Twenty Thirteen

Let this sink in: We’re nearly 14 years into the 21st century. 2004 will soon be TEN years in the past. Hell, 2024 is *only* ten years away. Seriously, where has the time gone?

Twenty-thirteen flew by. It seems like yesterday House Republicans were throwing a bitch-fit about the Affordable Care Act and shutting down the government. It’s hard to believe that Congress’ most unproductive year – complete with sequestration and record-breaking obstructionism – is about to end. And how could anyone forget Miley’s twerking and her gang of merry, drugged-out teddy bears (no, really, how can we forget? I’m willing to pay)?

This year was a roller coaster and all of us were forced to ride it. However, it wasn’t all stupid political games and tawdry pop culture moments. This year also saw the continued, exponential rise of clean energy and transportation across the globe, a sign that governments and their citizens are beginning to take the threat of climate change seriously. Pope Francis, leader of the almost-always-conservative Roman Catholic Church, spoke out against runaway capitalism and inequality in the world, inspiring billions of Catholics and n0n-Catholics alike (myself included) and enraging perpetually-enraged wingnuts like Rush Limbaugh.

Gay rights surged…and by “surged” I mean “there’s no stopping it now.” The number of countries where same-sex couples are treated as equal citizens increased to 15. I expect that number to increase to at least 18 by this time next year; Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States have what can be thought of as checker-board equality – legal in some jurisdictions but not in others. After seeing how fast equality and acceptance of sexual diversity have increased in the Western world, it is inevitable that they will become non-issues. In the U.S., the number of states with marriage equality doubled, from nine in January to 18 as of December 31st.

The discriminatory and culturally irrelevant Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) essentially died in June after the Supreme Court struck down its key provision – that the federal government could not and would not recognize same-sex marriages as legally equal to heterosexual marriages. Proposition 8, originally struck down in 2010 and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, was finally pulled off life support and allowed to die. Equality and justice for all are alive and well in its place.

My personal life also saw some incredible changes. Not only did I graduate with a B.A. in Communication from California State University, Fresno, but I also got an internship in Washington, D.C. with The American Prospect. In one week, I will move across the country and begin the next chapter of my life, initially as an editorial intern for an excellent publication. I still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming, that I am really about to take a big step toward my dream life.

I met some pretty incredible people (you know who you are) and strengthened relationships with others (you also know who you are). One of my main motivations in life is to create and cultivate intimacy. It drives me, both to sanity and insanity. Aside from my wellbeing and career aspirations, I live for the incredible people in my life and the one-of-a-kind connections we have. As funny as it may sound coming from a 24-year-old, the older I get, the more I realize how vitally important these relationships are and how petty and stupid all the “drama” is. When I’m old and grey (and still looking fabulous), I want to look back and have little regret. I want to be able cry tears of happiness and joy after thinking about the good life I led.

In all seriousness, I expect to live to see and experience January 1, 2100. As a sci-fi-loving geek and someone living in an age of incredible medical/genetic breakthroughs, living to be 111 and even beyond really isn’t that far-fetched. However, even such a long human life doesn’t register on the timeline of the universe (more of a mindf*** – there may be multiple universes).

As a member of an advanced primate species, living on a planet that orbits the habitable zone of an average star in an average galaxy, my existence is pretty insignificant. However, I have the privilege of being self-aware and social. I’m just “star stuff,” as Carl Sagan famously said. The elements that make up my body were made in the hearts of ancient stars. This star stuff is able to reflect and ponder his own existence and place in the universe. That is absolutely incredible. I fully recognize that the meaning I draw from my minor existence comes, in large part, from the deep-rooted, interpersonal connections I have been fortunate enough to forge.

I’ve got one chance – ONE chance – to shine bright and enjoy my time in the sun. Life is full of meaning and I love interacting with it on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter what I achieve or how successful I become – I can’t make it without other people. So, bring on 2014. I’m ready to keep loving and caring, living (to the best of my ability) and experiencing every part of this life that I can.

“Live! That’s the message. Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

– Rosalind Russell as “Mame Dennis” in the 1958 film Auntie Mame

Micah's Two Cents

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.”

