Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Worldwide Market Crisis?

Markets all over the world seem to be facing a variety of economic downfalls of different proportions.  Just last week, the Argentine peso declined 13%.  Other currencies such as the lira from Turkey, the rupee from India, the real from Brazil, and the rand from South Africa have declined as well.   Emerging markets have been under pressure since.  London’s FTSE 100 fell 1.7%, dropping down to 6,550 points by the end of the day yesterday.  The Vodafone network lost 3.8%, after American competitor AT&T stated they have no imminent plan to launch a takeover of the network. Emerging markets lost as well, such as India's Sensex which fell 2%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index which also lost 2%.  

Many see these market downfalls as another example of the emerging market crisis that occurred in the 1990s.  Chairman/CEO of Marketfield Asset Management Michael Shaoul sees this as “the most severe period of under-performance by emerging markets since 1998,” but there are also people who think otherwise.  Wasif Latif, who manages $57 billion for USAA Investments, believes the opposite.  He thinks “[t]he sell-off we’re seeing [worldwide] is not tremendous compared to history [such as the last crisis in 1997-1998.]”   What do you think? Does this seem like a short term problem, or something like the market crisis of the late 90's or worse? What do you think governments should do to fix these dropping markets?

Main Article
Photo 1
Additional Information // Photo 2

Joe Biden Cries on National TV

Did you see that winking action? That closing piece with Sargent Corey would make a robot cry, even a politician. John Boehner has a reputation of being a crier. Well then, I guess it is now officially OK for American men to cry when they are emotional. This is a good thing. Was it a good speech? I'm looking forward to seeing your thoughts after the student bloggers get some threads going in the coming days.

Flying high? Not anymore! Shot down by SCOTUS

William Hoeper, an airline pilot, won a defamation case against Air Wisconsin Airline Corp. for $1.2 million. However, the Supreme Court has decided in a 6-3 vote to overturn that ruling on the basis of an act called the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, which was enacted as a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This act protects airlines reporting to the Transportation Security Administration unless they are providing information that they know is either untrue or recklessly unlikely to be true. This standard is known as "actual malice" and was established in a 1964 Supreme Court case, New York Times v. Sullivan.

Poor guy! Is this the right decision? Is the Court setting the standard too high for libel and defamation with actual malice? Are they giving the airlines too much power to trample on employees because of an act that was enacted out of fear after 9/11? It's not a unanimous vote, in fact it is far from it. Among the dissenting, Justice Scalia stated that he thought the statements by the supervisor were exaggerated and misleading, and that the court had gone too far trying to apply the standard to this case. However, he did agree with the legal standard they set. Is he right? Did the Court perhaps go too far by using this case to prove a point? I'm sure it wouldn't be the first time, but should the Supreme Court really be using cases to prove legal standards and set precedents even if the ruling is most likely too extreme for the case itself? Personally, I think it's a little unfair for those individuals, but do share what you think!

To read more:
Chicago Tribune article
LA Times article
Wall Street Journal article
New York Times article
ABA Journal article
P.S. some of these articles have some info on other interesting recent Supreme Court cases if you want to check those out.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Supreme Court accepts Fourth Amendment case

Source: The SCOTUS Blog

The Supreme Court decided to review the case Navarette v. California, a case involving Fourth Amendment rights regarding whether searches and seizures based on an anonymous phone tip are "unreasonable" or not. It would be a very good idea to read the linked source above first to get the full background on the case before proceeding.

As the blog post describes, the brief submitted by the Navarettes' lawyers argues that this case falls within the precedent set by a previous case, Florida v. J.L., in which the Court ruled that an anonymous tip without corroboration was not sufficient to warrant the stopping and searching of a person on the street on the suspicion that he/she was carrying a gun. However, as the lawyers representing California contend, there is a difference between a person walking on the street and one engaging in reckless driving because the latter poses a more immediate and direct threat to other citizens than the former. Because of this and the fact that the person giving the tip is an eyewitness, it would not be "unreasonable" for police to stop someone for reckless driving without corroborating the tip or having seen that person commit a traffic violation themselves. Thus, the Court may rule that the case doesn't fall within the previous precedent set by Florida v. J.L.

