Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cinder Block on the Gas Pedal

The day before the inauguration, I replied to a Twitter hashtag about the proposed wall at the US-Mexico border. Though I hadn't implicitly said it before on social media, I gave the response I normally give in mixed conversation: the wall will serve as a metaphor and not much else; its just a pipe dream for xenophobes. The tweet received nearly a dozen hearts over the span of a week, but it also dragged me into a conversation I wasn't preparing myself to get into. I spent the better part of two days arguing the point and purpose of the wall, how much it would cost, and how the preexisting laws are allegedly not being enforced. I was dismissed at least twice as just another aloof liberal. The whole encounter was a massive headache.

In other words, welcome to Trump's America. The man who spent the better part of 18 months hijacking the Republican Party to cater his own desires has launched the mother of all culture wars. Bigots, homophobes, reactionaries, and the generally under-informed now feel more entitled than ever to throw their weight around. Immigration hardliners now believe their $20 billion* pipe dream is becoming a reality. The quick and prolific succession of executive orders has been bewildering, and the nationwide protest of the temporary ban of Middle Eastern refugees was a justified rebuke. Though I am deeply concerned about Chief of Staff Steve Bannon's influence in Trumps's inner circle, I am more afraid that this new president will be a patsy of the party. The fact that Trump is still squabbling with CNN and the New York Times indicates Bannon has at least one hand on the steering wheel. If former President Obama had to work around gridlock for most of his term, then President Trump is fueling the loggerheads.

Tonight's appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, a prime-time spectacle that didn't have to be, was the closest thing to a bipartisan olive branch we might see in the next four years. Trump could've made a worse pick, but its tough to say which concerns me more: Gorsuch's originalist philosophy, which evokes a "Mini-Me" of the man he might succeed, Antonin Scalia; or that he's not even 50 years old, which could keep Gorsuch on the court for the next 30-plus years. Some Democrats are hoping for a Merrick Garland-type shutdown of the nominee, but I fear that it will not succeed.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are in for a bumpy ride.


*a conservative estimate, to be honest.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

These Past Eight Years, Part 2

(Click here for part one.)

What President Obama will undoubtedly be most remembered for and most heavily judged upon, is the Affordable Care Act, known more commonly as Obamacare. A piece of legislation this expensive and far-reaching was bound to polarize the nation, as it did throughout the Summer and Fall of 2009. After a prolonged debate, both in public and in both chambers of Congress, not to mention a concession or two, the ACA was passed into law in Spring 2010.  It still proved polarizing, though. The Democrat-led U.S. Senate had lost their super-majority shortly before the ACA vote, then got walloped in the midterm elections 6 1/2 months later. The Tea Party movement tried countless times to repeal or defang Obamacare, and until last week they had done so to little avail.  Whether semi-socialized health care will live on remains to be seen.

In addition, other socially progressive causes flourished in his administration. In January 2009, just a handful of states had legalized marriage equality. By 2015, after a narrow Supreme Court decision, it was the law of the land. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Obama's other far-reaching bill, was a stimulus package that attempted to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and lessen the burden on the middle class. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act both saw the light of day under Obama's guidance and support.

As I listened to the last 20 minutes of his farewell address Tuesday night, I was reminded of Obama's character. For the first time in awhile, I thought of the man behind the policy: the stirring orator, the guarded optimist, and doting husband and father. For a split second, I wasn't that concerned with any flawed legislation and or his sheepish approach to world affairs, but the genuinely compassionate and even-keeled man that alluded to hope and change in 2007-08.

Eight years ago, I gave George W. Bush a C-/D+ as he left office; to some critics, that may have been somewhat generous, but I stand by that grade. Dubya was mediocre to put it mildly, but we've had far worse commanders in chief. With the Obama years down to its last week or so, I would put our 44th president somewhere in the B/B- range. President Obama was effective but flawed, but more often then not his collected demeanor matched his altruistic leadership.


Friday, January 6, 2017

I Resolve...

A few years ago, I elaborated upon my obsession with the number 17. Now that we're in the year 2017, I've been wanted to mark the occasion in some way, though I'm hard-pressed to do so. Allow me to explain:

For the last few years, I've set a broad, sometimes vaguely defined New Year's resolution. In 2015, I resolved to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances; the end result was, for lack of a more thorough explanation, a mixed bag. Last year I resolved to do things I've been putting off for too long; that was a relative success, though I'm now in a position where I'm overextended and maybe showing signs of burnout. Tentatively, my goal for 2017 is to de-clutter: I need to oversimplify, get rid of deadweight and unnecessary things, and figure out my priorities. Between a full time job and forcing myself through grad school, this will not be an easy task.

This August I will turn 33 years old. While I remind myself that age is a number, being a third of a century old is another reminder of my lurching mortality. I'm an adult, and I feel like an adult, but I keep thinking but that the "fun" years of my life are coming to a close. At lot of the aforementioned deadweight is leftover things, assorted remnants from my teens and 20s that I don't need to hold on to anymore. I'm not in a rush to move on per se, but it still feels like its holding me back.

Throughout the year, I'll be posting updates on my progress. Luckily, I'll make some progress selling old sports cards on eBay and cleaning out the back of my closet, and that's just the start of it.