My newspaper columns are on hiatus during election season, as my writing is generally limited to my clients during this period
Ideas & Accountability – Ballot 2017
By Jacqueline Cartier
Vail Daily 11/6/17: http://www.vaildaily.com/opinion/cartier-ballot-2017-ideas-and-accountability-with-taxpayer-money-column
And, so it begins… the promotion of great causes, which tug at our hearts but may not produce intended results. Despite implications to the contrary, increased taxes for education will not reduce tuition or add significant programs, only maintain existing ones; mental health is critical for this county, yet why, with millions of dollars in reserve, haven’t the Commissioners at least begun providing these essential services; and rural broadband, telecommunications, and cable services, something taken for granted everywhere else, is surprisingly not currently available in our rural areas, which encompass a large part of Eagle County? These are all worthy causes, so why would anyone vote against them? Money.
The greatest concern about new taxes is accountability and a recognition that indeed, nothing is free; everyone pays in one form or another. Those who do not support these issues are generally not against the good initiatives proposed, but rather, against the way funding is determined, controlled, and distributed, to accomplish the stated objectives.
The most pressing issue on the ballot this election cycle is 1A, the recreational marijuana tax. The focus of the funding is to provide essential mental health services in Eagle County. Currently, the closest residential treatment facilities are located 2-1/2 hours away, on the front range or in Grand Junction. During a crisis, that distance can mean the difference between life and death. For many families, those miles create a logistical impossibility, and thus, many necessary services are neglected, particularly when working with the psychological needs of our community’s young people.
When considering additional funds, via a new tax, we must evaluate the situation just as we would in our personal or business lives. Is it necessary, or are there alternatives? What are the specifics? How much will it cost? Who controls the collection and distribution?
What we need is accountability. When a proposal is vague, there is too much incentive for adapting circumstances to accommodate inaction. Yet, some situations are time-sensitive. The recent escalation of suicides in the county and the increased opioid crisis, means that delays are costing lives. We cannot put a price on that. Yet, what assurances are in place that the additional funding will be allocated as proposed?
Why aren’t current funds being utilized? County Commissioners have a multitude of programs to monitor and fund. Given the unpredictable nature of estimates, the diversity of issues that emerge, and the occasional conflict of information received, it the Commissioner’s obligation to hold funding until any conflicts are resolved. Any new budgetary proposals must receive voter approval. Thus, an expenditure this size, must be put to a vote.
With accountability in mind, Chris Lindley, Eagle County’s Director of Public Health, has assembled a group of some of the most expert professionals in the state. These are individuals and organizations whose leadership in the field of mental health are unsurpassed. It also includes members of law enforcement, who believe that many of our community’s most needy, end up incarcerated when their best hope for a promising future, would be better achieved in a medical setting rather than a punitive one.
This advisory council would be directly involved in the allocation and distribution of the first $1.2M in funding, with direct oversight and accountability of implementation. While, final decisions are made by the County Commissioners, in this case, the decisions are not theirs alone.
The program is structured to include specific personnel to be hired immediately, with 3 assigned to schools, serving our most vulnerable population, children. Another designated professional, will provide mental health services and act as liaison, to those whose inappropriate behavior has landed them in jail.
Currently, the Eagle County Detention Center is the only residential facility offering any type of psychological treatment, and we can all agree that that is not the ideal environment for improved mental health.
Voting YES on 1A will be different than other tax initiatives in its transparency and accountability, which comes from this private citizen Advisory Board; a group of mental health specialists. The list of Board members is on the website: http://mentalhealthvoteyes.com/total-health-alliance. All Board meetings are open to public participation, providing complete transparency that money is being allocated as prescribed.
And while, the building has not been specifically designated, it is only because there are multiple options, with different funding requirements, and the potential of specified treatment centers. In addition, new stakeholders are desiring to participate, and offering potential resources to cover new services, not anticipated in the initial proposal.
There will be some temporary beds designated in the interim, currently being evaluated. This initiative provides an excellent model of a public-private partnership, designed to improve the emotional and psychological health of our entire community… making Eagle County an exceptional place for everyone to realize their dreams of a wonderful future.
How do you say, Goodbye?
By Jacqueline Cartier
Vail Daily 10/23/17: http://www.vaildaily.com/opinion/cartier-how-do-you-say-goodbye-to-someone-who-sacrificed-so-much-column
Friends are often left speechless at a funeral because they know there is nothing they can say that will relieve the pain; all they can do is express condolences and be there for support. It is far more difficult for someone who does not personally know the family, to share their sorrow in a way that comes across as genuine.
This week, there has been controversy about what one says to a grieving widow, especially when you are not personally acquainted with the family. How do you awkwardly express condolences and sound sincere?
As Commander in Chief, the death of any soldier hits a President hard, yet, they won’t typically call the surviving families because it is difficult to express the depth of a nation’s sadness and appreciation of the ultimate sacrifice, that has been given by both the deceased, and their surviving families. Nothing said, will alleviate the grief of those left behind, so rather than risk their words being insufficient, most Presidents will send a letter instead. President Trump felt, that wasn’t enough.
A life has been extinguished, along with their dreams. Families plan wonderful futures together… it’s years in the making, filled with laughter, challenge, its share of disappointment, but also successes… and the plans, the many, many plans.
It’s a calling. “To whom much is given is much required” -Luke 12:48, and regardless of how little they have, they know that there are others with substantially less. People around the world are suffering, and there is a passion, almost a need to protect the vulnerable. There is danger certainly, but there is also gratitude… for their life, their country, their family, and a strong desire to make those things possible for others.
This sense of gratitude, combined with patriotism, has taken them to foreign lands. These are not the places you dreamed of together, filled with hot lattes, great food, warm beaches, incredible sights, and amazing new experiences. No, these areas are filled with gunfire, bombs, and pain, in places where many chant, “Kill the Americans”, while aiming straight at the love of your life.
You are told, not to worry, yet you worry when they leave the house without their jacket! You know they are driven to go; something deep inside has guided them to this point, and they have chosen to run towards danger, rather than away. They instinctively understand that if they don’t go, who will? Someone must sacrifice, so that the next generation won’t have to.
A military life has its rewards. It connects you to those you might otherwise never meet. The farmer teams up with the urban kid, the wealthy with the poor, techies with artists, leaders with beginners, people who might have never mingled together, becoming best friends over the common values of service, sacrifice, pride, and dedication, and are forever connected by mission, purpose, and newly established experiences.
This bond is rarely found elsewhere and is quite different than the one with loved ones, but equally important because these are people who have “got your six”; they’ll give their life for you and you are eternally grateful, even if they do snore at night and have weird eating or hygiene habits.
They train together, eat, sleep, and live within a few feet of each other, and soon discover the subtle ques of communication that you wished existed between you and your spouse (it would have saved many a Friday night). The more intense the experience, the closer the bond. How do you reconcile the fact that these distant strangers may become as important to your loved one as you are?
This week, Gen. John Kelly addressed a controversy over President Trump’s phone call to a fallen soldier’s widow. What was a heartfelt moment between the Commander in Chief and the family of a national hero, was inappropriately politicized.
The truth is that no words can ever possibly console a family member, on their loss. To have someone say that they were exactly where they wanted to be, with exactly the people they wanted to be with, when their life was taken, can seem harsh and insensitive, yet, also accurate. Their team had become family, too. If they couldn’t be back home, then living their last moments, fulfilling their passion, with people who cared so much for them that they’d have given their own lives in his place, was a choice they felt, worth the price.
We all grieve for the loss of this incredible soldier, whose selfless actions saved lives, even at the expense of his own. Myeshia Johnson, please accept our nation’s sincerest condolences at the loss of your amazing husband, Sgt. La David T. Johnson. May he rest in peace.
It’s time to focus on what unites us, not what divides us
By Jacqueline Cartier
Vail Daily 10/9/17: http://www.vaildaily.com/opinion/cartier-its-time-to-focus-on-what-unites-us-not-what-divides-us-column
The sports players partial kneel is considered by many to be disrespectful yet, the very act of kneeling is a greater symbol of reverence, as many churchgoers will attest… of course, that is not the intent. While the player’s objective may be moral, their actions appear misguided.
Home to nearly every race, religion, and nationality, America is a spectrum of diversity, thriving in the chaos of differences. This disparity is exemplified by individuals and our culturally unique states, all unified under the common values of our Constitution. What sets us apart from other countries, is the acceptance of our differences as a strength, not a weakness.
The current debate is driven by passion… we are not a passive group. Our ancestors instilled in us a vision to reach for the stars; nothing was impossible and they created the American Dream – the idea that we can accomplish anything.
Whether, settlers, natives, indentured servants, or slaves, the common link was envisioning a better life for future generations. They understood that America was not perfect; as anything newly built, it was a work in progress, and it would take time to realize this incredible experiment in governance.
Many pro-athletes have realized their ancestor’s aspirations; some having survived incredible conditions, to become the best at what they do. It is honorable that they would want an equally great future for others they consider disadvantaged. Yet, severe hardships are suffered by others, as well; no one is exempt from adversity. For some it is race, for others it is gender, physical disabilities, economic status, family circumstance, and many other challenges.
While our forefathers created an incredible landscape for success, we all don’t begin at the same place and some suffer more than others, but where we end up is largely influenced by our beliefs and determination to achieve. Some use these difficulties as an excuse for failure, while others use them as motivation for success.
It is not about where we are, but how far we’ve come, and where we are going. Discrimination is an ugly reality that has always existed and will continue, because humans view the world through the lens of their own experiences, and some of those, reinforce negative perceptions. That should not deter us from unifying as Americans and continuing our progress in achieving the ideal of, “all men (gals, too) are created equal”. The national anthem and our flag, are not just musical notes and pieces of cloth, but symbols of a dedication to increasing the equality of opportunity, in honor of those who came before us, and as a commitment to the work ahead.
Recent blowback on Civil War monuments highlight that we may never fully comprehend the customs and pressures of earlier times, as their challenges for survival were different; so, placing current expectations on historical events gives an inaccurate picture, as they did not have our benefit of hindsight.
As a country, we are still young and evolving. It takes the perseverance of a diverse nation to keep the dream of our forefathers alive. We are a country built on change, with a respect for those who paid the ultimate price. We must not diminish their sacrifice, while still acknowledging, we have a way to go.
If we ignore history, revise and erase events, take incidents out of context, we eliminate lessons learned and sacrifices made. Mistakes occurred because our founders were not godly idols, but people just like us, with all our human frailties. We must continue to strive towards our nation’s ideals.
If we focus on what divides us, we will never truly appreciate all that unites us. During the anthem, you’re not standing for the things you hate, you’re standing for those you love. As you honor this historic hymn, know that your ancestors would beam with pride at all that has been accomplished, and all that is yet to be, in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.
DACA… No Need to Panic
By Jacqueline Cartier
Vail Daily 9/18/17: http://www.vaildaily.com/opinion/cartier-no-need-to-panic-about-daca-column
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is by its very name, an action that was "deferred" by Congress; basically, doing what they do best, passing the buck.
It was deferred in 2012 and Trump is saying that after 5-years, defer no more, and passing it back to the hill, demanding that they arrive at a solution. He's giving them 6-months and placing a hold on further action until it is resolved - protecting the security of current DACA immigrants during this process. The truth is, that leaving millions of people in limbo about their future is downright cruel; it's time for Congress to do their job and create a permanent solution.
Obama put DACA in place to address concerns over the consequences of inaction, not because he supported illegal immigration. However, that deferment allowed Congress to ignore the issue until forced to handle it this week. It is a difficult and sensitive matter that no one wants to touch but Trump won't let them off the hook, and he is willing to take a heavy political hit to arrive at a resolution.
Contrary to partisan rhetoric, DACA is not a Republican issue. In fact, both Obama and Hillary were outspoken in their stance against illegal immigration, even as it related to children, but there is a logistic reality that must also be faced.
The United States is not going to deport millions of people, yet, we must have elements in place to legalize the process, just as there is in every other country, including Mexico, where you’ll be jailed if you remain in-country, unauthorized.
DACA requires application every 2-years, and while people assume that the acceptance and renewal is automatic, it is not. In fact, the ability to secure this exemption is quite subjective. According to an official Obama press release, “The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting requests for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals. Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion. Under this process, USCIS will consider requests on a case-by-case basis.” This level of uncertainty leaves entire families at-risk about their future. Yet, we must also consider, to what degree of certainty, should those who have broken the law, expect to be waived from its enforcement or prosecution?
All agree, that those who stay in violation of their visas, and particularly, those who arrived outside of border security, did so unlawfully; of that there is no dispute. So, should a person be exempt simply because they hid from law enforcement for an extended period and misrepresented their status to other family members (children)?
We all understand the reasons why so many across the globe, want to live in the United States. For all our faults, it is still the envy of the world and even its harshest critics, admire their ability to express those concerns in a country, without persecution. While we detest hate speech, we fight with our lives to protect a person’s right to exercise it. Recent events are a harsh reminder of that privilege. Yet, there are realities which we must face.
When dealing with the potential of deporting millions of people, the challenges to enforcement are immense. Just the cost of return transport alone, is unsustainable, but the real expense comes from due process. Everyone, not just citizens, are entitled to legal representation within our justice system. That many people in our courts would overwhelm the process and generate years of delays, costing millions of dollars, and given the potential outcome, render the law virtually ineffective.
Immigration laws have been ignored for decades, leaving new arrivals the impression that they can stay without consequence. Thus, as a nation, we must also accept some responsibility for the extent of the current situation. Responsibility comes at a cost.
This situation is too important (and potentially illegal) for it to be mandated by just one person in the Oval Office. It needs the debate and judgment of an entire Congress. Let's secure a permanent solution and move forward; millions of people are depending on it.
Obama & Hillary Anti-DACA Positions
The Journey from Health Insurance to Health Care
By Jacqueline Cartier
Vail Daily 7/14/17: http://www.vaildaily.com/opinion/vail-daily-column-the-journey-from-health-insurance-to-health-care
In the healthcare debate, while each side demonizes the other, Americans continue to suffer in its uncertainty. The debate occurring now, should have taken place in 2010, when Pelosi famously said, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy”. “Controversy” is code for debate, and there would have been plenty from both sides of the aisle.
Everyone pays for health care in one form or another. While, preconditions should be covered because as one leaves, another enrolls, equalizing coverage among all insurance companies, those with preconditions, soon discover that the most expensive procedures require a complicated approval process and once authorized, many of the costly prescriptions accompanying those procedures are exempted.
Insurance companies were concerned that they’d be responsible for payment on the disparity between cost of services and allocated amounts of Obamacare. Rather than sustain losses, they pulled out of the riskiest markets and raised prices to remain in others. Yet, are our expectations, unrealistic?
We have come to understand health insurance and health care as one in the same; they are not. Healthcare, relates to the quality and availability of medical treatment. Insurance is a method of payment.
Everyone agrees that the ill or injured should receive quality care; that is a different discussion than how it should be paid. The United States offers the greatest healthcare in the world. Leaders of other countries, including those with socialized medicine, come here for treatment. Healthcare is not the issue.
What we demand of health insurance has expanded beyond what is typically covered by other insurance policies, although, in a competitive market, companies have created incentives to attract policyholders. In auto insurance, we see offerings of replacement coverage versus traditional depreciated value. In home insurance, we see added riders included to entice customers. But, these are perks, only offered to the best clients – those without “preconditions”.
Insurance was originally designed to cover unanticipated, potentially devastating, emergencies. Both policyholders and insurance companies were hedging their bets, and establishing that balance, was a delicate process. No insurance policy was designed to cover everything. You may have the most comprehensive auto policy available, yet it will never include oil changes, brakes, or new tires, even though they are critical to the operation of the car; if it did, the premiums would be so expensive, no one could afford coverage. Sound familiar?
Homeowner insurance, covers the structure in unforeseen events, like a fire. Anything that might be considered predictable, requires a rider, like flood or earthquake insurance. None include heating/cooling, appliances, flooring, landscape, or general upkeep like paint. If you own a home, it is expected that you will absorb the cost of maintaining it.
Yet, we expect health insurance to be all-inclusive. That’s simply unrealistic and unsustainable.
Even a national socialized plan, has consequences. We’ve seen countries collapsing under the debt incurred, with heavy taxes curtailing economic growth, and people dying on waiting lists; which is why many travel to the U.S. for treatment.
How do we develop a system that is both compassionate and sustainable? Perhaps, we could have a basic plan (catastrophic insurance), covering accidents, plus terminal and degenerative diseases; with a selection of riders to include things like maternity coverage, wellness visits, substance abuse treatments, senior care, etc. then families can assemble a package according to their unique needs and budget. We might also consider bringing into the mainstream, riders that cover lower cost alternatives, like Homeopathic Medicine, or natural remedies.
If Congress would allow insurance companies to generate adaptable options, it could vastly reduce premiums, thus requiring less need for subsidies, and people could return to the doctors and treatments of their choice. Your health is personal; let’s eliminate strangers in Washington from controlling your family’s options.
Making colleges want to recruit you!
Glow Magazine Link to Summer 2017 Digital Version – Article on Page 47:
People forget that colleges are simply organizations… businesses that specialize in the preparation and certification of academic credentials, which implies a degree of knowledge. While we would like to think of schools as altruistic entities, there for the betterment of mankind, in reality, their objectives are similar to any other corporation; to make a profit. Their product is knowledge that is validated in research and publications, which converts into grants and other monetary compensation. The more successful the university is at producing innovative thought and converting those theories into practice, the greater its global recognition becomes, increasing both rankings and subsequent monetary gains.
As the university rankings increase, so does the desire of talented young people, who seek to work alongside these renowned leaders. They arrive on campus with huge government subsidies that increase dramatically every year. When managed properly, the university is a mega money-making machine, as is evidenced by many college’s huge endowments. So, what does that mean for your student?
Appeal: Most college counselors structure their strategy on the altruistic model… one where colleges are interested in accepting only the best students, yet that is not entirely accurate. After all, how many 4.0 GPA and perfect SAT scores, does Harvard reject every year? What are those students lacking, when a student of seemingly lesser qualifications, gains admission?
Unique Culture: We must also consider the personality of each university. Just as successful organizations each have a unique culture, so do colleges. J.P. Morgan has a very different culture than Google, as does UC Berkeley differ from Duke, therefore, making a successful match between student and college, go well beyond mere numbers and degree majors. Aside from the website focus and words used to describe programs, like “innovative” and “creative” verses “traditional” and “liberal arts”; one of the best places to determine a school’s culture is the cafeteria… just like high school.