One particularly interesting tidbit I noticed in this post came at the very end. The post describes that the brothers have picked up the support of two defense associations, while California has received the support of 32 other states and D.C. as amici. With such a lopsided difference in the amici for each side, it seems to me that California is all but guaranteed to win the review, considering the number of amici alone. It also appears that the Court may want to uphold the lower court's ruling simply to set a precedent that will resolve disagreement among lower courts regarding this issue.

Some questions to consider: In which direction do you think the Court will rule? How much influence do you believe the amicus briefs will/should have on the Court's decision? Do you think the Court will/should give more consideration to the arguments presented by California's supporters because they're states as opposed to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Federal Defenders?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Progress for Syria?

Source: CNN

On Saturday, representatives from Syria's opposition voted to attend peace talks in Geneva aimed at drawing up plans for a transitional post al-Assad government. While on the surface, it sounds like good news and that we may be making progress toward a peaceful solution to the civil war, the CNN article explains several points that may suggest otherwise.

First of all, al-Assad seems to be pummeling the under-armed and fractured opposition at the moment, and little foreign military aid has been given to the rebels to change this. Seeing as the Syrian regime is currently winning the war but will not be visiting Geneva, this all but renders the peace talks pointless at this time. Additionally, with al Qaeda gaining strength and numbers within the opposition, al-Assad can use his fighting against the terrorists to paint himself as a sort of hero. Thus, due to the two points above, it is becoming less and less feasible to remove him from power through peaceful methods. Finally, even though peace talks have begun, the humanitarian crisis within Syria is dire and needs to be resolved as soon as possible, perhaps through more efficient means than peace talks.

When these talks were conceived, the assumption seemed to be that al-Assad would be losing the war and would be under significant international pressure to step down. However, this clearly hasn't been the case, and the article suggests that this may have been the fault of countries like the US who refused to intervene earlier in the war to aid the disadvantaged rebels in their cause. On the other hand, there are many who do believe that the US learned from prior failed interventions and made the right decision not to intervene in Syria considering the possible costs in both life and dollars involved. Do you think the US's non-interventionist stance with regards to Syria was the correct decision? If we did decide to intervene, would the correct approach be to arm the rebels or directly neutralize al-Assad's forces? What differentiated Syria from Libya, in which a NATO-led series of airstrikes successfully turned the tide of the conflict away from Gaddafi and in favor of the rebels? What, if anything, can be done to resolve the humanitarian crisis on the ground in Syria?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Expect (moderate) NSA reforms in Obama's NSA speech Friday

Background: Washington PostUSA TodaySlate

Obama is expected to announce reforms to the NSA in a speech he will give at the Justice Department on Friday. Among these proposed changes are new restrictions on the collection of American phone records and greater privacy protections for non-US citizens, a move aimed at quelling European fears and outrage at the NSA's data collection programs. However, many expect that these changes will be modest in scope and far from a sweeping overhaul of the NSA due to the fact that Obama must strike a balance between appealing to an American public upset with the NSA's privacy violations and retaining the support of his national security circles, who believe that changes to what they see as an essential counter-terrorism tool will needlessly diminish the agency's counter-terrorism capabilities.

Perhaps more noteworthy is the fact that Obama is likely to leave much of the responsibility for coming up with NSA reforms to a divided Congress instead of pursuing changes to the agency himself. If I'm not mistaken, I believe he does have the authority to pursue an overhaul of the agency, and yet here he is, giving the responsibility to Congress. Does he really believe that Congress will better represent the will of the people regarding NSA matters, or is he simply trying to shift some of the blame over to Congress? Hmm. In addition, some are criticizing him for giving up too much of his executive powers by turning this issue over to Congress, but seeing as the president has increased his power relative to Congress over the past few decades, might this move be shifting the balance of power back toward equilibrium?

