Friday, September 30, 2011

Republicans and Education

I know that there is a lot that I can discuss concerning the education policies and philosophies of certain Republican candidates, but I would rather talk about candidates own sense of education and what it will mean for their chances of being elected. Most of us are now used to the outlandish claims and statements made by many of the Republican candidates and many of us can see that their seemingly crazy statements are meant to appeal to a certain proportion of the population, but there are some statements they make that go beyond the realm of usefulness and ultimately draw questions to the candidate's basic education or intelligence. Most of the larger names in the Republican race have made such statements. Earlier this year, Herman Cain confused the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, Tim Pawlenty confused Iraq with Iran, Michele Bachmann confused Massachusetts with New Hampshire, and Sarah Palin stated that the purpose of Paul Revere's ride was to "warn the British". Although this all happened a while ago, I want to bring it to notice again, since earlier this week, Rick Perry claimed that the original Tea Party members in the 1770's wore disguises to escape persecution for opposing unfair taxes rather than to hide their identities from authorities that would be investigating their blatant act of vandalism.
Although all of the candidates made some pretty ridiculous errors, it seems that both Cain and Perry have slightly better reasons than the other candidates for their mistakes since they both fell prey to a failed attempt at spin. Cain wanted to come across as a moderate candidate and show that unlike the other Republican candidates, he did not want to alter the Constitution, even though he was displeased with America's current situation, but could not find the necessary quote in the Constitution to back up his statement, so he borrowed it from the Declaration of Independence. Similarly, Perry wanted to gain the support of the Tea Party by showing that the Tea Party had come a long way and did not have to hide itself any longer because Rick Perry would be their spokesperson and help them fight against unfair taxes (I guess?), and had to alter a bit of history to make that statement.
I think that these seemingly uneducated statements will definitely hinder each of the candidates chances at being elected, since most Americans look up to the President and would want to have a President that they can trust and respect, and education and wisdom definitely things that are necessary for one to gain a population' trust and respect. Also, since the President is seen as a representative and spokesperson of America, I think that most American's would want a President that they can be proud of, rather than someone who's apparent lack of education would bring them shame and ridicule from the international community. This is just my opinion and I may be exaggerating the situation. Will the wisdom and education of these Republican candidates actually harm or effect in any way their chances of being elected as President?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


With this week's release of Moneyball it is good to take notice of the old versus new. Moneyball is a movie about how a baseball team, the A's, attempt to do the "impossible" by using less money and succeeding using a method that has never been done before, and had been scoffed at. Not only do the A's succeed in making the playoffs, but they get the record for most consecutive wins. Instead of following the old method of paying large amounts of cash for proven players, they use statistics to try to make a great team. The A's were less than 1/3 the Yankees' salary and they were the team with that record. The A's employed a new way of thinking. Just like how, currently, there are the old economists with their views versus the new economists who are saying "wait a minute... we were... erm... mostly right, perhaps we should have a chance here!". Just as the A's were revolutionary with their ideas and they took a chance that caused other teams to follow their moneyball ideals, like the Red Sox, perhaps we should take another chance with this experiment that was started back in 1776 with democracy and capitalism. Take another chance and get rid of the old and in with the new.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rapidly Declining Printed Newspapers

As Kore mentioned last week, technology is taking over people’s jobs and various businesses. A good example of this is in printed news. Just this month, 38 newspaper employees of a paper in Dallas were laid off from their jobs. Because popular newspapers are now available online, and for free, newspapers are beginning to lose their revenue. At first, I thought that the online advertisements would be equally as costly, but online advertisements are actually much cheaper to purchase than printed advertisements. With declining printed newspaper purchases and without sufficient funds from advertisements, how will newspapers be able to afford their staff?

Congress Running Out On Disaster Funds?

The United States' FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is running out of funds. People expected funds would completely run out by Saturday which could lead to a partial shut down of the government. The Republicans in the House passed a bill adding $3.65 billion to disaster relief funds. On Thursday, A bipartisan vote in the House is expected to be passed that will add more funds to FEMA and settle the strife. Would Congress ever let funds dry out and let the government partially shut down?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

NBA Lockout: NBA to delay start of preseason

With the NBA season coming right around the corner, the NBA lockout still glooms as NBA commissioner David Stern formally cancelled exhibition games and training camps for the first two weeks in October. On Thursday, Adam Silver the deputy commissioner, met with the union executive director Billy hunter and president Derek Fisher to discuss the lockout and the possibility of ending it. However one source has said that "both sides dug in," meaning that there is little hope of the lockout ending soon. So far the league has canceled 43 exhibition games between October 9-15. The final weeks of the preseason are in danger of being postponed as well as the November 1 start of the regular season. Even if a new labor agreement is agreed upon, it will still take a few weeks for the lawyers to look over and iron out the details for both parties to sign. With the memories of the NFL lockout still fresh, many sports fans are disappointed with the NBA lockout still roaring on.

U.S. Military Ends ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy for Gay Troops

On September 20th, the military policy of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' ended, allowing gay or lesbian troops to openly serve in the military. Public support for the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is shown as 77 percent of Americans approved of the repeal when Congress approved the change in December of last year according to a Washington Post-ABC News survey. However not everyone is happy of the change. One of these critics is the Washington-based Family Research Council's President, Tony Perkins, who said "Using the military to advance a liberal social agenda will only do harm to the military’s ability to fulfill its mission," in a written statement. That however has not stopped the Service members Legal Defense Network to hold 100 rallies celebrating the end of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' all over the country. With 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repealed many of the troops that were discharged for being gay can now reenlist in the military. Preparing the change in months, the Pentagon has trained 2.3 million service members of what the repeal will mean for daily life. With the ending of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell', many more gay troops are now encouraged to not hide their sexual orientation. One notably is the confession of an US Airman, who confesses to his father that he is gay in which the father responds that he loves him.

Controversy erupts over Campus Republicans bake sale plans

A Campus Republicans' baked sale scheduled for Tuesday at UC Berkeley has sparked a controversy. The controversy is that the baked goods will be sold to white men for $2.00, Asian men for $1.50, Latino men for $1.00, and Native American men for $0.25. In addition all women get $0.25 off the baked goods. The Campus Republican President Shawn Lewis stated that the event was to "bring attention, to cause people to get a little upset," and to make people think "more critically about what this kind of policy would do in university admissions". He also states that the pricing of the baked goods is a way to make a statement of the considered California legislation to allow national origin and race to effect the admission process. Many people find this baked sale to be racist, however, Shawn Lewis states that it is to bring to light how the California legislation bill will affect university campuses and to also show that UC Berkeley has more than one political view. At the same day and time a phone bank is schedule to show Governor Brown that Berkeley is supporting the bill.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Poverty pervades the suburbs

Poverty in America is not in the inner cities, nor is it the rural parts of America; it is in the suburbs of America. A staggering 15.4 million people living in the suburbs lived below the poverty line according to a Brookings Institution analysis of Census data. The analysis also showed that the people living below the poverty line rose 11.5% from last year. As the economic status of America and the job situation continues, more people are losing their jobs and becoming poorer and poorer. The burst of the housing bubble also contributed to the poverty in the suburbs. The suburban poor are not just the minimum wage earners, but the middle class who lost their jobs in the Great Recession. As there are services to help the impoverish, but they do little good in the suburbs as they are not used to the number of people living below the poverty line. Another reason why these services do little good is that some people do not have the knowledge of where to go for help and some people are ashamed to ask for government assistance for fear of being precieved as poor. Many people donate to charities and organizations that help the poor in the inner cities and rural areas, they don't however, realize that people are living below the poverty line in the suburbs.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Time Travel! Is It Real?

I know what you are thinking: that is not possible at all, and it only happens in movies. Physicists at CERN Institute in Geneva, Switzerland have discovered a way to make particles travel faster than the speed of light. They were able to beam neutrinos, tiny particles that have almost zero mass, 500 miles to a lab in Italy. These particles traveled 60 billionth of a second faster than the speed of light; that may not seem like much, but it is still faster than light. That is insanely fast. This may not seem like much, but it is huge. They just disproved Albert Einstein's theory that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. This changes almost everything we thought we knew about the world of physics. Now, what does this have to do with time travel? It has long been accepted that anything that travels faster than light also travels backwards in time. So everyone thought that backwards time travel was impossible because it is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light. Now that door may have been opened. Obviously, this is nowhere near perfect and the results still have to be confirmed by other scientists. I don't think anyone actually believes we will be traveling back in time; that just seems too fictional. But who knows, science has proved us wrong before.

