Tag Archives: obama

Ronny Jackson, Good at Fixing People, Bad at Fixing the VA

Continuing the new normal in the United States, President Trump has fired by tweet the current Secretary of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), David Shulkin. As his replacement, Trump has nominated his personal physician Ronny Jackson. According to Shulkin, he was completely blindsided by this decision. Experts indicate that the decision was likely related to Shulkin’s resistance to the Trump administration’s desire to privatize major parts of the VA hospital systems.

Ronny Jackson served as the personal physician to President Trump, President Obama, and the second President Bush. Before that, he served as a doctor in the navy. By all accounts, he is a competent physician, but that does not qualify him to serve as the new director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is the second largest federal agency, second only to the Department of Defense. The VA employs 377,805 people all across the country. Shulkin, the past director, served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. He had the experience required to manage a system as large as the VA. Ronny Jackson has never been in charge of more than a dozen or so people in his capacity as the white house doctor. His appointment follows President Trump’s pattern of nominating people who he likes regardless of their qualifications. This is a recipe for disaster in the already troubled VA. Our veterans deserve better. I am calling on Republicans, who always support the veterans, to reject this nomination and demand that President Trump nominates a qualified secretary.

As I lay dying – the dismantling of liberal arts

It’s a cliche at this point; you’ve heard it dozens of times. The fatal moment when some well-meaning individual asks, “so what are you in school for?”

Tell them you’re majoring in english, history, fine arts, or a myriad of other liberal arts programs and you’re inevitably hit with the painfully overused “oh- so you’re going to be a Barista then?”

The stigma of having a liberal arts degree is discouraging. Graphic from Wyka-Warzecha
The stigma of having a liberal arts degree is discouraging. Graphic from Wyka-Warzecha

The notion that some fields don’t matter or are utterly pointless is a concept that’s proliferated through societies around the world over the past few years.

With the importance of STEM subjects, an acronym for the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math, politicians and policymakers across the nation have been criticizing humanities majors.

Florida’s Governor Rick Scott said while trying to defund liberal arts programs in 2011 “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”

It’s not just Governor Scott either. In 2014 President Obama himself said in one of his speeches, “I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.”

To be a humanities major is to face contemptuous glances and long-winded diatribes about narrow job prospects and minuscule salaries. Little do the nay-sayers know is that 74% of employers would hire a liberal arts major, and that by the age of 56, those with degrees outside of the pre-professional sphere are likely to earn $2,000 more per year.

Sadly these statistics don’t resound on a global level.

Most recently, this September Japan’s Minister of Education, Hakuban Shimomura publicly urged the nation’s universities and colleges to downsize or completely shut down their humanities and social science departments. His logic being that such subjects did little to benefit society.

So far 43 universities have complied with his request, and no longer have programs ranging from economics to pre law to social work. Our current world view is catastrophic for the long term health of society.

With vital disciplines being stifled everyday the world loses a wealth of knowledge, and incredibly talented individuals are denied access to fields they can thrive in. Instead, people are being forced into professions they don’t enjoy, negatively affecting the quality of the work being produced and their mental well being.

A world full of engineers and no therapists is as doomed to fail as a civilization with only farmers and no doctors.

Let them joke about the geography majors, critique the political science experts, and deride linguists.

Let them try to tip the equilibrium under the false gospel that the study of human quirks is of less value than the study of machines.

We’ll take the tacky Starbucks jibes with a smile, knowing that without us, the world would be a much less interesting place.

Mafiaboy and a little hacking history

Hearing about computer hacking in the news or movies has been a part of our culture for so long that it’s sometimes hard to remember a time before it was just another crime. In reality, as computers are relatively new, so is hacking.

What is computer hacking, you live-under-a-rock types might wonder? A “hack” when we’re talking about computers is a kind of shortcut or modification in order to bypass or rework the standard operation of an object or system. “Hackers” look for and exploit weaknesses in a computer system or computer network.

In fact, hacking originated with young hooligans messing around with “phone phreaking” in the 1960s. It’s grown a little more sophisticated since then, but it’s still  childs’ play.

In 2000, a 15 year-old high school student by the name of Michael Calce, better known as Mafiaboy online, was responsible for bringing down the websites of Amazon, CNN, Dell, E*Trade, eBay, and Yahoo! (the world’s largest search engine at the time). It put the New York Stock Exchange through the wringer — terrified that their investments in the relatively new online market were in danger.

