Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Komen vs Planned Parenthood

February 3, 2012

There’s been a lot of noise this week about Komen’s announcement that they changed their rules. Their new rules included that they will no longer provide grants to any organization that is under investigation. Once they applied this rule, however, only one organization was affected – Planned Parenthood.

Immediately upon hearing this announcement, many people took great offense and started sending out tweets and posting blogs protesting Planned Parenthood’s exclusion. Also, some corporations, politicians, and individuals began donating directly to Planned Parenthood. Within a couple of days, Planned Parenthood donation pace was too great for them to provide a solid number of money received – and instead estimated about $400,000.00 raised in 48 hours that were directly caused by Komen’s decision.

Today, Komen decided that the protesters were correct and they should, in fact, be funding grants to Planned Parenthood.

For me this exposed that Komen doesn’t do direct research. I thought the money that I and others donated to them went directly towards cancer research. After all, their catch-phrase is “race for the cure”!
I don’t know how many people knew that Komen provides money to cancer screenings and questionable breast exams. I didn’t. Would I have donated to them with that knowledge? Probably not. I thought my money was going exclusively towards cancer research. After spending more time on their site, I see they spend a lot of money on things that are unrelated to cancer research.

People were upset because as soon as they heard that it involved Planned Parenthood, they automatically thought of abortion. Of course, anyone whose ever called Planned Parenthood for a non-pregnancy issue, knows that they do far more than just abort fetuses (which is a valuable thing on its own). Because of the natural association between Planned Parenthood and abortions, people decided that Komen was making an anti-abortion statement.

This reasoning ignored that Komen was initially funding PP and that Komen had a legitimate reason to cut funding. After all, if you are in the grant business, you should be responsible that the grants are made to deserving, transparent, and ethical organizations.

The Congressional investigation, launched by Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), into whether PP had illegally misused federal monies is, on its face, a legitimate reason for a responsible organization to be cautious.

Stearns, “I am leading a formal investigation into taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, which receives over $1 million a day in taxpayer money. Repeated cases of Planned Parenthood ignoring state and local reporting requirements, many involving minors, and allegations of financial abuse led to this investigation ā€“ the first ever oversight conducted on this group. We are still working with Planned Parenthood on getting the records and documents for the investigation, and Iā€™m interested in holding a hearing depending on what the investigation discovers.ā€

However, today’s press release is the smart political decision even if it’s not necessarily the best policy decision.

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Primary Field

January 25, 2012

This is a break-down as of January 25, 2012.

Obama
Weaknesses:

  • Economy is still weak.
  • Perception that he isn’t doing anything/ineffective.
  • Perception that he doesn’t care about his job performance.
  • Perception that he allows political games to prevent him from doing what’s right for the country.
  • Perception that he’s weak on foreign threats.
  • He pushed through a large, expensive insurance reformation while the country was dealing with economic instability.
  • Perception that his political views aren’t consistent.

Strengths:

  • He pushed through a major insurance reformation even while the country was dealing with economic instability!
  • He’s the incumbent.
  • He appears presidential.
  • His base is large and it is virtually impossible to lose their support.

Romney
Weaknesses:

  • Perception that he made his money solely by firing people.
  • Perception that (some of) his policies are too left-wing.
  • Unanswered questions about his financial dealing (offshore accounts).
  • Perception that his political views aren’t consistent.

Strengths:

  • He has large name-recognition.
  • As a former republican governor from Massachusetts, he can work with Democrats.
  • He has been through the primary season before, so he should be equipped to succeed.

Gingrich
Weaknesses:

  • He has aligned himself with Sarah Palin.
  • Perception that he’s a weasel.
  • Perception that he’s two-faced.
  • Perception that he’s immoral.
  • Perception that he took money from places that he advocated and advocates shutting down.
  • Perception that he’s unstable.
  • Perception that he cares more about himself than the Republican party or the country.
  • Perception that his political views aren’t consistent.

Strengths:

  • He has aligned himself with Sarah Palin.
  • He is a good orator.
  • He rabble-rouses effectively.
  • He currently espouses Conservative principles that resonate with his base.

