“The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’ — President Ronald Reagan
For many Americans, January 28, 1986, will forever be a “where were you when” day, but for me, the day the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded has always been something more.
I was in Second Grade at Temple Sinai. School administrators gathered all of us in the lunchroom to let us know the Challenger exploded, killing everyone on board. Like many kids around the nation, we knew that included Christa McAuliffe, the school teacher aiming to be the first private citizen in outer space.
As we watched the news together, our teachers consoled those of us sheltered little Jews for who this was an introduction to death, tragedy, and mourning. The horrific images of smoke plumes and shocked faces we saw that day will forever be imprinted on my mind, but I feel like I can actually trace much of who I am back to the day those 7 explorers and dreamers lost their lives.
The days following the disaster I became a 7 year old news junkie. I scanned the Miami Herald daily for answers (“obviously a major malfunction”), clipped articles and added everything I found to my black “Challenger” loose-leaf folder. From Reagan’s address to the nation, to learning more about the crew, to news of a faulty O-ring, to blaming freezing temperatures, to hearing the cabin remained intact after the explosion yet was destroyed when it hit water (I still shudder thinking about it) — I was obsessed.
Before Challenger, space to me was Star Wars, The Last Starfighter and Voltron – and space heroes were named Skywalker, Kirk, and Flash Gordon. After Challenger, it was Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and NASA. Heroes now had real names like Glenn, Armstrong and Aldrin. Space was suddenly real, and there was so much to learn, so much to discover – and the crew of the Challenger (and the astronauts before them) dedicated their lives to this pursuit. How could this not inspire a curious kid?!?
I absorbed everything I could about STS Space Shuttles — which is tough pre-internet (ever heard of a Library?). David Cypkin taught me to draw shuttles, and I proceeded to draw them (along with some main fuel tanks and badass solid rocket boosters) in just about every notebook and schoolbook I had.
I discovered telescopes and planetariums. I found star charts, learned constellations, and studied planets. The Challenger didn’t make me fear space travel, it made me yearn for more. Humans barely made it out of our backyard, and those 7 astronauts could not possibly be the last ones America sent to explore our solar neighborhood.
When NASA finally announced the Discovery mission, I followed it the way I now follow sports teams – from the drafting of the crew to its eventual launch 32 months after the Challenger disaster. I still have all the clippings from its entire mission. And man, that day Discovery launched and returned us to space was one of the happiest (non-sports) moments of my life. My first big dream came true.
There is just something about the void, the great unknown, and those who seek to conquer it. It’s the reason all these years later we know names like Columbus, Ponce de Leon, Lewis and Clark. Names like Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnick, Greg Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.
They’re heroes not just for achieving their wildest dreams, but for inspiring kids like me to have wildest dreams to begin with.
As humans, we always search for meaning in tragedy, and for me the meaning from the day we lost the Challenger was as clear to my 7 year old self as it is to me today: You can’t always reach the stars, but you’ll certainly be better for trying.
“And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.” — President Ronald Reagan.
President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address on Tuesday night, and it was what you’d expect as a mic-drop from one of our nation’s best orators – inspiring, motivating, full of lofty promises and a love-letter to a better America. Unexpected however, was the fact that Obama absolutely refuses to be a lame-duck President.
Obama used his SoTU series-finale to not only remind Americans of his administration’s successes, but also to set an uplifting narrative for the 2016 race to counter the incessant doom and gloom dominating our political atmosphere. Most poignantly, Obama routinely stressed that Americans should stop hating each other, stop allowing demagogues to divide us for their political gain, and realize that the beauty of America is acknowledging our differences and coming together rather than letting our differences define us.
It was powerful stuff. Or, if you’re a Republican, it was a boring, tone-deaf rant filled with horrific liberal, Kenyan babbling out to destroy our country, make us weaker and succumb to Islamic terror.
Obama also used a significant portion of his address to plead for the American people to make America great again by coming together to “fix our politics” and return power to the people instead of letting moneyed-interests reign free.
“It’s easier to be cynical. To accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.”
“Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie – and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose.”
As leaders from more than 180 countries gather at the UN Climate Summit in Paris to celebrate their pledges to combat climate change, the sad truth remains – it probably won’t do much to avoid inevitable catastrophe.
But the combined effect of these voluntary pledges—even assuming, generously, that each is fully implemented—would still result in global emissions continuing to increase for decades to come, soaring well past the goal of limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above the level that prevailed prior to the Industrial Revolution. Temperatures would instead rise to 2.7 to 3.5 C above the pre-industrial level, a catastrophic amount.
