Archive for the ‘ Political ’ Category

The Deafening Silence: In The Closet Of Suicide

Tyler ClementiThe recent tragic death of Tyler Clementi, an 18 year-old Rutgers University Freshman whose sexual tryst was broadcast across the Internet leading to his subsequent suicidal jump off the George Washington Bridge, has gay activists and advocates screaming for a call to action.

This story is not that of one, but of many. Hazing mainly happens in school, especially in college, when many LGBT individuals are discovering their sexual orientation. In the case of Clementi, his unspoken sexuality was exposed twice across the Internet, which begs the question: would this have happened if he were straight?

As someone who has been personally persecuted by people of the likes of Dharun Ravi, I tend to think not. Straight people have sex on TV, in magazines and in movies everyday; gay sexuality is still not mainstream. Whether the actions of the college students were out of curiosity—or just a sophomoric prank or bigotry— remains to be answered.

In high schools and colleges across the nation, kids and young adults are forced into silence for fear of retaliation. Unless a person of authority personally intercepts malicious behavior unto another student, silence follows. It takes the death of someone to instill change in schools or a community, but these changes are often short-lived and wildly ineffective, since teachers and others are often too passive to defend the meek.

Now, another person is dead. A talented and gifted musician died because of torment inflicted over his sexual orientation. If being gay had to be personified from a state of being into an emotional context, it would be love. So, in essence these people were tortured, and in some cases killed, because they found the ability to love. This isn’t a legislative problem; it is one of society as a whole – Blind-eye syndrome.

How many more people need to die before something is done? The Matthew Shepard Law helps, but it doesn’t do enough as a preventative measure.

At my high school in Massachusetts, our Gay-Straight Alliance wrote and enacted an anti-harassment policy to reduce the level of violence and hate speech at the school. This policy was left practically unenforced until the death of Phoebe Prince, which lead to an anti-bullying state law enacted in her honor. This law was written in blood, just like the Shepard law.

Politicians, such as Tom Emmer, the current Republican candidate for governor in Minnesota — a candidate financially supported by major corporations such as Target, Best Buy and 3M — feels that our society does not need bullying laws. In fact, during one of his campaign speeches, he said that if he were elected governor, he would veto the Safe Schools for All bill, a bill that includes protection for students bullied because of sexual orientation, gender, race, religion and disability.

The Facts:

  • 45% of gay males and 20% of lesbians report having experienced verbal harassment and/or physical violence as a result of their sexual orientation during high school.
  • 42% of adolescent lesbians and 34% of adolescent gay males who have suffered physical attack also attempt suicide.
  • 20% of LGB youth report skipping school at least once a month because of feeling unsafe while there.
  • 19% of gay/lesbian youth report suffering physical attacks based on their sexual orientation.

[Source: Lambda.org]

If LGBT Americans had equal rights and were not treated as a minority, heterosexual kids would grow up thinking of them as their fellow humans. Not a subhuman class that should be persecuted, ridiculed, and tortured because they love someone of the same sex. This problem will persist, more people will die, and more laws will be written in their blood until we start changing on a societal level. Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world,” start practicing compassion and lets stop the deaths now!

WWJH: Who Would Jesus Hate?

I have to take a moment away from my typical posts and really shed some light on a horrible issue. The gay rights movement has been gaining momentum over the past few decades, and has been met with a deadly amount of retaliation. Now, American “Christians” are taking on a new frontier in the fight against equality: Africa.

Take a moment and watch this video recently posted by ABC News: [Click here]

"The gay movement is an evil institution. That's goal is to defeat the marriage-based society"

I find myself asking, “who would Jesus hate?“.

All this hatred, and all this violence unto our fellow human beings, “and yet God has not said a word!” It makes me wonder…

CARDS Act fun!

Beaucoup De Credit ⓒ Joshua Plant 2008

In 2009, credit card companies collected $22.9 billion in penalty fees from consumers, which is up nearly $4 billion from 2008. On February 22, the latter portion of the CARDS Act of 2009 will be implemented in an effort to help protect consumers and bring an end to erroneous fees. But, what is good for consumers is bad for profit margins; however, this is only good for some consumers and it screws the rest.

