Thursday, March 29, 2012

France Suggests Deal Is Near on Tapping Oil Reserve

The French Prime minister, Francois Fillion suggested on Thursday that a deal was near among developed countries, including the United States, to tap strategic petroleum reserves to reduce gasoline prices.
"If we reach an accord with the other developed countries, we’ll draw on our stocks, push down the price for a limited time,” Mr. Fillon said.
Domestic political concerns on both sides of the Atlantic may be a factor in the current discussions. President Barack Obama faces a re-election in November, with gasoline prices at $4 a gallon or more in some states. In the Paris area, gas is at more than €2 a liter, or $10 a gallon.
These gas prices are ridiculous and I believe it is a good idea to do something about it. Obama has a lot of work to cut out for him to get those gas prices down, if he wants a chance in resuming presidency.

Apple Supplier in China Pledges Big Labor Changes

The manufacturing giant Faxconn has had critical investigations in its factories, responding to these investigations, Faxconn has pledged to sharply curtail working hours and significantly increase wages inside Chinese plants making electronic products for Apple and others.This move could improve working conditions in China.
They found at least 43 violations of the Chinese laws and regulations. They found many instances when Chinese workers were working for more than 60 hours a week and sometimes more than 11 days in a row. Also the investigations found out that more than 43 percent of workers have experience or witnessed accidents.
Apple, which recently joined the Fair Labor Association, had asked the group to investigate plants manufacturing iPhones, iPads and other devices. Earlier this week a collection of advocacy groups sent Apple an open letter calling on the company to “ensure decent working conditions at all its suppliers.”
Foxconn’s promises include a commitment that by July of next year, no worker will labor for more than 49 hours per week — the limit set by Chinese law. But regardless of motivation, when a company as large as Foxconn changes, we hope it reshapes other companies’ decisions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Materials lead US stocks lower as commodities dip

Falling commodity prices punished materials and energy companies, pushing Wall Street's major stock indexes to a lower close. Oil lost nearly $2 to $150 to a barrel, hurting energy stocks.
Health insurance companies declined more than the broader market as the U.S. Supreme Court wrapped up oral arguments in a challenge to President Barack Obama's massive health care overhaul.
Cheveron fell 1.1 percent, exxon 0.9 percent, Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. fell 2.6 percent, Aetna Inc. and Health Net Inc. lost 1 percent, and Catalyst Health Solutions fell 1.4 percent.
Futures for crude, natural gas, heating oil and gasoline all fell, with crude leading the way. Oil prices fell after a report suggesting a larger-than-expected jump in U.S. crude supplies, a sign that demand remains weak.
If consumers get a break on what they have to pay for energy, that could provide a bump for the U.S. economy.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gingrich and Paul--Slowly But Steadily Losing the Race

I keep asking myself, Why are Gingrich and Paul still in the race? It seems that they are both consistently losing in primary elections and caucuses and gaining only a small number of delegates. The percentage of votes in many states for these candidates have been in the single digits.

Now, it appears, they won't even be able to have their names on the Republican National Convention ballot. RNC rules require nominees for the presidential candidate to have won a plurality of votes in at least five states. So far, Gingrich has won in South Carolina and Georgia, and Paul has not won a plurality in any state.

Do you think this RNC rule is fair? And what's keeping these two in the race? It seems to me it isn't worth the time, money, or effort to continue when their chances of becoming the nominee for the Republican presidential candidate are, at best, slim.

Obamacare Revisited

When a slew of Republicans took office after the midterm elections in 2010, one of their top priorities was to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, nicknamed "Obamacare." The act is still being disputed in the Supreme Court after its constitutionality has been questioned over and over again. Nonetheless, Friday marked the two-year anniversary of the day that Obamacare was passed. The Obama-Biden campaign invited supporters to share their stories about how the Affordable Care Act has helped them, surely in an attempt to gather support for the upcoming election.

Polls show that two years after the passage of the act, public opinion remains the same, with as many people supporting and opposing it as before. Opponents cite its high costs as a reason for opposition, in addition to the provision that mandates every American to have health insurance. Supporters say that Obamacare fixes problems that the insurance industry has and covers insured people better.

Do you support Obamacare? Do you think that it will ultimately be ruled constitutional or unconstitutional?

Romney Scores All of Puerto Rico's Delegates

Last Sunday, Puerto Rico had its Republican primary election. Unsurprisingly, Romney won big with a majority of 83% of the vote, enabling him to take Puerto Rico's 20 delegates. This increased his lead over fellow candidate Rick Santorum, and Romney now has over twice the amount of delegates as Santorum.

As you have heard, Santorum recently said that English should be the official language of Puerto Rico if the territory wants to become a state. In a territory where Romney was already the favorable candidate, this statement did not help Santorum's chances of winning any delegates in Puerto Rico, despite the fact that he visited Puerto Rico in attempts to increase his popularity.

