Sunday, February 28, 2010

Google Sentanced to Jail in Italy

Three Google executives were sentenced to jail for six months because a video of a few students beating up a child with Down Syndrome was uploaded to Google Video. This case goes against the US and European Union's laws for holding companies responsible for content hosted online.

The End of Over-The-Air Television?

Economists are proposing that the government sell the right to broadcast on certain frequencies previously allocated to broadcast television. Not many people use over-the-air broadcast channels exclusively anymore, and television itself is losing popularity because of internet services that offer the same shows, but what about the poor? Some people opt out of purchasing cable or satellite because they cant afford it. These people would need to get their news and entertainment some other way. If this plan is implemented, it will be interesting to see which interest groups become involved in the legislation and now the stations affected by this change would react.

Chilian Death Toll

The 8.8 earthquake has left the world in shock. This has happened so soon after the Haiti earthquake. On February 28th the Chilean president Michelle Bachelet Stated that the death toll has reached 708 and was highly likely that as the search continued the toll would rise. With things continuing to decking it is hard to see hope for the people of Chile. People have put so much time and effort into helping Haiti do you think more people will help Chile? I hope that the answer is yes. I believe the more we help others if something happens to us that people will feel the need to help.

5 tax breaks you should look at...especially the one that deals with us college students

Filling out taxes...we know how that feels. Actually, most of us don't because we have our parents to fill out those long and boring paperwork.

However, what we students should keep in mind as our parents are filling out the taxes, is how we can save under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus bill).

One tax break that we are interested in is: college tuitions. "The IRS is offering the American Opportunity credit, which can be claimed for 2009 or 2010 college tuition, text books and even computers.

The credit temporarily replaces the existing Hope Credit in order to help more taxpayers, including people who don't owe tax and those with higher incomes. If you're a student and your income is $80,000 or less, you can qualify for a credit of up to $2,500 a year, an increase of $700 from the previous Hope Credit."

This is a great opportunity that students should take advantage of. The more help the better.

The other four tax breaks deal with homebuyers, energy savers, workers and car buyers. I just emphasized the college one because I believe it is the most relevant to us.

Let's just hope that there is more help coming our way guys!!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

This is not funny...i'm ashamed and shocked that this is still happening

Students were appalled to see a noose hanging in the University of California San Diego. Hundreds of students gathered around the chancellor's office. Chancellor Marye Fox "promised to get to the bottom of the 'dastardly crime.'"

"The demonstrators — some in tears, others hoarse from a week of yelling at race-related protests — were not pacified and later occupied a warren of offices next to the locked door of Fox’s personal suite for nearly six hours, starting about noon. Fox and her staff left the building.

About 150 students spread out over desks and floors. Some gave fiery speeches and sang protest songs, while also pleading for calm. Pizza and sandwiches were handed out between chants of, “Real pain, real action!”

This is truly untenable. I'm shocked that history is still repeating itself. We should know better. And that's what is sad: we still don't know. There are still people out there who are psychos. For crying out loud, we have one of the best presidents: OBAMA. And he is African American.

Why is still going on? When are some people going to learn?

One natural disaster after another

A 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Santiago, Chile, affecting more than two million people. It is estimated that 214 people were killed. The resulting tsunami was said to hit Hawaii. However, the tsunami wasn't as big as expected. THANK GOD! No more natural disasters please.

33 aftershocks were reported, including a 6.3 magnitude in Argentina. "The United States has resources positioned to assist if Chile requests help, President Obama said in a midafternoon address to the nation.Obama also warned residents in Hawaii and other areas that could be affected by a tsunami to heed safety instructions from state and local officials.A tsunami warning for Hawaii was lifted Saturday afternoon. Waves of 3 feet were recorded at the city of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, but were lower than expected, and no damage was reported."

After the incident in Haiti, many governments are becoming even more aware and responsive to warnings. Let's just hope that the people of Chile are safe.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Womb Lynching?

Georgia Right to Life has now adopted a new campaign strategy: convince minorities that they are under attack from groups like Planned Parenthood. Georgia Right to Life has been targeting minority schools and churches to try to persuade the largely black community of Atlanta that abortion is actually "genocide." Using evidence that states a large percentage of the number of abortions done in the country are on minority women, they try to make the claim that pro-choice groups are specifically enticing black women to get the procedure as part of a larger conspiracy against the black community of the United States. Unfortunately, their plan seems to be working. The articles quotes a sophomore from Atlanta who states that she was pro-choice until she saw Georgia Right to Life's film. Now, she says that she would keep her child, even if she does not want to, to fight against the conspiracy. If she were to get pregnant in high school, this girl states that she would keep the child to support the higher cause of protecting the black population of America against Genocide. She would have to support this child, while also trying do well in school, and one of the two responsibilities would suffer. Planned Parenthood was created to give women a second chance at living the life they want. If the pregnancy was planned, then the woman would have no reason to abort the child, and no pro-choice group would tell her to do so. It seems to me that all this talk of genocide by pro-life groups is created by the current pro-choice government. But really, would Obama actively try to kill off the African American community?

South Park Politics

An interesting interview with Trey and Matt. Vulgar language aside, if you are a fan of the show, this is worth a read.
h/t: Sullivan

Health Care Or No Care?

There are many different options about yesterdays health summit and people cant seem to agree on how long this will seem to take. As president Obama continues to work he is trying to find ways that will help the American public with the health care that they so desperately need. The new health care plan that Obama was talking about has many different sections and they each need different ways of making them happen. Some work right away some need negotiation and some may just be scraped .

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Really? A $1 million comic book...really?

A superman comic for a million dollars. Wow. That's a lot of money!!! The name of this comic book: Action Comics#1.

Well, now we know how scarcity plays into the system. But seriously, a million dollars...even though scarcity helps explain the price of the comic book, I think it's still out of whack. Buy a house for crying out loud and help the housing market. Buy a car, clothes, or food.

People spend waaaay too much money on wants/luxuries. Here is a look at the American Life people.

California will be travelling at the speed of light!!!...well...almost

The dream of traveling really fast won't be a dream for long. The 1st phase of the project is expected to be finished in 2020. The train will connect L.A. to SF and this bullet train will be exceed 220mph!!! Total time travel is only two and half hours, twice as fast as a car. The projected cost of a one-way ticket is $55. Not bad, I think. I would pay for that.

"Last month the state came one step closer to building this mammoth project when it won over $2 billion in stimulus money from the federal government. " However, on the downside the expected cost of building such a train is estimated to around $40-50 billion. Ouch!

Well, considering where California is with its budget, I think the dream will remain a dream. I'm not being pessimistic. I'm just being pragmatic.

For more information on how and where the money is expected to come from, click enclosed link.

If California raises enough money to start this project, that would be a bonus because we are looking at hundreds of people needed to help build the bullet train. JOBS JOBS JOBS!!!! Let's get the cycle flowing and this time, in the right direction.

All teachers fired at a Rhode Island School

We thought the San Mateo County was suffering. Look at this! ALL teachers were fired at a Central Falls High School with a 5-2 decision. The firing will be effective at the end of the school year. The decision was made when "the district said it failed to reach an agreement with the teachers' union on a plan for the teachers to spend more time with students to improve test scores."

Really? Firing all the teachers because of that just seems absurd. A total of 93 people were fired (inluding the principal).

