Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Don't pass go, don't collect 200$

Obama's known as a president who isn't shy on issuing executive orders. Executive orders are essentially bills that don't have to go through congress that have basically the same authority, though congress can veto an executive order with enough support (or lack thereof depending on whose side you're on). The advantages of executive orders are quite obvious- they get past the intentional deadlock that is the United States Federal Government and get things done. However, the question that's posed then is when is one of these XO's justified? According to Judge Andrew Hanen , not this time. In a case about Obama's recent immigration XO surpassing his authority, 26 states collectively sued Obama in federal court. The Judge deemed that it was indeed an overstepping of Obama's boundaries, which resulted in the program being indefinitely paused. The outcome of this suit is that the upset states can now continue on to sue further, to get the program shut down forever.

Do you think that Obama's XO was an acceptable usage of his authority? 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

AUMF: Authorized Usage of Military Force

ISIS/ISIL has been quite the hot topic as of late in both the mass media and the offices of many important political leaders of our country. The behavior of this group is absolutely horrific, obviously, but there's something just a bit unsettling the way the media has been portraying them to me. The rhetoric routinely used about how the US needs to protect itself and its interests by going in there and beating up the bad guy is being repeated by so many news organizations that the question has no longer become "Should we invade?" but instead "How much should we invade?" This is further replicated in national politics by Obama's recent request for congress to authorize strikes against the so-called Islamic State. The reason that this is somewhat problematic for me is two-fold: First, it falls back upon terrorist rhetoric, and secondly it assumes that the correct thing for the US to do is to invade another country(ies).

The word terrorist is quite a fickle one. Everyone assumes that they know what classifies someone as a terrorist, but no one's really ready to defend that definition. We jump to slap the the label of terrorist on any extremists in the middle east, but you only get wide-eyed stares when you suggest that the US government's actions might just be terrorist-esque as well. Yet, when asked what makes a terrorist a terrorist, the usual definition is just someone who uses terrorist activities to forward a political goal. US foreign policy, specifically in the middle east, has oft inspired and caused terror along the people there. I mean hell, there are kids there who are afraid of blue skies  due to US drone strikes. The result of this implicit double standard is an uneven portrayal of violent state-based actions. Furthermore, the US's terrorism is "justified" by targeting those who we call terrorists in the middle east. This logic seems to suffer a lack of any sense of objectivity, only feeding the state war machine.

Speaking of war machines: Holy shit, US middle eastern policy. America has been involved in middle eastern domestic politics since 1949 when it supported a coup in Syria, and we've had troops continuously in there for longer than I've been alive. Despite this lengthy invasion, it rarely affects US domestic life (Arguably in no meaningful way since 9/11). This is a part of the reason that this  never-ending sequence of wars continues to rage on. Another aspect of it is that US intervention in other countries is no longer something that citizens (and the world) are shocked by. It's become the status quo- it's more abnormal if the US doesn't have it's hand in some other country's cookie jar. And in my humble opinion, a country where we're constantly bombing other places in the world doesn't exactly sound like the shining city on a hill. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

America 4 lyfe

With the "big game" having taken place pretty recently, I (and every red white and blue blooded American) am still buzzing on the high of having my favorite team win- the Patriots. Though it may or may not have come down to a terribad decision by a certain coach in the last crucial moments, that's not what I want to focus on in this post. We all clearly know the furor and zealotry that occur around this special American event, but that raised the question in my mind- Why do we glorify this event so much?

After thinking about it for a while, I narrowed it down to a couple causes. First and foremost is the fact that corporations benefit greatly from having a high concentration of Americans watching a single program. For advertising purposes, it's a gold mine for these companies just due to the sheer reach of the ads. This is evident in how ingrained the famed Superbowl ads have become in our culture. Hell, I know some people who don't even watch it for the game, but rather just to see the best that these mega-corps have come up with. Secondly, I think that the feeling of belonging that emerges from team sports is something that many people feel very cozy with. Major football team fan-hood is, essentially, a tribal structure where we wave colors and shout names of the team that we (usually arbitrarily) support. This allows people to easily identify those who are "in" and those who are "out" of their respective groups. Now, while not all people take football as seriously as others (myself included), the feeling is still there. I cheer on the Patriots despite only knowing about 2 of their players names, tops.

