Category Archives: news & politics

Ridiculously Busy Week

This past week and weekend have been sheer insanity of awesome and busy; consequently, you get a bullet-point recap (complete with photos and links!):

  • New York, the state I call home, passed that one bit of legislation that you probably haven’t heard anything about…as a result, this year’s Pride celebration was crazy, awesome, and exhausting all at the same time. I need a weekend to recover from my weekend! We found out while we were out to dinner at a Cuban place a few blocks from where we’re staying in Fort Greene, and had it not been for the Pride race I was in the next morning, we would’ve probably been out all night. A 3 1/2 hour march down 5th Avenue, people spilling out of bars and restaurants in the village, frozen margaritas, Governor Cuomo, etc.
  • President Obama demonstrates that he still doesn’t get it even after Cuomo’s accomplishment in a Republican-controlled Senate, which is notorious for its dysfunction. His team uses the word “evolving” to describe his position and I use the word “bullsh*t” to describe it.
  • My LSAT score came back, and while I consider it to be a pretty douche move to post things like LSAT scores or even law school grades online (remember this? Cause I do…), I’ll let you all know it was in the 160s, which was not as high as I was hoping for, but still good enough to get me into the law schools I planned on applying to before I took it. There was a harder than average curve (meaning I had to miss less in order to make into the higher scores), but I’m glad it’s over!
  • I ran the 30th annual Pride race in Central Park a mere 12-14 hours after same sex marriage was legalized, and despite the 2 miles we did before the race because we needed to get in 7 that day and the 93% humidity which felt more like 100%, it felt awesome. And most importantly? Rainbow popsicles after the finish line. This should happen at every race.
  • I’m in the process of moving out of my old apartment this week. One funny story so far is Tuesday night I decided that we just had to have my TV and Xbox, and I’d estimate that the place we’re cat/house-sitting at is about half a mile from my old apartment. Paranoid about rolling a 32 inch flat-screen TV along the not-so-even sidewalks of Brooklyn, I enlisted M to come with me after work to help me take the TV and Xbox over. With no car, and the option of an easier method for transportation out of the question, I carried that TV down 3 flights of stairs, the half a mile from Boerum Hill to Fort Greene, and up 4 flights of stairs…my arms are still sore today.
  • I discovered a laundromat around the corner from me that has CNN on the TV’s while you wait, e.g. perfect laundromat for me. There’s some serious stuff going down in Greece and Kabul right now. Yeesh!
  • Rise Against released their video for the song “Make It Stop” last week (or two weeks ago?), and you should watch it if you haven’t already. Fantastic video that had me holding my breath for about 4 minutes:

Onto a New Week!

Welcome to Wednesday! Except, for me it kinda feels like Tuesday because on Monday I was forced into taking a vacation day, so I didn’t return home from Boston until Monday and I started work on Tuesday, which felt like Monday because it was my first day of the work week. There. Was that confusing enough for you?

Some of you might have stopped reading after the first sentence. For those of you who continued, here’s what’s up this week:

