Rachel Maddow Sums It Up Beautifully

After an amazing night, where the country chose to progress forward into the 21st century, I was incredibly happy…and I slept quite well, I might add. I expected the President to win a second term, but I didn’t expect the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to shrink and the Democratic majority in the Senate to grow. I was pleasantly surprised that, for the first time in U.S. history, voters approved of marriage equality in three states and against discrimination in Minnesota. It was an incredible night for the entire country.

I am so proud to be an American. We finally have the chance to have a government that works for the 100 percent. Climate change can finally be seriously addressed. The United States now ensures access to healthcare, and we’re closer to achieving universal healthcare like the rest of the developed world. Marriage equality across the land is even closer to becoming a wonderful reality. The hundreds of millions of dollars spent by dark money groups to ensure the status quo remains ultimately meant nothing. Americans spoke loud and clear. Our democratic republic is alive and well.

Rachel Maddow summed up just what this election meant for the nation:

“We are not going to have a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe v. Wade. There will be no more Antonin Scalias and Samuel Alitos added to this Court. We’re not going to repeal health reform. Nobody is going to kill Medicare and make old people in this generation or any other generation fight it out on the open market to try to get themselves health insurance. We are not going to do that.

“We are not going to give a 20 percent tax cut to millionaires and billionaires and expect programs like food stamps and kid’s health insurance to cover the cost of that tax cut. We’re not going to make you clear it with your boss if you want to get birth control under the insurance plan that you’re on. We are not going to redefine rape. We are not going to amend the United States Constitution to stop gay people from getting married. We’re not going to double Guantanamo. We are not eliminating the Department of Energy or the Department of Education or [the Department of] Housing [and Urban Development] at the federal level. We are not going to spend two trillion dollars on the military that the military does not want. We are not scaling back on student loans because the country’s new plan is that you should borrow money from your parents. We’re not vetoing the Dream Act. We are not self-deporting. We are not letting Detroit go bankrupt. We are not starting a trade war with China on Inauguration Day in January. We are not going to have, as a President, a man who once led a mob of friends to run down a scared gay kid, to hold him down and forcibly cut his hair off with a pair of scissors while that kid cried and screamed for help, and there was no apology, not ever.

“We are not going to have a Secretary of State John Bolton. We are not bringing Dick Cheney back. We are not going to have a foreign policy shop stocked with architects of the Iraq War. We are not going to do it. We had the choice to do that if we wanted to do that as a country, and we said ‘no’ last night, loudly.

….

“Ohio really did go to President Obama last night, and he really did win. And he really was born in Hawaii, and he really is legitimately President of the United States, again, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month, and the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy, and the polls were not skewed to over-sample Democrats, and Nate Silver was not making up fake projections about the election to make conservatives feel bad. Nate Silver was doing math, and climate change is real, and rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes, and evolution is a thing, and Benghazi was ‘on’ us, it was not a scandal ‘by’ us, and no one is taking away any one’s guns, and taxes have not gone up, and the deficit is dropping, actually, and Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, and the moon landing was real, and FEMA is not building concentration camps, and UN election observers are not taking over Texas, and moderate reforms of the regulations on the insurance industry and the financial services industry in the country are not the same thing as communism…

“…in this country, we have a two-party system in government and the idea is supposed to be that the two sides both come up with ways to confront and fix the real problems facing our country. They both propose possible solutions to our real problems, and we debate between those possible solutions, and by the process of debate, we pick the best idea. That competition between good ideas from both sides about real problems in the real country should result in our country having better choices, better options than if only one side is really working on the hard stuff…if the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement and the conservative media is stuck in a vacuum-sealed, door-locked spin cycle of telling each other what makes them feel good and denying the factual, lived truth of the world, then we are all deprived as a nation of the constructive debate between competing, feasible ideas about real problems…they [GOP] are going to have to pop the factual bubble they have been so happy living inside if they do not want to get shellacked again, and that will be a painful process for them I’m sure, but it will be good for the whole country, left, right and center.

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California Ballot Initiatives/Propositions 2012 Edition

It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love…..with excercising their right and civic duty to vote. With less than two weeks until Election Day, I figured I should write a post about how I’ll voting on the damned propositions here in California.

