Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't Buy New Goods--Share!

(click title link to watch video)

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

Two More States Petition For Medical Marijuana Use

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

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

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

Future Solar Aircraft

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

Cain Won't Go Down that Easily!


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


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

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


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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A topic for discussion. Also personal research.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Who Will Need it Next?

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

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

Cain "Reassessing" Campaign

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shortcomings in Congress

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

Will You Participate?


I haven't even heard of Cyber Monday until just recently, but I guess it's a big deal.
The Monday after Black Friday is "expected e-commerce sites to reach $1.2 billion in sales, which would be a 17 percent increase over last year", according to The New York Times. However, according to the article, this increase is probably due to the hard times. The recession seems to have triggered not only a wave of shopping for deals, but we can also see examples after this years Black Friday occurrences. On the other side, others see Cyber Monday as "more hype than reality", because according to Blue Nile, the online jeweler, “The majority of consumers are procrastinators and they’ll wait as long as they can."
All in all, Cyber Monday is a big event and just like Black Friday will have it's own set of chaos. With "early sales reports indicated that it could again be the best day of the season for e-commerce companies" and people benefiting from good deals one could say "It's almost ceremonial".
So my question is what makes Cyber Monday so exciting? Is it the deals that are of great importance? Or the hype?



(Image: An Amazon warehouse in Swansea, Wales, last week. The Monday after Thanksgiving was Amazon.com’s busiest day last year.)

Freedom of speech?

A man named Nathan Shafer was arrested for posting a Facebook comment that was viewed as a threat to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. After 19 Occupy Columbia members were arrested, Haley posted that she "appreciate[s] freedom of speech," and in response to this, Shafer commented, "I hope someone murders you before I do. How's that for freedom of speech?" He did apologize and delete the comment, but is still being prosecuted for the threat.

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.

Mitt vs. Mitt

During the recent Republican debates it seems that Republican candidate Mitt Romney has had different opinions on contradicting issues such as Pro-choice and Anti-choice. As a result, many voters have noticed and questioned his views, but more importantly, Democrats have noticed as well. For example, according to the The New York Times article "Democrats Take Aim at Romney in New Ad" (click on Link), Romney makes a complaint against "Obamacare" claiming that it is, "mainly focused on its mandate that individuals buy coverage, not on the exchanges." However, Romney is in no position to put down "Obamacare" when, "He has been on both sides of the individual mandate issue, too."

On the other hand, Andrea Saul, Romney's Spokesperson, says “Instead of focusing on the economy and creating jobs, President Obama and Democrats are focused on tearing down Mitt Romney.”

Well, then what? Is it the Democrats who are at fault for focusing to much on tearing down Romney? Or should Romney be targeted for his contradicting views?

video

(If the video doesn't work you can see it if you click on the link)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Objectivity




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

NBA finally ends lockout

After months of tense negotiations that seemed to go on with no progress, the NBA and its players have agreed on a contract. This lockout started on July 1,2011. The lockout stated that any contact between players and team staff would be prohibited. Players were stuck without practice facilities and draft picks were without support from the team. The dispute was mainly over the split of Basketball Related Income, or BMI. The players had a 57.3% share of the BRI under the previous agreement, but the owners wanted to lower it to 50%. The two sides went back and forth for multiple months, until
"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.

Black Friday sales figures beat expectations

Sales figures for Black Friday have been posted, with consumers spending 16.4% more than in the previous year. This data comes from a survey from the National Retail Federation; according to the data, total sales figures hover around 52 billion dollars, an increase from 45 billion last year. The high numbers come as a surprise to some analysts, which expected sub par figures.
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.

Arab League imposes sanctions on Syria

The Arab League has imposed sanctions against Syria in a continued effort to try to end the bloodshed in the region. Moreover, it has called for the UN Security Council to pass a resolution to the same effect.

While Syria has been deeply economically damaged by economic sanctions by the EU and the United States, these new sanctions are expected to hit even harder. A large majority of Syria's trading partners are Arab nations. And even though, by design of the Arab League, countries which abstain or vote against the passed resolution do not have to adhere to the resolution's clauses (in this case, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon are likely not participating in the sanctions), the Arab League's move sent a broader symbolic message.

It should be remembered that the Arab League resolution suspending Libya from the Arab League was the pivotal point before international powers intervened in Libya. This new resolution on Syria may likely have a similar effect.

