Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's time. No, no,'s time...

I’m not necessarily anti-gun, although in my perfect world guns would not exist at all (neither would war, hate, discrimination, etc.). However, there is a statistical reality that exists, and in this statistical reality guns, while they may make individuals feel safer in an isolated anecdotal situation, “up-the-ante” so they say, and turn a bad situation into a potentially (or almost assuredly) a deadly situation.
I think the phrase I’ve heard from politicians regarding the response of the NRA to the Newton shootings has been “tone deaf”. I couldn’t say it better myself. First of all, let me say that both the president of the NRA, David Keene, and the Executive Vice President of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, saying that the only thing that will NOT have an effect on gun violence is stricter gun laws is absolutely insane. These two gentlemen will not even admit that the type of gun or size of magazine have any effect whatsoever on the types of shootings (mass shootings) that have taken place over the last few decades. I guess I don’t understand this perspective. If you limit the size of magazine and limit the rapidity with which guns can fire, you obviously limit the amount of damage that can be done in a specific amount of time. That is a statistical fact. If someone uses a hunting rifle with a five round clip, the person would have to chamber the bullet after every shot, and reload the magazine after about 5 shots. This is going to take significantly longer than a gun with a thirty round clip that fires with every pull of the trigger until the clip is done. Tone deaf, indeed.
The tone-deafness doesn’t stop with whether or not guns have to do with shootings, the ridiculous (and incredibly insensitive) suggestion that we should put armed guards in every school is outrageous. Adding more guns to schools, no matter who has them, makes children unsafe. How do we know when the gun-toting security guard is going to go crazy and not only have access to the school, but have access to the school carrying a gun. This puts the children in immediate danger. The best way to protect our children in schools is to continue to make it difficult for people not affiliated with the schools out, keep children (and all others) from bringing weapons into schools, give more funding toward mental health treatment, and limit the size of magazine, rapidity of fire, and number of guns that an individual can own. More guns in school’s is such a poor idea that I can’t figure out how the NRA, typically an organization that is so strictly on message, that it scares me it has either become a scary organization or completely political.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Unexpected[ly long] Journey...

I saw The Hobbit last night, and I have to say I was underwhelmed. Now, I should preface my review here by saying that I missed the last 30 minutes of the movie, because the lights came on and movie shut off, and we were forced to evacuate due to a fire alarm. However, I can honestly say that I wasn’t that disappointed about having to head home.
I guess I should start by saying that the movie is not bad. It just lacked something; something that made the Lord of the Rings so exciting to watch. It might have been a mistake for Peter Jackson to try and stretch a small adventure book (smaller than any of the Lord of the Rings books) into three movies. I’m not sure what his motivation for doing so was, but if the goal was to include every last detail of the book (even the minutiae), then he accomplished that. There were just too many scenes where we watched the characters running, or looking out over the scenery. Some of that stuff is good, but too is much is, well…too much.
There were some exciting parts, and the actors for the most part did a good job. However, the development of the dwarves was a bit thin, even for Thorin, the main character. The first 20 minutes of the movie is spent telling the back story; most of which seemed superfluous to the story. We needed the main points, and then wanted to jump into the movie. The Lord of the Rings did a great job of this with the Galadriel voiceover, and explained everything in about 3 minutes.
It’s possible that the final 20 minutes of the movie really brought everything together for the first movie. Or, it’s possible that once the three movies have been released that the whole story will be a cinematic masterpiece. But, as of now, it seems that this movie was incredibly overwrought, like Jackson was simply trying to rehash his success in making Lord of the Rings, by remaking the movie with a different plot. And to the plot specifically; The Hobbit was a much lighter romp than the Lord of the Rings, but Jackson brought none of the light adventure that was possible, and instead tried to make the dwarves quest as being similar in significance and scope to that of the characters in the Lord of the Rings – which is isn’t.
Overall score: B-

Friday, December 14, 2012


I don’t get it. I can’t comprehend what would make someone come into a mall, or into a school and just start randomly shooting people. Obviously these people have mental health issues that are not dealt with. But you know what, fuck the shooters; everyone spends all of their time talking about them, and forgets about the victims – both dead and alive.
We mourn for those who died, because it is so tragic for someone to die when they’re just going about their everyday lives. A child in a classroom. A person doing holiday shopping. A college student walk to class. A private at a recruitment depot. These people didn't deserve to die (not that anyone ever “deserves” to die, necessarily), they were in what they considered a safe situation. But it seems that nowhere is safe anymore. We live in a world where fear has become constant, even if kept at a hush. Maybe it’s like this in a lot of place in the world, and the United States is finally starting to be privy to it. Maybe not, I don’t know.
What I can’t stop thinking about is those children that were in the school in CT, or at Columbine in CO, or at any of the other school shootings that have taken place in the country, and how the situation will define them. Probably more so for younger kids, but this situation will define them for the rest of their lives. To have someone come into your school and kill 18 of your classmates - classmates who you sat with, and played with, and ate lunch with, but will never do so again – will unfortunately define them for the rest of their lives. It isn't fair. I guess a lot of things happen to a lot of people who don’t deserve it, and it ends up defining them; but this shooting happened on this day, and I couldn't help but think of how awful that is not only to take someone’s life by killing them, but to control someone’s life by defining them.
Sorry if this was disjointed, I’m just at a loss for how someone could do this. Mass murder is mass murder, and it’s always awful; but somehow it just becomes unfathomable when it happens to kids.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What's the magic number...

Having a conversation with a friend of mine, Crystal Marie over at A Word or Three, got me to thinking about something that I’m not sure why I never thought of before. I've thought a lot about relationships. I've thought a lot about love and lust. I've thought a lot about married couples and how in the hell people are able to stand each other for 20, 30, 40, 50+ years. And I've also thought about what causes marriages to fail. But in all that time about thinking of relationships, I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to actually put the question in front of people who have not only been married for a long time, but have been happily married for a long time. I didn't do this (although I would like to at some point).
I don’t want to create a matrix, or do some empirical study, per se, but rather get real answers from couples to open-ended questions about how they've stayed true and happy with one another for so long (I suppose this doesn't have to include married couples, because that would preclude gay and lesbian couples that have been together for a long time, prior to the “turning of the tide” we’re seeing finally happening in this country).
However, I digress.
While I haven’t done this study yet, I’m going to make a conjecture about what I think are the strongest factors that determine not only a lasting, but a happy marriage as well. I’m no expert – hell, I’m not even married – but here goes:
HONESTY. Honestly is the single most important thing in a relationship. And while brutal honestly can at times be hurtful, I think that people develop and understanding of their partner, and therefore know how to deal with them in an honest, and yet unhurtful way. Honestly can be as simple as letting your partner know where you are going, whether you’re upset about something (important one), or especially if you’re beginning to feel as though you’re drifting apart. While honestly won’t save every marriage, it’ll make the relationships that do last a lot closer.
MUTUAL ENJOYMENT. This should be a no-brainer, but it doesn't seem to be so these days. I’m not saying that people have to marry (or date long-term) someone that excites them like no one else, but in order to stay interested in one another you should have both independent and shared interests. Independent interests (and friends, for that matter) allows for each person to continue developing outside of the relationship, and keeps the conversation fresh when they come back together. Shared interests are important, because it gives a couple something to do together, and it’s those shared interests that can also help to break through those tough times when things might have become distant.
INTIMACY. This might have been more of what people were thinking when I said “mutual enjoyment”, but I think intimacy is separate. While sex and intimacy is certainly part of “shared interests” (I guess it works as an “independent interest” for some couples, as well), I think it deserves its own category. I’m not so naïve to believe that a couple is going to have passion throughout their relationship; however, they should have intimacy. Intimacy includes a whole range of things; sex, talking together, taking a walk together, enjoying just sitting with one another, and sharing information with your partner that you wouldn't share with anyone else. I guess for me, it would be assumed that I would know my partner better than anyone else does – I think the term is warts and all.
ALLOWING EACH OTHER TO CHANGE. Next to honestly, this is probably the most important thing to maintaining a happy, healthy, long-lasting relationship. The reality is that we as people are going to change throughout our lives. The way we look is going to change, the way we act is going to change, and the way we interact is going to change. So expecting that the person you married today is going to be the same person in 50 years is absurd. However, there should be an expectation that as each of you change, you will be open and honest about the way you’re feeling, and don’t change apart, but grow together. This allows you develop the relationship instead of doom it. I've heard it said that people wake up after 25 years of marriage and say they don’t know the person they’re married to anymore. Well where the hell were you during all that time when they were changing? If you don’t know them, then chances are they probably don’t know you. Couldn't you have, at any point along the way, stopped and asked the person how they were feeling about their lives, about your relationship, about whether they thought they were changing? It’s better to grow together than to grow separate; because while growing together makes you stronger, growing separate makes you grow apart.
Alright, that is all from me, the relationship expert (who’s not in a relationship). I don’t know everything, and you probably shouldn't listen to me, but these are just things I've come up with from watching relationships and listening to intelligent people I know.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Okay, you're both wrong, now move on...