The New Rules, as of February 22, 2010:

  • Promotional offers on college campuses and at college-sponsored events are now illegal
  • Persons under 21 must have an adult co-signer to open a new account; exceptions will be made for those whom can provide proof of independent means
  • Death to double-cycle billing
  • Allocating payments: payments over the minimum must be applied to balances with the higher interest rate first, and subsequent balances thereafter.
  • Over-limit fees: consumers must be given the option to opt in for the ability to overdraft one’s credit line

These are just some of the new rules that are coming into play. The former part of the law was enacted in August of 2009, changing several terms of use; including:

  • Universal defaults
  • Extending the mailing period before a bill’s due date from 14 days to 21
  • A 45-day notice must be given before an interest rate hike; and
  • There must be a clear and concise explanation of the Right to Cancel

Same Sheep Different Farm:

Now that the nation’s banks have had $50 billion in revenue ripped off their balance sheets, they have to find a way to make up for the lost revenue. Solution: bombard consumers with fees left and right! The banks are going to, if they have not already done so, charge their customers for “processing” fees for paper statements, swap fixed interest rate cards to variable rates, tack on annual fees and much more!

I am missing the part where this helps the consumer…

Granted, yes, there are several good things to come out of this law, but it does not really protect us. It simply cleans up some ridiculous clauses and fees in our TOS and swapped them for more “transparent” fees.

One must have credit cards to get a good credit score, better interest rates on mortgages, loans, and so on. But, how much are we losing in our profit margins when we are paying out the ass in fees?

For people like myself, many of these new rules are only adding to our costs and eliminating rules that rarely apply. I never overdraft nor do I worry about my interest rates because I tame my credit card use and anything that cannot be paid for in cash, isn’t purchased!

But, now my interest rates are going up from under 10 percent to god knows what Monday morning. Welcome to the land of inevitable annual fees, and variable rates!

All of us “good” customers are being screwed, so the poor can continue to spend irresponsibly and the banks can continue to profit from reckless behavior.

Thanks CARDS Act!

Your Best Line Of Defense:

Call your credit card companies and talk to them. See what you can do to keep your rates low, your fees down and what your standing is with the company. In the past, they have been willing to work with their customers that are in good standing; although, they seem to be alienating them now.

What you should not do is close your accounts! If you close them, your debt-ratio will be out of whack and can do more harm to your credit score than good. Work with the bank the best you can, and tame your use.

There isn’t much else we can do. We are slaves to the banks and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Liberty and Justice for All? Hardly.

Editor’s Note: As of August 4th, 2010 Proposition 8 was ruled unconstitutional by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. However, this is not the end of the road, the next step is DOMA.

We are moving forward gayly!

-J

Photo by Bob Johnson

The Will Of The Majority v. The Rights Of The Minority
By Joshua Plant

The infamous Prop 8 was passed a year ago and, just two weeks ago, Maine voters repealed gay marriage by a 53 percent majority. These laws are a complete contradiction to several cases that have fallen before the Supreme Court over the past sixty years — cases that explicitly state that marriage is a fundamental human right under the Equality Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Furthermore, according to The Principles of Democracy, “majority rule is a means for organizing government and deciding public issues; it is not another road to oppression.” Yet, in 31 states we have used majority rule to justify the oppression of LGBT Americans.

The Conservative Right has offered us an olive branch with a separate but “equal” system, marriage for them, and civil unions for us. Gay marriage has become the water fountains of the 1950s: LGBT individuals are separate but by no means equal.

Thanks, but no thanks.

If religious leaders and other naysayers want to keep the so-called sanctity of marriage intact, they should demand a constitutional ban on divorce. Such a ban would ensure that our country will preserve the sanctity of marriage. With a divorce rate higher than 50 percent, heterosexuals have shown us that unions cannot stand the test of time.

If the majority wanted to keep marriage strictly as a religious institution, then so it should be, albeit with the understanding that a marriage has no legal merit. Marriage would simply become a union of one man and one woman under God.

In order to receive the benefits that the LGBT community has been deprived of, all couples would be required to get a civil union. This would be equal. This would be fair. Because Churches and other religious institutions do not receive federal aid and will no longer be able to perform a ceremony with legal merit, our country would experience a genuine separation of church and state.

This, however, is only half the battle. Even if all 50 states pass laws allowing same-sex couples to marry, LGBT individuals will continue to be denied federal marriage benefits.

In 1996 when the United States Congress passed the ‘Defense of Marriage Act,’ signed by President Clinton, the federal government started denying same-sex couples all federal benefits and defined marriage as one man and one woman. So, regardless of how tolerant our state government may be, our country will still have a separate and unequal system under DOMA.

How can the Supreme Court allow states to segregate by way of public referendum? They continue to do so even though Justice Antonin Scalia, a foe of gay rights, wrote in Lawrence v. Texas: “What justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution”? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry”

The U.S. had this same debate for another ‘class’ of individuals until 1967 when the Court unanimously overturned laws of more than 20 states that prohibited interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia. There is no logical argument to justify the inequality that exists today for same-sex couples.

