Friday, January 30, 2015

Are US-Cuba relations really warming up?

On Thursday, eight Republican and Democratic senators introduced legislation that will end restrictions on US travel restrictions to Cuba. This is the first effort Congress has taken in response to President Barack Obama’s move towards normalizing relations with Cuba last month. This bill will end legal restrictions on travel by US citizens and legal residents, while also ending restrictions on banking transactions (related to traveling). So far, there has been strong opposition towards the bill from both parties, but no signs of any new legislation seeking to stop this bill. Hearings on Cuba will be performed in the Senate and the House of Representatives before Congress takes a vote on this bill.

On the other hand, President Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro have started talks with each other in order to achieve the goal of improving relations between the two countries. Last month, both figures announced that they are working towards normalizing relations, but Castro emphasized that any US interference in Cuban internal affairs will make plans of reconciliation meaningless. The United States and Cuba have started negotiations in Havana that include establishing embassies in each nation’s capital. Cuba has also stated that they want to be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, while the United States wants Cubans to have freer access to the Internet. Additionally, Castro demanded that the US trade embargo should be completely lifted, and that the US should hand back the Guantanamo Bay military base to Cuba. Although the US is still contemplating whether or not to lift the embargo, on Friday the United States said that they will not give back Guantanamo Bay to Cuba as a way to improve relations. President Obama believes the naval base should be kept open, but thinks the prison at Guantanamo Bay can be closed.

How do you think Cuba will respond to the United States not giving back Guantanamo Bay? Do you think it will hurt the chances of improving relations?

Do you think it is likely Congress will pass the bill on ending travel restrictions to Cuba? What would be the effects of it on both countries if it were to pass?

Do you think the United States and Cuba will be able to come up with a compromise that'll ultimately strengthen relations between the two countries?

Why is Alvin Smith Still the Deputy Director of the Secret Service?
With the recent failure of protection by the secret service and the ousting of the Director of the Secret Service along with six of its assistant directors many question why Alvin Smith, Deputy Director of the Secret Service, has not been forced to retire as well. Alvin Smith has been working with the agency for over 26 years and has been clearly present in the management of the day to day workings of the agencies in the past years. This includes the past hiccups such as the drone able to penetrate the airspace of the white house, the allowing of a man wielding a knife to be able to charge into the white house and run throughout the first floor before being stopped, and the ordering of agents to leave their posts to help a senior agent in an argument with a neighbor, not to mention the many times of agents being to drunk to maintain composer at their posts. According to a couple of ex- agents of the secret service he posed the largest danger in management of the secret service and not the solution as he is informing the public. However others including congressmen and current agents say he has a proven record as a strong leader and with the ousting of him they would no longer have anybody with his amount of experience in the job and lead to a collapse in the agency.

In addition much controversy comes up with his political connections and how it relates to the securing of his job, most specifically his wife who is President Bill  Clinton's cousin, whom the president along with Hillary Clinton both attended.

Do you feel that Smith has retained his job so a man with experience can keep order in the agency or because he had the right political connection to allow him to keep his job?

Can this same kind of problem with senior heads' failure to adequately manage departments and agencies be seen in other bureaucracies? If so what could some negative implications be.

Is there a need to reform our executive branch to further limit mis-management and the possibilities of this sudo-spoils system?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

To veto or not to veto

(Kane) As of today, Congress has passed a bipartisan bill that mandates the construction of the very controversial Keystone Pipeline. This pipeline is set to go from Canada, through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, and down to Texas. The pipeline will be delivering oil from Canada and proponents say it will not only lower gas prices, but will also create a lot of domestic jobs. The pipeline idea and proposal began in 2010 when gas prices were high along with the unemployment rate. Environmentalists are very worried about this project as it will not only disrupt the environment where it is being built but it will also continue focus on oil and will divert focus from renewable energy sources. Obama has vowed to veto Keystone legislation, and if he does, it will make this the first big piece of legislation he has vetoed ever, with only two smaller vetoes to his name. Democrats are urging him to veto this not only now but in the future as well if/when Republicans reintroduce it in another way. While the bill was bipartisan, there were only nine Democrats that voted with the Republicans leaving them short of the 2/3 vote needed to override Obama's veto. This Keystone Pipeline bill has had weeks and weeks of debates and has 40 amendments that are still being voted on. This monumental bill and issue was a critical point in many of the midterm elections and helped the Republicans get the control they wanted, just not the 2/3 majority they needed. 

