An Open Letter to United States High School Students

I am addressing this post to the citizens of the United States currently in grades nine through twelve. Today at school, you may have seen an address that President Barack Obama made to a group of students in a high school in Arlington, Virginia. You saw the President call for personal responsibility. You saw him emphasize that it is ultimately up to you whether you fail or succeed in this society. Success comes through hard work.

These are valuable lessons but unfortunately another lesson was taught to you in the days leading up to this speech. You see, there are some among you who did not get to see the President’s address. Sadly, there are adults in our government and on television and the radio who deliberately tried to scare your school district or your parents into keeping you from seeing this address. They told lies in order to make your principals and your teachers and even your parents believe that our President would say things that might be harmful to you. It is sad that at such a young age you must learn the lesson that some people care more about what they believe, true or untrue, than they care about the welfare of you and your family.

So for those of you who could not see the video at school today, I am posting it below. Whether you are a freshman or a senior looking forward to college next year, you are old enough to start making some of your own critical decisions. Watch the video and decide for yourself whether the President’s message is a good one or a bad one. I’m guessing that if you want to be an overnight success, the President’s message will disappoint you. I also imagine that you might find it a bit corny when the President tells you to wash your hands, but remember he is not just the President, he is a father too and he doesn’t want his kids or you to get the flu this season.

If you have already seen the President’s message, or after you view it here, forward the link to this article to all your friends who might not have seen it. And ask your parents to sit down and watch it with you. It is so important that you do not let anyone in government, television or radio, no matter how well meaning, prevent you from hearing ideas that might enrich your life. The America we live in is built on the notion that obstacles to enlightenment will not be thrown in your way.

I will not be accepting comments directly on this article. If you are a student who has read this article and would like to share your thoughts, use my contact page to get in touch with me. I will update this post with your comments as I receive them (and I will of course not use your full name so don’t worry about saying exactly how you feel).

We learned a lot of lessons in the past few days about personal responsibility and freedom to express ideas. I hope the debates of the past few days have made us a better nation. Thanks for reading this, and to echo our President, stay in school and work hard. You owe it to yourself, your family and your country.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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Hot in Herre — Obama Video Address: August 29, 2009

When Nelly sang “Hot in Herre”, he wasn’t talking about the weather but this week, President Obama was. In this week’s video address, Obama addresses his renewed commitment to emergency preparedness as we approach the fourth anniversary of hurricane Katrina.

I distinctly remember being on vacation in a hotel room in 2005 watching a grown man cry on TV as he pleaded to the government for help down in New Orleans. Of course, we all remember then President Bush’s accolade “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” to his incompetent head of FEMA, Michael Brown. One of Obama’s campaign pledges was effective government in times of crisis and it is good to see him reinforcing this in this week’s message.

Of course, when we talk about the weather, we can’t skip the topic of “global warming” or perhaps the more accurate term “climate change”. That so many are still climate change skeptics is truly frightening for our nation. In Monday’s “Huffington Post”, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry makes a clear and chilling case for the impending crisis.

Facts, as John Adams said, are stubborn things. Here are a few you need to know: Atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels have risen 38% in the industrial era, from 280 to 385 parts per million (ppm). Scientists have warned that anything above 450 ppm — a warming of 2 degrees Celsius — will result in an unacceptable risk of catastrophic climate change.

The truth is that the threat we face is not an abstract concern for the future. It is already upon us and its effects are being felt worldwide, right now. Scientists project that the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer of 2013. Not in 2050, but four years from now. — via John Kerry: We Can’t Ignore the Security Threat from Climate Change.

Kerry goes on to say that this ecological deterioration is not only a biological threat but a security threat as well. Groups like al-Qaeda will use any weakness to attack our country and an ecological destabilization could be just the opening they need to strike us again.

There are those who stubbornly call climate change much ado about nothing. As Kerry points out, the memo “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” was viewed similarly and we see how that ended up. This is definitely an instance where “better safe than sorry” is the best way to go.

And now the President of the United States of America:

Afghanistan — A Different Kind of Heat

I kind of thought hell would freeze over before I found myself agreeing with conservative pundit George Will but he has hit the right note where Afghanistan is concerned. In Tuesday’s Washington Post, he writes:

Even though violence exploded across Iraq after, and partly because of, three elections, Afghanistan’s recent elections were called “crucial.” To what? They came, they went, they altered no fundamentals, all of which militate against American “success,” whatever that might mean. Creation of an effective central government? Afghanistan has never had one. U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry hopes for a “renewal of trust” of the Afghan people in the government, but the Economist describes President Hamid Karzai’s government — his vice presidential running mate is a drug trafficker — as so “inept, corrupt and predatory” that people sometimes yearn for restoration of the warlords, “who were less venal and less brutal than Mr. Karzai’s lot.”