Calce  started hacking at a young age. When he was only nine, he received a free trial of AOL. It was his first time on the internet, but in just a few days he’d hacked AOL’s system in order to stay online past the 30-day trial period.

 

hacker
“A “hack” when we’re talking about computers is a kind of shortcut or modification in order to bypass or rework the standard operation of an object or system.”

Throughout his adolescence, Calce became more and more involved in online hacker groups until his infamous strike in 2000. He launched this attack by first taking over a handful of university networks, then using their combined computing power to attack the targeted websites.

“Basically when I hit enter on the keyboard, [the university networks] all respond at the same exact time and basically overwhelm websites with too much information,” Calce stated in an interview with NPR. It’s called a denial-of-service attack.”The overall purpose was to intimidate other hacker groups,” he explained.

But with such a large-scale attack, Mafiaboy had garnered attention from national security. President Clinton called for a cybersecurity working group and attorney general Janet Reno announced a manhunt for Mafiaboy.

The FBI was on the trail of this 15 year-old national threat. Calce said he was scared at this time; what teenager wouldn’t be, when they’ve got the force of the federal government raining down upon them? He was caught,put on trial, and sentenced to eight months of “open custody,” one year of probation, restricted use of the Internet, and a small fine.

However, some good came from Calce’s 2000 strike.It served a wake-up call for the U.S. government to put specific laws in place to punish cybercrime and protect consumers from online attacks.

Now, President Obama is pushing for updates on those laws. The Internet is a far scarier place than it was 15 years ago as more and more of our daily lives rely on online systems.

The Powers of the President

A recent item in the news that caught my attention was the controversy concerning President Obama’s decision to use an executive order to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants in the United States. Given the amount of controversy surrounding this decision, it can be easy to see why some may be flustered by President Obama’s executive order.

The details of the order are fairly clear. Under the order, immigrants who are here are essentially allowed to stay in America. Their children are eligible for federal retirement benefits if they are under 30, but the parents are not. There are some bureaucratic catches with the system, such as having to reapply every 3-5 years, but that is the gist of what the order does.

This article’s job is not to talk about the legality of such an action. Others have done so. This article’s job is to talk about whether President Obama has the authority to enact such a piece of legislation.

Presidential-Power
“So unless the Constitution directly says: The President of the United States cannot, under any cause, make sweeping changes to the immigration laws of the United States; President Obama, like every other president before him, most certainly has the authority to enact such legislation.” Graphic taken from http://mrpshumanities.blogspot.com

In short, he does.

The office of the president has always had broad powers concerning executive action. In general, unless the Constitution explicitly bars the president from doing something, it can be argued that the president can make changes to that law.

So unless the Constitution directly says: The President of the United States cannot, under any cause, make sweeping changes to the immigration laws of the United States; President Obama, like every other president before him, most certainly has the authority to enact such legislation.

Apparently, America has always been fine with presidents asserting their executive power during times of war. Franklin Delano Roosevelt instigated the War Powers Acts which gave him increased Executive authority directly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Incidentally, FDR is also the president with the most executive orders under his name. Luckily, this bring the conversation to an important question concerning the ethics of President Obama’s executive action.

During Bill Clinton’s presidency, he issued a total of 363 executive orders. President Bush (Jr.) issued 290 executive orders during his 2 term presidency. One important factor in all of these presidencies, including Obama’s current term is that all three of these men won reelection, meaning that Clinton, Bush, and Obama did/will serve for 8 years.

Compared to the previous 2 presidents, Obama has issued the fewest executive actions, totaling in at only 190 executive orders since he took office in 2008. So the argument that conservatives flock to, that Obama cares not for the Constitution and is Dictator Obama or Fuher Obama is simply ridiculous. If anything, President Obama uses the executive powers of his office far less than other modern presidents did during their terms. It is worth noting that Obama still has two years left until he leaves office in 2016, so he may still surpass Bash in numbers of orders issued. However, that is not the case right now.

It is not my aim to pretend that this ruling doesn’t come with a certain sense of politicking. I’d argue it most certainly does. Along with Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, this is probably President Obama’s most emphatic statement concerning his own presidential legacy to date. The Democrats almost always fare better with all minority voters than Republicans do.

Democrats often receive a bigger chunk of the Hispanic vote, the black vote, the female vote, and the young vote. In many cases, it is not a stretch to say the only group the Republican party gets in overwhelming numbers is the middle aged/old white male vote. To be certain, President Obama’s recent decision concerning immigration is both an act of social justice and political victory.

