Friday, August 30, 2013

Another Small Step for Gay Rights

This Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service ruled "that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes... regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage." While not a dramatic victory, this report is just one of many indicators of the constantly accelerating campaign for equality for LGBT+ persons, another reassurance for gay and civil rights groups.
The ruling itself was an extension of the landmark Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor in which Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was declared unconstitutional - a clear and cut example of judicial review, a check from the judicial branch on the legislative. Section 3 of DOMA effectively restricted federal acknowledgement of same-sex married couples. Yesterdays report was a confirmation of the "federal tax aspects" of the case. Further change is inevitable - its only a question of what the next event will be to shift civil rights towards further equality.
New York Times Articles on the IRS ruling and the original DOMA strike down

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In with the good, out with the bad. And if you live in Washington or Colorado, you can do it recreationally*.

*granted you are over 18 and are only in possession of Cannabis under a certain limit.

some ecards, Santa, Colorado, weed    Last fall, when Colorado and Washington legalized the recreational use of marijuana. there was much controversy over not only the drug and abuse, but also the federal vs. state law issue. Although 18 other states allow the use of medical marijuana, at a federal level, the use of marijuana is illegal. Despite the federal law against the illicit drug, the Obama administration will not challenge state marijuana legislative laws. There's not much to say on the actual drug itself, but the fact that Obama and his administration will not sue to change these state laws is surprising, given the fact that "Last week, the White House said President Obama did not support changing federal laws regulating marijuana, which treat the drug as a highly dangerous substance with no medical purpose."Although there is definitely a shift in views concerning the legalization of marijuana across America, the murkiness of federal vs state law is something to watch.
LA times story
Washington Post story
Government policy on marijuana
State law vs Federal law

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ugh, Another Corruption Case?

     When I got the familiar vibration from NY times telling me that "Ford Hood Shooter Is Sentenced to Death by Military Jury," I didn't really think much of it, but as I inconspicuously looked it up during an especially boring lull between lectures, I realized that this is a big deal. According to NY Times, "The last execution there was in April 1961, with the hanging of John A. Bennett, an Army private convicted of the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl." It's been over 50 years since someone has been executed at Fort Leavenworth, the "intellectual center of the army." This got me thinking about military corruption/crimes in general and didn't get much other than radical claims.
     I kind of lost interest at the ALL CAPS TITLES IN FLUORESCENT YELLOW so I came back to this specific case. Maj Nidal Hasan, former military psychologist, isn't really greedy corruption (money, sexual relations, etc.,) its more martyrdom for a religious cause, and in my opinion, I think it's scary that the people that are supposed to protect us from the US' perceived "enemy," might be the enemy. 
A view from a non US perspective
NBC news with a little history on capital punishment

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

If you're planning to buy a house, sooner is probably better than later.

   After the housing bubble popped along with the US economy 7 years ago, we (our parents) got used to seeing "for-sale" signs and housing prices drop lower and lower. However, as the economy gets that much stronger, the housing market is seeing prices rise and stay stable at a constant pace. With the recent numbers from June and July coming out, the prices of homes are indeed getting better, with Las Vegas experiencing the highest increase. We know that the housing market is connected to the economy, but according to recent studies, the house market may be growing independent to the economy. What are your opinions about the stronger housing market, and is it significantly connected to the economical growth?
housing bubble in 2006/7
BBC housing
the economist housing
The economist interactive housing graph
The housing market vs GDP

Obama Administration Confirms Syrian Chemical Weapon Usage

Vice President Joe Biden has just confirmed with "no doubt" that the Ba'ath government was responsible behind the August 21st Ghouta chemical attacks. Casualty reports have ranged from 322 to 1729, with accusations of guilt coming from all sides. Coming just a year after Obama's Red Line speech, the attacks reportedly occurring 3 AM struck several rebel held towns. 
Initial reactions from the international community were harsh, With the US suspecting Ba'ath involvement. The Assad regime rejected responsibility, and then proceeded to blame the rebels for staging the attack to discredit the regime - proclaiming that the US and others were using it as an excuse to attack. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich stated that "agenda-driven regional mass media have begun an aggressive attack at once, as if on command, laying all the responsibility on the government."
UN inspection of the attack site was delayed after the Syrian government reportedly shelled the area for days, removing evidence, and the investigators themselves were targeted with sniper fire. Reports indicate that a nerve agent was used, corroborating witness reports and videos of the attack.
Just yesterday, the UK and US deployed several guided missile destroyers and a helicopter carrier to the region to be ready for a strike against Syria, after UK prime minister David Cameron called the attacks "morally indefensible." Several nearby submarines, aircraft carriers and regional AFBs (Air Force Bases) are ready to give support should the order to attack come, which the Americans are ready for according to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Said attacks are expected to strike prime military targets, especially any units responsible for said attacks.
While the Obama administration has solidly put the blame on the Syrian government, other groups are still claiming their innocence. With the event so recent, not all evidence has yet been collected or reviewed by investigators - and only time will tell if other nations agree with the US government's findings. Do you think the Syrian government or the rebels perpetrated this attack? Is the US government aiming to intervene militarily out of outrage for the situation, or for other reasons? 

No more borrowing for the US?

            Well, according to the debt limit put forth, yes. In mid October, the US reaches the debt limit and officially* cannot borrow any money. The debt limit, a limit of spending put forth by congress, is exactly what it sounds like: a limit on the borrowing of money that the US does. Debt limit explained (this is kind of biased toward Congress so watch out)
            Of course, there have been many debt limit scares, like the one in May, but the recent increase in them may be sign of the impending doom that may fall upon the debt ridden US. Or, it could all be a scare tactic to get American’s behind Obama’s back on whatever spending plan he puts forth. Obama debt limit scare
            In the end, only one thing is for sure—there is a debt ceiling, and it is coming up fast.

How much the US spends per time (this one has “demonocracy” in its name so it may not be the most politically unbiased.)