This school is the lowest performing school in Rhode Island. But I believe that even that does not justify a complete shut down of the school. What will happen to the teachers? The students?

The government is trying its best to help reboot the economy but so far, with these problems on the side, I think that our government's efforts are just going to waste. We all need to do something. The state of Rhode Island should not have done that. But I guess with the budget cuts, it had no option. U.S. is at an impasse.

Killer Whales

I know this isn't really government of anything like that but I came across this article and I thought I would do a post on something that was interesting but not to many people have heard about.

With the death of sea world trainer Dawn Brancheau people are thinking more about wild life being kept in captivity. Even tho this animal was highly trained to work with its trainer it is still an animal with natural instincts. There is no real doubt that sea world has an effect on wild life and its conservation. People say that the orcas should live freely because of there massive size and should not be kept in captivity. If this is true then shouldnt all animals be free. I think that this was just an accident and that the orca is just an animal and things like this happen, yes it is tragic but it is true. What do you think about zoos and animal captivity? Do you think it may help animal or is it just for peoples intertainment? There is no doubt in my mind that with out some of these places that some animals would be extince. This in not the case in all places.

Gun Control Backlash Against.... What Exactly?

Without Obama acting upon his campaign promises of gun control policy, guns rights advocates are still acting as if they are under political attack. They are riding that political capital to get their legislation passed, and I don't see how any of this legislation is necessary. Does not being allowed buying more than one handgun a month violate our fundamental rights? Is there something innately wrong with not allowing firearms in bars? There is enough violence that happens in bars, and we don't need to add an idiot with a gun to that chaos.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bloom Energy Introduced

Today, the company that had been secretly working on a new fuel cell technology, Bloom Energy, introduced the first version of the product. It is a "future" product that will not be available for the next decade, but it is a look into what future energy might hold. Bloom was able to develope the new cell through investors that donated around $400 million. So far there have been no successful fuel cells that have caught on because most of them "kept costs high and shortened their longevity. One of the coolest things about the new fule cell is that it is made out of common materials like sand! "Small cells are stacked to make a larger device. As natural gas or another fuel psses over the cell and mixes with the oxygen from the air, a chemical reaction generates electricity." Because of this new technology, it is believed that the fuel cell will cut GHG emissions from electricity generation by 50%.

Is the new improvement in fuel cells what we need to start looking beyond fossil fuels? Maybe this will be an incentive for other large companies to invest in smaller green companies, such as Bloom. We need to take a serious look at where we are heading with our pollution and create a better option that will make sense, both environmentally and economically.

Apple Apps Are Explisit :/.........OH NO!!!!!!

This application is not in full use yet but there will be soon and application that will allow users of the apple iphone and ipod touch as well as being able to go online and downloading the app to last generations ipods. This change is allowing apple to creat an adult only section to there app store. After a number of complaints and having to take down over 5,000 applications for being overly sexual they have come up with the plan for and adults only section. This has come from conserned parents with children having the iphone and ipod touch and seeing them find content that is not ment for them. What do you think the apple application? do you think that people will like it of will these kids just click on the application anyway just to see what is there?

Student Loan Reform Bill in Trouble

The Senate stinks it up again. Although understandable, it is entirely frustrating. We need more democracy in the Senate (and less in California). Alas.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Would adopting a more liberal stance on immigration strengthen the Republican party?

I read a very interesting post on the Yglesias blog concerning conservative's views concerning immigration. The post quoted an article written by Ron Call, which essentially pointed out a "split" in the views of conservatives regarding immigration. On the one side, there are the conservatives against immigration at any cost, even likening illegal immigration to "an invasion." However, there is also the school of thought that conservatives should maybe favor a more "liberal" solution for illegal immigration, and pursue policies that would make it easier for immigrants to become part of American society. One of the only things keeping many Latino immigrants from voting with the Republican party is its stance on immigration. "Latinos actually share values that are staples of conservative campaigns...[t]hey're overwhelmingly Christian, pro-business, and oppose gay marriage and abortion rights." If the Republican party were to become more "pro-immigration," they could gain a very large (and rapidly growing) constituency.

Personally, I do not think that the Republican party will adopt a more flexible stance on immigration anytime soon. Honestly, there are too many Republicans in the immigrants=invasion boat. But if they were to do so, I think it would cause a considerable voter shift.

Value of the Olympics

In years past, Olympic games have been suspended during wartime, and countries participating in wars did not participate. During World War Two, the Olympics were suspended for twelve years. This year, the United States participated even though we have an ongoing "War on Terror."

If we consider this a war, then why are we still competing?

The media has exaggerated our presence in the country compared to past wars because of it's decreasing popularity. Our presence in Iraq isn't necessarily a war, it's an attempt at fixing a big mess we've created by overthrowing the government, which was arguably necessary. We're calling this a "War on Terror" to try to unite the country by making it seem like we have a clear mission in the Middle East, even though most of it is trying to convince ourselves and the rest of the world that we will remain global superpowers. The Olympics give countries a sense of patriotism and pride in a time that it's fairly obviously needed. People are losing faith in the government because of the failing economy, and are looking to find a new reason to love their country.

Misinformed Americans

Recently on his blog, Ezra Klein commented on the contrasting poll results on the popularity of the health-care plan. One graph stated that 52.1% did not approve of the plan, yet a different poll stated that for each main component of the bill at least 50% or more agreed on it. Why are the results so different? And why are Americans so misinformed when it comes to the health-care reform?

Klein commented, "if you actually tell people what's in the health-care reform bill, then it becomes quite popular." Why is it so hard for many of us to do the background information to make our own decisions. Many of us rely on our peers or role models to help come to a conclusion. Maybe it has to do with the fact that media is misleading us with the information they are giving us. Passing out polls that are not questioned correctly, or made clear can change the public view on a subject. One of the huge issues we have today as americans is making our own choices and not being influences by others. "The quality of information that the public has routine access to is simply too low"(Klein).

does anyone know how to edit a already published post?

ABC News to cut 300 job positions...wait don't do that. That's nowt what we want!!

Okay so the Senate passed a bill that will help the unemployed find jobs, but on the other end of the spectrum, ABC is cutting job positions. The effect=neutral.

With ABC cutting 20% of its staff, the economy is going anywhere. Beginning tomorrow, "the company will offer voluntary separation packages to all full-time non-union, non-contract employees."

The ABC president, David Weslin, wants to "eliminate redundancies wherever possible." I understand where the president is coming from but I think that right now he is making a bad decision. He is just feeding the fire while the govt is trying to do it's best to take out the fire.

With this said, the White House expects the unemployment rate to stand at 10% during 2010. Greeeeat...

What do you think about ABC's decision?

My opinion: not cool

Home prices are going down...again!!!

During the last three months of 2009, home prices fell 2.5%. Even though the crash isn't as bad as the one we experienced in the 2008-beginning of 2009. According to a Yale economist, Robert Shiller, "Prices fell 11% between November 2008 and April 2009, and then rose 8% in the subsequent six months."

We can definitely say that the housing market is getting better. But I think it's too early to say that the real estate is back on its game. Houses that were once worth a million dollars are now not nearly as much.

From where I see it, the economy is getting better. The results aren't as evident but they are leaving their mark.

What do you guys think? Do you think the economy will be better by the end of this year or maybe even earlier? Let's just hope it gets back to normal soon because the Republicans didn't look so happy when Obama suggested "freezing govt spending" in his State of the Union Address.