The LGBT community has suffered through relentless oppression, violence and inequality under the law for long enough. It is time to change this country and bring the U.S. out of a puritanical mindset and into the year 2009.

Joshua Plant is a New York City-based writer

Capitalism: A Love Story… right.

Greed

Wall Street’s newest attempt to capitalize on the poor and undereducated is to buy life settlement life insurance plans back from the policyholder(s). After which, they will securitize them into bonds that will be traded like pension funds. The funds generate profit when the former policyholder dies and the policy is paid out – not to mention, the earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return.

These exotic options come with an obvious risk – if people live longer than expected, then the fund will lose money. Rest easy, we needn’t worry about the firms, they will still turn a profit by pocketing the sizable fees that are associated with creating, reselling and subsequently trading these bonds.

Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse have already created these so-called death indices that are traded similar to tradable stock market indices that allow investors to bet on the overall direction of a market without actually buying stocks.

Why?

Why would people be selling their life insurance in the first place, you ask? Some people whom are strapped for cash may sell their policy for a portion of the face value. Other’s simply let policies laps because they no longer have dependants that would require the extra money in the event of their death. Therefore, the insurance companies no longer need to pay out after the former policyholder’s death.

Profit!

This is where Wall Street comes in; they want to capitalize on the $26 trillion of life insurance policies in the US. Rather than letting policies laps, you can sell it to a firm for x amount and then the firm assumes the responsibility of the premiums. Then, upon the former policyholder’s death, the firm collects the policy payout. Same thing goes for those whom are selling them for cash infusions. Sounds innocent, right?

Hardly.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”

This isn’t very different from the subprime scheme. There is no telling where the boundaries would be drawn as to how brokers secure these policies from people. I am sure they will impart the same predatory practices that they used to get people to buy into subprime loans.

This, on the surface, does not directly affect the original policyholder. But, because the insurance companies will have to payout on many more policies that which would have been defaulted — the insurance companies are losing profits. Losing profits means anything from raising premiums on new policies to laying off employees to compensate the difference. As this bubble grows on Wall Street and the policies get more and more expensive as the insurers try and recoup their losses; the bubble will lose stability. Eventually, people will start defaulting on their premiums or not taking out policies at all and with less capital coming in and more capital going out… you understand where I am going with this.

Pop.

These exotic investment options crumble, those uninitiated to Wall Street’s ways that bought into these funds have now been wiped out and we have a life settlement insurance meltdown. “Just as all mortgage providers have been tarred by subprime mortgages, so too is the concern that all life insurance companies would be tarred with the brush of subprime life insurance settlements,” said Michael Lovendusky, vice president and associate general counsel of the American Council of Life Insurers. No one can say when this meltdown will happen or what its impact will be, but it is inevitable.

I would like to believe that the industry will be able to find allies in government, but when Goldman Sachs runs our treasury department, the blocking of these potentially predatory practices is unlikely. We cannot allow greedy brokerage firms to create exotic, and therefore, very risky and unstable investment options that set the stage for meltdowns.

This bubble and burst system has to come to an end. Regulate Wall Street or we will have to endure these financial collapses every 8-15 years until kingdom come.

Beef, what a gas!

cowsWith the threat of global warming staring us in the face, we try to find something to point the finger at. First, it was the big trucks, that as children we would pump our arms at hoping they would honk for us. Those were the days, when driving in a convertible on the highway, big rig trucks would emit a cloud of black smoke to billow in your face. Second, we blamed the landfills for secreting too much methane; with that a billion dollar industry of regulators and environmental enforcement agencies were born. Currently, we blame the very cars that we drove to the landfill while enjoying our gas-scented evocative childhood pleasures. Finally, a select few, but prominent, people are pointing the finger to the meat and dairy industry.

Cows and other ruminants are the top two or three leading contributors of greenhouse gasses, a study put out by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization stated. Cows do not produce the same volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as SUVs, such as, CO2; however, they produce gasses that have at least 21 times the warming potential—methane and nitrous oxide. When a cow eats, the food is ingested through the mouth and lead to the largest of its four stomachs, where bacteria are introduced and the food starts to break down. Then the food returns to the mouth as cud, where the cow chews it further. Here in lies the problem, when the cow is chewing the food, it is belching and releasing methane into the air. It is estimated that a single cow can belch out anywhere from 25-130 gallons of methane daily. To try and combat the cud problem, scientists in Australia, Britain and New Zealand are attempting to create a bovine Alka-Selzter, in tandem with creating new strands of grass that are more energy efficient hence creating less methane during digestion. The problem of digestion does not stop there, once the food digest the cow defecates leaving behind a completely new producer of methane and nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide has 296 times the warming potential that carbon dioxide has, to combat the creation of this VOC the gasses from manure storage containers are lit, converting the NO2 into the less harmful CO2. Now, multiply that by the 1.5 billion cattle in the world’s meat and dairy system and you have a problem bigger than any SUV on the market could produce.

