About a week ago, I was reading this fascinating article, which was an analysis of how partisan cooperation saved the Democratic party from fracturing under Republican pressure. It's a rather long read but very insightful. This ties nicely with the 5th period FRQ because it is a clear example of how political parties can help the electorate party by rallying together a united front that together has the ability to successfully implement its agenda.
In addition, the clear example of cooperation between two two branches of government (executive and legislative) connects well to what we learned earlier in the year. Specifically, the article hones in on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's fluctuating relationship with President Barack Obama. Though both Democrats, both have been at odds with each other in the past. However, when facing shutdown and default, their union held the Democratic base together long enough to break the Republican front.
However, the next party that may break is the Democratic party itself. This article points to division within the party on issues related to the health care law and spying. While some candidates can afford to upset some influential party members, others cannot.
When do you think Congressmen should defect from party-endorsed policy? Although partisan politics has received much blame for the lack of progress in Congress, what merit do you think parties have in this day and age in government?
Random note for those who get it: a local news angle will come... at some point
Thursday, October 31, 2013
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has brought in tech experts from large companies such as Google, Red Hat and Oracle to aid in repairing the healthcare registration site. Officials are feeling confident that the site will be performing smoothly by November 30, which would give citizens enough time to enroll and begin receiving coverage by January 1.
HealthCare.gov was opened with the intention of helping Americans in 36 states see if they qualify for tax credits to buy and sign up for private health insurance. The 14 states are not affiliated with HealthCare.gov have set up their own websites for this purpose and have been running smoothly in comparison to HealthCare.gov.
Despite the newest efforts to improve the website, many remain skeptical about whether or not HealthCare.gov can really get its act together. Questions have also risen about the diligence of the trials and testing the website went through before launch.
But, what do you guys think?
Links links links everybody
In light of a resurgence in terrorist activity in Iraq, the Iraqi government has reached out to President Obama in hopes of receiving greater United States support.
The Iraqis are asking for weapons, training, and manpower but do not want U.S. troops on the ground. While the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq suggests that providing additional American personnel for guiding purposes costs relatively little, others, like Sen. John McCain, remain skeptical and insist on seeing a thought-out strategy for how Americans will help change the situation.
Although it may seem obvious for the U.S. to distance itself from a conflict it had just left, there are many considerations. One is the Iraqi's threat that they will turn to other nations, like China and Russia, for support. Americans have vested interest in maintaining positive ties with the nation, because it is geographically situated in a volatile region of the world that the U.S. wants influence in; however, it must also invest too much, for the tolls of intervention are painfully evident in the wars of the past decade.
How do you think the U.S. should react to this request?
In order to tie this back to Gov... Washington in his farewell address warned America to stay out of foreign affairs. In this day and age of globalization and complex foreign cooperation, to what degree, if at all, do you believe the U.S. should follow Washington's statement?
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
While the government shutdown and threat of default are a thing of the past at least for now, there is much to be analyzed. A recent Stratfor report touched upon what the Founding Fathers would have thought if they witnessed this fiasco.
In the report, I found that many of the author's points were corroborated by the Federalist papers that we read for class. Mainly, it is the point that the US government is intentionally set up such that progress would be difficult and cumbersome to achieve, but it would also prevent extremist factions and spur-of-the-moment events from rashly altering the course of government. However, what the Founding Fathers also believed was that our leaders would be reasonable and willing to moderate. They would be appalled by the hard-line stances and divisive rhetoric that has come to dominate politics today. The Fathers themselves, according to the report, were moderate men who approached problems with consideration for all viewpoints.
Perhaps one line in the report best sums up what the problem with our government is today. "The founders needed to bridge the gaps between the need to govern, the fear of tyranny and the uncertainty of the future. Their solution was not in law but in personal virtue." Personal virtue is a rare sight in Washington today.
Lastly, a quote that I'd like your thoughts on cause I've been trying to understand this: "The republic of the mind was always greater than the republic itself."
A cliche question: What do you think our Founders would say?
Another question... What's the solution?
Since the October 15 conviction of two girls for aggravated stalking, which led 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick's suicide, the debate over the legality and necessity of online surveillance of students has once again become a popular topic of debate.