Paul
Weaknesses:

  • Perception that he’s kooky.
  • Perception that he’s a racist.
  • Perception that he’s antisemitic.
  • Perception that he’s weak on foreign policy.
  • Perception that he has no chance to win the nomination.
  • Perception that he’s old.
  • His base tends not to vote in elections.

Strengths:

  • He resonates well with young, idealistic, and conspiratorial people.
  • He appeals to some libertarians.
  • Perception that his political views are consistent.

Santorum
Weaknesses:

  • Little name recognition.

Strengths:

  • His ideology would resonate with the Conservative base, if they knew about him.
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Dems: We want our Weiner out

June 14, 2011

The bandwagon of politicians calling for Anthony Weiner’s resignation is filling up. Today’s NY Daily News quotes President Barack Obama as saying “If it was me, I would resign”.

Anthony and I don’t agree politically. I don’t particularly like him.

However, so far, none of his disclosed extra-curricular activities warrant him resigning his job. Barring any new revelations, he hasn’t committed any crimes.

I think non-indicted elected officials have an obligation to stay in office until their term completes. (It was wrong for Sarah Palin to leave her governorship and it was wrong for Trent Lott to resign his senatorial seat. However, people who commit crimes, like Alan Hevasi and Charlie Rangel should have resigned immediately.)

If there was a chance that his electorate would choose a better politician, maybe I’d be tempted, but we all know they are just going to elect another Schumer clone. So, what’s the point? All it will do is cost us money to run a special election.

Therefore, I implore Anthony Weiner to think of his obligation to New York City and not resign.

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Release the photos

May 5, 2011

President Barack Hussein Obama announced late Sunday night that U.S. Navy Seals (USNS) killed Osama bin Laden (ObL).
The White House (WH) announced that there was video and photos of ObL.
WH officials promised on Tuesday that they will release some of the pictures of a dead ObL shortly.
President Obama announced on Wednesday that he will prevent the release of any photos or videos.
There are reasons not to release the photos.
1. Barack said “We don’t need to spike the football. That’s not who we are. We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.” 1
2. Releasing photos and videos might incite a national security risk. 1

There are reasons to release the photos.
1. If the USNSs killed ObL, and there’s no evidence, yet, that they didn’t, they acted as representatives of the entire U.S. population. All Americans should have the option of seeing or not seeing what their representatives did in their name.
2. The many attacks on U.S. weren’t just on people serving in Yemen or Kabul; living in New York or Pennsylvania or Washington, DC; or flying on airplanes. The many attacks were directed against each and every American, regardless of race, creed, or political affiliation. As such, each of us deserves to see our self-declared enemy in the least regal pose possible.
3. (A famous commentary, Rashi, explains in the book of Exodus (14:30) that “god” made the Reed Sea deposit the dead Egyptian pursuers onto the shore so surviving Jews could see that their tormentors were really dead and didn’t just escape to a different shore.) Regardless of whether the photos and videos can be faked, and I’m sure they can be, it’s important for us, the survivors of ObL’s attacks, to see that he is, in fact, dead.
4. Transparency. Senator Obama promised that, if elected, his administration would be transparent.
Senator Obama should have released his birth certificate as soon as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton raised it as an issue in 2008. President Obama should have released his long form birth certificate when, after he won the election, people questioned the veracity of his certificate of live birth.
The President serves the people. He should be transparent.

I disagree that releasing the photo is only a trophy or a celebratory act. If releasing the photos will really incite violence, which I doubt*, than allow every adult American the option to view it in a secure location, but do not release it to the media or to non-Americans.

*Why would releasing a photo incite violence? Would it incite violence because it would “show” a bloody ObL or “prove” that ObL died? I imagine that most al-Queda members won’t believe the photo. They wouldn’t be incited by a fake photo. There is already a doctored photo of a bloodied and dead ObL on the internet, it hasn’t incited violence.

1 – Daily News, Thursday May 5, 2011, page 4

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Not all it’s quacked up to be

March 15, 2011

Friday. Japan hit by a major earthquake and a horrific tsunami. Unthinkable amount of people are killed and multiple thousands of people are still missing.

Saturday. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried makes some jokes about Japan using his private twitter.com account.

