Author Archive

Social Media and Politics

Posted: May 5, 2011 by danieljtorres in Uncategorized

Tuesday was the Village election in New Paltz. The big race of course being for Mayor. A field of candidates from a former Trustee who lost in 2009 by one vote after he admitted he didn’t vote for himself, the owner of the Groovy Blueberry who ran on a platform of making New Paltz groovy (that isn’t a joke), a woman who had been serving as the active Mayor as the current Mayor recently suffered a stroke, and my friend Jason West who is the former Mayor of New Paltz. West made national headline when he solemnized the first same sex weddings. In an upset West beat the favored candidate and is now Mayor elect of New Paltz. The difference in my head was social media. The Times Herald-Record ran an article on it in fact. West was the only candidate to use any social media. His Facebook page featured pictures from every debate and fundraiser. Kept people informed on the issues, asked people to write letters, solicited donations, gathered volunteers, and even told people where they could get yard signs. In a small Village race every vote counts and it may just have been Facebook that gave West a 68 vote win.


Has Facebook Made Us Lazy?

Posted: March 9, 2011 by danieljtorres in Uncategorized

Recently at Marist there was a Facebook protest called “No Voice No Choice.” This was in response to a candidate for Student Body president being disqualified. His disqualification made the Student Body President race a one person race. The candidate in question failed to turn in his papers on time. He appealed the decision and Marist’s student chief justice upheld the decision. People took their frustration to Facebook. Profile pictures started becoming graphics of a man with tape over his mouth and students wrote they felt democracy was not being enacted and the candidate should still get to run. Besides the fact that re-opening an election because you don’t like the results is inherently un-democratic it did make me think. In the same week I was informed about a protest at Vasser for the workers of Wisconsin. At SUNY New Paltz they will be holding a “Teach In” students will walk out of class to go to lecture halls and have other professor’s talk about the state of SUNY and why money is drying up. Later this month I am going to moderate a discussion with a number of political leaders on a bill that is currently in the Assembly that could save 14,000 teachers jobs this year alone. Neighboring schools are and have stood up for the rights of teachers, firefighters, policemen, EMT’s, and the funding of education. The two planned protests for “No Voice No Choice” resulted in a turnout of exactly no one. I wonder if in a way Facebook has made us lazy. Is it enough for people to change a profile picture instead of actually doing something? I think the “No Voice No Choice” protests were misguided and sort of embarrassing based on the issues our neighboring schools are tackling. Yet, we talk about the power of Facebook often and I have to wonder if at times it also puts out the opposite effect. Maybe some people think changing a status is more important than picking up a phone, writing a politician, or demonstrating.

American History

Posted: March 1, 2011 by danieljtorres in Uncategorized

In my Themes of Modern History my professor asked us to give a brief overview of the American Revolution. The student responded with a seventh grade textbook version and I was a tad bit surprised he didn’t start waiving an American flag at the end of his story. My professor said good and we moved on, yet his answer really bothered me. It made me think of that recent Gallop poll that ranked Ronald Regan as the greatest President of all-time and put John F. Kennedy at number five. Now don’t get me wrong, I love America! I think it is one of the best countries in the world! I just don’t know why we over glorify our history and forget certain aspects of it.

Early Americans were angered about “taxation without representation” a more then valid thing to be angered about and people have gone to war over much less. We forget that the reason Colonists were taxed differently was because the British protected us during the French and Indian War. Shortly after the Boston Massacre the Townshend Act (which is where most of the new taxes came from) were actually repealed. The tax on tea was not repealed however. This lead to the very famous Boston Tea Party (I just realized I had to add Boston before Tea Party). The sad part about this is that the Colonists dressed as Native Americans to throw the tea into Boston Harbor. They were trying to let the Native-Americans take the fall for their revolutionary act. It is also forgotten that the tea they illegally imported from India was more expensive then the taxed tea from the British.

The American Revolution is not the only place we do this. A lot of people remember being told in grade school about Washington’s wooden teeth. Yet, I don’t recall anyone talking about how he also had a set of real teeth…ripped from the mouth of a slave. Thomas Jefferson, in my opinion the most brilliant American to ever live had a relationship with one of his slaves Sally Hemings. The man who predominantly wrote the Declaration of Independence with the famous phrase, “All men are created equal…” In reality all rich, white, landowning men, were in fact equal in the eyes of early Colonists. Let’s not forget the horrors of slavery were originally included in the Declaration but later removed.

Andrew Jackson whose face adorns the twenty dollar bill was a genocidal maniac who attempted to get rid of the Native-Americans much like Hitler tried to get rid of the Jews during WWII. I wonder how many people have ever really been taught in depth about the Trail of Tears and that time period. In my opinion the greatest President Franklin Roosevelt had a fair share of interesting moments himself. When Roosevelt died in 1945 by his bed side was Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd his mistress who often visited the White House when Eleanor wasn’t around. After some of Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation was ruled unconstitutional he attempted to pack the Supreme Court with people who would vote otherwise. He tried to increase the number of members and create an age limit.