At the same time, it should be noted that the NATO General Secretary, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has repeatedly said that there a NATO operation in Syria was out of the question. Certainly, the NATO engagement in Libya would differ greatly from a prospective on in Syria. One of the key differences between the two countries is geographical. In Libya, a majority of the population lived on the strip of land bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Meanwhile, the population in Syria is more interspersed. This would mean a campaign in Syria would likely involve more unintended victims.

Moreover, Syria still has many close regional allies. While Libya was practically deserted prior to Ghadaffi's downfall, Syria still has enormously close ties with Lebanon and increasingly nuclear Iran.

According the the Qatari foreign minister, the resolution did not specifically call for foreign military intervention. Rather, the sanctions were aimed at stopping the bloodshed in Syria. Still, many are worried that the imposition of economic sanctions will not hurt the government or the elite. Rather, many in Syria believe, as has been the case in many other countries, the imposition of economic sanctions will only hurt the poor. The New York Times article quoted a man saying:
“Those who couldn’t afford buying bread now can’t afford even smelling bread.”

It should be noted that the U.S. is now placed in an interesting position. The U.S. does stand to gain from a governmental change in Syria. The government of Assad, which favors the Alawite sect of Shi'ite Islam, is a state sponsor of Hezbollah. Hezbollah, a Lebanon based militant Islamic group which has a large amount of power in the Lebanese government, has a record for calling for the destruction of Israel. Moreover, it believed that Iran has been supplying Hezbollah weapons by proxy of Syria. If the Syrian government were to change to represent the Sunni plurality in Syria, Syria may drift away from the Iranian sphere of influence and take a more pro-compromise stance on the Palestine-Israeli conflict.

But at home and around the world, there are many reasons by which the US would be reluctant to engage in Syria. With the ongoing economic downturn, many in the U.S. believe that it is no time for another war. Moreover, elections come in but less than a year. Committing in Syria now would likely have repercussions during the voting season. Considering an international perspective, the Arab region dislikes American hegemony. Any move by the U.S. without Arab approval would make the U.S. seem like it is overstepping its boundaries.

At the same time, it should be noted that one of the reasons the international community was so quick to intervene in Libya was due to a feeling that the international community had failed in Rwanda. It could almost be said that there was a bit of a knee-jerk response by the international community which wanted to make amends and ensure that genocide did not take place once again.

In conclusion, the recent Arab League sanctions further complicate the situation in Syria. In the past, sanctions have often proven ineffective. In fact, the regimes in the DPRK (North Korea), Iran, and Cuba thrived off of sanctions. Considering that the U.S. and EU have already imposed sanctions on Syria and that two of Syria's major industries of tourism and oil have already slowed to a stop, these new sets of sanctions will likely have a greater symbolic meaning than an actual economic effect. Whether international sanctions will end the bloodshed in Syria is still a mystery, but as of right now, thinks in Syria are not looking bright for protesters.

In my opinion, if these sanctions prove ineffective, a Syrian mission is likely forthcoming.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Stuxnet

Andrew's earlier post that mentioned the current state of Iran's nuclear program reminded me of a few articles I read recently about one of the wildest things I have ever heard. Around mid-2009 programmers everywhere began discovering a computer worm that had infected industrial programs around the world. The worm was initially found in all kinds of places, with the only common thread being that it infected solely software made by the company Siemens, but after close examination it was determined that the purpose of the worm was to mess with the centrifuges at nuclear facilities.
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.

"The pinnacle of Western Civilization"

I couldn't help but post my favorite article about the Black Friday madness. My favorite quote from this article:
"'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.'"
While this kind of phenomenon happens every year, I kind of wonder exactly what is it about America and Black Friday. I understand that it is a great boost of consumer confidence for America. But for some reason, I find the stories told every year come to sound like something from a satirical communist newspaper.

The CNN Foreign Policy Debate: Iran and Israel

To me, one of the most interesting portions of the CNN foreign policy debate was the section on Iran and Israel. I say this for two reasons.

First, the recent developments in Iran have been staggering. Two weeks ago the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, released a report stating that Iran is in fact developing nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the IAEA speculates that Iran would have a nuclear weapon within a year if not within six months. This is certainly a stunning development considering that for years the IAEA, Iran, and the rest of the world have danced a shifty game about Iran's nuclear development.

