Wednesday, November 16, 2011
We have been pretty quiet here at the Liberal Mob for the past couple of months. I assure it is not because we no longer yearn to provide you with our obvious liberal biases in the form of “wannabe” journalism. Alas, we are all full-time students and have had little time to devote to you, our tens of faithful readers. Let me disclose right of the bat that the title of this post is a bit misleading. So if you clicked on this blog post in the hopes of getting an in-depth explanation/analysis of republican presidential candidate Herman Cain’s tax plan, stop reading now.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
|Jack Layton, 1950-2011.|
But sadly, he was indeed only a man. Mortal. His death on Monday may not have been a shock in light of his long-running battle with cancer, but it was depressing nonetheless. And now we are left to reflect on what is missing from the world as a result.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Michele Bachmann needs to learn a lot of things. First off, among those members of the Republican Party who can read books, her approval rating hovers tenuously between Rick Perry and genital warts. Slightly less immediately, she needs to know that puns are the absolute lowest form of humor… on Earth. And making any sort of puns relating to President Hu Jintao’s name is an exquisite means of saying “I am not, and will never be, by any definition of the words, an intentionally funny person.” I didn’t think anything could make Michele Bachmann’s already groan-inducing remarks at CPAC all the more objectively more painful when she was able to stop talking about lightbulbs long enough to touch on the subject of China, and how they hold a “vast amount” of American debt. Bachmann insisted that, “Hu is your Daddy.”
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
|From the most recent fizzled flashpoint in November 2010.|
The US and South Korea have begun a joint military drill to improve combat readiness on the Korean peninsula. The annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise brings together 530,000 forces in Korea and abroad, using computer programmes to simulate war situations. North Korea has reacted furiously to the exercises, which run for 10 days.For the uninitiated, this happens every year in August or September and has for decades, although the name of the exercise has changed. Every year, South Korea and the United States perform large-scale exercises. Every year, North Korea responds like a seven-year-old would. Is this year any different, or is there something else here?
In light of the fact that the past week or four have been politically asinine, I thought it would be nice to take a detour from our usual musings on politics, economics, and whatnot. I’ve chosen instead to focus my attention today on a topic that has never once let me down like ridiculous budget deals and underwhelming elections so frequently do, and that topic is science. In just a few short weeks, we’ve had announcements of mind blowingly important discoveries ranging from water on Mars to an almost unbelievable cure all for viruses that doesn’t seem to be possible. With this much progress taking place it’s hard to believe that these magnificent scientific developments aren’t on the front page of all of the important blogs and newspapers.
Monday, August 15, 2011
It is difficult to convey to people here in the United States the severity of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Somalia. When the average American hears that there are people starving to death somewhere in Africa it comes as no surprise. We have heard this so many times throughout our lives that we have come to expect it and sadly, to even accept it as an inevitability. It is for this reason that we here at the Liberal Mob have blogged about the situation taking place on the Horn of Africa a couple of times in recent weeks. First about the Failed State status of Somalia and how it compounds and worsens the ecological and humanitarian crises taking place there, and later why the United Nations & the International community had trouble responding quickly and decisively declaring a famine.
|The rare Texan Loon (R-TX) in his natural habitat.|
Perry's religious views and religious grandstanding, though, are less of a big deal than other things. What is a big deal is his idea of how government works, and how America should be run. To put it simply: Gov. Perry might believe in a thing called "The United States of America". But it seems evident that he doesn't believe in a United States of America. It is a key distinction, and one with major consequences.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
|The remains of a police station struck by the FARC in Colombia.|
So in the process of that digging, I turned up this. It seems like the FARC in Colombia is starting to be a big problem again. And that opens things up for some discussion of why insurgent/terrorist/militia groups are able to remain in existence for so long in some places, and how nations often fail to combat them well.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Over the weekend, and into today, there has been much sound and fury about Standard and Poor's downgrade of the United States' credit rating to AA. Unfortunately for S&P (or fortunately for the rest of us), it turns out that it is signifying nothing. It is now left to the rest of us to wonder: what is happening here, what does it mean for us, and what does it mean for S&P?
