Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The GOP steps up: Pros and Cons of a possible takeover

The Wall Street Journal Opinion: Can Republicans win the Senate?
The Sacramento Bee: Even in liberal bastions, GOP sees election chance.
The New York Times: Half-dozen NY races may help GOP win House.

With all the talk lately about a Congressional regime change a few weeks from now, I decided to finally see for myself what kind of chaos we're talking about here.  Being the hyper-moderate, reform-minded citizen that I am, I can see both positives and negatives in an imminent Republican power grab.

Respect for the Constitution, states' rights, and conservative government spending are just a handful of the "right-wing" values which I hold dear, and I think these are also qualities in legislators that the public truly wants to see, especially in the context of what our nation is going through right now.  There is definitely a good chance that more moderates will vote Republican this November simply for the sake of reining in the economy and not so much for the party's position on various policies.  However, one of the things that I am truly excited about is the prospect of environmental policy reform.  If the Republicans take either house of Congress, it will no longer be so easy for the super-liberal to pass their costly and overregulating "green bills" through the system.  This amazing article from POLITICO is (hopefully) a forewarning of what is to come, especially since EPA official Lisa Jackson came clean that "the EPA is not required, and they do not consider, jobs or economic impact when evaluating permits".  So much for economic recovery!  Environmentalists seriously need to account for the whole political picture, instead of guilt tripping the populace with pictures of baby polar bears and swinging of hammers on the businesses which employ us and run our economic sphere. If it takes a Republican Congress to make that happen, I'm all for it.

The reasons I'm also a little apprehensive of this change are pretty justified in my opinion.  Some of the Republican party's current platforms are pretty questionable, not to mention some of the radicals they have running for office this year.  The party's constant damnation of anyone who falls outside of the white, Christian, hetero, middle-class prototype has made them extremely unpopular with the younger and more moderate voter set, me included.  For example, Carly Fiorina (running for Senator against Barbara Boxer in California) is uncomfortably pro-life, which doesn't exactly mesh well with the party's de-regulatory stance on everything else.  It's just rooted in religion, something the Republicans should be careful with in the future if they want to keep their advantage over the Dems.  As far as other frightening GOP politicians go, I think the following articles speak for themselves:
POLITICO: Christine O'Donnell questions First Amendment, separation of church and state. 
The Washington Post 44: Sharron Angle tells Hispanic students: "Some of you look a little more Asian to me".   

I think it's apparent that so far, human beings have failed at creating the "perfect" political model, and will continue to fail for at least several more decades.  Policies, issues, and pundits come and go, but one thing that stays the same in our system is the inevitability of change, and I think it might just be time for another one here in the US Congress.  It all depends on the attitudes and convictions of the voters this November.   Fortunately for me, I won't have to bang my head on the wall either way, since I already voted for all Libertarian candidates!  After all, they say if you don't vote, you can't complain--and in all seriousness, I just really don't want that kind of silence forced on me.  Especially since I will most likely end up needing to do some complaining in, oh, about 2 weeks.  Probably sooner.    

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The First-Ever, Totally Righteous, Mysteriously Thought-Provoking KultureshoK Voting Guide

Gimme a sticker, folks: I VOTED!  The bubbles have been filled and the envelope sealed.  I can't believe this is only the second election in which I have been eligible to vote, but I have nonetheless been more invested in this particular race than I ever expected to be.  I have made my final decisions on each California ballot proposition and take immeasurable delight in sharing the end results with you, my noble readership.  Take offense if you must, but these are the decisions I felt to be in the overall best interest of our economy, our government institutions, and more specifically, my young peers here in the Golden State, waiting patiently for adequate education funding and the chance to make a buck someday.  Enjoy!   

YES on Proposition 19— Control and Tax Cannabis in California!  I truly hope you weigh the facts as much as you can before voting on this one.  Politicians don’t know where to turn to fix California’s problems…deficits, high incarceration rates, unemployment…Prop 19 is projected to GENERATE $1.4 billion in tax revenue, REDUCE law enforcement and prison spending and save tens of millions of dollars while STREAMLINING police operations to solve more violent crimes, and CREATE 60,000-110,000 brand new California jobs.  Some call it crazy.  I call it common sense.

YES on Proposition 20— VOTERS FIRST Act for Congress!  In 2008, voters passed Prop 11 to create an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to end gerrymandering and backroom politics during CA state legislature redistricting.  A YES vote will extend this Commission’s power over California’s federal congressional redistricting process as well, so our elections and representation by our lawmakers will be more fair.  

YES on Proposition 21— Establishes $18 vehicle license fee surcharge to help fund State Parks and Wildlife Conservation!  Kind of a no-brainer for me…this is actually the Proposition with the least dramatic fiscal impact, and hey, it’s for a good cause, right? 

YES on Proposition 22—Prohibits the state from taking or borrowing certain local government funds!  Didn’t know too much about this initiative, but looking back on the financial crisis we just survived, I would be a little uncomfortable allowing more insider borrowing, especially within our government.  This may backfire on me, but as always, I am prepared to take the heat.

YES on Proposition 23— Suspends AB32 (Global Warming Solutions Act) until unemployment rate drops to 5.5% for full year!  I have received so many dirty looks for this one already.  Although the polling for this Prop is sketchy, I will not back down from my belief that our economy is too fragile for AB32 at this time.  I’m all for efficiency, but voters must face the reality that our “green” industries are simply oversubsidized by the government and our “green” policies are just dragging the rest of our economy down. 

NO on Proposition 24— Saves recent business tax reforms!  One word: JOBS.  No matter what your opinion is about “big corporations”, I hate to break it to you, but they are the ones creating the shiny consumer products you use every day and employing tens of thousands of California workers.  If we repeal the 2008 tax reforms, these powerhouse companies will be double-taxed for each new employee hired.  In other words, they're not going to hire, and instead they're going to pack up shop and skedaddle to Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. 

NO on Proposition 25— Keeps the legislative vote requirement to pass the state budget at 2/3 majority!  This was the toughest Prop for me to decide on…on one hand, I would love to take away our legislators' pay every time the budget is late, but on the other hand, it’s way scarier to give them an “easy way out” by dropping the vote requirement to simple majority.  The problem isn’t the voting system—the problem is the legislators!  They need to learn how to do their jobs and compromise the old-fashioned way…or get booted out of office. 

YES on Proposition 26— Requires state and local “fees” to be voter-approved by a 2/3 majority!  Sooo…whose idea was it to start calling taxes “fees” in order to weasel his/her way out of asking our approval?  Not cool.  A tax by any other name would still smell just as bad, sneaky legislators, and the voter still has the last word on that subject!  YEAH AMERICA!

NO on Proposition 27— Keeps the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission!  (see Prop 20) Sneaky legislators again!  They must think they’re really funny, trying to get their redistricting power back so they can once again draw funny shapes on maps in order to discriminate based on locations of racial neighborhoods and party opposition within their district.  We can’t allow our lawmakers to abuse our institutions and our trust in this manner, or democracy will surely fail.  

Hope this gives you a little insight, whether you love me or hate me!  But either way, please, please, PLEASE, if you live in California, register to vote by October 18 and get out and VOTE November 2nd!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Crossfire: CA governor candidates take the stage in first formal debate

KABC-TV Los Angeles: Gov Candidates Brown, Whitman meet to debate

That's right, folks--after 2 long months of relocating, working, studying, and various other forms of college student diversion, I am BACK with a brand new election-season rant!  Tonight marked the opening episode of the California gubernatorial debates, and for many politically-minded Californians, the moment we've all been waiting for.  Held at UC Davis, this debate was the perfect opportunity for Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown to publicly explain their plans for the governorship, as well as address some of the issues that have been so gossiped about in the press the last few months.  While I strongly encourage every Californian to watch this debate for themselves, I simply can't resist the urge to recap it.

