Jurassic World Review

It’s finally here!  The sequel we’ve been waiting for for what feels like has 65 million years!  I’ve been thoroughly following the news for this movie ever since March, watching all the TV Spots and breakdown videos on YouTube, re-watching the movies, and buying Jurassic Park T-Shirts.  I even read Micheal Crichton‘s 1991 novel in preparation for the movie.  I know most people were not quite as excited for the movie as I, but the main question in deciding how well Jurassic World succeed is: did it live up to the hype, and was it a worthy sequel of JP1?  Well, that’s difficult to answer.  If you watched all the trailers and TV spots as I did, you spoiled yourself.  You largely knew what you were getting; so you weren’t very surprised.  Despite this, JW managed to surprise many JP junkies.

The plot

Jurassic World takes place 22 years after the catastrophe on Isla Nublar in the 1993 classic.  John Hammond‘s dream of opening a dinosaur theme park has been implemented by billionaire capitalist Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the CEO of Masrani Global, the international corporation that bought InGen and runs Jurassic World.  Director Colin Trevorrow and Spielberg decided to cut out The Lost World and JP3 from the Jurassic Park timeline to make JW a direct sequel to the original film.  When I first heard this, I was a little disappointed that all the events in the two sequels were rendered obsolete, but it’s probably for the best.  After all, no one would allow Jurassic Park to be re-constructed after the San Diego incident.

Now that the park has been open for over a decade, the public is not as wowed by dinosaurs as they were 20 years ago.  Kids who have grown up during the park’s existence aren’t fascinated by dinosaurs.  To them, a Stegosaurus isn’t much more interesting than an African Elephant.  This is why to increase park attendance, park administration, organized by Park Operations Manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), and the biological team, lead by Chief Geneticist Henry Wu (BD Wong), decides to create a hybrid theropod called the Indominus Rex.  Not fully knowing what the Indominus is a hybrid of, the park staff underestimate the dino’s intelligence and are unprepared for its containment.  Before you know it, she has escaped her paddock and ravages through the northern section of Nublar.  Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a Velociraptor researcher employed by Jurassic World and the main protagonist of the movie, helps Claire in finding her nephews, who are riding among the giant herbivores in the gyrosphere attraction when the Indominus escapes, unaware of the park evacuation.  The brothers, Zach (Nick Robinson), a stereotypical teenage boy who would rather look at girls than dinosaurs, and Gray (Ty Simpkins), a 9 or 10 year-old boy who is fascinated by dinosaurs, bond together in the pursuit of survival.

The execution

Throughout the film, Trevorrow surprises us with certain parts being better than you would expect, with other aspects of the film lacking.  The film isn’t just a dinosaur disaster movie like so many have been quick to label it as.  For an Sci-Fi action-adventure flick, it isn’t completely dominated by grotesque violence, though it does take up most of the second half.  The themes of the movie, such as control of nature, animal rights, and the bond between “man and beast” which are brought up in the beginning recounter us in the escalation and climax through subtle hints.  It’s always the message of the Jurassic Park, which becomes seemingly more important every year, that always reinvigorates my love for the series.

Owen and Claire searching for her nephews.

Character development is definitely one of the most apparent weaknesses of the film, though not for all the characters.  Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard play their characters, Owen and Claire, almost perfectly.  We are quickly attached to Owen and immediately have respect for him through his first scene, in which he commands the Raptor squad flawlessly.  Being the park manager who is obsessed with profits and thinks of the dinosaurs more as products than animals, Claire is not a very likable character at first, but as she bonds with Owen and her role as a heroine strengthens, we enjoy her a lot more.    The chemistry between Grady and Dearing is good overall, especially when they are searching for the Mitchell brothers together, but some of the more intimate moments just seem forced and others straight awkward.  The same can be said for the bonding moments between the Mitchell brothers.  Some of the dialogue is so corny that it’s almost unbearable, but nevertheless, their relationship is relatable for siblings.  Vincent D’Onofrio‘s character, Vic Hoskins, the story’s main human antagonist, is a little overdone by being made more of a villain than expected or needed.  By the climax, the audience is eagerly anticipating his death like the vain person in a horror movie who you know will die.  Jurassic World‘s Henry Wu is quite different from the original book and movie version of the character.  Though he still maintains his cheery persona at first, shortly after the Indominus escapes, Wu is revealed to be a mad scientist who will stop at nothing to continue playing god.  If there’s any character with parallel personalities, it’s Simon Masrani.  One second, he’s a laid-back charismatic billionaire whose only concern is if his park’s guests are having fun, and the next (particularly after the Indominus escapes), he can be incredibly serious.  However, all these character mess-ups are washed away by Jake Johnson‘s performance as Lowry Cruthers, the new Ray Arnold. He’s the comical computer geek who the audience falls in love with the moment he delivers his first line.  He may even be my favorite character of the whole movie.

Some people are upset that Act 1 of the movie is practically littered with homages to the original, but as a big Jurassic Park fan, I really loved them.  Its these types of throw backs that you can anticipate but can’t really be featured in any of the previews so that audiences are surprised.  As someone who has seen all the previews and talked about the ending online, these subtle homages were are fitting touch.  Others were afraid that the film would be so focused on being a sequel to Jurassic Park that it wouldn’t be it’s own movie, but Jurassic World succeeded in creating an interesting story that plays out well on the big screen.  Like the original, its not only a summer blockbuster but a film that family and friends can watch together over and over again.  It’s experiences like that that made us all fall in love with JP1.

It’s hard to live up to John Williams’s iconic masterpiece, but composer Michael Giacchino created a phenomenal soundtrack for Jurassic World.  22 years later, Giacchino fills us with the same wonder and excitement as Williams did when we first saw the Brachiosaurus walking for the first time.  Giacchnio’s variation on the JP theme is thrilling, but the main theme of the film, “As the Jurassic World turns“, is amazing as well.  I definitely intend to buy the soundtrack, and I suggest that every Jurassic Park fan should do so too.  Overall, the JW soundtrack beats the original in performance. With no disrespect to Williams, but he knew that his theme for the film was so incredible that he centered the rest of the soundtrack off of it.  Giacchino offers a greater variety of melodies through his music.  Throughout the film when listening to the soundtrack, I thought to myself:  “Wow, that really has a Jurassic Park and Dinosaur feel to it!” or “Oh my god! That sounds amazing!”

