Wednesday, November 30, 2011
People can put up their belongings, from power drills to cars, onto internet sites for others to borrow at a price depending on the amount of time borrowed.
If enough people are participating in this, doesn't that mean that the demand for new goods will fall? Won't this have a negative effect on our economy?
Federal law says it is illegal, but some state laws say otherwise.
This sounds like a problem where national and state powers are in conflict. The supremacy clause in our Constitution states that national law is supreme to all others, however, this has not proven to be valid in this case. Should the federal government alter the law? It seems to create confusion among the people. Washington's governor stated, "In the midst of all the chaos we have patients who really either feel like they’re criminals or may be engaged in some criminal activity." There seems to be a blurred line between the power of the federal government's law and those of state governments.
After Ginger White came forward admitting that she and Herman Cain had an affair for 13 years, many thought that Cain was done as a potential Republican candidate. However, Cain didn't go down that easily.
The main question i have about this article for everyone is: Is it okay for the government to take children away from their parents purely based on the weight of the child?
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
So this isn't so directly political, but it's more than a distant influence on politics!
I've been having a good long think about this picked up and put aside and picked back up over the past few years and have been coming up with absolutely nothing, and not being able to rationalize something by any stretch of my imagination drives me up the wall - so I thought I'd pose a discussion question, both because others' insight certainly helps and it's food for thought.
The question is this: why does prejudice exist as something so strongly that people will act on it?
I figure it's actually quite a good thing to try to understand - not empathize with, of course, but it takes knowledge of how something works to fix it. And everyone does have their -isms, through teaching or unfortunate exposure/lack of positive experience that they've taken as reference for labeling things, but again, not everyone acts on it.
The best I could do was come to the fact that humans are pack animals - perhaps they'll identify "their" people and lash out against those who are most distinctly not among them, which used to be beneficial - a warring tribe complex. But come on now people today are very much unified - though of course we have individual governments, countries, and other such affiliations, we're now very closely linked. Plenty of organizations try for action on a global scale - environmentalism, ending poverty, etc. Technology allows just about any two people to talk who can afford it almost regardless of where they live.
Even if tribal mentality does stand as an excuse there, people trying to make more of themselves through sense of competition between factions, the way prejudices are determined makes no sense, especially within America. Several races, sexual and gender orientations, religions, and what-have-you are mixed about in states, to counties, to cities. You'd think it would be most beneficial for a person to ally with all of those in closest proximity to them - they'd be immediate assets, people to turn to for favors and defense - or at least have a live-and-let-live attitude in regards to them. Why seek conflict? Yet a racist student would generally sooner ally with a person of and biased toward the same race who they will never get to know on a personal level - a politician, person spoken to through telecommunication, whatever scenario please you - than a fellow student of the very same college and with otherwise similar opinions.
What also makes little sense is this - why would a person filter people out with a system of just-about-everyone-is-all-right-unless-they-possess-this-one-little-trait - setting their alarms to go off on detecting some arbitrary detail and judging others on whatever basis they would normally use - instead of looking for one particular or set of common traits they show special favor toward? While bias isn't excellent either, prejudice sets a person up to make enemies where no conflict or challenge exists, and what allies it gets its possessor are on a "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" basis.
This all may be under assumption that humanity gravitates toward harmony - but why wouldn't it? That idea's easier to support than one that suggests humans seek to shorten their own lives - even the idea of the path of least resistance suggests that people are selfish - want to get as much as they can for minimal work - yet ought to imply that they shouldn't seek enemies. Fighting certainly takes work, and risk.
Though perhaps a more Hobbes-esque viewpoint would offer an explanation.
Cain states: "We have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people's minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth."
It seems like his campaign has been pretty corrupted, even without any solid evidence that the woman's claim is true. Once an idea is out there, it is difficult to change people's minds.
Should Cain continue with his campaign, even with the low opinions the public thinks of him? Is there any way he would be able to fix his image?