Considerations: In seeking the best college, we must consider several factors:
Academic Specialty: is the college known for the student’s field of interest
Personality: are they driven by grades (Harvard) or easy going (Brown)
Learning style: an MIT or Carnegie-Mellon will be more hands-on (kinesthetic learner) than a St. Johns College or Georgetown, which are more philosophical in approach (auditory or visual learner). An ADD student might find greater success at a place like Colorado College or Cornell College, where students study only one subject at a time, allowing for a more concentrated focus
Geographic locale: does the student need to be nearby to continue a job or help with family obligations
Cost of attendance: a major consideration, although, listed last because it is the most variable. Many don’t realize that the offer is only the first step in the negotiating process, which revolves around incentive and money.
Finance: As the cost of tuition rises, so does the amount of debt that students and families incur as they try to position themselves in a highly competitive global market. Most would agree that a degree is not a guarantee of success, but it has become an essential part of the screening process, as the job market tightens. Whether the knowledge acquired is worth over $200,000 ($50k per year) compared to utilizing that money on an entrepreneurial venture or investment is debatable, but all would agree, that it plays a strong role on entry-level positions, professional accreditations, and global competitiveness. We must also consider that the college experience involves more than academics; it is a maturing process, a time for both intellectual and emotional transitioning into adulthood; an opportunity to be exposed to a wider range of cultures and ideas.
Scholarships are based upon university needs, necessarily that of the student, which is why qualifying factors extend beyond tax statements. Scholarships are usually specific to department specialty, or to cultural, religious, gender, heritage, or other area, in which the college requires greater representation.
Recognize that financial aid is negotiable in private institutions – public universities have many more regulations regarding the distribution of funds, due to discriminatory sensitivity. Private colleges are more adaptable to the specific needs of their school.
When you apply to a school, you are trying to sell them on your worth and suitability. Once they accept you, the dynamics shift and now they must impress you. Your acceptance package will include financial aid; think of this as their first offer. It is up to you to counter that offer, but it must be done with their, not your, interests in mind because you are asking them to invest a greater amount in you.
Need is not enough; you must instead, remind them of the value you bring to campus. Research additional avenues where your presence on campus would be an asset. For example, if they are beginning a new program, identify where you might be of help. Offer to organize student events; or expand college-community relations via charitable work, anything that highlights your leadership and willingness to contribute. You have value, you must simply match it to their needs.
Public vs Private: Public schools are less expensive but often have substantially less scholarship money than do private colleges. So, despite the school’s lower tuition, it often ends up costing more than many private schools. The reason is that there are very strict guidelines for money allocation. They must explain why they gave an extra $1000 to one student over another. Also, due to their size, there is much more competition for the limited scholarships offered. Yet, the chance of acceptance is considerably greater, as they must admit a larger percentage of in-state students.
Private colleges, have much more flexibility in admissions and financial aid, as they are directed to do what it takes to fulfil the institution’s needs (academic, sport, arts, race, religion, economic diversity, etc.) While, private colleges are generally known to be more selective, they are also more competitive, and are willing to negotiate for students. If there is a new soccer team, you can be assured that there will be many more scholarships available to soccer players, over the Valedictorians.
In determining a college’s needs, doing a Google search of the school, departments, professors, and alumni, will be the best investment you can make in your academic future. You will need this information to position yourself as someone they absolutely must have… and they will gladly pay you for the privilege.
Appeal: If a school has recently opened a new department, they will purposefully seek students to help support its development and success. Thus, a student with a strong interest in technology will have much greater resources and street cred at Cal-Tech, but a new department elsewhere, may offer more options and scholarship money, as they compete for the same students. For the student, the advantage of a new department, is a more personalized learning experience and access to greater opportunities due to direct contact to top professors in their field. It also opens to undergraduates, research opportunities that are generally reserved for select graduate students. All in all, there are distinct advantages in appealing to a college looking to establish themselves in a new field, and they are willing to pay you to help them achieve it.
So, prior to applying, match your student’s interest with money being invested by universities in that field and position yourself as an extension of that investment. Part of their department’s success lies in the achievements of its students. While, many meet the criteria for admission, few will actively work at ensuring their alma mater’s success.
Co-curriculars: Colleges need active, involved students to establish and maintain campus activities. Students live on campus, thus quality of life becomes an influencing factor. This is why co-curricular activities are so important to admissions. Most of what occurs outside the classroom is run by students and they want to know that you will contribute to the overall community and school reputation.
Essay: The student essay is the sales brochure. The focus is on how a student can fulfill the needs of the university, matching their talents to the school’s needs. It should highlight qualities that the university seeks, not necessarily what the student desires to develop. As a sales piece, think of the university and its inner voice questioning, “What’s in it for me?” then answer it.
Families: For some, college is a right-of-passage, which has been a family tradition. For others, attending college is an unanticipated dream… a reality for others, but not for themselves… an impossible expectation. For this student, college admission is truly an emotional as well as strategic dilemma. Yet, a college degree can make a tremendous difference in not only their lives, but that of their entire family, as well as future generations.
The college experience improves the quality of life for entire communities and often expands its reach onto the global plane, as the student engages in making the world a better place. Young people are our future and that future begins here.
The Joys and Challenges of Downsizing
By Jacqueline Cartier
Home Magazine Link to March 2017 Digital Version – Article on Page 56:
As the sun comes peeking through the wooden shutters, you begin to awaken. Comfortable in bed, you can almost hear the silence. This is the life! On your nightstand is the graduation photo of your youngest. Right before taking the picture, your son and daughter got into a heated argument about where everyone should stand, and if one couldn’t hear the dialog, you would swear that the stability of world peace was at stake. Both married, you are grateful that they did not kill each other during the apocalyptic battle of the xBox… yet, this is their expression of love; one that was repeated at every holiday and most Sunday mornings. Now, there is blissful silence. You glance at the clock and realize, it’s time to head off to the golf course, where the serenity of the greens is broken by the cursing of other couples enjoying their bliss.
You’ve arrived at a time in your life where the adventure of raising a family has transcended into the joys of becoming a couple again. This home you’ve created has memories in every corner, from that squeak on the third step of the stairway, to the front sprinkler that seems to hit everything but the grass, to the deer that gather near the pond and the hilarious image of your spouse chasing them across the yard, away from the prized garden. Yes, this is the life you always dreamed of and are now able to reflect upon the grandeur of it all.
The house grew along with the kids, into the perfect size; a bedroom for each child; a guest suite for visitors; a den for video games with an HDTV so real, you can smell the sweat of the football players; an extra room with a desk (you’d be under threat of extinction if you dared to call it an office); a formal dining room, which served as a boxing arena, but with nice linens, during Thanksgiving meals; the living room, large but cozy with a huge fireplace, reminiscent of Rockwell; tons of books lined up against the wall like literary soldiers; and your favorite room in the house, the Master Suite, with that wonderful handmade bed you had to have, at a cost equivalent to an Italian sports car, and let’s not forget the bathrooms, one in each room yet somehow not enough! Yes, this is home, an elegant and comfy statement to your success… and you can’t wait to get rid of it!
You now dream of that cute little condo in town, and the ability to do all those things you always talked about… spending 6-months in Paris, writing that book, becoming the world’s best skier, discovering what the heck a Snowbird is, going on that photographic safari, trying those recipes you read in cookbooks like fiction before ordering take-out; skydiving because jumping out of a plane is much more tolerable than sitting in one. This house will pay for it all and as far as you are concerned, let the party begin!
The Realtor suggests you update the house with a new kitchen, because the imported tile and handcrafted woodwork is not as appealing as IKEA. Fine, you will update, and despite your hesitation, the house looks fantastic. It’s finally ready to sell and your spouse says, no. What?
This highly anticipated transition, has now erupted into a suburban paramilitary operation against listing, with bombshell excuses everywhere. We can’t sell now because it’s ski season, our favorite time of year; the kids will be home for the holidays; it’s mud season, no one will buy now; we should wait until summer when the garden is in bloom; but, we’ll be gone all summer, we won’t be around to close the deal; Fall is when prices are lowest; the dog’s in heat, we couldn’t possibly move now! Never have you seen your spouse in such creative form. Our dream is waiting and the love of your life is stalling, why?
What is behind this trauma? After all, tiny homes are the new rage and how many rooms do you need anyway? If you plan it right, the kids will not be moving back, and you can discourage it by letting them know that their new room will be a tent on the balcony. But, what if we get rid of the house and they never come home?
The idea of change, even when it’s for the better, is often challenging. Our logic may tell us one thing but sometimes our heart disagrees. The reasons for much of this conflict is in what we associate with those 4-walls; what does that home represent to you?
Often the resistance comes from imagining the pain of loss as greater than any potential gain. It helps to understand the underlying motivations and seeking replacements for those concerns to minimize the feelings of loss, whether that be the loss of a home or the loss of an anticipated new life.
For those who are resistant to downsizing, some of the reasons may include…
*Memories: you’ve associated happiness with aspects of the house. It often begins with, “Remember when we…”. Having those physical reminders nearby, helps to keep those tender moments alive.
*Teamwork: You expanded the house together, as each item acquired or room designed was a family endeavor. That special wood on the banister took years to find and the kids consider it their favorite slide.
*Accomplishment: You finally have the house you always dreamed of. All your friends love it. There’s an element of “You’ve Arrived” in coming home that means more than just entering the front door.
*Family-central: While the kids are grown and gone, you still want them to feel that home will always be there for them. You don’t want them to feel like visitors when they are with you. What if they don’t return because they don’t feel at-home? You’re not ready to say good-bye.
*History: You want the family to retain a sense of presence, as they show their little ones, that this is where they learned to ride a bike, or that backyard swing set, your dad built in the middle of a rain storm for your birthday.
*Lifestyle: Each item in your house is uniquely selected and together, create this collage of experiences that become central to your daily life. You never want to give up gardening; once you discovered that plants were no longer given their last rights when you selected them, you developed a passion. That collection of tools in the garage. inherited from your dad, reminds you of the hours spent fixing up that old car, which helped you pick up that special someone, who left you in amazement when they said, I do. Can you really duplicate this life elsewhere?
Yet, there are compelling reasons to begin a new adventure.
*Time: After years of raising a family, you can now focus on being a couple again, and part of that transition is relieving yourself of the responsibilities that take your attention elsewhere, like maintaining a huge house.
*Location: Often the house is located in areas that are child-friendly, like the suburbs. However, now your priorities shift from good schools to the nearest great restaurant. Frequently, downsizing also means a change in lifestyle, from family-centered activities, to the convenience of a more urban environment. Walking to the theater, grabbing a quick bite to eat, meeting new friends that don’t center around children’s activities, and not having to drive everywhere becomes incredibly freeing. A new life is more easily achieved in a new environment.
*Passing the torch: Spending time with adult children is more interesting when you can visit their homes and experience their day-to-day lives, meeting their friends, seeing where they work, visiting their children’s schools, allowing them the opportunity to create their own “family-central”. It’s a different connection to your kids that makes them feel special in an entirely new way.
*Money: There is frequently more money available with the sale of a house, to travel; buy that special something you kept delaying; engage in a hobby you’ve always had an interest in, but never the time or capital; spoil yourself with spontaneity; play more golf or take up a new sport… the extra money has now transformed from a septic tank into total freedom!
Steps to making the transition, without a homicide involved:
*Begin living the life you are planning, even before selling the house. It’s easier to let go of one thing when you are actively engaged in enjoying the other.
*List the things you love about your house besides its size. You’ll discover that many of those qualities can be duplicated in a smaller place. You may find that a patio garden is much easier to maintain and right outside your window, to enjoy. The home office may give way to shared office space, providing you with even greater business amenities and none of the maintenance – free WiFi, a conference room, multimedia equipment, a new business group to work with… and all of it within walking distance.
*Many condos have guest apartments that can be rented for visitors, allowing added space and privacy. Now, you can invite everyone and actually enjoy their visit!
*You are still able to keep those special mementos but no longer need the walls that you attached to them.
*Realize that it may take your mate a bit longer to make the transition. Don’t take it personally, just understand that a major change, such as this, encompasses more than simply a change of residence.
*Whether you stay or move, you are now free to get reacquainted with the person you loved, before your other loved ones arrived. It’s like being 20 again but without the futon.
For both, remember, it’s only a house. You are the most important element of your family. That house was only a collection of “brick & mortar” before you moved in. It was your energy and personality that brought it to life. Your children were grateful to have you, and their best memories will not be of that imported bathroom faucet. Oftentimes, so much of one’s life is spent on building a career and raising a family that couples can easily forget what they truly loved and enjoyed about each other. Too often, during those busy years, conversations center around functional areas… school schedules, dentist appointments, car pools, team sports, etc. Whether it is in that big beautiful house or a trendy new loft, it is now your time, go live it!
Husband, meet Wife - Wife meet Husband… welcome to your new life!
Common Core Opens the Door to School Choice
By Jacqueline Cartier
The Hill 2/5/15: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/education/231762-common-core-opens-the-door-to-school-choice
According to the National Governor’s Association, on “June 1, 2012, 48 states and territories, the District of Columbia, and all of the Department of Defense schools that serve the children of U.S. service men and women around the world, had formally adopted the (Common Core State Standards) CCSS”. With the United States’ academic ranking continuing to fall further behind other nations, and the rise of global economic factors, it has become increasingly important to make sure our youth are prepared to enter a highly competitive workforce. As a nation, we must first address the disparity between states regarding educational achievement. This was an idea, whose time had come, but as in every great idea, its success lies in the details; and the implementation of Common Core has become problematic on multiple levels across the country. The unintended consequences of common core testing became evident as issues arose regarding cultural, economic, geographic, and even political differences. Teachers who were highly supportive because of the potential for nationwide networking of teaching materials and strategies; became increasingly concerned of being held accountable for potential factors effecting outcomes that would extend beyond their range of influence. The structure of the testing also needed to be politically and culturally neutral; not easily achieved with such a diverse demographic. As a result, Common Core is in jeopardy; yet, there is an answer.
Both Common Core and School Choice are about providing America’s children with the best, most appropriate education available, regardless of income, in preparation for a career within a global economy. Without national standards, there is little available for the evaluation of graduates other than an SAT, which many countries discount because it is simply one 4-hour test, not really an in-depth evaluation of skills. Many foreign universities will only accept an International Baccalaureate or the Advanced Placement International Diploma because of its consistency in the evaluation of a student’s abilities. The UK has their A-Level exams and other countries have similar requirements at varying stages of schooling. Given our nation’s geographic and cultural diversity, it becomes even more important to provide a national standard, which evaluates the basic skills of all students on an equal plane. This is not a political issue, it is a global reality.
Everyone wants their child to be well educated. Parents want their children to reach their potential, regardless of learning challenges, and want the opportunity to place their child in the most beneficial environment for their education, regardless of learning differences. We want higher academic levels to be offered; teacher accountability; appropriate teaching methods implemented to address learning styles, within a suitable environment for their particular child; in addition, parents want a voice in what is taught and how the curriculum is implemented. The combination of Common Core and School Choice can answer these challenges.
Common Core has the worthy goal of establishing a minimal standard of education for America’s children. A global economy demands national proficiency, if our youth are to succeed. In addition, a child should not be at a disadvantage moving from state to state, or even neighborhood to neighborhood, because of differences in the level of academics offered. While fiscal budgets vary among districts, thus effecting facility structures and optional programs offered; there should be consistency in the level of academics available, with a focus on a common core of skills. However, each state and even districts within those states have their own unique needs, and they may differ considerably. A child attending school in a rural environment may require a different skillset than one from an urban environment, which extends beyond simply preparing for college admittance. Those needs are best identified and met by local communities. We must respect those differences while fully supporting minimal standards of education, as it is unacceptable for a student to graduate from high school with an inability to read or with other core deficiencies, but it must be structured to local needs with the ability to adapt to student learning differences, a key incentive for school choice. Children have different talents and those are best supported within targeted academic structures, whether it is in the arts, sciences, sports, or the humanities. The skills developed remain constant, but the framework within that development adapts those skills to the individual child’s interests and abilities. Those unique differences are not always possible in the local school environment. The parent’s ability to choose what works best for their child and family is often crucial to achieving academic success.
School Choice offers a variety of educational options, which are tailored to specific interests or styles of teaching. Accountability is foremost, as the schools tend to be smaller with greater community involvement and often, more diverse, as students from all areas of the community, attend. Students generally perform better due to smaller classroom sizes and targeted focus. For some students, it offers a safer environment, which creates a motivational framework for achievement. Teachers enjoy the freedom to explore new methods of teaching, which complement the focus of their particular school. While all students benefit from a tailored academic environment, those with in higher income brackets automatically have a “choice” option; the true beneficiaries of “School Choice” are those of lower and middle incomes, who suffer most from attending under-achieving schools; and with fewer resources available for remedial or supplemental education to meet increased global demands, thus limiting their future potential.
For successful implementation of common academic standards across the country, it is essential to offer innovative academic and evaluation options, which allow parents and local communities the ability to create appropriate curriculum to meet standards while adapting to each child’s individual learning style, ability, and interest. While traditional educational environments offer many options, some students require a more specialized approach in order to excel. With more varied options, teachers are less stressed, as they can adapt their instructional model to an area of interest, which supports student and community expectations, and which extends beyond national or statewide statistics. The common core skillset can be implemented in more creative ways and often within smaller academic environments, making it a more interactive and motivational experience for both student and teacher.
While the skills tested must be consistent, the content and implementation of national testing should be approved by individual states because the structure of questions affect interpretation, thus results, and that interpretation may differ by a child’s environment. Much like IQ tests were challenged because of environmental, cultural, and social differences, so must the construction of evaluation materials for the academic testing of our nation’s children. We are a “melting pot” of cultures, which has always been our strength but which also differentiates us from most other countries, thus creating evaluation challenges due to those differences. Yet, it does offer a unique set of challenges, as we attempt to quantify student outcomes, in preparation for the challenges of a global economy with skills that are universal.
Common Core cannot be successfully implemented without School Choice and both are essential to the improvement of our educational system. National examinations must be unbiased and skills-based, eliminating any controversial elements or political inferences, in either the questioning or the structure. The materials used to teach these skills must include flexibility for state requirements and local demand, with an evaluation model that compliments student differences; for example, mastery might be demonstrated in several ways, adapting to visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning styles; adjusting the evaluation method should in no way diminishes the content or expectations; the acquired skills must be demonstrated. Education encompasses a wide range of topics and experiences, which can surround the learning of essential skills. We can maintain national standards while developing individual talents.
