It’s Friday November 8th! Do you know where your podcast is? On this day in history back in 1895, German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen became the first person to observe X-rays. X-rays are electromagnetic energy waves that act like light rays, but at wavelengths almost 1,000 times shorter. Upon their discovery, X-rays allowed doctors to see inside the human body for the first time without surgery. We here at Upside Downtrodden feel a special kinship with X-rays. We, too, possess the ability to see through humans. Read more
Two weeks into my sophomore year in university I decided to meet up with an old friend from freshman year. She was a Muslim from Kuwait and a very interesting person to talk to considering her background. We were discussing various topics and came across the theory of evolution since she was now taking the same biology class as the one I had taken during my freshman year. She is very much into science so I decided to ask her opinion on the theory of evolution. Her response wasn’t very positive. I first I was surprised, but then I remembered I had learned the previous year that the Muslim world frowns upon the idea of evolution. I also learned that teaching evolution in the Middle East varies by state and is usually combined with creationist beliefs for the explanation of the origin of the universe. I am fan of evolution, but the conversation reminded me just how the Arab world is similar to the USA since there is a problem here with teaching evolution and God in public schools. Questions arise asking whether God should be taught alongside evolution, should we even teach evolution to our children, or does God even belong inside the classroom? Read more
“Why should I respect a Republican or Democrat’s political views on campus when he or she draws conclusions completely contrary to my own?” Some of us at Duke answer this question with, “I shouldn’t have to. If my opponent is wrong, then there is simply no reason to respect what I deem to be conclusively wrong.”
These individuals operate in a world of black-and-white policy answers. But it surprises me, at a school that arguably teaches one of the best liberal arts curricula in our country, with hundreds of professors teaching and debating conflicting ideas with one another every day, that any Duke University student can come away from his or her studies passionately believing that he or she has found definitively right answers to America’s policy problems at the humble age of 22. These students are paying $60,000 a year to ignore the prying hands of a Duke education that is desperately trying to open their minds. Read more
The UN General Assembly meetings this week offer President Obama a chance to capitalize on recent diplomatic developments with Syria and to extend a hand to new Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in the hopes of launching renewed negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. In an op-ed in the Washington Post last week, Rouhani urged other leaders “to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue.” It is critical for Obama to show that his administration is willing to answer Iranian concessions with some relief of sanctions that Rouhani can bring to the Iranian people.
Iran is Ready for Talks
A prominent adviser to the Iranian leadership, Amir Mohebbian, explains that Iran’s leaders see the next six months represent the best opportunity to reach an agreement, before campaigning for parliamentary elections begins in March. This is a window the US cannot afford to miss. It is time for the US to offer a reasonable deal that would signal to the Iranian people that the West is willing to work towards a larger agreement. Read more
Michael Stinnett - 9/03/2013: Legal rulings such as Citizens United and lax campaign financing laws have undermined the democratic process allowing wealthy donors to buy elections; so-called Super PACs are a pernicious influence on society and should be abolished. A Super PAC, or independent expenditure-only committee, “may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. Super PACs must, however, report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or quarterly basis – the Super PAC's choice – as a traditional PAC would. Unlike traditional PACs, Super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates” (Super PACs). The recent ruling protects political spending by corporations in candidate elections, citing the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech. In justifying the ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that “'If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech'” (The New York Times). Read more
With the talks already ongoing to try and avert a government shutdown in the face of another debt ceiling crisis, I have decided to look at the broader question of whether it is genuinely possible to have an actual dialogue, on any subject, given the current political atmosphere. The first item in this conversation is to determine what dialogue actually is. Despite many different definitions that come to mind, and a lot of searching, I have happened upon a quote that seems to make the most sense. In the book On Heaven and Earth then Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, in his introduction has this to say on the idea of dialogue:
"Dialogue is born of a respectful attitude toward the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It supposes that we can make room in our heart for their point of view, their opinion and their proposals. Dialogue entails a warm reception and not a preemptive condemnation. To dialogue, one must know how to lower the defenses, to open the door to one's home and to offer warmth. Read more
We have all been seeing for years now the arguments put forward by some that President Barack Obama was ineligible to run for President because he was not a "natural born citizen" as his father was from Kenya. Despite Hawaii finally giving over a copy of the long form of Obama's birth certificate, and the repeated refusal of courts to entertain the issue, many are still making the same, tired arguments. Well, we have a debunking of that argument in the form of an Obama opponent who was born in Canada, holds dual citizenship due to Canadian law, and one parent who was not a US citizen at the time of his birth. That person? None other than Tea Party favorite and ultra conservative politician from Texas, Senator Ted Cruz. Read more
A few years ago I was asked to give a short talk on the subject of Roe v. Wade. As I have always been interested in the Supreme Court and the individuals who have served on it, I readily agreed. Knowing how controversial that particular decision was, I decided to try a little experiment. Opening the talk, I asked how many supported the decision. Roughly half the hands went up. Then I asked how many opposed it. Again, roughly half raised their hands. Then I asked the most important question. How many have actually read the decision? Sadly, out of perhaps 20 people two raised their hands. I asked them when that shocking revelation revealed itself "How can you support or oppose something without even having taken the time to read it to know what it actually says?" Read more
It seems puzzling that Harvard University would grant tenure, let alone appoint someone to be the chairman of its economics department, who fundamentally doesn't believe in economics. But there it is, all spelled out in a much talked about new paper, "Defending the One Percent," by Harvard economics professor and former Mitt Romney advisor, N. Gregory Mankiw, in the June issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
After summarily dispensing with the arguments offered by those on "the left" for greater income equality, specifically those of Joseph Stiglitz who condemns today's yawning wage gap as not only unjust and obscene but economically inefficient as well, Mankiw concludes his 25-page apologia for the bulging portfolios of today's plutocrats by asserting that taxing the wealthy to support socially useful purposes is just plain "wrong." Read more
Ok. Snowden is on the run.