Monday, November 28, 2011
The absolute worst part though was the dangerous display of brinksmanship during the debt ceiling debate earlier this year. For House Republicans to delay raising the limit until several "deadlines" had passed and the Treasury was doing magic with its accounting to find enough money to run the government is ridiculous. What I found most frightening about it though was the talk of a government shutdown and default on our debt. The fact that people would even be discussing possibly letting that happen is terrifying. The U.S. government has never defaulted on a penny of its debt in all of history and for it to do so in 2011 would more than likely create such a panic that it would end the financial system as we know it. Using that as a threat to push through ill-advised spending cuts is irresponsible and I think that the Republican Party will pay for it in the 2012 election.
I haven't even heard of Cyber Monday until just recently, but I guess it's a big deal.
Can Shafer's action be defended by The First Amendment, or is there a just reason to prosecute him? Is there only a certain extent to which freedom of speech overrules?
Something to think about: Several months ago, another man made online comments calling for Obama's assassination. A federal court upheld the fact that he was simply exercising his rights.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
This is a picture of the Occupy Protests in Zuccotti Park in New York, where the Occupy Wall Street Protests are being held. This picture definitely contrasts with the pictures that have been shown on the news recently. The majority of the pictures and videos of the protests have been negative, with reporters choosing to cover the event when violence erupts. I personally went to Occupy SF, expecting to see hundreds and hundreds of middle class nicely dressed young adults with bold signs and strong beliefs. The media seems to project to characters like this. However, what I really saw was about fifty smelly smokers. So much for objective news.
-Pictures by Ashley Gilbertson for New Yorker
"Sanity prevailed". Both sides realized they were losing significant amounts of money and became more willing to compromise as time went on.
The National Basketball Player's Association was a labor union that represented all NBA players. In October, the NBPA decided to disband and convert themselves into a trade association. There are no signifcant differences between the two terms, however, workers are not forced to join trade associations. After the reorganization, the NBPA filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the NBA. This seemed to scare the NBA, and an agreement was reached soon after.
The question is, was the anti-trust lawsuit legal?
"Decertification is a weapon that the union has, and if it is upheld, then there is no grounds for a lockout, it becomes illegal. But if the NFL owners win the ruling, it makes decertifying a lot less attractive for the NBA players and gives owners an upper hand.”
Courts can determine whether the decertification is actually a legitimate one or simply a trick used by the players association. Labor agreements are always complicated, especially in businesses such as the NBA, where there are few jobs to compare to, and with the possibility of strike breakers being non-existant (unless fans want to watch the Waikiki Warriors). Just an example of good-old somewhat legal bargaining in the United Staes.
There are multiple factors which have contributed to the high figures. Many consumers were turned away at the idea of enduring the harsh cold for hours immediately after a large meal, so this year retailers decided to open at midnight as opposed to the later hours of the night.
A recently coined term by retailers is "Cyber Monday", a continuation of the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Cyber monday is held solely online, thus the "cyber" designation. This was created due to an increase in online spending, with over 25% of consumers planning on shopping online this holiday season. This catering of Black Friday to this crowd has clearly proven successful for retailers, with over a billion being sold on Cyber Monday last year.
Consumer spending is known as a leading indicator to a recovering economy, and the strong figures may suggest this. However, only time will tell if this is a true recovery. The hard efforts by retailers to convince consumers into spending maybe more responsible for the increases in spending as opposed to an overall improvement in the economy.
“Those who couldn’t afford buying bread now can’t afford even smelling bread.”
Friday, November 25, 2011
It soon became clear that this worm, now being called Stuxnet, was meant as a direct attack on Iran's nuclear program when roughly 1/5 of Iran's nuclear centrifuges were destroyed. The virus works in a truly ingenious fashion, not only does it speed up the centrifuges that are responsible for enriching low quality uranium into weapons grade material until they are over-full with gas and explode, bust at the same time it sends false information to the monitoring centers at a plant that makes it seem like everything is normal and running just as it should be. Especially hard-hit was the Iranian nuclear facility Natanz, where over 1000 of their centrifuges exploded, causing the plant to shut down for over a year.
