Thursday, March 31, 2011

To Seize Or Not To Seize . . . A Tale Of Libya's Frozen Assets (In The U.S. of A.!)

Hi again everyone! I came across another (surprise, surprise) story about the compelling tale unraveling in Libya.

Charles Riley, of CNN, writes of the U.S.'s possible use of the Libyan government assets that President Obama froze back in February. Although some believe that the U.S. should use the frozen assets (worth at least $30 billion) to fund the war, Riley points out that the U.S. never seized these assets from the Libyan government. The assets currently reside in You-Know-Who's name (and if you don't know, that would be Gadhafi) and for the U.S. to even touch it, they would need the consent of Gadhafi himself, which seems highly-unlikely. According to Riley, Obama plans to leave these assets in the banks to gain interest until Gadhafi's regime meets its demise, so that whatever amount is left can be given to the new Libyan government and aid the Libyan people.

So, what do y'all think? Should we continue to reserve these assets for the future Libyan government, if there will be one? Or should the government seize the assets, despite the unpopularity of it, and fund this "war effort?"

A (Different) Crisis In Japan

While, for obvious reasons, everyone's mind is on the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, today I'd like to bring another problem in Japan to your attention, one with potentially far worse effects in the long term. I speak of underpopulation. Though the world was in the midst of a looming overpopulation cris which peaked during the 1970s and 1980s, uin developed countries around the world, birthrates have declined and net population is beginning to (or will soon) drop rather than increase with time. In the United States, this has not happened yet, as the net population growth rate is still positive (according to the CIA World Factbook, about 0.963% per year.) This current growth is expected to extend into the future, with the US population expected to reach about 400 million by 2050. Japan, however, is in a very different sitauation. Its population is aging rapidly and its birthrate is extremely low, the second lowest in the entire world. It only ranks ahead of the small nation of Monaco. The immediate effects of this problem are transforming Japanese society. Schools all across the nation have been boarded up and sold, as there are no children to fill them. Companies are beginning to have labor shortages from the lack of workers. The repercussions are for more expansive than just this, and despite Japan's leadership in the field of robotics (which help aid the gap in labor by reducing the number of jobs needed, which, paradoxically, may be a good thing in this situation), the country is beginning to feel the effects of having a declining population. The problem has a few possible solutions. One solution, which I mentioned before, is an advancement in robotics. These advances will allow Japan's economy, which is by no means struggling, to become even more efficient and productive despite a declining labor force. Another solution that is more practical in the short term is to bring in workers from other areas to replace the lack of labor. However, Japan's incredibly stringent immigration policies and distrust of foreigners make this concept politically distasteful to implement. What do you guys think? If you were in a senior position in the Japanese government, what might you propose as a good solution to the problem? Does this situation surprise you, since a labor surplus has been the way of life for essentially all nations for much of recorded history? How likely do you think it is that Western Europe or the United States could face a similar problem in the future? --- *Clicking on the title will take you to the CIA World Factbook statistics on Japan's population.

EPA boosts radiation after low levels found in milk

Luckily there is no health risk from consuming milk with extremely low levels of radiation, like those found in Washington state and California, experts said Thursday, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"When we have a disaster like we've had with a nuclear power plant in Japan, we're probably going to find things that are truly not a public health risk, but I think it's very difficult for the public to assimilate this information and understand the risks," said Dr. Wally Curran, a radiation oncologist and head of Emory University's Winship Cancer Center.

On Wednesday the federal agency said that it would increase its monitoring of radiation in milk, precipitation, drinking water, and other outlets. Results taken from samples of milk in Spokane, Washington, and in San Luis Obispo County, California, detected radioactive iodine, or iodine-131, at a level 5,000 times lower than the limit set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

At that level, a person would have to drink 1,000 liters of milk to receive the same amount of radiation as a chest X-ray, said Dr. James Cox. The iodine-131 was said to have a half life of about eight days. This is good news. It means that the radiation wont dwell in any biologic system for any significant period of time.

Radiation gets into the milk because it falls on grass eaten by cows. The milk does not itself absorb radiation.

Similarly, the California Department of Public Health reassured residents that the levels do not pose a threat.

Although the California Department of Public Health and many other scientist have said that the levels of radiation in milk do not pose a threat, people have still started to freak out. Families have reduced milk consumption and even products that contain milk. In my opinion I feel like that is taking it a little too far, I do not think reducing milk consumption is necessary because the amount of radiation in the milk is not enough to harm anyone.

What are your opinions? Do you guys think this radiation problem could get worse, and if it does, what would be the smartest thing to do about it?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Western leaders consider arming Libyan rebels

European and American leaders weighed the pros and cons of arming Libya's rebels today.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons today that the United Nations Security Council mandate "allows all necessary measures to protect civilians and populated areas (and) this would not necessarily rule out provision of assistance to those protecting civilians in certain circumstances."

"As I've said before, we do not rule it out but we have not taken the decision to do so," he said.

Obama had also said, on Tuesday, that he, too, is open to the possibility of arming the rebel fighters. "I'm not ruling it out, but I'm also not ruling it in," he told NBC. In a separate interview with ABC, Obama said that "if we wanted to get weapons into Libya, we probably could. ... We're looking at all our options at this point."

One main problem would be the fact that we would have to train opposition forces on how to use advanced weaponry.

A former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center had said that with the more advanced weaponry we have, there just wouldn't be enough time to train the rebels. this definitely would be an issue and I'd have to agree with it.

Another problem: There could be a possible al Qaeda and Hezbollah presence within Libya's rebel movement.

In my opinion I feel like Egypt should help more, I'd say they have a pretty good military. They should send some reinforcements to help out. I think the big issue here is that there just is never enough time. training rebels would take too much time I think. Arming rebels with weapons would only cause more deaths.

What are your opinions on this?

Do you think that this is the best way? Is there something better we can do?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

United Abominations?

Well, since I did some analysis yesterday, it's time to have a bit of fun. But before we do that, a bit of history. In 2007, the heavy metal band Megadeth (one of my personal favorites) released an album titled "United Abominations," in which vocalist/rythym guitarist Dave Mustaine has a very clear message to the UN, as one could easily deduce from the title and album cover, which features the band's amscot Vic Rattlehead blowing up the UN building with oil barrels. There are a lot of tracks from the album that are politically "interesting", to say the least, but since I love the UN so darn much, I'm going to look at the title track. Mustaine talks about how "ambassadors from countries otherwise known as a catastrophe" live in Manhattan while we pay them and "their children are turned into prostitutes." Now, I don't have intimate experience in that particular field, but I somewhat doubt that is a common occurence, and even if it was, how is that an argument against having the United Nations? The effectiveness of an organization has nothing to do with the life decisions its representatives' children make. More importantly, I don't think I have to point out that the UN does not encourage young men and women to become prostitutes. It's a peculiar point, to say the least. To be fair, though, that isn't his main point, and even though it's funny, that isn't really why I wrote this post up. The song goes on to deplore the UN for, among other things, not responding to a terrorist attack on a discotheque, not invading Afghanistan with the US, and not invading Iraq with the US. All of these arguments seem to lack a fundamental knowledge of what the UN actually can or should do. Deploying peacekeepers to Afghanistan or Iraq would be pointless at best, since the whole point of those actions were violent operations. Essentially, Mustaine thinks that the UN messes up the US's foreign policy by not participating in it. Personally, I don't think the UN is supposed to push the US's foreign policy along, and it certainly doesn't need to be wiped off the face of the earth. But what do you guys think? Do you agree with me or Dave Mustaine? At any rate, I recommend listening to the song (which you can find on Youtube; just type in "megadeth united abominations") and leaving a comment about what you think the role of the UN should be.

