Thursday, June 4, 2015

Travel Tips?

I have some vacation time coming up and I don't know what I'm going to do with it. I definitely want to take a trip somewhere. However, I don't know where. It doesn't help that I'm pretty clueless when it comes to booking things like flights and hotels. The one time I planned my own trip somewhere I lucked into a ridiculously good deal, but there wasn't much strategy there.

As I've started looking I find myself particularly confused/stressed about booking a hotel. I feel like everything is way too expensive and that there should be some way of looking to make cheaper places stand out. I'm also worried about booking at a bad spot (either a bad neighborhood or far away from public transit.)

Some trips I'm considering:

Plane Trips

Chicago- The drive to Chicago isn't necessarily so terrible. It's a six hour drive from her to get to Chicago and its traffic. However once in Chicago its a bit of nightmare. Also, the public transport in Chicago is pretty robust and the flights are relatively cheap so flying is definitely the preferred way for me.

The issue so far with Chicago is the hotels are hella expensive.

Washington D.C.- I've wanted to go to DC for a long time. As a politics/government/history nerd, it's pretty ridiculous to have made it this far without seeing the seat of our nation. It is too far to drive without wasting a day and the flights are even cheaper than the ones to Chicago. And I don't know about Washington's public transit; I assume its pretty robust from Fallout 3.

Hotels are even more expensive here than Chicago upon a quick search.

Car Trips

Gettysburg, PA- I've done this trip before when I was little. I'd like to go back sometime since I'm sure I'll have a much better appreciation for the cool history.

Cheapish hotels.

Somewhere Pretty, WV, VA, TN- I don't even know.

Day(ish) Trips

Hiking- Can go not very far and maybe overnight it and wander around the wilderness.

Ohio History Stuff- Because why not.

I also could just stay in Columbus, because there is cool shit here that I never do.

All of this to ask you what I should do? Also how should I do it? Any tips (particularly about hotels?)

Thanks for reading


Thursday, May 28, 2015

2 Parties 2 Party

Let's talk about why the United States has a 2-party system. If you're American and paid attention in Government class you probably have some idea. There are two big reasons for this. One is the cause and the other emerges from that fact.

The nature of elections in the U.S. is whoever gets the most votes wins everything. 50% plus one is basically the same as winning 100% of the votes. This creates an environment where factions who share some similar ideology join together and form political parties. Since the goal is to get to 50% plus one, you arrive at having two major political parties at any given time.

If one were to take apart the modern Democratic party, there would probably be quite a few individual factions. Everything from Socialists to socially conservative Democrats exist within the party. They form an alliance because each faction individually would have no chance at governing in our system.

Because two parties become powerful they make the laws to aid those parties staying in power. It is easy for a Republican or Democrat to get on the ballot, but it is very challenging for a third party candidate. The two parties also become fundraising and logistical juggernauts, because they hold the power and are sure victors in elections. This makes serious competition from a third party nearly impossible

The U.S. and big and diverse place, so the lack of regional parties is surprising to some. As the nation grew the two main parties grew with it. A big part of that is the power the parties already held at a Federal level (and their role in creating that expansion.) However, I think the main reason is the Presidency.

In the U.S. we elect our head of state in its own elections. Unlike in parliamentary systems where a Prime Minister only has to win his seat*, the American President has to win a National victory. And while it is easy to dismiss the executive power of the Presidency, it is still an incredibly powerful position to hold. The President is a big deal constitutionally, but more importantly there is no position so significant culturally on the earth

A party with no chance of holding the presidency quickly loses relevance nationally. That inevitably leads to that party have no relevance locally, because of Federalism. The Federal Democrats will give scraps to the state Democrats who will give scraps to the local Democrats.

I don't believe there will ever be a time where a third party can hold prominence in the U.S. One of the two main parties today could die and be replaced, but the system will not support a third party for very long.