I think that this pipeline is a horrible idea, plain and simple. The amount of stress and destruction that will occur to the local environments is enough for me to not support the pipeline in the first place. However, on top of that, there are the long-term effects that it will have along with the very prevalent fact that the more money we throw into getting more and cheaper oil, the less money we are spending on renewable resources like solar and wind energy and even on things such as fracking and nuclear power. Oil is going to run out very soon, and while I do believe that getting oil out of the ground as efficiently as possible is good, creating a huge pipeline to travel dirty oil from the top of the country to the bottom is absolutely ridiculous. I most definitely think that Obama should and will veto this legislation. However, I am worried because his main reason for vetoing it now is that the federal environmental reviews on the project aren't complete yet. Once they are completed, then will he sign it? I sure hope not. 

1) Do you think Obama should veto the bill and why?
2) What are your views on the Keystone Pipeline?
3) Do you believe that Obama will sign the bill in the future? Why or why not? 
4) What are your views on the U.S.'s dependency on oil and whether the pipeline could solve any of this? 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Opponents of same-sex marriage cracking down on the state level

Republican senator Lee Bright of South Carolina
(Gerry Melendez/The State)

While the nation waits for the Supreme Court to make a decision on whether to make same-sex marriage legal nationwide, several state legislators have begun introducing bills that would prevent state or local government employees from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Republican state legislators, such as those in Oklahoma and South Carolina, are proposing these bills despite federal court rulings that regard bans on same-sex marriages unconstitutional, and that the bills will not only prohibit employees from issuing licenses but also cut the salaries of those who do issue them. Additionally, the state of South Carolina has created a bill that would give government employees the option of opting out of issuing marriage licenses to gay couples based on a “sincerely held religious belief”. Utah and other states have even extended this to include judges, mayors, and county clerks the ability to use this alternative too.

Although supporters of same-sex marriage believe most of these bills are unconstitutional and will likely be shot down, the sponsor of the bill, senator Lee Bright of South Carolina, believes that his bill will, in fact, pass. He defends his position by stating how there currently are existing laws that allow healthcare workers to decline to perform abortions on religious grounds, and that there is no reason why this cannot be applied to government employees and gay marriage as well. It seems that regardless of the decisions federal courts have made, the states will continue to do what they think is right. Roy S. Moore, Alabama’s Supreme Court chief justice, even said that he will continue to uphold Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban as there is nothing in the state’s constitution that gives the federal government the right to “redefine” marriage to include gays and lesbians.

Even though polls have shown an increasing support for same-sex marriage, there are still many that remain opposed due to religious beliefs. Several magistrate judges in North Carolina even quit their jobs when the state approved same-sex marriage. While a majority of states (36 states and the District of Columbia) allow same-sex marriage, and that (I predict) the Supreme Court will most likely rule in favor of same-sex marriage, I believe the fight over marriage will not end anytime soon, and that we as a nation still have a long way to go before same-sex marriage is accepted by all.

Do you think a “sincerely held religious belief” is a valid reason for not giving out marriage licenses to same-sex couples?

Should states abide to federal decisions even if those decisions go against their own constitutions?

In regards to the magistrate judges in North Carolina, many quit because they believed that forcing them to perform civil marriages for same-sex couples when they don’t want to was a violation of their right of religious freedom. Do you think this is considered a violation to their rights? Why or why not?
Will Loretta Lynch be affirmed as the new Attorney General?

(Hulse/Apuzzo) As the country knows, Republicans have just taken over control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in eight years. With the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be the new Attorney General, replacing current one Eric Holder, many people, including President Obama himself, are waiting to see how the Republicans will react to their first confirmation hearing and whether or not they will be supportive of this moderate democrat or not. In the hearing, Lynch has been asked many heated questions about her views on issues such as the legality of Obama's immigration plan, her views on dealing with domestic terrorism, and how to balance support of the community and the police force in light of events such as those in Ferguson. Lynch will need at least some Republican support to get affirmed but many senators and other officials are confident that she will get affirmed as she is a good choice "on paper" and because of the fact that many believe she is the best choice Obama could have. 