How catastrophic? Bear in mind, 2 degrees is often described as a “safe” guardrail, but the latest science and real-world observations demonstrate that in fact it marks the threshold between “dangerous” and “extremely dangerous” warming.
…Calling 2.7 to 3.5 C of warming a success is akin to saying, when leaping a canyon 15 feet wide, that leaping only 10 feet is no cause for alarm. After all, 10 feet is farther than you’ve leaped in the past and represents undeniable progress towards the ultimate goal.
Coming to any agreement between 180 countries is a HUGE deal, but political triumphs don’t equate to actual success. Science and physics don’t care if Politicians get a “win”.
The pledged changes are a good start, but more ambitious efforts are needed to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising 2 degrees. Major societal and infrastructural changes are required, such as a “more rapid transition to solar, wind, efficiency, and other low-carbon energy sources.” However, with today’s political climate – especially considering that over half our country’s politicians are in the pockets of Big Energy and only care about protecting profits- the US won’t be leading any overly ambitious transitions any time soon.
At this point it’s a foregone conclusion that the climate and the world are changing – but the politics of valuing shareholder profits over everything else never will.
At least these 180+ world leaders can tell their supporters they tried.
Deficit is now 2.5% of GDP, below the average for the last 50 years, and down from 9.8% when Obama took office.
To be clear, the shrinking annual deficit should not solely be credited to the President or to the austerity Congress. Fed spending increased 5% from 2014, but tax collection also increased by 8%.
Bottom line: more people are working, paying taxes, and contributing to the system.
Embarrassingly,73% of the public thinks the deficit continues to increase under Obama, and for that we can thank austerity-pushing politicians, as well as people just not knowing the difference over deficit (yearly) and debt (total accumulated).
In reality, the annual deficit (the gap between spending and revenue) has shrunk over $1 Trillion combined since Obama took office. Yes, that’s over a few years, but its a big decrease, not increase.
As nice as that sounds, our total accumulated Federal debt still tops a staggering $18 Trillion — and we certainly increase spending every year. But, it hurts the austerity-pushers’ case that US spending gets more wildly “out of control” every year when the shortfall between revenue and spending decreases annually.
Also seems that domestic programs supposed to destroy our economy (Obamacare, anyone?) – aren’t quite turning us into Greece…yet.
The first 2016 Republican Presidential “Debate” is in the books.
To no one’s surprise, there was little actual debating. Instead we saw Fox News setting a narrative, and the candidates fighting to reset that narrative in their favor.
Although I have no love for the current Republican party, I can at least offer my views on who “appeared” Presidential, and their general chances at appearing on the GOP ticket.
The Adults in the Room
Obviously, Jeb Bush has the experience and credentials to lead. Bush is always articulate, but even as a Florida resident with no idea where these “accomplishments” took place, I’ll admit the guy knows how to sell his time as Governor. Dynastic ties notwithstanding, Bush remains the single most “Presidential” candidate of the bunch.
That said, the single most polished candidate in Quicken Loans Arena was Sen. Marco Rubio. Although I hate everything he’s done as Senator for my state of Florida, (worst missed-vote record of any current Senator) the man is a complete 180 from his 2012 teaser-run. Rubio conducted himself like a true, passionate, educated, leader, and did a kickass job selling himself as the only relatable every-man on stage. Well done, Senator. If Rubio isn’t on the ticket, it’s only because Bush is the lead and they couldn’t do two Florida boys. Regardless, the Sunshine State killed it in this “Debate.”
The only other adult in the room that could be trusted to lead our country was Gov. John Kasich. Not only is Kasich well spoken and passionate, he is the ONLY candidate who speaks to issues that are important to the entire country and not just the Republican Party. He comes across as a responsible every-man, not a billionaire puppet. With little national name-recognition, Kasich doesn’t stand much of a chance, but he could appeal to more than the extremists in his Party. Ohio loves it some Kasich, so its easy to see the Governor as a legit VP addition to win the extremely important state.
Appealing, but Empty
Donald Trump is a blowhard, but no one can deny the HYUUUGE gravitas and power he brings behind every moronic statement. When Trump’s in the room, people pay attention. Trump is NOT President material, but he carries himself like royalty, and everyone else is forced to play along. His presence controlled the entire debate. Unfortunately, most of what Trump offers is factless mumbo-jumbo that plays to fears, not real progress. Such behavior is not presidential, nor are the constant threats/insults he lobs at his critics. As host Megyn Kelly pointed out, his constant woman-bashing (and failure to apologize) will haunt him for a while. Trump might scoff at political correctness and brag about not caring, but careful selection of words is kinda important in diplomacy. Can anyone seriously imagine him sitting across the table from any other world leaders?
