Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Key To Better Mememory - Lower Blood Sugar

We all know that exercising improves your physical health, but studies conducted in Illinois and Columbia University are now suggesting that exercise improves your mental health as well.

As adults age, their blood glucose levels rise (sometimes to the point of diabetes). They also tend to have memory problems. Scientists and doctors have decided to put the two problems together, and have come up with the idea that our memory loss could be due to our increased blood glucose levels. This sounds pretty reasonable to me!

Also, there have been some pretty elaborate tests to show this correlation. For example, kids who exercise for at least ten minutes (and thus, decrease their blood glucose levels) have better problem-solving abilities in school. Also, adults who stay physically active (again, decreasing their blood glucose levels) are less likely to develop Alzheimer's later in their lives. (See article: http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/brain-and-behavior/2008/12/30/low-blood-sugar-levels-may-help-protect-against-memory-loss.html)

The study also suggests that physical exercise helps stimulate memory more than mental exercise. So for all of you guys who want to improve your memory by playing mind games like Sudoku, you may be in for a surprise. According to new US research, you might be better off playing football than playing Sudoku if you want a keener brain.

GM and Chrysler Restructuring Plans Criticized by Obama

The auto industry in the US has been suffering great losses in the last couple of years - more than 40,000 jobs in the auto industry have been shed and nobody seems to be buying American models. As a result, the Big Three auto industries asked the federal government last year to intervene (to some degree) and provide emergency loans; the government agreed to help. However, now that GM and Chrysler are asking for a new investment of tax dollars, Obama is not being as lenient.

As a condition for this federal investment, Obama asked both GM and Chysler to come up with plans to restructure their industries and make their models more competitive. However, in his speech (given yesterday; here is the link: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/03/obama-to-detroi.html), Obama declared that he would not fully accept the plans as they are. He has given GM two additional months to come up with a better restructuring plan, and has given Chrysler one month to make a deal with FIAT. Do you guys think that Obama should have rejected the auto industries' plans, potentially hurting their businesses? And is the time limit for GM and Chrysler adequate (aka is it too short?).

Personally, I feel that Obama did the right thing by rejecting the plans. America's auto industries are really not very competitive compared to other countries'. Nobody wants to buy our cars because they are, plain and simple, gas-guzzlers and not affordable. I really like this quote: "The government is telling GM to be like Toyota" (for a link to the blog where I found it: http://www.usnews.com/articles/opinion/2009/03/30/bloggers-react-to-obamas-plan-for-gm-rick-wagoner-and-afghanistan.html). It really makes sense because Toyota represents everythign that GM and Chrysler need to become in order to survive this economic crisis. American car manufacturers have to come up with better models that use less gas and have better mileage or else suffer the consequences.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Gardasil - A Good Idea for Preteens?

If you're a girl and reading this post, you have probably already gotten the Gardasil vaccine, a vaccine that protects against the most common strains of the HPV virus. However, after reading this article (http://health.usnews.com/blogs/on-women/2009/03/30/is-gardasil-more-effective-in-older-teens.html), I started to question the new product.

Although the government suggests that Gardasil be taken between the ages of 11 and 12, new information may suggest that it should not be taken during the preteen years. Diane Harper, a gynecologist who worked in the Gardasil clinical trials, says that (at the time of the clinical trials) "the vaccine's efficacy hadn't been tested in anyone under age 16, and she wasn't sure whether it even worked in preteens. On the flip side, she also told me that she frequently administered the vaccine to women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, for whom the vaccine is not approved. " There has also been a commossion regarding Gardasil and a disease known as ALS (a degenerative muscle disease). Apparently, two teens developed this disease upon taking Gardasil (and one of the teens was under 16...does this add to the "Gardasil is bad for preteens" argument?), but this could be due to chance/coincidence.

What got me the most interested/shocked in this article was the fact that there is another vaccine out there that has the ability to help women more....and the US is not manufacturing it! A drug known as Cervarix, which is "routinely" (US News) being used in Great Britain, has been known to protect against the top 3 HPV caused cancers (compared to Gardasil, which only protects against the top 2).

Why isn't the US making this vaccine and should it, considering that it is the medicine-mecca of the world? And do you guys think that more trials should be conducted to make sure that Gardasil is safe for preteens? I certainly do!

Cuban-American Relations on the Mend?

We've all heard of the hostility that has been going on between the US and socialist-country, Cuba. However, with Obama in the White House and Raul Castro ruling, the likelihood of a reconciliation between these countries is high. Raul agreed to meet the US president last year in a neutral setting so that they could improve their relations, and Fidel has even said that Obama is an "intelligent and noble man" (US News). The fact that both Raul and Fidel are even talking about Obama is a big step; the fact that they are speaking highly of him is an even bigger step.

