We've seen the whip counts ad nausium so far. Ever since the President announced that he would go to Congress for authorization to strike Syria there has been a tremendous amount of lobbying. The Obama administration and Bush's neocon cabinet for, and well just about every American who cared enough to contact their congressperson against. I can add another senator to that list in the link, interim senator Jeff Chiesa of New Jersey.
When I called his office and said my piece to his intern, I asked her roughly what proportion of the phone calls on Syria were against attacking Syria. Her response: "99 percent against," to which I replied, "Well I hope he acts accordingly and thank you for taking my call."
My other senator, Bob Menendez needs to be taken to task on Syria though. Not only did he vote to advance the authorization for the use of force against Syria out of the Senate foreign relations committee, he co-authored the resolution. I was a bit relieved when I called his Washington office to find that all of the lines were busy. I left a brief message expressing my disappointment in his actions but I feel I need to elaborate a bit further in writing. Below the fold is my open letter to Bob Menendez.
I'm a bit surprised to have not seen a diary on this yet but there is some great news coming out of my home state of New Jersey on the front LGBT rights. The state legislature passed and Governor Chris Christie signed a bill outlawing licensed therapists from trying to abuse gay minors into being heterosexuals. New Jersey is the second such state to pass such legislation after California but will likely be the first one put into force because the California law is currently being fought over in court. This is an excellent piece of legislation that does right by gay teens who are going through what is usually the most difficult and vulnerable part of their lives. More below the fold:
Recently I have been following protest movements in two different parts of the world. Brazil was recently rocked by massive protests following a fare hike on public transportation to finance brand new and completely unnecessary football stadiums for the World Cup next year. Egypt saw massive protests against the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi and their inability to solve any of the problems Egypt has been facing over the past year. Those protests just reached a head and the military stepped in and removed Morsi from power. Now the exact issues that those countries face are different but they teach us some valuable lessons about the role that civil society should play in a democracy.
People who identify as LGBT are a very diverse group who are all bound together by one common thread. Every LGBT person has spent time in the proverbial closet and has had to deal with keeping an important part of themselves hidden from the world out of fear of what might happen to them if they came out. They have had to deal with large parts of our society thinking that they are the definition of immorality and a biblical abomination destined for hell. Oh yeah and for the vast majority of them have to face all of this when they're in their teens, unsure about what the world has in store for them and pumped full of all the hormones associated with puberty.
I'll be the first to admit that I have absolutely no idea what its like to be LGBT because I'm a straight white guy (though you can consider me a proud ally!). White privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, you name the societal privilege it probably applies to me. However, I do know what it feels like to be in the closet. I know what it feels like to have to pretend you're someone you're not out of fear. I don't believe in any kind of religion and for some people in this country that can be a closet all of its own.
So good news! The appropriations for Sandy relief finally was passed by the House. Granted this is something that should have been passed in mid-November at the latest and people and businesses have been hurt by this delay in funding. But it finally passed the House and the funding for relief and reconstruction of the hardest hits parts of the tri-state area has been secured.
That being said, 179 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted against the bill which shouldn't have even been a controversial bill in the first place. When I saw that result I immediately wanted to know who these people were and where they came from. How many of these people represented areas prone to natural disasters? When I matched the members of congress with their states many of them were from states that frequently get hit by hurricanes. Another congressman that voted no represents the city of Joplin, Missouri that was obliterated by a F5 tornado in 2011. The list and further analysis lies below the fold.
By now I'm sure that all of you know that 67 Republican Congressmen voted against a bill that would replenish the federal flood insurance program with $9 billion. This was after the $60 billion Sandy relief bill passed by the Senate wasn't even brought up for a vote in the final hours of the 112th Congress. Republicans and Democrats from the tri-state area rightly blasted the House leadership for this dereliction of responsibility. However, there is one Congressman we didn't hear a peep from in this whole ordeal, my congressman New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett. It's not because he wasn't as vocal in his dismay at the House leadership as people like Chris Christie or Peter King. He was completely silent for an absolutely despicable reason.
Come the end of February we will inevitably be facing another hostage crisis with the debt ceiling and demands for austerity. Austerity as we have seen it implemented in Europe has been a disaster for them. Just ask the Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, Irish and British public. The reason why it has failed is because the things that were cut were the exact things that stimulate economic growth and impoverish their middle classes.
However, I think we do need to make one big fundamental change to Medicare which will be the biggest driver of our long-term debt. I would like to reintroduce an idea that can cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare spending without touching the benefits that seniors receive. It is a free-market idea that has been proven to work in both the public and private sectors. It should be a central part of any demands that Obama has concerning the sequester cliff. If conservatives truly believe in the free market and cutting out waste in government, this should be something every Republican should support.