Gov. Chris Christie is another partisan blowhard selling his iron-fisted tendencies as a positive, but at least he showed up to play as the ONLY candidate to use statistics to support his points. Christie brings with him way too much baggage to be legit (that’s not a fat joke) but as one of the few with executive experience, he blatantly demonstrates how little experience the other candidates bring to the job. Baggage notwithstanding, I could see Christie as a legit addition to a ticket as VP who rolls up his sleeves to do the negative dirty work.
Gov. Scott Walker might be the Koch brothers’ favorite puppet stocked full of Reagan-love, but the man does not demonstrate any leader-like qualities. Walker delivers his studied lines well, but the college-dropout seems flustered every time he jumps off-script. Walker could not possibly appeal to anyone who doesn’t directly pay for his services, but he has to be respected because of the hundreds of millions the Koch brothers’ network are throwing behind him (and have for years). Likely no value as VP, so it’s probably President or bust for Walker.
Along for the Ride
Sen. Rand Paul seemed lost on the big stage – and looked even more foolish unable to respond to Trump’s digs. Although I actually like some of his ideas, Paul seems unable to sell his Libertarian platform to his party. Quite frankly, Rand doesn’t seem like he could be the lead on the ticket with anyone else on the stage playing 2nd fiddle as VP. He has VP bonafides at best, but there’s little to be gained by his inclusion.
Despite his campaign slogan, Sen. Ted Cruz is notoriously, the least-truthful person on Capitol hill. Cruz has no accomplishments to run on, no leadership ability (other than the government shutdown fiasco) and has completely shirked his Senate seat (one of worst attendance records in Senate) to run for president since elected 2013. Oozing sleaze and creepiness with each misinformed, manipulating breath, it’s no surprise that Cruz has to routinely resort to snake-oil sales tactics to rile up supporters. His performance in Cleveland was par for his sleazy course. Cruz is solely about Cruz. He’s everything to be despised of in a politician, and I can’t imagine anyone gaining anything from putting him on a ticket as VP.
Gov. Mike Huckabee is another who just seems to be along for the attention-grabbing ride. He’s just too entangled with religion to ever convince any non-Republican that he wouldn’t completely put the Bible over the Constitution. Further, other than griping – he just doesn’t appear Presidential. Huckabee could never be the lead on a ticket with anyone else on that stage as his VP.
Dr. Ben Carson is clearly just in it to be in it. A poor public speaker, he has all the gravitas of a junior high Typing teacher. As one of my friends put it, he was “the candidate they’d most likely hang out and smoke a j with.” When your selling point is that you promise to learn world issues by the time you get to the office, you’re not selling well. Can’t feel too bad for Carson — he still has brain surgery to fall back on. Not a legit contender for Pres or VP.
Sure there are aspects of the law that need to be tweaked, but unfortunately our Congress would rather destroy the Affordable Care Act rather than fix it. Obamacare-haters made a living (and got elected) with false apocalyptic “predictions,” but now refuse to admit how horribly wrong they all were (I put predictions in quotes because they knew it was complete bullshit when they offered them).
For the record, stock prices did not fall, they’ve skyrocketed. Jobs haven’t diminished, they continue to rise at the highest rate since the recession. Premiums didn’t soar, insurers didn’t go out of business, hospitals aren’t going bankrupt, America didn’t explode and the world didn’t end.
Yet morons still continue to lie about the benefits of Obamacare, and their idiot followers repeat the false anti-ACA bullcrap like a mantra.
So for those of you who care, I am reposting a great article (after the jump) debunking all those false predictions and providing real facts for your knowledge pleasure – as well as a video (above) of President Obama himself calling out the lying liars.
“COME ON, YOU DIDN’T EXPECT ANYTHING DIFFERENT, DID YOU?”
A group of 47 Senators sent an open letter to Iran’s leaders to warn that any nuclear peace deal made with President Obama could/would be undone when he leaves office in two years.
Want to guess which political party all 47 Senators belong to?
Not to be outdone on the Embarrass America front by House Republicans who invited a foreign leader to mansplain foreign policy and scream “Your President is Wrong!” to a joint session of Congress, these saboteurs Senators took this unprecedented (and possibly treasonous) step to push their Party’s foreign policy and threaten explain our Constitutional Process:
“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution — the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.”
“The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen, and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.” (Full text here)
Rather than offer any viable policy alternatives, this letter instead tells Iran (and the world) that the United States couldn’t/wouldn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Even worse, it gives Iran an out to blame the US government if a deal falls apart.
