Gay Marriage Ruling from the Supreme Court

As pretty much everyone that does not live under rock should be aware of, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing LGBT people and people of any sexual orientation to wed in all 50 states. The internet has exploded from this news, with SnapChat filters, Facebook profile photos, hashtags such as #LoveIsLove and #LoveWon, even WordPress changing their banner. I’m not going to state an opinion on this in any way because, honestly, it doesn’t matter. Nothing I say or anyone else says matters anymore either way because it is no longer an issue. All I want to do is point out how this is a defining moment in our generation and for pop culture. This has been an uphill battle that many people have been fighting for a very long time and within one day it was completely dissolved. This is a defining moment in history that people should recognize and appreciate, regardless of your opinion on the matter.

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College for a Middle Class White Kid

This year I am a high school senior. I’m planning my freshman year of life as a new adult, starting with what 4 year university I will be attending. And quite honestly, it has been very difficult so far. I’ve looked at many colleges and applied to 4. I’ve gotten into 3 of the ones I applied to, and the other hasn’t started sending out letters yet. Why has it been hard, you ask? Because my parents are hardworking people who have been successful in providing a good life for me. Usually, that sounds like the opposite of hard. That sounds like I have it made. And I do, just not for college. And here’s why.

As a quick side note, I figured you would need some background info on me. I am planning on majoring in pre-law and minoring in philosophy and german in my undergrad, which is a heavy course load (equivalent to a double major). I’m taking on such a heavy course load so that I can get into the law school I want to, hopefully Columbia. Columbia has the 4th best law school in the country, so that is a high expectation. I understand that I’m setting my sights high, but I’ve always been like that. My parents have always been hardworking people. My mom was the first in her family to graduate from high school, and she went on to receive a masters degree in educational leadership. My dad went to school for engineering and created his own real estate business. They worked hard to get where they are and continue to work hard every day to help my sister and I have the best opportunities possible. Now, I have okay grades, but they are not high enough to be getting full ride scholarships or anything, but they are high enough to be getting some sort of financial aide, and I have 13 extra curriculars on my resume as well as above average ACT and SAT scores.

With that being said, at a public university a few hours from where I live I only received $2,000 a year in scholarships. This would make going there over $20,000 a year for me to attend. I think that is pretty ridiculous, especially because I have friends who have lower GPA and test scores as me but were offered more scholarships because they are a minority. It’s a bummer because my family is middle class, meaning that we don’t qualify for need-based financial aide, yet we obviously cannot afford $20,000 a year for 4 years. The cost of college went up 92% higher that the raise of inflation last year. So why isn’t college more affordable for everyone? A friend of mine has parents that work in the medical field and make over double what my family does, yet she receives twice the financial aide I do because she is 1/2 Spanish. Is that fair? In California, hispanics make up 39% of the population and caucasians make up 38.9%. My thinking is that I should be treated as a minority when applying to UC schools. But am I? No. A lot of financial aide isn’t available to me because I’m not a first generation college student, because my parents went to college. So where does this leave me? Up to my neck in student loans for the rest of my life, most likely. I just want an opportunity to do great things in my life, same as everyone else, but this is being hindered due to the lack of financial aide available to middle class students. Yes, we are well off, but that does not mean that we can afford to dish out thousands and thousands of dollars to go to school. Not only that, but I have law school to think about. You cannot get a job with only a bachelor’s degree for the field I’m going into. i have 7 years minimum of school to think about. And this is 7 years of highly expensive studies, but at least I have a high earning potential.

Personally, I think this purgatory that I have gotten myself into is disheartening. It’s not only me, but many kids all over the country are in the same place I’m at, with no solution available. The only alternative is Community College, which is substantially cheaper, yet how should I expect to get into Columbia or a comparable school with a degree from a community college? So my option is to take out loans and try my best to make it happen.

President Obama’s 6th Current State of the Union Address: Recap

At 9:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time) President Barack Obama gave his 6th current state of the union address. He made many points in which I will give a basic outline of. I will explain the keys points of the speech and give my opinion of a few, but I will definitely not be covering everything talked about.

