Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Companions on the journey

These gentle souls make my life worth living. 

First, my son Wes! Wes will be 37 in just over a month. How'd that happen so soon?

And my two housemates. They're like two little kids, always loving, always entertaining!

Wes plays a mean volleyball with his employer the law firm Fagere Baker Daniels in the summer.

Oreo, my baby! He is a lover! Oreo joined this house this summer. I love him dearly.

Aiden, my buddy is getting a bit up there. He is 12 years old now. He was the king of the house until Oreo's arrival this summer. It was dicey at first, but now they are buds in crime. Watching these two chase each other around the house is like watching two kids at play!

Happy Holidays as 2013 nears its end

Merry Christmas to all!

What a year this has been and where, oh where has it all gone? Time certainly does fly as one ages. It has been a year with many personal ups and downs.

My family has seen some very trying times these past few years starting with the death of my niece Katie a few years back, my nephew's death about this time last year and health issues facing my Mom and Step Dad as they age. In the spring, my Step Mom's home was under water for about a month when Kokomo and the surrounding area suffered from the worst floods on record.

For myself I have found immense gratification volunteering at my church's food pantry. Overall, I have found this rewarding beyond any personal gains.

In September, I celebrated my 19th year in the United States Navy Reserve and I am beginning to gear down with retirement in mind. I think it is time. I dearly love the Navy. Service has afforded me the opportunities of many lifetimes, but now I would like to focus on personal concerns that require my attention without the many distractions of Navy life!

Politically, this has been a trying year too. The government shutdown left many, me included, less and less trustful of our government's ability to lift this country up from the quagmire it has been slogging through for the past six or seven years. 

I have been, however, very excited by the apparent acceleration of marriage equality in this county. Yeah, I am single, (*sigh*) but with the continued movement of state after state passing pro-gay marriage equality laws, I am finding much to be optimistic about. When I came out 31 years ago I never dreamed this country would have moved to where it is today.

2014 promises more changes. As the economy improves, it is my hope to find a better job that will permit me to dally in a few personal vices and hobbies. Just last week I interviewed for a job opportunity, and while I did not get the job, I am confident this is my year.

With my friends, my son and extended family, I look forward to an exciting year ahead. So, 2014... come and get me!

So with that, happy holiday, happy new year!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pearl Harbor Day observed 72 years later

Having served at Pearl Harbor three times I can attest to the raw emotions that still linger there. I was awestruck by how overwhelmed I felt from the history of the navy base. I served in a building that still has the bullet holes from being strafed by Japanese zeroes. When you go to Ford Island you can feel the terror the men and women felt as bombs and bullets fell about them

I had the opportunity to interview three Pearl Harbor survivors during the RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) Exercises in June of 2000. All three have since gone on to the ages. I felt unworthy to stand in their presence and can only wish to measure up to their greatness... humble as they were.

I returned to Pearl Harbor in the autumn of 2000, and while there I decided to reenlist aboard the USS Arizona Memorial. When I arrived that morning and after spending ten minutes gazing at THE WALL (the names of those who died aboard her that day), I stood, arm raised and took the oath. I was so moved I could hardly speak, tears in my eyes and I was all choke up, but I did it and I did it memory of the men and women who went before us all--and especially because of those who served there that fateful day.

Today, USS Missouri sits barely the length of two football fields away from the USS Arizona Memorial. Think of it, two bookends of WWII reside so close together and they serve as a lesson attesting to the beginning and end of America's involvement in WWII... and to the courage of those young men and women who, in peacetime, served to defend our nation... not knowing that that day 73 years ago today, on that early Sunday morning, their lives would change forever and that they would be asked to do so much. 

And our lives are so much the better for them. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Words from yesterday; lessons for today

"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." --President John F. Kennedy

The Day Camelot died, leaving us a nation forever changed

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 

We all have moments in our lives where we can say "I can remember exactly what I was doing when..." 

For me, it was a normal day in Mrs. Newhouse's 1st grade class at Argos Elementary School. I remember our teacher being called out into the hall.  Through the window in the door, we could see her and the other teachers in the hallway talking to the principal. 

After a few moments she returned to the class in tears. She explained that school was being called and as soon as our school buses arrived, we were to be sent home because the President had been shot and that he had died from his wounds. 

Naturally, some, if not most of my classmates began to cry. Mrs. Newhouse tried to calm us by telling us it would all be okay. But it wasn't... at least not yet. 