In the past, the administration's job was simply to make sure that students behaved themselves on campus grounds. However, with the widespread use of social media as an emotional outlet for many students, educators are now having trouble walking the fine line between maintaining their students' right to free speech and keeping their students safe.
In recent court cases, students have been suspended and jailed for their pictures and online posts. In Nevada, a 16-year-old was sentenced to 31 days in jail and a 90-day suspension from school for bragging online about having guns and planning to kills students on a specific date. He sued the school district for violating his first amendment rights, but the Ninth Circuit of Appeals dismissed his claim. On the other hand, courts in Indiana ruled that two students' online photos were simply "crude humor" as opposed to "substantial disruption."
Do you think school administrators are justified in tracking their students' online actions? If so, where should they draw the line between students' free speech rights and maintaining the safety of their schools? Is legal action justified? What constitutes "substantial disruption"?
Sunday, October 27, 2013
After a slip-up at the Mexico/US border in 2009, Philip Hartley-Wall now finds himself in the UK, where he was born but hasn't lived in since he was 9 years old. Hartley-Will immigrated to the United States in 1981, and had lived in LA until 2009, where at the border he told officials he was a US citizen, when he only had a green card, meaning he held "permanent alien residency status." He plead guilty and was charged with making false statements to an official. After spending 7 months in federal prison, he was deported to the UK; he had no family nor connections there except for an acquaintance he made during his time in the immigration removal center. He stayed with his friend's family for six weeks after arriving in Manchester. His wife and 12 year old daughter still live in the US; his wife has had to sell their home after she couldn't keep paying the mortgage on only one salary and his daughter, described as having, "the body of a 12-year-old but the mental abilities of a six-year-old," has been acting up in school due to her father's absence. President Barack Obama is being urged to allow Hartley-Well clemency--or mercy to allow him back in the country.
Should Hartley-Well be allowed back into the country? Would Obama allowing clemency backlash and cause other families experiencing the same event demand clemency as well? Should Hartley-Wall have been deported in the first place or was the punishment truly "disproportionate"?
Posted by Anonymous at 10:16 PM
Thursday, October 24, 2013
The FDA has urged the US to make painkillers harder for patients to obtain. The change in policy would make it more difficult for patients to obtain refills on prescription drugs; it would decrease the amounts of refills patients could get between prescriptions and would require a patient to bring in a written prescription to their pharmacy, rather than just having a doctor call in an order.
One of the main reasons for tightening restrictions is the increase in deaths caused by drug overdose--the number of deaths per year due to overdose has quadrupled since 1999.
These new regulations, if put in place, would require patients to get a new prescription every three months, rather than every six.
How much of an impact will these regulations make to patient health? How effective will they be on painkiller abuse?
Posted by Anonymous at 10:21 PM
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Obama met today in the White House to discuss their alliance to battle terrorism, however the US's use of drones could cause some tension in that agreement.
Sharif has called for President Obama to stop the drone strikes in Pakistani borders, and stated that as long as those continue, there will be tension in US and Pakistan relations. Pakistanis hope their leader will convince the US to stop the drone attacks, as they feel they've been "pushed around by the US."
Along with drone strikes, added tensions have affected the relationship between Pakistan and the US. After the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the Pakistani government arrested a doctor for supposedly assisting the US in finding bin Laden's whereabouts; the US's mission to kill bin Laden was kept from the Pakistani government.
However, experts have mentioned that because of the recent decline in terrorist targets, the amount of drone attacks will likely begin to decrease.
Some experts argue that drone attacks are more effective and cause less civilian casualties than other methods might.
Do you think that the US has the authority to conduct counterterrorism in foreign countries? Do the benefits of killing terrorists outweigh the civilian casualties that will almost certainly occur? Is it acceptable to risk killing civilians in the short term for the long term benefit of security?
Posted by Anonymous at 10:13 PM
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The already unpopular Affordable Care Act has disgruntled Americans further because of the continuously glitchy healthcare enrollment site. Democrats who have supported the act will need to defend their decision during mid-term election next year. Enrollment deadline for the healthcare plan is Dec. 15, but because of the website’s glitches, it’s difficult for people to submit or finish their enrollments. For those who are not insured by February 15th of 2014, they will be forced to pay a fine. Congress’s biggest concern is the damage control that is inevitable because of the struggle the website is having. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is expected to give a statement in the near future about the failing website. Republican Paul Ryan has gone as far as to call for her resignation.