Recorded calls keep inmates locked up

Prosecutor Kessler suspected Eric Persaud of burning his girlfriend with a hot iron. Prosecutors say she stuffed a towel in her mouth to keep herself from screaming.

"He told her if she screams or yells, he'll burn the kids, too," says Scott Kessler, chief of the domestic violence bureau for the Queens, New York, district attorney.

Even worse, one of the kids saw the whole thing. "Persaud thought the boy was asleep. He wasn't," Kessler adds.

Despite her injuries, Persaud's girlfriend did not want to testify before a grand jury. That could have meant the end of the case. No testimony from a burn victim can mean no conviction.

Kessler had suspected Persaud was talking to his girlfriend on the phone and intimidating her to not testify. The Queens County district attorney's Domestic Violence Bureau was forced to dismiss about 70% of its cases due mostly because of intimidation.

Kessler had decided to go to plan B. He decided to use Persaud's own words against him. Not a confession, but just as good, if not better. He lobbied the Department of Corrections to record jailhouse phone calls. That enabled him to prove to the court that Persaud and others were intimidating their battered victims.

To use the tapes, Kessler is using a legal theory called forfeiture by wrongdoing which says..."you have the right to confront a witness that's against you, unless you're the reason they don't come forward."

Surprisingly, detainees keep calling from the jail despite that there are posted signs warming them that their phone calls are recorded.

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin says in jail, rights are limited. "It's not unfair. It's prison. And when you're in prison, you lose certain rights, like the ability to have phone calls in privacy." I would have to agree with this, I think that recording the inmates phone calls are a good idea to find out information.

what do you guys think?

Do you think this is fair? or the best way?

Bracket Busters & The Money Of March Madness

As Conor posted earlier last week, March Madness has been in full-session and has definitely had its share of winners, losers, and upsets. But with the Final Four coming up this weekend and the NCAA tournament coming to a close, I thought it would be interesting to find out where all the revenue that is derived from this month-long event actually goes. According to's Patrick Rishe's research, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) distributes its money that it gains, from its television contracts with CBS and a variety of other networks, amongst the NCAA Division 1 conferences that participate in the tournament. The conferences are then responsible for dividing the money they receive from the NCAA to the institutions within their respective conferences. The conference is ultimately responsible for who gets what amount of money, where they may choose to split it evenly amongst their institutions or disproportionately to the schools that advanced the farthest in the tourney.

The amount a conference receives is based on how well their teams do in the tournament. As Rishe explains: "[Each school receives a] 'unit' [that] is awarded to a conference for each game a member school participates in, except the championship game. In 2009-10, each “basketball unit” was approximately $222,206 for a total $167.1 million distribution."

With this statistic, it is easy to see how some conferences like the Big East, ACC, and Big 12 earn so much money in the span of a mere five years. Because of March Madness alone, the Big East conference has received $86.7 M in the past 5 years. This is double the amount of a "non-BCS," or non-major, conference like Conference USA that has only garnered $40.8 M in the same time period. Although it is obvious that the Big East has the advantage of being able to send a multitude of teams to the NCAA tournament (setting a record this year with 11) whilst the C-USA teams send a mere two, if they are so fortunate.

According to Rishe:

"BCS Conferences collectively averaged $14.8 M annually in 'basketball units,' which is 3.65 times greater than the $4.05 M averaged by the 8 non-BCS conferences analyzed herein. "

Ultimately, the point I seem to be heading for is that is it fair that just because a school is from a major conference, a la UConn or Kentucky, that they receive a such large sums of money and continue to grow richer? Is it also ok that they continue to benefit from all the positive externalities that come with the extra money, such as recruiting benefits and exposure? Is there a chance for schools from smaller conferences, like Butler of the Horizon League and Virginia Commonwealth of the Colonial Athletic Association, to close the gap between the "BCS" and "non-BCS" conferences? I found this to be exceedingly similar to the subject of social mobility we discussed last week and look forward to your thoughts on the desparity in the NCAA or anything pertaining to the interesting Final Four we have this year. P.S. GO BUTLER!!!

A 11th Grader Stands up to Corporal Punishment

According to the Center for Effective Discipline, corporal punishment is still around in 20 states. Most of these states are in the south, where paddling remains in social and family fabrics in some communities.

Tyler Anastopoulos, a junior who attends City View Junior/Senior High School in Wichita Falls, Texas, got in trouble for skipping detention and got the same punishment that student in rural parts of Texas have been getting for decades. Tyler was sent to the assistant principal office where he received  "three swift swats to the backside with a paddle", according to his mother. The blows were so harsh that they resulted in deep bruising that the student wound up in the hospital.
Tyler decided to tell Texas lawmakers his story this past month, which are considering banning corporal punishment. The same week New Mexico voted to end the practice.

However, the superintendent of the City View Independent School District, Steven Harris, claims there was no wrongdoing. He points out, this has long been “one of the tools in the tool box we use for discipline.”
Opponents from banning the punishment, like State Senator Vernon D. Asbil, thinks that with out corporal punishment student won't be able to be kept under control.

 The lawmakers of Texas have yet to reach a consensus.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why Libya Is Not Iraq.

Good evening. As you may or may not have noticed (I only happened to by a coincidence), President Obama gave an address to the nation today about his rationale behind the U.S. intervention in Libya. Among other things, he said American command of the mission would be handed over from the U.S.A. to NATO as a whole on Wednesday. He also discussed potential concerns from the opposition to the intervention. I’m not going to repeat all his arguments verbatim, as that would bore me and probably all of you. However, I will say that provided things keep going the way they’re going, I’m with the president on this one. Like many (obviously not all, but I’d put money on it being a majority) of you, I think the Iraq intervention was a wreck and I’m generally opposed to the notion of the United States policing the world, especially selectively. How can these two things coexist? Let’s take a look.

Other than the fact that the nation of Libya is physically not the nation of Iraq, there are a few more important points that clarify the differences between the two actions. Firstly, the Libya intervention was not a unilateral action. The action received UN backing, which is a major step forward in the legitimacy of any action like this one. Acting in tandem with other countries through makes the mission less about Americans throwing their weight around, a practice the Middle East has seen much too much of already, and more about stopping a dictator who has attacked his own people. Not only is that better PR, it’s the way it should be, too. This isn’t about Americans securing another country so we can extend our oil-sucking tendrils that much deeper into less developed nations. When leaders step out of line and begin committing crimes, there should be an effective international response. Proving the UN’s worth by doing so in Libya would be a major step to it fulfilling its intended peacekeeping role. The Arab League also asked for intervention, which I think is a crucial factor to keeping this mission legitimate. Since they asked for our aid, it would be much more implausible for other countries to react in anger, and even if they did, we could legitimately point out that they asked for our assistance in the first place. Cooperating with the Arab League, of course, also bolsters relations with its member countries when the peacekeeping mission works well, and that’s only a good thing for any and all areas of U.S. policy in the area, whether it’s pushing for peace or trying to promote democracy.