Thanks for reading

*It is more complicated than that, but I wanna keep it simple, because that has little to do with the point.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bernie Sanders & Howard Dean

I feel like such an old person relative to the internet sometimes. Aside from being a virtual senior citizen at 26, I became politically active at 14. This means my optimism and enthusiasm about elections is pretty much dead. I mean, there is some life in me still, but largely that is because politics and elections are interesting games and I would much rather live under the rule of the lesser evil.

The candidacy of Bernie Sanders makes me happy. The far left hasn't had a serious presidential candidate in a long time and his announcement has been meet with surprising enthusiasm and (more importantly) serious fundraising. However, it is probably futile. I am reminded of another politician from Vermont. A man who young people supported in droves, but couldn't get the rest of the party to help him to the nomination. A man who opposed the war in Iraq and advocated for healthcare reforms.

11 years ago, a surprise candidate rose to become the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination as the campaign approached the Iowa Caucuses. Governor Howard Dean from Vermont ran what was at the time a revolutionary campaign for a Democrat. His campaign was really the first ever to use the internet effectively. His fundraising was done largely through small donations from supporters rather than having wealthy financiers making max donations. In this way, Howard Dean amassed as large of a war chest as any Democrat had had for a primary to that point*.

Things didn't go as expected though. In Iowa, John Kerry and John Edwards made huge gains in the polls as the caucus approached. Moderate and traditional Democrats shied away from Howard Dean's progressive message. The results from Iowa had him go from frontrunner to 3rd place in what was a very disappointing performance. If you know of Howard Dean, you know him from his concession speech on the night of the Iowa Caucus in 2004 (or David Chappelle's parody of it.) He lost his damn mind and his chance at the nomination. John Kerry went on to beat Dean in the New Hampshire primary and Dean's campaign imploded.

I see similarities between the rise of Dean and the rise of Sanders. Bernie Sanders is much more liberal than Dean and he is running at a time where socialist ideals do have quite the appeal to young democrats. However, Sanders has the same problem Dean does. An enthusiastic and vocal support base alone doesn't win primaries. The establishment and its machinery are a powerful force that is very hard for an upstart to rival**. I think most importantly, long standing party members tend to go with what's old and familiar as election day draws closer.

Howard Dean isn't the only example of this. People older than me will point to Edmund Muskie who had a similar fate in the primaries of 1972.

With all that said, I will still be supporting Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination in 2016 as I supported Howard Dean in 2004. I will support the candidate I believe has the most similar views to my own despite him not being the most 'electable' and his path to the nomination being difficult.

My worry is that those who support Bernie Sanders, especially who are going through their first competitive primary cycle will not support the Democratic nominee if it is not him. If you support Bernie Sanders and his views know that any Democrat will be much preferable to any Republican. Not voting or voting third party really only helps the Republicans.

Having a candidate who you support strongly lose in the primaries sucks. You have to see someone you admire and a source of hope give up. You must attempt to come to peace with other candidates who you spent so much time opposing.

Do not allow your energy to become nothing no matter how disappointing it may be.

Thanks for reading


*Obama's campaign in 2008 perfected the model of fundraising Dean had used in 2004.
**Another thing Obama did in 2008

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Bill in Arizona is Awful, but That May be a Good Sign

The war over gay marriage is pretty much over. The fight for gay rights is almost won. Decision after decision by Federal courts are ruling bans on gay marriage unconstitutional. The precedent has been set. The Supreme Court will eventually be forced to take up the issue, but I don't think they're too eager about it. The lower courts rulings suit them just fine and gives all the more justification for their eventual ruling in favor of marriage equality.

In the face of the progress the last year or so has brought, recently there has been a backlash by certain state government. Notably, Arizona's recently passed a bill that would've allowed for segregation of LGBT individuals. Fortunately, the Governor decided to veto this bill. She probably didn't decide to do so for the noblest reasons, but whatever keeps shit like that away is alright I suppose.