Romney shortly after made a public statement disagreeing with Santorum's position. Before the primary, Romney put in a last-minute radio advertisement and declared his support of Puerto Rico becoming a state.

Even though Romney made a much more delayed effort in Puerto Rico than Santorum, who made the effort to talk to a local newspaper while visiting the territory, Romney still emerged victorious. Santorum stated that what he said was misinterpreted by the newspaper, yet Romney still took advantage of his statement.

Was it fair for Romney to use Santorum's words against him? Do you think Santorum was misinterpreted, or was he just saying that to try to save face after a negative reaction? Romney has a lot more campaign funds than Santorum--do you think that that is a big factor in Romney's success as a candidate?

Make Way for the New Social Class in America-- Prisoners

America currently has 7-10 times as many prisoners than any other country in the world, with the primary reason being the War on Drugs. Today, over half of all federal inmates of the U.S. are in prison due to drug offenses. It is also important to note that states pay more for prisoners than they do for college students. While a student costs about $8,600 per year, a prisoner costs around $45,000 a year for the state.

And to be more specific in regards to our home state, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons compared to $5.7 billion on the UC system and Cal State colleges in 2011.

In my opinion, prolonging the War on Drugs would be foolish. I think that this war cannot be won until we decriminalize drugs, mainly marijuana. In this way, we would not have to continue imprisoning people based on drug offenses like possession of drugs, which I see is mostly harmless to others; I see it as a waste of money to imprison these people instead of spending it on other departments including education. There are also a number of other benefits to ending the War on Drugs, including reducing violence in Mexico. Anyways, the budget distribution affects many of us who plan to attend UCs. With rising tuition costs, I think that our state government should allocate more money towards education rather than incarcerating citizens who happen to get caught with drugs.

Should we legalize marijuana? Should the U.S. continue or end the War on Drugs? Will the large amount of prisoners affect the disparity between the upper- and lower-classes?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Police chief in Trayvon Martin case steps down, racial bias persists

Amidst allegations of misconduct and racism, Bill Lee has temporarily stepped down as police chief of Sanford, FL, the city where Travyon Martin was killed. Lee's decision comes on the heels of much criticism of his choice to allow Martin's killer George Zimmerman to go free under the state's Stand Your Ground law.

To many, Martin's murder and its subsequent treatment by the Sanford police is anecdotal evidence of the persistence of racial bias everywhere from the front of a 7-Eleven to the highest reaches of the national government. As the story goes, Zimmerman became suspicious of Martin as he (Martin) was "just walking around looking about." Writer E. J. Graff coined the term "Walking While Black" to describe this sort of unfounded suspicion of minorities.

In an interesting op-ed by Sally Kohn, Kohn draws parallels between Trayvon Martin and President Obama. Just as Zimmerman was suspicious of Martin for Walking While Black, Obama's critics don't trust him because he is Governing While Black. The kind of implicit racial bias that Obama faces isn't exactly subtle. As Kohn points out:

"President Barack Obama is the first African-American president...(and) from day one, conservatives have attacked the president's religion, citizenship, and essential patriotism....Their rhetoric often evokes the same racial animus that Zimmerman seems to have expressed....Newt Gingrich has labeled President Obama 'the most dangerous president in history'....Rush Limbaugh said: 'Obama is an angry black guy.'"

This racial bias is even rooted in scientific studies; we're all familiar with the Black Doll/White Doll experiment, but a recent study concluded that subjects showed more support for the exact same healthcare reform proposals if they were credited to Bill Clinton rather than Barack Obama.

Despite the acknowledgement of this problem, though, it doesn't seem like much has really changed, especially in terms of suspicion of black men, whether they be 17-year-old boys or leaders of the free world. Racial bias may not be overt anymore, but it's deeply embedded in the fabric of the politics, justice system, and people of the United States, so much so that it can threaten the dignity of the presidency or kill a harmless boy.

Please share any thoughts you have on these issues in the comments section...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Romney Wins in Illinois

On Tuesday, Mitt Romney walked away with a win in Illinois, thanks to his usual moderate supporters as well as some of the more radical groups, like some Tea Party members. Why the change in supporters? According to exit polls, voters say they are voting for a candidate that will win in November...apparently a slightly more moderate Republican candidate will have a better chance at beating Obama.

However, Romney didn't leave Illinois without a comments. Not only is Romney confident that Santorum doesn't stand a chance, but Romney continued his crusade against Obama. According to a New York Times article:

He belittled Mr. Obama’s experience as a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago and as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, saying the president was ill suited to lead the nation to economic prosperity.

“It’s time to say this word: enough. We’ve had enough,” he said. “We know our future’s brighter than these troubled times. We still believe in America, and we deserve a president who believes in us, and I believe in the American people.”