I clearly recall the silence and sadness that hung over us as rode the bus home. In the ensuing days leading to the President's funeral, my parents, especially my Dad, were of quietness and them to console us three kids (the fourth, my brother Mike was an infant and oblivious to this tragedy). Bryan would turn 3 a few days later probably has no memory of these days, but I know that Teresa (a year younger than I) clearly remember these sorrowful days.

The night of the President's death, I can still remember lying in bed, unable to sleep, and saying a prayer asking God to make this be nothing more than one big awful dream (which it was) and that the President be okay. 

Of course, we all know some dreams and prayers cannot be answered, especially of a frightened and sad little six year old... and those of a nation in shock as we mourned a beloved President.

The exuberance, the optimism, the youth and vitality of the President's administration came to a screeching halt. This was the day that forever changed America. This was the day that Camelot died and left us all the poorer for it.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Time for some changes around here. I've been pretty remiss in not posting this past year. I'm afraid Facebook has been taking my energies and I find I've said much there to the detriment of here. This needs to change. So here's to that.

I have some ideas I want to work on for a novel. As I may or may not have mentioned before, I have a concept for a story that would serve as a prequel to the 1932 sci-fi classic "When Worlds Collide" by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie.

My story bears no resemblance to the two novels by the pair ("When"... and "After Worlds Collide"), but for me to invest the time and energy on such a venture...

I have some plotting to do and some research to conduct. The question in my mind is can a person write a book that supplement another work without legally stepping on someone's toes? 

Both authors are long dead, but I need to find out if the rights to the book are owned by anyone, and if so... well, that is the perennial question... kind of like "to be or not to be."

Happy Veterans Day 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


This is me talking. I have no insight, no knowledge of who perpetrated the act of terror on the Boston Marathon yesterday. For some reason, and again this just me talking, but this just does not feel like a terror attack from a foreign entity. call it a gut reaction, but this feels like a domestic endeavor. This feels like some idiot the likes of Timothy McVeigh.

From what we know at this time, three people, three innocent victims, died from the twin bombs. eight-year old Martin Richards was killed after greeting his father who had just crossed the finish line of the race. His mother and sister were injured by the blast. Krystal Marie Campbell was also killed. The last victim, 
Lu Lingzi, was a Boston College grad student from China. 

8-year old Martin Richard was killed by the blast. His mother and sister were injured.

Krystle Marie Campbell, 29,was killed by the blast at the Boston Marathon.

Nearly 200 bystanders were injured, some critically. Reports from the scene indicate some victims suffered traumatic amputations from the blast.

There were a great many acts of courage and conviction in the aftermath. I read that many of the marathon runners, in the aftermath, rushed to local hospitals to donate blood. The police and other local officials acted quickly and courageously to ensure no one else was hurt or killed. Emergency health care workers and hospital workers alike mobilized quickly to provide to care for those who were wounded by the blasts.

In times like these, it heartwarming to me to know that we, as a people rise up to face such adversity with compassion and love for our fellow citizens.

I am not going to say anything more about this for now. Not wanting to jump to conclusions, I want to wait for the facts. I have little doubt our government will find the person(s) behind this act of hate and callousness. Like you, I am saddened by the loss of life and the injuries and I am angry.

Boston, please know we stand in support of you!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Those other people

Today, the news outlets are a-buzz after a prominent Republican U.S. Senator has come out in favor of gay marriage... pretty much standing alone (at least publicly) among his own political party.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) today publicly broke ranks with his party after what can be best described as a growing reflective conscience after revealing his son had come out to him two years ago. 

This stunning reversal, to me, is not so shocking in that some members of the GOP are finally--and slowly-- coming to the conclusion that marriage equality is inevitable, but more what prompted his reasoning.

You have to ask yourself, would a senator of Portman's stature come to such a conclusion if not for the fact he has a personal stake in this issue? Portman, as a congressman, like so many other Republicans, and to be fair, Democrats as well, voted in one of the ugliest laws of all time: The Defense of Marriage Act which purposefully ignored the Constitution by excluding a class of citizens from equal representation under the law.

I applaud him for his stance. I welcome him. I even thank him and I wonder how long before he will be censured by his party, much like Gov. Chris Christie has been since he dared to reach out to the President in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

BUT I also must be critical of him--and those of his party--as well. Why must members of the GOP have things--things they have long considered evil--shoved in their face before they can adopt  a decent, moral stance. 

