Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bad Governments: A Lesson in History

There are those that believe President Obama the worst offender of the Constitution to ever hold office; a socialist at best and a tyrant at worst.  A popular comment I've seen on many online message boards labels Obama the “worst President ever!” without truly considering the 43 other people eligible for consideration.  An additional detail omitted from most labeling of “socialism” is that in 1917 (at the height of the Bolshevik revolution) the socialist vote averaged 20% in many elections.  I believe Americans have long held a selective memory when it comes to aggrandizing the infamy of contemporary political leaders.

Woodrow Wilson, the champion of early 20th century progressives, was behind one of the most aggressive wartime removal of civil liberties in our nation's history.  The Espionage Act of 1917 barred "false statements" impeding military success and prohibited interfering with the draft.  Even worse (if such a thing is possible) was the Postmaster General's elimination of any mailings critical of the administration.  In 1918, the Sedition Act was passed criminalizing any speech or print that encouraged interference with the war effort or would cast scorn on the "form of Government".  Labor leader Eugene V. Debs was convicted under the Espionage Act in 1918 and gave one of the more monumental speeches in American history protesting his conviction.

During World War I citizens could be imprisoned for making statements critical of the flag or for being disloyal to the state.  Men in some cases were routinely stopped in American cities and compelled to produce draft registration cards while federal agents seized files and documents of labor leaders throughout the country.  An Anti-German movement swept the United States changing hamburgers into "liberty sandwiches" and sauerkraut into "liberty cabbage".  A 1907 law authored in Indiana allowed the use of sterilization on insane inmates in mental institutions to prevent the passing of genes.  Persons arrested for crimes against the state where held for months without charges or warrants brought up against them.   A young J. Edgar Hoover (future head of the FBI) compiled records on thousands of Americans thought to hold radical views while in his position as director of the Radical Division of the Justice Department.  It was most certainly a turbulent time featuring a profound contracting of civil liberties and human liberties in general.

To those who hold President Obama (and his "hope") as their champion, I direct you to the story of another promising mid-western man who seemed poised for presidential success.  Herbert Hoover, a wealthy former mining engineer, accepted the Republican party's presidential nomination in 1928.  Famous British economist John Maynard Keynes labeled Hoover as "the only man" to leave the 1919 Versailles Treaty "with an enhanced reputation" while novelist Sherwood Anderson opined that Hoover "had never known failure".  Hoover's presidency, as we know, would later be defined by massive unemployment and misery throughout the country.

The lesson here is to understand that presidents are mortal and should be judged against their peers and not by the prevailing notions during the time in which they serve.  I am of the opinion that history will eventually look kindly upon most presidents as individuals begin to understand and recognize the enormous responsibility inherent in the office itself.  Anyone who truly understands the requirements and rigors of the American presidency would most certainly produce a "shermanesque" statement if asked to serve.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The NRA: A Cheap Super PAC?

Wikipedia defines the NRA (National Rifle Association) as an "American non-profit 501(c)(4) lobbying group[1][2] that advocates for the protection of the Second Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights, and the promotion of firearm ownership rights as well as marksmanship, firearm safety, and the protection of hunting and self-defense in the United States." But in my opinion its oh so much more than that. The group has effectively become almost a "Super PAC" of sorts, mobilizing voters, funding endorsed candidates and playing a pivotal role in many elections across the country. To be an outsider looking into a private group or organization reminds me of the adage "those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones". So I took that into consideration when writing my thoughts on the NRA.

What better person to analyze the actions of the NRA, then a member himself! I have been a registered NRA member since July 25 2011. I joined the group because I thought the group's purpose and drive was to protect second amendment rights, crucial in the formation and continuity of this country, and ensure citizens always had the ability to rise up against oppression. What the group really consists of is far from that and a detriment to its members. The group routinely sends out spam and otherwise unnecessary emails peddling gun insurance, general insurance and other non-essential services. Some of the emails are written to be intentionally deceiving telling a member that the group "hasn't heard back from them on their insurance" and that they "are at risk without action". Other tactics of the group involve sending unsolicited promotional material to members and then demanding payment for it. Don't take my word for it, see for yourself!