I won’t claim to have a deep knowledge of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This war (I’m not sure if we can classify it as such, but I’m not sure what else to call it – maybe occupation) has been going on since the State of Israel was established in 1948. Certainly the decision by the United Nations to place the displaced European Jews on land already occupied by the Palestinian people was questionable, but the situation for the Jews was more than dire, and therefore something had to be done; ergo, the establishment of the State of Israel.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, this didn’t sit well with the Palestinians or others in the Arab League, and it set of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. This first war displaced many Palestinian civilians and pit the Jordanians and Egyptians against the Israelis, priming for future wars to come. Unrest continued to occur, but nothing major, until 1967 when the Israelis, expecting an attack from several Arab states, launched a pre-emptive attack on Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The war, as stated by the name, was ostensibly over after just six days of fight, with Israel taking control of the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula, and occupying a larger portion of Jerusalem. The war indicated to the Arab world, and the world at large, that Israel was not to be trifle with. However, the war only increased tension in the region.
Finally, in 1978, Israel and Egypt met at the Camp David Accords, leading to the Israel Egypt Peace Treaty in 1979; this treaty gave the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt. However, Israel continued to have problems with other actors in the region, and specifically with the Palestinians (as represented by the PLO). In the early 2000s (after many fits and starts) Israel began to withdraw its settlements and occupation of the Gaza Strip, turning over authority (and giving autonomy to) the Palestinians living there. This move was not welcomed by all Israelis, and there was much pushback. However, after the elections of 2006, in which Hamas (a political party, with an army wing that is called a terrorist group by the Israelis) won a plurality of the vote, Israel no longer recognized the authority of the Palestinians to govern themselves in the region, and have basically been fighting with them since then.
The Palestinians in the Gaza and the Israelis along the border have been trading rocket sorties over the past few years, but there have been a few times when they’ve come to the brink of war. We’re now close again. The problem is that Israel, supported whole-heartedly by the United States – with both foreign aid in terms of money and weapons – has been guilty of such disproportionate response, that their claims of defense do not hold up. Hamas rockets fly over Israeli cities in small burst (and shot down by Israeli’s new missile defense system, the Iron Dome), and then Israel retaliates with a shelling that decimates buildings, killing dozens of civilians in Gaza. This is essentially a repeat of the conflict that arose in 2008, in which Hamas was firing rockets into Israel, and the Israelis sent F-16s across the border to destroy schools, mosques, etc., which they said Hamas was using for missile storage (and confirmed in certain cases). Regardless, the conflict was incredibly one-sided with regard to the death toll; more than 1,000 dead Palestinians, as compared to 13 dead Israelis.
I think we can come to the conclusion from the sordid history in Israel and Palestine that this is an incredibly complicated problem. There have been moments when an agreement was close – as in the 2000 Camp David summit where Ehud Barak offered to create a Palestinian State, but Yasser Arafat rejected it – but both sides have been guilty of derailing the process. What we need is a rational, fair, two-state solution that settles the issue of border control, autonomy and recognition for the Palestinians, but also a melting of the cold war that has been doing on for the last 60+ years.

P.S. IDF Spokesperson Avital Leibovich is very anti-Palestine, and justifies the killing of Palestinian civilians under the guise of defense. She feigns pity for the Israeli civilians that have to run to bomb shelters whenever they hear the air raid sirens, but cares nothing for the Palestinian civilians whose buildings are not hit with rockets, but blown up with bombs from IDF airplanes, and who have no bomb shelters to run to. This is not the type of person that should be formulating policy for the IDF.
Also, President Obama needs to recognize that he's missing half of the picture. If Israel has the right to defend itself, then so does Palestine. If the Palestinians interpret Israeli occupation in Gaza to be an act of war, then they see themselves justified in launching rocket attacks. Then escalation leads to escalation, and nobody wins in the end (although undoubtedly the Palestinians will end up with exponentially more casualties). The United States needs to be neutral in both its support and condemnation.

Friday, November 16, 2012

He didn't misspeak...

“Especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”
“In each case, they [the Obama administration] were very generous in what they gave to those groups,”
 “With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift, free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”
“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,”
“Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

These were Mitt Romney’s statements in a recorded conference call with his big donors post-election. This is the reason that he is stating that he lost. And you know what, he’s right. You add up women (not just young women, but any woman who cares about making her own choices in life), young people, Latinos, and African Americans, you have most of the electorate (Obama also got an overwhelmingly large percentage of the Asian-American vote) accounted for, except for white men.
So essentially what Mitt Romney is saying in this statement is that the Obama administration didn't cater as well to white men as every other administration that has ever existed. While I wouldn't necessarily agree with that statement (old white men got plenty of “gifts” from the Obama administration), I don’t think that we as a country should be lamenting the decreased influence of white men in our politics, our boardrooms, or anywhere else in society. Old white men have had their run - it’s been long and deleterious to pretty much every other social group – and it’s time that we as a nation begin to embrace the original concept of this country, inclusion.
Romney’s statement, while misguided in its use of the word “gifts”, actually makes a lot of sense. People would vote in their best interest. While Romney is lying in saying that Obamacare provides free health care for people, it is understandable that people would embrace a change to the healthcare system that would positively benefit them and their family. He’s make it possible for people with existing conditions to get health care, he’s removed the lifetime caps, he’s allowed children up to 26 years of age to stay on their parent’s plan, and most of all he’s created the mandate that forces everyone into the market (think “skin in the game”), which in the long run will be able to decrease cost, and hopefully encourage more competition.
And why would a woman vote for Mitt Romney? He and his running mate have shown support for policies that would drastically diminish the ability of a woman to make healthcare choices about her own body. I’m not sure why that would be such a mystery that a woman who wants to control her own health, even getting (*gasp*) birth control if she wanted/needed it, to vote for the person that actually espouses a view in support of women’s rights.
As far as Latinos are concerned, the Republican Party has done nothing but patronizingly pander to them in an effort to win votes. When it comes time to actually create policy that benefits Latinos, Republicans are nowhere to be found. It’s interesting, however, to note that Latinos should be a key demographic for Republicans. Republicans espouse to believe in hard work, family, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, etc.; these seem to be characteristic traits of Latinos (not to try and put anyone into a general category) and, in fact, most immigrant groups, and yet immigrants are spit on by the Republican Party and turned off by their jingoist, white is right, mentality.
Finally, African Americans. On the whole, I cannot see why the Republican Party thinks that they have a chance to win the black vote. Not to say that black people vote as a bloc, but Republicans have made every effort they can to gerrymander this country into segregated districts, doing their best to push black people into districts with only other black people. Was not the “southern strategy” an overt effort to create fear of black people in this country, by appealing to white voters misperceptions and stereotypes? Have republicans changed their strategy at all? Not really. Newt Gingrich throughout the Republican primary called Barack Obama a “food stamp president”, and republicans talk of black people in this country as if every single one is on welfare. They’re living in the past, and they want to keep it that way. Their past is where the white man is superior, and the black man has to respect the white man; they want to hold onto that for dear life.
Republicans after Obama’s first victory always referred to an unspoken “they” that had taken the country away from “true Americans”. And while we can’t be sure who exactly “they” are, we can surmise from the comments of Republicans, from the tea party to Mitt Romney, that they were speaking of African-Americans, Latinos, minorities in general, women, young people, LGBT people, religious minorities, Muslims, immigrants, and basically anyone else that was not white, was not married, was not heterosexual, was not born in this country, was not Christian (hopefully Protestant, but they’d give you a little wiggle room as long as you believed in Jesus), or was not a “job creator”. Republicans fundamental belief is that this country was built by and for white people, and everyone else is just “they” that are living here on “our” land on “our” dime. I guess every group except for white people forgot that, and decided to vote for the guy that actually considered them citizens of this country, and therefore as important people and groups in our society.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hand in hand...