First off, I was completely and utterly surprised at Whitman's debating style.  She presented herself much better than I (or anyone else for that matter) expected, although it wasn't perfect; I did find her incessant repetition of talking-points-in-a-can quite annoying, and also caught a few weak spots in her arguments, not to mention that she used the word "child" twice in referring to California public university students.  Brown brought up a few good points and performed like the seasoned politician that he is, but in my opinion, made some far-fetched claims and dropped the ball on some sensitive topics.

The issue of California's ever-tardy, ever-gluttonous state budget was the first point of discussion.  Finally the candidates were able to talk about something in a formal setting, free of mudslinging (or in Meg's case, cash-slinging) advertisements or op-eds.  I gave Brown the first point of the evening for his budget plan, which involves cutting his own budget 15% as well as challenging our state legislature to do the same, while making the budgeting process more transparent and taking the backroom politics out of the equation for good.  Whitman's plan involves...a two-year budget cycle, rather than the fiscal year that the Fed and the entire rest of the economy is currently running on?...seems to me that more budget confusion isn't exactly what we need.  I gave neither candidate points when it came to their job creation strategies.  Whitman's proposal to eliminate the startup tax was well-played, but her biggest plan involves eliminating the factory tax and crossing our fingers for manufacturing to pick back up where it left off, and Brown's dream is an all-out hippie offensive from the already grossly over-subsidized green sector.  Thanks for the suggestions guys, but as one of the millions of students getting ready to graduate from a four-year university with student loan debt, I'm really not inclined to settle for a job in assembly line production or retrofitting solar panels to roofs in the scorching California sun.

Speaking of education, I reluctantly had to throw Meg Whitman her first point of the night when the question of UC/CSU/CC fee increases came up.  I was so disappointed by Jerry Brown's argument--he started out by saying how much he loved the UC system...but when the panelist asked him if he pledged to hold the line on student fees from now on, he backpedaled and refused to stand his ground on the issue.  Come on, Jerry!  Even Arnold was able to rein in the chaos a little for the '10-'11 school year!  Whitman, on the other hand, actually proposed strategically streamlining and siphoning money from other areas of the government (namely welfare programs and staffing) in order to keep our universities going, although I found it slightly ironic that she kept bringing up downsizing on government staff, which would require cutting hundreds, even thousands, of jobs, when she made job creation one of her key issues.  Looks like she's learning the ropes of politics pretty fast if you know what I mean.

Immigration was where the debate really got interesting.  Nobody can deny the problems we face as a border state, and I must award this point to Jerry Brown, although more on the basis of my own personal bias.  Brown's strategy was both rational and feasible: implement efficient law enforcement programs that deport and take action against the undocumented immigrants that are actually committing crimes, then work on a peaceful path to legal citizenship for Mexican immigrants.  Whitman expressed her opinion that the Arizona immigration law was too "divisive", then immediately flipped the script and talked about taking action against every illegal immigrant in the state.  She can think what she may, but if she seriously thinks that she's ever going to be able to afford or enforce such a plan and hunt down and deport literally tens of thousands of off-the-books immigrants, then she knows even less about policy implications than I thought.

The night's festivities ended with a humorous discussion of fresh political-press gossip.  Meg's campaign strategies, namely her flat-out lying TV commercials and her $90 million personal check, were addressed, and while she went on the mother of all tangents when confronted about some of her ads, she made a pretty good point about the funding: by paying for much of the campaign herself, she holds herself accountable to no one else.  A good point, but I still can't help but think someone made up all this stuff for her and made a pretty penny.  Brown, a long-time slave of labor unions and other liberal pity-parties, testified that he is now much too old to care about special interest liabilities and other traditional games of public office.  He then ruined his progress by running over time with a corny shout-out to vote no on Prop 23, which by the way, Whitman supports, and unfortunately I have to give her another point for being on my side of the enviro-policy battle.

No matter which way you cut it, this debate was the most interesting thing that has happened since the start of this campaign.  About 30 days and a few more debates remain...who's it gonna be?  The sketchy 1970's "moonbeam" governor from the Bay Area?  Or the sketchy corporate bigwig rookie from the Bay Area?

...Personally I think we're screwed either way, but there's no point in politics if you don't at least try to participate!  In the words of Stan Marsh, "I learned that I better get used to having to pick between a Douche and a Turd Sandwich, because that's usually the choice I'll have" (South Park Studios).  Couldn't have said it any better myself.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wikileaks, war, and wingnuts: Rational thoughts on the irrational

CNN: What leaked documents are telling us about the Afghan war

If you are a frequent visitor to my blog, you may have wondered at some point what my position is on the current war in the Middle East.  Like I've said many times before, I do not identify with either major political party, and on this issue I stand firmly behind that principle, as I see both sides throwing stones at the war issue while nothing gets done.  Most Republicans simply label anyone against the war as a "commie", "socialist", or the like, while many Democrats want our troops out of there immediately with no further effort. 

I wouldn't be writing on this topic at all if it weren't for this weekend's massive Wikileaks release to The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel containing about 90,000 reports on activity in Afghanistan, many filed by the military, from 2004 to January 2010.  I'm no stranger to Wikileaks, I "StumbledUpon" it a while ago and thought it quite interesting that such a forum existed to oust government cover-ups from the trivial to the outrageous.  While I don't regularly keep up with the site, I nevertheless applaud Julian Assange for releasing these reports, regardless of their actual accuracy, and I'll tell you why.

The jist of the leak is that things in Afghanistan are not going exactly as planned.  Until now, the American press has been given limited information as to what is happening over there, in regards to civilian death toll, details of insurgent attacks, progress of the Afghan society, etc.  If our ridiculous media sphere doesn't know the facts, why trust them?  I'll take previously covered-up information over television garbage any day of the week.  The most interesting pieces of news are the ones mommy and daddy are hiding from us (aka the government).  Yesterday's and today's leak-driven news reports make many interesting claims:
  • Many of our more recent military tactics revolve around minerals, surprisingly not oil!
  • The general population thinks their new government is worse than the Taliban. 
  • Insurgents have shown up to battle wearing government-issued uniforms and driving government-issued Ford Rangers, both of which the United States provided to them. 
  • Pakistan law currently allows secret service members to hold strategy meetings with the Taliban in order to discuss plans for taking down the American occupation in Afghanistan, including assassinations of Afghan government officials. 
  • Goodwill missions are often abandoned after only a few months, including an orphanage founded in 2006 which after a few months reported housing only 30 orphans when there were supposed to be over 100, and after only a year of the orphanage being established, reported housing no orphans at all. 
  • According to Assange, actual civilian casualties at Afghan roadblocks, airstrikes, etc. "numerically eclipse" the death tolls of bigger events we hear about on the news.
My personal opinion on the war?  Whether or not these claims are completely accurate, they all support the notion that things simply aren't going very well over there.  I come from a military background on both sides of the family, love my 2nd Amendment rights, and have no sympathy for Osama bin Laden or any other member of the Taliban for that matter.  However, I think we're going about this entirely the wrong way.  The Afghan citizens have showed us that they don't want what we have to offer.  We can give them government, but we are still outsiders to them, and we are obviously being taken advantage of as corruption infects every institution that we have created there.  We're being too trusting that this society, ravaged by tyranny, terrorism, and organized crime for decades, is simply going to open their arms to democracy and everything will be alright.  We can't even control our own society here at home--our economy is tanking, approval of the government is at an all-time low, and our politicians continue to disappoint.  We need to fix that before we try to influence any other nation.

Military spending currently makes up over 50% of our federal discretionary spending.  That's about a trillion dollars a year.  Something tells me that's more than enough money to create tactical strategies that actually target terrorist groups from the inside out, but instead our plan is to...well, I don't know, let the insurgents come to us first and blow up our troops?  Build fake orphanages to act like we're doing some good for their society?  It's disparaging to our honorable armed forces, and to our national identity, to draw this out much longer.  The Wikileaks crowd got it right; they exposed the disorganization surrounding this war, and silently posed this rhetorical question: What's the plan?