Dick and Lynne Cheney, for years, refused to even dignify a discussion about their lesbian daughter Mary. It was like Mary was their deepest darkest secret love child. AND now the Portman family have "come out" in favor of gay marriage because, as the senator puts it, "knowing my son is gay has prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a Dad who wants all of his three children to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love."

So again, I have to ask. Why does something like this have to be shoved in their faces to arrive at a conclusion that will benefit his family as well as millions of others? Why is it that his son's rights are so important yet so easy to ignore those of others?

What snapped today that said, "yes, I believe my son deserves the right to marry?

This certainly points to an issue of what I consider a major flaw of the GOP. They are the party of protecting their own (yes, the Democrats do this too) at all costs until they must be dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing. This stance has many correlations, that on the surface, seem unrelated.

Their Achilles heel, I believe, is that they care little for their constituents UNLESS they are part of the 1% or major corporations such as big oil and the too-big-to-fail corporations.

The GOP has no problem letting millions of Americans work for subsistence poverty-level wages rather than push for a higher minimum wage--a working wage, yet these same individuals in a moment of calloused recklessness (and a slap in the face) just earlier this year voted themselves a hefty pay raise, yet ask millions of Americans to do with less. 

And this is all the more confounding when one recognizes just how little this current Congress has accomplished, which points out why their approval ratings are at a historic low point,

The GOP has no problem asking the poor and the middle class to shoulder an increasingly higher tax burden rather than ask their rich fat cat contributors (private citizens and corporations alike) to step up to the plate.

The GOP has no problem that more and more people in this country have little or no access to adequate health care while they themselves have the best insurance that money can buy (but of course, not theirs but the taxpayers) and today, more Americans are living in poverty than any time since the great depression.

The GOP has no problem undermining the status of this country's economy by effectively enacting the sequester. Just about the only thing worse that they could accomplish would be to completely shut down our government.

The sequester hurts our government workers, our military and may, in fact, stall any chances of this nation's economic recovery. Funny thing is, they are demanding that millions of government workers take a 20% pay cut during this period of time yet I do not see them sharing in that pain.

The GOP has little problem with gutting health care for women. Basically, the legislation the Republicans have consistently tried to enact for the past decade will endanger women's lives. If they succeed in outlawing abortion, they will not change a thing. 

Poor women will continue, in time of need, get an abortion, only the setting will revert back to pre-Roe v. Wade days in alleys where hundreds of thousands of women died. And the rich, of course, will still do what they do best... take care of themselves with little regard to those beneath them.

The GOP has little problem with women earning far less than their male counterparts. It is no secret that women's wages and workers' rights issues have stagnated in recent years. Women still earn approximately 30 cents less than do men for the same jobs, for the same work.

Looking at recent comments about rape, it is obvious the GOP is the party of men, by the men, for the men and nothing but the men... they like their female folk dumb, barefoot and pregnant. AND they just.don't.get.it! Even after losing to President Obama AGAIN, even after losing a significant number of seats in the House, they are still acting as business as usual. They seem to think that since they didn't completely lose the House that the people still love them. 

Just this week, Congressman Paul Ryan denied they lost the election on the issues. Funny, I do not see his perky face residing in the White House. Can one be any more delusional?

Even after the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, some members of the GOP still want to return back to those days even though military leadership has moved on and made it clear there is--and never was--a problem that they couldn't resolve (even if they, like the GOP, had to be dragged into the 21st century).

Do my accusations consist of sweeping generalities? Perhaps, to a degree, but the far right and the tea partiers have co-opted the GOP at large and they especially have subverted  the governmental process by refusing to do, what throughout history, our government has done best: rule by discussion and compromise. 

Many call the GOP the "Party of No." I personally know of some who would say the Democrats are little better. No, not surprisingly I would reject that assessment.

So here we are back to the original point of discussion. Senator Portman's proclamation, going against the rank and file of his party seems to be a brave stance, but the question remains: why? Why did it take so long for Senator Portman to see the light? Is this an act of a party member dipping his toe in the pool (for his party) to gauge public reaction?

Is it just me or does his actions seem a little too self-serving? What does the GOP stand to gain by his actions?

Time will tell, but call me dubious at best.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"They deserve a vote."

"They deserve a vote."     --President Barack Obama, referring to victims of gun violence in his excellent 2013 State of the Union address on 12 February 2013

Thank you. Please, everybody, have a seat.

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, fellow Americans, 51 years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power, but partners for progress.”