But perhaps the NRA is preserving second amendment rights; spam advertisement and cheap marketing tactics aside.  Perhaps by removing elected officials who stand in the way of second amendment rights the NRA can best utilize its massive funding capacity  In a recent senate primary race between incumbent Dick Lugar and a relatively unknown Tea Party darling Richard Murdock, the NRA was largely influential in the incumbent's defeat.  In an official NRA statement from Chris W. Cox the NRA was "was fully vested in this race with a comprehensive campaign that encompassed thousands of radio and television ads in the months before the today's primary election.  This effort also included 600,000 web ads."  Murdock, an unrelenting partisan, virtually opposed to any form of bipartisanship, is certain to make zero impact in a governing body requiring work across the aisle, outside the box thinking and commitment to country and NOT party.

Gee, what a great way to spend our membership fees, on radio and television ads for a political candidate who might make 1-5 critical votes in their senate membership lifetime.  Let's not spend it on firearm education (to prevent firearm accidents and educate the public why firearms are important to our freedom), actual membership benefits leveraged by over 4 million members (no, spam emails and incessant requests to join insurance programs don't count!), or interesting and relevant publications.  Here's my tip: Take the money you would have spent the NRA and donate to your favorite politician, because that's just what's going to happen to it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Health Care Reform: What's at Stake?

There are many misconceptions regarding the health care reform legislation that is being argued before the Supreme Court of the United States. Many people wonder why there is a mandate that every individual be insured. While there are many nuances involved in the legislation it basically boils down to a need for the coverage pool to be as large as possible. Because the legislation mandates that no insurer can refuse coverage or drop a person because of pre-existing or developed medical conditions, it needs a bunch of healthy people paying into the system to balance it out and keep the overall pool solvent.

This "individual mandate" is where people find the most amount of differences with the legislation. Some argue that they, as healthy people" should not be subsidizing the health care of sickly people who could theoretically raise prices for the rest of the healthier members of the overall pool. Some find fault with the mandate itself and think Government should not be allowed to force citizens to purchase a product from a private entity. Lastly, some believe that Government run-insurance will bring many of the inefficiencies associated with Government/public-sector involvement in a matter.

I'm interested to see how the Supreme Court Rules and what case-law is cited. Some argue that President Obama and the White House will win either way. If the legislation is upheld, Obama gets the validation his law is not only here to stay but constitutional. If the law is overturned, Obama can rally his supporters to the polls in November. What's your take?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Kony 2012

Kony 2012 is a great independently produced film that highlights the plight of children captured by Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony. The video is about 27 minutes long and does a great job of bringing people up to speed on where the struggle stands today. Prior to the video, I had never heard of the LRA, Joseph Kony or the Invisible Children organization, but I definitely am aware of them today. The video introduces us to the director, Jason Russell and how meeting Jacob, a boy whose brother was killed by Kony, changed his life.

Critics argue the film oversimplifies things; they argue that the video is too little too late and that it won't bring about real change. I disagree and cite myself as the primary example. Prior to watching this video I knew there was conflict in Africa and children were involved but I had no idea of any details or stories based on a personal level. I was ignorant to the existence of Joseph Kony and the kidnapping, manipulation and mutilation of children that has occurred under his orders. I challenge you to watch the video for yourself and make up your own mind.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Product Review: Easton Synergy EQ20 Hockey Bag

I recently purchased the Easton Synergy EQ20 Hockey Bag, (32'' Red). I play a few in a few ice hockey leagues and use it to tote everything to and fro. The bag had a lot of promise as it sports some pretty good looks like initially seemed to be very durable. However within the first month of usage, the bag's seam split underneath of where the shoulder strap is anchored. Seeing as though it hadn't been punctured by anything sharp, I can only conclude the manufacturing is shoddy.

