Obama’s Jobs Speech

September 12, 2011

- See all 164 of my articles

4 Comments

The President of the United States was involved in two major events over the last week.  Most recently, he was the guest of honor at the 9/11 remembrance in New York City.  The president along with all of the other dignitaries and special guests did a phenomenal job of participation without ostentation, but with dignity and reverence.  The right wing fears of exclusion of first responders and prayer were just simply wrong.  The memories of those who lost their lives on that September morning 10 years ago, and those who have lost their lives in the defense of our nation since then, were honored.  The poems, letters and scriptures read, the musical performances, the reading of the names, and the personal testimonies, all added to the somber yet hopeful atmosphere of the entire day.

The second event, was a speech before a joint session of congress, advertised as the solution for the joblessness being experienced in the United States.  This event was not nearly as mature, dignified, or effective as the 9/11 anniversary.  This speech, which was supposed to be a new message, was in fact a restatement of some fifty previous speeches that he president has given.  The immaturity of the event was exposed in the political squabbling that went on before the actual speech accrued.  First, the president asked for the joint session on the same night that a previously scheduled debate of the Republican presidential candidates.  The speaker of the house, a republican, refused.  His refusal was not well taken by the White House, both sides acting like children.  The President eventually asked for the joint session on the following night.

The content of this speech in no way required a joint session of congress.  The speech promised a proposed piece of legislation that he insisted must be passed quickly.  He had already promised to have legislation ready when they returned from their summer vacations.  There was no legislation, that is the prevue of the congress anyway, there was just another promise to get it to them.  Now there were some ideas presented that are good, but not new.  Training for the long term unemployed is a great idea, a democratic congress with Ronald Reagan had a program for the same purpose back in the 1980’s.  Preferential employment of veterans is another good idea, but it has been in place for federal employment, post office and contractors to the government since World War II.

The most frightening part of the speech was not the repetitiveness of the ideas for jobs, but the repetitiveness of the exorbitant cost and methods of payment. Yet again the suggestion is hundreds of billions of dollars spent.  Once again there is a call for taxing the “more fortunate” members of society, as if earning is a gift that is not fair.  And again, we here of a rich man who does not think it is fair that he pays less in income tax than his secretary (Mr. Buffet, you do not have to claim all of your deductions if you think you should pay more).  Although there are plenty of things wrong with the tax code (the complexity alone is mind boggling), increasing taxes is not the solution.

The only way to get the economy going again is to have actual work for people to do.  Not shifting of payment of projects from states to the federal government, not addressing an unreported surplus of unemployed teachers, and definitely not another hand out to some bankrupt entity be it an car company, a bank or a union.  This country needs to spend within its budget and reduce the burden of taxes and regulation on everyone.  It worked for Kennedy and Reagan.  When we spend beyond our means and broaden the scope of government, the economy goes into the tank, as happened under Johnson and prolonged by the “price freezes” of Nixon and Carter and is now happening from the spending frenzy of Bush and Obama.  In each case, we identify the president, but the blame is equally if not more the responsibility of the congress at the time.

The last issue with the speech was the return to blaming the previous president for the problems being faced today.  There is always a lingering effect of the previous administration, but up until now, the president has remained above the blame game.  It is one thing if a partisan group blames Clinton for 9/11, it would have been quite another if the Bush had gotten on front of congress and blamed him.  Yet again, President Obama is blaming Bush.  Since he took office, the deficit has gotten bigger, unemployment has gotten worse, and up until eight months ago, he had gotten everything he wanted.  Eventually, the president and especially congress will have to start acting like adults.  We cannot expect the partisans or the press to mature, but we should expect it from our elected officials.  It will not be possible to create jobs until at least one thing happens – Congress must do its job and actually pass a budget.  Nothing that the president suggests or sends to congress to consider will have any meaning until a budget is in place.

