[politics] Nov. 6th– remember to vote!

Ignoring the plugs Ms. Johansson made for Mr. Obama, what the Hollywood starlet said should ring true for everyone in America. While this speech is probably not one of the classics, it was rousing and to the point. All of us are born into this great nation, and for just one time during the year, we should help it to go on the right path. Not many people will ever be able to make it to the presidency or to Congress, but all of us will have the opportunity to vote; so do not squander your chance.

Where you can make the most difference is informing yourself on the local candidates, not just the presidential candidates, because often, local decisions are the ones that affect you the most and the most quickly. Moreover, because there are less people voting in the local elections, you do have a larger voice, and comparatively, your vote has an even greater impact on local elections than in the presidential election (unless you live in a battleground state). Though it may be great that the presidential candidates promise to end the war, it would probably be much more satisfactory for most people to have the local dams and streams reconstructed to prevent excessive flooding, too.

I hope everyone on the East Coast has weathered out Hurricane Sandy safely! I hear many parts of New Jersey, where I am from, is still without power. My thoughts go out to you.

[politics/musings] faltering economy, dysfunctional government: Americans and quick fixes

I wrote this post in a spate of anger, before the US had resolved its debt talks. I decided to let it sit while I cooled off. It’s still extremely relevant. Frightening.


There has been a huge furor over the budget talks, with the Republicans threatening to let the United States default on its debt. Though I find this game of chicken deeply frightening, I think the mass opinion of the American population even more horrifying– that Obama has simply done nothing to alleviate the recession and has even made our recession worse.

Several points to remember:

  1. Presidencies only last for four years. Eight years if you’re lucky.
    and how long was the Great Depression? 10+ years.

    additional reading
    (a) Federalist Paper no. 71, Alexander Hamilton
    (b) AP US Gov. discussion, I took AP US Gov. as well..
    (c) 2004 CRS Report for Congress on Presidential term, a little dry but the official take

  2. The recession didn’t begin with Obama. The recession began with George W. Bush and its roots stemmed all the way from Reagan deregulation and supply-side economics.

    additional reading
    (a) How did economists get it wrong? NYTimes
    (b) Late-2000s financial crisis, Wikipedia
    (c) The Subprime Primer, a funny, easy to understand, 45 page slideshow that illustrates one huge part of why we broke down, I highly recommend flipping through this– though there is some strong language at the end
  3. High oil prices aren’t a reflection of the recession. Oil prices cannot be regulated by the US government (at least, not directly).
    if anything, because we are in a recession, demand should be going down. So ceteris paribus, price should be going down.

    additional reading

    (a) What is OPEC? WiseGeek
    (b) What to do about high oil prices, Heritage
    (c) What affects oil prices? About

It is so unrealistic and petty to believe that one person and his retinue can solve huge problems that stretched over a decade in a measly two years. This feeling of entitlement and the ability to patch up quick fixes is glaringly wrong. Though I do not defend Obama’s economic actions, and other presidents could/would have done better in his situation, I find these sentiments of quick fixes to be naive.

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[science] scientists now have potato’s entire DNA sequence

potato flowers! pretty!

Cool, right? I could probably write four more sentences on GMOs, but hey.

In other news, US has declared it’s holding back $800 million worth of foreign aid from Pakistan. Several reasons why:

  • Pakistan’s army requested a ‘significant cutback’ of US military trainers.
  • Pakistan limited visas for US personnel.
  • Pakistan shut down US programs training paramilitaries, firing more than 100 US trainers.
  • Pakistan threatened to close the CIA base from which drones have been taking off (oh no they didn’t!).

Ever since Osama was killed under the noses of Pakistan, tensions have come to a head. Pakistan resents the US doing this all in secret, not trusting them. But really. Osama lived pretty obviously right in the smack-dab of rich-army-base, and Pakistan still swears they knew nothing about it. However, Pakistan, with precious few allies, really can’t head-on jab their fingers in America’s chest, so it’s being all passive-aggressive.. smooth..


[photography] Rupert Grint on the cover of Attitude. appropriately holding a red fire-extinguisher.

Dayum, Rupert. New haircut and leather jacket? You so handsum.

