Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Partisan Arguing, Democracy At Work

It's been a major news story the past few weeks. The US government again has reached its borrowing limit, its time to raise the debt ceiling again. Failure to do so before the government completely uses up its borrowing money will result in a default on debt and hurt the nation's borrowing credit. It's a common procedure that has been done many times before, the debt ceiling was raised 18 times during the Reagan Presidency alone, and raised seven times under our last President George Bush. Raising the debt ceiling is necessary to allow the government to pay its bills and keep its high value credit. To do this Congress and the White House must agree on how much to raise the debt ceiling and agree on a way to cut government spending to decrease the overall national debt. Congress then passes the budget and raise on the debt ceiling and the President sighs it. While this has been done many times in this nations history this time it looks as if there is a serious risk of our government going into default. The reason for this is that the government runs out of money on August 2 and despite the weeks of negotiations between the Democrats led by President Obama and the Republicans led by Speaker Boehner no deal has been reached on how to curb the debt. One week from today if no bill has been passed the US will for the first time in history go into default on it's debt, possibly having major negative impacts on the global economy. Many people are concerned about this risk to are economic health and angry that their leaders have been unable to reach an agreement even as the deadline draws closer. I saw on the news last night several regular people had been asked what they thought of the deadlocked negotiations, a couple said it made them embarrassed to be an American. The world was watching as our our leaders fought themselves to a stalemate over something that has to be done for the good of all people. One may said he couldn't understand how the leaders of the country could not negotiate a budget when every American family does.
Here is the thing I don't understand, why people think this is so freaking simple! their 1 president 100 senators and 435 congressmen and women who have agree on a budget of trillions of dollars! This isn't a freak in family of five with two loving parents living together trying to decide if they can afford a new plasma screen TV and pay for Timmy's basketball fees! And if your so embarrassed to be an American cause your government is taking some time to negotiate a budget then MOVE! If you think its that easy and you could do better then run for Congress! I will proudly campaign for your opponent.

Here is what I don't understand, why do people get so worked up about it? The government will never go into default, our nations leaders our too rational and to smart to let that happen. Secondly, nothing is as simple as it may appear. This is nothing like planning a family budget. There are trillions of dollars at stake and each member of Congress and the President want to use the money in the way that they believe will best benefit everyone. They are all passionate about what they believe in, but believe in different things. I am  proud to have leaders that are so committed and so passionate about what they believe is right that they are willing to withstand outside pressure and voice their opinions. And I think other people should be too. I'm proud to be am American because of our form of government, a government where all opinions matter. Our government does have it's arguments and name calling, its loud, its slow, it's smells funny, but all those things mean democracy is working. Its what the founding fathers intended. They new having a government run by many different people, from different backgrounds, with different experiences would lead to heated arguments and debates. While at times our government might be faltering, it is important to remember that the system has worked for over 200 years and i have no doubt in my mind that it will not fail within the next week

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

1 of 1,000

1,000 World War II veterans die everyday. It is a staggering number for a band of soldiers that is growing ever smaller. In 2008, because of my deep interest in World War II, my mom and I joined The Litsinburger Chapter for Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge in Westerville. We soon became good friends with many of the veterans, particularly the Chapter's President Richard Wheeler and his wife Katherine. One of the first things Mr.Wheeler told me and continued to tell me over the years was a true but sad fact; my generation is the last to see a living World War Two veteran. He strengthened my determination to preserve the stories of those who are the living part of that crucial time in human history. When I began interviewing veterans to learn their stories Mr.wheeler was one of the first to share his experiences.  But no one with such great stories can fit them in a single questionnaire. In meetings over the next two years I learned more about his incredible life. Below is a short biography of Richard Wheeler,