Chrysler and Union Workers Unable to Make A Deal

As we all know from watching Roger & Me in class, the feelings between the auto workers and the big car corporations are extremely tense. Especially now because many of the jobs that Americans once had have been outsourced to other countries. In addition, Ford, GM, and Chrysler have all been trying to find ways to cut costs since they almost collapsed in the recession in 2009. One way they cut costs was paying more workers at entry-level rates (only about $15 an hour compared to the $29 an hour veteran workers make). The union workers don't want this; they want to protect the veterans.
Chrysler and a few UAW (United Auto Workers) representatives met in Detroit this week to come up with a new collective bargaining agreement (Chapter 9 in our book). The talks ended on Wednesday because of a major stalemate between the two groups. Chrysler doesn't want a limit on the number of entry level workers they can hire while the UAW wants there to be a cap on the number of workers making entry-level pay. Neither side wants to budge, so there is a major stalemate. The UAW is moving on to talks with Ford to work out an agreement with them. The UAW already reached an agreement with GM so many people thought Chrysler would follow, but that didn't happen. I may not know all the facts so my opinion may not be that informed, but I'm going to have to side with the workers in this argument. A cap on the number of entry-level workers Chrysler can hire is not a huge thing to ask for. Chrysler can still hire some new workers to cut costs, but veterans would still be protected. And job security in an economy like ours is very important.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Military Neglecting Troops?

Recently, a charity group for soldiers have been trying to gather funds to purchase and ship to the middle east some twenty power washers. Why? The soldiers are getting sick from the common flu virus, which apparently can be battled by cleaning up some bases and equipment with power washers, sold at a discount to Troops Direct by Home Depot. CBS5 News reports that Troops Direct "sends soldiers stuff the military can’t get." Wait, what? The military is unable to get certain stuff as simple as power washers? I have heard of top secret military gadgets, stuff that the military only has, but I have never heard of the stuff that I can get that the military cannot. The report goes on to say that "in the past, Troops Direct has been able to cut the red tape in order to get soap, toothpaste, syringes and other necessities to the combat zone." So there are U.S. soldiers out there fighting for the U.S., for the Middle East, for their lives, and the military cannot keep them supplied with essentials to keep them healthy and living in fairly decent conditions? I would consider soap for troops an absolute necessity and yet there are people that manage to wrap red tape around something as simple as that? Even for power washers that would cost $5000, the military should be able to supply to soldiers if it is really that simple to start eradicating the common flu that soldiers are contracting, especially considering that are military spends multitudes more that $5000 everyday. So is the military really neglecting its troops or is the article merely misguided and spinning the situation? 

Netflix: Two Companies, Double the Headaches?

Netflix, the giant mail-delivery DVD service has decided to split into two businesses, Netflix would now only offer streaming service, while the new company "Qwikster" will deal with the mail in DVDs. This is coming after a previous Netflix decision to charge $7.99 for the streaming service and another $7.99 for mail in DVDs which angered many customers as they loved the previous deal of $9.99 for both services. Netflix again has angered its customers with the split into two companies. The reason for the split was the reasoning that streaming movies was the way of the future as described in a Netflix blog by Reed Hastings, the Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix. The failure to advance with technology and new products can doom a company like it did with Blockbuster and that is what Netflix is afraid of. While the reasoning of the split makes logical sense, what does not make sense is separating the powerful company of Netflix into two companies, one of which in my opinion has a horrible name, Qwikster which is already taken by a guy on twitter. By changing the name of the company, they are losing the association of Netflix and its reputation. What made Netflix so great was that it offered both streaming and mail in order DVDs. The streaming DVDs provided for the quick fix, while the mail in order DVDs offered a bigger and better collection of DVDs than its streaming counterpart. The splitting of Netflix loses that appeal and may decrease in sales as the consumer taste has changed. The split also harms the consumer as they now have to sign up for two different companies if they want both services unlike the past $9.99 plan. So while the reason for the split is sound, many of Netflix's customers are upset and may stop paying for the service. Only time will tell if Netflix has made the right decision to split into two different companies.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The iPhone 5. It's Finally Here!

After months of talks about when the iPhone 5 would be unveiled, Apple has finally decided. At first it was July, then August, and then Apple kept on pushing it back. But there will be no more of that. The iPhone 5 will finally be unveiled on October 4. This marks an important step for Apple because the company's extremely successful CEO and founder, Steve Jobs, stepped down because of health issues. Apple is now in the hands of Tim Cook, and he sure has a lot to prove. The company has been incredibly successful and he has a lot of pressure on him to keep that up. So this new iPhone better be good. There have been no official reports from Apple about why this new phone is better than the iPhone 4 or what it has that the old iPhone (released in June of 2010) doesn't. Some rumors say that it will have a new and improved processor, more storage space, a better camera, and the home button might even be gone so that the phone can have a bigger screen. No one knows for sure what the changes will be, but many Americans are foaming at the mouth to know. I believe that regardless of what the iPhone 5 can actually do, it will still sell like crazy. Americans are hooked on all things Apple and the iPhone 5 will be no exception.

Nikon's New Mirrorless Camera System: Failure or Sucess?

Today, Nikon just announced a new mirrorless (EVIL) camera system in an attempt to break into the lucrative mirrorless camera market that has been taking DSLR camera sells from Nikon. Although the features included sound terrific - fast burst rate / fast processor / smallest EVIL camera available / great movie options / phase detect autofocus / etc - many people (mostly camera enthusiasts) are disappointed by it. Nikon showed a graph at today's unveiling (left), that suggests they expect people upgrading from compact cameras to choose their new solution as well as people purchasing it as a backup to their larger and bulkier DSLRs. (Mirrorless cameras cater to people looking for high quality images as well as compactness)

However, many big names in the photo industry (and many on photo forums) seem to believe that it is not a worthwhile option compared to other available options of that size - Thom Hogan, David Hobby, Ken Rockwell, etc. And when half of your intended market believes your product could have been better suited for them, well, it's not a good sign.

Seeing that Nikons aren't Leicas, this announcement has gone against most of TRIBE. Consumers often do not have tastes for expensive (you can buy DSLRs for less) and not pocketable (what's the difference if you have to carry around a bag anyway). Photo enthusiast consumers often do not have tastes for low resolution sensors, expensive, 2.7x crop factors, slow / few lenses, etc. There are related products that already have a large lens selection and very competent camera bodies. Expensive items are usually not good for income. The number of buyers has decreased because half of the consumers (DSLR owners looking for a smaller / backup option) does not believe in the suitability of the product. And finally consumer expectations of product worth was not particularly high because of the two relatively late and low visibility teasers that were unique (shall we say) - The Big Hands / I AM COMING (really? unintended pun?) So like Wired believes, "Nikon may have screwed this one up."

Troy Davis Executed

When Aragon students think of Troy Davis, they normally think of a smiling, bald man who is passionate about music and everything music. To the world, Troy Davis is known as the prime case against the death penalty, whose life was ended on the faulty testimony of seven witnesses. Davis was convicted of murdering off-duty policeman Mark MacPhail, and was sentenced to death by lethal injection. When seven of the witnesses later recounted their testimonies and Davis was restricted in his appeal means, his case was taken up by many advocacy groups including Amnesty International and the NAACP. Davis faced many legal challenges and had his death sentence moved four times. In a last ditch effort to appeal the decision, crowds protested in front of the White House, pleading with President Obama to step in. Nearly one million people signed a petition pleading with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to pardon Davis. His case was reviewed by the Georgia Supreme Court, but he was denied clemency. Davis was executed 11:08 PM eastern time. The case has also drawn severe criticism from Europe and other countries. Hearing this sad story makes me seriously reconsider the effectiveness of our legal system. If seven of nine witnesses to such a serious case recounted their testimonies, how is it still plausible to convict a man of such a crime and sentence? Should the government have stepped in and appeased the views of foreign countries and advocacy groups? I feel there should be a better closure to this sad case.

Republicans Ignoring Poor?

According to Martin of CNN, the 10 poorest states in the United States are solidly red, staunch GOP supporters. Thus, it would make sense that Republicans running for president would spend considerable time discussing their plans to alleviate the issue, especially if they want the 15% poor (on average) and the considerable percentage close to poverty to vote for them. Martin cites examples of Republican debates where the candidates only discussed the poor regarding welfare reform / opposition and a Tea Party / CNN debate where Mitt Romney only mentioned 'poor' in reference to U.S's poor use of energy. Although Republicans are likely to argue that their economic agenda would bring more jobs to the market and thus rescue people from poverty, Martin refutes that "the poverty issue extends beyond employment -- to education and health care." Although this might be a single sided argument / anti-republican argument, I think that it makes sense at the surface level. (Perhaps if I followed the debates / campaigns more carefully, I would see loopholes in the presentation of the issue, possibly in glossed-over data.) However, if I currently were a poor person in a mostly GOP state, I would vote for a candidate that has seriously discussed improving the poverty situation regardless of party affiliations. Therefore, if the republicans should desire to keep a substantial amount of votes in their states, perhaps a deeper look into poverty is warranted.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Will We Be Driving In The Future?