The idea of a common core of skills has been with us for quite some time. In fact, when the United States lead the world in academics, the national standard was developed by private publishing companies. In the 1950-1960s, nearly every child across the country learned reading skills through “Fun with Dick and Jane”. It included workbooks and related materials. There was uniform testing from the publisher and the teaching structure and schedule of activities was similar across the country. Later, it was determined that the storyline of Dick and Jane did not take into account sufficient cultural or regional differences, thus making it more challenging for some to connect, yet, it was still exceptional in developing core reading skills. The point being that, we have had successful national standards in the past, and while our desire to include cultural and regional differences is admirable, we must not allow it to diminish the quality of the material presented. As the most innovative country in the world, we should be able to do both. We cannot allow exceptions for political correctness or feel-good policies, because the rest of the world certainly will not.
Students win when choice is paired with core skills. Teachers win when their work is recognized by national measures and valued by local communities. Parents win, as they become active stakeholders in the entire process, secure in the knowledge that their children are prepared to enter a globally competitive environment. States win as their achievement levels rise, and the nation wins, as an educated populous is great for the economy and a strong economy is essential for our nation’s progress and security.
The 10 Easiest Ways to Get Legislation Passed
How to win over the opposition in any area of your life
By Jacqueline Cartier
The Hill 1/15/15: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/uncategorized/229541-10-ways-to-get-legislation-passed
As we begin a new congressional session, there is increased pressure to eliminate the gridlock that has become the norm over the past several terms. While there are still major differences in how to best move this country forward, all agree that America’s formula for success and leadership are unequaled anywhere in the world: a place where innovation and accomplishment are only limited by the will and determination of its people. Our unique differences are our greatest strength and this country’s most illustrious history is yet to be written! This congress will set the pace for success in all of our national and global challenges.
In that process, it is critical that we maintain mutual respect amongst the leadership. Much of this emanates from how we express and communicate our ideals, and the respect with which we structure critical legislation.
There is a science to communications, which has a neurobiological base; and it focuses on the interpretation of the message by the recipient, and not the intent of the sender. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. Before we can gain support for an issue, we must first present it in a manner best understood by its target audience. The greatest chance for passage of controversial legislation occurs when all sides feel that their concerns are being addressed. Some worry that bipartisan legislation weakens their position; in reality, it is strengthened by adding relevant dimension, which secures wider support by reducing friction, and establishes leadership abilities across the aisle, providing greater influence for future proposals, while maintaining the base.
Here are some methods for achieving success in securing approval by the opposition. While its strategy allows for respectful consideration of everyone’s views, which may ultimately lead to true bipartisan solutions, establishing a foundation of inclusion. When we open ourselves up to new solutions, we enable the possibility of creative and innovative results. Given the status of our national economy and the instability of world affairs, it is imperative that we consider flexible solutions, which adapt to changing circumstance. These ideas will provide a framework for that flexibility.
Focus on common concerns and eliminate reference to party or sponsor
When addressing differences between positions, it is important focus on common concerns and eliminate reference to party or sponsor, as it is likely that the opposition had once supported the issue and may feel obligated or become defensive, of a position they no longer hold.
Include the most significant aspects of the opposing party’s position
In order to generate support across party lines, the benefits of each bill must include elements of each party's position. The areas, which cannot be included without significantly affecting the integrity of the bill, must still be acknowledged by incorporating the opposition’s language within the solution. The author is then able to guide the opposition towards the proposed solution with minimal conflict, as it also provides “political cover” on controversial issues. Agreement is easier to achieve when both parties feel that all perspectives have been respected.
Include targeted descriptive words in your proposals
Certain words and phrases have an innate emotional connection to each party. In bonding with Republicans, we discover that using motivational words such as, patriot, constitution, or freedom, will spark their interest. For Democrats, words like progressive, equality, entitlement, or intellectual, create a comfort zone, and generate trust when seeking their support. Remember, “Facts provide information; emotions provide interpretation”. –Roger Ailes
Understand your audience
The language of each targeted demographic is uniquely designed to create a bond to the information; a rural speech might vastly differ from one delivered to an urban audience, on the same topic. Uniquely tailoring a message for ultimate approval, includes other considerations, like age (college, career, retired), culture, region, predominant industry, etc; each with their own unique “language” and concerns. And of course, your attire should match that of the audience and venue for connection and congruency. While are all aware of these differences, few actually adapt their proposals to address these varying needs.
When addressing controversial issues, use pre-programmed phrases
Using key buzzwords and talking points will generate a specific “pre-programmed” emotional response to the issue, as one’s brain fills in the blanks with whatever impression those particular phrases elicit, even though the actual position may be counter to their original stance. Identifying those sets of words, can often make the difference between passage and not. Targeted wording, triggers an emotional response, which creates the motivation for specific action… in this case, support for a bill. It also makes all constituents feel included in the process, as they incorporate your proposal with their established position.
Don’t just focus on the technical details and numbers of proposed legislation; generate emotion by highlighting the results of its implementation. The bottom line of any legislation is, “What’s in it for me?” If you can connect those answers with a deep emotional need, you will secure passage for any proposed resolution.
For maximum effect, all senses must be included in messaging
While targeted language is of prime consideration, subliminal messaging strategies involve all other senses. The use of body language, gestures, tonality, cadence, even one’s clothing, will convey a subconscious message, and it all affects potential acceptance. By aligning with the audience, we create congruency and credibility, thus influence towards favorable results.
When feasible, make the presentation multidimensional
Much has been said about learning styles in education; yet, those same influences are present in any situation involving the interpretation of new material, i.e. legislation. The strength of incorporating multiple learning styles in the presentation of information increases the understanding and retention rate, as well as potential acceptance. Including visual, auditory, and kinesthetic approaches to the presentation, will increase its likelihood of passage.
In public presentations, be aware of surrounding elements and set the stage
Background sounds, colors, temperature, lighting, scents, all create a subconscious impression, which will be connected to your material; you want it to be a positive association. If you are able to set the stage for presentations, study the effect of certain colors on your desired response; for example, red inspires action, while blue is comforting, etc. Perhaps subtle background music might inspire a desired emotion. Even selling freshly baked cookies near the podium, provides a familiar scent, which has reassuring associations. Should the lighting be warm to provide reassurance or bright to generate excitement? Approach presentations with the precision of a Hollywood producer, as it is most likely will be captured on TV or YouTube.
Inspire your audience
Whenever possible, reminders that we are all Americans, with similar hopes and dreams for our families and communities, will always be well received. “The American Dream” inspires a collective sense of patriotism and hope. Incorporating motivational phrases and historical references, around the technical jargon of legislation, inspires action. People may not understand the details of a particular policy, but they certainly understand how it makes them feel. We remember Reagan and Kennedy, not so much for their legislation, but for how they inspired us as Americans.
These strategies create a bond, which opens the opposition to new possibilities, as they are guided towards your desired result. Everyone loves a win-win scenario and you can create it!
Nukes are so 80s
By Jacqueline Cartier
The Hill: http://TheHill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/defense/222478-nukes-are-so-80s
Remember the good old days, when all we had to worry about was nuclear Armageddon from the Russians? Now for Act II in world destruction, enter, Ebola. Visions of human extinction abound, worthy of an epic Hollywood drama. Yet, is there merit in those fears?
In truth, the fear of Ebola is not specifically about Ebola but rather, a fear of that which is uncontrollable, resulting in a potential rapid death sentence, with little ability to preemptively detect the threat or once encountered, limited resources to combat it.
Some ask, why so much attention to Ebola when other tragic diseases like Cancer, take many more lives. One answer is that the newest version of Armageddon is biological warfare; and while there is no indication that the current spread is attributable to terrorist activities, scientists remind us of the probability of mutations as it travels the globe and adapts to varying environments, thus making it more unpredictable and resistant to treatment. Those who were comforted by taking their shoes off at the airport to combat terrorism are now in panic at our vulnerability to an invisible agent that rapidly kills, and for which we are not adequately prepared. Suddenly, those talks of chemical and biological weapons become more than just fictional movie plots or frightening scenarios in dictatorial countries.
All of this, reminds us of our limitations and vulnerabilities, which is scary. As the “greatest nation on Earth” we are unaccustomed to living in fear. Yet, there is a genuine weakness within segments of our infrastructure which can be easily exploited. Who needs nuclear weapons, when such massive destruction can be achieved quite easily with the proper combination of chemical or biological substances? As militant forces secure government facilities within unstable regimes, the use of these agents becomes even greater and more dangerous, with the potential of creating global uncertainty and instability, thus a stronger power base for terrorists. The international community understands that it is in their best interest to contain these elements, as it can quickly expand beyond national borders and threaten regions and continents in a matter of weeks. If we do nothing to contain the spread of Ebola because we think that it might send a message of insensitivity, then we deserve what we get. Biological entities do not discriminate; they will attack any compatible host without prejudice.
Ebola aside, biological and chemical sources are a weapon of choice for those who are unable to attain or control nuclear weapons. They are more readily available, easier to transport with minimal detection, can be “detonated” anywhere, are relatively economical, highly efficient in producing massive casualties, and deadlier on a greater scale due to proliferation and even a potential afterlife from genetic mutations – basically, a terrorists dream. The possibility of attack and exposure of weaknesses in our infrastructure, make us susceptible to those who may not have access to nuclear weapons, but who are committed to massive causalities. That unpredictability creates widespread fear - terror, and the real purpose of terror is not necessarily in the act, but in its anticipation.
In the field of mass destruction, nukes are so 80s. Just as in the famous movie of that era, War Games, we discover that, “The only winning move is not to play”; a strategy adhered to by both super-powers. After all, what fun is there in destroying the enemy if you are not around to enjoy the spoils of victory? In this deadly game of global warfare, nukes have simply become inconvenient and no longer necessary. Now that mass destruction is readily available to any nut-case with a machete, we are jolted out of our sense of security and into the nightmare that has become the Middle East, and is spreading. Oh, how we long for the days of Duran-Duran, Culture Club, and the improbable threat of “thermonuclear war”.
According to Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, “There is little that individuals can do in advance to protect themselves from a bioterrorist attack. However, there is much that government agencies, health care institutions, and public health departments can and should be doing to improve the capacity to protect the public following a bioterrorist attack. Medical institutions and public health agencies, in particular, have not received adequate attention and resources to cope with disasters like bioterrorism.”
While nuclear weapons remain a threat, they are somewhat contained. These other sources are equally dangerous, but many are controlled by ruthless dictators who have delusions of grandeur and few moral constraints. Unstable governments are at risk of take-over by whoever is the terror group du-jour. Often these militias have been supported either directly or indirectly by corrupt government or military leaders who quickly realize that they have lost control of these unofficial forces and have given rise to the very terrorist elements they feared. They have ever so swiftly moved from hunter to prey. The new hunters are also quite adept at their preferred recruitment tool, social media, which rivals the proficiency of Madison Avenue. They take the imagination and hearts of those in dire circumstances and promise them a greater paradise if only they would (fill in the blank). Sadly, there are many takers, even at the risk to themselves and their families. It is not hard to imagine that someone who would strap a bomb on their body would also be willing to strap onto or into themselves a deadly biological or airborne chemical agent. It’s even harder when the face of that terrorist is a young person whose eyes were once filled with hopes and dreams for a beautiful future. These new players on the field of regional and global transition are highly unpredictable and not directly affiliated with any specific country, thus sanctions and official declarations of war are virtually ineffective. America and the United Nations, can express outrage and threaten, but this highly mobile, well-funded new enemy is like a cockroach that moves quickly in the dark and outlives many of its enemies. It also adapts its appearance to fit the changing demographic. Almost chameleon in that, while the environment changes, the objective remains the same, and it can look like your next door neighbor.
Much of this describes terrorism of all sorts, but we must understand that attacks may come in varying forms and we must be prepared. While the massive spread of Ebola is very real in its country of origin; the United States actually has a much greater ability to contain and treat it. However, this situation serves as a wakeup call to the effects of a potential biological or chemical attack and we must become ever vigilant, because the comfort of Cold War mushroom clouds have now been replaced. Yes, nukes are so 80s and we may soon be wishing for the good old days.
Does it take a war to earn a Nobel Peace Prize?
By Jacqueline Cartier
The Hill: http://TheHill.com/blogs/Congress-blog/foreign-policy/219226-does-it-take-a-war-to-earn-a-nobel-peace-prize
The Vail Daily: http://www.vaildaily.com/opinion/editorials/13276717-113/peace-cartier-president-war
In 2009 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to President Barack Obama for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples". Considering that the newly elected President had had little opportunity to live up to that claim, particularly in comparison to others in consideration, some might say that it was the Nobel Committee’s attempt at influencing U.S. foreign policy, by putting the new President in charge of world “Peace”. It would certainly run counter to an existing war in the Middle East. If this was the strategy, it has certainly run into some complications.
Foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, is no place for the inexperienced; the challenge and complexity requires a high level of expertise which must extend beyond the theoretical. Just as someone can become an expert on swimming by reading every book written, they are not an actual swimmer until they hit the water. President Obama had not even had a chance to suit up. Yet, the pressure to make peace around the world was immense and his ego was prime, as he engaged on his “apology” tour of the Middle East, vowing to withdraw troops and close Guantanamo. Then came time to suit up, and the suit just didn’t fit. The rhetoric promoted during the campaign did not fit the scenario of world events. While his intentions were honorable, they were a bit naïve. Theory does not always match reality in the field. We assume that we can communicate in the language of peace, but not all are receptive. For some, understanding only comes when their selected language of violence, is thrust back at them; when the stakes become too high to continue engagement.
The international theater includes some rather sinister characters that prey on innocent victims, to inflate their power and domination. Exerting this control requires expanded financial and territorial resources, which will be acquired at any cost. Do not mistake this aggression for a religious or cultural difference; it is pure greed which is not subject to negotiation. The result, we are still engaged in a war and Guantanamo remains open.
While it is true that we have plenty of our own challenges and shortcomings, our greatest strength is in the ideals we value of freedom and human dignity. There is a reason why we have a problem with immigration and not emigration. Although, we sometimes tire of the responsibility, we uphold the belief that, "from the one who has been entrusted with much; much more will be asked". Like it or not, we have assumed this job; not to be the world’s policemen, but rather to be the world’s hope. Although, we have limitations on what we are able to do for others and thus, cannot combat heinous acts everywhere, we can do something somewhere, and consider it a moral obligation to respond. It is often a thankless job which tends to go unappreciated by those who resent the fact that they couldn’t do it for themselves; and it sometimes involves helping the lesser of two evils but that is simply a reality of life.
Malevolence has banged on the door of decency and we are expected to answer. It is time to suit up and defeat those who seek to destroy all that the world holds as good and honorable. Whether secular or religious, what the world now faces is a true battle of good versus evil. No imaginary ‘red lines’ or ‘strongly worded messages’ will suffice. It has taken six years for President Obama to come to this realization, but he is finally ready to start swimming in the unfriendly waters of tactical diplomacy, which adapts theory and strategy to the current environment and resources. This is not a mission we can lead from behind. It is time to send a message to those who would behead, torture, rape, and murder innocents, that their days are numbered. ISIS must be destroyed and since they will accept nothing less, we are here to oblige. Inasmuch as we would like to handle this virtually, as if in a video game with drones, it will unfortunately require blood and sacrifice, i.e. war. Sometimes it takes a war to earn peace.
How to win an election with a 9% approval rating
By Jacqueline Cartier
(Adapted from "Death of Party Politics")
Quit. Quit touting party line rhetoric. Quit making excuses for congressional dysfunction. Quit name calling and personal attacks. Quit blaming others and start accepting responsibility.
Remember. Remember that you represent everyone and not just those within your party; your decisions have national and global impact. Remember that the Constitution was a collection of varied ideas brought together by consensus over the common goal of creating the greatest country in the world. Remember that you work for the people, not the other way around. Remember that communicating is not the same as connecting.
With the lowest congressional approval rating in history, 9% according to November’s Gallup, neither party has much to brag about. No Democrat wants to admit to supporting Obamacare. No Republican wants to admit that closing the government made absolutely no difference. In fact, the new trend is to eliminate any reference to party affiliation. The New Jersey’s governor’s race was a prime example. Neither candidate mentioned the D or R word in their material.
We hear that nothing can get done with the opposing party in control, but neither party is the underdog. Democrats control the White House and the Senate. Republicans control the House and 30 of 50 states. According to an 11/26/12 Gallop poll, the difference between the parties during the last election was only 2%, (Republicans 29%, Democrats 31%). The largest representation was Independents at 37%. This huge increase in unaffiliated voters is further proof of America’s disillusionment with party politics. You will not get their attention with talking points or platform responses; they expect results.
Vague theory will give way to specific remedies, particularly in states dominated by the opposing party. The D and R words may get you expelled from the game. Many are opting for the “Independent” label, which doesn’t run blue or red, but are comfortably in the Purple zone. Even if a candidate won every vote within their party, it would still not be enough to secure an election without the Independents.
Political platforms are simply a collection of common values, ideas, and objectives, and if you can incorporate those principles with viable solutions, you will establish your position as a leader, carrying on the most treasured aspects of your party’s legacy.
Do not demonize the opposition. If your party is in the minority, it is likely that you must influence those that voted for the ones you are criticizing. Be flexible and inclusive. Align yourself by focusing on mutual concerns and joint solutions.
On extremism, the most vocal may not represent the majority of your party. Sometimes passions are incited by unsubstantiated social media sources or by commentary that is used to fill a 24-hour news cycle. A candidate must understand that while the information received may be flawed, the emotions generated are real and must be handled with respect and sensitivity.
A candidate’s toughest challenge may be the voter’s unrealistic expectations and demand for immediate gratification. Often, legislation enacted now, may not produce benefits for a decade or longer. With the frequency of congressional races, incumbents are pressured to return with a bag of federal goodies, which are considered “pork” when disbursed elsewhere.
Another strong influence in the legislative process is the need to raise $1M every 2-years to retain a congressional seat. How much of your soul must you sell to raise that amount in your spare time? What do donors expect in return? Between private, corporate, and party demands (all considered “special interest” groups, even the grassroots variety), there is often little room to properly evaluate legislation that builds upon common ground and meets the needs of all Americans, thus causing political gridlock from both sides.
The very things we demand of our legislators are the same ones that create an impossible environment for governing. The ability to pass on a better America than we inherited is quickly diminishing. Before condemning those in Congress, we must accept responsibility for our part in this legislative dysfunction.
With pressure to spend less time in Washington, legislators find it difficult to establish bonds with colleagues, making it easier to vilify the opposition. Distrust becomes the default position among these powerful strangers. To further complicate the situation, loyalties are questioned when an innocent photo emerges with an opposing colleague. The areas of greatest concern are a result of our own idealistic but flawed demands. We say we want Washington outsiders, but in reality we cannot run the greatest country in the world with well-intentioned amateurs.