My questions to you are;
Why not push the days back? Americans are clearly angered by the act, and now more so thanks to the malfunctions.
Another thing to note; Democrats are more technologically aware than Republicans in general, will this hurt that image? Will this give Republicans the opportunity to get their technological side to match up to the Democrats'?
And what is the solution to this long term? Does this mean if the government wants to embrace technology, does it need to hire people from, say, Google to get there websites running the way they should?
Posted by Anonymous at 9:23 PM
Friday, October 18, 2013
This piece about California is currently the top story at the New York Times and it relates directly to several recent lessons including the politics of election districts. I would like to see more of a political science treatment to these issues, but the article has several obviously credible sources supporting its contentions. I think the article understates 2 important factors that help explain the more constructive tone in Sacramento: the Democrats supermajority status, which leaves the remaining Republicans a choice of being constructive or being shut out from governing, and Governor Brown's leadership, especially on fiscal issues. Still, having voted for all of these changes, I am glad to see that they might be having the intended effect.
On another note, the lack of blogging this week was my fault but we will return to student-driven blogging next week.
On another note, the lack of blogging this week was my fault but we will return to student-driven blogging next week.
Posted by Scott Silton at 3:37 PM
Sunday, October 13, 2013
American officials announced yesterday that the United States is withholding a large portion of military aid scheduled to be delivered to Egypt in light of military crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protestors. The Brotherhood, which supports ousted President Mohammed Morsi, has been engaged in street protests against the military regime for over a month, protests that have cost hundreds of lives. The July ouster of Mr. Morsi, when the military stepped in to remove him, has been met with mixed reactions in the United States. Mr. Morsi's performance as president was obviously unsatisfactory, but this kind of breakdown of the democratic process is dangerous in itself. Even if the United States disagrees with the policies of a leader, is it prudent to allow the democratic process dissolve through a military coup? After three months of inaction, the United States has finally decided to take a stand by cutting off funds, but is this action too little too late? What could have been gained by cutting off aid earlier? Or not at all?
Wait but you... and your ridiculously long speech... and the fact that you helped shut down these memorials in the first place...? Oh, the irony.
I had to wonder. Have some Tea Partiers left their party yet?
Hmm... so it seems like people are ditching the party. Poor Tea Party.
Despite the decline in the number of Tea Partiers, Cruz actually won the Values Voter Summit straw poll (sponsored by the Family Research Council Action) on Friday with 42% of the vote. Paul Ryan (Romney's VP candidate in 2012) finished with less than 5% of the vote. The Family Research Council Action president says that this straw poll "reveals what conservative, Republican-leaning voters are looking for in a potential candidate." It's meant to be an early predictor for the Republican choice for president. This Texas senator seems to be one of the leading Republican presidential candidates for the 2016 election.
We've recently just covered in class why third parties, sooner or later, generally fail. Recent events have obviously further tarnished the Tea Party's image. Do you think the Tea Party is about to end? What can Tea Party leaders possibly do to prevent a die-off? Which party (Republican or Democrat) do you think is absorbing the ex-members of the Tea Party and why? Do you think Cruz has a chance to be the leading Republican presidential candidate in 2016, or is his sudden rise going to be countered by a sudden fall?
Posted by Jackie Pei at 2:16 PM
Alarming times call for alarming warnings. In five days, the U.S. will have exhausted it's borrowing capacity. Jack Lew, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, have warned congressional leaders that "[i]f the government should ultimately become unable to pay all of its bills, the results could be catastrophic."
Bottom line is, we need to raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit. But the House won't vote on the debt limit until they settle the issue over the funding of Obamacare. Neither the president nor House Speaker Boehner is prepared to negotiate. If they can't reach an agreement by Thursday, the U.S. could start defaulting on its obligations as early as late October.