Time to actually start picking off the real terrorists, methinks.  They have the money and the capabilities to do so.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

People in glass houses

Let's face it: if America was made of glass, we would have shattered that baby years ago (theoretically, of course).  Seems to me that there's a bigotry problem here in the U S of A, and this is just a (somewhat) friendly reminder of what exactly our founding fathers bought into when they ratified our Constitution.  

Religious controversy in the US has picked up where blatant racism left off, although in this particular case the two are actually closely linked.  I hope anyone who reads this also clicks the supplement links I provided above, not so much for the journalism, but for the comment section at the bottom of the page.  The Internet is both a blessing and a curse--I have beheld some of the most eloquent demonstrations of free speech, and then I have seen this, the hateful drivel that is spewed anonymously in public forums by the uneducated, the un-cultured, and the un-American. 

So some American Muslims want to build a mosque, in addition to a nondenominational community center, two blocks away from Ground Zero.  Unfortunately for the right-wing extremists, the very first amendment to our federal Constitution says they can build one wherever they choose.  But when people have on the blinders of ignorance, all they seem able to produce are ridiculous statements that "Muslims should not be allowed to live in the US", "this mosque will give way to an uprising of radical Islam", and my personal favorite, "we should be dropping nukes on all of them!".  Even the pampered princess of the religious right Sarah Palin publicly dished out her two cents to the Islamic community on Twitter, the worst thing to ever happen to the Internet: "Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing."  Huh.  Someone please remind me, what public office does she hold that gives her the authority to do anything regarding this issue, or regarding morality in general?  Maybe she should have made sure her daughter kept her legs closed--having a child out of wedlock was punishable by stoning back in Jesus' time.  Moving on.

The anti-Muslim community's backlash against religious freedom has grown into quite the example of the fear-mongering and misinformation that has become the Republican platform.  People are so paranoid and ignorant that they have just started lumping together all Middle Eastern races into the "terrorist" demographic.  Reality check: there are Muslims whose families have lived in the US for centuries.  Believe it or not, Muslims from Iraq and Afghanistan make up the lowest percentage of American Muslims, with those of Indian and Pakistani descent making up roughly 60% and African Americans making up another 25%.  So it's pretty fair to say that these people were minding their own business the morning of September 11, 2001, just like you and me, and sharing in the shock and mourning of our nation as we dealt with the biggest blow to our nation's pride since Pearl Harbor.  Blaming the entire ideology for the senseless and radical acts of professional organized criminals is just as ignorant as me blaming all Christians for the genocide of the Aztec nation and the virtual eradication of almost every other indigenous tribe in North America--but bigots just can't see the forest for the trees.  They're acting like the NYC Muslims are going to launch an attack from the very roof of this new mosque, when in reality they share nothing with the 9/11 terrorists other than the label of Islam, which is obviously subject to some radical thinking that these Americans do not condone.

Our nation was founded on principles of equality and freedom for all, and even though it's turned into a tangled mess more than once since 1776, the fact remains: our founding fathers really didn't give a hoot what the people believed or didn't believe--they envisioned a society in which everyone did their own thing in peace and without fear of persecution, without dragging deities into the logical government system.  George Washington (my favorite president) and Thomas Jefferson (my other favorite president) treated religion as a subject of academia and nothing more; while they knew it was an important topic for the populace they served, they also knew the damages it caused by separating people from one another in hatred and misunderstanding.  Washington called for people of all religions, even atheists, to apply when he was looking for Mount Vernon staffers, and Jefferson resented efforts by the Christian church to convert him and birthed the idea of separation of church and state.  What we have now is exactly what they discouraged, but the circumstances of our conflict with the Middle East has made tolerating each others' differences much harder. 

Bottom line: the "moral" Americans have very selective standards of which religious practices are acceptable and which are not.  They took the weed from the Rastas, but allowed the KKK to organize and spread terror through the streets, as long as they kept the volume down and pretended it was just a parade.  Now they want to dictate where worship sites can be built?  How large of an anti-Muslim area around Ground Zero will suffice for these people?--oh right, many Christian extremists believe that mosques shouldn't even be allowed on American soil.  Thought like this simply isn't American.  I guess we know who the true patriots are--those who actually open their arms to what our forefathers believed in.

I know someone is reading this right now, getting very angry, and would love to call me out for being too "politically correct".  In case you didn't get the memo: I am an American.  I don't get by on "political correctness".  I get by on the liberties bestowed upon me and everyone else in this country by some of the greatest minds known to politics.  I don't believe in "morality", I believe in humanity.  And, luckily for everyone in the crosshairs of the right wing, the Constitution is on MY side.

As your good friend Jesus once said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.” John 8:7.           

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't make me separate you two! The symbolism within the Tea Party vs. NAACP slap-fight

Newsweek: Are Tea Partiers Racist?

Politico: Tea Party "expulsion" reveals new rifts.

The recent childish bickering between the Tea Party and the NAACP has been interesting to watch, not because I think either of these groups are really relevant, but moreso because the issue of racism in America is a touchy subject at best, and one that has been shoved into a dark corner since equal protection under the law was implemented.

My personal philosophy on race is that we are naturally apprehensive of those different from ourselves, but regular contact with other races very quickly leads to acceptance.  I believe that impediments to racial tolerance are mostly the results of parenting and the xenophobic "wisdom" of the older generations in general, and only because they have been alive long enough to remember even older prejudices that used to rule our society.  I see it as a sort of backwards domino effect--as time goes on, racial prejudices will be passed down less and less through each new generation, and soon the problem of racism will be nonexistent.  The only catch is that human beings are always looking for a new target for hate, for example, large-scale race issues have died down since the 1960s, but now we have more discrimination and hatred against gays.  Such is life.

Back to the point: the NAACP threw the first stone, calling out the Tea Party on the racist phrases used both on their protest placards as well as in verbal jeers directed at minority politicians.  I agree with the NAACP on this--if you take the racism out of the Tea Party you can dig down deep and find their one true political platform: they dislike paying taxes.  Quite a profound philosophy indeed.  Next, the Tea Party came back with the retort that it was in fact the NAACP who were the racist ones, explicitly excluding whites and other racial groups while referring to themselves as "colored", an old-fashioned term considered by many to be a racial slur.  Although I can understand why African-Americans still harbor animosity toward whites, surprisingly, I must say that I agree with the Tea Party on this one!  There's a first time for everything I suppose, but to discredit the TP, many other people were on this bandwagon long before the Tea Party was even around.  And so the "he said-she said" battle commenced.

But how is it possible for both groups to be racist?  Very simply put, the two groups are attacking each other for the same reasons and not really realizing it.  Neither of the groups' public platforms or agendas include racist acts, and yet in both groups, a significant amount of their members, and often times the leaders, engage in bigoted speech and activity or simply allude to a racist attitude.  A good way to clear this up would be for both the leaders to come out publicly and say, "This group encourages full acceptance of all people, and any racist activity by a member of this group will simply not be tolerated".  Obviously neither of them are going to do this, because the truth is that they KNOW what kinds of things are going on in their rank-and-file, and excluding ALL the racists would significantly lower their number of supporters.  But the symbolism in this lies in how silly both organizations are being--and in the public eye too!  Underneath the bickering, the point is that there is no logical reason to resent members of another race, only childish finger-pointing and age-old hatred passed along by generations past.  Perhaps eventually they will realize that if you bring a bunch of racists together for a common purpose, odds are someone is eventually going to figure out what you are doing, and call you out on your intolerance.  I thought this was obvious but it seems these two orgs are just learning.

