Saturday, December 31, 2011

Iran: reopening nuclear talks?

After the last round of nuclear program negotiations between Iran and the six world powers - the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany - ended in failure last January in Istanbul, Iran has again proposed a new round of negotiations. During the last attempt for compromise, the US and its allies accused Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover for developing atomic weapons, but Iran denied such alterior motives, stating that it was simply used for peaceful purposes and to generate electricity.

Perhaps this round of nuclear talks will be just as futile and ineffective as the last. After all, the US and Iran have been playing this game for many years - is this just a cover for both sides to simultaneously maintain integrity and plot their own political and military strategies? Or do these talks have the slim potential (considering the shaky relationship between US and Iran) to actually reach some sort of compromise?

Obama signs defense authorization bill

On Saturday, December 31st, 2011, Obama signed the defense authorization bill despite having some "reservations." Originally, the White House threatened to veto the bill due to the language requiring mandatory military custody for al-Qaeda suspects, even those captured in the US. However, after a compromise that included some changes in the language involving detainees, Obama lifted his veto threat. "Ultimately, I signed this bill not only because of the critically important services it provides for our forces and their families and the national security programs it authorizes, but also because the Congress revised provisions that otherwise would have jeopardized the safety, security, and liberty of the American people," says President Obama.

Many Democrats and personal-rights groups have blatantly expressed their disapproval of this bill, foreshadowing potential future conflict over the provisions of this bill. What do you think signing this bill will do Obama's reputation and chances for re-election? Do you think this bill will stay intact much longer, or will there be further negotiations or discussions held to amend or overturn the bill? Was this an act of desperation or did Obama perhaps do the right thing?


Friday, December 30, 2011

Two Maryland abortion doctors charged with murder

On August 13, 2010, doctors Steven Brigham and Nicola Riley brought a woman into an Elkton hospital due to a "complication resulting from a medical procedure," which turned out to be a botched operation on the abortion of a late-term fetus. After further investigation, Maryland police discovered nearly three dozen aborted fetuses "in a freezer" in Brigham's Elkton clinic. Since then, the two have been imprisoned and were recently indicted on Friday with identical murder charges - five counts each of first-degree murder, five of second-degree murder, and one of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. This appears to the first time that the Maryland fetal homicide law - involving medical professionals performing surgery - has been put to use.

Since the initiation of this investigation, the validity of Maryland's current abortion law has been questioned. The fact that it is less restrictive than those of nearly states - for example, New Jersey's law mandates that pregnancies after 14 weeks cannot be ended at a doctor's office - explains the large number of abortion patients that showed up at Brigham's clinic. The issues that arise from this incident exceed that of just the morality behind abortion - many are also looking into the efficacy of state medical regulations or even the validity of medical licenses. What are your thoughts on the consequences or concerns that should be addressed? Is this a matter of pro-life vs. pro-choice or does this call into question the regulations regarding medical practices?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Immunity for Telecoms in U.S. Wiretap Cases

On Thursday, A United States appeal court stated that the 2008 law which granted legal immunity to telecommunication companies that aided the National Security Agency in email and telephone eavesdropping was constitutional.

Thirty three lawsuits were filed against various telecommunication companies by customers that had accused the companies of violating the customer's first amendment right. The case was brought into question because in 2008 Congress passed laws that included protection from legal liability for telecommunications companies that "allegedly helped the U.S. spy on Americans without warrants."

"In its unanimous ruling, the court noted comments made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the legal immunity’s role in helping the government gather intelligence." Furthermore, in the past, government lawyers have argued that in stopping such cases, that "defending the program in court would jeopardize national security."

What do you all think of this? Do you think it was right for the courts to rule this law constitutional? Or, do you think by allowing this law to be constitutional, that we create a whole series of loop holes in our laws that our government can't afford to have?

Kim Jong-un: Following in his father's footsteps?

On December 29, 2011, Kim Jong-un was declared North Korea's "supreme leader" at a huge rally in a central square in Pyongyang, the North's capital. Although the ceremony was partly performed for the formality of passing on the title from his deceased father, it was also symbolic of strengthening his position as North Korea's leader. Although much speculation is given to the fact that Kim Jong-un, as 27, is too young to take on the role of his father, it seems that the country has - as of now- accepted his position as the Supreme Leader of North Korea.

Very little is currently known about Kim Jong-un, including his personality as well as his political beliefs. His uncle-in-law, Jang Sung-taek, now serving as the Vice Chairman of the National Defence Commission, is predicted to act as a regent to the young Kim Jong-un, who for now will only nominally serve his position as leader. From the little information known, it seems that Kim Jong-un will be a more fragile and less "effective" ruler than his father, which - as many predict - may lead to a more powerful and possibly dangerous North Korean military. What do you guys think? What will happen under the regime of the Great Successor Kim Jong-un?

Super PACs To The Rescue

Outside groups campaigning for candidates, called "Super PACs," have been gaining importance in the upcoming election. While the groups are prohibited by law to coordinate with their specific candidate, the Super PACs are allowed to accept donations of any size, whereas candidates can receive only $2,500 from individual donors. This is legal because of court decisions that have struck down many limiting restrictions on spending money for elections, and also because the groups are legally separate from the campaigns.

The tactic of choice for the interest groups has been mud-slinging and attacking opponents, which leaves the candidates more money and time to spend on spreading positive messages as the Super PACs are doing all of the dirty work. Of late, the candidate receiving the most help from the new tactic has been Mitt Romney. According to data from the Republican media buyer, Romney has only spent $287,000 on TV advertising starting this week on Monday, while his independent support group has spent $780,000. This huge difference goes to show just how much the support and money of the interest groups have been playing a role in campaigning. And, as if the side-committees didn't seem unfair enough on their own, many Super PACs are being run by "political strategists with longstanding ties to the candidate." So despite the legal obligation to be separate from the official campaigns, it seems suspicious that major candidates know their Super PAC founders all too well.

So with the new frontier of campaigning, how will these major money-funded techniques bode for the smaller, less funded candidates? Is it even a fair race anymore?

(*this information is from an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "New Funding Rules Fuel Ad War, Shape Race." Unfortunately the full article is not online, sorry!)


Latino voting bloc still going strong for Obama and the Democrats

While drama ensues among the Republican presidential candidates, Obama and the Democrats have been pushed away from the limelight. However, a recent CNN poll shows that Latino registered voters favor Obama over Republican presidential hopefuls by a margin of more than 2-to-1, similar to the 67% Democrat, 31% Republican voter results for Latinos in the 2008 presidential election. The Latino voting bloc seems to continue its strong support of Obama despite dissatisfaction with the new deportation policies of the Obama administration. However, it seems that "ignorance is bliss" does play a part in this political game, as the survey results found that around 41% of the Hispanic respondents were aware that more deportations were occurring under the Obama administration than the preceding Bush administration. It's also interesting to note that although Hispanic voters have traditionally identified with the Democratic Party, "among the Latino voters, there is a lot of support for the Democrats, but also for Barack Obama. (Mark Hugo Lopez, executive director of the Pew Hispanic Center)

What are Obama's chances for the 2012 presidential election? Do you think that the coalition of political constituencies will remain the same for him this time around, or has the novelty of his Democratic platform rubbed off since the 2008 election campaign? Perhaps the wild goose chase to the White House exhibited by the Republican Party has given him a leg up in this year's campaign?

