time.

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Best Quote of the Week

church5

“That’s what you’ve taught us, Boston.  That’s what you’ve reminded us – to push on.  To persevere.  To not grow weary.  To not get faint.  Even when it hurts.  Even when our heart aches.  We summon the strength that maybe we didn’t even know we had, and we carry on.  We finish the race.”

– President Obama, during an interfaith service for victims of Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing.

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In Defense of White Men

Okay, can we get past the race thing when it comes to elections here in the U.S.?  As a people, haven’t we risen above such petty squabbles?  Haven’t two centuries worth of civil rights taught us race and gender really aren’t qualifications for public office?  I guess not.  Well…at least not in some circles.  Here lately, White men have been getting a bum rap from left-wing academics; the self-appointed protectorates of 21st century America.  But, I’m here to say the rest of us can think for ourselves – and that White men aren’t always the enemy.

After all, I’m a mostly White guy myself.  Both my grandfathers were White, e.g. Caucasian.  My paternal was Spaniard (yes, full-blooded Spanish people are White!), while my maternal was German.  And, German is just about as White as you can get; if you get any Whiter than that, you’re not White – you’re albino.  Both my grandmothers were mixed Spaniard and Mexican Indian.  And, it’s the latter two groups who comprise the contemporary Hispanic population that had such an impact on this year’s presidential elections.  They’re the group who have been treated as recent arrivals in America, but – as a people – have actually been here long before the U.S. was born.  They’re also the ones who’ve reacted with the same level of racial virulence whenever I mention my German grandfather as the White kids reacted to my Spanish surname when I was in high school – years ago!  Yes, some Hispanics – like some Negroes – are as bigoted as a drunken Glenn Beck at a NASCAR rally.  Seriously!  Who would have thought they’d be my worst adversary?  Well, sometimes they are.  I’ve been called a “coconut,” which only bothers me because I don’t like coconut.  But, I still think it’s kind of funny when Hispanics start talking about “White people” disparagingly.  Unless they’re full-blooded Indians, they need to shove a coconut in their self-righteous mouths.

But, consider this.  White males helped to build this country and – despite all the racial angst – also helped to break down the walls of segregation.  President Harry S. Truman, for example, ended racial segregation in the U.S. military.  President John F. Kennedy jumpstarted the modern civil rights movement, and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law.  Other White males have done their part to make America a better place for everyone; whether it’s hiring non-Whites for a job other Whites thought they couldn’t or shouldn’t do, or teaching some non-White kid how to read and write.  Ignore the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh for a while.  They’re not models for the White American male.  Most White men are decent, hard-working people who take care of their families and mind their own business.  Many of them are part of that 47% that Mitt Romney disparaged.  They don’t have houses with elevators for their cars and they can’t afford a luxury yacht.

A few of my closest friends are White males.  They’re around my age and they’re tired of being scapegoated for every transgression non-Whites have endured throughout American history.  Blacks and Hispanics don’t want to be automatically connected to the more dubious elements of our respective racial groups.  I loathe being cast alongside illegal Mexican immigrants, even though México is where my mother and both my grandmothers were born.  Most White men, therefore, don’t want to be grouped with the morons who burn crosses on people’s front lawns.  White men aren’t slipping into predominantly Black neighborhoods and shoving drugs into the hands of the community’s youth.  White men aren’t sneaking onto Indian reservations and surreptitiously exchanging sodas with beer in the convenience stores.

I often view racial discord in the same context as gender.  As a 49-year-old man, it’s not my fault women couldn’t vote until 1920, or have a legal abortion until 1973.  I wasn’t alive in 1920 and I was only 9 when Roe v. Wade became law.  How the hell am I supposed to answer for the transgressions of my male ancestors?  I can’t and I won’t!  Guilt by association is a precarious thing.  It just creates more anger.

In case you’ve forgotten, Barack Obama isn’t necessarily our first Black president; he’s actually our first biracial president.  People keep forgetting his Caucasian half.  His mother was a White-American, born and raised in the United States.  That she fell in love with and married a Negro man in the early 1960s is amazing unto itself.  So, if some White folks can’t get past Obama’s Negro side – just as some Black folks can’t get past his Caucasian side – then that’s their problem!

They all need to get over it.  If they don’t, they’ll find themselves in the same bucket as 8-track tape players and – pardon the cheap analogy – black and white TVs.  We really just need to move beyond that race thing.  It’s not helping us anymore.  It’s really not.  This is the 21st century, and the Human Genome Project has proven we’re all pretty much related on a blood level.  And, human blood is only one color.  Now, who has a problem with that?!