Tensions are high. How confident are you that Congress will be solve this issue before the October 17th deadline? Are Republicans stubborn enough to not only shut down the government, but also let the U.S. default? What does this say about our government system? Which side (Boehner or Obama) do you think is going to give in a little to the other side first? Is this a matter of pride and ambition?
Posted by Jackie Pei at 12:02 PM
Friday, October 11, 2013
I want to be all like, omnomnom.
But then I'm all like, mmm, better not. Most of the FDA food inspectors have been sent home because of the government shutdown.
FDA spokesman Steven Immergut has made clear that they're trying to do the best for the public health with their skeletal staffs and limited resources, but that all routine food safety inspections will be suspended until the government is up and running again. Only facilities that "present an immediate threat to public health" will be inspected. About 367 inspections per week will be delayed.
The House passed a bill on Monday that would return funding for the FDA during the shutdown. But the Senate has dismissed this bill among the many other bills that are part of the Republicans' piecemeal strategy intended to mitigate the damage they've done to important government functions that are suffering from the shutdown. Californian House Rep Sam Farr argued against the bill, telling HuffPost that "[p]assing these bills would be like seeing a school bus on fire and agreeing only to rescue the good-looking kids. It's ridiculous. I want to put out the fire." Democrats like Farr believe in the need to reopen the government fully, not little by little, and raise the debt ceiling.
Has the shutdown has improved your knowledge and appreciation for what the government does for us? Or has it only made you more infuriated by the government? Which "non-essential" part of the government that isn't being funded during the shutdown do you think SHOULD be funded and deemed "essential"? Is the Republicans' piecemeal strategy a strong or vain attempt to fund the government while saving face? And do you agree/disagree with the Democrats' response?
Posted by Jackie Pei at 9:38 PM
Thursday, October 10, 2013
(Source: The New Yorker)
One of the concerns surrounding Janet Yellen, Obama's nomination for the head of the Federal Reserve, is how she's going to balance jobs and inflation. Is she a hawk, or a dove?
She has been known to stress the need to fix high unemployment, maybe even at the risk of triggering inflation by doing so. To increase employment last year, she pushed hard to keep interest rates close to 0, risking a brief inflation increase. By seemingly valuing jobs over inflation, she's often been called a dove. But some argue that she's a "hawk in dove's clothing," since she did argue for rate rises in 1996 in order to control inflation. Balancing both views, Yellen's friend and writer for Bloomberg praises that "Yellen's appointment should be viewed as an investment in the Fed's dual mandate, which emphasizes the central bank's role in taming both unemployment and inflation" (Source: Bloomberg). Maybe she's not a dove or a hawk. Maybe she just adapts to changing circumstances, which is a relief, because she won't be as susceptible to endangerment by natural selection as the doves and hawks are.
Yellen's extremely impressive record, experience, ability to cooperate and compromise, creativity, work ethic, and educational background all convince me that she will be brilliant as the Fed chair. Furthermore, I believe she will inspire many aspiring young women, including myself. But do you think she'll be able to handle it? The dual responsibilities of the Federal Reserve (handling unemployment and inflation) proved to be a challenging for all previous Fed chairs. How will Yellen be different than Bernanke, or other chairs before her? Do you think she's a good fit for the job? Is she a hawk or a dove, and what would that mean for the country as a whole?
Lastly, can we just take a moment to recognize how awesome she is? And adorable?
Posted by Jackie Pei at 5:49 PM
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
The NSA has been under fire for the past few months after former contractor Edward Snowden released a cache of classified material regarding government surveillance techniques to outside sources. In recent news, British MI5 chief Andrew Parker condemned Snowden's actions as similar to giving "gifts to terrorists." The intelligence chief addressed UK news stating that in order to fight terrorism, both domestically and abroad, intelligence services need to have the tools to monitor threats: a statement that I agree with (although his wording was a little strong for my liking). While a certain level of oversight is necessary, US and UK authorities need to have the operational flexibility to conduct operations vital to national security. In this instance the NSA may have overstepped its constitutional bounds and lacked appropriate oversight, but to say that Snowden's actions were responsible (or worthy of the Sakharov Prize) would be absurd. Although some have cast him in the role of the American patriot on a quest to protect the rights of American citizens, Edward Snowden seems to be acting purely to discredit the United States in international affairs (cough releasing information just prior to the G-20 Summit cough). The reckless information leaks that have been lauded by the likes of Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin have only served to humiliate the US in world affairs and throw the NSA and General Keith Alexander under the Congressional bus. While Snowden's actions were certainly bold, he forfeited his image as the American patriot through his flight to China and later Russia, two countries with reprehensible policies regarding human rights. Calling Snowden a traitor is a cheap emotional cop-out, but to call him a hero is to glamorize a reckless game with dangerous outcomes.