He began with talking about middle class america how he would like to help working families feel secure in change and help them be able to afford life. This will be accomplished by lowering taxes for working families and providing free childcare because we are trying to promote women in the workforce, in which he mirrored women of WWII. Free healthcare should be treated as an economic priority. He also stated that we should offer paid sick leave and paid maternity leave to working class americans. These are both great ideas, but at what expense? I think it’s a safe assumption that this funding with raise taxes or will be paid at the expense of other things we fund with tax dollars. So what will we be cutting from? education? The only education he discussed funding more in this speech was post-secondary, only Community College. But we’ll get there. Next he discussed the fact that women should make the same amount as men for the same jobs. I agree that this is an issue, and I personally think I shouldn’t make less just because of a difference in which I was born with, especially if I am more highly qualified than a man for the same job. He said that employees should make overtime, which I honestly didn’t know didn’t already happen. At my job I make overtime, so I ignorantly assumed that everyone does. He made a very good point by telling Congress that “If you believe you can live in minimum wage of %15,000 per year, then try it”. His goal is the give workers a voice and he pointed out that ideas won’t make everyone rich, but they will give families a fair shot. These changes will make a meaningful difference in workers’ lives, which is what government is supposed to do.

Next he discussed education. Other countries have caught up, therefore we need to do more. By the end of the decade 2/3 of jobs require higher degrees, so we need o offer community college for free. 40% of college students choose community college and we should offer the chance to graduate debt free. I’m all for cheaper education seeing as student loans for undergrad studies and potentially law school is my reality starting next year, but again, at what expense? This is obviously coming from tax dollars. Secondary and primary school funding is already suffering hugely from budget cuts,  so I hope this this won’t hurt them any more. I go to school in Arizona which is in the bottom 25% for funding, and it is so bad that we almost lost ALL art classes at school. Many of my teachers have to work second jobs at night waiting tables and what not just to support themselves, but I will reiterate on that in a post in the near future. He does state that there will be certain requirements for free community college and that he would like a college degree to be as universal as a high school degree.

He then discusses creating more jobs in the US by centralizing manufacturing and pushing exportation, which is nothing new. We must stop importing from China in order to level the playing field and 95% of the world’s customers live outside the US and we should be utilizing that.

He states that we should have higher medical standards by having better innovation and by using a Precision Medicine Initiative to cure life threatening diseases and keep ourselves healthier as a nation.

Innovation is a huge aspect to our success, and he stressed this by calling for better prosthetics for veterans and space exploration, in which Kelley will be launching a 1 year exploration to answer some unanswered questions. We need bipartisan support to launch innovation farther and that we need to find solutions for budget disagreements, stop lobbyists from creating loopholes for corporations, help the middle class get a break, and keep money within the US. We need to rebuild infrastructure by helping small business owners, simplify economics to close loopholes for the 1%, create a tax code to help middle class america “get a leg up”, and help hardworking families make ends meet and strive for success.

In order to achieve his long term goals, we cannot separate issues federally and overseas. Our main goal as a nation is to defend ourselves, but he plans to take a less militaristic strategy and strong diplomacy, while using war as a last resort. We will stand united against terrorism and we will “hunt them down” and take out terrorists that pose a direct threat to us and our allies. We have made some “costly decisions”, specifically training the people we now oppose, but we are partnering with many countries to deny safe havens to terrorists and eventually destroy ISIL.

The next point was a key point in the speech in which President Obama asked to support moderate opposition in Syria, which will require time and focus, but we will succeed. He requested for permission from Congress to use force to accomplish this.

Another key point as to end the Cuban Embargo and to “try something new” in a hope to alleviate any ill thoughts between Cuba and the United States.

He discussed the policy needed to halt the use of nuclear material in Iran and get the chance to negotiate with Iran to prevent nuclear use with them, in which we will “keep our options open”, whatever that means. He will veto any sanctions that threaten diplomacy and since Americans expect war as a last resort, it will stay that way.