Do you think the changes Obama will announce to the NSA should be greater or lesser than the changes people expect him to propose? What do you make of his shifting of the responsibility for reforms over to Congress? How, if at all, will it affect the balance of power between the president and Congress in the future?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What constitutes a constitutional recess appointment?

Why, how perfect! Now that we're learning about the judiciary after having recently finished the bureaucracy chapter, along comes this story, which incorporates both!

Before you continue, you should get yourself up to speed by reading these two articles from the Washington Post:
This article talks about the initial ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
This article talks more about the questions that the Supreme Court needs to address as well as how it is likely to rule.

As explained in the second article, in this case, NLRB v. Noel Canning, the Pepsi bottling company lost a NLRB ruling and challenged it by challenging the legitimacy of the members that Obama had appointed as recess appointments in January 2012. During this time, even though most senators had left to take time off, the Senate was still having pro forma sessions (according to the Senate website, these are brief, minutes-long meetings in which no business is conducted) every few days to prevent the president from making recess appointments, since the Senate was still technically "in session" and not "in recess." Thus, according to the Constitution, the president may have had no authority to make these recess appointments if the Senate was never in recess in the first place, and that is exactly how the D.C. Circuit ruled.

As explained beautifully yet again in the second article, the Supreme Court needs to address three issues: 1) what constitutes a "recess," 2) whether the president can fill already existing vacancies or only vacancies that occur during the recess, and 3) whether the president can make recess appointments when the Senate is having pro forma sessions in which no business is conducted. The justices will need to be deliberate in how they rule because this is a case with the potential to significantly restrict the president's power and one that has no existing precedent to guide them. Even though the purpose of the recess appointment has changed over the years, from dealing with an absent Senate to overcoming a resistant one, presidents, both Democratic and Republican, have maintained the practice of making recess appointments for around 200 years, and this is something that, in my opinion, the Supreme Court likely cannot ignore. Personally, I think the Supreme Court may be hesitant to issue a ruling that would severely limit the president's appointment powers and significantly shift the Senate-president power balance like the D.C. Circuit decision does.

Then, is the de facto precedent in this case set with the presidents' practice of making recess appointments? Since it is not a legal precedent, can the Supreme Court ignore it? How do you think the Supreme Court should/will rule on the three issues above or in general, and why? If the original intent of the recess appointment was to allow the president to make appointments when travel was slow and the Senate could not be physically present, just how relevant or necessary are they today?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pro-life gone way to far


An extremely troubling case has been developing since November in Texas, regarding a man and his brain dead wife. After suffering a blood clot in her lungs, Marlise Munoz fell brain dead. However, at this time, Marlise was 14 weeks pregnant. Marlise and husband had made a plan that if anything were to happen to them so that they became brain dead or needed life support, they agreed that they would want to be allowed to die. In the wake of Marlise’s tragedy, her husband and parents made the difficult decision to end her life, but the hospital in Texas where she was receiving life support wouldn’t let them.  Texas state law “states that a person may not withdraw or withhold ‘life-sustaining treatment’ from a pregnant patient”(Fernandez, Eckholm).

Proponents of anti-choice legislation as this one in Texas defend their actions and opinions on the basis of the sanctity of life. That is, respect for human life in all of its forms. Well what about the sanctity of life in death? Where the hell is the respect for human life when Marlise Munoz is being used as a human incubator for an unborn fetus?

I urge everyone to read an article about this case; it raises important dilemmas about a person’s rights and entitlements for when they die, the authority of the Texas legislature, and the abortion debate. Please comment on these themes as you see fit.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Aitzaz Hasan

CNN article

Aljazeera article

(Various articles spell Aitzaz's name differently; I am unsure of which one is correct.)