The Verdict

Many of those who have been critical of Jurassic World have justified their criticism by holding it accountable for not being a cinema masterpiece like the 1993 classic.  I think those people are being overly cynical.  I walked into the theater knowing that JW probably wouldn’t live up to all my expectations or all the hype.  To be honest, no movie, no matter how much money is poured into it or how good it is, can live up to a fourteen year hype.  I suspect that in December, Star Wars Episode 7 will be receiving these sample complaints and for the same reasons.  Its too often that people harshly criticize the sequel in a series whose first installment was a cinema legend.  When analyzing Jurassic World by itself, one will realize that it is a great movie.  It might not be as good as JP1, but it’s still pretty damn good.

JW combines all the elements of the Jurassic Park series that we love, adds homages to the original, gives us characters we can relate to and messages we should all take home, and manages to create an interesting plot that will entertain all.  It’s a real tribute to the series, and a movie that I could watch over and over and over again, with family and by myself.  That’s why I’m giving Jurassic World a rating of 8.7/10, a B+ grade.

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Top 10 Republicans Candidates for 2016

It’s been a LONG time since my last post here on Left Front, and even longer since my last political post.  I apologize for the hiatus, but now that summer is back, so am I.  During the next 3 months, I’ll have plenty of time to write pieces for my blog.

One of the topics I have not covered on the blog yet and one that you can be certain I will cover in-depth for the rest of 2015 and all of 2016 is, of course, the 2016 presidential election.  As of June 14th, 2015, there are 14 candidates who have officially announced their campaigns.  Though a few others are expected to announce their campaigns soon, the field of 2016 contenders is pretty much full.  Although we’re only half way through 2015, the Republican field is already crowded, with 10 candidates having announced.  That number will increase when Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, both of whom have already begun their campaigns but have not announced them or filed their FEC registration papers, formally announce their bids for the presidency.   I was originally going to make a Top 10 list for the potential Republican presidential candidates back in December but never got around to it.  Seeing how we now mostly know who and who will not be in the Republican race for president, it seems like a perfect time to make a list for the top 10 2016 Republican presidential candidates.  Judging by their policies, money-raising abilities, and name recognition, these are the guys I think stand a chance in winning the Republican nomination.  Remember, they aren’t in the order of who I like best (that would be hard, seeing how I really don’t like any Republican politicians), they’re placed in this order because of opinion polls among Republican voters and analyses of each candidate.  I’ll explain the placement of each candidate as the list progresses.

 

#10: Lindsey Graham (U.S. Senator from South Carolina)

It’s rare for a Republican to admit that climate change is real, rarer still for one to admit that it is caused by human activities, and extremely rare for one to propose that the government do something about it.  The global warming issue is what sets Lindsey Graham apart from his fellow party members.  Apart from Rand Paul, who only favors minimal regulation, Graham is the only environmentalist in the Republican field.  He could campaign on the issue to gain votes, but he has been reluctant to do so given how Republicans don’t seem to care about the environment.  Rather than focusing on environmental policy, Graham has pledged to run his campaign mainly on foreign policy, which he is weaker on.  Having served in the military and chaired several Senate subcommittees on foreign affairs, he has more foreign policy experience than many of the other Republican presidential candidates, but it will be hard to distinguish himself from the other imperialist hawks on the debate stage.  Senator Graham’s main political enemy is Rand Paul, who’s leading in many of the national polls.  In contrast, Lindsey is barely registering in these same polls, which could prevent him from participating in the first debate.  He’s certainly a long shot for the nomination, but if he manages to up his name recognition and play out his foreign policy and national defense cards, he might end up surviving the race longer than expected.

 

#9: Mike Pence (Governor of Indiana)

penceRarely mentioned by the media, this Indiana Governor (who looks like a TV president) was a serious possibility for the 2016 race back in 2014 when he was a fresh face who, much like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, represented an executive from the mid-west who could win over moderate Republicans due to being one himself (Pence was once a Democrat).  Of course, as a governor, he has not been able to participate in any national issues like Senators can.  Pence came under public scrutiny earlier this year when he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, which allowed business owners to not serve gays for religious reasons.  The law caused national outrage and protests, ultimately results in the Indiana State Senate making revisions to the bill.  The whole debacle hurt Pence’s reputation, changing the minds of many who originally thought of him as presidential material to just another conservative who defends prejudice.

#8: Ted Cruz (U.S. Senator from Texas)

_BDB6551TT_jpg_800x1000_q100This man needs no introduction.  Before his famous 21 hour filibuster during the 2013 government shutdown, no one knew who this freshman senator was, but overnight, he became a political celebrity due to talk show hosts mocking his reading of Green Eggs and Ham on the senate floor and some of the other remarks he made during his speech.  Ted Cruz has managed to continue his stardom by periodically making ridiculous public statements, most of which have to do with Obama.  One such example is when he criticized Democrats for alienating Christians and implementing “liberal fascism”.  Despite these instances, the national media seems to take him seriously, and has been speculating his candidacy ever since word broke that he had presidential ambitions.  He has become the posterboy for the Tea Party movement, and is undoubtedly the most conservative 2016 candidate.  I know it’s impossible for someone like him to win the nomination, but in national polls, Cruz actually ranks pretty high, reaching 8% or higher, which is quite impressive among a field of at least 10 other candidates.

 

#7: Mike Huckabee (Former Governor of Arkansas)

1394551002000-mike-huckabeeThis Southern Baptist minister/Bassist/Former FOX News host hasn’t left the public spotlight since his time as governor of Arkansas ended.  He hosted the Fox News show whose name he shares from 2008 to January of this year when he decided to start planning his campaign.  Like Hillary, he ran in 2008 for his party’s nomination but lost, which gives him a head up in name recognition.  He’s done well in the polls, coming in fourth or third in most cases, but experts say he doesn’t stand a chance unless he broadens his base from southern evangelicals (who Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz are competing with him for) to more swaths of the Republican party.

