Friday, December 7, 2007

Senate rejects energy bill

"The House of Representatives on Thursday passed an energy bill that would boost vehicle fuel economy requirements by 40 percent by 2020, raise ethanol use by five-fold by 2022 and impose $13 billion in new taxes on big energy companies.
But the Energy Independence and Security Act... failed a key procedural hurdle in the Senate...
Majority Leader Harry Reid has agreed to modify the $21 billion tax package and drop a plan to require utilities to get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2020, a Democratic Senate aide said."

To me this is really disappointing in terms of making steps towards a better environment. Hopefully, there will be some measure passed to start to combat global warming. I just feel really frustrated with Senate(ah, mostly the Republicans) for not passing this. What do you think? Is it too soon for such a bill? How long will it take for something like this to get passed?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Religion in Politics

Back in the 1960 presidential election Kennedy's religion came into play, as he would (and was) be the first Catholic president. Kennedy commented on his religion by saying, "a candidate's "views on religion are his own, private affair," which should not be "imposed by him upon the nation." "He promised, in essence, that his Catholicism would no more influence his politics than did Quakerism for Richard Nixon. And President Dwight Eisenhower's reaction to the Kennedy speech summarized this argument well: "I would hope that it [religion] could be one of those subjects that could be laid on the shelf and forgotten."

Today, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is taking the opposing viewpoint of Kennedy. If he were to be elected, he would be the first Mormon president. He made a speech today saying, "Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people... religion is not merely 'a private affair.'"

He did agree that, "no authorities of my church . . . will ever exert influence on presidential decisions."

Romney seems to be getting a lot of press recently. Even if this is just another excuse for him to get publicity, do you all agree with his statements?... How much of a role should one's personal religious beliefs play in their policies?


Most Important for 2008

Sorry it's hard to follow. If you need to, look at the attached link.
Looking ahead to next year's presidential election, what will be the most important issues that you will take into account when deciding whom to vote for?

2007 Nov 30-Dec 2 2007 Apr 13-15
War in Iraq 36 42
The economy 16 13
Healthcare/health insurance 15 11
Illegal immigration 10 5
Homeland security/military defense 6 7
Taxes 5 4
Honesty/integrity/credibility of candidate 5 5
Abortion 3 2
Domestic issues 3 3
Social Security reform 3 2
Education 2 5
International/foreign affairs 3 4
Terrorism 2 2
Budget deficit/spending 2 2
Environmental issues 2 3
Employment issues 2 1
Financial/money 2 2
Senior care/Medicare/Prescription drugs 2 2
Morals/values/Christian beliefs 2 1
Energy/gas/oil prices and issues 2 --
Gay rights 1 --
Bush (doing a bad job) 1 1
Judicial issues 1 *
Vote Republican/not a Democrat * *
Vote Democrat/not a Republican * 1
World peace * 1
Bush (doing a good job) -- --
Other 4 9
None 2 3
No opinion 6 6

What do you think is the most issue that will affect your decision in the 2008 election?
Are you surprised at this poll?

Presidential Candidates Previous Jobs

Before the many candidates for the 2008 election became office-holders, they had jobs that were very hardworking and some disgusting.
Democrat Hillary Clinton had to spoon guts out of fish and wash dishes at a national park while Republican Mike Huckabee cleaned the floor at JCPenney and had a gig on the radio.
Mitt Romney worked on a ranch in a sewage pipe.
Republican Fred Thompson stated "I've worked in a factory, I was a bouncer at my uncle's drag strip, I worked at the post office, I sold children's shoes, I sold ladies', I sold men's clothing, I was a night clerk at a motel."
Democrat John Edwards worked at a textile mill where he "cleaned out overhead in the weave room, which is where all the crap goes."
Republican John McCain stated "I've never really had a bad job."
Democrat Barack Obama worked at a construction site. He also said that "his worst job was scooping ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins because he ate too much of it."

I thought that this was kinda of funny at first but then I realized that it showed how hardworking and dedicated the candidates were.
What do you think about these jobs? What does it show about the candidates?

Omaha mall gunman teen

After the chaos that was yesterday's mall shooting some of the details of the shooting are emerging. The gunman was identified as 19-year-old Robert Hawkins. People who knew him described him as "always being depressed." There were also felony charges pending against Hawkins at the time of the shooting.

According to USA Today:
"Hawkins was a troubled teenager who had recently been fired from his job at McDonald's and split from his girlfriend.
Warren said Hawkins stole the gun he used in the shooting from his stepfather and stored it at his father's home."

