Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

& Democrats.

What would happen if we abolished the (for all intents and purposes) two party system that has ruled the US government for the past few hundred years? What if the Senators voted purely by how their constituents felt and not how they felt personally, or how they were influenced by a lobbyist?

What if we could use technology to actually become the democracy that everyone so craves?

But we are a democracy. you say. Nay. We are a republic. We vote people in to office so that they can represent our views, not theirs, or what would sound better for the next election cycle.

Just think, if we could set it up so any interested citizen could vote on any issue (using news blast e-mails or a common page to announce when they are scheduled for a vote) we could really be a democracy. Of course we would need to have a majority of the population participating, or maybe just a quorum. If the common citizen didn’t like the direction our country was moving in, but hadn’t voted, they would have no right to whine. This system would force people to educate themselves on the issues and really become involved in government and society as a whole. Twenty years ago, this would have been almost impossible to even consider, but now with the saturation of the internet and even mobile wifi, much of the voting population could weigh in on issues that are important to them when they come up for a vote. I think our great nation would be unlocked from the partisan gridlock that continuously gums up the system and be released to achieve our greatest potential.

What do you think? Could it ever work?

Where is…?

Posted: August 27, 2010 in Politics, Travel
Tags: , , ,

In the interest of not being the “Dumb American on the street” I wanted to find a good way of testing my geography knowledge. I just hate watching those videos of interviewers asking average people where North Korea is, and them pointing to Australia, for example. Or not being able to point out where we are fighting two wars, let alone Uzbekistan.

Here it is.

First…I don’t hate Muslims. True, I practice Christianity, but I believe the constitution protects ALL Americans’ right to worship (or not) where and how they will. I just think that placing a mosque, or “Muslim Center” near Ground Zero is a bad idea.

Why?

Reality is much different than how people think something should be. I know that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf  wishes that this Muslim Center will bring people of different faiths together. He hopes to show New Yorkers and the world that not all people who practice Islam are religious extremists bent on slaughtering blue-eyed babies. He intends this center to be a vector of reconciliation. Of healing.

That just won’t happen. The reality in this country is that many people are incensed that this idea is even being considered. The word that jumps to most people’s minds is “betrayal”, not “healing.”

This situation reminds of another time when a religious man with good intentions caused chaos.

In 2003, the bishops of the Episcopal Church elected Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, to the status of Bishop. His intention was to build up the church, and foster of period of openness and understanding. Sound familiar? What ended up happening was almost immediate chaos, a barrage of lawsuits, and people who were on the fence on that particular issue were pulled kicking and screaming onto one side or the other. My point is not that electing a gay bishop was wrong (although that’s an issue for a separate post). My point is that a religious man had good intentions for his actions and wanted to help his faith, where in reality… the opposite happened. The effects of the schism he caused are still being felt today.

I believe this Imam truly has good intentions. There are not going to be any secret terrorist training facilities hidden beneath Ground Zero. But the amount of public outcry at this perceived slight will far outweigh the benefit that he will bring.

Thoughts?

This is great news. I just commented on this story yesterday as it was rattling around the blogosphere. I said: “Yeah, that’s ridiculous. Why expel a kid for forgetting to take his nail clippers out of his bag? Oh wait. I’m sure that he actually meant to shiv someone in the lunch line, and that he wasn’t just hygienically conscious. Now if it’s an actual knife, that’s different, but clippers, or in this case, a spork/ camping cutlery, that’s just crazy. You have to question the priorities of whichever administrator brought attention to this in the first place. Let’s hope this gets resolved soon. Unfortunately in today’s news climate, with war, healthcare, and the economy, it may be overlooked.”

Well, I’m happy to say no, it didn’t get overlooked, and justice has prevailed. For those who don’t know, 6 year old Zachary Christie was suspended and forced to attend an alternative school for violent offenders when he brought in his new favorite camping utensil to eat lunch with. He is a model student and excited about learning. Apparently he would wear suits to school of his own volition. Being a Cub Scout, he loved his newest camping implement and wanted to use it at school. But his school had a zero tolerance policy against weapons and he was suspended, facing a 45 day sentence. His mother protested and bloggers (like you and me!) spoke out and brought dialogue to the national stage.

