Election Day is Just Around the Corner

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.  It has been a crazy few weeks for me.  Some good things but also some bad things.  But hey, that’s life, right?

Anyways, Election Day is just around the corner and many states are approaching the deadline to register to vote.  Some states’ deadlines have already passed, so I hope that if you live in one of those states you already registered.  I talk about the importance of voting a lot, but until more young people vote, I’m going to keep yammering on and on about it.

Let me ask everyone a question:  Do you think our elected officials are doing their jobs effectively?  I would bet that most people would answer that question with a big, resounding NO!  And I would agree with you.  They are elected to office to lead our country.  Their jobs includes running our government, drafting and passing laws, upholding the law, protecting our country and its citizens, keeping our economy healthy and strong, etc.  And they are supposed to do this with the best interest of the American people in mind.  Our current class of elected officials does a pretty poor job of all of this.  And we’ve all suffered as a result.

But…what about our job as citizens?  In a democracy/republic, the citizens shouldn’t be complacent by-standers who constantly bitch and complain about how ineffective and incompetant their government is.  They have to be informed of the issues and understand how they actually affect our lives and the lives of others, and they also have to participate in the political process.  There are several ways of doing this–writing/emailing/calling your congressional representatives, attending town hall meetings, joining political campaigns, signing petitions, even protesting.  But the most important way of being involved in the political process is by voting.  So, I ask you:  are we, the citizens, doing our job better than our political leaders?  I think not.  Only a little more than 50 percent of the country votes, and most Americans have very little knowledge of the important issues (which is partially due to our mass media who does an absolutely atrocious job of reporting real news and real facts).  So we can’t really be mad about politicians not doing their jobs when we don’t do ours either.  Unless you are ok with being a giant hypocrite.

voting

voting 3

The most important thing, however, is that young people start voting in much higher numbers.  This is so crucial to getting our leaders to pay attention to the issues that affect us.  Unfortunately, in mid-term elections, only about 20 percent of young people vote.  Older people on the other hand vote at a rate that is more than triple this.  So who do you think our leaders are going to listen to:  young people who don’t vote and thus don’t threaten their jobs; or older people who do vote and do threaten their jobs?  It’s no wonder our government spends 4 times more money on seniors as it does on youth.  The government won’t pay attention to us until we start making them, and the easiest and most effective way of doing that is by threatening to kick their good-for-nothing butts out of office.  And the easiest and most effective way of doing that is by VOTING!!!

voting 4

So please people, get out and vote next month.  Honestly, do your job!  Voting isn’t just our right and it isn’t just a priviledge that we are fortunate to have, it is our duty as citizens of a democracy.  Educate yourselves on the issues, learn where your candidates stand on the issues, and vote for who you think will best represent you and our country in office.  I know that many times the choices are poor all around, but just vote for who is the lesser of the two evils (and if they both equally suck, flip a coin–I’m totally serious).  The important thing is that we start taking our job as citizens of a democracy seriously again.  If our democracy suffers, ultimately it is our fault.  Because we have a government of the people, by the people and for the people, so when “the people” give up, the democracy is doomed.  Please don’t give up.  Fight for our democracy and fight for our future.  Vote on November 4th.

voting 2

 

 

Baltimore Orioles: 2014 A.L. East Champions!

So, I need to do a little hometown sports bragging here.  My beloved O’s clinched the American League East division last night by beating their division rivals, the Toronto Blue Jays, by a final score of 8-2.  I was there, in person, soaking it all in.  It was the first time the Orioles had clinched their division at home in 45 years.  It was unreal.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard Camden Yards get that loud.  The fans were incredible, and it was wonderful to see the players come back out to the field, after dousing their clubhouse with beer and champagne, to celebrate with the fans.  Below are a couple of videos of the victory and the celebration that followed.

If you’re not an Orioles fan, I’m sorry for this.  But I’m just so excited!  The last time the O’s won the World Series was in 1983–I was just under a year old.  I’ve watched the Baltimore Ravens win two Superbowls (which was awesome), but I haven’t seen my O’s win a World Series–at least not that I can remember.  I have a feeling that this may be our year.  And man, will I be one happy woman if we take home the title.  Let’s go O’s!!!

