New York’s Civil War

The past couple of months have been trying, to the say the least, for many living in New York City. First, there was the choking death of unarmed Eric Garner by a policeman, then the non-indictment charge given by the courts to his killer in December. This ruling, coming weeks after Darren Wilson was not indicted for the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, sparked hundreds of thousands of people of all backgrounds to protest around the country, including a sizable crowd in NYC that continued to demonstrate for days on end, sometimes ending with violent clashes between police. Then, on the 20th of December, a black anti-police assailant shot two NYPD police officers in broad daylight as they were sitting in their patrol car. As a result, tensions between Police and city hall escalated, as Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch called out Mayor Bill De Blasio’s recent anti-police administration as being responsible for these violent acts. After the non-indictment of Garner last month, De Blasio released a statement about how his wife and he have, “had to literally train him (their son Dante, who is black), as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him… because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face.” This direct quote enraged many good officers, who see the mayor’s apparent distrust of the police hurtful and setting a bad example. At both of the officers’ funerals this month and at many other public appearance of the mayor, many of the NYPD officers present have literally turned their backs on the mayor, publicly showing their disapproval of his stance toward police. If this overt but meaningless expression of anger was all that the officers were doing, that would be a fine use of their free speech and union leaders could potentially meet with De Blasio and settle the dispute.

The real problem is that, in the two weeks after the officers’ deaths, low-level arrests citywide have dropped 61 percent, with summonses down 90 percent. And, in the chaos that is New Year’s Eve in Times Square, where over 1 million people packed the streets to party, there was only one recorded low-level offense-for a minor subway infraction. These numbers clearly reflect a purposeful lack of effort and quality put out by disgruntled officers who feel persecuted by everyone in the city-even the mayor. Another problem is that, in the last week, union officials and the Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have met and tried to resolve this conflict, once with the mayor present, but unable to reach any real conclusion other than union leaders strived to stop the “slowdown” or those involved would face repercussions.

So, while the overall crime rate in New York was down four percent in 2014, this decrease in crimes after the shooting is the wrong kind, as it means that petty or minor crimes are not being enforced properly. Many are now getting away with crimes such as double-parking, having an open container of alcohol, public urination and other tiny offenses, with directly is in opposition of Bratton’s “broken windows theory”, which institutes a strict enforcement on petty crime, as these kind of crimes can lead to more serious offenses. The policy, which was reinforced earlier this year when Bratton was made Police Commissioner for the second time, was met with controversy, as the aforementioned Garner was killed for selling individual cigarettes on the street, a minor violation that Bratton had cracked down on. These enhanced policing techniques have made the public almost dislike the police, as they have had to enforce to vaguely racist stop-and-frisk policies along with strict petty crimes. Now, with Eric Garner’s death, many officers don’t feel safe doing their regular duties, which may be why they aren’t doing them for the time being. As a result, their behavior is not only encouraging criminals to continue to break the law, but scaring normals citizens who now don’t think they are being properly protected.

To solve this complicated issue, the unions and city hall must come to a resolution, as the public is currently caught in the middle of a potentially disastrous battle with their own lives at stake. The fast-tracking of body cameras and other technology could help restore public trust in the police, but De Blasio’s main goal should just be to reconcile with the police, as they are employees of the city and he must have their backs, because the actions of one cop shouldn’t mean that all the rest are slandered by liberals. Right now, the glaring hole in enforcement is a huge flaw that could be easily exploited by the right person with the wrong intentions, and something must be done to restore order, then we can focus on the proper policing techniques and faith in the NYPD.

