Politics Daily #17 – Sam Brownback Signs Bill Banning Islamic Law in Kansas

Actually, technically, no he didn’t.

But such was the title of the Huffpost article.  In reality, governor Brownback is signing into law a measure that prohibits courts and government agencies from basing their decisions on foreign legal codes, namely the Islamic Shariah law.  The intention of this bill was to ensure that legal cases in Kansas are only decided by American laws and constitutions.

Sounds kind of patriotic, doesn’t it? It was probably Brownback’s intention to make it appear so, as well.

When I saw the headline, I somewhat interpreted, my previous impression of Brownback as a staunch conservative, especially on social issues, the headline as ‘Sam Brownback hates Islam.’  While that might be entirely possible at a personal level, the signing of this bill, or even the contents of the bill, do not really support the notion that Brownback is targeting Islam specifically with this bill.  Hence I found the article title somewhat misleading.

Politics Daily #16 – The Wisconsin Recall Debate: Tom Barrett vs. Scott Walker

The first of two gubernatorial debates between Tom Barrett (D) and Scott Walker (R) took place last night, as Barrett aggressively went after Walker on a wide range of issues, including his out-of-state fundraising, the incendiary bill that stripped collective bargaining rights from most public workers, and his efforts to appeal to the far-right on the national level.

For a more detailed account about the debate, check out the Huffpost report here.

Mr. Barrett said during the debate that Wisconsin has lost “more jobs than any other state in the entire country in 2011,” and that Walker’s policies were polarizing to the point where it was impossible in some instances for neighbors to talk to neighbors, for relatives to talk to relatives, for workers to talk to co-workers.

And then there’s Walker, sticking to his talking points and talking about creating jobs.

It never ceases to boggle my mind that so many Republican politicians such as Walker keeps on talking about creating jobs while slashing spending.  My understanding of how government works is that it needs revenue in order to pay its employed workers.  As much as so many Republicans / conservatives / Ron Paul supporters want to turn the United States into an almost-government-free libertarian state, America is far from that.  Government jobs still encompass a large portion of the workforce as a whole.

So common sense should dictate that the less money government has, the weaker its ability to hire people.

On the other hand, Republicans have never stopped declaring their belief that the private sector is where most jobs are created, and we have heard too often that wealth will trickle down from top to bottom. This notion has all but proven to be untrue, as for example, the fat cats at Wall Street are back to business as usual with almost no new regulation imposed on them while the working class in America continue to struggle.

Soon-to-be-ex Governor Walker lit the fuse that blew up in his face when he wanted to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights, rights that represent entrenched values of working society and the relationship between the worker and the owner.  A landslide defeat could be depicted as a small-scale version of the defeat of Nicholas Sarkozy in France, as a rejection of borderline-outrageous fiscal conservatism.

Check out this article for a list of reasons why Scott Walker should be recalled.

Britain Knights Apple Designer

You may now refer to him as sir Jonathan Ive, chief designer of Apple.  Check out the Huffpost Report here.

According to Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson, the late Apple co-founder viewed him as a ‘spiritual partner’ of Apple.  That’s saying something.  

As someone who was born in the late 80s and slowly became aware of what types of computers were used in the classrooms, the colored iMac desktop made a lasting impression on me as it looked so different from everything before that.  It was cute but not childish.  It was chic.  

I’m not a tech guy, so I’m not about to discuss specifically what made the Ive-contributed Apple designs so great.  But that’s perhaps exactly why Apple products are so great: people love them because they are able to do incredibly technologically advanced things without knowing anything about technology.  They are simple and intuitive to use.  

Ive says in the interview that the product he is most proud off is yet to come.  Perhaps he will debut it at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference next month.

Movie Review: some thoughts on Marvel’s The Avengers

‘Awesome!’ is the word I keep hearing from people who have seen “Marvel’s the Avengers,” the first of the summer blockbusters featuring the superheroes that have had their stand-alone hit movies in the past few years.

Now that the film is breaking box office records almost everywhere and is approaching Avatar-esque gross, just how good is The Avengers?

In spite of all of the fantastic visual effects, action sequences, coherent storyline, and engaging acting, the most brilliant feature of the film was director Joss Whedon’s ability to keep it from becoming scattershot.  Often times, big budget movies with megastars can fail miserably if the direction fails to hold everything together;  “Troy” fell into the wrong hands and became sluggish and campy; “Transformers 2” is one of the worst action movies of all time, although of course that did not stop Michael Bay from making a sequel, and perhaps a sequel after that.

Whedon’s ability to inject humanity into the characters amidst all of the special effects and battles in a film that clocks in at two hours is uncanny.   The characters are not delivering dull, corny lines like in the “Transformers” films.  They were, through their dialogue and various other non-verbal interactions, bonding.   Moreover, the actors were not just stoically reading from their scripts, they made the most in developing their characters and did so in a charismatic way.

That’s about all I have to say about this film.  Praising the action or special effects or acting was would take away from how awesome the film is as a whole.  When you see the film again (if you haven’t, do it!), just take notice of how well it holds together from start to finish, that everything hits the right note.  And above all, this film is what going to the movies is all about, having fun!