On the topic of hacking, we will create better security and use our federal intelligence agencies to better combat cyber attacks and prevent identity theft, in which we are “leaving the country vulnerable” at this point. He talked about the worldwide efforts of stopping the spread of ebola and how proud he is of our effectiveness in building a global effort that is accomplishing the main task. The main way that we could eradicate this issue is to aide disaster relief most than we already do and eradicate extreme poverty, which is another few things that i assume would come from tax dollars.

He discussed climate change and how we need to work on energy efficiency, again partnering with other countries, and create a plan as a planet to same our earth, which is a typical liberal debate that I personally don’t believe in, but thats just me.

We must protect our human dignity by prohibiting torture and constraining drones. We must speak against antisemitism, homophobia, stereotypes against muslims, and stand for equal rights for all. We need to protect our civil liberties and tackle surveillance issues  and look into the future, not the past. As “the best country in the world” we must lead with examples of values and strive to hold ourselves to high standards just like how the rest of the world does (If you think this sounds dramatic and satirical, trust me, it did coming from him). Americans are one, a united states, not democrats and republicans separated, and he thanks us for taking a chance on him, which sounded like he was alluding to his race and not so much him as a person. He believes that we can do great things and he has seen America at its best in his presidency, which must be a joke. He says many things that attempt to convince America that he is an average joe of sorts, and attempts to bring congress and himself together with overly persuasive language.

He then brings up immigration. He says we should see the benefit of a hardworking student and that we are a country of immigrants, which I think in no way justifies just letting people into the US and providing them with free things that even our own citizens who have been here their entire lives don’t receive. He “has no more campaigns to run” (cue Republicans cheering) but he “already won both of them” (cue Democrats cheering). He asked for support and asked peoplento try to work with him on the things that they do agree, and that everybody matters and we are more than a collection of red and blue.

That is the end of my basic outline, but i do want to discuss one propaganda technique that was used repeatedly in his speech, that being the phrase “for the children”. He said this over and over when talking about education and internet security, which is obviously an emotional appeal technique to get more people on board with his ideas, but i just wanted to point out the overuse of that phrase. There are quite a few topics in his speech that i will elaborate on in my posts in the future, but this was just a quick overview of what he had to say with a bit of my opinion throughout.

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this please subscribe and share! Thank you again for the continuing support.

1.20.2015

My Attempt at Obtaining a Copy of Charlie Hebdo Feb. 14th, 2015 No. 1178

As everyone is trying to do as well, I am attempting to obtain a copy of Charlie Hebdo from February 14th, 2015 No. 1178, which is the “Je Suis Charlie” copy with the prophet Muhammed depicted on it again. They printed 1 million copies first and 2 million as a follow up when the first wave sold in hours, and they are expected to print another 5 million within the next week. Now, finding them is easy if you are willing to pay big bucks. I have seen them on eBay for $600 or more and it is only going up from now. Only 1,000 of the 3 million made it to the US, which made it practically impossible to get one. For example, the New York Public Library is having trouble locating one.

Yesterday in my Government class I was saying that i wished I could obtain one, in which my teacher told me I shouldn’t even try because I won’t have the resources to obtain one. To that I say Challenge Accepted! So here’s my journey in how i got 3 COPIES!!

I started by reading the article from NY Times on how to get one. They gave me a few names of bookstores that will have them in the next week (hopefully). Here is a list of the stores and when they will have them, as well as their phone numbers if anyone is interested.

Around the World in New York should have them anytime starting today (January 15th) 212-695-2534

Soho News International should have them on Saturday Jan. 17th 212-941-0833

Politics and Prose in Washington, DC should have them Monday 202-364-1919

I realized that these are not guaranteed and they aren’t taking waiting lists, so I figured I should get creative. I remembered that I had a tour director from when I went to Europe from Paris, so I tried to contact him via email but his email was invalid/deleted. My mom has a friend who lives in Paris as well whom I messaged on Facebook. She ended up getting back to me today and offered to look, although she said they are very hard to find, but I had already found them from another source. I have 2 friends who I go to school with that are exchange students from Italy, one from Sicily and one from Rome. I had them both ask their parents to look for me. The one from Sicily’s Father found a bookstore near them that had one and would ship it to me in the US. My friend from Rome’s Parents looked and found them somewhere very easily and picked up 3 for me and is currently shipping them to me.

