Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Supremely Disappointing

This week, the US Supreme Court has issued two landmark rulings, both with far-reaching and dire consequences.

The first ruling was to uphold Trump 's travel ban. What makes this ruling so frustrating is that the majority of justices did not consider the remarks made by Trump about the ban in their decision. The dissenting arguments in this case pretty much sum it up.

The second, and in my mind more harmful, ruling was in regards to public labor unions. The court ruled, against all precedent and common sense, that public employees who are represented by unions are not required to pay dues to them. This effectively hamstrings unions, reducing their funding so they have less clout both in Washington and when negotiating on their members' behalf.

I'm very worried about the direction these rulings are taking us. While I realize that going against precedent happens frequently, these are sweeping and potentially harmful changes that will effecting our country for years. What happens when a union can't afford to represent the interests of these employees?

It seems as though Conservatives and Republicans forget that public sector employees are people, and that they are working to provide for their families. When state and federal budgets are being cut, that's their livelihood. And keep in mind that the same people Republicans constantly celebrate - police and firefighters - are public employees. 

One thing is obvious with these rulings, though: our nation will never be the same.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Real Red Wave

So apparently, New England is doomed.

Well, not for a few million years at the earliest (I hope), but yes, New England states are going to go BOOM very soon.

Taking the short-term view of things, maybe Vermont should invest in some geothermal energy technology. While we're waiting to be burned to death by a violently erupting magma blister the size of our state, we might as well make some easy money, right?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Into the Badlands

The last few weeks have been hard for America.

First, we were told we were breaking up with Canada. Then we found out that we were going to rebound with North Korea.

Second, there appears to be a looming trade war with China. Whether you think this is insane, or warranted, the fact remains that without a change our goods are going to get more expensive, and our industries are going to suffer.

And finally, as if that weren't enough to wrap our heads around, we have the ongoing drama at the southern border. There has been no shortage of discussion on this topic, from every angle, and I've come to understand what both sides are trying to say.

On the one hand, you have those who support the zero-tolerance policy of the trump administration, who say that the people entering the US are committing crimes and must be held accountable. They argue that our national identity, our security, and the rule of law are all at stake if we don't take a hard line against those who choose to ignore the legal routes of entry.


On the other hand, you have everyone else, who sees images of children separated from their families, forced into warehouse-sized buildings, to live for an indeterminate amount of time. Common human decency, our core values as Americans, and even our rule of law are at stake if we choose to deal with such people so harshly.

Now, I can understand what this must look like to the Donald Trumps of the world. These are people violating the law, who are actively engaged in a criminal activity, and it would be negligent of our law enforcement institutions to turn a blind eye. However, I feel that this misses some pretty important points. For one, every single person who is caught at the border and charged will most likely never be allowed into the country by legal means. In the past, criminal charges were usually only laid against those suspected of being members of gangs or other criminal groups. Not anymore.

Also, think about why these people are trying to get here. Between gang violence, drug cartels, and natural disasters, their homes are becoming unsafe and unlivable. America has been, since its founding, a place that welcomed everyone. While we have strayed from that ideal before, we have always come back to it. And that is what we must do now. I agree that we should have strict guidelines for how to handle illegal immigrants. Those with ties to criminal organizations should be apprehended, and those who may pose a threat should be at lease evaluated before being allowed entry. However, I think that a family crossing the border without going through the proper channels should have a path towards citizenship, at least for their children.

Oh, and if anyone mentions that we are being flooded with immigrants, you can point out the truth about southern border crossings any time.

UPDATE: Melania Trump takes a trip to the border and causes an uproar.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Return

It's been a long time...

Suffice it to say, there's really no way to go back and comment on everything that's happened since the last post to this blog. There's no way to comment on everything that's happened in the last week! So consider this a kind of reset. I'll be picking up where I left off, trolling news sites for interesting takes on new developments in the world of politics, and trying to keep a level head when it comes to outrageous happenings in Washington and around the world.

There are a few points I'd like to make at the outset, though.

First, I do NOT like Donald Trump. This dislike comes from a purely political standpoint. I find the majority of his policies abhorrent and, in some cases, un-American. I feel that he has jeopardized the economic stability of our nation and the world, and has made decisions that have undermined our democracy at a fundamental level. I will be the first to admit, however, that he has made some good things happen. Unemployment is down, some minority demographics are seeing high rates of growth, and certain sectors of the economy are growing. Whether that balances against that detrimental effects of his policies is where the debate should be focused.

Second of all, I am extremely concerned about the lack of civil discourse and open-mindedness that we are seeing out of Washington, and even at the local level. From white supremacist rallies to super-liberal activists shouting down moderates, there is way too much talking and not nearly enough listening. If we are going to make progress as a nation, we are going to have to work together, respect everyone's viewpoints (to a degree), and then decide the best course of action for everyone. We, as a nation, need to find creative solutions for dealing with bigotry as well as identity politics. We have to remember that we are only as free as the least free among us. I have seen some disturbing trends toward censorship, monopolization, and limited freedom because "Person A" doesn't like what "Person B" believes or says.

