Sunday, January 31, 2010

Obama’s climate card: nuclear power

President Obama is trying to win over Republicans and moderate Democrats on climate and energy legislation by strongly endorsing nuclear energy. In his State of the Union address, he revealed that his spending plan for the next budget year is going to include billions of dollars for new nuclear reactors. He is calling for a new generation of nuclear power plants.

However, he has growing concerns for how to deal with the radioactive waste and how much federal money would be needed to support construction costs. Obama's administration has pledged to close Yucca Mountain, the planned multibillion-dollar burial ground in the Nevada desert for high-level radioactive waste.

This just shows Obama's long support of nuclear power. Although this source of energy will cost billions of dollars, these nuclear power plants will help in sustaining the nation's environment.

Obama budget plan weighs in at $3.8 trillion

President Obama's proposed budget is expected to create a national deficit of $1.6 trillion in the current fiscal year, then recede to about $1.3 trillion next year. However, economists say that the new budget proposal is at a dangerously high level. The average of the deficit will be equal to about 4.5 percent of the size of the economy.

$100 billion is expected to be headed towards the nation's high level of unemployment. "The proposed $3.8 trillion budget would provide billions more to pull the country out of the Great Recession while increasing taxes on the wealthy and imposing a spending freeze on many government programs."

Although economists say that this is dangerous, it may be just what the US needs to pull us out of the recession.

Massive Food Distribution Begins in Haiti's Capital

A 2 week food distribution plan coordinated by the United Nations World Food Programme, international aid agencies and the Haitian government, began on Sunday in 9 of 16 designated points in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Only 9 of the 16 places handed out food due to more time needed to prepare ration coupons and security reasons in slum areas with a lot of gang violence.

Only women were given tickets to collect a 55 pound bag of rice per family and 42 metric tons of rice will be distributed each day over the next two weeks. A spokesperson said that only women are being given the food because they tend to be in charge of their household food supplies and are more likely to redistribute it more eqaully among households than men. The spokesperson added that most men have someone: a wife, a sister, a mother or girlfriend, who will be able to feed them and that it was safer to deliver the rice to the women. Understandably, this did not sit well with some men.

The food aid plan involves at least eight private humanitarian agencies: Samaritan's Purse, Catholic Relief Services, CARE, World Vision, ACTED, Save The Children, GOAL and ADRA.

The 2 week food plan aims to reach 2 million people in Port-au-Prince but does not expand to those living in other quake-devastated cities, but ongoing emergency aid distributions to outlying areas will continue.

At least this is a start but, what about other necessities that the Haitians need? The article didn't go into it, but can all those people even find ways to cook the rice that they are being given?

13 young students killed at party in Mexico border

Armed gunmen opened fire and killed 13 high school and college students in what seems to be a case of mistaken identities. The deaths occurred in Ciudad Juarez, one of the deadliest cities in the world located across the border from El Paso, Texas, in the midst of turf battles between powerful drug cartels.

Witnesses and family members believed that the victims had no ties to the drug cartels and that the attack must have been prompted by false information.
One witness said he was just outside when the gunfire broke out and that the party was an innocuous gathering of friends who must have been targeted incorrectly.

"It must have been a huge mistake," said Martha Lujan, who lives at the housing complex where the shootings took place late Saturday night.

Ciudad Juarez is a city of 1.3 million people that is home to several drug cartel bosses who are battling for turf as thousands of troops and federal police try to stop them. More than 2,250 people were killed there in 2009 and more than 15,000 people have been killed in Mexico in the past three years in cartel-related violence.

What can be done to stop the violence caused by these drug lords in Mexico?

Your Tax Dollars= 1700 PS3s for the US Air Force!!

So the USAF in Rome, NY is ordering about 1700 PS3s to make up a total of over 2000 PS3s altogether. Lets see... about 300 dollars per a PS3 multiplied by the number of those machines they are purchasing. Well, they say its for a "good" cause.

They are making a supercomputer that they will use to show the way our brains process information and how it recognizes content. What they are really doing is playing "2000 simultaneous games of God of War III".

They believe that by using PS3s they will use ninety five percent less power than a regular super computer.

Okay, sooo what? The US Air Force playing God of War III with our tax money is what I am hearing. Since when were they so curious with how the human brain "functions"? I dont know about you guys but I see that as thousands of dollars down the drain. I really don't know what to make of it.

The race for clean energy

China is now the leading manufactuer of wind turbines. These industries have added 1.12 million jobs in 2008. It seems it will open up about 100, 000 jobs every year. Don't forget the low labor costs though, even if the people's incomes are rising. Yet, this race has only boosted up China's economy more than its dependency on other energy methods. China believes that by 2020, clean energy sources will make up about eight percent of its electricity generation capacity. Coal should be about 2/3 of the capacity by then with nuclear and hydopower filling in the rest. The government has spent 45 billion on this project alone in 2009. They have also set mandates for companies to use more renewable energy.

China's demand for energy which is rising 15 percent per year is allowing for its success. In the next decade, China will need about nine times more energy than the US. Intrest rates are as low as 2 percent for bank loans for many companies.

Wind energy costs 20 to 40 percent more than coal. Solar energy costs twice as much as coal. Thus the Chinese government has raised the energy bills from 0.25 to 0.4 percent for the general public. Sadly, sending power from windy areas over long distances is a problem.

"Every country, including the US and in Europe, wants a low cost of renewable energy," said Ma Lingjuan the director of the renewable energy project. "Now China has reached that level, but it gets criticized by the rest of the world"

This plan is great or seems to be. Its creating new jobs and reaching the goal for clean energy although rather slowly. Only eight perecnt by 2020 which is about a decade away but that is still making process. At this moment though, I don't think the US can compete with China at all in this field and will eventually be over taken by them. At least its having positive affects, aside from raising people's energy bills. There seems to be many problems with it but I guess they will all be solved in due time. I think the US should have done this while we still had the money to. (I know there were some efforts) Rather than wait until we are in a recession to get rid of wealthy taxcuts, why not prepare for the next time the stock market drops? Oh well, maybe I am simplifying the problem too much.

ShelterBox Effort

ShelterBox is one among many organizations that have been actually outputting massive efforts to rescue victims in Haiti. Besides ShelterBox, the American Red Cross, Pelican Inc., and the UN have been doing as much they can to help the Haitian people toward recovery in the devastated region.

What are some of the different ways these organizations are trying to help? Well, for one, they're not just sending money that can be easily "lost" (if that's what you want to call it) in the process of being transferred to the Haiti rescue efforts. They're sending loads of supplies that can actually be used by the Haitian people. Americans have sent an unknown (but a suspecting decent) amount of money to Haiti, but yet there have been many reports that US Military air lifts have been halted because they have finally realized that they're not being covered financially for the efforts.

Money. Americans have for long always sought to be the great hero they've always been when it comes to assisting in natural disasters across the globe. But it seems this time money has played too big a role for efforts to even continue for MediVac efforts. In no way should this indicate that we should stop donating toward the efforts. The money that goes toward Haiti rescue efforts are definitely going toward a good cause (right? I mean, nobody steals money. There have been virtually no issues with governments stealing money that have been donated from financial help rigiht?). More than just sending money, Stanford has already sent out a response team to help Haitian citizens (I don't have a link to this, but I have spoken with a woman who was at REI to buy nearly $1000 in gear/supplies in preparation for a response effort to Haiti 2 days later. This was about 2.5 weeks ago.).

Some of the pros of donating money directly to the rescue efforts:
-it can be used however it needs to be used
-can help Haitian citizens get back on their feet
-can be used to make decisions on what to buy.
-ultimately... flexibility on how it can be used

Cons of donating money directly:
-no way of tracking how much
-no way of tracking where it's used
-no way of assuring that it's actually being sent to Haiti
-ultimately.. no accountability

Some organizations have realized the chances of money being "misplaced" along the way and have done more than money. They're putting together their own rescue boxes filled with emergency supplies that will actually be used in the Haiti recovery efforts rather than being lost along the way (Really, if you're that desparate to steal supplies that you don't need at the expense of possibly hundreds if not thousands of lives...). From my own experience in rescue work, it is easy to say that it is much easier to compile a list of needed supplies and have those donated rather than having money being donated where it could potentially land in the wrong hands (although it's rare to find someone with both traits in unison). There are some efforts where money is truly needed (such as MediVac efforts by the military)... so don't stop donating!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gay dating site's Super Bowl ad rejected by CBS

The TV network that is broadcasting the Super Bowl, CBS, rejected an ad from, a gay dating website.