Researches in Berlin have created a car that can completely drive itself. It doesn't just keep the driver in his lane or stop when the car in front of it does; it literally drives itself around. The researchers let the car drive around the streets of Berlin without any human controlling it, and it drove around without any incidents. The car began as a $19,995 Volkswagen Passat, but after all the upgrades to make it drive itself it would cost a consumer $551,800. So you have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more to not be able to drive the car; that doesn't seem like a good deal. Raul Rojas, the head of the artificial intelligence research group at Berlin's Free University, says that when these cars become more available they would just be summoned by someone who needed a ride. So basically people would not need to own a car anymore. That is ridiculous. People are not going to give up owning cars. For many people, cars are prized possessions and driving them is enjoyable. Why would they want to give them up? I know that sitting around in a car that isn't mine and waiting for it get me to my destination does not seem appealing at all. I would much rather own a car that I choose and drive it however I want to. Not only will consumers not like these new cars, car insurance providers with despise them as well. If every car is self-driven then the amount of car crashes is certainly going to decrease. If there are fewer accidents then people are not going to pay for car insurance. So we wouldn't be seeing any more of those hilarious Geico commercials. There are many accidents on the roads today and something should probably be done about that, but self-driving cars are not the answer. They will not work mostly because consumers will not easily accept them.
To learn more about self-driving cars click on the title of this post for a link to the article with all of the information.

AT&T and the Big Three of Phone Service

I am sure that by now everyone has heard of AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile. Well this is not going down as smoothly as AT&T would have hoped. This is an enormous deal with many implications on the cell-phone service market. If this deal were to go through, AT&T would become the nation's largest service provider, and the three biggest service providers (AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint) would control 90% of the market (sounds like an oligopoly to me).
This is screaming out to the Justice Department because it may give AT&T too much control over other service providers. It would also hurt the consumer because the big three would have much more control over prices (since it is an oligopoly) and it would be safe to assume that they are not going to lower prices. For these reasons the Justice Department is going to look very closely at this deal to make sure it does not hurt the consumer too much. There is absolutely no way that the government will allow this to happen, and I agree completely. There is no way that AT&T's proposed deal will not end up hurting the consumers; AT&T and the other members of the oligopoly would have too much control over prices. Are there any ways this deal could benefit the consumer?

The Business Model of Paul C. Buff: Good Idea?

Recently, I was in search of a studio flash that would allow me to experiment with different forms of lighting on a relatively tight photography budget. I ended up looking purchasing the Paul C. Buff Einstein E640 because of its excellent feature set and price of a mere $500. You might think that's a lot, but in the studio flash world, it's not. Take for example the similarly specced Elinchrom Ranger RX AS light that sells for $2,300. Sure, it is twice as powerful as the Einstein, but given that the equivalent recharge time, flash duration and other important factors are essentially equal, buying two Einsteins at $1000 gives you the same capabilities at less than 50% of the price.

So what makes Paul C. Buff able to price their flash units lower than comparable manufacturers like Elinchrom or Profoto? It is their unique business model that eliminates "middlemen" from the equation and seeks lower profit margins. By only selling from their store in Tennessee and through their website, Paul C. Buff removes the markups that suppliers charge the distributors and the markups that distributors charge the consumers. Because the goods are traded less times to get into our hands, we essentially get "wholesale" price. Paul C. Buff, unlike most studio flash manufacturers, attempts to maximize their profit by selling at a lower price and have a greater quantity demanded, compared to selling at "pro" level prices and selling less units. Their business model apparently works as they command approximately 60% of the studio flash market, have their flashes used by professionals, and generate enough revenue such that they are able to generate new highly desired products.

So is this a model that most companies should attempt to emulate? It would definitely save consumers money, but would it also mean a demise of the independent local stores? Would a pervasive middleman-eliminated economy spell doom for so many jobs that it would be better to pay more for products for the greater good? Would there be other issues? It sounds like an interesting concept that was at least good for me this time around...

Driver Licenses Counterfeited

Fake ID cards like Arizona DLs have recently been showing up in places like Berkeley bars. These "fake ids are look just as good or better than the real ones," according to Boyle, a manager of a bar that considers himself an expert on ID identification. Purchased online for less that $200 for two DLs, almost anyone could get one if they so desired.Although teens only use these IDs to get into bars and buy alcoholic beverages, these very realistic ideas could theoretically be used for much more dastardly deeds. For domestic flights, the only ID check is a cursory glace at your driver license before allowing you to get past TSA security. If these IDs are indeed so realistic, one could use it to board airplanes, perform fraud or basically anything else. So what should the government do about this? Perform extensive checks on all IDs and increase the time mostly harmless citizens stand annoyed in line? Check each package arriving from China for fake IDs? Can anything be done to prevent serious issues with fake IDs without significant tradeoffs somewhere? Is it worth it (in the minds of most people)?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gamers Solve AIDS Mystery

Online gamers have solved the structure of an important protein in the HIV virus that scientists, for decades, have not been able to solve. These gamers used a website called Foldit, an online game where players work to break apart amino acids through a 3-D picture. While scientists primarily work with the 2-D view of microscopes, the program developed by the University of Washington has allowed for video gamers to contribute to the solving of protein mysteries in the field of scientific discovery. This truly shows that human cognition can make breakthroughs and we should not be too quick to judge on the usefulness of certain activities. Who would have thought that a group of video gamers would be the one to discover such an important piece of information in the fight against AIDS? Technology and innovation have truly changed the methods of discovery.

Marketing Strategy: Success or Failure?

Olympus, a camera manufacturer, has partnered with JetBlue airlines to give away over 1000 of their new E-PM1 EVIL cameras on Flight #001 from New York to Ft. Lauderdale. (EVIL as in Electronic Viewfinder, Interchangeable Lens: a great acronym) Olympus says of their marketing strategy on their website:
"A giveaway like none other. A project that’s never been seen before. See what happens when Olympus puts the new, revolutionary PEN® E-PM1 in the hands of everyday people. The PEN Ready Project is changing the way we capture the world, and this site is your chance to witness that change."
Unfortunately, camera manufacturers like spin. As   Thom Hogan points out, this type of giveaway project HAS BEEN seen before. A few years prior, Nikon gave away 200 Nikon D40 to citizens of Georgetown, S. Carolina, and I am told that Oprah does this type of thing as well. So much for that hyperbole.

At any rate, success or failure? Both Hogan and Zhang of Petapixel  agree that the response could have been more enthusiastic and the results better if the cameras had been given to people more excited about such a giveaway. As Hogan points out, "You want people hoping they'll be one of the chosen few and looking to see what's happening, not just learning about what the chosen few did."

If Olympus wants people to realize their supposedly great E-PM1 is supposedly great, they probably should attempt to get better results from their marketing attempt. Take for example the photo that ran lead in their video promoting the event (top right), it is not very good. If you want people to buy your camera, the best way would probably involve showing the public that regular, non-photo geek people can take great photos with aforementioned camera.

So basically, Olympus ran a giveaway that had no hype (a surprise event to most) and produced relatively poor photographs. How's that for a marketing strategy - non-price competition failure in an oligopoly, anyone?

Mail on Saturdays? I think not.

In attempts to provide aid to the US Postal Service the Obama administration's plan would put an end to Saturday mail delivery. This may, in fact, be a good choice since it is becoming more popular to use email and the internet to pay bills. However, would it be better to hike up the price of stamps and packages to increase postal revenues? Though many in Congress support the 5-day mail delivery concept, E-commerce companies and other businesses rely on Saturday mail. In addition, the Postal Service must drastically deduce its payroll by over 200,000 by 2015 so is looking at possible closures of approximately 300 facilities. Isn't there a better way this can be dealt with? There is already enough unemployment.

Palestinian Autonomy A Real Possibility?

In 9th grade, many of us discussed the solution to the Israel-Palestine problem. Unfortunately, the solutions that we arrived at seemed both vague and quixotic. Any change to the current cycle of a small war, followed by tense peace between Israeli and Palestinian people seemed almost taboo to consider. Palestine will not immediately attain statehood, and there are many hurdles to overcome before Palestine can be recognized as a country. First of all, do the people of Palestine actually want statehood? Many are not willing to budge and accept defeat. The creation of a Palestinian state would prevent terrorists from attacking Israel with ease. If a single rocket crossed the Israeli border, a firestorm of might would come reigning down upon Palestine. The international community would not be as quick to criticize Israel if it performed self-defense instead of brute aggression. Also, could Palestine support itself? Many rivaling factions within the West Bank are all hungry for power and the go ahead for statehood could lead to a civil war.
All in all, this touchy issue is not going to be resolved anytime soon. Most people don't believe in allowing human suffering. If the Palestinian people are truly suffering, and statehood would help them be more fulfilled, so be it.