Overall, it's not really about the sport itself. It's much more centered around the culture surrounding it and the corporations pumping money into it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The accuracy of history

Finals are on the mind, and the American studies one is certainly on mine. I've always loved writing essays, and I love philosophy, so the two are often intertwined throughout my educational career. As such, when I heard that the final was about the differentiation between fact and constructed conceptions of history, I was stoked. I'd recently been dipping into Derrida's works and his ideas. One that I've found to be particularly fascinating is his conceptions on how accurately we can learn historical events. There isn't any real "truth" behind the historical accounts that we learn about, given how we never lived through them. They're at best second hand recounts, and usually much more distant than that. Every link on the chain to you adds another filter of bias, predispositions, and slant to the image that is that snapshot of history. Then, when it finally gets to you, it's no longer a pure depiction of the event that took place. It's an image of an image of an image of an image...etc. On the other side of this, I can't really think of a better way to learn history. There is no real objective way, given the current technology we have, to experience the past first hand. Thanks a lot, doc Brown.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


The Charlie Hebdo attack was a horrific event. The lives of all those lost were taken too soon, and for what purpose? Because they were mentally ill? Perhaps it was due to a violent culture surrounding them? Was it because they were Muslims? 

No, no, and no. It's because they were assholes. The rest of it, their religion included, are all just excuses and ideas used by them to mask the real reason they did it. They were just assholes. Going around and pointing fingers at all muslims, or all people with brown skin doesn't do anything to address the issue of assholes being assholes. In fact, it only generates more assholes. Spreading bigotry and religious discrimination does nothing but allow assholes to find new reasons and flags to wave, causes to point to as they continue to carry out their terrible deeds. 

Tokenism and Diversity

TV tokenism, as we've been discussing in our American Studies course, is an issue that plagues the most popular modern media. The way I see it, the issue stems from the noble-hearted, but ill thought-out diversity initiative pushed forward by the networks, cable, and all the other little special snowflake channels. The problem I have with it is that it makes these TV programs (Along with many other aspects of life in our western society) embrace diversity for the sake of diversity. This is the wrong foundation to go about diversity with. A cast shouldn't be diverse merely to fit a quota. It should be diverse because of the diverse amount of people available. Falling into the logic of numbers is essentially saying that X amount is just the right amount of non-white people to have on the screen in any given show, which sort of defeats the whole purpose of the diversity initiative in the first place. As a concept, TV diversity is certainly a good thing, but it's certainly been implemented in the botchiest of piss-poor ways.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The newest of years

The new year is a rather common celebration, be it through a ball dropping in some lit up square, fireworks, or any numerous other traditions. One of these traditions that's commonly practiced and has become a part of popular culture is the creation of resolutions. Now, while personal resolutions are grand and all, I think that the US needs to make some resolutions on a whole:

1. Be more environmentally conscious. As I've voiced in prior blog-posts, the environment is pretty damned important. Not only does it have intrinsic value on its own, but it also is key to the survival of a creature called "the human". The US has had no shortage of environmental issues for it to tackle.

2. Be wary of becoming a police state. The tragedies that struck the US in the latter half of 2014 weren't unique, that's to be certain. Many others have died at the hands of the police, both unjustly and in split-second bad decisions. However, these recent events are just what lit the powderkeg. Discontentment with this state of cops being essentially allowed to murder as they choose without punishment has drawn attention to the issue of increasing police power. Lets just try to kill less of our own civilians this year.

3. Balance the budget. Nah, I'm just kidding. After all, these are resolutions I hold somewhat realistic hopes that the US government can actualize.