My (open) letter to President Obama, 11/7/2012

tardis_by_homemadezombieIt’s flashback time!

This is something that appeared on my original blog, which I wrote the day after the elections of 2012. It has proven rather interesting reading after the 2014 elections.

November 7th, 2012
Mr. President,

Allow me to congratulate you on winning your second term!  Yes, I did vote for you this time as well.  However, unlike 2008, this time it was a very difficult decision for me, and I came very close to voting for one of your competitors.  Allow me to elaborate.

When you look at the popular vote, your margin of victory was very small.  A lot of your supporters should keep that in mind while they run about being sore winners.  You made a lot of promises in 2008 which you, shall we say, haven’t finished delivering yet.  That’s the phrasing I’ll use; your opponents will make other, far more colorful word choices.  You’ve been saying that you would need another term to complete the work you started, and apparently I and several million others were willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.  But we’re going to hold you to that, so you had better start delivering better results.  And I suggest you do it sooner than later, because your narrow victory suggests that things may be direr than you think. If you don’t deliver some results, then I suspect the mid-term elections in 2014 are going to more painful than anything you could possibly imagine.

To wit, the economy is recovering, I’ll grant that.  Considering the situation you inherited, that is no small achievement.  But, the economic recovery has been very slow.  For a lot of people it is proving to be too slow.  You need to get more aggressive in your economic recovery agenda.  If that means playing nice with the Republicans, or alienating your own party, then do it.  You no longer need the DNC.  You are no longer shackled by the political system, and you no longer owe anything to anyone.  So do what’s right for the country and not your career.

On foreign policy issues, perhaps you should decide exactly where you stand.  Or rather, you should make it very clear where you stand.  If you are indeed anti-colonial, or anti-Imperialist or anti-whatever, then please stop hedging or prevaricating and say so.  I suggest you use small words when you do.  Your reforms to the educational system haven’t taken hold yet, so a lot of people won’t understand you if you’re subtle.

I also don’t like some of the stances you’ve taken on moral issues.  I won’t elaborate on that because I tend to loose my cool when discussing such things and that won’t achieve anything.  Just suffice it to say that I’m displeased, and I’ve got my eye on you.

In 2008 you presented yourself as a moderate.  Personally, I was very pleased with that, because I consider myself to ultimately be a moderate.  (Yes, I lean liberal, but only slightly and only on certain issues.)  However, when one looks are your record, you are not a moderate.  I’m not sure what you are, but you’re not a moderate.  Please stop insulting those of us who are.  This more than anything else almost cost you my vote.

You may be wondering why, if I’m being so critical of you, that I didn’t vote for Romney.  That’s a little complicated, actually.  I’ve never been a keen supporter of the RNC, and I especially dislike the so called neo-cons that have been controlling it for the last 15 years.  But I did look at Romney’s platform and I did my best to make an informed decision, using logic instead of emotion.  From my perspective, the only thing Romney ever consistently said was that he wasn’t going to do the same things you did.  That’s fine and good, but he never really said what he would do.  Romney kept asserting who he isn’t while never really saying who he is.  You at least provided some information on that, by detailing some of your economic plans, though it was lacking in many ways.  Still, some information is better than none.  Everything I saw from Romney was either vague or so simplistic that it was of little use.  I didn’t vote for Romney because he struck me as a cipher, who was even less consistent and less transparent than you are.  You were, quite literally, the lesser of two evils.

In all seriousness, I almost voted for Jill Stein!  I didn’t because I live in a battleground district, within a battleground state.  I didn’t feel I could afford to spend my vote on a third party candidate.  This time.  Depending on what happens over the next 24 months, I may end up painting my voting card Green.

I’m sorry to have to end this letter with a veiled threat.  But it’s ultimately an empty one, since I’m only one voter out of millions.  But I suspect there are many, many more like me out there, and combined, we’re probably worth a few electoral votes.  Congratulations again on your second term.  I hope, for your sake and that of the United States of America, that it’s a successful one.
Richard J. Pugh
Registered Democrat (for the moment),
Culpeper, Virginia
As it turns out, I could have voted for Jill Stein and it wouldn’t have made much difference.  Romney won my district by a very comfortable margin, though he didn’t win my state.

Looking back after the 2014 elections:

I said that the 2014 midterm elections might be painful for the President, and apparently I was right!

I think it’s safe to say that the nation is in the throws of some sort of backlash. The Republican party has full control of Congress, which means the Koch brothers and their like are in control of the government. Is this a good thing? No. Frankly, I can’t wrap my head around the collective willful ignorance this represents. Are we, as a nation, really that stupid? Perhaps not, but a lot of us are either gullible fools, or quick to bury our heads in the sand.