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Yea – Still Here!

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November 11, 2012 · 3:31 PM

Deliver Us from This Stupidity

Thank goodness for Hurricane Sandy!  It’s provided some respite from the ongoing presidential campaigns.  That a major tropical storm system could strike New England just before Halloween is news enough – without the inevitable destruction and loss of life.  We have eight more days until election day here in the U.S., and Sandy could provide a twisted sort of the proverbial “October surprise.”

If it’s bad enough, both President Obama and Mitt Romney may not be anywhere near Washington, D.C.  Obama could hunker down at his Chicago abode, while Romney could seek refuge in one of his many estates.  Their responses to the disaster will prove what they really think of the American people.  Obama most likely won’t stay in Chicago; he’ll want to head back to Washington to coordinate recovery efforts.  I suspect Romney will take the traditional conservative Republican stance and just let New Englanders fend for themselves.  After all, that’s been the mantra of his campaign; if you don’t have enough money in your bank account or drive a couple of Cadillacs, then you’re not worth saving.

Aside from November 7 being the birthday of one of my closest friends and former colleagues, it’ll be the first day after the elections and thus, the end of this campaign season.  I got tired of this crap – oh – I’ll say around July 1.  Political campaigns here in the U.S. are never-ending – like Thanksgiving turkey, deep space and the Harry Potter series.  They just go on and on and on.

I suppose it’s inevitable in a truly democratic society.  But, as a frequent, dedicated, tax-paying voter who’s experiencing firsthand the worst this dismal economy has to offer, I have some advice for all would-be candidates.

  • Focus on what good you’ve done for your respective communities.  In other words, run on your record, for God’s sakes!  If you don’t have much of a record, then don’t run for public office!  That’s like a high school graduate applying for an engineering position at NASA.  You don’t have to walk on water, or even build homes for the impoverished (although the latter would be more practical and appealing), but show us something positive.  What have you done for us?
  • Stop, or at least limit, the negative ads.  If you have to point out the adverse traits of your opponent instead of highlighting your positive attributes, then you don’t have much of a campaign.  Karl Rove had to do that with George W. Bush.  Bush was such a lame-ass that the only way the ignorant masses could be convinced to vote for him (other than because of their ignorance) was for the opposition to be demonized.  The 2004 presidential campaign is a perfect example.  There was nothing good about Bush’s tenure in office at that point.  He couldn’t prove that he’d completed his stint in the Texas National Guard, and no one had found the elusive “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.  So the Rove goblins questioned John Kerry’s military record and made him out to be indecisive; e.g. a “flip-flopper.”  It didn’t help that Kerry tried to take the high road, which was like Albert Einstein trying to explain quantum physics to Ron Jeremy.  I wasn’t too crazy about Kerry anyway, but look at the mess we ended up with as Bush left office.
  • Stop saying, ‘I promise to do .’  Instead, say something like, ‘I promise to cooperate with , or to do my best to accomplish .’  Every political candidate – especially those for the presidency – promises massive changes without realizing this not a dictatorship, or even an oligarchy.  There are 3 branches of government, and they have to work with one another.  Think We Are the World, or better yet, I Want to Teach the World to Sing.  I suppose that’s a bit much to ask from grown people with Mount Everest-size egos.  Merely promising to do your best goes a long way.  Most people are smart enough to understand that an elected official – even the President of the United States – can’t do everything alone.  I mean, William H. Taft’s wife, Helen, once answered the doorbell to the White House, and Harry Truman used to wash his own socks.  Either way people won’t be too disappointed when an elected official can’t get X, Y and Z done – which is one reason why the American people should blame the Republicans in Congress for keeping things screwed up.  They won’t work with Obama.  But, that’s a different essay.

People are always glad to see election season come to an end.  Yes, the candidates are tired, but so are we.  Our elected officials don’t seem to get it sometimes.  I’m still unemployed and have massive student debt to pay off.  I don’t care about gay marriage; don’t want to hear your definition of when life begins; don’t want too much of our tax dollars go to treat diseases in foreign countries where people should have figured out by now that having sex with a virgin doesn’t cure AIDS.  I want to see some real action in Washington – and not on the dance floor.  I want to see our elected officials handing out water bottles after Sandy hits.

Image.

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Third Quote of the Day

“I have to get the Secret Service home in time for their new curfew.”

– Obama again.

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