 

Source

“There are Many Ways of Moving Forward, but Only One Way of Standing Still”

It’s easy to look at the state of the world and think that we are heading for a path to destruction. There isn’t any doubt that we are in crisis (which isn’t surprising since history predicted that this would happen right about this particular period in time). The thing is though, despite all the pain and suffering, violence and war, intolerance and hate in the world, I still think that humanity is genuinely good.  And honestly, the greatest injustices are the silence, indifference and apathy toward all that is bad in the world.  We are too afraid to speak up and stand our ground.  If most of us think it is wrong to discriminate, then why do we live in a society where discrimination–of all kinds–is rampant?  Most people are good at heart.  Why then do we live in a world that is so bad?

One of the best traits of Millennials is that we are much more accepting of our differences.  We don’t really care about things like race, ethnicity, religion, politics, gender, sexual orientation, etc.  We just accept that not everyone is the same, and that not everyone believes the same things.  The culture wars that our parents’ generation has been fighting for the past few decades are of no interest to us.  We have seen how these petty arguments over things that are inconsequential have held our country back, and how they have helped bring out the worse in humanity.  The only way we can move forward is if we respect, love and accept others and their beliefs and life choices.

Of course, not everything is that easy.  The level of extremism and violence that we are witnessing with ISIS is beyond anything the modern world has ever seen.  And unfortunately the only way to combat them is to fight back.  I hate war, but this is a case where it is necessary.  The one good thing to come out of this, however, is that as people see how destructive and barbaric ISIS is, they begin to understand how crucial it is for all of humanity to be more tolerant and respectful.  Sometimes the only way to move forward is to reach rock bottom–because you literally can’t get any lower than that.  We may be about to hit rock bottom.

The purpose of this blog/website is to hopefully inspire and empower Millennials to fight for a better future.  I feel that our generation has an incredible opportunity to change the world in a very powerful and positive way.  The role we will play in shaping our country and our world throughout this century will be significant.  History is calling on us to rise to the occasion.  Other generations in the past didn’t fail when they were given the opportunity to change the world for the better.  Now, it is the Millennial Generation’s turn to build a lasting legacy that we will very proud to pass on to our children and grandchildren.  We have our work cut out for us, that is for damn sure.  But we can do it.  With enough determiniation, resolve, teamwork and optimism, there really isn’t anything we can’t do.

Now is not the time to give up.  Now is the time to fight.  Future generations are depending on us to at least try to make things better.   As FDR said, “One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment… If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.” Our generation has more tools at its disposal than any other generation in history. There really isn’t any excuse for us to not take advantage of them. Standing still isn’t an option. We must progress, but we can only do that if we channel the goodness of humanity. And that is something that technology cannot do for us. We have to decide that for ourselves, as individuals first.

I know world peace sounds impossible. But nothing is impossible unless you believe it is. When you say, “I can’t do that.” Guess what? You won’t do it. But if believe that you can do it, you are at least giving yourself a chance. In the words of the Beatles, “Let’s give peace a chance.” We can either give up now without ever really trying, or we can decide that we want to live in a better world. A world where poverty, war, intolerance, hate and inequality are a thing of the past. Why isn’t that possible? Our generation can get us closer to that possibility more than any other generation can. So let’s do that. It’s time for us to roll up our selves, put on our big boy pants and get to work. Let’s change the world. Trust me, we won’t regret it.

What to do about ISIS?

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is making quite a name for itself–but maybe not in the way that it would prefer.   New reports are saying that the U.S. and U.K. are putting together a team of elite black ops agents to target ISIS.  According to sources for the U.K. paper, Mirror, this highly specialized team (known as “Task Force Black”) will consist of agents from the U.S.’s CIA, Delta Force and Seal Team 6, and the U.K.’s Special Air Service, MI5 and MI6.

By utilizing this task force the governments of both the U.S. and U.K. are hoping to avoid having to send ground troops into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS.  There was a similar black ops operation that fought al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq with tremendous success.  U.S. and British government officials hope the same will be true with this renewed Task Force Black, as it takes on what appears to be the most ruthless and sophisticated Islamic terrorist group the world has ever seen.