Obama supports repeal of health insurance antitrust exemption

I thought this might be relevant to those of us in Econ, because it deals with antitrust laws. Basically, the health insurance industry is exempt from some of the antitrust regulations. This exemption has been in place since the end of World War II. It was instated in order to allow new competition in the health care industry and lower consumer costs.

The health care bill passed in the House would have repealed this, but the one in the Senate would not have.

Today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said:

"At its core, health reform is all about ensuring that American families and businesses have more choices, benefit from more competition and have greater control over their own health care," Gibbs said.

"Repealing this exemption is an important part of that effort. Today, there are no rules outlawing bid rigging, price fixing and other insurance company practices that will drive up health care costs and often drive up their own profits as well."

Advocates of the repeal argue that the current exemption has allowed health care companies to divide the country into "local monopolies"

Opponents of the repeal, however, point to the state regulations still must follow. They believe that a complete repeal is unnecessary.

Obama's plan also calls for the secretary of Health and Human Services to work with a seven-member board made up of doctors, economists and consumer and insurance representatives to review the recent premium hikes.

I'm pretty undecided on this issue, and I don't have a lot of background information. Will this really make a huge difference in health care? I agree that insurers shouldn't be exempt from antitrust laws, but I don't really understand the difference this would make. Would premiums drastically go down? What do you think? Will this make a big difference on the insurance market? Is it just Obama's latest battle against privatized health care?

Obama's Persistant Health Plan

Obama is back for another attempt at health care reform, but he isn't being greeted too warmly. To me, it seems like an uphill battle after the Democrats lost the supermajority, and now he seems to be losing even more Democratic support. Congress is getting tired of debating a topic that seems doomed to fail, Obama needs to move on and accept that there is no support behind health care right now.

Consumers Fall

Yet again people are losing faith in the economy. The over all consumer confidence is at an all time historic low since april of 2009. People feel that things are worse now then they have ever been. With the consumer index showing that 19.4% out of 5,000 survayed homes think that the economy is ok. This is an all time low over the past 27 years. People bealive that things are worse than when the stock market crash of 2008. Expecatations for the future are to be low. The outlook on the over all labor maket was even worse then the economy standings in the eyes of americans. An over all 18.4% people bealive that the job market will get better, form the previouse month 24.6% of people thought it would get better. It seems that people are loseing hope in the job market as well as the economy. What has happened in this one short month to make people think that things cant change?

Monday, February 22, 2010

War on Terror v. First Amendment: What will the court decide?

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will examine the constitutionality of an antiterrorist law which "prohibits American citizens from knowingly providing 'material support or resources' to designated terrorist groups." The law in question was first passed in 1996 and later amended by the Patriot Act of 2001. The plaintiff, Humanitarian Law Project, filed suit based on the claim that the antiterrorist law violates their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. Other organizations have spoken out in support of Humanitarian Law Project, including the Carter Center. Both Humanitarian Law Project and the Carter Center have said that the problem with the law is that it is too vague. The law infringes on their ability to provide aide and work towards the "peaceful resolution of conflict."

The Obama administration has spoken out in defense of the law, claiming it is "a crucial tool in America's fight against terrorism."

In this case, I have to side with Humanitarian Law Project. While I do not have a problem with the concept of the law, I do not believe that it is narrowly tailored. Because the law is vague, it has implications in areas outside of the purpose for which it was explicitly designed. I think that the law needs to be revised such that it does not prevent the peaceful and legitimate actions of organizations such as the Humanitarian Law Project. As it stands, the law is a serious violation of the First Amendment.

NATO airstrike mistakenly targets Afghan civilians

On Sunday, United States Special Forces helicopters launched an airstrike against what they believed to be a group of insurgents who had "escaped the NATO offensive in the Marja area." Tragically, the forces mistakenly killed "as many as 27 civilians in the worst such case since at least September." The tragedy occurred in an area under the control of the Dutch military. While Dutch forces played no role in the airstrike, some are concerned about the effect it will have on the Dutch war effort. The Afghan war is extremely unpopular in the Netherlands, and this airstrike will only serve to increase that sentiment.

Of the 27 who are thought to be dead, 4 were women and one was a child.

I cannot believe that NATO forces allowed this to happen. What makes it even more tragic is the fact that it is not even considered an extraordinarily rare occurrence, it is just another part of the war effort. If something like this ever happened in the United States, it would be huge news. There would be trials and serious investigations into how such a horrible mistake was made. Those innocent people did not deserve to die.

Obama tries to get healthcare legislation back in motion

For the first time, President Obama has put forward some of his own proposals for healthcare reform. Obama has obviously made healthcare a top priority, and I think his choice to put forth direct proposals is probably reflective of his frustration with the rate at which the debate is moving. Perhaps the most notable of the proposals that Obama put forth would make it such that the federal government has the power to prevent health insurance companies from excessively increasing the cost of premiums.

The Republican response to Obama's proposals has been overwhelmingly critical. They have argued that it is too similar to previous Democratic bills, and not really a step towards a bipartisan solution. Obama has defended his plan, claiming it will both make healthcare more affordable and reduce the federal deficit.

Obama put forth these new proposals as a way to try "and revive stalled legislation on the issue." "On Thursday he will hold bipartisan talks at the White House on" healthcare. Obama has a lot riding on the healthcare debate. His approval ratings have already dropped considerably, and I think his chance of reelection hangs heavily on the healthcare issue. I feel like the debate has already lost a lot of momentum, and the process is not even close to being over. The House and Senate must still create a single bill, which may be very difficult to get passed at this stage in the game. The Democrats no longer have a filibuster-proof majority, which could prove to be very problematic. I feel that at this point, the bill is too weighed down by partisan politics. We need healthcare reform, but I'm not sure that it will be delivered.

Curling fans get crazy...

Here's a post from a Yahoo! sports blog that popped up on my homepage. It's completely unpolitical, but I found it interesting.

In a close women's curling match where Canada won 5-4 over Denmark, Danish Madeliene Dupont blamed the aggressive Canadian fans when she missed two potentially game-winning shots.

Curling is a sport that apparently requires intense concentration and the ability to hear your teammates. Dupont was practically in tears after 6,000 Canadian fans began stomping and making deafening noise. The noise was obviously intended to distract Dupont.

I understand such noise in sports such as basketball, hockey, and football, where the noise of the crowd is normal and expected by the players. But curling is tame sport, like golf, where it is the polite thing to be quiet, and only cheer when the players are finished. Even a Canadian curler agreed that the fans were loud, but excused their behavior based on the fact they "don't know the game." I think it's a lame excuse. They were obviously quiet when it was Canada's turn.

As an obnoxiously loud fan myself, I understand Canada's pride and desire for their home team to win. But I also find it embarrassing in a sport such as curling, where it is not appropriate. They're the hosts, and they should know better. Save it for the hockey rinks.

More jobs...yeah! Losing!!

Five minutes ago, I wrote a blog about the new bill that Senate passed and how it is going to benefit the unemployed. However, I guess everything comes with a price...(oh economy).
"More than 1 million people could lose their jobless benefits and health insurance subsidy in March if Congress doesn't act fast."

Right now, the Senate has until Feb 28 to help the jobless keep their benefits and health insurance.
If the Senate doesn't extend the deadline, people receiving jobless benefits won't be able to apply for additional federally paid unemployment insurance and anyone receiving those checks will lose those too!