Sunday. Aflac, an insurance company that employed Gottfried to voice their mascot duck, fires Gottfried for being insensitive.

“Gilbert’s recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac,” Michael Zunda, the company’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a statement.

“Aflac Japan — and, by extension, Japan itself — is part of the Aflac family, and there is no place for anything but compassion and concern during these difficult times.” He added that the company was giving the International Red Cross 100 million yen (U.S. $1.2 million) to aid in disaster relief.

I think Alfac made a mistake. Either by hiring a comedian in the first place or by acting like his tweets are a big deal.
First, the few tweets I saw from him were funny. Distasteful, certainly. But, also, very funny.
Second, what do you expect from a comedian? This is what they do.
Third, no one would suspect that his tweets reflect Aflac’s thoughts or feelings. In fact, no one thinks that Gottfried doesn’t feel badly about the situation in Japan. Jokes and personal feelings often diverge.

I think the whole thing is overblown.

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Public School Funding

February 16, 2011

In the NY Daily News for Wednesday Feb 16, 2011 on page 7 there’s a story about public school funding.

The article states that NYC public schools received $649 less per student than NYC charter schools. NYC public schools received $16,011 per student while NYC charter schools received $16,660 per student.

16,000-plus dollars a year per student is too much money. The city should cut spending per student by half. $8,000 per year per student is still high, but is much more reasonable.

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Federal Politician Tax

February 2, 2011

There’s been a lot of talk over the past 24 months about the economy and the ability for the credit rating of federal, state, and local governments to stay strong.
Usually these conversations focus on cutting spending and increasing governmental funds.
The governments are always looking for ways to increase revenue. They increase license fees, taxes, penalties for simple mistakes, penalties for not complying with their ideas of health, etc.

When politicians announce their new tax ideas (let’s be honest and call it what it is, a tax), they usually try to paint the victims as greedy/wrong and they extol the virtues of having the extra funds.

In general I don’t favor increasing taxes. I think the average person struggles to get by day-to-day and should have fewer taxes.

However, I do acknowledge that there are governmental services that need funding. (I can argue that there is too much spending, but politicians would never cut spending intelligently.)

So, how do you keep spending at its current levels without increasing taxes on the citizenry or running up a deficit?

The common answer to this question is to isolate a small segment of the population (so they can’t defend themselves), demonize them, and apply a levy. Examples of this are “rich” folk who are greedy, “smokers” who are sick and dirty, “soda drinkers” who are sick and gluttons, “bridge-crossing drivers” who ruin the environment and didn’t really need to cross the bridge, “drivers with a visible cell phone” who cause accidents, etc.

A while back I was watching a news show and they showed how the personal finances of federal congress representatives increase tremendously once they start serving.

As much as people lament that all the personal investigations into politician’s past and characters will lead to fewer candidates for public office, this has not proven itself to be true. It’s clear that there will always be people who will aspire to public office so they can gain power they lack and control others.

Therefore, it seems like the solution is simple. Add a new, large (non-deductible) tax for all federal politicians. This includes all members of both houses of Congress and all members of the Executive branch. I would not levy this tax on Supreme Court members unless there was accurate data showing that their personal finances also increase far beyond their federal salary.
This tax would begin from the day they are sworn in and end when they could prove that they are not earning far beyond their federal salary/pension.

The advantage of this plan is average Americans wouldn’t be harmed by politician’s frivolous spending. Federal, State, and Local governments would have a large funding stream that allow essential programs to continue without worries. And, it would allow politicians to finally contribute towards society.

Of course, one major problem with this plan is the necessity to have Congress vote for it and the President sign it. That is highly unlikely.

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2010 Election – What happened?!?!

November 4, 2010

The election is over. Right wing parties won enough seats in the House of Representatives to take leadership away from Nancy (Don’t call me ma’am) Pelosi. They also won enough seats in the U.S. Senate to significantly bother left-wing parties’ senators.

What does the electorate want?

How can they overwhelmingly elect Barack Obama and his allies in 2008 only to throw out his allies two years later when they do what they promised to do?
I understand that there’s anger about the economy, but does anyone really think the economy would be better under McCain or Bush?