I say “damned” because, as I’ve said countless times before, the ballot initiative is a horrible way to make law; the whole point of having a republic and legislature is that we vote for people to represent us and make our laws, people who are (supposed to be) educated and spend numerous hours debating policy at the Capitol. It shouldn’t be a newsflash to anyone that the average Joe or Jane don’t exactly make the best lawmakers.

But until California either gets a new constitution, makes the process of placing an initiative on the ballot much more difficult, or does away with it altogether, I will faithfully be voting in every election I’m able to vote in for the rest of my life. 🙂

Here’s a short ‘n sweet summary of how and why I’m voting on Propositions 30 through 40. I strongly urge you to do your own research yourself, cutting through the political junk mail and making your own decisions. But seeing how this is my blog, you have the privilege of reading how I’m voting. Enjoy 😉

 

Proposition 30: “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. Initiative Constitutional Amendment” This is big fat YES. California’s education system is in shambles (thanks in large part to 1978’s Prop 13) and is in dire need of more funding. Prop 30 temporarily (seven years) increases the income tax of wealthy individuals ($250,000 and above) and raises the sales tax by 1/4 of a cent for four years. This translates to $6 billion ANNUALLY over the next seven years for the state’s public school system. It should be noted that none of this revenue will go toward administrative costs but completely to schools, 89 percent to K-12 and 11 percent to community colleges. If Prop 30 fails, tuition at colleges will go up and the amount of classes available will go down. Vote Yes!

Proposition 31: “State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.” Definitely NO. This creates a two-year budget cycle that is much more complicated and devastating to state services; expenditures over $25 million must be met with cuts to programs that effect several million people in the most populous state in the US. Prop 31 would result in an even more broken state incapable of funding programs effectively (think of how it is now….times 10). Vote No!

Proposition 32: “Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.” Here’s a big fat NO. This initiative sounds appealing and fair – it bans all corporate and union donations to political campaigns. Sounds good, right? Get money out of politics! HOWEVER, millionaires and billionaires can still give unlimited amounts of cash to candidates of their choice. This proposition is a huge win for rich conservatives and a huge loss not only for liberals but people who work for a living because unions pretty much always donate to Democratic and populist campaigns. Don’t be fooled. Vote No!

Proposition 33: “Auto Insurance Companies. Prices Based on Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.” No, No, NO. Given how Corporations crashed the economy in 2008 and do everything they can to undermine reform, how many people think they should have even more power to over charge you for something like car insurance? Anyone? Prop 33 penalizes those who have never had car insurance before by charging them more. Vote No!

Proposition 34: “Death Penalty. Initiative Statute.” YES. I, like most industrialized, liberal democracies in the world, am against the death penalty. This issue is too controversial to write about in a single paragraph. For now, I’ll simply say that the government should not remove violent criminals from society only to kill them after they no longer pose a threat to anyone out of revenge and adherence to a barbaric tradition.

Proposition 35: “Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute.” YES. I’ll admit I was torn on this issue at first, mainly because the federal government already handles human trafficking cases. But, given how horrible and unimaginable human trafficking is (and thankfully it is rare), I definitely support increasing the penalty on sex and labor trafficking. Current law gives traffickers who force minors into prostitution only eight years. Prop 35 brings that up to a life sentence. Those same traffickers are currently fined only $100,000. Under Prop 35, that goes up to $1.5 million. Prop 35 requires sex traffickers to register as sex offenders and provide all law enforcement with information on their Internet access and online identities. Prop 35 is a definite Yes. Both the California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party support Prop 35.

Proposition 36: “Three Strikes Law. Repeat Felony Offenders. Penalties. Initiative Statute.” YES! If there’s one thing that has led to a gargantuan increase in California’s prison population and budget, it has been the infamous Three Strikes Law. The fatal flaw: If someone committed two felonies and then a third, they were sentenced to life imprisonment even if the third felony conviction was not violent. California has the largest prison population of any state in the country and more and more of the state’s budget is sunk into building and maintaining new prisons. Prop 36 changes the current law of life imprisonment convictions only to VIOLENT offenses, including rape, murder and child molestation. It also authorizes re-convictions of previous life imprisonment convictions if those convictions weren’t violent or involved rape, child molestation, possession of drugs or illegal use of firearms. California would save anywhere from $7o-$90 million annually.