When you think the economy is getting better, BAM! There is a trade-off. Oh opportunity cost! A bittersweet thing, no?

A step towards bipartisanship?

The senate's newest Republican member, Scott Brown, chose to side with the Democrats this week on a new bill directed towards job creation. Although the issue is pretty moderate, he joins only four other Republicans in his support. "I hope my vote today is a strong step toward restoring bipartisanship in Washington," Brown said in a statement. During the highly hyped election that he eventually won, he spoke of how he was not entirely devoted to Republicans on all issues.

I think this is an excellent way to (hopefully) begin some bipartisan efforts in congress. I'm tired of hearing both sides criticize one another, and optimistic about Brown's choice. I hope it sets the stage for more compromise in Washington. Obama called it a "major step forward" and has also promised to continue to incorporate Republicans into the creation of the bill.

The job creation bill proposes a $15 billion package of tax cuts and highway spending. It's also a good example of Keynesian economics, (government intervention during an economic crisis), on a more nerdy note!

More jobs!! Maybe the economy is getting better!

Today, the Senate voted to push forward a $15 billion jobs creation bill that will give businesses a tax break for hiring unemployed people. It looks like Obama's State of the Union had a profound effect on the government (considering how many times Obama took the time out from his speech to accuse the Senate/ persuade the Senate to support his ideas).

Even though the bill is helping reboot our economy, the bill does not "extend the deadline to apply for unemployment benefits." If the deadline of the bill isn't extended, 1.2 million people will run out of benefits after Feb. 28.

However, the bill isn't just a Christmas gift for everybody. The Senate measure does not provide "additional assistance for states." And because of that, many governors are asking for the Obama administration to fix the budget gaps by sending more federal dollars their way.

Even though the bill doesn't cover all the different angles, it is a good start for the 2010 year. It looks like Obama is going down is "To do list" that he created in the State of the Union Address and check marking boxes as the year goes on. Keep it up Obama!!!!

Republicans Talk About Health-Care Reform

I found this blog by Ezra Klein rather funny (link in title). We always here the Republicans complaining about the health-care reform and attempt to down grade is possible success. Who knew that the Republicans great reform changes were already in the bill? Ezra gets down to the truth of the matter when he states, "establishment Republicans are shying away from them to avoid letting the Democrats swing the spotlight around to the downsides of the real conservative alternatives."

New Credit Card Rules!!!!!!!!!

As the economy is slowly begining to show a positive change with these new rules families no longer have to worry about hidden clauses. With the CARD Act taking effect in stages people have the chance to make a positive change to there credit card statice. The credit card changes include:

-Credit card ssuers can no longer randomely increase intrest rates and fees on existing balances
-Intrest cannotbe charged when debt is paied on time
-Issuers must get the signature of a parent or guardian when extending a card to a consumer under the age of 21

There are more rules to this and are taking efffect slowly since monday. Witht these new rules I bealive that people will have an eaiser time staying out of debt and having a positive ways with there oveer all credit score.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New study disproves "don't ask, don't tell"

In Obama's State of the Union, he rejected "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the military, and called for it to be repealed immediately. Many military leaders and others have already expressed hesitation at the idea, and the stated views of Pentagon leaders is that repealing the ban would take a year or more and be a disruption to the entire armed forces.

However, a comprehensive study that updates existing studies on openly gay service members in Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa and other countries, holds the belief that gay soldiers do not cause a disruption. The study, “Gays in Foreign Militaries 2010: A Global Primer,” was conducted by the Palm Center of UC Santa Barbara.

The report found that there were no increased instances of harassment, none of the countries had to install separate facilities, and that transition was speedy and uneventful.

However, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, a potential Republican candidate for president in 2012, said that he continued to support “don’t ask, don’t tell” because “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Um, ignorance much?

Animal Abuse Registry

Many of us are familiar with the sex offenders registry. Basically, every person that is a known sex offender is recorded. Their names, along with home addresses and jobs, are listed in online registries. I'm sure you've all heard the stories where people put their address in and realize some of their neighbors are known sex offenders. Ahhhh!

In California, lawmakers are now trying to establish the same sort of system for known animal abusers. The proposal was made by State Senate’s majority leader, Dean Florez, and is the latest law in California to guarantee new rights to animals. The effort is also one of the only bipartisan efforts in the CA state government.

Many of you may remember California's Proposition 2, which gave hens, calves and pigs more room in their crates or cages. CA has also passed laws outlawing cruelty towards dairy cows for more efficient milking.

Under the proposed law, any person convicted of a felony involving animal cruelty would have to register with the police and provide a range of personal information and a current photograph. That information would be posted online, along with information on the person’s offense.

Something interesting mentioned in the article was a quote from a representative of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

“We know there’s a link between those who abuse animals and those who perform other forms of violence,” said Stephan Otto, the group’s director of legislative affairs. “Presumably if we’re able to track animal abusers and be able to know where they live, there will be less opportunity where those vulnerable to them would be near them.”

I'm not sure this is a necessary for people to avoid when looking for a house, but I do think it's a new way to investigate possible employees. I find anyone willing to abuse a helpless animal absolutely disgusting and feel like they should pay an outrageous price. As an animal lover, I find it appropriate to list sex offenders and animal abusers in the same category. However, I can understand how some may think this is harsh.

Israel's latest weapon

Today, Israel unveiled its latest weapon: pilotless planes that can remain airborne for an entire day and fly as far as the Persian Gulf. The planes, known as the Heron TP, could play a significant role in the conflict between Israel and Iran. While Israel refuses to reveal what the new fleet was designed for, the fact that Iran is within the range of the Heron TP should not be overlooked. Israel considers Iran's nuclear program to be a significant threat. Israel has suggested that if Iran does not stop their nuclear program, Israel would be open to using military force.

While I don't think there is cause to worry yet, I think Israel's use of the Heron TP should definitely be closely monitored. The fact that Israel's Air Force is being so secretive about the purpose of the new aircraft is cause for suspicion.

Cold-blooded murder. Town says it was justified?

I read this very interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle today. Unfortunately, there is no link for it online (SFGate says the article is only available in print). The article was titled "Town says abuse drove man to kill," and it was on the front page of the newspaper.

The article discussed the trial of 32-year-old Aaron Vargas who is accused of murdering his 63-year-old former neighbor, Darrell McNeill. On February 8th of last year, Vargas went to visit McNeill. After exchanging a few words with the man, Vargas proceeded to shoot McNeill in the chest with "a .44-caliber round from a Civil War-style cap-and-ball revolver." McNeill died slowly, and Vargas stayed and watched as he took apart his weapon. McNeill's wife, Liz, was present during the entire event. According to Liz, "Vargas told McNeill 'he was lucky' his wife was there." After shooting McNeill, Vargas told the dying man "you're not going to hurt anyone again." He then revealed to Liz that McNeill had molested him as a child.

Vargas returned home and told his mother, Robin Vargas, that he'd shot McNeill. He also revealed that McNeill had abused him during his childhood. Apparently, the abuse began when Vargas was 11-years-old and went on a fishing trip which McNeill also attended. Robin recalls that following this particular trip, Vargas's grades plummeted and he became very withdrawn. Apparently, the abuse continued until about 4 years ago, when Vargas finally stood up to McNeill. But, McNeill did not back down easily. He continued to call Vargas and drop by his house, even offering to babysit his young daughter.