Friday, August 5, 2011
We've covered the protests and crackdown in Syria before, of course. But things are quickly escalating well past where they were last week. Things have gotten worse in a hurry, it seems. So it's recap time.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
|The title asks a question, so here is a picture of The Question.|
Given all that, it's worth taking a moment to figure out how the Democratic Party can recover strategically from this sort of a failure. It's a good question. Fortunately, there are answers.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Nearly seven months after being brutally shot in an assassination attempt, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords returned the floor of the United States House of representatives to vote "aye" on the bi-partisan agreement to raise the nation's debt limit. The seeming unwillingness of the political parties to come together and the bitter vitriol surrounding the debt limit debate has diminished the confidence of the American people in the political process in Washington D.C., perhaps to an all-time low.
It appears to be the beginning of the end for this round of debt ceiling talks. The House has now passed a plan, and the Senate should shortly do the same. This bill will presumably be signed by President Obama as well. Finally, we can stop dealing with this stupid, stupid manufactured crisis and move on to other things. So the real question is: what's in this (hopefully final) deal, and what does it mean? It seems to me that while this deal is bad, it's...somewhat less bad than it could or should have been.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
(This is a letter from http://anonitiger.blogspot.com/ and has been posted to this blog with permission from the author)
Dear Rep. Boehner (or rather the unfortunate intern who must first read this…),
I am not a member of the 8th district of Ohio, but I do reside only a few hundred yards south of I-275 and the line that divides your district from that of Rep. Chabot’s. Many of my closest friends and relatives are members of your district and voting constituents who are deeply concerned with the debt ceiling issue that is currently playing out on Capitol Hill. In writing this letter, I hope to voice their concerns and offer you a rational argument to resolve our current crisis. Moreover, I am providing you with a warning of what will happen to you if you refuse to listen to my reason.
Friday, July 29, 2011
And yet, unfortunately, this is more than likely not even close to the end:
House Republicans on Friday narrowly approved legislation authorizing a limited increase in the $14.3 trillion debt limit in exchange for more than $900 billion in spending cuts. The 218-210 vote occurred nearly a full day after it was originally scheduled as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed to revise the legislation to win enough conservative support to carry the House.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
It is not uncommon to hear Americans complain about the United Nations (UN) and the participation of the U.S within it. These critics, very often, simply don’t get it. They don’t understand the reasons why the UN was created and what the goals of the institution are, and it is vital to understand those reasons in order to understand the United Nations.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Unlike most of the country, it was a fairly warm day in the state where I’m from on September 11, 2001. I was fourteen years old and about a month into my freshman year of high school. My grandfather’s 60th birthday was approaching that October and we were planning to fly the whole family out to San Antonio, but my grandma is terrified of flying. I, being the aviation and space nerd that I am, had been trying to convince my grandma for weeks that flying is perfectly safe, even more so than driving, I had graphs and everything! I hated the sound and the incredibly rude awakening of traditional alarm clocks, so I had recently set my TV in my bedroom to wake me up at a certain time, and had it set to the Today Show because it was usually pretty upbeat.
Is anyone paying attention to Syria anymore? I mean, I know that the debtpocalypse is approaching, and Libya is much more high-profile, but is anyone paying attention to Syria?
Because you should.
weeks of budget talks led by Vice President Biden, negotiations between Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and President Obama, the McConnell Plan, the Gang of Six bipartisan Senate plan, the House Republican Cut, Cap, and Balance Bill, the new Boehner plan, and the Reid plan.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
It is no secret to those who know me personally that I am a political junkie. When people see me, they will literally walk to other direction in fear that If they don’t, I will start talking to them about the debt ceiling or corporate influence on campaign finance or some other infernal thing that I‘d recently made me “cause of the week”. (Im that guy). This is not something that I am embarrassed or ashamed about. It may not be normal. It may not even be healthy. But there are so many complex issues facing our nation (and our planet) that it is literally impossible for me not to spend most of my waking hours thinking about them or studying them. As a matter of fact, I am completely baffled that most people do not spend as much time worrying about, studying and thinking about these problems too.