However, I see the fact that legislation passed as a sign of progress. How? Well, this is a counter-attack by the retreating far-right wing. They know that protection of the 14th Amendment for gay people and trans* people will soon be precedent. This counter attack has nothing to do with them winning; Arizona lawmakers undoubtedly knew that the law they passed would never take effect. It would've been stopped with an injunction and then killed by a Federal Court.

No, the move to get extreme anti-gay laws passed is all in an attempt to maintain power and support. These people are a governor standing with the national guard to stop a black student from entering a public school. The point then and the point now is to galvanize support with those who oppose the extension of Civil Rights. While, it isn't a majority who oppose these things, enough people do the keep the politicians they support relevant and maintain they're platform.

It is short-sighted to put yourself on the wrong side of history. Once the battle is done there's always gonna be a black mark on anyone's record whose opposition was so extreme. A segregationist could win some votes and a few states in 1968, but within a few years segregationists were unelectable.

Basically, what I'm saying is that while some state governments are doing horrendous things, they've already lost. The awful bigoted people still exist and will continue to exist, but their power is being taken away.

Also, while legal equity is coming soon, there is still a lot of cultural and institutional prejudice against LGBT people. A court decision won't fix that, but being granted equal protection under the law is a very nice step.


Monday, August 12, 2013

On My Fear of Mania

It is nearly 1:00 am and I had trouble falling asleep. Like I was tired, but then it quit once I settled into bed. One off nights where I have trouble sleeping don't bother me. However, this has been going on for like a week and it scares me. Any symptom of mania scares me to death. I am unable to accept that similarity to my father.

I mean this particular fear comes to me a lot. If I feel particularly horny, it scares me. If I feel great, it scares me. If I feel okay after not getting much sleep, it scares me. If I'm even slightly imprudent with my finances, it scares me. If I feel restless, it scares me.

There is anxiety inducing shit going on right now, which could explain the sleeplessness. A car crashed through the front of my workplace on Thursday (no one was hurt.) I will be losing hours as a result and everything is so influx that I don't know how much income I will lose and for how long. If I can't pay bills, then I'm either homeless or back living with my parents. At this point I don't know which prospect is scarier.  

Logically, I can look at myself and see that I've never been manic. A good mood does not mania make. If I can't sleep well, I will at the some point during the day be miserable and tired. I'm restless because I'm not satisfied with where I'm at; I'm plenty content, but I want more and I want different. My sex-drive fluctuates, because I'm a human with hormones and shit going all wacky and changing all the time.

Also, I know that even if I am manic, it isn't a huge deal. Having mania doesn't make a person bad. I'm not an asshole. I have seen the assholeness that mania can bring out in other individuals. However, whatever it is that goes on in my brain doesn't turn me into an asshole or at least very, very rarely an asshole. I certainly am comfortable with seeking help with mental illness. I want treatment. If I needed treatment for mania I would seek it.

I don't know which fear is worse, fearing my father himself or turning into him. I certainly spend an obscene amount of time trying to make certain that I don't act or think or do anything like him. My fear of mania certainly comes from my desire to not be my father. There is plenty of evidence to show periods where I've been depressed. The notion that I may be bi-polar too upsets me more than it should. Whether I'm bi-polar or not I'm not anything like my father and I'm completely aware that bi-polar doesn't equate to terrible person. However, my mind when thinking about myself cannot come to that rational conclusion.

Someday, I really hope I'm able to end my father's occupation of my brain. 

 Thanks for reading.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Supreme Court Decisions

Three big decisions by the court this week, which I don't think are being represented very well in the media. I'm not surprised given that constitutional law is nuanced and requires more than a soundbite to describe. And of course, there has to be winners and losers with nothing in between.

Starting with Shelby County v. Holder, in which the Alabama country sued the Attorney General arguing that sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Right Act of 1965 were unconstitutional. Section 5 requires that any State or County which has historically discriminated against minority voters get Federal approval prior to any changes to voting procedures. Section 4 creates a formula to determine which States and Counties fall into that category.