"After reviewing the ad, which is entirely commercial in nature, our standards and practices department decided not to accept this particular spot," said CBS spokeswoman Shannon Jacobs. "We are always open to working with a client on alternative submissions."

CBS said that they also rejected the commercial because of financial reasons. However, the dating website is accusing CBS of "straight-up discrimination."

CBS is charging up to $3 million for 30-second spots during the Super Bowl. ManCrunch would have been charged $2.5 million for its ad and would have had no trouble paying it, since the newly formed company recently raised $40 million from investors. A spokesperson for CBS also said that all the commercial spots are almost sold out, and only one or two remain.

The commercial shows two men watching the Super Bowl who then have their hands brush against each other in a potato chip bowl, which causes a male-on-male make-out session. It can be seen on YouTube.

Before watching the commercial, I would have believed the claim that CBS is being discriminatory. However, the commercial does show for basically half the time, two men making out. Perhaps, CBS is trying to avoid controversial commercials since networks who broadcast do not want another repeat of anything close to Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl. What do you guys think?

743 pounds of marijuana found in septic tank truck

Investigators found 743 pounds of marijuana in a septic tank truck full of human waste in Arizona during a traffic stop. The truck was headed northbound on I-19 and stopped about 35 miles south of Tucson, Arizona, which leads directly to Mexico.

After the stop, the officer checked the driver's license and it was invalid along with the commercial markings on the truck. A subsequent search revealed the bales of marijuana in red and orange packages amid the waste, worth about $409,000 on the street.

The police arrested and charged the driver with possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and transportation of marijuana. Although 743 pounds seems like a lot, in 2008, Arizona police found more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana in a fake UPS truck.

Hiding marijuana in human waste is pretty much the most disgusting place ever, and I feel bad for whoever had the unfortunate job of retrieving the bales out of the septic tank. I guess the driver thought he was really clever, but it just shows how desperate drug cartels are these days.

NATO Airstrike "miscommunication"

This morning in Wardak, Afghanistan, a NATO airstrike hit a Afghan outpost that was covered in snow at the time. Four Afghan soldiers were killed and seven were wounded. NATO is now investigating the attack which was dealt by a mixed US and Afghan force. This "friendly fire" is being called a misunderstanding. They thought they were bombing a Taliban fighting position. Afghan troops are blaming US troops for calling in the airstrike. They also asked that the US troops that were involved be punished for what they did. The top military position in Afghanistan has been emphasizing on limiting Afghan deaths. Statistics show that NATO troops deaths are down.

Shouldn't we MAKE SURE before bombing an outpost? Its whoever issued it fault not the people who were following orders. Its also sad that this incident was merely called a misunderstanding. This is lives people. It was the US' fault, not a US' misunderstanding. They have been trying to limit the number of deaths from the NATO side by having more Afghan forces. Well, if they want to keep this up, there won't be an agreement anymore.

iPad, iPod, iTouch.. iTampon, iSlate?

The rave of Apple's new "iPad" has rippled waves of discussion across blogs and even twitter. What is your first impression if you didn't know that "iPad" was sold by Apple? A bed? possibly even a tampon sold at the supermarket? Well, that's the impression that critics have said that it has gave them when they first heard about it. Now even jokes such as " "The mocking goes along the lines of: Yes, the iPad is small, lightweight and slim. But can you swim with it?" wrote the Los Angeles Times' tech blog."

Its feminine-like name has started a trend on twitter: "The term iTampon -- a riff on the fact that the iPad can be taken to sound more like a maxipad than a slick new computer -- was the third most-talked about trend on Twitter on Wednesday evening."

The name "iSlate" for the now-called iPad was debated but dropped since it would have protrayed the new product as a very heavy product rather than the 1.5 pounds it actually weighs. The term "slate" would have also made it sound like a very ancient product (which the iPad clearly is the opposite of). " 'Slate is a little bit 'Flintstones,' said Stephen Hutcheon, an editor at The Sydney Morning Herald, a newspaper in Australia."

Apple's new product boasts its biggest touch screen technology ever created by Apple. It even has a keyboard integrated that appears when it senses an input field. Personally, it seems that the iPad is just a massive iPod Touch with more tweaks here and there. But it does beat having to constantly adjust the size of text and pictures to capture every detail on an iPod Touch. But with nearly 140,000 applications for the iPad, who wouldn't want one?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Negotiation Efforts Turn Out a Mess

After his State of the Union Address 2 nights ago, Obama has already been fiercely pushing for what he thinks is best for the nation. He clearly has a elaborate plan that he has most likely had up his sleeve for a long while but waited for the major speech in order to address his issues.

The face-to-face meeting started out peacefully, favorably, and willing to cooperate until both sides realized that neither one of them was willing to give into the either sides' demands or request. In short, the face-to-face "negotiation" attempt turned out to be a session where "neither side could resist the chance to challenge and even scold the other." The Republicans claim that the Democratic plan is too extreme, that it will only increase the national debt. The Democrats (Obama) said "that he had read the Republican proposals and that they promise solutions that can't be realized."

For as long as neither side is ready to open up to opinions, openly discuss the pros and cons, share ideas, and come to consensus on what is the best path toward a better economic plan, all attempts at negotiations between the two parties will be in vain.

We are going to save lives! Wait! Who is going to pay for this?

In a world where some people believe money does not equal happiness. I beg to differ in many situations like these. Anyways, the US has stopped all the medical evacuations of critical Haitian victims until the question above is answered. After the Governor of Florida asked the federal government (in a polite way) to "shoulder" some of the cost, all flights have stopped. Thus the states who are willing to help these patients won't be getting anymore people.

"Flordia stands ready to assist our neighbors in Haiti, but we need a plan of action and reimbursement for the care we are providing," Sterling Ivey, a spokesman, said.

Governor Crist of Florida, a Republican, is currently in a primary battle for a Senate seat. In what the article accounts for as "finger-pointing", the Department of Health and Human Services blamed the stop on the military. The spokesman also said that the military decided to stop the flights because hospitals were becoming "unwilling" to take more patients. The question comes down to who is going to pay for this?

Yet Jeanne Eckes-Roper, a health chairwoman of the domestic security task force for South Florida said she had only "requested" that new patients be taken to other places for care. A specific article detail caught my eye. That the Super Bowl is suppose to happen on Feburary 7th there.
The money, if money is ushered, will come from the Disaster Medical System that funds domestic distasters and pays for the hospital bills.

Some patients brought from Haiti were American citizens who were not insured or not eligible. However Haitians can qualify for Medicaid only with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services ' consent.

Major Lowe believes that since medical care is now avaliable in Haiti, the flights are not as needed. Non Profit Organizations are outraged due to the physical state of many of the victims. Major Lowe suggested using private planes but medically equipped planes would be both expensive and limited.

This irritates me. I understand their concern though. We are in a bad position and lacking the money to cover such things. I still appreciate their effort nevertheless. I wonder how this will go with the federal government, will they be willing to fund this attempt to help or dismiss it? What I think will happen is that the government will offer to pay maybe five percent of it but definitely not all for the illusion. Honestly, I don't know where this money is going to come from. What are your thoughts? Do you have any suggestions for these hospitals who want to help?

Study: Cell phone bans don't reduce accidents

The findings of a recent study by the Highway Loss Data Institute has found that banning hand held devices (cell phones) has not reduced the rate of car accidents in Connecticut, California, New York, and the District of Columbia.

The study concluded that based on the absence of fluctuations of collision rates before and after the laws were put in place. Increased rates of crashes when drivers use hand-held cell phones have been well documented, so it's unclear why the four jurisdictions' accident rates did not mirror the trend after their cell phone bans took effect.

The Highway Loss Data Institute is trying to determine the discrepancy in the rates, which they believe might be related to drivers resorting to using hands-free devices (bluetooth) that are just as bad as driving while using a cell phone.

A federal ban on texting while driving for commercial drivers of trucks and buses was instituted on Tuesday. Commercial drivers caught texting while driving face a penalty of up to $2,750. Last year, President Obama also signed an executive order asking federal employees not to text while driving government vehicles

I see people driving while on their cell phones a lot, so I don't think that the threat of a fine really bothers people that much. However, I think texting while driving is even more dangerous and there should be a ban on that for all drivers, not just commercial ones. Remember, driving while talking on a cell phone puts drivers at a four times greater risk of a crash.