Vargas was arrested later that night. However, over the course of the past year, support for Vargas has grown. Quite a few other men have come forward and revealed that they were also victims of McNeill's abuse. In fact, several people had filed reports against McNeill over a decade ago. None of the reports were ever followed up on. Many within the community, including McNeill's wife, Liz, think that it would be inappropriate to sentence Vargas to a life in prison. Liz has said that she would prefer Vargas to "receive counseling instead of a lengthy prison term." In fact, it seems that the only people pushing for a harsh sentence are the detectives investigating the case and the district attorney.

In this case, I have to say that I feel it would be inappropriate to sentence Aaron Vargas to a life in prison. He was abused by McNeill for 17 years!! I cannot even imagine the emotional pain Vargas must be experiencing. While I think he does deserve some prison time, I feel the focus should be on providing Vargas with the counseling and support he needs to move on. While we cannot condone murder, I think there needs to be proper attention paid to the fact that Vargas was clearly not in his right mind. He had been abused for so many years, he just wanted the pain to end. What really irritates me is that there had been previous allegations against McNeill, but nothing had been investigated or followed up on. If McNeill had been prosecuted a decade ago, so much abuse could have been prevented.

There is one point in the story that I find slightly confusing. Liz McNeill was present during the entire murder. She saw Vargas shoot her husband, and was there during the half hour in which Vargas waited for McNeill to die. I do not know the exact circumstances, but wouldn't it have made sense for her to call the police? Vargas's gun only had one bullet, which he used on McNeill. It seems like McNeill's death could have been prevented.

Is the End In Sight

Last Wednesday, the Obama Administration held a secret meeting to set the US Nuclear Policy for the next 5-10 years. Many believed it would test Obama's "sincerity and determination." They were meeting to "finalize the administration's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR)" which is due to Congress by March 1. There were many in attendance including "secretaries of defense, state, energy, and the national security advisor as well as top military and intelligence officials." The treaty has now moved passed the Senate, where it was voted down ten years ago. Biden has also made clear his priorities when he stated, "We have long relied on nuclear weapons to deter potential adversaries. Now, as our technology improves, we are developing non-nuclear ways to accomplish that same objective." To read more on Biden and US Nuclear Weapon here is the link

As the nation to have created the first nuclear weapons, the first to use them, we should be the first to rid them. We are moving into a new age, an age in which we must face our creation and put an end to it before it puts an end to us.

Fight Against Obesity

Recently, the Obama Administration has been working on a new front against childhood obesity. The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have continued to push for new technology that can help create a fun incentive for children to work out while playing games in a social network online. 31 experts were at a meeting earlier this month to "offer their knowledge and experience related to game design, entertainment technology, social media, and skill contests." Basically, they are having a contest in order to bring together the best ideas out there that will create an addicting game that convinces children to work out.

Also, Michelle Obama has been working on her "Let's Move" campaign across America that hopes to promote better nutrition for all families. She says that the first step is to stop eating "food desserts" in the next 7 year. Another issue she hopes to face head on is the lack of grocery stores in certain areas. Because of this, many Americans are unable to access fruits and vegetables for their healthy nutrition. That is why Michelle Obama ”pointed to a $400 million healthy food financing initiative as a way not only to help kids eat healthy but develop "an economic engine" in poor communities."

Although many of us live in neighborhoods that have farmer's markets, grocery stores, and other forms of accessing healthy foods, many individuals are stuck eating foods high in saturated fats with nothing to balance out their diets. We need to make a change fast if we want to prevent the exponential growth of obesity.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Newt Gingrich and the 2012 election

The link for this post is a pretty interesting post by, one of the blogs that Mr. Silton reccommended at the beginning of the year. Most of their posts are polls and data, but this one focuses on Newt Gingrich, a possible GOP nomination for the 2012 election.

You may recognize Gingrich from the video we watched in class (I'm forgetting the name...but it was about him and Clinton) He's the former Speaker of the House and a real name in conservative politics.

When I first read the article about CPAC that I posted earlier this week, I saw Gingrich's name and thought he would be a front runner in the "straw poll" (mentioned by Sarah). However, as skewed as the results may be (by Tea Party activists or the lack of people that actually voted), Gingrich did pretty poorly.

Something interesting about Five Thirty Eight's post was how they counted Gingrich's professionalism as a weakness. Tom Schaller (author of the post) writes of Gingrich's speech at CPAC, "In little more than a half hour, Gingrich managed to reference the Judiciary Act of 1802, Camus’ The Plague, Orwell’s 1984, Hayek’s notions of centralized planning, and John Paul II. I was waiting for him to announced that copies of the speech's footnotes would be available in the lobby." Gingrich is obviously well educated, and it always suprises me how badly Americans react to this. How is that we go for the good ol' boy rather than the scholar? I mean, George W. Bush, really?

Regardless, I agree with the blog that Gingrich could present a challenge to Obama. And he certainly has the experience and track record to rival all the other potential nominees.

Zero Tolerance for doodling

I'm sure we've all done it. You're sitting in class, and you begin absentmindedly doodling on your desk during a particularly dry lecture or boring class period. Imagine if you had simply drawn your name or a phrase on a desk in marker, and suddenly you were arrested and taken down to the nearest police station. Sure, it's defacing school property...but is it really handcuff-worthy?

Alexa Gonzalez, a seventh-grader in New York, simply scrawled "I love my friends Abby and Faith. Lex was here 2/1/10 :)" on her desk in school, and was handcuffed in front of friends and teachers and escorted to the police station.

When I first read this article, I thought it was a joke. There's no way that I could ever imagine something like this happening at any middle school or Aragon. What's the legal criteria for this? Apparently, this is yet another example of the "zero tolerance" policy taken a few steps too far in schools. And it isn't the first time, the article cites several other instances where the police were called in situations that could have easily been handled by the teacher or the school's administration.

The "zero tolerance" policy is basically when automatic punishment is imposed when a rule is broken. It's intention is to stop unwanted behavior right away, and it leaves no room for exceptions.

I understand this policy in terms of students drinking, fighting, using drugs, or harassing one another. But isn't this way too far? I mean, calling the police because a seventh grader is doodling on desks? Is this just teachers and admins being lazy and not wanting to deal with discipline? She didn't even use profanity or hate language. Also, isn't it a complete waste of time to make police officers involved? Shouldn't they be directing their money and time to more important things that are bigger threats to our security? What are your thoughts?

Does counting sheep really help you fall asleep?

According to a study conducted by scientists at Oxford University, counting sheep does not help you fall asleep faster.

In the study, the researchers split the subjects into several groups. The groups were instructed to try several techniques for falling asleep, and their sleep habits were observed over the course of the experiment. The researchers found that the subjects fell asleep an average of 20 minutes sooner when instructed to imagine a relaxing scene, like a beach for example. When the subjects were instructed to count sheep, they fell asleep in about the same time as when given no instruction whatsoever. While people have long assumed that the sheer boringness of counting sheep is enough to lull anyone to sleep, the researchers have concluded that because counting sheep is so boring, people are not willing to focus on it for very long. Imagining an image of a beach is engaging and soothing at the same time.

Stopping climate change might be cheaper than we think

A recent climate model, created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, predicts that "the median forecast is for a climb of 9 degrees Fahrenheit by century’s end, in the absence of effective countermeasures." That is just the median. The model also predicts that there is a 10% chance the temperature will rise by more than 12.4 degrees by 2010. This information should have us quaking in fear. An increase of only a couple degrees would have deadly effects on our planet's wildlife.

