Fact Check Friday: Obama’s Trip to Africa

Okay, so I haven’t exactly updated this thing recently. I tried to have too many blogs going at once. I have my main blog, which focuses on writing and reading. I had a weight loss/vegan blog that I’ve decided I no longer care about (for reasons I’ll explain on this blog eventually). And then I had this blog. When I started this, I had visions of updating multiple times a week, commenting on various news reports I’ve seen and sharing my political opinions.

Clearly that hasn’t happened. I haven’t been the best citizen in a while (read: a couple of years). I’ve ignored much of the news because it’s too depressing to hear about and makes me want to hurt someone – not that I would ever hurt anyone, of course, but I still don’t like dealing with the anger.

I’m currently working on a novel where the main character slowly starts caring about the world around her again, and it’s gotten me thinking about my own beliefs and my lack of conviction when it comes to defending those beliefs – not to mention my lack of knowledge about politics in general. I used to be really informed. Now I barely watch the news. It’s depressing and embarrassing to admit, but it’s true.

Or at least it was true. It’s not going to be true anymore.

Starting today, I’m going to do my best to be more active on this blog, and I’m going to start with a new feature that my boyfriend hates but that I’m already starting to like, and I just thought of it about ten minutes ago. If you’ve read the title of this post (and I’ll assume you have because, really, it’s the first thing you see), you can probably guess what that feature is.

fact check friday logo


What’s Fact Check Friday you ask? Great question! Fact Check Friday is where I write about all the bullshit that my boyfriend’s conservative parents spew on our Friday night visits to their house. These are common complaints that Republicans have, and I’m sure many people have already written great articles explaining why Republicans are wrong. I’ve decided to compile a bunch of that evidence into one location.

So what’s today’s topic? Again, if you’ve read the title, you know: Obama’s trip to Africa.

So, what are they griping about?

Obama’s trip to Africa was estimated at $60-$100 million.

What does the actual evidence say?
We don’t have the actual numbers on the trip, but the Washington Post did estimate that the trip would probably cost $60-$100 million. What people leave out is that they based that number off previous trips to Africa. When Clinton went to Africa in 1998, his trip cost about $42.8 million. Bush went to Africa twice during his time in office, and his wife went five more times. All of those trips add up, and those numbers were undoubtedly taken into consideration when they were estimating Obama’s trip.

Another factor that no one seems to be mentioning is the fact that Bush was also in Africa for this trip, or at least for the very last day of the trip. In other words, we had a former and current US president in a foreign country. Obviously the cost would increase when you have both of them in the same place. The Secret Service isn’t cheap.

I was going to summarize my feelings on this topic, but the article cited below does such a better job:

The reality is that presidential trips are expensive. It would be fair to be opposed to all of them, but the hypocrisy of only being outraged when certain presidents travel is unacceptable. George W. Bush appears to have had himself quite a little African spending spree, but apparently cost only matters when Barack Obama is the president who is doing the traveling.

~Politicus USA article


If Running Were Like Education

Okay, so it’s been almost a year since I posted in this blog. One of my goals for this year is to start writing in this thing more. The first I’ve decided to write is a short story about the education system. This came about because I spent two hours in one of my education classes today being lectured about how horrible it is to have a gifted program. I was going to write an article about it, and I most likely will in the near future, but for now, I leave you with this story instead.

If Running Were Like Education

Johnny loved to run. As soon as he was old enough to run, he was unstoppable. Whenever he had a free moment, he was out running. He ran in the yard. He ran at the park. He ran when they went to visit family. When he was stuck inside, he even started to jog in place. His family made fun of him.

“There goes Johnny,” they’d say, shaking their heads. “Always running.”

His family didn’t understand him, but he didn’t care. Running made him feel alive. He wasn’t good at reading or writing, but he could run, and that made him happy. He might not be able to recite the entire alphabet like his older brother could, but he could run really fast without stopping, and that made him feel good about himself.

Of course, his family didn’t see it that way. They told him that he was wasting his time running. They called him a jock and an athlete and other insulting names like that. Their name-calling made Johnny sad. He tried to read like they wanted him to, but he just didn’t find it interesting. He didn’t know why his parents kept trying to force him to hang out with the other readers. He just felt like an outsider.

The only time he really felt happy was when he was outside running. Sometimes he even found other kids who liked to run, and they would run together. Then, when they were done running, they would talk about how fast they could run. They made competitions out of it and had fun. One of Johnny’s new friends had an older sister who was in school, and she told them all about how great it was.

