Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympic Dreams

"Maybe there is a god above/But all I've ever learned from love/Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you."

My favorite lyrics from  Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' which K.D. Lang just rocked to wrap up the 2010 Winter Games Opening Ceremonies.  Not that the song isn't always incredibly moving, but there is something about the Olympics that I just love, and it made the rendition awesome.  I actually really enjoyed this ceremony...some great musical and dancing performances.  Good job Canada.  I liked it better than what China did.  Especially since China was faking it half time.  

The Olympics remind me of when I was a kid.  Whether I was "ice skating" with my rollerblades on the kitchen floor (the only time my mom would let me do so) or performing a balance beam routine on the back of the couch, I always wanted to be an Olympian.  My parents always tell me how as a very small child I would stand and salute as soon as the familiar Olympic theme music played on the TV.  As I got older, I realized I would never be a world class athlete and gave up on my Olympic dreams.  And looking back, it makes me think of all the other dreams I used to have that I've given up.

Today when I saw the horrific video of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili's fatal race down the track I thought about just how much some people give up to achieve their dreams.  This 21-year old boy came from a war torn nation to compete as the 40-something ranked athlete in his sport, and these Olympics were likely the proudest moment of his life.  Then just like that, everything was taken away.   

It truly made me think, what if the worst happened for me tomorrow?  Would I have accomplished enough of my dreams?  It's true, I did finally make the move to DC like I've wanted for almost three years now.  But I still haven't found a paying job, and haven't met that many people yet, so I haven't really begun to carve out a new life for myself.  I think with just a little more effort and sacrifice I could do so.  

Just thinking about where I was last time there was an Olympic opening ceremony, it's true I have grown a lot.  So much has changed in my outlook on life and the way I go about living it...definitely for the better.  So perhaps I'm on the right path.  After all, life is really about timing, and I just need to give things some more time.  After all, at 23, I'm a baby in this city (minus all the interns who still get to be college students).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

now that I'm in DC, maybe I should talk some politics?

So I'm watching Scott Brown's victory speech.  And I can't help but laugh.  As he keeps saying "the Independent majority has spoken," and, "this seat doesn't belong to any one party," the audience keeps chanting "41! 41! 41!" 41 Independent votes?? Ohhh no, that's right, 41 Republican votes.  I don't have a problem with the people of Massachusetts choosing their Senator, but I do wish they wouldn't try to pass it off as some non-partisan victory that isn't directly related to anti-Democratic sentiment.  It's 2010, nearly midterm election time.  Of course the voters are going to come out against the party in power.  The party in power always loses seats in a midterm year. Let's not pretend this is anything different than history repeating itself.

My problem is with the Democrats.  The Democrats who see a 59-41 majority as a sure failure to achieving their agenda.  The biggest Senate majority Bush ever had was 55-44 (and an Independent) and that sure didn't stop him from getting his agenda through.  Grow some balls guys!  Seriously.  Watch them filibuster, how long can they go?  Make them show you.  Sit there until they sit down.  If they don't, use reconciliation.  Do whatever you can to do what you were elected to do in 2008.  If you do nothing, it proves you are incapable of governing and thus, do not deserve your seat in Congress anyway!  Demonstrate LEADERSHIP.  For once.

I can see how this Scott Brown guy got elected.  He is charismatic.  Hell, he just offered his two daughters off to all men watching on national television.  Hilarious.  Plus, he was pretty hot in 1982 and isn't the worst looking man nowadays.  Dems, stop blaming each other and get to work.  I voted for you because I want your policies enacted, not just discussed endlessly on cable news.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Vacation

This is the first time I've been home for Thanksgiving in four years.  Last year was spent alone in the cafeteria of the Smithsonian (Air and Space after seeing the just re-opened American History museum with Nick), and then falling ill with the flu on the couch with boxed mashed potatoes.  The two years before that were spent working at Coffee Bean and in my empty house.  Though I had some great times all three of those years (vegan Thanksgiving/Top Chef marathon, cooking a midnight Thanksgiving for the Bacara waiters, adventures in DC), I've really missed being home.

You'd think it's no big deal that I'm home.  I've been here since June and I am more than ready to leave.  But there is something about Thanksgiving in Chico that is so great.  The students are out of town and all the locals return from their new towns.  The weather is nice and the park is beautiful.  People walk around and you just know they're in a great mood.  It's like a scene out of a cheesy movie.

The real reason it's so great to be here for Thanksgiving is all the friends that aren't around the rest of the year.  The last few Thanksgivings have seen me quite depressed and I know that's because I've spent them so alone.  This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all the amazing friends I have.  Though I can't be with them all the time, I know they're out there.  I'm going to miss everyone when I move across the country, but I'm also so excited to start new in a city I adore.  But it is so great to know that I have Chico to come back to for the holidays.

I don't know when the next time I'll make it back to Chico for Thanksgiving will be, so I will be sure to enjoy it so much.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bored to Death?