Selling weapons to Taiwan

The US has agreed to sell about $6 billion in weapons and aircrafts to Taiwan. The catch is that this sale may enrage China in which the US is currently trying to make them agree to Iran terms. (its hard to get someone to accept something that drives the entire nation) Last time we attempted this, there was definitely outrage and China threatened to withdraw from the international arms control talks. Some even believe that China went as far as to have sold middle range missles to Iran. The package is suppose to be defensive. The government is making sure that this event will not come as a surprise to China. Today they sent out a notification.

Well, there goes our chance to work with China. The government is really touchy about the issues of Taiwan and to sell them guns even if its only for "defensive" purposes could push them over the limit to threaten something more than "withdraw[ing] from the international arms control talks. We will just have to see.

Brush & Spit Day!!

Its time to fight tooth decay!! Brush, Brush and Brush! It seems that in Massachusetts it has now become mandatory for preschoolers to brush their teeth during class and be educated on keeping teeth clean. One out of four kindergardeners in Massachusetts have dentel diseases but still parents are unsure about teachers taking over the role of the parent. "Let parents be parents" said one of them. They are applying a little bit of toothbrush so it is okay to swallow.

I think this is a great idea actually for it can have a positive impact. You see your peers doing it and its good for you. On the plus side, children's toothpaste tastes good! I understand the parents worries but in order to get kids into a good habit it should be a routine. Some parents just don't have the time to look after everything their kid does. "Did you brush your teeth?" "Yes Mom." Thats as much evidence a parent needs before they go on to the next task. (for some). I'm too sure about the spitting part though. There needs to be supervision over this at all times or it might end up spreading more germs than killing them!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

'Dogs of war' saving lives in Afghanistan

Labradors are being trained and used by US Marines in Afghanistan to detect five kinds of threat, from military grade C-4 plastic explosive to common chemicals used by the Taliban to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These dogs play a vital role and can really make the difference between life and death. They are about 98% accurate and are trusted more than metal detectors and mine sweepers.

Taliban militants plant explosives along the dusty footpaths that Marines travel through, leaving many dead in the past months.

When a dog thinks that he has detected something there is quick change in his demeanour, his muscles tense up, he freezes, sticks out his tail and then lies down with his paws extended up front.

The dogs also provide an emotional crutch for young Marines facing death every day. They crowd around the dogs and play with them inside the camp. There are frequent questions about adopting them after the Labradors end their tour.

The US government spends huge amounts of money to train the dogs in a civilian-led program created by the Defense Department. Their training begins when they are puppies and by the time they reach two and half years old, they are ready to be deployed.

The bomb squad in Afghanistan prefer using pure-bred Labradors over sentry dogs such as German Shepherds because they are easier to train. Labradors are also hunting dogs who can pick up a scent as far as 500 meters away.

Officials say that up to 70 dogs are working in Afghanistan now and more will be deployed in the upcoming months.

No Manslaughter Option for Abortion Trial Jury

Scott Roeder, 51, is on trial for fatally shooting Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider, at a church on May 31. He said that he has no regrets for killing the doctor because "abortion is murder" and, "There was nothing being done and the legal process had been exhausted, and these babies were dying every day," Roeder said. "I did what I thought was needed to be done to protect the children."

Roeder is charged with one count of first-degree murder for Dr. Tiller, who ran a women's clinic in Wichita where abortions were performed, including the controversial late-term procedure.

Sedgwick County District Judge Warren Wilbert ruled that the jury could not consider convicting Roeder of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, which is defined as "an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force" under Kansas statute.

Before his murder, Dr. George Tiller was one of the few U.S. doctors who performed late-term abortions and had already survived an attempted murder when his clinic was bombed.

While on trial, Roeder admitted to thinking about many ways to kill Tiller, he said he considered cutting Tiller's hands off with a sword, but decided that would not be effective, as Tiller would still be able to train others.

He said his anti-abortion beliefs "go hand in hand" with his religious beliefs and that he became born again in 1992 after watching an episode of "The 700 Club."

I thought this would be an interesting blog post as the issue of abortion will be coming up in class during the case study projects. Roeder is clearly on the pro-life side and thinks that abortion is murder in any case. However, I think he is clearly a disturbed man that deserves to go to jail for executing a man in front of his church, it doesn't matter that he thought he was doing it to prevent further deaths of unborn babies. Thoughts on this matter?

White House pitches rail project as job creator

President Obama is pitching his plan for a $8 million project for a high-speed rail program. This project is an attempt generate more jobs for the U.S. It is also supposed to "revitalize" the domestic rail industry.

In Obama's State of the Union speech on Wednesday night, he may have made it sound very simple. He stated that these trains would "create jobs and help our nation move goods, services, and information: White House spokesman Bill Burton also stated that "the program creates tens of thousands of jobs and is the largest investment in infrastructure since the interstate highway system was created."

Transportation experts say that there are great reasons to build these high-speed trains. The trains would be able to transport people between cities that are 100-500 miles apart, and would not cause as much environmental damage as cars or airplanes.

However, this train project is more complicated than it sounds. Experts are worried that this would not create jobs as quick as we would hope, and much of this project relies on companies found in Europe or Asia, because of their experience with building, supplying, and operating these high-speed trains. Rail experts said designing and building jobs that we would hope would go to Americans would go abroad to Europe and Asia, since it will take a while for the U.S. to develop its own domestic high-speed rail industry.

This project sounds very controversial but it is still interesting that Obama is taking his promises to such an extent. These trains sound like they would be great for our environment, but not too beneficial for our economy, since most of the jobs would be in Europe and Asia. What do you guys think?

Second Term as Federal Reserve Chief

The vote on whether Ben S. Bernanke would be head of the Federal Reserve for a second term occured today. It was 70 to 30 vote which is apparently the thinnest approval rating in 96 years. Although the article writer states that this may be a victory for President Obama who supports Bernanke, this "architect of recovery" has been blamed for high unemployment and Wall Street bailouts. Evidently he allowed banks to keep "dangerously" low capital reserves and make "reckless" lending decisions that ended up ruining consumers. Supporters of Bernanke argue that sure he has made some bad decisions but had overall helped the economy from falling into worse recession than it already is. The vote to end the debate ( I presume the pros and cons of his last term) ended in the Senate as a 77 to 23 vote. The second vote to confirm the debate ( to make sure?) had 30 who voted against his second term. This group included 18 Republicans, 11 Democrats and 1 independent from Vermont.

"The vote also made clear Congress's insistence on transparency from a historically secretive institution that has made extrodinary interventions in the market since 2008."

One Republican, Richard C Shelby asked, "If we don't hold Chairman Bernanke accountable, what precedent are we setting for future regulators? "

Another Senator stated, "We shouldn't be paying the Fed chairman to learn on the job."

Chairman Bernanke has recieved more disapproval votes than any nominee for chairman since 1983. He begun as the Cheif of the Council of of Economic Advisors appointed by George W Bush. In 2006, he became the Federal Reserve Chief.

Any thoughts? Personally, I do not know why President Obama backs Chairman Bernanke and I would like to know the specifics as what he has done is contradictory to what President Obama proposed in his State of Union Address. Sadly the article does not touch on the subject. I like how one senator said that they shouldn't be paying Chairman Bernanke to learn on the job as isn't that the same as the president's role? I would also like to know more about how he helped the economy from falling even deeper as his supporters have mentioned. It seems that a diverse group made up of Republicans, Democrats and a Independent all disapprove of Bernanke. I wonder how different the number of votes would be if the country weren't in a recession right now or hadn't fallen to this state.

Controversial Speech

"With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections,"

These are the words that came out of Obama's mouth as he stood before the entire population of Congress as well as special guests, top military leaders, and news crews that broadcasted this unprecedented incident across the world. Although Obama may have been seen as the only one who criticized another branch of the Federal government and may have seen out of line, Justice Samuel Alito also took some unprecedented action of his own by mouthing the words "not true" and explicitly displaying his disapproval of Obama's criticism of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

VP Joe Biden justified Obama's statement by stating that Obama "didn't question the integrity of the court. He questioned the judgment of it." Although this is what Biden reported to the press and said during his Thursday's ABC's "Good Morning America" show, this is definitely not how it came out of Obama's mouth in the eyes and ears of reporters and critics watching the State of the Union Address. Although it is good for each branch of the Federal government to be checking on each other, this seems to be overstepping the executive boundary since the Judiciary is already seen as having the least power when it comes to separation of powers between the 3 branches. It is good that the President is expressing his opinion (and possibly even his personal views on the economy in relation to legality), was this really the time to criticize the Judicial branch? or to address the top concerns of the nation such as jobs, foreign affairs and... jobs?