While a new Attorney General, who is the head of the Department of Justice, may not be the biggest of big deals, though it is undoubtedly a very important role, what is important is how Republicans will react to Obama's nomination. Many people in the country and government, including myself, are naturally very afraid that this new Republican held Congress will mean roadblocks at every step and government inefficiency at its finest. History has proven that having the legislative and executive branches controlled by different parties means a lack of compromise, legislation getting passed, and issues being dealt with. Obama has claimed that he intends to work with Congress as much as possible in order to attempt to avoid this, but he has also threatened to veto all sorts of legislation that the Republicans might pass. So what will happen? Well, who knows. I think that Obama, given that it is his last two years of his second term, will be issuing a lot more vetoes than the two we have seen in the past six years. In terms of Loretta Lynch, however, I think that Republicans will support her as not only is she amazingly well spoken and a strong lawyer, she is also much more moderate than the very liberal Holder, and she is the most likely the most moderate nominee that the Republicans will see for Attorney General so, as Mr. Graham the Republican Senator from South Carolina said, "If not her, who?"

1) Do you think the Republicans will affirm Ms. Lynch as the new Attorney General?
2) How well do you think the Republicans in Congress will work with President Obama? 
3) In what ways do you believe either the Republicans in Congress or the Democrats in the Executive branch can change their attitude or course of action to make government more efficient for the next two years? 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Obama proposes plan to allow drilling in the Atlantic

Obama and his administration have introduced a proposal that would not only open up coastal waters from Virginia to Georgia for oil and gas drilling, but also ban drilling in parts of Alaska such as those located in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. The opening of the Atlantic is seen as a huge opportunity for oil companies based on the Eastern front, and Interior secretary Sally Jewell even stated that this proposal will make resources more accessible and protect areas “simply too special to develop”. The proposal plans to open up ten areas in the Gulf of Mexico, three in the Arctic Ocean, and one in the Atlantic Ocean. All of these areas will be required to have a 50-mile buffer to avoid multiple-use conflicts with other activities such as commercial and recreational fishing. However, the ban on drilling in some Arctic waters have angered several Alaskan lawmakers who are already upset with the new environmental protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. All in all, many believe that this proposal will bring new revenues and help protect the environment in several areas.

While I do see that Obama is trying to appease both the oil industry and the environmentalists by opening up the Atlantic Coast and closing off areas in Alaska, I think the President should be more concerned about the environmental risks this proposal will bring. Personally, I am afraid that offshore drilling on the East Coast will increase the risks of oil spills (such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill), and will only contribute more to the growing issue of global warming and climate change. Furthermore, I believe this proposal is heavily motivated by economic gains and pays little attention to actually improving the environment.

Do you think the opening of Atlantic coastal waters for drilling is worth it despite the environmental risks?

While this proposal does not require congressional approval, public hearings will take place; do you think much of the proposal will get changed?

Is the balance that Obama is trying to create between oil expansion and environmental protection really working or not? Do you believe one side is clearly gaining more from these plans than the other?

The Mormon Church Loves Gays!....well....kind of...

(Boorstein/Ohlheiser) In 2009, top officials from the Mormon church began talks with LGBT advocates on finding a middle ground between their own religious beliefs and equality and protection for the LGBT community. Fast forward six years and they have come to an agreement. The Mormon Church had just put out a statement saying "We must all learn to live with others who do not share the same beliefs or values." What this means and what they are really saying is that they believe in legal protections for LGBT people in areas such as jobs and housing. The church has, however, emphasized that they are not changing their doctrine which states that it is still wrong to be gay and have sex outside of marriage. Reviews on this statement have been mixed but, in general, many LGBT advocates sees this as a real symbolic change in the relationship between the church and the LGBT community. The church has stated that it wants to find a balance between religious freedom and expression as well as supporting safeguards for LGBT people. They believe that mutual respect and an open dialogue is the best way to deal with this "highly polarized national debate.

