The Third Democratic Primary Debate — Joe Biden Rambling His Chances Away

On Thursday, the showdown of all major presidential candidates took place at Texas Southern University (an HBCU). The third presidential debate was, thankfully, just one night, and for three hours, candidates jousted back and forth to move the needle in the polls.

And, to no surprises, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren stood significantly stronger above every other candidate on the stage. It wasn’t just that they back a lot of policies I’m for, but they were more prepared in rebutting any conservative, right-wing framing of questions, or centrist arguments from other candidates. Bernie was asked how his proposed Democratic Socialism was different from Maduro and socialism in Venezuela. Yeah. That happened. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the debate is just the constant rehashing from everyone asking how you’re supposed to pay for Medicare-For-All, and again and again, they’re forced to just restate their arguments, losing valuable time they can utilize to push on further elaboration.

Surprisingly, for at least the first 30–35 minutes, the candidates were discussing health care plans. It allowed candidates to detail more in-depth on the debate stage why their respective plans were the best for the country. Yang went right to explaining again why M4A benefits small businesses (relieving costs, expediting the process for employees), which is a much-needed part of the plan that Bernie and Warren could do more of. Klobuchar (who I still don’t understand why she is still running) attempted to get at Bernie with “While Bernie wrote the damn bill, I read the bill” as some sort of sneaky way to get around the fact that private insurance is responsible for the absurd costs for prescription drugs and premiums.

Aside from the top two progressive candidates, Yang continued to take more strides to get more people to support UBI. I may personally disagree on how he is getting there, but I cannot deny that he is destroying the other establishment candidates on a majority of policies, from health care to foreign policy. I’ll admit he did have quite a few fibs, but throughout the night, but as a whole, he had one of the stronger evenings compared to the majority of the field.

There’s a reason why I’ve just steered clear of hands down the biggest loser of the evening. And it isn’t close in any stretch of the imagination.

Joe Biden. His debate performance was terrible.

Perhaps the moment that stands out was his racist response after scoffing at a question as to how to deal with the legacy of slavery. Here’s a clip from Secular Talk where they play the clip in full:

Aside from the complete random jumble of words, including a record player for whatever reason, lies unfettered bigotry. Biden’s racist remarks on minority and poor households needing social workers to help reinvigorate the abhorrent stereotypes that black people cannot parent properly (which of course we know is completely false). The idea that these children need to hear words and are not exposed to the material to learn is also racist and unfounded. Forget the fact he didn’t even answer the question. No one in MSM (mainstream media) is acknowledging truly how consistently Biden is allowed to repeatedly perpetuate racist ideas and policies, which is not necessarily frustrating as it’s enlightening. No one there seems to acknowledge or care that these are issues a significant portion of voters will not stand for. These are the types of positions that will result in some voters not turning out if he’s the general election candidate.

Thankfully, Julian Castro came ready to parry and get right back at Biden over and over again. Although his polling numbers indicate he is almost certainly out of the running, I am thankful he has been able to tackle Biden’s hypocrisy within the debate and took risks to point out the obvious: Biden is an abhorrent candidate.

After this debate, if there’s anything that stands out, it’s this: Biden is not fit to be our next president. It’s his policy, his actual cognitive abilities, and his racist and archaic perspective on America that should steer all of us away from him. Jamil Smith wrote a more pithy and direct articulation of this idea in a recent column for Rolling Stone, but we need to face the truth he will almost certainly lose to Trump.

Fortunately, signs are showing Bernie or Warren will begin to eclipse him at some point in the polls, and so at least for now, we could see a true progressive White House.


Being Noah Tesfaye #98: The Third Democratic Primary Debate — Joe Biden Rambling His Chances Away

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

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What If We Had a National Study Abroad Initiative?

In just about the past month, I’ve had the privilege of traveling twice. Throughout my lifetime, I’ve flown on at least a hundred planes and knocked off five out of seven continents (Australia and Antartica left). To have this opportunity to travel across the world is something I am beyond grateful for.

If there is anything that has allowed me to truly inform my world view, my perspective on life, it has been the opportunity to be able to travel. It’s what has allowed me to connect more with my family and heritage. It’s allowed me to constantly evolve the way I think when I am living amongst people of new backgrounds. Everywhere I’ve had the privilege of going, I meet new people, learn new languages and cultures, and perhaps most importantly, educate myself.