“There’s this class called gym,” she explained, “and all you do is run around the whole time. In fact, you even get a grade based on how fast you can run, and if you get a really fast time, you have the chance to go to a special running school, and you could spend your whole life running and helping other people learn to love running.”

“Wow!” said Johnny. “I can’t wait to start gym!”

That night, Johnny went to bed dreaming about this wonderful class where he would finally be surrounded by other people who understood him.

Johnny was ecstatic when he was finally old enough to take this gym class. He was finally going to get to show off something that he was really good at, something that the other people he knew made fun of. This was his chance.

As the teacher checked off the names of everyone in the class, Johnny looked around, hoping to see some other people who were as excited to be there as he was.

“Calm down, jock,” snapped one of the guys. “What are you so excited about?”

Johnny slumped down a little, embarrassed as a bunch of the other kids laughed. He had hoped that now that he was in gym he would be around other people who liked to run, too, but apparently he was just as out of place here as he was at home. He looked up at the gym teacher and reminded himself that at least the teacher cared. He would be able to show off for his teacher.

“Okay everyone,” said the teacher. “Today, we’re going to have a timed run. You all have to run twelve laps around the court, and you’ll get graded on fast you complete the course. And remember – you have to get a good time if you want a future career in anything running related.”

Johnny couldn’t wait to start. He lined up with everyone else in the class, and when the teacher blew the whistle to start, Johnny took off running as fast as he could. He managed to finish the first lap before most of the other students even finished half a lap. He was about to start his second lap when the teacher held out an arm to stop him.

“Wait, Johnny,” the teacher said. “You can’t start the second lap until everyone else in the class is ready to start the second lap.”

Johnny looked over at the rest of his classmates. “But some of them have barely moved,” he complained.

“That doesn’t matter,” said the teacher, sounding annoyed. “We have to give everyone a fair chance.”

So Johnny waited. A few of this classmates finished shortly after he did. A lot of them stopped running about halfway and started walking instead. When they had regained their energy, they started running again. There were a few, though, that weren’t even trying. No matter how much the teacher called out encouragements, those students never picked up speed. They had been walking from the start, and nothing would make them pick up their paces. Johnny couldn’t believe that he was being forced to wait for students who didn’t even care about running.

After what felt like an eternity, everyone finished the first lap. The teacher didn’t say a word to Johnny but instead complimented the boys who had finished last. “That was a great effort, boys! Way to stick with it!”

Johnny was confused. He thought he had done a good job, but the teacher didn’t seem to care. Maybe that would change after the next lap.

Johnny finished first the next five laps. Still, the teacher said nothing to him, focusing instead on the kids who were barely putting forth any effort at all. Johnny didn’t understand why he was being punished like this. He thought that in gym of all places he would be encouraged to run as best as he could.

For the seventh lap, Johnny slowed his pace a little. He still came in first, but he didn’t see what the point was in finishing as fast as possible if finishing first just meant that he would have to sit around doing nothing the longest. For the eighth lap, he even came in second. For the ninth lap, he jogged at a fraction of the speed he normally ran. He finished at the same time as a bunch of other students, one of which was one of the boys who normally came in last.

“Way to go, Paul!” said the teacher when Paul finished. “I’m so proud of you for improving!”

Johnny was even more confused. He finished at the same time as Paul had, and yet Paul was being complimented for finishing. Why was he being congratulated for being average when Johnny hadn’t been congratulated for being excellent?

By the time the last lap started, Johnny didn’t care about running anymore. What was the point of doing your best if you were just going to be ignored in favor of someone who didn’t even care? He started this lap jogging but slowed to a walk after the first turn. At the second turn, he slowed even further. He was now in last place. Maybe now the teacher would care about him.

Johnny was the last to finish the race. He looked to the teacher, expecting the same sort of praise the other boys had gotten.

“Wow, Johnny,” said the teacher, “you were doing so well in the beginning. I don’t know what happened.”

Flag burning is Patriotic

I was watching an episode of The West Wing today when they started talking about flag burning. This is one of the issues that always makes me shake my head at Republicans, who are the majority of people who oppose this symbolic gesture of protest. Their argument inevitably centers around the fact that our veterans fought to defend that flag and therefore it is an affront to them to burn it.

Apparently I wasn’t paying attention in school, because I learned that our soldiers fight to defend our freedom in this country, one of the most important of which is the freedom of expression. We go into countries with oppressive governments and fight to “liberate” those people, claiming that we want them to have a free country like ours, where people can protest and disagree with their government without being thrown in jail. Isn’t that one of the greatest things about this country, that we’re free to say what we want about the government and express our anger or disappointment without worrying about being punished for it?

