Monday, January 31, 2011
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I wanted to post this raw footage from Cairo this morning, one day after the most violent protests in recent history. What you are watching is a group of Egyptian policemen attempting to clear a street which leads to Tahir Square, a major protest site over the past few days. The police subsequently fired shotguns into the air and the Egyptian police moved tanks in front of the rock-wielding protesters to shield them from the line of fire. If there is an onslaught of violence between the police, who are currently guarding the presidential palace, and the military, who show signs of increasingly strained relations with dictator Hosni Mubarak, we could very well see some sort of revolution take place within the next few days.
Over the past two years, President Obama has managed to avoid a political showdown regarding same-sex marriage, but two pending federal lawsuits are now threatening this fragile balancing act. To date, executive officials have been upholding the Defense of Marriage Act (which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriage) by citing their duty to defend Acts of Congress. In general, the Obama Administration has previously been able to downplay 'family value' issues in the last two elections, which normally tend to get a lot of conservative voters to the polls. More attention has been put on the economy and jobs in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
Democratic legislators across the country have also been grappling with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) issues concerning marriage over the past decade. California voters passed the infamous Prop 8 Law in 2008, which denied same-sex couples the short-lived right to marry -- 173 days to be exact. But Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown refused to defend the prop in court, which basically ended up nullifying the voter-passed initiative. The Obama Administration is essentially facing the same dissonance between its responsibility to defend the law of the land, or force the federal courts to prove why there has to be a separate set of laws for the gay community.
The New York Times reported today that "Some conservatives have accused the administration of throwing the fight by not invoking other arguments, like morality. And in particular, lawmakers' primary focus in 1996," (when DOMA passed), "was 'encouraging responsible procreation and child-rearing....' [but] other cases disavowed that rationale, noting that infertile heterosexuals may marry and citing studies that children raised by same-sex parents are as likely to be well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexuals."
Not only should Obama ask himself whether certain individuals' moral beliefs should be imposed onto everybody else -- which they shouldn't -- but he should also ask himself whether or not he learned anything at Harvard Law School. I find it hard to balance the fact that our president studied constitutional law at the most prestigious university in the world, and also thinks that gay people should have a 'separate' institution of marriage called civil-union, 'but equal' in that it affords them all the same rights. How can he square this rationale when everything history teaches us tells us different?
The Obama Administration has until March 11 to decide whether or not to defend DOMA. The United States is indeed exceptional, and as the president noted in the SOTU, we were the first country in history to be founded on an idea -- that all men are created equal, and possess the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I hope our administration makes the decision to live up to these firmly held values.
NY Times: Lawsuits on Same-Sex Marriage May Force Administration to Take a Stand
Washington Post: Cairo falls into near anarchy; army warns it will treat protesters as criminals
Friday, January 28, 2011
The Commerce Department released a report today showing the US Economy sped up it's growth rate in the last quarter of 2010 to 3.2%, up from 2.6%. As Americans felt comfortable buying again during the holiday season, and businesses are increasing funding for equipment and software, economists are hoping these numbers will be coupled with investments in new workers as well.
The real story, however, will be unraveling over the next few days. And that is, who will take credit for the strong growth rate? President Obama obviously has reason to claim his policies have turned the economy around, with hundreds of pieces of legislation promoting growth to prove his point. But, I would not at all be surprised if Republicans claim the growth is due to a boost in confidence from consumers and businesses, stemming from their recent victory in November.
I hope to bring more updates on this, as it could get really juicy.
NY Times: U.S. Economy Grew at 3.2% Rate in the 4th Quarter
|forged Kenyan birth certificate that circulated the conservative blogosphere|
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Well, once again we made it through that time of year when the halls are decked with holly, the five golden bells are pealing, and the elves are waxing the skids so Santa can cruise through the skies, dispensing gifts to all the good little girls and boys. That means it was also time for a thousand re-runs of It’s A Wonderful Life, the Frank Capra film that manages to pull off a Yuletide hat trick by combining capitalism, communalism, and Hollywood hokum to save the day in small town Americana. Only this year it seemed that there was something smudgy around the edges of this particular charm. Americans have come to understand that instead of rescuing Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey, we have rescued Lionel Barrymore’s Mr. Potter, the epitome of greed who drips venom instead of Christmas cheer.
How did it come to this? Rather than bail out the millions who are suffering foreclosures we bailed out those who perpetrated the fraud that led to the foreclosures. Rather than helping the needy and indigent, we are helping the coddled at the highest ends of the income bracket. Rather then reaching out a helping hand to the homeless, we have reached out a helping hand to those with multiple homes, sometimes so many that, like John McCain, they have lost count of how many they own.
We have been told by the wise sages of the economy that we had to rescue capitalism, that Wall Street would have imploded if we had not lent it a cool trillion, that those receiving taxpayer funds were deeply sorry about their financial transgressions, and that the mistakes of the past would be rectified once the money was handed over.