[Fun Fact] Lens falls through roof

As many camera geeks know, and most of you don't, a Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens fell through the roof of Debbie Panye's house in Petaluma, tearing a hole that costs almost $5000 to replace. This event was apparently newsworthy enough that CBS 5 mentioned it during their nightly news report.
Lenses are not falling from the sky left and right, but just one falling lens in the right spot can kill someone. Should the FAA or Foreign Alien Agency attempt to create rules to prevent heavy objects from falling from the sky during what was presumably aerial photography or is it just another example of too much government protection? Most aerial photography is done in a small aircraft with the door open, I for one can see more similar accidents occurring. For example, during a press / photojournalist tour of the Toronto CN Tower's Edgewalk, everything had to be clipped and taped down.
 "I brought up a Canon 5d Mark II with a 16-35 wide zoom, and a Nikon D3s with a 24-70. The memory card slots, eyepiece, and battery doors of both cameras were all taped down to make sure nothing fell off. I have dropped a camera maybe once or twice in my life, and I knew this wouldn’t be the time to have an accident."
So, should something similar occur with aerial photography?

Technology ≠ jobs?

According to a CBS article by Mike Sugarman, new technology nowadays might actually decrease the availability of jobs instead of increasing them. Since the networking and cloud technology has expanded to vast proportions, companies can outsource to other companies for services like server management instead of buying their own servers and hiring their own employees to manage it. Sugarman suggests that some of the jobs eliminated by the recession will never resurface as technology plays a larger role in businesses and takes over some of the previous human-necessary tasks.
We have learned that supply changes based upon several factors, one of them, technology. We know that technology will increase the amount of goods / services supplied at any given input because of increased efficiency. But could technology actually decrease demand as well in some cases?
In the case that an increasing amount of technology equates to a decreasing number of jobs, demand of good / services might actually decrease as overall income decreases. So is technology really as good as many make it sound? Comment away...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Peace for the Middle East

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has gone to the UN security council to seek recognition and approval for a Palestinian state. The Obama administration strongly disproves of President Abbas's actions, and Obama has resolved to veto any Security Counsel resolutions. He believes that any such action would increase the unrest in the area. Israel has warned of repercussions if President Abbas goes through with his plans, but most of the warnings from the Obama Administration and European diplomats scrambling to make a stronger peace deal for the two sides have been ignored Whats worse is that Israel has been losing its trust in the United States, seeing that the country's influence in the Middle East has sharply declined. President Obama, who has been losing support with the many affluent and influential Jewish voters in the United States, is being met with heady disapproval from the Israeli government. Israel does have a right train of thought, as most countries should protect themselves before protecting other countries. Attempts for additional peace-talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians have fallen through, especially after Israel continued to build settlements on land won during the 1967 Middle East War. Many of the weapons and funding for the wars Israel has fought has come from the United States. Personally, I think this is an issue that is too complicated because it is not just a dispute about land distribution. It involves holy sites and two different cultures that are clashing because of failures to acknowledge the other side from both parties. I think the Palestinians deserve a country just as much as the Israelis, but if no one is willing to vouch for the other side, nothing will ever be accomplished.

NASA Satellite to hit Earth Friday...or Thursday...or Saturday

Which is a rather ironic piece of news as Honors Econ just discussed the difficulties of excluding free riders from government protections. (A hypothetical situation was debris hitting Earth). The satellite, launched in 1991, has succumbed to Earth's gravity and is now being pulled into our atmosphere. It is unknown where the satellite will strike Earth, but the piece of junk will eventually break up into scintillating fireballs that will be visible even in daytime. Some of the pieces will be around three-hundred pounds; there is a 1 in 3200 chance that a person would be struck by a piece of the satellite. Although this situation does not seem very urgent, it does pose the question of who would be responsible to help divert bigger threats meteor threats in the future. How would countries figure out how to contribute to this unlikely (or less unlikely than we thought) scenario?

Government Protecting The People? What a Sham-u!

I woke up this morning with a heavy feeling in my stomach. What has happened to my beautiful country, and why is government getting involving in so many private affairs? SeaWorld is fighting a lawsuit from the federal job safety bureau because of the tragic death of one of its trainers. Why should BIG BROTHER get involved in the affairs of a private business? Has SeaWorld not suffered enough from the tragic loss of a trainer? Whale trainers understand the risks of working with killer whales, and so does SeaWorld. No need to punish a struggling family business for the pitfalls of one faculty member. I can see Thomas Jefferson, looking down from the highest cloud in heaven, proclaiming, "Deregulate, deregulate, deregulate business."

Will there be any Social Security benefits left for us?

The issue of whether the Social Security system can remain a viable retirement system for future retirees is a heated issue amongst the Democrats and Republicans. The Social Security system is in trouble because many more baby boomers are retiring and collecting their benefits than there are working people who are replenishing the system for future retirees. In fact, Social Security is paying out more benefits than are being collected in payroll taxes. The Republicans want to give younger workers the opportunity to invest in alternative retirement plans, but that would further deplete our Social Security system. Shouldn't older people feel confident that when they retire, they will be able to live comfortably after paying into the Social Security system for so many years? This will not happen unless the Democrats and Republicans work together to overhaul the system and ensure that there will be money for not only our grandparents, but our parents and us, too. Shouldn't the issue be not finding alternatives for a few younger workers, but finding a solution so that all workers can benefit from a national retirement system?

Obama's Economic Policy: 1 1/2 Years Later

In 2009, Congress passed President Obama's first economic policy.  One and a half years later, the results are as follows (here).  Although Obama was able to pass some pretty good reforms, including regulatory and health reforms, even though the economy has recovered somewhat, there are no new jobs.  This past month, the net job growth was zero; overall no new jobs, but also no losses. (Link)  Workers were still being hired and fired, but overall, the effect on the unemployment rate was essentially nonexistent.  While some may seem happy that the unemployment rate has not gone up, with the lack of new jobs, those in search of jobs will find it difficult to obtain a job.  With the lack of new jobs, Obama is now pressured to come up with an idea to create new jobs to prevent the unemployment rate from increasing.  The unemployment rate, combined with the stock market fears as a result of the economic crisis in Europe, appears to be preventing employers from hiring at a rate that would decrease the national unemployment rate.  On a side note, because the United States and Europe's economy is interlinked, if the US' economy suffers, so does Europe's, as shown by Europe's current crisis (except for Germany).  It seems that without a spark to generate new jobs, the current trend of zero net job growth will continue.

"Class Warfare Makes Good Politics But It Makes For Rotten Economics."

(Link)  It can be argued that Obama's taxing of the rich more, as well as his jobs plan, is all for "popularity".  As Congressman Paul Ryan said: "Class warfare may make for good politics but it makes for rotten economics."  So even if the wealthier population gets taxed more, making taxes among everyone seem equal, it might only serve to hurt the economy in the long run.  If the wealthy get taxed to much, there is a distinct possibility that the  wealthy business owners will become more conservative with their money, and end up hiring less workers, or not hire at all, in order to keep profit margins high and expenses low.  Thus, some workers may end up losing their jobs, and those searching for jobs will have a much harder time finding a job because no one is hiring.  There will be some who will oppose Obama's decision simply based on the fact that he is a liberal, and the opposition is made up of primarily conservatives.  To many, Obama's recent proposals, with the most recent being the American Jobs Act, seem like a way to gather supporters to prepare for the 2012 presidential elections.  The future of America's economy, depending on whether or not President Obama's plan gets passed, is uncertain, but supporters and opponents of Obama's economic proposals are already predicting what will happen.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's Only Fair

President Barack Obama is proposing a new base tax rate for the wealthy in order to ensure that millionaires pay at minimum the same percentage of taxes as middle income taxpayers. That's fair, right? That's the way it should have been all along. The proposal will be included in the president's proposal for long term deficit reduction which he will officially announce Monday. Obviously, Obama's proposal will inevitably be negatively received by the wealthy of whom do not wish to pay the same amount of taxes as middle income taxpayers. However, Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, has long been a vocal supporter of rich people paying their far share of federal taxes. If billionaire Buffett can see the obvious- rich people should not exempt from paying taxes equal to middle class citizens- how can other wealthy Americans feel that Obama's tax proposal is unfair? Shouldn't America's wealthy citizens be obligated to pay taxes in at least equal proportion to those who are less wealthy?