This battle began about a week ago.  So what's the score now?  To my extreme delight, it seems to be NAACP 2, Tea Party 1, as a certain TP leader brought the fight to Sacramento, my humble abode.  Former radio personality and now former leader of the capital city's "Tea Party Express" made national headlines on July 14th when he posted a blog entry containing a mock letter addressed to late president Abraham Lincoln, from "colored people".  The letter was completely tasteless, conveying a message that "colored people" didn't like working for the system and instead would prefer to be un-emancipated in order to stay on welfare forever.  Williams was "expelled" from his leadership position by the National Tea Party Federation after the post went viral, and while he calls is satire, it's obviously a slap in the face to African-American culture, and the biggest First Amendment fail I've seen in a long, long time.  Read the full letter here and see for yourself.

Racism is a sad reality.  I really hope my theory is correct and it will eventually "trickle out" of our society's consciousness.  Until then, I'm gonna grab some popcorn, kick back, and watch these two organizations tear each other apart!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Obesity, ignorance, and the world's largest drug cartel

The Associated Press: FDA to review first of 3 new weight loss drugs
USDA Report: Taxing Caloric Sweetened Beverages

No, no, NO!  Why should this even be an option?  Leave it to the American pharmaceutical companies to make it their very duty in life to get people hooked on "miracle pills" for literally the most minor of "ailments", even though most of these medications prove to be addictive and come with scary side effects.

The so-called obesity "epidemic" in our country has created many concerns in recent years, not only in the healthcare arena, but in the political world as well.  The number of fat people has risen greatly, and the costs of medical care for these people takes a significant chunk out of everyone else's healthcare budget, and with our economy the way it is, governments are looking to cut the fat.  Our nanny-state legislators see fit to tax, regulate, and ban certain ingredients in food as well as entire products, such as soda, which is currently being taxed in a handful of states, with several more states and the federal government considering similar taxes for the future.  Michelle Obama has even made childhood obesity the target of her "First Lady Mission" (or whatever it's called).  But is obesity really the medical problem it's been played out to be?  Should we be offering pills for this?  And the even bigger political question: why should all consumers be taxed for these goods when obese people are the minority?  Isn't that taxation without representation?

 First I'll target the taxes...most governments that are choosing to place fees on soda are also extending the extra charge to any beverage containing sugar...that means Gatorade, <100% fruit juice, and even chocolate milk.  The inclusion of sports drinks particularly frustrates me; in my youth I was a very competitive swimmer, and consistently purchased Gatorade in massive volumes for grueling 3-day meets.  Luckily the tax wasn't in effect back then, or else I would have been charged for partaking in activity that encourages the exact opposite of obesity!  This is the main problem: that the fees are nondiscriminatory--you could be Paris Hilton and the "obesity tax" would still apply.  This leads to an age-old democratic problem: taxation without representation.  If obese people are the minority, why should I be taxed if I'm physically fit?  Haven't I earned my right to drink some soda by working out and leading a basically healthy lifestyle?  My answer is yes.  While studies have been done to determine whether or not the tax could actually reduce consumption and/or obesity in general, the point remains that the entire populace should not be penalized for the acts of few, and I expect to see more uprising on the subject in the future in states where the tax has gone into effect.

As far as obesity as a medical ailment goes, I strongly disagree with the notion that being overweight is a sickness.  While it most definitely leads to severe health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, etc., I feel like people have forgotten that obesity is one of the most preventable of all medical problems.  There is no substitute for balanced diet and exercise.  The only exception I acknowledge is the rare case in which gastric-bypass surgery is needed to fix pre-existing digestive problems.  By subsidizing irresponsible lifestyle choices and classifying poor diet as an "epidemic", America has sent the message that there is no cure for fat, which there most definitely is and has been since the dawning of our species.  Whether or not these people want to take the initiative to stay fit, it's not the government's duty to control aspects of the food industry, nor should it be the taxpayer's duty to foot the bill for their thoughtless and preventable "condition".  It's the sole responsibility of parents and individuals to eat right and get at least minimal physical exercise--we owe it to our bodies.

The medications set before the FDA for consideration this week are even scarier than I imagined.  According to the AP article above, two of the three proposed treatments are a mixture of amphetamines and anti-convulsants.  Oh yes, that sounds extremely healthy for a person that already displays lack of personal control.  Since when is it okay for police to roll around impounding marijuana while highly addictive amphetamines are praised by federal agencies and mass-produced by big pharma?  Patients in research studies of these drugs had high dropout rates because of memory and cognitive impairment.  That really sounds like something people should be taking in the morning before they drive to work.  Furthermore, obesity pills of the past have faced lawsuits and recalls for high risk of heart attack, permanent liver damage, and even anal leakage (gross).  If these medications are approved by the FDA, it will prove just how short-sighted and profit-driven our federal agencies and beloved pharmaceutical corporations really are--they're the largest drug cartel on the planet, operating 100% legally within our borders and getting people hooked on pills and rushed to the ER for fatal overdoses by the thousands.  They'll continue to do this as long as Americans keep messing up their bodies and looking for the easy way out.  I've got a solution for America's obese: Get off the couch and put the McDonald's down.

On a brighter note, check out this pharma company from the UK who has just landed on our turf and has some REAL ideas on effective medical treatment: GW Pharmaceuticals--Creator of Sativex 


Friday, July 9, 2010

The impending demise of the Golden State and politics in general

Sorry I haven't updated in awhile, it's campaign season and everything has been crazy, both personally for me as well as in recent news.  Nothing of any substance is happening, just more of the usual mudslinging, fear mongering, and horrific journalism that made our country what it is today.

I simply can't believe what I'm seeing in this general election campaign--I guess I knew it was coming all along but it just happened so fast.  The average Californian voters (and Americans in general, I think) have finally proven without a doubt that they are no longer capable of making informed decisions.  I know this because the percentage points in favor of every campaign have been swinging from week to week with no actual event to drive the fluctuation besides new ad campaigns.  These people are not only relying on television for entertainment anymore, no--they now rely on it for all their information and personal decision-making processes.  Apparently people these days have no problem succumbing to a life of sitting on the couch and letting the press and corporate America soak their mind in "opinions" (FYI: it's not your "opinion" if you heard it on TV, that's someone else's opinion).  I don't watch TV (except ESPN, mind you), and I think that's what has helped me form such an objective perspective on law and politics.  When debating or discussing politics with others, I can tell just by the word choice and arguing style of a person whether or not they are speaking for themselves or quoting a commercial back to me.  It's very difficult to reason with these people because they usually feel compelled to stand firm on issues favored specifically by their political party--issues made known, of course, through partisan news networks and commercials.  The biggest problem with this mentality is that our politicians are not making it any better...corrupt governments + braindead voters = chaos on the horizon.

First example, the governor race in California.  To the educated, TV-less, moderate-minded observer, Meg Whitman is obviously an idiot.  She still hasn't revealed any political skill to the voters, but she has already run the most expensive gubernatorial campaign of all time, and we're still 4 months away from the election.  Too bad she has completely flip-flopped on a major issue that Republicans seem to feel very strongly about: immigration.  In June, she tried to buddy up with Pete Wilson, a strong supporter of the controversial Arizona law.  She promised the Reps that she'd be "tough on immigration" and even included photos of the border fence and statements about her distaste for the notion of amnesty for illegals in her 30-second TV commercials.  This caused many Latino voters to shy away from her.  Now, she has broken off contact with Wilson and launched a SPANISH ad campaign, complete with billboards saying "NO a la Proposicion 187 y NO a la ley de Arizona."  Since the start of this particular project she has gained significant support from Latinos and is even catching up to Jerry Brown in that respect.  Race issues aside (because I literally do not care what race a person is--it's what's going on inside the mind, and everyone is guilty in this case), these people believed a billboard and a few commercials rather than all the things Whitman said publicly back in June.  Furthermore, even her Mexico-hating Republican supporters haven't noticed the flip-flop!  The commercials they're getting on mainstream TV are making them happy enough I guess.  But it just goes to show how people are making decisions these days, and it's quite scary.  As far as Brown's campaign goes, I'm convinced he's going to lose simply because he hasn't represented himself solely in 30-second snippets.  Which is fine by me, because I will not be voting for him either.  I probably won't even vote for governor at all, as there are no qualified options.  I'm almost clinging to Arnold for dear life.