Lastly, I honestly believe that America is the greatest nation on Earth. We have problems, big ones, and they are threatening to destroy what makes us great. Our leaders are pandering to extremists, wealthy entities and individuals are drowning out the will of the people, freedom and justice are leaking from open wounds in our democracy, and yet we have the potential to turn these things around and become who we are meant to be. To do this, though, we have to start listening, we have to stop focusing on the demands of the loudest voices and start listening for the whispers of common sense coming from the people. The People must be the focus of government, not power.

And so, on that note, I will be starting up this blog again, whose main aim is to present my opinion on matters of a political, social, or economic nature. I strongly encourage anyone who reads to comment on the articles I post, especially if you don't agree with my views. Ignorance is the greatest detriment to humanity, and I seek the means of defeating it through the respectful and open sharing of knowledge and opinion.

Let's get to it!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hot under the Collar

For the second time in a month, the Northeast is facing a massive snow storm. Thousands of flights have been canceled, and we're looking at well over a foot of snow in many parts of the eastern US. Not only that, but frigid temperatures and wind chill are coming in with the storm, ensuring that temperatures fall to well below zero for millions of Americans.

Whenever this kind of thing happens, I get annoyed. Not just because the weather is awful, but because I have to endure all the conservative talking heads cracking jokes about global warming. "Cold enough for you?" and "How's all that global warming working out for you?" seem to be the hot one-liners this year. 

It's true that we've seen some startlingly cold temperatures, far below the norm. And it's true that we are getting a lot of storms and so one this winter that would seem to, on the surface at least, go against the widely understood notion of global warming.

But these quips and jeers are not only stupid, they're completely bogus. We're currently experiencing a harsh, cold winter, but the southern hemisphere is going through one of the hottest summers on record. Australia in particular is sweltering. And that's not the only evidence of climate change. You know all these snow storms we keep getting? They're linked to it as well. 

It annoys the hell out of me that we have people out there who completely dismiss climate change out of hand. But what gets me more is why they do it. They don't listen to the scientific evidence, they don't have a discussion with people who are trained and experienced in the area of weather patterns. All they do is talk about the controversy

Let me set the record straight. Just like with the theory of evolution and the origin of the universe, mainstream science is VASTLY in favor of climate change theory. The only people who dissent from those positions are the scientists on the payrolls of companies that would have to spend billions to counter climate change, or who are working for conservative think tanks. These pseudo-science "controversies" that are touted by the Right don't actually exist, but they try to use them to push their own personal beliefs into the mainstream discussion as credible alternatives to what is largely established fact in the science community.

Bundle up, stay safe, and keep the climate-change deniers at bay.

The Future of the Right

With this year's elections starting to draw more media attention, more attention has started shifting to the struggles between the establishment GOP and the Tea Party. While the GOP has always been the party with the strongest mutual support of its candidates as opposed to the fractured Left, the division between more "moderate" Republicans and those on the extreme side threatens to sink the entire Right in the upcoming political campaign seasons.

An article on Salon's website sums it up well. The Tea Party, comprised of the extremists of the Right-wing, will stop at nothing, and will compromise nothing, to achieve their goals. They will cut off their proverbial nose to spite their face, even if it means losing more ground than they already have in the public discourse. They are trying desperately to alienate themselves from the establishment GOP, which they feel is not extreme enough in its ideology to be of any use to the country.

When the GOP lost the last Presidential election, the RNC produced what has become known as their "autopsy report." Basically, they analyzed the demographics of voters, the campaign slogans and appeals, and pointed to areas where the Republicans needed to fix their image. Now, the Republicans have, for the most part, ignored the autopsy report's suggestions, and continued with obstructionist tactics and old talking points, which is not that surprising. Like I said, traditionally the Republicans have been adept at supporting a single candidate for high office, and so they have a good chance of prevailing over a Democratic party that is much more divided.

But the Tea-Party supported group, American Principles in Action, published their own report that attacks the GOP autopsy and lays out its own plan for growth and change on the Right. The rebuttal report's primary argument is that the GOP failed in the Presidential election because it...get this...wasn't conservative enough. According to the APA's report, if the GOP had taken a more conservative stance on social issues, been less willing to compromise, and had presented a more conservative economic policy, they would have attracted more voters from groups like Latinos, women, and the blue-collar working community.

The irony, in my mind, is these are exactly the groups that would choose not to vote for a more conservative Republican candidate. Specifically, why would Latinos vote for a party whose policies would force them to carry papers to identify themselves at all times? Why would women vote for a party that states that they want to restrict a woman's access to medical procedures and protections that are guaranteed under the law? And why would blue-collar workers want to vote for a party that would strip away safety and health regulations, gut the rights of unionized workers, eliminate the minimum wage, and cut health benefits?

What the GOP learned long ago, and has since forgotten, is that they have to balance their rhetoric in a way that makes it appealing to voters. The mainstream Republican party does not expect to get many women to vote for them when they champion restrictions on a woman's right to make her own medical decisions, so they have learned to compromise. They have become satisfied with the limits they got that restrict federal money for abortions, and that place certain restrictions and requirements on them.