 

#6: Chris Christie (Governor of New Jersey)

chrischristie_ap_img“Sit down and shut up!”  It’s the big guy from New Jersey who can be seen shouting at hecklers at day and dancing with Jimmy Fallon at night.  Most of us first heard of Christie from the Bridgegate scandal, in which his chief of staff ordered a traffic delay on the George Washington Bridge to reprimand the town of Fort Lee, whose mayor did not support Christie in the 2013 gubernatorial election.  Since then, other scandals have developed around Christie, none of which he is willing to fess up to.  Whether these scandals will affect him in the 2016 race is yet to be seen.  Seeing how he has visited Iowa several times since 2010, it is likely that he will run.  Being the two-term Republican governor of a blue state and the chair of the Republican Governors Association will surely bump up his credentials, but his record will be the sole determiner if he is ready for the presidency.  Christie brags about bringing jobs to New Jersey, but the unemployment rate for the state has remained relatively high while it has dropped for the nation.  Many have thought Christie electable due to him being a moderate Republican, like Romney, but he has said some questionable stuff recently, such as his defense of the NSA bulk phone records.  When Christie starts his campaign, we’ll see if he is able to piece together his public image and obtain votes for being a down-to-earth/shout-in-your-face kind of guy.

 

#5: Rand Paul (U.S. Senator from Kentucky)

paul-234-092613If all the democratic candidates dropped dead, this is the guy I’d want to be president, but this list isn’t about my preferences, it’s about who stands a chance in winning the republican nomination, and Rand Paul actually has a pretty decent shot at it.  I’m sure seeing him elected president would be a living nightmare for the Republican establishment.  This ophthalmologist from Kentucky is a stark contrast from the mainstream Republican candidates competing against him.  Having many liberal positions, like his stances on foreign policy and the war on drugs, while having conservative positions such as being pro-life and his opposition to any gun control, Paul’s political philosophy can sometimes be hard to decipher.  He claims to be in favor of small government across the board, but on some issues like abortion, he has no problem with the government telling you what you can and cannot do.  He adopted these more mainstream Republican ideals to appeal to his party’s base, who he has claimed must broaden from old angry white men to minorities if they ever wish to win the white house again.  One of the things I commend Senator Paul for is his attention on national security due to him being among the few in his party who have consistently denounced the practices of the NSA.  After an 11 hour filibuster last month, he was successful in preventing the renewal of the Patriot Act.  Paul’s main strength is that he can win over people from across the political spectrum, but unfortunately, he has to get them to vote in the Republican primary (which isn’t typical for minorities and young people) if he is to win.

 

#4: Ben Carson (Retired Neurosurgeon)

No one could’ve imagined two or three years ago that Ben Carson, the renowned Neurosurgeon and conservative activist who has never held political office before in his life, would be one of the leading candidates in the Republican race for president.  I didn’t think I’d live to see the day that a black man from Detroit would be running for president AS A REPUBLICAN!  The more surprising fact is that a lot of Republicans like him!  Carson’s been coming in second or third place after Jeb Bush and Scott Walker in the most recent national polls.  For someone who isn’t even a politician, that’s quite impressive, but it’s still highly unlikely that he’ll win the nomination.  He lacks the funding, and if he continues to make more inflammatory remarks like he has in the recent past, the media will tear him apart before he can even make it to the debate stage.   Also, him never running a campaign before is a clear disadvantage that could set him back behind his competitors.

 

 

#3: Scott Walker (Governor of Wisconsin)

The college-dropout who later went on to become Wisconsin’s two-term Republican Governor will likely be Jeb Bush’s main rival.  Most people may not have known who he was a year ago, but ever since he revealed that he might run for president, the media has been covering his soon-to-be campaign everyday.  The last we saw of Walker in the news was him in Iowa, riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with Iowa Senator Joni Ernst  and her gang of redneck friends at the first annual Iowa Roast & Ride, a political event in rural Iowa in which Republican presidential hopefuls gave speeches while attendees ate pork.  In analysis of the event, the press decided that it was Scott Walker who shined the most, perhaps because he is originally from Iowa and the governor of the state next-door.  In the early Iowa polls, Walker ranks #1.  It’s quite possible that he’ll win the Hawkeye state, but it’s still very early into the race.  Jeb Bush and Chris Christie could easily cause trouble for him in the state, and we could see a candidate make the mistake of over-focusing on Iowa that it costs them the race, like what happened to Rick Santorum in 2012.  I think the media focuses too much on what’s happening in Iowa.  After all, it’s just one state.  It is a key swing state and a very important one for the primary season, but there are plenty of other states in the union.  Candidates have to concentrate on those 49 other states as well.  Unlike the candidates above, Walker will be able to raise a lot of money for his campaign.  Maybe not quite as much as Jeb Bush, but he’s still got the Koch brothers and other billionaires on his side.  Being slightly more conservative than Bush but not as much as the tea party candidates, Governor Walker is also fit for the GOP base, another important feature in winning his party’s nomination.

 

#2: Marco Rubio (U.S. Senator from Florida)

rubio water march13When Mitt Romney announced that he would not be trying a third run for the white house and said that his party deserved a younger nominee, many of his supporters flocked to Senator Marco Rubio, while half of his donors flocked to Jeb Bush.  Rubio has gotten first place in a number of national polls, but it will be difficult for him to differentiate himself from his political mentor Jeb Bush, who holds many of the same positions as the senator.  It will be interesting to see which one Floridians chose, their former governor or their junior senator.  Many establishment Republicans are happy to have him on board for 2016 because they think he might increase the Latino vote for the Republican party, even if he doesn’t win the nomination.  However, polls conducted by Latino Decisions showed that Hillary Clinton trumps Rubio in favorability among Hispanics, winning 66% next to Rubio’s 28%.  This isn’t very surprising for a group that is predominantly Democrats and has been getting progressively liberal over the years.  Rubio will cast himself as a Republican willing to compromise with the left, particularly on immigration.  Being a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and four of its seven subcommittees, he will also tote his foreign policy credentials, which will definitely help him, seeing how foreign policy is shaping out to be the most important issue of the race.  Despite the negative statistics, Rubio still fits the moderate conservative mold that Republicans find nominatable.  We’ll just have to wait and see how he does.