Well, the election is over. Barack Obama is still president. Democrats are still in control in the Senate. Republicans are still in control in the House. Essentially nothing has changed. However (and I guess that is more of a big HOWEVER), it seems as though the American people wanted to keep both parties in control, because we are a divided nation ideologically, but want both sides to work together. The 111th and 112th Congresses were both complete failures. There was intra-house and inter-house fighting, along with intransigence toward the president, and it lead to not only low approval ratings, but little-to-no cross-aisle politics. That is not the point of congress, nor does it help improve our country’s economy, which has been languishing over the past 4+ years.
I’m a progressive, and therefore I tend to vote Democrat. And looking back at Obama’s first term, I personally might have a finger to point at some people that I specifically think caused the logjam in congress; but what will I have gained? What will we as a country have gained by pointing fingers? The answer is nothing. Finger-pointing will only lead to further partisanship and blaming. We are where we are, and we need big solutions to the big problems that our country still faces; the economy, international security, tax reform, etc.
Republicans and democrats are not going to magically agree about the solutions to these problems, but if both parties come to the table with an honest desire to work with one another, and to create positive, comprised solutions, I think we’ll all be better off for it. Sure, I’ll probably be frustrated that some of the legislation doesn’t go as far as I think it should (as others will think it goes too far), but that’s the country we live in.
I will say that one thing that has already frustrated me is the reaction by Mitch McConnell to the president’s victory. The same guy who said that the sole purpose of the Republican Party should be to make sure Obama is a one term president, has christened the (hopefully) new era in American politics with a big, wet blanket.
“The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president's first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control.
Now it's time for the president to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office.
To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we'll be there to meet him half way."
Mitch McConnell looks like a turtle (and sounds like one), and the Republican’s first order of business should be to remove him as minority leader in the Senate, and replace him with someone that actually wants to get business done.
The country is changing. There was a lower percentage of white people overall that voted. A higher percentage of women. A higher percentage of Latinos. A  higher percentage of young people. And black voters came out in numbers commensurate with those in 2008. The electorate in this country is becoming less white-male-centric, and therefore the Republican Party needs to start adapting to those changes if they expect to remain a relevant political party in this country. Hopefully this election will be a wakeup call, helping them realize that they need to drop their social policy evangelism, and start recognizing that abortion, welfare, gay marriage, immigration, etc. are not policies that are going to win them elections. Good ideas that improve people’s lives are going to win elections. I’m not trying to help republicans win, but I just saying that it would help move the country in a better direction if everyone comes around.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I can't believe this is not a bigger issue...

Look, I know that there are many religious conservatives that disagree with gay marriage. However, the fact that a vice presidential nominee has the balls to say something like what he said below is just galling. We live in a country that purports to support equality and provide equal protection under the law. Now this asshole comes along and says...nah.

Below is Paul Ryan's response in a discussion about marriage, to Focus on the Family president Jim Daly.

Ryan: It’s [marriage] the foundation for society and for family for thousands of years. First of all, Mitt Romney and I — I’ll just say it, it’s worth repeating — we believe marriage is between one man and one woman, that’s number one. Number two, you know where I come from we had one of those amendments in Wisconsin, I was a big supporter of it and we passed it like you say, where it’s put on the ballot it passes. The second point is, President Obama gave up defending the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts, I mean, not only is this decision to abandon this law the wrong decision, it passed in a bipartisan manner, it is very troubling because it undermines not only traditional marriage but it contradicts our system of government. It’s not the president’s job to pick and choose which laws he likes. A Romney administration will protect traditional marriage and the rule of law and we will provide the Defense of Marriage Act the proper defense in the courts that it deserves.

Fuck you, Paul Ryan.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's time to put him down...

So I wrote a long diatribe last year about the BCS (Bowl Championship Series), and how it had become a completely bastardized version of what it was originally intended to be. It had become (even more than when it was created) a money-making venture and little more. However, once the BCS contract is up in 2013, we’ll finally have what we’ve been waiting for in college football, a college football playoffs. I’m sure everyone is really weeping over the death of the BCS, and lamenting the loss of the biased computer system that seems to always favor teams from the South, specifically the Southeast (the S-E-C, Southeastern Conference). Good riddance…
While I certainly don’t like the BCS, in general, due to their unseemly practices of putting profit over sport, I am particular upset with the organization this year, in that they’re screwing over my favorite team in college football, Notre Dame. Okay, I get it, people don’t like Notre Dame. Notre Dame has been given preferential treatment by the NCAA and TV stations for years, so it’s time for them to get screwed, right? Well, no. The BCS is not supposed to bias against teams because they’re not popularly loved. Or, I guess more truly, they’re either loved or loathed. Just a little background, I did not attend ND, but I’ve loved the school since I was a little kid; and since my college never had a good football team (and doesn’t even have one anymore), I’ve continued to root for them. I guess it’s my Irish ancestry… Anyway, I digress.
Notre Dame has been screwed in the first BCS rankings that have been released for the 2012 season. Notre Dame is 6-0 and ranked number 5; they have faced three ranked opponents, Michigan, Michigan State, and Stanford. Kansas State, who is ranked ahead of ND at number 4, has faced one ranked opponent (Oklahoma at #6), and just happens to be in another conference that he BCS favors, the Big 12. Oregon is also ranked above ND at number 3, but that is at least understandable, because Oregon has one of the most (if not THE most) high-powered offenses in the country, and has been dominant over the last few years. But then we come to Florida at number 2. Florida beat LSU, who at the time was the #2 team in the nation, and they’ve beat another ranked time (Tennessee at #24), but I don’t see how that puts them ahead of Notre Dame. Oh, right, they’re in the SEC. What a coincidence, so it the #1 team, the #6 team, and the #7 team (Alabama, LSU, and South Carolina, respectively).
I’ll give the SEC their props, they’re a great conference, but that doesn’t automatically mean that they’re better teams and therefore should get pushed up in ranking, just because they supposedly have a tougher strength of schedule. Notre Dame is not in a conference, but has consistently played tough teams and beat them, therefore they should be ranked based upon their performance and strength of schedule, not their conference (or lack thereof). Notre Dame should be ranked #3.
p.s.  I’m willing to bet that when South Carolina beats Florida this weekend at the Swamp, you’ll see SC leapfrog Notre Dame and jump down to #3, while Notre Dame will probably only drop down to #4. Ugh…such is life.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Wow, isn't he the greatest...

