demark!

Posts Tagged ‘Rants’

Don’t tell me you haven’t asked yourself

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Where I’m at: Arlington, just back from Alexandria

What I’m doing: watching a show on gigantic animals (a 50 ft python! ahh! a 1100lb colossal squid!)

Why I’m posting: a good time to post on this issue after a NYT article on the subject three days ago and a Pentagon report issued yesterday

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On the whole, I’m a very tolerant person. I can appreciate almost any wacky view someone can hold, not because I believe s/he is right, but because I believe it is right to let someone hold it. Far from moral relativism, this is the essence of democracy (something you may have heard that I support).

What I absolutely cannot tolerate – and which I seek to extract from or prevent from entering my world view with all effort – is hypocrisy. It’s about the dirtiest word I can think of. So that’s the last time I’ll say it in this post (at this point, you’re hoping that the closing quote is that of the hyenas from The Lion King saying “Mufasa” over and over. Sorry…though enjoy recalling Whoopi Goldberg’s voice).

Now, speaking of the h-word, it’s almost not fair to turn to politics. But I’m going to anyway. During the first week that I had this blog, I started a post on this very subject that I never finished. So why now? Because the subject has gotten juicier. Having danced around introducing the subject long enough, it’s this: the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The problem is, the military doesn’t even support this policy anymore. Secretary of Defense Gates has criticized the policy, calling for its retraction. So has Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mullen. The Pentagon released a draft report yesterday questioning the effectiveness of the policy (covered here by the NYT). So who’s policy is it? Well, I guess it’s Congress. It’s Congress’ because it no longer can be the Executive’s or the Judicial’s (if the courts can even have a policy). That’s thanks to a federal court’s injunction last month preventing enforcing of the policy. Though gay rights advocates have been less than happy about the Obama administration’s general non-action on the subject, it’s that same “inaction” by its Attorney General Holder that will permit the injunction to effectively become a permanent ban. Of course, the original decision has been appealed, but the vigor with which the government will try to attack the decision is debatable at best.

And so the responsibility for the continued retention of the policy rests with Congress, and specifically certain members who are vigorously defending the policy. This includes, unfortunately, Senator McCain. This is a man whom I respect for a number of reasons (though I often, if not mostly, disagree with him), including generally his word. But when Sen. McCain, one of the architects of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” says he will consider repealing the law when military leaders call for its repeal due to ineffectiveness, and said military leaders do so, and then that same senator refuses to re-address the policy…well, that’s where I get off. And that’s where the h-word comes in.

I suppose a good rant doesn’t need to do more than sow a bitter seed, thus I’ll leave it at that. Almost. My last word is about that tolerance I first mentioned. I don’t really care if you think being gay is a choice or is innate. But like being Jewish, joining the drama club, or simply holding an unpopular opinion, being gay is something that is very often discriminated against and the targets of that discrimination often face threats, taunts, insults, death, or worse. Going off of the common sense notion that most people would prefer to be happy rather than not, we ought to appreciate people that stand proudly as who they are, with what or who they love beside them, knowing that they may face the worst of what humanity has to offer. As Americans, I would hope that we look at the two parties there – the one standing tall and proud versus the one hissing at him – and side with the former. I know that confidence, pride, and bravery in the face of fear are what our military has always stood for. Let’s let those people that do just that stand in the light.

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Who said it: Voltaire. My man!

Why it’s relevant: Tolerance, my friends. Tolerance. And the sacrifice that our men and women in the military make for us. One which obligates us to extend them the same freedoms they protect.

The quote: “I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Correction- Azimuth Check

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Where I’m at and what I’m doing: sur mon balcon, au crepescule (on my balcony at dusk…poetic in either language)

Why I’m posting: deleting previous post and reposting

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For those that subscribe to my blog or happened to check it last night or this morning, this post may seem less or more confusing. It’s only about 20 of you, but hey, even Ariana Huffington started slow (incidentally, I don’t even read The Huffington Post anymore). I will consider this post “Post 51,” which will replace the soon-to-be-infamous “Post 50,” which I can only imagine will be the subject of considerable debate, legend, and lore on the blogosphere.

“Post 50” was, in a sense, a rant about how I was getting older (my 28th birthday was last week) and how I don’t care about anything anymore. Actually, since I was able to sum that up in one sentence, it makes me wonder why that was a whole blog and not just a Tweet. Of course, I don’t have Twitter (or Facebook), so I suppose by “Tweet,” I mean yelling off my balcony.