“It’s espionage!” “He’s a traitor!!”.
Yeegads. All for telling us that our government is listening to us and wants to listen to the globe.
“We have warrants!” shouts Obama,
And then in a whisper “from that secret FISA Court” that nobody knows anything about because it’s a secret. National security you know.
Google moved today for a declaratory judgement in Federal Court (the REAL court!) to be allowed to disclose the warrants it received from the NSA through the FISA Court (not to be taken as an admission that there are any warrants of course - they are secret), arguing that it’s business has been irreparably damaged.
Now suppose the security state can’t catch Snowden? Suppose he gets asylum? How would you feel if Obama put him on the drone list over a Tuesday afternoon coffee at the White House?
Nah. Of course he wouldn’t. Would he? He can. Maybe after getting a secret warrant from FISA Court so it’s all nice and legal. Read more
Justice Scalia finally made us proud.
In common with the vast majority of progressives I have considered our two Italian - American Justices to be running dogs of right wing conservatives / corporatists; borderline demi-fascists.
Scalia was on the side of Citizens United; against Obamacare; consistently voting with the other four right wing Justices. Obamacare passed Court muster only because John Roberts pulled a Becket, shocking his political allies.
Justice Scalia, on the other hand, has written several opinions in 4th Amendment cases which progressives should be cheering. His greatest opinions have involved his passionate defense of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. It was Scalia who held, for a majority of the Court, that police need a valid warrant before they can use thermal imaging devices on a suspect’s home, or track his movements 24/7 for a month using a GPS device. Scalia has also written memorable dissents in defense of privacy, including his denunciation of warrantless drug testing for customs employees as “a kind of immolation of privacy and human dignity in symbolic opposition to drug use.” Read more
Its Sunday April 28th! Do you know where your podcast is? On this day in history back in 1967, Muhammad Ali refused induction into the U.S. military. The self-proclaimed "Greatest Fighter of All Time" cited religious reasons for staging his most important fight; a fight against institutionalized, senseless killing. Take a moment to process these statements - yes, a fighter by profession and religious person (Ali converted to Islam in 1964) refused to go to war! Ali was fined $10,000, sentenced to 5 years in prison, and was stripped of the world title he had won by beating Sonny Liston. He avoided prison while appealing all the way to the highest court, and lost his heavyweight title the first time the same year he won his case in 1971. Muhammad Ali is the only three-time boxing world champion, and is still one of the most intriguing figures in American history. His reason for refusing conscription was because "I ain't got no quarrel with those Vietcong." Amazing that the government of a "Christian nation" would seek to take everything from a person who was acting exactly in the manner that Jesus would have prescribed. Read more
Gun rights purists can’t believe their luck. One lunatic on a Texas college campus has proven their point: it’s not the guns that kill people. If someone wants to wage deadly mayhem, he’ll find a means to do it. Gun control liberals can finally STFU now.
Except, a lunatic with a knife differs pretty distinctly from a lunatic with a semi-automatic assault rifle. Where Newtown saw thirty children shot multiple times, funerals spanning a month, and a nation in perpetual mourning, in Houston, Texas every single victim lives. Two are in critical condition, the rest are stable. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, as is any human who has suffered the trauma of a physical attack.
Every attack on multiple people is different. Every one is isolated and born from unique reasons – the failure of the mental health structure here being the basis of some. To lump them together as an anecdotal instance to prove a political point is to compound that failure. No one wins here. Read more
It’s Monday April 8th! Do you know where your podcast is? On this day in history back in 1935, Congress established the Works Progress Administration program, and FDR signed the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act. Not too shabby considering they were in the depths of The Great Depression, eh? It makes you wonder. We were able to find money to help people during the time in America’s history when we were as broke as broke can be. We were able to create jobs, invest in the country, and work together towards what would become America’s golden age. We were able to pass The Social Security Act and form unemployment insurance delivering a New Deal for Americans. This only happened because enough people decided that helping people was the right thing to do. They realized we were stronger together. They were right. Read more
Update, Friday March 29th: This “feedback” phase of the Knight NewsChallenge ends at 5pm ET today, so please help now. Let’s bring We The People style petitions to every U.S. city government for accountability and engagement.
The OpenCongress team has submitted a proposal to the Knight Foundation NewsChallenge for open-government projects:
OpenGovernment.org – a version of “We The People” for state, city, and local governments
… thanks to mentions from friends-of-PPF like Chris Hayes, Zephyr Teachout, Reihan Salam, and others, as of this writing we’ve risen in the ranks to the bottom of the first page of most-viewed projects overall. Currently ranked 20th (Monday 3/25/13 update: 16th!) most-viewed of 825 proposals, not too shabby – and we’re sixth most-applauded overall, which is awesome popular support. Lots of great #opengov submissions, more on that below. (Right: a sample of our new, clean design for Q&A on OG.) Read more