Republicans Rewrite Poll Laws

Many Republicans in their states have stopped early voting, increased voter ID restrictions, and pushed back voting rights of ex-felons. These restrictions pose the biggest threat to minorities and the younger populations, groups that helped Obama win his first time in office. Restrictions to keep out voters have been very common throughout history, most infamous were probably the grandfather clauses that kept African-Americans away from the polls for years. Reform is being made to the way states are won; instead of a winner takes all approach, some states are considering going at it through congressional districts, making it harder to win by margins. Many presidents in the past, ex. President Lincoln, won by garnering enough of the public vote to win a state. Maybe the Republicans have voter's best interests at heart, but Democrats denounced these new proposals and measures as attempts to take stabs at Obama's voting demographic. More than 30 states increased measures and restrictions on voting, and many of the younger voting population lack proper identification, keeping them away from the polls in the future. With all that the country had worked for in the past century, would it be reasonable to pass these new voting restrictions?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Feeling Secure About Social Security

The government implemented program Social Security has been getting a lot of hate lately by the Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry. He called it a "Ponzi Scheme" and vowed that our generation would never see a penny from the program. He bashed it as a monstrous lie and in turn has suffered lasting damage because of his misinformed comment. Is Social Security a type of "Ponzi scheme" that dupes the innocent? No. A Ponzi scheme only exists because it attracts new investors so as to pay off old ones. Social Security taxes workers but builds up the funds from all workers so as to pay off retired ones; people get their money to some extent. The old and retired, (ex. grandmas aged 100) still get social security benefits. However, the main problem with Social Security is that it has trouble meeting needs when the economy is down; it just simply can't raise enough funds and that's how Perry came to the conclusion that our generation would never get a penny. What can the government do? Raise taxes? (Republicans would cringe). However, Social Security does face problems just as any government program does. What about the rich who overall just don't need the benefits as much as others do but still get a big bite of the pie? The average lifespan is rising, meaning more money needed for those who live off social security longer than they contributed to it. The government really needs to act on its many government problems.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Netflix Customers Flee Price Hike

The reason why Netflix became so popular was because of its price. It was a low cost alternative to renting pricey movies at stores like Blockbuster. Netflix managed to put many Blockbusters out of business, and even had a public escapade with them that showcased the movie industry's movement into the 21st century. But is Netflix dooming itself? Over the course of three years, Netflix stock rests at about 170 dollars today. Investors saw the potential the company had and contributed to its blossoming progress in the competitive market. Now, Netflix has proposed a 60% increase in its prices, scaring away thousands, if not hundres of thousands of customers. Before, the company was known for its mail-order DVD rentals; slowly, the company replaced this method with the newest craze, internet video streaming. However, owners of movie production companies saw this as a valuable opportunity to raise prices on the licensed distribution of its movies, causing a chain reaction that steadily forced Netflix customers to fork over more cash. As we know, raising prices also shifts the demand curve. Has Netflix just shot itself in the foot by deciding to raise prices despite the horrible economy? Maybe it is time for a new company to emerge in this time, so as to increase choices within the competitive market, which would benefit us as consumers.

Arsenic . . in what?

Television's Dr. Mehmet Oz is accused of frightening thousands of viewers of what FDA claims to be a false alarm on the consumption of apple juice. Yesterday Oz claimed that testing in a New Jersey lab associated with his television show found what seemed to be dangerously high levels of arsenic in many brands of apple juice. The FDA said that its own tests reflect no such thing, even after testing the same juice brands Oz cited. Should Oz really have been so quick to conclude that there were supposedly high arsenic levels in such a popular drink and televise his results without further analysis of the data? Is Oz raising unnecessary worry over a drink that the FDA has been testing for years with no negative results?

According to the FDA, arsenic is naturally present in water, air, food and soil in two forms-organic and inorganic. Organic arsenic they said is not dangerous to people, and in fact, inorganic arsenic is also not problematic unless consumed at consistently high level for an extended period of time. In other words, has Oz not done enough research on safe levels of arsenic and caused undue public worry or is he really safeguarding us against contaminants that may be harming us?

Indus River "Paks" Big Punch

While the front page of Fox News displays an article about the sorrow caused by failing American businesses following the bailout, flood waters continue to rise in the Hyderabad region of Pakistan. Six million people have already been affected with two million being treated for disease. 7,000 more Pakistanis are being treated for snake bites, the result of the rising waters effect on snake habitats. This leads many to wonder, did the Pakistanis not learn from the floods of 2010?

The answer is not so simple. In July, 2010 a flood swept across Pakistan, affecting twenty million people. Foreign aid poured in and the Pakistani government promised to allocate the funds in the most effective way to help those in need. Sadly, most of the money was siphoned off to other government projects. The argument that not enough foreign aid was supplied to Pakistan is beyond absurd, considering the Pakistani governments corrupt distribution of funds. No preventative measures were even put in place to assure that civilians could be evacuated safely come another flood.

However this raises a separate issue. Is it America's responsibility to provide aid to countries that may or may not use it to benefit those in need? Is it worth it for America to spend $21 billion a year in foreign aid to Pakistan while they misuse it? This question was brought to light when the American heroes of SEALS unit 6 killed Osama Bin Laden. Are we really supposed to believe that the Pakistani government knew nothing of Bin Laden's whereabouts, while he resided in a compound half a mile away from an army installment? and yet we are aiding a country that was harboring the brutal murderer of so many innocent American lives! If the debt is such a problem, then why don't we cut down on wasteful foreign aid. The money that we pump into Pakistan should be used to fund the great army of The United States. Give the money to the real heroes, our Navy SEALS, instead of handing it over to ruthless terrorists.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Myths about Mistakes.

Are skeptics just looking for failures in the Obama administration? Actually, evidence could point either way. There's just something about Solyndra that smells fishy. Obviously, the company mishandled the 535 million that it had been granted by the government. The price is still small compared to the hefty price of Obama's jobs plan, which still seems to be in limbo. Other critics point to Solyndra being an active Obama supporter, something that is now affecting the President negatively. (Perry better watch his back.) As the article states, solar was actually one of America's better exports. If you can't compete with China, then sell to China. Maybe if the company had been more open-minded, it would have targeted the hefty population of China that needs energy instead of just pointing fingers. Everything American is still quite popular and treasured over there, last time I checked.

Kabul-istic Tendencies

Many wonder why we are fighting in Afghanistan, yet the answers are "phishy" at best. Some say we are still waging a "War on Terror," whilst others proclaim that we are fighting to preserve the freedom of the Afghan people. However, the war is far from pretty, and if the government wants America to remain on Afghani soil, they must present firm and compelling reasons for us to stay. The recent attacks in Kabul signify Afghanistan's resilience to bowing before US might. As the losses on both sides grow, we must reevaluate what we are fighting for and decide whether it is just.

Weighing In

The major controversy over same sex marriage is being put to the test again, this time in North Carolina . It has been decided that North Carolina residents will vote next year on a constitutional amendment to ban-same sex marriage on a state wide ballot. Currently, North Carolina is the only Southern state that does not ban same sex marriage. Six other states and the District of Columbia proudly recognize it. So how is it that some states cannot come to accept and respect the rights of others? Honestly, what way of thinking or lack of thinking makes American citizens prohibit and deny other American citizens a choice of how they live? If this amendment gets passed, I'm sure that we will shamefully reflect on this travesty of justice, as we did when looking back on our cruel treatment of African Americans and our denial of women's rights to vote. If heterosexual people have the right to marry and create a life with the person they love, then why can't gay people? They should not be denied the right to form the same legal commitment. Imagine if you could not marry and care for the person you love. Awful thought, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Immunizing against Rick Perry

Rick Perry raised eyebrows at the Republican debate Monday night when he voiced his support for the enforcement of the HPV shot, Gardasil, for teenage girls in Texas. Although the reason for his avid support for the vaccine might just be for his murky connections with Merck, a pharmaceutical giant and avid Perry endorser, Perry seemed blatant when he quickly diverted the debate to his questionable fund raising methods. "If you think I can be bought for 5,000 dollars, I'm offended," says Perry.
"I'm offended for all the little girls who didn't have a choice," fired Michelle Bauchmann to the somewhat egotistical response from Perry.
Most of the other republican candidates fired back about mandating the HPV shot in Texas, stating that "personal liberties had been violated". Personally, I don't see how any politician can force a vaccine to become required without raising massive protest. Then again, it also brings up a repetitive topic of government control over health care. How much control does the government have over such a big part of our lives? Since Merck is the sole producer of Gardasil, it also poses the question of how much control does Merck have on the spread and supply of the vaccine in Texas. Ladies, how would you feel if you were forced to undertake a foreign vaccine just at the whim of some politician?

As Perry Campaigns, Texas Burns

Here are some great pictures chronicling the current drought and wild fires in Texas. As population increases, the need for water is rising fast and in an unsustainable way. If we do not adopt better water conservation habits, the threat of catastrophic droughts and wild fires in California is a very real one.

Have a safe flight. . .kind of.

Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, informed us today that children under 12 may soon be able to skip the tedious pat downs and mandatory removal of shoes, but is that really the best idea? Especially considering the fact that the federal government has implemented countless laws to protect US flyers from being in potentially dangerous situations. "Today, 14 million passengers fly to, from and within the United States each week." --"Children may soon be spared airport patdowns: Napolitano"

With the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks fresh in our minds and the knowledge that in Iraq and Afghanistan, little girls are used as suicide bombers (some are coerced and some want to do it) is it reasonable or justifiable to allow children to skip a pat down and removal of shoes? Do you really think it's going to be possible to find enough support for this proposal?