Ducks in a Row

December 23, 2010

- See all 34 of my articles

9 Comments

So much for being the lame duck session of Congress. Despite constant Republican obstruction, whining and even some crying, things actually got done and even some Republicans got off their asses and did the job they were elected to do. In the past couple days Congress has passed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a new START treaty, as well as a bill providing benefits to first responders to 9/11. Not too shabby of a finish to this Congress even though we had to give the Republicans their tax cuts for the rich to bankrupt the future just to be able to get to these items in the first place. I guess the Pubes did “give in” to extending unemployment benefits so not everything was horrible with that one.

Unlike John McCain, I am very happy to see the repeal of DADT. I use McCain here because he reacted to the ruling stating “Today is a very sad day.” Really John, ending discrimination is a sad thing? Anyways this law has always has been the dumbest law to me, not just because it is wrong, but it was never the law the title implies. It never was a law of such a neutral stance, it was always a law of no matter what you are not allowed to serve if you are gay. The Don’t Tell part of the law tended to be very well followed to, it was the Don’t Ask part that the military just ignored. So with its repeal I am happy that we no longer have to dismiss highly qualified people just because they are gay.

On the START treaty I am hppy to see it done, but unlike the rest of the bills I felt this one was the one that was assured to pass in the lame duck session. Afterall every living former Secretary of State was for the new treaty. It was just a matter of time before the Pubes would end their faux outrage and end their obstruction on this one.

Then on the front of the 9/11 first responders bill it is nice to see that those who did their most on that day are finally able to be taken care of better for the damages done to them. Luckily a few Republicans disconnected from the collective on this one as well. I do find it funny that the party of 9/11 doesn’t give a shit about those who actually did the work that day, they only like the symbolism of the day itself to use as propaganda. But then again this is the party that prefers to get unpaid for tax cuts for the wealthy, while holding hostage the benefits to many unemployed in a tough economy to get their way, so nothing really should ever be a surprise for the party of fear propaganda and lies.

On other fronts, the Alaska Supreme Court has seemed to wrapped up the litigation on the Senate election of write-in winner and current Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. Joe Miller can now crawl back under the rock he came out from, and because hell hath no fury like a woman scorned Sarah Palin has created an oddity in a Republican that openly rejects her as well as her opinions on things. I feel that is the one reason Murkowski suddenly became a vote in favor of the recent bills that passed, including DADT. I don’t for see her being much of a moderate Republican down the line still, but it is nice to see independent thought out of a Republican, even if it clearly is out of spite.

Ending my thoughts for this month it seems that possible presidential candidate and Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour feels that the Civil Rights era “Wasn’t that Bad.” and that the Citizens Council were good organizations. Now I don’t think Barbour is a racist for his comments like many have been stipulating, I merely (like I do about about many Republicans) think he is an idiot. Of course the civil rights era was not that bad, for him, he was white, had a good upbringing, etc. it is more of ignorance over what went on right around him than racism in my opinion here, but ignorance is no excuse for being an apologist to what actually happened in the past.

I hope everyone has a safe holiday season and I wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Personal Memories of 9/11

September 11, 2010

- See all 39 of my articles

6 Comments

It was 9 years ago on a Tuesday morning, the weather not unlike it was for me here this morning in central NC – high 70’s, not a cloud in the sky. I awoke to my cat, Madison, nudging me that it was time for breakfast. I sat up quickly from my half-sleep and noticed it was 8:20. I was going to be late. Normally on such a beautiful day I’d get my cycling clothes on and bike down Smith Street to downtown Brooklyn where I’d catch the Brooklyn Bridge footpath and ride over to Manhattan, usually crossing the City Hall complex through the gardens and then riding down Broadway to work at 1 NY Plaza.

But not today, I was late. I fed Madison, scrambled to get some clothes on and half walked, half jogged to the F-line subway station at Smith and 9th, about 2 blocks from where I worked. I figured I’d be about 5-10 minutes past my normal arrival time of 9:00. The subway went underground after the next stop and I fell into my normal routine of staring at the NYC subway map on wall so as to not make eye contact with anyone. About 10 minutes later the train pulled into Borough Hall station and I quickly exited and climbed the stairs to transfer over to the N/R Borough Hall station (they are not connected underground, but because I used a MetroCard the transfer was free). Another subway trip, this time the N/R line to Whitehall Street station which was right on One NY Plaza, where I worked. It was just a few minutes after 9:00 when the train pulled into the station, I got out and did my usual rush to get ahead of the crowd and started going up the stairs 2 at a time. I was about halfway up the last staircase when it happened.