Less than a day later, though, I’ve found a bit more perspective. What seemed yesterday like a dire loss of dedication was really just a less dire loss of direction. Conveniently, we had a briefing on how and why to periodically do an “Azimuth Check.” That is to say, re-orient ourselves along the line between where we started and where we want to be. This is something I used to do on a nearly daily basis. Heck, my first real poem ever was entitled “The Road to Where I Want to Be.” But all of this transitioning had recently caused me to lose my sense of direction a little as new information, experiences, and people hit me from all sides.

So bearing in mind that this blog has a few very important readers – and by “few” I mean all of you are very important…there’s just not all that many of you yet – I decided to re-post and focus not so much on bitterness, but a rambling sense of hope. In fact, if you read every 10th letter, this post actually reads “Learning to hope again. Stay strong, friends.” Probably.

(NOTE: I just checked. Through the intro, it actually spells: AOBEMTCAIEVNG. And if you’re into anagrams, which I’m not, you can rearrange that to be “I bet on me C ago.” C could be roman numeral C, for 100 yrs, which in Latin, was the time period used colloquially to signify “forever” or “ages.” So the letters actually could be read as “I bet on me ages ago.” Which actually is very hopeful. Wow…that’s actually kind of strange. And I promise that I randomly selected 10 letters and didn’t plan that at all.)

Okay, Aziumuth, checked. Post 50, deleted. Joke about Alexander the Great from previous post, lost forever. C’est la vie.

Best,

demark!

(censored)

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2010 at 4:23 am

Where I’m at: DC (stuck in my Falls Church apartment- Thanks HR Dept for not sticking up for me)
What I’m doing: finishing off a ribeye at midnight (why not?!)
Why I’m posting: because I need to speak out!
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I had another softball game tonight. Our team is awesome! Three games, three run-rules, 3-0. More importantly, it’s a great team because I love my teammates. Great people, all of them.

However, they may not feel the same about me. Now, they’re not ones to make generalizations, but at least 2 of them commented on their dislike for diplomats tonight after the game. Though these weren’t directed towards me, the general comments are in fact shared by many around the world. The comments roughly boil down to “Diplomats are pretentious.”

Now, as a bleeding heart of all types, a lawyer, and perhaps someday an elected official, I’m accustomed to being prematurely labeled for the foibles of others identified of the same persuasions. And that’s fine. But…

…Well, the “but” here is that usually I’m able to speak out in other ways to (a) defend myself, (b) improve the criticized system, and (c) maintain my sanity. But I’m embarking upon a new career where that’s not really that possible. Even here, on my own blog, I need to be concerned about fully airing my views and opinions because of my readership.

So what am I going to do? For now, yell out loud. But my neighbors insist that I come up with something…better.
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Who said it: Homer and Marge Simpson
Why it’s relevant: who wouldn’t lose it in such a case?

The quote: [in a room filled with thousands of “No TV and No Beer Make Homer Go Crazy” scrawled on the walls]
Homer (wielding an ax): No TV and No Beer Make Homer…something something.
Marge: Go Crazy?
Homer: Don’t mind if I do!

Life not falling apart!

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Where I’m at: Chicago (t-minus 5 days)
What I’m doing: tax stuff, moving preparations
Why I’m posting: significance of today
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Well, it’s an historic day today, like it or not. Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the Senate-passed health reform bill along wholly partisan lines. I’m not sure what to think of yet, despite this having been a hot-point of debate for many months. On the one hand, I like expanding Medicaid while reducing Medicare. I like 32 million more Americans potentially receiving health coverage. I like automatic coverage of children under age 26. I like offsetting the cost by raising capital gains taxes (which I separately support as part of my proposal for a new tax system, which I call the “Tax Well.”). On the other hand, I think the hundreds of billions of dollars in deficit reduction estimated by the CBO is a bit optimistic since the gains will come almost immediately and the expenses will come 4-10 years down the road (and the U.S. has a way of spending money rather than saving it). I hate all the abortion debate. And I generally am wary of increasing government size.