Since 1967 the auto industry has made significant changes to car engines and exhaust systems. Driving down any highway in America 1967 and before and it would be gilded with black smoke, the smell of gasoline would permeate through anything within 500 feet of a gas station because of not having protective rubber stops to contain the fumes being emitted while pumping gas. In 2002, a regular combustion engine car would emit 1.4 pounds of CO2 each year, that is a momentous difference from the 14.6 pounds being emitted in 1967. In an attempt to fight against vehicular VOCs, Toyota invented the gas-electric hybrid. Hybrid cars first became available to the public in the late 1990s, this was a huge strive for cleaner air and better fuel efficiency. Many people bought hybrid cars, but their popularity never grew to epic proportions because humans are creatures of speed and hybrid cars could not deliver. In 2008, the hydrogen car will be on limited release in Los Angeles. This car run strictly on hydrogen and electricity and has no VOC emissions, just pure water. This is a magnificent improvement and it will drastically reduce the amount of CO2 emissions, but it will not be enough until regulations are made for other aspects of life.

The ubiquity of beef in American culture is equally as prevalent as baseball or apple pie. Americans eat, according to the 2000 census, nearly 100 pounds of beef each year. Americans are also among the leaders in obesity, heart disease and colorectal cancer, all of which are linked to excessive red-meat intake. Therefore, with the obvious health implications and the risk of melting the polar ice caps, Americans still support the meat and dairy industry. This is because the implications of peoples’ actions are kept out of mainstream politics because the agricultural industry has too much money they can hold over the government’s head. In the late 1970s, Sen. George McGovern suggested that American’s cut down on fatty meats and dairy intake for health reasons. The American meat and dairy industry took this as a personal assault on their business, so they took action and voted McGovern out of office a few years later. In September of 2007, former senator John Edwards suggested that Americans trade in their SUVs to benefit the environment, also stating that cows generate more greenhouse gasses than SUVs. When TV talk-show host Bill Maher asked, “you want to take a shot at meat?” Edwards dodged the question as not to damage his chances of becoming president.

Humans are the only species that drink milk beyond infancy. As babies, we drink milk for nourishment and to help us grow. Cows milk is very high in saturated fat and protein, within a year a cow will become four times its birth size thanks to the milk of its mother. Americans drink excessive amounts of milk and then wonder why as a nation they are so morbidly obese compared to the rest of the world. The bad news of drinking milk does not stop there, all the chemicals and growth hormones that are put into the cows feed gets filtered through their bodies and eventually ends up in their milk supply and then to the consumers. We feed our children milk, which is like feeding them liquid steroids; girls are developing breast sooner and that are much larger than previously recorded, boys are much taller, developing facial hair earlier and their voices are deeper. Not only do the hormones, chemicals, and antibiotics get into the milk—it gets into the meat also. Therefore, humans are eating twice the amount of growth hormones than if they were to eat meat alone. Ingesting these antibiotics causes our immune systems to become weaker and begin to attack themselves, thus causing allergies, such as, the ever-present peanut allergy that is plaguing today’s youth in record numbers. The consumption of beef will cause massive damages to the environment and the world’s population by 2050, as the demand for meat and dairy increases exponentially.

This problem stares us in the face every time we open the fridge or sit down to dinner, cows and their byproducts are omnipresent in society today. Unless politicians and reputable environmental agencies start to speak on this issue more frequently, the problem will persist indefinitely. One way to combat the issue indirectly would be to take McGovern’s stance and link red meat and dairy products to a well-known health risk. This will help cut down the demand for meats and dairy, assuming there is not a counter campaign by government agencies or politicians in an effort to boost their own reputation. In such an event, it would not be in the best interest of the environment to stop pushing the issue. More legislation has to be made for cows, other ruminants, and their manures, regulating their emissions. Global warming will still endure, even with the advent of new fuel-efficient and low emissions cars, the reduction in the supply of meat and dairy will greatly reduce the risk of global warming for the time being.

We’ll do it in the rain…

Not much else to say about gay marriage…