There are a couple of other important reasons why Libya will not become another Iraq. Number one, Obama has not, and doesn’t seem to be willing to, put troops on the ground. This is an immensely good strategic decision for two reasons. Once you put troops on the ground, it’s awfully hard to get them back out (coughIraqandAfghanistancough), whereas if you stick to an air campaign, eventually you just run out of worthwhile things to bomb. Should we ever need to get out of Libya, we can just drive our aircraft carriers home and boom! That’s the end of the action, and it takes a lot less political pressure to do so. You can’t do that with troops, for obvious reasons. Sticking to what the UN and Arab League asked for ensures our goals stay legitimate and make sure the rebels, while thankful, handle their own war. Speaking of the rebels, they are the second and most important reason why Libya is much more legitimate of an intervention. Both Hussein and Qaddafi, by any stretch of the imagination, would be considered “very bad dictators.” As bad as Hussein was, however, there was no major democratic movement trying to put him out of power that he brutally suppressed, and even high-ranking Bush administration officials didn’t pretend that there was. In Iraq, no one asked for our help, and in all likelihood, they would have been more than fine without it. In Libya, that is certainly not the case.

Well, there’s my two cents on the Libyan intervention. What do you think about it? Back me up or prove me wrong. Muhahaha.
* Clicking on the title will take you to an NPR article that summarizes Obama’s speech.
** Embarrassing Side Note: You have no idea how many times I almost typed “Lybia” while writing this post.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Global Death Penalty Trend is Falling

A recent Amnesty International Report claims that the use of the death penalty is continuing to fall. The statistics show that, although the number of countries using the punishment has increased from 23 to 27, the number of deaths via the death penalty has decreased from 714 to 527.

The Death Penalty is more broad spread throughout the globe than you may think. Gabon used to have the practice, but ceased it last year. It is the 139th country to do so. Europe was free of the death penalty for 2009, but two executions in Belarus occurred in 2010. And "Mongolia [recently] declared a Moratorium on the Death Penalty."

The report also expressed that an alarming number of the executions were given to those convicted for drug offenses. This is particularly the case in Malaysia. According to this BBC News Article, "Methods of execution employed worldwide were beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and various kinds of shooting." And apparently stoning sentences were recorded in Iran, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

This figure, however, does not include China. Amnesty International claims that China most likely carries out more executions than the rest of the countries put together.

What do you think of this trend? Do you believe the human race could potentially reach a global abolition?

Syria: Unrest and Protest...12 Killed

Twelve people were killed, including both civilians and security personnel, in an anti-government protest on Saturday in Latakia (a Syrian coastal city). Dozens have already been killed this week in a series of protests "against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad."

At least 200 people were also injured, but the government blamed the deaths on unknown gunmen firing from rooftops. Syrian troops have entered Latakia from Damascus in order to restore the peace. There has surely been a lack thereof this past week. Offices of the ruling Baath party were set on fire, and although the emergency laws of Syria (those that "restrict public gatherings and authorise the arrest of "suspects or persons who threaten security") have been lifted, there have still been numerous casualties and injuries.

The presidential spokeswoman Buthaina Shaaban says that authorities intend to put a referendum before the people as soon as possible to deal with both constitutional and party changes. Shaaban also claims that a Sunni Muslim cleric in Doha, Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi, should be blamed for inciting violence (Latakia is a mostly Sunni city).

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claims that the international community should not expect a US intervention. This is a different situation than that of Libya. In fact, dozens of political prisoners have been freed.

The riots continue throughout various cities and towns in Syria.

Some Questions for Thought:

How does the situation in Syria differ from that in Libya? Do you think the US should consider intervening?

What are your thoughts on the current president's methods of handling the situation (remember that he has lifted the ancient "emergency laws")?

Given the general events in the Middle East and the previous posts about Egypt, Libya, Israel/Gaza, etc., would you say we are at a pivotal moment in our history?

Any other comments or concerns?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ceasefire Between Israel and Gaza?

Following a meeting between Hamas leaders and Israeli insurgents, Gaza militant groups have announced that they will agree to ceasefire if Israel stops its attacks on the Palestinian territory. At least 10 Palestinians have been killed thusfar in the recent attacks. An Islamic Jihad leader said "everybody confirmed that they respect the national consensus by calming things with the Zionist enemy".

Israel, too, says that they have encountered terror and rocket attacks. Prime Minister Netanyahu has claimed that Israel would "act with great force and great determination to put a stop to it." Israel has yet to comment on the ceasefire request. An Israeli commander in Gaza claimed that there was currently "anarchy" in Gaza. "We are prepared for any possibility, the goal is we won't in the end permit a situation where it is impossible for civilians to live here," says the commander.

Hamas has not been able to obtain support from all militant groups however. If the situation were to exacerbate, there is no doubt that the Palestinians would have more casualties than the Israelis. In the war two years ago, 1300 Palestinians were killed, while only 11 Israelis were.

This is only one of many historic examples of Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Having discussed this topic in Model UN ad nauseum, whether it was on Security Council or UNDP, I know it is difficult to take sides and to think of a possible solution. And it is not necessarily appropriate to take a side and completely disregard the other side. Although I know bias is going to play its way into comments on this post and I am not dissuading you from discussing your opinion, please be polite and evaluate both the Palestinian side and Israeli side to the best of your ability. This is a very sensitive topic and to see that the conflict has gotten worse this past week is undoubtedly worthy of a blog post.

Friday, March 25, 2011

3-D Smartphones on the Rise

I'm sure we saw this coming: HTC and LG are preparing 3D smartphones that don't require the user to wear glasses. HTC will come out with the EVO 3D which incorporates a 4.3 inch screen which will display the astonishing 3D technology. Users will even be able to capture pictures and videos in 3D using a pair of cameras on the back of the device. LG's brand of the phone will be called The Optimus 3D and will be launched with the AT&T network with the new name of Thrill 4g (which is good news considering at&t doesn't have 4g capability at the moment).

 No prices have been set for either phone yet! But  both should be on the market by Summer.

LG and HTC's competitor is now Nintendo who are coming out with the 3DS. Nintendo's plans to fend off competitors is teaming up with media publishers that would offer a lot more 3D games and movies than the smartphones.
Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America's president and operating chief, said in an interview. "They're not going to have the great gaming content that we have."

What I find the most compelling is that the EVO 3D and the The Optimus 3D will have the ability to create 3D YouTube videos and then be able to upload them from their smartphone. This would be a separate app to the normal YouTube application; labeled YouTube 3D (unique eh?).

A lot more camera adjustments are necessary for two smart phones, which is extremely costly but both companies are confident that their products will be very successful.

What do you think the outcome to this new innovation will come out to? Are you interested in having a 3D smartphone?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Large Fire at Miami International Airport!

Apparently, a large fire was blazing at the airport. It is not reported what the source of fuel was but it wasn't a plane. I would assume its one of the large gas tanks that there. My father told me it was approximately 4 stories high! This is definitely a ridiculous event that happened and unexpected. I wonder who was the person to cause this because if he wasn't on fire, he will be fired! hahaha

In all seriousness though, this fire caused a huge disruption on the airport industry. Miami Airport is a large HUB for American airlines. It is where many flights go before they take passengers to South America. Many airplanes take freight mail to and from South America as well. It was reported that 83 flights were affected in one day. If you do the math, each flight could hold an average of 140 passengers ( depending on what plane; some hold 100 some hold 150) and times that by 83. Well that is just the passengers! Now think about the mail that is not being delivered in the belly of the planes!

How do you think this will affect the economy?

What do you think about this?

I personally wonder if this will affect the weather. There is a big event going on this weekend called Ultra Music Festival so if it does effect the weather it could directly affect the rave that is three days long. I just thought everyone should know! check it out!

Have a great day! I hope it is better than mine cause I am sick!