The biggest mistake made thus far in this discussion is that the questions that have been asked about the executive order do not get at the heart of the question at hand. Instead of arguing semantics as to whether Obama has the authority to do this, we should be asking what good or bad will come from this executive order. And for that answer, only time will tell.

Let’s kick sexual assault in the face

Calling all heroes: it’s time to stop sexual harassment right in its vile tracks. I’m not talking to Batman here, guys. It’s up to all of us to prevent campus attacks. That’s the message the White House’s new project is trying to get across. The program is called, “It’s On Us,” and its goal is to stop sexual assault, primarily on college campuses.

Although the campaign is less than a month old, it has an already established website full of very informative content. When entering itsonus.org, you’re given the freedom to either scroll and view the material or use the top menu, which includes: Take the Pledge, Watch the Videos, Get the Tools, Meet the Partners, and Donate.

Take the pledge! Graphic from Kezi
Take the pledge! Graphic from Kezi

When choosing to scroll down, we’re met with the pledge. The pledge asks visitors of the website to pay attention to their surroundings to prevent incidents of sexual assault. Not only can you take the pledge to join the cause, but there’s an option to show your support through advertising. To do this, simply take the pledge by filling out some optional information about yourself (kind of like filling out a petition) and transform your profile picture on Facebook or Twitter into an “It’s On Us,” badge.

Playing the advertisement for the cause in the video section of the website will give you a bit more insight. The video is about thirty seconds long and includes celebrity endorsements from actors like Joel McHale and others. At the end, Obama makes his appearance. Not only is the Hollywood crowd promoting this, but there are dozens of partners as well such as iHeart Media, MTV, tumblr, etc.

The website also provides safety tips under the “Tools” section. These also include additional resources: notalone.gov and the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE). These tools are meant to help any victims of sexual assault crimes. You can also use “#ItsOnUs” to participate in the conversation on twitter.

While staying vigilant to help others, don’t forget that there are many resources to keep us heroes safe on campus too. The RU police department is available 24 hours a day, so don’t be afraid to ask for their help. If you’re feeling unsafe use the police escort service and have a cop walk you to your car (540-831-5500). If your cell phone is out of juice, don’t worry. There are blue emergency telephones located in many outdoor locations around the campus.

Obama’s infamous “latte salute”

It’s easy to tell Obama is probably among the most hated presidents, ever. He’s constantly catching flack for pretty much everything he does. This summer, he was judged harshly for reaching over the glass cough guard at Chipotle to point at some pinto beans.

obama
“The president was exiting Marine One on his way to address the United Nations, and absent-mindedly saluted the marines standing outside, while holding a latte with his saluting hand.”

Most recently, Obama found himself in a mess all because of a “sloppy” salute. The president was exiting Marine One on his way to address the United Nations, and absent-mindedly saluted the marines standing outside, while holding a latte with his saluting hand. Of course, the internet lost its mind. Facebook became littered with posts about Obama’s “disrespectful latte salute.” Of all of the things going on in the world, with the airstrikes in Syria and millions of other global issues, we’re losing our minds over this?

Our Commander in Chief, one of the most powerful people in the world, has a lot of responsibilities. I couldn’t imagine the amount of stress he’s constantly under. In the video of the salute, which was posted to the White House’s Instagram, Obama is about to address the UN on the war we just entered. He’s very busy right now making executive decisions, but we’re going to be angry because he accidentally saluted with a coffee in his hand?

Obama is also being criticized because the video was uploaded on the White House’s Instagram. Do you really think Obama updates the Instagram on his own? He has a PR person for that. This was a poor PR move on their part. They had to have known criticisms were going to come out of it, but it wasn’t Obama’s move. And let’s not forget when Obama completely forgot to salute a marine and went back to correct himself.

We also need to remember that the presidential salute isn’t actually part of the protocol. In an article by a US Marine, he explains that the presidential salute was actually not a thing until Ronald Reagan took office. Now it’s more or less just something presidents, since then, do to keep themselves from getting criticism from the press. I do think it’s a very nice gesture to marines, but I think there are much more important things to be worried about.

Overall, I think we all need to focus on more important things. There’s too much going on in the world for us to be upset about petty things such as this.

 

US response to Ebola mess: We got this

In response to the increasing need for assistance in the fight against Ebola in West Africa — already having spread through Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo — President Obama has volunteered 3,000 US troops, as well as supplies. What are the implications of this surge in US lives potentially exposed to the virus?