 

 

Before I reveal #1, here are some candidates (and likely candidates) that didn’t make the list:

Carly Fiorina (Former CEO of HP)

John Kasich (Governor of Ohio)

 

Rick Perry (Former Governor of Texas)

 

Bobby Jindal (Governor of Louisiana)

 

Rick Santorum (Former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania)

 

George Pataki (Former Governor of New York)

 

 

#1: Jeb Bush (Former Governor of Florida)

Jeb_Bush_2013_CPAC_by_Gage_Skidmore1That’s right.  Enough as it pains me to say it, the brother of GW is the most likely among all Republican presidential candidates to get the nomination.  Why?  Well, for starters, like Hillary, he has an army of wealthy donors.  These plutocrats will spend whatever it takes to get another Bush elected.  Why?  Because they know that the Bushes are idiotic puppets who will sell out to anyone offering them the most cash.  What’s surprising to most liberals like myself is that people are even considering voting for another Bush when we’re still recovering from all the damage the last one did.  Jeb is aware of this and has been making mixed remarks concerning his brother and father’s presidencies, like stating how he is proud of them but claiming that he’s his own man.  He has been regarded as “the smart Bush” to separate him from his brother.  However, liberal political commentators have used some of his more questionable statements to declare that he is just as stupid as his brother.  In coming months, we shall see how Jeb Bush tackles this dilemma.  As I just mentioned, Bush will raise more money than any his of republican rivals.  Some say he may be violating campaign finance laws right now because he is raising huge sums of money from donors while maintaining the lie that he is still considering running for president.  Usually the candidate who raises the most money wins, but they still have to campaign to earn votes.  In respect to his campaign, Bush will compete with Rubio for the Hispanic vote.  He’ll most likely give up the deep southern states to far-right candidates like Cruz and instead focus on the swing states and western states.  It’ll be interesting to see if the Republicans in blue states go for him or one of the other moderate conservatives.  Bush won’t have the advantage of starting his campaign early like his competitors have, but unlike sitting senators and governors, he’ll have plenty of time to campaign for his desired new job.

 

 

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Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republican_Party_presidential_candidates,_2016

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nationwide_opinion_polling_for_the_Republican_Party_2016_presidential_primaries

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/2016-presidential-candidates.html?_r=0

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Keeping them honest #1: The fall of Brian Williams

As consumers of the news, we rely on the media to faithfully execute their job in delivering the news to us.  However, it is not always the case that they do this.  Sometimes news media outlets purposely lie to us; embellish stories, and only cover one side of an issue.  Of course, some outlets are guilty of this more than others (*cough* Fox News! *cough*).  Objectivity is a necessity to conscientiously educate the masses.  It is not only important to recognize when news sources act irresponsibly so that we are not influenced by their propaganda, but our reaction and the actions we take to prevent further lies has become increasingly important through the development of the information age.  This new series here on my blog, Keeping them honest, is an attempt to expose the shortcomings of the modern news media, particularly partisan media, and demand greater honesty from those who deliver the news. Why the name “Keeping them honest“?  Why not “Holding them accountable for constantly lying to us”?  Well, the second title is a little more realistic to the actual nature of the series, but “Keeping them honest” sounds nicer and is simpler, so I chose it.

 

Anyone who has been following the news recently is familiar with the Brian Williams controversy, the dispute which has led to the destruction of NBC news anchor Brian Williams’ career.  What began as a lie told over the years provoked a response from a number of individuals clarifying the story, resulting in an all-out media frenzy, ending with a six month suspension without pay for the once “most trusted man in news.”  How could this all happen so quickly?  How could one man’s credibility and entire career, one in which millions relied upon him for information for over twenty years, be crushed in less than one week?  To answer these questions, we must thoroughly analyze the situation and understand why Williams told the lies that he did.

The first of Brian’s embellishments that we learned of was perhaps the biggest one.  The Iraq story, which originally began as an adventure in the deserts of Iraq (none of the articles I’ve found say exactly where in Iraq) in which an American Chinook helicopter was shot down by an RPG, was escalated over the years by Williams from the helicopter being in front him, to ultimately being the helicopter he was riding in, when in reality he was in a separate helicopter an hour behind the one that was shot-down.  This last embellishment was so far from the truth that someone who was on the chopper that was shot down commented on Facebook that truthfully, Williams was in another helicopter and asked a few hours later about what had happened.  This one Facebook post and the confusion that ensued resulted in an on-air apology from Williams, who stated he had “made a mistake in recalling the events of twelve years ago” when attempting to “thank and honor a veteran” who protected him.  What Mr. Williams did not mention is that his telling of the story had shifted throughout the years. It was not just a “mis-remembrance” from a few weeks ago on Letterman’s show.  This shows that he continues to lie and will not live up to his mistake.  He plays the twelve years card, but we all know that you cannot “mis-recall” an event, even if it was twelve years ago, in which a helicopter is shot down in the skies of Iraq, especially if you might’ve been in said helicopter.  Brian Williams is a 55 year-old national news anchor, not a 95 year-old WWII veteran with dementia.  It’s perfectly normal to forget to feed your pet once, or to forget to eject your flash drive from a USB drive, but to mis-recall something like that?  It’s unbelievable, and the other lies that Williams has told throughout his news career is further evidence that his “mistake in remembering” the Iraq incident was indeed a lie.

After the whole controversy on Williams’ Iraq story, it didn’t take long before the news media knew they couldn’t exploit the material for so long, so they went ahead and found even more dirt on Brian.  One of the other controversies around the man also involves Iraq.  Williams bragged to other media outlets, not NBC News, that he flew into Baghdad with SEAL Team 6, and that he had received war memorabilia as gifts from some Navy SEALs, such as a knife and a piece of the helicopter from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.  On CNN, Special Operations Command spokesman Ken McGraw stated “We do not embed journalists with any elements of that unit … bottom line — no.”  This is just one of the many altercations that have occurred throughout Mr. Williams’ career.  If one were to analyze it in its entirety, they would be overcome by the amount of fabrications America’s most trusted news anchorman has released over the years.  Many journalists, however, have tried this, and have further added to the fire that is so vehemently burning both Brian Williams’ credibility and career.