The Mormon church has always been known for being one of the most conservative sects of Christianity. The LGBT community was horrified of Mitt Romney becoming president because of his strict and conservative views on the LGBT community due to his Mormon faith. And now this! While this announcement may not be the big deal that I like to think that it is, it's kind of still a big deal. To have a very conservative group recognize the importance of gay rights, even though they are religiously opposed to it, is HUGE. There has long been a debate on the balance between rights of one group and freedoms of another such as in the example of religious organizations refusing to supply birth control. How do you balance the two and keep both parties happy? Is that even possible? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't but there is a way to find a middle ground. The Mormon church has opened up a new door that focuses on the RIGHTS and PROTECTIONS of those in the LGBT community instead of focusing on the fact that they are different from what the Mormons see as right or trying to blame them of spreading their "gay agenda" (I just love that term, it's hilarious). What the Mormon church has done, even if in a more symbolic way than I and others may like, is they have recognized that religious beliefs don't mean people shouldn't be protected, no matter what their religion says, because protections and rights are more important than moral disagreements. And that, is truly magnificent. 

1) Do you think it will be possible to balance religious freedom and LGBT rights?
2) Where do you see the issue of gay rights going in the future? Gay marriage and equal protection for everyone? A new amendment? Or it staying how it is?
3) How do you think this statement could affect other issues like contraception and abortion rights? Or will it at all?  

New King, New Policies?

(AlArabiya) On January 23rd, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died due to an illness at the age of 90. His predecessor, King Salman has taken his place and has claimed that he will rule in the same way that his half-brother did. President Obama, who was previously in India with Michelle, has cut his trip short there in order to come to Saudi Arabia to pay his respects to the royal family and King Abdullah whom he had a "warm friendship" with, along with many others in the US government such as current Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Obama and his staff carefully put together a group of people to accompany him on this trip who had “been invested in the Saudi relationship for a long time and who had known King Abdullah well,”according to U.S. deputy National Security advisor Ben Rhodes. The delegation’s intent on the trip, besides paying respects of course, was  to check in on important issues such as ISIS, Yemen, and Iranian nuclear negotiations.

Saudi Arabia and the United States have had a long history of good relations, around 80 years, and it’s very prevalent that our friendly relations continue, because, in my opinion, Saudi Arabia is our most important and essential ally in the Middle East. It is easy to see that if relations with Saudi Arabia went sideways, all of the U.S.’s relations in the Middle East would crumple as well. So, in a way, Saudi Arabia is our glue. With a new King comes a new voice and new opinions on certain issues. Though King Salman has stated he would continue current policies as shown in this article, the U.S. still needs to be slightly wary and make sure to increase communications with the new King so there are no misunderstandings or backward changes in policy. King Salman has a lot of western ties and beliefs so I believe that liberal reforms will continue and that this change in rule could really help with the ongoing strife in the Middle East.


  1. What is your opinion on King Salman and do you think he will move the country forward, backwards, or will keep things the same?
  2. What issues do you think the Obama administration should be discussing with the new King?
  3. Do you think Saudi Arabia is our number one ally in the Middle East or are they not as powerful as we think?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's a drone!

(Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Early Monday morning, a drone weighing about two pounds and about two feet in diameter crashed into a tree on the South Lawn of the White House. The drone went undetected by the White House radar system until it was eventually spotted by a Secret Service officer. However, the Secret Service officers were unable to bring down the drone and were only able to retrieve it after it struck a tree. The White House went under a temporary lockdown until it was confirmed that the drone did not pose a threat. A man called authorities about six hours later to report that he had been the one operating the drone when he suddenly lost control of the device, causing it to accidentally crash onto White House grounds. The drone appears to be a recreational drone that can be purchased easily and cheaply online, and has the capability to possibly carry explosives and other weaponry.

The drone or "quadcopter" device that was found around 3 am on Monday (US Secret Service)

Although small drones have previously violated restricted airspace near the White House, this is supposedly the first time a drone has penetrated the White House perimeter, concerning the public and government officials. This also questions the ability of the Secret Service in protecting the President and his family, as past events such as the 2011 shooting incident at the White House illustrate the Secret Service’s poor response to these situations. Additionally, officials have stated that the Secret Service currently does not have a way to easily identify and stop a typical drone, and that the Service has been working on finding a solution for many years already.

What is your opinion of the Secret Service? Do you think it should consider reforming the way it handles these types of situations?

In what ways do you think the White House can better protect itself from outside attacks? (For instance, installing more surveillance cameras, having a higher fence, etc.)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Is Obama's Proposal Too Much?