According to reports, the U.S. has limited knowledge of ISIS.  Its evolution from a branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq to a much more sophisticated, organized and highly funded group has taken the U.S. intelligence community by surprise.  As Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, said in a conference last Friday, “They’re beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded…This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.”

This is how bad ISIS is–several Islamic groups and Islamic states have distanced themselves from ISIS because of their extremely violent and brutal tactics.  Even al-Qaeda in Iraq, the one time “parent” organization of ISIS, has denounced its tactics.  And the Political leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has recently asked that Hamas not be compared to ISIS, because Hamas does not agree with how they operate (mainly because ISIS willingly targets civilians–something that Meshaal claims Hamas tries to avoid).  The President of Indonesia–the world’s largest Muslim country–recently said that ISIS is “embarassing” and called on other Islamic leaders to reject their radical ideology.  Even Syrian officials have offered their help in fighting ISIS.  Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moualem, recently said they would cooperate with any international efforts to fight Islamic State militants.  So you have Hamas and al-Qaeda distancing themselves from ISIS, and Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia all denouncing ISIS and showing concern for the brutality consistently displayed by this group.  This is why I said in the beginning of this post that ISIS is making a name for itself, but not necessarily in the way it would like.  This certainly doesn’t bode well for future recruitment efforts.

I am in no way a war hawk, but I’m not a total pacifist either.  War and/or military conflict should be avoided at all costs, but if ISIS is as bad as intelligence and military officials say they are, then the we need to do something.  Not just the U.S.–the whole world.  And if several Muslim countries and Islamic groups are denouncing the violent and brutal tactics that ISIS utilizes, then they need to step up and do more than just say they don’t agree with ISIS.  Stopping this horrific group has to be an international effort.  If it is just the U.S. or just “western” nations that go after ISIS, that will likely aid ISIS in their recruitment, because they will be able to spin it as an attack on Islam.  But if this is a joint international effort, with the aid of Muslim nations, then that will likely send a strong signal to ISIS that the world isn’t going to put up with their brutal bullying.

Beyond assembling the Task Force Black, it has also been reported that the Obama administration is reaching out to other countries to try to build a coaltion to go after ISIS.  However, after the fiasco that was the Iraq War, many nations are weary to join a new “coalition of the willing”.  Obama has been rounded criticized for his lack of response to many major international issues over the last few years–jusitifiably so–but he really needs to assert himself this time.  Ignoring problems because you are afraid of making the wrong decisions about how to deal with them won’t make those problems magically disappear.  This terrorist group is no joke, so it is time for Obama to be a real leader.  He needs to be decisive, confident and unwavering.  Effective leaders inspire others not because they always make the right decisions, but because they believe in what they are doing.  Part of the reason why some nations may be hesitant to help the U.S. combat ISIS is because they haven’t seen real leadership on the part of the United States and President Obama.  It’s time for him to be the leader the world needs right now.

 

 

 

 

 

A College Education is Crazy Expensive, Ya’ll

I came across this article at Policymic that talks about the rise in the costs of a college education.  While this is not news, the actual increase in costs–from tuition to housing to medical care to food–is quite unbelieveable.   Just take a look at the chart below:

College costs

It’s no wonder that college enrollment is starting to decline–students simply can’t afford it.  And that isn’t a good thing.  If we have a less educated public, we will be less competitve with the rest of the world.  Additionally, the more educated a person is, the more money they make throughout their lifetime.  Thus, they have more spending power.  Thus, our economy grows because people are spending more money.  So without these well-educated people, the opposite will happen.

But as the article points out, the federal government is making quite a profit off of student loans.  In 2013 it is estimated that the Department of Education made a whopping $50 billion profit from student loans.  So even though the federal government has taken some steps to help ease the giant financial burden recent college grads have had to deal with by capping the interest rate on student loans to 10% of income, and forgiving any debt still owed after 20 years, they really have no incentive to do anything about the exorbitant and continually rising costs of a college education.