A Look Back At 2011

I realize there is still a month of 2011 left and that it seems premature to make a post about the major events of the past year. But, so much has happened. As technology continued to advance and amaze, this year saw the birth of democratic revolution all over the Arab world, the United States government nearly shut down…twice, a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, the FBI’s Most Wanted person and al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was finally defeated, and the world population officially reached seven billion people. Of course, as they say, that’s “just to name a few” of the many events that defined 2011.

ARAB SPRING

Democratic revolution has saturated the Middle East. A new generation of young people tired of the old regimes of their home countries have taken to the streets to demand progressive change. Beginning in late 2010, when Tunisian protestors and revolutionaries called for President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to resign, protests began to rattle the Arab world. The Tunisian protesters were successful and in January, their president stepped down. Since then, both Egypt’s and Libya’s former governments have been dissolved thanks to the exit of dictators like Hosni Mubarak and NATO support for Libyan rebels. In late 2011, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was captured and killed by rebel forces. Protests and uprisings are taking place in several other Arab countries and these revolutions show no sign of stopping. 2012 may very well be the beginning of a more progressive Mid East.

Egyptian Protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN

After the “Tea Party Tidal Wave” overtook the House of Representatives, America was introduced to a whole new meaning of “partisanship.” The far-right class of congresspersons that went to the Capitol in January set an agenda that was literally unwavering. Twice in one year, the federal government was on the verge of complete shutdown because Republicans didn’t like that Planned Parenthood received funding and also because they refused to raise the debt ceiling. Despite the fact that no federal monies go toward abortion, the GOP claimed that the US taxpayer was subsiding abortion (note: Planned Parenthood provides healthcare services, excluding abortion, to millions of women who otherwise would not be able to afford them). Thanks to the next debacle, in which Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless the Bush Tax Cuts were maintained, the nation’s credit rating was downgraded. So much for “fiscal responsibility.”

"The Hill"

DISASTER IN JAPAN (TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE & TSUNAMI)

Eastern Japan was ravaged by a 9.0 magnitude off-shore earthquake, the fifth largest ever recorded, on March 11. Almost 16,000 people were killed, 6,000 injured and 4,000 declared missing. Millions of Japanese were effected by loss of power and the following tsunami that swallowed whole sections of Japan and washed towns out to sea. Nearly 10 percent of Japan is contaminated with nuclear radiation, following meltdowns at nuclear power plants along the Japanese coast that were damaged by the disaster. Those devastated by the disaster were sent aid from all over the world and have been busy rebuilding their lives. However, such massive disasters remind us how fragile humanity is. Since the Tōhoku quake and tsunami, many nations have reevaluated their reliance on nuclear power; Germany will phase out its nuclear power over the next 11 years.

Tōhoku Disaster Aftermath

OSAMA BIN LADEN FINALLY KILLED

Osama Bin Laden, orchestrator of the 9/11 attacks and the FBI’s most-wanted person, eluded the United States and her allies for well over a decade. As the leader of al Qaeda, he ordered and led terrorist attacks against the United States and many other nations. In 2001, President Bush announced that the US would do everything in its power to find Bin Laden. Two wars, over a trillion dollars and another President later, Bin Laden was finally taken down by the United States military. President Obama announced the death on May 1 to a stunned – and relieved – world. al Qaeda has been on the decline in recent years. With Bin Laden’s death, the death of the man who was supposed to take Bin Laden’s place as the group’s leader, and the wave of democratic revolution that has swept the Middle East in the last year, al Qaeda’s power and influence is continuing to dwindle.

Osama Bin Laden

EARTH’S POPULATION REACHES SEVEN BILLION

Seven billion people now inhabit the planet, according to the UN. The baby,  Danica Camacho, was born at  Manila’s Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in the Philippines. Earth’s population is expected to level out to around 9 billion people within the 21st century as more nations become industrialized and embrace more modern ways of life. It is possible that the population will go up several billion more by the beginning of the 22nd century. However, as more nations develop into industrialized economies and ways of life, birth rates are expected to level out and decrease, as has happened to nations that developed. It’s a phenomenon known as demographic transition. That’s good news for a planet facing accelerated climate change and a species facing challenges on how to feed and provide sustenance for several billion people.

photo of Central Park in New York, one of the largest urban centers on Earth

C’mon

Other nations have bullet trains and excellent infrastructure AND are rapidly investing in green technology. The US has a damn fight on its hands when it comes to allotting more funding for infrastructure and investing more in green technology. The world is passing us by in the fast lane while we bicker and fight in a crumbling slow lane about not ever ever ever raising taxes for anything.