“It is my task,” he said, “to report the state of the union. To improve it is the task of us all.”

Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.

After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over 6 million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years and less foreign oil than we have in 20.

Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.

OBAMA: So, together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.

But -- but we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded. Our economy is adding jobs, but too many people still can’t find full- time employment. Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs, but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged. It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth: a rising, thriving middle class.

It is -- it is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country, the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like or who you love.

It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few, that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.

OBAMA: The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem. They don’t expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party.

They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can, for they know that America moves forward only when we do so together and that the responsibility of improving this union remains the task of us all.

Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget, decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery. Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion, mostly through spending cuts, but also by raising tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. As a result, we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances.

Now we need to finish the job. And the question is: How?

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness, they’d devastate priorities like education and energy and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. And that’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts -- known here in Washington as “the sequester” -- are a really bad idea.

Now, some in this Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training, Medicare and Social Security benefits. That idea is even worse.

Yes, the biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of health care for an aging population. And those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms. Otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.

But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful.

We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers and more cops and more firefighters. Most Americans -- Democrats, Republicans and independents -- understand that we can’t just cut our way to prosperity. They know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share.

And that’s the approach I offer tonight. On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.

Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of health care costs.

And -- and the reforms I’m proposing go even further. We’ll reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies and ask more from the wealthiest seniors.

We’ll bring down costs by changing the way our government pays for Medicare, because our medical bills shouldn’t be based on the number of tests ordered or days spent in the hospital. They should be based on the quality of care that our seniors receive.

And I am open to additional reforms from both parties, so long as they don’t violate the guarantee of a secure retirement. Our government shouldn’t make promises we cannot keep, but we must keep the promises we’ve already made.

To hit the rest of our deficit reduction target, we should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and the well-connected. After all, why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair? Why is it that deficit reduction is a big emergency, justifying making cuts in Social Security benefits, but not closing some loopholes? How does that promote growth?

Now is our best chance for bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit.

We can get this done.

The American people deserve a tax code that helps small businesses spend less time filling out complicated forms and more time expanding and hiring, a tax code that ensures billionaires with high- powered accountants can’t work the system and pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries, a tax code that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that are creating jobs right here in the United States of America.

That’s what tax reform can deliver. That’s what we can do together.

I realize that tax reform and entitlement reform will not be easy. The politics will be hard for both sides. None of us will get 100 percent of what we want. But the alternative will cost us jobs, hurt our economy, visit hardship on millions of hardworking Americans.

So let’s set party interests aside and work to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. And let’s do it without the brinksmanship that stresses consumers and scares off investors.

The greatest nation on Earth -- the greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next. We can’t do it.

Let’s agree -- let’s agree, right here, right now, to keep the people’s government open and pay our bills on time and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America.

The American people have worked too hard, for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another. Now most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear: Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.

A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs, that must be the North Star that guides our efforts.

Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?

OBAMA: A year-and-a-half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than 1 million new jobs. And I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda; I urge this Congress to pass the rest. But tonight I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat: Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.

That’s what we should be looking for.

Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

There are things we can do, right now, to accelerate this trend. Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3-D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns.

So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America. We can get that done.

Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have -- have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. We’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the space race. We need to make those investments.

Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.

We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar, with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before, and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.

OBAMA: Now, now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science and act before it’s too late.

Now, the good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago.

But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct... I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Now, four years ago, other countries dominated the clean-energy market and the jobs that came with it. And we’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year. Let’s drive down costs even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

Now, in the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.

That’s got to be part of an all-of-the-above plan. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and our water.

In fact, much of our newfound energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.

If a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.

I’m also issuing a new goal for America: Let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years.

We’ll work with the states to do it. Those states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.

America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire, a country with deteriorating roads and bridges or one with high-speed rail and Internet, high-tech schools, self- healing power grids.

The CEO of Siemens America -- a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina -- has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And that’s the attitude of a lot of companies all around the world. And I know you want these job-creating projects in your district; I’ve seen all those ribbon- cuttings.

So, tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.

And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.

Let’s prove there’s no better place to do business than here in the United States of America, and let’s start right away. We can get this done.

OBAMA: And part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. The good news is, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years. Home purchases are up nearly 50 percent. And construction is expanding again.

But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back. We need to fix it.

Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. So what are we waiting for? Take a vote and send me that bill.

Why are -- why would we be against that?

Why would that be a partisan issue, helping folks refinance? Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process and help our economy grow.