This issue is just another great example of why it is so important for our generation to vote.  We need to put pressure on our politicians to do more about college affordability–and other issues that are important to our generation.  But when only 20 percent of us vote in midterm elections, politicians have zero incentive to do anything about these issues.  Because our lack of civic engagement tells them that we don’t care.  Do you care?  If you do, then vote!

Poll: Most Americans Think U.S. is Headed in the Wrong Direction

Here’s a shocker:  According to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, only 28 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction, and only 13 percent approve of the way Congress is doing its job.  Furthermore, a plurality say they trust neither party to run the federal government, and a whopping 62 percent say that they want someone who isn’t their current Congressional leader to be elected this November.  However, come November, what won’t be shocking is the high incumbency rate in Congress.  Why?  Because Americans simply don’t care enough to vote the good-for-nothing idiots out of office–and because of highly gerry-mandered Congressional districts.  But it will be more due to the low voter turnout.

Americans are disgusted and fed-up to the point where complete apathy has set in.  After all, what is the point of voting when all politicians are the same?  And what is the point of voting if lobbyists and special interests have more power than the people?  Both are good questions, but I think the better question is how did we get here?  In other words, why doesn’t it matter who is in office (because no matter who it is nothing will change)?  And why do lobbyists and special interests have more power than the people?

The answer is quite simple:  our democracy is weak because we, the people, are weak.  We gave up–a fairly long time ago actually.  We don’t fight as much as we should.  And we don’t demand accountability from our leaders as much as we should.  I’ve said this over, and over, and over, and over again:  a democracy gets its strength from the people, because a democracy is a government of the people, by the people, for the people.  If we, the people, don’t care anymore then we can only expect our democracy to weaken further.  (Note:  The United States is technically a Republic.  But the U.S. is also considered a democratic Republic, meaning it consists of a government in which the power resides in the people, as it is run by leaders that are directly elected by the people and are bound to “rule” by law.)

Our politicians don’t change because we don’t make them.  And lobbyists and special interests have so much power in Washington because we let them.  Think about it:  if only 40 percent of Americans vote in mid-term elections, and barely 50 percent vote in general elections, we’re not a big threat to politicians jobs’ or to the power lobbyists and special interests have in Washington.  This is especially true for younger Americans.  We want our leaders to pay attention to the issues that affect us, but we don’t vote.  Thus, our leaders have no incentive to listen to us because we don’t threaten their jobs.  Older people–who vote in much higher numbers–threaten their jobs, which is why our government spends over four times more money on seniors than it does on the youth.  Bottom line:  if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain.

In a healthy, thriving democracy, the people aren’t ignorant observers who do nothing but complain about how bad things have gotten.  The people in a healthy democracy are well-informed of the issues, and when they aren’t happy with how things are going, they actively do something about it.  They participate (i.e. vote, protest, right letters/emails to congressional leaders, call their congresstional leaders, attend town hall meetings, etc.).  They don’t sit around complaing about things they don’t understand (because they don’t bother to actually learn about them), or about how nothing ever changes.  The people in a healthy, thriving democracy understand that they are in charge, and if they give up their power (by becoming complacent and/or apathetic) then they have no one to blame but themselves.

FDR once said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”  He also said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”  In other words, democracy won’t succeed without a well-informed, participatory public.  Our problem is we currently lack both in the United States.  We have a very misinformed public (and yes, the mass media is horrible and certainly shares a big chunk of the blame for this, but there are a lot of of other forms of media available today, so one can still read up and get the facts), and we also have a very apathetic public.  It’s a double-whammy, and our democracy gets weaker by the day because of it.

As long as we believe that nothing will ever change, instead of actively trying to change things, then yes, nothing will ever change.  And as long as we continue to vote in low numbers, thus not threatening the jobs of our leaders or the power that lobbyists and special interests have over them, then again, nothing will ever change.  Only when we, the people, realize that change has to first come from us–since we are the true rulers in a democracy–will things begin to get better.