I understand that we need to keep our schools safe, and if kids bring box-cutters, knives, guns, etc. to school they should face the consequences. However, I think the zero-tolerance policy needs to be amended for special circumstances. For example: we have a technical school in Syracuse that teaches local high school students trades like automotive maintenance, fashion, cosmetics, cooking, nursing, carpentry, etc. Imagine a student enrolled in the cosmetics program. She doesn’t have time to go home between classes to get her beauty supplies, so she carries them with her in her backpack. Her school on the southside conducts a random weapons search and finds her nail clippers, file, and maybe some shears for hair. Uh oh. She a violent offender for sure! Lock her up before she stabs someone! Nevermind that she’s a straight A student and always nice to everyone. She planning something. Policies like this need to be under constant scrutiny so that we can protect our young people rights and make sure they feel like America is a good place to live and not some dictatorship. Enough of their rights are taken away already in school. How to dress, speak, where they can or can’t walk and when. For the sake of good students everywhere, review your local school’s policies before another six year old’s bright vision of school is shattered and re-fused from the ashes as bitter cynicism at a broken system.

Cobb county Georgia just got a wake up call. This prosperous area North West of Atlanta has a problem. Sex-offenders just released from prison are setting up a communal camp in the woods. Nothing new right? Just some homeless guys living under a tarp. This is a feature in any city. Except these unfortunate men were directed there by their probation officers.

How can this be? What rules govern a situation where the government is telling sex-offenders to live in the woods like animals? Georgia’s tough laws regulating where they can live and work require offenders to be 1,000 feet away from schools, churches, parks, or other places that children can gather. This requirement also means that churches cannot house the men, or even offer them religious help in this troubling time in their lives. Many homeless shelters do not meet the distance requirement to house the sex-offenders. Those few that do have a ridiculously small capacity (2) or charge $60 a week for rent.

Even men who have family, a house, a support network waiting for them when they get out; are required to go camp in the woods.  So what can be done?

Obviously the state needs to re-evaluate its release policy first of all. Maybe a distance requirement can be reduced or amended for those offenders just coming out of prison and needing temporary housing. Allowing them access to the services they need, will help them tremendously in becoming productive members of society again. I know this first hand.

In my work at the Syracuse Rescue Mission, a  non-profit shelter that provides help to homeless individuals, ranging  from clothes, job searching, recreation, recovery, and much more; I saw who was able to move on the fastest. The men who were referred to us by probation consistently established the contacts they needed to move on faster than the men who were just on the streets. Think about it. These men who were in prison have had time to think about what they need to do when they get out. Who they need to contact, which programs they need to sign up for. The men on the street are given the same information by their case manager, but they are also dealing with the daily hardships of life on the streets. Guys on probation come to the shelter, work with their case manager, do what they need to do, and are in and out in three weeks.

Georgia needs to work more closely with other private sector non-profits to set up a successful program for newly released sex-offenders. This would also provide the men with counseling, care, and the dignity they need to get back on their feet. Not forcing them to live like animals in the woods. Whatever they do, they need to do something to fix this inhumane treatment of this already mistreated section of society.

Please understand, as a father to a little boy, I do not condone what they have done that sent them to prison. But now that they are out, we need to treat them with basic human dignity, and give them a chance to redeem themselves.

President Obama has just helped bring a new resolution to bear on the use of nuclear weapons. This morning, members of the U.N. Security Council unanimously signed the new resolution that focuses on stopping the spread of atomic bombs. It also urges countries to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that has been on the books since the 70’s. But what does this mean?

The most important issues that this resolution aims to solve are not clearly spelled out. India and Pakistan have nuclear arsenals but have not signed any treaty regarding their use. Isreal remains aloof. North Korea and Iran are not mentioned either, although clearly, these two countries in particular are the biggest cause for concern around the globe. North Korea tested the global community’s nerves when it exploded two nuclear warheads, one in 2006, and one in May of this year. Iran and North Korea need to be sent a clear message. So let’s sign a resolution that asks all countries to please play nicely with each other, but let’s not stoop so low as to actually call the misbehaving ones out by name.

