Tag Archives: Government

Paris Criticisms: Politicking at Its Finest

While the national conversation of what happened at Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris have simmered down, criticism against the Obama Administration took up the newly vacant space in the airwaves and bylines of radio and online outlets all across cyberspace.

There was no shortage of statements by “experts” and consultants on the media circuit immediately following White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s comment at a White House Press briefing days after the attacks in Paris. At the briefing, Earnest responded to questions regarding the absence of U.S. officials and said, “It’s fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile” to attend the Paris March immediately following the Charlie Hebdo attack.

WhiteHouse Press Secretary Josh Earnest delivers press briefing 1/12/15
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest delivers  press briefing 1/12/15

While this is an easy example of a moment where Mr. Earnest wasn’t wearing his P.R. hat correctly, it would also be fair to say that his comment didn’t consider national security concerns, or the inevitable criticism from opponents that would stem from the wording of his statement. However, he made some of the security concerns clear following his initial statement.

Sending President Obama or any other “high ranking” official to March in the streets with the people of Paris would have come off as an attempt to capitalize on another country’s tragedy, have given republicans more fuel for their anti-Obama fires, and most importantly, would posed been a huge security risk.

Obama signs a condolence book at the French Embassy in Washington, the statement took about two whole minutes to write, but seemed much longer

On the day of the attacks, President Obama personally called French President Francois Hollande and extended an offer of American resources to help investigate and apprehend those who carried out or enabled the attacks in Paris. The next day he visited and signed a lengthy statement in a condolence book at the French Embassy in Washington, and even seemed to pray (or at least gave a moment of silence) for those who lost their lives in the attack.

Ted Cruz speaks at Heritage Action for America, a conservative policy advocacy group and   sister organization of the conservative thinktank, The Heritage Foundation. Cruz has spoken for the Heritage Action for America organization before when they funded a defund Obamacare tour
Ted Cruz speaks at Heritage Action for America, a conservative policy advocacy group and sister organization of the conservative thinktank, The Heritage Foundation. Cruz has spoken for the Heritage Action for America organization before during a defund Obamacare tour in 2013, which they funded.

Despite this, conservatives pulled no punches in their pathos-based criticisms. Perhaps the most notably theatrical was Ted Cruz’s Heritage Action Conservative Policy Summit speech, where he mimed marching with the people of France and affirmed “how sad” it was to see “40 world leaders marching in the streets of Paris” with the United States absent (completely ignoring the fact that the march was spontaneous in and that those leaders were much closer in physical proximity than the U.S. is).

Ex-director of the CIA Leon Panetta
Ex-director of the CIA Leon Panetta

Even ex-figures of state like former director of the CIA Leon Panetta and ex-political strategist for the Carter administration Patrick Caddel threw in their own baseless and highly-arguable accusations and opinions as to how and why the Obama Administration came up short in showing solidarity.

Caddel was bold enough to emphasize that American absence was “to our detriment,” and that as a country, “we will pay a price for this”, while Panetta claimed that the U.S. “missed a chance to show solidarity with the French people.”

John LeBoutillier, Patrick Cadell, Martin Hinton lambast Obama and "higher officials" absence at Paris...Martin Hinton is a Senior Producer at FOX and was a last minute fill-in who barely contributed a word
Left to right: John LeBoutillier, Patrick Cadell, Martin Hinton lambast Obama and “higher officials” absence at Paris…Martin Hinton is a Senior Producer at FOX and was a last minute fill-in who barely contributed a word

Perhaps what is most depressing about these accusations is the rigor that these figures devote to ignoring the data behind what could have contributed to an American absence from the marches.

In mid-December of 2014, the United States Secret Service Protective Mission Panel issued a review to the Secretary of Homeland Security regarding the White House fence-jumping incidents, and included within it were important memos and recommendations on how the service could seek to reduce the amount of risks and incidents against government officials and White House staff.

The highest recommendation? An increase in the amount of guards employed by the service. Throughout the report, the importance of an increased Secret Service force were noted to the point where the USSSMP suggested overlooking the financial implications of more hires, in the report they boldly stated: “Forget about what the Service has asked for in the past: Define the mission, and make the argument to policy makers in the Executive Branch and Congress that this sum- which we believe to be more than current appropriations-is needed.”

USSSMP report

As ex-director of the C.I.A., the likelihood of Mr. Panetta not knowing the risks associated with sending the President of the United States to a foreign country where a terrorist attack’s investigation still remains fresh is slim to none. The nature and environment of the march (outside, open, with millions of pedestrian foot traffic) would have most likely been a nightmare for the Secret Service to keep up with. It should be noted that a week after the Paris attack, four assistant directors of the Secret Service were reassigned, so the work environment of the service could have also been called into question.

As for Senator Cruz’s statement: if he felt so strongly for the people of France, and the need to show U.S. support for France, what stopped him from attending the march himself?