Mr. Romney's right; we have had enough. Why don't we talk about some of your policies?

Scientist Look far to the North to Explain Young Whale in San Francisco Bay

Recently, there has been a sighting of two grey whales swimming near Alcatraz and Sausalito in San Francisco Bay.

Scientist say that this is unnormal around this time of the year. Gray whales normally mate tropical lagoons of Baja California around winter, then migrate towards the north to chilly polar waters to feed on shrimp-like prey that come to the surface of the water during the spring and summer time. After, they return to Mexico the following winter to give birth in the lagoons in order to keep them safe from sharks and orcas.

But the small calf that is with its mother in the Bay Area, is a new born. The new born is about 15 feet, meaning that she recently just had birth on her way towards Mexico. "We're seeing more and more calves born before they get all the way down to Mexico," said Wayne Perryman, leader of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Researchers have been looking into the changes in the feeding and migration patterns. Some of these changes are due to climate change, while in other cases its linked to the recovery of the species from overhunting.

Mr. Perryman said that grey whales are leaving polar waters later compared to when they left back 15 to 20 years ago. As ice sheets move more northward, it might take longer for the whales to reach their food before they turn south again. Or, its because they are not able to find enough food in time to keep the traditional schedule. He also talks about how the primary feeding grounds have shifted.

Some grey whales have been eating off the northern coast of California, meaning that they are eating different kinds of prey then they would in polar waters. However, the population has been relearning direct migration routes that were being forgotten when manny of the animals were killed by whalers.

The whales have learned to go towards the west, around the Channel Islands off of Southern California. But according to Mr. Harvey, the wayward mother in the bay was hugging the coast because she wanted to protect her baby from the predators when she accidentally followed the shoreline into San Francisco Bay.

“If you’re a female with a calf,” Mr. Harvey said, “the best thing to do is swim really close to the coastline.”

Does Florida law let killers go free?

On the night of February 26th, a 17 year old named Trayvon Martin decided to go to the store to by some snacks. Before he could make it home, he was shot dead. The worst thing about it, is that there may be nothing Floridas law enforcement can do about the situation.

A man named George Zimmerman volunteered to be a neighborhood watch captain. Once Zimmerman saw Martin, he called 911 thinking that Matin looked suspicious. The operator tried to tell Zimmerman to keep his distance and that police would be sent, but there was confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin. Martin was killed with a single shot to the chest. Yet, authorities in Florida have not arrested Zimmerman.

The question of the case involves Floridas so called "stand your ground" law which was passed in 2005 because of the National Rifle Association. Under the new law, a person is allowed to use a deadly force if he is in a place where he has a right to be and feels threatened.

Even though the operator told him to keep his distance, Zimmerman had a right to be on the street. But the question is, did Zimmerman reasonably feel threatened? There is proof that there was confrontation between Martin and Zimmerman. They found that Zimmerman had an injury to his head. Most importantly, the police will never know the full story since Trayvon is not around to tell his side.

The facts of this case shows why the "stand your ground" law is so important. Was his understanding of the situation "reasonable"? Thats for the court to decide but it still gives a lot of deference to the perpetrator of a violent act. This is not the first time someone was killed unfairly. Ever since the law went into effect, homicides have tripled according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In the death of Trayvon Martin, it's prosecutors who are taking the heat for failing to bring any charges against George Zimmerman.

But will this outrage ever stop or are more innocent people going to keep getting hurt just because they seem suspicious?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Why super PACs?

We discussed super PACs in class earlier, and with election season in full swing now, super PACs are once again becoming major players. True, super PACs are supposed to be independent from candidates, but they can support or oppose whomever they choose.
But why do these individuals donate so much money to candidates? (for a breakdown of the financing, click here ) And where does the money go?

The second question is pretty easy: the money goes to the candidates, to fund ad campaigns and more expensive things...okay yes, that makes sense.

But WHY do these people donate such large sums of money? Obviously they have enough money to invest in their hobbies and interests; but why choose to create or donate to a super PAC? There must be some sort of reward to this. Sure, they are promoting a cause and their belief, but there must be something else.

Although, maybe there isn't some corrupted ulterior motive driving these multimillionares and corporation owners to finance candidates. Maybe they are just donating from the good of their hearts...but then again, why don't they donate to America, by agreeing to pay a bit more in taxes to help the others?

What do you think: why do individuals create super PACs? What's in it for them?

**this morning I read that the Republican candidates are running out of funds and relying more heavily on super PACs, giving these individuals and organizations a much larger say in government. Click here for a NY times article on depleting funds.

Lesser of two evils: Would you pick a crook over a political rival?