If I may use a phrase from another hot-button issue: “If guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns.” Now, regardless of my stance on firearms and the 2nd Amendment, I think this resolution points to just such a scenario. If all the “responsible” nuclear countries like the U.S., France, etc lay down their arms, then only those countries that don’t abide by the treaties will still have their nuclear arsenals. So why don’t they just play nice and lay theirs down as well?

Look at the situation from their perspective. Iran sees all these other bigger powerful countries with weapons of massive destructive power. Maybe they feel threatened. Maybe they feel like they should be allowed to have just as much power as everyone else. Why doesn’t the rest of the world just let them be equal?

Why? I’ll tell you why. Because they spout off about wiping another country off the face of the Earth is why. A country that the U.S. happens to be good friends with. Plus they don’t sign the treaties everyone else signs. If they want to be part of the “Nuclear Elite”, they have to agree to play by the rules set up by the countries that are already Elite. That’s how it works. So unless this new resolution is changed to include the countries it is trying to affect, it remains nothing more than another idle, ambiguous threat. One that I am sure Iran and North Korea will wave aside, just as easily as all the previous attempts to get them to play nice.

Is there a solution to this issue? What are your thoughts?

maars_robot_large It’s real! It’s also one of the coolest things I heard all week. A steam powered, organic bio-mass eating, military robot. It’s steampunk (which is very IN right now), it’s robot (also in) and it can eat humans! (zombies also in) which all add up to make it the coolest robot around. ( I know technically it’s not a zombie, because how can a machine be un-dead, but still. It can EAT people!)

The EATR (Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot) will be an autonomous robotic platform that forages for fuel by ingesting bio-mass, be it grass, wood, or dead soldiers on the battlefield. Put a laser, a tactical shotgun, and a self-aware military computer network on that bad boy and we got our first generation of Terminators. Whah hoo!

Update: Alright, I can see this is going to be a popular post so maybe I should do some actual homework and make it good. The EATR was design by Robotic Technology Inc. (future site of mainframe computer that enslaves humanity). It uses an award winning Cyclone engine to create power by burning biomass and using the steam to power pistons to convert that energy into electricity to charge its batteries. A complete overview is available here.

In order to assuage public concern, the CEO of Cyclone had this to say:

“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” stated Harry Schoell, Cyclone’s CEO. “We are focused on demonstrating that our engines can create usable, green power from plentiful, renewable plant matter. The commercial applications alone for this earth-friendly energy solution are enormous.”

Righhhhht. “Green Power” Well you know what Soilent Green was? Huh? Do ya? It was people!!! Of course the CEO won’t give away their plans for world domination and subjugation of the human species. He may already be a cyborg. Maybe even THE cyborg that will rule us all with a titanium fist.

In all seriousness though, I’m glad that the military is looking at alternatives for fueling their war machine. The artificial intelligence aspect of the EATR looks promising as well. While I can see this working out in the field, I can’t imagine that all of our cars will be powered this way. Then we won’t have any forests left.

RobotEating

healthcareI know that there are downsides to socialized medicine, (and please feel free to tell me what they are) but I want to write about the upsides, and maybe the sidesides.

From my uninsured, and non-expert opinion, I think that the U.S. having Universal Health Care is a good idea. The main reason is that we have 50,000,000 people who are uninsured right now. We live in the richest nation in the world, and yet 16% of our population can’t get the help they need when it comes to health problems. The United States pays the most for health care, more than any other country, yet on almost any scale you choose to measure, we rank last. Out of Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the USA, we rank last on quality care, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives.

I started getting interested in this subject when I got Michael Moore’s “Sicko” out from the library. Now I know what you’re thinking.

“That is a load of democratic socialist propaganda!”

Maybe. So I also watched this Frontline report that also tackles the issue of Universal Health Care with a more dispassionate, intelligent approach. T.R.Reid (Washington Post reporter) goes around to the second and third wealthiest nations, among others, and investigates their health care systems. He evaluates each system on how much it costs to the public, the effects on the insurance and drug companies, the level of care, and most telling of all, how many people in that country go bankrupt every year from medical bills. ( None, as opposed to 700,000 in the U.S.) He tries to take the best of each program and apply it to the U.S. One of the interesting points was that not all countries have total government owned hospitals. Japan and Germany have privately owned doctors offices, hospitals, and insurance companies. Hmm, maybe we can do this in America after all.