I didn’t support Obama’s health care plan and I still don’t. In fact, there are very few policies that Obama and I see eye-to-eye on. However, my personal politics is irrelevant to the rest of the electorate. What are they thinking?

Have we seen another great shift in thinking, from left to right? I don’t think so.

I think in 2008 a lot right-wing voters stayed home because they were upset with the Republican party for tremendously increasing federal spending. Also, they mistrusted John McCain because of his history. (I know I couldn’t vote for him.)
However, with the “invention” of “Tea Parties” right-wing voters could pretend that these were new ideological politicians who will really hold the line on federal spending. New Tea Parties allowed right-wing voters to keep their anger with the Republican party while still allowing them to vote a straight Republican ballot.

At the same time a lot of left-wing voters were disillusioned with the progress of their politicians.
I never thought that they would be able to get Obama’s health care plan into law, but left-wing voters wanted the health care plan to be more comprehensive.
They wanted Obama to repeal Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy. They wanted Obama to outlaw foreclosures, raise taxes on anyone making more than themselves, and bring world peace.
Since they didn’t move quickly enough to make these changes, more of their supporters didn’t vote.

I don’t think the country changed its mind. I think, rather, that it’s two (or three) different countries expressing their thoughts. The left-wing of the country are still in 2008 – desperately seeking a far left-wing agenda. The right-wing of the country is still in 1994.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if both countries were motivated to vote during the same election.

Right wing politicians that think they’ve received a mandate to take the United States all the way to the right are making a partial mistake. They have received a mandate, but only from their supporters. The other half of the voters haven’t given them any such mandate.

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Why I prefer NY’s new polls

November 2, 2010

The United States required New York state to change their polling machines. The old machines required people to walk into a curtained booth, pull a lever, mark their votes by flipping a switch for each position/policy decision, and push the lever again.

The new voting process debuted in the September primary and was panned by many voters, including NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. However, I prefer the new voting process.
Old and new polling layout
1. Location, location, location: Under the old process the back of the machine faced the people. The curtain was supposed to protect the voter’s privacy, but too often had gaps which deprived the voter of privacy. The new process has 3-sided enclosed stands that opens facing a wall. No one can see from in front of you, and there IS no one behind you to see what you are doing.

2. Simplicity: The old machine required the voter to understand how the machine organizes information and polls. The new ballot is a piece of paper that just requires the voter to fill in ovals in appropriate places.

3. Write-In: The new process makes putting in a write-in candidate extremely simple. The old machines made it very complicated to write-in a vote. There were a few elections that I wanted to write-in a candidate, but I couldn’t get the machine to allow me to do so and I couldn’t ask for help with out….

4. Privacy: Because of the simplicity of voting and the ease of writing in a candidate, voters don’t need as much help from poll volunteers. Poll volunteers’ help decrease privacy. I once asked a volunteer for help under the old system. She saw my ballot and chewed me out for not voting for the candidates she preferred.

5. Speed: The old process had one dedicated polling booth per district. If one district had 10 people waiting to vote, and another district in that same polling center had none, the 10 people had to wait in a queue to use their district’s machine while the machine wasn’t used. Under the new process the enclosed stands and the scanning machines can be used by anyone from any of the districts.

6. Pressure: Because of the bottleneck that built up from the wait time to use your district’s voting booth, there was a lot of pressure to vote quickly. In fact, I’ve seen polling volunteers get upset with voters who took too long in the voting booth. Under the new system there isn’t the same pressure, so people have more time to mark their ballots correctly and answer all the ballot initiatives completely.

There are two caveats.
1. Type: It was rather small and probably difficult to read for people with sight issues.

2. Layers: There were so many candidates for governor that it went onto two rows. People might have gotten confused and thought they were supposed to vote for one from the first row and one from the second row.

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Something uncontroversial: Mosque in Downtown Manhattan

August 26, 2010

While looking for an uncontroversial topic to blog about I heard people debating whether NYC should allow a mosque at 51 Park Place in Downtown Manhattan.

Everyone agrees that the current U.S. Constitution allows for mosques in Downtown Manhattan.