However, Obama is making some very tough demands regarding this future relationship. Although Obama wants to lift the travel restrictions that are currently in place, he wants to keep the 47-year old economic embargo. He feels that the embargo will put pressure on Cuba to change its government (aka make it democratic). I personally think that this is a bad move on his part. We need to end the embargo and just start over. If you don't erase the past hostility completely, it will just keep reappearing in one form or another. Also, using the embargo as a tool to make Cuba more democratic is naive and disrespectful, in my opinion. You can't change a country that has been living a certain way for so long; the people and the culture have changed. Likewise, it is not our place to spread democracy to every nation in the world. Look what happened when we tried to impose democracy on Iraq and meddled with its personal issues....we have 4,000 dead soldiers. I think this quote from US News speaks the truth: "The U.S. needs to accept Cuba the way Cuba is." That means socialism and all!

What do you guys think? Should Obama use the embargo as a tool to get Cuba more democratic? Or should he just forget the ill-feelings and start over completely with this troubled country?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rolling Stone Article -- Must Read, Must Rebut

I think this Rolling Stone piece by Matt Taibbi is a must read. It is annoyingly profane, but also lucid.

However, I do have some criticisms I wanted to share:
1) Hating the bankers doesn't recapitalize the banks and get credit flowing again. Without a decent banking sector, the rest of the economy will suffer a far worse recession than we are already having. So what's the alternative? There are no good alternatives. The bankers know this, and are using that reality to position themselves to profit from this. Taibbi is outraged by that positioning but doesn't explain what could have been done instead. (My view: it would have required the President calling out the bankers in public, taking the risk that they would choose country over personal gain. If they pulled the plug, however...)

2) There is no analysis of what would have happened had any more of the very largest financial institutions been allowed to fail like Lehman Brothers had (which was bad enough). I agree with Taibbi that their size is a problem -- that nationalizing the banks in order to split them into smaller, more financially stable entities is a better policy than the current plan -- but he doesn't address systemic risk in a way that suggests analytical objectivity.

3) I don't believe that President Obama, for example, is part of an elitist in-crowd helping to game the system. There is a conspiratorial edge to this piece that makes it more exciting, but also giving the "fatcats" more credit than they probably deserve. Outrageous bonuses and compensation aside*, the government overpaying for now-toxic assets to quietly recapitalize the banks is probably in our enlightened self-interest.

4) Seeing the Federal Reserve's true balance sheet would be most interesting, but it is not in our national security interest. Too many international investors hold dollar denominated assets and of course they would like to better analyze the risk of a US dollar devaluation that would clearly happen if the Fed couldn't borrow more dollars to cover losses and instead had to "print" new dollars. However, a panicky reaction to a worse-than-expected balance sheet could cause a crash when people holding dollar denominated assets rush to sell them, causing the price to fall, causing more people to sell them simply because they didn't want to risk holding assets in a declining market.

*Extremely high compensation IMO is a major part of the problem. The people making the risky choices did not face much in the way of personal risk when their personal wealth was in the 7 or 8 or even 9 figure range. More behavioral economics: people will treat the risk of losing $5 million differently depending on whether they have 5, 10, or $50 million to start with. Each bank had a good reason to pay their talent very well, because otherwise another bank would out-bid them for the talent. But the collective situation was that everyone had convinced themselves that they had to pay large bonuses or lose even more than that in potential profit, and so lost touch with the risk v. reward calculations for individuals compared to their firms compared to the entire system. Individuals had low risk and high returns and their choices added up to high risks to the institutions and the entire system. Had those risks paid off, everyone would win. But they didn't, and now the whole world is paying for their greed.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A few political cartoons...I guess

Well, most people have stuck on a political cartoon or two while it was their turn blogging, so I may as well continue the trend with this short post. Commentary/Analysis, anyone?

*Bill Mitchell's work found at CNN.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mexico's Drug War - Our Fault?

Hillary Clinton, currently en route to Mexico to show the U.S. Government's support of Mexico's fighting police force, speaks regarding the Mexican Drug War in response to the Obama Administration's plan to pump 700 million into fighting this "potential new Iraq/Afghanistan"

"Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,"

"Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians. So, yes, I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility."

"We are going to demonstrate that we are spending it in an accountable and effective manner that will assist the Mexicans in law enforcement and justice,"

"When you go into a gunfight or are trying to round up these bad guys and they have military-style equipment that is much better than yours, you start out at a disadvantage. Since we know the vast majority of that comes from our country, we are going to help stop it from getting there in the first place."

-Hillary Clinton

And going on a slight tangent, Senators have begun to criticize Obama for not allocating enough federal resources in the fight against drug related violence along the Mexican-US border.