Jeremy Morlock Jailed for 24 Years Over Afghan Deaths

This story relates to a darker side of the U.S. military. Jeremy Morlock is only 22 years old. He is "part of the 5th Stryker Brigade based at Joint base Lewis-McChord in the US state of Washington. The Brigade was deployed to Afghanistan around Kandahar, an area with a large amount of fighting. He was tried for the murder of unarmed Afghan men and pleaded guilty. Lieutenant Colonel Kwasi Hawks asked him if the accused were shooting to kill or to simpy scare the Afghan civilians.
Morlock said responded that "the plan was to kill people."
An awful crime like this seems like it would undoubtedly receive a life sentence with the possibility of parole. But Lt. Col. Hawks was bound by a plea bargain - Morlock has agreed to testify against his comrades.
Morlock also confessed to one count each of "illegal drug use, conspiracy and obstructing justice." Apparently they had begun plotting the barbarous actions in late 2009, and they intended to plant weapons on the dead Afghan's bodies to make the killings "appear justified."
Morlock told Hawks that they knew they were killing completely innocent people, and also said that Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs spearheaded the murder plot (Gibbs said the killings were justified.)
A German magazine Der Spiegel published photos of the US soldiers grinning over the corpses they had allegedly killed. There is a similar image on google images under the search term "Jeremy Murlock" that makes me sick to my stomach.

I think I could leave this post without questions, as I'm sure all of you have plenty to say on the subject. Nonetheless, consider whether Morlock's punishment is strict enough, and whether or not the US military should crack down a little harder on soldiers in training about such actions.

Obama's take on Gadhafi and Libya

To start off, this is very relevant to the last post that my colleague conor has posted. My topic focuses more on Obama then Boehner and his remarks towards Obama.

Obama wants Gadhafi taken care of immediately. He agrees that he is a direct threat to civilians and his people. He has taken a big role on the support of the advancement of U.S military action. His reasons for this is because we support the mandate of the U.N. which states that they will protect the humanitarian efforts. After his threat to Gadhafi on Friday, Gadhafi still acted aggressively to civilians. Apparently, Obama has taken a large role of leadership on this Libya mission, but only for days, not weeks or months (previously stated on the last post ).

Having consulting with the U.N council, they decided to move forward with the military action and to prevent any air travel in Libya airspace. It is obvious that they need to take action and not just give threats. He says that his commitment allows for the partners of international coalition to follow through on this Libya mission.

The issues here is that many people in the congress have minimal information on what is happening. This is probably largely due to the fact that Obama has taken quick decisions on the Libya mission without consulting much with Congress. People are frustrated due to the lack of consultation before Obama's actions.

What are your thoughts on this?

Is Obama acting too much in secrecy?

 Is committing our support really what our country should be doing when we already have another war to take care of?

What are other factors that I could not be stating?

Have a great day!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Boehner Challenges Obama on Libya Military Mission

As has been seen with many of Obama's proposals and actions, there has been a strongly evident Republican disapproval. While not as much backlash as he has become quite accustomed to, he is now faced with opposition from Republicans, specifically House Speaker John Boehner and other House Republicans. Mr. Boehner wrote a letter to Obama, claiming that there seemed to be greater consultation with "foreign entities such as the UN and the Arab League" than the American people themselves. He wrote that the President had not clearly defined the mission in Libya what America's role is anyway.
It has only been almost a week since the UNSC passed a resolution (wow!), and a couple days since France began the offensive. The agreement to protect the protesters to Colonel Gadhafi's regime from harm has held steadfast support from many countries. Although some are unsure, such as Russia, which claims they deplore the decision because it has lead to military action. But Boehner told Obama that the " inconsistent with our stated policy goals and national interests" and has requested a "specific timeline."

Do you think the UN resolution is "inconsistent with our stated policy goals..."?

What's your opinion on how Obama has communicated the goals in Libya to the American people?

The Obama administration claims that the U.S. leadership will end within "days, not weeks." Do you think this is an appropriate timeline? Do you think the U.S. will be involved for much longer?

Do you see this letter as a way of Boehner simply trying to get his "2 cents worth" in regarding the crisis in Libya?

Any other comments?

Portugal Prime Minister Resigns...After Parliament Rejected An Austerity Budget

Imagine if California Governor Jerry Brown were to resign if Californians vote down elements of his proposed budget plans in the next vote. Imagine if President Obama had resigned because Congress had voted down his "Stimulus Package." Well, Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates did resign after Parliament rejected his budget plan. And only two hours after the vote against it.

The austerity measures, "which included spending cuts and tax rises" were voted down by all five opposition parties. Mr. Socrates' party is the "center-left Socialist Party." This is Portugal's fourth package of austerity measures in a year. Mr. Socrates claimed that the measures proposed were rejected "by the government to prevent that Portugal resort to external aid." I am certain some of you already know about some other countries in the EU who have been undergoing some major financial troubles and who have also requested "external aid" from the EU. That's right, Greece and Ireland. The government of Portugal claims its economic woes are lower than these nations and that its "banks are sound." It has also pointed out that it has "not suffered a bubble in property prices."

Portugal has yet to turn to the EU for external aid. The vote, however, late this Wednesday (Portugal time: approximately 7-8 hours ahead of our time), is on the eve of an EU summit to complete details of a "grand bargain" to hopefully diminish the group's debt burden.

I thought this article was quite interesting because it deals with both government and economics. Thus, here are some questions for thought:

Do you think it is ridiculous for a government official, especially one in a high position, to resign because of failure? Keep in mind that Mr. Socrates said he would do so if the government voted against his plan.

There were five parties opposed to Mr. Socrates' plan. Do you feel a multi-party system was appropriate in this case? Do you think the U.S. would be able to solve its own economic troubles with a multi-party system?

What are your concerns about Europe's economy? Do you see a light and the end of the tunnel for several of these country's economic woes?

How does the economic situation in Portugal related to what we are currently discussing and Chapter 12 in general (think of GDP, recession, unemployment, etc.)?

Extinction to Religion?

Mathematicians Daniel Abrams and Richard Wiener, suggest that the countries of Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland and Switzerland will religions'  "will be driven toward extinction". The pair are authors of the paper titled, "A mathematical model of social group competition with application to the growth of religious non-affiliation". (How confusing does that sound!)
However, this was presented to at the Dallas meeting of the American Physical Society.
Their data indicates that the population of people who are 'unaffiliated' is the fastest growing group. With 15% of the US falling into the category of the "nones". The two say that the Czech Republic has the majority of people who are unaffiliated with religion, but the Netherlands are predicted to rise from the current 40% to 70% by 2050.
What I found ridiculous was that Abrams commented saying that there are "two big assumptions based on sociology" that explain this extinction.
The first being that its more attractive to be apart of a majority rather than a minority, so when religious affiliation declines, people won't be interested to go to church anymore. What kind of nonsense it that? How are these MATHEMATICIANS going to predict that people who are devoted to their faith will one day just stop because everyone else is?
Then the second assumption is what Abram calls the "utility effect"; social, economic and political advantages to being unaffiliated with a religion in the countries where it's in decline.
I don't believe not practicing a religion is going to give you any sort of advantage in life. I'm not exactly the most religious person, but how is going to church going to hurt?