Leadership is a collaborative process and America’s greatest strength is our diversity. We must be open to other’s ideas because combined they may provide unprecedented solutions that can insure the American Dream for future generations. We proudly call that collaboration, democracy.
The Death of Party Politics
By Jacqueline Cartier
November 13, 2013
Given recent congressional approval ratings, incumbents and candidates have found it better to eliminate any reference to party affiliation in their campaigns. Their response is a reflection of recent polls such as the Washington Post/ABC poll 10/25/13 which has Congress at the lowest approval rating in history: 12% approve, 85% disapprove. People are tired of political rhetoric and partisan gridlock.
The disillusionment of the American people hit new heights, when those who opposed President Bush’s “War on Terror” only to discover that the NY attack created financial scenarios that would lead to fiscal disaster, years later. In 2008, opponents decided to elect the anti-Bush, and what they got surprised even them! He would become a historic President on many fronts, with some considering him to be the most radical POTUS in U.S. history. “Fundamental Change” and “Wealth Redistribution” were set to become his legacy and it was particularly appealing to those hit hardest by the recession. But what would be the long-term impact of those policies? Are these merely adaptations, necessary to accommodate modern development, or alterations to the foundation of our country? Would these policies lead us to the same failed status as that of the many European countries in which they were fashioned? Those unimpressed with the historic nature of his presidency could see the compounded influence his policies would make on the fundamental structure of our nation. Often accused of racism for challenging the President on his policies, many conservatives objected to the radical changes that were being implemented, and concern arose over the impact to America’s cultural foundation and economic base.
Conservatives became wary of this young President’s inexperience and promotion of his “change you can believe in” policies, as they saw the economy tank and our nation incurring record breaking debt, well beyond cyclical expectations. Suddenly, the secrecy in which this president operated, some say out of caution and/or desire for personal privacy, became suspect and conspiracy theories began running rampant. Instead of explanations, the nation received motivational platitudes that resulted in continued fiscal chaos. Add to that, the increase in global unrest, and a novice Commander-in-Chief who seemed to make matters worse with every international encounter. The economy was in a free-fall, our allies abroad were mishandled and appearing to seek alliances elsewhere, Americans abroad were in peril, and a new social agenda was in the works. All within this administration’s first term. Something needed to be done.
Meet the rise of the Libertarian and Tea Party movements. Libertarians, a fiscally-focused group, expressed appropriate outrage at what appeared to be irresponsible fiscal decisions, legislative incompetence, and a total disregard for proven economic policy. Since a country is only as strong and secure as its economic base, this imbalance created a genuine threat to our entire way of life. Add to that, the “social” changes being proposed and legislated. These included areas that have been traditionally handled by the states or individual entities, to accommodate local needs and priorities. Suddenly, there appeared to be government attacks on religion (Christians, in particular) which included a limitation on the celebration of holidays, spiritual practices, a redefinition of marriage, an imposition of abortion mandates in religious hospitals, even a mandate for sex education in public schools for children as young as kindergarten age. Other “social” changes being proposed and implemented by this administration included extensive gun control legislation; the establishment of a “common core” curriculum which did not take into account local or regional considerations and required a teaching-to-the-test mandate that often included revisionist history and anti-conservative agendas; plus the highly controversial Obamacare that incorporated the new “must be passed to find out what’s in it” approach to legislation. Although it may not have been the intention, these issues appeared to attack the very fabric of our society and governance; one of individual rights and freedom.
To counter what was quickly becoming a socialized view of America via this administration’s focus on the “redistribution of wealth”, the Tea Party was born; expressing a return to the traditional values and constitutional obligations as outlined by the Founding Fathers, sprinkled with the patriotism exhibited on September 12th, 2001. While it is true that the definition of certain policies must adapt to the times, and there is certainly an obligation to protect those unable to help themselves; the foundation of our government must remain in line with our constitutional responsibilities; that of insuring the continued freedom and rights of the individual. There is an overlying commitment to protecting the American Dream for future generations. For, if we are not fully committed to one another and our country, we are doomed to fail. While both parties are in agreement as to the ultimate objective of protecting our foundational structure; there are serious disagreements as to how that is accomplished. (See Part II)
The birth of extremism: The more extreme that liberals were perceived, the more vocal and adamant the Tea Party became. It has escalated to a point of absolute entrenchment. The result is legislative gridlock that is counterproductive to either party and particularly harmful to the overall future of this country. All Americans are open to progress but there is a large disconnect between those who think that progress means to eliminate or permanently alter the very elements that made our country great; and those who believe in proven approaches towards future advancement. It is no accident that we have an immigration problem because despite our imperfections, we are still considered by many across the globe to be that shining city-on-the-hill.
Where does that leave us in upcoming elections, when 85% of Americans essentially despise Congress? No Democrat wants to go home and admit to supporting Obamacare. No Republican wants to go home to admit that closing the government made absolutely no difference. Few Americans want to vote for incumbents, yet we cannot run the most powerful country in the world with amateurs! A Super Bowl is not won by a team of disconnected rookies, and you would never trust an inexperienced person to coach that NFL team, regardless of how nice or honorable they may be, or how much they loved the game, because running a champion team requires a unique skillset, talent, and experience. Running our country is infinitely more complex and in today’s world, experience has never been more vital.
No party branding? If you don’t run as the representative of your party, then what’s left to run on? The issues… what a concept! Governor Christie discovered this during his campaign and made the decision to not mention the word ‘Republican’ in any of his campaign material; his opponent followed suit, which left only the issues. Christie won by an overwhelming majority. The truth is that when faced with the pros and cons of a problem, most people will lean towards the more conservative solution; not much different than how they run their households. Very few people will take risks with their family’s future. Often, when voting for a party, you vote for an idea or theory, which upon implementation may not actually produce the desired results. When it comes to your family, you will generally choose a proven strategy. Theoretical experimentation by amateurs is best enjoyed on television, not in your home. Our country deserves no less.
The 2014 elections will need to be about the critical issues this country faces and not partisan rhetoric. This is particularly true when running in states dominated by the opposing party. The D or R or even T-P words may get you expelled from the game. Many are opting for the “Independent” label, which doesn’t run blue or red; they have comfortably moved into the Purple zone and want solutions, not talking points. The fact is that even if every party member voted for their candidate, it would not be enough to secure the election. Both sides need to address the “Purples” and speak directly to the issues.
This does not mean that the party’s platform changes or even weakens; it simply means that the focus must be on results, not theory. After all, isn’t it the collection of values, ideas, and objectives that create a party platform? Those results, must again become their leadership and legacy; not political banter.
The candidate’s vision must extend beyond the next election cycle; understanding that sometimes you must defer one goal for the implementation of another. Certain legislation may be for the benefit of future generations, perhaps at the cost of the current one, with the objective being that we pass on a better America than the one we inherited. However, the voter must understand that it is essential to the progress of this great nation that we establish common ground and adapt policies to meet the needs of all Americans, not just those of the reigning party. Liberty and freedom were established by an exchange of different ideas that were molded together into our Constitution; and we proudly call that collaboration, Democracy.
UPDATE: Chess not Checkers with Obamacare
By Jacqueline Cartier
UPDATE: October 3, 2014
Original: September 16, 2013
Washington is in the midst of another budget confrontation with both sides firmly entrenched. The issue at stake is the implementation of Obamacare. The “Affordable Care Act” is the President’s signature legislation and with the Senate firmly in his corner, and the Supreme Court’s judicial blessing, the House stands alone; despite the efforts of Sen. Ted Cruz.
Healthcare reform has been of concern for decades, yet no one wanted to touch it because no matter what you did, someone would suffer; there are no free lunches. So, to this president’s credit, he decided to pass something rather than pass the buck. However, understanding that if anyone actually read the details, it would never get passed, even by Democrats; so we ended up with Pelosi saying, “we must pass it to see what’s in it”. Of course, making it 20,000+ pages, filled with technicalities and contradictions, and scheduling an impossible deadline for passage, assured the President that it most certainly would not get read. Yet, those who signed on would feel obligated to defend it or lose credibility. Those opposed, must fight it or lose credibility. Thus, we are in gridlock; welcome to Washington.
We can debate the pros and cons of Obamacare forever since no one fully understands what’s in it, but until implementation, it will all just seem like partisan political rhetoric. One thing is certain, the President’s claim, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan, period. No one will take it away; no matter what”, is not quite accurate; ask any Union leader or exempted organization. With hopeful anticipation, the nation awaits this nirvana of healthcare. However, like anything that seems too good to be true, there are often hidden consequences, such as the hit the economy will take on many levels including the impact of a reduced work week on the family budget.
With control over only one-half of one branch of government, conservative opposition begins to look like a paper tiger. Yet, the Republicans that decided to stage this unwinnable filibuster, and still hold out for an unlikely dialogue on its implementation, are doing so to raise awareness to the potential consequences of its implementation; and the best way to get anyone’s attention is via the wallet. While, many consider this to be an unwise move, with subsequent fiscal consequences surely to be blamed on Republicans, to the potential detriment of 2014 and beyond; these Republicans are attempting to raise awareness of the negative effects of this piece of legislation that extends well beyond just healthcare.
Update to article: According to sources who are reviewing the new medical plan, a few things have surfaced, but there is some question as to the current status and interpretation of these provisions, as they are continually being updated. The limitations placed upon doctors, hospitals, and patient services will be similar to those of Medicare but with additional restrictions and caps. As a result, many hospitals such as Cedars-Sinai and UCLA, will not be admitting patients using Obamacare; many doctors will no longer accept Medicare or Obamacare patients; and everyone will be subject to the collateral damage that occurs in the natural course of supply and demand with fewer doctors and hospitals and a substantial increase in patients. With hospital reimbursements for expensive healthcare treatments limited by decisions made in Washington DC, they will have to restrict services provided, as their funding is limited and the demand is greater – decisions will have to be made by hospital administrators, as to who is more “worthy” of receiving treatments since not everyone can be accommodated. And, while the desired benefit of insuring preexisting conditions is of value, it doesn’t help if you are not one of the few to be selected for expensive cancer treatments or heart procedures or if your deductible is so high that you cannot afford to meet it, thus unable to see any doctor. In addition, many are discovering that their deductibles are now so high, that there is little benefit in addressing their preexisting condition, and for many others, the premiums are as much as double their current rate with the added “benefit” of not being allowed to keep their doctors or hospitals. We will soon discover that those that are hurt by Obamacare will far exceed those that benefit. In addition, there will now be required “end-of-life planning” every five-years… as if getting old was not stressful enough. Many consider this to be the first step towards euthanasia.
“Be careful what you wish for” should be the Republican strategy. Give supporters exactly what they voted for in 2008 and reaffirmed in 2012. Despite all warnings to the contrary, supporters will remain non-believers until they feel it in their pockets, or are rejected for a desired medical procedure, or must supplement reduced work hours with a second job. They will quickly discover that the Affordable Care Act is neither affordable nor very caring.
Principles mean something. If you give your word, your honor is at stake to live up to it, even when it becomes increasingly difficult to do so; that is character. Republicans who were elected and expected to defeat Obamacare, owe it to their constituents to abide by their platform. While in a minority status, the honorable thing to do is to exhibit patience and allow things to unfold naturally. The reality of this new healthcare plan will benefit Republicans in ways that they could never have imagined, as millions of Americans will want to bring back their ability to, “keep your healthcare plan, period”.
Conservatives currently taking a stand, will continue to live up to their principles by keeping their eye on the ball of victory in 2014, where redirecting their strategy will allow them to retain the House while regaining the Senate, making the defeat or at least the restructuring of Obamacare a reality. Although it shouldn’t be, Capitol Hill has become a war zone… a battle for the economy, freedom, and the independence of individuals to continue their pursuit of the American Dream. Small businesses, the backbone of the middle class, will have restraints lifted that allow them to flourish according to the marketplace of their communities, and expand the local job base. Individuals will regain control of their income, privacy, and personal health issues. And, our country will once again prosper under the foundation of freedom, independence, and a free market economy.
While there are those who challenge the idea of American Exceptionalism, we live it. And, in the pursuit of our ideals, we must sometimes concede an occasional battle to ultimately win the war. Think chess, not checkers.
Syria: Why Do We Care?
By Jacqueline Cartier
The Hill (DC's Congressional Newspaper): http://TheHill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/320727-syria-why-do-we-care
The Vail Daily: http://www.vaildaily.com/opinion/8077164-113/syria-weapons-credibility-attack
September 4, 2013 (written before subsequent developments emerged)
Attacking Syria is truly historic; not necessarily the act, but the nonpartisan divide that has strangely united members of both parties. There are strong opinions, with each offering credible positions.
Within these arguments are viable questions. Exactly, what happened in Syria with the chemical weapon attack? Which is the better group to support – the lesser of two evils? How does our involvement affect the balance of power in the Middle East? What are U.S. interests? What would we call a ‘win’? What is our exit strategy? Does our involvement actually accomplish anything? Are we being manipulated into another Middle East conflict, and if so, by whom and why? If we aid the rebels, will it be like Afghanistan where those weapons are later used against us in the killing of our soldiers? Why are we alone in our support for intervention? How do we justify an intervention in Syria while ignoring similar atrocities in other countries?
There are no easy answers, as each response generates both short-term and long-term consequences. Even the decision to do nothing, is a decision that results in something. This civil war in Syria has been going on for quite some time, yet suddenly it has hit crisis mode. We must wonder, why now?
The chemical weapon attack strangely occurred at the most inopportune time, during a visit from UN chemical weapons inspectors. Now, if you had complete control over those weapons, then certainly you would have control over when they were used. Why would you use them when there was no large-scale imminent attack? Why would you use them when traditional weapons have been equally effective? Why would you use them against innocent civilians when you have the actual location of militant targets? But most importantly, why would you use them in the face of UN weapons inspectors, given the international consequences? Perhaps, because it wasn’t you!
Who stands to gain the most from a chemical weapons attack in Syria? Not President Bashar al-Assad. Consider another actor in the theater. How desperate would you get if you were losing a war with little hope of gaining additional support? What would you have to do to get the attention and sympathy of the global community? What if there was no such thing as a needless death in the pursuit of Jihad? What if you discovered that you were losing strength and credibility in the region and desperately needed a ‘win’ to retain power? What if you were able to temporarily gain access to the ultimate weapon which could change the entire course of the war? Perhaps you might call yourselves the Muslim Brotherhood.
The lesser of two evils, still gives you evil. So we must ask ourselves, why do we care when other nations appear indifferent? Of course, we can attribute some of this to the fact that Obama allows himself to continually be played by Middle East leaders. While some question his loyalty, I submit for consideration the fact that this junior-Senator-suddenly-President is just naive. International relations has never been his strength, or even his interest, and he surrounds himself with academics who are expert at theory but inexperienced in practice, thus making us incredibly vulnerable, gullible, and disrespected in the global arena. When you carelessly place a “red line” to the leader of another country, then later claim, “I didn’t set the red line, the world set a red line” followed by, “My credibility is not on the line; America’s credibility is on the line” just makes President Obama look weak and foolish. When he separates his personal credibility from America’s credibility, given his position, it undermines his authority and loyalty to the nation he represents. He ends up sounding like a kid caught lying, when he should have simply said that in the passion of the moment, during an election speech, he made a statement that actually required much more evaluation than what he had at the time. Instead, he now hides behind the veil of diplomacy and wonders why others won’t join him. It reminds me of the joke, “If it wasn’t for the starch in his shirt, there would be nothing holding this man up.”
Yet, despite all of the pros and cons of the situation, we must also wonder why it has become so important to us, and less so to other countries. Perhaps, we are torn between the obvious political and economic implications of our actions, weighed against our sense of obligation for human rights.
In a country that was founded on moral and religious principles (even if we didn’t always live up to them - we aim high) with “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all” as our national pledge; we consider human rights to be universal, and as leader of the free world, an obligation to protect those less fortunate. As Ronald Reagan once said, “There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.” While we cannot solve all of the world’s problems, perhaps we feel able to make a difference in preventing the atrocities occurring in this one, at this time, even at great cost to ourselves. Our sense of moral obligation sometimes outweighs our logic. Both arguments in this scenario have just merit, particularly considering the affiliations and history of both sides of this civil war, along with our respect for a nation’s sovereignty. Neither of these guys in Syria are great humanitarians or ethical leaders and we somehow know that it may come to haunt us later.
As we struggle with the decision to intervene, let us remember that despite the probability of being manipulated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the suffering and deaths of innocent people are very real. Some equate this to Germany’s Holocaust. The greatest challenge is in balancing our desire to save the world with the realistic limitations that we face as humans and as a nation.
The fact is that the United States is truly exceptional; it is not just patriotic rhetoric. We continually work to live up to our founding principles; “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.” While, we cannot make every country into America, we can influence others towards providing an environment where unalienable rights become a reality for all.
Are You Getting Snowed by the Impression of Digital Privacy?
By Jacqueline Cartier
August 19, 2013
If you think that the NSA is invading your privacy; beware, they are not the only ones. For example, Google touches every part of our lives, from our Android phones (nearly 75% of all cell platforms) to our shopping, books, news, calendar, travel, translations, images, YouTube, virtually anything we do on our computers and cell phones is influenced by Google. Yet, as technology has evolved and made our life easier, we have paid a price; our privacy. In the digital world, where so much travels over the Internet, through sources that are owned and operated by private sources, the expectation of privacy diminishes severely. Once your "private" email leaves your home, it is open to the world, just as any information on a website is subject to public exposure. There are constitutional challenges, but those specifically address physical trespass issues which would then have to be converted to digital trespassing... a difficult thing to prove, as the parameters are so vague. To complicate matters, third-party organizations are not subject to constitutional privacy laws. We are all operating under a fallacy of privacy.
Our founding fathers had no way of anticipating today’s technology. Even a few decades ago, we never imagined that a device the size of a wallet could send mail, make calls, search for information, provide directions, take photos, and that nearly everyone would have one. Even those who try to maintain a small digital footprint have most of their personal information listed on someone’s computer which is transmitted online to various sources that we do not control. Constitutional protections are limited in the virtual world of the Internet.
The 4th Amendment of the Constitution protects against unreasonable search and seizure. In the 18th Century, that was rather straight forward; it protected you from government entering your domain and seizing paper and other physical goods; but what happens when that information is not physically with you but rather in the “cloud”? What happens when it is transported over public domain (Internet) and is freely given to third-party entities? Who owns and controls that information? According to Gmail, users should have no expectation of privacy in email that they send. Their quote is, "Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient's assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient's ECS provider in the course of delivery. Indeed, 'a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.' Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 743-44 (1979)." The same holds true for other social media messaging, like Facebook. In addition, the Internet is global. If the website you use to store or transmit data is foreign owned, how does that affect U.S. constitutional rights? In this digital age, privacy is a fluid concept and subject to redefinition.