New York City, especially lower Manhattan during the day, is a noisy place. Living there for a while you get acclimated to strange and loud noises. I don’t think my mind first noticed the extremely loud jet airliner noise but I do remember focusing and pondering for a second or so when I heard a massive boom that sounded not unlike a piano soundboard breaking. Yes, a piano soundboard. It’s a pretty unique noise, because all the strings snap at once and create this massive cacophony of both resonance and dissonance at the same time. A second after that, just as I was coming up to street level I heard what was clearly the sound of people screaming – not just a few people, tens of thousands of people screaming. I looked north, where the noise was coming from, and saw hundreds of people in the streets, moving south. I looked eastward toward the large, open plaza part of One NY Plaza and almost immediately saw a co-worker; Myung, and he looked scared. I can honestly say in the 4 years I had known him while working with him he had never appeared scared before. I quickly walked up to him and asked, “What’s going on?”

“F*cking terrorists, it had to be. They crashed a small Cessna into the North Twin Tower to get everyone’s attention, and then just now crashed an airliner into the South tower.”

I took that bit of news with about as much grace as anyone else would; my jaw probably dropped and I said, “What?!”

“Yeah, just now. 767 or something. It came from that way and slammed right into the twin towers.” He pointed South and drew a line through the air from the direction of Staten Island toward where the WTC would be if we had clear sight lines to it. I started walking toward Broad Street where I’d be able to look north and see the WTC. I didn’t get halfway across the plaza when I saw my boss and the other 5 members of my group. They had spotted me and were walking towards me.

Jim was my boss. He was only a few years older than me and was at first glance the perfect California surfer dude. He was tall, had perfectly spiked blonde hair, good looks, and was well tanned. I didn’t even have time to ask what was going on, when we were all within a few feet of each other he said, “We’re getting out of here, all of us, back to my place. We’re taking the ferry – it’ll be safer over in Jersey. I don’t think we should stay here or take bridges out of Manhattan. In fact, everyone in my group but myself and the other Netware/Windows guy, Phil, lived in central Jersey so it made sense that they’d all want to head back there. I thought about it for a moment and then told them that I had to get home to my roommates and to make sure my cat was safe if things got worse. I expected protest, even being ordered to go with them on the ferry to Hoboken, but Jim just nodded and said, “Ok, man, good luck. Keep in touch with the pagers.” Everyone in my department had two-way pagers with mini qwerty keyboards. Jason, my best friend at work, extended his hand, shook my hand and said simply, “good luck.”

I made my way through the crowd on the plaza to Broad Street and that’s finally when I looked up and saw the Twin Towers. The south tower almost completely obscured the view of the north tower, but I could clearly see the massive, smoldering hole where the 2nd airliner had hit. With the way winds are in lower Manhattan, this was the first time I could smell it too. Ever smell burnt electronics? It was pretty close to that, with a bit more of a sharp smell of metal burning. It was absolutely surreal to see a massive hole in what was the most iconic view of NYC for me. Jason had taken a few pictures of it before they left the 31st floor where I worked:


View from rooftop of One NY Plaza, looking north – note we were directly in line with both towers and you could only see the southern tower as it obscured all of the view of the northern one

 


View from 31st floor of One NY Plaza shortly after the first plane hit

 


A few minutes later, same vantage point

 


South tower after being hit by the 2nd plane

 


South tower just a few minutes before collapsing

 