  • First and foremost, on Friday (my Thursday, yet actually Friday…okay okay, I’ll stop) I will be in attendance at Terminal 5 for the BAD RELIGION / RISE AGAINST concert!! EEEE!!! This is an important milestone in my life. After seeing Bad Religion in a full-length concert for the first time last year (and having seen Rise Against several times in the past), I am no longer an ultimate awesomeness in concert newbie. No, I am a seasoned concert goer in this caliber of concert and to say that I am e-x-c-i-t-e-d is an understatement. A serious one. Expect some photos this weekend or next week! Lots of them. I even arranged my Half Marathon training and LSAT studying schedules this week around this concert. What? This is perfectly normal behavior.
  • In 2 1/2 weeks (on May 21st) I’ll be running my first half marathon ever: the Brooklyn Half-Marathon in Prospect Park which ends in Coney Island. My training’s been going fine so far, and I have a 9 miler on the menu for Saturday after the concert Friday night. Expect photos and a post about the Brooklyn Half afterward!
  • Oh right, Sunday night…interestingly enough I was not home in New York when “it” was announced, so I wouldn’t have had the chance to see the festivities at the WTC even if I wanted to; but I wouldn’t have wanted to. I think this piece in the New York Times sums up my feelings about the events of the past few days perfectly.
  • Actually, on that note, I wonder why the news media is focusing on two groups’ reactions almost exclusively to the rest of us who are right in the middle? What do I mean by this? Either you are seeing stories about what high schoolers and college students did in reaction (arguably too young back in 2001 to really grasp the significance of what was happening at that time) or people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, etc., who were far more subdued but at least had lived part of their adult life free of the “post-9/11” world. What about those of us who were high schoolers or college students in 2001? We had both the capacity to understand exactly what was happening to the world that day and after, but also had the entirety of our adult lives transformed. We are the “post-9/11” world, and we really don’t know anything different. I don’t think any of us can really imagine our lives without 9/11 and its immediate and long-term impacts. That said, I’ve found that a lot of people my age have had quite conflicted reactions that vary between those that are jubilant and those that seem to be almost indifferent, or both. It’s interesting to think about, and certainly something that will probably continue to define our generation and how we shape the future of this country.
  • On a lighter note, on Monday I signed up for NYRR’s Queens Half-Marathon in July. Two things about this: a) the course map from last year makes me dizzy…should make for an interesting experience; and b) being in July, this will probably be a nice and toasty race. Ruh roh.
  • Finally, on the “I apparently don’t take enough days off from work” front, I am taking off several days this month in addition to the week-long vacation I planned on taking in June because I am significantly over the maximum number of vacation days I’m allowed to carry over into the next anniversary year of my employment, which is in early June. Thus, I’ll also be taking off the Friday before the Brooklyn Half as well as a few days off at the end of May for the Memorial Day holiday (read: last hurrah for LSAT studying + moving things into storage in Boston). Should be fun. Having Monday off this week was kind of an odd experience…I didn’t quite know what to do with myself after I got home from Boston!

Anyway, that’s all for now! Excuse me while I go take some LSAT practice exams, work, run, and watch the ultimate in concert awesomeness this week!!

Oh, P.S. T-minus 5 days until I am a proud owner of the iPhone 4! EEE!!

Translating so-called “voter anger”

The New York Times published a piece yesterday about various House Republicans’ attempts to explain their party’s literal assault on Medicare (along with other programs that actually benefit some Americans), and how there have been varying degrees of success for even Representative Paul Ryan, who can be characterized as the Tea Party’s darling coming out of the midterm elections.

Being the political/cultural cynic that I can sometimes be in situations like this, I offer the following translation of the concerns espoused by voting Americans over the past 2(ish) years:

Voters: “BOO! Down with socialism!! Down with the communist health care overhaul! Slash government spending! We don’t want it no more!!!”

House Republicans: “sweet! They agree with us! Let’s take over Medicare, dismantle it, and give the money we save there back to the CEO’s of JPMorgan and Bank of America! We’re cutting government spending and providing tax cuts!”

Voters: “wait, what? This means you’re attacking my health care?? I’m not going to have the same access I once did and private coverage will drive me into bankruptcy? Shit! Stop! Stop it right now! Who do you think you are?!?”