The second problem I'm seeing is the press's selective distortion of facts regarding Prop 19, the marijuana initiative.  As soon as the opposition came out with their lame attempt at a campaign, newspapers jumped all over it and are now publishing daily articles regarding the "dangers" of legalization, sometimes even 2 articles a day.  Today they're reporting a miniscule drop in the polls that we already knew was going to happen (now 48% against, 44% for), but of course they are acting like legalization is done and the initiative will never pass now.  Are you kidding me?!  How do these people find any honor in that kind of speculation?  As the opposition came out several months after the proponents, it's expected that their initial campaigning would slightly impact our poll results.  It's common sense.  It does not mean we can't bring that number back up in the next 4 months.  This wouldn't be so upsetting if I didn't know that most people are going to believe everything they read and never listen to a single fact again.  It's almost like the newspapers are being blackmailed by law enforcement to say these things and turn people against the initiative...I seriously wouldn't doubt it.  On top of this, everyone seems to be literally ignoring the facts about marijuana.  They say there are too many health risks involved (although they can't name a single health risk) and are afraid that stoned driving fatalities will come down upon us like a plague of locusts (even though millions have used the herb since cars were invented and we have never had widespread problems).  I guess none of it matters because logic is dead for most Californians.

The biggest indicator of the downfall of our government system for me is the Oakland verdict yesterday regarding the BART station shooting of 22 year old Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man, by Johannes Mehserle, a white police officer.  When Mehserle's "involuntary manslaughter" sentence was read yesterday at 4 PM, Oakland's worst fears were realized as protestors looted, rioted, and essentially wreaked havoc across the town.  I hope no one will chide me for siding with these rioters, as I am a young and fairly revolutionary-minded individual who believes that if that many people are angry, it's something to take seriously.  While many are calling the rioters out for being "unnecessarily destructive", I would suggest a bit of rhetoric on the Social Contract Theory.

We, the people, hand over some of our civil liberties in order to be protected and provided for by our government.  The point here is that our governments, including their law enforcement agencies, have not held up their end of the bargain.  We have paid income taxes and sales taxes into the system and helped develop California, and what have they done for us?  Bankrupted their treasured "social programs" and plunged us into billions of dollars of debt that we will never be able to repay, and STILL begged us for more, while trying to control our actions in the name of "morality" and "tradition".  They have prohibited, regulated, and taxed everything from businesses to bike helmets to our home appliances to the very food that we eat, and people are fed up.  When a police officer can kill you simply for acting silly in the BART station and essentially get away with it in a court of law, people are going to get pissed off.  And they are.  And it's going to get worse.  What happens when voters are literally too dumbed down to salvage what's left of the system?  Maybe democracy is dying.  Hopefully what comes after it is better.    

If I didn't have such a compelling interest in saving this country from itself, I would give up on the whole thing.  No rest for the weary...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Elena Kagan: Cool, calm, collected--and confusing the Republicans

 Disclaimer: Once again I will clarify that I am not registered with any political party.  If it ever seems like I am bashing YOUR party, it's probably because I think they are doing something wrong.  You and I are both entitled to our own opinions, so feel free to comment (tastefully of course) on any post for any reason.  Also, I know the article I'm citing is from Slate, and I acknowledge that they are an extremely liberal news source, but they have beautiful writing, and no matter what source you check, the commentary is pretty consistent across the board on this subject.  Hope you understand where I'm coming from with all this :] and if you're a Republican, I show you guys some love sometimes too, check out the post just prior to this one, in which I lovingly bash the liberal environmental agenda :]] .  It's FUN to be non-partisan!


Finally a female I can identify with!  Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's Congressional confirmation hearings have been going pretty well compared to those of past justices--she has handled the questioning with tact, style, and sometimes even a little attitude, reciting case law like poetry and not leaving herself open to mudslinging of any kind.  Usually the SCOTUS hearings put a microscope on the nominee, causing him or her to become complacent and noncommittal on partisan issues, but Kagan has stood by her values the entire time and made it very clear that she is not a player in the political game, but rather an educated servant of the law.  This, combined with President Obama's endorsement and Kagan's so-called "gay agenda", is causing a bit of Republican protest, although the opposition in this case is thankfully the minority, and even though most of her topics of interest seem to come from the left, she doesn't discuss partisan agendas.  At all.  (And if you still think gay rights is part of a liberal agenda, keep dreaming, it's called civil rights, people.)

What the conservative legislators want more than anything is for Kagan to expose herself as a liberal activist with radical views so they can classify her as "dangerous" to the Supreme Court, but she's much too smart for that.  Kagan has enough "radical" politics on her resume already--her ban of military recruiters at Harvard Law School over the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy has garnered unbelievable opposition from the right wing (for two very obvious reasons).  However, when questioned about it at the hearing, she was eloquent, stating that she was simply attempting to balance the school's nondiscrimination policy with federal equal access policies, and as a result allowed the recruiters to conduct their business through a Student Veterans' Organization rather than the school itself.  Beautiful.  This woman can cross-check policy with the best of them, unlike most legislators/politicians of today.  Her explanations of her beliefs and actions are all based on existing laws, and she has proven that she can properly apply the laws to create solutions to problems.  Not surprisingly, Republicans are probably confused as to why they can't get her to say anything incriminating like they've gotten all the past justices to say, but I think in time they will also learn to love the honesty and judicial patriotism she brings to the table. 

To me, Elena Kagan represents what a good Supreme Court Justice should be.  Intelligent, strong-willed, and non-partisan, she has gained the respect and adoration of countless colleagues in the legal community and even the President himself.  She refuses to fall into illogical party-ploy traps, even when questioned on controversial issues.  Plus, she's a unique human being with a slightly kooky sense of humor, which she's not afraid to use even in front of Congress.  I guess you could say she's my new role model--after all, I'm hoping to get my name on that nominee list someday, and as a non-feminist, this is the first time in my life I've ever read a news article and said to myself, "YOU GO GIRL" (ew, I still can't believe I said that, please don't tell anyone).  Although she'll probably never read it (aww), I'll use this blog to give early congratulations to The Honorable Elena Kagan!  May your time on the bench be a time of judicial prosperity in our broken government.

PS--A C-SPAN poll reported that only 19% of Americans even know that this is going on right now...WHAT?!  I guess that means I'm the weirdest college kid in the country...I really probably should be doing something fun, it's summer after all.



Monday, June 28, 2010

Treehuggers' myths debunked? Time will tell...


I've been wanting to write about this issue for some time now but just haven't had ample time.  Anyways, the above article is the Sacramento Bee's official announcement of one of my favorite initiatives' approval for the California November ballot.  This initiative proposes suspending AB 32, Arnold Schwarzenegger's landmark global warming project, until the state's unemployment rate falls to a reasonable level.  Signed into law by Arnold in 2006, AB 32 stated that California must bring its greenhouse gas emissions down to 1996 levels by 2020.  At the time, it seemed like a triumphant leap into the green era, putting California on top in regards to strict environmental policy.  However, 4 years later, the tides are turning--the law seems to be doing more harm than good for the state's economy, and with the unemployment rate hanging at 12.4%, a lot of people are wondering whether AB 32 is really worth it right now.  The funny part?  Most economic research says it isn't.

So far, studies of AB 32's impact on California commerce have concluded that further enforcement of this harsh policy will cause economic "leakage" to other states and countries; in fact, some say it has already begun.  Companies who cannot lower their emissions to the specified level (or who don't want to) must pay large fines as a result.  This, along with the skyrocketing corporate taxes that recession-era California is infamous for, causes these companies to outsource dirty production to other states, consequently causing layoffs of California workers.  We're essentially telling a huge tax bracket that they are not welcome in our state, and they're taking the hint and taking our revenue with them.

