Monday, December 7, 2009

Mayor Scandal Part II

Apparently, Baltimore isn't the only city with a misbehaving mayor.

The former Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, has been involved in lies, murder, and scandal for years. Last year, he was charged with eight felonies, including perjury and misconduct in office. He then fled the country to ask the mayor of Windsor (the city on the other side of the Canadian border) for money in exchange for the tunnel linking the two cities, earning him jail time and two extra felony counts for assaulting a law officer. In his trial, he agreed to serve time, pay $1 million in restitution to the City of Detroit, and lose his pension from the State of Michigan. But of course, he couldn't just stop there.

On March 24th, his attorney filed a motion saying he couldn't afford to pay the $6000/month restitution payments. On April 9th, he decided to confirm himself to be the worst mayor anywhere ever by paying $15,770 for plastic surgery for his wife, $75,000 for a lease on a home in Texas, and $10,000 (from his nonprofit organization) for rent on a condominium.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baltimore Mayor Makes an Oopsies

            It’s the season of giving, and what better way to give than to donate gift cards for the needy. That’s what several Baltimore businesses tried to do, but apparently, their Mayor decided she needed help more than her city’s poor.

            Today, Mayor Sheila Dixon was convicted of embezzlement for stealing $1000 in Target and Best Buy gift cards donated by the stores. She faces up to five years in prison, and may be removed from office (that is, if she doesn’t serve time). However, I don’t think that’s punishment enough.

            Apparently, she was acquitted on two counts of felony theft and one count of misconduct in office, and I can’t seem to understand why. Either she stole $1000 that could have gone to her city’s needy or she didn’t., and if she did, she needs to be prosecuted accordingly. Obviously, since they haven’t removed the embezzlement charge, she’s guilty, so why were the other charges dropped?

            Her stealing doesn’t bother me as much as it would under other circumstances. She was indicted in January, meaning she committed this crime during the holiday season in the worst of economic times, right after the financial collapse. True, many people were thinking of themselves more than others at the time, but that doesn’t justify stealing $1000 from people who have nothing and need help the most.

             Mayor Dixon says she plans on continuing her term because it is her responsibility. Responsibility or not, however, it’s my opinion that if she’s not removed, she should resign. Prioritizing yourself over your less fortunate constituents is unacceptable, and she should recognize this and act accordingly. It seems common sense that any public figure that’s facing time in prison should bow out gracefully. But then again, it doesn’t seem that Mayor Dixon has any sense at all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sexy Sarah Palin

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s the perfect day for turkey, family, and some good old Sarah Palin bashing.

Newsweek recently printed two essays that discussed how she’s ruining the Republican Party, but that’s not what got people’s (and Sarah Palin’s) attention. They released this photo on the cover, which is from a photoshoot she did with Runner’s Weekly magazine:


Apparently, she denounced the photo on her Facebook, calling it sexist and irrelevant. While it’s true that the photo was used to mock her, I don’t think it’s either of the above. Sure, she says she was promoting fitness in a country where weight is an issue. But did she have to do it in short shorts with her legs oiled up? I think anyone running for office or considering getting involved in politics should keep their body covered and focus on the issues in a serious way.

Sarah Palin seems to love calling everyone sexist. The problem for her isn’t that she’s held to a different standard than men, but that she’s held to the same standard. Apparently she’s not comfortable with the fact that she can’t flash her body and get away with it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Still Waiting on Stimulus Funds

            It’s pretty frustrating when you elect a president based on his ideas and then they don’t get put into practice. Though the stimulus package was passed quite a while ago, it seems that the money is still stuck in transit. For example, the state of Massachusetts has only received $622 million of their promised $3.9 billion.

However, the government claims there’s a reason for the lag. Many of the stimulus funds need to be approved by the federal government before they’re dispersed to make sure the money is spent carefully. Much of it was set aside to be obtained competitively, which means applications must come in and be approved before the money can be sent out. The question is, is this a good or a bad thing?

On one hand, I’m glad that the money isn’t being thrown around lightly. With how upset people are about huge deficit spending, our government needs to watch where they’re putting their money. The way the budget is handled could make or break our economy.

However, the fact that most of the money is still in Washington D.C. makes me wonder why the package was passed in the first place. The point of a stimulus package is to pump money in the economy to help curb short-term economic distress. If we waited ten years and did absolutely nothing, the economy could take another dive (the dreaded “double-dip”), but it would eventually right itself. It seems that it’s going to take the next ten years to even get the money out there, and it’s increasing our deficit spending, which could have negative long-term effects.

Though I do believe that we should be careful in how we spend our money rather than just throwing it out there and expecting it to solve unemployment, it really needs to get out there. Soon. If it doesn’t, it serves absolutely no purpose.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Good News for Same-Sex Couples

As disgusting as it is, gay rights still aren’t recognized in America. It’s like the classic saying: one step forward, two steps back. When same-sex marriage became legalized in several states, it was then repealed in California, and little ground has been covered since. Hopefully, with measures in several states gaining momentum, same-sex couples will soon be free from discrimination and be able to live equal lives.

