Friday, August 31, 2012

Mitt Romney is Going to Lose This Election (Updated 8/31/2012)

When I look at this country, I see two enormous sides and almost nothing in the middle. It's kind of like the universe in the sense that everything is just expanding away from itself leaving no resemblance of what it used to look like. It's hard to find common ground on any issue anymore and any contrary opinion is considered a personal attack. Having said that, it shouldn't come as any surprise that the Republicans would pick a candidate as "Vanilla" as Mitt Romney. He doesn't step on anyone's toes and everything he says seems to be written perfectly for the crowd he is addressing. Now, I know candidates since the beginning of politics have played to the crowds. It just seems to me, however, that Romney takes it to a whole new level of pandering. He changes so much from state to state, town to town that there is no way of getting a real read on where he stands on anything. Don't get me wrong, the president isn't any better at establishing a real stance on anything, but that is the key to the upcoming election. 
Both candidates are equally slippery when it comes to talking around important issues and avoiding the big questions. But this election is going to come down to what we know and what we don't know. President Obama has had four years and proven that he is capable of making decisions. Whether you agree with them or not is your own opinion but when we go into the voting booth in November we are all going to have to make a choice between what actually is and what might be. Now it maybe true that every election is like that. The question always is, do we stick with what we have or do we move on to something new. I say that this election is most likely the first in American history where people just simply don't know what they are going to get. This is unfortunate because I do believe it is one of the most important elections. I truly feel that unless Mitt Romney begins taking a real stance on key issues he will not win in November. Now that the convention is over lets see if he starts talking about things that matter.

When speaking about President Obama's performance in office, I would give him a 6/10. My criticism of the president does not relate to his handling of the economic crisis he inherited; he had no alternative but to support the Wall Street and subsequent auto industry bailouts. Without the economic stimulus package, things would have gotten a lot worse. On the international front, he has done a pretty good job. Where I fault the president the most is his handling of the ever growing deficit and tackling the issues of job loss and unemployment. I can make an enormous list of criticisms and praise about President Obama but once the election comes around no body remembers the good, and in the age of the twenty four hour news cycle you better believe this election is going to be a lot harder to win than the last election.

Why is Mitt going to lose? The answer is simple, Romney is forgetting that in order to win the election, he will have to win over independent and moderate voters. Romney has spent so much of his time trying to convince his own party that he is a true conservative that he has actually alienated the base needed to win the election. What made Mitt Romney an ideal candidate in the beginning was his ability to appeal to moderates. A platform that focuses on who the best man is for the job instead of how he is going to defeat Obama is probably the better strategy. Mitt is going to lose because of a fragmented party. He feels he has to walk a tight rope between the ultra conservative and the moderates. If Obama is capable (which I think he is) to be more moderate then he is going to win the extremely important moderate vote and the election.

Now, theoretically Romney is going to get the Republican vote. No matter what, Obama is "hated" by the ultra conservative republicans so they are voting for "anything but Obama". Romney has an incredible opportunity to say how he really feels. For this election, the Republicans so desperately want Obama out, that their minds were made up about who they were going to vote for before Obama even took the oath of office. 

So why does Mitt even need to pander to those voters? It's not as if they are going to vote for Obama if all of a sudden Romney tries to go a little more moderate. There is not a chance in hell that the far right is going to not vote for him, so, again, why even fight for those votes? Romney's stance on abortion and healthcare have been the focus of many attacks by the other GOP candidates. Accusations that he has "flip-flopped" on his stance on issues hurt him early in the race. Now that he will be facing Obama in November, he may have a tough time campaigning against Obamacare given his creation of Romneycare in Massachusetts. The same can be said of his stance on abortion, Romney was a pro-choice conservative which he freely admitted back in 2007. Like I said before, why even fight these issues or change your opinion? Furthermore why choose an ultra conservative person like Paul Ryan? Choosing Paul Ryan has only reinforced the idea that Romney is taking a hard turn to the right.

Romney won the nomination, so why say stupid stuff like "I've changed my opinion on abortion" or choose Paul Ryan? He has the incredible opportunity to take every single moderate vote away from Obama if he came out in support of abortion and other social issues such as contraception and gay marriage. He could have won a lot more moderate votes if choose a more progressive or moderate VP. Now instead of having a person to balance the ticket. It seems the Republicans are more interested at making a point about not having to compromise there values instead of actually trying to appeal to the moderate Americans who will undoubtedly help them win the election. I think I can take the liberty in saying that most moderates consider themselves "fiscal conservative" and "social liberals". Romney could be the perfect moderate candidate if he would just stop trying to please the GOP. It's not the GOP that he needs to please anymore. He needs to start campaigning for the country, and unless he starts to become more moderate like he really is, then Mitt Romney will undoubtedly lose in November.