Senator Bob Corker, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee (who is pushing legislation to ensure that Congress has a meaningful chance to weigh in on any final nuclear agreement), refused to partake in his Party’s stunt. He explained: “We’ve got a bipartisan effort that’s underway that has a chance of being successful, and while I understand all kinds of people want to weigh in…[it would not] be helpful in that effort for me to be involved in it.”
President Obama obviously wasn’t thrilled: “It’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran. It’s an unusual coalition.”
Vice President Joe Biden’s comments perfect sum up the unprecedented partisan idiocy:
“In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country — much less a longtime foreign adversary — that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments — a message that is as false as it is dangerous.
“The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle.
“If talks collapse because of Congressional intervention, the United States will be blamed, leaving us with the worst of all worlds. Iran’s nuclear program, currently frozen, would race forward again. We would lack the international unity necessary just to enforce existing sanctions, let alone put in place new ones. Without diplomacy or increased pressure, the need to resort to military force becomes much more likely — at a time when our forces are already engaged in the fight against ISIL.”
To underscore Biden’s point, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif properly dismissed the letter as having “no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy.”
“It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress — and while no agreement has been reached — some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”
“I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement ‘with the stroke of a pen’ … it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.”
To be clear, its perfectly acceptable for our officials to have differences about foreign policy, as well as differences on whether or not Iran is to be trusted – but this is NOT how to go about it. This rant isn’t about policy or ideology – it’s about doing things the correct way.
Regardless what you think of the President, negotiating with foreign leaders is the President’s Constitutional responsibility. This Congress (and their lackeys) absolutely refuse to accept that Barack Obama was overwhelmingly elected President…twice.
These obstruction/sabotage tactics usually reserved for undermining domestic legislation are being utilized to neuter our President, destroy the White House’s Constitutionally enshrined authority over Foreign Policy, and risk pushing dangerous world adversaries away from this (and any future) bargaining table.
If these partisan idiots really cared about anything other than trolling/humiliating our President, non-treasonous mechanisms already exist (such as Corker’s legislation) to force Congressional input on the Iran nuclear deal.
Even if the situation was so dire that unprecedented Senate interference was absolutely necessary — all 100 (or at least a strong bi-partisan majority) should have signed on.
But this FAIL was all about attempting to score points for one political Party, not America.
These disgusting excuses for public officials can’t process the idea that regardless of which party wins the seat, they’re supposed to represent the best interest of ALL their constituents – not just the partisan blowhards who wrongly assume that “standing up to the President” is Congress’ only job.
Both Houses of Congress belong to ALL of America, not just a single party or the financial backers who fill their campaign coffers.
It’s a shame that the (allegedly) most educated and advanced People in the world continue to embarrass themselves – and Constitutional Democracy – by electing officials who care more about their respective Party than the People and Country they represent.
Is it too much to ask for these idiots to be punished by the electorate? Of course it is.
In the mean time we need to deal with the fact that half of our government hates the President (and his Constitutional authority) way more than it hates the idea of sending your children to war with a nuclear Iran.
REPUBLICANS ARE ALL SMILES WHEN THEY GET TO USE A FOREIGN LEADER AND A WORLD CRISIS TO EMBARRASS OUR PRESIDENT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally delivered his long-awaited Iran speech to Congress. While powerful, the speech was bereft of new ideas or solutions, and an embarrassment to the United States.
There was absolutely NO reason for this speech to be delivered to a joint session of OUR Congress.
To be clear, I agree with 99% of what Bibi had to say: a nuclear Iran is a danger to Israel and the world, and their current radical regime cannot be trusted. But it’s nothing we haven’t heard him warn before. Netanyahu has screamed that Iran is only months away from getting a nuclear bomb since at least 1993, and routinely sells Iranian regime change to anyone that will listen.
(Just a reminder, Bibi also wrongly warned back in 2002: ”If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.”)
Even though he clearly benefits from numerous standing ovations in front of his greatest ally’s Congress just 2 weeks before his upcoming election, I don’t hate on Netanyahu for campaigning and preaching for Israel’s security wherever and whenever he can. I’m also thankful anytime our country has a conversation about protecting Israel.
It’s just embarrassing that our Congress gave a foreign leader the floor to dictate American foreign policy.
Given that Bibi shared absolutely nothing new in his hour long rant, what was the purpose of Speaker John Boehner sneakily inviting him to speak? All politics: to attempt to embarrass President Obama while he negotiates with Iran, and manipulate American Jews to steer away from the Democratic Party. Disgusting.