Every time I’ve heard people complain about flag burning, they inevitably start complaining about the people who burn the flags, claiming that they don’t understand how great this country is and that they’re slapping veterans in the face by burning this symbol of our freedom.

But are we really free if we can’t do what we want with our property? The Republicans are the ones who get the most upset when someone tries to tell them what they can and can’t do with their property, so why is it that they feel it’s fine to tell people what they can and can’t do with their flags?

It seems like the bigger offense here would be to ban flag burning. If we start trying to legislate against how people are allowed to protest, we’re telling everyone who has ever fought for this country that we don’t really want freedom. We want our government to be just as controlling as all the governments that they were supposed to be fight against.

I’ve never burned a flag, and I don’t foresee a time when I will ever want to burn a flag. That said, I will forever fight for the right of other people to burn flags if they want to. Obviously when you’re dealing with fire in a public place, you should take precautions to make sure that the fire doesn’t spread and hurt anyone or anything, but that’s the extent to which the government should be involved in flag burning protests.

This is supposed to be a free country. It’s time we remember that.

“Destructive, vicious, negative”

 This post is a bit late in coming, but this topic has been weighing on my mind for the past week, so I had to say something.

About two weeks ago, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife gave an interview in which she talked about how Gingrich asked her for an “open marriage” so that he could remain married to her but continue the affair he had been having with Callista Bisek, the woman who would become his third wife. By the way, it’s important to note that he proposed to Marianne Gingrich (wife #2) while he was till married to wife #1.

When asked about it during one of the debates, Gingrich was furious, claiming that “the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office,” and that he was “appalled that [they] would begin a presidential debate with a topic like that.”

I watched the opening part of that debate with my boyfriend’s parents, both of whom are Republicans who agreed with Gingrich that the ex-wife’s interview had no place in the debate. The fact that their relationship started when he was still married to his first wife was undoubtedly an influential factor in their opinion, and that is why I did not argue with them when they brought it up. I knew that I could not condemn Gingrich without also condemning my boyfriend’s father, and I didn’t want that.

Still, I was dying to scream that Gingrich was being hypocritical. My boyfriend’s mother tried to say that Gingrich wasn’t just saying that because it was his affair, that he would have said the same thing regardless of who the interview was about, but I find that really hard to believe. As the above interview pointed out, Gingrich was having his affair while he was the Speaker of the House, calling for Clinton’s impeachment because he lied about his affair, claiming that “there is no administration in American history with less moral authority than the Clinton/Gore administration.” 

Statements like that are what make his ex-wife’s interview relevant, as does the fact that Gingrich is running for the party which claims to be the part of moral and family values, the party that claims that we must protect the sanctity of marriage. I fail to understand how two men or women getting married harms marriage but Gingrich’s two divorces and affairs don’t. Plus there’s the fact that he left his first wife after she was diagnosed with cancer, and he left his second wife after she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I guess that whole “in sickness and in health” clause wasn’t really all that important.

If you’re going to claim to have moral authority over the rest of America, you have to live up to those standards. If you’re going to condemn others for having affairs, you can’t have an affair. If you’re going to say that everyone who does drugs should be thrown in jail, you should never have done drugs (yes, I’m referring to another GOP president). If you’re going to say that marriage should be between one man and one woman, you should not ask your wife for an open marriage.

People’s personal lives are relevant when they’re running for public office because these are the people who determine how the rest of us live. Does it matter to me if the gas station attendant cheated on his SATs? No, because it doesn’t interfere with his ability to give me the right change when I buy a soda. Does it matter to me if my doctor cheated his way through medical school? Yes, because that means that he doesn’t actually know everything he needs to in order to treat me. The two jobs are not the same, so people aren’t held to the same standards. As long as the man down the street doesn’t try to stop me from sleeping with my boyfriend before we’re married, it doesn’t matter to me if he sleeps with someone before he’s married.

The second you try to stop someone from doing something, though, you have to make sure that you stop doing that thing, as well. If you’re going to call everyone who cheats on his wife morally bankrupt when you’ve also cheated on your wife, you have to accept the fact that that means that you’re morally bankrupt, as well. And if you’re going to claim to be the party of morals and claim that everyone else is a sinner who can’t be trusted, then you damn well better make sure you live up to those morals, because if you don’t then you’re nothing but a hypocrite.

Can you be a good politician and have cheated on your wife/husband? Yes. Can you claim to be the moral candidate and have cheated on your wife/husband? No. It’s the same as eating meat. Are you a bad person because you eat meat? Of course not. But if the president of Vegans-R-Us ate meat, that would be a very big deal.