Mexican drug cartels, believed to be operating in more than 230 American cities "from Appalachia to Alaska," represent a "clear and present" danger to the United States, Lieberman said at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on border violence.

"I think you're going to need more resources to get this job done," he told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The United States needs to "make life miserable" for the drug cartels so "life is better for us," he said.

Committee member Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, also praised the Obama administration's plan, but agreed with Lieberman that more needs to be done.

-CNN Article

McCain & Lieberman at a meeting regarding Mexico's border violence.


It seems pretty clear to me that better gun control is necessary in our country. What do you think about this? Are we wasting precious resources fighting for a lost cause while we need to allocate more of our wealth/resources/focus on our current economic crisis, or should we be helping Mexico fight against a problem that may be our fault?

Censored - YouTube

"We manage the Internet according to law ... to prevent the spread of harmful information." -China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang

China has just blocked this popular video sharing site and did not offer a reason to justify the ban.

Google, which owns YouTube, said it began noticing a decline in traffic from China about noon Monday.

By early Wednesday, site users insider China continued to encounter an error message: "Network Timeout. The server at youtube.com is taking too long to respond."

-CNN Article

but this isn't the first time this nation has blocked youtube, with the other time being last year (march '08) during riots in chinese-controlled Tibet.

Many in the country speculated the latest ban may be an attempt to filter access to footage that a Tibetan exile group released. The videos show Tibetans being kicked and beaten, allegedly by Chinese police officers after the riots.

China, with 298 million Internet users, has routinely blocked access to Web sites it considers politically unacceptable, including the Voice of America and The New York Times. The Chinese government has also censored television broadcasts, including those by the BBC and CNN, during coverage of issues such as its policy in Tibet and Taiwan.

-CNN Article

Personally, I think this censorship of information from so many people is abhorable.

In my opinion, if the chinese government was proud of what it was doing, than they wouldn't need these censors. I think they are only worsening their own image on a global scale in a futile attempt to hide information internally.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama Defends the nation's Economic Crisis?

---If video does not work, it can be viewed at: http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/03/24/obama.news.conference/index.html#cnnSTCVideo

By going under the tab: " Video" ---

In the second prime time news of President Barack Obama's conference, Obama had announce his promising proposal to the public regarding our current economic crisis. He stated that we will fight and recover from this financial problem that we are undergoing. He says that there will be a guarantee to a recovery plan, but it may not happen immediately for it will take time. And most essentially, it'll require cooperation from everyone.
"We'll recover from this recession, but it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that, when we all work together...."

President Obama also announced that one of our primary focus is to concentrate on the long-term growth of our society. He said that he will be focusing on those such as health care, energy, education, and other critical needs for this country as he tends to reduce the budget deficit. And of course, based on my previous postings, Obama also tends to keep his current treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, whom many are attempting and looking fowards to his resignation.

What they're trying to achieve is to purchase an approximate $500 billion of existing assets and loans, after the removal of the past troubled and misguiding assets from banks. And with the failure of the financial institutes such as AIG and their previous bonuses with the $170 billion.
"Keep in mind that it is precisely because of the lack of this authority that the AIG situation has gotten worse."

And of course, Obama had mentioned about the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the violence in New Mexico along with his current progress as the 44th president of the United States ever since the inauguration.

"Mexico: The Next Iraq or Afghanistan?"

After the announcement of the $700 million plan that Obama tends to initiate, Mexico has risen up and became more rebellious than before. They prepare themselves against the government and are armed with lethal weapons along with guerilla tactics and car bombings. In the past, Mexico has been notified to have numerous amounts of drug cartels.

It also has been known that more people are heading towards to become rebels and starting Civil Anarchy across the country. As the increase of drug dealings and riots, Mexico may have seemed to become a possible threat to the United States. The illegal attempt in immigration were more than enough of a burden, despite the fact that anarchy may be set in motion as well. It is even sad to say that the weapons of those that were purchased, were actually bought from the US. Millions of dollars are also provided for the law enforcement to maintain chaos, yet it may still not be enough to bring down the terrorism that Mexico can inflict upon this country, after all even helicopter patrols have already been sent during the Bush administration to prevent such malice threats .
--- A video was also posted along with the site---

Unity...or the lack thereof

Article to read, if you'd like...
So, just hours before Obama is going to appear on prime time television to promote his (now 3.6 trillion???) budget plan, a key democrat senator unveiled another more scaled-down version of Obama's budget proposal. North Dakotan Senator Kent Conrad (pictured below), the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said that his committee would be voting on his version tomorrow.