Does anybody oppose or agree?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March Madness: Yes, the Word "Madness" Applies

It's that time of year. All you College Basketball lovers have put together your brackets, and by now, you are probably quite upset at how things have gone in terms of points for your standing. As of now, the Sweet 16 is set, and there are quite a few surprises.
Marquette, an 11th seed, defeated both Xavier and Syracuse in the first and second round, respectfully. Except for Syracuse however, the East division has gone according as planned in most people's minds. Ohio State has shown their dominance, and the 2nd seed, North Carolina and the 4th seed, Kentucky, have both made it to the Sweet 16. The same applies for the West division, all of the top seeds except for Texas have made it. Arizona won in a thriller, upsetting Texas by only one point. The number 1 seed, Duke, has not shown the dominance that is expected of it, beating Michigan by a mere 2 points.
The "Madness" has really been present in the Southeast and Southwest brackets though. Hopeful winners of the many pools present throughout the country are very disappointed after the number 1 seed in the Southeast division, Pittsburgh, lost already in the second round! Butler, who defeated the favorite in the Southeast division, will have to beat Wisconsin to advance to the elite 8.
As for the Southwest bracket, I can guarantee there's a lot of red on those CBS brackets nation-wide. Notre Dame, Louisville, and Purdue all lost in the second round. And they were all top-seeds. Kansas, however, the number 1 seed, is still looking fairly strong.

What are your thoughts on March Madness? Do you think it's ridiculous how much people get into it; do you frown upon the gambling and pools?

Based on their play, do you think teams like VCU and Florida State, low seeds, have a chance at the huge title?

Any other Predictions?

Shrinkage to Postal Service Locations

As we all know, technology is paving the way to an effortless future; where machines will take over jobs that US citizens will have once had. Although we haven't fully reached that height of innovation, the U.S Postal Service has taken it one step closer.
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe, along with other officials, have decided to close down some 2,000 Postal offices throughout the nation. These offices would be in mostly small, rural and rarely visited retail locations that don't have enough customers.The new technology includes the Postal Service using a computerized system that allows officials to review and determine the future circumstances a location will be in. In other words, this new system shows if and when a certain office will have a good chunk of customers. If they don't have enough customers, then the process of closing down that office will take place.
Now,  Federal law prohibits the Postal Service from closing traditional post offices - where most mail processing occurs - for economic reasons. So the branches being targeted include unprofitable sites that employ less than 5 people and are open for less than eight hours a day, and within 15 to 20 miles of a larger location.
Could all these office cuts have to do with the profit the Postal Service is making? Definitely. There was record of $8.5 billion in losses in fiscal year 2010.
 A poll was taken last March by Washington Post-ABC News, to test customers reaction to the new plan. 64% opposed the idea of closing postal offices and greatly opposed closing down their local branch.
My question to you is how do you feel about possibly having your nearby nearby Post Office get closed down? And are you suprised to find how huge of losses they have?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Japan Nuclear Crisis Still "Very Serious"

"Very serious." There was no doubt in the IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano's mind that the nuclear crisis in Japan remained as such. Of course, everyone has heard about the awful, tremendously tragic, pretty much indescribable crisis in Japan that began with a powerful 8.9 quake, and was followed by a relentless Tsunami. The problems that have resulted include water shortages in over 900,000 households, over 350,000 people who have been evacuated from their households, and what has been consistently on the headlines of every news agency: The Nuclear Power Plant meltdowns.

The damages caused by the earthquake on the Fukushima power plant have been frightening. After Nuclear disasters such as the one in Chernobyl and the Three-Mile Island accident, there is good reason to be frightened. Japanese officials are trying to ensure that people don't panic. It is fortunate, Amano says, that 3 of the 6 reactors at the Fukushima plant have had electricity restored and cooling has been fairly effective so far, particularly with reactors 5 and 6 which have had their cooling systems "fully" restored.

Nonetheless, radioactive fallout has been detected in the air, and in water and the earth surrounding the Fukushima plant. As seen in the image, a no fly zone has been established, and evacuations have already occurred. Furthermore, foods such as milk and spinach have been found to contain levels of radiation higher than "legal limits," as well as water. Japanese officials say though that, although higher than legal limits, the radiation iodine will not negatively affect health. The World Health Organization (WHO) claims that they have already detected exports from Japan that contain mild levels of radiation. Countries such as South Korea and China have tightened their checks on such imports. And to make things worse, the weather has made it difficult to improve the nuclear crisis at hand.

It is already devastating enough for Japan that an earthquake and Tsunami hit. Their economy has greatly plummeted, resources are scarce, but most of all, they have seen a loss of human life that hurts the hearts of those around the world, particularly those with relations in Japan.

Some questions for thought:

What is your initial reaction to the IAEA director general's comment that the situation is “very serious"?

Do you think the Power Plant is getting more media attention than the other aspects to this tragedy, such as the living conditions of the refugees, the continued searches and remarkable rescues, etc?

What does the Fukushima Power Plant show the rest of the world about the potential (or lack thereof) of nuclear power? ...and whether or not it should be ruled out as an alternative form of energy?

"Surveillance Powers"

An appellate court has reinstated lawsuits against expanded "surveillance powers" granted by Congress under the Bush administration. These "surveillance powers" include wiretapping, interception of international electronic calls and e-mails, etc. The court recognized that the people and groups affected by the laws have a legitimate reason to be fearful that the government may be monitoring their e-mails and calls.
The problem with this law is that it goes against the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is suppose to protect the people against unreasonable searches and seizures. The law seems to skip over the Fourth Amendment. I think it is about time the courts say something about this unreasonable law. The court did not want to deal with this law during the Bush administration and therefore they pushed the cases aside. But now the cases have come back. The law extends the power of the government too far at the expense of the people's privacy. Do you think this law can be justified for any reason or has the government clearly infringed the people's rights to privacy?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Streaming Media- a felony?

Guess what guys. The Obama Administration recommends that streaming copyrighted stuff is now a felony (the article only says video, but the actual paper is not specific to video: ). Well, if you thought YouTube's deletion of videos with "copyright violation" as the cited reason, if this passes, then it will be far, far worse.

But my opinion is different. I mean, free stuff is great, but I have always hated piracy, and preventing illegal distribution by streaming definetely helps. As a indie game and software developer myself, I am the one who gets affected by this sort of thing. It's like shoplifting, only online. Please support the artist, especially if the stuff is not free!
On the other hand, making streaming copyrighted media a felony does seem a bit harsh, even if I do support stopping this offense. What are your thoughts?

America vs. China in Manufacturing

Blogger Michael Schuman's post really forced me to rethink our perspective on manufacturing. All of us know that China will get all of the manufacturing jobs, right? Maybe not.

Schuman argues that in fact, America can compete with China. This is not an issue of wages; this is an issue on expertise and goods manufactured. We make the high-end products, and China makes the low-end products. It's just that China wants to move up the value ladder, and when they do so, workers get more expertise and bargaining power. And when China is considering the welfare of Chinese workers in its policy, worker wages will go up. And manufacturing jobs will move elsewhere, when China becomes more and more like us.

But at the same time, manufacturing is slowly but surely replacing its workers with robots and machines. Schuman notes that though presently we equate manufacturing with jobs, in the future manufacturing will take less low-skilled employment in exchange for more IT jobs. At the end of it all, manufacturing jobs will be based more on innovation and expertise than low wages, places where America has the advantage.

So how are we going to get more jobs for low-skilled workers? I have no idea. I'm just going to say that education has never been more important, and that the government should seriously review their reasons for cutting funding for education. America needs it to stay competitive in an increasingly skilled labor market.

Billionaires get new pay raises

While the rest of us were looking for jobs last year, "incentive pay for the chief executive officers of 50 major corporations jumped 30%", as quoted from the article. The reason? Their companies' stock prices rose considerably.

Blogger Gandel notes that stock prices are usually indicators of nothing at all whatsoever. And I agree. Weren't stock prices rising through the roof earlier due to "good decisions"? Where are we now? And right now, I say that stocks are not up simply because of any particularly good decision making the CEOs did, but simply because consumer confidence rose. When people start getting work again, when people start getting salaries again, when people start buying again, obviously stock prices will go up, unless the CEO really is a bonehead. Honestly, the CEO could just make sure that the company didn't die, the goods and services provided were of good quality, and the stock prices would go up. The stock market only shows effects of decisions in the short-term. The long-term stock market trend is a bubble made not by CEOs, but by investors.