State of the Union Reaction

I read Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog more than the New York Times these days, but not because of Sullivan. He's pretty predictable and while I often agree with him, there isn't a lot new there (for me). However, his assistants do an awesome job of culling the best stuff from all over the internet and posting it. This has become known as "aggregating" -- websites that browse a bunch of sites and identify and re-post the best bits.

For example, here are 2 links to posts that each have 5+ paragraph length quotes from other sources. These posts provide a nice range of opinion and intelligent analysis in a convenient package. What would have taken a hour's worth of reading is now 5 minutes!

If you ever wonder how I manage to stay informed on a great many public policy issues, this is why. Plus, I often do read for an hour or more a day (it is, admittedly, more interesting than grading your work.) But if you know enough of the context, and that's a big if, a few good blogs can cover a lot of territory without having to read a daily newspaper.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple Unveils New iPad

Today Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled Apple's newest, much anticipated tablet computer. The touch screen measures 9.7 inches diagonally, weighs only 1.5 lbs, and is 0.5 inches thick. It has a 10 hour battery life and can sit for a month on standby without needing to be charged.

The starting price for a 16-GB with Wi-Fi connectivity iPad is $499 ($629 plus 3G), a lot cheaper than the $1000 that it was speculated to cost. For a 32 GB it'll cost $599 ($729 plus 3G) and a 64 GB will cost $699 ($829 plus 3G).

AT&T will offer two 3G service packages without requiring a long-term contract: Up to 250 megabytes of data at $14.99 a month and unlimited data usage at $29.99 a month. The 3G iPad will be "unlocked," though, meaning it can be used with any technologically compatible carrier.

Jobs said that the Wi-Fi versions will be available to ship within 60 days and for the 3G versions in 90 days.

Some of the many things that you can do on the iPad are: surf the web, write and check emails, store and share photos (however, the iPad does not have a built in camera like many expected), watch videos, listen to music with the iPod app, download songs/TV shows from iTunes, buy apps, view maps, plan your schedule with the built in calendar, and you can even buy and read books with the iBooks app (Apple's way of competing with Amazon's very popular Kindle).

I think that with the starting price of $499 that the iPad will attract many people, considering when the first iphone came out it was around $600 and still there were many who bought one right away before the price lowered so much. What do you guys think about Apple's new iPad, will it be a success or a bust?

Afghan Tribes' Retaliation

Several Afghan Tribes have decided to join sides with America. Of course, for a compensation of a million dollars to fund developmental projects and "bypass the local Afghan government". Leaders of the main tribes state that they will send at least one male from each family to the Afghan Army or the police if the Taliban attacks. Yet the article writer fears that as easily as these tribes chose to join forces with us, they can easily break as well from pressure such as the Taliban threatening to murder their leaders.

American commanders hope to "reintegrate Taliban fighters into Afghan society and to allow Taliban leaders to play political role in Afghanistan." Those originally for the Taliban who decide to stop killing will be guaranteed jobs.

The tribes insist that they are doing this "for [them]selves, and [them]selves only."

I'm not really sure what to say. It makes sense that these tribes would eventually retaliate for losing so many of their people but the article makes it clear that the money is suppose to go directly to the leaders which is stated twice actually. What does this mean? What are these developmental projects they seek to implement? The article ends with the acknowledgement that the fifty tribes thumb stamped the agreement since they can't read. Well, is there anyone who could translate for them to make sure before they stamped the paper as there could be some twist. Maybe its just me but I like to know for sure what is on an agreement before I stamp it.

A Beautiful Panorama

I found this on nytimes as I was reading up on President Obama's State of the Union Address. For people who have slow computers, its not recommended for you to click the link (title). This was taken to show the whole scene with the people up top and President Obama, Madame Speaker and Vice President Biden sitting on the bottom. You can all so see the three different sections in the lower areas with what I believe is the Congress. You can see the expressions on people's faces especially behind the photographer and just the crowd's reaction towards what President Obama was saying at the time.

Well, just look at it. I think it really captures the moment with all the seriousness and grandness of the situation. ;) You can move the view by holding the left hand button of the mouse and move it around. For people who can tell who is who, there is the answer to number three!

Time Magazine's 5 Ways to Judge Obama's State of the Union

According to a Time magazine article, these are 5 questions to ask in judging the success of President Obama's State of the Union Address.

1. How big is the audience?
If fewer Americans than usual watch the address on TV, it will suggest that they have tuned out the President.

2. Does the press focus exclusively on process?
Obama must get the post-speech coverage to focus on his ideas and proposals rather than his poll ratings or the loss of the MA Senate seat.

3. Did the Republicans clap?
Obama has to find some areas of common ground to renew his campaign pledge to reduce the partisan bitterness and lack of cooperation that has come to dominate Washington and the nation's politics.

4. Can he find the right tone?
Obama needs to come off: optimistic, confident, resolute, gracious. What he has to avoid seeming: defensive, negative, churlish, sarcastic.

Obama's State of the Union

If anyone missed the live broadcast of Obama's speech, there's a link to the transcript and video of the speech.

A Hope For One Step Closer To Equality

As the nation and the rest of the world prepares itself for Obama's State of The Union address later on, snippets of tonight's topics are being revealed. Among many of them is the issue of gays and lesbians in the army. Obama wishes to ask Congress to repeal the (current) military's policy on prohibiting openly gay and lesbian individuals from enlisting and serving in the Army. He says that this has been a long pressed and controversial issue that needs to be addressed in order to bring the nation closer to equality for all, not just selective individuals.

After lightly discussing the issue with some members of Congress, Obama has been getting support from Democrats but Republicans are still expressing disapproval. Obama's intention to address the issue of gays and lesbians in the military is just one among many of his promises he wishes to fulfill within his first year in office.

Already, this issue of gays and lesbians seems to be getting enough attention from the press that Pentagon Spokesman Geoff Morrell has given up answering questions regarding gays and lesbians, "directing reporters to take their questions to the White House."

If Obama's plan to repeal the policy, it would be not just a small step, but a big step in waking up the nation and getting extremists against gays to realize that it is time for a change in attitude toward these individuals who have caused nobody harm. But then again.. who knows. It might cause a movement among extremists who are hardcore extremists... what do you think??

State of the Union Open Thread

An open thread is one with only comments. A free-for-all. Predictions, critiques, questions, whatever. So have at it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tax increase in Oregon (voters approved)

Measure 66- raises income taxes on those who earn more than $125,000 and couples who earn more than $250,000 (less than 3% of the state's population)
Measure 67-raises taxes and fees on most businesses

The tax increases should raise $727 million that will be used for public education and social services. Originally, it was approved last year by the Legislature but put down after a petition campaign.
Remember that Oregon is one out of five states without state sales tax so the state is dependent on income and property taxes. Oregon currently has a 11% unemployment rate. Unions of teachers and public employees managed to get enough support to implement measure 67 even though businesses groups objected.

I'm glad that this money is going towards public education and social services. I think that the recession allowed the people to agree on an income tax. Although it doesn't seem very fair considering only 3% of the state will actually be paying what the entire state voted on. Either way they would get beat right? But I guess they can better afford to pay a bit more. What I am more surprised about is that it only took a year for Oregon to approve of the tax increase after the petition last year.

The president's upcoming executive order

Since the proposal for the bipartisan commision did not pass in the Senate, President Obama will be addressing the national debt and his idea of utilizing executive order in his State of Union speech tommrow.

Evidently, Republicans who disapprove of tax increases and the Democrats who dislike cutting spending in Medicaid and Medicare managed to get 46 votes against the commission. As we know, Senate needs at least 60 votes in order for it to pass. According to the article, President Obama's idea is to "reduce annual budget deficits and slow the growth of the national debt". Many are outraged at his decision to cut Medicaid and Medicare spending but not cut defense spending. I'm a bit aggrivated at that too but its either one or the other. People are really in need of medical assistance now with unemployment and people want to be secure at least in their own country with all the plane bombings and terrorist attacks that have been occuring. What would you give up? I don't really know at this point.

The Congressional Budget Office stated that the deficit of this year would be $1.3 trillion which is apparently better than last year. (ends Sept 30th) This $1.3 trillion equals about 9.2 percent of gross domestic product. Ouch! They believe that the unemployment rate in 2012 will be a little under nine percent. At least its an improvement...and when you think about it, even one percent indicates that a million more Americans have found jobs!