Is there anything we can do to prevent tragedies like this one from occurring? Since he, a mentally unstable person, was able to get the gun from someone else, is there really a way to prevent these types of people from having access to guns?

Link to updated story:

Political Relationships

I was watching a program on the History Channel about the Kennedy family, and during the show they talked about how the Kennedys were criticized in elections for using their family connections to get places in politics.

Whether this criticism is warranted is up to you, but how much do family connections, or connections in general, play into politics? Do those who know other have a natural advantage? The answer to this is of course so, but does it give an unfair advantage to other candidates? Is it skill or connections that matter most?

For example, Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate people felt that she used her husband as a way to win the election, and same could be true with her candidacy today.

Does someone without political connections even have a shot at winning an election today?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Radar Guns in Burlingame?

Burlingame police is waiting for a proposal to be reviewed in the city attorney's office, which would allow volunteers, trained by Burlingame police, to patrol the streets with radar guns and make sure drivers are driving at the correct speed. Police will conduct background checks on the volunteers in order to make sure that they are law-abiding citizens.
"Drivers who are caught speeding will have their license plate number written down, and receive a warning letter from the Police Department. Although there is no fine attached to the letter, the hope is that people will slow down when they know they are being clocked. "

How do you feel about this proposal? Do you agree or disagree with it?
Do you think it will make people drive slower?

Birth Rate Among Teens Increases

In the year 2006 the birth rate among teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 rose 3%, the first increase since 1991. Some question whether or not the Bush administration's abstinence-only efforts are actually working. The federal government has spent over $150 million annually funding abstinence programs.
"Robert Rector, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, said that blaming abstinence-only programs was “stupid.” Mr. Rector said that most young women who became pregnant were highly educated about contraceptives but wanted to have babies."

What do you think about these stats?
Would you blame the Bush administration? Why or why not?
What do you think the government should do to decrease the amount of teenage girls who become pregnant?

More information on shooting

USA Today(my Dad's paper!) published some more information the shooting...:

"Update at 6:02 p.m. ET: Less than a week ago, the bomb squad recovered a live grenade at the mall where today's shootings took place. Local news organizations report that the explosive device was found Friday night in a parking area near the Cheesecake Factory restaurant.
As the latest AP story points out, this is the second mass shooting at an American mall in less than year. Sulejman Talovic shot nine people -- five fatally -- in February at a shopping center in Salt Lake City.
Update at 6:46 p.m. ET: The gunman was 21-year-old Robert Hawkins of Bellevue, Neb., the AP is reporting, citing a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the incident. The AP also has confirmed the WOWT report about the suicide note."

I thought it was interesting that the shooter was young, similar to the Virgina Tech gunman. Again, not all the information is out, so it's hard to make any conclusions.

What do you think of the person's age?... The note? Any other thoughts?

Mall Shooting in Omaha

There were nine people killed today just before 2 p.m. in Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska. A gunman opened fire on 13 people, wounding five, and then killed himself. Seven died at the scene, while two died in the hospital. There are three in critical condition.

Although not all the background information of the shooting is out yet (i.e. who sold him the gun, his mental state) this is another example of how gun control laws, in my opinion, need to be tightened. Obviously this person had mental issues, since he went so far as to shoot people. The fact that this person had access to a gun is disturbing. Although it isn't clear if he purchased the rifle he used himself, it still raises many questions about gun control.

In Nebraska there are certain limitations on purchasing guns, but there are still some concerning aspects of the laws. Here's a link to the Nebraska gun laws: One thing in particular that's concerning is the lack of safety regulations and the fact that police can't maintain gun record sales.

I hope that out of this, the country will take a closer look at gun purchases, regardless of whether or not the shooter was the one to buy the rifle.

What do you think of U.S. gun laws? What type of regulations need to be created, if any? Will anything change after this shooting?... Or will people continue to ignore the issue of gun violence, like people did after the Virginia Tech shooting?


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bush's Christmas Present

By John Darkow - Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri


I thought this cartoon was kinda of funny so I thought I'd share it!

Britain Threatened

An Iraqi militant group threatened to kill 1 of 5 British hostages in 10 days if Britain does not withdraw its troops in Iraq. One of the hostages has been held captive for over 170 days and feels "forgotten."
Although violence in has significantly decreased over the past two years, do you think that it will continue to decrease?
Do you think that Britain will withdraw all or some troops?
Do you think that Britain did actually "forget" about the hostages? Why or why not?

For more info check out:

"Romney fires landscapers for illegal immigrants"

Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney fired landscapers (Community Lawn Service of Chelsea, Massachusetts) working on his home's lawn for hiring illegal immigrants. He gave them a second chance this year to fire their illegal workers, but when they didn't comply he got rid of them.