Proposition 37: “Genetically Engineered Foods. Labeling. Initiative Statute.” YES! This seems like common sense, but actually, food producers aren’t required to show which of their foods are genetically modified. It is estimated that this law would cost, at most, $1 million annually (it is expected to only add a few hundred thousand dollars to the state budget). The biggest opposing force to this statute: Monsanto. Enough said. Vote No!

Proposition 38: “Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs. Initiative Statute.” Surprisingly, this is getting a NO vote from me. Increasing our historically low taxes slightly to exclusively fund education programs is an excellent idea, especially considering Prop 13 (1978) drastically reduced state revenues. However, this statute conflicts with the desperately needed Prop 30, and under California law, when two propositions conflict, which ever has more votes trumps the other proposition. THAT’S why I’m voting No.

Proposition 39: “Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.” YES! This would raise state revenues by $1 billion annually, and that number is expected to grow. It does this by requiring multistate corporations that do business in California to calculate their income tax liability based on the percentage of their sales in California. Common sense, right? Current law essentially allows them to choose the plan that works best for them. Just a little FYI, corporate taxes, state and federal, are at historic lows. The billions of dollars gained to the Golden state would fund the future: new clean, renewable energy projects and community colleges. Vote Yes, Yes, YES!

Proposition 40: “Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.” YES, but only because this is simply annoying. I was against this “citizen’s commission” when it was on the ballot years ago and I’m still opposed to it now. My view: leave redistricting of state senate districts to the legislature where it has always been. But since we have this law, let’s allow it to work. The commission made a decision following the census. Let’s not waste more money and tie more hands by rejecting the plan from the very commission we supposedly love so much. Vote Yes. Both the California Democratic Party and the California Republican Party support Prop 40.

My Feelings on the First Presidential Debate

Having just watched the debate, I am stunned. Romney outright lied and did a 180 from his campaign positions. I am amazed at how much bullsh*t was spewed from his mouth on topics like social security, Medicare, healthcare reform and reducing the deficit. It was an homage to the past (states’ rights above everything) and an attempt to seem relevent and modern at the same time. I hate to say it, but Romney did well and Obama was off his game.

Why wasn’t President Obama more aggressive? What about calling Romney out on his 47 percent comments? What about Romney’s position on abortion (outlawed in all cases, rape and incest included…just ask his campaign)? Why didn’t the President call Romney out for contradicting himself on healthcare reform? Why was there not a word on climate change or marriage equality?

Mitt Romney does not care about the future of Medicare (ie: “Vouchercare”) nor the disadvantaged family struggling in this economy, and he surely doesn’t care about same-sex families being discriminated against by DOMA. He has been inconsistent throughout the campaign and attempted to seem moderate and in the center in tonight’s debate. His plan for tax cuts alone don’t add up. I guess I’ll have to wait until the next debate to hear more about those issues (hopefully).

I realize that this is politics and that it’s dirty, but what Romney did was gutless. Does he honestly think he can get away with what he said? Time will tell and I hope President Obama is more aggressive during the next debates (and can we please get a new moderator?!).

The Rev. Al Sharpton provided his take on MSNBC after the debate and I couldn’t agree more:

“…Romney’s problem is that this debate is in 2012 not 1812…No doubt Mitt Romney was at his best tonight, but his best is not good enough when you look at the fact that he’s saying that taxes will not go up on the middle class…It will in fact go up on the middle class and [there will be] a much lower rate for the rich…The facts will not bear him out…he stood there all night advocating states’ rights across the board. What is that saying to women about who’s going to decide on women’s issues? What is that saying to minorities about immigration, civil rights…This man went back to the 19th century on states’ rights all night long. When we hear him stand up there and talk about things that are patently contradictory to his position…What I’m surprised at [is that] he’s going to care so much for the poor, so much for the disadvantaged. Would that be the 47 percent that he said were moochers and had no responsibility? …So, his problem is not going to be Barack Obama or Leher [the moderator]. His problem is going to be Mitt Romney because when they play Romney as opposed to the Romney tonight, he’s going to look like a flagrant and blatant flip-flopper.”