The origin of the worm is still technically unknown but there are strong clues that it was developed as a joint U.S.-Israeli effort to prevent or at least hinder Tehran's development of a nuclear weapon. For starters, in 2008 the U.S. government formed a partnership with many software manufacturers, including Siemens, to look for and fix potential cybervulnerabilities in their systems. This gave the government the opportunity to closely examine Siemens products, including the specific SCADA systems that were later targeted by the worm, as well as to identify several well-hidden holes in the software that the worm exploited. Then, earlier this year it was discovered that the Israelis had built a model facility that spun centrifuges identical to those in iran deep underground at the Dimona nuclear complex in the Negev Desert. This facility is said to have been the testing ground for the Stuxnet worm, to make sure it would work as plan once released.
Soon after the Stuxnet attacks began Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the head of Israel's Mossad announced separately that they believed that Iran's efforts to achieve nuclear arms capabilities had been set back by as much as five years, although Clinton cited increased U.S. sanctions and international pressure as the cause. Those estimates were amended to a one to two year set back and just recently, Iran seems to have finally overcome the damage caused by Stuxnet by developing a new generation of centrifuges that are both safer and faster.
I found all this information about the computer worm extremely interesting and it just shows the huge role cyber warfare currently has and will continue to have in global conflicts. That a crippling blow to an entire country's nuclear efforts was dealt with just an e-mail or USB drive is amazing.
"'Oh my God!' a woman screamed in the only sentence discernible among the high-pitched shrieks. One person commenting on the video wrote: 'The pinnacle of Western Civilization has arrived.'"
Republicans agree: We love Israel: Tuesday's debate made clear that in the wake of George W. Bush's eight years in office, the Republican Party lacks any sort of cohesive foreign policy vision.
There remains one point of consensus, however: That the United States should do whatever it takes to protect and defend Israel.
With the exception of Paul, the Republican candidates have all taken stridently pro-Israel positions throughout the campaign.
The ante was upped Tuesday by Romney, who made this promise: "If I'm president of the United States, my first trip -- my first foreign trip will be to Israel to show the world we care about that country and that region."
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said he would do the same.
Cain said he would side with Israel if it launched an attack on Iran to disable its nuclear capabilities.
Huntsman went out of his way to praise Israel later, saying this: "Our interest in the Middle East is Israel. And our interest is to ensure that ... Iran does not go nuclear."
I personally think these kind of operations are the right thing for Brazil to do, not only because no one wants to see the World Cup or Olympics disrupted by gang violence, but also because it is a means for the government to raise the standard of living of its people. Brazil's economy is growing and its population is becoming wealthier but for the country to move from the ranks of the developing nations to those of the developed it needs to break the power of the drug lords and establish government control and the rule of law over the entire country, the marks of a first world nation.
In conclusion, Brazil still faces slum difficulties on its path to becoming a more stable and secure country.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Yesterday, the South Korean Parliament finally passed the "Korus," better known as the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. This piece of legislation was expected to pass weeks before; however, ongoing protests about fears of rising income inequality and youth unemployment swayed the political attitudes in Korea towards the left.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
This isn't exactly the most "national" affair, but I do think that the material is relevant to our discussions in class. The video is a speech given by Nigel Farage in the European Parliament.
To understand what Farage is talking about, you need to understand that while many of the Presidents of countries in Europe are elected, a large number of positions in the EU including the President of the EU are selected in a republican form. That is, people don't vote directly for the the president, but rather, people vote for the representatives who chose the position holders of the EU system.
Farage furthers this discussion to the actions recently taken in Italy. After Prime Minister Berlusconi was ousted, technocrat Mario Monti was installed into the governmental seat in Italy. To understand what a technocrat is, read this. One of the most defining figures of a technocrat is the fact that a technocrat is not elected to office. Rather, a technocrat is placed into office for relative skill.
While one pro of a technocrat is a lack of political baggage, one fault of a technocrat is a the fact that they don't have any political legitimacy, and if things don't go well backlash from the citizens is likely to be strong.
Considering the current trend, it is to be asked, do you think the recent trends to "Technocracy" are a good thing?