Politics Daily #15 – Obama Administration’s ‘War’ on the Press

The latest Huffington Post headline reads: “WAR ON THE PRESS: Obama Administration Attacks Basic Reporting Right.”

A lawyer representing the Department of Justice is arguing that New York Times reporter  James Risen should be forced to testify in the trial of former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking classified information to Risen about a botched plot against the Iranian government.

While it has somewhat become a struggle between the ‘reporters’ privilege’ and the Espionage Act – a World War I-era law intended to prohibit the aiding of enemies -, some, such as Lucy Dalglish from Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, are arguing that it is not even necessary to force Risen to testify, as the DOJ has the power to obtain all the evidence it needs to make a case (airline tickets, hotel receipts, etc.)

I wouldn’t pretend to know much about the inner workings of D.C., or Federal politics, or the correlation between the methods with which reports obtain classified information from government departments such as the Department of Justice, the C.I.A., or the N.S.A.  I do think though, that it would be a shame if this issue with the press winds up becoming an election issue that comes back and bites Obama during the election.

While Fox News is the ultimate voice of American conservatism and Republican rhetoric, most other television news outlets are fairly centrists or liberal-leaning.  As such, it would be very unwise for Obama to anger the part of the media that has largely been standing on his side (you really only need to adhere to the facts to be on his side).  As Jake Tapper of ABC questions the inconsistency (bordering hypocrisy) as the Obama administration’s applauding of aggressive journalism abroad as highlighted by the recent passings of Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin and its crackdown of aggressive journalism at home, it seems like the administration is struggling to find the right tone to approach the issue.

Or perhaps it is more clear-cut than that; somebody inside the administration is controlling which direction they would take with regards to cracking down on leaks.  And that person, whom I doubt very much would be the President himself, is putting the notion that ‘there’s a reason classified documents are classified’ before ‘people have the right to know what the government is doing’.

Politics Daily #14 – The Two Things some Europeans are ‘Anti-ing’

A substantial number of Europeans, all over Europe, fervently dissatisfied with the political status quo, are electing politicians with radical beliefs and agendas to lead their country.

And it turns out, a portion of these folks are mixing another ‘anti’ with the ‘anti-austerity’ storm that has swept the continent.

For a detailed report on which peoples are voting for whom where, check out CNN’s report here.  The article highlights the notion that the number of people who voted for political parties with rather extreme views in recent elections in Greece, Austria, Belgium, the Scandinavian countries, Hungary, and others, is large enough to take note, the majority of them enraged at the failed austerity economic measures.

However, the article aptly points out that, although many are turning to extremist political parties for change, the main force that is driving the incumbent governments out of power has more to do with their failure to revive the economy and their seeming disregard for the lower and middle classes rather than support for the extremist parties’ policies.  As the recent election in France demonstrates, the Socialist Party, led by Francois Hollande, does not hold extreme radical views.  He won partly because of the public’s discontent with the austerity measures implemented by Nicholas Sarkozy.

That was the first ‘anti’, anti-austerity as a significant number of Europeans have deemed fiscal conservatism a failure. The second ‘anti’ has somewhat caught on with the first one, for vaguely linked reasons.

As the far-right gained more support in recent elections, so did their ongoing anti-Muslim sentiments.  Many Europeans, such as those who voted for the ultra-nationalist, anti-immigration Golden Dawn party in Greece, are merging their anger at austerity measures together with their distrust towards foreigners.  It’s a strange mix, and these parties face the difficulty of being convoluted in their messages between nationalism and anti-austerity while channeling the public’s anger into supporting them.

The supporting of far-right groups for either anti-Muslim or anti-Austerity reasons might result in more chaos for Europe.  But once the economy recovers, albeit which might take many years, support for these groups is likely to wane.  As Dr. Matthew Feldman said in the article, “it’s clear that a large minority across Europe isn’t comfortable with these things — demographic change and multiculturalism… But what the far right offers is not something that many can accept.”

Politics Daily #13 – Gay Donor Pulls Support From Mitt Romney Over Gay Marriage

Bill White, head of a consulting firm in New York and openly gay, has decided to pull his support from the Romney campaign and instead support President Obama’s reelection bid.  He has also asked for his money back.

Read the Huffpost report here.

The article’s highlight:

“While he clarified to CNN that he does not agree with the president on fiscal issues, White said that Romney’s speech during Liberty University’s commencement on Saturday led him to believe that Romney would press for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage — a position that White simply cannot support.”

This incident is proof that, in an election dominated by concerns over the economy, social issues such as same sex marriage bear a strong enough influence to change which candidate a voter supports.  In this case, Mr. White was willing to support Mr. Obama because of his support for gay marriage and despite disagreeing with him over fiscal issues.

Now that someone has taken the first step in switching their support, it’s likely that a lot more gay supporters of Republican candidates, including the Senate and the House, will support a Democrat instead.

And it just might illustrate the potential brilliance in Obama’s calculated move to finally declare his support for gay marriage, as not only will he draw votes from gay conservatives, he can also garner up support from more homosexuals who will vote for the first time because of this issue.