After I conquer Sarah Vowell, I think I'll take on Jonathan Ames.  Unfortunately, the library only has one of his novels.  I guess I'll have to spend some hard-earned Best Buy money at the bookstore, because after watching Bored to Death I need to read his books.  The appearance by the aforementioned Ms. Vowell in the season finale pretty much solidified that fact.  

I was directed to this great Newsweek list about political sex scandals (my favorite type of scandal, obviously) from Rachel Maddow's twitter.  When I found out Jonathan Ames was also a contributor, I was even more excited.  My thursday night/tipsy excitement led me to this revelation that I must read all of his books which in turn led me to his Wikipedia entry.  It states, "While at the New York Press his columns were often recollections of his childhood neuroses and his unusual experiences, written in the gritty tradition of Charles Bukowski."  For some reason, this sentence immediately made me think of this blog that I never write in.  I thought, I wish I could be more honest in my writing, maybe then I would write more.  I thought of all the childhood neuroses I had and all unusual experiences I have been through but would never think to publish for the world to see.  I thought about all the columns my dad wrote in his newspaper days, especially the ones about me.  Why can't I do that?

But I can do that.  I can write about all my seemingly crazy thoughts and the strange habits that no one knows about if I just do it.  And though I work hard to maintain some privacy on the internet, there is a part of me that wants to write about all those things because I love to write, I love to entertain, and I know I have some great stories.  

Jonathan Ames' Wikipedia then led me to the page for Bored to Death, because damn, I love that show.  I got to thinking more about the characters and the plot.  For those of you who have not seen the show, it is about a writer named Jonathan Ames (played by Jason Schwartzman) who moonlights as a(n unlicensed) private detective.  So Jonathan Ames, this author who I am obsessed with despite not reading any of his books yet, wrote a TV show about a character with his name who is also a writer.  But Jonathan Ames the TV character also leads a double life as a P.I. that Jonathan Ames, the real person, does not.  He did not create a character that was a carbon copy of himself, he merely used his name and a few real-life experiences to weave into the plot.

The beauty of Ames' writing isn't in his honesty, but instead in how creatively he can weave those real-life experiences into an entertaining story.  It has been a long, long time since I've done any creative writing (it's true, I love research and policy), but if I want to be honest in my writing maybe I should just get creative. 

I think The Partly Cloudy Patriot will have to wait.  If Jonathan Ames can inspire me to write here after nearly two months I should actually read one of his novels.  Maybe I'll get even more inspired.  Looks like I'm headed to the library tomorrow. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Yes, I know I've been slacking

Everytime I talk to Preston he asks, "How is my self-proclaimed pundit doing?"  Answer:  Didn't write anything today.  But I SWEAR I am going to change that!

Yesterday I attended my third job webinar with the New Organizing Institute.  It was called "Staying Sane During Your Job Search" and was given by Ellen Reeves, author of "Can I Wear My Nose Ring To The Interview."  Each of the webinars I have attended through NOI have been useful and given me some great information, but I think this was my favorite.  It is easy to get discouraged while unemployed (especially since I can't even fully pursue full-time jobs for a couple months) but Reeves reminded me how important it is to make the time off productive.  It is inevitable that an interviewer will ask, "So what have you been doing in the six months since graduation?"  Yes, I am going to school again, but I definitely need to do more to stand out.

That's kind of why I started this blog in the first place.  I keep blaming my procrastination on writers block and the best way to beat writers block is to just WRITE.  So though there is not much substance to this post, hopefully it will get me over the hump.  In fact, I already have a topic in mind to write about next so it must be working!  Expect another post tonight or tomorrow.

Until then, here's a blog I contributed to Daily Kos a couple weeks ago.  More satire than substance...but isn't satire often the best way to make a point?  Enjoy the pictures, I had a great time taking them that day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

You Lie? What Health Care Reform Says About the Need For Immigration Reform

The main topic of discussion for the past few months has been health care, so I might as well take it on as my first topic.  I am someone who will greatly benefit from health reform.  Like 80% of the Class of 2009, I graduated without an immediate job prospect.   So in June I went to my final doctor, dentist, and eye appointments before being dropped from my parents health insurance.  Unfortunately, my doctors appointments didn't turn out routine and it became clear I was going to have to follow up for a while.  Now saddled with a pre-existing condition, I was left with few options.  Obtaining my own insurance that would allow me to move to Washington D.C. and pursue a career while addressing my health concerns became a near impossibility.  Even if I could get a plan approved, the premiums would be incredibly expensive and as noted before, I am unemployed.  That's how I ended up at community college two months after completing my Bachelor's degree.  In order to remain on my parents insurance plan, I had to enroll as a full time student.  So here I am, sorting out some health issues but not able to move fully forward with my life.

Seemingly uncontroversial reforms such as banning rejections based on pre-existing conditions and dropping people once they get sick are extremely important to any reform plan.  But there are many, many other components to be discussed and considered.  I will not tackle them all in one single post.  Instead, today I will focus on the most recent controversy:  Rep. Joe Wilson's "You Lie!" interjection during President Obama's recent address to Congress.