For the past few days much of the world's attention has been focused on a new outbreak of protests and unrest in Egypt. The protesters have been fighting with police and military forces since the 19th for control of Tahrir Square in Cairo, the symbolic heart of the January revolution against President Hosni Mubarak, citing the recent conduct of the military council that is currently in control of the transitional government as the cause of their anger. The 18 member council has been accused of delaying upcoming parliamentary elections that would create a new government and have said things about maintaining a leading role in the post-elections government. Many protesters say they feel betrayed by the military government. During the revolution the army was a major partner in the ousting of Mr. Mubarak but now the military is seen as just another self-interested faction bent on concentrating and keeping power and is quickly losing legitimacy with the Egyptian people.
Belarus, on the other hand, recently announced that it is going back on the agreement it made in December 2010 to hand over its stockpile of highly enriched Uranium to Russia by the beginning of 2012. It is the only former Soviet republic besides Russia to have any weapons-grade uranium after the U.S. was able to secure nearly all of the enriched fuel in the region quickly after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Belarus, however, refused to hand over its stockpile and has since used it as a bargaining chip in diplomacy to get foreign aid and loans. President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who is called Europe's last dictator, has said that the transfer will not be restarted until the United States lifts sanctions against his country that have been in place since earlier this year after his fraudulent election and harsh crackdown on the opposition party in December.
"While no one condones cheating, we have a school system that is separate and apart from the criminal justice system, and we have that for good reason."Meanwhile, according to the article, Kathleen M. Rice argues that:
"This is a crime. Make no mistake that, as the system stands now hard working students are taking a back seat to the cheaters."
Monday, November 21, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
However, there's a point where resistance to change becomes more of a barrier to progress and success than anything else. This is the case in the instance of the NOAA's request for the creation of the NCS (National Climate Service), which Congress just shot down. As quoted from a Washington Post Article (link in post title), "...in a political climate where talk of the earthly kind of climate can be radioactive, the answer in last week’s budget deal was “no.” Congress barred NOAA from launching what the agency bills as a “one-stop shop” for climate information."
This move would requiring some shuffling around with the creation of the NCS (would be similar to the National Weather Service), but would not require any additional funding.
Those that objected cited climate services becoming a propaganda source rather than a science source as cause for concern. But what's even more concerning is that limiting access to climate information won't make climate change go away.
And in fact, access to climate information is not an insignificant issue. From confusion over general where-to-go for climate info, to insurance companies studying past natural disasters, to better information regarding increasingly frequent hazardous weather, a single, streamlined source for climate info would certainly be a beneficial tool.
Climate change is happening; blocking legislation that would simply aid in making this more understandable and accessible doesn't aid the matter in the slightest. It's high time we learn to look past petty propaganda and take a stab at the real problems that we face. That's a bit more difficult when sides are busy looking to take stabs at each other.
EDIT (11/21): I realized I had written NCA instead of NCS (National Weather Service) in a couple of locations. Sorry for any confusion.
At this point in time with regards to Occupy Wall Street, related coverage is more often than not about police activity, from protesters being evicted from Zuccotti Park to pepper-spraying UC Davis students, as mentioned above. Moreover, it seems that any action taken by police generates a tremendous cascade of detailed analysis--from court rulings on eviction legality to university probes following videos released online. Every action, from the first police call to the pepper-spraying of an 84 year old woman to the number arrested at each event (252 in New York yesterday) is noted and quickly made public, soon coming to define perceptions of the event at large.
But at the same time, perhaps policy activity is often the only real new news to report on, with the movement having gone on since September. This isn't to say that it's unimportant, or not worth noting, however. And while reporting has shifted from the roots of the movement as a whole to specific incidental occurrences, each incident does play a role in painting a portrait of the entire movement as a whole.
There's Hubert Humphrey's quote that goes " The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously," which, when brought up in class, incited reference to the Occupy Movement. Given the trending subject matter of any new Occupy news, is this becoming all the more relevant? Likewise, ought we be weary of sensationalist reporting, or is it all worthwhile and relevant coverage?
Saturday, November 19, 2011
This seems like a fair, justified, and decently effective approach to addressing larger issues with health and health care.