Nathan Bindseil

Sources:

1.http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bratton-nypd-union-bosses-meet-work-slowdown-article-1.2069051

2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/10/nypd-slowdown-tickets-new-years_n_6449378.html

3. http://nypost.com/2014/12/20/2-nypd-cops-shot-execution-style-in-brooklyn/

4. http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/540-14/statement-mayor-bill-de-blasio#/0

5. https://news.vice.com/article/new-york-citys-cops-are-waging-war-on-subway-performers

6. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/04/bill-de-blasio-son_n_6266668.html

7. http://nypost.com/2014/12/03/crime-rates-plummet-in-new-york-city/

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The Wild Wild Midwest: Iowa Caucus Roundup

The day has finally come! After an arduously long year of campaigning, debating, and spending an unhealthy amount of time in Iowa, the 2016 Presidential Nomination Process has officially begun. It feels good to be actually getting into the primary process, as this will start to weed out the circus of candidates on the Republican side as well as see whether Bernie’s populist agenda has general-election potential to face off against Hillary.

 

On the Republican side, an upset of sorts occurred as Ted Cruz and Donald Trump flipped from their positions in polling in the days leading up to the caucus to what the actual results were. Cruz ended up winning, mainly because of his strong evangelical base in this majority Christian state and Trump’s lack of local organization and efficiency. While this shows a return to normalcy for Republican voters and could be the first domino that sinks the Donald’s campaign, Cruz’s win here is definitely not an assurance of future success for him. Considering how conservative and evangelical the state of Iowa is compared to the country and the next two primaries, New Hampshire and South Carolina, it seems that Cruz will still be battling Trump for the more conservative and religious vote, a constituency that won’t be big enough to win in most other primaries on its own.

It seems that the biggest winner of the night for the G.O.P. is Marco Rubio, who went above and beyond his expectations and came within a percentage of Donald Trump, a result that has catapulting him into the driver’s seat for the establishment, much to the dismay of John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Jeb! Bush. Bush in particular had a night to forget, as he polled at 2.8%, a result that was under the meager numbers he had been polling at before the caucus. Based on these results, it seems that Rubio’s “3-2-1” goal, which has him placing third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire, and winning in South Carolina, is still viable, as he is within a couple percentage points of Cruz for second in the latest polls. However, to win in South Carolina, where Trump has a commanding lead, he needs both for the momentum of Iowa to continue to surge his polling numbers to unite the establishment vote and for Trump to lose support. I haven’t changed my prediction on who will be the nominee, but I think that Marco has a considerably higher chance than Jeb! at this point.

From a personal perspective, the Democratic caucus was bittersweet. My favored candidate, Martin O’Malley, was forced by both low polling numbers and drying campaign funds to suspend his operation. Now, people may look at the results and see that he only received one percent of the vote and wonder why he was even in the race, the strange makeup of the Democratic caucus is partially to blame. Roughly, how it is different from the Republican side, where everyone basically gathers in a place and votes for whoever they want, the Democrats, once assembled, have to split up into respective groups. These groups, which yesterday were the Bernie group, the Hillary group, the Martin group, and the undecided group, had to make up at least 15 percent of the people present in their voting location or else the group had to disband and chose another group. This meant that a lot of O’Malley supporters, because they made up a small portion of the state in general and in most precincts, had to vote for other candidates and this is represented in his low numbers. This makes no sense why the caucus is done this way, as literally going into a gym and shouting at undecided voters to join their group seems so antiquated in today’s world.

While Martin’s downfall was inevitable, the “victory” that Hillary Clinton achieved was anything but assured. Because Bernie had been surging and was basically neck-and-neck in the polls with her in the leadup to the caucus, it really could have gone either way. And the too-close-to-call, down-to-the-wire results that were coming in made for an enjoyable and stressful night of watching. Because the final difference between the two candidate’s percentage’s ending up being just 0.3 percent, the election was not called for either side until the early hours of the next morning. Out of all of this, it seemed strange that both sides seemed to be basking in victory. While Hillary was the winner on paper and touted her resilience in winning this moral victory at the same caucus she imploded in eight years ago, Bernie celebrated the very fact that his startup campaign was able to almost take down the candidate everyone assumed would win. Even though I certainly applaud the results that Bernie has achieved and the progress made against Hillary, this loss, no matter how close, was a missed opportunity for him.