^Sen. Kent Conrad*^
(*for some reason, his name reminds me of the name an undercover
superhero would have...but maybe not since he's a politician)

"We've made hundreds of billions of dollars of changes to make this work to get down to the deficit goal and at the same time maintain the president's priorities -- education and energy and health care," -Conrad

Conrad and other centrist Democratic senators -- whose support is critical to passing the legislation -- have raised concerns about the long-term impact of the president's spending plan on the deficit. -CNN Article

You can read the Article if you want to learn more about the specifics.
**(or you can just click this Link if for some reason you just like looking at his face)**

Personally, while I understand Conrad's concern about all this spending and the vast amount of money involved in this plan, I think his timing was...not so good (read: bad bad bad). Dow jumped nearly 500 points simply from the vague idea of this plan floating around with Obama supporting it. Now, we have this sense of "maybe it won't pass" and hopefully it won't be too much of an influence on Dow. (**but then again, people can be strange with the stock market. Apple stocks fell nealy everytime Steve Jobs got ill or showed signs of deteriorating health...). While it may not result in anything important, it does clearly show that the democrats are still (read: as usual...?) split and lacks the unity that may be important in these tough times.

Thoughts / Comments, anyone?

Drug War

These days, I've been hearing with higher frequency stories and news articles concerning Mexico and their battle against powerful drug cartels. The violence only seems to be escalating and, according to This Article, they are now even being referred to as a terrorist threat...having experienced a "transition from the gangsterism of traditional narco hit men to paramilitary terrorism with guerrilla tactics,"
"We have a criminal insurgency by organized crime that may well be a precursor to civil anarchy in part or all of Mexico,"

"There is in fact an insurgency on both sides of the American-Mexican border and it's stepped up a lot in the last several years because the Bush administration ignored it and put its focus on Iraq,"

"We have to do something now along the border, but just doing these little things that the administration announced today won't solve the problem in the long term,"
In fact, the Obama administration has unveiled a plan that could involve 700 million dollars that would allow the U.S. to work with Mexico to try and solve these problems.

This conflict, however, seems to be escalating in a way that some speculators have already begun to refer to it as "the next Iraq or Afghanistan"...

What do you think needs to be done? $700 Million seems to be a step to solving the problem, but clearly it isn't going to be the solution.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"China Takes Aim at Dollar, Urges New Global Currency"

After an unsatisfying blow from our current economy's financial crisis, China tends to step in and fluctuate the flow of the worlds currency rate. And even though China had established meetings in the past for the preparation of the industrial and developing improvement, many nations had criticized them, but this time China meant it. China believes that the economy was been under the influence and control by many of the rich nations such as the US themselves. Even Russia had underwent an attempt similar to China's proposal. Both countries seem to agree and are looking foward to this plan. While the US is concern and has doubt in disapproval with their ideals. And because of this even the Premier Wen Jiabao expresses " 'worries' over China's significant holdings of U.S. government bonds" due to their current situation, which is with all the countries in having the shutting down of many corporations and factories, along with an increase of un-employment rate.

Dalai Lama denied visa for South Africa peace conference

Apparently, South Africa has refused the Dalai Lama a visa to attend an international peace conference in Johannesburg this week.

"The Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Laureate did not receive a visa because it was not in South Africa's interest for him to attend, said Thabo Masebe.

South Africa thinks that, if the Dalai Lama attended the conference, the focus would shift away from the 2010 World Cup -- the global soccer championship it will host next year.

'We cannot allow focus to shift to China and Tibet,' Masebe said, adding that South Africa has gained much from its trading relationship with China."

-Quote from CNN Article (read: I suddenly became too lazy to explain it myself)

This refusal has already caused much outrage and fellow laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former president F.W. De Klerk have put forward their support for the Dalai Lama, saying that they would also not attend if the Dalai Lama was forced not to attend.

De Klerk said that the refusal to give him the visa was in itself a "mockery" of the peace conference.

"The decision to exclude the Dalai Lama is irreconcilable with key principles on which our society is based including the principles of accountability, openness and responsiveness and the rights to freedom of expression and free political activity," -F.W. De Klerk

I suppose it's clear that South Africa doesn't want to offend China, considering that the 14th (and current) Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso (read: fullname/title/whatever of: Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso), had fled China in 1959 after a failed uprising against the Chinese Government's rule over Tibet.

The peace conference was billed as an opportunity to showcase South Africa's role as a human-rights champion ahead of its hosting of soccer's World Cup next year.

It was to bring together Nobel Laureates and top soccer officials. In addition to Tutu and De Klerk, laureates Nelson Mandella and Martti Ahtisaar, Sepp Blatter, president of soccer's international governing body, and actress Charlize Theron were invited to attend. The event had the blessing of the Nobel Committee.