Says Karen L. Handorf, an employee benefits lawyer in Washington,
Employers cannot discriminate against smokers by asking them to pay more for their insurance unless the surcharge is part of a broader effort to help them quit.Many company's plans offer smoking cessation programs, or reduce surcharges for workers seeking to quit. Furthermore, plans factor in accommodations for health issues that can't be helped--for instance, a medical condition such as nicotine addiction making it dangerous or impossible to quit smoking would exempt or reduce the surcharge for such an employee.
Jerome Allen, a part time Wal-Mart employee, discovered that he was paying a monthly $40 smokers' surcharge and has since quit smoking. Other surcharge plans can total up to $2000 a year--not an insignificant sum, and not an insignificant reason to quit.
If a surcharge incentive is what it takes to encourage positive lifestyle changes, I say it's well worth utilizing. At the surface, adding a surcharge only effects a cost-shift, not a true cost-reduction. However, given that it's ultimately the workers benefiting from health care, and the workers that must themselves be the ones to effect any change, shifting costs towards workers that have the power to act and respond to such incentive does seem like the intuitive course of action. It shouldn't matter so much whether the incentive is positive or negative, what's important is the positive change--the shift towards healthier lifestyles, and thus the shift towards reduced health care costs.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
In 2008, the power of "the youth" was a large contributing factor to Obama's success. Not only was the youth turnout up 2 million from the previous election, but the momentum of youth support came to characterize Obama's 2008 campaign, in a sense, building upon the need for change with a constituency whose potential hadn't always been maximized. "Campaigns," as a New York Times columnist put it, "are planned," whereas "movements are...impromptu." As Obama then stated, “The choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor, young versus old, and it’s not about black versus white. This election is about the past versus the future.”
But 4 years later with the 2012 elections just around the corner, Obama's campaign doesn't seem to be instilling quite the same energy in the same youth demographic. The same college students that volunteered at campaign offices through all hours of the night, while still likely to vote for Obama, aren't as eager to jump back into the rush. "“It’s hard to be a passionate follower of him,” says Jolie Glaser of University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “It’s easier to be a thoughtful supporter.” Instead, students are more focused on their prospects after college--or lack thereof, as some see it. "I don’t have as much enthusiasm this time as I did last time...Everybody is just focused on themselves and trying to get through school," explains UNLV student Sarah Farr. The election of 2008 provided hope and the prospect of change, but it's been 4 years and the outlook hasn't brightened significantly, if at all.
"...even Mr. Obama’s supporters say it seems unlikely that the president — given the difficulties of these past three years and the mood of the electorate of all ages — will ever be able to replicate the youthful energy that became such a defining hallmark of his campaign."
Obama's message in 2008 can really only have been a one-time use deal, especially given the current job market/economic climate. Obama has lost his novelty; his supporters are faced with the realities of hard facts--not just hope. Constituencies change. Obama supporters will just have to approach the cause differently, this time around. There's no recreating the movement that defined 2008, but that doesn't translate into no hope for 2012.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Next generation apps: We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it’s creating new bandwidth-intensive “killer apps” and services, or other uses we can’t yet imagine.
New deployment techniques: We’ll test new ways to build fiber networks, and to help inform and support deployments elsewhere, we’ll share key lessons learned with the world."
In related news, founders of computer networking company Arista Networks, David Cheriton and Andreas Bechtolsheim, have stated that despite the fact that there are super-fast, complex networks that are capable of holding a mammoth-sized amount of data, people should still be worried about their reliability. “We think of the Internet as always there. Just because we’ve become dependent on it, that doesn’t mean it’s true,” says Cheriton. Bechtolsheim adds that "because of the Internet’s complexity, the global network is impossible to design without bugs. Very dangerous bugs, as they describe them, capable of halting commerce, destroying financial information or enabling hostile attacks by foreign powers."
Even though the likelihood of network failures/attacks is small, I think Cheriton's and Bechtolsheim's points shouldn't be ignored. We pour much of our time into Facebook, Youtube, and other things, simply because the data is there. And now, smart phones and tablets allow for this data to be available at any time. On top of that, applications are allowing for people to read tons of literature on these devices, eliminating the need for print. This is great, no doubt about it. However, I just think that we should be cautious with how we proceed, as we are transferring a lot of civilization from the real world to the cyber world.