House Republicans: *blank stare*

Week in Review

Did you know that this is a holiday weekend? I didn’t realize that until Friday when no one was in the office (didn’t realize we had so many practicing christians…). 😉 My plans for today include a practice LSAT and then some video games afterward. Maybe I’ll pick up a chocolate bunny or two on the way home from the practice test; you know, to be “observant” of the holiday. Without further ado:
  • In what can only be described as temporary insanity, my friend and I ran the NYRR 4 Mile race yesterday morning in the literal downpour with an additional 4M afterward in order to complete our 8M training run for next month’s Brooklyn half marathon. As of late last night, my stuff was still not dry. Naturally, the sun was out and the weather warm less than 12 hours later and it is currently partly cloudy and 65 degrees.
  • Did you know that your iPhone tracks data about your location? Did you also know that all cell phones do so given the fact that they are the equivalent of tiny GPS trackers on your person that constantly send out a signal to the cell phone towers immediately in your vicinity (in plain English, thanks to the cell phone signal that all phones send out in order to access the cell network you require in order to make phone calls and send text messages, the iPhone “revelation” is really not a revelation and all and also not exclusive to the iPhone). I’m still getting one May 9th when I’m eligible for my Verizon upgrade. 😉
  • At work we sometimes try to address really big, significant cases whenever we can and this week we worked on putting up this petition to address the horrific case in Cleveland, TX, where an 11 year old girl was gang-raped by 19 boys and men and then subsequently blamed for the attack by community members and the media. Somewhere in the outrage over that blame, a crucial message was lost that we felt like she needed to hear, so once we’ve finished collecting the signatures, we have already developed a method of delivering the letter and signatures directly to her. Sign if you’d like to a part of it.
  • R.I.P. Grete Waitz. Amazing New York legend. I’ll be signing up for the Grete’s Great Gallop this October (half marathon length) for sure. Given its proximity to the marathon, it’ll most likely be part of a longer training run that day, but if any year is the year to do this race, it’s this one.

Save AmeriCorps

As you may or may not know, a recent proposal by the GOP would seek to completely eliminate the AmeriCorps national service program as we know it. I spent July 2006 – July 2007 serving in the AmeriCorps VISTA program, and would not trade that experience for anything else in the world. For those of you who know me personally, you’ve probably heard me say that I would recommend AmeriCorps to all high school and college graduates because I feel that it is that important and worthwhile.

In response to this proposal, the vast network of AmeriCorps alumni (and it is vast, believe me) has mobilized in an effort to stop this from being approved. The following is the letter I wrote directly to my Representative asking her to vote “NO” on the proposal to eliminate AmeriCorps:

I am writing to ask that you vote “NO” on the proposal to eliminate the AmeriCorps national service program. It seems that not a day goes by when I do not hear about budget deficits, spending cuts, voter anger, and supposed compromise in Washington. Like most New Yorkers, I do my best to work, play, and try to enjoy life as much as I can despite the ever-increasing concerns about our political process. It is very difficult for a civically engaged New Yorker like myself to sit back and watch various proposals on how to solve these issues get thrown around in Washington without commenting on them. Nevertheless, I understand the concerns about both deficit spending and the federal budget, and I understand that sacrifices must be made.

However, when I was first notified of the proposal to completely eliminate the AmeriCorps program, which is often referred to as a “domestic Peace Corps,” I initially could not believe that it was true. As one of *many* in the network of AmeriCorps alumni across the nation, I quickly learned of the seriousness and gravity of the threat to not only the future of national service, but also to the many young Americans like myself who were given an opportunity to spend one or two years giving back to the community and developing essential life and work skills along the way. I, personally, have referenced these experiences and skills during the interview for every professional job I’ve held to date, and even in my successful bid for admission into a competitive graduate program for criminal justice at the CUNY – John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I graduated with my Master’s in 2009, and I am still working in that field today serving New Yorkers who are victims of crime.