"Romney said the company's failure to comply with the law is "disappointing and inexcusable, and I believe it is important I take this action."

Romney has also criticized Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, for not being tough enough on illegal immigration. Romney accused Giuliani of "turning a blind eye to illegal immigration in New York." This is just one of a series of criticisms Romney has had of other candidates.

Is Romney contrasting?... Attacking?... Or just using a political maneuver to create a situation that makes himself look more consistent in his beliefs? Was his firing of the landscaping company a purely political move, or was that this genuine belief?


Facebook and Politics

I don't know how many of you have Facebooks, but I'm sure it's quite of few of you. If you do have one you know about the different groups there are to join. There are a significant number of new groups aimed towards political values. There are some such as "Stop Global Warming," "Americans for Alternative Energy," "Support Stem Cell Research," etc.

I also thought it was interesting that there are campaign groups for candidates running for president in 2008. There are some joke groups, such as "Colbert for President," or "Stewart/Colbert '08," but there are also some serious ones. I joined "California Students for Barack Obama," and I've received e-mails, messages, and invitations to phone banks and get- togethers to help Barack Obama. There was even essay competition in which the winner got to read there essay at an Obama event. (There are also other groups such as "Romney 2008," "Congressman Ron Paul for President 2008," "America's Mayor, America's President. Giuliani 2008," etc.)

Although there are thousands of students joining groups like these, do they really have any affect on the election, or is all of this work for nothing? What do you think of political groups on Facebook?

It seems like even if the candidate doesn't win, it's a great way to become involved in politics, network, and organize. It's also interesting that Obama's campaign is so organized, being that the Democrats are often critisized for lack of organizational skills.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Teddy Bear Scandal

British school teacher Gillian Gibbons, Khartoum, Sudan, was pardoned by the president, Omar al-Bashir, after she was arrested for allowing her students to name the classroom Teddy bear "Muhammad." The Unity High School teacher was reported by the school secretary, who felt that this was an insult to the Islamic prophet.

It seems pretty outrageous that something such as a Teddy bear would cause such an uproar. It also reflects badly on the Sudanese government that they'd allow for such a faction to have influence. There didn't seem to be any malice intent in Gibbons' naming of the bear, so it's fortunate that the British government and the Sudanese president steeped in to help her.

This situation also shows the excessive amount of power the radical Islamic regimes in Sudan have.

Should such a radical group have so much power? Was the arrest at all justified?


Myspace Suicide Verdict

Megan Meier, a 13 year old girl in Missouri, killed herself last year after "Josh," an 18 year old boy she had met on myspace and had begun to like, told her that the "world would be a better place without [her]."
Little did Megan know, that "Josh" was really an 18 year old girl who wanted to know what Megan thought about her neighbor.
Today Missouri prosecutors ruled that no charges would be sought in the case however, those involved will be punished. Missouri law does not state any part of this case in its harrassment statute therefore there is nothing to be charged with.
Many young teens such as ourselves use Myspace, Facebook, and other networking sites on a weekly, if not daily, basis. If this had happened to someone close to you, wouldn't you want the person involved to be severely punished? And if so, in what way do you think is appropriate?
Do you agree with the prosecutors ruling?
Even though, there was no reason to charge the accused according to Missouri law, what would you have done if you were in the prosecutors position?

Iran and Nuclear Weapons

A new U.S. report concluded that Iran stopped development of a nuclear weapon in 2003, but still remains a threat.

"We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely," the report says. A more likely time frame for that production is between 2010 and 2015, it concludes. "

"We have good reason to continue to be concerned about Iran developing a nuclear weapon even after this most recent National Intelligence Estimate," he told reporters at the White House. "In the words of the NIE, quote, Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons if a decision is made to do so."

"Sen. Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the fact that Iran was several years away from nuclear weapons capability meant "the international community has a significant window of opportunity in which to act to avoid the stark choice between going to war or accepting a nuclear Iran."

It seems really hopeful that there is time to find out about Iran's enriched uranium plants, and also time to decide what a smart plan for dealing with this situation because Iran won't really be a threat for the next few years. We can only hope that with the government has learned from the Iraq war and won't enter into a war without really thinking through the coincidences, and making sure the country is truly a threat.

Do you think that Iran will turn into another Iraq?... Or will we repeat history(as often happens), and make another brash decision, which enters us into war? Is Iran a big enough threat to us that we need to seriously consider entering before they become a bigger threat?