 

Considering the fact that 43 percent of likely Democratic voters self-identified as “socialist”, according to a Selzer & Co. Iowa poll that was released in the first week of January and that 84 percent of caucus goers in the critical 17-29 range that I am a part of voted for Bernie. Despite the relatively liberal status and white majority Iowa has, a political situation closest to his home state of Vermont, Sanders was unable to take down Hillary, something that does not bode well for the upcoming primaries. While I think that his celebration of legitimacy was deserving, now is especially not the time to rest on his laurels, as millions of voters are just now being introduced to this once-fringe candidate and need to see that he can be more than just a one state pony. While the Iowa caucus has greatly impacted the nomination process, things are bound to get more chaotic and complex as the process continues and I am holding out for a Rubio-Clinton battle come November.

 

 

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My First Election: An Introduction

I have realized that, with college apps, midterms, and many other things that entail a Senior year in High School, I haven’t been able to post anything on this site in months. So, I figured the best way to get back into writing here would be the start of the nomination process for President, which begins in less than a week. I am going to try and blog about the primaries, caucuses, debates, and whatever else, ridiculous or not, happens along the march to the polls. The main theme of the project will be to look at how the candidates and the nomination process itself is addressing or affecting me, a first time and young voter.

 

This demographic (18-29 years old) consistently has had the lowest voter turnout compared to the all other groups, per the U.S. Census graph below, but has also increased significantly over the past two decades. This all means that the youth vote has become a coveted get for politicians and much more awareness has been put on increasing their turnout in recent years, leading to more policy being geared towards them (like free public college education) or just simply politicians pretending to look cool and trendy. Along with this renewed power, young people are also the future of this country, meaning the views, opinions, and stances we express will be around much longer than our elderly counterparts. For a candidate to succeed, he/she must be able to capture the youth vote while also appeasing the older bases, a process that can be complicated given the differing perspectives and wants of the two.

Screenshot 2016-01-27 19.35.05

 

Even though my vote, on the grand scale, is just another statistic making up the millions of voters, the fact that now, as an 18-year-old, I can have a say on the political process instead of just commenting or complaining about it is strange but exciting.  What I want this blog to be is a weekly-ish review of the status of the election process, what my thoughts and reactions are, both as a liberal-minded person and a first-time voter, and who I would vote for President in both parties, given the “If the election was today” hypothetical.

 

That being said, I am going to set the stage for what has been a wild election cycle so far. For the Republicans, the race has been utterly dominated with the rise of Donald Trump of all people as the front-runner, a man whose candidacy acts like teflon; no matter how racist, rude, or downright wrong he is, his supporters couldn’t care less. His rocketing into first place in the polls has moved the entire field of the G.O.P. to the right, meaning normally radical candidates, like Ted Cruz, seem like viable options for the general election. For those in the establishment, including Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich, the objective right now is to just weather the storm and hope that the voters regain some of their sanity or just to stand out from the pack now as the clear Trump rival, in which case all the establishment or anti-Trump votes would go to that one candidate. The others still in the race, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul, all will need serious miracles come February 1 to jump start their life lining campaign. While Carson still sits solidly in third in Iowa, he has fallen far from the late summer, where he briefly overtook Trump before a series of blunders and weak performance sent him tumbling down.

 

At this point, I just see the Republican Nomination as a huge circus so far, one filled with insults, widespread complaining, and iconic trucker hats. It continues to amaze me that Trump gets away his childish arguments and bullying campaign tactics. In a way, he represents the worst that America has to offer the world, a loud-mouthed businessman who attracts conflict and abhors compromise. I know that there is no chance that I or anyone I know will willingly vote for him, so I am still hopeful that his campaign will start to be derailed, something that might start with him refusing to participate in the next Republican debate because Megyn Kelly will be moderating. Maybe, finally, his supporters will realize how compulsive and irrational he is, qualities that I wouldn’t want in my dentist let alone in the Oval Office. I see that someone like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush will end up winning the nomination simply because there very small chance that Cruz or Trump can win the general election because of the niche nature of their supporters and horrible ratings among independents and other key demographics like Hispanics.