While we continue to feign outrage at Snowden’s betrayal, we are also grateful for the information. The NSA operates like a James Bond spy thriller, specializing in something known as data-mining. According to IBM, “Data-mining is about processing data and identifying patterns and trends in that information”. PRISM, the data-mining program, collects digital photos, stored data, file transfers, e-mail, chat services, videos, and video conferencing from nine Internet companies, utilizing their SIGAD-Signals Intelligence Activity Designator. However, we are to be comforted in knowing that these surveillance operations are permitted under the business records provision of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which compels businesses like Verizon, Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype, etc. to provide client information to the government, and are protected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISC) from privacy lawsuits. Oh, and by the way, the NSA keeps these records forever, that’s right, never deleted! Recently, agents in 74 countries demanded detailed information from Facebook on over 38,000 users, covering the past 6-months alone; they complied under the umbrella of immunity. However, no need to worry about abuse because the data collected is regularly reviewed by the FISC (yes, the same guys guaranteeing corporate immunity). Yet, this is not the most dangerous breech to your personal privacy… you are!
All of those electronics that are designed to make life easier, do so by collecting data. From your “smart appliances” that track specific daily usage, to the GPS on your cell that allows you to locate the nearest Starbucks; you are monitored as easily as if you were wearing an ankle bracelet, except you are a prisoner to convenience. A debit card verses a check; a transponder instead of cash; a phone app for directions or information; a store’s Loyalty Card; the photos you upload on Facebook; Siri/Robin assisted searches, phone calls, and appointments; the use of email verses postal; Netflix verses a movie theater; Google searches; online shopping verses the mall; Kindle rather than a bookstore; GPS instead of Rand McNally… all of these conveniences require data that we provide freely to third-parties, who maintain extensive files of information about our daily activities and interests. Combined, they create a composite and traceable pattern of activities, motivations, and predictable behavior. Worse than the government having all of this information; so do thousands of strangers that work in these organizations, providing a security threat much greater than our government. When it comes to privacy, the NSA isn’t our biggest problem.
However, the worst perpetrator of your privacy is you! Social media is the death of privacy and we are its primary contributors. Check out someone’s online profile and what do you see? Name, profession, location, birthday, schools attended, job resume, hobbies, personal interests, family photos, places they’ve been, political beliefs, religion, list of friends, relatives, acquaintances and their detailed information; professional affiliations, favorite films, books, TV shows, music, sports, pets, favorite foods and restaurants, posted activities, and the most telling of all, photos. Who needs the NSA when we have become slaves to convenience and exhibitionists of our lives, not to mention voyeurs of others?
Benghazi, an American Tragedy
By Jacqueline Cartier
Update: Since the publication of this article and subsequent information released, I have come to believe that Benghazi may have been a Black-ops situation gone wrong, and that is why no assistance was rendered; and the deadly fire may have been deliberately set to destroy classified material, with the unintended consequence of the Ambassador’s death, along with the military personnel attempting to rescue him. This may be why no one assigned to that location has been allowed to speak about it. I have no direct knowledge of this, only a gut feeling based upon my years of political experience.
May 13, 2013
“What difference, at this point, does it make?” –Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton
The problem is not the talking points crafted during an election cycle; that is expected. The real concern is how far will someone go to secure that election? Would they be so concerned about the optics of military troops surrounding a U.S. foreign consulate, that they would ask our military, CIA, and allies to “stand down” and deny assistance? Would the election be more important than rescuing Americans under attack by an overwhelming number of terrorists at a U.S. Consulate? Could the President and State Department deny continued requests for assistance, over a 7-1/2 hour period, as these men begged for help, knowing that help was only an hour away? Could anyone in good conscience, let these Americans die alone, at the hands of brutal terrorists while they prepared for a fundraiser that evening? Madam Secretary, THAT is the (bleeping) point!
If these “talking points” were constructed to cover an election strategy, then that isn’t merely incompetent, it is criminal (even if not illegal). If done for campaign purposes, at the cost of American lives, just to preserve a perceived reputation of having defeated terrorism; then that is political… and you have just traded blood for votes.
Opponents claim that this is a political witch hunt. First of all, most of the witnesses are Democrats. Secondly, Obama made it political by his actions, via their “talking points”, which made the rounds for weeks afterwards. It is not the talking points that matter, but rather, to establish the chain of command, with the top person being the one who actually knew the truth; and when seeking answers, this is the person you want. Who actually gave the “stand down” orders? We have heard from Secretary Clinton, but where was National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon? He has been MIA in all of this. Wouldn’t an attack on our embassy warrant at least a phone call to the National Security Advisor? We must assume, yes, so what did he do, where is he? A United States diplomatic facility was under attack with 34 Americans at risk and the Ambassador as a direct target, and no one at the upper levels knew anything? They are either lying or totally incompetent.
The epitome of arrogance is to falsely claim that these deaths were caused by a YouTube video, while standing over the caskets of these dead bodies and lying to their grieving families, knowing that you could have made a difference and chose not to. Gregory Hicks, Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, who was on the ground in Tripoli, testified that over 60-terrorists stormed the compound during the attack. Now, perhaps help wouldn’t have arrived in time, although recent testimony sharply contradicts that notion, particularly since Tripoli was only 1-hour away; but to have done nothing, to have not even tried, to have watched it happen live (satellite technology is that quick and accurate), to have not secured the facility and investigate immediately following the incident, and after over 8-months, not one arrest in this tragedy (aside from the uninvolved video producer), is abhorrent!
That is the worse-case scenario. The best case is that the administration is just vastly incompetent. This group was totally unprepared for the reality of world politics. As people who have spent a majority of their lives in academia, it’s all about the theory; however theory, while valid, doesn’t always work in the field. It’s like being an aquatic specialist; until you jump in the water, you are not a swimmer, and this administration does not have a Michael Phelps in the bunch.
Obama certainly wouldn’t be our first incompetent president, and sadly, won’t be our last; but, incompetence is not the same as blood-for-votes. Therein lies the distinction and motivation for truth. Is the administration evil or just stupid? It’s not about the video and the subsequent talking points; it’s about the possibility of selling out American lives in exchange for political gain. If there was a valid reason for letting these men die, then our country has a right to know.
Why were multiple requests for enhanced security denied, particularly with increased turmoil in the region and with 9/11 approaching? Eric Nordstrom, Top Security Officer in Libya, listed 234 security incidents in Libya, with 50 in Benghazi. In April, an IED was thrown over the consulate fence; four days later a similar bomb was used on a UN convoy. In May the Red Cross office was attacked, they closed it in August. In June another bomb exploded outside the U.S. consulate gate, creating a huge hole in the security wall. Later, an assassination attempt was made on the British Ambassador, just outside their consulate; they left shortly thereafter. That same month, the Tunisian consulate was stormed by terrorists. Three days before the attack, a high-level Benghazi security official and battalion commander warned about deteriorating security in the area. So, why wasn’t local diplomatic security summoned? Why was fly-over permission, never asked of Libya?
That night, Stevens called Hicks, “We are under attack”! Hicks was denied authorization twice, to deploy his Emergency Support Team from Tripoli to Benghazi, only 1-hour away. Mark Thompson, Asst. Secretary for Counter-Terrorism called the White House personally, to make the same request and was told that it was “not the right time”, then eliminated from further communication. It is said that Stevens was alive when taken to an area hospital; that hospital is run by those claiming responsibility for the attack. We have no idea what he endured, prior to his death.
There was plenty of warning of the impending crisis, and while Democrats try to blame the incident on reduced funding, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, Charlene Lamb, stated that budget considerations were not a factor in her decision to deny added security in Benghazi. 34 Americans attacked, 4 died.
This is not a political issue, this is an American tragedy.
Religion and the Atheist
By Jacqueline Cartier
May 10, 2013
Much is being said about the separation of church and state. It escalated with the celebration of Christmas being eliminated from government facilities then any public venue; stores had to eliminate any reference to Christianity and replace their greetings with, “Happy Holidays”… all, under the guise of separation of church and state. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most recent casualty of this “political correctness” is our military.
Religion is a strongly held belief that inspires and guides a person’s actions. In Western culture, the majority participate in various denominations of Christianity and Judaism. In Eastern cultures, you will find that many are Buddhist. The Middle East has a predominance of Muslims. However, there are hundreds of variations of these and other unique religious practices that take into account historical events and traditions, prophets, cultural differences and expectations, sense of purpose, and social responsibility. Even New-Age followers, have faith in an “energy” that connects us all. We are all born with this innate need to be connected to something greater than ourselves; to achieve success with purpose; to expand our compassion; and to establish a sense of order in the world; and in this country in particular, to turn over to the next generation a world that is infinitely better than we found it.
It is interesting that nearly every religious tenet and secular law across the globe incorporates some form of the 10-Commandments, as they are universal in scope. Religion provides that faith necessary to accomplish the “impossible”, particularly when all else has failed. Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, even “You shall have no other gods before me” means, don’t go getting too big for your britches… you are easily replaced; don’t be praying to false idols… that Maserati is just a bunch of metal (albeit gorgeous metal) that can break down tomorrow; and if you go coveting your neighbor’s spouse, well, you do so at your own risk. It’s universal and common sense. But, it is the connection to self and others that develops the bonds and allows people to create miracles in their own lives. We hear about it every day. The person that picks up a car to save a neighbor; the cancer that mysteriously disappears; the athlete under dire circumstances reaches the finish line and breaks all records, etc. Human beings are miraculous creatures, particularly when focused and committed. Religion helps to provide that focus, motivation, and connection.
Those that consider themselves unaffiliated with any religion, and even hostile to religious practice, fail to realize that their resistance to religion is a religion in itself. Their “religion” is science and globalization; science being their guru, and globalization, their connection to others and sense of purpose, identity, and destiny.
When an Atheist denies others the opportunity to practice and celebrate their faith in public, they are in fact imposing their own religious beliefs upon those people, thus denying them their “freedom of speech” and assembly.
Science is fact-based, and most religious people accept it as such, but it is limited by our technology. There are many more things that have yet to be “explained” but that doesn’t mean that those things don’t exist. Many of our most treasured scientific minds believed in something other than what they could see or prove, in fact, that realization is what keeps science going; it is the stimulus for discovery; discovery of the unknown. The belief being that, for them not to do so, would appear arrogant… to actually think that we know it all. Even the hotly debated issue of Evolution verses Intelligent Design, has that initial unexplained particle of matter that began it all… where did it come from? Therein lies the connection and bond between science and religion. They are partners, not adversaries.
When people connect on a global level; when their focus is on a single idea (prayer/meditation); when their rhythm is in unison (hymns/chants/affirmations); there develops a synergy of positive direction that inspires human beings to aspire to more than they logically believe is possible. Even on a secular level, when you unite with others of common cause, you accomplish so much more than you ever could, alone. All faith is religion, regardless of who you define your God to be, a deity, Mother Nature, or MIT.
Faith, whether religious or secular, establishes a global moral compass that improves the quality of life for everyone. We must be tolerant of those whose practice of belief differs from ours, as long as it does not impose harm upon others. When you prohibit people from exhibiting their unified commitment to good and noble causes, then you limit the hope of mankind to expand beyond the self and into selfless.
Have we lost our boys to political correctness?
By Jacqueline Cartier
April 25, 2013
As our country continues to adapt to this notion of “globalization”, and I call it a notion because it is fallacy that we will all have a Kumbaya existence, the ones who seem to be getting the short end of the stick, are our boys. No matter what they do, they just can’t win.
If a boy plays rough on the playground, he is labeled a “bully”; if he eats his sandwich in the shape of a gun (or the state of Florida) he is labeled a future “terrorist”; if he is antsy in class, he is labeled “ADD” and then drugged; if he is quiet and sensitive, he is labeled “gay”; if he is socially awkward (which most men will admit), he is labeled mentally ill with “Asperger’s” and also drugged. Nowadays, a boy just can’t win. Tom Sawyer is considered a classic because generations of men (and anyone dealing with men) have identified with his antics. He was considered the all-American boy. The timeless phrase, “Boys will be boys” is rooted in this experience.
The same is not true for girls. They are expected to be more calm and quiet and socially adept, but if they are rambunctious and prefer to play with boys or join the football team, they don’t face labels like “ADD” or “Gay” or “Mentally Illness” because their deviation from the norm is considered a step towards women’s equality… “See, we can do everything a guy can do”. No labels, no drugs, just acceptance and even admiration.
People will live up to their expectations. Labels are giant expectations, and these are placed on a student’s “permanent record” following them everywhere, and at a very impressionable time of their lives. In addition, we will have generations of boys, raised on highly addictive drugs, which impede their intellectual development but also permanently alter their unique personalities. We also rob them of the ability to develop skills necessary to adapt to challenging circumstances; something quite useful in life. It reminds me of a quote by the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow, "If the only tool that you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." We cannot create cookie-cutter children. We must also consider how the extensive use of prescription drugs will impact their potential dependency upon other drugs later in life, including illegal substances and, what that will do to their future potential. What are we doing to our young boys? Have we become obsessed with creating “Stepford” children? Will we lose our edge as a nation because half of our population has been doped-up or pressured to believe they are something that they are not? Who benefits? Drug companies, over-worked teachers, over-stressed parents, kids wanting instant relief from the pressures of growing up? This labeling has become epidemic and growing; it will be the certain downfall of this great nation if we continue to suppress our greatest resource, our young people.
For a country so proud of its independent thinking, I am continually shocked at this unrealistic pressure to conform that is placed on children in schools, particularly boys. They must be a “normal” kids, but to get into a good college, they must also don a cape and become super heroes… curing cancer in their spare time between gym class and math. They can’t just play sports; they must also qualify for the Olympics. They must enroll in all AP/IB classes and make Honor Roll or risk rejection from their preferred college. In addition, they must use all 12-seconds of their free time, building homes for the underprivileged. And, boys must be macho but not too much; sensitive but not too much; energetic but not too much… could any of us have lived up to these expectations? Just writing about this makes me want to utilize Amendment 64. Good grief! Can we please back the heck off. Let kids be kids… and particularly let our boys have the freedom to be themselves… obnoxious, annoying, impatient, inappropriate, outrageous, hyperactive; and totally loveable… the all-American boy. Our communities and our country will be eternally grateful… not to mention that little kid, who just put gum under your table.
GOP: Divide and Conquer
By Jacqueline Cartier
Independence Institute Publication Link: Rumors of GOP’s Death Exaggerated:
March 22, 2013
After CPAC, we are faced with another round of, “what’s wrong with the GOP?” Well, after such a defeat in November, it is easy to take things out of perspective. However, it appears to be a “crying wolf” situation that occurs whenever the furthest of either party feels as though they haven’t been heard or adequately represented. CPAC is not the GOP, but rather a meeting of different conservative groups, gathering to compare notes and organize their efforts for the next round, with the most vocal being the squeaky wheel that gains all of the attention. But, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the Republican platform. This is clearly evidenced by their poll that continually selects one of the Pauls as their favorite Presidential candidate; definitely not a Republican choice.
All of the hoopla surrounding the GOP’s downfall is much ado about nothing. Republicans hold a majority in the House, and they have 30 of 50 governors, and according to the 11/26/12 Gallop Poll there was only a 2% difference between the parties, Republicans were at 29% to the Democrats 31%, with Independents representing the largest group at 37%; so in reality, the GOP isn’t doing that badly and certainly within a winnable margin. The key is in securing that Independent voter which has been the greatest variable in recent political history. Going further right or left will not secure those votes. The challenge is that few people have the time or resources to investigate issues fully, thus they rely upon their political party to inform them of the pros and cons of potential candidates and legislation, via the party platform; but an Independent does not trust the prism from which those analyses are derived, thus they must decide based upon often limited and frequently tainted information by a variety of news and editorial sources, plus direct impressions. The news is always reported through the filter of the reporter’s experience and beliefs, even when attempting to be neutral; and Internet editorials and blogs are direct interpretations of the writer’s opinions and nearly always written to generate a reactive response and is often designed merely as realistic entertainment. Thus, Independents frequently rely upon direct impression as a key factor in determining their position on key issues and candidates but rarely spend enough time to generate a strong and viable opinion. These impressions are largely swayed by perception, and perception is achieved by the image created. Millions of dollars are spent on creating and delivering specific images; both Obama and Reagan were experts on image creation. Reagan once said, “I don't know how anybody can serve in public office without being an actor.” Obama knew to hire Hollywood set designers and directors for exactly the same reason. We expect our leaders to be a rock star; competence is assumed, although not always accurate, some would say, rarely.
The Republicans have an image of being the party of the rich. The Democrats have an image of representing minorities and the poor. Yet, how accurate are these impressions? Since it is the Republicans that are in question, I will focus my response on the GOP and in doing so, contrast the Democrats.
Why are Republicans associated with money and business? The GOP has long believed in the rags to riches history of this country and that the same principles apply to the individual. The ideals outlined in the Constitution provide a framework for success and is unique to the United States in that anyone, although not necessarily everyone, can start with nothing and become incredibly successful. This environment has made American the leader in innovation and opportunity in the world. Since much of the “American Dream” is based upon economic success (it’s the currency that keeps us fed, living in a lovely home, which provides for educational options for our children, and for a sustainable future for ourselves and others), the Republicans fiercely guard the systems that allow for such success. This success manifests itself in the young man that grew up in the ghetto and opens a family restaurant, the kid that tinkers around in his garage to create a new means of global communication, the stay-at-home mom that discovers a market for her baked cookies, the entrepreneur that starts a small business which grows into an international conglomerate, the kid who couldn’t afford college but studies on his own and works hard to provide a service to others and becomes the go-to person for corporate executives, the young man who is born to impoverished parents and rises to become President. This is truly the land of opportunity, and the Republicans will block anything that may impede that entrepreneurial drive, particularly those that inhibit growth, like taxes and limiting legislation. However, success usually means that you earn a certain amount of money and generally hire others in your business. The perspective of those working for someone else is that they are “richer” than you; even though the small business owner will often make less than their employees because they only get to keep the net earned after taxes and expenses, which particularly in this economy, may be less than what they pay in salary to their staff. That protection of business is fundamental to the securing of the American Dream for all of those that follow. While there are an equal number of rich Democrats in Congress, the Democrats are supported by the Unions, whose membership is made up primarily of hourly employees, framed as “the poor”, even when some bill out at $50+ per hour with benefits. This perception issue is very strong and is often exploited by the Democrats along economic, racial, and gender lines. The best way to counter this image is by communicating the information accurately and with hands-on community involvement (the ultimate ground game) in challenging and under-represented neighborhoods. This connection must be established at the entry levels of politics so that it will build credibility as the candidate rises.