Despite having been indicted last week for accepting a bribe, Derrick Smith of the Illinois House of Representatives won his party's primary Tuesday in Chicago. The story behind the bribe? Smith was allegedly paid $7,000 in cash to write a letter in support of a state grant for a day care center. This adds to a long list of Illinois lawmakers who have faced corruption charges, including Anazette Collins, George Ryan, and Rod Blagojevich.

Smith faces up to ten years in prison should he be convicted.

In spite of his alleged crime, Smith had no trouble beating out Democratic rival Tom Swiss, who was once a chairman of the Cook County Republican Party, with 76 percent of the vote. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) had rallied Chicagoans to back Smith rather than Swiss in light of the latter's previous involvement with the GOP. In reference to this, Davis said: "There's nothing wrong with being a Republican, except that if people are going to vote for a Republican, they ought to know they’re voting for a Republican."

Although Smith will likely step down from his office before the November general election, the symbolic support of an alleged crook over someone with a clean record who just so happens to have been a Republican is a little troubling. Are we so hostile towards opposing parties that we'd rather a criminal be in office than someone whose politics we disagree with?

Sound off in the comments section to answer these age-old questions: How much importance do you place on a politician's character? Can you still generally trust a politician whose character has come into question to govern properly? Is there a "corruption threshold" at which you would no longer be able to vote for a politician, even if they shared your political beliefs?

7. 4-magnitude quake hits Mexico

In one of the strongest earthquakes since 1985's Mexico City shaker, the south-west Mexican state of Guerrero experienced a 7.4-magnitude shock mid-day Tuesday. Producing several aftershocks, the quake was felt as far away as Guatemala City, approximately 600 miles from the epicenter.

Traffic jams and building evacuations abounded, while 800 homes were damaged, according to some reports. Some have been injured, though no deaths have been reported as of yet.

Although the earthquake is not expected to create a widespread tsunami, there is still a chance that tsunami effects will be experienced locally.

Guerrero last experienced a major earthquake (magnitude 6.5) in 2008.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mars Will Just Have to Wait

“We are closer than anyone has ever been to discovering life on another world," according to Bill Nye, The Science Guy. But unfortunately, Obama's new budget plan will force NASA to cancel two planned missions in 2016 and 2018. The first mission would have aimed to figure out if there are any forms of life by measuring methane that would be emitted by living microbes. The other would collect pieces of Mars to bring back to Earth for scientists to study. Many of NASA's other programs are also being delayed to several years later due to problems with budget. Overall, Obama's budget request for 2013 proposes to cut NASA's space exploration budget by 20%.

Should we allocate more funding to NASA or are there other programs that we should focus on?

"Santorum to Puerto Rico: Speak English if you want statehood"

In November, Puerto Ricans will be able to vote on whether they want to become a U.S. state or remain a U.S. commonwealth. In a recent interview with a Puerto Rican newspaper, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum stated that he wants Puerto Rico to make English the primary language if they want to become the 51st state, even though Puerto Rico's official languages are English and Spanish. His proposal can be deemed unconstitutional as the Constitution does not require for a territory to adopt English as the primary language in order to become a state.

It is also important to note that English is not the official language of the U.S. However, some states have passed laws declaring that English is the official language there.

I think that his statement does not truly reflect his beliefs towards Puerto Rico, but rather tries to appeal to the constituents with the mentality of "You're in America, speak English." I feel that this mentality discriminates, instead of unifies America in that minorities feel alienated for being unable to speak English.

Do you guys think English should be the official language of America?

Oops, I Spilled It Again

Earlier this week, a crude oil leak was discovered in the Frade oil field off the coast of Brazil, and Brazilian officials declare they plan to "bring criminal charges" to 17 executives from Chevron, the US oil company, and the drilling contractor Transocean. This is hardly the Chevron's first offense in Brazil - in November a large oil spill occurred in the same Frade oil field, in which 3,000 barrels of oil poured into the Atlantic Ocean, around 240 miles from Rio de Janeiro. The prosecutor's lawyer said that they would be charging the defendants for "environmental crimes," among other things.

I find this article interesting, especially after the infamous Gulf oil spill caused such an uproar here in 2010. Do you guys think the charges against Chevron and Transocean are fair? Who do you think should be responsible for oil spills in general? And where do you think the line should be drawn between making money and protecting the environment?

‘Hunger Games’ and Social Media - A Match Made in Heaven

It's no secret that "The Hunger Games" fever is sweeping the nation at lightning speeds. With less than a week before the hugely popular book series hits the big screen, excitement for the story and its characters is at an all time high. But why has it generated so much popularity over just a few months? The answer is, of course, digital media.