In-the-line-of-duty deaths of law enforcement officers jumps 13% in 2011

In 2011, statistics show that 173 law enforcement officers were killed while on duty - and the year is not quite over yet. This marks a 13% jump from last year's numbers and a 15% jump in calculation of only gunfire deaths (68 officers total). This proves to be the deadliest year for gunfire police deaths since 1973, when 156 officers were shot and killed.

This striking increase in police deaths brings to question the current laws regarding gun control. As Attorney General Eric Holder says, "Each of these deaths is a tragic reminder of the threats that law enforcement officers face each day -- and the fact that too many guns have fallen into the hands of those who are not legally permitted to possess them." Despite the handful of laws that have sought to regulate possession of guns - including the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, we Americans still generally hold the second amendment in the highest regard - "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." A recent 2010 Gallup poll shows that people are favoring less strict regulation over the sale of firearms and the possession of handguns. http://www.gallup.com/poll/144887/Continuing-Record-Low-Support-Stricter-Gun-Control.aspx

What do you think should be done, if anything, about the quick rise in the yearly deaths of in-the-line-of-duty police officers? Is this a testament to the fact that our current gun control laws are, in fact, not as strong as they should be? Or could there be some confounding variables that are skewing the correlation between gun control regulation and police officer deaths?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wealth gap between Congress and Voters continues to grow

According to both the New York Times and Washington Post, the wealth gap between members in Congress and Americans continues to go up in comparison to last year. The New York Times states that Congress member's median wealth has grown to "$913,000, compared to $100,000 for the rest of America households." While, according to the Washington Post , "that number drops to $725,000 when excluding home equity (and adjusting for inflation), but the same median figure for American families is just $20,500."

Obviously, it makes sense that people in Congress would on average make more than the average American. How else would they plan on getting money to run for election and campaign? But, do you think that this big financial gap still allows Congress to stay in touch with the "average Joe?" Or, do you think that the wealth gap can never allow Congress to accurately represent American citizens?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Shoppers Paying with Credit?

This holiday season, credit card purchases have jumped 7% in November and early December. A survey by Consumer Reports found that on average, Americans are planning to spend 6% more on the holiday season then last year.

All of this extra spending can help boost our economy by consumers spending more than their incomes. Also, because of a decrease in the unemployment rate, consumers have increased confidence and are more likely to borrow.

However, spending by credit cards is a very risky move for our economy. If consumers spend more than they can handle, it can cause a significant increase in American debt which contributed to the first financial crisis in 2008. The article even goes on to say that "about 6 percent of consumers, or 14 million Americans, are still paying off credit card bills from last Christmas."

So, my question to you all, is it better that Americans are spending more on Christmas this year than they did last year? Or, do you think the fact they're spending on credit is significantly more dangerous and thus will actually harm our economy more than help it?

Religion in Schools?

In Jefferson, South Carolina, controversy has ensued over a rapper announcing during a public school assembly that a "relationship with Jesus is what you need more than anything else."

The debate sparked when the rapper posted a video (see url below) on YouTube, where he announced that “324 kids at this school have made a decision for Jesus Christ.” Many have scrutinized this event because of its immense religious advocacy. And, as we all know, there have been Supreme Court cases that have officially banned religion in schools. However, at the same time, the government has had to decide at what point are we repressing a student's religious rights.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OroiFsPhEpk

Other battles over religious similar to this one have occurred recently, especially in southern regions. So my question to you all is do you think that schools should completely ban religious practices in schools. Or, do you think that by doing so, schools will violate a student's right to the first amendment?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chinese, Japanese currency deal?

Yesterday, the Chinese and Japanese government revealed that they have created incentives in order to encourage the use of their currency in bilateral trade as opposed to U.S. dollars. China also agreed to sell bonds using Japanese banks and corporations which have formerly been closed to foreign investors. The intended purpose of this pact is “to support the growing economic and financial ties between China and Japan, the leaders of China and Japan have agreed to enhance mutual cooperation in financial markets of both countries and encourage financial transactions between the two countries,” as stated by both nations. However, by doing this, China and Japan will decrease U.S. dollar's dominance in East Asia. My question to you all is do you think the U.S. economy will drastically suffer because of this deal and if so, to what extent will this damage our economy?

Ex-Yemen President requesting U.S. Medical Treatment

Ex-Yemen president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has requested President Obama's approval to enter the country in order to receive medical treatment. Saleh relinquished control to his vice president on Friday, but the Obama administration is still unsure about the political controversy that will ensue as a result of allowing Saleh into the country. The U.S. has continued to reiterate its support and approval of Yemeni people's rights. So my question to all of you is do you think Obama should allow Saleh into the country? Or, do you think this is a politically dangerous move for Obama considering the fact that Saleh had an oppressive thirty three year rule over Yemen?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Newt Gingrich Misses Ballot?

Collect enough signatures, get on the ballot. Pretty easy for Newt Gingrich, who is one of the top contenders for the Republican nomination, right? Apparently not. The Virginia Republican Party announced via Twitter than Gingrich had not collected enough signatures to be on the Virginia ballot.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/25/us/politics/gingrich-falls-short-of-signatures-needed-for-spot-on-gop-primary-ballot-in-virginia.html

Apparently, many of the signatures that Gingrich had were invalid, which is why many candidates get more than twice the amount of signatures needed. Gingrich is now hoping to use a write-in campaign, but Virginia does not allow write-ins for its primaries. Both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul were able to get enough signatures for Virginia, meaning they'll be the ones competing.

Now, if Virginia changes to allow write-ins, this would not be much of a problem, but it still highlights a type of failure on Gingrich's campaign, to not even get on the ballot.

What do you guys think? Is this an honest mistake, or should a candidate be more serious? Also, how do you think it will affect the outcome of other caucuses, and just his presidential campaign in general?

Korea's Changing Economics

After the death of Kim Jong il, all of North Korea seems to be mourning over his death. However, with his death, is it possible that the change of leadership will affect Korea, to be more capitalist and less totalitarian?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203686204577116162967853258.html

According to this article, it seems that the trade borders between China and North Korea opened up quickly after Kim Jong's death, partially due to N. Korea's dependence on China, but also perhaps as a sign to come, to be less isolationist? Though people have been told to grieve his death, the slogan is to 'Turn grief to strength,' and most people have been more focused to business and economy.

The article talks about how Kim Jong il's song Kim Jong un is now the new leader, he is still mostly a figurehead, and the country is ruled more by his relatives, like his aunt's husband, Jong Song Thaek. The hope is that, people like Jong Song Thaek, who oversaw the establishment of special economic zones and ties with China, will bring his policies in with the new change in leadership.