As you can see, obtaining one without paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars is a very arduous task. You are welcome to try the places i provided numbers to, but they aren’t even guaranteed to get them. Your best bet is to ask anyone who you have any sort of connection to in Europe and see if they will send you one. Italy has the highest count of them besides France, so I lucked out in that sense. I was just lucky enough to call in a favor from some friends.

Good Luck finding one!

1.15.15

Why Capital Punishment is a waste of Tax Dollars

Capital punishment is the legal process in which a death sentence is given for a capital offense, with the end punishment being execution. 58 countries currently use capital punishment, while 98 have abolished it. Under International law it is illegal to sentence a minor to death, although Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan have carried this out since 2009. 36 states in the US use the death penalty, although some are not carrying these out at the moment due to a “botched” execution that occurred, which I will discuss later. Capital Punishment has been used since the beginnings of history, although there was a time during the Tang Dynasty in China when it was abolished. It was extremely popular during the Middle Ages for various crimes. Nowadays China executes the most people by far, about 4,000 last year, although the number was not publicly released. The US executed 43 last year.

Capital punishment is a very topical debate in politics today and it seems like everyone has an opinion on it. Liberals believe that it is unjust and “cruel and unusual” punishment and that the alternative, sitting in a jail cell for the rest of their lives, is a better use of our resources and tax dollars. Conservatives like myself think this is a waste of space and money and that it is neither “cruel” or “unusual”.

The average prisoner in the United States costs taxpayers $31,286 a year to house and contain. After being sentenced to execution, it costs the US tax payers about $1 million after the court case, time before execution, and the actual execution. Prisoners will generally spend about 20 years, even more, in prison before being executed. The time is usually used to submit appeals and for the justice system to have ensure that we are not putting to death an innocent person. Now, i am sure that this is a needed measure, but I wonder how a completely innocent person would be sentenced to the worst punishment that the justice system can allow. There’s no way that this person would be totally innocent, and isn’t aiding and abetting a crime as well? That was a rhetorical question, but yes, you can be tried for the same crime if you were just the lookout or something like that. I personally think that the death penalty is a necessary thing in our justice system, but the process should be much quicker. This is a waste of our tax dollars and quite honestly, the crimes that must be committed by someone to receive the death penalty makes this person not even worth our oxygen, to be honest. Some would call that a harsh idea or opinion, but i would much rather my tax dollars are going to something benefiting myself and my community in a positive manner, not making sure that inmates get their dessert after their meal.

In Arizona during July 2014 there was a “botched” execution of a Joseph R. Wood III in which it took nearly 2 hours and 15 lethal injections for him to die. He was given the punishment for the 1989 premeditated murder of his girlfriend at the time and her father. There are 3 drugs that are used for lethal injection: sodium thiopental, Pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. Together these cause a degradation of breathing. The first acts as a coma inducer, the second a muscle relaxant, and the last as a cell depolarizer, which just causes your breathing to stop altogether. The entire procedure should only take 15 minutes or so, but Mr.Woods took 1 hour and 40 minutes. A while into it his lawyer argued that this violated his 8th amendment rights of having an execution free of cruel and unusual punishment and demanded that he be given an antidote immediately. By the time this would have been given he had finally passed, but this strike lots of conversation about how “cruelty-free” this procedure really is. Unfortunately, this is the last option they have of procedures because every other one has been considered cruel and unusual due to pain and/or time taken. As of July executions have been put on hold and are no longer taking place while they investigate the effectiveness of the drugs used. The companies that produce these drugs have decided not to sell them to the government due to the controversy that stems from this issue and their involvement in the matter.