Monday, July 25, 2011
1. I enjoy roads.
2. I know how to read and write because a public school taught me.
3. I can spell.
4. I want the government to inspect my food so it doesn’t kill me, make me sick, or turn me into a zombie.
5. When I’m old, I’d like to be able to afford to go to the doctor, and I want other elderly people to be able to do the same.
Good evening. I’m John Boehner, and you may remember me as the most orange man in America. I serve as Speaker of the whole House – of the members of both parties that you elect – but I try to pretend the Democratic members don’t exist. These are difficult times in the life of our nation, which is at least half the fault of my inability to deal with the raving psychos that inhabit my party.
Thomas Jefferson said, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” While this may have been the case when Mr. Jefferson originally spoke these words, it is no longer the case that those are our only two options. Perhaps a more modern way of looking at it is that our government is the people, & it's time to stop being afraid of each other. The partisan divide has grown so wide in the United States that it’s easy to forget that we’re all supposed to be on the same team, and all supposed to be working together. I would even go so far as to say that the reason that our economic recovery has been so unbearably sluggish isn’t the failure of one policy initiative or another, it’s the failure of us to come together to fix the problem. The American people are too busy trying to secure their own advantage by any means necessary to even notice that doing so is only dragging them even further down.
Now that there is some time and space between the present and the recent Oslo attacks, it's worth revisiting some things and trying to figure out what we can learn. Why did Anders Breivik do what he did? What are the ramifications? I think it's important to start out by saying that this was without a doubt an act of terrorism, of course. But what does that mean, in this case?
It is possible to debate quite extensively exactly what the definition of liberal is. This is because of the long history of definitions of the word as well as the many different uses for the word today. There is a rather “interesting” definition of liberal on Conservapedia.com that some of you may find entertaining/offensive (especially when you compare it to Conservapedia’s definition of conservative). But rather than get bogged down in semantics about what Liberal means, I have decided to prepare a list of what Liberal means to me and why I call myself one.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Default is a success of the documentary form. With its focus on the stories of various individuals burdened by student loan debt, Default brings the worries of all college students to life and presents a powerful argument for reform of the private student loan system. Despite the quite depressing nature of many of the subjects’ stories, the film also gives hope for reform and change.
The United Nations (UN) declared a famine in the southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions of Somalia early Wednesday morning. The UN is appealing for $300 million from the international community in the next 2 months, according to this report, as it tries to assist the Horn of Africa region in mitigating its worst drought in decades. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reiterated this point to reporters in New York. “We need donor support to address current needs and prevent a further deterioration of the crisis,” he said, after addressing the Security Council on the impact of climate change on international peace and security. “If funding is not made available for humanitarian interventions now, the famine is likely to continue and spread.”
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The recent cluster of testimony by the Murdochs in front of Parliament is, well...very funny. Both weird funny and ha-ha funny, I guess:
Rupert Murdoch has said he cannot be held responsible for the scandal at the News of the World, saying he was let down by "people I trusted".
Welcome to part II of America’s War on Drugs Series at the Liberal Mob. In Part I of this series, I talked about the word ‘schema’ and gave my definition of it based on a speech from Professor Harris-Perry that I recently read.
It seems like the slogan “Just Say No” was everywhere when I was growing up. Having been born in the early 80’s, I literally learned how to talk during the years when the “Just Say No” campaign was becoming a permanent part of the American consciousness.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Ladies and gentleman, welcome to part two of “Master Opinion Blaster,” the Liberal Mob chronicle of News Corp. Last week, we took a look at what exactly news is, and how News Corp’s and Fox News’ names are based entirely on deception. I laid out exactly how Fox and News Corp are particularly devoted to misleading their viewers, and quite frequently avoiding facts while “reporting the news.” Now, while this is a massive problem, perhaps the real problem isn’t that News Corp constantly misrepresents information (after all, who cares if crazy people make stuff up and scream it in the corner); it’s just how far they can scream their craziness. I imagine News Corp as being that same crazy person, only instead of screaming into a corner, they have a massive network of television channels, newspapers, and websites and have somehow managed to learn how to spell.