Second, after the debate, I was reminded about a certain article that I had read earlier this year. Following Obama's tactical changes in middle east policy, the Jewish vote seems to have shifted slightly. In 2008, 8 out of 10 Jewish voters went to Obama. However, this may change considering Obama's recent position on Palestine. Of course the New York Times article (hyper-linked above) does qualify that the Jewish vote isn't a one-issue constituency, but I find it interesting how the Republican base has responded.

A CNN recap of the debate caught onto this trend. And I quote:

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."


So while Israel certainly isn't the most important hot topic issue in the nation right now. I find it interesting how these special interest groups are able to receive so much attention in foreign policy. (Especially considering how Obama has hinted that the United States should be shifting its foreign policy interests towards an Asia-PAC focus.) Certainly, the Jewish vote matters, especially in the swing states of Ohio and Florida, but is that the only reason the Republican nominees are so pro-Israel? While the Republican party has historically been pro-military, it seems more recently that, with the current economic problems, some portions of the Republican party have taken a rather isolationist twinge. That is, an isolationist twinge, with the exception of Israel.

Brazil Gets Ready For the World Cup

Earlier this November, a combined force of 3000 police officers and soldiers moved into Rocinha, one of the largest slums in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The operation, called "a pacification process" by the authorities, was the latest battle in the campaign being waged by the Brazilian government to gain control over the lawless slums run by drug-trafficking gangs that are all over Rio in advance of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics that are set to be held in the city. This newest raid, however, is very different from previous ones, such as the operation last November to clear another slum, the Complexo de Alemão, where authorities clashed with violent, armed drug gangs for over a week, leaving 41 dead and over 100 cars and buses burning in the streets. By contrast the raid on Rocinha went very peacefully, partly because of the much larger force used (3000 soldiers vs. just 800), but also partly because the arrest the day before the operation of Antônio Bonfim Lopes, the drug lord in command of Rocinha, left the traffickers there without a leader. Also notably absent this time were the accusations of abuse and corruption that had been so prevalent after Alemão. Residents claimed the government forces used excessive force and extorted money from them, and charges of corruption were given special weight after it was discovered that while 34 tons of marijuana, 692 ponds of cocaine, and over 400 firearms were confiscated, government forces reported that they had found only $68,000 in cash and the vast majority of the traffickers had somehow escaped arrest. Rocinha has received a much more positive response and is being touted by the government as a major success in the effort to establish control over Rio.
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.

The Umbrella Man

http://www.myvidster.com/video/3369552

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Korean free trade agreement passed


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.

One of the interesting things about the passing of this legislation was the surprise vote held to pass the legislation. The Grand National Party (GNP) in Korea actually called a surprise vote to catch its opponents, the Democratic Labour Party, off guard. In a last attempt to sabotage the unfair vote, the Democratic Labour Party actually set off a canister of tear gas inside the chamber. If you want to see a video of the incident, click here.

This makes me start to wonder what the U.S. would be like if we could call house/senate votes without the presence of a party. Sure, we'd be able to get much more legislation passed;however, the legislation, as in the case of Korea, would only be the desires of one party. No compromise would be included. This, in some strange way makes me feel grateful that we have a legislative system that is in a sense slow at times. At least I know that in our Congress, the legislation is the result of compromise not of slim-majority ruling.

On a secondary note, does anyone have anything to say about the South Korea-U.S. trade agreement? I know that there has already been a post about it in the past. While this free trade agreement has aroused quite a bit of protesting in South Korea, it is to be noted that the dynamics of this free trade agreement and the dynamics of NAFTA are different. South Korea's economic production differs greatly from that of the NAFTA agreement states and thus the implications of this FTA will be different from that of NAFTA.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Democracy, Republic and Technocracy in Europe



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?

What's the Answer to the U.S.A.'s Financial Woes?

Economic experts Warren Gee and Nate Doug say, "Regulate."

News of the Day

1) Egypt
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.