But it’s to that last point that I’m posting. Most folks may miss the fact that as part of the health reform bill, the House tacked on an education reform bill that provides billions in additional Pell grants, and generally reflects a move away from educational loan subsidies (to companies like Sallie Mae, whose “private sector” operations I loathe. Sorry, AIG, but private companies don’t accept government money). The goal is to save $61 billion (CBO estimate) by eliminating the middle man and giving education loans directly to students.

Some may (and have) derided the education bill as increased government involvement. But since the government started helping fund educational loans in 1965, we’ve seen a dearth in the number of highly-educated individuals needed to fill the jobs of tomorrow (now, the jobs of today) and the government has paid hundreds of billions in subsidies to get “private” creditors to give educational loans. Sallie Mae is perhaps one of the most corrupt private companies in American history, next to Enron, and we fed that with increasing subsidies.

So when people argue that the health bill will lead to greater government intervention, I can’t help but think…”well, good.” The middle man here might be employers, or insurance companies, or any number of “private” companies whose independent, non-governmental bona fides are largely ceremonial, if not outright lies. In short, if the government wants to get more DIRECTLY involved in something it was already inextricably involved in, that probably benefits all of us in cost-savings by eliminating waste. I could be wrong, but I thought that waste was what government minimalists hated all along.

Hey, if we can buy “factory-direct” mattresses, let’s start eliminating lots of middlemen. Comments, as always, are appreciated.

This case blows me away

In Uncategorized on March 2, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Where I’m at: Chicago (t-minus 24 days)
What I’m doing: Nothing! Glorious nothing! (since the Bar exam is over)
Why I’m posting: Must-know info!
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Well, today’s the day. I never thought this day would come. While I never hope for anyone’s demise, I was hoping that somehow one of the 5 “conservative” justices on the Supreme Court would have left the bench at this point. (Yep, you guessed it, this is a rant about a case)

Today is the day because today is the day that the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in McDonald v. City of Chicago. That case is the one where Chicago’s handgun ban will be tested. Now, the reason I’m so gloom and doom is because 2 years ago, the Court voted 5-4 to overturn D.C.’s handgun ban. That ruling didn’t technically make other handgun bans illegal because D.C. is federal land. Today’s case, though, unmistakeably applies the Second Amendment to the 14th Amendment.

The issue is this: the Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution) applies only to the federal government. However, the post-Civil War amendments (specifically the 14th Amendment) applied the Bill of Rights to the states (the so-called “incorporation doctrine”) in most cases. It wasn’t an across-the-board change, so each Bill of Rights amendment has had to be separately tested. Most have been applied to states (e.g. 1st Amendment rights of speech/religion/etc.), but some have not (e.g. the right to a trial by jury). Some simply have not been tested (2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms), and some have been assumed (8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment).

So here we are. Standing over a precipice with the same Court (except for a substitution on the “liberal” side) that overturned D.C.’s handgun ban 2 years ago. In a couple of months, gun bans may be illegal everywhere. As you can probably tell, I’m not very thrilled by the prospect. I appreciate the desire to have piece of mind and safety, but I’m also startled by the reality that handguns – especially in places like Chicago – make areas more dangerous than safer. I’ll always remember how uneasy I felt walking into one of my best friend’s homes in high school where he’d show me all of his guns. Maybe I was supposed to feel safe, but what I felt was scared.

Share your thoughts, please, if you’d like.
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Who said it: Michael Gartner, former president of NBC News
Why it’s relevant: discussing the Brady Bill back in 1992 on restrictions to gun ownership

The quote: “There is no reason for anyone in this country, anyone except a police officer or a military person, to buy, to own, to have, to use a handgun. I used to think handguns could be controlled by laws about registration, by laws requiring waiting periods for purchasers, by laws making sellers check out the past of buyers. I now think the only way to control handgun use in this country is to prohibit the guns. And the only way to do that is to change the Constitution.”

The new normal?

In Uncategorized on February 9, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Where I’m at: Chicago (until late March)
What I’m doing: frustrated at BarBri’s technical support
Why I’m posting: gauging public opinion
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As the intro states, I’m gauging public opinion on something. And since the entire public reads this blog (my mom and wife = the entire public), I thought I’d use this forum to ask. If you have thoughts, please post them in the comments, email me, or call me.