Written by: Salvatore Pezzino Jr.
Edited by: Julius Motal
Updated 8/31/2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

It Doesn't Take Common Sense to Know...Concealed Weapons Won't Prevent Shootings in NYC

It Doesn't Take Common Sense to Know...Concealed Weapons Won't Prevent Shootings in NYC

Recently it seems there has been an inordinate amount of shootings in New York City. Most of which are drug related, and committed with illegal firearms.  Most recently the shootings in front of the Empire State Building have rejuvenated the conversations and arguments about guns in New York City. Both sides have very compelling arguements, one side fighting for stronger tighter regulation of guns hoping to mitigate gun violence in the five boroughs. The other side fighting for looser gun laws and restrictions citing that if there were people carrying guns capable of responding before the police, lives can be spared and the streets will be safer because criminals will think twice before using there gun.

My personal opinions change day to day. Seemingly they change from shooting to shooting but living in New York City it is very difficult to gauge what is really the best solution for ending gun violence in New York City. My personal opinion though, without being misunderstood as taking a liberal stance is that there should be strict gun laws within the five boroughs.

I am a defender of the second amendment. I think guns are cool, fun, and interesting. There is no doubt that they need to be respected and treated as a weapon that will without question severely injure or most likely kill you. But handled and treated properly firearms can be a very satisfying and fun hobby. Beyond that firearms are a tool. A very serious tool that again is to be treated with respect and can be invaluable in home defense, in many cases the last line of defense. Sometimes the police just can’t respond fast enough and when push comes to shove, no matter how fast the police can respond, I would feel much safer knowing that I can protect myself or my family if I need to.

Bringing it all back to the main issue, would the ability for civilians to carry concealed firearms prevent or mitigate loss of life in New York City. I say the answer is no. I am a commuter, I have been a commuter all my life and the people who yell and complain about anti gun legislation in New York City are not people who use public transportation for there daily commute. It is already an extremely volatile situation when you cram twelve million people into a moving underground tube, adding guns to the mix will not help anything. Now, when I say this most people come back and say “do you really believe that honest people with no criminal record or penchant for criminal activity will just start shooting people if they are allowed to carry guns?” The answer to that is undoubtedly yes. Its not that every person will start shooting up subway cars, railroad cars, or buses, but by introducing guns into the mix you increase the possibility of a person using that gun. Even if it only increases the shootings by one person, I believe that one person is one too many who has to die for the sake of making a statement about the second amendment. Everyone who has ever been stuck on the seven train, at Queensboro plaza in August, wearing a suit, has thought about how useful a gun would be. Anyone who has been stuck in grand central during a delay five hundred feet underground with people clawing at each other to be first to get on the 4,5,6, or 7 express has thought that a gun would be very useful. Is that satirical? Yes. In New York City would a few people more die a year if concealed carry permits were allowed? Yes.

That’s what people really don’t understand. New York City is a completely different animal. “Are you saying New York City is so much more different from any other major American city?” You bet your ass I am! Almost two million people live on a thirty three square mile island. On average you have six million people commuting to, through, and around Manhattan, just via subway, ferry, LIRR, Taxi, and Bus alone. Not to mention the people who commute into Manhattan with cars, bikes, and by foot. Almost no city in the world can compete with the congestion to size ratio Manhattan has. So it is my humble opinion that concealed carry laws would not help to mitigate gun violence, I believe it would make it worse. Not significantly worse, but when it comes to peoples lives, again I am not for increasing the death tally for the sake of protecting the second amendment.

How do I feel about Gun control and concealed carry laws throughout New York State? I am strong supporter of the second amendment. Throughout the rest of New York state I see no problem with people exercising there right to bear arms. I feel that concealed carry licensees are essential to maintain order in places in New York that are A) Not as populated as New York City and B) Not as well policed. I am for very loose gun control laws through out New York State. There is no doubt that when your nearest neighbor is three miles away and the average police response time can exceed a half hour personal protection is essential.