What happened? We used to lead the globe in technological investment and an with an excellent infrastructure that was the envy of world.

Thank you, Grover Norquist (and others like you).

Thanks to those like you, America lost a decade. Hopefully the country will wake up and thrive in this decade.

 

Happy 235th Birthday, America!

In honor of our nation’s 235th Birthday, I have posted The Declaration of Independence, The United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights and all other Amendments to the Constitution as pages on my blog. They are found under the menu labeled “Founding The United States Of America.”

So, on this Fourth of July, take some time to read the founding documents and bedrock of the United States of America. Enjoy!

https://micahstwocents.wordpress.com/the-declaration-of-independence/

https://micahstwocents.wordpress.com/the-united-states-constitution/

https://micahstwocents.wordpress.com/the-bill-of-rights-all-other-amendments/

 

 

The Declaration of Independence

 

the first page of the United States Constitution

 

The United States Bill of Rights

 

Crazy Election Theatre: Enter Michele Bachmann From Far-Right…

As the 2012 Presidential Election draws near, political craziness has been exponentially increasing. Mitt Romney’s short-lived campaign has essentially been decimated by fellow Republicans. Newt Gingrich has been abandoned by his own staff. Small government, libertarian conservatives are sparring with big government, social conservatives over issues like same-sex marriage and what the tax rate should be. So far, the Republican side has Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum…..and Michele “Crazy Eyes” Bachmann.

Newt Gingrich’s Worst Enemy: Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich never had a chance. Why? His mouth. Even the senior staff of his presidential campaign has had enough.

Gingrich has flipped and flopped more than an inflatable air man on the sales lot of a used car dealership.

Examples:

 

Before the President sent troops to Libya, Gingrich said the US should intervene. Once the President DID intervene, Newt had a change of heart.

 

A few weeks ago, Gingrich went on NBC to decry Paul Ryan’s “Kill Medicare” plan. Within two days, he made a complete reversal on his position, praising the plan and calling it “bold”…and even claimed that those who use the clip of him rebuking Ryan’s plan are liars. What?!

 

 

Politics Before National Security

Senator Jon Kyl should be ashamed of himself.

Back in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, negotiated a nuclear nonproliferation treaty known as “Trust But Verify.” This treaty called for both nations to reduce the amount of nuclear warheads they had. It also allowed both superpowers to “verify” that warheads were, in fact, being reduced through inspections. Not only did this help avoid a nuclear holocaust but it also drastically reduced the amount of nuclear weapons in the world.

Unfortunately, inspections are no longer taking place (the treaty expired on December 5, 2009). Now, the United States has no way of knowing whether or not Russia is providing terrorists with nuclear arms.

Last year, before the treaty expired, Republicans and Democrats alike were very concerned. Senator Kyl had this to say last November (2009)

The U.S. will lose a significant source of information that has allowed it to have confidence in its ability to understand Russian strategic nuclear forces.

Another treaty was made and nearly signed earlier this year…until it was slapped down in the Senate by Republicans. Really.

This is one of the reasons why partisans and wing-nuts don’t belong in Washington. They get obsessed with doing the opposite of whatever their perceived mortal enemy does so they can be re-elected. They are willing to put our nation’s security on the line for their jobs.

If President Obama likes PB&J sandwiches and The Beatles, Senator Kyl and those like him cannot stand PB&J and The Beatles. If the President kisses a baby, they refuse to kiss babies. If the President is close to reviving a nuclear nonproliferation treaty for the sake of global and national security, Senator Kyl and his friends team up to jeopardize it. Disgraceful.

 

The Proposition Must Be Abolished

The proposition (aka “ballot initiative”) is a horrible way to make law. California has been afflicted with it since the early 20th century, when it was introduced with the Progressive Movement. Since then, the state has become a fractured, unworkable, special-interest-driven disaster. If enough signatures are gathered – and millions of dollars raised to spread propaganda – a proposition is placed on the ballot where it is approved or rejected by voters.