Mitt “Out of Touch” Romney

You are a lazy, irresponsible moocher feeding off of the successful in this country and don’t you forget it!

Earlier this week, it was revealed via video leak that earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a room full of wealthy donors that 47 percent of Americans are essentially lazy and “entitled” because they don’t pay income taxes. He said he wasn’t even going to try to get their votes because they were going to “vote for this president no matter what” (said with disdain).

“I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney told the donors.

Despite the fact that insulting half the country probably isn’t the best campaign strategy, Romney’s comments highlight just how disconnected and out of touch with average Americans he is.

If you go to college, you are a part of the 47 percent. As a college student (assuming you work a minimum wage job part-time and go to school full-time), you pay no federal income tax.

The other groups of people who don’t pay income taxes: the elderly and the poor. Elderly tax benefits make up 44 percent of that 47 percent figure Romney mentioned. Tax credits for children and the working poor make up another 30.4 percent.

A large majority of the 47 percent is made up of households earning less than $20,000 a year. That number has grown the past few years in light of the economic downturn. The poor, more than any other group, have been hit the hardest.

Social mobility (the ability to climb the economic ladder into success) is at an all-time low. Inversely, the amount of wealthy households paying no federal income tax is at an all-time high.

With economic policies that have solely benefitted the richest in America, the past decade has seen the number of wealthy households NOT paying income taxes skyrocket. Last year alone, 110,000 households making over $200,000 a year paid $0 in federal income taxes. That number includes 7,000 households that made over one million dollars.

Another interesting fact: Eight of the ten states with the highest amount of those who paid no federal income taxes are “red” states, meaning they vote Republican during presidential elections.

What exactly is Mitt Romney trying to accomplish by insulting half the country, including many of his own supporters?
No candidate is perfect and all of them make mistakes or say things they probably should not say. That’s politics and the ugly truth of campaigning.

However, trashing half the country as lazy and entitled is not only the worst campaign strategy, it’s offensive.

We’re slowly coming out of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Families are hurting. Many have been laid off. The prospects have been dim.

Romney’s tax plan calls for massive tax cuts for the wealthy and massive tax hikes for the poor and middle class. If you object, it’s because you’re some kind of parasite. It’s only fair, people!

Mitt Romney doesn’t care about those who have the audacity to be poor or elderly (see the Romney/Ryan Medicare “plan”). His robotic callousness towards the nation’s vulnerable shows what he really thinks of America.

In Romney’s America, only the wealthy deserve the rewards of living here. The traditional idea of everyone being given an equal opportunity to succeed is radically foreign to Mitt Romney. It doesn’t compute.

photo credit: AP

By the way, this blog post was also published as an opinion piece in my university newspaper, The Collegian (CSU Fresno). Feel free to see it here. I’ll be writing opinion pieces for The Collegian every two weeks…I’m pretty excited 😀

Madonna, Mitt Romney & One World Trade Center in One Post

It’s been a little while since my last post and some very interesting things have happened since then. So, here’s my take on a few subjects that piqued my interest.

 

 

Madonna’s New Music Video, “Turn Up The Radio,” Came Out

Because I am a Madonna fan extraordinaire, it is only natural that I blog about her latest work. “Turn Up The Radio,” the third music video and single from her 12th and most recent studio album, MDNA, debuted on VEVO on Monday. In it, we see the Queen of Pop trying to get away from the paparazzi (while channelling a sort of updated ’60s go-go dancer look). The theme may be a bit cliché (escaping life’s troubles through music), but the video itself is different…in a good way. Throughout the video, Madonna embraces different kinds of people, from hipsters to a transgender woman, while riding through the Italian countryside in an old school car (not a car person – don’t know the model 😛 ). No matter who you are, turn up the radio until the speakers blow 😉

 

 

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Mitt Romney? Lie!

This election cycle wouldn’t be complete without some good ‘ole fashioned manipulation and outright lying. The Republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney, has many problems, one of which is his venture capital firm, Bain Capital. Under his supervision, thousands lost their jobs and had their lives ruined…but not according to Mitt Romney. He claims he left Bain in 1999 (before they effed up American workers’ lives by sending jobs overseas). There’s a big problem with that version of the story; It’s literally not true. Company documents show Romney in charge of Bain years after he supposedly left.