The budget office estimates that the high deficits may accumulate over the years to 2020 where it will equal the nation's economic output! Thats a bit scary. They also state that intrest payments "will more than triple in dollar terms over the decade." ($207 billion this year => $723 billion in 2020)

"The public's belief that spending is out of control is undercutting Mr.Obama's support, polls show." Is spending out of control? Hasn't President Obama been trying to cut down on spending this whole time? Why does the public believe this? I mean I use to believe this when George W Bush was president but not now with how President Obama seems to be addressing the issues.

Later this week will be a vote to increase the $12 trillion debt limit. I know its needed in order to borrow more money but I don't like how they are increasing it.

"Other Congressional Republican leaders have openly indicated they would refuse to serve on a commission, especially one that Mr.Obama creates" Really now? Our country is in a 12 trillion in debt and they won't cooperate with the president simply because of whatever their reasons are. I am almost completely sure that none of those reasons are even legitamate. I wish they would just get over the whole party, racial and other differences to actually figure out a good solution to the problem than fight over next election seats! I, for one, would defintely support and respect a person in Congress who votes for the good of the nation than to keep his seat!

UN: 27 million people became unemployed in 2009

The U.N. labor agency, the International Labor Organization (ILO), said in an 82-page report that 27 million people lost their jobs worldwide in 2009 and also warned of jobless recovery. They issued this report on the first day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where 2,500 business and political leaders will spend five days debating financial reforms, job creation strategies and other key elements of economic recovery.

Of the 27 million, nearly 12 million of the newly unemployed people were in North America, Japan and Western Europe, while the jobless number jumped by nearly four million in both Eastern Europe and Latin America. However, the unemployment rates in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East remained more stable during 2009.

The ILO said it expected unemployment to remain high through 2010, with perhaps an additional 3 million people in the rich world losing their jobs or unable to find employment as they enter the job market.

To address the high unemployment, the ILO wants governments to adopt a two-pronged approach of employment creation and better unemployment benefits, even if the latter may prove a disincentive for some people looking for jobs.

While the global unemploymnet rate was 6.6% last year, the figures that are even more alarming are over 600 million workers and their families were surviving on less than $1.25 a day and another 200 million were hovering just above the international poverty line.

So even though many Americans are worrying about their financial problems, many have it way better off than those in third world countries and should be glad that they live in the U.S. Hopefully the World Economic Forum brings many new ideas and reforms to the table to help out with unemployment.

Toyota Halts Sales of Eight U.S. Models After Recall

Today, Toyota announced that it will temporarily stop building and selling 8 of its models in the American market. The reason for this is because of a gas/accelerator pedal flaw that could wear down and become difficult to depress, slow to spring back or get stuck partly depressed and cause the vehicle to unintentionally speed up. Although the Toyota has described this as a "rare" condition, their reputation is taking more hits as they have had 2 recalls of millions of vehicles in the past 2 months.

The production and selling that will be stopped of the 8 models are: Camry, Corolla and Avalon sedans, Matrix wagon, RAV4 crossover, Tundra pickup, and Highlander and Sequoia sport utility vehicles. All of these are assembled in 5 plants in the U.S. and Canada. The models affected accounted for 57% of Toyota’s American total for 2009.

Although the halting of these models by Toyota is their way of restoring confidence in their name, it might have an adverse effect on consumers. Already because of the recession, the auto industry has suffered in sales, but the new actions being taken by Toyota will likely decrease their sales even more. People who own the cars being recalled will probably have the gas pedal issue in their mind every time they and/or someone they know drive those models. In the news recently, there have been stories of people who have died due to the gas pedal getting stuck and cars crashing because the drivers lose control of them.

Toyota advises drivers who experience or have experienced such a problem to depress the brake firmly and steadily, and then contact a dealer after the vehicle is in a safe location and turned off. However, drivers who have not experienced this problem are advised to wait until Toyota comes up with a remedy before visiting a dealer.

While this might not be good news for Toyota, at least they had the decency to do the right thing. The government did not force them to recall/stop the production of their vehicles with potential issues, they did it willingly. A question of mine that the article does not go into is if the workers in the plants will get paid until Toyota finds a solution and reopens the plants?
Do you guys think this was a good or bad move for Toyota and are you worried if you drive one of these models?

Phone Tapping WITHIN The Government??

Four mid-20's men were arrested on Monday January 25th for attempting to tap into Senator Mary Landrieu's telephone line. Luckily (at least for Landrieu), US Marhsals captured the 4 individuals before they could do any harm. The 4 individuals who will not be named in this commentary (but can be found at the embedded link in title if you're really that interested), were released on a $10,000 bail.

Apparently the 4 individuals had posed as constructions workers there to test out the telephone equipment and claimed that, after calling their cell phones from the landlines within the office, the landlines were faulty and asked for access to the mainframe. The 4 were able to capture video while inside Landrieu's office that were used to embarass but won praises from others. Many criticized their actions while "conservatives praised him as catching many news organizations asleep on a major story."

Although this is attempt to possibly spy on the government at what levels we won't know yet, it brings up many worries about where technology is going these days as well as people's intentions. It started out with the Bush administration trying to eavesdrop on suspecting individuals who mentioned words within their conversations that triggered a tripwire for their phone call to be monitored by authorities. Now it's outsiders trying to eavesdrop on the government. Where technology and people's minds will take us next, who knows....

What will you pay for better security?

On Tuesday, a report was released from the state comptroller's office that there is not enough funding in order for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to go through with their plan of upgrading their security. This New York City Transit has been seen as a potential target for terrorism like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. MTA had earlier pledged to enact the proper security measures after the terrorism attack on 9/11.

All this commotion started with a defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, who sued the company last year. He argued that the company delayed the project and did not allow him to access the facilities. Authority stated that the contractor created faulty technology that couldn't pass the basic requirements.

Apparently they had $59 million (I believe its actually $591 million as stated later in the article) to work with in capital funding but they needed $833 million to undergo all the necessary renervations. They want to implement a electronic security system for all modes of transportation. So far, they have only covered the Long Island Rail Road, bridges and tunnels. Due to the money issues, these systems for the subway and bus system has been delayed.

Originally, they planned to create a survalliance that would detect abandoned packages left around. They still plan to implement this but authority board member, Norman Seabrook, believes even with this system, the guard layoffs and service cuts will not allow them to react fast enough to a potential danger.

Overall, I love their idea. Its good that they are trying to make all the necessary arrangements to protect people but an electronic system? Won't that be really easy to shut off? Its like the movies, bang and the camera is out. Another alternative is to hire more people with the money they have than put an expensive electronic system in! Well either way I am not really sure it will work. I am not really sure about the issue involving the contractor. I think the authority and him should have actually talked it over if the authorities though he wasn't doing the job as they wanted than not let him access into some facilities. I'm also guessing that places such as the New York Transit system is normally crowded. If thats the case, then how will the system be improved if the cameras can't reach the right angles to catch someone in the act? I dont know about you but I still believe hireing more workers to look out for suspicous people or packages seems like a better alternative. First of all, they can blend with the crowd and have badges just in case to show their authority. Second, it will cover all the blind spots of the cameras. Third, it will allow for those people who just got recently laid off to find at least a part time job. (I don't recommend hiring a person to work for twelve hours just because it won't complicate things with too many people) What do you guys think of my idea? Do you believe there are some better alternatives that both saves money, doesn't go over budget and opens up more jobs?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Helping the Middle Class

With the State of the Union address approaching, Obama is targeting the middle class in order to help ease the consequences of the recession. Obama sees lowering our national deficit, creating jobs, and changing the way Washington works as the three necessities to aiding the struggling middle class. Obama's appeal to the middle class seems to be at the right time after the struggles with healthcare and the election of a Republican Senator in Massachussets has brought criticism of the Democrats. The administration finds job creation a priority and has successfully created approximately 2 million jobs, but unfortunately the recession took 7 million, so there is still room for improvement. It will be interesting to see on Wednesday what Obama's goals for this coming year are, and what he deems as important for our country. I'm sure there will be plenty of blog posts about that.

Kill your parents = No Chores for the rest of your life!!

That makes sense right? Pretty sensible. Scary.
A fourteen year old boy was arrested for killing his parents back in October. He has now pleaded guilty and stated that he didnt want to take out the trash. Apparently he was "sick of it". So the boy took the gun and shot his mom first. Then he hid in the closet until his stepfather came home and he fired several times. People said that he was happy on that day- probably because he didn't have to do his chores anymore.

There is a picture of the boy on the video. He looks pretty normal and innocent. Appearances are decieving.

Heres the link to the youtube video.