NBC’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s damage on New Orleans, which was very well received at the time and earned Williams a Peabody award, is now being cast doubt due to uncertainty about some of Brian’s statements on his experience there.  A CNN News report pointed to his inconsistency on a suicide that occurred in the New Orleans Superdome.  In a 2005 documentary, Williams indicated that he and his team had only heard about the suicide, but in a 2014 interview, he claimed that “We watched, all of us watched, as one man committed suicide.”  There is also uncertainty on whether or not Williams lied when he said in a 2006 interview that when staying at the Canal street Ritz-Carlton, he saw a dead body floating past his hotel.  Amid all the other controversies enshrouding Williams recently, the hotel manager at the time, Myra DeGersdorff, recently claimed that none of her staff had seen dead bodies float past the hotel.

If that weren’t enough, it also unclear if Williams was at the Bradenburg Gate on the night of the fall of the Berlin wall, like he claims, or not.  At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in 2008, he recalled that he was “at the Brandenburg Gate the night the wall came down.”  Although it is not a far stretch from the truth, it is still a fabrication.  It is true that Williams covered the fall of the Berlin wall in Berlin, but reports reveal that he did not arrive until the day after the wall fell.  These are just a few of the controversies that arose from the whole BW dispute, and the most popular ones that have been circulating the web.  Many more are being released each day, eating away Williams’.  Celebrities from many industries have spoken out either defending or attacking BW, but it has largely been his peers, his fellow news anchors, who have profited from the controversy and are mass-covering it.

When it was first discovered that Williams had lied about being in the helicopter that was shot down over Iraq, practically every news source; online, radio, or television, they all grabbed the kite that was this whole hullabaloo (I should use that word more often) and ran with it.  Even FOX News, the news channel that produces lies and right-wing propaganda 24/7, took a brake from their ritual spewing of hatred for the President to reveal the shortcomings of BW’s reporting.

Just when you thought the media couldn’t get more hypocritical, the far-right radio host, Rush Limbaugh, entered the circle of “journalists” burning Big W’s (I’m running out of names for Brian Williams) reputation by personally denigrating him.  “Brian Williams has been discovered, it’s now public knowledge, he dropped out of school.  He attended community college.  Now, Ivy Leaguers do not have that blemish on their resumes,” Rush said on his Monday show.  I don’t even know how to react to this.  Sure, Williams doesn’t have the best academic record, but Rush is no one to criticize.  He also dropped out of college.  Though he never attended a community college, he never went back to school and has not received as much education as Williams.  The stupidest thing about Rush’s commentary on the issue was that he didn’t even talk about the controversy or how Williams lied, he’s just taking personal shots at BW, not using objective evidence.  Why and how does he even think that people can take him seriously when criticizing another journalist?  He’s notorious for never researching things before his show.  Just last week, when he heard that President Obama had released a PSA condemning violence against violence and calling for action, though he hadn’t watched it or read the transcript for the announcement, he castigated the President for not talking about ISIS or something he thought is more important than domestic violence.   Obviously Williams and Limbaugh are not on the same level of credibility importance, one is an anchor and the other a conservative political commentator.  Still, all journalists must be abide to a certain level of professionalism.

Despite all this hypocritical and aggressive coverage, there was one comedian who held the journalists accountable.  Jon Stewart, who humiliates the mainstream media on a daily basis, showed a montage of clips from news coverage reports on the BW controversy, all of which were throwing Williams under the bus.  “Finally, someone is being held to account for misleading America about the Iraq war.  It might not necessarily be the first person you’d want held accountable on that list. But never again will Brian Williams mislead this great nation about being shot at in a war we probably wouldn’t have ended up in if the media had applied this level of scrutiny to the actual fucking war.”  An excellent point, one that no one else seems to be making, or if they do, they are responded with a faint “Shush!”  Stewart then rolled another clip montage of pundits on cable news shows claiming that credibility is of the utmost importance for someone who reports the news.  With this logic, if it truly is the duty of the media to pursue fallen journalists like Williams for lying, shouldn’t it also be obliged to reveal the lies of the most senior officials in the U.S. government?  Rational thinkers would say yes, but to those in the news media who want to stay on the good side of the political establishment would oppose this sentiment to maintain interviews and coverage they need so much, even if it means publicizing propaganda and not telling the public the truth about who runs this country, which of course, is all about credibility.  Of course it’s easier for news sources to cover the downfall of one of their peers, but to hold politicians from across the political spectrum accountable for lying?  Unfathomable.

This whole controversy and the media’s response to it arises many questions on the status of our media.  Why is it that so many reporters jumped off their seats in eagerness to destroy the career of a man who was widely respected among the news industry before all these revelations started coming to light?  Is it because it’s too interesting a story to not cover ardently?  Perhaps so.  They certainly got our attention.  Brian Williams is now suspended from NBC News for six months.  I wouldn’t be writing this post if they hadn’t made a big deal out of it.  I’m not usually one to follow stories involving celebrities, which this is essentially.   They might have gone a little overboard, but I’m glad that they held Brian accountable for the fabrications he distributed.  When doing it, however, they should have considered the quality of their own reporting and of others in their networks to refrain from being too hypocritical.  In order to faithfully execute their watchdog role, they must also attack politicians when they lie or engage in corrupt practices, not just when one says something controversial, like we saw recently when Rand Paul said that vaccines shouldn’t be mandatory.  An efficient media is one that is completely honest with its viewers by delivering them the most investigative and objective material possible.  Brian Williams didn’t do this and it cost him his career.  Should he be allowed to come back to NBC Nighty News after his suspension is over?  I say no.  Once a reporter tells so many lies as he has, they no longer deserve their job.  They have disgraced themselves, their staff, and their audience.  This goes not only for the Chief Anchor of NBC News, but everyone on FOX News and MSNBC as well.  You can give your opinion like I’m doing right now, but you have to tell the truth.  Journalism, after all, is the search for truth and to share it with the public.