Additional studies have shown that the "green" companies encouraged by AB 32 are not capable of creating tangible jobs in California.  This is because such businesses are subsidized heavily by the government and otherwise would hardly even be able to support themselves.  A study of Spain's similar green industry concluded that every "green job" created actually costs 2.2 normal jobs.  The federal subsidies simply create an economic imbalance over time without encouraging normal growth.  

People seem to forget that green is also the color of money--environmentally-friendly technologies are often more costly and polluting than their "dirty" counterparts, but manufacturers cover up these facts in order to garner political support (aka more subsidies).  One example of this kind of fraud is PhotoVoltaic, or solar, panels.  These things have been on the market for awhile now and many say they are the future of cost-effective, non-polluting energy.  However, hardly anyone knows that the PV panel production process requires an astounding amount of energy in order to create the high-quality silicone needed to capture the sun's rays--so much energy, in fact, that most PV panels are currently made in China, no doubt in order to avoid economic consequences in California, although if subsidized properly, we could see more PV production in the Golden State, sucking up our energy on the federal dollar.  How nice. 

By far my favorite example of green-commerce fraud is that of the Prius.  Self-righteous owners of this Toyota hybrid vehicle love to brag about their low emissions, carpool lane passes, and 50 miles per sweet gallon of gasoline, but the truth is that there may be several hidden costs (economic and environmental) that Toyota doesn't want drivers to know.  A CNW Marketing Research study from 2008 to present exposed the catch--Prius batteries are made of nickel, which must be smelted at a plant.  One of these plants, located in Canada (of course not the US!) was found to be causing unbelievable amounts of damage to its surrounding ecosystem; the area was completely devoid of life for miles around.  NASA even used the area to test moon rovers.  Additional evidence from this study showed that the Prius, on average, has a 50% higher "Dust-to-Dust" (production to scrap) cost than a Hummer H3.  This evidence has since been disproved (I think? Hard to tell these days with all the fraudulent environmentalists), but I still find it interesting and very telling that there is so much speculation regarding the actual effects of "green" things.

Environmental policy has always been hard for me to understand, partly because I was never taught about macroeconomics until the past year and partly because I'm a skeptic of all the shameless media hype that comes out of this particular political community.  When Al Gore put global warming in the spotlight a few years ago, that really did it for me.  I was only in high school but I still wasn't going to let a washed-up politician tell me that world-scale temperature change is caused by human beings and our technology.  I did my research and, sure enough, the scientific community was split on the issue.  I also checked out studies of historical documents charting climate change over the past few centuries, and sure enough, drastic fluctuations in temperature have been randomly occurring throughout recorded history (ever heard of the Mini Ice Age in Europe?)--all the evidence presents a good case against Gore and the environmentalists.  Unfortunately, in cases like this, the mass media always wins, and by mass media I mean liberal agenda, so more conservative environmental views have been hushed.  Even now, the initiative to suspend AB 32 has been called out because it receives heavy support from oil companies.  While it's true that now is a very bad time to associate with oil, the companies are allowed to give money to whomever they want, and if people simply did their research they would side with "big oil" too.  The California Jobs Initiative finally gives the voters the chance to decide for themselves whether or not they want the state to use their tax money on such uncertain "green" policies, rather than take Al Gore's word for it and run our economy into the ground as a result.

The truth of the matter is, nobody really knows the full extent of the damage caused by carbon emissions.  Nobody really knows the long-term economic effects of environmental policies.  Most of the data is speculation.  Environmentalism is now and always has been a trend, made fashionable by liberal media outlets and bolstered by the perpetual flow of people who legitimately care about the environment.  I care a lot about the environment too--I'm just not so fast to jump on the bandwagon because I understand that hasty policymaking often leads to unexpected consequences.  Whether or not you support AB 32, you have a choice this November...let the treehuggers continue to speculate and make economic choices for you, or stand up for your right as a taxpayer to say "enough is enough"...at least until we recover from the recession.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why I don't trust women in politics--at least, not yet




And the list of stories goes on and on.  The media just can't control themselves these days when it comes to women in politics, especially in California, where the big names on the November ballot are 3/4 women.  Other areas are catching on as well: Nikki Haley has snatched the Republican party gubernatorial bid in South Carolina, Michele Bachmann continues to gain popularity in Minnesota, and the infamous Sarah Palin is surrounded by rumors of a 2012 presidential race.  What do all these women have in common?  Thanks to Sarah Palin, they are all now being labeled as "feminists" by the mass media and spurring a new "conservative feminist" movement among American women.  It may sound like a good idea, but I do not see these women as even remotely inspiring and do not believe that they have what it takes to make it in the political system in the long term.

This new movement of "conservative feminists" has been criticized by their original, more liberal counterparts, for opposing traditional feminist values.  While abortion rights and sexual freedom for women was a huge topic of feminism in the 70s, this new wave of politicians is strictly pro-life as well as rigid in their opposition to gay marriage.  Starting to sound like a trend?  That's because it is.  Conservatives are struggling to make their voices heard and pushing an old-fashioned religious agenda to do it.  The Republican party and "Tea Party" which these women represent are already losing public approval because of the myriad religion-based social views they promote.  Critics of the "conservative feminists" have come out in the media saying that these women should not be labeling themselves as women's rights activists when they obviously oppose a woman's right to make decisions regarding family planning, reproductive health, and sexuality.

I agree with the critics--it was pure idiocy on Sarah Palin's part to attempt to associate herself with a group of people that despises her views, but what more could we expect from her anyway?  While several women feel empowered by the pep-rally-esque "conservative feminism" movement, I'm definitely not buying it, and I hope you aren't either.  These women have no political talent or experience, just heaps of money from business ventures, family, et cetera.  They come with baggage for miles (Meg Whitman's Goldman Sachs controversy/eBay employee shoving/parenting issues, Nikki Haley's alleged sex scandals, Sarah Palin's resignation as Governor/family issues).  They usually refuse to speak in public, but if they do, they never have anything to say besides canned campaign speeches and cute phrases.  And worst of all, they base their political ideology on the specific religious beliefs of Christianity and look down on women who believe in true civil rights for all people.  Also, don't think I'm only against conservative she-politicians, the liberal ones can be just as bad (ie Hillary, Barbara Boxer), but at least they're not clogging up news sites making fools of themselves every other day.

Don't get me wrong--I'm very proud of how far women have come in the US.  We now make up a vast percentage of business executives, attorneys, and other high-power careers.  We have the freedom to an education, a vote, and a choice to abort.  And yes, we can run for public office.  We can basically do whatever we want!  But the "conservative feminist" movement is an example of over-reaching.  These women are incapable of handling themselves with dignity in public or in the press, and can barely muster up the words to describe their views on any other policies besides anti-abortion and anti-gay.  In my opinion, they are an embarrassment to smart, politics-savvy women who just aren't in a position to be elected.  Feminism is a trend, just a hat that these female politicians have decided to put on just to get easy media airtime.  Just because women can run for office doesn't mean all of them should.  The same goes for male candidates!  And personally, I won't vote for any woman in politics until one stands out as the best that our gender has to offer.  I assure you it won't happen in 2010.        