Now, these initiatives in manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, housing, all these things will help entrepreneurs and small-business owners expand and create new jobs. But none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs.

And that has to start at the earliest possible age. You know, study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.

So, tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.

That’s something we should be able to do.

Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than seven dollars later on, by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children -- like Georgia or Oklahoma -- studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.

Let’s also make sure that a high school diploma puts our kids on a path to a good job. Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so those German kids, they’re ready for a job when they graduate high school. They’ve been trained for the jobs that are there.

Now at schools like P-TECH in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York public schools and City University of New York and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in computers or engineering. We need to give every American student opportunities like this.

And four years ago, we started Race to the Top, a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, all for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year.

OBAMA: Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge, to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. And we’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math, the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there right now and will be there in the future.

Now, even with better high schools, most young people will need some higher education. It’s a simple fact: The more education you’ve got, the more likely you are to have a good job and work your way into the middle class. But today, skyrocketing costs price too many young people out of a higher education or saddle them with unsustainable debt.

Through tax credits, grants, and better loans, we’ve made college more affordable for millions of students and families over the last few years. But taxpayers can’t keep on subsidizing higher and higher and higher costs for higher education. Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure that they do.

So, tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid.

And -- and tomorrow, my Administration will release a new college scorecard that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.

Now, to grow our middle class, our citizens have to have access to the education and training that today’s jobs require. But we also have to make sure that America remains a place where everyone who’s willing to work -- everybody who’s willing to work hard has the chance to get ahead.

Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants.

And right now, leaders from the business, labor, law enforcement, faith communities, they all agree that the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Now’s the time to do it.

Now’s the time to get it done.

Now’s the time to get it done.

Real reform means strong border security, and we can build on the progress my administration’s already made, putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years.

Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship, a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.

And real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods and attract the highly skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy.

In other words, we know what needs to be done. And as we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts. So let’s get this done. Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away. And America will be better for it.

Let’s get it done. Let’s get it done.

But we can’t stop there. We know our economy is stronger when our wives, our mothers, our daughters can live their lives free from discrimination in the workplace and free from the fear of domestic violence. Today, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women’s Act that Joe Biden originally wrote almost 20 years ago. And I now urge the House to do the same.

Good job, Joe.

And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a -- a living equal to their efforts and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.

OBAMA: We know our economy’s stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty -- and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

We should be able to get that done.

This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank, rent or eviction, scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets.

And a whole lot of folks out there would probably need less help from government. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up, while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where, no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead -- factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up, inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job.

America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them. Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance anymore. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in rundown neighborhoods.

And this year, my administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. And we’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety and education and housing. We’ll give new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest. And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low- income couples and do more to encourage fatherhood, because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child, it’s having the courage to raise one. And we want to encourage that. We want to help that.

Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity -- broad, shared, built on a thriving middle class -- that has always been the source of our progress at home. It’s also the foundation of our power and influence throughout the world.

Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan and achieve our objective of defeating the core of Al Qaida.

OBAMA: Already we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that, over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.

Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We’re negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of Al Qaida and their affiliates.

Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self.

It’s true, different Al Qaida affiliates and extremist groups have emerged, from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad or occupy other nations. Instead, we’ll need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.

Now as we do, we must enlist our values in the fight. That’s why my administration has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism efforts. Throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts. And I recognize that, in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way. So, in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.

Of course our challenges don’t end with Al Qaida. America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. The regime in North Korea must know, they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations. Provocations of the sort we saw last night will only further isolate them, as we stand by our allies, strengthen our own missile defense, and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

Likewise, the leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations. And we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.

At the same time, we’ll engage Russia to seek further reductions in our nuclear arsenals and continue leading the global effort to secure nuclear materials that could fall into the wrong hands, because our ability to influence others depends on our willingness to lead and meet our obligations.

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber attacks.

Now, we know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mails. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems. We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy.

That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information-sharing and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.

OBAMA: But now -- now Congress must act, as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks. This is something we should be able to get done on a bipartisan basis.

Now, even as we protect our people, we should remember that today’s world presents not just dangers, not just threats. It presents opportunities. To boost American exports, support American jobs, and level the playing field in the growing markets of Asia, we intend to complete negotiations on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. And tonight, I’m announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union, because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all, not only because it creates new markets, more stable order in certain regions of the world, but also because it’s the right thing to do.

You know, in many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades, by connecting more people to the global economy, by empowering women, by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed and power and educate themselves, by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths, and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.