A few weeks ago, I finished reading “How to Be an Antiracist” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, one of the most powerful discussions on race in America yet. An aspect of the book I found particularly interesting was how frequently he touched on how there needs to be some sort of incentive to be able to progress political and social change with race. President Johnson was far more willing to go ahead on civil rights legislation when he saw other countries pointing towards the US’s hypocrisy when it came to pushing for equality and freedom abroad when they couldn’t do it at home. There needs to be a way in which people can truly see and witness the benefits of multiculturalism, the power in learning about others.

What if we offered every single high school student the opportunity to travel to a new country?

Logistically and financially, it would be a feat unlike anything is ever taken on by our public education system. With the approximately 16 million current high school students or at least the roughly four million per class, this endeavor would cost well over a few billion every year, maybe $10–20 billion assuming a rough cost of $1000 to $2000 per student. We also need to touch on how to reach students who may have not completed high school or students who drop out and see how to involve them or grant them access.

But, imagine an opportunity for a student to travel with their peers for free to a country abroad and expand their world view?

Being a Silicon Valley student, seeing often families paying their children to go on service trips or traveling for leisure is a common sight. If anything, it isn’t just that this isn’t necessarily a genuine gesture as much as a tack-on for a college application. But what we fail to acknowledge is that these students are gaining access to grow their perspective in ways students without access or the support to travel cannot.

The benefits of these opportunities are nearly endless. Like this essayhighlights, traveling not just about understanding your place in the world within a new context, but it allows you to understand how your life is the way it is. World history that we learn in American public schools is by design west-centric. By contrast, going abroad grants students the important perspective of the world from all different angles, to better inform our population about our context within it.

It would be difficult to come up with the legislative backing to support an initiative like this, much less decide on what countries students are allowed to visit and not visit. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important and that we shouldn’t try. I don’t know if this name of “The National Student Study Abroad Initiative” would be appropriate, but it does have a nice ring to it.

Do you want to help students begin to empathize with others? Traveling with your class is a pretty good place to start. We should just make sure that this opportunity is truly accessible for every student in this country.


Being Noah Tesfaye #97: What If We Had a National Study Abroad Initiative?

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

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I Concede — AirPods are Awesome

The most-read blog post in the almost two years I wrote was on AirPods.

I wrote about my frustrations with AirPods back in December 2018. I talked about my disliking for its sound quality after a few listens, the lack of noise isolation, and the weird stem design that I thought looked a bit tacky. And, with little surprise, I received quite a few lengthy comments criticizing my opinion. In hindsight, I probably could have been a bit fairer and do a longer test.

When the Powerbeats Pro released this past May, my intrigue for a pair of true wireless headphones spiked again. But, after reading a few reviews of ear fatigue and seeing the hefty $250 price tag, I cautioned myself against just jumping in. Also, the lack of availability and one black color at launch didn’t help the case I tried to make to myself to buy them. And so, as any member of Generation Z would, I ran an Instagram poll to see if it could help me make a decision.

A week later, in June, I went to the Apple Store and bought AirPods 2.0.

For the past two months, I’ve been using AirPods as my main audio consumption gadget. I left my Bose QC35s in my backpack more often and put these through public transit, traveling, and just daily listening sessions.

And I am officially declaring today that I am conceding to those blog post comments. AirPods are great.

Most of my criticisms from my initial writeup still stand. They don’t isolate sound, resulting in me having to trade off playing music at absurdly high volumes or just accepting them as background noise. The look is still a bit funky and the sound is not that great.

But that is all I have for downsides.

It is one thing to have a pair of earbuds that you can throw in your pocket, but it is a completely different thing to have AirPods with you. The case is almost undetectable in my pocket everywhere I go. I’ve got mine in a small rubber case that I clip onto my keys, and every time I leave the house, it’s with me. Forget the fact that you’re charging the buds while they’re in the case, the convenience alone as an audio solution in daily life is something I truly did not grasp until I had my pair.

Yes, the sound is about average to above average. But surprisingly, AirPods shine with podcasts. No, they are not an over-ear pair of noise-canceling headphones. However, voices are sharp and clear, and you can hear even the microphone crackles in lower-quality audio. Music also sounds solid, and for a pair of buds this small, the earbuds pack quite a bit of bass.

If there was one thing that I think amazed me the most about actually owning a pair of AirPods versus just trying them on a few times, it is the fit. This is one of the aspects of owning a pair that is the most variable. For some, their ear shapes just don’t go well with them. But for me, they create a near-perfect fit. And that goes miles towards a better sound. I haven’t had them fall out of my ear in any movement or activity, whether walking, jogging, or anything in between.