Mullen speaks of combating Afghanistan’s “culture of poverty.” But that took decades in just a few square miles of the South Bronx. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, thinks jobs programs and local government services might entice many “accidental guerrillas” to leave the Taliban. But before launching New Deal 2.0 in Afghanistan, the Obama administration should ask itself: If U.S. forces are there to prevent reestablishment of al-Qaeda bases — evidently there are none now — must there be nation-building invasions of Somalia, Yemen and other sovereignty vacuums?

via George F. Will – Time for the U.S. to Get Out of Afghanistan – washingtonpost.com.

I’ve said before in the comments section of this blog that I’m all for stopping al-Qaeda but lately there is talk of nation building in Afghanistan and Will points out with unusual humility and all nationalistic pride put aside, that we still have nation building to do in our own country (can you spell Katrina?). There has been talk of the right war and the wrong war. The typical construct is that Iraq was the wrong war, Afghanistan is the right one. But Afghanistan was the right war. Time changes everything. We squandered our riches on Iraq. We no longer have the money to pour into Afghanistan and at this point in time we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. al-Qaeda has been pushed into the Afghan-Pakistan border so, as Will points out, bringing the fight to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is no longer critical. With Afghanistan’s tribal structure, bringing democracy there is next to impossible. For that matter, we are not even nation building in a grateful nation. As I pointed out in a May article, Hamid Karzai is very quick to criticize American military strategy in his country, not realizing our presence there has been a substitute for his incompetent leadership.

Our priority should be working with Pakistan to ensure that neither al-Qaeda nor any other terrorist organization gets hold of Pakistan’s nukes. As for Afghanistan being another Vietnam, no, it is worse than that. In Vietnam we had the bogeyman of communism to fight. The enemy was clear, if over dramatized. The mission, easy to define even if we were nosing into another country’s business. With Afghanistan there is no clear end-game and  no government worth defending. The enemy is elusive and in my opinion better defeated through effective intelligence and selective strikes.

You know the old saying about if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen? Afghanistan has become too hot. It’s time to get out.

A Michele Bachmann Aside (or Should That be Ass-ide?)

The dumber half of the dumb and dumber Bachmann-Palin Overdrive, dropped another brain-turd Monday night when she said:

What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes.

“This thing” was opposition to health care reform. Is Michele aware that blood brothers prick fingers? Suicide pacts slit wrists. The only explanation can be that in her daily conversation with her Lord, she was instructed to go to any length not to say the word “prick”.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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Health Care Reform — Now It’s Personal — Obama Video Address: August 22, 2009

In this week’s video address, President Obama takes another stab at calming fears about impending health care reform legislation. The basic points:

  • The new bill will federally fund abortions — BUNK
  • The new bill will make it easier for illegal aliens to get free health care — BUNK
  • The new bill will incentivise euthanasia — BUNK
  • The new bill is a total takeover of the health care system — BUNK

Obama repeats another statement that he has been making consistently and that up until recently I felt was misleading. He stated that if you like your current insurance you’ll get to keep it. I have always argued that your insurance choices are dictated by your company and if they dump all choices but the public option, then you will indeed have to make a change. I tuned into Obama’s meeting with Organizing for America (OFA) at the DNC headquarters last week and finally someone asked him how this statement could be true. For the first time I heard an answer. The bill will contain what Obama referred to as a “firewall” which will explicitly make it illegal for companies to “dump” their employees into the public option. With this measure in place, my only major misgiving about the legislation has been answered.

In the days since Obama recorded this message, the fight for health care has become even more personal. Of course, for Obama it always was since his mother spent her final months fighting with insurance companies to pay for her cancer treatments. But the latest event to make the matter more personal was the passing last night of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat from Massachusetts. Kennedy spent decades fighting for universal health care and it was a prime imperative that he thrust upon the new President, even before Obama was elected.

Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about the politicization of Kennedy’s death. There seems to be a theme emerging among politicians with a pro-reform agenda, that to oppose the new health care bill is to dishonor the memory of Senator Kennedy. I consider this emotional blackmail and to some degree, disrespectful of the late Senator. Be that as it may, Kennedy himself would probably be quite pleased if his death “guilted” the opposition into cooperating with reform. We shall see what the impact is in the coming weeks.

And now the President of the United States of America:

The Kennedy Paradox

While we’re on the subject of Kennedy’s passing, one cannot let the event go by without discussing the unusual paradox that is the Kennedy clan. Legend has it that John and Robert Kennedy were voracious philanderers, even going so far as to “share” Marilyn Monroe. Ted Kennedy’s own presidential aspirations were ruined by his own detestable handling of an automobile accident at Chappaquiddick in which a female former campaign worker of Robert Kennedy was killed. We live in a forgiving country (can anyone say “David Vitter”?) and had the accident at Chappaquiddick happened last year and not 40 years ago, I still think the ultimate reaction would have been of forgiveness.

Yet the paradox remains. Embodied in the Kennedy brothers was at once an unsteady moral compass, at least in matters of sexuality, and a dogged commitment to public service. Few men have served this country so long and with such dedication as Ted Kennedy. There are those for whom Chappaquiddick erases any good deeds Kennedy did before or since. For me, the Kennedy’s teach us how complicated it is to be a human being and how readily good and evil can co-exist within us all.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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