Let me start by saying that by all appearances, Mitt Romney won Wednesday’s (10.3.12) debate. I wouldn’t say that he blew the president away, but he was more confident, had his numbers ready to go, and overall seemed a lot more comfortable attacking the president than the president did defending himself.
That being said, Romney’s presentation was full of a lot more vigor than substance. And it’s not that vigor doesn’t matter, but I think that it’s important to point out this fact before saying that the first debate completely changes the direction of this election. Regarding his tax policy, Romney was evasive, and presently a view that was starkly in contrast to that he has been presenting since the beginning of his campaign. The president pointed this fact out, but Romney shifted and said that he would do nothing that would add to the deficit; well Mr. Romney, unfortunately you can’t have one without the other. Either you plan to cut taxes and raise the deficit, or you plan to cut the deficit and raise taxes. And he scoffed at the president’s characterization of his tax plan as a windfall for rich people, but Romney – in typical fashion – went on some diatribe about the president raising taxes on the middle class and how he [Romney] wants to cut corporate and business taxes to help spur business. These two facts have nothing to do with one another. Obama’s tax plan would not raise taxes on small businesses, unless they’ve become large enough to where they should be paying a higher rate, or they pay corporate income taxes; either way, this would have no effect on such a high percentage of businesses, that pointing to the few that would be affected is ridiculous.
In addition, Mr. Romney continued to hammer the president on the Affordable Care Act, but failed to offer any alternatives to the president’s plan, or outline what was wrong with it, except to say that President Obama would be stealing over $700 billion from Medicare, which is a lie. The $700 billion dollars is how much less Medicare will be funded over the next ten years, but that will have no impact on how much seniors will spend, but will only impact the providers in how much they will receive (should be noted that this is what providers agreed to). Romney tried to tout his plan, while distancing himself from it; a strange position to be in for a person whose party considers the ACA a “government takeover of healthcare” and “socialist”. But Romney says that it was a good policy for the state, but not a good national policy; which is hard to understand why it isn’t. Wouldn’t the federal government be better of negotiating with giant insurance companies, rather than local government? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Finally, Mitt Romney and the president went round and round about Social Security. Romney kept pushing the Ryan plan for Social Security, basically trying to pander to older voters and those already retired by saying that THEY won’t be affected by his policy, neglecting to mention the fact that those 55 and younger will have their Social Security prey to the open market under the Romney/Ryan plan. Certainly, Social Security in its current form is untenable long term, but policy-makers need to come up with a comprehensive strategy for creating a system that works, because millions and millions of seniors depend upon Social Security to live, and that fact is not likely to change anytime soon. But creating the voucher system where people will have to decide what they want to do with their SSA money is not the solution, and is more likely to create a system similar to the retirement system where some people will lose everything they have in the event of a major crash. It’s bad policy for a social safety net.
Bottom line: Romney may have won the debate, but that doesn’t mean that he did it honestly, or that it will translate to anything other than an email to send to supporters. His message is muddled, his policies are poor (and unclear), and he can’t seem to find any firm ground under which to stand, other than saying that we should elect him for the simple fact that he isn’t Barack Obama.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A man above the people...

Mitt Romney is going to lose this election. There, I’ve made a bold prediction, but one that I’ve held since the Republican primary process started weeding out the fanatics, and went with the safe, boring candidate. Not that picking “safe” means that you’re going to win. It just means that you’re not setting yourself up to lose.
But Romney has managed to completely bungle this campaign. By all accounts he should be winning in the polls, and should be a shoe-in for president. The president [and the country] continues to be let down with disastrous unemployment numbers, and an economy that just won’t seem to pick up. But Romney has failed to make two arguments that I believe are very important to people when they enter that voting both; 1) why do you want to be president?, and 2) what specific policies will you implement that will make the economy better than the current president.
 The first question should be easy, but instead of connecting to voters and letting them know that he cares deeply about this country and that he’s worried about the economy and the people, he just comes off as an out-of-touch rich guy that wants to be president so that he can hang it around his neck like a badge of honor. He wants people to like and respect him, but he doesn’t seem that likeable and it’s hard to respect someone who seems to care nothing about anyone but himself. I honestly don’t think Romney, the man, is a bad guy (I don’t know him personally, so I can’t say), but his campaign has done a terrible job of humanizing him, and therefore nobody feels like they know him, or want to get a beer with him (George Bush II had that going for him). Not that I need my president to be my best buddy, but I think it’s important that he at least attempts to make a connection to the majority of the people.
Which actually brings me to the point of this piece – I’ll come back to question #2 later. A video was leaked this week of Mitt Romney speaking to some high value donors back in May, in which he makes the outrageous claim that “There are 47 percent who are with him [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it,”. First of all, this claim is untrue. It has been debunked by several fact checking organizations, and has ironically shown that many of those that Romney considers free loaders are actually (if they’re working) paying a higher percentage of income tax than Mitt Romney. Add to that the fact that Romney is essentially saying that all poor and lower middle class Americans are Obama supporters, so he’s just going to write them off. And if he’s campaigning with that message to wealthy donors, what do you think he’d do during his presidency…?
But let’s take the statement at face value; let’s say that it is a true statement. I still don’t understand what is so abhorrent about people living in the wealthiest nation in the world expecting to be provided with health care, food, or housing. I mean, it’s not like people are expecting multiple houses and car elevators; they expect that those lavish items are reserved for the super-rich in this country. Those are basic necessities, which we should be providing to everyone anyway, regardless of whether they’re productive, unproductive, working, not working, active, lazy…it doesn’t matter. Asking for health care, food, and shelter, is essentially asking to continue to live, that’s all. I guess the so-called compassionate conservatives don’t have compassion when it comes to poor people; or maybe it’s just rich, out-of-touch, liberal/conservative, flip-flopping Republicans that don’t have compassion or empathy for poor people.
The second important question that Romney has failed to answer is what specific policies he will implement to turn around the economy. He says that he will end "Obamacare", but that really doesn't account for much. Most of his other fiscal policies resemble those of the Bush administration; tax cuts, deregulation, etc., along with cutting in "entitlement" spending and closing loopholes. But his cuts in entitlement spending and closing loopholes have been completely nonspecific, and therefore have lead to a lot of speculation as to where and what will be cut. The romney campaign has decried all of these speculations as way off the mark, but has yet to disclose comprehensive policy ideas that would actually have a change of cutting the deficit and debt, or spur economic growth in any way. Basically we're looking at a candidate who just thinks he can be elected as the anti-Obama. Former president Bill Clinton said it best in his speech at the 2012 Democratic Convention, referring to the Republicans and the Romney campaign; "We left him a total mess. he hasn't cleaned it up fast enough. So fire him and put us back in." Helluva campaign slogan for Romeny.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Yeah, but is it really like that?