Obama has recently brought up much controversy over executive powers with his proposal of protection of a large refuge in Alaska.Though only congress can enact the refuge from now until the verdict of the refuge, the area is to be protected. This refuge is where polar bear, caribou and other endanger animals mate and give birth and are extremely detrimental to their survival as a species however this also marks a plot of land that has billions untapped of barrels of oil ready to feed into the US economy. Environmentalist applaud Obama for the federal government finally taking into account the importance of the environment and the immediate effect it has on the future. However Conservative Economist or heavily scrutinizing Obama on over using his executive power, outright ignoring the bipartisanship he spoke of in the state of the union address, and destroying future economic progress. Personally as an economic liberal and an environmentalist, I am overjoyed that the federal government can finally put value in life and the health of the environment versus simply monetary gain so we can still procure a possible future that does not entail an uninhabitable earth

Is Obama being too aggressively liberal in his proposals? Is this unfair to the wants of the people and the Governor of Alaska as the might have little say in the matter on their own industry.

Does this bill stand any chance in an all Republican Congress? If no could Obama just simply be trying to state a message?

Do you believe this action reflects Obama’s wants of bipartisanship that he clearly emphasized in SOTU 15?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

(Joe Ravi, CC-BY-SA 3.0) 
This past Friday, the Supreme Court announced its decision to review a case on new lethal injection drug protocol used in death penalty executions.

The new procedure, only months old in practice, is similar to the old approach for lethal injection, but contains more of the "sedative midazolam" in the three part procedure of sedating, paralyzing, and stopping the heart. The Justices are looking to see whether this new procedure is considered "cruel and unusual punishment" (which is banned by the Constitution) since some previous injections have had claims of hurting or creating discomfort while being administered. Additionally, according to this article, Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted testimony "indicating that the application of the paralytic drug might render midazolam ineffective but it would be impossible to know whether the inmate was conscious."

The last time the court examined a case on lethal injection was 7 years ago in the 2008 Baze v. Rees case, where they rejected a challenge to lethal injections, deeming "pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not [qualify] as cruel and unusual." While the majority of Justices (5) did not want to review another case on the Constitutionality of lethal injections, the four liberal members voted to accept the case. As we've learned in class, it only takes four of the court's nine judges to review a case, and thus will hear the case Glossip v. Gross in April and announce their decision this June.

Upon further research, I discovered that the main reason for this new sedative in the past few years was because the old substances used are simply harder to obtain now, since many European suppliers have stopped allowing American purchase of it for moral reasons. The US then scrambled to find new drugs in time. I also found out that this new dosage has been used in Florida in 11 executions since 2013, as well as in three other states. Out of the four states, 3 reported having problems with the drug and errors in administering it, which makes me believe that these drug may be an imperfect quick replacement to earlier drugs. Regardless of whether you morally believe in the death penalty or not, I think most can agree that this is a very serious situation that must be regarded more carefully.


1. Do you think this new drug is worthy of (re)evaluation in the Supreme Court?

2. While the majority of the Justices are against reviewing this case, the four that are seem to stand quite strongly with it. Do you have any predictions on the verdict?

3. What's your personal take on the Constitutionality of the new drug?

Trump or Palin in 2016?

Palin was in Iowa on Friday to speak to a group of conservatives at the Iowa Freedom Summit. While there, Palin stated in an interview that she is "seriously interested" at a presidential bid in 2016. She says, “Who wouldn’t be interested when they have been blessed with opportunities to speak about what is important to this country and for this country?” However, Palin has also stated that she is still considering her political future and has not yet made a decision on whether she will run
Also at the Iowa Freedom Summit was Donald Trump, another public figure who has voiced an interest at running in the 2016 election. During his speech, Trump made jabs at both Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. "He choked. He had that election won." in regards to Romney. As for Bush, he claimed that his support for Common Core and the legalization of undocumented immigrants was too liberal. Trump says that he is also seriously considering running for president in the 2016 elections, however he had said the exact same thing in many past election years (1988, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 for a few examples).

My Question to You:
How serious do you think these two are when it comes to running for president? (Trump especially)
By the 2016 election, we’ll all be voting age.Can you imagine seeing Palin or Trump’s name on the ballot?
Would you vote for either of them?