            Legalizing same-sex marriage is about more than just the word marriage, or the idea of the government condoning homosexuality. Issues include health benefits, sick leave, adoption, and child support. Same-sex couples just aren’t given the same consideration as heterosexual couples. If a partner is ill, the other cannot take sick leave to care for them. If they separate, how does child custody get determined? And it is much more difficult for same-sex couples to adopt children, which limits their partnership immensely. Seems unfair? It is, and not only to these couples, but to their potential children.

            So why are there still naysayers? Of course, there’s the usual “protecting the family” answer, which I thought was outdated years ago. Families with heterosexual couples are far from perfect many reasons: abuse, alcoholism and drug use, the high divorce rate, etc. Yet many still think that these problems are far less harmful than the idea of homosexual families. Larry Stickney of Protect Marriage Washington, referring to the imminent legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington, says that most citizens of the state  “are uncomfortable with the radical social agenda coming out of Seattle.” Apparently, the idea that two people in love should have the same rights as other couples is absolutely radical, whereas the standard practice of tearing families apart via divorce is normal and acceptable.

            Moreover, many of these same-sex marriage laws have provisions allowing members of religious groups to deny same-sex couples the right to marry in their church. With this in mind, I can only wonder why anyone would not accept these laws. Opponents say that marriage is between a man and a woman because the Bible says so, which is a valid point. However, that is the Bible, not United States law. It’s understandable that many don’t want same-sex marriages taking place in their church because their religion frowns upon homosexual couples. But it’s only fair to allow these couples to attain the legal benefits of marriage.

            Equality may be scary to many Americans, but moves in this direction have already been made. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont have already legalized same-sex marriage. And though such laws have been repealed in California and rejected in Maine, states like Washington and Michigan are moving in the right direction. Currently, Washington has laws that allow unions similar to marriage, and citizens are voting on an initiative to legalize full marriage. Political leaders in Michigan are attempting to bring the Michigan Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage to a vote so it can be repealed, the first step toward legalization.

            Same-sex marriage advocates have had their fair share of difficulties in the past several years, but equality seems to be looming on the horizon. For many, this will mean a huge improvement in their quality of life. Though homosexual couples are not yet widely accepted in the United States, there is a strong enough movement toward acceptance that I believe the day will come.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bank Bailouts: Should Banks be Forced to Pay Early?

Banks aren’t necessarily the most responsible institutions. After all, they had to get rescued by the government for failing to behave the way banks should and making risky decisions. Now that they are showing profits, many argue that they should be responsible for once and pay back the bailout money sooner than their original deadline and raise private capital as usual.

When the government sees this money back, it can help fund stimulus programs and control the national debt. However, given the central role of bank failure in creating the current crisis, pulling this funding back before there is a definite and consistent improvement could prompt a horrible economic reaction.

Banks are doing better than they were. There’s no doubt about it. In fact, according to the New York Times, JP Morgan Chase earned $3.6 billion in the last quarter, and ten big financial institutions paid back nearly $70 billion this year. It’s easy to understand why many are upset. With worries about the national debt and concerns about how Obama’s stimulus package is going to affect the future of our economy, it’s not unfair to wonder why the banks are taking so long.

To some extent, this is an important concern. However, these banks just got back on their feet. You’d think most Americans just weren’t around a year ago when some wondered whether or not this was the end of our economy. Banks were a major driving factor behind the financial crisis. When they don’t operate properly, when they fail, we can be pushed into a recession as we were before. Regulators have warned that “huge losses tied to commercial real estate, home mortgages and defaults on credit cards” are still present, and that banks are just not ready. Those Treasury officers who disagree have a right to their opinion, but it’s shocking how easily they would accept that risk.

Months of profit don’t prove that our banks are permanently moving in the right direction. Before we risk putting the U.S. economy back in turmoil by placing unnecessary stress on the banks (the money isn’t due back yet, after all), I would like to see consistent, high profits, and positive signals from the economy as a whole. Those who are in favor of forcing banks to pay back that money early should be fully ready and willing to accept the risk that comes with it. It’s more than possible that it would extend or deepen the recession we’re already in, and that’s certainly not worth it for a little extra funding. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Party Divisions and Health Care

There’s new news for health care that, according to Senator Tom Harkin, “ought to give Democrats a shot in the arm to get this job done.”

            Though many Americans are still worried that the cost of their health care will increase or that they will see no direct benefit from Obama’s health care plan, a recent poll shows that they still trust Democrats more than Republicans on the issue of health care. This may help to reduce divisions between Democrats and create a more pleasant solution.

            Honestly, I have no problem with the bill taking forever to get passed. To me, it could take years, but that’s fine as long as it’s done right. My only problem is that it seems nobody can agree (as I said in my last post).  How can there be a correct solution when nobody can agree on anything?

Most people agree that something needs to be done, which is probably why they trust the Democrats more than Republicans to handle it. We may consider ourselves the best country in the world, but our health care system definitely doesn’t reflect it. Something does need to be done.

However, Democrats really need to think about how this is going to work. If a bill is going to get passed, it needs to have steady support. Hopefully, Democrats will take this poll to heart and understand that they need to be united (at least somewhat).