As much as I wanted to dislike the gadget that initially received a ton of memes and hype at and since launch, I enjoy AirPods, a lot. There are four things I carry with me everywhere: my phone, keys, a Muji pen, and AirPods. The price at $160 or going for the $200 wireless charging case version I have has been one of the best tech investments I’ve made in recent memory. No, they may not blow your mind in audio quality, but their convenience and practicality alone make them worth it. I don’t see myself getting another pair of true wireless earbuds for at least a few years if these hold up with reliability. I was completely wrong, and I own up to that.

Get AirPods. They indeed are worth the hype.


Being Noah Tesfaye #96: I Concede — AirPods are Awesome

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

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Relying on “Electability” is Problematic

Few words are being thrown around this presidential election season quite like “electability.”

From the onset of this election, some progressives, liberals, but most specifically Democrats, have been attempting to push the narrative that the single most important aspect about this election is to defeat Donald Trump at all costs. It doesn’t matter how or who that is, so long as defeating him is possible. And, while defeating Trump is extremely important, doing so in favor of compromising core progressive tenants to get there will just perpetuate our status quo. That is something that will only further exacerbate tension across the nation.

The problem with the term “electability,” as has been chronicled numerous times is that it is associated with safety in an election. It is associated with the idea that a candidate that does not alienate the most people should be the one elected, not the one with the most enthusiastic base or the one with the policies people support. This often means that a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) is the preferred choice because people believe that because of their vastly unchangeable human traits, they stand the best chance to win.

If we relied on traditional metrics for electability, a president like Trump would not be possible, a candidate like Obama would not have gotten the support necessary to win. Both these candidates both had “obstacles” as seen by traditional political strategists that could hurt their chances at winning. Trump had a history of racism, lying, sexual assault allegations, and just general bigotry. Although on a far smaller scale, Obama did face the repeated questions where people asked if America was ready for a black president. If they listened or followed traditional terms of electability, they wouldn’t have become president.

Fortunately, much of the discussion as of late has shifted from talking about the physical or personal traits of candidates and now towards the policies candidates have. The argument by many centrists as of late has been that the next president of the US needs to be more moderate because that is the type of person that will appeal to more people. Yet, again, if we just look to recent history, a candidate on the far, far right is now in the Oval Office. This president defeated moderate Republicans and a moderate Democrat on his way to a victory (granted in a system built on inequity with the electoral college). We have an example facing us every day, spewing hatred about almost every marginalized group in America as a breathing example to show what sticking to what’s “electable” gets us.

Current polling reflects that Americans are relying heavily on the antiquated, ineffective strategy of voting for someone who is “electable.” Joe Biden has led every single poll for this nomination since he formally launched his campaign. His campaign is based on two things: “I was Obama’s VP,” and “I’m electable.” He slowly is losing ground bit by bit, but he has still been able to convince around a third of Dems that he should win the nomination. Even under the conventional guise of “electability,” running a third presidential campaign after losing the first two may not seem like a good idea. Yet, he seemingly has gathered more people than anyone else running today under the assumption that he is the only candidate who can defeat Trump.

So what am I suggesting about how we should go about this presidential campaign? Remove the term “electability” and any semblance of this currently benign definition of it. We should look towards and support candidates that share our vision for America, treat this election as an election for the future. If we solely focus on what will defeat Trump, not only has this ideology of centrism failed us before, but it will only further hamper our ability to ensure the progressive policy is enacted.

I cannot say much for certain, but save the impending economic crash, focusing on “electability” will only lead us to one conclusion: the re-election of Donald Trump. So, for the sake of a more productive democracy that serves to protect all its citizens, let’s just support candidates we want to lead us, not just defeat Trump in November 2020.


Being Noah Tesfaye #95: Relying on “Electability” is Problematic

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

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Reporting on Slavery and Racism in America Today — The 1619 Project and “How to Be an Antiracist”

Following my recent adventures at NABJ, I was adamant about trying to continue to read more journalism. In a setting filled with black journalists who recounted the challenges they faced because of their race in their profession was often heartbreaking to hear but motivating. The stories of triumph against a world that has treated us as less than deserving reporters and people telling us our background makes us biased were powerful. It reminded me why I love being a journalist who wants to cover race and politics in America.