Let me say from the outset that I am a Spike Lee fan. I enjoy every movie of his that I’ve seen (which I think is probably every single one), even if I find his messages a bit heavy-handed. His characters are riveting, even if his stories are somewhat chaotic and hard to follow. His movies are all so personal, and therefore it adds a certain sense of realism (maybe the only sense of realism) to an otherwise completely fictional world.
With that being said, I do have some issues with Spike Lee’s directing style, his characters, and his movies. As I said before, I find his directing to be very heavy-handed. What do you I mean by this? I mean that he consistently uses the same actors, the same character types, and the same settings to beat his audience over the head with his message. This has changed somewhat in Spike’s later career as he’s broadened his cast, his stylization, and his focus to more than just a one-dimensional beat down, letting you know that racism still exists in this country.
It’s understandable why Spike Lee directed his early movies the way he did. For one, he grew up in Fort Greene in the 1960s and 70s; and though this neighborhood may be a contemporary haven for members of the old Brooklyn middle class and yuppy artists, the neighborhood was hit with the same waves of crime and drugs in the 70s and 80s that embroiled the rest of big apple. So Spike probably grew up with some Snuffy’s rolling around the neighborhood, and he definitely had to deal with the likes of Sal, the disgruntled pizza shop owner that Lee’s characters worked for in Do the Right Thing. So his reason for making the movies and characters the way they are is understandable, but it doesn’t necessarily make it right.
Social commentary is certainly made more poignantly with one dimensional characters than with complex, multi-layered individuals. With one dimensional it’s easy to understand who the character is supposed to represent, and doesn’t cloud the overall message with trying to figure out who this character is in the grand scheme of the film. However, one dimensional characters also do not accurately represent the complexity within all of us that is deeply than simply an overtly stated belief. All people are not anything all of the time. Criminals can be kind, drug users can be logical, racists can be thoughtful, players can be trustworthy. It’s important to remember this when we’re pigeonholing people; that though people may openly display seemingly one dimensional characteristics, there is a whole lot going on within that person that we’re completely unaware of.
As a movie watcher, and not someone in the movie industry, my criticism of Spike Lee maybe be somewhat quaint or simple minded, but I think his movie create much too simplistic ill-concieved perceptions of the world around us, especially for people that live in major cities, and especially for people that live in Brooklyn. It’s true that racism still exists, and it’s true that people sometimes (unfortunately) conform to stereotypes instead of create them, but that doesn’t mean that every white cop in Brooklyn wants to bust in the head of a young black man, or that every Jewish club owner is a scheming “shylock” trying to screw over his employees, or that every Korean grocer is hateful and suspicious toward their black patrons.
Spike Lee’s creation of a fantasy world where all black men and women in whatever neighborhood he’s portraying not only get along, but all know one another, is simply a distortion of the depth and nuance that exists within everyone racial or cultural community, and creates the illusion that a) the world is against black people (especially young black men) and that b) there is no way to fight back against it, because the outside forces are too strong to overcome.

As I finished writing this post I realized two major errors that I've made. The first is that I’m criticizing Spike Lee movies that (for the most part) were made around 20 years ago. His perspective has changed a lot, his characters have changed a lot, and his movies have changed a lot. I give him credit for that. The second major error is that while I might want Spike Lee to create a more realistic setting, maybe that’s not what he was trying to do. His intention was not to show reality as it exists, in fact. His intention might have been to instead show reality as it is seem by a specific person or group of people. Therefore, to understand what he was trying to say, you can’t judge against the world we see around us in the neighborhoods we occupy, but instead we have to look within ourselves and interpret the world through our own filtered experiences.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

They've lost their minds...

While I recognize that I, as a man, do not have a lot of insight into what it is like to be sexually assaulted or raped, I think the furor over the politics surrounding the topic over the last several months necessitates a post.
I think President Obama yesterday gave probably the best response a man can give regarding rape, and the politicizing of it; “The idea that we should be parsing, qualifying, and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people, and certainly doesn’t make sense to me,” and followed by “What I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians – a majority of whom are men – making healthcare decisions on behalf of women.” Exactly.
And while I don’t necessarily agree that conservatives are waging a “war on women”, I think their problem is that they’re politicizing issues that are inherently personal, not political. Republicans support the status quo in most respects, and this includes the continued subjugation and control of women by men and policy. That is why Roe vs. Wade was so abhorrent to conservatives, it revoked male control over a women’s right to choose what she wanted to do with her body, and instead gave the right to choose to the person who has the most insight into what is best for her…herself. Conservatives are still clinging to these antiquated ideas of meek women who need guidance from their knowledgeable husbands, fathers, brothers, male friends…politicians. And instead of raging a cultural war on the issue, which at least makes more sense - attempting to sway the majority of the public to feel a certain way – they’re waging a cultural war by proxy, the proxy being an ultra-conservative party platform and implementation of ultra-conservative policies.
With the support of the Republican Party lying mostly with old people, wealthy people, and religious people, all of whom have an interest in the continued subjugation of women, it’s no wonder that they continue to pander to those crowds. But what they’re missing is that regardless of how they feel, or what they say, women are not going to sit idly by while conservative assholes push harder and harder to go back to a time when their rights were limited to what their husbands allowed them to do. We’re in a new era (and have been for decades) where women will stand up for their rights; protesting, voting, running for office, donating to politicians and parties that support their rights. And with old people dying, and their antiquated ideas dying with them, eventually these radical conservatives will realize that they were and are on the wrong side of history. The culture wars WILL BE LOST by conservatives.
Onto the actual comments made by Rep. Akin. The guy represents the party; what he said is what they believe. They put complete intolerance to abortion, regardless of rape or incest, as part of their party platform for the Republican convention. It’s kind of difficult to throw one of your members under the bus for saying something that is part of the open party platform.
But that is where Republicans are these days. They’re clandestinely (or at least they wish they were) pushing for radical right-wing legislation, while pretending they’re moderate. There is NOTHING moderate about “parsing” rape into different categories. Rape is rape. It’s tragic when it happens, and awful that our society is constantly questioning and blaming victims, instead of asking why there are so many rapes that are occurring. The questioning after a rape becomes a woman’s burden to bear, instead of questioning the person who was responsible for the rape. The questions that are asked are ludicrous; what were you wearing? Had you been drinking? Had you been using drugs? Did you know the person? Had you had sex with anyone else recently? These questions are moot. We don’t ask someone who owns a jewelry store that gets robbed why they keep their valuable items on the counter, instead of locked away in a safe. A crime is a crime, and we should not subject the victim to further anguish and diminution by grilling them on what THEY could have done differently.

Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, and the Republican Party support legislation to outlaw a woman’s right to choose what is right for her, even in cases of rape and/or incest. This needs to be known, and Republicans need to be shamed. This is not a political issue, but because Republicans are using politics as a cudgel in the culture wars, Democrats need to strike back by destroying (politically-speaking) the Republican Party.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

But they're more important, aren't they...

Mitt Romney has thus far been unwilling to release more than two years of his tax returns. It’s not that he has to release his returns, but what Romney doesn’t understand is that while no one is going to actually force him to do so, not releasing them keeps the question in the air and will ultimately be answered by the American people during the election. Romney doesn’t get it. He’s whining, as if it’s the Obama campaign that is demanding the release. The Obama campaign knows he doesn’t want to release them, so having someone else like Harry Reid continue to press the issue is brilliant, because as long as people are suspect about why Romney doesn’t want to release them, they’re not thinking about the fledgling economy.
However, Romney’s reticence to release more than two years’ returns is not what I want to take about, it’s more about Romney’s general philosophy on taxation. Romney just released a statement today (unsubstantiated by documentation) that he has paid no less than 13% taxes over the past 10 years. Okay, let’s take that statement at face value; that would mean that Harry Reid’s “source” was lying, and that Mitt Romney had in fact paid taxes. However, 13% taxes is a MUCH lower rate than the majority of Americans pay, especially working Americans.
The standard rate is about 35%. Fair or not, that is what it is. However, most wealthy people pay much less that than, typically between 15 – 25%, if not less. The current Republican position is that capital gains and inheritance should be taxed at a much lower rate than income. Flat – that’s their position. So essentially what they’re saying is that they think that people who make money from doing nothing (and already have a substantial amount of money) should be taxed at dramatically lower rates (or nothing at all) than people who actually work. If I make $10,000 a year, I would pay roughly $3,500 in taxes. However, if I made $100,000,000 from investment income, I would only pay $13,000,000 in taxes (taking home $87,000,000), or none at all under they Romney/Ryan plan.
Romney says that the reason for the lower tax rate is because those people with vast sums of money invested are “job creators”; but Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in the world, makes the argument that people make investments to make money, not based upon what tax they will be paying. The reason the so-called “job creators” are not investing in the current economy is because it’s in the tank and they will not see a return on their investment.
Ultimately, this is an issue of supporting the country that supported you (Obama’s argument). Wealthy people have made vast sums of money over the past 3+ decades because of policies that cut their tax rates dramatically and allowed them to park their money in foreign countries. Also, a lot of their money has been made in investments that did little or nothing to actually create jobs, but instead were specifically made to create wealth (hedge funds, investment firms, etc.). Therefore, while their incomes and wealth have risen dramatically (nearly 400%), the real incomes of the upper middle, middle, and lower classes have either stagnated or even fallen. Literally fallen. The average income has fallen from about $36,000 in 1970 to $32,000 in 2010.
Since the wealthy have benefitted so nicely from these rates and policies over the last three decades, and since their wildcat investments drove our economy over a cliff, it’s time they started paying back. Even making the tax rate even across income/investment levels would be more fair than what we currently have. But what we really should do is cut out tax breaks and loopholes specifically designed for the wealthy, and create a graduated wealth and income tax that forces the wealthy to put in their fair share of income to this country that has benefitted them so much. If they don’t like the tax policies, they can leave. The country could use LESS people who are making vast sums of money toying with the market, but then paying nothing into the public coffers once they get their big payoff. Our country is hurting, and it’s obvious that Mitt Romney and those of his ilk care nothing for this country or the economy, but instead are still looking out for themselves and their wealthy friends.
Newt Gingrich charged Obama with stoking the flames of “class warfare”; and you know what, he was right. But the class warfare is not being waged by the poor against the rich, it’s being waged by the rich against the poor, and has been for generations. It’s about time a leader, and especially a president, highlight this issue and try and open the eyes of the majority of the people in this country who are being swindled by a bagful of citizens.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It doesn't seem so, but it is important...

