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" 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:

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'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  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.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Drawing the party line in the Millennial era

The Sacramento Bee (6.1.10) - "Little evidence in Washington that 'top 2' primary moderates politics"

Proposition 14 is a June 8th California ballot measure that, if passed, will eliminate partisan restrictions on primary elections.  The article above is a lame attempt by some analysts to apply the effects of Washington's newly implemented "open primary" system to California elections.  Why would somebody even try to compare Washington state politics to California?!  Obviously the effects of an election-type law are going to differ from state to state, especially when one state has a fraction of the other's population.  California, in spite of its financial issues, is still a contender on the global economic scene.  Voters, legislators, and politicians here are constantly on the cutting edge of political and economic decision-making.  I'm not trying to sound arrogant here, I'm just trying to explain why I think this writer was comparing apples to oranges.

Here's why I think open primaries are a good idea for California, and maybe even most states.  The truth is that the party lines are currently dissolving due to a general sense of dissatisfaction with the government.  This isn't unusual--political parties often change their ideals and names as society progresses and certain issues become more or less relevant.  Often times people forget that the parties have gone through several changes even in the relatively short timeline of American history--remember the Federalists, Anti-Federalists, and Whigs from high school history?  Issues that the Democrats and Republicans have been battling over for years are simply becoming irrelevant, and no work is getting done because our old-fashioned partisan politicians are refusing to find new and innovative compromises.   Recent scandals, media hype, and the recession have also been serious blows to voter morale, and many people are choosing to no longer affiliate themselves with either party.

This brings me to current election rules.  For the primary gubernatorial election next Tuesday, each party will be allowing only their own registered members to vote for their own candidates (the Democratic party also allows registered Independents to vote).  Someone like me, who has declined to register with a political party, will not be permitted to vote for any candidate until the general election in November, unless you request a ballot by mail directly from the party you wish to vote for.

After the voting takes place, there is one winner from the Republican party and one Democratic winner.  That's basically it.  While non-affiliated candidates usually have not had a good chance at winning in the past, is it really right to cut off any chances of them running in the general election?  And what if two candidates from the same party could possibly be serious contenders in the race?  Doesn't matter--only the finalist from each party may run in the general election.  Our modified primary system simply does not allow for an underdog victory, and instead drives a wedge between the already floundering and overly regulated parties.  Prop. 14 would result in one universal ballot for all registered voters, as well as ensure that the top two vote recipients in the primary election go on to be the general election candidates, regardless of party.  It makes sense when you really think about it...why shouldn't the winners really be the winners? 

Opponents of this measure are trying to say that it simply won't make a difference--that the candidate with the most money will win the election no matter what.  I'm going to have to agree to disagree, on the grounds that I believe that is a complete insult to the intelligence of the Californian voter.  Ad campaigns and media attention are a big help to those running for office, but the last time I checked, the vast majority of people identify more with a candidate's basic values than how many commercials they have on the air.   

Prop. 14 is a good sign for young people because, if it passes, it will help California prepare for a truly bipartisan government in the future, if not multi-partisan.  The Millennial generation already shows great potential to bridge party gaps on many controversial social issues, including gay rights, drug policy, and racial interests.  The Millennials, I believe, will draw their own party lines years down the road, but until then, we need a "fair-and-square" voting system in which moderate and non-affiliated candidates will have a chance to change the way the government operates.  The change will be eventual--California elections will probably still be Democrat vs. Republican for a number of years--but without Prop. 14, we might never get the chance at all.  If we're electing the next executive for our state, I'd rather have a winner than a finalist, wouldn't you?  This is another culture shock I can definitely get behind.    

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Legalize It!: Today California, tomorrow the world.

 The Fresno Bee (6.1.10) - "Poll: California voters favor legalizing pot."