2)The Republican Debate
In the latest of the 27 Republican debates scheduled for this primary season, the 8 candidates faced off over national security issues like terrorism, Iran, and illegal immigration. I thought several of the candidates performed well, including Newt Gingrich who after his recent rise in the polls had his turn as the focus for much of the questions and criticism in the debate but he managed to express his views well despite that and was even bold enough to take what is a controversial position in the Republican Party on illegal immigration. The debate was an opportunity for Herman Cain to show that he had shored up his knowledge of foreign policy after being highly criticized for his recent remarks many have likened to the blunders made by Sarah Palin during the 2008 election and he managed to avoid making any huge mistakes but overall it was not a great showing for the beleaguered candidate. My favorites from the debate were Ron Paul and John Huntsman who were critical of their fellow candidates for wanting to extend the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, taking harsh stances on Iran, and endorsing the use of racial profiling of Muslims to catch suspected terrorists. John Huntsman had a particularly heated exchange with Mitt Romney over the war in Afghanistan and was able to show off the foreign policy experience he gained from being ambassador to China.

3)Russia and Belarus
President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia announced on Wednesday that if the United States continues with its plans for developing a missile-defense shield in Europe, his country will withdraw from the New Start treaty and place its own missiles in places like Belarus and along the border with Poland. The shield, meant to help protect the U.S. from long-range missiles launched from the Middle East or North Africa, has been vigorously opposed by Russia since the idea's conception in 2002.
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.

4) Yemen
President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen signed an agreement today saying that he will relinquish power to his vice-president and that elections for a new president will occur within 90 days. The announcement comes more than 10 months after the protests in Yemen began and make Mr. Saleh the fourth Middle Eastern leader to be removed since the protests of the "Arab Spring" began earlier this year. However this is a very different situation from Libya, Tunisia, or Egypt because of the entire government being thrown out and replaced, in Yemen it is simply Saleh resigning. His vice president is still there, his government is still there, and the family members that he appointed to top state positions are still there. For this reason, the Yemeni protesters say this agreement is not enough and that they will continue to protest until more lasting change is achieved. They are also bothered by immunity clauses for Mr. Saleh, whom they want prosecuted in international court.

5)Biblical News
The Vatican today announced the findings of a study of a new section of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The study was authored by top officials from the Middle Eastern Institute of Biblical Study in partnership with American rapper Kanye West and the translations confirmed West's 2004claim that Jesus walks.

SAT cheating scandal grows

Recently, there has been an unraveling cheating scandal in Long Beach. 20 students who attend high schools in Long Beach have been accused of cheating on the SAT. This specific cheating scandal involves students who are paid to impersonate other students and take the SAT and ACT. One specific impersonator, Sam Eshaghoff, was reportedly paid up to $3,500 to take an SAT test.

Now, Nassau County is prosecuting many of the students under charges of scheming to defraud, falsifying business records, and criminal impersonation. I think this brings up a good discussion about the jurisdiction of the government.

Is this issue an issue of the Educational Testing Service alone? Does the government have jurisdiction over cheating? According to the New York Times article (Click on title for the link), a lawyer defending one the 20 accused students say that:
"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."
I guess my overall question is whether or not cheating is an actual crime. I certainly do not believe that cheating is in any way fair; however, we do not have any law against it. Do the charges placed upon these students have legitimacy? And even if these charges do have legitimacy, does that mean that all cheating is illegal? Or are only cases in which impersonation takes place illegal? There are certainly other ways to cheat on the SAT. Is regulating cheating within the jurisdiction of the government and is it a responsibility of the government?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rick Santorum Should Give Up

I am getting tired of reading about this Former Pennsylvania Senator, Rick Santorum who I can only remember from losing Senate elections back in 2006. Is this guy really still confident in making a difference in next presidential elections? I think this guy is a real unworthy opponent, lagging in recent polls competing at 5th or 6th place for Republican candidates in the upcoming elections.
How does Santorum expect to get things passed with a mouth so implusive as his? Saying things like he almost threw up before speeches and earlier on this year saying he would pee in a cup to show he is a worthy contender. I don't know how that would help anything because whether or not he comes up positive for drugs, I still always thought he was an ill opponent. This guy already has controversial sex scandals. I can't wait for him to say more embarrassing things while getting eaten up by the press. So I give the best of luck to Mr. Santorum and tell him to keep saying whats on his mind like he has been doing because it seems to be working out for him.