Paul Ryan is a hack. Mitt Romney is a weather vane. Together they lack both experience and substance at a very important time for our country. Certainly I won’t raise the specter that this is “the most important election of our lifetime”, because frankly, I don’t think it is. Even with Romney being a boring, take-no-stance candidate, and Paul Ryan being a fake budget hawk, there is probably not a huge difference (in the short term) in how a Romney presidency would run the country versus how the Obama administration has run the country.
Now, that is not to say that there would be no difference. And when it comes to fiscal and foreign policy, nuance is very important. The lack of foreign policy experience for both Romney and Ryan is troubling, especially considering their hawkish views with little to back it up. In fact, part of Ryan’s “budget plan” is to continue increasing the military budget, while slashing funding for the State Department and diplomacy. While the State Department might be somewhat more low profile than the DOD or War Department, it’s role in foreign policy is paramount to walking the delicate line in international diplomacy. We’ve already seen how effective “gunboat diplomacy” is, as displayed during the Bush administration. Two unsuccessful wars with no diplomatic efforts, lead to continued fighting and strife with virtually no end in sight. And Republicans are still talking about making a move against Iran (or at least supporting Israel in doing so); reminiscent of the definition of insanity…
Anyway, back to Romney and Ryan. While I actually do think that Romney as a person is a moderate, his political winds (or constituent winds) strategy of politicking scares me. Romney will say and do whatever he has to to get elected (which actually makes the Ryan choice a bit odd), and therefore while he himself may be a moderate, he would kowtow to the hard core Republican base as president, nominating far right ideologues to cabinet positions, and pushing ultra conservative legislation, much of which he himself personally does not espouse.
That is the difference in this election. While certainly most Democrats and liberals will allow that President Obama has been hit or miss, the fact is he’s trying to do right. He’s a pragmatist, and as a pragmatist he’s not going to make everyone happy; and occasionally is going to piss people off – even his own supporters. But also as a pragmatist, that means that he’s principled enough to realize the realities of a situation and look for rational, well thought decisions. He doesn’t bend the wills of his party’s extreme every time a tough question comes up. He instead will make the decision he believes to be right (and by right here I mean what he believes to be best for the country), and then pays the political price for it afterward.
This president has been very good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) at using his political capital. He doesn’t keep a lot in reserve. He’s constantly make concessions that will make one group happy, just to turn around and piss them off with his next decision. But what is great about this is that it shows his ultimate goal is to get things done, even if he’s not leading all of the polls. A great gauge of this is that even while poll numbers might show that a particular policy of the president, or how he’s dealing with a particular issue, may be low, overall his approval ratings remain very high (relative to the myriad of problems that our country currently faces).
I guess the point of my post is that while President Obama has not done exactly what I would do as president, his overall goal has been to improve the economy and make our country great again. Mitt Romney cares nothing for the country, and instead would govern by the  mantra that he’s lived by of “everyone for themselves”; which he’s blindly followed despite being assisted throughout his life by other people. "We've always encouraged young people: Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.” Because we all have parents that can just hand us $25,000 to start a business. Mitt Romney is a shell, nothing more. And once he’s attained the office that he feels he’s always deserved, he’ll move on to something else. The presidency is not Mitt Romney’s way of improving the country or the lives of the people in it, but another trophy to show everyone what an important person he is.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It should be shocking, but…

How many mass shootings have we had this year? Maybe three, four, five…and the year is a little more than half over. While the circumstances and locations may be completely distinct, the scene is all too familiar. Young men – I’m not sure if I’m aware of a mass shooting carried out by a woman, yet – who for whatever reason are suffering from some psychological issue that never gets addressed, somehow manage to stockpile a cache of weapons without anyone being the wiser. Sometimes the guns are bought from friends or illegally; sometimes they’re purchased (along with rounds and rounds of bullets) from the local Walmart. But somewhere along the line the dangerous thoughts and plans turn into a reality. I don’t know what that point of no return is. Maybe for some of these young men it was purchasing the gun. Maybe it was just deciding one day that they were going to go through with it. Maybe they didn’t actually make up their mind until the shooting actually began.
I read a very powerful book about the Columbine shooting by journalist Dave Cullen. Cullen attempted to get more to the heart of the who the two gunmen were, rather than just paint them as mass murderers. Certainly Cullen was sensitive to the fact that the town of Columbine still had to live with the losses they suffered that day, and so did not try and justify or explain their actions, but instead tried to understand at what point they had made the decision to go through with their plan to kill their classmates and destroy their school. To use the Columbine shooters as an example, it seemed that the two boys made this decision at vastly different times. Eric Harris seemed to make the decision long before Dylan Klebold did. Harris did most of the planning, and seemed to be determined to carry through with it from the beginning. Klebold, on the other hand, seemed much less hell bent on killing his classmates and suffering the consequences of those horrific acts. But whatever the timing, this plan went into action long before the events unfolded. So it begs the question, how many other people have plotted awful crimes of this nature, but simply didn’t follow through with it? What stopped them? What didn’t stop those that did follow through with it? What happened to those that felt that way at one time, but stopped before killing someone? Did they go on to lead “normal” lives? Are they still plotting? Or are the type of people who carry out these acts determined from start to finish to follow through on them?
These are the scary questions that I think we as a society need to answer. Because the reality is that there are people out there right this minute that are plotting the next Columbine, or the next Virginia Tech, or the next Oikos University, or the next Aurora, or the next Sikh temple. Whatever the motivation, they’re planning these attacks; so the question is how do we prevent it? For most that are planning, they will hopefully just give it up, and move on. But for those that are determined to carry out these acts, what can we as a society do?
I think the problem is that our society has gone off the rails, and these people are the unfortunate culmination of a society that embraces guns and violence as a cultural norm, while at the same time repressing individualism and open expression. People are told that to be stoic is good and that showing or expressing your emotions is bad. So we have bred multiple generations of pent-up, angry teenagers who feel that their only outlet to let society know how they feel is by killing someone. Add this to the fact that young men are returning from war with terrible PTSD, but are unable to receive the treatment they require, so instead of turning the gun on a crowded movie theater are all too often killing themselves.
The question of what to do is not an easy one to answer, but the fact is that an answer needs to be found. The issue of guns is part of it. The second amendment (in fact NO CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT) gives carte blanche to carry any type of weapon, anywhere, at any time. All of the amendments to the constitution have limitations; so limiting access to handguns, assault rifles, huge magazines, rocket launchers, landmines, tanks and nuclear weapons are all perfectly within the scope of the legislature (I guess unless the Supreme Court decides otherwise). But limiting access to certain types of weapons won’t do it alone; the problem is much larger than that. We need to allow our society as a whole to express their feelings in an open, non-judgmental way. It’s not unusual for young men to have homicidal fantasies, but when they’re being treated as freaks or murderers for expressing these fantasies with words or pictures (instead of violence), this turns them off to talking about how they’re feeling; which is something that might potentially prevent them from carrying it out. As with all generations before, we have a lot to learn, but the only way to learn about why people are feeling a certain way, or why people do certain things, is to listen to what they have to say.

