DOMA-Tragedy or Triumph?

gty_gay_marriage_rally_ll_130627_4x3t_384 This weeks Supreme Court decision repealing the Defense of Marriage Act was a historical moment for the nation. In a 5-4 ruling, the court said that the federal law, signed by President Clinton, was unconstitutional and that those gay couples married in states where gay marriage was legal would now have their marriages recognized by the federal government.

This drew celebration across the nation as thousands of people both gay and straight celebrated in cities all across America. However, not everyone was happy with the court’s decision. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called it a “tragic day for America.”

I, personally, believe that who you love is between you and the person you’re in love with. Government has no businesses telling us who we can love and who we can’t. In that sense, I am a strong supporter of marriage equality and applaud the ruling which will make literally over 1000 federal benefits available to married gay couples across New York and other states.

But what do you think? Was the DOMA ruling a tragedy or triumph for America?

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Is college still worth it?

Siena_Front_17185309 Graduating from high school is one of those seminal moments in any young persons life. There is usually a flood of emotions ranging from joy to sadness, excitement and also fear. In generations past, graduating from high school meant entering the military service or the workforce. Locally, that meant a long career in state government, General Electric, textile manufacturing or Bendix. However, those days are long past. Our graduates today face a globalized economy and global recession.

Over the last several decades, our society has been telling our graduates that college was the best road to success after high school. And for the majority of graduates, that would have been correct. But recently, there has been a lot of debate surrounding this idea of the college only road. The cost of college alone, which since 1978 has risen 1,100%, is a serious roadblock for many middle class families. And those that are able to attend college through loans are left with huge amounts of debt upon graduation. And due to the still pestering recession, nearly 50% of graduates will be unemployed long after graduation.

So this begs the question; Is college still worth it?

Make no mistake, I believe in education. I believe that education is one of the most important things in society. However, when families need to take second mortgages and students are graduating with 6 figure debt, something is wrong. I, myself, am still paying off my college debt!

Perhaps it’s time to think about some new ways to educate our young adults. Maybe we should be encouraging more of our graduates to go into the trades or even establishing education components within industry. Why are we making students take courses that are unrelated to their desired field? I often wonder if many college programs contain unnecessary classes only to increase the cost. Certainly, community colleges are great cost effective options for many young people and offer a wide range of programs designed to prepare a student for the workforce.

So what say you? Is a traditional college degree still worth it?

Local hero denied flight

ToddClark As many of you by now know, Lt. Colonel Todd Clark of Albany was killed in Afghanistan last week. Today, we mourn as a community as Lt. Colonel Clark has returned home to Albany. I know I share the feelings of many of you when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with the Clark family. Services will be held here locally with internment at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

Today, I was outright angered to learn that our government will not be paying for Lt. Clark’s flight to his final resting place. In a statement on her FB page, Clark’s mother Kathleen was beside herself stating, “My son was flown halfway around the world to fight senseless battles, five times in active war zones, killed in action and our government is refusing to give him a plane from NY to TX.”

My friends, this goes way beyond Pentagon red tape and is just absolute madness. Here we have an American hero who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country and his country will not take him to his final rest. We spend trillions of dollars all around the world but cannot fly our fallen to their final place of rest.

God bless Todd Clark and the Clark family. Let’s hope our government does the right thing and gives this local hero his flight home. Our fighting men and women deserve the very best we have to offer. And that extends to the families of those who pay the ultimate sacrifice. Is this the best we have to offer?

In closing, sometimes the greatest nation in the world does not always make the greatest decisions. We spend money on such things as “tattoo removal programs” and “video game research” while neglecting what should be our top priority, our men and women in uniform and their families. God bless the U.S.A.

Albany County passes historic human rights law

trandgender As reported in the Troy Record, this past Monday, the Albany County Legislature unanimously passed an amendment to our human rights law which protects individuals from discrimination based on their gender identity and gender expression.

This has been a long fought victory for advocates of transgender rights in Albany County. I want to thank all of my fellow legislators including Majority Leader Frank Commisso, Minority Leader Christine Benedict, Legislator Noelle Kinsch and Legislator Chris Higgins for their work on getting this passed. And I would be remiss if I did not mention former Albany County Legislator John Frederick who has been advocating for this issue for many years.

I also want to thank the advocates and members of the transgender community in Albany County for their tireless efforts. I want to thank them for coming down to the Legislature month after month and educating myself and others on what can be a very complicated topic. I will be honest and admit that early on, I had many questions and concerns regarding how this would impact our society. But after sitting down with Renate Reeves-Ellington and Byrgen Finkleman of the New York State Citizens for Transgender Rights, I understood that this was about basic human rights. It was about the rights of all of us to pursue our happiness as outlined in the Declaration of Independence.

Having grown up in the projects, I know what it was like to be discriminated against. I know what it was like to be looked at as “different.” As a society, no matter what our personal views, we should always strive to make sure that everyone is treated equally under the law. I’m proud to say that this week, Albany County has made yet another strive toward that goal.

Who can you trust?

talk-to-your-doctor-small There are certain professions in society that have always come with a great degree of public trust. A doctor is one that we have always looked at as someone we could always trust as it relates to the health of ourselves and our families.

However, a recent article detailing how some doctors are reaping huge payments from drug companies has given me pause. Essentially, doctors are being paid by drug companies to speak on the drugs behalf. These speaking engagements can net a doctor 1000-2000 per talk. According to the article, New York State ranks fourth in these payments with over 142 million dollars going to health care providers in a four-year period. And thanks to a provision in the new Obama health care law, these payments will now be made public by the pharmaceutical companies.

I dont’ know about you, but this alarms me on many levels, especially when studies have shown that doctors who receive even small payments can influence that doctors decision as to what brand of drug they prescribe. The medical community seems torn between doctors who say there is nothing wrong with the practice and those who say it is unethical.

How do you feel?