-From the CNN Article... again
So... What do you think about this?
Personally, I'd value even an abstract concept of "peace" over "good publicity". I can clearly see S. Africa's arguments in their defense... They want to keep good relations with China (read: a pissed off China is scarier than a pissed off Tibet) and maintain their trading relationships. They don't want the Tibet and China conflict to overshadow this big event for them...
But really, it seems kind of self-centered. But oh well. That's how the world is.

...Recovery? --> Breakthrough... or Eye of the Storm?

...With Obama's plan to buy close to one billion dollars in bad bank assets, Dow jumped up for almost 500 points. Now we have seen many jumps in Dow lately and I'm wondering if this shows that we have cleared yet another hurdle and are on our way to the finish line (read: recovery)..., or if we have merely stumbled into the center of this tornado (read: eye of the storm) and are about to see a lot worse. There have been signs of people regaining confidence (as this Dow jump also indicates) and, after all, consumers need confidence so that this "self-fulfilling prophecy" of economic recovery might come true. So what do y'all think? Are we rapidly healing or just about to step of the cliff?

Is the glass half full or half empty?

Another Attempt, but with an upgrade...

Previous bailouts have been in the Billions. Now, government is focusing on a plan that can has the potential to amount to a Trillion dollars (read: $1,000,000,000,000.00) to remove "toxic assets" (many of them bad mortgage investments) from the banks' balance sheets.

"The program will rely heavily on private investors, such as hedge funds and private-equity firms, to buy up $500 billion to $1 trillion of assets with the government providing incentives such as low interest loans and sharing in both the risk and possible profits." -ABC News Article

This would, in theory, allow banks to stabilize and free up credit, thus allowing banks to once again start lending money. It's actually a rather complicated plan and I doubt my ability to explain it properly, so clicking the title of this blog post should redirect you to the article I'm reading and a more thorough explanation of this plan.

As for Obama...well, Obama is in full support of this plan.
Here are a few quotes from our President concerning this new plan...
"glimmers of hope in the housing market,"
"one more critical element"
"I'm very confident that... we're going to be able to make it happen."
While this is one of Obama's (read: the hero's) latest stratagems to fight off the economic crisis (read: the villain), it certainly is not the last. According this article I'm reading (again, clicking the title of this blog post would redirect you there), Congress will tomorrow begin to lay out plans to increase its regulation of Wall Street so that this economic tension we're currently experiencing will never happen again.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


"I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what I have done." - Bernie Madoff
**right... sorry that he was caught, more like**

Well, Madoff's request to be released from jail so that he can return home under house arrest until the trial in June was denied by a three panel judge just recently. So much for returning to his mansion/penthouse...

So, if you don't know about Madoff... well, then that's a pity.
well just kidding.
here's a bit of back-story for those of you (read: normal people) who haven't been following Madoff's story.
At the moment, Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts (ouch) last week including securities fraud mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and perjury. He faces a 150 year sentence (ouch).
actually, it's a long story and it's getting kind of late, so let me just direct you to here:

but the sheer volume of mail this guy is receiving is amazing. And a lot of the letters, I feel, really embody our economic problems that we're currently facing as well as this widespread anger directed towards wealthy business executives.

"When you consider sentencing Madoff, please consider that many of us will live within our own jails because of Madoff," wrote Robert Shapiro. "We are emotionally forever damaged, and forever economically devastated."

More random maybe semi-interesting things

"Using Tax to 'Surgically Punish a Small Group' May Be Unconstitutional"
It seems pretty clear right now that Obama is against this tax on the AIG bonuses
Here's just a few random things I found that I thought might be "share-worthy"
I think the president would be concerned that this bill may have some problems in going too far -- the House bill may go too far in terms of some -- some legal issues, constitutional validity, using the tax code to surgically punish a small group...That -- that may be a dangerous way to go."
-Jared Bernstein, the vice president's economic adviser
The White House must walk a fine line, because a plan in Congress to tax 90% of the AIG bonuses could scare off the very investors the government needs to make the next phase of the recovery plan work.
-ABC News Article
So what do you think? Should we agree with Obama and follow his opinions, or do you think we should go through with the tax so that "justice" can be served?

Obama rebukes Cheney criticism

A battle between Obama and Cheney really. Both debate against their differences and similarities. Obama defends himself in differing him from Cheney, while on the other hand Cheney relates their similarities in proving Obama's actions and policy aren't so different after all? Especially with the decision of sending MORE troops to Afghanistan. Obama says that it was "the hardest decision he's made since taking office". Ironic? Since his goal was to remove troops from the Middle-East. Also Obama relates towards AIG as he tends to keep Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in position even though many tend to remove and force Geithner in resignation due to our current situation with AIG.

"No Change" in U.S. policy toward Iran?

Supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei clarifies his point that the US's policy hadn't change even though America's new president had promised it would. He states that Obama had promised "new beginnings", and in result so will Iran. But Khamenei argues that based on the current progress and policy, he wonders how the fulfillment of "Honest and grounded mutual respect" would be applied. There have also been complaints about having almost absolutely no fluctuation in viewing the country of Iran. They say that Barack Obama and the old Bush Administration were no different, especially in viewing Iran as the "axis of evil". And of course having doubts between nations would obviously result in poor negotiations. Also supreme leader Khamenei was happy to announce that the world cannot stop Iran from their research in "nuclear progress" and that it'll prevail. He said they were one of their "joyful developments". So did Obama's policy really hadn't change nor differ from Bush's? Or was this just considered an excuse for Iran? Will this affect the Iranians attitude towards their research in Nuclear Power and other resources & establishment that could relate to us?

Just Some Thoughts

Again, I'm returning to the whole AIG bonuses that had so many people outraged and is so over-covered by the media, only this time I'm not referencing any news articles/materials. Just a few thoughts.


We're going to levy a 90%-100% tax on these AIG bonuses. What got me thinking, though, is "is this even constitutional?" Leno asked Obama this question on his show and I feel as if Obama didn't truly answer the question, but rather skittered around it as most politicians do for touchy subjects. But while it clearly has a sense of justice/ethics/principal behind taxing these bonuses, I have to think "why are we allowed to do that"? In the grand scheme of things, 165 million isn't a gamebreaking amount of money. And besides, these bonuses had been promised to these AIG executives a year (or is it years?) ago, before we entered this recession. What ever gave us the right to say "oh we're pissed at you so we're going to take away your $1 million"? Where in the constitution does it say we can do that? But then again, does it say we can't?

It feels like the right thing to do. But is it the right thing to do? This is, after all, such an insanely selective tax increase. I think this tax on AIG's bonuses is right from a moral standpoint, but where does Congress get the legal power to pull this off?

Every Country for Itself

Well, with this ever expanding financial crisis being on a global scale, the G-20 had made a sort of pledge/unofficial agreement to embrace free market policies and thus avoid being too protectionist because a burst of protectionism could possibly worsen this global recession. Unfortunately..., seventeen of the twenty G-20 countries have already implemented some protectionist measures in the last few months in an attempt to preserve their own jobs/industries.

*If you don't know who the G-20 are, here's a Wikipedia Link

According to the World Bank president, these tariffs or subsidies "can lead to a negative spiral of events" and that 47 "separate isolationist measures" have already been put in place since the last G-20 meeting in November.

In a way, we're all in this together as we ought to work together to fix the world's current economic crisis, yet I can also see the advantages of trying to weather the storm alone in an every-country for itself kind of way. What do you think needs to be done?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obama on the Tonight Show w/ Jay Leno

So here's an interesting bit...

According to CNN, "Obama became the first sitting president to appear before a late-night talk show studio audience." After having watched it, I thought it was rather entertaining. I noticed his joke about his bowling skills near the end and I just thought, "ouch. slip-up"...

And I was somewhat right. His joke about his poor bowling skills was a minor slipup that resulted in a ton of not-so-good temporary media coverage (it was headline news online for a while).

"I bowled a 129," -Obama.
"That's very good, Mr. President," -Leno.
"It's like the Special Olympics or something," -Obama.

This, obviously, immediately spawned a horde of related substories and Obama (obviously) immediately appologized for his mistake.


Obama Apologizes for calling his bad bowling skills like the Special Olympics

Special Olympics Bowler: I can beat the President!

So, any thoughts/comments about his mistake or even just the video itself?

-Personally, I think it's fine. People these days are just too sensitive to these things. What he says may not have been said with any malice or intent to offend (obviously) but it's still clear that he shouldn't have said it. Like casually saying ****** or ***, (*words which I will not type out, but use your imaginations), or anything else that has slowly integrated itself into mainstream vernacular language, there may not be any bad intent behind it, but someone may still have been offended. He shouldn't have said it, clearly, but I feel as if people also shouldn't have overreacted in this manner to his blunder. As for the interview/show itself, I thought that Obama performed very well. He kept it interesting with a bit of humor here and there and as always he was an amazing speaker.

Healthy Eatin'

So here's a little something I found online.

Apparently, First Lady Michelle Obama has decided to grow a new whitehouse organic "kitchen garden" in an attempt to set an example for a "fast-food-nation"

"We're just hoping that a lot of families look at us and say this is
something that they can do and talk to their own kids about and think a little bit critically about the food choices that they make" -Marian Robinson (Obama's mother-in-law)

It's the first working garden at the Whitehouse since Eleanor Roosevelt's WWII "Victory Garden". This may not be earthshaking, but I feel that it's a nice way for the first lady to set an example, considering how much the media loves her / how visible she si right now to the public. Any thoughts / comments?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chocolate Tax

Scottish Docs: Tax Chocolate, Cure Obesity!