Republicans are the party of the innovative, the daring, the worker aspiring to greatness, the rags-to-riches journey, of all who desire it. The land of opportunity must be protected for future generations. Republicans believe in the individual’s worth to this great nation, the ability of the dreams of their youth coming true; the diversity of ideas and ethnicity and the limitless potential that created a country like none other; the belief that future generations should have it better than their predecessors, and the belief that despite past challenges and current conditions, you can succeed, America believes in you. You are the future. (Insert flag waving)
As far as critics that claim that Republicans are out of touch with minorities and women, I offer the following:
Regarding Blacks: Abraham Lincoln was a Republican; Martin Luther King was a Republican and his immediate family remains Republican. In the 26 major civil rights votes after 1933, a majority of Democrats opposed civil rights legislation in over 80 percent of the votes; by contrast, the Republican majority favored civil rights in over 96 percent of the votes. Republicans have historically been the party of civil rights. Just ask Dr. Ben Carson.
Regarding Hispanics: The recent focus on illegal immigration is a natural consequence of the economy. When things are bad, and jobs become scarce, in seeking solutions, people begin to question where money is being spent and who is getting it; and in the job market, who is employed. When they see that they can’t afford college for their child because their middle-class income is too much for certain grants but not enough to cover expenses, yet those here illegally get a full-ride, they begin to rebel. In addition, when they notice that non-citizen criminals are not getting deported, and it is a matter of policy, they begin to wonder if they can trust the federal government to enforce existing immigration laws. It becomes an emotional issue and like most things that do, it gets out of hand. Republicans understand those that want to come to this country to seek the “American Dream” but there is a process in place and it should not give those here illegally an edge over those that paid the price and went through the process to become citizens. Having said that, it is totally impractical to expect 21-million people will be deported, and many of them are contributing members of their communities. Something needs to be done because we no longer need immigrants, as we did during our founding, to populate this country and increase production. The solution must be a practical one. George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaign refrain was, “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande, and a hungry mother is going to feed her child.” Republicans have a strong connection to the Hispanic community’s family and religious values. Once a policy is in place and enforced, it will integrate a large number of Hispanics who already work and contribute in many ways to their various communities.
Women and Minorities and their role in the White House: By 2004, President Bush had appointed a more diverse set of top advisers than any president in American history at 50%. Bush had more African-Americans and Hispanics among his closest advisers than did Democratic challenger John Kerry, who won a majority of the Black and Hispanic votes. Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico is the first female, Hispanic, Governor in the United States, and a Republican! Compare that to the new “Boys Club” Cabinet in Obama’s current administration, all white with the exception of one legislative guy, and no women, yet he is considered to the champion of women and minority causes (I suppose if you are willing to stay in your place).
Gays and Marriage: The official GOP stance should be, “Marriage” is a legally recognized religious ceremony; “Civil Union” is a secular legal designation (which can also apply to non-sexual relationships, ala “Golden Girls” where people who live together as family can share other legal rights as a family). Republicans have no issue with “Civil Unions” but altering a religious rite for political purposes has always been against the Republican platform. We strongly respect the freedom of individual differences and the state’s right to determine what is in their best interest. Politics and religion are not a good mix for anyone involved.
RNC Chair, Reince Priebus is working to rebrand the GOP “Grand Old Party” to the “Growth and Opportunity Party.” That’s all well and good, but it is simply semantics unless it is accompanied by action. The action however, is not to change the party, but to establish a stronger line of communication so that the “emergent electorate” is fully aware of the long tradition of minority support and that the GOP walks-their-talk when it comes to providing opportunity for wealth and not the redistribution of wealth earned by others.
Gay Marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act
By Jacqueline Cartier
March 26, 2013
I have decided in this article to touch the third rail of social issues, Gay Marriage. As we watch the drama unfold in the Supreme Court regarding Gay Marriage, many are left to wonder, “Who Cares?” Why is this such a big issue? We have all heard the pros and cons and will it really be that earth shattering if it goes one way or the other?
The issue seems to have fallen along political party lines… what a shock! But, if we just think about it in realistic terms and remove some of the heated debate, we can probably see valid points in each position and create a viable solution. I will address the conservative perspective, understanding that the liberal position is counter to these points (although I have heard from many Democrats who agree with this particular stance).
As I listen to Republicans, I am left with the following observation; “Marriage” is a legally recognized religious ceremony; “Civil Union” is a secular legal designation (which can also apply to non-sexual relationships, ala “Golden Girls” where people who live together as family can share other legal rights as a family). Republicans have no issue with “Civil Unions” but altering a religious rite for political purposes has always been against the Republican platform. This is precisely what the founders addressed in their distinction between church and state; not that you couldn’t include religious considerations in your “state” positions, but that the state would never interfere in your religion. The GOP strongly respects the freedom of individual differences and the state’s right to determine what is in their best interest, although a national recognition of the contractual agreement of Civil Unions, should be honored and respected across the country. Politics and religion are not a good mix for anyone involved.
A question that often arises is, “If marriage is simply a legally recognized religious ceremony, why does the clerk at the DMV issue the marriage license? Why does it not matter if a religious ceremony is performed?” The answer is that you secure a marriage license to let the government know that your status in life has changed, which affects government benefits and tax status. Once that is accomplished, you are not forced to marry in a church (Atheists, for example) and the government will officiate your married status. The “Civil Union” issue is fairly recent and a development of our changing society. Years ago, people could rely upon families if they did not have a spouse (due to death or remaining single). Families often lived nearby and thus were more integrated, so grandparents would help with the kids (nannies were unheard of), and often young adults would return to their communities and work in the family business or join a nearby corporation and remain until retirement so, the "extended" family was not really a necessity. With a global economy, jobs are often secured far away from home, thus an “extended family” becomes integral to our daily existence. In securing legal rights for these new “family” members, Civil Unions were developed, and not limited to Gays.
In consideration of the Gay issue, we must keep it in perspective. According to an October 2012 Gallop Poll, only 3.4% of the population in the United States is Gay, with a majority in the 18-29 age category, at 6.4%. By ages 30-49 it dropped in half to 3.2%; with ages 50-64 at 2.6% and ages 65+ at only 1.9%. These figures could simply represent the sexual experimentation of those under age 30, because otherwise the numbers would remain fairly consistent along all age groups; making the number of actual Gays even smaller than the 3.4% reported. According to the same poll, only 14.1% of gays are actually interested in marriage or a domestic partnership. That means that all of this fuss is about less than 0.5% of our population, thus 99.5% of our population are expected to change their religious beliefs for a relative few who want their partnerships to be classified as “married”. Given the numbers, this entire fuss seems almost ridiculous on both ends. Yet, it is all about precedence, which is the basis of the legal system in this country. What does allowing the government to interfere in religious practices set forth for us in the future?
If the Supreme Court grants approval for Gay Marriage, although not currently an issue, it could infringe upon certain religious canon and churches could be forced to preform gay marriages against doctrine, plus its precedence could open churches to potential litigation and infringement of religious rights in other areas. Instead of redefining “Marriage” we should expand the aspects of “Civil Unions” to include many of the benefits deemed relevant and appropriate, that are currently excluded; and to have it honored across the country. If the couple involved would like to consider themselves as married, then so be it. If people of the same gender, love each other, regardless of any sexual considerations, it should be celebrated.
Is this topic much ado about nothing? Not if it sets a precedence of the state being able to interfere with religion. Loving couples are a blessing to everyone, and mutual respect on one end for their choice and on the other end for their religion is expected.
A New Pope: Does it matter?
By Jacqueline Cartier
March 9, 2013
Millions of people from around the world were shocked at the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. It has been nearly 600-years since the last papal resignation, with only a handful throughout history. Many theories surround this resignation, but those in the know, will say that there were indications, right from the start, that this was a pope who felt strongly that, “It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength.” (In his first encyclical “God is Love”).
Yet, with all of the drama surrounding this historic resignation, many are left to wonder, what does it matter, particularly to non-Catholics? Some view it as an indication that the church must begin significant reforms to repair the damage it has sustained over the past several decades, to its reputation. While the church has certainly taken a heavy hit recently, it remains a strong influence throughout the globe. According to the World Christian Database, there are 1.2 Billion Catholics in the world, with over 40% in Latin America and according to the 2010 Official Catholic Directory, 22% of the United States population is Catholic. These numbers have a major impact upon local, regional, and global events; making the Pope an enviable world leader, in addition to being the spiritual head of the church.
The position of Pope is a lifetime appointment. Pope Benedict could have remained until death, and while it is a full-time job, it is also a cushy appointment with many perks; so why leave? Right from the start, the Pope appears to have made the decision that a lifetime appointment was not in the best interest of the church or the people it serves and has perhaps decided to set a precedent of resignation/retirement, planned from day-one.
His move is not only historic but also exhibits true selflessness and leadership. Pope Benedict put his responsibilities to the church over his own personal benefit. It could be said that he had planned this all along; to establish a precedent of service that acknowledges the limitations of man, despite spiritual attainment. He did so at a risk, given the tradition and expectations of office. It is decidedly human to recognize that you have given it all you can, and it is now time to pass the responsibility on to someone else, who can take it to the next level. This is an admirable move; one indicative of a great world leader.
Why should we care? When governments fail their people, it is the spiritual leaders to which they will turn. When things look hopeless, it is our faith that carries us forward. The office of Pope is a physical representation of a higher being that is filled by a man, with all of the strength and limitations that it implies. A man that influences 1.2 Billion people around the world, is a man to be taken seriously. His word can cause political chaos or stability; it can encourage support or detraction of a country’s objectives, in short, it has a global influence that extends beyond borders. It is a power rivaled by leaders everywhere, Catholic or not; and every country has a vested interest in its outcome. We care about those, that influence those we care about. The Pope is a class-act in acknowledging his physical limitations while still retaining his spiritual leadership.
Regarding the problems the church has experienced in recent decades; despite the horrid nature of the actions of some, we must keep it in perspective. The Catholic Church is an $8 Billion global organization with over 1-million employees in the United States alone and over 1.2 billion Lay-Catholics worldwide. As is any organization of this magnitude, it is representative of the communities it serves. While the majority of its clergy and employees are there to serve with the highest purpose, there will always be those who sneak though the vetting process, who are less than honorable in their intentions or who develop mental or emotional issues as years go on. It is those relative few, who violate moral standards for selfish and perverted reasons that tarnish the spiritual image of the church and ruin it for the millions who have dedicated their life in service to others. There are no greater numbers of those individuals in the Catholic Church than in other religious organizations, corporations, or government entities. After all, weirdoes and perverts all work somewhere, and those organizations are always shocked and sometimes in denial, to discover them amongst their ranks. It is the level of trust that we place in their positions that makes these situations much more sensitive and volatile. The church as a whole is incredibly honorable and should be commended for the tremendous amount of good that they do in the world, regardless of the recipient’s religious affiliation; and, while the church certainly wouldn’t be adverse to acquiring new converts, it is not a prerequisite to gaining their assistance. Those that enter the priesthood or sisterhood dedicate their lives to charitable service and they certainly walk-their-talk. So, aside from its obvious religious mission, the Catholic Church is recognized by millions of people for their compassion and service to the needy.
The selection of a new Pope is a political process, not necessarily a religious one, although spiritually driven; and its leader will continue to impact billions of people from all religious denominations as well as secular populations around the world. The Pope’s influence crosses all political, economic, cultural, geographic, racial, educational, and religious lines. Like it or not, it matters.
Chicken Little and the end of the world as we know it
By Jacqueline Cartier
March 4, 2013
Sequestration has arrived… the sky is falling, the sky is falling! Certainly, our national debt is not falling, nor are the number of excuses, falling. However, certain things are falling; our reputation as a global financial leader is falling; the belief in the integrity of our elected officials is falling; the commitment to leave a better future for our children is falling; the ability to produce more entrepreneurs is falling; the inclination of international businesses to base out of the United States is falling; the ability to achieve the American Dream is falling.
Sequestration is the new name for the “Debt Ceiling” and the “Fiscal Cliff” of last year… in movie terms, “The End of the World, III: The return of Armageddon”. This situation was caused and is influenced by a number of factors. Of course, the blame-game is alive and well in DC, and while we have been in an economic recession for over 4-years, nothing spells crisis in Washington like cutting government programs. It is a financial “downturn” when it hits the private sector, but it is a national catastrophe when it means cutting government jobs. Yet, only in DC does a reduction in the growth of spending equal a cut. We will still be spending $15 Billion more than the previous year… my goodness, how will we ever survive?
Sequestration benefits all elected officials because it provides cuts with no fingerprints. No matter what you eliminate from the budget, someone in your district will lose and others will win. If it is an “across-the-board” cut, you can then claim innocence… it’s not my fault! This is bipartisan CYA at its finest. It was of greater importance to Democrats that the federal budget go into sequestration because they would have been annihilated by both their constituents and the DNC for making cuts that they specifically campaigned against, yet knew had to be done; the Republicans were expected to make those tough decisions, although none wanted their name associated with any particular cut. Congress wins; the people lose.
They say that the sequestration cuts will equal anywhere between $42-85 Billion; yet, with over $350 Billion identified as “waste” spending, incurred during stronger economic cycles, the cuts should have been easy. In fact, we could cover half of that amount simply by leasing out empty federal property that is costing us $25 Billion (with a “B”) per year just in maintenance!
In years gone by, this issue would have been resolved in an hour, by the experienced centrists of both parties, bringing together key elements of each side, to establish common ground. This would have been the Statesmen’s move; to do the job for which you were elected rather than play party politics. Instead Congress is being run by the extremists of both parties; many who are rookies to the process and fearful of their party’s retribution if they appear to waiver from strict party lines. While there is good reason to add new blood to Congress, it is experience and leadership that successfully gets the job done. Running our country is serious business and it is deteriorating in the hands of amateurs. The day we killed off the elderly statesmen, was the day we brought chaos to DC. Watch what you wish for.
Whenever you review a “crisis”, it is important to see who has skin in the game… who benefits? While Republicans are the natural target, they would say that a balanced budget requires a balanced approach. They have given in to tax hikes already this year, now it is time for spending cuts, after all, if you taxed 100% of the upper 2%, you still wouldn’t make even a slight dent in our debt.
At home, if our expenses exceed our income, we cut expenses until the income stabilizes. If we can’t cut 1-2 cents per dollar of spending without destroying our entire household, then perhaps someone else should be handling our budget because we are clearly inept. Yet, we must wonder what the Democrats gain by pinning the sequester on the Republicans. No fingerprints and 2014.
The “Politician-in-Chief”, firmly secure in his 2nd term, is facing the reality that he can produce all the Presidential Mandates he wants, but without Congress’ checkbook, it goes nowhere. Thus, he needs a Democrat-controlled House. The American people may elect a President who is cool, charming and oh, so politically-correct, but they want a Republican controlling the purse-strings. If Republicans can be framed as the sequester culprits, then perhaps Obama can get his Dems elected for his final two-years in office, in order to pass his list of mandates, preferably as he did before… too complicated to read, thus “you have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”. And, while there are some Democrats equally enraged by this situation, they receive little press or support because it runs counter to the 2014 DNC objective; and let’s face it, they would like to be in the majority again.
What Board of Directors would allow their people to not pass a budget in 4-years, and do nothing while their executives continue in-fighting and blaming one another for their failure? What family thinks that it can spend its way out of debt? The problem is not simple, but there are some simple measures that can be taken to begin fixing our fiscal challenges.
This is hardball politics, and we are being given a glimpse at the sausage-making; it is not pretty. Who is at fault for the sequester… we are. We elect political figures like we are living in a reality show; we want attractive, charming, humorous participants; and the occasional crazy person makes for greater entertainment value. However, in the real world, do we want them handling our family budget?
Gun Control: Can You Regulate Crazy?
By Jacqueline Cartier
January 10, 2013
In the wake of the heartbreaking tragedy in Connecticut and recently in Aurora, the subject of gun control reemerges. Some want all guns banned, while others simply want limitations specific to assault rifles. The problem with gun control laws is that only law-abiding citizens will follow them; criminals by their very definition are not law-abiding, thus the laws won’t limit their use, but rather embolden them upon a virtually unarmed population. And, for those who say that the ban would mean fewer assault weapons on the street, think about drugs.
On the other end, we hear, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, well, yeah, crazy people! But, we can’t ban “crazy” otherwise the halls of Congress would be empty!
As long as there are humans, there will be “crazy” and you cannot regulate sanity.
Some say that we should arm teachers; well, teachers are not exempt from “crazy”. Plus, we must consider the potential hazards of arming untrained civilians who may overreact to a situation that ends up causing more harm than good; however, the idea of schools hiring a police officer for each location does have merit both as a deterrent and for actual protection.
Gun ownership is a Constitutional right. The Second Amendment states: "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Why was this ‘right’ established, and as number 2, immediately behind “Freedom of Speech”?
While we revere our Founding Fathers, whose bravery created the greatest nation on Earth; they were initially considered to be a band of outlaws. How would their revolution play out in today’s society? It was a different time and the challenges of living in a hostile wilderness with unknown enemies, and the lack of sufficient law-enforcement, made gun ownership essential for survival. Yet, there was a degree of foresight in the creation of the Constitution. It was the understanding that you cannot expect that others will always be there to protect you and that, in this country we pride ourselves in being self-reliant. The ethos of building the American Dream was grounded in, ‘don’t expect others to do for you what you can do for yourself’.
Police are not always nearby during a crime. Whether you are in a rural area, where the local police department might be an hour away; or in an urban neighborhood where gangs rule the streets and there are not enough police to handle the large population, either way, you must be prepared to protect yourself. Criminals know the whereabouts of police officers better than their supervisors; their survival depends upon it. Yours depends upon the ability to defend yourself.
Recently, a New York newspaper published the names and addresses of all registered gun owners. While it was certainly an invasion of privacy, it could also be viewed as a message: “Criminals Beware, You May Be Leaving in a Body Bag”. That’s one heck of a deterrent!