Tomorrow, the New York Times Magazine will publish a complete issue called “The 1619 Project.” This incredible undertaking, pitched and brought together by the brilliant Nikole Hannah-Jones, attempts to further our understanding of the effects of slavery on this 400 year anniversary when the first slave ships arrived in British colonies in North America. Filled with essays, photo essays, poetry, and further prose, the project also will have a special section in tomorrow’s Sunday Edition of the New York Times, along with episodes on the popular “The Daily” podcast, as well as more pieces over the next few months.

Although only just an essay and a half through, I am blown away with not just the prose and writing as a whole, but more importantly I am just filled with a lot of indescribable emotions. Hannah-Jones’ essay begins the project, and she argues, rightfully so, that we must refocus the origin of this nation not in July of 1776, but rather in August of 1619, when 20–30 enslaved Africans were brought to Jamestown. It is at this moment the true story of America begins; it is a story that is not pretty, not glorious, and most of all, built on a designed racial hierarchy with black people at the bottom. She articulates further in the article that this country’s independence is based on a lie that all men are created equal, but it was the movements for civil rights by black people that helped bring that equality further towards the democracy the founders claimed they had established in 1776.

The rest of the essay follows this dissection of how we got to where we are and, how against all odds, black people have risen up to become the most American of all. I won’t go further into the essay, but this is the type of story and breakdowns of history we all as Americans need today. We all need to learn this. That’s why the Pulitzer Center partnered with The 1619 Project to create a free education curriculum to help teachers across the country learn the truth about slavery.

A common question ignorant and even well-intentioned people are constantly asking black journalists and writers is “Why are you doing this now? Why write about race? I don’t see race, so what’s the point of dividing us now?” The simple answer is that in the near 250 years of bondage black people suffered under, we have only been legally “free” for 50 years. For the first time, black journalists like Hannah-Jones, Brent Staples, Vann Newkirk, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and others are finally getting the opportunity to have the resources and backing from some of the largest publications in the world to really dig into these issues. If you have the time to watch the launch presentation of The 1619 Project, all the journalists and even editor of the magazine Jake Silverstein, are well-aware of how even a few years ago, a pitch on doing a story or two like this, let a massive undertaking like this project, may not have even gone through.

But there’s a deeper reason and desire to cover these issues now, and it has a whole lot to do with the climate we are in politically. Now, in the open and on both sides of the political aisle, there is a fear to discuss the true effects of slavery and racism on America. People are reluctant to use the terms “racist,” equivocating it to extreme usages like when a white person says “nigger,” or when a white person dons a Ku Klux Klan hood and robes. But the problem with this is that people are negating and ignoring the present day racism and racial abuse (as it should be said).

That’s why just a day after release, I picked up Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s newest book “How to Be an Antiracist.” Kendi’s goal is to explain how not being racist isn’t enough, because in doing so, one only perpetuates the racial inequity that exists in America. To be “antiracist,” as he defines it, is to support policies that treat all people as equal and actively pushes for racial equity. I’m about five chapters in, but Kendi so precisely goes towards articulating a new explanation for racism in America: it is racist policy that perpetuates racist ideas which permeate through society, not vice versa. He believes that for there to no longer be a moment where races are viewed as unequal, systemic, antiracist policy must be put in place to allow for a true correction in society. Interjected throughout the book, Kendi brings in personal anecdotes that helped him form his own current understanding of race relations in a digestible way for people who don’t know how to approach the issues presented.

Both The 1619 Project and How to Be an Antiracist are massive endeavors black writers are taking today in helping teach the masses about the issues our nation has chosen not to educate us on. Black writers have been doing what they have done for generations, but now, we are finally getting the chance to share our stories with the masses. To Hannah-Jones, Kendi, and the countless others putting their careers on the line to tell these truths, thank you for writing and for dedicating your lives to this fight. I hope to one day go out and cover these stories like some of my biggest inspirations.

Read both the project and the novel, and I assure you will learn something profound.


Being Noah Tesfaye #94: Why We Must Report on Slavery and Racism in America Today — The 1619 Project and “How to Be an Antiracist”

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

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Presidents, Networking, and Roland Martin — My First NABJ Convention

There’s something to be said about being in a room, in a convention, heck in any space where you truly belong. I don’t mean you have friends there, or that you have your bosses on your side. That’s great of course. What I’m speaking about is something much deeper. This past week, I experienced something I had no idea I would be so grateful for a community of people where every single person can relate to your challenges in your career or passion and actively do whatever they can to ensure your success.