What do you guys think? Do you think that Kim Jong il's death marks a change in North Korea's foreign and economic policy? Or do you think that, once his son, Kim Jong un, regains power, he'll revert back to his father's ways?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Department of Justice objects to South Carolina's voter law

The Department of Justice on Friday deemed South Carolina's new law requiring voters to present a state or federal photo ID "legally unenforceable," arguing that it could be discriminatory against minorities in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The proposed law, signed by Gov. Nikkie Haely in May, would require voters wishing to vote in person to present one of five forms of photo identification. The current law does not require a photo ID. The stated intention in changing the current law was to reduce the amount of voter fraud caused by impersonation of another voter.

While state concerns are noted and deemed legitimate,the current voting law already addresses these problems with voter identification.

South Carolina can and may appeal this decision to the US District Court in Washington but untill then "the submitted change continues to be legally unenforceable."

NAACP named this state as one of the 14 that passed laws restrcting voting or voter resgistration process in ways that it says disproportionately impacts minorities. In the NAACP report, it is claimed that such restrcitive laws "assault Americans' voting rights.

The report, released December 5, calls the laws "coordinated efforts to suppress the growing voting strength of communities of color, the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and the young."

Haley slams the decision as "outrageous" in a statement provided to The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina.

What is your opinion? Do you think that this law is preventing voting fraud? or is it violating and assaulting our American rights?

Man sues airlines over underwear bomber incident

A New York man is suing two airlines for $10 million saying he was injured when he tackled the "underwear bomber" during a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day in 2009.

He is suing Delta Airlines and Air France-KLM for neglecting to prevent the underwear bomber from boarding Flight 253 on Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta.

Airlines have declined to comment on the court case.

According to records, the incident started when a loud noise was heard in the back of the plane and a man was engulfed in a fireball. The man remained expressionless while his body was consumed by the inferno.

Four passengers restrained him and helped put out the fire and was escorted to the first class section of the plane

Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab pleaded guilty to trying to blow up the airplane and is facing life in jail.

US officials accuse al Qaeda was behind the bombing attempt.

Does this man have the right to sue the airlines for something like this?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

http://fightforthefuture.org/pipa/

Above is a video explaining this bill. There's not much I can say there that the video doesn't cover. Its pretty simple to understand and also tells of the dangers that this bill poses to websites that are widely used today (eg. facebook, youtube, spotify, etc.) Anything that contains content under copyright is going to be shut down and taken down.

Does this violate any of our constitutional rights? Should the government be allowed to pass something like this?

Below is a two part video by Colbert elaborating on this bill as well. He also brings on two experts one for and one against SOPA to talk about their sides of the argument.

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/403465/december-01-2011/stop-online-piracy-act?xrs=share_copy

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/403466/december-01-2011/stop-online-piracy-act---danny-goldberg---jonathan-zittrain?xrs=share_copy

The National Defense Authorization Act

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6ThanSzG_w

This is a video explaining this act, the later part of this video is an opinion on this act. This act allows domestic terrorist investigations to be carried out by the military. This allows people to be thrown into jail without due process and is an obvious violation to our constitutional rights. Yet somehow, this bill PASSED THROUGH CONGRESS WITH A SHOCKING MAJORITY IN BOTH HOUSE AND SENATE. House passed the bill 283 to 136, and the senate 86 to 13. How a piece of legislation so blatantly violating our rights passed through Congress is beyond my ability to explain. For further information, read the link below.

http://theintelhub.com/2011/12/16/the-end-of-america-house-and-senate-pass-final-version-of-ndaa/

Kim Jong Il: Dead

North Korean dictator Kim Jong- Il died during a train ride on Saturday, sending waves of shock and sorrow throughout the country. Despite the oppressive and militaristic focus of the country, the death of Km Jong Il has caused an outcry of despair. One person was even quoted saying, "He tried so hard to make our lives much better and he just left like this." It seems apparent according to many articles that their leader was held in the highest regard, even in light of the famine of the 1990s and the dictatorial one-party system.

It has been stated that Kim Long Il's son, Kim Jong Eun will be taking his place as leader of North Korea. And, according to the article, "analysts say that with the process of transition from father to son incomplete, Mr Kim's death could herald "very unstable times" in North Korea." The British Foreign Secretary William Hague also said that it may be a "turning point" for North Korea to get more involved in the international community.

So after the leader's death, how do you think the country will be affected? Will the possibly turbulent transition have a big effect on the international community?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Senate Extends Payroll Tax Cut, but Only Briefly

Today the Senate approved a $33 billion bill to extend unemployment benefits, extend the payroll tax cut, and avoid pay cuts for doctors who accept Medicare. The bill, which was passed in the Senate 89 to 10, is said to be necessary to keep the economy in check because without it, the payroll tax would rise from 4.2% to 6.2% of wages by January (about $1,000 tax increase for every $50,000 income family).
But the bill only lasts for two months.
Some politicians are criticizing the Senate's inability to approve a year long bill saying it is a "failure for the American people." The House of Representatives will begin debating the legislation next week but the passage of it is questionable because the Republicans in the House have been trying to use the payroll tax cut as a way to pass construction for Keystone XL. Obama has threatened to veto the bill if those provisions are included.
Do you believe that the bipartisan approval of the bill in the Senate, even if it only extends for a brief period of time, is a success?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Occupy D.C. hunger strikers, frail but undaunted

Hunger strikers Sam &&<span class=
Hunger strikers in Washington D.C, from left to right: Sam Jewler, Adrian Parsons,
and Joe Gray
In Washington D.C., a group of Occupy protesters have gone on a hunger strike to call attention to their lack of representation in Congress as well as their lack of control over the District's laws and city budget. The provocation was the House of Representatives spending deal which bans "the District from funding abortions with local tax money." The protesters have now gone a full week without eating. During that week, a few of the protesters, Joe Gray, Kelly Mears, Adrian Parsons, and Sam Jewler, have visited various congressmen, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, to make their point. Their life-threatening protest has not been completely in vain. Representative Keith M. Ellison of Minnesota read the protesters' demands into the Congressional Record. Also, Washington D.C.'s non-voting member of the House of Representatives, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, announced that she would enter a tribute to the protesters in the Congressional Record. As the protesters go into their second week of not eating, they will increase their risks of serious health consequences. However, the strikers believe that the longer they hold out, the louder their message becomes.

What are your thoughts about the strikers' method of protest? Do you believe that such extreme measures are necessary in order to get a point across? Or do you think that the extremeness of their method actually hurts their cause?

Inflation Stands Still

The Consumer Price Index indicated little change in prices between October and November with gas prices falling 2.4% and food prices rising 0.1%.

"'The pace of inflation has clearly moderated in recent months, and is expected to continue to ease in the months ahead,' wrote Jim Baird, chief investment strategist for Plante Moran Financial Advisors, in a research note."