Considering the consequences, we should have a greater fear of inaction than the potential costs of actually curbing global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that by simply putting a tax of about $80 on each metric ton of carbon dioxide, we could completely halt global warming by mid-century. More recent reports suggest that $80 might be a little low; a sum of about $300 would be more appropriate. This tax would make it such that prices would rise in accordance to a good's carbon footprint.

While this might mean pricier gas, and heaven forbid, ditching the car to take public transportation on occasion, the benefits far outweigh the costs. While it might seem "inconvenient," I would much rather have to pay $10 more for gas than live on a planet that is 10 degrees hotter than it should be. Passing legislation to allow this kind of tax would be next to impossible of course, especially considering certain conservative members of congress who still deny that humans are actually the cause of global warming. But, wouldn't it be nice if we actually took a proactive step to stop global warming? There isn't going to be an easy, cost free solution. And honestly, we are running out of time.

Ron Paul victor of CPAC presidential straw poll?

On Saturday, Ron Paul won the annual Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll with 31 percent of the vote. The closest runner up, Gov. Mitt Romney, garnered a mere 22 percent of the vote. Paul's victory came as a surprise to many; in fact, when he was announced as the winner, the crowd responded with boos. Some contribute Ron Paul's victory to the large amount of Tea Party activists in attendance. With many at the conference citing "reducing the size of federal government" as a top concern, I personally think that Paul's victory is not that surprising. As Katie mentioned earlier, many at CPAC were much younger than the typical attendees. "54 percent of participants were between the ages of 18 and 25," so the straw poll was probably reflective of the younger voting pool.

While the straw poll is often used as a way to scout out future presidential nominees, the article said that "the announcement of Paul's win [is] a surprise victory unlikely to have a major impact on the 2012 presidential contest." I have to agree. I feel that the nature of the straw poll is not very reliable. Only 2,400 people voted out of the 10,000 people in attendance. Many expressed dissatisfaction with the candidates. I think that the large amount of non-response is not insignificant. The results are not reflective of the sentiments of the Republican party as a whole. However, I think it is important to note that many are discontent with the traditional Republican party. The "tea party" activists are making their voices heard, which could be significant in the next election.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Obama Announces Funding For Housing Finance Agencies

Today, the President plans to announce a $1.5 billion funding plan for “states where the average prices for homes have fallen more than 20 percent from their peak.” It so happens to be that the two states that will be highly affected by this funding are two states that appear to have a close election coming up in November 2010. The President is attempting to demonstrate his emphasis on the current economy especially during a two-state Western state swing that comes as he’s trying to bolster the chances of Democrats in November’s elections” Colorado an Nevada’s employment rate is still far lower than the national average but it is clear that their housing foreclosures are running high. With the elections coming up soon, Obama wants to give hope to the individuals in the states and protect the congressional spots. Although it is important for him and his administration to help fundraise to keep democrats in Congress, I think it is important to focus on other issues that affect more than just a few states. The unemployment rate in those two states is far lower than the average, so why not work on those who have no source of funding?

Kamikaze-style attack on IRS building in Austin

In an act that has been called "an intentional assault on a U.S. government institution," Joseph Andrew Stack, age 53, intentionally crashed his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas. The attack resulted in 13 injuries and 2 fatalities (including Stack). While the U.S. government has shied away from labeling the incident as an act of terror and has called it an "isolated incident," the tragedy and seriousness of the situation remains. While Stack's motives are, as of now, still unclear, he reportedly posted a "manifesto" on his website outlining his fury towards the IRS. On his website, he reportedly claimed that violence "is the only answer."

Stack was clearly very desperate and not in his right mind. It is truly saddening that he resorted to violence. My heart goes out to the people who were injured and the family of the IRS employee that was killed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New system of "board exams" allows students to graduate 2 years early

Starting next fall, dozens of public schools in eight different states will be pioneering a new program that involves “board exams” taken at the end of 10th grade. If students pass their tests, they can receive their high school diploma 2 years early and proceed to enroll in community college. Students interested in enrolling in a more selective college can choose to continue their high school coursework. The program, which was designed by the National Center on Education and the Economy, is based off similar systems seen in nations such as Denmark, England, Finland, France and Singapore. The program was introduced as a means to combat the fact that a staggering amount of students have to take remedial courses upon entering college. It aims to prepare students more effectively for college work and provide a kind of “goal” for high school coursework. The exams will hopefully provide a source of motivation for students to master their course material.

In many ways, this new program is similar to already existing early college programs, such as Middle College (at CSM). However, the significant difference is that this new program allows students to actually graduate a full two years early. Students who pass the board exams will not need to continue with any high school classes during what would have been their junior and senior years.

I have mixed feelings about this program. On the one hand, I feel like it is a proactive way to cutback on the number of students who require remedial courses. The fact that over a million college freshman take remedial courses each year is absolutely ridiculous! But, I feel that there are some definite flaws with the idea of the board exams. I think that one of the benefits of a typical high school education is that it forces you to take a well-rounded (in terms of subjects) course load all four years. High school is important for establishing proficiency in a variety of subject areas. With this new program, students will not have to take all the traditional classes. I think that students might actually end up having more trouble in college than before because they missed out their final two years of high school.

Conservatives rally together at CPAC in preparation for midterms

Today was the first day of the annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference). It's main drive was support for the upcoming November midterm, where Republicans hope to take back many seats in Congress, and make it clear that they are determined to make Obama a one-term president. The conference featured prominent members of the Republican party, lame jokes about Obama, and reminders to stay, well, conservative.

The Republicans are on the upswing now as Obama's approval has been rating dropping, several veteran congressional Democrats have announced they will retire at the end of the year and Brown took a historically liberal seat in Massachusetts. They are certainly embracing their new "underdog" status as it seems to have ignited a fiery opposition and fervor to end up on top. But many of their speeches contained relatively no new information, just reiterations of their classic platform: lowering taxes, no mercy towards terrorism, and small business interests.

However, I think something interesting to note was that of the 10,000 attendees somewhere from 60-80 percent were under 30. I think this should definitely be a wake up call for Democrats. Perhaps the conference was purposefully skewed (likely) in order to seem appealing to younger voters, but the Democrats should definitely fight for the younger crowd. The sign that younger voters might be heading towards the right is rather surprising, but then again, I'm not sure if this conference is very accurate.

Another point of interest was the Republican's response to the Tea Party movement, or the "grassroots" conservatism that sprung out of certain policy issues and gridlock in Washington last year. The party does not associate itself with the Republican party, but followers overwhelmingly vote right. House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, warned against aligning their party with the Tea Party. "The Republican Party should not attempt to co-opt the tea parties," Boehner said. "I think that's the dumbest thing in the world. What we will do, as long as I'm the leader, is respect them, listen to them, and walk amongst them. The other party will never, ever do that." However, Marco Rubio, a challenger for the Florida Senate seat, encouraged Republicans to "embrace" the Tea Party.

On a side note,

"The CPAC conference wraps up Saturday with the much-anticipated straw poll, seen as an indicator of the top GOP contenders for the 2012 presidential election.

The choices on the ballot this year are Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Paul, Pawlenty, Pence, Romney, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, and a slot for "Other.""