I continued on up South Street, walking at a pace just slow enough that I could stare in disbelief at the WTC without bumping into anyone else. My plan was to take the Brooklyn Bridge footpath across and then walk down Court Street all the way home. It was about at South Street Seaport that I noticed a lot more than the normal clutter and mess on the street. The street was teeming with fairly fresh paper. I looked down and picked one up – it was a resume. I folded it up, put it in my pocket, and wondered if that particular person were still alive or not, or if they were even there. It could have been someone scheduled to interview next week. It could have been someone there for an interview that day. For all I knew in my state of disbelief and shock it could have been someone on one of the planes – I was always too scared to go back and look at that resume and see if the owner of it had died, and now I can’t find it after having moved from NYC. At this point police had started to organize the chaos a bit and there were more than a few of them directing pedestrian and vehicle traffic. I think it was at Beekman Street that I turned north-west and started to move toward the entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge footpath. I moved up Beekman for a few blocks, past Pace University and toward Park Row. I was just going past the Downtown Hospital where there were quite a few police officers gathered and I overheard one of them saying to someone else that emergency crews were using the Brooklyn Bridge and all civilian traffic was being routed up to the Manhattan Bridge. I decided to double-time it at that point. I also realized at that point that my family and my girlfriend would be worried about me. My parents were in England on a long overdue second honeymoon so they had almost no way of getting in touch with me.

While on the few blocks from St. James Place to the Manhattan Bridge I pulled out my phone and tried a few times to reach my girlfriend, getting nothing but busy signals. I pulled out my pager and wrote up a simple text message – “I’m ok, walking home to Brooklyn right now” and sent it to her e-mail. She’d later tell me that despite the initial panic and dread of hearing the news and getting nothing but busy signals trying to call me, she almost immediately thought of checking her e-mail. My sister wasn’t so level-headed or lucky. She didn’t have an e-mail address that I knew of or remembered back then, so I sent her a text-to-speech message that would prompt her to press “1” to listen as a computerized voice read off what I put in my pager. I would find out later that she must have thought it was some sort of automatic warning/emergency response and that they were calling her because I was injured or dead. I may be a pretty technical person, but apparently my sister isn’t.

It was almost 10:00 and I was a few hundred feet from the Manhattan Bridge on Bowery Street by that point and the smell was already making it uncomfortable but not hard to breathe. I had been pausing to look up at the towers every so often and did so right then. With Columbus Park and City Hall Park being a majority of the land between where I was and the WTC, I had a clear view right at that point, and was staring right at the South Tower as it began to fall. From my vantage point I could more feel than hear the rumble of the collapse and the steel girders rattling around sounded not unlike a massive set of wind chimes. It was such an unexpected noise that I remember specifically thinking that exact thought: “wow, that sounds like a giant set of wind chimes.” A large woman in her 40’s next to me screamed, “oh, God!” and stumbled as she tried running toward the bridge in shoes clearly not meant for running. The white cloud of pulverized concrete, dust, ash, etc came rushing out in all directions and while it certainly reached where I was standing it wasn’t nearly as bad as what many saw and videotaped. One of my co-workers still in One NY Plaza managed to look down and take a few pictures of what that looked like:


Here’s the view northward, pretty much the same direction as the previous pictures sans WTC

 


This is looking down at Broad and Water Streets, covered in 5-6 inches of concrete dust, ash, and who knows what else. If I didn’t know any better I’d say it was winter and the whole area was covered in dirty snow.

 

I moved across the Manhattan Bridge footpath at a brisk pace at that point. About the middle of the bridge my pager went off, it was a message from Jason saying that he had seen the tower collapse and heard reports that the Pentagon and a State Department building had been hit as well. I thought the same thing he did: that it was raining airplanes and someone had declared war on us. I think I broke into a full-fledged run at that point to reach the Brooklyn side. I was thinking the worst: there would be more planes crashing and a lot more panic would devolve into looting and riots. I was going over a mental list in my head of things to do when I got home: break out the cat-carrier and get Madison into it, get some bottles of water together, get my baseball bat and pepper spray easily available, and then bunker down and prepare for armageddon.