When most people hear “Universal Health Care,” they automatically think, “Total Government Control! Big Brother! Waiting months to see a doctor!” The reality is much less alarming. In fact, we already have government run health care in America. Just look at the care we provide our Veterans. Putting the scandal a few years ago aside, the network of VA hospitals offers some of the best care in the country. Don’t believe me? read this excerpt about the VA.

The Annals of Internal Medicine in 2004, published a a study that compared Veteran’s health facilities with commercial managed care systems in their treatment of diabetes patients. In seven out of seven measures of quality, the VA provided better care. A RAND Corporation study published in the same journal concluded that VA outperforms all other sectors of American health care in 294 measures of quality.

One of the big complaints that people have with government run health care, is that people have to wait a long time to be helped. Really? Cause when I took my Mom to the Emergency Room at a local hospital in NY with a severe cut to her forearm at 10:00 p.m., we had to wait until 3:30 a.m. for her to be taken care of. And it was not a bustling downtown ER with gunshot victims. I find it hard to imagine that we would have to wait more than five hours to be seen somewhere in Europe.

From what I’ve read, seen, heard from friends, and (gasp) in fact experienced myself, medical care overseas is prompt, professional, and cheap. When I traveled to Ireland, I got in infection (sparing details) that made my ears feel like I was fifty feet underwater. We went to a small clinic in a seaside village where I was seen immediately. I was a foreigner, and yet they saw me right away, proscribed medicine, and only charged me seven pounds ($15). If the situation were reversed, I’m sure that the sick Irishman would have to pay at least $150 for the appointment, that is, if they agreed to treat him in the first place without the consent of an American insurance company.

I’m going to post this now, but will be adding to this article as I learn more.

I don’t know why I haven’t been keeping up on this. Oh I know…the “King of Pop” died. Leave it to our media to show nonstop coverage of Michael Jackson for days when our foreign policies and worldwide feeling for the US are about to change. Tonight, most US troops will be out of Iraqi cities. The citizens there are ecstatic, as I would be when a Foreign power relinquishes control over my country. I hope that we have trained them well enough that our time there won’t have been for nothing.

This is a song I wrote in ’96. Since abortion seems to be a hot issue right now, I thought I’d publish it here. The song focuses on Vegans and Vegetarians in the hardcore scene who say that they support abortion. This gives a little more backstory on my beliefs regarding murdering babies. As with any inflammatory issue, I expect people to have vastly different opinions on this subject. Please leave your comments, but keep it civil.

No Choice

You say that you are vegan

And protect the animals’ rights

But when asked your views on abortion

You say that you are pro-choice

No choice

You say that you’re vegan and stand up

For animal rights, yet you give the O.K.

To slaughter innocent  human life

Conscious beings immersed in their mother’s

Womb, they have as much right to live

As the animals that you protect

Thousands of cattle

Cannot make up

For one slaughtered

Human life

There is no

Justification

For what

You believe

My family and I will be officially below the poverty line starting next week. My job hours (and hence, pay) were cut in half this morning. This comes as a surprise to me because this morning, I was full-time, salary, with benefits (medical/dental, 401K, 3 weeks vacation) and almost 10 years with the organization. I suppose this is how it feels to most people. They say, “Well, the economy is bad but I still have a good job. It won’t affect me. I can still pay my mortgage every month.” Now it’s time to re-evaluate. The good news is, I still have a job. I did a little figuring and I think I can still pay my bills every month. Maybe. Now that we are officially “poor,” we qualify for food stamps and other things. My wife and I might not have health insurance, but we are usually healthy anyway. We eat well and mostly organic. (that might change though…too expensive) Now we have an incentive to start that Victory Garden in the backyard. Our 9 month old will now qualify for Medicaid too. Maybe we will as well, I’m not sure. My wife was a little shocked when I told her I was going to look at buying an army surplus field suture kit so I wouldn’t have to go to the Emergency Room.