The House Passes an Anti Abortion Bill

Thursday was the 42nd anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade case. 
Thursday was also the annual March for Life. 
Oh, and it was also the day that the GOP controlled House passed an anti abortion bill, which was actually a watered down version of their original proposal. The original bill was contested due to wording which would have allowed women who were raped to terminate their pregnancies after the 20 week gestation period--if they reported the rape to the police. The bill passed almost along party lines with one Republican voting against the bill and three Democrats voting for it.
The bill bans the use of federal funds for most abortion coverage. The bill will also block tax credit for anyone or any employer who purchases abortion coverage under Obamacare. Already there have been threats of a filibuster in the Senate and the White House has confirmed that President Obama will veto the bill should it ever appear on his desk.

My Question to You:
Do you think that abortions should be legal no matter how late in the pregnancy?
How do you view the exceptions to the bill? (incest, harm to the mother)

The Happiest Place on Earth and Measles

 A recent outbreak of measles has been linked to the Happiest Place on Earth--Disneyland. 48 of the 68 reported cases of measles has been linked to visits to Disneyland between December 15-20 and Disney has confirmed that 5 of its employees have also contracted measles.
    In 2000, the US had declared that measles had been eliminated from inside its borders. However, last year was a record breaking year of reported cases of measles. Turns out, “elimination” means does not mean that there were not and will not be more cases of measles inside its borders. Rather, it means that the it is no longer endemic and any more cases would be from those visiting the country. In fact, the CDC defines measles elimination as 12 months or more without “continuous disease transmission” in a geographic area.

    Before 1963, when vaccinations become relatively more routine, measles infected 3-4 million people each year. Since the elimination in 2000, roughly 37-220 cases have been reported in the US each year. In 2014, however, the number increased to 644 cases.
 This recent outbreak has brought back the debate about vaccinations. After a paper came out in 1998 arguing against vaccinations (which was retracted in 2012), the anti-vaccination movement has arisen. Many argue that getting vaccinations would be similar to injecting their children with “poison”. Some even cite the retracted paper and claim that by getting their children vaccinated they are setting them up for autism (even though research done since then has proven that vaccinations are not directly linked to those who develop autism later).
    The vaccination records of only 34 of the infected are known, and all but 6 of these 34 are not vaccinated. California public health officials are telling the public that the best way to prevent yourself from contracting measles is to get vaccinated. If you already got the vaccine, then you have nothing to worry about when it comes to the measles outbreak.

My Question to You:
Do you agree or disagree with parents getting their children vaccinated? Why?
Would you still go to Disneyland despite the outbreak? Why or why not?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Are Relations with Cuba Even Possible?

After Obama’s State of the Union speech, it left many very optimistic for the future of foreign policy especially for the reuniting of the governments of the US and Cuba. (Personally I believed this proposal to be a no brainer; It would be a bipartisan agreement and that we would just resume our previous relationship.) This is however a much more difficult situation then the very optimistic president originally gave off. Though both governments are optimistic in resuming a relationship, there are large matters where both countries hold very different points of view. Such matters include human rights violations and the fact that Cuba is a socialist single party country or in other words a dictatorship. Cuba has also been known in the past to aiding terrorist and therefore is on a US list of countries that we directly say we do not trust. Beyond these large points of controversy; there are matters of establishing embassies and determining how migration will work between the two countries. Regardless of how optimistic the two countries are there is going to be a long path in negotiations and the usual plan of pressuring another country will not work in changing Cuba’s policies.

Other than lifting the embargo, what do you believe is the most important steps in resuming a healthy relation with Cuba?
Assuming that congress lifts the embargo, how will this new economic relation effect our own economy?

Do you believe that Obama’s main intent to resume relations with Cuba is to ensure its end of supporting terrorist activities such as aiding ISIS, Russia, and North Korea; will the US even be able to change Cuban foreign policy if they still do knowing that or 50 year embargo was not successful and we have very little leverage now.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Half of America likes Obama!

New polls have come out showing that President Obama's approval rating has reached 50%, almost a 10% increase from his 41% approval rating in November during the midterm elections. This is the biggest approval bump since the mission that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011 (Washington Post).

While these numbers still lie under a majority, as we've learned in class, it's extremely common for president approval ratings to fall during the 2nd year of his second term. This is because people generally are ready for a "change" by this point and the initial hype of the president has subsided, along with the initial hope that this president shall be the one who turns everything around. After the once idealistic goals become implemented into real programs and legislation, people will inevitably get pissed off that it wasn't exactly what they were promised or it isn't working the rosy way they believed it would.