Romney Blames President Obama For Current Defficit Problems

Mitt Romney spoke out to people explaining how he feels that President Obama is at fault for the collapsing deficit issues in America. He took direct shots at the President saying, Obama has done nothing to handle the situation and has completely avoided it. Romney went on to say that Obama has "been out doing other things — campaigning, and blaming, and traveling." Not things that he should be doing. Mitt also went on to bash and disagree with President Obama's plan to cut military spending saying that, “In a setting like this, the idea that we’re going to devastate our military is simply unacceptable.”

U.S. Occupation of Australia

This past Wednesday, Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard agreed to station 2,500 American Marines in Australia to “help strengthen the alliance between the U.S. and Australia.” However, to others this was clearly a response to China’s recent purchase of her first aircraft carrier—an weary move made to watch over China’s threatening naval growth and influence over South East Asia.

Recently, trade has been disrupted in the region because of China’s competition. By moving troops to Australia, Obama is asserting to China America’s presence in the region’s trading business. However, because China is Australia’s most important trading partner, American occupation of Australia won’t have much power in decreasing China’s influence in Australian trading.

The U.S.’s move may have caused tension in the Trans Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations, by deterring China from joining. The organization's goal is to lower trade global trade barriers and promote economic expansion. 

Was it really wise of the U.S. to move naval troops into Australia? Can it really help solve our trade problem there? Not to disregard the intimidation factor of establishing troops in a nation an ocean away, but I feel that the U.S. could have been directing its time and resources towards more efficient methods of improving her trade condition in South East Asia, such as establishing better trade relationships in the region, instead of raising tensions.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Could Black Friday Be A Start To Saving The Economy?

Black Friday may be one of the most morally questionable holidays in America. We have dedicated a day specifically for binge buying products (that we probably wouldn’t even use) only because they are marked with a significant discount. But as author Adam Davidson put it, “Black Friday is essentially a one day economic stimulus plan and job creation program.” It’s true—with the current state of our economy, most people spend the year saving on this and that, only to spend Black Friday splurging everything they have saved, thus injecting billions of dollars into the system.

                Successful Black Friday sales have given mixed predictions for the year—previously, big sales symbolized a successful year for businesses. However, more recently, big sales have been followed by a slow year. With the economic downturn, people rush to buy everything at discounted prices and immediately start saving up again the next day.

So what if we extended the Black Friday sales? We could stimulate the economy by following Black Friday with a series of smaller sales, convincing people to continue spending. But extended low prices will result in lower profits, which in turn create a vicious cycle of increased unemployment, lower prices, and less spending.

                To avoid this situation, after Black Friday businesses could raise prices just enough to convince consumers there is risk of inflation. Under the impression that prices will keep rising, consumers will start purchasing instead of keeping their money in savings, thus putting more money into circulation.

                Using inflation as a tool to heal our economy may strike some as absurd, especially since it was one of the main reasons why America is in a recession. But at this point, it's crucial to convince people that they need to spend; otherwise the economy will never be out of risk, as reflected in the uncertain and not entirely promising unemployment numbers. But even though inflation may have caused our current recession, could it bring our economy out of its slump as well?

Not a Climate for Change

We've learned that the Constitution designed the system to be difficult to change. Passing laws is hard, and making amendments can seem nigh impossible. And in many a case, it's easy to attribute slow-moving legislative progress to this intrinsic quality of our government.

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.

Protesters and Police

Always seem to go hand in hand. But even more than that, it seems to always be the police being painted in a bad light. This is relevant to just about the entire Occupy Movement, but especially so in light of the recent events at UC Davis.


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

Republican Presidential Candidates' Concern Over Border Problem: Crying Wolf


Despite numerous patrol stations and constant additions to the fences, the border between America and Mexico has never efficiently been able to prevent illegal crossings. Recently, the Republican presidential candidates have focused on their concern for eliminating these illegal crossings: Bachmann suggested a double fence, Perry wanted “aviation assets in the ground”, and Cain even suggested modifying the current fence to have an electrical charge.

However, contrary to the Republicans beliefs, statistics from the patrol stations are actually showing that the number of illegal crossings in the past few years has decreased and is going to continue to decrease.   At its peak in 2000, the number of arrests totaled 1,643,679, where just last year the number of arrests dropped a whopping 96% to 447,731. Next year, the number is expected to drop even lower. These decreasing figures can be attributed to increasing spending on border patrol. America has employed greater number of patrols (on land, boats, and airplanes), trained dogs to sniff out stowaways, installed infra-red, magnetic, and seismic sensors, and even established a team to chase the migrants through storm drains. In addition, those who are caught now have to serve several weeks in jail.