With prices falling in October, Robert Brusca, chief economist with FAO Economics, hopes it is an indication of some demand pick-up. However, as of now, Americans still aren't buying as much due to wages and unemployment.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Extending Unemployment Benefits


Since 2008, unemployment benefits have been extended eight times, costing taxpayers around $185 billion dollars. Now, however, Congress is debating whether or not to extend unemployment benefits once again, which would cost another $44 billion.

Some economists say that by lengthening unemployment benefits, unemployment is kept high due to the safety net that is provided to the people.

"That's because people can afford to be choosier about taking jobs when they are receiving a regular check. Others may have dropped out of the labor market -- to go back to school, for instance -- but don't because they want to keep collecting a check."

However, the unemployed and supporters argue that unemployment remains high due to the difficulty in finding and maintaining a job.

Do you think that extending unemployment benefits contributes to the high rate of unemployment? Should unemployment benefits be extended for another year?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lawmakers Offer Bipartisan Plan to Overhaul Medicare

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Republican Congressman Paul D. Ryan, annouced their plan today to fix Medicare. The biggest issue with Medicare currently is that more and more of the baby boomers are qualifying for the program, and there is not going to be enough revenue in payroll taxes to pay for everybody's benefits. Ryan and Wyden's proposal would allow beneficiaries to choose between the traditional Medicare program or private health insurance with premiums subsidized by the government. Their proposal would also cap Medicare spending, not being allowed to increase more than economic growth plus 1%.
Because Medicare is an entitlement program, attempts to reform it are extremely risky politically and are difficult to pass. Capping Medicare spending would likely increase costs for beneficiaries with the traditional program and encourage people to turn to private companies. What are your thoughts about the proposition and how it will be received in Congress?

Beyonce Accused of Plagiarism


Belgian choreographer, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, accused Beyonce of copying choreography and aesthetic themes from her ballets "Rosas danst Rosas" and "Achterland." Beyonce denied these accusations saying that she was simply "inspired" by De Keermaeker's works. A couple of weeks ago, Beyonce did edit her music video, replacing the questionable scenes with other footage. However, her original video still remains on Youtube and has now totaled over 1.3 million views. The link above shows a comparison of Beyonce's original video which Keersmaeker's works.
This is Beyonce's second accusation of plagiarism this year. In May, her performance of "Run the World" at the Billboard Music awards appeared to have choreography taken by choreographer Lorella Cuccarini. Beyonce admitted that Cuccarini inspired her.
These accusations remind me of our "Cheating Culture" reading from earlier this semester. What role do you believe Beyonce's plagiarisms, or other forms of cheating by celebrities, play in reinforcing a culture of unethical behavior?

Voting Rights Threatened


South Carolina and Texas have both recently tried to voting requirements that would ask all voters to present government-issued IDs at polling places. However, 25% of African-Americans and 19% of Latinos do not meet the requirement.

"Because these states for so long flaunted an obstinate refusal to allow African-Americans equal access to the voting booth, the Voting Rights Act requires they demonstrate that new changes will not have a discriminatory effect."

However, rather than adjusting the their voting requirements, they insisted that parts of the Voting Rights Act were unconstitutional.

In this CBS News article, it is stated that this voting requirement could reduce the number of votes from the minorities that support Obama.

"Most of the changes have been promoted and approved by Republicans, who argue they are needed to avert voter fraud. Democrats, citing studies suggesting there is little voter fraud, say the measures are actually aimed at reducing minority votes for their candidates."


Thoughts?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interesting Aspect of the Money Coining Process



Everyone has had the experience of turning over a shiny new quarter or nickle and being surprised by the non-standard design on the back. Lots of people even have those maps of states that have little pockets for the quarter that bears their image. However, you may be surprised just how many "specialized coins" are worth far less than their face value, despite the collectable aspect. One such coin is the Chester A. Arthur dollar coin.

As many of you may have noticed, dollar coins (and President Arthur) just aren't that popular. As part of the attempt to budget spending, automatic production of the coin is being cut. According to Vice President Joe Biden, 40% of the Arthurs produced every year are simply returned to the Federal Reserve due to lack of demand. The only reason for so much production in the first place is because of a 2005 act of Congress that requires 70-80 million coins produced per deceased president. The discontinuing of the coin will result in 50 million dollars worth of saving per year.

Is this simply an example of increasingly conservative spending? Or does it reveal an excessive expenditure that should not have existed in the first place?

Sperm bank turns down redheads

In September, Cryos International, the world's largest sperm bank based in Denmark with sites in 65 different countries including the United States, announced that they were beginning to turn away donations from redheads because of a lack of demand for their sperm. Ole Schou, the company's director, stated that, "There are too many redheads in relation to demand. I do not think you chose a redhead, unless the partner - for example, the sterile male - has red hair, or because the lone woman has a preference for redheads. And that's perhaps not so many, especially in the latter case."

I'm not going to lie--I laughed really, really hard when I read this. However, rejecting donations from redheads is still discrimination against a particular group of people; just as much as if the director were to replace "redheads" with "blacks" or "gays" or "asians." From a business perspective, do you think that it is alright to exclude a certain group of people if it means meeting the public's demand?

California Revenue Shortfall to Force More Cuts

Governor Jerry Brown announced today that California's state income is $2.2 billion short of its projected income. As a result, $258 million will be cut from public school transportation, and there will be increased fees for college students. Governor Brown is planning on asking voters next year to temporarily raise taxes on the state's highest earners. A recent poll shows 60% of voters in favor of this measure.

This article goes back to the discussion over whether or not California is too democratic. While direct initiatives can get new laws passed more quickly and give the public more power, they also allow new laws, such as prop 13, to get passed which, as evidenced by this article, have substantial consequences. Governor Brown is calling for more democracy to fix the current budget crisis by asking the voters, and not the legislature, to fix the crisis. Do you believe that the public is willing/able to fix it? Or do you think the budget crisis should be dealt with primarily by the legislature?

Keystone Pipeline

The Keystone Pipeline project that was pushed back last month is now being brought back in action. This pipeline would transport crude oil from Canada's oil sand regions to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

"TransCanada (TRP), the company that wants to build the pipeline, says Keystone would create 20,000 'direct' jobs. That includes 13,000 construction jobs and 7,000 jobs making stuff like pump houses and the pipe itself.

It also projects nearly 120,000 'indirect' jobs -- think restaurant workers and hotel employees to support the construction."

While this project does have the potential to create more jobs, there is a downside as well. Firstly, TransCanada reports that only around 100 permanent jobs will be created by this project. Furthermore, there are environmental issues that could arise with this new pipeline.

"jobs could also be lost due to crop failures or other events associated with higher pollution levels the oil sands would bring. And it said more oil would mean a decline in green jobs."

Furthermore, "one study from Cornell University said the pipeline could actually lead to a decline in jobs in the long run. One reason is that the pipeline would lead to higher fuel prices in the Midwest, the study said, and that would slow consumer spending and cost jobs."