So NRA, (national rifle association) how will you fight against this one if it was brought to the court by an intrest group? These things are happening so often now and really makes you think whether having a gun was intended for protection or for killing. Evidently times have changed and I am definetly backing up the "Evolutionists" on this one. If one doesn't apply today's values and situations to the Constitution, how are situations like these going to be avoided? The kid acted due to stupidity and definitely was not thinking of the consequences. As the man in the video stated, it would have been alot harder for the kid to take a knife and try to kill his parents that way then a simple bullet to the head.

Oh also, the boy was tried as an adult. Due to his age, the Court will not be issuing a death penalty.

Airliner carrying 90 people crashes off Beirut

Shortly after takeoff this morning, an Ethiopian Airlines plane with 90 passengers suddenly caught on fire and crashed into the Mediterranean sea. The airliner was taking off from Beirut, Lebanon, and was scheduled to land in Addis Ababa, capitol of Ethiopia.

No survivors have been found yet, but emergency workers have recovered 21 bodies although their initial report stated that they found 34 bodies.

Since last night, Lebanon had been experiencing terrible weather such as pouring rain along with thunder and a lot of lightning. Many suspect that the fire was caused by lightning bolts that may have struck the plane earlier that morning or the night before.

A relative of one of the passengers told a local television, "They should have delayed the flight for an hour or two to protect the passengers. There had been strong lightning bolts and we hear that lighting strikes at planes especially during take-offs".

The cause of the crash is still a mystery, and Lebanese President Michael Suleiman is ruling out terrorism, for now.

I don't know about all of you guys but with all these recent reports about plane crashes and whatnot I'm pretty scared about my next trip that I take by airplane.. but oh well. I hope that the emergency workers are able to recover more bodies soon so that the families of the passengers may have closure.

Right. Just What We Need.

Obama is calling for a Federal Budget freeze in 2011. He is planning on using his State of the Union address to push for his plan across with Congress. The Obama administration is claiming that "If Congress follows suit, taxpayers will save $250 billion over 10 years. That figure reflects what would be spent without a freeze on "non-security" programs."

Obama's administration is already suspecting that they will get opposition to their plan "among some on Capitol Hill". The only exempted spendings are "$663 billion for defense, $56 billion for veterans, $43 billion for homeland security, and $53 billion for foreign aid." This all seems like a lot of federal money to be spending, but officials claim that it is only a small step toward a big change in the US economy.

This could be viewed as bad and good in different ways. 1, this will definitely get America to realize which programs and departments are essential to the survival of the nation and which ones we take for granted. 2, it's about time we cut Federal spending and reduce unecessary spending. On the bad side, it may result in execess money that may be spent elsewhere unecessarily rather than actually trying to recover from our economic crisis currently.

On a good note though, "The officials said Obama will seek increases in some spending on unspecified priorities such as education and the environment." Could California somehow get a large portion of that for helping other states? hmmm...

Update on Haiti : Experts question what’s best for Haiti’s orphans

A quick update on the Haiti situation:
The devastating earthquake has left 1 out of every 9 Haitians without shelter, and there is an immediate need for 100,000 tents. Today, Haiti's government requested $3 billion to rebuild (which may take up to at least 10 years to complete). The main focus in Haiti is no longer attempting to find survivors buried under the mess, but to recover and rebuild.

Also, many experts and leaders of Haiti are worried about the steps that should be taken to deal with the great number of orphans found during the aftermath of the quake. They are worried about possible exploitation of these orphans. UNICEF said that they are in the process of investigating reports of children, separated from their families, being sold for labor and/or sex.

However, UNICEF does not encourage the adoption of these orphans by American families. Since the quake, around 360 adoptions by American families have taken place. The agency has long questioned whether international adoption is the right option because of issues such as child trafficking, fraud, and abuse. Also, members of the agency stated that it would be best for the children of Haiti to stay in their homeland but with proper care and provisions provided by experts and social workers that may come from different countries such as the US.

Although UNICEF and many other people may believe that international adoption isn't the best solution to these types of problems, I think that if a orphan has the opportunity to be adopted by a well-off, loving & caring family, then that would be great and in the best interest of the orphan. Maybe adoption agencies can find a way to place stricter policies and regulations on monitoring the child after his/her adoption, in an attempt to prevent the problems stated above, like trafficking and abuse.

Super Bowl XLIV in Miami Set for February 7, 2010

The Indianapolis Colts will face the New Orleans Saints in the first Super Bowl featuring two No. 1 seeds since 1993. The Saints started off the season 13-0 and the Colts 14-0, both were unable to match the 1972 Miami Dolphins with undefeated seasons.

On Sunday, Payton Manning and the Colts scored 24 unanswered points against the New Jersey Jets and rookie QB from USC Mark Sanchez, winning 30-17. The Saints game against the Minnesota Vikings, led by their 40 year old QB, Brett Favre, proved to be way more interesting.
In the end, Garret Hartley's clutch 40 yard field goal sealed the win, 31-28, in a game that went back and forth along with some controversial calls and plays.

An expansion team, this will be the Saints first trip to the Super Bowl. For the Colts, it will be their second in 4 years, after winning in 2006. No doubt, a win for New Orleans would mean so much to the fans and the city having been ravished by Hurricane Katrina.

If you haven't watched one game this season, the Super Bowl is a can't miss, even if a relatively high percentage of people only watch for commercials that companies pay big bucks for. The impressive offenses of these two teams are expected to make for an interesting game.

Since the Patriots are out, I will be rooting for the Saints, just because I think it'll be good for the morale of the city and plus Peyton Manning's already got a ring, MVP trophies, and about a billion other accolades. Who do you guys think will win and who are you rooting for?

Boy, 7, raises $200,000 for Haiti

A 7 year old boy from London, England has raised nearly $200,000 (£120,000+) for UNICEF's Haiti Earthquake Children's Appeal by biking 5 miles around his local park. He had originally aimed for only £500, but with the media attention that his generosity has received, that sum has vastly multiplied. Even the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown caught wind and helped spread the word.

"My name is Charlie Simpson. I want to do a sponsored bike ride for Haiti because there was a big earthquake and loads of people have lost their lives," said Simpson on his JustGiving page, a fundraising site which launched his efforts.

"I want to make some money to buy food, water and tents for everyone in Haiti," he said.

The money that Charlie has raised will go to providing water, food, education, and other necessities that children of Haiti are lacking right now.

This article caught my attention because it's amazing how much money this young boy raised through something as simple as riding his bike around a park. The devastation in Haiti is overwhelming, any amount of money can help, no matter how much. If you, or your parents haven't donated already, it isn't too late, Haiti will be needing help for months and years to come to rebuild. Also, I have heard about "Hope for Haiti" wristbands being sold around Aragon, go get one!

A Hopeless Cry For Help

California has long been a prosperous and the place people go for booming businesses (Google, HP, Apple, Yahoo, Youtube, Facebook (maybe not so much "business"), MySpace... and the list goes on..). But it has recently been discovered that CA may have been taken advantage of by other states due to such a successful economoy. So much so that their "mooching" (coupled with the fact that the Governer has done nothing to stop it) has caused us to slip into a budget deficit that can't be cured by the Federal government, says Michael Hiltzik. Much of this conclusion is drawn from the fact that "we pay more in federal taxes than we get back in federal spending."

Gov. Schwarzenegger claims "that the state receives only 78 cents back for every dollar of federal tax we generate, so somehow we're "subsidizing" the states that get more and incurring red ink in Sacramento in the process.". This is based on the Federal Tax figures from the Fiscal Year of 2005, so in some ways Schwarzenegger's claims are outdated and are not even close to current; especially since the economy has had its short rises and many falls in the last few years.

Bill Ahern, the director of policy at the Tax Foundation said that there are 2 main reasons why some states get more back in federal money than others. The first reason is "the progressive structure of federal tax" and the second reason is "the huge share of federal spending that goes to the poor, elderly and infirm". So in other words, the 2 reasons why are that our taxes never go down, it keeps going up.... and that we spend too much of the federal tax money on the elderly. So what if some old people die right? All that matters is the current generation right? Because we will never die, and just keep enjoying the tax breaks and lavish life that we've always dreamed of right? I mean come on. The federal government is not that bad.

Look back at the Great Depression and FDR's New Deal programs. Wasn't it the Federal government that bailed us out of one of the biggest economic crises in the last century? Okay, it didn't create the BEST living conditions and things could've been better (right?). I still think that the Federal government shouldn't be the only one to take the blame when things go wrong at a national level. Things are never that black and white, especially when it comes to budget crises.

Just great. Another Oil Spill...