To be fair, President Obama has handled some thing badly. Benghazi, for example, was the biggest display of ineptitude in recent history. How much of that is Obama’s fault, and how much fault belongs to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will be a something that historians and political analysts will be squabbling over for some time to come.

I don’t know what to make of the recent elections. I suspect, however, that next October I will be out of work for a week or two. Another furlough, brought on by partisan bickering, is almost certainly going to occur. The Chinese have a saying: “May you live in interesting times.” It’s intended as a curse. An “interesting time” suggests chaos, disorder, and uncertainty.

It looks like it’s going to be an “interesting” two years.

Spring Forward Fall Back…?

Twice a year, everyone in America (save a few counties in Indiana) goes through a ritual where we change our clocks such that more daylight falls into that part of the day when most of us are traditionally working. According to Wikipedia, the United States started using it during World War I, though there were attempts to implement it as early as 1900. One of the earliest references to Daylight Savings Time that I ever encountered was from the play Inherit the Wind by Robert Edwin Lee. That play was written in 1955, and fictionalizes events from 1925.

The original idea was to maximize the amount of daylight between the hours of 8 am and 7 pm. For people in the agriculture industries, that makes good sense. It was also done to reduce the use of electricity by moving activities into hours with abundant sunlight. Given that I work in a building that’s 70% underground, I can’t really speak to that point. Maximizing sunlight hours for outdoor related activities makes sense. But as for the energy saving argument, I don’t think that holds up as well as it used to. Given that most workplaces now depend on the constant use of heating and/or air conditioning, which consume far more energy than electric lights and don’t care what time it is, I am a bit skeptical as to the difference one or two hours of artificial light makes.

I do know that this particular year I was actually looking forward to the fall clock change, because it was so dark in the morning that getting out of bed required a herculean effort. I mean, it’s hard to get out of a nice, warm bed when the sky is still pitch black and there is a definite chill in the air. Some mornings, even the dog wanted to sleep in! Now that the clocks have changed, the presence of morning sunlight makes it easier to get out of bed, but it also means that when I start home from work in the late afternoon, the sun is making an exit to stage West, and the temperature is falling like a rock. What’s worse, by mid- to late-November it will be dark in both the morning and the evening, so I loose either way.

Looking back, I think I prefer my extra daylight to come after my workday. That way I can work in my garden, or elsewhere in the yard, and actually see what I’m doing. I could shift such activities to the morning before I go to work, but in the morning I’m so focused on getting to work that just about everything else gets ignored. From the moment my alarm goes off until the moment I walk into my office, I have no other purpose beyond getting to that office. The extra morning daylight is wasted on me. So, is Daylight Savings Time worth the trouble? I honestly don’t know. I’ll consider this again in the spring when the clocks are moved again, and see how it effects me. This time, as opposed to the previous 94 times I’ve experienced this, I’m actually bothering to take note.

One thing has remained constant. I am not a morning person, and I never have been. I usually don’t like to get out of bed no matter what the clock says.

I do have one fun memory related to the clock shift, though. When I was growing up in Cortland, New York, we would periodically attend Sunday Mass at the Newman Chapel, adjacent to the SUNY Cortland campus. The pastor, Fr. Edward J. O’Heron, used to have a running joke about Daylight Savings Time. It went something like this:

And finally, if you’re wondering why this 10:30 am mass seemed to start a little late, it’s because this isn’t the 10:30 mass. This is the 11:15. You apparently forgot to change your clocks to reflect Daylight Savings Time.

He had variations on the joke based on whether it was “spring forward” or “fall back,” and which mass he was addressing. Even after we moved to Homer and generally attended a different church, I remember we used to go to Newman Chapel on those two particular Sundays just to hear Fr. O’Heron’s joke. And apparently we weren’t the only ones. I suspect most of the population of Cortland had heard that joke at some point, and it had become a local classic.

If memory serves, Father O’Heron died in the late 1990s. I remember when I was in graduate school he was suffering from a form of cancer, and had largely retired. I don’t know if his successor continued with the clock joke. I suspect not, because attendance at the Newman Chapel dropped off in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so it may no longer have two masses to joke about. It wouldn’t work at my current church; the two Sunday masses are scheduled too far apart.

Anyway, I guess I just find Daylight Savings Time to be a strange, perhaps antiquated practice. Modern technology has changed the workplace enough so that it almost doesn’t matter where the sun is any more. And workers (on almost all fields) are constantly being encouraged to come in earlier and work later, which also renders the clock nearly irrelevant.

But no matter what the clock says or doesn’t say, I’m still having trouble staying alert, and I need some caffeine, stat.

Diet Coke, don’t fail me now.