So what do you think? Are Republicans really on the rise, or just trying to pump up their supporters? Should the Democrats be scared of the under-30 percentage? Should the GOP embrace the Tea Party? What do you think of the top GOP contenders?

More on the Toyota Recall...

It seems like everyday, a new beloved Toyota model is being recalled. Their highly hyped new Prius with seemingly spaceship qualities (keeps you in your lane while drifting?!? what....!!) has been recalled, along with favorites such as Corollas and Highlanders.

It's a huge shame for the company, and I'm glad that Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, has decided to appear in front of Congress (see link in title for more details). Apparently, he tried to first send the North American cheif in place of himself (which I think is ridiculous). After all, the US is probably Toyota's biggest market, and are most affected by these recalls. After talking about government's role in the economy in Econ this week, I think the House oversight committee's request for Toyada is a good example of positive government oversight. I'm glad they're stepping in on behalf of the people. Especially since it's been speculated that much of the evidence of the malfunctioning cars was covered up. On the local news about a week ago, they had a person go undercover to the Toyota dealsership. Even two days after the recall, Toyota was still trying to sell the cars that were defected! Toyota has always been known as a very reliable car company, and have been tremendously failing at dealing with this crisis.

But every cloud does have it's silver lining, for lack of a better cliche. After years of being in the shadows of Japanese automakers (Honda, Toyota...), I think this whole recall business is going to finally open up the doors for American automakers in our market again. They should be doing everything possible to capitalize on this huge gaff.

In Need of a Vacation?

Bill Clinton returned home last Thursday after having two stents placed in a clogged heart artery. This is his second time having heart surgery in the past four year; in 2004 Clinton had a quadruple heart bypass operation. While many are excited for his return to his Haiti relief, many question his health and ability to continue his work. The doctors claim that the recent surgery have nothing to do with his lifestyles, it seems as if Clinton should possibly take a break eventually. His work and travel is effecting the hours of sleep he gets which clearly makes a difference. It may not directly correlate to the heart surgeries, but it has to be having an effect on him. He is a very busy man and has been working endlessly for the benefit of other, but he needs to worry about his personal health before the health of others. As Molly Ferree said in the Whitworthian, "f you are determined to continue making the lives of people around the world better, which we all greatly appreciate it, please take the time to make sure you see the end results. Give yourself a little grace, make sure you are healthy, and then go out there and get ‘em"

Economic Theory in Rap

A comparison of two giants in the history of economics, Keynes, the classic government should spur demand liberal, vs. Hayek, the godfather of libertarian (let's ride it out) economics. Click here for the lyrics. I make no claim about the quality of the rap, but according to their website, Ke$ha said "It's like... legit."

It is sort of sad that rational people assume that students need to be hooked like this, but heck, whatever works. The ends justify the means, no? Better than Sammy Hagar, anyway.

h/t: self-evident (which is way over my head most of the time)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Do you recall the last recall?

With Toyota’s reputation at hand, thousands of 2009-2010 cars are being recalled due to a variety of errors. The most recent of issues involves one of the top selling cars in the U.S., the Corolla. “A Corolla recall would add to a repair list of more than 8 million vehicles on five continents.” The Toyota recall is due to issues involving power steering; where as other cars are being recalled for brake and accelerating problems. The Prius recalls should be about 80% complete by the end of February. Although it is frustrating to find out that a previously reliable car brand has lowered their manufacturing standards, causing a recall, there is a positive to the issue. At least Toyota is taking responsibility for their errors, and is doing everything possible to fix the issue. It is possible that Toyota’s recall will leave them a better company because they have the ability to learn from their errors. Although they lost the trust of many individuals, they can make positive changes to reverse the bad reputation.

Really, another security breach?

link in title

For those of you that watched the Olympic opening ceremonies, I'm sure you recognized Joe Biden in attendance. The Vancouver police have just reported that there was a security breach that allowed an man with false credentials (i.e. a fake pass created from the internet) to be within a few yards of Vice President Joe Biden. Although the event resulted in no harm to Biden and the man was unarmed, it signals yet another failure of security. The man was able to get through several airport security-esque checkpoints with completely fabricated identification.

Considering the state dinner crashers and now this, is there something wrong with the way Obama and Biden are being protected? I mean, people are making it look pretty easy to get close to them. It certainly makes me wonder if there have been other breaches that have gone unnoticed. Does this happen with many administrations but it's just more publicized now? What are your thoughts?

Did "Family Guy" go too far?

link in title.

I'm a little confused about why America keeps listening to what Sarah Palin has to say, but I found this tidbit interesting. Apparently the popular cartoon show "Family Guy" featured a character with down syndrome in their latest episode. Palin found it especially offensive, as it was an obvious dig towards herself and her family when the character proclaimed that her mother was the "former governor of Alaska."

At first, I saw why Palin would find this offensive. Mental and physical disabilities are extremely touchy. However, after watching the clip of the show and the AP video, I'm starting feel like Palin is overreacting. She isn't the only one to be made fun of by the often borderline-inappropriate show. And the "joke" was literally two seconds of the entire show. I didn't find it particularly funny or necessary, but I also don't think Palin should really be focusing her attention on fighting this. Is she just looking for things to criticize these days? What do you think? (p.s. it makes a lot more sense if you watch the short video in the link)

Did the Court go too far?


In the recent case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decided that, because of the first amendment, corporations and individuals hold the same rights to free political speech and can use this right to financially support political campaigns without being limited. While corporations have been limited in their campaign finance spending for a long time, this decision makes it easy to run a campaign solely (or at least mostly) on unlimited support from big business. It also leaves the door open for campaigns to be influenced much more greatly by foreign parties, an objection Obama mentioned in his State of the Union address.

In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, "Americans of both parties overwhelmingly oppose a Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns, and most favor new limits on such spending." Eight in ten respondents said that they oppose the Court's ruling, and there was very little difference in the results between different parties, for once showing bipartisan unity. " 'If there's one thing that Americans from the left, right and center can all agree on, it's that they don't want more special interests in our politics,' " said Senator Charles Schumer. Legislation is currently being drafted to limit the possibilities opened up by the Court's ruling, but some legislators still support the Court's decision.

Many people immediately questioned the repercussions of this decision, and the results of this poll are quite indicative of that. If businesses can support candidates without limitation, does that mean that the candidate who gets the support from the biggest and most financially capable businesses will win? Was the Court even justified in their ruling (just because we don't like it doesn't always mean it isn't constitutional), or did they go too far?

A Common Theme: Competition

Reading over the Adam Smith piece, I noticed a similar theme between Smith's theories, the theories of the Federalist Papers, and the foundation of our government: competition.

In the Federalist Papers, it is argued that the wills of the factions are kept in check by those of other factions. In other words, competing interests will stop any one group from getting too much power. Examples of this are seen throughout society (the most obvious being the conflicting interests of the Democratic and Republican parties). For every group with a strong opinion and set agenda, there is another group to oppose it. Therefore, somewhat ironically, it is only by the abundance of factions can each individual faction be controlled and stopped from obtaining too much power.