This past week, I had the privilege and opportunity of attending this year’s NABJ (National Association of Black Journalists) Convention in Miami. As a part of the high school JSHOP program, I did a few reporting stories while also having the chance to go around and explore the convention.

Everything about this convention was special. This week, I met some of my biggest journalism heroes and mentors. From Stan Verrett to Roland Martin and seemingly everyone in between, I cannot reiterate how passionate and eager such kind people were in hearing about your work. But beyond that, journalists would reach out and ask about how they could support you in such an enthusiastic way, even I was startled at times at their generosity. This opportunity to meet my mentors in journalism for the first time also was incredibly eye-opening. Celebrities in journalism were so kind just from saying “Hi!” or “What’s up?,” and those small interactions just uplifted me in ways I will always remember.

To know that other journalists may deal with the same frustrations you may be facing in your work is humbling. I won’t deny that at times, it’s just hard as a black journalist to have to constantly reiterate the importance of writing certain stories or why you care so much about certain issues. But, when people who share your similar experiences can just congregate all in one place to not only share out stories but collectively work together to ensure that we can be better prepared for those circumstances is powerful.

I would be remised though if I didn’t just take a moment to say rest in power to Toni Morrison, who passed away my first day at the convention this past Tuesday. Her influence on myself, but all black writers, specifically black female writers, has been nothing short of groundbreaking. Thank you, Ms. Morrison, for everything you’ve done.

During my HS program, I got the chance to have mentors who pushed me to continue my growth as a journalist. Although I may have had a bit more writing experience than some of my peers, they taught me new ways to think about stories. My classmates were also some of the kindest students I’ve seen in this field. Everyone wanted to teach each other new skills and ways to further our learning. I want to just thank my mentors and fellow students for being such a joy to work with.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the convention was when I had the opportunity to sit front row at the NABJ Presidential Panel. I haven’t ever seen Bernie, Booker, or Buttigieg ever, so hearing their platforms in person, particularly explaining their agenda for black people, in front of black journalists, was incredible. The room was intensely listening and not applauding for almost anything other than their introduction and closing remarks. There was this one moment where someone yelled at Bernie to “Answer the damn question,” and at that point, he responded quickly and said he was answering the question, before further proceeding on message. The whole room was just shocked when it happened, but a few young journalists applauded Bernie’s response to her challenge quickly.

Aside from not getting into the Bryan Stevenson/Michael B. Jordan/Van Jones session, of which I could go on about, I have to just simply say this whole trip has been truly inspiring. I’m leaving NABJ this year as not only a better journalist, but I’m leaving with future relationships with people I hope to learn from and share my stories with. Best believe I will be back next year hopefully in DC for NABJ 2020. This is an experience unlike any other and I will be looking forward to making this an annual trip to become a better journalist, writer, and human being. To everyone I met this week, thank you and I cannot wait to see everything you all continue to achieve.


Being Noah Tesfaye #93: Presidents, Networking, and Roland Martin — My First NABJ Convention

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

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The Second Democratic Primary Debates — The Progressives Take Charge

This past Tuesday and Wednesday, twenty candidates took part in the second round of Democratic Primary Debates, hosted in Detroit. And as per usual, I recorded and watched through every minute of both nights, looking to see how the candidates performed in what, for many of them, will be their last moment on the debate stage.

Without question, the biggest winners of both nights were Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. On nearly every single policy, they were able to articulate their policy proposals on a level that stood far above the rest of the field not just on the first night, but even in comparison to the second. Yes, they are more progressive and have plans that I support far more than anyone else. However, when it came to the competition, most of the other top tier candidates stumbled in making their cases for their arguments, which further pushed the case for the two progressive candidates.

Night one was the battle of the progressives versus the moderates.

Rather than seeing what I had anticipated the Bernie vs Warren’s head to head challenge, the two teamed up against all the moderates. All night, the two just landed punch after punch against a more middle ground policy platform. On healthcare, they continued to push for Medicare-for-all (M4A). The line of the night for me was when Bernie was explaining the senior citizen benefits in his M4A bill, and as Tim Ryan interjected questioning that Bernie didn’t know it would include those things, this was Bernie’s response:

The night for only continued to go stronger. Aside from Bernie starting his first debate question stating in response to Delaney’s policy “You’re wrong,” Warren got into several challenges, or shall we say the one-sided dismantling of moderate policies, with Delaney. This was her strongest moment of the night:

Warren here makes one of the most direct pushes against the preconception that going moderate is the only way to defeat Donald Trump. And she’s right. It’s not just about defeating a candidate the majority of Americans are in consensus to not like; it’s about ensuring that when we do that, we can ensure that we have a candidate in place that will truly advocate for all Americans and not be ambitious with policy. What is the point of running on keeping the status quo when Americans are nowhere near satisfied with corporations running everything in their lives? That doesn’t even go into the premise that many of the progressive policies being put forth are standards in every other developed nation that exists. These ideas are nowhere near novel; free public colleges and universities, health care for all, progressive wealth and corporate tax codes are the cornerstones of social democracies across the globe. These ideas are feasible.

This first night had other decent performers with Marianne Williamson and Pete Buttigieg had some good moments to make their cases, yet the tag-team duo of longtime friends Bernie and Warren just stood far above the rest of the field, with Delaney performing by far the worst.

The second night was far messier and unclear.

The candidates all flowed throughout the night between good moments and bad moments. That being said, the two candidates who I saw had consistently the best night was Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard for two completely different reasons. Yang chose to not attack anyone at throughout the night and stuck to repeatedly going to push his UBI proposal known as the Freedom Dividend. Yang also took a very strong stance arguing for M4A on the behalf of businesses, which I believe should be near the center of the M4A argument. My favorite moment he had that night was his closing statement, where he went right at the whole premise of the debates themselves:

Yang broke the 4th wall there. He spoke directly to the frustrations Americans have with the debates and the fact that this whole system has become all theatrics. He honed in on what many of his supporters want to hear from him, and he executed on throughout the night on that.

Gabbard, by contrast, went directly to go after the positions and records of the moderate front runners Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. Most notably of that night, she went right after Harris’s abysmal record as a prosecutor, much of which I wrote about in this blog post:

This was the first time where a candidate has had the chance to press Harris, and Tulsi took advantage of every moment of it. America needs to hear about who Harris is, and I couldn’t have been happier to see how those exchanges went between the two of them. Other candidates also had decent moments that night, like Booker, Castro, Gillibrand, and DeBlasio, but it was Yang and Gabbard that had the best performances of night two, with Harris, Biden, and Bennett doing the worst.

This round of debates, as did the first, fundamentally did not change any opinions I have on my preferences this upcoming election. Granted, I do spend a significant amount of time reading and writing about this campaign has contributed to that sentiment. But for those who have not been as active as I have been when it has come to following this election, this map recently made by the New York Times is indicative of a lot.

Now, yes Biden is still polling in the mid to low thirties while Bernie is polling close to 20%. Yet, that Biden number has been falling since he formally announced his run, and his debate performances are showing Americans the true concerns we should have with a candidate who can’t even debate his party members, let alone in the general against Trump. Time will only tell now how things will shake up, but with the last two-night debates behind us, September’s debate will be the beginning of where the true fight will occur. And, of course, I’ll be back here to break it all down. Till then…


Being Noah Tesfaye #92: The Second Democratic Primary Debates — The Progressives Take Charge

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

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The Death Penalty is Un-American

The Eighth Amendment in our Bill of Rights states that US citizens have these protections:

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

The crucial part of this amendment is the idea of “cruel and unusual punishment.” It is one of the most discussed clauses in our Constitution, constantly being put to the test.

This past week, Attorney General William Barr announced that the federal government will resume executing people for the first time since 2003. Up until now, only state governments utilized the death penalty for the past sixteen years. He made this comment in his statement on Thursday:

“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President. The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

I want to ask you this: if 4% of air travelers die flying, would we fly commercial planes? If 1 in 25 people would get cancer from driving a gas car, would we stick with gas cars and not rapidly transition to electric?

4%, 1 in 25 people sentenced to death are innocent. I will say it again. 1 in 25 people that are given the death penalty did not commit the crime they are being executed for.

The death penalty is un-American. I believe it truly goes against our eighth amendment. Yes, the Supreme Court has taken steps to ensure its enforcement does not include anyone under 18 and those with mental illness (insanity or other intellectual disability). SCOTUS ultimately has stated their stance on capital punishment is that it should only be sentenced for those “whose extreme culpability makes them the most deserving of execution.” Yet that itself isn’t even justifiable.