I leave you with a quote from The Dark Knight that I think is apropos:

“Nobody panics when the expected people [get] killed. Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plans are horrifying. If I tell the press that tomorrow a gangbanger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will get blown up, nobody panics. But when I say one little old mayor will die, everyone loses their minds!! Introduce a little anarchy, you upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos.” ~ The Joker

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I think the rationale is a bit unclear...

This just proves that the gun industry and the gun lobby care nothing about law and order, but only care about profits. Not that it was ever assumed before, I guess, but individual advocates of the second amendment and supporters of gun rights often use the argument that upstanding citizens should have no fetters on their rights to own and carry a gun. Okay, so let’s assume that gun owners keep them for going to ranges and shooting targets and/or for self-defense. I guess I’m not really sure how this law “would unfairly focus on legal gun owners when most crimes are committed with illegally obtained guns.” A rational person would say that this is the precise reason why this microstamping would be necessary, because it gives police detectives a starting place to look for the weapon used in a crime. Just because police come to your door asking about a weapon used in a crime does not mean they’re implicating you in the crime, it simply means that a gun that you once owned (or still do, but has been stolen) was used in a crime. This could be very helpful in tracing the gun to the last legal (or illegal) owner, and eventually help to solve the crime.
So why are the major gun companies and gun lobby against this legislation? Hard to say… Some say that it is a money issue; the gun industry says that it would add as much as $200 to each gun, but the State of New York – who is trying to pass a law requiring microstamping – not only says the price would be much lower, the law they’re attempting to pass would actually mandate that the increased cost would be no more than $12 per gun. I guess another reason why they’re opposed to it could be because the gun manufacturers are away that their products are purchased by criminals and/or stolen and used for nefarious means, but they would rather make massive amounts of money than actually protect the lives of the citizens of this country – or at least make it easier for police to find the guilty party when a crime has been committed.

FYI - The US gun and ammunition manufacturing industry includes about 300 companies with combined annual revenue of about $6 billion.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The chickens will come home to roost...

How is it that we allow the same states to create a mockery of our democracy over and over again? As Republicans continue to alienate Hispanic voters in Florida and throughout the country, the number of Hispanic voters in Florida and other border states in the Southwest continues to grow. So what is the Republicans’ response? Not to actually change their policy and perspective, and try to reach out to Hispanic voters, but instead to simply change voting laws to make it more difficult for minorities and impoverished people to vote.
This is what is happening right now in Florida. Not only have they changed their voting laws to make voting difficult for people, but they’re literally removing voters from their rolls (even though they have no justification for doing). The state has been ordered by the Justice Department to stop this practice until they’ve had time to review, but the Florida Secretary of State has defied the Justice Department order and vowed to continue the purge of voters.
Florida officials in support of the purge continue to espouse the idea that their voter purge is important to curb voter fraud in their state. However, as we’ve seen in numerous past elections, the voter fraud always seems to be coming by way of voter disenfranchisement, rather than ineligible voters squeaking through. I mean, as I’ve talked about in a previous post, our voting turnout is only at about 60%; I don’t think there is a whole lot of worry about people who are not eligible to vote doing so when we can’t even get people who ARE eligible to vote to do.
This is all a tactic at disenfranchising ELIGIBLE minority voters, often immigrants, who may not fully understand voting laws, and are easily tricked into thinking they’re not eligible. Another tactic is requiring expensive identification, which poor voters are wont to pay for, when they have obviously chosen not to shell out for it already because they can’t afford it. Strategists have also found another way to keep voters from coming out - and this is truly devious – basically by misinforming them about when, where, and how they can vote. During the Wisconsin recall elections, robo calls were sent out to voters telling them (misinforming them) that if they had already voted for recall, they did not need to come out to vote in the recall election. That is an outright lie, and THAT is voter fraud.
What does all of this tell us about where our country is going? In a weird direction. As the old, wealthy, white voters continue to die off, Republicans are unfortunately going to become more and more desperate for ways to continue to be politically viable. And instead of evolving their views and adapting to a changing society, they are going to turn to deception, trickery, and voter suppression to keep the people they have been discriminating against for years (and continue to do so) from voting. A sad, sad state.

P.S. I don’t mean to demonize the Republican Party; there are rational Republicans out there, but they seem to be the minority these days, and are being pushed out of the party as heretics and liberals.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hmm...something's wrong here

Not that I read or follow Maxim, but I just happened to hear that they came out with their “Hot 100”, so I decided to check it out. The list was the typical smattering of regularly attractive women, who we are told are ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL, because they’re popular at the moment. One funny side note, Stephen Colbert was included in the Maxim Hot 100 (all women), so at least it lets us know that Maxim has a little bit of a sense of humor.
But what stood out to me most, above the fact that almost every single woman was a super-skinny model-type that has been included on these “hot” lists for the last 40 years, was the fact that of the 99 women on this list, only about 5 were black. I mean, certainly beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but isn’t it a little odd that the number of black women on this list don’t even come close to representing the proportion of black people in society as a whole? Maybe Maxim readers simply don’t find black women attractive, but it seems strange that the number would be so low, considering the fact that I’m sure the proportions of beautiful women per population are fairly consistent across racial lines.
I think there is a bigger issue at play here; the issues being that black men and women are underrepresented in media and entertainment, and black women specifically are not recognized as beautiful in our society in the same way as white women. The same black women appear over and over on these “hot” lists, while we continually see new, young white faces on the covers of magazines and on these “hot” lists. Maybe this isn’t the biggest issue facing our country today, but I for one think that it important to make all people feel valued (speaking of non-beautiful people, as well), even if they’re proportionally underrepresented in media, entertainment, and “hot” lists.

P.S. JWoww...seriously...JWoww?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The night is darkest...

I’m fearful for this country. I worry that we’re headed in the wrong direction. It seems as though many are bent on reshaping this country into some sort of theocratic dictatorship. And while Republicans say that they espouse freedom and liberty – and even attach Democrats and the president over the issue – there is always a place for exceptions to their rules…basically, whenever it suits their political or social ends.
Social conservatives hate abortions. Right, we get it, you’re “pro-life”. Well, guess what, most liberals don’t like abortions, either, but don’t frame the issue in that way. In fact, liberals are much more likely to teach women and men about the realities of sex and the use and availability of birth control, as well as educating women on their options if they do become pregnant by accident. Social conservatives, on the other hand, want to continue pushing abstinence-only education, limit the access to birth control, and tell women they absolutely must have the child, even though these policies have actually increased the number of abortions that women have received.
In addition, Republicans throughout the country are on the attack to limit women’s rights as a whole. They’re trying to limit women’s access to birth control, they’re trying to close down Planned Parenthood, they’re trying to tie a woman’s healthcare to whatever her boss wants to provide; it’s a mess.
But, the old saying that “the night is darkest before the dawn” seems apropos. Why are conservatives so vehement about pushing this anti-woman agenda of late? Because they see the male-only dominant power structure in this country slipping away. Their idea of “traditional” roles are being turned on their heads (since they’re still living in the 1950s), and they’re having a hard time dealing with it. This issue encompasses the idea of same-sex marriage, as well. Their idea of traditional (male/female) relationships reinforces their concept of an ideal partnership, and gay couples not only change their concepts of “traditional” relationships, but disrupt their ideas of sex/gender roles, as well.
So what am I saying? I think our night is at its darkest, and even though things seem awful right now, we’re going to soon reach the dawn, where the forces of good will truly win out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Busy times...