The Republican party suffered some pretty huge losses in the past few years, including the fight over Obamacare, the 2012 election, and the fight over 2012 fiscal cliff. And now, it looks like they're about to lose once more, over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling.
Why? Frum condenses it down to 7 bad habits: maximalist goals, apocalyptic visions, irrational animus, collapse of leadership, self-reinforcing media, politics as war, and despair.
(I highly suggest you read the article for some great in-depth commentary on these 7 habits.)
A quote from the post that I think is worthy of sharing: "[E]ffective parties make conflict work for them. Hate leads to rage, and rage makes you stupid." He goes on to provide an example in which the Republican party leaders let their rage get to them, which produced an unfavorable outcome for the Republican party as a whole.
And unfortunately, I have to agree with Mr. Frum on that one. It's gotten to the point where the public sees their actions as having stuck a wrench in the works of government and progress. Public opinion of the Republican party has already decreased since the shutdown. How can the Republican party stop these habits from ruining their party's image (and the U.S.'s image in general)? What will have to happen before the Republican party can recover from the blows, or in other words, what will the Republican party need to change? What do you think a Republican presidential candidate in 2016 will have to accomplish and focus on if they want to win?
Posted by Jackie Pei at 6:48 PM
Monday, October 7, 2013
The recent seizure of online black market website "Silk Road" and the arrest of its alleged owner, Ross Ulbricht, has brought the federal government under fire from certain internet circles. Still smarting from recent revelations of so called "domestic spying" by the NSA, civil liberties activists are accusing the federal government of using the arrest as a way to further its alleged anti-privacy agenda. However, it is important to understand that Mr. Ullbricht is simply just another criminal. The charges brought against him in two different states include conspiracy to traffic narcotics, money laundering, conspiracy to murder a witness, and attempt to procure "murder for hire" (Ullbricht allegedly paid a federal agent to kill a rival.). Mr. Ullbricht is no crusader for internet freedom; he is merely a common criminal looking to turn a profit by facilitating the overtly criminal activities of others. The indictment brought against Ullbricht is not an indicator of a tyrannical federal government, but of a legitimate need to act against those who live in blatant and irresponsible contempt of the law. The seizure of his website also brought into the spotlight Tor, an internet engine designed to facilitate anonymity on the web, and Bitcoin, an internet currency that is seen as a way to enable anonymous and easy monetary transactions online (but also seems to be laying the groundwork for tax evasion and money laundering amongst other things.)
What do you think about the government's intent in indicting Ullbricht? How about calls for greater regulation of the internet anonymity in light of this criminal activity?
Also food for thought: Is the internet a right? Does it bring with it a certain right to anonymity and enhanced privacy? Keep in the mind that the internet is a service provided by commercial interests and that anonymity may not be considered a reasonable expectation outside of the computer world...
Boehner has announced in an ABC interview yesterday that "There are not the votes in the House to pass a clean CR [continuing resolution]."
A White House official has responded with: "The administration and Democrats in Congress are asking the speaker to prove that a majority in the House would not vote for the Senate-passed bill to reopen the government by holding an up-or-down vote on the clean continuing resolution."
218 votes are needed to pass the CR; if all 200 democrats and (as of today) the 25 confirmed Republicans all vote in favor of the clean funding bill, and then it would pass swiftly through the Senate and onto the president's desk to sign. No more shutdown.
Why isn't Boehner putting the clean continuing resolution on the floor for a vote? If he's so certain, why not prove it to us all that there really aren't enough votes in the House to pass it? What's the deal with Boehner?