I am not going to discuss the appropriateness of his comment (I believe it was incredibly inappropriate and disrespectful), nor the political expediency of his actions.  I think Fox News and MSNBC have covered those aspects enough in the last two days.  Instead, I got myself the CRS report "Treatment of Noncitizens in H.R. 3200," and looked at the facts behind the "lie."  I will assume as a member of the House, Congressman Wilson was referring to his knowledge of H.R. 3200 and for now disregard that the President was proposing HIS ideas for reform, not the House Energy and Commerce Committee's.  Interestingly, this CRS report made me think more about immigration reform than health care reform.  

H.R. 3200 would mandate that people carry insurance.  This is because one of the hidden costs those with insurance pay in their premiums comes from the uninsured whose expensive emergency room visits get spread out and paid for by the rest of us.  The individual mandate is enforced through tax code provisions, enforced by the IRS.  As stated in the CRS report, for tax purposes, noncitizens are classified as resident or nonresident aliens.  But because these IRS terms do not exist in the Immigration and Nationality Act, an illegal alien may either be a resident or nonresident alien.  Thus, a Legal Permanent Resident (a person who has a Green card but has not yet been naturalized as a citizen) may have the same tax status as an illegal immigrant.  Because this bill requires resident aliens to obtain insurance, it appears to require some illegal immigrants to acquire insurance. It is important to understand this does not mean the government is required to supply these people with insurance, only that they must purchase it.  Tonight, the White House clarified that in the President's proposal, undocumented immigrants would not be able to purchase insurance in the new exchange, but would have to do so on the non-exchange private market like some do now.  

This brings us to the subject of tax credits and subsidies for those who cannot afford insurance like the mandate requires.  H.R. 3200 explicitly states the term "affordable credit eligible individual" to mean "an individual who is lawfully present in the United States."  According to CRS, illegal immigrants "would be required to have health insurance, but would be ineligible for the credits under the bill."  Thus, it would appear the President was not lying.  The federal government and the taxpayers that support it will not pay for the health insurance of illegal immigrants. Mandating them to acquire it is seen as a cost-saving measure because it would cut back on unpaid emergency room visits.

But how are we to enforce this provision if we can't even control illegal immigration as it is?  Republicans are concerned there is no enforcement provision to make sure illegal immigrants do not obtain health care credits.  CRS acknowledges there is no specific enforcement mechanism to do so, though the bill does give the Health Choices Commissioner responsibility for determining eligibility for credits.  Tonight, the White House expressed its desire for an verification system of legal status.  They gave the existing SAVE program (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) as an option, though Congress has already defeated efforts to put that in place. 

The President did not lie in his address to Congress.  His proposals do not include illegal immigrants.  Furthermore, H.R. 3200 includes language to specifically exclude illegal immigrants from tax-funded subsidies.  The fact that there is a lack of enforcement speaks to a different issue:  immigration reform.  To be honest, immigration reform is not an issue I have carefully studied.  But it seems to me enforcement of immigration laws has been an issue that leads to resentment among American citizens.  Perhaps part of the problem is that the IRS and the Immigration and Naturalization act classify noncitizens differently?  If a program, such as the the new health insurance exchange, is to be put in effect through tax law, wouldn't it make sense to have tax codes match up with immigration definitions?  A legal permanent resident should not have the same tax status as an illegal immigrant who meets the substantial presence test (an individual who has been present 31 days during the current year and at least 183 days during the current and previous two years).  Sound confusing?  It is.

Republicans will continue to find loopholes in the current health care reform proposals because they want to stop the Democrats plans at all costs.  Rep. Wilson's "You Lie!" helped to expose such a loophole.  This is not a provision the Democrats placed in the bill to secretly cover illegal immigrants.  Instead, it arose from trying to bring much needed health care to as many people as possible.  Unfortunately, our tax codes classify both legal immigrants and some illegal immigrants under the same name.  Under these circumstances, it will be nearly impossible to amend tax credits and subsidies without illegal immigrants filling up the loopholes.  

Looks like immigration reform will be a topic I'm going to have to learn much more about! 

CRS Report:  Treatment of Noncitizens in H.R. 3200
WH on health care, illegal immigrants

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Procrastination Ends Here

I've been telling myself (and a select few others) that I was going to start writing for months now.  Writing to occupy myself during this strange monotonous period between college graduation and real life, and writing to keep my mind sharp and perhaps to provide a nice writing sample to get me to real life sooner.  My main excuse to myself had been coming up with a clever web address and title.  But I now choose to embrace simplicity and luckily an easy variation of my first and last name sufficed.  As for the title, I have to thank the person who stays up late listening to my many complaints about the current state of my life, reminding me how exciting it is that tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life.  If you're reading this you know who you are.  I am going to follow your advice and take things in to my own hands.

What will I write about?   Well definitely politics and policy.  But also music, TV, sports, and possibly some of the ridiculousness that is my daily life.  Oh yes, expect some great community college stories.  If anything good (besides becoming an expert at Microsoft Word and Excel) is going to come out of this semester at Butte, it's bound to be comic relief.