The U.S. will pledge 3000 troops to help aid people affected by the Ebola virus. Image from worldbulletin.net
The U.S. will pledge 3000 troops to help aid people affected by the Ebola virus. Image from worldbulletin.net

First, these troops will not be going in naked . They’ll have appropriate protection before entering areas of contagion. However, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee protection as the disease has steadily been spreading despite the best efforts of West African prevention and the international assistance that has already been given. Many troops will be helping with the disposal of bodies of those who have died from Ebola; which is one of the primary means of contraction of the virus, other than the transfer of bodily fluids.

Other than disposing of bodies, the US efforts will focus on training healthcare workers and building treatment and containment facilities. This all in the hopes of creating a sufficient foundation from which the disease can be managed before it spreads further through the continent.

This humanitarian effort will divert approximately $500 million from the overseas contingency budget focused on such things as the war in Afghanistan.

Over 2,400 lives have already been claimed by this particular outbreak of the disease and will only continue to rise and spread to other areas of the world, should it not be adequately contained.

The global response is escalating due to the many lives already lost and the absence of any real vaccine or cure, causing many families to turn their hopes towards black market medicines. These are a particular concern as the main method customers of this ideology are interested in is the blood of survivors. According to CNN “blood from survivors, referred to as convalescent serum, is said to have antibodies that can fight the deadly virus.” While the World Health Organization does tentatively approve of this experiment in a cure, they’re concerned about the non-prescribed or professionally-administered version desperate patients and families are turning to. This is due to the serious risk of further illness and death that can be caused by sharing blood and the insufficient research that has gone into this particular treatment method.

While natural and other immediately terrible disasters see a great response from the global and private world, health disasters usually don’t. Hopefully, however, with the response growing, the world will soon see the end to this disaster.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Hitler hyperbole

President Obama has had an awful time trying to get anything done in Washington. Legislators spend less time legislating and more time blocking Obamacare, while the media makes it look like he’s the worst president in history. It seems as if Obama has faced adversity at every turn. Continue reading Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: The Hitler hyperbole

January Outrage-o-meter: Richard Sherman and Chris Christie stir the pot

From Duck Dynasty to Chick-Fil-A, being offended has become a national pastime. It’s much easier to shut our eyes and plug our ears than it is to face the problems being brought up. So I present to you the first part of Whim’s 2014 outrage timeline where we’ll document every event that caused someone, somewhere, to overreact and do an analysis of who overreacted, and whether it was justifiable.
Continue reading January Outrage-o-meter: Richard Sherman and Chris Christie stir the pot

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Chris Christie

Our favorite governor from New Jersey, Chris Christie, has expressed interest in running for president in the past. He’s been the butt of jokes from several late-night comedians due to his weight issue. He’s also been blasted by his party for working with Obama during Hurricane Sandy. However, Christie has proven to be a member of a dying breed of rational conservatives who are resistant to the heavy polarization on each side — and have the potential to swing liberal voters back to the right, myself included. Continue reading Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Chris Christie

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Socialism

The government shutdown is finally over. In a massive victory for liberals everywhere, it was a refreshing sight to see our elected Democrats win something (for once). However, let’s not forget what started the drama that put our country on hold for over half a month. Many conservatives in Congress wanted to see the Affordable Healthcare Act defunded, because it would be a dangerous step toward socialism. I don’t claim to be an advocate of socialism, but how bad can it really be if the word alone can make conservatives cower in the corner?

Continue reading Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Socialism

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Fox News

Looking back through several of my older articles, I always seem to use Fox News as the butt of my jokes. I’m unapologetic about my disgust towards their style of “reporting.” It’s about time I put it to rest once and for all.

Fox News pundit Anna Kooiman recently decided to take on a story about Obama funding a museum of Muslim culture with his own money. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? Actually, I would argue that’s rather noble of him, because that can’t be cheap. She asserts that the money would actually be paid by the RNC, but never went on to explain how or why. It seems like a bizarre story already, but preposterous enough to get the highly Republican fan base up in arms.

Continue reading Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Fox News

NSA scandal: My life is not that interesting

The government knows about every keystroke on your computer – but you knew that, right? How could you not, when the NSA has been the butt of every spying joke since the Patriot Act? Now that the “secret” is out, everyone is suddenly up in arms over the realization that the government has access to everything we do online.

Continue reading NSA scandal: My life is not that interesting