The poor just get poorer.

A record number of of Americans now live below the poverty line, up from 46.2 million last year. That figure factors in the 9.6 unemployment rate and has reached levels comparable to the levels seen during President Johnson's "war on poverty". The different times seem laughably similar; both times were characterized by harsh economic troubles and public outrage toward wars that the government had duped the public into participating in. But America recovered to an extent.
Now, the median household income has also slipped to $49,445. With the poor just getting poorer, and more middle class families joining them, a plan needs to be put into immediate action to stop the chain reaction. The more that are unemployed, the less people there are to pay government taxes. More unemployment means less consumerism and demand for goods and services. Less demand calls for less demand for labor, and the cycle continues. If the government can't raise enough funds to help the unemployed, the downward trend traps the government in a deadlock. Will Obama's vastly expensive job plan really be the solution to this ridiculous and complicated issue?

UC Bugdet Cuts; IC Sadness

When many of our parents were in their teens, the average tuition for attending a UC was $800 per year. Now, as our state delves deeper into debt, we are pushing $12,000 per year. What changed? Inflation rates do not even begin to account for the raise in tuition cost. It seems that the raising tuition is a function of California's debt, and reluctance to feed higher education. In our time of financial uncertainty, the educational system is being given the short end of the stick. Does it not make sense that in times of joblessness and unskilled labor, we should be investing in our future workers? If we provide cheap upper level education, a more diversified working class can be established that will hoist the economy back on its feet.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Ten years after the shocking events that plagued September 11, 2001, a nation gathered in tribute to a tragic day. Television, internet, and newspapers were filled with different ways of showing respect on a day of remembrance. "God bless America" was uttered in a variety places to pay thanks for what this country does for it's people. I am thankful for the freedom and opportunity given as a citizen of the United States. I only wish the United States could have retaliated differently to the attacks on 9/11. Whether or not to any extent the conspiracies relating to 9/11 were true, what was done by America as consequence of the attacks was wrong. Killing innocent individuals is never accepted, and killing innocent individuals to serve justice should not be accepted either. When former President Bush jr. announced the white house plans of attack I was in the second grade. Shocked by 9/11 I wanted there to be justice served to those who did wrong. But even at that young age I innately felt a sense of guilt and worry to see the first bombs from America land. When Seal team 6 assassinated Osama Bin Laden I felt purely proud to be an American. Justice was brought upon an individual with precision and low destruction. All other motives aside, bombing Afghanistan after 9/11 was over destructive. So today I want to mourn the all the innocent deaths as a result of the 9/11 attacks. Bless America, and bless the world.

Remembering 9/11: The Photographer's Photos

Earlier this week, I wrote about what I remembered on September 11, 2001 and asked you to say what you remember. In this video, a photographer tells first hand what the events were like. He went from photographing a maternity fashion show to capturing one of the most devastating events for the US.
If you would like to view this video, the title links to the website.

Cartoonists pay tribute to 9/11

Look through your Sunday newspapers today. In the comics section, you'll find an interesting dedication to 9/11. Regular cartoonists of Sunday newspapers, who normally work independently, have decided to unite and remember September 11. All cartoons in the newspaper are dedicated to the date in some way. Comic strips often mock or criticize the news in a funny way, but today, the cartoonists defined a line between respect and having a little laugh. They wanted to "convey the 'it's okay to laugh again' message." Some are serious or inspirational, while others allow you to have a small laugh. I think this is a great way to remember 9/11. Cartoonists are always really good at conveying messages in an interesting and captivating way and i just think this is a nice way to do it for 9/11. "Cartoonists Remember" is a collection of 93 cartoons from different cartoonists. They will be on display in museums throughout the United States.

Increase in Taxes, not in Value

Sunnyvale home owners Kit and Miki Wetzler were very surprised to find that their home value for tax purposes shot up from $769,900 to $918,275 in just one year.
The couple commented that "Going up that much in one year certainly would be nice, but in no way reflects reality". So what exactly caused this sudden increase in value?
Proposition 8.
I know when I say Prop 8, most people automatically think of the fight for the legalization of gay marriage. This is a different Prop 8, which is a corollary to Prop 13. Prop 13 was passed in 1978 and limits the tax increase to 2% a year or the California consumer price index, whichever is less.
Prop 8 asks that assessors restore some or all of the value as our market starts to recover. This can make the house valued up to the original purchase price plus the 2% tax increase. Which can be good and bad.
For the Wetzlers, it is good because their house is said to be worth more. However, this means that they have to pay more in property taxes. Hoping to bring down their sudden increase in taxes, the Wetzlers did as the notice said, and called for an information review. Since the Wetzlers are considered to have well paying jobs, they can afford the extra taxes, but can still be a burden.
Different areas are recovering at different times, so places like Palo Alto, Mountain View, Cupertino, South Sunnyvale that have good schools are more likely to see increases in property taxes. Slower areas such as Gilroy and Morgan Hill are not going to be affected by this as quickly as their surrounding cities.
"Its not going to kill us, but certainly will put a dent in our funds," Wetzler says. " dramatically increases our property tax bill for no actual adjustment in value."

Justice for Michelle Le

I'm sure most people have heard by now the story of Michelle Le. She was a nursing student who disappeared from a parking garage at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hayward. Well, now they have officially charged Giselle Esteban, Le's former classmate at Mount Carmel High in San Diego, of killing her in the parking garage.
On Friday, September 9, Esteban appeared in court and did not enter a plea. Her main reason for being there was "to confirm the details of her legal representation". Esteban has said that she disliked Le because she supposedly ruined the relationship she had with her former boyfriend and father of her 5-year-old, Scott Marasigan.
It is an interesting situation with Esteban because she is pregnant while on trial. Former Santa Clara County prosecutor Steve Clark says that housing a pregnant defendant can be a "logistical nightmare" and that "being in custody on a murder charge isn't exactly well-baby care". Although pregnancy on trial is uncommon, it has been seen before. Tiffany Lopez is being held in Santa Rita Jain in Dublin for suffocating her 2-year-old daughter out of frustration that the girl would not stop crying. At the time of her conviction, she was three months pregnant.
I do hope that they find justice for Michelle Le, and as her cousin Krystine Dinh said, "Our focus is still bringing Michelle home. This whole entire thing has been incredibly difficult".

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Foreign Invasion

These days, it is difficult to find anything made in the US, let alone made from the same county one lives in. One woman seeks to change all that.
Rebecca Burgess decided to wear only locally farmed and manufactured fabrics and clothing, which she found difficult. This sparked her inspiration to create her own business. By working with local farmers, she created her own locally manufactured clothing line. With her neighborhood of West Marin having a 13% unemployment rate, this business creates more jobs for farmers and puts money into the economy by promoting local businesses.
Manufacturing in the US has dropped in workforce size from 28% fifty years ago to 8% today, and is still at risk of dropping even lower.
And now, not only are foreign companies are taking jobs from US citizens, they are also taking over US businesses.
Former US solar company Solyndra, which went suddenly bankrupt, is rumored to be taken over by a foreign company, raising further suspicion about the unpaid bills and sudden troubles. After all, in July the CEO Brian Hurrison did write to the government stating the company was in "good financial standing". Not to mention, the fact that companies cannot lay off 50 or more workers without 60 days notice, which left the 200 former Solyndra workers without jobs.
I think not.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Republicans respond

House Republicans have officially pledged to immediately review Obama's jobs bill proposed last night in his address to Congress. They stated that they "desire to work with [him] to find common ground." After an unproductive summer of disagreements, it seems it is time to try and compromise once more.
Why did the House Republicans reply so promptly? One reason may be that Obama proposed cutting government spending, a big goal of Republicans. Also, in his speech, he repeatedly called for tax cuts. Throughout his address, he kept emphasizing the fact that his ideals for the plans have been compromised and agreed upon by both parties in the past. Is he spinning the House and did it actually work? Since this was only a proposal, nothing is set in stone, so anything he says could just be a form of spin. Right?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Surprise! It's the FBI...

The FBI arrived at Solyndra, a solar company in Fremont that just filed bankruptcy, at 7 am executing search warrants. A spokesperson for Solyndra said they were surprised but cooperated. Currently it is confidential, so no one really knows what they were really looking for. However, many believe it has to do with their political association.

Remember that time last year when Obama was in the area and everyone was talking about the lines of cop cars in the Bay Area? Well, he was here to visit this failed company. At that time, Obama was promoting the creation of "green" jobs and such to help with unemployment and stimulate the economy. This company seemed to be his main hope for that. Thus, the US Department of Energy loaned the company $535 million. That was March of 2009. Now, they are filing for bankruptcy. Solyndra put out a statement, saying China was too fierce of competition and caused them to stop production and lay off a thousand employees. Those who were laid off recieved no severance pay and had their health benefits ended. Where did all that money go? They couldn't even save some to provide for their employees or now ex-employees?