As you can tell, this is am extremely controversial topic in society today. It costs our government millions of dollars in expendable costs each year that we should be able to spend on other, more beneficial things. The cost is plaguing our country in the worst way possible and there has to be a better way to bring criminals to justice without the expense to our taxpayers.

1.12.2015

Dedication

This isn’t related to my blog or the topics i usually blog about, but i needed to post this for myself to see so that it will be a reminder in the future.

I’m not dedicated enough to this. 

I claim to myself to be so into voicing my opinion, yet the only time i voice it is in my government class. Therefore, this is the perfect outlet for me, yet i don’t put the effort into utilizing it. From not on I’m going to e much more dedicated to my blog and voicing my opinion, and hopefully i can make this a habit and see this post to remind myself. My goal is about 2 or 3 times a week, but i would be happy with just 1 post weekly, as long as i maintain that.

Happy 2015. Lets make it count.

Dehumanizations?

Is it considered prejudice if I think that I am more of a person than a murderer? That I deserve a better life than a rapist? That isn’t prejudice. People should be able to be judged based on their actions. Your actions reflect your ethics. If you kill people for fun, then I will not respect you. No, we’re not equal. I’m twice the person that you could ever be. I’m a better person and there shouldn’t be anything wrong with me knowing that. Today, I listened to a “motivational speaker”. He sat there and told us that we cannot judge anyone based on anything, and that we need to see everyone in their basic human form. Yes, everyone is a person. I believe that there are levels or types of people. I’m twice the person that a criminal is. I believe this because I have potential. I have potential to be something great, to do something awesome with my life, while a murder has one potential: to rot in prison and waste our tax dollars and oxygen. Am I really supposed to accept that I am equal to that person?

Is ISIS a pop culture icon?

In the past, terrorist groups have cut themselves off from society. No one knows how they get in, they just do. Never has a terrorist group attempted to recruit people openly. At this point in time, there are 12 identified americans fighting for ISIS, but the actual number could be as high as 100 Americans, and thousands of Europeans. To me, that number is alarmingly high. 0.8% of the United States is Muslim, so that means that of the 313.9 million people in the US, that means roughly 2.5 million of them are Muslim. Now, 7% of Muslims support extremist views, therefore of the 2.5 million Muslims in the United States, approximately 175,000 Muslims in the United States support radical, violent action being taken. That’s scary. 175,000 of the 131.9 million Americans in the United States are considered radical Muslims. if there are possibly 100 Americans fighting in the name of ISIS and Jihad, then that means that there are still 174,900 Americans that could do that as well. ISIS as a whole has 40,000 people fighting for it right now, and that is only growing. Obviously not all 175,000 agree with ISIS, there are different kinds of Islamist radical views, but the number is substantial regardless. ISIS is not the only jihadist/Islamist group that the United States is dealing with at the moment, nor are they the most threatening, but I’ll get back to that later. They are one of the most resourceful groups though, and that is dangerous. They are very much in the social networking community, which makes them very modernized. They are moving with the time, appealing to younger people. The average age of ISIS fighters is 16-25, while the average for Al Queda members was said to be 19-29. ISIS fighters are substantially younger, showing that ISIS is more appealing to a younger generation. Sky News reported that in an interview, Ghaffar Hussain, a convicted terrorist, said that video games such as Grand Theft Auto V are encouraging children to join militarized groups such as ISIS. He states that it dehumanizes the children, making them think that violent acts are fun. Behavioral experts from Mad World News said that his statement was ignorance, and that video games have nothing to do with the Jihadist mentality that terrorist have. I personally don’t think that it is “dehumanizing” children, but I think there is some value to what Ghaffar is saying. I play video games every once in a while, and I have played violent ones, but I really don’t think that has taught me to be a jihadist Muslim. These types of games could be influential on younger children, though. There are 8 or 9 year olds playing these games, and that could have a major influence on their behavior and attitude going into adulthood.
In conclusion, ISIS has become a pop culture icon, showing children a new, “hipster” way of life. These children feel as if they don’t belong, but for some reason, they think terrorism is where they belong? These are Americans, just like us. They are the same food. They read the same books. They identified as American, same as us. What led them to attack the same people who grew them?