Keeping in mind that teens are the majority of the series' fan base, Lionsgate has spent only $45 million on advertising and hired a tiny staff of 21 people to spread "Hunger Games" hype - through a surprisingly cheap "yearlong, four-phase digital effort" focused on young audiences. By utilizing popular media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, and even iPhone games, Lionsgate marketing officials have carefully increased the internet buzz and have created a "box-office inferno" surrounding the upcoming movie. Considering the plot's tricky content (kids killing kids for a dystopian society's televised pleasure) and the number of fans it must satisfy, I'd say Lionsgate's marketing team is doing a pretty darn good job.

This is just another example of how important the internet has become to our society - politics, advertising, news in general is becoming increasingly dependent on new social media. What do you guys think about this? How could our obsession with the internet and social media hurt us, or help us, as a society?

Poll: 69% of Americans Support Outlawing Super PACs

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 69% of Americans think that super PACs should be banned. The poll displays that 78% of independents, 55% of Republicans, and 70% of Democrats favor the outlaw of super PACs. The poll was conducted by telephone and interviewed 1,003 American adults from March 7-10, 2012.

It is estimated that the PACs have spent about $75 million on the 2012 elections thus far.

I think that many Americans are frustrated that political action committees are paying for so much of the 2012 election campaigns, which implies that they probably have a large influence over the candidates and their policies. However, we have also learned that PACs can be helpful as they are mediums for citizens who want to show support or opposition for legislation and candidates.

Do you think PACs are essential to our political system or can we do without them?

Goldman Sachs' Executive Director Resigns

Greg Smith, the Executive Director of Goldman Sachs, published his resignation letter as an op-ed in the New York Times on Wednesday. In the letter, he stated that he was leaving due to the company's deteriorating morality; the company no longer focuses on helping its clients, but instead only focuses on making profits. He states that when he first began working there, the leadership was based on doing the right thing and setting the best example. But now, promotions are given to the people who make the most money for the company, who often do so through unethical means including persuading clients to invest in stocks that seem to have little potential profit.

This article reminded me of our class discussion in which we talked about what makes a good leader. And I think I can speak on behalf of, at least, the majority of the class that morality was one of the top priorities on our lists. I believe that it is easier for people to see whether a president is moral or not. But when it comes to leaders of corporations, it is difficult for people to point out misconduct partly due to the skewed amount of media coverage. As Goldman Sachs is one of the largest investment banks in the world, I think that this letter was a good wake-up call to people to pay more attention to the ethics of corporations.

Do you guys think that this resignation letter will hurt the company (i.e. profits, loss in the number of clients, etc.)? Do you think the company will respond to/change from this letter?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Like a Boss, Einstein's Still Standing

In September, a group of researchers reported that they had measured subatomic particles traveling faster than the speed of light, much to the disbelief and excitement of the scientific community. However, on Friday this theory was once again put to the test, and the results were clear: the particles do not travel faster then the speed of light. Einstein's theory of relativity is still standing.

The basis of modern physics, Einstein's theory of relativity states that nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light, which is about 186, 282 miles per second. This rule is used for many major calculations about space and the universe itself, which is why it was so shocking when scientists claimed to have disproved it. Of course, since then it has been discovered that their experiment setup was flawed, and their theory has been busted.

What do you guys think about this? Are you disappointed it's not true? Do you think it's even worth the time and resources to test accepted theories, like the theory of relativity? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, March 16, 2012

To the lobbyists willing to pay a $10,000 entrance fee: You're Invited!

Recently, CBS News videotaped parts of a Republican campaign fundraiser in Florida. Two veteran Republican congressmen, along with twelve Republican freshmen, hosted this fundraiser at a seaside resort that features a 54-hole golf course and a private marina for yachts. The hosts invited key campaign donors and lobbyists, who could only get in if they donated at least $10,000.

It is ironic that some of the hosts have attempted to relate to middle-class Americans while throwing such lavish campaign fundraisers in hopes to obtain funding from lobbyists. One host's campaign ad said that he would "always put Colorado families before the Washington special interests," while another host stated that "America's not broken, Washington is!"

It would be a mistake to imply that only GOP members take part in this type of fundraising. Obama, for example, has headlined multiple fundraisers, some having tickets that costed up to $35,000.

Although it is required by law for the political parties to disclose the donor lists, the ethics of this strategy are still questionable, in my opinion.

We learned that lobbyists can be both good and bad, in terms of the morality of their strategies to influence legislation. What do you guys think- is this technique leaning closer to bribery or is it a fair strategy? Should lobbyists be able to donate to members or should we reform the current laws to ban this?

U.S. Identifies Army Sergeant in Killing of 16 in Afghanistan

On Friday, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was charged with the killing of 16 Afghan villagers from the Kandahar Province, where left his combat outpost, entered nearby villages, and shot or stabbed those he found (including 9 children), earlier this week. Bales, a married, 38-year -old father, joined the U.S. Army after the September 11th attacks and has been deployed to the Middle East several times since then. According to his lawyer, it is possible Bales has suffered from brain trauma and and post-traumatic stress disorder in the past, which have been linked to poor impulse control and temperament changes. In addition, it was reported that just before the shooting, Mrs. Bales had decided to sell their house to "stabilize their finances," and an official said he saw Bales drinking alcohol the night before the murders. The official stated that the killings were "a combination of stress, alcohol, and domestic issues - he just snapped."