So do you think this project will actually help? Or will it simply cost more jobs than it will create? Is this project worth it?

Monday, December 12, 2011

A New Chapter

As the war ends and American troops leave the Middle East, new goals are made as well as a forming partnership between the two nations.

"'Our goal is simply to make sure Iraq succeeds, because we think a successful, democratic Iraq can be a model for the entire region,' Obama said."

To do so, Obama told the Iraqi prime minister that they will build up trade relations, support the building up of Iraq's democratic capacity, help Iraq rebuild its air force, and possibly help in training Iraqi troops

"The U.S. goal 'is a sovereign Iraq that can protect its borders, protect its airspace, protect its people,' Obama said."

In order to help achieve its goals, nonmilitary U.S. personnel will remain in Iraq.

So could this truly be the start of a "new chapter" as Obama says?

Hey...Can We Have that Back?

As mentioned in an earlier post, the U.S. had recently lost a reconnaissance drone over western Afghanistan due to, as Iran claims, Iranian hackers jamming its signal. Now, however, the U.S. asks for its drone back and is currently waiting for an answer. According to the article attached to this post's title, an Iranian military officer had previously announced that they will not be returning the drone.

"'No nation welcomes other countries' spy drones in its territory, and no one sends back the spying equipment and its information back to the country of origin,' said Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of Iran's military, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Sunday.

'It makes no difference where this drone originated and which group or country sent it to invade our airspace,' Salami said. 'This was an act of invasion and belligerence.'"

I think Salami makes a valid point. This was an act of invasion and probably won't be getting that drone back...But what do you think? Will the U.S. get its drone back? Does it deserve its drone back? Thoughts?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Perry may inspire people...But now iPhone Apps?

Whether you want to catch up on Rick Perry and his campaign, or whether you want to watch his live TV blunder in the recent GOP Debate, or maybe even have some fun watching Rick Perry talk while drunk, you could simply just search the web. But what are you going to do if you can't access a computer? No need to worry, there's an app for that! In a recent article on the news website KXAN, it states that Perry's campaign's and rather humorous TV brainfarts are starting to inspire people to make iPhone apps.

They have various apps such as soundboards, or apps that could instantly stream his brain fart that was on live television, or for the more serious viewers, an actual app to catch up and follow whats happening with his campaign to be President of the United States.

There are many spoofs,apps, or even . . . wait what was the third one? With many types of things like these surfacing on the web, I believe that people are starting to believe that Rick Perry is a joke, running for President. It seems that the some of current media is just finding ways to portray him as the person people wouldn't want as president, or makes a joke out of the things he does.

How do you think Apps, spoofs, and other things hate related on Rick Perry are affecting his support for president? Could things like these play a major role in the demise of his hopes of being the primary Republican presidential candidate?

Obama on "Appeasement"

After making a statement to the press in a recent conference, President Barack Obama was questioned by a reporter on foreign policy. The reporter had stated how the Republican candidates had questioned Obama on his approach to foreign policy, especially with middle east countries due to recent events, and had accused Obama of using Appeasement.

Obama had instantly responded, "Ask Osama Bin Laden and the top 22 out of 30 Al-Qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field, whether I engage in appeasement . . . or whoever's left out there." 

By definition according to Wikipedia, appeasement is commonly understood to refer to a diplomatic policy aimed at avoiding war by making concessions to another power. Referring back to Obama's previous statement, to me it sounds like he is a little pro-war and is not afraid to take action in foreign affairs. He had taken action in both Libya and Pakistan, but his actions in Pakistan were more acknowledged due to the fact that he had ordered a Operation, known as Operation Neptune Spear, to invade Bin Laden's hideout in Abbottobad, Pakistan, and kill him.

After watching this video, I'm a little skeptical on this aspect of Obama's foreign policy. It sounds like he is possibly going to just go around taking out various threats in countries all over the world, in terms of his foreign policy. What are your thoughts on the subject? Is this a good idea regarding foreign policy? How do you think it would affect the U.S current and future reputation?

To me, I believe that using this kind of tactic would ultimately worsen the United States reputation around the world and wouldn't be very effective at all.

Secretary of Agriculture: Diplomatic meeting with foreign cabbage

On the latest attempt to improve foreign relations with vegetables, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had attended a meeting with foreign cabbage. The meeting itself had consisted of a very eloquent dinner, discussions of  a range of current global and bilateral issues and also, the rise of  the new center-left Positive Slovenia political party. 


Although no official agreements were made, this was a major step in the strengthening of diplomatic issues between the American government and the Slovenian fruits and vegetables.Although the secretary and cabbage have had major disagreements in the past, the secretary was successful in finding an agreement with the cabbage on many issues. Amazingly enough, Vilsack did not have to attend the meeting with a translator, since the secretary himself speaks conversational cabbage and was able to converse with the vegetable. Vilsack had  given the cabbage a full bag of premium American loam soil, and a new iPod, loaded with pictures and over 7 hours of tunes. Furthermore, the cabbage willingly let him nibble on a few of its leaves. 


To express the strong bond with the vegetable, Vilsack had told reporters "I know I can trust this cabbage. It's a good cabbage, a family cabbage. We may have different opinions on matters such as the European debt crisis and silt, but I can assure the produce of Slovenia that it will always have a friend in the United States of America."


 To me, its amazing how easy it was for the secretary to trust a vegetable. I mean honestly, a vegetable? It was as if the secretary had just given the vegetable a key to city hall, trusting him with it. He hadn't even considered the fact that the vegetable could just sugar coat it and tell him what he wants to hear and later on will go against his/her own word.


(This part is a real question) What are your thoughts on how the American government intervenes with foreign affairs now a day? How could a Vice President or even a secretary trust a leader from a foreign nation? What factors go into that decision of trust? How could they be trusted in the future?

Romney out of touch, flaunts $10,000 bet

Mitt Romney attempted to make a $10,000 dollar bet against governor Rick Perry during this weekends debate, leading many to disapprove of his lack of consideration for the many Americans who are currently struggling with today's economy. The bet was made in response to Perry's suggestion that Romney has changed certain parts of his book.

So what do you think? Will Romney's status as a wealthy businessman, which he seems to openly flaunt, hurt his appeal to voters?

All American Muslim vs. Lowe's

In case you have never heard of the show, All American Muslim is a TLC reality show following the lives of five Muslim families living in the United States. According to TLC.com, the show "offers an intimate look at the customs and celebrations, misconceptions and conflicts these families face outside and within their own community." Well, the show itself is now facing discrimination.

Lowes, the popular home improvement store, pulled its advertising from the show in response to the disapproval of a group called the Florida Family Association. The organization complained that All American Muslim was "propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values."

"Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views," the company's statement said. "As a result we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance."

Lowes' actions have sparked outrage from, well, basically everyone who doesn't agree that all Muslims are terrorists. Senator Ted Lieu of Southern California has been particularly vocal in expressing his disapproval, going so far as to consider consider calling for a boycott of the store. The senator has also suggested that legislative action needs to be taken.