It has been said that in a democracy, the people shouldn’t fear the government, the government should fear the people.  Who do you think has more fear in our democracy–the people, or the government?  By the results of the poll referenced above, I’d say it’s the people.  It’s time we fix that, don’t you think?  Ok, good–then come November, get out and VOTE!  Just imagine what could happen if instead of a 40 percent voter turnout, there is an 80 percent voter turnout?  Do you think then the government might start to fear the people?  Just some food for thought for the next 3 months, as you ponder over whether it is worth it to vote or not.  (Hint: it is)

Bill Maher

 

 

 

Are Millennials “Over” Israel?

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, 18-to-29-year-olds are the only age group that blames the violence in Gaza more on Israel than Hamas–interesting, but perahps not all that suprising.  And a great article at Salon.com analyzed the reasons why this is the case.  According to the article’s author, David Palumbo-Liu, there are two central reasons why Millenials aren’t exactly buying the arguments put forth by the Israeli government to justify their actions in Gaza:  (a)  younger people don’t quite agree with the post-WWII rhetoric of  Israel having the right to defend itself–at all costs–in order to prevent another Holocaust; and (b) the availability of news, images, testimonials and videos regarding the conflict in Gaza coming from various sources other than the mainstream media that Millennials are more inclined to use (e.g. Social Media outlets).

I hesitate to give an opinon on this conflict, mainly because I simply don’t know enough about it to give an opinion (not a terribly informed one, at least).  But also because as a former student of international relations, I understand that there is rarely ever (if ever) one completely innocent party and one completely guilty party in a conflict, and that most conflicts are far more complicated than we realize.  Now, despite the fact that neither side is entirely to blame, it is oftentimes true that one side is the instigator, or uses excessive/unjustifiable force, or absolutely refuses to compromise.  And honestly, from what I can tell, this conflict has all of that–and both sides are guilty of all of it.

I completely agree that Israel (and all countries for that matter) has an inherent right to defend itself.  But what I struggle with–and I feel that I speak for a lot of people in my generation when I say this–is the number of Palestinian deaths vs. Israeli deaths.  It is a little disproportionate, and as the article referenced above says, “That Hamas has also committed attacks on civilians does not erase the fact that Israel’s violence violates basic international humanitarian laws regarding proportionality.”  Not to mention the ongoing (and illegal) Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the continuation of Israeli settlements in these Palestinian terrorities (something even the U.S. government has warned Israel to stop doing).  Millennials simply aren’t comfortable giving their unwavering support to Israel, knowing full-well that all of this is happening.  Now that isn’t to say that Millennials agree with Hamas.  Certainly we understand that they are a terrorist group and should be disarmed immediately.  But the fact of the matter is, Israel isn’t so innocent either.

I think what is most upsetting to our generation is that there just seems to be no end to the violence.  Neither side is really willing to compromise.  So I wonder, what exactly needs to happen in order for both sides to realize that the amount of violence, death and destruction just isn’t worth it?  I mentioned in a previous post that I felt that this conflict was going to reach a very catastrophic end.  Something really, really terrible will happen, and I believe that it will likely occur in the next few years.  And this something will be so horrifying that we will have reached a level of violence and death that humanity has never known.  Another world war?  Use of nuclear weapons?  I greatly fear what it could be.  Of course I hope I’m wrong, but if I am right, the one good thing that might come out of it is a lasting peace–because we will have learned that the only way we will ever progress and advance as a species is by living and working together in peace.  War, violence, intolerance, ignorance and hate only hold us back.

Will the world ever know peace?  Certainly not in our lifetime.  But if you look back over history, as a species we have grown far less violent than we once were.  Hopefully that trend will continue, and maybe a few centuries from now our great-great-great-great grandchildren will learn about this period in time and wonder how we could have ever harbored such hate for one another.  And maybe, just maybe, they’ll also learn about a special generation–called Millennials–who decided that they wanted to change things.  This generation decided that they weren’t going to just accept that things were a certain way, and instead wanted to be more loving, tolerant and peaceful.  And that was perhaps the most important turning point in human history.  Don’t say it can’t happen.  The best part about history is that we can write it any way we want.  And, of course, whatever we decide will be a part of our generation’s legacy.

 

Hope and Perseverance

Considering the current state of the country and the world, I thought that this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt was appropriate.  I couldn’t agree with her more.

“Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not try.  For one thing we know beyond all doubt–nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says:  it can’t be done.”