Maybe that bonus should go to the workers for keeping the business operable and reliable. A business's stocks would fall if its workers were unreliable. Quite unfortunate when workers get nearly no bonuses at all.

San Francisco to Test Toughest Hiring Law

The new San Francisco hiring law sets out some tough guidelines for contractors and construction companies. For any city funded construction work, a set percentage of hours has to be done by city residents. Also, a set percentage of the hours of the city funded construction work must be done by low income workers. This law is an attempt to bring the unemployment rate in San Francisco down from 9.5 percent. This law will definitely bring down the unemployment within the city but will also cause more unemployment in surrounding counties where it is cheaper to live. The contractors are going to have a hard time trying to find enough skilled workers to fulfill the new law. Because of these apparent obstacles, there is skepticism over whether this law will be successful or not. Do you think the city is putting too much pressure on the contractors and do you think this law will be successful?

Pressure and Hesitation to Go Paperless

We all had the experience of walking into the doctor’s office and someone tells you to fill out a form. It seems to happen at every single visit. Digitalizing patient information can help by cutting down on paper documents stored by the hospital and the ease at which patient information can be brought up. The federal government has been offering incentives for physicians and hospitals that go digital. Many hospitals have digitalized a portion of their documents but newer and upgraded systems are necessary for hospitals to qualify for federal incentives. Also, there is hesitation by the physicians themselves. One physician, Plotsky, claims that the switch costs too much even with the federal incentives. He also does not know which system to chose, how to install it and how to transition into digitalized information. Since many feel this way, the switch to paperless has been slow. Though the federal government has offered incentives, it is also sending mixed messages. Approximately fifty thousand physicians and nurses are eligible for the federal incentives that were part of the 2009 economic stimulus package. There are two bills that proposed those payments be made out by the unused stimulus money but this is likely to be shot down by the Democrats and President Obama. This mixed message from the federal government is adding to the hesitation to go paperless.

One other concern is how whether it is safe to go paperless. Putting patient information onto a computer system puts it at risk of hacking. Doctors looking for cash incentives are suppose to use data systems that are able to be encrypted. But the federal government does not have a clear requirement and there is no way to differential between the physicians that do and do not use systems that are able to be encrypted.

At the moment, the federal government does not seem clear on what they want physicians, nurses and hospitals to do. Obviously they are fore going digital but they need to set clear guidelines and set a standard for physicians and hospitals to follow. The benefits may exceed the costs but it is not apparent. I feel that the federal government should not be pressuring physicians and hospitals to go paperless when they can only offer incentives and no clear and helpful guidelines to make the switch. What do you think?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The UN's Authorization of Military Force

While we are all talking about the current situation in Libya, blogger Ackerman notices something else, that Yemen's government has also started firing on protesters. Ackerman asks the question: "Does the international community have a 'responsibility to protect' civilians in pariah-state Libya but not counterterrorism partner Yemen?"

It's a very good point. It appears as if America is acting the hypocrite, selecting only some nations to help and not others. Obviously, we have motives for leaving Yemen as is, that Yemen's government would continue to help us fight Al-Qaeda. This type of selective ignorance is also seen in Bahrain, as noted by blogger Sullivan ( We preach democracy, but turn a blind eye if the horrors are committed by our allies? No wonder we don't very much respect.

Knowing this, I ask if the UN's responsibility to protect principles's military force authorization should be continued. Is it worth it? The principles do not simply suggest it, but state that the international community has a responsibility to intervene. Especially considering when so many nations have similar problems, it becomes impossible for the UN to keep themselves from being biased for or against certain powerful or strategic nations. In the long run, this will lose respect for UN resolutions and diminish the UN's effectivness in other interventions. In addition, many nations are becoming more wary of military intervention, as seen in the debate over the no-fly zone over Libya, and many do not want to bring themselves into a disaster after the terrible example of the US's invasion of Iraq.

The UN might have a small chance of saving Libya with military force, but can it continue to do so in other nations? Can it be objective and ignore their allied bias and stop war crimes in allied nations as well? I do not believe that the international community have the financial means and political and moral incentives to do so. I do not want to get rid of R2P completely, as it is a good incentive for corrupt governments to avoid the use of violence against civilians, but sometimes though the motives are sound, the execution is not. Perhaps we should remove the military force portion of R2P, and just use diplomacy. This way we avoid digging ourselves into our grave too far.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Arizona Rejects Immigration Bills

The Arizona Senate has rejected five bills aimed at controlling illegal immigration and undocumented immigrants. Last year, Arizona was at the center of a national debate of immigration. The bill proposed then called for strict local law enforcement which would authorize law enforcement to deport undocument immigrants. These five bills that were rejected today were not as controversial as the bill from last year. One of the bills would question the validity of granting automatic citizenship to the children born in the United States whose parents illegally immigrated to the state. The other bills included school reporting undocument immigrants who enroll into the school, patients without insurance or legal documentation, and making it illegal for undocumented immigrants to dive in Arizona. All these bills are weak attempts at addressing a growing problem in Arizona. Obviously, many people do not want to be dealing with this problem, especially businesses. Increase in law enforcement on undocumented immigrants are a problem to businesses because they may be employing those people. Also, somewhat suprising, the Republicans in the state were split over the bills rejected. The supporters of the bills voiced frustration because of the slow pace of enacting enforcement. A Republican Senator, Russell Pearce, even stated that the reason there is little progress on the subject is a "lack of political courage."
Illegal immigration and undocumented immigrants are a pressing issue. It affects not only Arizona but California as well. Personally, I do not think the bills rejected today would have made much of the difference except for the one questioning the validity of automatic citizenship to the children of undocument immigrants. All of the bills were just scratching at the door of a large problem that has to be addressed by all the states affected and the federal government. Last summer the issue got people debating but that has gone down. I think the rejection of the bills will once again make people think about the issue but there has to be a more significant step to actually get people to seriously consider and debate about the issue once again.

The No-Fly Zone in Libya

Just today the UN Security Council approved the no-fly zone over Libya.

But my question is, should the US have supported the resolution?

First of all, the United States is already fighting two different wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would be difficult for us to gather enough military forces to fight a third war in Libya. A no-fly zone requires an incredible amount of aircraft to enforce, and we might not be able to support all three wars at the same time, even if we have one of the largest militaries in the world. The fact that the resolution says that member states should take "all necessary measures" forces us to divide our already strained military even more.

I am not saying that we should not help Libya's civilians. We should, and in fact, the resolution already has. The resolution has already fulfilled a short-term goal: to stop Qaddafi from completely demolishing Banghazi (he became slightly nervous after the passing of the resolution). But what we should remember is that there are long-term objectives as well. What do we do afterwards? What should we do if civil war breaks out? How long would it take for the situation to stabilize? If the situation in Libya becomes something like the current situation in Iraq, this will be an incredibly expensive undertaking, forcing our government further into debt. It might even fail, as the military might not have the strength to carry out its objectives.