Additionally the bag doesn't have any large zippered pockets or even closing pockets on the sides. It had one measly zipper pocket on the inside that probably can hold your keys and wallet and that's it. Where are all my little things and tools supposed to go? Reccomendation: Do not buy this bag.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Memory of The 90's: Inspector Gadget

I will be starting a new little segment where I bring back some of my favorite memories from the 90's. Inspector Gadget was always one of my favorite cartoons growing up. I was always interested in Gadget's car and how it could transform into many shapes and vehicle-types depending on the situation. Take a look at this Youtube video:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Defense of The Environment

Perhaps you've had a chance to view the new TV series Terra Nova, a fictitious show that follows a group of settlers going into the past to settle a prehistoric Earth. The frightening portion of the show is the depiction of Earth in the year 2149. There appears to be very little water, almost no plant life and air quality so poor that filtering masks are required to travel outside. While fictional, one is only left to ponder just how far fetched the idea truly is. Are humans the primary drivers of global warming and rising world temperatures or are we in the midst of a natural cycle experienced by Earth? The Committee on the Science of Climate Change (2001) responded to the question of "Are greenhouse gases causing climate change?" by writing:

The IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue. The stated degree of confidence in the IPCC assessment is higher today than it was 10, or even 5 years ago, but uncertainty remains because of (1) the level of natural variability inherent in the climate system on time scales of decades to centuries, (2) the questionable ability of models to accurately simulate natural variability on those long time scales, and (3) the degree of confidence that can be placed on reconstructions of global mean temperature over the past millennium based on proxy evidence. Despite the uncertainties, there is general agreement that the observed warming is real and particularly strong within the past 20 years. Whether it is consistent with the change that would be expected in response to human activities is dependent upon what assumptions one makes about the time history of atmospheric concentrations of the various forcing agents, particularly aerosols.

While it is agreed upon that there is much uncertainty surrounding the Earth's climate, most scientists are in agreement that the last twenty years have produced "particularly strong" observed warming events. One could assume these events coincide with the industrial rising of countries such as India and China where carbon monoxide levels are increasing at a troubling rate. The United States and other countries are also responsible with more than 18% of CO2 emissions occurring from America. Although one could argue that Earth may be in a natural warming cycle, it is undeniable that pollutants released by humans are growing at a rate that will be unsustainable for the planet if allowed to continue.

Republican candidate Rick Perry has gone on the record stating he believes that global warming is a "hoax" and that the climate has been changing "ever since the Earth was formed". While true, Perry's response plays down the argument questioning the human aspect of the warming and seems to paint the issue as something fabricated by scientists eager to make a profit off the funding of new projects. Perry's chief rival for the nomination, Mitt Romney, has distanced himself from Perry's remarks by stating: "I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that".

Perry's stance is troubling because it conveys (in my opinion) a refusal to even consider the idea as plausible and downplays the idea that humans and Americans should consider what they can do to reduce global warming. For a moment, let's consider that Americans reduce greenhouse emissions and make painful lifestyle changes throughout the country that result in lost jobs, elimination of useful and effective products and an increased responsibility by every citizen to take ownership of the problem. If those such as Perry are correct and the Earth is in a natural warming state or not in one at all, then dollars and livelihoods will be affected and measures put in place will be for naught, ineffective or unnecessary. While unfortunate, those outcomes would hardly seem to be painful to swallow.

On the other hand if humans had the ability to take measures to stop the trend and do nothing, the outcomes would be painful and terrifying. Humans would watch as biological diversity slowly dies away and an increasing number of species become extinct due to inability to adapt to climate change. Sea creatures such as plankton, a nutrient source for many creatures, could be affecting by rising sea temperatures causing uncertainty over the survival of much aquatic life. Humans would cope with decreasing water supplies, proliferation of deserts and arid land and world-wide competitions for ownership of water and natural resources supplies. Rising sea levels would affect coastal communities and islands, forcing millions of people to relocate or risk being swallowed by the sea. In short, images from movies such as The Day After Tomorrow, while extreme, could become a reality for many populations throughout the world.

If the costs of being proactive are small compared to the risks of inaction, why aren't many humans concerned with global warming? Is it apathy, ignorance, conflicting beliefs or some other viewpoint that creates lack of action? For me, the risks of doing nothing far outweigh the costs of doing something. For those opposed to the idea of global warming, an eventual validation will lead to a brief "I told you so" moment and a platform for political maneuvering. A validation of global warming coupled with inaction could lead to annihilation and a plot line from Terra Nova becoming reality.