So what do you think? Was Lowe's justified in its actions? Is legislative action or a boycott needed?

If you want to read the SF Chronicle on Lowe's action, check out the link attached to this posts title.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Perry Ad Campaign Spoof

Here's a little follow up on my last post!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Why is Perry digging himself into the biggest possible hole he can?

If you do not want to watch the new Rick Perry ad (link attached to the title) that is causing a considerable amount of outrage, here's a quick little summary.

Perry, dressed as a good ol' country boy, stands in a pretty little patch of trees, staring earnestly into the camera. If he could just have kept his mouth shut, the image alone could have garnered him some much needed support. Instead, Perry decides to say that, "You know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas." He also uses the phrases "Obama's war on religion" and "liberal attacks on our religious heritage." Oh yeah, the ad is also titled "Strong." Wanna know why? Because faith is what is needed to make America "strong again."

Now, I personally thought the ad was a joke when I first saw it. But its not. I agree that the U.S. can be overly PC sometimes (like how Aragon High School in California faced controversy due to the religious connotation behind the Christmas tree is set up in its center court), but every statement made in this ad was incredibly offensive. There is a lot that I could say about why this ad makes me hate Perry, but I think the main reason is that every word he says is so very genuine. He truly believes in what is saying. Why else would he commit political suicide by using this ad?

Do you agree that this ad could be his downfall?

Too Harsh a Truth?

Pennsylvania's Liquor and Control Board recently pulled an ad from the ControlTonight.com campaign, which raises awareness about the dangers of alcohol. The provocative ad, which can be viewed in the link contained within this post's title, is meant to warn youths of the frightening correlation between sexual assault and alcohol consumption. Critics of the ad argued that the it wrongfully places blame on the victims of such occurrences.

I personally found the ad, and its message, "She didn't want to do it, but she couldn't say no," to be overly shocking. What do you think? Was the Liquor and Control Board within its right to repeal the ad?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Finders Keepers! Iran has lost U.S. spy drone

As some of you may have read in the news, the Pentagon recently announced that it had lost a reconnaissance drone in western Afghanistan due to technological difficulties. Iran claimed responsibility, stating that Iranian hackers had used jamming signals to divert the craft.

"Iran hacking into the drone is as likely as an Ayatollah standing on a mountain-top and using thought waves to bring it down," Lewis, a former Reagan administration official now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Yahoo News by email Monday. "The most likely explanation is that it crashed on its own."

(Link to article: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/envoy/cyber-experts-pentagon-skeptical-iran-brought-down-u-205358251.html;_ylt=AkExI0QkKcTCz_POW7RDd9_yWed_;_ylu=X3oDMTFkNWJ1MDBuBG1pdANCbG9nIEJvZHkEcG9zAzMEc2VjA01lZGlhQmxvZ0JvZHlBc3NlbWJseQ--;_ylg=X3oDMTNicWxwcnRmBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDYTAxYzU5YzAtMGQ2YS0zN2I0LTkxYjItOTc3OWFiOTdlYzQ3BHBzdGNhdANvcmlnaW5hbHN8dGhlZW52b3kEcHQDc3RvcnlwYWdlBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3#more-5901)

As embarrassing as it has been for the Pentagon to lose such a valuable piece of technology, they were further humiliated when Iran's Press TV broadcasted a tour of a very intact US spy drone. Iran, which has been complaining for a while that such drones are invasive and violate its sovereignty, now seems to be getting some revenge.

Here's a yahoo news article that give a more detailed description.
http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/envoy/iran-releases-images-downed-u-spy-drone-171144210.html

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Colbert Nation Super PAC Presidential Primary

    In an effort to scrape together some money for their upcoming presidential primary, the South Carolina GOP tried to sell "naming rights" to none other than Stephen Colbert, the famed political satirist. Although party officials renounced the proposed title, "The Colbert Nation Super PAC Presidential Primary," they did consider adding a question previously proposed by Colbert to the 2012 primary ballot.
    The question, which some have considered a dig at Mitt Romney, created controversy when it appeared on a sample ballot. The questioned concerned whether or not corporations qualify as people, as Romney has previously declared.

"We weren't trying to embarrass Mitt Romney," Matt Moore, the party's executive director told Yahoo News. "It was a question proposed by Stephen Colbert, who was a potential donor to the party, and it didn't work out. It won't appear on the ballot."

Do you think that the question should still be debated? Colbert apparently does, as he is now negotiating with South Carolina Democrats to include the measure on their presidential ballot.

Rolando McClain: Can you say obnoxious smile?

Speaking as someone who never watches football, ever, I have been hearing a lot about the Oakland Raider's lately. In other words, my mom has been ranting about the above photo for the last few days. I don't know if its the obnoxious smile or the fact that the guy got to play just three days after his misdemeanor arrest, but the situation has set a lot of people's teeth on edge.
If you have not heard the story, here's a quick little timeline:

1. McClain goes home for his grandpa's funeral
2. McClain goes to a party with his friend, Jerradius Wilingham.
3. McClain beats up Rishard Tapscott at the party. Then shoots a gun next to his head after forcing him to beg for his life.
4. McClain is arrested on misdemeanor assault, firearms and other charges.
5. McClains gun permit (which he took out hours before the assault) is revoked. But it turns out that he had already lost the gun. Oops.
6. McCain plays three days after the assault.

So what do you think? Should McClain have been allowed to play? Here's a couple of links if you want to read more. The first mostly defends McClain, and the second is slightly less forgiving.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/05/SPVJ1M8B4Q.DTL&feed=rss.raiders
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/03/SP5E1M7OK1.DTL

Was James Cameron a Fortune Teller?

   

    You know how you all loved that alien movie that came out last year? The one with all the blue people that sort of ripped off Pocahontas? Well, there's good news! We are now just that much closer to a real life Pandora! NASA announced just this Monday the discovery of a planet a lot like Earth, one that could possibly support life forms.
      Scientists have been searching for years for a planet in what is called the "Goldilocks Zone," meaning that it is not too hot nor too cold to eliminate the possibility of liquid water. The planet, named Kepler 22b after the spacecraft that discovered it, is a balmy 72 degrees Fahrenheit and circles a star very much like our own sun. There are some differences though, Kepler 22b is more than twice the size of Earth and has 75 fewer days per year than we do.
      The Kepler spacecraft has discovered 2,326 possibly habitable planets which can't be classified as real planets until it is confirmed that they aren't just stars, or asteroids, or technological mistakes. The planets are detected by the darkness that occurs when they pass in front of their stars.
     If you want to learn more about the "New Earth," you can check out this article from the Washington Post. Or, if your feeling a bit less science-ey, you can just watch Avatar again.

Monday, December 5, 2011

C'mon Son!