You see, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon, in Burma, when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American president into the home where she had been imprisoned for years, when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”

In defense of freedom, we’ll remain the anchor of strong alliances, from the Americas to Africa, from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy.

We know the process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt, but we can -- and will -- insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people.

We’ll keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.

These are the messages I’ll deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.

And all this work depends on the courage and sacrifice of those who serve in dangerous places at great personal risk: our diplomats, our intelligence officers, and the men and women of the United States armed forces. As long as I’m commander-in-chief, we will do whatever we must to protect those who serve their country abroad, and we will maintain the best military the world has ever known.

We’ll invest in new capabilities, even as we reduce waste and wartime spending. We will ensure equal treatment for all servicemembers, and equal benefits for their families, gay and straight.

We will draw upon the courage and skills of our sisters and daughters and moms, because women have proven under fire that they are ready for combat. We will keep faith with our veterans, investing in world-class care, including mental health care, for our wounded warriors supporting our military families, giving our veterans the benefits and education and job opportunities that they have earned. And I want to thank my wife, Michelle, and Dr. Jill Biden for their continued dedication to serving our military families as well as they have served us.

Thank you, hon. Thank you, Jill.

Defending our freedom, though, is not just the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes one of the most fundamental rights of a democracy, the right to vote.


When any American -- no matter where they live or what their party -- are denied that right because they can’t wait for five or six or seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.

So, tonight, I’m announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And it definitely needs improvement. I’m asking two long-time experts in the field -- who, by the way, recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign -- to lead it. We can fix this. And we will. The American people demand it, and so does our democracy.

Of course, what I’ve said tonight matters little if we don’t come together to protect our most precious resource, our children.

It has been two months since Newtown. I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence, but this time is different. Overwhelming majorities of Americans -- Americans who believe in the Second Amendment -- have come together around commonsense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun. Senators...

Senators -- senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.

Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress.

Now if you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote, because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun. More than a thousand.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette.

OBAMA: She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend.

Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote.

They deserve a vote.

They deserve a vote.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence, they deserve a simple vote.

They deserve -- they deserve a simple vote.

Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. In fact, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all of the challenges I’ve outlined tonight. But we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can -- to secure this nation, expand opportunity, uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.

We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans the same way they look out for one another, every single day, usually without fanfare, all across this country. We should follow their example.

We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When Hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, she wasn’t thinking about how her own home was faring. Her mind was on the 20 precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe.

We should follow the example of a North Miami woman named Desiline Victor. When Desiline arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours. And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. And hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her, because Desiline is 102 years old.

And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read “I Voted.”

You know...

There’s Desiline...

We should follow the example of a police officer named Brian Murphy. When a gunman opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Brian was the first to arrive, and he did not consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived and ordered his fellow officers to protect the safety of the fellow Americans worshiping inside, even as he lay bleeding from 12 bullet wounds.

And when asked how he did that, Brian said, “That’s just the way we’re made.” That’s just the way we’re made.

We may do different jobs, and wear different uniforms, and hold different views than the person beside us. But as Americans, we all share the same proud title: We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless these United States of America.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The NRA has an enemies list

Yesterday, the NRA published its enemies list. It includes 506 names. 


Want to make it a thousand? Ten thousand? A million? 

Who wants to join me on getting on the list?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

End this madness now!!!

I know this will not make very popular with some of my friends. I do not know the legal foundations for what I am going to propose, but remember when lawyers and the Justice Department went after the tobacco industry with an unparalleled fury, putting a virtual stranglehold on them?

Tobacco products have carried a variety of warning labels such as "this product may be harmful to your health." At other times, the warning included "Tobacco is addictive." If these two warnings do not apply to guns, I do not know what does.

I think it is time to launch a similar-minded campaign against gun dealers, gun shows, gun makers, and reckless gun owners--those who sell a gun to someone who cannot pass a background check with all of the same ramifications and tactics.

For every crime involving a gun where ever 'i' was not dotted and every 't' left uncrossed, for every murder committed, for every assault committed, e-v-e-r-y single crime where strict guidelines cannot be met, it is time to slap these people down with the largest judicial monetary fine and jail sentence possible! Treat them as an accessory to the crime!

If a teen commits a crime using his or her parents' guns, not only are the teens responsible, but hold the parents in contempt too. 

I am not talking about piddly pocket change, but judicial judgments amounting to millions and millions of dollars... and strict sentences too.