 

On the Democratic side, things have certainly been more low key, with only three candidates on the ballot in Iowa and two, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, looking like they have an actual shot at the nomination. Unfortunately, if my primary were to occur today, I would vote for Martin O’Malley, who I feel is a great compromise between the moderate Clinton and Bernie, who is a self proclaimed “Socialist” but is polling in the low single digits behind the two frontrunners. O’Malley also has had executive experience as the governor of Maryland and accomplished many of the policies that the other two candidates can only talk about doing, a point that is somehow lost with other Democrats who either lean towards Hillary for her name recognition or Sanders for his radical and populist ideals. In the end though, I believe that Hillary should and will win the nomination, given the slim chance Martin has at this point. Like I have about Trump or Cruz in the paragraph above, Bernie Sanders’ policies appeal to a small portion of the general election electorate and are even more radical than the policies Obama can’t get through the current Congress, meaning that, even if he is elected, many of his policies will be dead on arrival and unable to become law.

 

And, even though I was expressed my views criticizing the disproportionate role that the early primaries play on the election process, I am still very excited for the primaries to start and experience my first election cycle that I can actually have a say in and look forward to paying close attention to all the latest developments and posting my views on them here.

 

Nathan Bindseil

 

 

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Things You Should Know: Polls, Despite Response Rates at Their Lowest Point Ever, Have More Weight on Elections

I read this great article on The New Yorker that sheds a light on an unfortunate part of today’s constant election cycle. That light is shined on polls. There seem to be millions of them, new ones being released daily, giving up-to-date information about which presidential candidates are in favor and those who are fading. Their methods, relatively unchanged since the form’s inception in the early 20th century, have begun to represent a smaller and smaller portion of the country while at the same time holding more political power. Despite 40% of people not owning a landline, these polls still claim to be statistical representatives of the populace. Despite the percentage of people who respond to these polls having dropped to the single digits. Despite the glaring inaccuracies recently (see: British Election). This article delves into all these and much more as it examines polling’s slow claim in popularity and the democratic questions it raises. What isn’t debatable is how much polling matters in contemporary politics, as Fox News is now using polls to determine candidates eligible for debates and the candidates themselves using them to tout their legitimacy, despite the problems that this type of direct democracy may bring.

Link to article: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/16/politics-and-the-new-machine

Nathan Bindseil

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Things You Should Know: How Google Can Secretly Control Our Lives

I recently read a great article on Politico by Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, called “How Google Could Rig the 2016 Election”. Despite the scandalous nature of its title, Epstein does not go on to divulge Google’s secret plans to take over the world. Instead, he calls to mind the powerful effect that the world’s most-used search engine can have on people, especially undecided voters. Through Mr. Epstein’s research into this phenomenon, called the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME), he was able to determine, that, through something as simple as a short Google Search and clicking on a few links, people’s opinions can shift dramatically, depending on what they read. Considering that most people rarely scroll past the first few links, let alone on to the next page, it seems then that Google, which uses various algorithms based on popularity and relevance to place the “best links” first, could legitimately sway voters to a particular candidate, if they were so inclined. In today’s society, where many are turning to the internet to decide who to vote for, Google reigns supreme and, because its methods favor popularity when determining what you see, the “trending” candidate has a hug advantage over maybe one with more staying power or legit ideas. What this study and article shows is that, no matter what, Google’s global presence influences people, even if no foul play is involved. This also is a good reminder that one should always look at an article on balance, taking into account who wrote and published it, what bias they may have, and if their information is accurate and helpful. Many times, I see sites like Fox News and The Huffington Post both do a story on the same topic, except with a totally different stance and interpretation. It shows not only how polarized media is today, but how important perspective can be even when searching on Google.