 

 

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Sources:

http://money.cnn.com/2015/02/09/media/brian-williams-scandal/index.html?iid=obinsite

http://money.cnn.com/2015/02/05/media/brian-williams-iraq-timeline/index.html?iid=HP_LN

http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2015/02/16/the-list-lies-and-disputed-stories-nbc-news-let-brian-williams-tell-for-a-decade/

http://www.wnd.com/2015/02/famous-comics-blister-brian-williams-on-nbc/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Williams

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/02/11/the-lesson-brian-williams-can-teach-politicians-and-all-of-us/

http://www.politicususa.com/2015/02/10/jon-stewart-brian-williams-fiasco-call-media-accepting-bushs-iraq-war-lies.html

Posted in Keeping them honest | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Top 10 U.S. Presidents

In honor of Presidents day, I am posting a new Top 10 list, this time for the Top 10 United States Presidents.  When reading it, please remember that this list is by my opinion and knowledge of U.S. history.  You probably will not agree with my list 100%, so feel free to leave your list in the comments section below.  Constructive criticism is always welcome, and even encouraged for a list such as this one.

– Here are my picks for the top 10 U.S. Presidents:

#10: Woodrow Wilson (1913 – 1921)

The “schoolmaster in politics” and former President of Princeton might seem like an odd wartime President, but the nation fell in love with Wilson’s policies of peace and anti-corruption.  Remember that the U.S. was fairly isolationist at the time.  At home, Wilson pursued the corrupt wealthy corporatists who were expanding their financial domain.  In 1913, he signed the Underwood Act and the Federal Reserve Bill.  The former instituted income tax and reduced tariff rates. The Underwood Act created the Federal Reserve system.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which protects small business to this day, was created by Congress in 1914.  Despite all this, Wilson still believed he had not done enough to save his country from the wealthy elite.  “We are no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority…”  He led us through the first world war and managed to keep us out of his for most it.  His dreams for world peace led to the creation of the League of Nations, which of course Congress would not allow us to join.  Thanks a lot Henry Cabot Lodge.

 

#9: Andrew Jackson (1829 – 1837)

From the backwoods of South Carolina, this war hero, nicknamed “Old Hickory”, displayed tremendous courage in the Battle of New Orleans, our one victory in the War of 1812 (you know, the one which actually occurred after the war ended but happened anyway because news traveled slowly back then).  Jackson was loved by the masses, mainly for being a representative of the “common man”.  He was hard on the banks, and was brutal towards his political opponents.  On the downside, he infamously used the spoils system to fill the federal bureaucracy with his party members and political allies, and supported the trail of tears, in which thousands of Native Americans were forced from their homes in the South-east so Americans could exploit the natural resources of the area.  Though he was certainly not the most heroic President, he was a strong executive who led the U.S. through progress.

 

#8: John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961 – 1963)

Although he was only President for roughly three years, JFK had a profound impact on America.  He was the youngest President and the first Roman-Catholic in the office.  His youth and wit symbolized the hope of a new generation of Americans.  His economic programs got the country moving again, just as he promised in his campaign, and brought about the longest sustained economic expansion since WWII.  Although he didn’t publicize it in order to keep the votes of white southerners, Kennedy supported the civil rights movement, and called for civil rights legislation at the end of his presidency.  In response to Soviet advancements in science and space exploration, he set forth the goal to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  His aggressive foreign policy, however, got us into conflicts such as the Vietnam war (which was started by Eisenhower but escalated under his administration) and the Cuban missile crisis.  The man had his series of affairs, but he never-the-less was a great President whose life and promising future were cut tragically short.

 

#7: Harry S. Truman (1945 – 1953) 

Becoming President only eighty-two days after being sworn in as Vice-President for the first time, Truman oversaw the end of WWII and the formation of a new world order when he and other world leaders drew the initial battleground lines of the Cold War.  He was successful in transitioning the U.S. economy from a war-based economy to a peacetime one through New Deal-like programs.  Unfortunately, he was not able to get many bills passed through Congress because a majority of it was occupied by conservative Republicans who hated his policies (sounds familiar, huh?).  Truman used this to his advantage in the 1948 elections, in which he campaigned calling the 80th Congress the “do-nothing congress”, allowing him to win reelection and get more Democrats in Congress.  He was also extremely progressive for his time.  Despite Congress thwarting many of his Fair Deal plans, Truman took action to advance civil rights by issuing executive orders like the one that desegregated the armed forces and outlawed racial discrimination in the federal government.  The only real downside of his presidency that he alone was responsible for was our involvement in the Korean war, a deadly conflict that killed over 36,000 American soldiers, and created an enemy that is still incredibly hostile towards us to this day.  Overall, the Korean war was a big negative in a largely successful presidency that was responsible for large-scale economic growth and social progress.

 

#6: Thomas Jefferson (1801 – 1809)

Although he is better known as a founding father, promoter of liberty, and one of the most influential intellectuals of the modern age, Thomas Jefferson was also a very successful President, and without a doubt the smartest President we’ve ever had.  He cut the military budget, eliminated the tax on whiskey, and reduced the national debt by a third.  Though he didn’t have the constitutional authority to negotiate such an acquisition, he increased the size of the country by half over night through the Louisiana purchase.  The mark against Jefferson’s presidency is the Embargo Act of 1807, which attempted to establish American neutrality in the Napoleonic wars by banning American exports.  Needless to say, the embargo failed and drastically hurt the U.S. economy.  On the bright side, at least Jefferson didn’t get us into a war.  

 

#5: Theodore Roosevelt (1901 – 1909)

The first Republican on this list, Teddy Roosevelt’s progressive ideology and policies were far different from those of modern Republicans.  He saw the increasing power of large corporations, who often treated their workers poorly and monopolized their respective industries, and declared that it was the role of the government to stem the tide of these powerful corporations in order to protect the interests of the people.  Amid his contributions to the progressive movement, he became the first President to use the Sherman Anti-trust act as a tool to regulate industries.  He oversaw the construction of the Panama Canal.  He received the Nobel peace prize for mediating the Russo-Japanese war, and is famously known for establishing many national parks and his environmental conservation programs.  It would take all day to list all of Roosevelt’s accomplishments as President, but as you have probably noticed, for each President I have included a downside/negative of their administration for a complete and objective analysis.  Roosevelt’s imperialistic foreign policy is the only real negative of his presidency.  He was without a doubt an imperialist, but in his defense, many empires in Europe were building up their domains.  I suppose it’s only a natural response for a leader of a great country to desire to expand its global influence when witnessing this build-up of empires.  Roosevelt was indeed a badass, being shot during a speech and continuing it.