We have not the military resources nor the economic resources to carry out another expensive military intervention. I applaud President Obama for avoiding becoming the leader (which would make it even worse), but I question our ability to help.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Budget Cuts

The California legislature made substantial progress today in cutting billions of dollars out of the state budget. Both the Senate and the Assembly agreed to cut a significant amount of money out of welfare to work program and other state welfare programs as well as funds for developmental disability, childhood developmental and mental health services. Welfare programs including Medi-Cal and welfare to work program face budget cuts at the expense of the people who need it the most. Most of these cuts passed through both the Assembly and Senate with ease.
On the contrary to everyone voting for budget cuts, there was no vote on increase in taxes. The vote increase in taxes is expected to get a little more debate going on between the Democrats and Republicans. The Democrats showed bipartisanship by agreeing to the cuts in health care and welfare programs but will the Republicans share the same spirit on increasing taxes? There is no clear answer.
I think that the budget cuts voted on today are double edged swords. These cuts will definitely help lower to state debt but they also target the most vulnerable people in the state. Also, I am surprised at how the Democrats, especially in the Senate, are agreeing to these budget cuts in health care and welfare programs. I would like to think it is an act of bipartisanship in order solve large problem of the state debt. I would like to see this spirit on the vote for taxes as well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Apology from UCLA Student

I am pretty sure many people saw the video of the UCLA student who ranted online about Asian students and their "manners." She released a statement claiming that the video was "inappropriate" and she doesn't know what "possessed" her to post it in the first place. Not much of an apology but it's something. I saw the video and I really was not offended by it. I feel that some of the things that she mentioned are true. I don't think it was the right way to convey her message but her claims are not totally untrue. She showed frustration toward the demographics at UCLA and the cultural difference that comes with it. There is a larger population of Asian than white students. I don't know Wallace's (the girl who made and posted the video) background but I understand her frustration. There is a demographic shift in many of the top schools in America and with a demographic shift comes a cultural shift. The importance and the value of one's family differs from culture to culture. I think that this kind of frustration is inevitable and needs to be accounted for by the community or the school.
As for the library statement, she would be horrified at our library.
Though I do not agree with her way of expressing her frustration, I think Wallace brought up a point about differences in values. I did not think that the video was offensive but it did not fail to call a large reaction against it. What do you think about the changing demographics of the colleges and student (including Wallace's) reactions to them.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pi or Tau?

And now for something completely different.

Alright, many of you know that today is Pi Day, the day we celebrate Charlie Pai's last name. Not really. Just the mathematical constant of pi.

But some crazy mathematicians have decided to introduce a new idea: tau. Tau is simply just 2*pi.

Why would we do this, you ask? Because tau would make radians easier to understand, and because it also makes many physical equations nicer. You can also read the article linked in the title for a more technical explanation.

Of course, this removes the reason for pie eating on Pi Day and my very significant last name. It also forces a huge change in mathematical equations, which might be a daunting task. But making mathematics more comprehensible is also quite attractive. Should we replace pi with tau?

Education and Women in the Labor Market: A Tribute to Sections 9.1 and 9.2

I think this article ties perfectly into today's class discussion of section 9.1: How Are Wages Determined? and part of tonight's reading from section 9.2: Trends in Today's Labor Market.

In her blog post, Laura D'Andrea Tyson, who holds a PhD. in economics and is an economics professor at UC Berkeley, examines trends in the labor market in relation to education and women.

She first starts by relating women and education; since 1970, the percentage of women in the workforce who have college degrees increased almost threefold from 22 percent to 67 percent. The percentage of women with less than a high school degree dropped from 32 percent to 7 percent in the same period. In essence, women now are generally more educated than they were in 1970.

She then relates this to wages and employment:
"The dramatic increase in college education among women is one major reason that the earnings of female workers have increased, that the gap between male and female earnings has fallen and that, in recent recessions, the unemployment rate for women has been lower than the rate for men."
She notes that between 1979 and 2009, median real weekly earnings of women increased from 62 percent of the median real weekly earnings of men to about 80 percent.

However, this closing of the gap has stalled in recent years, and a sizable gap still remains between the wages of men and women. Tyson asserts that "[t]he remaining gap cannot be explained by economic variables like education, experience, race, industry or unionization and is a subject of intense debate."

In essence, she is asserting that three of the four factors of differing wages we discussed in class (human capital, working conditions, discrimination, and government actions—these are in section 9.1) are constant for women and men. If you most industries, and compare women and men with the similar experience and education (human capital), you will find that women, on average, make less. The working conditions will be the same, and government action applies equally to the males and females (same minimum wage, legal protections, etc.). Since their wages are different, though, discrimination must be the key, she asserts.
"There is little doubt, however, that discrimination and implicit biases against women, even in jobs requiring college or postgraduate education, continue to play a role, nearly 50 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963."
She concludes by urging people to get a college degree, ruminating the possibility that we make some college education mandatory.

(I strongly suggest you read the article. It's detailed, concise, and fascinating.)

The labor market of today is constantly changing. Do you have any thoughts on workplace discrimination, wage differences, education, or labor market trends? Responses to this article?

A Stalemate in Congress on the Budget

In the latest Congressional budget crisis, several Republicans have decided to oppose their own party's temporary budget proposal. As Tim posted several days ago, this proposal is a short-term extension so that Congress can have more time to plan for long-term spending plans.
The reasons cited for their opposition were that the current plan did not cut enough, did not cut their preferred programs (including Planned Parenthood and Obama's health care reform), and that they wanted to encourage long-term planning versus many short-term plans.
Democrats are also becoming more opposed to the measure, saying that the Republican proposal's cuts are too high. Several have also become worried about a second extension, noting that agencies would be unable to plan, causing a general slowdown of the government.
This is an outrage. This would only cause more harm, not good. A government shutdown is not beneficial for either party, as Americans have stated that they would blame both parties for any disruption. To be honest, I am very surprised that they would believe that this would cause any meaningful change. Can the Senate really create a good long-term budget in a few days? Going by how dysfunctional Congress is right now, the answer is very clearly no. And while I would agree that Congress needs to make progress in long-term planning and policy changes, Congress also needs to keep the government running, even if it is slower than ideal.
But what is particularly outrageous about this stalemate is that there already is some progress in the bill in the form of small budget cuts. There comes a point where Congressmen should just stop stalling for huge concessions when the other side obviously will not approve. Really, what is more efficient: many small cuts that are more easily passed, or a huge cut that will most assuredly not pass either the House or the Senate? In this increasingly polarized government, stalling for huge, improbable concessions from the opposing side will simply make Congress more dysfunctional. Sometimes, you just need to cut the losses and not always hold out for the most optimal situation.

Internet Helps Japan

Last month, we saw the internet and communication websites like Facebook and Twitter take on an important role in the anti-government movement in the Middle East. This week, the internet has allowed easier communications and donations to Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. Images and videos of the event were online almost instantaneously. Also social networking sites, dominantly Twitter, Facebook and Mixi, has allowed people in Japan to communicate with each other and the people outside of the country. In many places, phone lines are down and families who got separated cannot communicate with each other. Through these networking sites, many people were able to report their situation and find their family. Also many relief agencies turned to social networking sites to turn the messages of support into donations.
I think the use of the internet is a great way to get people involved. Before, one had to go to a certain location or mail in something to make a donation or send a message. Now, that can be done from the home and it only takes a couple of seconds. But, I still see the downsides. It is reported that just two hours after the earthquake, a scam website appeared claiming to collect donations. I think this is the danger of having a quick and easy way to donate and send support. Still, I think the internet has helped get the word around and grassroots media fundraising.

Democrats are Finally Back!