People often cite Swiss laws of gun ownership and their extremely low crime rate as an example of how arming the population works. While those statistics are true, we must keep in mind that every adult male in Switzerland, under the age of 30 must be prepared at a moment’s notice to report for duty and he must bring his military-issued gun from home. Thus, these citizens are military trained and equipped for national security which is a bit different than private gun ownership but it does create a sense of comfort and normalcy to gun ownership that extends well beyond their military service commitment. This knowledge does appear to inhibit crime, as there are no easy targets. Which brings us back to what limitations, if any, should be imposed in the U.S. and more importantly, will it have a positive or negative impact on gun-related crime.
The “people kill people” argument is valid, but what do you do? I offer for consideration, that we regulate the criminals, not the general population.
The 2nd Amendment’s primary function, outside of hunting, is for the protection of its citizens and you must equal that of your attacker. You cannot bring a knife to a gun fight. If someone breaks in with an assault rifle, unless you are a highly trained sniper, prepared in advance for the assault, you will lose. The idea is to eliminate criminals from having assault rifles. You cannot keep them from purchasing the weapon even though none of these criminals would pass a background check because guns change hands amongst “street vendors”. If it is regulated, then the concept of supply and demand simply comes into play and they just pay a bit more for it. The key is in deterring the criminal from wanting an assault rifle. We must make the price too high to pay; and it’s not about the money.
What if committing a crime with an assault weapon carried a mandatory life sentence, regardless of whether or not it resulted in a death? While, most criminals have a built-in social structure in prison due to their connections, making a prison term much less of a deterrent than it would be for the average person, they still don’t want to spend the rest of their life in prison. While, this solution does not address “crazy” because we cannot regulate “crazy”, it will greatly reduce the criminal use of assault weapons without infringing upon Constitutional rights.
There are no simple answers, and there will always be “crimes of passion”, and those committed by people with actual mental/emotional instability, thus no “edit button” to inhibit them from acting upon irrational thoughts, but gun-regulation would not work in either case, as their determination to kill supersedes any logical argument, and weapons of all sorts can be obtained regardless of regulations. Plus, most would consider a mass murderer to be crazy; additional gun laws won’t impact crazy.
Let’s get past political rhetoric and create a sensible resolution that directly targets the problem, because we already have too many angels in Heaven.
Heart verses Head and the Reality of Fiscal Policy
By Jacqueline Cartier
January 17, 2013
A great quote from an unlikely source, Rob Lowe. In a recent interview, Lowe explained why he had become more conservative as he has gotten older. In discussing the differences between the parties, he concluded that Democrats are big on empathy and Republicans are big on logic.
Considering the ‘best and brightest’ from both sides of the aisle, all with an equal sense of patriotic duty, we are left to wonder, how they can create such opposing solutions to the same problem? Each looks at the other side and thinks, “what an idiot” and we look at them collectively thinking the same.
Perhaps the idea of empathy vs logic has merit.
Democrats, big on “empathy” is evidenced by the increase of government programs in nearly every area of our lives. Dems look at it as helping those in need, who might perish without it. To a certain degree, they are correct. Everyone, at some point in their lives needs someone, and family is not always available or in a position to help, thus government “should” have an available option, right? No one wants to see people suffer, and Dems are truly sensitive to this situation.
Republicans are equally sensitive but they view ‘help’ differently because they consider government “entitlement” programs as short-term solutions to long-term issues. They believe strongly in the ‘don’t give a fish; teach them how to fish’ concept, so that the recipient will never again be hungry. Anything less, is demeaning to the recipient and negatively impacts the individual, their family’s future, and the American economy. This “logic” is in line with our traditional ‘American Spirit’ of, we can accomplish anything; ‘don’t hold me back’. Thus, “logic” says that even though we want to help everyone in need, we also need to determine what we can afford to do; otherwise we may make the situation ultimately worse for both the receiver, who may remain dependent, and the givers who may run out of money to help now and in the future.
As an example: We are heartbroken to see a homeless family, yet we don’t bring every homeless person, home to live with us. Why? Don’t we feel “empathy”? Don’t they need help? Don’t we have room in our house? Don’t we have food on our table? Why don’t we solve the homeless situation by moving them all in with us? Perhaps it is because “logic” tells us that we cannot realistically support every homeless person we see, and in attempting to do so, we may impact our own ability to help anyone in the future, by spending every dime we have and borrowing the rest, until we too, are homeless. Instead, it makes more sense to give what we can, and attempt to create an environment that might help to actually remedy the current situation while potentially eliminating this hardship for others in the future. Yet, this may mean that some people will currently remain homeless even though you aren’t. Does that mean you are heartless, selfish, or perhaps not giving enough of “your fair share”?
This is the real empathy verses logic argument. Our heart says, help; our brain says, do it correctly. Democrats say ‘entitlements’, Republicans say ‘fiscal restraint’. This is a micro example of the “fiscal cliff” debate. The mind/heart conflict continues on a massive scale, as Democrats and Republicans continue to face-off on how to best serve our nation’s needs while providing for a prosperous future. How do we accomplish this, without substantially limiting future growth and our national economic security? It is exactly as the dilemma of, how do we help the homeless without becoming homeless ourselves? Are we so focused on short-term solutions that we are oblivious to the long-term consequences? Will doing so, create the same fate as is being experienced across Europe? Would a reduction of some “entitlements” be better than ultimately having to eliminate all of them in the future, due to a collapse of our economic currency?
Both perspectives are valid as we all continually battle the heart verses head or “empathy” verses “logic” conflict in our everyday lives. While both political sides exhibit empathy and logic, the Democrats market that empathy, as in they are the ones who “feel your pain”, and actually take it to a new level, an art form of visuals and fear messaging that makes them the empathetic champs. They are the Mother Theresa of the political scene, making Republicans the antithesis. So, while there are logical arguments within the Democrat’s platform, they promote the empathy card as the emotional hook to prompt voter response.
Republicans look beyond the immediate situation to seek a cause and effect for each condition. Their focus is on creating solutions that will “stand the test of time” which is why they frequently utilize historic references, which some consider to be living in the past, or old-fashioned. While they fully understand that some situations require an immediate response, they become concerned about the future implications of those short-term solutions. What has made this county great is its entrepreneurial spirit, the ability of anyone (not necessarily everyone) to have the opportunity to create for themselves their own “American Dream”, and there is great concern when policies are put in place that make it more difficult to achieve that dream, simply to satisfy a short-term concern. They would rather inspire greatness than encourage dependency.
The biggest challenge is that it is often difficult to secure a vote for a solution that extends beyond the next election cycle within either party, because we are all addicted to the instant remedy and its immediate impact, regardless of political platform or long-term consequences.
This is not a Democrat verses Republican issue, it is an American issue. We are the most generous nation on earth. In tragedy, we give more than all others combined. What will we be able to give when the well runs dry?
Is Santa Real?
By Jacqueline Cartier
December 22, 2012
Who is Santa? Some would say, he is a cheerful person who visits once a year and doesn’t overstay his welcome. He leaves his pets outside, and always comes with gifts. In short, a welcome annual visitor!
A version of Santa has survived the test of time in nearly every culture across the globe. UK: Father Christmas, Italy: Babbo Natale, France: Pere Noel, Russia: Ded Moroz, Chile: Viejo Pascuero; there are as many names as there are countries.
Some align the tradition with the religious aspect of Christmas Day, for others it is a more secular mid-winter holiday, and for some it is merely a day off work, recovering from a month-long spending spree.
Every year, parents are faced with the challenge of trying to explain the existence or not of Santa. It is never an easy task. Why? What does the idea of no Santa mean to children? Why is it such a sad conversation? The gifts would still come. The tree and lights would remain. Why then, is it so upsetting? And, is it really true? No Santa… really?
Who is Santa? Why is the story so relatively consistent around the world? What is the common thread? Why does the image of Santa continue from generation to generation?
Thoughts of Hope… Compassion… Generosity… Happiness… Tradition… Recognition for good deeds… Inspiration for the future… Santa sees it all. Don’t we all want recognition for the good we do all year? Isn’t it nice to think that those acts of kindness won’t go unnoticed? That family and friends are spending their days thinking of something special to do for us, just because they love and care?
The knowledge that even during the darkest time of year, there is a bright spot, a sense of security that everything will be okay… that someone notices your sacrifices and rewards you for them… that all of the family squabbles are temporarily set aside, replaced by love, appreciation, and giving.
Of course, they love you all year, and the gift of time as well as presents are valued always, but how often do we intend to do something nice for someone and time just slips away and it never gets done. The holidays allows us a very specific time for doing those things that allow us to show our appreciation for all that we have and to share that with those who have so little. One day a year, dedicated to giving.
Why does Santa live on; because hope lives on. When we tell a child, there is no Santa, for many it means there is no hope, there is no love, no dreams come true. Why does a child of age 10, who clearly knows that a fat man in a red suit doesn’t really come down the chimney every year, look so brokenhearted at the thought that Santa doesn’t exist? Maybe it’s because in every child’s heart, they know that the spirit of Santa lives eternal. It’s not about the bearded man sliding down the chimney, or flying deer, or elves making toys… what Christmas is truly about, whether religious or secular, is love shared with family, friends, and those in need; and the faith that wishes really can come true.
Santa is a hero to millions of people because he represents the good we strive for; the desire to help those less fortunate; the opportunity to show our appreciation to those we love. Santa exists to remind us of our better selves. Those treasured childhood memories are simply a blueprint for future years of happiness. Santa is part of each and every one of us. And, the next time you hear someone state that there is no Santa, just smile and understand that they simply haven’t recognized the hero within themselves, the Santa that lives in us all.
A Christmas Miracle
Newspaper link: http://www.vaildaily.com/article/20121224/EDITS/121229905&parentprofile=search
Wealthiest & Best-Educated = Obama… Nice Try!
(In response to the “Best and Brightest” voting for Obama)
By Jacqueline Cartier
December 12, 2012
As we all know, numbers can be framed to represent just about anything we desire. In this case, “The ten best educated and wealthiest states in the country voted for Obama” and “The ten least educated and poorest states in the country voted for Romney” with the conclusion “The best and brightest chose Obama”.
On the surface, that sounds rather impressive for Obama, until we dig a bit further. As we consider the demographics of the “best educated” and “wealthiest” regions of the country, we realize that perhaps those numbers are a bit misleading.
In reviewing the states that are considered “best educated”, most are located on the East Coast, primarily in New England. Coincidentally, that is the area where all of the Ivy League schools are located (best educated) along with their feeder-prep schools. The proximity of these institutions greatly influence their surrounding communities (cities), and they are also well-connected to the media outlets, which inform the greater population. Most would agree that these schools teach a left-leaning curriculum, which I assume is because they consider change and new ideas to be “progressive” (Democrat) and traditional theories (Republican) to be old-fashioned, thus outdated. If you are paying $50K a year to educate your child, you want them to learn something new, but as we all know, new does not always equal better. Thus, states like New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, etc. will always be influenced by the Ivy League colleges located within them. In addition, these schools have strong connections to the urban areas within their region, supplying professors, graduates, and “research” facilities to the largest corporations in their states. So, in sheer numbers, you would have more voters with advanced degrees in Massachusetts, where there are over 100-colleges/universities, than in a state like Kansas, where you have less than 1/3 of that amount; does that mean that a Massachusetts voter with an MBA is smarter than an MBA voter from Kansas? Why are there so many Ivy and Ivy-type colleges on the East Coast? Because that is where our founding fathers lived, thus built them, and in this case, the institutions that frown upon teaching tradition, love their traditional heritage; it is not that they are necessarily better, but due to their pedigree they have historic endowments that allow them to offer considerably more academic and research opportunities, thus more “discoveries” leading to greater credibility and exposure, and more money. There are not many Nobel prizes being awarded to A&M schools. After all, farming and ranching have not changed much in the past century.
In addition, these urban areas tend to be international finance and commerce centers, attracting many large corporate headquarters. The supply-and-demand of this environment leads to increased cost-of-living expenses, which demand higher wages, thus demographically “wealthier” voters.
In addition, large urban areas have many more minorities, due to job availability, concentrated transport and other living conveniences, which tend to vote Democrat.
On the other end, as we review history, we recognize that while huge urban areas tend to produce more white-collar businesses and manufacturing, the rural areas take advantage of the abundance of land and suitable weather conditions for farming and ranching, which feeds the rest of the country… yes, including the “wealthier, more educated” urban areas. Corporate and political wheeling-and-dealing would come to a halt without the “Bread-basket, fly-over states”. The knowledge and skill required to run an agricultural company with national and international exports is equal or greater to that of their urban, white-collar counterparts, yet, they will never gain the respect they deserve until you see a Harvard A&M. Does that make a rancher dumber than a corporate executive? Think about some of the more famous “uneducated” people like Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, Benjamin Franklin, John D. Rockefeller Sr, Steven Spielberg, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson John Glenn, Ray Kroc, Thomas Edison, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Graham Bell, Walt Disney, Coco Chanel, Col Sanders, David Geffen, etc. Were they dumb? An education can be had outside of a university.
And regarding wealth; if a person’s income buys them a better standard of living than their urban counterpart, does that make them “poorer” (rentals in Cedar Rapids run about 80% less than in New York City, thus requiring less money for a higher standard of living). Thus, a lower income does not always equal being “poorer”.
The Democrats continue to attempt to frame themselves as smarter than Republicans, as is evidenced by statistics like those in the “Fools” article. However, the Republicans are in awe that so many people voted for Obama, a second time around, given his presidential record. It is like the Einstein quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Obama voters are not stupid, but the jury is still out on an insanity verdict.
Election Analysis 2012. What Happened to the Republicans? All Politics is Local.
By Jacqueline Cartier
November 12, 2012
Millions of Republicans did not show up to vote, why? Was it really all about the ground game? Is the rhetoric true that Republicans are out of touch with minorities and women? Or, is it as simple as, “all politics is local” and it begins at the kitchen table.
When faced with the possibility of losing your home, not being able to feed your family, along with the inability to send your children to college, and the possibility of having to provide greater support with fewer resources to your aging parents; suddenly your household’s fiscal reality trumps Party principles.
No one is exempt from this economic crisis. While some have been hit harder than others, this recession affects everyone and influences all fiscal-related decisions, including political ones.
Every pundit has discussed the downfall of the Republican Party, with most centering on dated politics relating to race and gender, but consider this; the substantial reduction in Republican voter turnout may be a direct result of concerns regarding the immediate impact of the Ryan budget upon their family’s financial security. As they say, all politics is local and begins at the kitchen table. While these Republicans would never vote for Obama, they may have had serious concerns about the effects of the fiscal cuts upon their current situation regardless of other conservative considerations. For example, hurricane Sandy victims would certainly not want to hear of reductions in federal emergency aid at a time when they need it most.
Millions of people have spent their entire lives working and saving, only to find themselves on unemployment, with their hard-earned savings reduced or eliminated due to the recession, and their home equity now gone, college savings disappeared, along with new federal regulations that eliminate the possibility of securing a loan. In addition, if there are any reductions in their parent’s social security income, they will be expected to pick up the difference, with less. These are groups of people who, for the first time in their lives due to dire circumstances, are on the receiving end of the government programs that they have supported throughout their careers. Although, their core values are aligned with the Republican Party and they would never have voted for Obama, their short-term survival needs influenced their decision not to vote at all. This demographic would have been hard to measure, as many were ashamed to admit their current circumstances but would still support the Republican candidates during the campaign season because they inherently knew that their situation was temporary and they would rebuild again because the traditional “can-do” American spirit that is such a strong part of the Republican ethos. However, their immediate concerns superseded the Party platform, costing Romney millions of votes, thus the presidency.
Other issues of concern were also present. One, was the reframing of Romney by the extreme right of the Party during the primary season. What happened to Romney is exactly what happened to McCain (who had the same communications team). Certain elements of the Republican Party are known to pressure moderate conservatives into becoming Tea Party candidates. The problem is that Republicans really like McCain’s “Maverick” attitude, and Romney’s ability to succeed against almost total political opposition; yet, both were killed by the extreme right makeover, thus resulting in candidates that appeared weak and not authentic, as a result, they both lost by substantial margins.
Instead of respecting a leader who builds a consensus on common ground to move forward, the Tea Party refers to them as RINOs (Republican In Name Only). The fact is, that true Leadership brings out the best of everyone and does so by honoring each individual’s contribution and value. Both of these men had reputations of principle before politics and success through coalition building. Consensus is achieved by picking your battles wisely while adhering to your most important values, which means you won’t get everything you want but you will likely get your most critical issues approved. Without the ability to build coalitions, government will be deadlocked. Consider the last 4-years with not one single budget approved in Obama’s entire first term, which has resulted in continued borrowing and increased debt. Contrary to popular belief, the Republican Party has not been taken over by the Tea Party. It is a small but highly vocal group, made up of rebranded Libertarians with the added social component of the religious-right, that sells locally (by district, thus the House majority) but rarely statewide (Senate) and certainly not nationally (Presidential) because the larger the constituency, the more diverse the requirements and expectations. Most Republicans are fiscally conservative and spiritually inspired with opinions on issues that range across the entire Republican spectrum and are thus, more respectful of differing views, making them more adept at leadership that requires consensus building. Romney was an excellent representation of this philosophy.
Women voters were not an issue until Santorum made them one by declaring his personal religious beliefs as a Party platform; that position, many would argue, cost the Party the “women’s vote” by creating an issue where none previously existed. Santorum is an honorable man but he crossed the line between his religious beliefs and the Republican Party platform, giving Obama a clear issue to exploit (reproductive rights) with an inference that the Republicans would violate the separation of church and state. Romney should have focused more on his history of hiring and promoting women (a more eloquent statement than the “binder” one) with ads of women who were better off because of Romney as governor.
Romney did not provide a greater distinction between his MA Healthcare Bill and Obamacare for fear of losing right-wing support within the party. He should have used this issue to show his bipartisan work, his support of women, his inclusion of local business in the structure of the bill, and the fiscal and self-sufficiency safeguards that were out voted by the opposition but that would have assisted in its solvency. These are stark differences between the MA Healthcare Bill and Obamacare; mainly that Congress was never given the time to review this pivotal piece of legislation, thus eliminating bipartisan support (Pelosi, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”), quickly passed literally in the middle of the night behind closed doors; and businesses were not included in the review process for its impact upon implementation and its effect on employment and the economy. These are key differences would have distinguished Romney’s business experience and bipartisan leadership to accomplish difficult tasks in addition to his concern and support of those in critical health and very poor circumstances (countering his ‘only for the rich’ image).