So with these promising numbers and improved measures, is the Republican presidential candidates’ focus on illegal immigration really justified? I believe that as it stands, we are already spending a hefty enough amount on border patrol. It can be argued that the decrease in illegal immigrants from Mexico is due to a loss of incentive. The current weak American economy deters migrants who may think the risk of crossing is not worth the potential rewards. If this is true, then spending on border control can even decrease; it is our economy, and not increased spending, that appeals or dissuades the migrants. However, just because the number of those who are illegally crossing the border is decreasing doesn’t mean illegal immigration is not a problem; the total number of illegal immigrants is actually increasing. The greatest controversy is over when we should be spending more or less on border control.

Health Care Coverage: More Stick, Less Carrot

Wal-Mart recently enacted a health care surcharge for smokers, and is not the only large company edging towards requiring certain workers to pay a greater portion of their health care costs. The idea is that workers "who smoke, are overweight or have high cholesterol," bear the burden of the higher health care costs that they're statistically expected to incur. Rather than reward positive behaviors, this approach penalizes unhealthy lifestyles--hence the description, "more stick, less carrot." These types of policies have doubled in the past two years, and the number is expected to continue growing--as is the percentage of health insurance that companies will be allowed to require certain employees to pay. (Currently, specific below-standard employees can be required to pay up to 20% of their coverage costs; however, federal regulations are slated to increase that percentage.)

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

A Slow And Maybe Not So Steady Recovery

America’s economy has been in a slump for four years, and only recently has it started improving. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of jobs is increasing at a precariously slow and almost nonexistent rate, meaning that our economy could dive back into a recession at any point.

However, the statistics are not all so morbid. The number of jobs is indeed increasing, as observed in the 80,000 job increase for October, a significant rise from earlier this summer. Overall, the unemployment rate dropped to 9% in October. America owes these increasing rates to private payroll growth. The private sector is responsible for adding 2.8 million workers since the beginning of the slump in 2008. Despite the positive direction in which these numbers are headed, one must also take note that these increases are alarmingly slow. A rise in the number of jobs and the employment levels is a good thing, but how good is it if it is barely enough to keep up with the population growth?

Americans are torn over how to further stimulate the economy so the employment and job rates increase faster. I would believe that, as the results of private payroll growth show, increasing the private sector would be a reliable option. However, this would bring into question the tradeoff between economic stimulation and economic inequality. Is increasing our economic growth worth the economic inequality that will result? Other ideas were mentioned in the Krugman vs Summers debate , such as expansionary fiscal and monetary policy. But as Brad Delong notes, debate partners Krugman and Rosenberg couldn’t even agree on a solution. This just further indicates that Americans are far from agreeing on an effective solution.

What is most alarming to Americans is whether or not the employment rate will continue to rise, healing the economy, or if the slow pace of job increase is an indicator that economic growth will taper off. Are we to face a “Japan-style era of high unemployment and slow growth”? The fate of the American economy, though not entirely grim, remains unsure. Like the article says, it could be worse. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

President Obama speaks at Carrier Classic game

You may or may have not heard about the college basketball game last Friday that was played aboard the USS Carl Vinson in honor of the troops on veterans day. An entire outdoor stadium was set up on the ship which is about 1000 feet long and 300 feet wide. President Obama was scheduled to show up to the event and he did. Before the game started president Obama put his great articulate skills to work and gave a small speech before the large crowd at the game. Knowing that president Obama will be soon running for reelection, it was no surprise that he was elaborating on positives he was going to do for the veterans like provide for jobs, and support for them. He also brought up how the ship was, "A factor in bringing down Osama Bin Laden".

The Lost Youth

The lost youthful energy, that is, that the 2012 Obama campaign seems to be facing. 


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

Ultrafast Networks: Proceed With Caution

Recently, Google decided to design a system of "super fast fiber-optic broadband networks" and implement them in a few communities around the nation. These networks will incorporate engines that will be 1000 times faster than the average DSL, capable of downloading up to one gigabit per second. Content like HD movies will be downloaded in minutes, while viral videos will be ready to watch in mere seconds.

This was Google's announcement regarding their new plans:
"Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone. Here are some specific things that we have in mind:

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.