Then there’s his most recent distortion of reality, this time involving a campaign speech by President Obama. Romney claims the President told small business owners that they did not build their companies, that others are completely responsible for building their businesses. Outrageous, right? Wrong…here’s what President Obama actually said (in context):

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that [public infrastructure].  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

Leave it to someone like Mitt Romney to turn a message of the goodness of public investments into one of something horrible. Way to go, Mitt.

 

 

One World Trade Center Update

One World Trade Center is expected to top out within the next few weeks. The steel structure has already made it to the top floor, 104 stories above Lower Manhattan. Concrete flooring is being installed above the 93rd floor and the beautiful glass facade that encapsulates the building has risen above the 80th floor. The tower is also 55 percent leased, which is a promising sign since two of the towers in the complex were stalled due to a lack of tenants. It should be noted that the federal government pushed the leased space to 55 percent – it has agreed to occupy six floors, or 270,000 square feet. The Vantone China Center (cultural/business center – 190,000 square feet) and Conde Nast (publisher – 1.2 million square feet) will also call the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere home.

incredible photo of One World Trade Center at sunset – July 2012

It’s Getting Worse…Even Though It’s Getting Better…

As this election cycle has dragged on, we’ve heard two types of rhetoric (in this case, “rhetoric” means persuasive speech). One side says that things are getting worse and that the President’s “big government” policies are directly responsible for “killing jobs” and prolonging the economic recession. The other side says that things are looking better and that while economic recovery has been slow, it IS happening, thanks in large part to President Obama’s policies.

Facts are funny things. You can scream all you want, trying to persuade an audience to accept your view, but if the facts don’t line up with your rhetoric, you’re just a talking head.

Here are the facts. Last month (February 2012) the United States added 227,000 jobs, making it the 23rd consecutive month of private sector job growth. Most of these new jobs were in the fields of manufacturing, professional and hospitality and restaurants. Unemployment dropped to 8.3 percent in January and has since remain unchanged. Those marginally attached to the labor force (those looking for work) did not increase, nor did the amount of discouraged workers (those who have literally given up looking for a job). As a matter of fact, first-time claims for unemployment decreased to its lowest point in four years.

Oh, and under President Obama, the amount of people who work for the government has actually decreased, despite the claims of “bigger government.” In 2011, there was an average loss of 22,000 government jobs per month.

While the economic recovery has been painfully slow at times, it is pretty clear that things are getting better overall. Whether you attribute the improving economy to President Obama’s policies, the ingenuity of the American worker, or both, the fact remains that things are definitely not getting worse. And yet, despite the public availability of these facts, the President’s critics still believe that the economy is going down.

Listening to a campaign speech by Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum, one would get the impression that the country is about to sink into the Earth, or something. Is this dissonance with reality the way to win an election in modern-day America? Politicians have always been known to twist and distort facts or even make them up on the spot to win an election. That’s nothing new in American politics.

However, I don’t think it’s advantageous to the Republican candidates to claim that things are getting worse because of President Obama when the facts clearly show things are in fact getting better. The American people’s confidence and optimism about our their economic future is improving. We aren’t idiots. We can tell that things are getting better. More of us are finding jobs. Maybe the GOP should focus on continuing and improving upon the policies of President Obama….I know, crazy, right?!

If Romney, Gingrich and Santorum keep up the revisionist charade, they may as well drop out of the race. Treating voters like buffoons who have no access to publicly available facts and statistics is a losing campaign strategy. Of course, ignoring the threats of climate change and the deterioration of civil rights and liberties and the middle class are whole other blog posts… 😉

Rachel Maddow On GOP Straw Polls

Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, had this to say about recent GOP straw polls:

…we can all agree to treat these things as what we all know they are: cooked up, totally non-predictive publicity stunts designed purely to get media attention and to use that media attention as leverage to force the candidates to pander to the most manipulative and cynical activists in the whole political system. Oh, and to raise money for Republican parties and activist groups. We could call them embarrassing, pandering political stunts, or we could call them straw polls. Same difference.

Yep, sounds about right.