Friday, June 18, 2010

Marijuana legalization effort subject to surprising opposition

Saw this article a couple days back but didn't think much of it until I started seeing a trend in public commentary regarding the subject: http://blogs.sacbee.com/weed-wars/2010/06/crusader-for-medical-marijuana-patients-opposes-legalization.html

The Control & Tax Cannabis 2010 campaign is getting underway, with marketing and educational materials currently being prepared, in addition to students and activists organizing and mobilizing to get out the vote and persuade California that drug policy is not a joke.  Opponents of the ballot initiative have been present from the start, although their logic has been weak at best and their old-world arguments struck down by modern legal scrutiny.  However, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the article above on the Sacramento Bee website...the owner of a medical dispensary, passing out anti-campaign literature and seeking the NO vote?  How does that even make sense?  I placed my two cents in the comment section and clicked out of the article, but since then everything I've read in the news on marijuana is supplemented by dozens of comments by "medical-only" proponents encouraging readers to vote NO in the November election.  After seeing this, I knew I had to figure out exactly what was going on with the marijuana community, seemingly in the midst of a civil war about which kinds of use are permissible and which are not. 

This new backlash against the movement is composed of medical marijuana growers and dispensary owners across California who believe that the recreational use of the herb is a disgrace to the integrity of the Prop 215 community and should not be made legal.  It sounds very credible to a lot of people, which is why I view them as a force to be reckoned with in this campaign season.  Here's why they're a viable threat: reading articles like this, the average adult is probably thinking, "see here, if the medical marijuana people don't even want it legalized, then recreational use is a bad thing".  People are beginning to get the message that marijuana should be for medical use ONLY.  Only problem is that their apparent motives aren't exactly as noble as they sound.

First of all, many of the opponents of the TC2010 initiative are Humboldt-area growers who have made medical marijuana farming into a family business.  Their very way of life is threatened by legalization, and they are worried that their profits will disappear once others take up legal growing enterprises after November.  While this is a valid concern and I pity these people for whatever financial shortfalls legalization may bring them, their opposition is fueled by selfishness.  Recreational users have taken the brunt of the drug war for 70 years, suffering discrimination, incarceration, and long tours in rehab for a non-addictive substance.  Now is our chance to live freely in society and use marijuana without fear of arrest, but these growers would rather keep the status quo to protect their pocketbooks.  Like I said--they put up a good fight, but they are simply not looking at the big picture, which is that there are hundreds of thousands of recreational marijuana users in this country and only a small minority of medical growers.  

My second argument may sound a little far-reaching, and many may think that I am promoting corruption in the Prop 215 system, but I'm only speaking from my experience both as an MMJ patient and as a previous recreational user.  How do you think people even figured out that marijuana had serious potential as medicine?  How did most patients figure out that marijuana treated their problems?  Here's the answer: RECREATIONAL USE.  Without the underground spread of recreational use across California, the herb would have never gained the popularity en masse that it enjoys now, and without thousands to testify to its therapeutic effects, neither scientific studies nor drug-related policy would have ever been considered by the government.  Many dispensary owners also fail to realize that a significant chunk, if not a majority, of their patients are simply recreational users under the guise of having a medical condition (I'm NOT condoning this, but I know that it does happen, and only legalization can put a stop to widespread MMJ corruption).  Let's face it--everyone has to smoke their first joint somewhere, and I think it's safe to say that until you've tried it and know that it works, you're not going to go through the trouble of going to your doctor, paying $100, etc. to get your medical card.  Legalization opponents are foolish for overlooking the vast population of brave recreational users who risked everything to make marijuana what it is today: a widely used, nearly socially accepted recreational substance with legitimate potential in the medical field.  

What I'm trying to say is that it's not a "one way or the other" argument--on the contrary, recreational and medical use can often go hand in hand.  I had never really thought about marijuana as a medicine until my recreational use became more frequent, at which point I noticed the positive effects it was having on my pain as well as my overall mental state.  Who knew?  But I sincerely believe that even if your medical diagnosis doesn't qualify you for a club card, odds are you'll still probably like marijuana, and should have the right to spark up at a party if you get the urge.  This is where the proponents of legalization have something working for them: that it's a substance that most people who try for the first time generally enjoy and which doesn't have any serious consequences for the user nor for society.   

I guess I'm just stuck in the middle.  As a previous recreational user and a current patient, I understand both sides of the argument.  But I'll never forget the value set that I've gained by using marijuana and being a member of the community.  Bob Marley's "One Love" comes to mind...it's long been a part of stoner lingo, but from a political aspect, I truly think the only way to win this campaign is to remind ALL marijuana users, medical or not, that it's not about money or special status--marijuana promotes feelings of relaxation and well-being, and a friendly, easygoing culture.  These are things that our state really needs right now, in the midst of an economic catastrophe and a BUY!BUY!BUY! consumer mentality. Fighting on the issue of legalization should be a non-issue; instead we should be collaborating on this worthy cause and working together to get innocent people out of jail, dangerous drug cartels out of our state, and a new beginning for California.  


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Battleground: Why the California gub. race has potential to get ugly

Disclaimer: I am registered with neither the Democratic nor the Republican party, and I will not be voting for either of these parties' candidates in November.  This is just my personal analysis of where the candidates stand in relation to one another now that they have officially been nominated.

Like many in California, I'm decidedly displeased with the results of Tuesday's primary gubernatorial election.  The parties voted predictably (as usual), even if turnout was a record low for the Golden State.  The lack of general public interest in the election and the lack of intelligence with which these people are running for office is making it difficult to decide who to pick in November, and while many are going to continue to stick to their party candidate, several are also watching and waiting to choose which candidate is the "lesser of two evils" and the best for California.    

This poses a challenge for Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman: a challenge to really show the public their views on serious issues rather than marketing schemes and overwhelming television airtime (ahem, Whitman).  The question is, are they up for this challenge?  They sure are off to a bad start--head to any news site and you'll see hundreds of comments on Brown/Whitman articles complaining about how underqualified each candidate is.  Those who remember the 70s are split on whether or not Brown did a good job, and debating whether or not he's simply too old for the position and his views too dated.  The declining popularity of extreme conservatism and the skepticism surrounding Whitman's voting record, sketchy investments with Goldman Sachs, and her overall lack of policy experience make the Republican candidate a topic for complaint.

We know the candidates have a long way to go to gain our trust and, ultimately, the governorship, but how are they going to prove themselves to us?  Jerry Brown proposed one method yesterday, throwing down the political gauntlet and challenging Whitman to a series of 10 town hall debates over the next 5 months, to which she replied that she would engage in no such debates until Brown lays out his plans for California on his website.  While I think it's a bit silly to demand such web content, she does have a point.  I checked out Brown's website and it's true that the format is a bit different from Whitman's, but what he has that she doesn't is a political resume to die for.  Jerry Brown has cemented his views over a 40 year career, as Governor making California a global economic player as well as the nation's leader in greentech, and as Attorney General busting the bad guys, from gangs to major fraud, including the exposure of President Nixon's tax fraud debacle. 

This first stalemate between the two candidates has many people asking questions.  First, why doesn't Brown's campaign site contain comprehensive action plans like Whitman's?  Second, why did Whitman really stand down from this challenge?  And finally, can we even begin to define candidates by their online personas?

My speculations on these questions are as follows:

1) Brown, running unopposed in the primary, has been flying under the radar for the duration of the campaign thus far.  This has already saved him millions of dollars while Whitman has been flushing her funds down the television toilet, but she still has a big financial advantage over him in the general election race.  While I hate to admit that media exposure is a main factor of influence for voters, it's the truth, and Brown must be creative if he wants to stand up to the cash machine that is the Whitman campaign.  Perhaps he's leaving details off of the web for a reason--the debate series he's proposed would generate a lot of media coverage, and he may be planning on using these events to unveil his plans.  Building the anticipation of what he's going to say could make the debates a hot media topic and attract attention without any spending.  In addition, Brown is expected to all but squash Whitman in an unscripted debate, also a plus when the cameras are rolling.