AmeriCorps is a program that successfully engages thousands of Americans each year in serving often low-income and/or at-risk communities all over the country. At the same time, AmeriCorps members are “paid” at the same rate as the state’s poverty income level, and then given a very modest education award after they successfully complete their service. During my service term, I was given the opportunity to work on a project that helped to establish a coordinated community response team to domestic violence cases in Helena, MT. The idea was to improve the systemic response to domestic violence survivors in order to make the system work for them rather than the other way around. In situations that are often very dangerous, confusing, and overwhelming, it is essential that survivors of domestic violence are given as many options as possible to keep themselves safe, and that is what I worked toward during my time in AmeriCorps. It is no coincidence that AmeriCorps alumni around the country have mobilized in an effort to defeat this proposal. Logically speaking, it does not have a direct effect on us if the program is eliminated because we have already completed our service terms and have (often) moved onto our professional lives. Why then are so many of us speaking out? Having directly experienced the benefits of this program, we sincerely believe in it, and given the modest monetary investment required of AmeriCorps compared to the incredible yield that it affords in both the communities served by it and the Americans that are forever changed by it, I cannot fathom how a program could possibly be at risk not only for a cut in its budget, but for complete elimination. How is this possible? I can only hope that our congressional leaders vote “NO” on this proposal, and it is my sincere hope, as constituent of yours, that you do the same. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

The Rush to Assume

I’ve opted for the term “assumption” instead of “judgement” because the latter implies an evidentiary standard that has been non-existent in the accusations, hypotheses, and vitriol that have been hurled around by political pundits and everyday citizens alike in the aftermath of the attempted murder of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the successful murders Christina Green (9), Dorothy Morris (76), Judge John Roll (63), Phyllis Schneck (79), Dorwan Stoddard (76), and Gabriel Zimmerman (30). Cross hairs on a map, psychotic breaks from reality, political hate speech, a troubled life, lax gun control, mental illnesses, etc. All have been claims made as to “why” Jared Loughner did what he did, and not a shred of evidence has been provided (yet) to substantiate any of them. During his initial appearance, he did not provide the court any details about his motives or intent, which means any hypothesizing as to what they were is mere conjecture. Unlike most instances; however, doing so in this case only threatens to further undermine what is now an even more fragile political environment in the USA.

It’s already begun. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann has been flying off the handle trying to pin this on Sarah Palin and her Tea Party movement, and then at the same time saying that political discourse needs to evolve into something less accusatory. Rush Limbaugh accused the Democratic Party of using the tragedy for political gain yesterday on his talk show. This prompted Tuscan Sheriff Clarence Dupnik to blast Limbaugh, which prompts the question why is a local sheriff engaging in a war of words with a conservative radio talk show host?

So tell me, with all of the calls for less vitriol in modern American political discourse, where is it? How long did we wait for the dust to settle before the finger-pointing started?

I, of course, am not innocent. When I first heard about the shooting via Twitter, it was coupled with information about Sarah Palin’s “hit list” of Democratic candidates, and I flipped. I was furious and I couldn’t think straight. The knee-jerk reaction would have been to hurriedly publish a condemnation of the parties that I “knew” were responsible to this website, and as evidence began to accumulate that it might not be that simple, continue to defend my assertions as if I had first-hand access to the ongoing criminal investigation. But that would’ve been silly because a) the criminal investigation had not even started yet, and b) I clearly do not have that kind of access, so any argument I made would have looked foolish.

Thankfully, for me anyway, I didn’t do that. In fact, this nagging debater instinct (it’s still there even after all these years!) that I have stopped me from doing so because I knew anything that I said would be inspired by emotional outrage and not a reasonable examination of the evidence at hand. As time wore on I knew that I eventually would want to say something about this tragedy on here, but I didn’t know what. I finally figured out yesterday that instead of commenting on the so-called merits of the “left vs. right” positions, I wanted to call out that very process of arranging this into a “left vs. right” fight in the first place. Six people were murdered. A political official was nearly killed. Fourteen more were injured. People lost their lives and those who didn’t will be forever affected by it. Their families and friends will be forever affected by it. This is not a political issue; it’s a human issue, but it’s (increasingly) being treated as the former and I find that to be the most disheartening fact of all.