One answer could be that Cruz realized his political capital would be much more wisely-utilized in the speech to his donors and lobbyists at the Heritage Action for America rather than living up to his word. Let’s not ignore that even if Obama had gone to Paris, the Republican Party would have had a talking point about the president favoring international travel rather than facing domestic issues in the bag, regardless of the tragedy that took place.

In short, this and every other criticism that came Obama’s way for this incident stems from the same root: it’s just politics.


Same Sex Marriage Opponents Struggle to Convince Nation, here’s why

Photo by Brianna Kight

The following is a mock-up I did for the Opinion section of the University Star on the struggle for same sex marriage opponents both in realms of religion and law, discussion is more than welcome in the comment section:

When approaching the subject of gay marriage, citizens should evaluate the constitution and what they believe the age-old document’s role is in conjunction with their lives and the lives of their fellow Americans.

Homosexuality, as most of us know, has been as present in history for as long as conflict has been in politics. Virtually every culture known to man has some evidence of early homosexual depiction, and in some ancient instances (Greeks specifically) homosexuality was a normal part of everyday life.

Since then, things have changed. The world has become more civilized. With the rise of mass media and information, no excuse should suffice that allows for the restriction of rights from your fellow Americans. No arguments of faith, and definitely no arguments of law.

Many conservatives argue that the primary role of the constitution is to limit the national government from encroaching on the rights of the states, and this argument is true within the outlining of the 10th amendment.

However, other constitutional procedures and standards must be revisited and prioritized.

For example, the full faith and credit clause – outlined in Article 4 Section 1 of the constitution – calls for the mandatory duty of states within the United States to respect the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

The significance of this law will stand out to any transfer student who’s come to Texas State, because without it, States would have the right to decline their birth certificate, identification, and other legal documents regardless of their importance or value to the student’s life. Without this, Texas would be able to deny anyone else in the U.S. recognition as a citizen. (or maybe even a person, which would have been an issue during the 19th century undoubtedly)

For LGBT couples, marriage licenses are denied and go unrecognized by the states who choose not to recognize gay marriage, and as a result- partners can be denied hospital visitation rights for their spouse, expect misallocation of their estates after they die, and possibilities of having their children taken away due to the difference in State laws for adoption practices.

These actions are a true and frank example of how those who deny recognition of same-sex marriage highlight what is written in their holy books (which for the current time, cannot be proven) more than the text of the law the they swear to uphold.

For those who can’t support same sex marriage for holy reasons answer the following: Do you ultimately know the entrapment of God’s will? How do you know this? God is supposedly an all-mighty and powerful being so how could you, a human not of divinity, know God’s will? Man and women only being capable of creating children? Not anymore, adoption and artificial insemination actually helps same sex marriage couples create children together, and ultimately provide the parenting which has been scientifically proven to show no abnormal average of issues arising from the “non-traditional” households. All holy books were written by men hundreds and thousands of years ago, which brings me to my next question, how do you know God hasn’t changed his, her, or its mind since then? If you find an answer for any of these and they sound legitimate, find me on campus and I promise I’ll lend you an ear.

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

Water Shutoffs in Detroit: Violation of Human Rights or Blatant Irresponsibility?

Photocredit: http://syntheticzero.net/author/arranjames/The City of Detroit has decided to shut off water for customers of the Water and Sewage department who haven’t paid their bills for access and usage of the city’s water. Activists and citizens of Detroit have expressed disappointment and outrage over the city’s handling of the water utility department, and U.N. officials have even gone so far as to condemn the city for the shut-offs.

                                Here’s what happened.

Before the shutoffs occurred, the Detroit water and sewage department faced debts and uncollected payment upwards of $90 million. A substantial amount of that pre-shut off debt stems from the department’s lax attempts to collect payment from customers. In hopes of reversing the dismal financial situation, city officials turned to the old-fashioned tactic of shutting the water off, in hopes that this would encourage citizens to pay for their water usage.

The results were mixed; over half of the 17,000 citizens who had their water shut off subsequently paid their bills and had their water restored, (this is according to city officials), while citizens who really couldn’t afford the bills met the shutoffs with outrage.

More recently following the U.N.’s condemnation of the water shut-offs, the city of Detroit released a statement outlining modifications to their initial and more stringent shut-off strategy.

Changes contained in the modification include desisting holds on properties facing foreclosures who can’t meet the financial obligations of paying water utilities on time, setting up payment plans with struggling with their payments and additional funds and resources for citizens who need assistance paying their water bill, namely – The Detroit Water Fund, which includes nearly $2 million devoted solely to the cause.

The question at heart remains, are the shutoffs an example of “Cold hearted” penny-pinching greed, or is the situation more complex in terms of what city officials have called “An Economic Reality”?

This issue is simple to a certain degree, there is no doubt that it is a demonstrable consequence of misaligned of priorities, both on behalf of the city government and (some) of the citizens of Detroit. After filing for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, Detroit was blinded by an overwhelming amount of duties to get out of bankruptcy.

One of the biggest concerns with the bankruptcy filing had to do with pensions of city government employees and retirees; many of which saw their pensions take cuts for the sake of digging the city out of the $18 Billion debt accrued. The second largest concern was their water and sewage department’s financial state, which contained over $6 Billion of the bankruptcy debt alone.