Bales's brutal actions have greatly strained the relationship between the US and Afghanistan and have further blackened the image of America and her soldiers in the Middle East. What do you guys think should be done about this situation? How should Bales be punished - should the fact that he might be mentally ill change the way he's dealt with? And how could the Army better regulate its soldiers to prevent this from happening again?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why Did Romney Lose the South?

As stated earlier Romney lost both souther primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. A possible theory for this loss it Mitt Romney's Mormon affiliations. Alabama and Mississippi both have strong Christian backgrounds, and thus rejected Romney as their candidate. Baptist and other religious leaders also endorsed Santorum as their candidate. Could Romney's Mormon background have cost him the south? Why do you think Romney lost the south?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Santorum Makes it out on Top

Today the Rick Santorum won the southern states of Mississippi and Alabama. Santorum won Alabama at 35% of voters, follow by Gingrich then Romney. The same is true in Mississippi where Santorum won with 33% of the vote.
With Santorum winning the states that Gingrich so desperately needed it would seem that Santorum has defied all the odds and statistics that placed him as the runner up in this primary. Although Newt Gingrich lost these southern states he still refuses to give up his campaign just yet. However, Romney still seems to winning by a fair margin with much more overall popularity. With this stunning victory however, it would seem Santorum has a real shot, what do you think?

Three Way Tie?

Alabama and Mississippi had their Republican primaries today. Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney are in what appears to be a 3-way tie and these Southern states may be able to fix that. People in Alabama as well as Mississippi were just excited to be useful in determining who will become the Republican nominee.

However, those who voted weren't too thrilled the candidates at hand saying that "they were opting for the least bad choice". Many were also still deciding who to vote for when they got to the polls. One woman even commented that "there's nobody that I like everything about". Many voters reasoned that while they may not like Romney, he would be the best suited to get Obama out of office.

Voters don't seem to happy with any of the choices at hand. So who will come out on top in Alabama and Mississippi?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Afghanistan Killings

Early Sunday morning an American Soldier was accused of killing 16 innocent civilians. According to preliminary reports, this soldier came up to houses in Southern Afghanistan and killed civilians in their own homes. This outraged the government and president of Afghanistan, who called this event unforgivable.
President Obama gave out his condolences to this tragic event, and NATO reassured the Afghanistan government that this man was acting on his own. What do you think should be done about this?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Approval of the Congress

According to a recent Gallup Poll, American's approval has hit the lowest its ever been at a surprising low 10%.

This could be do to fact that each representative in Congress now represents a much larger population then it did in 1929 when the number House of Representatives were capped at 435. Thus each member of the house now represents hundreds of thousands of more people. Also senators are also representing much greater numbers, population wise. Therefor the people feel they are being represented less then before. Could this be the reason? Why do you think Congress's approval is so low?

Too little too late?

The Department of Labour announced that 227,000 jobs were added in the month of February. It was the third straight month where a significant amount of jobs were created and many experts have said consumer confidence in the economy is rising as a result. However, unemployment has remained relatively constant throughout the past few months at 8.3% because many people who had stopped looking for a job have again resumed. There has also been a rise in people quitting their jobs, and people don’t quit their jobs unless they have another job opportunity. Jobs gains have also happened in a variety of areas including manufacturing. President Obama stated that this is the first time since the 1990’s that companies were bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. The President is also likely hoping that these job gains continue and consumer confidence continues to rise as the economy will likely be an issue of much debate come the election. Republicans instantly responded by saying these jobs gains were too little and too late. Will this job surge continue? Are these jobs too little and too late for Obama?

What About Syria?

With all the new talk about Kony in the middle of Africa, people seem to have completely forgotten about what has been going on in Syria.

The citizens of Syria have been protesting against President Bashar al-Assad and his government. The Syrian government has decided to stop these protesters with the use of violence.

President al-Assad has said that he would not talk to The United Nations as long as there were "terrorist groups operating within Syria".

As far as the U.S. goes, Obama is said to be unsure as to whether or not the U.S. should send military efforts into Syria. He wants to stop the bloodshed, but understand that military action may only worsen that. Republican Senator John McCain wants to have a military intervention with Syria.

What do you guys think? Military intervention?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Segregated Fire Department?

In a recent hearing by the U.S. district judge, the New York City fire department has been found guilty of using entrance exams that deliberately kept out African American and Latino Americans off the force. In response to this the judge ordered that 128 million dollars be paid to the fire fighters and that the New York Fire Department hire at least 293 African American or Latino Americans. This seems to be a fair ruling to try to get the percent of minorities on the force more proportional to the amount living in the city. What do you think about this ruling?