It is completely mystifying that policy positions that would have seemed conservative a generation ago are now considered too far left for many Republicans to even consider supporting. The Tea Party has forced the GOP establishment to move its goal posts. And quite frankly, they've put them on a conveyer belt. In this deeply polarized era in Washington, the Tea Party's idea of negotiations is simply restating policy positions with little or no intention to actually bargain.
Well now. This is interesting. Yes. Very interesting:
this annual report from ForeignPolicy Magazine. The report also ranks it as the most unstable country in the world for 2011. The ongoing conflict there has led to a refugee crisis that has been left unsolved in the region for nearly 20 years (there are people in the region thought to have been living in camps for well over a decade). This is compounded by the fact that Somalia is suffering from extreme drought. Some parts of Somalia have not received rain in over two years. The results have been catasrophic as hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing Somalia for refugee camps in neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya. The average Somali refugee spends 25 days walking from Somalia to the nearest refugee camp, often with no reliable sources of food or water. Many refugees in this mass exodus are reported to have traveled over 150 kilometers by foot to reach the camps. Once they arrive, prospects are not much better as the camps are many times past their intended capacity.
In a recent speech, Tulane Professor Melissa Harris-Perry used the word schema to identify the words, symbols, images, and feelings that come to mind when we visualize something. According to changingminds.org, “a schema is a mental structure that we use to organize and simplify our knowledge of the world around us”. We have schemas about ourselves, other people, mechanical devices, food, and in fact almost everything. For example, we all have a schema for apples. When we visualize an apple we may picture a certain size color, or texture. Our apple may or may not have a stem. The stem may have a small leaf at the tip. The apple itself may or may not have a little green worm living in a hole on the side.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
In the United States of America, the supreme law of the land is the United States Constitution. There are many states and municipalities, all with their own unique set of laws and statutes, but all must adhere to the Constitution. We here in the U.S. tend to think of the Constitution as something akin to a holy document – whether rightly or not, we place our faith in the “founding fathers” and their vision for the future – that protects us from our government, ourselves, and those who would do us harm. It protects us in that, inter alia, we have the freedom to say whatever we want, whenever we want – a right we often times take for granted – and we can sleep soundly at night knowing that there won’t be a government “enforcer” at our children’s schools to make sure that they are dressed appropriately or divided into ethnic, gender, race, or other categories – although this is a more recent development than our constitution, and a work in progress. We are free to believe what we want to believe, and practice our beliefs in whatever way we see fit, so long as we do so in a way that does not bring harm to others, or infringe upon the rights of others.
So I'm watching Meet The Press today and listening to Jim DeMint (R-SC) blather on about his truly idiotic balanced budget amendment that he's been championing for a while now. After I stopped laughing, it occurred to me that maybe, not everyone realizes why it's a stupid idea, even if it is exceedingly inane. What does the balanced budget amendment actually do, and why is it stupid?
President Obama will appoint former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Created by the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, the bureau will begin monitoring the 111 largest banks in the U.S. on July 21st, 2011. The goal of this agency will be to eliminate the predatory lending practices that contributed greatly to the mortgage crisis and ultimately the recession. Under the Bureau, the largest banks in the country (those with assets over $100 billion) will be subject to full-time supervision. Banks with assets between $10 billion and $100 Billion will face “audits” by the bureau every two years. Banks with less than $10 billion will not be subject to supervision.