Senators from Wisconsin finally came back after almost a month long intentional absence, to protest the new bill the governor's bill. The governor's bill was said to have greatly limit unions, pay and pay raises, and would have forced public workers to put a larger chunk of their paychecks into pension and health plans. Democratic Senators were furious and said that this bill would violate the states' law. Since the state House is filled with mainly Republicans, the Democrats left the state in protest, causing the voting of the bill to be delayed.
Honestly, I don't know if I agree with this or not. I do believe they were right that the bill is unfair, but I don't think they were right to carry it out that way. What do you guys think?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

MIT Anna: "I Challenge You"

I know my blog week is over, and I know this isn't related to government or econ, but this is approaching the time of year when people get anxious over their admissions decisions and I find this post by Anna '14 from the MIT Admissions blog to be really good and quite appropriate, and I wanted to share.

[...] But I will venture to challenge every single one of you - those who are admitted, and those who are not - to concentrate on what you wanted out of your MIT experience. Hopefully, it was more than the chance to physically walk down a specific hallway, or take a specific class taught by a specific person. I trust that there were clubs you wanted to join, fields you wanted to explore, dreams you wanted to realize.

Whatever it is you wanted: hold onto it as tightly as you can. The hard part comes after pi day: in deciding what to do with these hopes and plans. I challenge you to bring them with you, wherever you end up: to resist abandoning them because you’ve been accepted and your life is complete, or because you’ve been rejected and your life is over. To make them happen, wherever you go.

You are guaranteed to meet hurdles and obstacles on the way to getting what you want out of college. Not because of where you are, but because of who you are, I challenge you to climb over them, dig through them, beat them down, and not allow yourself to be defined by the school you attend.

She has a good point and she speaks it well. Whether you're accepted or rejected from your top schools in the coming weeks, keep your aspirations with you.

Also of interest is the first comment, by Spencer '14 from U. Illinois:

Fellow commenters, what say you we post those dreams and plans here to make sure they're not forgotten after pi day?

I'll start: To have something of my design land on Mars.

I only wish I had a concrete, well-formed, long-term dream already. But I don't. So my dream for the next four years is to find something. Find a project I can immerse myself in completely, that I can either stick with or take something from that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

What are your hopes and dreams?

Budget 2011: The deadlock in congress.

The current short-term spending bill which resulted from the inability of Congress to approve a budget for the next fiscal year is planned to expire in 5 days, March 18. The spending cuts from both sides of the isle are radically different and are becoming more so. Republicans have proposed nearly $62 billion in spending cuts whereas Democrats have offered a meager $7 billion in cuts. Among some proposed cuts are a $400 million cut for NPR and PBS funding, $687 million cut in USAID For Peace programs, $450 million cut in F-35 (fighter jet) engine replacements spending, $303 million cut in NASA funding, $5.125 billion for public transportation (specifically targeted at Amtrak and high-speed rail). Other proposals on the table include raising taxes, and in some cases lowering taxes for certain products/services. This deadlock cannot last forever, so we'll just have to see how this plays out on the economy and the public sector workers.

Proposed Texas law to immigrants: Keep out ... or clean my house

Despite the fact that many Americans are strongly opposed to illegal immigration, there is the realization that life in America would not be the same without the jobs performed by the illegal immigrants. Some people have even suggested shuttling illegal immigrants daily into areas near the Mexican border in order for the immigrants to perform necessary tasks which otherwise would remain festering. Currently, Texan legislators are attempting to create a law which would punish people for hiring illegal immigrants to perform odd-jobs in their localities. Punishments include fining citizens $10,000 and jailing the illegal immigrant for up to two years. Although it is already a crime to hire illegal immigrants, employers of the illegal immigrants rarely get prosecuted because one has to do so “knowingly.” An exception to this law is applied to homeowners and “average” citizens, as opposed to companies who are disallowed from using illegal labor in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage in business. It is also interesting to note that if such a law were to be placed in effect then literally more than 30% to 40% of the Texan population would be up for prosecution, not to mention that their economy would be severely impacted. The belief that Americans will face wage decreases due to an influx of illegal immigrants still persists, but the American thirst for labor has not yet been quenched, and when that occurs then new issues will arise.

Wisconsin Assembly passes bill to curb collective bargaining

After weeks of demonstrations in the state capital, Wisconsin Republicans managed to surpass the final hurdle preventing them from passing their controversial bill. On Thursday the state passed an amended version of a bill that would curtail the bargaining rights of most state workers. The vote was 53-42 in favor of the bill. The State Senate Republicans managed to approve the bill Wednesday night even though 14 Democratic senators had fled the state in order to prevent the necessary quorum of 20 votes to pass the bill amendment. The amended bill enabled the State Senators to pass their measure with fewer votes. The bill will soon be delivered to the governor’s desk where his will sign the bill into a law. With regards to the missing senators, they are expected to be returning soon, but all of their efforts seem to have been to no avail. Senate Democrats have called the bill an attack on the negotiating rights of state employees. Complaints have already been files with the District Attorney's office, stating that the hearing for the collective bargaining bill violated Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law as they did not mention that they had intended to pass the law that very night. Despite the fact that public employee unions had already agreed to a financial compromise to make up for the State’s fiscal needs, State Republicans still held the position that the limits on public bargaining were the main components of achieving fiscal stability. Unions rallied their supporters to oppose the bill, drawing tens of thousands of workers to rallies opposing this bill. Sen. Mark Miller, the Democratic Senate leader, said Republicans "In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan's cost moves 8 ft?

The earthquake in Japan has moved the whole of Japan more than 8 feet, or 2.8 meters. The quake ruptured along an area of 250 miles by 100 miles long, as a result of tectonic plates which slipped more than 18 meters reported USGS geophysicist Shengzao Chen.

The quake was so powerful that USGS reported a GPS station moved 8 feet. Still not impressed? The National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Italy, reportedly estimated "the 8.9-magnitude quake shifted the planet on its axis by nearly 4 inches (10 centimeters)". Is that powerful enough?

A lesson from Japanese culture

In the aftermath of the tragic earthquake and tsunami that have hit Japan, one thing that usually plagues relief efforts has been conspicuously missing—looting.

Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, as well as a culture that is incredibly community-oriented and disapproving of rule-breaking. This incredible social order is seen in the orderly lines strewn throughout even the hardest-hit areas. Compare this to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in which looting was a significant problem that local law enforcement officers, businesses, and relief effort teams had to deal with.

According to Gregory Pflugfelder, director of Japanese culture center at Columbia University, this difference stems from a cultural difference; "Japanese have 'a sense of being first and foremost responsible to the community,' he said." Compare this to the individual-oriented American society, in which people do what is most advantageous for themselves.

Merry White, an anthropology professor at Boston University who studies Japanese culture, stated that American looting stems from "social alienation and class gaps." While these also manifest in Japan, she states that Japanese culture overwhelmingly disapproves of violence and stealing.

In conclusion, this will help the Japanese relief effort, states Pflugfelder.

I find cultural differences between countries fascinating. I have been in a Japanese airport, and I could already tell that Japanese society revolved around courtesy, helping others, order, and hard work.

I don't know how some people in the U.S. consider breaking the law "cool" or conducive to creating one's "street cred," but do you think America needs to teach these values (courtesy, helping others, and order) more? If so, how do you think we could start?

This is also an interesting question, although slightly tangential: which do you value more—your individualism or societal order? There are a few people that suggest that America's individualism contributes to its creativity and innovation, and that stricter, more conformist cultures suffer from a lack of creativity. However, using Japan as an example, a powerful conformist attitude against criminals is obviously beneficial to society as a whole; at what point does conformity become stifling?

Also, I want to send my prayers to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami, including those with friends and family members in Japan. I hope that, at the very least, that we value life more and that we can learn lessons about disaster relief from this tragedy.