Just to be clear about my opinion, my argument for gun control in New York City is not strictly confined to concealed carry permits, but very strict gun control across the board. I know it may sound irrational, but I feel safer with just the police carrying guns on the streets of Manhattan knowing that no one can easily own a firearm in Manhattan. As opposed to everyone being able to buy guns and that someone can just whip one out at any minute. I know that can happen either way but I feel secure in knowing that, if you want to get a gun in New York it’s really freaking hard to get one. I most certainly lost a lot of people who are in favor of loosened gun control laws with that statement. The truth remains that there are just too many people in Manhattan, to say that concealed carry permits and loose gun laws are ok.

What about protection from illegal guns? Well the simple answer is, that is a fear that everyone who works, walks, lives, and visits Manhattan everyday has to live with. Many people make jokes and criticize the NYPD but the truth is that the NYPD is one of if not the best police forces in the United States, if not the world. With the exception of indiscretions in the past, racial issues, and other unfortunate public matters, the NYPD gets the job done. I always feel secure when I am in Manhattan knowing that there is a police car or officer on almost every corner, and an average response time of nearly four minutes. Anyone who has been in a car in Manhattan knows that a four minute response time is pretty damn impressive. Many people say that because of the color of my skin, lack of police record, and family ties to the NYPD I am biased. I say to hell with that, I know that if I am walking to Grand Central, Penn Station, waiting for a bus, or hailing a cab I know that because the police are so close the average criminal, will think twice before acting. So yes I trust the police not many people do, but when push comes to shove I think most people will choose a cop over your Joe Schmo, weekend pistol range shooter.
You can't deny videos and stories like this....

Fifth Ave in front of Empire State building during rush hour
A seventy one year old man thwarts a robbery or possibly worse because he was cognizant enough to know he, his wife, and others were in danger. Its videos and stories like that, which sometimes sway my opinion, but then shootings like the one in front of the Empire State building happen, I get drawn back to the fact that Manhattan is just so different, from a cyber café in Florida. The man who owned the gun, in the Empire State building shooting owned it perfectly legally, and passed all of the mental tests put forth in New York to own a gun. Still he went out and shot nine people, killing two, and caused another person to get shot because an NYPD officer missed and hit a civilian. To anyone who wishes to use the argument that the police officer shot an innocent person, please consider the fact that fifth avenue in front of the Empire State building is one of the most congested areas of Manhattan because there are so many people looking up. That sounds like a joke but traffic both street and side walk slow down around the Empire State building because everyone is looking up. The fact that the police officer didn't accidentally shoot more people is incredible considering the area and time of day.

This is an issue that will continue and an constantly evolve. No one can be absolutely right when it comes to guns and other peoples lives. This is an issue that is not cut and dry. It has nothing to do with the second amendment and nothing to do with taking away peoples rights. It has everything to do with common sense. To me, as a person who enjoys, appreciates, and understands the power of firearms, I don't understand how anyone who has common sense can think that introducing guns into an environment as volatile and congested as New York City is a good idea. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It Doesn't Take Common Sense To Know...The United States is a Secular Country

It Doesn't Take Common Sense To Know...The United States is a Secular Country

First, I need to apologize for not posting for a little bit. It was the weekend and then I had some dental work on Monday. Needless to say, I haven't really been in the mood to type or even think of anything to write.

I must start by saying that this is a heavily debated topic, and I know that it will either come under critical praise or criticism. To me, though, it is evidently clear that the United States is in fact a secular country. Obviously, that does not mean the United States doesn't have religion. Quite frankly, it has more than it should. What I mean by saying the United States is a secular country is that our country is not founded on a specific set of religious values. Within the last few years, there seems to have been a resurrection of the idea that the United States is a Christian nation.

There has been an unfortunate wave of Christian conservatism that has been embraced by a lot of people in this country and although it may be a minority, the people who are of this Christian conservative school of thought are in high and important places. The most recent controversy in the news is the CEO and owner of "Chick-fil-a" Dan Cathy making this statement: "The biblical definition of the family unit" and that he prays "God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about." Now, obviously I am not calling the CEO of "Chick-fil-a" a powerful and influential person, but it's controversies like this, that bring the issue of religion and faith in the United States into the public domain. I have already touched on some of the issues regarding gay rights and marriage in a post and can be found here, That's not what this post is about. Although the issues regarding gay rights and the religious and political oppression are important, this post's focus is about emphasizing the fact the United States is not a Christian nation founded on Christian values, nor in anyway intends to represent the values of Christianity.