 

 

#4: William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton (1993 – 2001) 

This sax-playing ladies man is a shining example for modern Presidents.  He came from a poor and broken family in Arkansas, but was a star student and talented musician, allowing him to rise quickly and attend Georgetown University and Yale.  He is also the first Rhode scholar to be President.  The U.S. enjoyed the longest period of peacetime economic expansion during his administration than in any other time in history.   He was also responsible for  the lowest unemployment rates in recent times, the lowest inflation rate in decades, the highest home ownership rates in its history, and increasing economic equality. We actually experienced a budget surplus when he was in the White House.  It’s too bad it didn’t last long.  He focused his foreign policy on humanitarianism, bombing Bosnia and Iraq rather than starting new wars and conflicts.  He might have been the greatest President since FDR, but we often forget that in the beginning of his presidency, Bill wasn’t all that successful.  His health-care reform act was an utter political disaster, failing to move through Congress, and leading to the GOP winning a majority in both houses of Congress.  Bill was able to dust himself off and make a comeback by adopting centrist policies that got him a second term.  The Monica Lewinski scandal is the only other black mark against his presidency, even though it really didn’t matter.  Clinton was the 2-term Democratic President who led the nation through a period of resplendent greatness, and served the office in between two Bushes who flushed their country down the toilet. 

 

#3: George Washington (1789 – 1797)

 

#2: Abraham Lincoln (1861 – 1865)

 

#1: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933 – 1945) 

 

 

 

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Sources:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/johnfkennedy

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/about-woodrow-wilson

http://www.rantpolitical.com/2014/09/19/10-best-and-10-worst-us-presidents/

http://www.trumanlibrary.org/hst-bio.htm

http://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/andrewjackson

http://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/williamjclinton

http://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/thomasjefferson

http://www.biography.com/people/bill-clinton-9251236

http://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/theodoreroosevelt

Posted in Top 10s | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kim Jong-un’s New year’s resolutions attacked by U.S. sanctions

On New year’s day, Kim Jong-un, a man of many titles, such as Supreme Leader of North Korea, First Secretary of the Worker’s Party of Korea, and Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, delivered a national televised speech in which he announced his plans for the new year.  It was a very brief speech, but in it, Kim outlined the programs and policies he believes will make North Korea “an economic giant” in 2015.  Throughout much of the speech, he went on about how great his country is, and how honorable his father and grandfather were.  He boasted of the successes of his regime achieved last year, which as you could imagine, were few real accomplishments.  The dictator gave his address with the usual nationalism he and everyone in North Korea are supposed to display, commending the DPRK’s people, army, and party for completing such a productive year.  Kim concluded this part of his speech by saying “I extend heartfelt thanks to all the service personnel and people who made a contribution to glorifying last year as a year of proud feats and changes by waging an unyielding struggle with a steadfast faith in the revolutionary cause of Juche and the revolutionary cause of Songun.”

In the next part of his speech, he remarked about how North Korea will strive in 2015, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the WPK.  The marshal stated that the country should maintain its military-first policy and would continue to hold Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il in high esteem.  When I first heard this, it seemed quite odd to me that Un would even include something so obvious in his address.  Of course North Korean peasants will religiously worship their late leaders through a totalitarian personality cult.  Of course they will promote Songun and remain an extremely militaristic country.  These are aspects of their society that have existed since its creation, and habits they have avidly practiced ever since.  There is even a a patriotic song by the Mansutae Art Troupe called “We will hold Generalissimo Kim Il-sung in high esteem forever.” Shortly afterwards, I realized that Kim mentioned this to prepare his audience for the announcements he would soon deliver, to make him not appear overly progressive.  It was a calculative move made by Un, to publicly support the two oldest elements of the regime while proposing reforms.  What was even more surprising was amid his patriotism, Un declared that North Korea shall invest in science and technology, an important objective for the rural nation.  He also proclaimed that the living standards of his people will dramatically improve.  There were very few instances in which he admitted that his country has serious problems.  The few times he did were very subtle.  “We should resolve the food problem of the people and improve their dietary life on a higher level…We should direct great efforts to relieving the shortage of electricity,” he remarked when speaking of how the country’s industries should improve.  When discussing the nation’s early history and their dream for national reunification, Kim went on to assert that actions should be made on the effort of both Koreas to establish peace for the peninsula by having serious diplomatic talks between their leaders.  This alone was the highlight of the address by international media (and his shrinking eyebrows by American media).

We think that it is possible to resume the suspended high-level contacts and hold sectoral talks if the south Korean authorities are sincere in their stand towards improving inter-Korean relations through dialogue.  And there is no reason why we should not hold a summit meeting if the atmosphere and environment for it are created.  In the future, too, we will make every effort to substantially promote dialogue and negotiations.

Kim’s reforms, if implemented and successful, would significantly benefit North Korea, the entire Korean peninsula, and international diplomacy.  However, we do not know if Kim is telling the truth and announcing the policies he actually plans to execute in the new year, or if he is lying like he always does.  Although it might seem small, what really stood out to me in the address was when he brought up some of the major problems of the DPRK, such as the food and electricity shortages, its failed industries, and horrible living conditions, when he elucidated how the industries would change to fix their problems.  The regime is usually keen to admit such problems.  Un’s very small amount of honesty is a sign of slight openness in the regime, and these peace talks desired by Kim are small steps towards North Korea exiting their isolation and entering the modern world.  Improving north-south relations would be a great first step towards this.  The two Koreas have technically been at war since 1950 because the Korean War ended in 1953 with a cease-fire.  On Friday, the South Korean Ministry of Unification responded to Kim’s address by issuing a press release saying that “The R.O.K. government takes the progressive attitude on inter-Korean dialogue and exchange presented in the New Year Address by North Korea’s First Secretary of the Workers’ Party, Kim Jong Un, meaningfully.”  Kim’s calls for a summit have been greeted by the West, but as one could imagine, until he owns up to his regime’s human rights violations and takes actions to end them, like releasing political prisoners or finally shutting down the political prison camps, the international community, especially the United States, will never take him seriously and will continue to isolate his state.