Here’s the original article: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/how-google-could-rig-the-2016-election-121548.html#.Vd06U2BWKhY

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How Donald Trump has used “Political Incorrectness” to Legitimize his Presidential Campaign

Once the news broke that real-estate mogul and pageant owner Donald trump had whisked down an escalator and announced his formal bid for the presidency, he seemed destined to be a flash in the pan. Not only did he alienate 17% of Americans by calling all immigrants from Mexico “their worst people” and “rapists” while also vehemently advocating to build a wall to try and keep these people from coming into the country, but he did so in a way that was totally off the cuff and seemed out of place for an aspiring world leader. But, his speech, in which he also said, “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever created” and, “I’m really rich”, was classic Trump, one where he called many people “stupid” and was as much ripping the current state of politics as proposing solutions to it. The backlash to his laugh seemed bad-his company was losing sponsorships left and right, his “Miss Universe” pageant was dropped by NBC, and many of his Republican and Democratic peers running in 2016 condemned his remarks was flat-out racist and ill-formed. It seemed that his bid for the White House was over just as it was getting started.

Yet, his bluntness seemed to strike a cord with a significant portion of Americans, many of whom don’t relate to typical potential candidates. Like many Americans, Trump says things that offend others; he doesn’t think about the exact consequences of his actions, nor does he particularly care. He is the exact opposite of Obama, whose calculated and highly scripted speeches seem otherworldly to most. During the first Republican Debate last Thursday in Cleveland, he denounced the “political correctness” that binds our society while attacking Megyn Kelly, a moderator for the debate, when she tried to ask him about his inflammatory comments about women. Later, he insinuated that Kelly was asking him ridiculous questions because she was on her period, saying that, “You could see that there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her… wherever.” Because Trump doesn’t conform to the standards of the political theatre, choosing to blaze his own cult of personality less reliant on facts than feelings, he is a breath of fresh air for people who don’t really understand or like the way politics occurs today. In the weeks leading up to the debate, he overtook the frontrunner Jeb Bush and stood head and shoulders above the rest of the Republican field, much to the chagrin of the GOP leaders. In a matter of weeks his novelty campaign was gaining legitimate traction and his boisterous and brazen style was earning votes as fast as it was losing them.

But why do people support this man? He is clearly just an arrogant, egotistical man with no respect for others, absolutely no political experience, and a history for ticking people off. But, the reasons people cite, no matter how convincing, for siding with him bring up important points about both the GOP and politics in general. They say that his honesty when speaking about immigration and other matters aligns with their conservative views and shows that he isn’t afraid to speak his mind. His attacks on corporations and lobbyists controlling officials also have gained traction, despite Trump himself being a hugely successful businessman who connections to the business world are endless. He is a walking enigma, a person who is trying to appeal to the common people by touting his billions in assets. He refusal to rule out a third-party run angered many, but most of his supporters don’t care. They would vote for him if he ran as Supreme Dictator. That was a joke, but the loyalty that many of his supporters show him is unprecedented, considering what these people are actually signing up for. An America with Trump as President could be many things, but good, calm, or safe would not be any of them.

For all of you worrying that come Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in, his hair smirking all the while, never fear. His catches of growing his following beyond a niche minority of conservatives to win a primary, let alone contend with the Democratic Candidate, are slim. Unfortunately, his no-holds-barred approach to politics and recalcitrance to tradition, while it may speak to some who feel out of place, will never be enough to get the public to take his campaign and its sole basis as feeding the Trump ego seriously. In due time, America will be the ones saying, “You’re Fired!!”.

Nathan Bindseil

Trump Dislike

Poll showing the Donald’s horrible approval rating with Democrats and Republicans alike

Source: Huffington Post- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/16/trump-most-disliked_n_7597722.html

Other Sources:

1.http://www.vox.com/2015/8/10/9126141/donald-trump-supporters

2.http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/08/politics/donald-trump-cnn-megyn-kelly-comment/

3. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/16/donald-trump-announces-run-president

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Is Streaming the Future of Music?