Link to article:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Bush wants Congress to wrap it up before Christmas

Bush has assigned Congress three big issues that he wants figured out before Congress leaves for Christmas. The President wants a $196 billion request for war funding passed "without strings," which is probably not going to happen before Christmas (if at all) because the Democrats are refusing to send Bush a war spending bill this year at all. Bush is also asking for for legislation to change alternative minimum tax (AMT), which was created so that wealthy people could not use tax breaks or deductions to avoid paying any taxes. Bush wants to change this slightly so that middle-class Americans aren't affected. President Bush also wants Congress to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows domestic eavesdropping without warrants. "The original law required a court order for any surveillance conducted on U.S. soil, to protect Americans' privacy. The White House argued that the law was obstructing intelligence gathering because, as technology has changed, a growing amount of foreign communications passes through U.S.-based channls." ( I feel that the war funds and domestic eavesdropping are especially big issues that will probably take a lot of time to sort out. The tax issue doesn't seem too complicated, but the other two issues have a lot more depth to them what with the war and terrorists. I guess Bush just has too high expectations or something, but I highly doubt that Congress can finish all this before Christmas.
What do you think Congress should decide about these issues?

Guantanamo Bay case reaches the Supreme Court

This week the Guantanamo Bay case will go the the Supreme Court. The central issue of the case is whether or not non-Americans have the right of habeas corpus. Is it okay for Americans to hold non-citizens in jail without a trial? This trial would help determine if the detainee camp(used for holding suspected terrorists) will be shut down, either releasing prisoners or keeping them locked up.

No matter what you think about the legal aspects of this situation, would you really want for these people to be released? Should principle or safety come first? It's been stated that "so far 30 released detainees are believed to have returned to terrorist activities."
Then there's also the issue of the abuse. It's been well publicized that there has been mistreatment of prisoners there. How will this play into the case?

I also thought it was interesting that as this article says, "So intense is the interest in the case that the court has ruled it will take the rare step of issuing audio recordings of opening arguments," being that the Supreme Court is usually not very friendly with the press; as we read in the last chapter of the textbook. This shows how seriously this case is to Americans.

Does diversity matter?

It's been a tradition for the Iowa caucuses to kick off the presidential nomination process. A lot of what happens in Iowa can help to influence the rest of the state's votes, contributing to candidates' momentum throughout the primaries. Yesterday, Democratic candidates met in Des Moines to discuss diversity. Immigration policy, the disproportionate amount of minorities incarcerated, college costs, and Cuban relations were brought up.
It's not a coincidence that Iowa was chosen because there has been much talk about the lack of diversity within the caucuses there. The question came up: Are caucuses with only 8% minorities representing the U.S.? This is less than a third of the country's non-whites. The answer is obviously no, but does should caucuses like these really have so much influence in the beginning of the presidential primaries? Do they have a lot of influence in the election, or is Iowa's influence on the election exaggerated? Should another, more diverse, state be the first primary held? Is it racist in itself to even question diversity?
For anyone who read Hardball, you'll remember how Matthews talked about the advantage of winning early primaries being that the nominee will have their image improved and influence other states' votes. Iowa's caucuses will be held on January 3rd for both the Democrats and Republicans.
Here's a link to the Wall Street Journal article on Saturday's meeting:

Negative Campaign Ads 2008

As the presidential election nears, campaign ads are beginning to increase. With so many candidates hoping to win their party's nomination, it is very clear that this coming year's advertising will include political attack ads that could try to ruin a candidate's campaign.

Unlike other election years, though, the internet will be used as another tool for anonymous and unregulated campaigning.

There is a debate over whether negative ads change voter opinions and benefit voters by "helping them understand where candidates differ"or if they really do not affect voter opinions at all.
Do you think negative campaign ads will affect this coming election at all? If so, will they hurt certain candidates more than others?

Venezuela Votes!

Venezuelan voters cast ballots today to make a constitutional change which, according to the NY Times, "would abolish presidential term limits, extend [President Hugo] Ch├ívez’s term to seven years from six and raise the threshold for recalling him." Chavez also wants to make Venezuela a socialist state. People opposed to this change argue that it will make Venezuela more totalitarian than democratic, as Chavez argues. Voter turnout was surprisingly low. Lines, if any, were short and the streets were empty except for the few voters who had just cast ballots.
Criticized by many people for his proposal, President Chavez has "ordered troops to occupy oil installations over the weekend, threatening to cut off oil exports to the United States in the event of American interference in the referendum."
Unnamed sources stated on Sunday night that Chavez had won the referendum.
If Chavez did truly win, how do you think the changes to the constitution will affect the country in the long run?
Will the U.S. stay out of it, in order to ensure that they continue to receive oil?
Are Chavez's proposals really more democratic or totalitarian?