Richard Hugh Wheeler was born on April 18, 1924 in Spaulding, Idaho although the his family later moved to Tacoma, Washington.  As a young boy he loved to go to his Uncle Ed’s farm and see all the animals. His favorite animal was a sway back horse that always followed him around the farm. He loved it so much that when he was five he asked his Uncle if he could keep it. Sarcastically, Uncle Ed told him he could keep the horse if it fit in the car. Like all five year-olds would, Richard thought his Uncle was serious, he tried to convince his Dad to put the horse in the car. His Dad tried to explain that the horse would not fit. But Richard didn’t believe him and was driven to tears when his dad wouldn’t even try. To this day Richard still thinks the horse would have fit if his dad had tried.       
Drafted into the military on his high school graduation day, June 5, 1943, Richard had days to pack and says his good-byes were short and sweet. Traveling by train across the United States, he arrived at Camp Taccoa, Georgia on June 25, at the tender age of 19. Training to become a paratrooper proved very difficult. The instructors were tough and recruits began to feel hated and many wanted to quit. Temperatures usually ranged between 95 and 105 degrees as the recruits did contiues vicious exercises in the extreme heat. All were pushed to their physical limit and some beyond. Richard passed out during exercises on day and spent four days in the hospital. Determined to become a paratrooper he refused to quit and his hard work was eventually rewarded when he completed his training, and became part of the 517th Parachute Infantry Combat Team as an artillery man.
The 517th deployed to Italy. Then on August 15, 1944 the unit landed in southern France, Richard took point for a group of soldiers as they advanced, Being ahead of the group Richard was the first to encounter a German machine gun nest. Attempting to put suppressing fire on the Germans he emptied an entire clip of 30. Caliber bullets into the machine gunner's position. A fellow soldier quickly came to Richard's aid and set up his powerful 50. Caliber machine gun. Richard quickly moved behind the man to avoid being deafened by the gun's roar. With this support the Americans quickly over ran the German position. When the Battle of the Bulge began, Richard was on the front line in southern France. But he soon found himself being sent north to combat the Germans in the Ardennes. He arrived to find the Germans were not the only enemy they faced. The Belgian winter proved to be harsh. Temperatures would get as low as -10, often the Americans were not equipped for such conditions and struggled stay warm. The men firing the Howitzer artillery pieces moved almost every other day to support new orders as the battle raged, while always trying to stay warm. After the liberation of St.Vith, Richard remained there for the rest of the battle. Although he had not been shot, Richard suffered from frost bitten feet, damaging the nerves in his feet so to this day he can’t tell whether his feet are hot or cold.
        Private First Class Richard Wheeler returned to America in August 1945 to embrace his mother and father; he married Florence E. Harris and together they had three children Hugh, Susan, and Martin. After the war Richard worked to support his family in both farming and civil service. Sadly Florence died of heart problems in July 1996. Shortly before her death Florence asked "Has Richard found a wife yet?" knowing he would need one. After his Florence's death Richard met Katharine Kramer a former English teacher, they married on October 3, 1999 and have been happily married since.        
What makes Richard most proud of his service is the pride to be a paratrooper. He is proud to have made it through one of the toughest training programs in the military. Nothing makes him sad about his service and he is grateful to have had no nightmares of what he saw in the war and does not dwell on what he has seen or done. The thing that Richard wants everyone to remember most is that the true heroes are in the cemeteries. 
 June 17, 2011, Richard Wheeler was 1 of 1,000 veterans to pass away that day.  I was honored he shared his stories with me and I was proud to call him my friend.  I will miss Richard Wheeler.    

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Brigadier General James Abraham

Two weeks ago I had the honor of meeting retired Brigadier General James Abraham when he was a guest speaker at the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge meeting. A veteran of World War Two James Abraham enlisted in the Army after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. From Normandy to the end of the Second World War he served on the intelligence company attached to General Patton's Third Army, rising from Private to the rank of Lieutenant during the war. After World War Two he remained in the Army, reaching the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in 1982 after 40 years of military service. Meeting him in person was such an honor and I also bought a copy of his book, which he signed and I read voraciously. His book "Worlds Which Might Have Been & Could Be" is his insightful views of what the world may be like today if the Allies had lost WW2 or if the global conflict could have been averted all together. It also details his opinions on what the would of tomorrow could be like based on his experiences and observations. His views on problems that face our country today from terrorism, to energy troubles, to unemployment and inflation our strong and intelligent. I recommend his book to anyone interested in history and world affairs, even if you don't agree with his views this book gives you a chance to think about and argue your own opinion. I found those opportunities myself in this book, while for the most part General Abraham's views are similar to my own I found places where we differ and it gave me the chance to think and strengthen my own argument on issues facing the United States and the world today. I truly enjoined his book and hope anyone who reads its will find it as intriguing and insightful as I did.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Arizona "Birther" Bill