Please excuse the language in following video, but this is a humorous example of the varying styles of reporting used now a day to report the news and other current events. The mainstream media has preferences for the views and people it portrays, and this man, commonly referred to colloquially as the "C'mon son man" or by his YouTube name "edlover4real", has strong opinions on the news that is shown by mainstream media. It’s interesting to note, the first topic covered in this video coincide with Herman Cain's recent allegations of sexual assault with multiple women. While Cain has not yet been proven guilty, the effects on his fan base and possible support have vastly decreased. These allegations have had such a negative effect on him, causing him to drop out of the presidential race.


(Please note that the segment relating to Herman Cain's sexual assault allegations starts at 0:30 and ends approximately ends at 2:20. Feel free to watch the rest of the video and have a good laugh if you'd like. Viewers discretion is advised) 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Opposition to Redistricting

Once every decade, the lines of Congressional districts within states are redrawn to accommodate population changes. Some areas are not in favor of the way the districts are being split up right now.

Republicans in North Carolina made the boundaries of districts work in their favor, but people have complained that one of the districts goes through 19 different counties and twists around way too much. This convoluted boundary brings it's perimeter to be 1,319 miles long.

Utah says that districts should be grouped according to the needs of the people. Salt Lake County is a huge metropolitan city, and is interested in expanding its transportation system and protecting its watershed, but its neighbors have other desires. Rural areas surrounding the city want to focus on more highway money and fewer restrictions on use of federal land. The Democratic mayor of Salt Lake County, Peter Corroon, wanted the districts shaped according to the city being in the center and the rural areas all around. Republicans who drew the district lines preferred "pizza-slice-shaped" districts that each contain a part of the city plus rural areas. Utah is mostly a Republican state, but Salt Lake County has the highest concentration of Democrats. Corroon stated, "We asked for a doughnut hole, we expected a pizza, and instead we got a plate of scrambled eggs." Representation is based on population, but shouldn't it also take into account the types of areas?

Democrats who drew the map in Illinois by creating urban districts that included small parts of Republican suburbs. This gives Democrats an advantage and diminishes the amount of say the overruled Republicans have in their districts.

Representatives are supposed to represent the needs of the people from their district, but what happens when the needs are completely unrelated?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Goodbye Cain

Republican Herman Cain has announced that he is suspending his campaign.
"I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction, the continued hurt caused on me and my family"

The media definitely played a big role in pressuring Cain to do this. It created a "cloud of doubt" over whether or not people wanted to support him after all the accusations. Those who did still support him seemed disappointed at his announcement, but I do not think he would have been successful if he stayed in the running for the Republican nomination considering how his ratings were dropping.
However, this is not the last we will see of Cain. "I am not going to be silenced and I'm not going away." He still plans on continuing to advocate his platform and endorse another Republican candidate.

While Cain's popularity has surely fallen, candidate Newt Gingrich's ratings have risen and has overtaken Mitt Romney in some opinion polls.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Al-Qaeda Holds U.S. Citizen Hostage


About four months ago, American Warren Weinstein was kidnapped by gunmen. He was living in Pakistan directing an American firm that advises Pakistani business.
Now, al-Qaeda says it is still holding him hostage. Leader Ayman al-Zawahiri says, "Just as the Americans detain whomever they suspect may be connected to al-Qaeda or the Taliban even in the slightest of ways, we have detained this man who has been involved with US aid to Pakistan since the 1970s." He also stated that Weinstein will be freed if the US follows several demands:
1. US stops air strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.
2. release al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects worldwide

Should our government intervene and try and free the hostage? Or comply with Zawahiri's requests? Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't Buy New Goods--Share!

(click title link to watch video)

People can put up their belongings, from power drills to cars, onto internet sites for others to borrow at a price depending on the amount of time borrowed.
If enough people are participating in this, doesn't that mean that the demand for new goods will fall? Won't this have a negative effect on our economy?

Two More States Petition For Medical Marijuana Use

Under federal law, marijuana, for any use, is illegal. Even with this in mind, 16 states have declared it legal for medical use, and now the governors of Washington and Rhode Island are petitioning the federal government to alter the law to make medical marijuana legal. Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning there is “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” Those governors would rather it be classified as Schedule II, which would allow “some accepted medical use and may be prescribed, administered or dispensed for medical use.”

Federal law says it is illegal, but some state laws say otherwise.

This sounds like a problem where national and state powers are in conflict. The supremacy clause in our Constitution states that national law is supreme to all others, however, this has not proven to be valid in this case. Should the federal government alter the law? It seems to create confusion among the people. Washington's governor stated, "In the midst of all the chaos we have patients who really either feel like they’re criminals or may be engaged in some criminal activity." There seems to be a blurred line between the power of the federal government's law and those of state governments.

Future Solar Aircraft

Everyone knows how important solar energy has become. Just a few months ago Aragon High School had a celebration for the new Solar Panels that had been installed last year and would power a good percent of the school. Now it seems that solar energy is going beyond homes and buildings.
CNN reported on a man named Bertrand Piccard who is developing the first solar powered aircraft. Unfortunately, the aircraft isn't perfectly fit yet to carry loads of passengers, right now just the pilot. However, the future seems bright for this new invention. With a 200-foot wingspan and weighing less than 4000 lbs. (the weight of a mid-sized car) this aircraft was "designed entirely with energy conservation in mind", using about the same amount of energy that the Wright Brothers flying machine required in 1903.
The science behind this masterful machine includes "four motors containing polymer lithium batteries and a heat management system designed to conserve heat at high altitudes. Coupled with an on board computing system that gathers and analyzes flight management procedures".
Nevertheless, this new development is a great inspiration for developing new methods of energy conservation for the future. What do you think?
video

Cain Won't Go Down that Easily!


After Ginger White came forward admitting that she and Herman Cain had an affair for 13 years, many thought that Cain was done as a potential Republican candidate. However, Cain didn't go down that easily.
Denying that he had any affair with White, Cain made a speech on Wednesday confirming that he will not be dropping out. During his speech many shouted with approval as he said "The American people will be raising some Cain in 2012", and showed approval of his decision to continue in the race.
However, it is still believed that these allegations could still hurt him. Even then it seems as though Cain still has supporters behind him and saying that this accusations are false. Therefore, is it possible that Cain still has a good chance? Or does his future as future president look dim?


(Image: John Sommers Ii/Reuters
Herman Cain addressed supporters at a campaign stop in Ohio on Wednesday.)

8 year-old boy with obesity taken away to foster care


The main question i have about this article for everyone is: Is it okay for the government to take children away from their parents purely based on the weight of the child?

This article talks about how a Third grader in Ohio was put into foster care because he was over 200 pounds. The county social worker claimed that his mother was not doing enough to control his weight. They said that the 8 year-old was considered severely obese and was in danger of having certain diseases such as diabetes. The mothers attorney is arguing that the boy was a honor-roll student, and that much worse than his weight is going to be the emotional impact he will have from getting taken from home. His mother had been trying to manage his diet and weight, but siblings and friends were sneaking him midnight snacks and other foods.
Also in his foster home his mother is having trouble keeping up on doctors appointments, and the foster parents are getting financial help from the government.