In our entire society, competition is a driving force. Competition between the branches of government has been persistent throughout history as attempts for one branch to gain significantly more power have been thwarted by the other branches (FDR's court packing scheme, Clinton's line-item veto, etc.)
Concerning the economy, Smith argues that competition is one of the crucial elements to safeguarding against uncontrolled self-interest. The article , "The Wonderful World of Adam Smith," states, "A man who permits his self-interest to run away with him will find that competitors have slipped in to take his trade away..." It seems that Smith's "forces" which "bring [output or prices] back [from their socially ordained levels]" are largely dependent on the factor of competition.
Competition in our economy is highly prevalent, whether it be Orbit gum versus Trident, or Macs versus PCs. Competition in the economy seems to be necessary for economic growth, not only by acting as a safeguard to unregulated self-interest, but also by forcing continuous improvement of products, regulating quantity of goods produced, and regulating incomes.

For all of these reasons: governmental checks on powers, safeguards against factions, protection against too much self-interest in the economy, I believe competition to be a crucial aspect of society.

Facebook Group Free Speech?

In this blog post, a Florida case in which a student created a Facebook group criticizing a teacher is discussed. The court ruled that the groups was protected by the 1st amendment and the group did not cause disruption on-campus.

This case is relevant not just because most of us use Facebook, but also because it brings up a relatively new question about protected speech on the internet. How much should online speech be protected? Should there be a different standard for students, even if it the speech is not committed on campus? The blog discusses the precedent of Tinker v. Des Moines, but also notes that there has been no Supreme Court precedent for online, off-campus student speech.

It would be interesting to see an online student speech case reach the Supreme Court. On one side, freedom of speech is considered one of the fundamental freedoms that is observed with the strictest level of scrutiny. Students using online methods to post speech off-campus should have the rights to speech given to citizens in the cases we've studied. On the other hand, student speech has been more limited by the possibility of starting a disruption. In a similar case discussed in the blog the opposite outcome was reached. The punishment of a student who created a fake Myspace page for the principal was upheld since the profile caused students to focus on the profile rather than learning thus classifying the student's actions as a disruption to the classroom. How the Supreme Court would balance those conflicting values in an off-campus, online setting, and whether a new test would be created to judge the constitutionality of student speech online would be .

How do you think a Supreme Court case involving online student speech would play out? Should online speech be protected for students?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Same Sex Marriage Isn't Gaining Support, but Civil Unions Are


A recent Post-ABC News poll found that American support for gay marriage is unchanging, and fairly split. The study found that 47% of people think that gay marriage should be legal, whereas 50% of people think it should be illegal. However two thirds of people said they supported civil unions. Quite interestingly, 65% of people under the age of 30 said they supported gay marriage as a legal institution.

So what really is holding us back from legalizing gay marriage. Is the difference between a civil union and a marriage a crucial one? Should the government declare gay marriage legal when marriage is, in fact, a traditionally religious institution? We do, after all, live in a country that has an established "separation of church and state" policy. Does the government even have the right to legalize gay marriage? Is a Civil Union satisfactory, or does everyone deserve the right to a marriage?

In his State of the Union address, Obama swore he would put an end to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military. Do the results of this poll reflect an increase in the chances of that happening? Or does the fact that support from gay marriage is unchanging signify that people will also have unchanging and inflexible attitudes toward the "don't ask, don't tell" policy?

And what about the obvious differing in support for gay marriage among age groups. Once the population has aged some, and new thinkers have replaced those currently in the "18-30" age group, will support for gay marriage become undeniable? Will legislation supporting gay marriage get passed? Or is the difference of opinions due to age, and not generation? Will those currently in the "18-30" age group that so clearly supports gay marriage get older and change their minds?

Census Miscellany

The decennial census is coming up; forms will be delivered in March 2010. If you do a Google News search for "census," you come across coverage by various newspapers, television stations, and radio stations urging citizens in their areas to fill out and return the census forms for their own benefit. The reason for this is clear; the more people reported to live in a certain area means more federal funding for local infrastructure. Politically, depending on the results of the census, congressional seats may be reapportioned in order to account for population shifts and congressional districts redrawn to reflect these changes. Article I Section 2 of the Constitution calls for a census every ten years and gives Congress the power to carry out the census in "such Manner as they shall by Law direct."

In a push for widespread participation, advertising for the 2010 census was produced in more languages than ever: 28. The budget for the 2010 census was larger than previous census budgets, allowing for high-profile advertising opportunities like the Superbowl. Read more here.

There have also been efforts to include illegal immigrants in the 2010 census. Says this article, "In October, census officials said they would not ask the Department of Homeland Security
to suspend immigration raids during the census period, reversing a policy from 2000, when an immigration moratorium was observed. But census officials say there is no change in a longstanding policy that they do not share identity data with the Department of Homeland Security or any other agency." Essentially, and rightly so, everyone should feel that they can safely respond to the census.

Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio has taken an odd approach to the issue of illegal immigrants and the census. His staunch support of excluding undocumented immigrants from the census could hurt the state in which he is currently seeking office; Florida could stand to gain a Congressional seat by including more of its inhabitants in the census. According to this post at the Huffington Post, "Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution clearly states that representatives should be apportioned according to a count of 'the whole number of persons in each state.' This includes non-voters, non-citizens and yes, undocumented immigrants." Aside from potentially hurting his state (loss of federal funding and a potential Congressional seat), Rubio's "voter's rights" argument for excluding undocumented immigrants is pretty much crushed by the text of the Constitution.

One final bit of census drama here. Basically, there's controversy as to whether prison inmates count as residents of the place where they are in prison (the status quo) or as residents of where they lived prior to imprisonment. Counting prisoners in the former way "inflates the population of the mostly white, rural towns that have the prisons." Prisoners are generally not representative of the population of the communities in which they are held; does this unfairly take away potential federal funding from prisoners' former neighborhoods? Keep in mind that "the places prisoners come from and the places where they are bunked share a lot in common, such as poverty and unemployment. They also share a hunger for the good schools and jobs that political power brings." Do prisoners count as residents of the city in which they physically reside, albeit unwillingly?

Any thoughts on the census in general?

Sweet Sweet Revenge... or not

I am sure those of you who watched the woman's snowboard cross the last Winter Olympics recall an incident in the final round. Lindsey Jacobellis, representing the U.S. team, was approaching the finish line with a clear lead, and rather than playing it safe, she attempted a move. Later she stated “Snowboarding is fun, I was having fun.” Unfortunately, she could not handle the fun of snowboarding and missed the landing. As Frieden passed her, she saw her gold metal slip away. Lindsey had to settle for silver.

This year, Lindsey came out ready for revenge. And once again she failed to win gold, let alone make it to the metal round. She lost control and hit a gate off of a jump and was automatically disqualified. Similar to many other Olympians, Jacobellis just did not have luck on her side. Do the Olympics really demonstrate who the greatest winter athletes are in the world? Do not get me wrong, everyone at the Olympics is very talented, but could the medalist just be the ones with the lucky run?

A Quick Link - Politics and Physiology

The title links to an interesting article from last week on a recent study that "hints that the roots of political judgments may lie partly in fundamental personality types and even in the hard-wiring of our brains." The research found that people who demonstrate heightened alertness to threats and danger are more likely to be conservatives (who may be "more aggressive in arming [themselves] and more wary of foreigners"). In the study, conservatives demonstrated stronger reactions to images meant to trigger disgust than did liberals. Though the research has not been confirmed (the information quoted above might just be a way to reinforce stereotypes about conservatives and liberals?), other researchers have also attributed differences in political identification to fundamental differences in cognition. Whether or not you buy that argument, the link is an amusing read.