California Gets to Choose the Republican Nominee...Decisions...Decisions...

California may just be the state to decide if Romney, Paul, Gingrich, or Santorum is placed on the Republican Presidential ballot. Romney is already in a gigantic lead having 415 delegates opposed to Santorum in second place with 176 delegates. California has 172 delegates which is more than enough to put Romney even further ahead. With Romney being the front-runner, will California continue to keep it this way, or put another candidate ahead?

(Hopefully California's democratic atmosphere will pick the lesser of all evils... :) )

Super Tuesday Not So Super

Super tuesday was not the game changing test that it was in the 2008 election. There were no real surprise victories. Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia by a significant margin and Romney won Massachusetts by a large margin. Romney is also have said to have won the much coveted Ohio and will likely take home most of the delegates from Ohio because of his wins in the more populated areas and also because Senator Santorum failed to meet the requirements to be put on the ballot in some congressional districts in Ohio. Senator Santorum also did not file for all of the delegates in six districts, failed to file for all 18 of his at large delegates and also failed to appear on the ballot in the state of Virginia. It is likely that these ballot troubles will continue as he failed to meet the requirements to be placed on the ballot in Washington D.C. and in some districts in Illinois. Governor Romney has criticized Senator Santorum for his lack of organization, but Mr. Santorum has simply brushed it off. Instead, Senator Santorum has called for Newt Gingrich to throw in the towel, so the nomination can become a two man race, between a true conservative (Santorum) and a moderate (Romney). Gingrich having a strong base in the south may pose a threat to Santorum in upcoming primaries in Mississippi and Alabama. However, it is not likely that Gingrich will drop out before those key primaries on March 13th, but if he does not get much support in Mississippi and Alabama then that could likely be the end of his quest for the GOP nomination.

Although Santorum and Gingrich appeal more to the southern core of the Republican party Romney has not given up hope. His campaign is running the most expensive advertising campaign in the south out of all the candidates and hopes to increase his delegates count.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Who is Joseph Kony?

Last night Kony seemed to have taken over everyone's blog and facebook page. In efforts to make Kony famous people were told to jump on the bandwagon and make sure that attention was brought to Kony. 

Joseph Kony is the Ugandan Leader of the Lord's Resistance Army. Kony and his army take children from Uganda, and other bordering countries in order to teach the children to fight for their cause. Kony has taken almost 70,000 children and forced them to fight. 

A 30-minute video was made entitled "Kony 2012". It was posted on youtube only 2 days ago and already has almost 10 million views. Their goal was to make Kony famous, and raise support for his capture and arrest. This video brings attention to the vicious abuse, killing, and war crimes that Kony has inflicted with his army. The story follows Jacob, and how his life in Northen Uganda began with Kony. The filmmaker makes his promise to Jacob to stop Kony. 10 years later the filmmaker placed his video on youtube and he may finally be able to fulfill his promise to Jacob. 

This film needs to be spread around, and awareness needs to be brought to the issue.

KONY 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

Have the Obama Administration's Counter Terrorism Actions Gone to Far?

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. defended the current Obama administration's deadly action against top Al Qaeda leaders in a speech given to law students at Northwestern University. At the center of the controversy is Anwar al-Awlaki, who was one of the main minds behind the September 11th attacks and a supposed top recruiter, especially via the internet. The drone strike ordered by the President is considered controversial because Awlaki and other Al Qaeda members that were killed in the strike were born in the United States. Mr. Holder defended the President by saying that the Constitution requires due process and due process does not necessarily mean judicial process. He also said that Congress authorized the use of force against Al Qaeda after the September 11th attacks and that the use of force is not limited to Afghanistan. The use of force is legally acceptable when there is not a feasible way of capturing a known Al Qaeda member or ally, who is plotting attacks.

Given our recent unit on the Executive branch, I thought it would be interesting to see what people thought about this controversial issue. Has President Obama gone to far? Does Due process mean Judicial process? Or is it a waste of time and resources to try and capture a known terrorist and try them in front of a jury? Personally, I agree with the last statement. These terrorist are often difficult to find and to capture them would take a great deal of time and be a waste of resources if they are a known terrorist. I think the Government should have the power to take out known terrorist without Judicial process.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Romney rides high toward Super Tuesday

Mitt Romney is doing well since he has now added two old-fashioned supporters to include to his wins in 3 states last week while heading towards Super Tuesday. He now has 207 delegates after his wins in Michigan, Arizona, and Washington. Corburn, a tea party member, wrote in the Oklahoman newspaper that, “Romney has done hard things. He has turned businesses around, told people hard truths about what needed to be done, inspired confidence and overcome excuses. Romney is not a career politician or a career legislator. As a former governor and business leader, he is an executive who knows how to use executive power”. Corburn seems to say that Romney is not only the leader, but is looking like the leader.