Going out on top
Last week Sony quietly announced
that the very last Playstation 2 was manufactured and shipped from their facilities in Japan. Over the course of twelve years the PS2 sold 155.1 million units making it the best selling and longest lasting video game console of all time. New games were being released for the PS2 as late as 2012, twelve years after its initial release. For gamers this is like when Volkswagen ceased making the original Beetle in 2003.
When the console was first released on March 4, 2000, its main competitors were Sega's last console, the Dreamcast, and the Nintendo 64. Microsoft had not yet even finished developing the Xbox. Since then Sega left the console wars and both Microsoft and Nintendo have released two and three new generations of consoles respectively. Even after the release of the Playstation 3 in 2006, the PS2 continued to outperform its far more expensive successor for several years. Even as late as 2008, Neilson ratings have shown that the PS2 was the most played console that year.
What follows is my personal tribute to the Playstation 2 and the many games I enjoyed playing on it.
Bayushisan's excellent recent diary inspired me to write this and I'd like to consider this a follow-up to bayushisan's work. For those who haven't read it, please check it out, it is an excellent read.
The Newtown shootings have provoked some much-needed soul searching in our country. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has contemplated what could possibly drive Adam Lanza to do what he did to those children and that is a question that we will never have a complete answer to. Everyone who has spoken publicly on this issue has correctly recognized that the factors that perpetuate violence like this in our society are varied and complex. People who say that it's not just semi-automatic weapons with very large magazines and access to them are correct in saying that. The lack of affordable and accessible mental health services as well as the societal stigma associated with seeking help is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed going forward.
Since the shootings I have heard calls from the likes of Bill Bennett, Joe Lieberman, and others calls to take on violence in video games. This wasn't the first time government tried to take on content in entertainment, but they are just as wrong then on this subject as they are now. Violence in music, movies and video games doesn't cause people to act violently in reality. If someone is unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality, then that is a problem that lies within their own mind and not the entertainment that they consume.
If a commodity in today's world economy can be digitally distributed, the creators of those commodities are attempting to push it in that direction. In today's the days of such things like the book, the newspaper, the CD, the DVD, and even the Blu-Ray are numbered. All of those things which we know and love are going the way of the dinosaur because the era of digital distribution has rendered them obsolete. This is part one of a two diary series where I will explore both the good side and the bad side of digital distribution in the world economy.
Many of you are familiar with things that are digitally distributed in your everyday lives now. For example think about any app on any smartphone or tablet. Think about e-books that you can read on a Kindle. Think about many of today's video games both on consoles and the PC. Those are areas where digital distribution is becoming the norm. When you buy an e-book on a Kindle you're buying data of that book that is stored in the Kindle's solid state drive and not a physical book. This isn't always a bad thing but there are parts of this new reality that give great cause for concern. However, below the fold I will share with you the reasons why this new reality is a very good thing for content creators, businesses, and consumers.
Count me among the people that consider Notorious B.I.G. one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time. His rapping had a certain flow and authenticity to it that seemed damn near impossible to replicate and his assassination in 1997 was a real tragedy to popular music. All that being said Biggie was a straight up criminal. Before he made it big in music he provided for himself by dealing drugs, but he never really gave up the drug dealer lifestyle even when he got rich and famous.
After the second presidential debate, Chris Hayes of MSNBC brought up Biggie's song "The 10 Crack Commandments" in his assessment of Romney's performance. Namely Romney violated Biggie's "Never get high on your own supply" commandment by showing that he genuinely believed his own BS (and Hayes needed a TV-friendly way to say that). This was further reinforced by the election postmortems that revealed that Romney and Ryan were "unskewing" their own internal polling and genuinely thought they would win comfortably.
This analogy got me thinking, why stop at that one commandment? Why not have a little fun and take a look through all of Notorious B.I.G's suggestions on how to be a better crack dealer and apply that to presidential politics. We'll see how well each candidate adhered to the commandments and see if there's a correlation to who ultimately won the election. If Obama wins this, Biggie's song can serve as guidelines for successful campaigns to follow in the future. If Romney wins, he can rest assured that he'd make a pretty good drug dealer should he decide to take up that profession in his retirement.
What follows is my assessment of how well both the Obama and Romney campaigns followed Biggie's advice in the Ten Crack Commandments.
While many of you back in the States have been rightly very focused on the recent midterm elections, I have been in Europe fulfilling my college major's requirement that I spend a semester studying abroad. The week many of you were in GOTV mode I was traveling throughout Europe during my half term break. What follows after the fold are my reflections on traveling alone outside the anglophone bubble I had gotten used to and my realization of what exactly I was giving up when I decided to study abroad in London.