Lets start with a pretty popular argument that seeks to prove the United States is a Christian nation. "The founding fathers were all Christian and founded this country and wrote our constitution using Christian values." Now I can't overstate how wrong that statement actually is. If you think that statement sounds wrong or made up here is a quote from Sarah Palin "Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our founding fathers, they were believers". How about Rick Perry: "America is going to be guided by some set of values...The question is going to be, 'Whose values?'" He said it should be "those Christian values that this country was based upon." Now I guess those aren't the fairest examples of politicians who think the United States is founded on Christian values but the fact is one was a front runner for the GOP nomination and the other was an ex-vice presidential candidate. Those quotes just highlight the people who persist in delusion and hold positions of power. The problem with the statement about the founding fathers and the Constitution is that they are simply not true. They are misguided and ignorant of the truth.

If we can focus just on the Constitution, it is evident to anyone who has actually read the document that it is in no way shape or form a religious document. I think that this is more than clearly evident by the wording and implementation of the first amendment of the Constitution. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The key part is obviously, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". These are the first words of the Bill of Rights. In fact, that is the only time religion is even mentioned in the Constitution. The words God and Christianity are never mentioned. You would think that if the framers of the Constitution felt that Christian values were important to the establishment of this country and the Constitution itself, they might have mentioned something about it within the document. The truth is that the United States Constitution is one of the most truly secular founding documents ever written. I find it insulting when anyone claims that the Constitution is based on Christian values because it is just simply ignorant to even believe that. The best way to prove to me that you have not read the Constitution is to say that it was written using Christian values.

Moving on to the the next part of the argument which is: "Our founding fathers were religious men". Now, I will concede that many of our founding fathers were religious men. Yes, some of them were very Christian, but all of them, being children of the Enlightenment, knew that separating religious values and ideas from government was paramount. They knew that power based on religious tyranny and oppression has not worked and will never work. They saw religion as an important expression of freedom, but that means all religions not just the Christian sort. Below is a list of quotes from the "highly religious" founding fathers and you be the judge about there faith, and if they wanted the United States to be a christian nation.
Thomas Jefferson

-"The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs." --Letter to James Smith, Thomas Jefferson

-The religion-builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticism's, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so monstrous and inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers, to revolt them against the whole, and drive them rashly to pronounce its Founder an imposter. Had there never been a commentator, there never would have been an infidel." -- Jefferson's Letter to Timothy Pickering, Thomas Jefferson

-"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." -in Poor Richard's Almanac, Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin
-"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of it's being a bad one." Benjamin Franklin

-"In the affairs of the world, men are saved not by faith, but by the lack of it." Benjamin Franklin

-"As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?" -letter to F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816, John Adams

John Adams
-"I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved-- the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"-letter to Thomas Jefferson, By John Adams

-"Can a free government possibly exist with the Roman Catholic religion?" -letter to Thomas Jefferson, By John Adams

-"God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there will never be any liberal science in the world." John Adams

-"This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." John Adams

-"Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst." Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
-"We do not admit the authority of the church with respect to its pretended infallibility, its manufactured miracles, its setting itself up to forgive sins. It was by propagating that belief and supporting it with fire that she kept up her temporal power." Thomas Paine

-"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all." Thomas Paine

I would like to be fair on this issue, but the evidence is glaring. There is nothing you can show me that would prove that the founding fathers weren't atheists, deists, and agnostics. These men understood religious oppression and tyranny and sought to ensure that the country they founded would not have that. They were children of the Enlightenment, and understood the importance of having a secular document that ensured religious freedom without the document itself perpetuating a religious agenda. The Constitution of the United States is crafted so beautifully that it infuriates me when people, who have never read it, try to manipulate it to suit their religious ignorance, and seek to use it for there own political gain.

Now, many people have become alarmists about conservative Christians and religious extremists. These people are simply crazy. They will have there fifteen minutes, express there ignorance and get lost in shuffle with everyone else. Many atheists and agnostics look down at people who have faith because of the few extreme and crazy, and that is wrong. It is not a religion's fault for the actions and words of a few. Unfortunately, it is the loudest and most extreme who get the publicity. Not every Christian in this country thinks that America was founded on Christian values or should be based on Christian values. The United States is a great nation not because of its faith, but its lack of faith. Because we are one of the only countries in the world whose founding document seeks to ensure the freedom of all religions and does not establish a specific faith to be its own. People can have whatever opinions they want, but that doesn't mean they are right and that certainly doesn't mean they should be law.

Written by: Salvatore Pezzino Jr.
Edited by: Julius Motal