Does anyone still stand a chance? Well Rohmey has 207 delegates, Santorum has 86, Ron Paul has 46, and Newt Gingrich trails with 39. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the Republican nomination and run against President Obama in November. Gingrich seems to be falling behind. I remember when he was one of the top competitors in the race. Does he even stand a chance still? To keep alive in his campaign, Gingrich needs to win in Georgia in addition to some additional states. “Polls show [Gingrich] with a solid lead in the state he represented in Congress, and Gingrich spoke confidently Sunday about the road ahead”.

Personally, I think Romney is going to take the Republican win. He is far enough ahead to secure his win and he seems to be popular enough. But is if he does win can he defeat Obama? I guess we will just have to wait and see!

Super Tuesday on the Horizon

This year, having 2287 total delegates means that 1144 will secure the nomination for the republican president. This year Super Tuesday falls on March 6th with a total of 419 delegates up for grabs. This year Super Tuesday will account for 16.84 percent of the total delegates and 33.65 percent of the number needed for victory.

These percentages are extremely low compared with the most recent Super Tuesdays. In 2008 there were more than twice as many delegates up for grabs in the largest Super Tuesday ever. Interestingly, in 2008 Super Tuesday took place in February instead of in March and featured 24 states instead of this year's nominating situation which will only have nine (plus Alaska which will begin their two week long caucus). In 2008 John McCain pretty much secured the nomination by winning 511 delegates, well ahead of second place Romney at 176 delegates. This year there may be a different outcome for Mr. Romney.

As the favorite going into Tuesday, Romney already leads the second place candidate Santorum 203 to 92. Should Romney pull out as big a victory that McCain had in 2008, he could separate himself enough from Santorum to almost guarantee the nomination. While Super Tuesday can't make the nomination official this year, it could cause Romney to take a commanding lead.

However, Romney's win will not come easily. In the most recent polls regarding this year's Super Tuesday, Romney and Santorum have the edge in 4 states each, with Gingrich winning Georgia in a landslide. Can Santorum make a comeback? Or will Romney further his lead?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

More violence reported from the Syrian city of Homs

Red Cross aid for the inhabitants of Homs was blocked Saturday as Syrian forces assaulted parts of the city. This attack comes a day after Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary-General, said that he received information that even after rebel fighters left Homs, Syrian troops were still "executing and torturing" people there. The Syrian Network for Human Rights stated that the attack is "' act of pure revenge...'" while the Syrian government says it's fighting foreign-backed terrorists that it says are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of soldiers and policemen. Also, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) trucks were denied access to a district in Homs because it is feared the military didn't want the convoy to see a reported massacre in that part of the city. A spokesman for the IRCR said they were given permission to enter by authorities but the military stopped them because of reported "mines and booby traps" along the route that made it unsafe.
Russia and China twice have vetoed U.N. resolutions that would have condemned the Syrian government while Turkey, the one time ally of Syria, stated that "(t)he Syrian regime is committing a crime against humanity every day." Also, an American journalist and a French photographer's bodies were returned home as they were both killed on February 22 in Baba Amro, a district in the city of Homs. What should be done about these latest reports of violence? Should the citizens of Homs be left to fight for themselves or should more be done than condemning the government?

594,000 coins, 500 million dollars

594,000 valuable gold and silver coins were found at the bottom of the ocean recently. These coins where on a Spanish Warship that was sunk over 200 years ago. These coins still need to be restored but are valued at 500 million dollars.

300 years ago, a war ship was going from Peru to Spain to drop off the coins. On its way to Spain, the boat was stopped at attacked by British war ships. The ship sunk with its cargo, killing over 200 sailors.

5 years ago, an American ship found the coins and brought them back to the United States. Although the American’s found it, the Spanish wanted them back and said they were the originally theirs. The case went all the way up to the Supreme Court where there was much debate. In the end, Spain won the coins. When asked to comment on the coin situation Jim Goold, who defended Spain's claim to the treasure, “’ Spain has now been victorious… I am pleased and proud for all of us"’.

Spain's Culture Minister, Jose Ignacio Wert, told CNN that the coins were going to be put in a museum. The coins will not be showed for awhile because they need to all be cataloged and need much restoring. There are 200 gold coins and over 13,000 silver coins that have been restored so far and scientists have been working hard on trying to save more.

Personally, I feel like the United States should have been able to keep the coins, or at least some of them. I know the coins were originally Spain’s, but the US found them and worked hard to find them. If Spain really wanted them the coins back so badly, why didn’t they go looking for them? Finder’s keepers, loser’s weepers!