I didn’t know what kind of chemicals I was breathing in at that point, having been in the dust cloud that spread when the south tower collapsed. The smell of burnt metal/electronics was even more pungent at that point, so as soon as I got to the Brooklyn side of the bridge I went into the first corner store I found and went to buy a bottle of water; I was going to get my bandana out of my backpack and soak it in the water and put it over my nose and mouth so I could at least have a bit of a filter from the stench. I went to the cash register to buy the bottle and a very rotund man with a thick Brooklyn accent turned to me and pointed to a small TV in the corner and said, “Didja see that sh*t? It just fell. Crazy.” He saw me getting out my wallet to pay and said, “Don’t worry about it. Pass on the good deed to someone else who might need it. We gotta all stick together with sh*t like this happening.” I gave him as heartfelt a smile as I could manage and was able to say thank you without my voice cracking too much at the really kind gesture he had just made. I went back outside and started for home, just about 2 miles straight down Court Street. I walked fast. I was in my late 20’s and in good shape but was still walking fast enough that my legs were burning a bit. All over there were police with traffic stopped letting various vehicles through. At the corner of Court and Atlantic there were police cars all over and they had quite obviously commandeered a bus and were loading it with police to drive across to Manhattan.

I don’t quite remember when I got home, I have to guess just after 10:30, because when I walked upstairs to our third floor walkup my roommate Andy was there – I hadn’t heard a peep from him before I left that morning so I thought he had gone to work. Turns out he was taking a mental health day and had only woken up around 10:00, not having any idea what had happened. He told me he kept hearing sirens go by (we lived a block from the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn/Battery tunnel) and had half-slept through most of it, only turning on the TV to CNN when he saw the smoke coming from the direction of lower Manhattan out our back window.

“I saw the south tower fall. Collapsed.” I said to him.

“Both of them,” he said somberly. “North one just a few minutes ago.”

I got out both of my pepper spray canisters and set them on the kitchen counter. Andy didn’t seem too concerned, so I held off on my plan to get my baseball bat out, and picked up Madison and sat down on the couch to watch the news. Every few minutes I’d try calling my girlfriend and my sister. At some point that morning I sent a page to my co-worker Mohammed, a fairly devout Muslim, that said, “There’s going to be a lot of angry people today, and I’m praying that you and your family will be safe. I know that who you call Allah and who I call God are one and the same.” I was already angry that this had happened and I considered myself fairly rational and not the slightest bit hawkish – I could only imagine the epitaphs of “glass parking lot!” and “nuke ’em all!” that were being muttered all across our country right now out of anger in the direction of Mecca.

The rest of my day was a lot less exciting. I got a response from my girlfriend telling me she’d call when she could get through. I got a tearful call from my sister saying that she finally figured out I was ok and would tell my parents I was ok. My other roommate Louis came home ok – he had been working on a construction crew that would have been driving past the WTC a few times that day. Andy’s girlfriend Penny came home from her teaching job looking like she had suffered at least 1 nervous breakdown. I sent a pager message to my immediate co-workers that I was home safe and got replies from all of them that they were safe as well. I personally knew at least a dozen people that worked in and around the World Trade Center and all of them were ok. A co-worker of mine had an uncle who died at the WTC, you might have heard of him. There was a man in a wheelchair in the North Tower who was being helped down the many flights of stairs by a few kind souls who ignored emergency responder advice to get out ASAP. One of the people helping him down who did not make it out was my co-worker Henry’s uncle.

Late Wednesday night I took my girlfriend’s parent’s car from NYC to North Carolina (where I live today). I drove through the night and ended up taking the long way through Maryland and West Virginia because I had heard DC would be near impossible to drive through. I had been planning that trip for a few weeks later anyway, but it seemed as good a time as any with everything that went on. We discussed seriously what had been discussed in passing many times before: we loved each other enough to want to (eventually) get married.

Funny that 9 years later and hundreds of miles away the weather would be almost identical.

[Editor’s note: Photos courtesy of Jason Consorti. Check out Jason’s WTC page. Click on images to see an enlarged version.]