Wasting away $535 million in a little over two years seems hard to do. How do you spend that kind of money if none was even saved for their employees? In addition, the government actually agreed to this. They loaned the company money and then what? They gave them money and seemed to do little to sustain the company's success. Really? Half a Billion dollars? At least their headquarters look pretty.

President Barack Swagbama

When President Barack Obama was first elected, there were comparisons with his charisma and intelligence to that of John F. Kennedy. There is no doubt he still has that ability of instilling hope when he speaks. The President spoke of "working side by side" with corporations. The President spoke of preserving the right to collective bargaining. The President spoke of regulating what needs to be regulated on Wall Street. Finally, the President spoke of " the three words Made in America."
If it is true that President Obama believe these statements he powerfully said in tonight's speech, I demand action from him. When President Obama was first being elected, he spoke of regulating corporations and distributing wealth, as he spoke of tonight. He faces only 14 more months until the next election. President Obama stated that 14 months was too long to change. I believe it has been to long already without the changes he has promised. If he planned on re-regulating the corporations, then why are economist like Ben Burnanke and Larry Summers still influencing the white house. President once again delivered a captivating speech, but how much of what he states can the public truly expect. Reverend Al Sharpton stated the "devil may be in the details,"and I believe he is correct. The devil may be in the lack of details. He wants to boost American manufacturing, but where will he get the funds to create factories? President Obama gave a very inspiring speech on making adjustments as a united country, but we need his help too. He told the public to do it's job and demand from the government, but the government needs to listen. President Obama needs more action and pull in congress, than he does need to give great sounding speeches.

Money and Sports

The tennis U.S. open twenty years ago flourished with the display of great American athleticism. John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, and Andre Agassi were American heroes that dominated tennis in beautiful fashion. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of American tennis today. Of the current U.S. open favorites, none are American. Similarly, the sport of golf has noticed a decrease in the amount of American champions as well. Is this simply a coincidence, or is there some sort of correlating factor?
Any decent set of golf clubs is a few hundred dollars for a beginner. Shoes, golf balls, golf attire all add up to at least another couple of hundred dollars. Go to the golf course where a simple nine whole may be sixteen dollars a person. Driving range balls may go for about eight dollars for roughly fifty balls depending where you are. To golf every day becomes a serious expense. The same can be said for tennis where a nice racket, shoes, and outfit become pricy as well. In many areas there are not public tennis courts as one can find in the downtown San Mateo central park. Less Americans each day are losing the capability of enjoying some of these past times that Americans have enjoyed for years. The United States is not only diving deeper into debt, but losing some of the great American swagger it once had. While these sports may not be necessities, they are characteristics of a great nation. America may be down, but not out! If this nation spent less on military, and spent less time supporting the large corporations, then more of the public could enjoy the pricier sports. If more of the public stood up for economic equality, more of the public could enjoy what is making them feel less equal.
For now, show Andy Roddick and John Isner some love for representing America well so far in the tennis U.S. open!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Republican debate: Perry vs. Romney

Mitt Romney and Rick Perry seemed to have a target on their backs. Most of the criticism from other candidates were aimed at them. However, there also seemed to be a mini duel between the two. Perry, debating for the first time, contradicted Romney's claims about creating jobs. Perry, governor of Texas claimed that he helped create 1 million jobs in 10 years. Romney refuted that saying Texans had no income tax, the oil and gas industry and fewer unions.

Are they spinning us here? Was it really a million jobs? And is Romney's challenge valid? I just feel very skeptical about everything these candidates say. I mean for one thing when Michele Bachmann said that she promised to completely repeal Obamacare, can she really promise that for sure? Well, of course she can't, but still, she said it too enthusiastically for me.

In addition, when Perry stated that Social Security is a lie, Romney challenged him, stating that millions of Americans live off of it, so obviously it's not a failure. I thought Perry was a little too harsh there saying Social Security is a failure. It may not be perfect, but I have to agree with Romney on that that we need to fix it and make it better and for sure keep it. What do you guys think? Is Social Security really that much of a failure?

Pants on the Ground

A few months ago, a young University of New Mexico football player was wearing his pants low like many other adolescents. The flight attendant asked him to pull up his trousers, but he refused. And so he was escorted off the plane, a nice way to say he was kicked off the plane for sagging and later arrested. There was extreme controversy over the fact that he was African American and a white man in Flordia was able to board a flight dressed in women's underwear. Controversial airline news seemed to have blown over, but that is not the case.

On Monday, another case arose. Except this time, it was a celebrity. Lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong, of the famous band Green Day was asked to leave the plane when he refused to pull up his saggy pants after a flight attendant asked him to. Southwest Airlines immediately apologized after they heard what happened. I wonder if they would have apologized if the victim was not a celebrity.

Even though this case is not as extreme as the former, it is still controversial. Should airlines really have the right to kick someone off the plane based on their clothing preferences? I understand that not complying to their requests is a good reason, but what kind of request is that? It's kind of ridiculous if you ask me. If you let a man in women's underwear on a plane, why not saggy pants? It's not like anyone is complaining, nor is it harming anyone. Don't we have a right to dress how we want?

Hot Sauce Marijuana Heats Up the Debate

Alas, there has been another bust of marijuana at the Mexico-California border. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers arrested a 39-year-old Tijuana resident who was caught trying to smuggle 2,330 pounds of marijuana--a "street value of $1.4 million"--in boxes of hot sauce.
Possession and distribution of the cannabis under California law is punishable by a hefty fine and under Federal law, is considered illegal like other drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
However, there are a few people, as we saw watching the video in class today, who believe that this crack down of pot should no longer be troubling local police. Why, might you ask? It could give more money to the cities and state from the taxes, makes it easier to access for those who need the marijuana for medical purposes, and some think that having it accessible to the public will lower the desire to abuse the drug.
Of course, there are some who have other ideas. The idea of turning California into a "Green State" does not sound pleasant to people against the idea of legalizing marijuana, and there is no proven fact that having it legal will reduce the use of marijuana. In fact, the use of marijuana may increase due to accessibility. And who can guarantee that all people who are buying the cannabis truly need it for medical reasons?
I think the Federal government should handle how to classify drugs, not the state governments.

September 11: Remembering the Brave

I recall walking into my parents room, where it was very dark and the TV was on. I sat on what seemed like a monstrous bed and looked and what they were watching. Images of dust and fire filled the screen and captured my attention as I wondered if we were going out to dinner for my mother's birthday that night. The one image that I hold onto forever is that of a woman, running in the street away from the dust and smoke when it eventually consumes her and the camera man who runs along with her.
That was my September 11, 2001.
10 years later, here we are. Remembering the past. Remembering the fallen. Remembering the Brave. And how so much has changed since then.
America became more strict, more aware. They prosecuted hundreds of terrorists, strengthened the anti-terrorist efforts, and created the USA PATRIOT Act. Some believe that these measures taken were needed and that safety of the country was most important at the time. Others feel that the actions, like the PATRIOT Act, gives the government prodigious powers and forced people to choose between safety and liberty.
President Bush passed the PATRIOT Act just 6 weeks after the attack, so is it possible that it was passed in the heat of the moment? Or was there true thought and care put into this Act?
Right now, we cannot blame others for not seeing the attack ahead of time or what measures--extreme or not--were taken. Instead we must grow with what history has provided us with and most importantly, remember those who have fallen and those who were Brave.
For those who wish to share, I think it would be interesting to hear what you remember from that day, because it has impacted all of our lives since.

Facebook Fit For The Classroom?

In our world today, most people are a part of social networking sites to stay connected with friends or talk with family. But can a social networking sight, such as Facebook, actually be helpful for kids in school? A study from the University of Maryland shows that spending time on sites like Facebook "might help kids in school by helping students build important bonds with friends".

Some educators, such as Christine Greenhow, believe that the participation of teens on online sites could encourage creativity and technical skills. She also comments that "social media can make the lessons more relevant and meaningful".

In order to take this experiment to the next level, high school science teacher Susan Domanico used a few different online sites to post presentations that she recorded so that students could refer to them as a resource when studying. Some teacher also use Ning for uploading homework, sharing information with parents, and connecting with other teachers.

But some are not too keen on this idea.

There is still debate on whether teachers should be allowed to use social networking sites because of the harassment, cyberbullying, and inappropriate materials that may be exposed to the students using the sites.

So in some ways, Facebook could be used to help students access learning materials and homework assignments, but the different problems that could arise from using these social networking sites has some people turned off.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Postal Service Soon to be No More?