At a school in Pakistan, Aitzaz Hasan Bangash was killed when he confronted a suicide bomber trying to break into the school, saving the 2000 students inside. Aitzaz tackled the bomber, who then panicked and detonated the bomb, killing them both. Aitzaz was fifteen years old. He has now been recommended for Sitara-e Shujaat, Pakistan's highest civilian honor for bravery.

I don't have a lot of specific, political commentary for this event. In fact, the event's connection to AP Government is probably not as strong as posts on this blog are supposed to be ideally, but I wanted to talk about it nonetheless. My question for this post is this: Is the United States obligated to try and intervene in other nations where civilians are at the kind risk Aitzaz faced? Political neutrality is very safe, and America already has its reputation as the world's unwanted policeman, but when I hear stories such as this one, it is sometimes hard to grasp the idea that the best route is to not act and let it be. Also, I understand that the answer to the posed question has a lot of grey area, so don't feel obliged to, I don't know, sound really sure of yourself or anything.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sam sex marriage story in Utah UPDATE


Today the Obama administration announced that it will recognize the some 1,300 marriages between that took place in Utah since December 20th and that these married couples will be “eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same sex marriages” (Holder). Eric holder issued a statement confirming these marriages legitimacy at the federal level, but their legitimacy in the state of Utah is still murky, and receiving state benefits is still a battle.

This was an important victory for same sex couples in Utah today, but they still have a lot to go through. In addition, we have another interesting case of federalism. If the federal government recognizes these marriages as legal and eligible for couple’s benefits, should the state be forced to as well? Also at work here is an interesting dynamic between the courts. However, this is extremely detailed and difficult to explain in a concise manner. (For a good summary of what’s going and the background to this case go here: http://www.scotusblog.com/2013/12/utahs-same-sex-marriage-ban-falls/)

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Photo Chris Christie

Demeaning Cartoon of Chris Christie

For four days in last September, all but one lane closed in the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, New Jersey, bringing cars to a standstill. Why does this matter? Well, it has come to light that certain members of the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's administration were involved in closing the traffic lanes to spite Democratic opposition. Currently, the extent to which Christie knew what was going on in the scandal that has now been dubbed Bridgegate is unclear, even after a two hour long press conference with Christie.

A recurring theme in our AP Gov't discussions is the structure of the state government, both in relationship to the nation as a whole and to the individual state itself; this scandal happens to be one that significantly affected both. My question is this: supposing Christie had no idea any of this disgraceful plotting was going on, is it still his job to take responsibility for the Bridegate scandal? As the chief elected executive of New Jersey, isn't his job to oversee all pressing issues that affect his state? What issues absolutely require his focus and oversight, and what issues can be delegated to lower aides and administrators? What do you think?

"I have no idea what this post is referencing and need general information"

"I would like an update on what happened to the people involved in the traffic scandal."

"Why is Christie being so fishy?"

"I wish I knew eight things Christie said at his vague press conference."

Basketball game in North Korea


In celebration of Kim Jun Un;s 31st birthday, the retired basketball player, Dennis Rodman, recruited a group of 40 and 50 year old retired basketball players to play in an exhibition game against a North Korean basketball team. The game took place yesterday in Pyngnong. This was Rodman’s fourth visit to North Korea in the last year. He has claimed to be trying to open up relations between the US and Korea, but in light of what happened in the last two days, he is obviously pitifully ignorant to the political atmosphere in North Korea and its connection to the US.

The exhibition game began as a pretty hilarious news story for most people, but on Wednesday, when Chris Cuomo asked Rodman if he would use this opportunity to help Kenneth Bae, the imprisoned US citizen, Rodman erupted into an incoherent and highly offensive rant. (check it out here: http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/world/2014/01/07/newday-cuomo-dennis-rodman-kenneth-bae-cutdown.cnn.html).

The players have said that they have no political intentions, but what are some of the political byproducts that could result from this game having been played? Is it time to stop strong-handing North Korea and instead try to ease tensions through basketball games and maybe hot dog eating contests? I’m being facitious, but it’s a legitimate question.