Abraham Lincoln, now touted as one of the greatest Republicans, would have been a liberal Democrat by today’s standards. The man literally suspended Habeas Corpus meaning that we could detain people for any reason for any amount of time. Thank goodness this would never happen today…oh wait it did. Who could forget that whole Patriot Act thing.

We once set up camps to detain Japanese Americans shortly after Pearl Harbor. Under the order of President Roosevelt we set up concentration camps on US soil. Then in 1944 the US Supreme Court ruled this action constitutional. Today we only house such camps off the mainland…

How about that awful man Richard Nixon! Yes, Nixon’s legacy will forever be dirtied by Water Gate. He also started modern trade relations with China and actually ended the Vietnam War. We forget that though.

Are these parts of American history important? Without a doubt some of the things I mentioned are and some really aren’t. I am not sure if young children need to know all of these facts. I just wonder why we pretend these things never happened. Wasn’t questioning our government and their actions an integral part of being a Patriot? Yet, somehow I had to start my post by stating how much I loved America so you wouldn’t get the wrong impression. I just think it is dangerous when we pretend parts of history didn’t happen. I know some people may claim that we don’t do this. But does anyone remember what the 112th Congress did after they met for the first time two months ago? They did something that had never been done in the history of Congress. They publicly read the Constitution. Did anyone notice they missed a part? They forgot that whole three fifths compromise part…

Casualty of History

Posted: February 23, 2011 by danieljtorres in Uncategorized

Today the Justice Department announced that it would no longer try cases under the Defense of Marriage Act. This law stated that the federal government would not recognize same sex marriages. By not trying these cases the President is essentially saying that not recognizing these marriages is unconstitutional. I am tad bit surprised by how little coverage this got today. When I heard the news a shiver went up my spine. People always talk about where they were when they found out Kennedy was shot or when they heard about September 11th. This was event was nowhere near that magnitude but I will never forget where I was when I heard the news.

I had just finished taking pictures for my friend Jason West on Main Street of New Paltz. The pictures are for his mayoral run. I had gone back to his apartment to look at the pictures with him. His apartment wasn’t very big. Jason is in his early thirties and his apartment looked like a mix between a college dorm and a professor’s office. Papers littered the desk and awards from various groups were being used as paper weights. Books lined the walls, I saw Nome Chomsky, books about anarchy and  revolution, the Gospel of Judas, and even a Boys Scout manual, and every book looked like it had been read. A pop art picture of Abraham Lincoln was also very noticeable.

Jason, a house painter, had various pieces of art randomly scattered around the room. That’s when the phone rang and a reporter was on the other line. After a few minutes Jason came in and told me the news. Although he didn’t show it, I wondered if in the back of his head if he thought that he played a role in today’s decision. I am proud to call Jason a friend of mine and as I looked around his apartment again at his humble living I realized how history changes and sometimes there are even causalities while that happens.

Way back in 2004 my friend Jason was the newly elected Mayor of New Paltz. He was just twenty-six which made him one of the youngest mayors in the country and he had become one of the first people to ever be elected as a member of the Green Party. He had been a SUNY New Paltz student who ran for Mayor and beat an incumbent of nearly twenty years.

Jason did a lot during his time as Mayor but he will forever be remembered as the first person to conduct a same-sex marriage. Jason performed twenty plus weddings before he was arrested. His action made him a national celebrity. He was named one of People Magazines Most Eligible Bachelors, he got a book deal, Steven Spielberg tried to buy his life story, and then President George W. Bush gave a “no comment” on the issue.

Way back in 2004 we looked at this social issue very differently than we do today. In my opinion had Jason done what he did in 2004 today it would be a very different story. Jason lost his re-election bid in 2007. He will make a go for it again in 2011 and I have to wonder if Jason is a casualty to history.


Spin Zone

Posted: January 27, 2011 by danieljtorres in Uncategorized
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Like a number of Americans I sat at my television and watched the State of the Union address Tuesday night. I thought the President did a very nice job. It seems clear to me that he is taking on a real Clinton type approach to governing after the Democrats lost the House only two plus months ago. In my opinion his speech was a bit left of center, but certainly he was in the ballpark of center. I thought it was even more interesting to watch the Republican response and then the Tea Party response which followed directly after. Upon hearing both speeches I had to wonder if any of them had truly heard what the President had just uttered only moments before.

I pride myself in trying to watch an entire speech instead of just the sound bites that numerous media outlets have played ever since. After all three speeches ended I turned on MSNBC and heard Rachel Maddow break down the night. I then went to FOX and heard what they had to say and then I finally ended the night on CNN for a third take. I even traveled to my laptop and read a story off of Politico and Yahoo as well.

With so many media outlets it appeared everyone was telling me a different story about the event I just witnessed. I wonder what this actually does to our country. Not every American can sit and watch he news from multiple media outlets. Is it even ok that pundits like Maddow or Beck can have such different takes on events? The answer is yes, since Reagan repealed the Fairness Doctrine pundits are allowed to really do and say almost anything they want. It seems clear that people also enjoy this. CNN, a network that prides itself in trying to be in the middle of conservative leaning FOX and liberal leaning MSNBC has never had lower ratings. People have opted to listen to others that agree with them and I wonder what the effects of this are.