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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

As the Obama Administration winds down, lets review the State of the Union.

As his term in office winds down, President Barack Obama is enjoying a positive approval rating, and taking advantage of every opportunity to remind the American people that his Presidency was a tremendous success.  Obama likes to mention a 4.9 percent unemployment rate and 70 plus consecutive months of positive growth.  He also pardoned 78 convicted felons and commuted the sentences of 153 others.  Pardons and commutations are the prerogative of every outgoing President; Obama focused on drug offenders with his act of legislative forgiveness.  Ever since President Bill Clinton chose to pardon political ally Mark Rich and to commute the sentences of sixteen Puerto Rican terrorists, I try not to pay much attention to this odd tradition.  Obama seems to be enjoying the last few weeks of his Administration, and his last minute decision to outlaw any new offshore drilling will certainly please the ecological fanatics who constitute a loyal part of the Democratic Party.  I am in favor of allowing the departing President to leave office with dignity and promote a needed sense of continuity from one Administration to the next, but I am beginning to get annoyed by the daily revisionist review of Obama's Presidency as disseminated by the mainstream media.

It is beyond disingenuous to publicly claim that the unemployment rate is 4.9 percent.  Our economy is stagnant, and threatening to fall into recession.  The 4.9 figure includes only those persons who currently apply for unemployment.  Persons who have been unemployment for many months or even years no longer are included in this percentage.  I don't live in New York, Los Angeles or Washington DC, so I can't say if the job markets in those cities are healthy.  I can tell you that in the parts of the country of which I am familiar, jobs are scarce, and companies are not growing or posting profits.  Obama is correct when his states that the economy has grown over the past 70 odd months, but the amount growth has almost always been under 2.0 percent.  Economists will tell you that our economy isn't actually growing anymore, and certainly is in no position to provide jobs to the existing number of unemployed, let alone the never-ending number of new college graduates who enter the work force during the year.  To attempt to convince the American people that the job market is healthy and that the economy is just chugging along is perpetrating a fraud.  If you question my perspective as opposed to Obama's, do the research yourself.

Obama is able to stay popular with the majority of Americans, a fact which is difficult for me to comprehend.  But he isn't only popular stateside.  He continues to receive rave reviews throughout Europe and Latin America.  One of the most fascinating dichotomies of our time is Obama's ability to remain a figure of reverence in Paris, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Rome, Santiago, and London, while the United States remains resented more than ever.  Actually, the explanation isn't that complicated.  Obama has built a cult of personality for himself, and part of the effort included trashing his own country and its heritage.  It all began with the Apology Tour at the beginning of his Presidency, and has continued unabated ever since.  As Obama's international popularity increases, the United States as a World Power and instrument of positive change in the world seems less respected now more than ever.  From the first day it was all about Obama. 

If I had the opportunity to ask the outgoing President one question, I would inquire about the twenty trillion dollar national debt.  Its a subject that never comes up in any of his rare Press Conferences or public speaking appearances.  If I could sneak in another question, I would want to know why he never addressed the national threat of gang activity in our inner cities.  I believe Black Lives Matter, and what occurs everyday in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington DC is nothing short of a threat to our national security.  The fact that on average ten to fifteen young black men are shot every day in Chicago, and it has never been considered important enough to convene a national conference of community leaders and law enforcement, is a disgrace.  The people living in our inner cities aren't able to play golf every week with one famous personality after another, nor are they getting dressed by the nation's most expensive fashion designers.  Heck, maybe they don't care about golf or fashion, but they do care about living.  They have just as much right as every other citizen to a threat-free living environment, and President-Elect Donald Trump will earn my respect if he addresses this issue early on in his Administration. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The refugee issue underscores political division within the European Union.

Last Monday, December 19, less than one week before Christmas, an act of terror perpetrated at a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, reminded us that the struggle against Islamic terrorism has not abated.  In a scene rememisent of the terror attack in Nice, France last year, a large truck was driven into a cafe/market area which was packed with people enjoying the holiday festivities.  Parents, spouses and children of the victims are left to answer the question, "why"?  Everytime you turn on the news, one talking head after another is attempting to explain the motivations behind violence committed against civiliams; what a colossal waste of time.  Regardless if its ISIS or Al Qaida, Boko Haram or Al Shabaab, Islamic terrorism has is intended to intimidate, frighten and murder Christians, Jews, and on the Indian subcontinent, Hindus.  Terrorism for the sake of Islamic Extremism is not a recent development, but the frequency with which these groups are able to strike in Europe and the United States is disturbimg to say the least.  No doubt Donald Trump appealed to many voters when he promised during the recent presidential campaign to aggressively combat ISIS.  Over the next year, voters in France and Holland will have the opportunity to decide if the current batch of Prime Ministers and Presidents have been doing enough in response to these attacks.  The refugee issue, which is directly related to concerns regarding terrorism, is presently the hot-button issue in Europe.

The continued presence of ISIS (and other Islamic extremist groups) in Syria has created a monumental refugee crisis.  The Obama Administration has been useless with regards to ending the conflict or addressing the refugee crisis.  The Syrian conflict has destroyed almost every urban community outside of Damascus, and the inhabitants have been forced to leave their homes.  The European Union has responded to this development by opening its borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees.  Not to be outdone, the Obama Administration agreed to resettle large numbers of refugees in the United States.  The decision to create humdreds of thousands of new Europeans and Americans has been met with a great deal of opposition in both the United States and various nations in Europe.  It has become obvious that ISIS and other terror groups have been planting operatives within the refugee population.  The resettlement processes in Europe and the United States have no effective method of identifying the throngs of refugees who continue to show up on the borders of Italy, Hungary, Turkey, and Greece.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has led to campaign to open Europe's borders, is hoping against hope that the person who committed this most recent attack, won't in the end be identified as a recent refugee; I would advise her not to hold her breath.

The organizations and political leaders who argue for quick resettlement of the Syrian refugees are justifiably trying to avoid a human catastrophe.  But the answer to this problem should never imclude comprimising the security of persons in North America and Europe.  Settimg up quota systems to pressure European governments to quickly resettle thousands of people will only create another kind of human catastrophe.  Another issue which seems to get swept under the carpet is the cost of resettlement.  Barack Obama has left the American people with a twenty trillion dollar national debt.  The EU is facing a major economic crisis in Italy, and France, the second largest economy in the EU, is dealing with a crippling unemployment problem.  Many middle and lower income folks in Europe and America are asking the question, "just when did this become my problem?"

The permanent solution to the refugee crisis is to end the conflict in Syria.  This goal could have been accomplished years ago if Obama would have had the courage to militarily combat ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  Russia has stepped in, but will commit itself only as far as its proxy Bashar al-Assad is concerned.  Regardless, one cannot escape the fact that Syrians should live in Syria; it's their home.  A decided military effort achieved by a military coalition can only be achieved by a leader with great determination, courage, and influence.  The conflicts in both Syria and Iraq can only have a military solution, but the good news is that a military solution is possible.  Destroying ISIS and resolving the Syrian Civil War will end the refugee problem.  Does Donald Trump have what it takes to forge a solution?  He certainly believes he does; but for the rest of us, action will speak louder than Twitter.