It’s been roughly 72 hours since the shooting took place, and all we know for certain (at least what’s been published by the news media) is that Loughner attended a similar event held by Giffords in 2007 (prior to Palin breaking out on the political scene and certainly prior to the inception of the Tea Party), he received a standard thank you letter from the Giffords’ staff after his attendance in 2007 and he kept that letter right up to the day he attempted to kill her, and that there is a good cause to believe that he has some sort of mental illness or anti-social personality disorder based off of his alleged encounters with the people around him, his schools and professors, and even the US military when he tried to enlist. He also had a habit of posting random anti-government currency rants and condemnations of American literacy rates online, and seemed to have an eclectic reading list.

Where in those facts do you find conclusive evidence for any of the hypotheses that have been hurled around for the past 72 hours? It literally seemed to start before Representative Giffords even got out of her emergency surgery! And it only seems to be getting worse as times goes on. As I remember telling someone yesterday while talking about this: “no one knows yet. This could very well be the product of a psychotic break of a lone individual as much as it could have been motivated by cross hairs on a map.” Today I’d add “hell, it could be both!”

Look, I get it. I understand the emotional element in all of this; I was in the same state on Saturday afternoon. The very core of our political process was violated in the most extreme way imaginable, which was both scary and infuriating for all Americans because that is part of what makes us who we are. However, this alone doesn’t make the rush to assume anything and everything, and worse, “know” for a “fact” that you are right and everyone else is wrong any less damaging. To date, there is no conclusive evidence to support your “facts” yet, so stop. Just stop. There is nothing productive in rushing to assume you know what happened when you don’t, and all of this nonsense has overwhelmed one very simple fact that we should all be focused on: a significant human tragedy has occurred and the very essence of who we are as Americans was violated. Don’t obscure that by trying to explain something that you can’t possibly understand because you don’t have all of the facts yet.

If you don’t like it, just make it up!

I’ll preface this by saying that the budget deficit literally terrifies me. If the ultimate conclusion of running such a deficit is realized, the “crash” of 2008 will seem like mere child’s play compared to what we’ll be facing then, and I’m not entirely opposed to leaving and living somewhere else if that happens (and I’ve been thinking when that happens more and more). To indulge in euphemisms for a bit (since that is all politics seem to be these days…), both the party of “yes we can” and the “party of no” seemingly couldn’t care less, and that’s really been making me pull my hair out lately.

So imagine how close I came to throwing my coffee mug out the window this morning (but I didn’t, it’s good coffee after all) when I read these two statements made by our brand new Speaker of the House John Boehner:

C.B.O. [Congressional Budget Office] is entitled to their opinion (said in reference to his decision to shrug off the $230 billion price tag that C.B.O. put on the GOP’s plan to repeal the health care legislation enacted last year).

And:

I do not believe that repealing the job-killing health care legislation will increase the deficit.

Forget the politics and ethical dilemmas of uninsured people vs. insured people, capitalism vs. socialism, etc. If it saves money that’s what our budget desperately needs! Even putting aside the whole “job-killing” thing that’s been lobbed around but hasn’t actually been substantiated, what I’m really wondering is this: how can one say they are going to take an action that will cost $230 billion, not devise any way to pay for that action, and then claim they are not going to add to the mounting deficit. Anyone?

*crickets*

No one?

One thing that I’ll give to the Speaker is this: he’s upfront about the fact that he will just pick and choose what evidence he accepts and what evidence he does not. C.B.O. is a nonpartisan Congressional agency charged with providing Congress the price estimates and/or savings it needs to determine whether proposed legislation is cost-effective or not. You didn’t see the GOP attacking it and deeming it irrelevant during any of the tax cut bills. Never mind the fact that the C.B.O. estimates costs and savings for every piece of legislation that is debated and passed through Congress and has done so since its inception…in this case, according to Mr. Boehner, the C.B.O.’s report is irrelevant. He doesn’t need to pay attention to it because he’s the Speaker! He can do what he wants! In the meantime, our budget deficit will continue to swell with neither Party seeming to care enough to try and stop it, and I will be looking at relocation costs to Tuscany, Italy, or Sydney, Australia. I certainly won’t be investing in stocks or 401K’s anytime soon (if ever with the way things are going). :-/