A lot has occurred over the last couple of weeks.
The Republican primary is over…thank god. Well, at least it’s realistically over, if not technically over. I think Mitt Romney’s victory in the Republican primary has cemented Barack Obama as a two-term president. Mitt is boring, stiff, and totally uncharismatic. He’s out of touch with most people, and it’s palpable. While Republicans will fall in line for the most part, Romney does not excite the base, and independents are not fooled by the back and forth (etch-a-sketch) stances on every issue; they see Romney as being hollow, and blowing with the political winds of popularity. While the election will probably be close – all modern day presidential elections are – President Obama will reinvigorate Democrats (and the nation as a whole) with a charismatic campaign (even while he’s been unable to excite us as president).

George Zimmerman has FINALLY been arrested and charged with a crime. The prosecutor has charged Mr. Zimmerman with 2nd degree murder. It’s possible that this is an overcharge, because manslaughter would probably be easier to convict, but I have to assume that the prosecutor knows what she is doing. Regardless of the charge; and really, regardless of whether Mr. Zimmerman is ultimately found guilty or not guilty, the important thing is that the facts of the case will be presented in a court of law so that guilt or innocence can be determined based not on one person’s opinion, or the bias of the police, but instead based upon the facts. George Zimmerman needs to answer some questions about what was suspicious about Trayvon Martin. About why he thought Trayvon Martin was on drugs. These are questions that are important, not only in this case, but also on the national conscience about race.

This brings me to the next big update, which is that a piece of legislation has been presented in the Senate that would ban racial profiling. This piece of legislation is still in utero, but I think it’s important that this issue is being brought back into the national discourse. It’s sad that it takes the death of young black man, at the hands of white (he has also identified as Hispanic at different times) man, when there are countless examples every day of racial profiling, which, while they don’t end in death, still end in distrust and humiliation.

Finally, I have to say that I’ve been surprised (though I guess I shouldn’t be) by political television. Every time I watch political shows (it’s an indulgence that I wish I didn’t want), there are always some middle-of-the-road, independent journalists that are commenting on some particular issue, and the host is typically fairly moderate, but then there is always some wealthly, smug-looking white man or woman who completely rejects any idea that our country has issues with race, human rights, equality, or jingoism. Their (ridiculous) perspective is that the United States is God’s (big G important) gift to the planet, and it’s our manifest destiny to the “beacon of freedom” in the world, and that whatever we do, wherever we do it is completely just and right. And the idea that there is anything wrong is this country is completely absurd, because we have the Declaration of Independence which states that all men are created equal, and the post civil rights/post women’s rights era has been a society that has reached near complete equality. It’s just race/gender/etc.-bating to say otherwise. Ugh…

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The truth...

Where has this guy been?

Not only was this speech a good political move, especially for a president that has maintained low but respectable ratings despite a fledgling economy, but he was right on.
Democrats are so quick to qualify any comments they make about politics, by stating that both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for the ineffectiveness of government, and especially of Congress. While I think it’s important to recognize how poisonous money to both Democrats and Republicans has been to our political process, when we’re looking at actual legislating, it’s naïve or just completely disingenuous not to recognize that Republicans are holding up the process.
Republicans say that the president and Democrats in congress will not work with them; but what they fail to recognize is that when you come to the table with something so radical, and tell the other side before negotiations, and all throughout negotiations, that you’re unwilling to negotiate, it makes it somewhat difficult to get anything done. The president came into office hoping to work with Republicans, despite a filibuster-proof majority in the senate, and an overwhelming majority in the house. However, even with Republicans in a position of considerable weakness, they managed to throw wrenches in the cogs of government, and it was only be the skin of their teeth that Democrats managed to pass the Affordable Care Act.
Since then, and especially since the midterm elections, Republicans have done literally everything they can – including lying, delaying, chastising – to hurt the president politically, but have unfortunately spent no time actually legislating. Their goal, as stated, is to make President Obama a “one term president”. They believe that any substantial, positive legislation, no matter how much bi-partisan support it might get, will not get passed. The only legislation that has been passed since the Affordable Care Act have been only those laws necessary to prevent government shutdowns, the discontinuation of the unemployment insurance, the discontinuation of the payroll tax holiday, and the like. No new substantial legislation is on the horizon, and I don’t see any formulating anytime soon.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Let's bring everyone back in...

American systems are broken. Our political system is broke. Our economic system is broken. Our judicial system is broke. Our educational system is broke. I’m not going to go into examples of how and why these systems are broken, but I think that while people may disagree over the levels of dysfunction in these institutions, most people would agree that they’re all messed up and headed in the wrong direction.
So, short of completely overhauling our system – which basically would be mean scrapping our constitution and re-writing it (not a bad idea, but a proposal fraught with its own issues of who to write it and how to change it) – what we need is to change the way the people in this country interact with their institutions; government and other.
One major change that would help connect people more to their political system – and in my opinion, thereby connect them more to all of the institutions in our lives – would be to create a compulsory voting system in this country. Compulsory (or mandatory) voting would be helpful, because not only would it push voting numbers up to more democratic levels (the mid-terms had a 37% voter participation rate – disgraceful), but would also re-engage citizens in the politics and political process. In addition, voter participation on the level that we’re seeing in the Australia (95%), which has a fine-based mandatory voting process, would help weed out extreme candidates, and stifle ascension of highly partisan groups such as the tea party from become major political forces.
Voting day can also be made a mandatory national holiday, so that citizens have no excuses for not turning out to vote, and companies have no excuses for remaining open. Mobile voting centers can be setup to aid elderly or infirmed voters with the process, and those who are absolutely unable to participate may get a waiver through an extensive process of unenrollment, that would need to be re-submitted for every election.
Voting should be compulsory for both local and national elections. The reason this is important is because if we have extremists in our local office, they become our experienced lawmakers, and therefore will tend to move onto the next level. Rick Santorum is a perfect example of this. Santorum is a highly-partisan, ultra-religious extremist, but because he has moved through the levels of politics using a hard Christian-conservative bloc as his base, he’s been able to make his way all the way into a primary fight for the Republican nomination as President of the United States. But Rick Santorum in no way reflects the general feelings or beliefs of even a large minority in this country. His base is small, but fierce; they always vote, and always get their friends to vote. And when no one else is voting, it’s the extremists on both sides that decide both our local and national elections.
The argument against compulsory voting is that it infringes upon our rights. Personally, I feel that this argument is flimsy. There are several things that the government – whether local or federal – requires us to do. We’re required to sign up for selective service. We’re required to pay taxes. We’re required to serve on juries. And there are always caveats to these laws and people who flout the system, but on the whole, the majority of people participate in these activities. In addition, each citizen should only be required to register and show up on Election Day, they have no requirement to vote for a specific candidate, or vote for any candidate at all. There should be options to either write in a person’s own selection, or to completely abstain and select something like “I do not wish to vote”. This would give people who have a moral (or religious) opposition to the voting or political process a chance to withhold their active participation. And for those who say that they don’t want to participate because the system is broken, what is a better way to change the system than participate. The system is what the system is, and if we can’t completely overhaul it, isn’t it better to be able to change it from within.
The arguments against compulsory voting are mainly hyperbolic, and have nothing to do with any real negative impacts on the political process or the country in general. Therefore, to reduce hyper-partisanship, increase voter participation and engagement, and restore democracy to our fragile and disintegrating institutions, it’s time to implement compulsory voting into our local and national electoral processes.