The Washington Post article also correlates this approval bump with the prospering economy. As we've learned in class, "It's the economy, stupid." In October, 27 of the sample size rated the economy in a positive light; this recent poll revealed that that number has now jumped to 41%. Furthermore, 91% of those who support Obama's economic record also approve of him in general. When the economy is doing well, everyone loves the president.


1. Do you think there are any other reasons behind the spike in approval?
2. Do you think Obama is deserving of this high rating (due to his successful economic endeavors) or do you think he just got lucky?

Obama's free two-year community college proposal

(Denver Post)

In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, President Obama called for free community college education as part of many new, bold steps to helping the middle class economically and socially.

On the surface, this plan seems laudable and promising. It is not hard to believe, after all, that a high school degree promises less and less success in the job market as it used to, and not only drags people behind individually but as a nation as well. In his speech, Obama claimed that "by the end of this decade two in three jobs will require a some higher education." This program would save the average student almost $4,000 and help anyone from teenagers to veterans. However, proposals in speeches like this one are always given to simplicity and ambiguity, so I think it's ultimately too early to deem this program good or bad or viable.

First, I fear that without stricter guidelines this program may waste tax dollars on students who are not actually in need of financial aid, since this applies to all students. Many times students go to community college because they cannot afford private colleges, but can afford community college. Furthermore, the administration claims that the average full-time student would save $3,800 in tuition per year, which is applied before other federal aid is calculated, such as additional Pell Grants, for example (insidehighered). The lack of targeting funds may lead the American government to spending money where it isn't most needed.

Another one of my concerns is the fact that accessibility is only one aspect of getting a college education. It is important to make sure that the students not only can enroll, but that they are also able to succeed in their courses, graduate in a timely matter, and be able to easily apply their degrees into the job market. Obama did mention that community colleges would work directly with companies to make sure the degrees fit the jobs in high demand right now, which I think is a commendable move. However, in the Tennessee and Chicago free tuition policies (which Obama saw as promising, smaller projects of his own) not only reformed the price of a college education, but also offered "close monitoring of student progress, careful alignment of courses to transfer and job requirements, clearer and more coherent programs of study" etc as a part of a larger reform initiative (TIME). I think this is the way to go to guarantee educational prosperity, since it completely follows the student from enrollment to graduation, whereas a $0 price tag only initiates the education process.

My last concern is the cost. The White House estimates this program costing $6 billion a year, with states paying for 25% of this subsidy (TIME). I fear that either states will refuse to raise that much money or that money will only be shifted in the bureaucracy so that previous funds are reallocated to other departments, ultimately not giving the colleges and program much new money.

Despite these concerns, I think President Obama is taking an admirable step forward and creates an open discussion in the democratic party (especially possible presidency candidates) on higher education for all citizens.


1. Do you support Obama's proposal?
2. What concerns do you have for his plan?
3. Why do you think he'd propose such a bold plan when the Republican-controlled Congress will (very likely) not pass it through?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015 SOTU The Economy- Is There Any Hope On Bipartisan Agreement?

With the Recent State of the Union ,Obama spoke extremely positively of his government in all areas especially in the economy and spoke about how bipartisan the parties should agree on his newest reform ideas. For this first blog post I will only be concerned on his ideas regarding the economy.
His biggest concern was improving the economy for the middle class. His plan to do this is with a number of reforms starting with the proposal of mandatory paid sick leave for all employs over a period of seven days. This proposal on the surface sounds like a great idea but the more I thought about it the more I thought that it could really hurt smaller, family businesses that could not afford to have such cover, something I have seen with my grandmothers business.
His next proposal was a bill that would ensure that all women would be guaranteed to be paid the same as men. Something that many think is no longer a problem though when one looks at the statistics it is undeniable that women are being paid less than men for the same job. I believe this could definitely be a bipartisan agreement no only for its great effects in wage equality but its reminder that sexism still exists.
The following proposal instructed a raise to the minimum wage something that he stated was a clear necessity for people to survive in today's economy. I agree that today's minimum wage is not at a necessary level to be able to live off of however with raising the minimum wage does raise concerns of the effects on inflation and its effects on small businesses; will it be beneficial for the lower class and detrimental on the middle class and upper class business owner or will it simply improve the average quality of life- only time will tell.
Obama touched on education afterwards and its necessity for it to be cheaper to solve this problem he is proposing to make community college free. Once again on the surface this sounds amazing however community college is already relatively cheap, people don’t tend having trouble paying for community college, it is universities where people struggle to pay for college and garner up large amounts of debts and is where I believe many wish Obama was lower tuition.  
In accordance with this making education cheaper Obama also proposed being able to lower ones payments  on student loan, 10% of their disposable income once again this raises my question in how he plans on paying for this program and how he would get republican support.
Lastly Obama wanted to help lower income families. He plans on doing this through better child support policies and by ending the tax loopholes for the rich which he states the money could be used for programs such as this child support. My inquiries regarding this how would he get republican support on ending tax cuts for the rich and how will he get support from the republican on the 320 million dollar budget which will be taxing the rich harder than ever necessary to pay for this new child support. While a lot of these programs sound great, I’m not sure how beneficial most of these programs are let alone how he will get republican support on all of the new taxes required to pay for all programs.