Everyone agrees that while 51 Park Place is nearby, it’ll still be two blocks away. It’s not like it’s being erected on the World Trade Center site or even next door. This map demonstrates the physical closeness and remoteness of the WTC site and the mosque.

Map of mosque site and WTC site

Map of mosque site and WTC site

There were only three arguments in opposition to building the mosque. The first was legal. The current building at the site of the future mosque was a possible landmark. Since I don’t agree with giving any location landmark status, I was glad that the committee voted against giving it a landmark status. While there is still an appeal underway to that decision, I don’t understand the basis of the appeal.

The second was security. If the mosque donations are coming from terrorist groups, then that could somehow make things unsafe for New York.
The way I see it, we should encourage terrorists to give donations to American causes. The less money terrorists have, the less likely they’ll be able to fund their terrorism.
The real issue isn’t money coming from terrorist organizations, but money going to terrorist organizations.

The third was emotional. Since the World Trade Center was destroyed by Muslims and about 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center by Muslims, it wouldn’t be respectful (or “sensitive”) to build an edifice so close to the site of destruction that will encourage people to join and maintain the Muslim faith.

My perspective is the dead don’t care about what is built there. The dead don’t have feelings and they don’t have knowledge of events. So, whether we decide to green-light the project or not, the sensitivity argument is non-starter for me.
And, I don’t even care of the timing of it. In Tuesday’s Daily News paper, Richard Huff quotes John Houseman, WPIX/Ch. 11’s assistant news director, in regards to covering the ceremony at the World Trade Center site, “This will continue through the 10th anniversary,” Houseman says. “I don’t know what happens in year 11.”
From my perspective the dead are gone the moment they die. If they wanted to build a mosque on the World Trade Center site on September 12, 2001, from a “sensitivity to the dead” point of view, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

However, there are three other possible issues. Two of them are specific to the location and one is about mosques in general.
The first is sensitivity to the living. While the deceased don’t care where a mosque is built, some of their loved ones and some of those who survived the attack do care. While this a legitimate concern, it’s unmanageable. How far away from the World Trade Center site is far enough? What if there’s one survivor who doesn’t want another mosque built anywhere in Manhattan because the thought of it is too painful, the pain would still be true.
As a result, I don’t think we should indulge them. They will just have to be in pain. With time, they’ll die or move on to the next issue and the pain will subside.
The second is historical. People, like Michael Savage, who study history point out that Muslims have a history of building a mosque near the location of a victory over their enemies.
However, in this case, was their really a victory for them to celebrate? Sure, they knocked down some buildings and they killed thousands of innocent people, but it directly lead to the death of thousands of Muslims (in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq*), many of them of the same group as the terrorists on the planes.
It also has the same restriction that the former argument had. If this is so close that it’s seen as a “victory” mosque, what distance would be needed to remove it from that status?

The third argument is that mosques, in general, should be forbidden because they encourage people in their devotion to Allah. Since Allah calls for the death of non-believers, a mosque could encourage terrorists and terrorism.
(Whether Allah really calls for the death of infidels or not is irrelevant, so long as Muslims kill in Allah’s name.
When Christians kill in the name of Christ, it is appropriate to say that Christ calls for murder.
And, if you believe the Bible’s version of history, when Jews killed in the name of Hashem, it was appropriate to say that Hashem called for murder.
The same is true for any other religion or group.
Since they are all fictional characters, what “they” say is less important than what people say they “say”.)

I think there is merit to this argument. However, it’s unconstitutional. If we amended the U.S. Constitution to forbid all religions from erecting houses of worship, we would resolve this problem. Sadly, many other issues would surface.

Therefore, as it currently stands, I cannot protest the mosque’s construction. I hope that it fails because of logistical reasons (lack of funding, mistakes in the blueprints, etc.), but since that’s unlikely, I’m sure a year after the mosque is built the hullabaloo will blow over. Tourists will flock to see the mosque that they wrote letters to the editor to protest and support and New York will benefit.

* I know the argument that Iraq was unrelated to September 11, 2001. However, the USA was bloodthirsty after the blow it received that day and was much more enthusiastic about taking out Saddam Hussein than they otherwise would have been.