The link (title) will bring you to a youtube video about the Texas oil spill that happened on January 23, 2010. This shipping accident dumped over 450,000-500,000 gallons of oil into Port Arthur's coast!!! (according to the US coast guard - so it could be more) At 9:30 that morning, the 600 foot Eagle Otome ship was struck by two barges that were being towed by a tug boat.

There are currently investigations going on. The Coast Guard stated that they will do drug and alcohol testing to everyone who was on board. Water tanks, sensitive wildlife and other places are being checked for oil leakage into those areas. They are also mapping where the oil will move with the tide.

Arghhhhh. It just irritates me that these things happen whether they are by accident or not. Oil spills and such kills thousands of animals every year and nothing really is being done to prevent it like maybe call out all smaller ships to move away before the ship enters. Even with the drug and alcohol testing, can they really pin blame onto someone to pay for the damages? Anyway, there is no way to pay for the damages. I just hope the Coast Guards can work efficently in trapping as much oil as they can before it reaches other habitats because thats ALOT of oil. What do you guys think? What can we do to prevent things like this from happening or at least make it less frequent?

Bloomberg's Decision to Close Schools

In Bronx, New York, Mayor R. Bloomberg has decided to close down large schools due to their "long history of sustained academic failure" and "chronically poor performance and low demand" according to Santiago Taveras, the deputy chancellor. The article attributes the closure to be a result of the Obama administration's "school turnaround"policies in its nationwide competition: Race to the Top. This could get the school system billions of dollars in federal education grants. So far the city has closed over 91 schools and replaced them with smaller or charter schools. The mayor said that his goal is to close down the lowest performing ten percent of city schools to beat the state of Washington's goal of five percent. States get 4 billion dollars for their effective turnaround plans with the additional 3.5 billion to finance school transformations and closures.

Parents are outraged over the mayor's decision to act without their input. Yet the city's Education Department states that the closing the larger schools have been a success. These smaller schools have an "average graduation rate of 75 percent" which is far above the replaced schools' percentages. Apparently, the replaced school's had over 40% of their students get a D on their last report card.

Sure, less kids means more time teachers can spend with students. However, the graduation rates grew significantly not because the staff was replaced but that there are now less students per school. Although I agree with Bloomberg's motives, I can't say I respect him for not asking for his city's input first. I mean where does all this money to replace schools come from? Some small schools are even being forced to share old buildings together. It seems more like hes splitting the larger schools. Even with these statistics, can we really say that smaller schools are potentially better than larger ones? What do you guys think of this? How would you like Aragon to be split into four different schools? Why not just hire more teachers and staff to properly control larger schools than remake them completely? Aren't we just wasting money on closing and then rebuilding schools?

Actually, I am more outraged over how they decided to just close down schools ENTIRELY and opening new schools the next year. This means that the students were held back a year. ;( Well, they get a year off. Who is going to complain? (with the exception of adults who have to deal with their kids) ;)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bay Area Sports

As many of you know, I'm a very big hockey activist. When trying to think of a nonpolitical topic to blog on of course hockey came to mind. With recent disappointments in Bay Area sports, I believe hockey and the San Jose Sharks are our only hope. With the Giants and Athletics both missing the playoffs, along with the Niners and Raiders, who can we look to for constant entertainment? The Warriors are constantly playing very interesting games, but are inconsistent and still don't make the playoffs. The Sharks, however, have consistently made the playoffs the last few seasons and despite postseason heartbreak, look even closer to winning the Stanley Cup (NHL Championship). I know baseball, basketball, and football all have their appeals to different people, but I believe hockey's hard hitting and fast paced game provides for great entertainment for any sports fans. Give it a try.

Footballers and their Tweeting

On a less serious note, i was personally interested in this article because it pertains to professional football, or soccer, players throughout the world who account their experiences on Twitter. This article explains of many pro-soccer players like Steven Gerrard, Didier Drogba, Darren Bent, Cristiano Ronaldo, and many more having Twitters and funny stories that come out of them.
Most of these stories are explaining how players release private club information, which is obviously stupid and a threat to their clubs privacy.
In some cases such as Darren Bent, an England international, he Tweets with fans for their questions and even debating in some banter throughout his messages. He says he Tweets around 50 times a day but really has to be careful of what he releases.
I think it is hysterical how these new craves are handled by professional soccer players. But im sure soccer doesn't have the only athletes that create controversy through these new sites.

Obama losing popularity?

Recently a poll was taken on the popularity of Obama's recent stimulus plan for our economy.
With a 56% opposition against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, result show it seems that tides are turning against our current president. With a 54% support and a 44% opposition to the act just in March, we can easily see a decrease in approval towards Obama's agenda.
The article has the full survey and results taken by the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation.
It is a natural trend for President's approval ratings to generally decrease gradually throughout ones presidency as we have learned in government class. As we all hope, Obama's agenda does not turn for the worst and that he is actually able to better our country but can this be the start of his downfall? Are there any other results of his success or failure in his agenda?

The Iphone to the resuce

Dan Woolley was recently able to survive through being trapped in the aftermath of a Haiti earthquake by following his Iphone. Woolley works for a childs christian advocacy program called Compassion International and was in Haiti recording the poverty currently in Haiti.
He was trapped in Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince in an elevator and was severely wounded from the earthquake.
He was able to use an Iphone app called "Pocket First Aid & CPR" from Jive Media. This taught him how to cut circulation from severe blood lost and even learned how to deal from experiencing shock, which was to not sleep(He used his Iphone as an alarm clock to make sure of that too). After being trapped for 60 hours, Woolley survived and was able to go back to his family in Colorado Springs.
It is truly amazing how some survive through the tragedies of Haiti and good to read about how useful new technology can be.

Deficit Commission?

Obama is supporting a Senate proposal which would create an eighteen member bipartisan deficit commission who's task it is to propose a plan to gradually reduce our national debt. This commission is opposed by many Republican's, but Obama is prepared to issue an executive order creating a similar commission if necessary. I feel that this commission is necessary to start the initiative to lower our national debt. I believe the Republicans will find it more convenient to pass the Senate bill rather than forcing the President to issue an executive order. I believe with the right bipartisan commission, our government can effectively formulate ideas on how to lower our national debt over the next few years. The vote on this commission is scheduled for Tuesday, so if it does not pass, Obama might introduce his new commission in his State of the Union address on Monday.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Healthcare Race

With the recent Massachussetts Senatorial race going to a Republican, there is a concern with the passage of healthcare legislation. Obama is still optimistic despite this recent set back and believes we should continue to work on passing the legislation. With the Clinton healthcare not passing because of over-agression by the executive, the Obama administration needs to be wary of trying to be too agressive in passing legislation. However, persistance will be necessary to overcome this new obstacle. It will be a tough battle to get healthcare, but the effects of it will be worth it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Daily Show v. Olbermann

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I agree with Stewart that Olbermann's early years were far less bitter and ridiculous. The "One thousand, one-hundred and thirteenth day since "Mission Accomplished in Iraq" bit, day after day, was very effective as well as an essential truth. Now, he's a clown. What a shame. He was one of the all-time greatest sports anchors, bringing wit and savvy analysis as one of the pioneering SportCenter crew.

Glorifying Drugs=Prison Sentence

Looks like the Mexican Government has had enough. Like many adults in the US, the Mexican government believes the songs about drugs and drug trafficking are corrupting the minds of today's youth. The Mexican Government, however, are taking things one step further. The Party in power has proposed a bill that would send anyone who sings about drug trafficking to jail for a minimum of three years. These drug ballads, or narcocorridos, have pushed government officials over the limit. Says party lawmaker Oscar Martin, "We cannot accept it as normal..." bill comes after Mexican President Felipe Calderon issued more drug raids in an attempt to bring down drug cartels.

Martin is right. Since when did killing people and selling drugs become objects worthy of praise? I don't just mean in Mexico, but in the whole world. Since we've started the chapter on Civil Liberties, I thought this might go along well with the unit because, if this were in the US, this would immediately be chalked up as a violation of the First Amendment's freedom of speech clause. I guess it's different in Mexico. Still, this style of music (which I've linked to the first paragraph) is very popular, so getting rid of it will only make things worse. That's how it usually works: we want the things we can't, or shouldn't, have.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

China teen seen as hero

Li Shiming was assassinated by 19-year-old Zhang Xuping who confessed to the murder. Xuping was seen as a hero by many people. The people who saw him as a hero had previously been harassed by Shiming and nearly twenty-one-thousand people petitioned for leniency towards Xuping. Shiming was stabbed in the heart and was able to get in his car but died before reaching the hospital. Xuping apologized to Shiming's family, but the eldest son rejected the apology and hoped that Xuping would be sentenced to death by a firing squad. Everybody that tried to resist Shiming would either be detained or jailed. The villagers stated that he was evil and several even said that they wanted to kill him personally. The death penalty was handed down and an appeal was filed. I think killing someone is wrong but Shiming was abusing the power he had and nobody would stop him until Xuping came along. The villagers on the other hand saw it as Shiming got what he deserved. Many people might say that those who are "unstoppable" with power usually lean towards the idea of killing the person, but I highly doubt they see themselves actually being the one's doing it.