Clint Smith III, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard, wrote this essay following the announcement in 2016 that the federal government would seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, the man who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charlotte. In his piece, he accurately points to the many reasons for even in such an extreme case, the death penalty should never be implemented. From how racist and classist its enforcement is, to how capital punishment does not deter Americans from committing such severe crimes, he ultimately concludes his piece with the true question of executing citizens: should the state have the right to sentence people to die?

No.

On its own, in an ideal world, if sentencing were enforced fairly across race and class, if someone lacked any sort of prior abuse or did not suffer from any mental challenges, if there was 0% doubt about a crime’s perpetrator, if it deterred people from committing heinous acts, more people would be inclined to support the death penalty. Although I believe no matter how morally reprehensible a crime is death should never be a form of punishment, I could at least begin to understand why someone could support the death penalty.

But we do not live in an ideal world. So long as we continue to allow the death penalty to exist, innocent people will die, people with mental disabilities and trauma will die, and people of color (predominately black people) and poor people will continue to be executed at a far higher rate than white or wealthier people.

We must abolish the death penalty. I can never put myself in the shoes of a family who had a loved one killed or in the shoes of someone on death row. That would be a disservice to them. But I can tell you that we cannot let the death penalty continue to exist because a system that will forever be enforced unequally is not only against the idea of “cruel and unusual punishment,” but because the state should never have been given this power in the first place.


Being Noah Tesfaye #91: The Death Penalty is Un-American

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

The History of “Go back to where you came from”

This past week will go down as one of the most remembered weeks in the Trump presidency. Seemingly everywhere you looked, everyone from sportscasters to YouTubers was talking about his statements this past week. And for the right reason.

To be blunt, this attack on Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley started with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Earlier the previous week, House Democrats and the speaker went after these Democrats, primarily AOC, after she spoke out against the Speaker voting a spending bill that in part would fund ICE. Pelosi later dismissed their influence in Congress, noting they “didn’t have any following.” This, combined with a tweet from House Democrats that cooked up a storm, opened the gates for what ensued.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted in short succession this tweet referencing indirectly the four congresswomen Pelosi called out.

These words are not only blatantly racist but echo levels of racism that have existed throughout American history.

The racist sentiment “Go back to where you came from” is about as old as this nation. Thomas Jefferson, who owned many slaves throughout his life (that nearly merits its own post), was strongly in favor of colonizing parts of Africa and sending back slaves in part of his plan for emancipation. Furthermore, with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the US government purposefully made it more difficult for new immigrants to have any significant voting rights in America.

But it goes beyond that. The fundamental idea of “go back to where you came from” goes against the 14th Amendment. Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, explained in this thread about how we don’t write white or born here, but “all person born or naturalized” are entitled to equal protection under the law.

The history of this idea naturally leads to the hypocrisy of racists today. Trump doesn’t target his attacks on white immigrants or even undocumented immigrants as a whole. In his world of ignorance, he attacks only those who are not white. The problem is that today, there are too many pundits, politicians, and everyday citizens that are trying to justify racism when you cannot justify it. You cannot justify why with facts or logic why racism is not just an effective political strategy (it isn’t as seen with his recent polling), but more importantly, racism just is wrong.

The hypocrisy of this whole tirade that began with these tweets, and later continued with the “send her back chants” directed at Representative Ilhan Omar at a rally in North Carolina, is that he is criticizing them for being un-American because they want to change American policy. They are attempting to enact policy that benefits more Americans than sticking to the status quo. The whole Trump candidacy in 2016 was predicated on the idea that he wanted to get rid of corporate influence, end wars, establish policies that benefitted Americans. He criticized America for decades and religiously called out politicians for taking on positions that he disliked. In short, he is going after politicians who are attempting to do what he has done for years.

But as the deficit is projected at over a trillion dollars, as tax cuts continue to hurt average Americans, as medical and student debt continue to cripple our citizens, Trump refuses to fight on the policy. Instead, he resorts to using racist remarks and personal attacks on representatives because he knows the true merits of what he wants in policy only hurt the people he is trying to take advantage of their conditioning to believe in racist rhetoric.

The irony of all of this is that Trump is attempting to run from the political dissent that he in part got elected for. These women are American. For three of them, this is their first and only home. For Omar, this country gave her the freedom to no longer live in a war-torn environment and pursue an education.

They are attempting to do something that is about as patriotic as anything you can politically in this nation: fight for a vision of America they want to see in the law.