Rupert completed this photoshoot to promote Deathly Hallows 2, set to hit theaters July 15th. The magazine will apparently be on sale in a weeks’ time.

I absolutely love the fire-extinguisher he’s holding– a sign of the photographer’s consciousness of the magazine cover. A simple, bold punch.

[politics/analysis] my immediate reactions: Bin Laden’s death and Obama’s statement.

Osama Bin Laden was the bane of the Bush administration, and his death may just prove the savior of Obama’s administration. If Obama plays his cards right, this could get him a tipping point on the reelection scale. I do not like the four year terms of the US presidents–they are really too short to do anything meaningful and their actions can be undone rather easily (as the Republicans in Congress strongly like to hint). Even though Obama has done some questionable things, he hasn’t been horrifically bad, and I’d like to give him time to make good on his promises, many of which I think should be given time to be developed and tested.

Further implications beyond Obama’s reelection? Well, Bin Laden was a symbol of the Al Qaeda movement, and so Al Qaeda will be stalled a bit and demoralized, that is, if there’s not a sizable saint movement happening for him and another charismatic and strong leader waiting in the wings– but these reactions will take time to formulate. America is the one that has momentum now, and it can further cement its allies’ commitment to fighting Al Qaeda (“hey! we did it! we killed him! we actually have purposes in fighting wars!”). The drone attacks in Pakistan may seem less controversial in the US for the time being as well. We will definitely regain some of that old American swagger in international politics and perhaps this will be reflected in a more aggressive military policy. There is a lot to consider, and as just a lowly undergraduate who can only think of questions and can only inadequately provide vague answers, I suggest you read The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times tomorrow morning for Op-Eds and analysis.

My general reaction watching the Obama’s statement:

Appearance: Obama was wearing a red tie, and he was in a hallway with red carpet. There was no one with him. He walked in by himself and walked out by himself. This ties in with the theme of him being the lone commander-in-chief; he even said, “I gave the direction…” and “I ordered…”–though this is a group effort, Obama focused on his part. Interesting. Subtle reelectioneering? Or paranoid Michelle?

Demeanor: Obama was not looking at the camera while speaking. I’ve been told this is because he looks more ‘respectable’ and ‘handsome’ from a certain angle. Obama is also known for being a cool intellectual, and he certainly was that here. He was not angry, he was not even happy. He was mature, like he knew all along this would happen. And as the adult in the room, he reminded us that despite Bin Laden’s death, we need to still be vigilant. However, I wish he was more reassuring and paternal rather than the strict uncle.

International Relations: Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, and Pakistan has been an uncertain ally of the US. Obama reaffirmed their good relationship, and then branched onto Islam. Personally, I believe this part on Islam was most important, that America is “not at war with Islam” because we often get portrayed like that, to our huge detriment. We have no real allies in the Middle East (Egypt? Israel?). If there’s one world relationship America can improve tremendously, it’s Middle East. China can ignore us at Copenhagen, but the Middle East wouldn’t even bother to show up.

Bush comparison? The biggest thing that struck me was the difference between Bush’s seemingly precipitous decision-making process and Obama’s meticulous process that apparently took months. Subtle reelectioneering? You bet. Anything to get The Trump from holding office.

Speech quality: on the high end, but I wouldn’t say a classic rhetorically. No major doctrinal introductions, no major memorable phrase (“justice has been done”… I half expected “justice has been served!”). It will be a classic because of the subject matter, though. Ending with the pledge is genius. Obama opened with the concept of the one American family, and he reverts to one thing that all American citizens (should) know: the pledge.

I am sure all these analyst monkeys at WSJ, Economist, & NYTimes are working at breakneck speed now. This monkey blogger here will read all 495886 opinions tomorrow. And maybe write a blog post on it.

Click to see my original notes as I watched the live statement– if that sort of thing interests you:

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[photography/politics] some of the best photos from the White House 2011

Pete Souza has a dream job, taking photos of the President and his activities. His photos are simply stunning; the quality and composition are painstakingly thought out, trying to show us a side of the President and his consuming duties that we may not think about. Souza is extremely effective at portraying Obama as a human being—for every security briefing we see a photo of, we see pictures of Obama playing basketball, reading books to children, and laughing.