Our situation isn’t as bad as I make it sound. I know that compared to most of the world, we are still very rich. Our car is paid off and I can bike to work if I want to, which most days, I do. We have some debt (house $52,000/student loans $10,000) but we also have some savings, but that has been shrinking by $1,000 every month since my wife stopped working last year to stay home with our new baby. We only have to survive until September when she will start her teaching job again. Our new roof will have to wait.

This is also good timing on God’s part for several reasons:

1) It’s almost spring time so our heating bills will drop from $200 to $40.

2) We only need to hold on for 6 months.

3) Better weather means we can grow our own food. We’ve never done this, and my wife has a notoriously black thumb (meaning she kills plants, no offense to my African American readers) but I think our motivation is high enough that we will see success.

4) We had already decided to join The Compact this year (you can’t buy anything new, except food, health/toiletries etc. You’d be surprised how excited you become when you visit a second-hand bookstore, architectural salvage store, or Thrift store where everything is allowed.) So this won’t be a stretch as far as deprivation is concerned. We already consigned ourselves to not buying much this year. Entertainment is cheap too. It’s called a LIBRARY. you can get books and movies (even recent releases) there for FREE.

So here are my options. I can try and get a second job and struggle with that whole hassle of driving twice as much and being away from my family even more than I am now. This might be cool because I have a chance to start fresh so to speak. For instance, I’ve always thought I would be a good security guard, landscape architect, ninja, or something else. OR

I can stay home. Enjoy this new turn of events, spend more time with my wife and son, finish my novel-get an agent- become a best selling author, have perpetual 3 or even 4 day weekends, etc. We may even qualify for getting our house painted because of the lead program. We always made too much before. We could even get new windows! The thing with this plan is that we really need to focus on saving money. See Compact above. Not too hard. So that’s where I am right now. Poor, but optimistic.

2009 Federal Poverty Guidelines

The 48 Contiguous States and DC
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $10,830
2 14,570
3 18,310
4 22,050
5 25,790
6 29,530
7 33,270
8 37,010
For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.

This is what we hired him for

Posted: January 29, 2009 in Money/ wealth, Politics
Tags: , ,

Obama smacked Citigroup around like a red-headed step child.

It’s cool to be able to know that something is wrong, and have the power to do something about it.

Some of my favorite snippets from Obama’s speech:

Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

I thought this was great, especially as the now (thank God) former Pres. Bush was sitting right behind him. (more…)

Around the world, the debate over using genetically engineered food is heating up. This is an article from Yahoo and the AP.

“Influential voices around the world are calling for a re-examination of the GM debate,” says C.S. Prakash, a professor of plant molecular genetics at Alabama’s Tuskegee University. “Biotechnology provides such tools to help address food sustainability issues.”

Genetic manipulation to insert desirable genes or accelerate changes traditionally achieved through crossbreeding can help make crops resistant to insects and disease or enable them to tolerate herbicides. Livestock similarly can be altered by inserting a gene from one animal into the DNA of another.”genetically engineered food debate heats up

I am so glad that the election is over. The American people have made a brave decision and shown the world that we are sorry for the last eight years and we want to change. Just by the results, people all over the world have changed their mind about America . I think there is still hope for our foreign alliances. I also hope that the Republicans won’t skulk so much that they refuse to work with the new President on anything. Barack seemed very gracious last night and I wish him well.

My sister is in Europe right now and she says that everyone is thrilled that Obama will be president. Since I live in NY, it was almost a certainty that it would swing for Obama, but looking at the county by county map, there were several Repulican counties. But Barack got all the big ones that mattered. My own county split 118,390 for Obama, 80,476 for McCain. This have been a weird election for me because I work at a Christian organization where many of my co-workers are staunch McCain supporters and see anyone who would consider Obama as somehow (how do I say this) un-Godly, maybe. My church is the same way. However, I feel that alot of people were narrow minded when it came to certain issues. Like I have said before, Obama’s stance on abortion is regrettable, but you can’t let that one issue decide the election for you and cloud over everything else. We have had a pro-life Republican president for the last eight years and how much progress has been made on that issue? Not much, in my own estimation. I like to think that I have a broader view of the impact the next president may have on the world and I’m glad everything turned out the way it did. On a selfish note, I am also thrilled that I won’t see any more of those negative campaign ads. Yay! We’re done.