The Court's decision wasn't really as awful as some of my fellow lefties make it seem. The court did not rule Section 5 as unconstitutional, so Federal intervention is still allowed. The court did determine that the formula that Section 4 uses is unconstitutional. However, if Congress were to update the formula, Section 4 would be back in effect. The majority opinion is that the formula, which was last updated in the 1970s, isn't fair under modern circumstances.

I really hate that Section 5 is being rendered impotent until Congress can get their act together. And that might be difficult given how this and the prior Congress behaved. However, the formula really ought to be updated, because I don't if y'all have noticed, but Republican controlled State Houses in the north have been discriminating against minority voters recently. Particularly, in the aftermath of the 2010 elections.

Virtually all the areas which fall under the enforcement of Section 5 are in the South. Which I think is fair, because if you ask me all the horrendous things that state and local governments did are definitely still modern history. That said, I'd like to see the protection extended. The PoC in Cleveland and Detroit could use some backing against the disenfranchisement that the State governments are handing down.

And a final thought on this decision. The Federal Government has no rule in conducting elections in the Constitution. Thus, under the 10th Amendment it is the State governments that should conduct and make law about elections. So, constitutionally The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a big gray area. The precedent that was set by the court in its ruling on the first challenge the law in 1966 is that Federal intervention was deemed to be okay by the Constitution due to the extreme circumstances. That precedent, which is a big one for this important law, still remains intact.

In Winsor vs. The United States, a widow was denied Federal benefits due to the fact that the marriage was same-sex. She was charged an estate tax on property left to her, which had she been a man she would've not had to pay. Under section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) the Federal Government does not recognize same-sex marriages. She challenged the law under the 5th amendment.

brief interlude: The 5th and 14th Amendment are pretty much the same. Why are there two of the same amendment? The Bill of Rights applies to the Federal Government. The 14th amendment was needed in the aftermath of the Civil War to prevent Southern States from being able to deny Due Process and all the wonderful rights granted by the 5th Amendment to recently freed slaves. The 14th Amendment did add a guarantee of Federal and State citizenship to all U.S. citizens as well as a spelled out equal-protection clause. Also, some stuff that no longer applies, because everyone who had anything to do the Civil War, more specifically the South's Rebelling, is long dead. And we're back.

The majority ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. It served no pointed other than to discriminate against homosexuals. The decision also questioned the Federal foraying into marriage which is traditionally left up to the states.

The decision did not strike down DOMA as a whole, but only that particular section. While Section 3 was a biggie, it still leaves the troubling and blatantly unconstitutional Section 2 enforceable. To be clear, section 2 was not challenged in this case, so the Court could not rule on it. Section 2 gives States the right to not recognize the Marriage of a gay couple issued in another state. This is a clear violation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Other states have to recognize my Ohio driver's license as valid. A married heterosexual couple could move from Ohio to Iowa and be recognized by their new State government. But a married homosexual couple moving from Iowa to Ohio would not be recognized by their new State government. Also section 2 is violating the 14th Amendment. It really gets needs to get taken to Court.

The final decision, which I will (try to) only write about briefly, is Hollingsworth vs. Perry. At issue was Proposition 8, a gay marriage ban in California passed by voters in 2008, which has been ruled unconstitutional by a District and Circuit court. The Supreme Court did not rule on Prop. 8 or the constitutionality of Gay Marriage Bans. The Court determined that the person making the appeal to the ruling by a District judge did not have standing in the case. The Court ruled that appeal could only be rightly filed by the State of California and since the State chose not to do so the case should've stopped at the district level. The case is to be sent back to the Circuit Court with orders to dismiss it.

The California Supreme Court had ruled that the proponents of the ballot initiative could defend the law in court. It is an interesting dynamic, because Proposition 8 was not passed by the California government, but by a popular vote. So, the thought is that perhaps a citizen should have more say with Prop 8 than a state law passed by traditional means. The U.S Supreme clearly did not agree with their Californian counterparts on this, which I think is good precedent to maintain. 