The idea behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau came from Harvard professor & Obama appointee Elizabeth Warren, 62. Warren is a top national expert in bankruptcy law and has long been an outspoken critic of banks and financial lenders for engaging in predatory practices that are damaging to consumers and ultimately the economy. Back in 2007, Warren was meeting regularly with the nation’s largest credit card companies in an effort to convince them to adhere to self-imposed practices that would reduced confusing fine print and encourage clearly articulating any risks to potential borrowers. Her idea was to create credit card accounts that were not designed to trap borrowers into as much long-term debt as possible. In exchange for their good practices, the company would receive a “seal-of-approval” from the government labeling their credit card a “clean card”. She quickly realized however that her idea of a new “clean-card” was not something credit card companies would impose on themselves. After one of these aforementioned meetings Ms. Warren says she was told flat out by a banker “We recognize that we have an unsustainable model, and it cannot work forever. If we told people how much these things cost, they wouldn’t use them.”
In essence, Card Company “A” would not and could not to take up Warren’s idea of a “clean-card” if credit card companies “B” “C” and “D” did not. If credit card company “A” came out and admitted that his card was actually a 15% interest rate while competitors “B” “C” and “D” still advertised and mascaraed that theirs were only 3%, Company “A” would quickly see its borrowers abandon it for the seemingly cheaper options. If regulation of the lending industry was to happen it could only happen if it were industry wide. And the only way to get an entire industry to reform itself is through law, Federal Law.
The creation of the bureau is of course subject to the the age-old arguments about the role of our government, the size of our government, and the effects of our government's regulation on the economy. As we now know, the largest banks and financial institutions caused the lending crisis that led to one of the worst economic crises in U.S. and World history. Then, they accepted public money so that they could stay in business while they were simultaneously raising interest rates on our credit cards & loans and foreclosing on our houses. Oh, and by they way, the financial sector made record profits in 2010. I urge everyone to remember that the big scary government created this agency for a reason. Banks and financial institutions have become so big, powerful, and influential that it is no longer in their best financial interests to care about the economic well being of their borrowers. For anyone critical of the creation of this bureau: don’t be mad at the public sector for trying to defend the American People, be mad at the private sector for ripping us off. Not only are they ripping us off, but they're breaking the law to do it. It would be nice if we lived in a world were mega banks didn’t engage in every possible legal loop-hole, tax loop-hole, accounting gimmick and lobbying technique they can to maximize and protect their profits (at our expense). But we don’t. In essence, the government wouldn’t have to police the financial industry if it wasn’t more concerned with making a profit than ripping off consumers and tanking the economy. If we can spend $700 billion protecting banks from failing due to their own poor business practices, it's high time we gave them some stricter rules to follow.
Friday, July 15, 2011
In light of the recent recognition of the Libyan transitional government by the United States and others, we are presented with an excellent opportunity to reflect on the Arab Spring and United States policy towards the Middle East-Northern Africa region. The last six months have seen perhaps the most widespread and significant political change in the entire Middle East-Northern Africa region since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The world has seen successful, non-violent democratic movements take hold in Egypt and Tunisia, popular uprisings in Libya and Syria, and protests of various sorts all across the region from Algeria to Bahrain to even Jordan.
"China has complained about US President Barack Obama's scheduled meeting on Saturday with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama".
Apologies to Lost's John Locke, but that was my first reaction upon reading this via the BBC:
With all of this debt ceiling shenanigans going on, and all the hemming and hawing about the deficit, it's worth it to take a look at how all of this stuff actually functions. What does it mean, really? Why do we care? How many angels can dance upon the head of a pin, and so on? I've been thinking about it a lot recently (taking time away from more important things, like the NHL offseason). Today though, I read this post by Yglesias which put a lot of what I was trying to say into shape...
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Five days ago, a new country was born. After years of conflict, the (very cleverly) named nation of South Sudan came into being. It isn't every day that a new country happens, of course, so it's worth taking a look at this particular case and see what the prospects are like for this new nation. The two big questions are, of course, why did this happen, and what are the new state's challenges? Also, what do you get a country for its birthday?