  It has been all over the news, the Arizona state legislation has voted to pass a bill which if made a law would require any presidential candidate to bring proof of their eligibility for office to the Arizona Secretary of State in order to be on the ballot. Governor Brewer has five days to sign or veto the bill and she, like everyone else, must anwser some tough questions, "Is this bill a good idea?", "Does it have the right motives backing it?", and "Is it constitutional?". These are hard questions that provoke many different opinions depending on who you ask. The supporters of the bill say it's purpose is to preserve the integrity and legitimacy of the presidential candidates. Those opposed to the bill say it is another attempt by the right-wing Republicans to attack eligibility of President Obama's fight to hold office. I am opposed to the bill because we don't need any new laws to qualify people to run for President, the Constitution names the only requirements to hold the office. To hold the office of President a person must be a born US citizen, at least 35 years old and a resident of the United States for a minimum of 14 years.
  Candidates don't have to turn their birth certificates in to the states in order to put their names on the ballot nor does a state government have the power to disqualify a person from running for President in that state. This bill was created not out of concern of people forging birth certificates and IDs in order to run for the nation's highest office.
  This bill was formed out of a heated dispute over President Obama's birthplace. Was a bill like this ever proposed before? Did anyone ever demand John Kerry's birth certificate? How about  Bush's or Gore's? Despite the state of Hawaii releasing Barack Obama's birth certificate and confirmation of it's legitimacy by the Hawaii Secretary of Health, some still insist that a it is fabricated and a "conspiracy" exists to keep Obama in office. It is these claims that have created the traction necessary to bring this bill to Governor Brewer's desk. While I don't support this bill as it is unnecessary, and perhaps unconstitutional, I know that it will have no effect on Obama's Presidency or re-election campaign.  Because President Obama IS a US citizen, he IS eligible for the Presidency, and like it or not Barack Obama IS the President of the United States!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Libya: Justified Involvement or None of Our buisness?

In mid February 2011 the protests in Libya against the Gaddafi government broke into all out civil war. The world watched in shock as the country was thrown into chaos. At first the rebels made great advancements and Gaddafi's regime seemed all but over. The tide turned however, when Gaddafi's forces rallied and began a counteroffensive. With better equipment, organization, and training the  pro-Gaddafi forces pushed the rebels farther to the east and closer to the rebel capital of Benghazi. With the rebels facing collapse and the fear of genocide by Gaddafi's forces if they crushed the rebellion, the United Nations Security Council authorized a no-fly zone over rebel territory. As a result Gaddafi's government ordered a ceasefire, but within hours it became clear the government had no intention the crease fire and continued the fighting. In response to continued violence on March 19 a multinational force led by The US, Britain, and France began bombing Gaddafi's ground forces and air defense system. The bombing have given the rebels much needed relief, but Gaddafi's forces are still strong and an end to the war is not in sight.
Even before the multinational bombings began questions were raised as to how involved the international community should become in an internal civil war. Should we become involved even when a dictator like Gaddafi is on the brink of victory? Even when a massacre of those who rebelled against him seems likely? Is it worth the risk of loss of life? Is it worth the time, effort,and money? Some say it's not our problem, that getting involved in another middle east war, that it is not in our national interest. While many smart and respectable people have taken up this strong argument, I firmly believe that the intervention at the side of the rebels is the right course of action. I believe this because it IS in our national interest to prevent Gaddafi from crushing the rebels. The United States cannot be at peace with a nation who's leader sponsors terrorism, assignation, and violence worldwide. the United States cannot be a champion of freedom if we do not support those trying to attain it, and the United States cannot champion of human rights if we don't protect those who are treated inhumanely. The Libyans who have bravely risen up against Gaddafi government are fighting for a set of ideals. The idea that they may be able to express their opinion openly, from criticism of government to praising an unpopular organization. The idea that they may have Right to a fair and open trial. The idea that they may have the opportunity to follow their dreams and live their lives to the fullest. Thousands of Libyans have given what Abraham Lincoln called the last full measure of devotion for these ideals. It is up to us, the living to continue to support the cause they so nobly advanced. We cannot give the people of Libya freedom, but we can give them the means to acquire it, and then if the people of Libya stand together in the fight for freedom then they will be free. A century ago we said Arabs were unable to govern themselves. Fifty years ago we said they were unable to build a government free of corruption and dictatorship. Today the people of Libya are trying to prove they can govern themselves and can create a government that serves them. I believe they can and I believe a free Libya will be a benefit to the United States and the world. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pershing's Last Soldier