This ruling means that by rule of the District Court Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. However, it does not have a broader effect. California's gay marriage ban is overturned, but my state's ban is still intact. Sometime, probably sooner rather than later, there will be a State that'll fight this issue to the Supreme Court, which would bring about a broader ruling. And my suspicion is that Gay Marriage Bans would be found unconstitutional, at least with the current make up of the Court.

Thanks for reading and please comment



Saturday, June 8, 2013

Gaming Tuesday- New Consoles or E3 or something

I apologize to my long neglected blog as well as the few readers it has.

The worst thing to have in the world of video game consoles right now is the spotlight. The Wii U (technically part of 8th Generation of game consoles with Xbox One and PS4) had no competition for the spotlight and flopped. The PS4 had the spotlight with its announcement and got bashed. No console was shown. There was a ridiculous amount of social media bullshit. Then came the Xbox One announcement, which probably has received the roughest criticism. They didn't show much gameplay. The Kinect is big brother. It isn't backwards compatible And then there was a backlash to the rumors about always having to be online and used game and DRM issues.

In turn, it seems the internet has fallen in love with the PS4 even though nothing has changed about it. I don't know what the PS4 looks like. I haven't seen it function, so I'm forced to assume the things that were shown in their reveal ran on PC. And the PS4 isn't backwards compatible either.

I'm not going to hide my inner Xbox fanboy. If the PS4 and Xbox One wind up being roughly equal I'm going to be getting the Xbox. I love my gamerscore. I love Xbox Live and I don't care that I have to  pay for it, because it fucking works well. Anyway, this post is largely going to turn into a post in defense of Xbox One, because there is actual details out about the hardware.

I have no problem with Microsoft making new/more difficult rules about Used Games. It certainly is a bone thrown the way of the game developers. Also, since it seems that games are going to have to be installed, it's necessary to have some rules about licenses. It really seems to me that they are being rather lax here. Games can be traded in or given to a friend.

I don't really buy used games anymore, so I don't really feel that broken up about Microsoft hurting the used game market place. Honestly, I'd rather not even have to bother with a disk. I love Games On Demand. And with Xbox One games will be available both through physical disks and digital downloads. If it really is true that every title that comes out for the new Xbox will be available day one digitally, Microsoft has me sold.

I think this is the beginning of the divergence of the console war. Microsoft seems to be wanting digital distribution. I have a feeling that the Xbox one will launch with a blu-ray drive, but within a few years new Xbox Ones won't have a disc drive(this also will avoid them having to pay Sony for blu-ray). I'm all for that. Disc drives are noisy and take up a lot of space in a console that could be used for hard drive space or processing power.

Sony is all-in with blu-ray. The data that can stored on a blu-ray disc is immense and that potential was never full reached by the PS3. It was the one edge the PS3 had on the 360. A game like L.A. Noire* needed 3 discs on the Xbox, but only one blu-ray disc for the PS3. A blu-ray disc can't compete with a hard drive, but if Xbox starts to do streaming of games, a game on a blu-ray will look better and play better.

I think the main thing is that there isn't a lot to be known at this point. After E3, I think things will be clearer and I strongly suspect neither console will have much of an edge. And a lot of the time with new hardware there may be a problem lurking that won't be revealed until the masses have it. If either of these turn out to be prone to failure, any other advantages disappear.

-I think both consoles will be priced at $499
-My gut tells me that Halo 5 is up Microsoft's sleeve and will be revealed at E3
-The PS4 will be playable at E3
-The PS4 will be shown and its design will be way less stupid that the PS3

Yea, this is kind of just unconnected thoughts and definitely not proofread

Thanks for reading,

*I didn't really love L.A. Noire. I feel the limited RAM of the 360 and PS3 made it impossible for the gameplay to be expanded.