The future of music is here. Even more important than the rise of one-eyed wonder Fetty Wap, it is a  new way to listen to upwards of 30 million songs, all for free, that can be accessed through your phone or other digital device anywhere, anytime. Called “streaming”, this concept isn’t exactly novel, as services like this have existed for years, but, recently, newly attractive advances in streaming and its reduced price compared to other digital marketplaces is swaying more people to buy in. According to Variety, streaming has witnessed a 54% increase in just the last year, while overall musics sales have decreased by 9%, showcasing that, in what may only be a few years, streaming will be the dominant force in music sales and revenue, meaning that customers will not longer pay for songs individually but in a catalogued databased at a monthly subscription, much like Netflix.  This brings up a very important debate, as the format of streaming is unlike anything previously seen in the world of music.

Normally, if someone where to, let’s say, buy Kendrick Lamar’s new album on iTunes, it’s very easy to see how the artist would get paid for this transaction. By uploading his album to iTunes’ database and making it available for purchase, Kendrick is agreeing to a unique contract with Apple, in conjunction with his label, that decides what percentage of the profits Lamar and the other parties would earn for each individual download (which costs $1.29 on the Store).  But, these new types of music listening services throw a huge monkey wrench into that concrete method of doing business, as they provide an entire catalogue of music genres and artists for free to consumers. While there are incentives for customers to buy a paid subscription (offline listening, no ads) these tactics aren’t really effective at pulling in paid customers. The company with the best rate of conversion, Spotify, only has 25% of its users play for music. This means two things for artists; first that the contracts they sign with these companies will now be based upon number of times a song was played and second, the money that artists can make through Spotify can seem underwhelming because of the tiny amounts they get paid per play. For one play on Spotify, artists earn between $0.006 and $0.0084. Compared to one song download on iTunes, where artists earn about 94 cents, a song would have to be played 111.9 to 156.66 times on Spotify to equal the amount of one download on iTunes. Even worse, Pandora only pays artists $0.0014 when their music is played on a free account, and $0.0025 on a paid one.

So, as the digital landscape of the music industry is changing, it seems that artists are being paid less and less for their work. This has led to significant backlash and criticism from artists crying out for more respect and recognition. Notably, singer Taylor Swift pulled her music from Spotify, claiming that she wasn’t being properly compensated for her work and that all artists should strive to have their work adequately rewarded. And, in an ambitious move to try and go against the grain, Jay-Z bought a relatively unknown service named Tidal and repackaged it as an artists’ service primarily, meaning it would put artists first and fairly pay them for their music. The price of paying artists more for their music, unfortunately, means that Tidal only offers a three-month trial and $10 and $20 subscriptions, significantly higher price points than other streaming services. In part because of its price, Tidal only has about 550,000 users, compared to Spotify’s 60 million, meaning that users aren’t willing to pay a higher price for what is supposed to be a higher-quality and industry-backed product.

The money that streaming does provide artists is a better alternative to another worrying trend in music: piracy. With an estimated $12.5 billion in losses due to the illegal downloading of copyrighted music, millions of songs are being downloaded and listened to without any compensation to the artists. The problem is only partially solved by advocating streaming over piracy, though, as the minuscule amount bands are paid for their work makes it hard for even established stars to earn enough money to survive. Even worse off, songwriters, according to Aloe Blacc’s op-ed in Wired, are only played a unfathomable $90 for one million plays on Spotify. Despite these ridiculously low pay rates, streaming services still struggle to turn a profit, with Spotify reporting a net loss totally to about $180 million in 2014.

The main reason why I feel that streaming is now poised to become the main platform for music listening is that, on June 30, Apple Music, the company’s first foray into the field, launched to great fanfare and anticipation. Finally, the heavyweight has joined in on the fight. Having previously completely changed the game with its iTunes Store, Apple now looks to further evolve and challenge its competitors, who had been breaking its stranglehold on the industry recently, as more and more people turned to streaming. As recently as five years ago, it seemed the only way to purchase music online was through iTunes or to illegally pirate it. Now, the success of Apple Music seems to foretell the death of another now-archaic industry, as iTunes may join the ranks of vinyls and CDs as a part of the musical ghosts of products past. But, is that a good thing? Will artists and streaming companies find a compromise so that the former feels content and the latter also profits? It remains to be seen.

Nathan Bindseil

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