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
I realize that I started yesterday's space post with a quote, so today I'm gonna one up me and start with two. From the same person!
Quote 1: "Our job is only to hold up the mirror - to tell and show the public what has happened."
Quote 2: "Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine."
The Head Shake
Barack Obama’s 2010 State of the Union speech provided a moment for political junkies that amounted to the equivalent of bare-knuckle boxing. That moment came when the President condemned the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, stating, "Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections." Associate Justice Samuel Alito was clearly visible mouthing the words "not true" and shaking his head while Obama criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Yesterday, the entire course of the ridiculous debt ceiling debate changed radically, and without warning. As Hurley noted yesterday, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a surprising plan to sidestep the entire issue entirely, at least for the next little while. But this offer changes a lot of things, and it sheds some light on the internal workings of both the debate between both parties, and within those parties as well. So it deserves a second look, even if it means I have to talk about the stupid, stupid, stupid debt ceiling again.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
As the token “Black Guy” of this blog, I have been informed that it is my responsibility to be against all things “gay”…including same-sex marriage. However, being the token gay guy of this blog I am also inclined to be pro gay rights. So I think I have found a way to split the difference. Please feel free to leave a comment telling me if you think I have failed to live up to either of these stereotypical roles that have been laid out for me. Worst case scenario: Even If I fail I will still be a gay black guy which increases the chances I will get a scholarship for graduate school, right? If only I were an impoverished, blind, Jewish, Native American, lesbian in a wheelchair with a learning disability. The scholarship money would be rolling right on in!!! But alas, nobody is perfect.
DISCLAIMER: If you are either easily offended or do not have a sense of humor you should not have read that introduction. Moving on!
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” These iconic words take us back to a time when America did big things. Big things that didn't entail a family size bucket from a chicken restaurant. While it’s incredibly likely that we only did those things because we were in a race against the Soviet menace, the fact remains that we did them. And while that was a frightening time in both American, and world history, it was also a time of hope that the future would be better than today. With the end of the space shuttle era (Yahoo! News), I fear that the dream of the space age is gone, and with it the hope for the future of mankind. Now, I don’t mean to be a fear monger, after all I’m not a politician, but I believe that one of the most important things that we can be doing with our tax money (and yes we should pay taxes) is to invest in the future of the USA, and Humanity as a whole, by financing human space flight and space exploration.
So as some of you might remember, Wisconsin Democrats attempted a number of recalls against Republican members of the state legislature. This was in response to Gov. Scott Walker (R-Jerkville) and his particular brand of 21st Century union-busting, which it turns out, a lot of people didn't like! What a surprise! Anyway, in keeping with the Wisconsin GOP's style, they inserted a bunch of "fake" Democrats to create contested primaries against the initial Democratic choices (Chicago Tribune/AP). This was viewed by experts as "seriously not cool," in technical terms.
Senator Mitch McConnell, today, said that there is no possibility of solving the nation’s spending and debt problem, “as long as this president is in the Oval Office.” At the same time he proposed to give the president emergency powers to deal with the matter which would, as David Weigel noted today on Twitter, effectively render President Obama the real life Emperor Palpatine. This news came on the same day that the president awarded the Medal of Honor to Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry (the Boston Globe) for his gallantry and commitment to our nation and his brothers, with no concern for his own well-being.
First things first: the debt ceiling is stupid.
It seems very obvious that the concept of a debt ceiling is outdated and approximately as useful as a driver's license for a microwave. The ceiling was first established on bonds only via the Second Liberty Bond Act, and was then modified to apply to all debt. Since then, the ceiling has been raised approximately eighty-five thousand times (not intended to be a factual statement) with effectively no controversy whatsoever. This is because of spending is already authorized, un-authorizing it via refusing to raise the debt ceiling is pretty stupid. Furthermore, to not raise the debt ceiling would cause the United States to default on its debt, and anyone above the age of about eight understands that this is probably a bad thing. Observers who say that it would basically destroy the U.S. and global economies are not actually exaggerating.