If a crime is committed with a gun that does not pass legal must, the dealers, the makers and whoever else was involved, it is time to hit the pocketbooks of those who are too careless, too greedy, to uncaring, and yes, too stupid and put an end to this madness.

I have said this before, I have no problem with a responsible, sane person owning a handgun or hunting rifle that can be used for their personal protection, BUT assault rifles and high-capacity magazine clips have no business being in the hands of anyone other than police officers and those serving in the military.

You can spout your glib NRA talking points all you want. "Guns don't kill people do" or "take the guns away and only criminals will have them," and the banal "cars kill people, are we going to ban them too?

A gun is not a car, and yes. Guns do kill. People use them every day to do so. Every time we debate this issue, it is kicked down the road and more innocent people die.

This argument must stand on its own merits. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Remembering Isaac 1920-1992

Isaac Asimov, if alive today, would have been 93 years old on the second of January. 

The man was a walking lexicon. Prolific? Oh hell yes, he wrote more than 500 books and who could possibly guess how many commentaries, essays and letters.

He wrote science textbooks, on humor, books on Shakespeare, on politics, social and environmental issues and on religion. He loved and wrote many mysteries, and of course, science fiction.

For those of us who remember him best, his "Foundation" novels (seven in the series) and "Robot" series were the stuff of legends. His short story "Nightfall" (later expanded into a novel written with Robert Silverberg) presented a tale so original that no one has ever been able to write anything remotely like it. 

He was awarded the coveted Hugo award for his novel "The Gods Themselves."

It is impossible to calculate his influence in the world of science fiction. Asimov's "three laws of robotics" has been the foundation of countless robot tales by hundreds of authors.  

Asimov was a humanist, a Democrat and yes, an atheist. He was intensely curious about all things intellectual. He touted intellectualism as a means of bettering humanity, and he did not suffer fools lightly.

Isaac was taken from us too early. As many of his readers may know, Asimov died in 1992, the result of a HIV tainted blood transfusion he received during heart surgery in 1983. The cause of Isaac's death was not revealed until 10 years after his death. He is survived by his wife Janet, his son David and beloved daughter Robin.

This remembrance is short and sweet and I have included one of my favorite short stories from the master. He was a giant the likes of which we shall not see again.

Happy birthday, Isaac. Your fans miss you.

Meeting of two great minds: Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan

__ ___________________________________________________ __

Silly Asses 
by Isaac Asimov

Naron of the long-lived Rigellian race was the fourth of his line to keep the galactic records.

He had a large book which contained the list of the numerous races throughout the galaxies that had developed intelligence, and the much smaller book that listed those races that had reached maturity and had qualified for the Galactic Federation. In the first book, a number of those listed were crossed out; those that, for one reason or another, had failed. Misfortune, biochemical or biophysical shortcomings, social maladjustment took their toll. In the smaller book, however, no member listed had yet blanked out.

And now Naron, large and incredibly ancient, looked up as a messenger approached.

“Naron,” said the messenger. “Great One!”

“Well, well, what is it? Less ceremony.”

“Another group of organisms has attained maturity.”

“Excellent. Excellent. They are coming up quickly now. Scarcely a year passes without a new one. And who are these?”

The messenger gave the code number of the galaxy and the coordinates of the world within it.

“Ah, yes,” said Naron. “I know the world.” And in flowing script he noted it in the first book and transferred its name into the second, using, as was customary, the name by which the planet was known to the largest fraction of its populace. He wrote: Earth.

He said, “These new creatures have set a record. No other group has passed from intelligence to maturity so quickly. No mistake, I hope.”

“None, sir,” said the messenger.

“They have attained to thermonuclear power, have they?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, thats the criterion.” Naron chuckled. “And soon their ships will probe out and contact the Federation.”

“Actually, Great One,” said the messenger, reluctantly, “the Observers tell us they have not yet penetrated space.”

Naron was astonished. “Not at all? Not even a space station?”

“Not yet, sir.”

“But if they have thermonuclear power, where do they conduct the tests and detonations?”

“On their own planet, sir.”

Naron rose to his full twenty feet of height and thundered, “On their own planet?”

“Yes, sir.”

Slowly Naron drew out his stylus and passed a line through the latest addition in the small book. It was an unprecedented act, but, then, Naron was very wise and could see the inevitable as well as anyone in the galaxy.

“Silly asses,” he muttered.
________  _______________________________  ________