2) The primary election race has shown Meg Whitman to be great at pumping up her supporters with political one-liners and meticulously prepared talking points, but she has engaged in virtually no informal speaking engagements since she began her campaign.  While this political faux pas has been overlooked so far by most Republican voters, public speaking becomes increasingly important in the general race.  Voters expect their politicians to be master communicators, confident in their arguments and able to make and back up logical claims.  Whitman's refusal to debate Brown, however conditional, is a red flag in my opinion.  Brown even suggested that the topics for the debate be focused on Meg's three main talking points: job creation, spending, and education reform.  For all the mention she has made of these topics in the past few months, she sure doesn't sound very comfortable talking about them with Brown.  The fact that his views on the subject are not on his website is irrelevant--an aspiring politician should be prepared to back up his or her views regardless of what rebuttals are thrown their way.  Unfortunately she doesn't seem to understand that debates work in this way.  Whitman's strict avoidance of basic unscripted dialogue proves that she is faltering in regards to her knowledge of key issues, and many suspect it's because she's being fed talking points by her well-paid staff.  This is not a good sign at all, and I'm not sure how she expects to redeem herself unless she develops some political talent.

3) Let's be real--the internet has made the world a crazy place to live.  Information traveling worldwide at rapid speeds, advertisements targeted personally to you based on data collected by invisible agencies, and the overall explosion of 1st Amendment rights have characterized our era, and unfortunately, my generation.  The good news is that we're smart; most of my peers and I have known how to conduct extensive online research on virtually any topic since age 12.  The trends of internet use have also finally trickled up to the older generations, with many parents and grandparents stepping onto the social networking scene.  People all over California are going to be checking, cross-checking, and double-checking every word that comes out during this campaign--it's simply in our nature to do so.  Depending on what you're looking for, candidate websites may give you several answers to your questions, but in my opinion the only way to really understand a political candidate is by learning about his or her unique background and analyzing the arguments they make in person.  The words and mannerisms a person uses to stand up for his or her beliefs are important insights into their talent as a politician.

Glad I got all this analysis off my chest.  Let the games begin.  I personally hope this battle gets ugly...makes things more interesting :) .

Monday, June 7, 2010

Online politics: Even nastier than the real thing

As I am young, inexperienced, and very very new to the journalism world, I thought I would change up the blog by updating any readers on my observations and progress as I try to make a name for myself and gain new knowledge and perspective on politics.

A week on the blogging scene and all I have to say is...wow.  This experience is teaching me so much about the world and the information age.  My first mission in e-journalism was to start posting some comments on the web, a suggestion I have taken from successful bloggers.

In a time when you can instantly view and comment on virtually any news story from the comfort of your own computer, people sure seem to have a lot to say.  However, the main thing that I have learned is that online, you only have your logic in writing to rely on, and people are going to try and attack you with political buzz words and zingers.  It was definitely an unpleasant surprise the first time this happened to me.  Confidence is key in these situations, as anything you write online is subject to be ripped apart by opponents, sitting at their own computers, itching for an argument.  While it sounds like a bad place for an amateur to find herself, I was surprised at what I learned from my time in the comment section.  I have encountered and hashed it out with ruthless commentators on news sites like the Sacramento Bee and CNN, and rather than being humbled by the constant smackdowns of my posts by others, I learned that many of these people are actually quite ignorant and are only trying to be witty in order to discourage opponents from posting anything else, and they are defeatable.  

I decided my best bet for good observation would be to comment on marijuana-related stories since I'm involved with the issue and am able to argue and back up my points on the subject.  I soon realized that people were going to try and fight me on the issue.  Excited that I had rebuttals to these opponents, I got a little ahead of myself and started making some irrelevant claims.  This is when the predators attacked!  I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that someone had targeted my post for a harsh reply--talk about a bruise to the ego.  But upon reading the reply I was more offended by the personal attacks to my credibility and logic than the commentary made; the poster's political claims were far-fetched, invalid, and without even a source to cite.  There was still the issue of the personal humiliation to deal with, however.  I was able to stand up for myself, repair the damage I had already done to my arguments, and hit the close button on my browser tab just in time.  Classy.

Now I have a clear voice on the web when I comment on stories, and have even started receiving recommendations on my posts from other users.  My mantra for online argument is: "Knowledge is power."  If you're not an expert on an  issue, don't pretend to be.  People WILL humiliate you publicly.  If you do have relevant knowledge, keep it organized and present it in an easy-to-understand context so readers who come across your comment will be interested.  Lastly, be assertive, NOT aggressive.  Witty comebacks only work once in a while, and tactfulness in journalism never goes out of style.  

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Leave Obama alone!

Slate Magazine (6.2.10) - "The backward party."

In this era of partisan politics, the most prominent media figure is undoubtedly President Barack Obama.  His first term has been interesting to say the least; he went from being revered as a pop-culture icon to drawing complaints from all over the political spectrum.  Personally, I've been on the fence about Obama since the beginning, although I definitely would have voted for him over McCain in 2008 had I been of age.  After reading this article, however, I have gained a new respect for our President and the way in which he handles his business.  This piece also prompted me to think more philosophically about what the American presidency really stands for.

Obama's opponents are constantly ripping on his eloquent speaking style.  They seem to think that he is trying to deceive us all with big words and fancy rhetoric.  It seems to me that the people making these claims are making reference to their own ignorance; in listening to the President's speeches and reading articles like this one, I can only admire the composure and logic with which he expresses himself.  He knows that his opponents trash-talk him in the media on a daily basis, he knows that people call him a Socialist, and he knows that people drive around with "NOBAMA!" bumper stickers on their cars, after only a year in office.  All this disrespect and still he handles himself with tact, firmly yet calmly reminding opponents that their party legislators have been stubborn since before his inauguration and still refuse to compromise on many of his plans.  People also seem to expect Obama to possess superhuman qualities, criticizing his response to the Gulf oil spill when he is obviously looking at the problem from every angle and trying to make the best decision for the US.

In addition, haters of Obama's healthcare plan should take a step back and collect themselves when it comes to their protest claims.  Those who argue that Obamacare is a step toward Socialism in the US should think about the fact that our President compromised his original plan a great deal in order to accommodate current values, while still taking power away from cash-hungry insurance firms and reaching a helping hand out to lower- and middle- class families.  For those who say the country never wanted this healthcare plan in the first place, it helps to think back to his campaign days, when that was his main focus.  If people really opposed the plan that much, they would have been much less likely to vote for him in the first place.

It pains me to see how much negative energy is pumping through the mass media these days.  Just when you think you've established yourself as an intellectually and morally sound politician, newspapers and TV start grabbing at every negative thing about you.  The sad thing is, in this information age, nothing is off-limits--childhood stories, gossip, internet history, testimonies of college friends, sex life--even Obama's citizenship was questioned in the early days.

The bottom line is this: we can only have one President.  The position has always come with a certain level of international respect, as well as local reverence in the name of patriotism.  Now, our Constitution permits us to be as dissatisfied as we like with our government officials, even to express our ill feelings about them through a variety of media, but does that necessarily mean that we should?  Many people go off on these politicians without stopping to really analyze their arguments.  Often times people can only see the bad that a President has done, rather than recognizing positive developments of the current administration.  For example, Obama just released a memorandum ordering federal agencies to extend fringe benefits to gay and lesbian employees.  This measure, while small compared to the bigger civil rights issue at hand, is still groundbreaking and shows that Obama cares about extending American liberty to all groups regardless of social discrimination placed on them by everyone else--an extremely admirable action by our President in my opinion.  Obama also announced in the beginning of his term that he would not continue to order federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and patients that were found to be in compliance with state law.  For proponents of legalization, this has meant more opportunities for growth and acceptance within their communities.  

My only hope is that someday Americans will learn to love the American presidency again, and that the media will learn to treat our current leader with as much tact as he has treated his opponents.  I, for one, have come to respect Obama in spite of the bashing.  He went into his first term bravely, facing a failing economy, an angry populus, and a controversial war effort.  Through the hardships he has persevered and continues to work on issues that are important in our society.  How much more can people really expect?  He's only human, after all.