I wonder why it is that they did not just financially help the birth mother, and scheduled a nutritionist to come in and help the family with his weight? If any child is not being abused emotionally and physically, its going to make everything worse. Obviously This child needs help, but is taking him away from his mother and family the help he needs?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A topic for discussion. Also personal research.

So this isn't so directly political, but it's more than a distant influence on politics!


I've been having a good long think about this picked up and put aside and picked back up over the past few years and have been coming up with absolutely nothing, and not being able to rationalize something by any stretch of my imagination drives me up the wall - so I thought I'd pose a discussion question, both because others' insight certainly helps and it's food for thought.


The question is this: why does prejudice exist as something so strongly that people will act on it?


I figure it's actually quite a good thing to try to understand - not empathize with, of course, but it takes knowledge of how something works to fix it. And everyone does have their -isms, through teaching or unfortunate exposure/lack of positive experience that they've taken as reference for labeling things, but again, not everyone acts on it.


The best I could do was come to the fact that humans are pack animals - perhaps they'll identify "their" people and lash out against those who are most distinctly not among them, which used to be beneficial - a warring tribe complex. But come on now people today are very much unified - though of course we have individual governments, countries, and other such affiliations, we're now very closely linked. Plenty of organizations try for action on a global scale - environmentalism, ending poverty, etc. Technology allows just about any two people to talk who can afford it almost regardless of where they live.


Even if tribal mentality does stand as an excuse there, people trying to make more of themselves through sense of competition between factions, the way prejudices are determined makes no sense, especially within America. Several races, sexual and gender orientations, religions, and what-have-you are mixed about in states, to counties, to cities. You'd think it would be most beneficial for a person to ally with all of those in closest proximity to them - they'd be immediate assets, people to turn to for favors and defense - or at least have a live-and-let-live attitude in regards to them. Why seek conflict? Yet a racist student would generally sooner ally with a person of and biased toward the same race who they will never get to know on a personal level - a politician, person spoken to through telecommunication, whatever scenario please you - than a fellow student of the very same college and with otherwise similar opinions.


What also makes little sense is this - why would a person filter people out with a system of just-about-everyone-is-all-right-unless-they-possess-this-one-little-trait - setting their alarms to go off on detecting some arbitrary detail and judging others on whatever basis they would normally use - instead of looking for one particular or set of common traits they show special favor toward? While bias isn't excellent either, prejudice sets a person up to make enemies where no conflict or challenge exists, and what allies it gets its possessor are on a "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" basis.


This all may be under assumption that humanity gravitates toward harmony - but why wouldn't it? That idea's easier to support than one that suggests humans seek to shorten their own lives - even the idea of the path of least resistance suggests that people are selfish - want to get as much as they can for minimal work - yet ought to imply that they shouldn't seek enemies. Fighting certainly takes work, and risk.


Though perhaps a more Hobbes-esque viewpoint would offer an explanation.

Who Will Need it Next?

Despite free and reduce lunches always being available throughout schools in America, the numbers of kids who need them have never been so high. According to the New York Times of data from the Department of Agriculture, recipients of this program rose to 21 million from 18 million. In addition, states such as Nevada, Florida, New Jersey and Tennessee have had four-year increases of 25 percent or more.
Obviously, the recession has hit many families hard, however, many families didn't think they were ever going to need this meal program for their children, now they do. For example, lay offs in large factories and corporations trigger an increase for the need of the meal plan. Sarah White, the state director of school nutrition, says that,“When a factory closes, our school districts see a big increase", which shows the impact of these lay-offs.
Even so, families still need to qualify for these benefits, despite there financial problems. According to the New York Times Article, "$29,055 for a family of four — are eligible for free school meals. Children in a four-member household with income up to $41,348 qualify for a subsidized lunch priced at 40 cents". As a result, not all families can receive benefits.
Nevertheless, the statistics are shocking and continuously growing and according to Leah Schmidt, a district's nutrition director, “This is the neediest period I’ve seen in my 20-year career".

(Image: Steve Hebert for The New York Times. More than 100 students eat a free dinner daily after classes at Ingels Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo. The Hickman Mills C-1 district feared students would otherwise go to bed hungry.)

Cain "Reassessing" Campaign

Yesterday, a woman claimed that she had a 13-year affair with the married Republican candidate Herman Cain. He denied this as "false accusations that cannot be proved." In addition to previous allegations of sexual harassment, Cain's ratings are definitely falling and he is now deciding whether or not to continue with his campaign. Support from the public is necessary in order to keep up with fundraising, but with less and less people giving support, his campaign faces financial issues. They area already going to have to lay off staff.
Cain states: "We have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people's minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth."
It seems like his campaign has been pretty corrupted, even without any solid evidence that the woman's claim is true. Once an idea is out there, it is difficult to change people's minds.

Should Cain continue with his campaign, even with the low opinions the public thinks of him? Is there any way he would be able to fix his image?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shortcomings in Congress

One thing that incenses me above else is the behavior of the current 112th Congress. This Congress was elected in 2010 in the middle of the worst economic decline since the Great Depression, certainly a time when we should be turning to our elected officials to lead us out of danger. Instead, the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives was content to sit back and just say No to everything that the Senate sent it. They chose to cow-tow to the Tea Party voters whose political movement and conservative revival they had rode into office. Did you know that EVERY single member of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress signed a "No New Taxes Ever" pledge as soon as the caucus was created in 2010? Already these legislators had tied their credibility and re-election prospects to saying no to a key element of any possible compromise with Democrats over debt reduction and had set the tone for the next year. The way the Republicans have used their majority in the house for things like blocking the end of the Bush-era tax cuts for millionaires, and forcing spending cuts into the 2011 federal budget is both, I think, an abuse of power and harmful to the nation's economic outlook. 70% of all Americans approved of ending the tax cuts yet they are still around. Moreover the fact that they are blocking all these initiatives while at the same time forcing stupid, meaningless, symbolic legislation like a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution and the repeal of Obama's healthcare bill is even worse. A Balanced Budget Amendment would leave the government helpless to get emergency money in the event of a national crisis or sudden war, and Obama spent much of the early part of his term working to get this healthcare law passed, of course he and the Senate Democrats are going to block the repeal.
The absolute worst part though was the dangerous display of brinksmanship during the debt ceiling debate earlier this year. For House Republicans to delay raising the limit until several "deadlines" had passed and the Treasury was doing magic with its accounting to find enough money to run the government is ridiculous. What I found most frightening about it though was the talk of a government shutdown and default on our debt. The fact that people would even be discussing possibly letting that happen is terrifying. The U.S. government has never defaulted on a penny of its debt in all of history and for it to do so in 2011 would more than likely create such a panic that it would end the financial system as we know it. Using that as a threat to push through ill-advised spending cuts is irresponsible and I think that the Republican Party will pay for it in the 2012 election.