Propositions strike at the heart of what a republic is: smart government. After all, California is modeled after the federal system: It has three branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial – and a bicameral legislature, made up of the lower-house Assembly and the upper-house Senate. Under this system, the idea is balance of power. The people elect lawmakers to the legislature who in turn make laws. Those laws are then approved, rejected (vetoed), or enforced by the Executive and checked by the Judiciary to determine if the laws are constitutional. Lawmakers are [supposed to be] intelligent and educated individuals who reason with each other and make compromises; through this, we get wise government. If we the people are unhappy with their performance, we can either elect someone else during the next election or recall (impeach on the national level) them. The proposition completely bypasses this checks-and-balances system.

There have been many terrible propositions in California over the century. Some of the worst are Propositions 8, 13 and 140.

Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, banned same-sex marriage. Earlier that year, the California Supreme Court struck down the previous ban on same-sex marriage – Proposition 22 (2000) – and said that homosexual couples had the legal right to wed. Opponents of the decision claimed that the court’s decision would lead to societal breakdown and with nearly $40 million and backing from the Mormon Church and conservative groups, Prop 8 was added to the constitution. This is a classic example of what Thomas Jefferson called “Tyranny of the majority,” where the majority (voters) took away the rights of a minority (same-sex couples). Whether one approves of same-sex relationships or not is not the point; a minority had its rights denied simply because the majority said so.

Proposition 13, passed by voters in 1978, put a limit on the amount of property taxes levied on property owners. At first glance, it sounds like an excellent idea; limit the government’s ability to increase taxes on property. However, after Prop 13, local governments – whose main source of revenue had been property taxes – had to find other ways to generate revenue once money was severely reduced. Thanks to Prop 13, the state is now responsible for supporting local budgets and schools while local governments are left scavenging for funding from sales taxes and fees. Voters were angry at the government for raising taxes and rather than research where their communities get funding, they passed a proposition that essentially crippled them.

Proposition 140, passed by voters in 1990, put term limits on politicians into place. It sounds good in theory: limit assemblypersons to three two-year terms and senators to two four-year terms. Arguments for Prop 140 included claims that it would eliminate professional politicians, make the legislature more diverse and break special interest networks. Now, we have bitter, partisan lawmakers who don’t work together to make law in a reasoned manner. These days, legislators are too busy trying to bring their own agenda to Sacramento or running their campaigns for their next term or next position. Prior to 1990, it took a couple terms for an assemblyperson or senator to truly understand and grasp their office and its responsibilities. Now, by the time they know what they’re actually doing, they are term-limited out of office. California is complex and experience and reason are desperately needed.

There are many more examples because the proposition itself is a flawed way to make laws. Instead of relying on intelligent lawmakers to design policy, anyone who’s registered to vote can simply make their own laws if they don’t agree with what the government is doing. With this, minority rights are threatened, local governments are crippled and politicians are more partisan than ever. This is why direct democracy is a horrible idea. The proposition must be abolished.

 

Jon Stewart Nailed It…

Comedian Jon Stewart is spot-on. This past weekend, at his Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington D.C., he criticized the media for exaggerating and polarizing Americans’ opinions. His message: We’re different and yet we still work together despite the reports.

“We live in hard times, not end times,” Stewart said. “We can have animus and not be enemies.”

Of course, partisans on both sides claimed he was an ill-informed commentator. Yes, people who have divided and polarized the country criticized a man for trying to unify the country into one people. Who’s the comedian again?

Most Americans know that our problems will not be solved overnight and that real change comes through working together.

“There will always be darkness and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land,” to which Stewart comically added, “Sometimes, it’s New Jersey.”

Despite the media’s portrayal of racists, homophobes, Marxists, and Stalinists, we work together “every damn day” and make this country work.

In fact, when we call each other names, like “bigot” and “Marxist,” we insult people we disagree with and completely miss true dialogue.

“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing,” said Stewart.

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was designed to literally restore sanity to political dialogue, not demonize or insult anyone of any particular ideology (unless, of course, your ideology thrives on division and strife).

Stewart said it perfectly:

We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is — on the brink of catastrophe — torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done. But the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here [in Washington] or on cable TV.”