So President Obama and Congress are considering a number of efforts to reduce childhood obesity. There’s been talk of a soda tax, more money for public schools that provide healthier lunch options, more money for preventative health, etc. Heck, ol’ Barry was even in one of those NFL “Play 60” commercials promoting 2 hours/day of TV and 1 hour of outdoor time. [Note: there’s more than a foot of snow on the ground in Chicago right now. One hour of outdoor time = negative 2 toes]

My question is this: is this all misplaced? There’s wide acknowledgment these days that obesity is a problem in the U.S. It’s even officially a disease (mostly for insurance purposes). But the problem is so widespread that a full 2/3 of America is officially overweight, nearly 30% is obese, and the numbers for children is quickly catching up (about 50% and 20%, respectively). It thus appears that for once in our great, but sometimes manic history that we’re discriminating against the majority – or soon-to-be-majority – on an issue of this sort [Note 2: that comment should draw some criticism, people]. So should we care? Is overweight the new normal? Obese the new overweight? Not overweight the new dangerously skinny?

It seems a ludicrous concept to become accustomed to, but we’ve done it before. As these blogs posts have already pointed out, we’ve frequently come to widely accept ideas that relatively recently had been blasphemous to many.

I could say a lot more about this, but I’d rather hear from others. So there’s the question: will fat be the new normal?

(PS: Scroll down and keep posting to the polls!)
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Who said it: Michelle Obama, First Lady and a pretty good lawyer herself
Why it’s relevant: She just rolled out her “Let’s Move” initiative designed at “conquering” childhood obesity in one generation

The quote: “This isn’t about politics…I’m talking about commonsense steps we can take in our families and communities to help our kids lead active, healthy lives.”

Corporations United

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Where I’m at: Chicago (t-minus 51 days)
What I’m doing: figuring out where to live in D.C.
Why I’m posting: venting about judicial hypocrisy
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So due to a variety of factors – namely my mom’s and bro’s birthdays, studying, and oh, not having a blog – I didn’t write anything about the “Citizens United v. FEC” case that came down from SCOTUS (the Supreme Court of the United States) last week. For those that don’t normally care about court decisions, you probably should care about this one because it very may well be one of those cases that we all debate for years down the road (think Roe v. Wade). That serious, DeMark? Well, maybe. For those that want the short version, SCOTUS’s decision removes most restrictions from corporations making political campaign donations (primarily by striking down McCain-Feingold’s law). In other words, if Pfizer decides it wants Candidate A, it doesn’t matter how much you and your friends support Candidate B because his bankroll will look like a pittance.

Okay, that’s the Justice Stevens-in-dissent-take (god I love that little bow-tied man). But the reason everyone should be up in arms about this decision is the way it happened. Now, I’m all for freedom of speech. In fact, I believe (like Justice Black did) in absolute freedom of speech…of people. But opening the way for corporations to have the same standards of speech diminishes all our speech. It is not that I can’t see where the conservative wing of SCOTUS chose to extend that right through its 5-4 decision, but that they chose to do it when they didn’t have to. Basically, “Citizens United” should have been a minor, targeted decision, but Justices Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy (who wrote the opinion) chose to overturn 2 precedents, a popularly-elected Congress’s statutory action, and it spit in the face of all those conservatives that rant against judicial activism. I’m not disappointed in Kennedy because he doesn’t hold precedent in the same regard. Nor am I disappointed in Thomas (because he’s already such a waste of space) or Alito (because I have so little respect for him already and he’s already shown a propensity for this type of thing, notably trying to overturn Roe v. Wade through Casey v. Planned Parenthood when he was on the Ct. of Appeals). I’m disappointed in Roberts and Scalia. Even though I don’t agree with them, I respect their measured approaches to jurisprudence and their regards for stare decisis (basically, precedent). That they would both go beyond the narrowly-tailored decision that would have been required to broadly make judicial law is disappointing.

I’d just like to see where the John Birch Society is now. The JBS was infamous for plotting to kill Chief Justice Earl Warren and other Justices for their “judicial activism” mid-century in such efforts to recognize rights of privacy and strike down segregation. It was a fringe group until George H.W. Bush courted their membership to reform the GOP in Texas and flip the formerly blue state to the red state bastion it is today. Let’s see if those wackos will go after one (or two) of their own. By using their speech, of course. It’s free after all.
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Who said it: Chief Justice John Roberts during his confirmation hearings
Why it’s relevant: See above, re: “judicial activism”

The quote: “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules; they apply them.”