Postal services have been with us for as long as we can remember. However, the postal service is now on the verge of destruction. Facing a deficit of about $10 million this year, our mailing service could very possibly run out of money by this winter. If they run out of money, they will face a shutdown. The agency has proposed to cut Saturday deliveries, close 3700 post offices, and lay off 120,000 workers. The Obama administration has been pushing legislation to aid the failing postal service, pushing to allow the postal service more time to pay out the $5.5 billion they owe to future health coverage of retirees.
This continuously increasing deficit is a result of the postal service's constant overpaying of millions of dollars into pension funds. In this day and age, everything is done over the internet, e-mail instead of the traditional mail, reading news on websites, and paying bills via web. Since 2006, annual mail volume has decreased 22%. For now, the postal service is quickly running out of money. A solution? Send more letters.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Supply and Demand in Action

Apple has had a solid grip on the technology market for years now. Its not that they have a monopoly in any one market, its that they keep creating markets at a rate which leaves competitors gasping for breath. After getting the world addicted to iPods, they introduced the iPhone which, again, created a niche and then filled it so well that other smart phones were able to compete only because, at the time, AT&T had an exclusive contract with Apple. In 2010, Apple continued its habit of filling previously untapped markets with the iPad. Once again, companies like HP and Verizon scrambled to pick up the scraps of Steve Jobs' success with their own tablets.
But then...HP gave up. Last month they shocked the technological world with the announcement that they were canceling their production of tablets and webOS hardware. This, after all those cute commercials featuring Russel Brand, Lea Michele and an ostrich. Once they decided to stop production, they discounted their tablets to the unbelievably low price of $99. This costs HP an estimated $200 per tablet sold. But then...HP announced they would restart production and continue through Halloween of this year. Why? No one with permission to tell us knows. Yet.
In the mean time, buy up! Who knows the next time a company will sell such cool technology for such a cool price?

Psst...Jim Crow...

Wisconsin, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Alabama are only a few of the states which set new voting regulations in place this year. These laws do things such as require photo ID to vote, change requirements for proof of citizenship, change regulations on voting drives and limit early and absentee voting options. The states in which these laws were passed all have legislatures which are newly controlled by the GOP. While the writers of these bills claim they are to cut down on voter fraud, the Democrats have other suspicions. Because these laws tend to affect minorities such as the elderly, disabled, and the younger voting demographic more harshly, and because these minorities tend to be largely Democratic, the new voting laws appear to be a concerted effort by the Republicans to get the upper hand in the upcoming elections.
These new regulations, and the not-so-well hidden motives behind them, are strongly reminiscent of the Jim Crow laws of old, which we all know were set in place to disenfranchise Black Americans. Just as America was patting itself on the back for electing its first minority president, we appear to have progressed very little from the days of Grandfather Clauses and absurd literacy tests. Its a sad realization.

Rick Perry: Anti-Government...Except When He Isn't

Rick Perry's campaign for president is built on his dedication to small government. He brags of his budget-slashing accomplishments as governor in Texas, holding them up as an example of what he would do as president. He wants to get the budget under control, which, to him, entails getting rid of government safety nets like Obamacare. He is disapproving of Social Security, and his budget cuts in Texas have resulted in wide spread job loss for teachers.
However, there is one area in which Perry is staunchly in support of government intervention. Abortion. Ironically, the same group of Texans which is so against healthcare, is completely in support of laws which limit abortion rights. The latest bill in Texas is one which requires women to receive a sonogram 24 hours before having an abortion. Under the law, doctors would also be required to describe the fetus in detail to the mother, and have her listen to the baby's heartbeat if possible. This law is supposedly to ensure full awareness to the mother of what exactly she is having done.
To me, this law implies that women are incapable of reaching informed decisions on their own, and inconveniences the mothers unnecessarily. Luckily, at least for now, the more offensive parts of the bill are not in effect as it is reviewed by the Justice Department.

And The Fighting Continues...

...Between Sudan and South Sudan. South Sudan, which became independent in July. Although considered its own country, Sudan is still fighting rebels in Blue Nile, South Kordofan & Darfur. Clashes broke out between soldiers of the opposition party (SPLM-North) with links to South Sudan and the government on this past Thursday. Sudan accused South Sudan of aiding and abetting the rebels of the opposition party (with whom they allied with before becoming independent), by sending 25 armed land-cruisers into the Blue Nile region. Naturally, South Sudan denies these charges.

In addition to these claims, "the peace deal between Khartoum [the capital of Sudan] and the South Sudanese rebels signed in 2005 left three notable unresolved problems: the border regions of Abyei, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan." These disputed lands have caused a great deal of fighting, causing thousands of people to flee into the neighboring country of Ethiopia. The United Nation's refugee agency, UNHCR, claims that the number of people fleeing may have reached up to 20,000 people. "One resident of the capital of Blue Nile state, Damazin, said the town was almost deserted on Saturday afternoon, adding he could hear gunshots nearby."

Who knows when the fighting will truly stop in Sudan and South Sudan. Hopefully the two countries can solve their problems and end their disputes, but it seems that, for now at least, the two countries will continue to have problems. I just hope that those who are displaced by the fighting between the opposition party (and quite possibly South Sudan) and the government are able to go back to their homes without the fear of violence plaguing their lives.

Should We Celebrate Death?

In a CNN article posted a mere three hours ago, it was revealed that President Bush did not find any joy or jubilation when he found out Osama bin Laden had been assassinated. In an interview conducted by documentarian Peter Schnall, Bush expressed his feelings on a range of topics, including that of the 9/11 attack conduced by Al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.

"Bush 'said to us certainly there was no sense of jubilation [and] certainly no sense of happiness,' Schnall stressed. 'If anything, he felt that finally there was a sense of closure.'" In addition, Bush discussed his memories of the September 11th deadly attacks, showing clear emotion throughout the interview. Schnall was deeply interested in the "overwhelming" amount of information that the president had to handle during those first few days after the attack. Schnall stated that "Bush 'spoke about the fact that he was journeying through the fog of war.'"

While the presidents decisions "'[have permanently changed our lives and the world today,'" I agree with his lack of happiness at the death of bin Laden. Many, many Americans would disagree with that statement, but I just don't think it's right to celebrate the death of someone (even if they caused the death of approximately 3,000 undeserving people). I disagreed with the celebrations outside the White House on that fateful May evening when they were happening, and after much deliberation, I still disagree with them. No matter how evil or cruel someone is, it's never okay to celebrate and party due to their passing. I can't say that bin Laden didn't deserve the assassination, I just find it rude to celebrate his death. So on this point, I agree with the 43rd president of the United States of America - I certainly did not feel any jubilation when I heard of Osama bin Laden's death.

Worldwide Market Failures

And the fear continues, this time spreading across the world. Both the European and Asian markets experienced falls this weekend, causing stress for economists worldwide. "Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 1.2%, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 1.3% and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.3%." In addition to the Asian market drops, "Frankfurt's Dax index ended the day 5.3% lower, with the Paris Cac 40 4.7% lower and the FTSE 100 down 3.6%, posting its second-biggest fall this year."

While economists believe that the markets will continue to be volatile, they have seen a rise in the prices of gold and other safer assets like Japanese bonds. Even with these gains, the mounting fear of a global economic slowdown has increased as well as the "impact of US and European government austerity measures." In addition to the worldwide economic anxiety, analysts are also concerned that the European debts will overwhelm Italy's market, which is "one of the region's biggest and most interlinked economies."

In a way, this is the TRIBE of macroeconomics. The economies are all complimentary and therefore because one dropped, the rest are all dropping as well. In addition, the income of the citizens is decreasing (due to the austerity measures) and therefore the people aren't spending nearly as much. Finally the expectations of the people for the future safety of the markets has greatly decreased. People across the globe are worried about their money and the economies.

I think the best thing people can do is have a little faith in the economies. A little faith goes a long way (and our economies definitely have a long way to go).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The E. Coli Cure

Well, it's not so much a cure, but a new portable microscope designed by engineers at University of California, Los Angeles has been able to detect low levels E. coli in liquids and solids - not an easy feat. "It's a very challenging task to detect E. coli in low concentrations in water and food. This microscope could be part of a solution for field investigation," said Professor Aydogan Ozcan, one of the microscopes inventors from UCLA.

The microscope, which costs only around $100 to produce, is so cheap and lightweight, that scientists are hoping to use it in countries with less sophisticated technology. Professor Ozcan believes that "[w]ith just a small amount of training, doctors could use devices like these to improve healthcare in remote areas of the world with little access to diagnostic equipment."

This brand new technology could be extremely valuable in both the domestic and foreign health care markets. Because it is so inexpensive, it could be mass-produced, thereby creating a wider and more sophisticated health care system, spanning the whole globe. A cheaper, more widespread health care system? Uh, yes please. In addition, the portable technology would make it much easier to determine water and food safety in developing countries. Is that not what we've been striving to do in third world countries for years now? This microscope could be just the beginning; with all the new technology being created daily by inventors and entrepreneurs, the possibilities are nearly endless. Who knows, maybe one day the healthcare will be as commonplace as salt.