Definition of Terrorism

Terrorism: the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. (Google definition)

The other day, a teacher of mine was discussing a current event piece about the Islamic State and asking for opinions. When giving mine, I used the word “terrorism” which he then proceeded to question me about what that word means. I was in shock, because this isn’t something I have been asked before, so I stumbled and gave a less than acceptable answer. After much thought, consideration, and research, I think I have an understanding of the definition in modern news and politics and the connotation implied.
Terrorism. A politically loaded word, usually with Islamist or jihadist references. It tends to be overused when discussing Islamic altercations and underused with most other situations. It is said that there are over 100 definitions of the word, so how do we know what it means? We all know. We’ve all used it. But why? It seems to be used to delegitimize political group with a violent edge, and also to legitimize less organized groups. I described the word as “the threat of violence to a particular group based on differing beliefs” when asked. My split-second thought process came from the first thing that pops into my head when I hear terrorism, which is 9/11. After all, Islamists have been portrayed to Americans as a violent group of people who are willing to die for the cause of wiping out western culture, or really any culture that doesn’t believe in their extremist ideologies. But after thinking about this for a few days, I realized that this doesn’t give a clear enough definition for the other terrorism that has occurred throughout history. If my definition is true, then was the trail of tears terrorism? The Holocaust? I would say yes, although we normally wouldn’t describe those as terrorism. What about what Nelson Mandela did? Or Malcolm X? The Revolutionary War? From what I thought terrorism was defined as, our founding fathers fit that category. I’m pleased to say that I’m not that naïve to the definition anymore, but I can’t be the only person that would describe it as something similar to what I did.
The United Nations General Assembly has used the same definition since 1994. That definition reads: “criminal acts intended to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them”.
Obviously this is a very controversial topic, but think that a broader definition would help clarify therefore, in my opinion, terrorism is simple. It is a violent threat to another population with no intention of coexisting. This is how Al Queda treated us, this is how ISIS treats us, and that is what terrorism is to me.

Why the U.S. is fighting a two front war

Although neither qualify as an official “war”, the fights with Islamic jihadist terrorism in the Middle East and the “Putinism”, which I personally consider fascist totalitarianism, happening in Europe, the United States seem to be at a crossroads. With both of these looming threats hanging over our heads, the President and the entire country are doing their best to maintain our nationalistic values and allies, while not getting nuked to pieces.
Today is a very important day in history, or at least it will be. Today, Scotland voted on whether or not they should secede from the United Kingdom. With the UK’s economy in the toilet, much like most of the rest of Europe, this is a very good move for Scotland. Scotland has a decent economy right now and would only be dragged down by the rest of the UK. Once Scotland leaves Great Britain and the others to fend for themselves, Europe will fall farther into the debt hole that they have already dug themselves, which opens the door for Putin into the Ukraine and essentially into the rest of Europe. Putin has been lying low for a few weeks since the Ukraine, but I, without a doubt in my mind, believe that Putin has a plan for European dominance. So he’s just sitting, watching, waiting. Hoping that Scotland will vote for their independence. So hopefully when we hear the verdict tomorrow, it will be that they stay a part of the United Kingdom.
At most people know, ISIS is a HUGE Islamic jihadist terrorist threat to the United States and the world at the moment. Unlike terrorist groups in the past, ISIS is very accessible to people and seem to have unlimited resources. They have made it clear that their goal is to get rid of westernization. They are very modern and “gutsy” in their approach, and the US is not risky at all, so destroying them will be a struggle for us. I mean, no terrorist group has had the guts to behead Americans on camera and show it directly to the us. President Obama has stated that the current plan is to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, and by training Syrian Rebels, he thinks that this can be accomplished.
It is apparently obvious that the United States is fighting a two front war at the moment, and it isn’t looking too good. You must be a world superpower to win a 2 front war, and I wonder if we have the power, authority, and skill to accomplish what we are hoping and to come out winners.