The last of a generation of soldiers has passed on. Frank Buckles, the last American veteran of World War I died in his home in Charles Town, West Virgina on February 27, 2011 at the age of 110. A kind, humble, man with a sharp wit Frank lived an amazing life few could duplicate. Only 16 when the United States entered the first World War Frank lied about his age to join the US Army after having been turned down by both the Navy and Marine Corps. In late 1917 Frank sailed to Europe aboard the RMS Carpathia the ship famous for rescuing the survivors of the Titanic, during the trip he had many opportunities to meet crew members who participated in the rescue. After arriving in France Frank served in 1st Fort Riley Casual Detachment as an ambulance and motorcycle driver. After the Armistice he remained in France until his discharge in January 1920. Following his discharge Frank worked for several shipping companies which sent him to the Philippines, it was here the Frank became part of yet another war. On December 8, 1941 the Japanese invaded the Philippines bringing World War II to the island nation. Frank was captured by the Japanese early the next year and remained a prison of war at Los Banos for over three years until he was liberated. After liberation He moved back to the States and married Audrey Mayo and they had one daughter. Later Frank retired from the shipping business and bought a farm in West Virginia where he lived the rest of his life.
In recent years Frank Buckles has been a living memory of The Great War and a strong advocate of construction of the National World War I Memorial on the National Mall. After the death of Harry Landis Frank became the last American World War I veteran and earned the nickname "Pershing's Last Patriot".
When asked the secret to his long life Frank replied "Whenever you start to die...don't"

Now Peshing's Last Patriot is to be buried in Arlington Cemetery. A generation of great soldiers has passed on and while they are no longer with us, their legacy remains and it is up to us to keep it alive. To ensure the sacrifice, hardships, and heroism of the individual men and women of all nations in not lost. For that is the only way to truly remember Frank Buckles and The War to End All Wars.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Birthday Ronnie!

On February 6, 1911 in an apartment above a bakery in Tampico, Illinois Ronald "Dutch" Reagan was born to John and Nelle Reagan. Few might assume he was presidential material at the time, but one person to perhaps see his potential was Ronald's father. "He looks like a fat little Dutchman," said John Reagan seeing his son for the first time, "but who knows he might grow up to be President someday." This prophecy came true almost 70 years later when Ronald Reagan became the 40th President of the United States. The most unforgettable characteristics of Reagan were his prevailing optimism, his quick sense of humor, and his compassion for people. His confidence in all Americans gave strength to a nation struggling to recover from an economic crisis and still healing from the scars of the Vietnam War. His eight years in office saw an unprecedent economic turn around, the first ever nuclear reduction treaty, and a better relationship with the Soviet Union than at time during the Cold War. His leadership is credited with helping to bring about the collapse of communism in Europe and the Soviet Union.  President Reagan was a true leader, firm but compassionate, strong but flexible, optimistic but not naive, all this and so much more. The truth is no words can fully describe Ronald Reagan. So this Presidents Day remember that a century ago was the beginning of a journey, a journey that would propel an unknown baby boy from Tampico, Illinois to one of America's most legendary Presidents. Only in America.