...yeah... right. Personally, I think it wouldn't have worked anyways.
...Thoughts, anyone?

*this seems like a random topic, but to defend myself, it is gov-related as it is passing laws and it is also a bit econ-related as it is a tax, after all*

Some Random, maybe semi-interesting things.

“arrogance, incompetence and greed,” Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H.

Well, apparently AIG might be changing it's name sooner or later (read:ASAP).

“I think the AIG name is so thoroughly wounded and disgraced that we're probably going to have to change it,”
-AIG CEO Liddy


"The American people have said no, and they have said, 'Hell no, give us our money back,'" -Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.

While 165 million dollars is but a minuscule amount in the grand-scheme of things, the AIG bonuses has still caused a sense of injustice to manifest the hearts of many Americans. (Sorry if that sounds odd, I just got the sudden urge to use the word "manifest".) Yet, because of this public outrage, the U.S. House of Reps has voted today to heavily tax the "AIG bailout bonuses".

"The only way to get their money back is to tax it back," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

Approved with a vote of 328 to 93, this bill would slap a 90% tax on the bonus money that the AIG executives received. Yet with "justice served", politicians are still pointing their fingers at one another for "making loopholes" that allowed AIG to even give out these bonuses. A small provision in last month's stimulus bill which resulted in this loophole was part of a measure written by Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, which gave many house Republicans a target to shoot at.

"Listen, this bill is nothing more then an attempt for everyone to cover their butt up here on Capitol Hill," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. "It's full of loopholes."

Personally, I think this is not a time for attacking the other side because we are having economic problems (read: crisis). I think I've said it before in previous posts but I'll say it again. Right now isn't exactly the time to find people to blame. At least they managed to agree to get AIG to return some of the money. But then again, the public is so much in support of AIG returning the bonuses that not voting for this bill could have been really bad for many of these politicians who, after all, need to keep their ratings up for reelection.

Photo (and most of my other photos) from ABCnews.com

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Pope, Africa, and Condoms

So in a recent visit to Africa, Pope Benedict XVI refused to alleviate the Vatican's ban of condom use. Africa, however, is a region that has been hit harder than most others by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

"Pope Benedict has always made it clear he intends to uphold the traditional Catholic teaching on artificial contraception -- a "clear moral prohibition" -- Allen said. But his remarks Tuesday were among the first times he stated the policy explicitly since he became pope nearly four years ago." -(CNN article)

He has, on the other hand, also "assembled a panel of scientists and theologians" to consider whether or not married couples should be allowed to use condoms. Personally, I believe that there should be no real question as to whether or not people should be given access to condoms. Even if one sees birth control / artificial contraception as flat out wrong, one must still consider the 22 million people infected by HIV in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

"More than 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV, according to a 2008 UNAIDS/WHO report. Nine out of 10 children with HIV in the world live in the region, which has 11.4 million orphans because of AIDS, the report said, and 1.5 million people there died of the disease in 2007" -(CNN article)

The numbers alone would be enough to convince me.

"Nancy Pelosi Tells Illegal Immigrants That Work Site Raids are Un-American"

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi was invited and arrived on Saturday night to a church by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, to give a simple speech to the immigrants of this country. During her speech, Nancy Pelosi stated that the legal and illegal immigrants were "Very very Patriotic" to show up to take "Responsibility". She mentioned that it was also "un-American" considering the fact that the immigrants want to relocate themselves in America and yet they invoke raids.

Former Republican presidential candidate, Tom Tancredo gives his personal point of view and opinion of Nancy Pelosi's statement. I think Tom was quite amusing and hilarious, he was clear and lucid as he points out Pelosi's silly jargon. He even questions her statement regarding the patriotism comment.

The video is about the interview with Tom Tancredo, if interested please read the following article from Fox News:

And of course: What do you think about it? Does what Pelosi say make any sense? Is it strengthening the encouragement of immigration prevention? Would you support her?

I thought this was pretty intriguing.

And Again, but a Video this time....


Here's an interesting video from ABC News regarding AIG's bonuses.
*I can't figure out how to embed ABC News' videos... so, here's a link.
**Clicking this post's title should also work.

>>Click Here for the Video<<

More on AIG...

AIG's CEO Edward M. Liddy has told congress today that he asked executives at AIG to "do the right thing" and return at least half of the $165,000,000. According to Liddy, some of the employees have already agreed to return all of their bonus.