Posted by Jackie Pei at 5:42 PM
Sunday, October 6, 2013
On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve will distribute the new $100 bill, which is designed in a way that will decrease counterfeiting issues. The new bill have more color, a different paper blend, a holographic inkwell, and a 3-d blue strip, which took over 10 years to be created. This is because the $100 bill is the most common bill to be stolen and counterfeited. Currency collectors are keeping their eye on the bills, some of which are willing to pay $15,000 for bills with low serial numbers (e.g. 00000001through 00000100). The most important purpose of the new $100 bill is to decrease the amount of counterfeiting issues within the nation.
Posted by Anonymous at 10:25 PM
Friday, October 4, 2013
On November 2007, Roger Dingledine spoke in an event held by the NSA, talking about his volunteer-run software that enables Internet anonymity. This program is used by millions of people to hide their identities on the online, and it allows information to get from one place to another without identifying where it came from and/or the pathway it took. Tor is very important to journalists and activists in the U.S and other countries in order to communicate without being reprised by their governments.
When former NSA employee Edward Snowden disclosed top-secret NSA information, one of the documents shown revealed that the NSA has been spying on users and unmasking their identities. The NSA was even able to block access to the program once. Human rights groups have been concerned over the fact that the NSA seems to neglect the people's right to privacy. On the other hand, Tor has been used by criminals to transact illegal activities in order to avoid suspicion. Tor still runs today and continues to promote internet privacy and anonymity.
Does the NSA have the right to do spy on us? And if so, to what extent?
Do you support programs such as Tor that enable anonymity, despite the use of such programs for criminal activities?
Additional information: Washington Post, Tor
Posted by Anonymous at 10:49 PM
Thursday, October 3, 2013
President Barack Obama demanded that the Republican-led House of Representatives end the three day government shutdown, but no negotiations have been made so far. The government leaders must compromise quickly to avoid a "catastrophic" default before the debt limit date on October 17. A default, by definition, is when a debtor fails to fulfill his obligations stated in the debt contract. The government has reached its $16.999 trillion limit in May, but despite the U.S Treasury's creative strategies, these will not be enough to meet the nation's obligations on the 17th. Thus, the government could run out of money and end up in a default, which the U.S Treasury warns could cause the economy to disintegrate into a state that is worse than the Great Recession. This would mean that the country's credit rate would drop and "job creation, consumer spending and economic growth" would surely be affected.
House Speaker John Boehner told Republicans that he will not let the government reach the point of a default, and says that if needed, he will pass a measure to prevent this with a slim Republican vote and a largely Democratic vote.
The government's time is running out, and a solution must be made. It's either they work together, or continue this deadlock.
What do you think the next step of the government should be? Is the economy actually going to plummet down as badly as the U.S Treasury claims?
Posted by Anonymous at 3:58 PM
On Thursday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that allowed illegal immigrants to own driver's licenses, making California the tenth state to do this. These licenses would permit illegal immigrants to drive and/or own a car, but a special marking will indicate that such licenses could not be used for federal purposes. Immigrant advocates rejoiced since they have long advocated for a law like this, and they see this as a step towards equality for illegal immigrants. The licenses are to be issued starting January 1, 2015.
How significant is this bill to the immigration reform? Do you think that this bill could influence further immigration reform laws? What is your stance on current immigration policies?
For more information: The Washington Times
Posted by Anonymous at 2:55 PM
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
This afternoon, Obama is calling for a meeting with Congress in order to discuss, and hopefully resolve, the government shutdown, and told CNBC that he feels "absolutely exasperated, because [the shutdown] is entirely unnecessary". The government closed due to the Republican House and the Democratic Senate's failure to compromise on debates over funding and budget bills before the beginning of the new fiscal year; this CNN article further explains the major summaries of the shutdown itself. In the meeting, Obama plans to ask the House to pass a new spending plan without restrictions on the Affordable Care Act and increase the debt ceiling, although it seems likely that GOP leaders are willing to persist against these proposals. White House spokesman Jay Carney stated that Obama does not plan to grant concessions to the Republicans, but rather just focus on reopening the government. We have yet to see what will come after this meeting, but alas, we shall wait.
What do you think of the government shutdown? Do you think that compromise can be made quickly, or will this draw out a little longer than expected?
Posted by Anonymous at 4:33 PM