The selection of Paul Ryan, a congressman whose integrity is unquestionable and respected by both sides of the aisle, also represented immediate drastic cuts to most government programs, “The Ryan Plan” would go into effect at exactly the time when so many Americans needed them. This selection was made in part, to gain Tea Party support that had been so vehemently against Romney during the primary, and thus to solidify the Republican base. While the result of that decision increased far-right support for Romney, it also lost him the moderate and independent voter. Romney should have placed greater emphasis on the timeframe that would protect existing recipients and to praise the work of those who were unemployed through no fault of their own (instead of the 47% remark which killed him on this issue) and inspire those struggling with a Reagan-esque motivational stance. This enabled Obama to frame Romney as an extreme right-wing conservative, or worse yet, a flip-flopper, rather than the moderate Republican who, as Governor of a very liberal state (MA) and head of the Olympics, worked with a highly diverse group of international dignitaries and was able to bring together a consensus of ideas and fiscal responsibility resulting in success.
The Latino vote was also a challenge, with concerns regarding immigration. Even naturalized citizens within the Hispanic community are friends with, or related to, someone who is not here legally. Concerns for their wellbeing hit Hispanic neighborhoods hard. The extreme stance taken by states like Arizona (where there are some legitimate security concerns) made many Hispanics feel scared and unwelcome, regardless of their legal status. A selection of Marco Rubio would have made Hispanics feel more included in the Party by providing a visible representative voice on the ticket. Romney wanted to use Rubio’s immigration proposal (which was rejected then copied by Obama and promoted as his own) of granting legal status, not citizenship, to minors who were enrolled in college (with in-state tuition for residents) or military service and have no criminal record. Romney never spoke of this, yet it would have increased Hispanic support.
National security should have played a greater role in the campaign. Romney should have pressed for answers on the Benghazi situation which as generated huge bipartisan concern; and its effect upon Middle East politics and how that directly relates to our national security.
The reputation of the Republican Party as being the party of the rich, is a particularly sensitive issue given today’s economy. While there are an equal number of rich Democrats in Congress, the Democrats are supported by the Unions, whose membership is made up of primarily hourly employees, framed as “the poor”. Republicans are huge supporters of small business, who the hourly employee consider to be “the rich, even though many business owners frequently end up with less money after taxes and expenses, than they pay their employees. Nonetheless, this perception issue is very strong and is often exploited by the Democrats along economic, racial, and gender lines. The best way to counter this image is by hands-on community involvement (the ultimate ground game) in challenging neighborhoods. This connection must be established at the entry levels of politics so that it will build as the candidate rises. A specific strategy is available for successful implementation.
After Hurricane Sandy, Romney should have clarified his position on FEMA, as his stated position was misrepresented by the opposition. Romney, like other Governors, prefer state mobilization efforts, to dealing with the bureaucracy of Washington DC via FEMA, during disasters. It often takes additional days for approval, distribution, implementation, etc. for help to arrive to the afflicted area. When a catastrophe hits, additional days may cost additional lives; sometimes even hours can make a huge difference in survival. If states have the ability to organize and create a funded infrastructure to address their state’s needs, deaths and other losses are greatly diminished. Currently, the greatest aid being received by Hurricane Sandy victims are through private organizations like the Red Cross. When Romney suggested reducing FEMA, he was speaking as a former Governor of Massachusetts and the gubernatorial consensus of shifting emergency resources from the federal level to the state level, with FEMA becoming more of a national coordination effort with the ability to designate federal loan approval status.
Many people did not know Romney until the first presidential debate. That gave him very little time to spread his message, versus the Obama, who was a known entity. Just as Obama toured Democrat-friendly television shows, Romney should have done the same. As much as we hate to admit it, we are a culture with a short attention span and want to be entertained constantly. Romney would have increased his exposure multi-fold had he utilized the many television venues available, including the conservative-friendly Fox News. Ann Romney was a hit in her television appearances.
The lesson to be learned by the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections is NOT that the Republicans are out-of-touch, or anti-Hispanic, or anti-Black, or anti-woman; it is that they are currently being influenced by those who worry about the direction of our country culturally, spiritually, internationally, and economically, and feel that we are at a point where extreme action is required, thus the Tea Party has positioned itself as the counterpoint to the extreme left; however, in doing so, have alienated the very base which they seek to inspire. Consensus enhances legislation by providing wider appeal and thus greater opportunity for success.
Top five reasons for the Romney loss:
First, his communications team repeated their McCain strategies and caused the same result.
Second, the Tea Party must change their approach (not necessarily their focus) in achieving their objectives; currently they are perceived as intolerant, non-inclusive, and inexperienced at governing, which has tainted the entire Republican Party.
Third, “handlers” should not repackage the candidate into something they are not, but rather, build upon their strengths and reframe their weaknesses.
Fourth, the candidates must get exposure through a variety of venues; news shows, talk shows, entertainment shows, radio, social media, basically adapt to whatever is currently being utilized by your target voter group. While a Presidential election is serious business, you can bridge the gap and become more “user friendly” by allowing the voters to see you in a less formal setting. For example, if you are looking for the young voter, The Daily Show is not a bad choice; the older voter may enjoy an appearance on Jay Leno; many women watch The View; guys would probably enjoy a sports related conversation on ESPN (making you more of a likable guy), and while these are not hard-news outlets, they help for create a bond and increase the likability factor of the candidate.
Fifth, keep an eye on the polls to tweak strategies but not to have too great an influence on the direction of the campaign, as polls continually change, the candidate should not, without appearing to be a flip-flopper.
Women, Hispanics, and Blacks all have uniquely strong values that align with the Republican Party. Strategies must be created to develop and build upon those values. A prime example: after a lunch with conservative friends discussing a variety of issues, former Democrat, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, said to her husband, “I'll be damned, we're Republicans!" and she went on to become the first female, Hispanic, Governor in the United States – as a Republican!
Republicans must support the ability of voters to believe in their worth to this great nation, to believe in the dreams they had in their youth, to believe in the diversity (of ideas and ethnicity) that created this great nation, to believe in the success of future generations… to believe in the American Dream, and to know that this country never stopped believing in them.
Racism in Sanford, FL? Not so fast.
By Jacqueline Cartier
March 23, 2012
(Updated and republished on July 10, 2013 as the trial enters closing statements)
What happened on February 26, 2012 in an Orlando suburb? Could the scenario have gone something like this:
Imagine that you are in a strange neighborhood, walking home and a guy is following you. Is he going to attack you; why is he following you? Out of fear, you run but are uncertain as to where you are, all the buildings look identical; then to protect yourself, to make sure he doesn’t follow you home and possibly endanger your family; you quietly approach the man from behind and attempt to stop him before he attacks you. You scream for help as you tackle this guy. Martin may have left this earth as a hero, trying to protect his family.
With the recent increase of criminal activity in the area, you have been tasked with protecting the neighborhood. You notice a man walking around, clearly uncertain of where he is going and is wearing apparel that is popular with gangs. Given the recent criminal activity, you follow this person to see what they are planning on doing. When this person notices you following them, he begins to run. Why would he run if he wasn’t “up to no good”? Did he just rob someone, is he on drugs, whatever it is, it looks bad and it is your job to protect the community, so you follow in pursuit while dialing 911. This guy heads towards the other community exit; will he wait and then return, possibly harming someone? Should you try to capture him? 911 responds that they “don’t need you to do that” so you assume the police are on their way and you head back to your car, ready to provide the police with whatever information they may need. Then, from behind, you are attacked by this same person. Uncertain as to what he is carrying in his bag (A gun? A knife? It seems heavy enough for either), and clearly this guy is younger and stronger. Why would he attack? Something is wrong; you were obviously correct in your concern about him possibly attacking someone. You struggle and scream for help, and ultimately pull your weapon since you have no idea how far this attack will go or what he may pull out of his bag. In the struggle, the gun goes off and Martin is dead. Police evidence indicates that the injuries on Zimmerman and the grass stains on his clothing are consistent with an attack, as described by Zimmerman. Zimmerman was not given an automatic walk on this; after medical attention on the scene, he was handcuffed, brought in to the police station, and questioned for 5-hours before he was released, and the police continued the investigation the next day before their preliminary conclusion... that there was no evidence indicating anything other than a tragic incident had occurred. That may change as additional information surfaces, but for now, Zimmerman is a man who, given the circumstances, thought that he was in defense of his life, and is now living with the knowledge that he killed an unarmed boy.
No one knows exactly how this all came down, but it seems as though two people, doing what they normally would on a Sunday night, collided in a tragic situation where they were each feeling threatened and the uncertain. Upon confrontation, they both yelled for help. Such a sad situation might not have occurred had they simply spoken to one another before reacting.
Martin was innocently walking home and Zimmerman was innocently patrolling the neighborhood. There have been calls of violence, particularly by the Black Panthers in placing a bounty “dead or alive” on Zimmerman, which is not only irresponsible and dangerous, but also illegal, in essentially putting a contract out, on what appears to be an innocent man (we don’t have all the details yet) involved in a tragic altercation. Those that claim racism should consider that according to a friend of Zimmerman, Joe Oliver (also Black), that Zimmerman regularly spent many hours volunteering, helping minority children in the area. Not all Black and White incidents are racist-based. It also inflames the situation, when the media shows old photos of Zimmerman looking like a fugitive and Martin at age 13 (he was 17). Let’s not compound one heartbreaking tragedy with another. Let justice prevail.
Colorado 2010 Election Summary: Role of State Party Chair
CO Republican Party and Tea Party on 2010 Gubernatorial Election
By Jacqueline Cartier
The 2010 elections were stressful for everyone. We were in the middle of an economic crisis with unprecedented mounting debt, increased unemployment, an impending healthcare legislation being forced upon us, along with concerns about our military commitments abroad, and decreased international respect, and other critical issues. This gave rise to the Tea Party movement, initiated by Libertarians within the GOP. Given the situation, this was definitely the year of the Republican.
Colorado was considered a contested state, with high potential for a turnover. The state party Chair had the responsibility of making sure that Republicans won as many races as possible, with a particular focus on the gubernatorial race, in this year of redistricting. The Democrats had a very strong, well-known candidate that would present a major challenge to any running Republican.
In order to secure wins, there must be a separation of responsibilities, each requiring a unique skillset. While the individual candidates must concentrate on their specific races (micro perspective), the Chair must focus on the combined races within the state (macro perspective), assuring that they are complimentary to one another and able to achieve the ultimate party goal of winning Republican seats, both on the state and national level. This is the Chair’s main responsibility, to secure wins. To that end, s/he enlists the RNC as well as other party organizations.
For purposes of this review, we will limit the focus to the race with the most controversy, the gubernatorial race. While the Republican Senate candidate was selected from within the Tea Party movement, his qualifications and credibility were not in question, and in fact, ran a very close race; however, the gubernatorial race was filled with controversy and ethical challenges. Thus, began the great divide between the Tea Party and the GOP in Colorado, which became a national media sensation.
Due to the qualifications and name recognition of Hickenlooper, the Democratic candidate for governor, plus the massive amounts of money available to him, it would take an unusually strong candidate to win the top job in Colorado. Also, given the national and local economic challenges, it had to be someone with the experience and skills to immediately effect change; and to be so strong in these areas, that they could overcome the popularity, and experience of Hickenlooper.
The two main contenders for the GOP slot were Scott McInnis and Dan Maes. While both men had vastly different backgrounds, they both had admirable reputations in the private sector. While McInnis had greater experience in both business and government, Maes appeared to be the “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” type; an outsider that might bring a down-to-earth realism to the ticket. While the GOP may have had concerns about Maes’ experience and ability to defeat Hickenlooper, they were not against it. After all, there were plenty of people within the party that would have taken him under-wing and helped him to succeed; plus this was the year of the “outsider”.
Then, a Chair’s worst nightmare; McInnis was charged with plagiarism, and it was accompanied by a financial payout of $300K. The gubernatorial race was already going to be an incredible challenge, and now with this charge, it would most-likely be impossible to win. McInnis denied the charges, stating that is was someone else’s mistake, his researcher. However, in this very important race, the candidate’s integrity must not be in question, particularly considering recent events in the areas of corporate and political corruption. Even if the mistake was unintentional, it still created doubt amongst supporters and would definitely cost the Republican Party the governor’s seat. In addition, it shifts the focus away from the issues, which were a Republican stronghold. This is a reality that McInnis understood, regardless of how the “misunderstanding” took place, he would have to relinquish his candidacy if he won the primary and possibly come back another day.
The Chair’s nightmare didn’t end there, for Maes, who won the primary, was charged with campaign finance violations in the amount of nearly $45K, and he too, blamed someone else, a volunteer. In addition, there were claims made by Maes that he was an “undercover cop” for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which he later indicated may have been a misrepresentation, “The comments might have been incorrect”. These “incorrect comments” on top of the fine of $17.5K that was imposed, regarding the campaign finance violations, left Maes with an integrity problem and the Republican Party with the lack of a credible candidate. Then, what would have normally not been considered a major issue, but on top of all the prior questionable situations, it was discovered that, while Maes was promoting himself as a successful business person, with the experience to handle Colorado’s struggling economy; he had declared bankruptcy years earlier. Again, not a major issue, as many people are currently having economic difficulties; but rather, the fact that it was concealed, took another hit on the candidate's credibility. He would have to step-down if the Republicans were to stand any chance of winning the governor’s seat. Even if Maes’ explanations were true, and it is certainly conceivable that they were; the public perception was that the Republicans were running corrupt candidates, which would have become a Democrat's dream. There were also the “macro” concerns of those below him on the ticket, which in a tight race could make the difference between winning and losing. Buck was already facing a tight race; the credibility issues effecting the top of the ticket would inevitably taint all those below; although in all fairness, in Buck’s case, there were other issues he faced, as well.
The reason for reminding those in our party about the challenges we all faced in the 2010 elections, is to say that the GOP was not against the Tea Party. It held both candidates responsible for their actions, with the associated repercussions. Many within both the Tea Party and GOP were incredibly disappointed, as was evidenced by only an 11% result for the Republicans in the general election for governor. However, it was not the Tea Party that the GOP was against; it was the actions of the candidates, who ended up with integrity issues that the party simply could not support. While McInnis understood this, and had appropriately stepped aside; Maes continues to this day, to attribute the calls for him to withdraw, as an attack against the entire Tea Party. That response is similar to those of the Obama administration, when they call critics of Obama, racist. No, the critics are not anti-Black, just anti-Obama, or more specifically, his policies. The GOP was not against supporting the Tea Party, only against supporting those perceived as ethically questionable. Even if the actions of both candidates stemmed from purely innocent mistakes, it was enough for the party to lose the race. The Tancredo effect made no difference, except that while many may have disagreed with his stand on certain issues, he did not face the same ethical challenges, and thus achieved greater conservative support at the polls.
The Republican Party is home to diverse opinions with common values. We must all unify in order to successfully defeat the Obama agenda in 2012; our children’s future depends upon it. Beware of terms like “Revolution vs. Institution” or those who say that anyone seeking unification is a “Traitor” or a “RINO” (anyone who has been married, understands the value of compromise and choosing your battles wisely), or who call all incumbents “corrupt”. While there is certainly some corruption in DC, not all incumbents are corrupt. I personally like the idea of term limits but we shouldn't label an incumbent “corrupt” just because they have chosen public service as a career; it would be like someone accusing you of corruption just because you have been in business for many years and pay a little extra attention to your best customers; most would never consider doing anything illegal or unethical, they just want their best clients to feel appreciated; so, don’t automatically be against an incumbent. Having said that, I’d love to see new “blood” within the party. Which brings me to the point of this message; in casting your ballot, vote for someone who you trust, someone whose reputation is honorable... vote integrity.
Libya no-fly Zone
By Jacqueline Cartier
Friday, March 17, 2011
Those opposed to the no-fly zone in Libya (which is truly an act of war, as we must bomb their runways and threaten to shoot down their planes) have a valid point in stating that this will commit us to yet another war in the Middle East, that we simply cannot afford; and there is the resentment that we are always imposing democracy on countries that may not want it, nor know how to handle it once achieved. After all, it took us many years to establish our current system.
While those comments are largely true, we must remember that our country was founded by those who felt divinely inspired to create a place where freedom and equality reigned. And, since we ourselves are not divine, we are still working towards those ideals. But, as divine inspiration so rarely does, these goals are not limited to political and geographic boundaries. The United States of America is considered by many, especially those outside of America, to be the shimmering city on the hill; the one where people line up to get in, not get out; the symbol of freedom, liberty, and as Superman would say, the American way. The reason to help Libya is because we can, and are divinely inspired to do so, even at great sacrifice to ourselves. It’s because freedom against tyranny should not be a gift to the few, lucky enough to be born here; because when we see human suffering, the divine within us wants to help and we are indeed obligated to do so, as John Kennedy stated, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required”.
Having said that, we must also be practical; can we save everyone who lives under a brutal régime? We are only human, and the United States has its limitations; if we spread our resources too thin, we will place our own country at risk, much in the same way as wanting to help our homeless, but we simply cannot afford to move everyone into our house, or we face becoming homeless ourselves. Sometimes we have to make triage-type decisions that on the surface may seem cold and calculating, in determining the U.S. interests in the conflict. It breaks our heart to face these limitations, and thus, we sometimes must do less than desired because we are simply unable to fix it. So, in making the decision to assist those in need across the world, we must also take into consideration the short-term and long-term effects upon our nation, as well as theirs. While we can temporarily help those suffering under inhumane conditions, can we produce a long-term solution? Do they really want us there? Will those being oppressed, when in power, be worse than the oppressors? Is there a direct correlation between this country’s domestic situation and the security of our country? Is there an alternative option? Can we establish a coalition with other countries, creating a stronger alliance from which those suffering may turn; thus spreading the risk among many nations? We have a responsibility to aid, but history (and religion) also tells us that we cannot fix all that is evil in the world.
In helping those across the globe, there is a genuine and specific toll on our country, on multiple levels. The human sacrifice, given by those who bravely chose to fight for these God-given rights is immeasurable; the financial toll, however, can be measured and should be reimbursed by those countries in a position to do so. Just as Iraq has $15-trillion in oil, and our country has spent $1.4-trillion on their behalf, they should reimburse the financial obligations incurred in their defense; likewise, Libya has enough oil to do the same. And, while we should not limit our defense merely to those able to pay, it does indeed present a financial burden upon the American people, not to mention the human cost, of which there is no price, but those countries in a position to repay that fiscal debt, should be obligated to do so.
We should have taken the lead in pursuing the no-fly zone, as the world was expecting our leadership in this area. We could have insisted that the major Middle Eastern players join us; because quite frankly, they would have very little wealth and power, if not for our massive oil purchases, plus it is in their best interest to have a less threatening neighbor. This all should have taken place weeks ago. Our country’s leadership needs to, as they say, “grow a pair”, and begin the tough job of leading the greatest country on Earth. It’s worth it.