Now let’s be clear here, the fact the Detroit fell into such bankruptcy and problems with its Water and Sewage Department to such an extreme extent is a transparent sign of failure to the constituency that is the citizens of Detroit. The fact that pensions had to take cuts in the first place for current and retired employees speaks in volumes about the fiscal irresponsibility that the city had in allowing those events to transpire that far.

What really makes matters worse is looking into how Detroit initially handled the water situation. After deciding to restructure the financial integrity of the water and sewage department, the city realized that delinquent customers continued to abstain from paying their bills and shifted the costs onto dependable customers.

If that wasn’t enough to spark outrage, after shutting off the water to more than 14,000 homes, the city took longer than two months to even begin shutting off water access to 36 delinquent commercial businesses- 12 of which contained delinquencies totaling more than $100,000. The city responded to criticisms from citizens claiming the commercial businesses were gaining favoritism over the households affected by stating,

“The contractor couldn’t shut them off…They’re not equipped to shut off a larger industry like a Ford Field or what have you.”

As if that excuses two months of delayed action.

The irresponsibility of the City government is mostly to blame for this situation, however some of the delinquent citizens must be held accountable too, after all; the citizens who paid immediately after having their water shut off demonstrated that the water bill wasn’t so much a priority as it was an inconvenience.

This irresponsibility is also illustrated by customers who could have initially afforded to pay their water bills, but chose not to for whatever reason and waited for their water to be shut off or for their debts to accumulate to untamable amounts.

Shifting the blame to the city for not collecting sooner is easy to do because yes, the city is responsible for collecting the payment that it seeks- but why did it take so long for these customers to take care of their financial obligations or voice their concerns over their bills?

After the City’s meeting with U.N. officials, Chief Staff Alexis Wiley noted a perceived narrowness by their perspective in a statement:

“Hundreds of cities in Michigan and thousands nationwide shut off water to people who do not pay.  It is a standard practice among utilities. Yet for some reason, the UN is focusing only on Detroit, apparently to the exclusion of all others.”

The way that the city handled the Water and Sewage department’s financial crisis was deplorable, and the citizens were merely following example set forth by their so-called community leaders who took oaths of responsibility and failed them in providing it through the practice of their policies.

Photocredit: Wikimedia.com
Photocredit: Wikimedia.com

But that’s not to say things aren’t capable of being steered on to the right track.

The city does seem to be making strides in atoning for its sins, just yesterday it reappointed retirement investment committees to oversee future developments in pension funding. This latest move is one of the essential last steps in resolving Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, and will lead the city to its way of eventually curing the blight that has been its national image.

Texas Governor Debate First Impressions

Photocredit: Click2houston.com
Photocredit: Click2houston.com

I’m aware this isn’t an article per say, but these are just hasty first impressions of what I noticed during the last debate between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis, I’m going to do a pro and con article on both candidates after re-watching the debate and evaluating these notes.

That being said, these notes should be taken with a grain of salt and may not reflect my final analysis of the events that transpired, I admit this is kind of lazy, shame on me I promise I’ll do a better job next time.

Anyway- here are the notes of my first impression, keep in mind these were written to myself :

Davis talks like a robot and I can’t stand it

Abbott speaks way better than her, he seems to know what he’s talking about, but then again he might just be a good politician

Davis: “I will fight, I will fight, I will fight”

“Senator Davis, what should the state do in the meantime with undocumented immigrants who need to drive?”

I support comprehensive immigration reform, and making sure that if people are willing to pass a background check, learn English and pay back taxes owed in our state that they have a path to become a legal worker here, it is modeled after president George Bush’s plan but let’s face it we are not going to see that happen anytime soon because congress has failed to do its job to pass that kind of reform. I believe that Texas can’t wait, and that in this next legislative session we do need to address the issue of making sure that every driver on our road has proper training and is insured to keep other drivers on our roads safe.

– that doesn’t sound like the meantime and sounds a little bit like skirting the question since it’s not detailed or direct, but isn’t too bad of an answer, aside from the learn English bit (Texas has no official state language, neither does the country)

Around 17:00 look there and try to decipher what the hell is going on about Davis’ accusations and the question brought before her

22:00 Abbott dodged a question over why his office denied reporters access to review applications

22:50 KXASTV Anchor Brian Curtis asks specifically (in dollar amount) how much money Davis plans to put towards education funding and where she would get the money from, she dodges the question by pointing out Greg Abbott’s support of a bill that cut Texas education funding by _____ and doesn’t answer the question at all.
25:50 Brian Curtis says “Senator Davis, I didn’t hear a dollar amount…do you have one?” Davis completely ignores the question and proceeds to criticize Abbott directly over his plan that will continue “pushing those costs down to the local level, increasing property taxes for families across the state and unfortunately keeping their children in a situation where they’re not getting the education they deserve…”

“So no dollar amount?”

Again these are just first notes, and I’ll be sure to have a more articulate and formulated article/