How do you feel about Obama’s Economic proposals?( Paid sick leave, women payed the same as men, raise of the minimum wage, free community college, lowering of student loan payments, child support increase, cutting of tax loopholes), What do you like?, what are your concerns? What programs do you think the republicans will pass?

2015 SOTU Address

     Last night, President Obama gave his annual State of the Union Address. In his address, Obama laid out his to-do list for 2015. This list included making the first two years of community college free, a minimum wage increase, reduction of student loan payments, an infrastructure plan, etc. 
     While many Democrats seemed to appreciate and applaud Obama's speech, Republicans were not as excited. Many leading Republicans shot back at Obama, claiming that he did not address middle class issues. House Speaker John Boehner declared that Obama's "regulatory onslaught squeezes the very middle-class families he claims to be trying to help." While freshman Republican Joni Ernst claims that "The new Republican Congress also understands how difficult these past six years have been." Others voiced their concerns over the fact that President Obama did not address the middle class enough in last night's speech.

My Question to you: In his address, President Obama proposed ideas that have the possibility of helping the middle class (i.e minimum wage increase) but Republicans still claim that he is hurting them. Do you agree with the Republicans on this issue or the Democrats? Why? 

PS: Watch this video of John Boehner's best faces during the SOTU Address

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Anti-Terrorism- Beneficial or destructive?

David Cameron speaking at a press conference with Barack Obama in the White House

After the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, anti-terrorism defense has increased exponentially along side with anti islamic sentiments. After the massacre in paris, belgium police officers had another fire fight with suspected islamic extremist leading to multiple deaths and wounded- further escalating the anti-islamic sentiments. Such sentiments have also led to anti islam protest in Prague along with another anti islam protest in Germany that was called off because of threats of violence. There have also been protest against Charlie Hebdo in Palestine where the french flag was burned and in Gonzy where there is a large muslim community in Russia. With this growing tension, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has announced that they will start to reach out to other countries affected with terrorism such as Turkey, Egypt and Yemen to share intelligence on activities and airliner passenger information to aide with “security and anti-terror co-operation". she also added the necessity to improve communication with the arab speaking world to better understand their culture and there messages.

However peaceful those action plans have been there are also more direct action taking place as a result of the recent terrorist attacks beyond the massive increase of police in the EU. David Cameron the English Prime minister has recently visited the US to have discussions with Obama over the anti terrorism push back. They spoke of the poisonous fanatical extremism and how they will fight the long struggle to patiently defeat terrorism, and states that they will confront terrorism wherever it appears. Though both the EU and David Cameron's discussion were mostly directed about confrontation of terrorism domestically, with his language such as "confrontation" does not stop me from thinking that with these growing escalation and the recent attacks has acted as a catalyst for future “war against terrorism” or continuation of such war against such groups as ISIS. With police and anti terrorism forces quick to the trigger  we may being seeing a lot more violence to come as we have seen in belgium.

On the positive side with these attacks we may be merely bringing up wounds and hatred from the past more to light and give such communities a chance to correctly heal such wounds and gain better connection with the arab world as the EU foreign policy chief has proposed.

Do you believe these past events mark the beginning to better relation with arab countries to prevent terrorism or are merely acting as a precursor to future war and violence between US and EU forces against terrorist and Arab countries with large Muslim communities.

With The last visit of Cameron Davids Prime Minister of England in the US, do you think this marks a point of growth of US intervention in anti terrorism activity, if so to what extent?