One Year Report

It has really been a year since Obama has taken oath into office. He began his presidency with a country in as bad a crisis since Franklin D. Roosevelt's terms in office. He has had to focus on areas such as the economy, foreign issues such as Iraq and Pakistan, and of course the problem of funding and developing a bipartisan universal health care plan.
He has had his critics in the past year. The critics of the right always saying he is bringing too much change and even ones from the left who demand more out of Obama. Many believe he has lost touch with the Americans due to the fact he has been listening to the people inside his office more recently than those of the public.
"There's a culture in this town, which is an insider culture. That's what I think people outside of Washington legitimately can't stand — a sense that they're not being heard. I think we've done actually a pretty good job of working in this town without being completely consumed by it. But from the outside, if you're just watching TV, and all you're hearing about is the reports, people may get the false impression that somehow [the insiders] are the folks we're spending more time listening to."
People have been questioning his attempts of listening to the people because of the fact he has been spending as much time overseas compared toworking on domestic issues.
I personally believe it the critics that have a bias to complain about the issues they care about most to Obama. Right now those who demand universal health care are criticizing Obama. But really Obama can only do so much at once. He has been a busy president by already attending to the financial and debt crisis by presenting a stimulus package and reviving the predator banks which were a main cause of the recession. He also dealt with Al-queda by increasing troop sizes and regulating Pakistan borders which has been another great achievement.
I just see Obama as a president that is tackling each issue one at a time, which can only be expected.
what are your thoughts on his first year of presidency?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Possible Bank Regulations

The new Obama banking regulations being discussed will possibly limit the size of banks and what banks are allowed to do. After this past recession, the government has been forced to look into a way to prevent future banks from failing and bringing down the economic infrastructure. The specifics of these new limits are not released, but the basics are that many of the big banks might be forced to break with their investing banking units and also stop certain activities such as real estate and hedge funds. This new regulation calls into question how much our government should be involved in regulating our economy. This new regulation seems pretty strong and might be too extreme and could possibly hurt the banks by breaking them up. Although letting these banks go without strong regulations might also be a mistake.

Anti-Obesity Initiative

Michelle Obama brought the issue of obesity to the forefront in front of a meeting of the U.S. Mayors today. She called upon our country's mayor's to lead an initiative to help decrease the amount of obesity in our country.

Obesity is growing in America with the consequences including heart disease and many other fatal problems. The question is how do we deal with this growing problem. With fast food and other unhealthy foods so readily available, how do we encourage people to eat healthier. With information just a click away, what will encourage people to stay active and enjoy exercising. This article cited Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City who made an initiative to have his city lose a million pounds. He started a website to log weight loss and they have so far lost half of their goal, including Cornett's forty pound loss. It is sad to think that our government has to be the one to encourage us to be healthy and active in order to resist the growing obesity rate in America. With advances in technology, so much more is easily achieved with less effort. Despite these advances, we still need to treat our bodies properly and give it proper nutrition and exercise. I hope this post will bring attention to this issue that is sometimes left untouched. Obesity can be dangerous, but can be helped by little changes in everyday activities. I hope that we will take advantage of our technological resources and will stay active as well and hopefully bring down our national obesity rate so that we are no longer labeled "fat Americans."

El Nino

As i heard intense hail on my roof, i read this article about the crazy storms in California in the recent week.
Due to "a warm ocean current from the South Pacific" there have been unusually massive storms throughout the coast of California.
Los Angeles residents have even been urged to leave their houses due to flooding and tornado warnings. Yea tornadoes. My brother, who is at school at Irvine, told my family there was a tornado in Irvine yesterday which is pretty crazy.

i mean some people enjoy these storms for the intense amounts of snow in Tahoe but they are getting to be dangerous, which is never good. It just shows we are experiencing a "strengthening El Nino"

Put that phone away

A family was on a recent show on Oprah that lost their daughter to a driver who was carelessly driving and talking on her phone.

This article just emphasizes the consequences of not paying attention on the road. The Forney family lost their oldest daughter of 13 years of age to a careless driver who was using her phone and "didn't see her". The driver was given a fine of 300 dollars, two years probation, and 150 hours of community service, which i dont see as enough as compensation for a daughter.

This happened in Colorado where phones are still legally allowed while driving and this Oprah show just emphasizes the need to change the law in the remaining states.

So just text that special someone when you are done with that five minute drive instead of during. It is a law in our state for a reason!

References to Biblical Passages on US Guns in Iraq and Afghanistan

Literally, the guns of Jesus. It turns out that the gun sight supplier, Trijicon, has encoded references to the New Testament on US Military sights being used in Iraq and Afghanistan. To the civilians in these countries, this undermines the credibility of the US's statement: the US is not at war with Islam, and never will be. The rifles with these sights are being referred to by some soldiers as "Jesus Rifles".

This has created a lot of controversy. Some Christians are proud of this, others are, I'm sure, offended. Soldiers in these countries are forbidden to proselytize, and this seems to undermine that. The order is actually referred to as "Order #1". The US Military's Religious Freedom Foundation is outraged saying that many of the soldiers are disgusted, and that it allows the enemies our soldiers are fighting to claim that this is a "crusade" of sorts against Islam.

Well, yes, this annoys me, and I think most people would be offended. This, to me, seems like an undermining of the separation of church and state. I am proud to say, however, that I am not a crazy conspiracy theorist that thinks this is evidence for an actual "crusade". I think it likely that the government's plea of ignorance is true. Whether or not I agree with current wars abroad, this undermines them. In Iraq and Afghanistan this information will probably be used as propaganda for the US's opponent's cause. I hope that the Biblical references on these scopes will be removed soon.

New electronic cigarette

A new "smokeless cigarette." This product gives those who smoke a chance to quit smoking with attacking the phycological addiction as well as the health issues. It looks just like a cigarette in almost every way except that it doesn't contain the tar, ash, CO2, flame, and smell that you would find in any cigarette. The e-cigarette doesn't contain all these things as well as some others, but it still contains the nicotine to give smokers their fix of the drug. It will also help with the issue of second hand smoke around other people. The e-cigarette is also legal to "smoke" indoors like restaurants and stores. It doesn't burn tobacco, instead it has a built in vaporizer that produces the "smoke," and they also come in different flavors. Not only is it safer but it is also economical, all you need to do is charge it. If this trend continues, it may be possible to use similar products in rehab to help patients deal with their addictions on other drugs. Overall I think the e-cigarette was an amazing invention to help combat the addictions of nicotine, and I believe it will help save the lives of many people. The only thing I see as an upcoming issue is someone having the manufacturer decrease the battery life of the cigarette so people will have to buy more, and taxes might be raised on it as well (just like regular cigarettes).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Knowledge isn't Free

This article, embedded in the title, talks about the upcoming application deadline for a federal educational grant program called "Race to the Top." This program offers money to states' educational system for innovative teaching and more rigid test standards. Although this could potentially bring in as much as $700 million to some states' educational budget, many districts in California as well as Florida have declined the money because of the federal guidelines. One of the major issues in the federal guidelines is a teacher evaluation program in which a teacher may be fired if he or she is not teaching at certain standards.

In regards to California education, I believe some of this money could be useful to our education. With teacher and program cuts in our district some money could be beneficial instead of taking more of our parents' money via the Fair Share program. However, I would find it hard to be able to just take the money and let many good teachers be fired just because their students can not uphold certain standards that the teacher would then be held responsible for. I'm not really arguing for an "Educational Bailout", but some money for the states' educational programs would be much appreciated. Maybe we should create a better program since many states are having issues with this one.

Biased Statistics

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Here is a video I came across while I was sick this weekend catching up on the Daily Show. As an AP Statistics and Government student, I have been warned twice as much to avoid biased statistics and to be skeptical of the sources. This video I'm sure you will find very interesting in this regard. This is just another reason to be skeptical of what you view on television.