President Barack Obama laughs during a meeting in the Oval Office, Jan. 24, 2011. / Lincoln is in the background. Not an accident. This photo blew me away.

President Barack Obama greets Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Colonnade prior to their meeting in the Oval Office, March 2, 2011. / Can you say symbolization? Secretary of State is on the outside, President is inside.

President Barack Obama reads from his book, "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters," during a visit by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and his family to the Oval Office, March 2, 2011. / I have a favorite justice. So kill me. Can you name all the justices sitting on the Supreme Court right now?

President Barack Obama stands by a cut-out picture of First Lady Michelle Obama during a visit to Miami Central High School in Miami, Fla., March 4, 2011. / I love Obamas sense of humor! Trout.

Want to see more? Official White House flickr photostream.

[Politics] Immediate reaction to Obama’s State of the Union

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Speaker of the House John Boehner before delivering the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Probably to the annoyance of my private Twitter followers, I posted a blow by blow reaction to Obama’s State of the Union this Tuesday, and this is the transcript and my immediate verbal reaction afterwards:

9:10 PM of course Pres. Obama would talk with my favorite Supreme Court judge Stephen Breyer; it’s sad I know what Breyer looks like and not Boehner

9:14 PM “we are part of the American family” Obama is drawing on Tuscon “common hopes and common creed”.. he’s doing the ethos route first, crafty

9:16 PM main tone is cooperation, restore faith in a a ‘dysfunctional’ and divided gov’t– sounds like a huge gentle reproach to the Republicans

9:22 PM “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” OBAMA YES YES YES

9:23 PM looools Obama mentioned Google and Facebook.. yays for Google, poos for FB or Evilbook

9:29 PM I hate this Congress’ new polarization and the Republicans’ sour faces. You said you would make changes but being sour doesn’t cut it.

9:31 PM Hillary Clinton on camera! She’s wearing bipartisan purple!

9:33 PM “In South Korea teachers are known as nation builders. In America, it’s time we treated teachers with that level of respect.” OBAMA YOU RULE

9:39 PM “South Korean homes have faster internet than we do.. China’s building faster trains and new airports. We have to do better.” HIGHSPEEDRAIL!

9:41 PM asldjlkajsdf High Speed Wireless drool alaksjdlkj omg omg I want a high speed rail on the east coast, that would be amazing, amazing!!

9:43 PM “South Korean Trade Agreement will support 70,000 American jobs” wow. South Korea is getting a lot of Obama love

9:44 PM this is actually really bad that South Korea is getting this much attention, President Jintao just visited-the visit must not have been good

9:47 PM FYI: Boehner’s biography at House.gov recommends the pronunciation BAY-ner. If you were wondering, that is

9:51 PM yesh, we need to look at non-discretionary spending.. discretionary is only 12% which makes it ridiculous to only cut there. OBAMA #SOTU

9:55 PM “I hear it gets even more complicated when they’re smoked.” Obama you big dork <3

9:57 PM Even though earmarks get a bad press rap, I don’t think they’re necessarily bad, especially if it helps to reach a significant compromise.

10:03 PM Obama mentions South Korea again.. he’s on the theme of global alliances.. err WHERE IS CHINA?

10:08 PM Obama calls on banishment of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.. cameras zoomed on generals, who didn’t stand for an ovation and looked quite stoic


Overall, the president delivered the speech extremely well, but the actual speech was average, though clear and well-organized. Full of soundbites, but none really that memorable—“win the future” as a catchphrase really did not catch on fire with Congress’ (Democrats’) reactions. Only a quarter of the US population watched the address, so the impact will be limited, sadly. I believe this decrease in viewership was due to the mostly negative spin the press gave to the State of the Union, predicting that he wouldn’t be able to sway or unite Congress, outlining what he needed to do to unify a “divided” nation—none were very optimistic, so most people dismissed this broadcast thinking it would not be important in the long run.

However, Obama made several tantalizing points, as I point out in my rambly reaction afterwards, which can be found here and continued here.