But doesn’t it seem a little odd that hardly any of the bullish free-marketers have acknowledged that something went drastically wrong with their foolproof system? Isn’t it true that those who most earnestly believe in the power and glory of the private sector to solve any and every problem are still acting as if the public has no right to meddle in their affairs?
Consider the following quotation from FDR inscribed on the Roosevelt Monument in Washington, D.C: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." We seemed to have flipped this credo over during the last thirty years, continually succumbing to an odd urge to ensure that the rich get richer and the poor poorer. We have waged wars while cutting taxes, an untenable economic feat completely unprecedented in its degree of foolhardiness. That such profligacy would lead to huge deficits is hardly shocking; what’s shocking is that it was done in the first place. As President Clinton once admitted, the only sacrifice the wealthy were asked to make for the war effort was to open up envelopes with their tax refunds stuck inside.
Meanwhile, the middle class is crumbling and the poor are being blissfully ignored, just as their numbers increase to startling proportions. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate for children under 18 rose from 19.0 percent to 20.7 percent in 2009, while the total number of people living in poverty stood at 43.6 million, the largest number in the 51 years that such an estimate has been published by the Bureau. Yet the poor have no funds to pour into the coffers of our politicians so, while they may be pitied, nothing is done to ameliorate their condition.
Bank profits are soaring. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, net income for banks went from $3.2.billion during the first nine months of 2009 to $53.6 billion in 2010. During the same period, millions of Americans lost their homes through foreclosure. Potter is gleeful. And we seem intent on giving him even more. Meanwhile, George Bailey seems to have disappeared. Or maybe he fled, having realized that America is no place for him, not with its citizens intent on rewarding Potter over and over again while sending his borrowers out into the cold.
|2010 US Budget|
NY Times: G.O.P. Splits Over Plans to Cut Defense Budget
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
|Inquiry Commission Chairman, Phil Angelides|
Revolutions tend to come in waves, and it's hard not to draw a link from the unrest to the protests that rocked Tunisia before its leaders fled. At least six people have set themselves on fire in Egypt, in imitation of Tunisian dissident Mohamed Bouazizi. The government has since gone to the extraordinary length of forbidding gas stations to sell to people who are not in cars.
Many of the marchers captured the clashes with cellphone cameras, like these:
Monday, January 24, 2011
|Gaza-bound aid flotilla|
Saturday, January 22, 2011
|President Hamid Karzai|
Friday, January 21, 2011
|Kim Jong Il|
|Tea Party's Christine O'Donnell|
NY Times : Iran Talks Set to Resume
Thursday, January 20, 2011
LA Times: Behind the Arguments for Healthcare Repeal
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Since the passage of the health care bill last year, the American public’s views of the legislation has remained pretty evenly entrenched. Most polls that the mainstream media have conducted show about 45% supporting the bill, and 50% opposed (Fox News poll and NBC/WSJ poll)
Huffington Post: Health Care Poll Finds Decreasing Republican Support...
Daily Kos: Obama Does Not Need to Move to Center
Okay, here’s one qualifier that may redeem me: my boys are 33, 23, and 18; they’re on their own, at least to a certain degree. However, even if they were younger, of what value is my instant accessibility?
But what about an emergency: suppose your son breaks his leg?
My reasoned response is: What, am I a doctor or something? Do I know how to set a leg? Am I a fireman? A cop? An EMT? What good am I in an emergency? I’ll find out about that broken leg soon enough.
Now I admit: my profession (or lack of one, as some of the more callous amongst you may say) allows me the freedom of this inaccessibility. I am a graduate student in geography at UCLA. Went back to school at age 54 and now I’m just a dissertation shy of a PhD. Okay, so if I was a real estate or theatrical agent, or an attorney or a doctor, I admit it would be extremely difficult to get by without a cell phone. But I am a student; therefore, I have a certain liberty that others may not enjoy. I appreciate that. Still, even given my unusual status, there are not many people doing anything these days, no matter how impractical or trivial their pursuits may seem to be, who go without instant access, 24 hours a day.
And what exactly does that instant access get them? Well, let me tell you, I overhear many a memorable call while strolling across the UCLA campus; allow me to share a few. First there’s the call with absolutely zero content, inconsequential to the nth degree, and then there’s its opposite, the ubiquitous TMI call, shockers bruited as if no one else in the world exists..
And are you so sure you want your whereabouts traceable 24 hours a day? What that translates into is that every demographic marketer, every Internet entrepreneur, every wife, every husband, and every police officer has the ability to discover your location and reap the whirlwind of the consequences. Just thought I should throw that in. Not that I’m doing anything wrong, mind you.
OK, I know, I’m on the losing end of history. Cell phones are here to stay. I’m a dinosaur, heaving away in the antediluvian mud. But try out a little inaccessibility some time. There’s a whole mysterious world of solitude out there, just waiting for your silent arrival.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Huffington Post: Supreme Court Rejects Appeal Over DC Same-Sex Marriage Law
Washington Post: Supreme Court refuses to revive effort to put D.C...