Apparently seven executive members of AIG's Financial Products Unit had recieved over 4 million dollars each in bonus-money. Ironically, it's this same Financial Products Unit that is blamed for putting AIG into the "financial turmoil" that eventually forced the government to bailout the company with 170 billion dollars...

"Specifically I've asked those who received retention payments in excess of $100,000 or more to return at least half of those payments, some have already stepped forward and offered to give up 100 percent of their payments." -Liddy.

The CEO also said that he was reluctant to reveal the names of those who agreed to return their bonuses and those who refused because the public has been so angry that AIG employees have received death threats.

Bank of America ordered to reveal information on Bonuses

Bank of America has been ordered by New York State Supreme Court Judge Bernard Fried to reveal the names of the executives at Merrill Lynch who received huge last-minute bonuses right before the company merged with Bank of America.

So here's how the story goes. Right before the merger was going to happen, Merrill Lynch awarded some of its top executives a large amount of money (read: bonus). After this took place, New York's Attorney General Andrew Cuomo took Bank of America to court in order to demand that they release information regarding these bonuses. Fried thus eventually decided that as New York's Attorney General, Cuomo had "authority to decide whether the information he gathers as part of his investigation should be kept secret or public."

But what do you think this means? Do you think this case is important enough to set a precedent regarding these bonuses? And do you think this will also be applied to the recent AIG-bonus-controversy?

At Least Someone's Lovin' It

In these tough economic times, most businesses are failing and beginning to collapse. Our banks have needed government aid to survive and future prospects seem rather grim. Yet in the face of all this news of companies who are beginning to fall apart, we can still see a few businesses who are doing well, if not better than before.

McDonald's, in fact, is thriving. While its competitors are weakening, Ronald McDonald is seeing increasing profits, sales, and improving stocks.... But why?

When asked in an interview by CNN, Karen Wells, vice-president of "strategy and menu" says that:

"there's two things that's really attributed to McDonald's success. First and foremost, listening to our customers. It's menu variety, it's value and affordable prices at McDonald's and the convenience that only McDonald's can offer.

The other piece is our system alignment around one plan. You know, under the arches we have a term called the three-legged stool. It's our franchisees, our suppliers and our corporate staff working together. Those are the two things that have worked for McDonald's and our success."

This doesn't exactly explain their success, I mean, I'm sure most companies try to "listen to their customers" after all...

What do you guys think about this?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Veterans groups are angry at President Barack Obama?

Veteran Groups were upset and are up against Barack Obama's new proposal regarding to have the "treatment for service-connected injuries" charged. Obama says that this would help and provide our nation in accumulating and saving up revenues. The veterans were discouraged with grief as they now will have to pay and be charged for their injuries in battle. During Obama's campaign in the race for presidency he did announce to enhance and reshape the country's financial crisis, however he didn't explicitly define his means of how he was going to change it. And now there is a dispute and struggle between the charged veterans and the president of the United States.

" 'The vets are paying premiums to insurance companies and that is a free ride that needs to stop,' Gorman said in describing the president's message to the group. " And the troops replied:

" 'Veterans of all generations agree that this proposal is bad for the country and bad for veterans. If the president and the OMB want to cut costs, they can start at AIG, not the VA,' said Paul Rieckhoff "

Honestly I think that this proposal that Obama's tends to pass is a good effort in the attempt of good recovery of the economy, however I have to agree and support the veterans groups since they did struggle out in the armed forces for our protection and safety. What do you guys think? Should Obama continue his plans in raising revenues by charging the veteran's treatment for service-connected injuries? Would you support it?

Learning from the Past

So are we learning from the past? One good reason to study the past is to learn from past mistakes and hopefully never make them again. Unfortunately, history has shown that many people seem incapable of learning from the past as many incidents/event outcomes happen again and again. However, this trend is thankfully not set in stone.

In the late 1980's, banking laws in Japan were relaxed and soon the nation was running on a sort of "credit binge" that makes our nation look careful. The stock market shot off to unbelievable heights and property prices skyrocketed. (The article I'm reading tells me that "the land on which the Imperial Palace sat in the center of Tokyo was worth more than the whole of California"). Then, like what happened to us, the bubble of happiness and prosperity just sort of popped. Then, the world's second largest economy entered what was later called "a lost decade". Hopefully, that won't happen to us.


In a way, we learned from Japan's mistake. We definitely didn't heed the warning signs that led to this collapse, but we had a faster and probably better response to the crisis. Japan long delayed using public money to recapitalize the banks and the U.S. started just within a year of the start of the economic crisis. Once people start to feel safer and have their basic needs covered (which can be one potential reason to invest in health care / etc.), then they will be more likely to go out and spend money/stimulate the economy. Though we are still only in the first phase of the crisis, it will be interesting to see how this difference plays out.