But the Tea Party hasn't learned this yet, and it doesn't seem like they are going to at all. They seem to believe that anything that they don't agree with is treasonous for America. They don't believe in compromise, they don't believe in difference of opinion, and they haven't realized that their brand of conservatism will gain them no supporters among certain groups. They have somehow convinced themselves that everyone is a conservative, and that if they just get more conservative, they'll start winning elections. That's not how it works.

I'm sorry to say that the days of the Moderate Republican seem to be dwindling.I hope that we don't lose common-sense conservatives, because we do need them as a counter-weight in Washington. But we need a counter-weight that is willing to compromise. We need conservatives who understand that our nation is founded on compromise and runs on all representatives working together. We need a Congress that will find solutions to our problems instead of letting the whole thing go to shit on principle.

The future of the Right is uncertain. I do not envy them at the moment, but I do feel sorry for all of us who may feel the effects all too soon.

Monday, January 20, 2014

This is what a REAL cover-up looks like

Warning: This story covers a graphic topic. Read at your own discretion.

This is sickening. This should have the world screaming for justice. This needs to be answered.

A new report on the fight in Syria has unearthed evidence of what is being called "Industrial-Scale Killing" of Syrians by the government. The report is based on a large cache of documents that were smuggled from Syria, and implicate the government in the murder of more the 11,000 people. Photos that were made part of the cache show corpses with signs of torture. Many have marks indicating electrocution, strangulation, or other forms of torture. Many of the bodies appear emaciated as well, as though the victims had not been fed.

For years now, there have been concerns about atrocities in Syria. We have seen evidence of the government using chemical weapons on its own people. We have seen them dropping barrel bombs on civilian neighborhoods, killing hundreds. We have seen the government ramp up attacks on "rebels" in the weeks leading up to planned peace talks as if trying to soften them up.

And now this. It has been an ongoing debate in Washington as to how we should respond. We have been waiting for solid evidence of crimes orchestrated by the government. Now we have solid evidence, so what will we do?

I believe that America must set an example here. I hate the idea of going into another country that has not attacked us directly. However, as a member of the world community, we have a responsibility to act when the laws of that community are broken. I firmly believe that action must be taken, whether directly or indirectly, to remove Assad from power in Syria and bring Democracy to that nation.

I hope that Congress can put aside its partisanship in the name of justice, and support the President if he should choose to respond with military action against Syria. If he does not, then we must support him in whatever decision he makes regarding this latest intelligence.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Syrian people, and I hope that a resolution to the conflict will come soon.

Benghazi Style

I didn't want to talk about this again, because I see it as a non-issue. I know that it's a big talking point on the conservative side, but I want to point out a few things that I hope will clear the air.

The first is that this whole notion that the administration is unsympathetic about Benghazi is ridiculous. The most popular bit of evidence for this argument isn't even true. That whole scandal with what Hillary Clinton said? Yeah, not really a scandal at all. What bothers me most is not that it took this long for someone to point this out, but that conservatives don't seem to have realized it themselves. This is exactly what they did with the "You didn't build that" theme from the last election. It's a quote that was taken completely out of context and used to make the exact opposite point that the speaker was initially intending to make.

The second thing I want to point out is how silly this whole thing is. I will say that it is a tragedy that four Americans lost their lives. But so is the fact that more than five times that lost their lives during attacks on American embassies during the Bush administration, and no one got up in arms then. It was a tragic event, absolutely, but for the Right to make this much political hay over the controversy is perverse.

How many times have conservative pundits ripped the gun control lobby for using school shootings to further their agenda? How many times has the conservative media criticized the Left for using national tragedies to place common sense limits on gun ownership? This is exactly what the Right is doing with Benghazi.

Now, I know that I'm going to get some comments about this post, and that's fine. I welcome a discussion on this issue, just like any other. But I want the conservatives out there to be aware of the hypocrisy that many of them are exhibiting here. Please tell me what evidence there is of a cover-up. Please tell me why you think that this administration has done something so much worse than any previous one when it comes to this type of thing? Why is it this time, this one event, that has caused so much turmoil?

I leave you with this. The lives of Americans are no different than the lives of other people on this planet. We are all human. We all have families. We are all loved by someone. We can mourn for those who have lost their lives for this country, but we should also recognize those who have lost their lives for other countries. Do our enemies not weep for their dead? Of course they do. Benghazi was a tragedy that cost the lives of four Americans. But to take that tragedy and turn it into a political movement of this magnitude, when greater tragedies have garnered much less attention, is abhorrent to me. We are not special because of where we were born, we are special because we were born at all. The deaths of those in Benghazi may have been prevented by a thousand different things, and no one person is to blame for that. It is just as easy to blame congressional Republicans, who failed to increase funding for security of foreign embassies many times in the years leading up to Benghazi. Let's remember those who died, agree to do better in the future in their honor, and move on.

And just for a light end to it all, I present this: what Republicans sound like when they go on about this stuff.