The racist tirade that Donald Trump has gone on throughout this past week, but really for his whole life, is showing signs of cracking. More and more people who may not have been as politically engaged are at least now starting to understand who this president is. Granted, you should have seen this since the jump, but this is a better late than never situation. Yes, he is a racist, and yes, his tweets and comments are racist, but it goes further than that. The way he runs away from political discussion, from policy discourse, is not what America is about. We should be about debating the issues, the merits of what people want in their vision for America. Fortunately, in 2020, both presidentially and throughout Congress, we have the chance to say with our mouth and with our vote that these are not ideals we should stand for. We have a chance to at least begin to dismantle all the problems and distrust in ourselves that has sprung up because of his presidency.

That duty, that right that I have to exercise in November of 2020, is something I am ready for.


Being Noah Tesfaye #90: The History of “Go back to where you came from”

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

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My Mixed Thoughts on Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren is the single major presidential candidate I didn’t completely know where I stood with.

When she launched her campaign for president, I hadn’t anticipated the race starting so early, December of 2018 (exploratory committee, but nonetheless still, two years before inauguration)! The first things I read or knew about Warren before the campaign was her populist, left-leaning CFPB history.

As I started my preliminary research into Warren’s candidacy, I stumbled across her controversial Native American heritage story. For decades, she claimed she was Native American. In 1986, on her Texas state bar registration card, she identified herself as Native American. She never participated in cultural activities or did much more to acknowledge her heritage except when just stating herself as native. When people began reinvestigating and learning about this situation over the past year and when she launched her campaign, she took a DNA test, which proved a tiny sliver of heritage she had in her bloodline at some point well over a century ago. This only further sparked more debate, and she later apologized privately to the Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

Almost instantly, after hearing about Warren treating a heritage as merely a check in a box, I pretty much vowed to myself I wouldn’t back her candidacy. I write frequently about race relations, and for someone who is running for president to treat this discussion in such an ignorant manner turned me away. The way that people have dismissed this story recently with her polling numbers surging is worrisome to be quite honest. Yet, putting myself in the shoes of other Americans who may not seem to care about this egregious mistake, I am trying to understand her policies.

From the surface and beyond that, she is very progressive. She’s for very strong regulations on Wall Street, and that’s backed with her helping start the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She is also progressive on family policy, expanding to universal childcare and paid family leave. She also is for reducing student debt and for single-payer health care, which is pluses.

But, the thing that concerns me is that on crucial issues, she isn’t as firm on some policies. She is for the cancellation of a majority, but not all student loan debt. She only recently backed Medicare for All, yet still hasn’t established a clear plan on what that entails for her presidency. Yet, by far one of, if not the biggest hole in her platform, is on foreign policy. She goes straight down the line with centrists on the military, wars, and conflicts in the Middle East. If you read the tab on her page about foreign policy, it is so generic, it’s genuinely concerning for me as a voter. She also has said she would take corporate PAC money if she made it to the general election. That possible sacrifice of yet another core progressive standard also is disconcerting.

When Bernie ran in 2016, the progressive that is Elizabeth Warren backed not the candidate that was vouching for and pushed for the middle class; she backed Hillary Clinton. Warren didn’t back the candidate that supported strong Wall Street regulations or Medicare for All; she supported the candidate who told us that the status quo was working. Now, we’re in 2019, full swing into the 2020 primary race, and centrists are slowly warming to the idea of having Elizabeth Warren be their champion if she is the last defense against Bernie. If that isn’t alerting a concern about her possibly compromising on her less clear positions, including health care, student debt, and foreign policy, I don’t know what is.

However, at this point of the race, I want to be hopeful. I think that as far as what she’s supported so far, I would be fine with a President Elizabeth Warren. Is she my first choice currently? No. But is she someone who has some values and policy positions I can get behind? Absolutely. But I will not say I am not at least a bit worried she may turn into Obama 2.0 on policy or compromise on core progressive tenants if she is pressured to do so from establishment Dems on the hill or her strategists on the trail or in office come January of 2020. That is something I really would not like to see.

But, I will say I am looking forward to seeing how things shake out for her candidacy. If she becomes the nominee, I will back her and vote for her come November. But, at this point in the race, I just dislike her platform more than I dislike/support Bernie’s. She isn’t as progressive, but she is doing a damn good job at portraying herself to match him in that lane. She just isn’t as dedicated to the true progressive movement as Bernie is, but I still am putting her as my current second choice if Bernie drops out (which I hope won’t happen).


Being Noah Tesfaye #89: My Mixed Thoughts on Elizabeth Warren

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts. Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/