"Legalize It!": Now that there is officially decriminalization legislature on the November ballot in California, this has become a serious political issue rather than a battle cry for hippies.  It makes sense to legalize when you think about the facts: firstly, marijuana is California's biggest cash crop.  A properly regulated and taxed business market for the plant is likely to save the state's economy and create jobs that span income brackets, from agricultural and transportation workers to lawyers and politicians.  All of this without adding to the technological hierarchy that has thrown the business world off-balance for years!  Second, Nixon's "drug war" has corrupted the law enforcement system.  Thousands of federal prisoners are behind bars simply for marijuana charges.  This leaves no room for the real criminals (sex offenders, armed robbers, etc.), and also makes it easier and more profitable for law enforcement officers to go after a pot smoker than a rapist at large.  Third, the herb contains safe and therapeutic chemicals called cannabinoids which have been proven to soothe ailments from back pain to glaucoma and from anxiety to AIDS.  It has also been proven that these chemicals have never caused death by toxicity (a statement that neither the tobacco industry nor the alcohol industry can make).  Overall, the facts behind legalization show economic and political soundness. 

Considering the possibility of legalization, proponents in California have also looked into the social effects of marijuana use.  Researchers have already concluded that use of the herb does not contribute to addiction, mental disorders, long-term brain function impairment, aggressive behavior, or sexual assault.  In fact, some groups such as SAFER go so far as to state that marijuana has the capacity to replace alcohol, which is known to cause many of these social and psychological problems, for people who enjoy using a "recreational substance" in their free time (

The medical marijuana movement in California has proven that thousands of people can use the herb and still contribute productively to society, including students, attorneys, and business executives, all the while managing chronic pain, anxiety, migraines, and negative side effects associated with several diseases. 

The legalization movement is a culture shock in many ways.  The government has manipulated the press and scientific reports on marijuana since the 1940s, and only now is all the true information being revealed to the public.  Many older people who remember the "Reefer Madness" era are going to need lots of convincing by the time the election comes around, but once the facts are publicized and people realize that the herb is not a narcotic, acceptance will start to grow, and if California succeeds in legalizing it, other states will follow.  The federal decriminalization of marijuana is actually a possibility for my generation, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

First Post: Personal mission statement

I used to blog on facebook Notes but I think people started getting pissed off.  I guess that's what I get for letting my political views spew on the internet.  I decided to create my own blog in order to keep my freedom of speech from scaring away my social networking "Friends".  This will also allow me to exercise some of my newfound journalism skills in a more mature setting and expose myself to the blogging community.

 First a little background on myself: I'm an 18 year old student fresh out of my first year at San Diego State University (GO AZTECS!).  I grew up in Sacramento, and after finally escaping the nightmare that was Catholic education, I discovered my love for all things political.  Now I am working toward a Poli Sci bachelors degree as well as interning for the summer at Goddard Claussen, a strategic advocacy firm about a block from the state capitol building.  As far as personal advocacy goes, I'm the SDSU spokesperson for Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), two groups that support fairer drug policies in schools as well as the general social acceptance of marijuana as a "recreational substance".  Drug policy has become my passion, both because of my personal experiences and the overall cultural impact that drugs and recreational substances have on our society as a whole.  I plan to work in Sacramento after college, hopefully in lobbying or journalism, and also plan to someday run for public office.

My purpose for this blog is simple: I believe that our nation's government officials have all but turned this country upside down with restrictions, taxes, and other manipulatory measures to ensure their own political success rather than the well-being of the American people.  However, as a representative democracy, we are failing to stand up for our own liberties because the generation in power has boxed themselves into an overtly polar party system and used the press rather than objective education to influence voters.  While this has been working for years, 18-25 year olds are the next wave of voters and politicians.  The "Millennials", as we have been nicknamed, share social and political views that are much different from our parents'.  I believe that we are the generation that will put an end to the problems we are experiencing not only federally, but especially in California at the local level.

Many of my opinions call for drastic changes in the government, and while many people tell me I should think smaller and be less outspoken, I disagree.  The only way to save California and the American society, I believe, is through "Culture Shocks" (hence the name for my blog).  Through working at Goddard Claussen, I recently viewed poll results that showed an 88% disapproval rating for California legislators, the lowest rating ever recorded.  This is rock bottom, and only culture shocks can save us now.

Feel free to follow and comment on any posts.  I will be respecting First Amendment free speech on this blog as well as friendly debate.

I will be updating as often as possible.  Hopefully I get some readers on this and help people form their own opinions, especially since it's an election year and a lot of issues are on the table.

Happy reading!

p.s.: Here's an interesting article I read recently regarding our generation's admirable social views!