No matter what you think of the President, foreign policy and dealing with foreign leaders is the responsibility of the White House. No matter what you think of the President, he is still OUR President, and you don’t let a foreign leader come into our house to mansplain foreign policy and tell our country, “You’re doing it all wrong!” Regardless of the fact that Netanyahu over-emphasized that Obama has been a great friend to Israel, and the US/Israeli relationship has never been stronger – the spectacle embarrasses us on the world stage.
House Republicans intentionally made our relationship with Israel a politically divisive issue. Not only did it put our President in a tight spot as Boehner went behind the President’s back to set this up, but it forced idiot Democrats to boycott the speech and possibly jeopardize our relationship with one of our strongest allies.
The Iran issue is a tough one. As I said before, Iran’s Jew/US-hating regime can’t be trusted, but they also will NEVER (as no country would) entirely give up their nuclear program. To complicate matters further, Iran’s enrichment facilities are basically untouchable by bombing – so the world can’t stop it by force. Tougher sanctions might be an answer, but then you risk pushing Iran farther away and pushing their nationwide sentiment towards further west-hating and more warmongering.
That basically leaves the world with two tough choices: a) make a deal where inspectors are constantly available to ensure Iran’s nuclear enrichment hopefully stays at peaceful levels strictly for energy purposes, or b) all out regime change through war.
We obviously know which choice Netanyahu prefers. But after America’s recent brilliant failures with regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama is opting for negotiation. Dealing with a member of the Axis of Evil isn’t perfect – but OUR President obviously feels its preferable to war.
As Bibi pointed out by singling out Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, “Never Again.” We have to learn from history and know that US-forced regime change in the Middle East costs thousands of American lives and expends a tremendous amount of capital (both moral and financial) on a mostly fruitless, hopeless endeavor.
Yet House Republicans (who think/pretend that everything the President does is wrong) jumped at a chance to throw a wrench in the works, and invited a foreign leader to share his foreign policy suggestions for our country on our most hallowed stage.
Adding insult to injury, the world got to watch our piece-of-shit Congressmen who annually refuse to applaud OUR President during the State of the Union, refuse to stand and applaud during mentions of fighting for equality, voting rights, a better economy, or even bettering our nation – give a foreign leader numerous standing ovations when he called for war. Of course their applause was missing when that leader complimented President Obama and recognized how much he’s done for Israel, both in public and behind the scenes. Embarrassing.
Foreign policy is never black and white. Its a gray area – with rarely a single correct answer – and thus open for debate. Middle East policy is even touchier, as most of the governments aren’t exactly warm to the US and the regimes who replace them are often worse. This is why we entrust these issues to the nationally-elected President and his advisors. We don’t entrust these decisions to another country’s leader, and certainly not some political hack elected with a few thousand votes out of Ohio (yes, I’m looking at you, Mr. Speaker).
Our current Congressional leadership approaches every situation -no matter how important, dangerous, etc – as an opportunity to embarrass our President. If they really felt this was in our nation’s best interest, it would/should have been handled differently.
Attempting to embarrass your opposition is a hallmark of domestic politics. Attempting to embarrass our President on the world stage solely for partisan political reasons is unforgivable and dangerous.
But this is the new American reality: Party loyalty takes precedent over everything – even our worldwide reputation, credibility and security.
EDITOR’S NOTE: ANYONE WHO THINKS A PRESIDENT DOESN’T LOVE HIS COUNTRY IS A MORON
According to a new poll, only 11% of Republicans believe President Obama loves America, with 7 out of 10 positive Obama doesn’t love America.
Their reasons? He tries to ensure affordable health coverage, fights for higher wages, accepts science, and keeps trying to open up the American dream to immigrants already living here. This dude really just hates America.
Now excuse these Republicans while they go back to intentionally suppressing the right to vote of minorities, limiting women’s rights (and pay), hating on American workers, protecting the rights of businesses to destroy the environment if it helps profits, telling you who to marry/sleep with, taking away Health insurance from millions, refusing to acknowledge democratically passed laws and democratically elected leaders, calling 99% of American scientists liars, saying guns are more important than American lives, destroying the Establishment Clause of the Constitution by forcing (their) religion on government, calling 47% of Americans lazy, handing government over to corporate shareholders, limiting education, rewriting textbooks to push ideology, positively declaring that black Americans are inherently violent moochers, begging to send your children off to die in meaningless wars, denying the American dream to people/families who weren’t born here, supporting the unfettered right of Police to kill (minority) citizens, begging for “real” leaders like Vladimir Putin, and saying the Federal government – the realized dream of our Founding Fathers – is horrible and needs to be diminished and/or shut down.