That’s just what happened on Saturday, when it was revealed that the U.S. government slapped North Korea with new sanctions.   The Reconnaissance General Bureau, an intelligence agency believed to manage the DPRK’s cyber-operations, and officials at North Korea’s Mining Development Trading Corporation who are believed to have negotiated in arms dealing, are the targets of these new sanctions.  We’ve been sanctioning the hermit kingdom for decades, but these brand new sanctions are for North Korea’s alleged hack on Sony Pictures.  Despite research done by a few online cyber-security groups which found that former Sony employees arranged the hack, the FBI continues to stick with their initial findings that North Korean hackers undoubtedly performed the hack.  Last month, in the beginning of the whole controversy, President Obama said that due to the severe damage inflicted upon Sony Pictures by the hackers, the U.S. government would respond substantially.  It looks like these sanctions are the beginning of that response, but hitting the poor rural country with sanctions shortly after their leader announces that he aims to pacify their foreign relations might be sending the wrong message, and is perfect material for them to demonize us (which of course they will do no matter what).  I know that its putting Obama and his foreign policy advisers in a difficult situation, but if they want to show the world that they truly value peace, they will encourage peace talks between the two Koreas.  North Koreans always complain about our hostile policy towards them, Kim Jong-un must have said it at least three times in his new year’s address, and by doing something like this, we are just proving them correct.

 

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Bibliography:

http://www.npr.org/2015/01/01/374310906/kim-jong-un-welcomes-talks-with-south-korea-in-new-years-day-speech

http://www.rodong.rep.kp/en/index.php?strPageID=SF01_02_01&newsID=2015-01-02-0002&chAction=T

http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/02/politics/new-sanctions-for-north-korea-after-sony-hack/index.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Jong-un

http://news.yahoo.com/n-korea-blasts-us-sanctions-094600502.html

https://www.nknews.org/2015/01/south-korea-comments-on-kim-jong-uns-new-year-address/

Posted in North Korea | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top 10 Craziest campaign ads from the 2014 Midterms

This is the first post in a new series I am starting on Obscure Echo.  Every week (if time permits me) I will post a Top 10 list for a particular topic.  I imagine that most of the lists will be on politics or history, which are the major topics of my blog.  I write most of my posts in argumentative essay format, but of course, writing these essays take up a significant amount of time and effort, which sometimes I do not have.  Posting these Top 10 lists allows me to quickly create short but informative posts that don’t take a long time to read.  The lists will always work its way down from ten to one.

Because of the midterm elections at the beginning of this month, I decided it would be fitting to start the Top 10 series off with a list of the ten craziest campaign ads that I saw during the 2014 election season.

#10: “North Star” by Mark Pryor

This is the first of a number of awful campaign advertisements by Democratic candidates running for the senate in conservative states, in which the Democrat presents him or herself so conservative that one watching the ad would be confused what party they are in.  In this ad, we see Mark Pryor attempting to appeal to voters in a strange way.  Normally, candidates try to win the vote of a racial or ethnic demographic, but in “North Star”, Mark Pryor yearns for the Christian vote by painting himself conservative by toting his bible and stating “who he is a what he believes.”  He stumbles over his lines (which are quite simple) when obviously reading off his prompter.  It is such a failed and phony ad that I almost want to snatch that bible from Pryor and hit him over the head with it.

#9: “Familiar” by Michelle Nun

To follow up Mark Pryor’s disaster, here is another campaign ad featuring a Democratic loser who runs to the right in order to win votes, all while separating herself from the president and the Democratic party platform.  If there is one advertisement to perfectly summarize the campaigns and behavior of the Democratic candidates during the midterms, it would have be this one.  In 14 seconds, Michelle Nun condemns the president without even mentioning his name as if he were some hostile creature that to associate with meant certain doom.  The worst part of this ad is that somehow Nun and her campaign crew managed to neglect is the fact that it is unclear to which political party Ms. Nun belongs.  Ashamed of a picture with Obama?  Reveals that she worked for George H.W. Bush and was proud for it?  The ad could just have easily been aired by a Republican.

#8: “Skeet Shooting” by Alison Lundergan Grimes

#8 on the list is occupied by another failed conservative Democrat, Alison Lundergan Grimes, the challenger to the soon Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell.  Unlike many of the other weak Democratic candidates, she ran aggressive campaign against Mitch, but unfortunately she ran her campaign the same way the rest did: by going too right and acting more conservative than the Republican candidate.  Seeing how badly the Democrats lost the elections, this tactic obviously did not work.  It is no surprise that Democrats who are afraid to admit that they voted for Obama lost their races.

#7: “Anthony Brown – The most incompetent man in Maryland” by Larry Hogan

Here’s the first Republican ad on the list, and unlike the ads so far, this one is actually good.  It effectively grabs the attention of the viewer due to many elements of the video.  It rounds up Anthony Brown’s policy failures and negative qualities in a comical fashion mixed with an entertaining narrator, a Latin background tune, and subtle video effects.  Its only downside is the fact that it is such a negative ad.  It may be comical and most of the statements in it are true, but the ad itself is one big mound of mud to throw in Brown’s face.  In most negative ads, you will at least see the candidate conclude the commercial with the typical law required “I’m ___ and I support this message” statement, but here in this ad you only get a small banner at the bottom of the screen at the very end telling you the Republicans who paid for it.

#6: “Squeal” by Joni Ernst

Its perhaps the most famous campaign ad from this year’s elections and will likely be used to remember the 2014 midterms.  Joni Ernst’s “Squeal” campaign ad has gone viral online, with over 800,000 views on YouTube, and was shared by hosts throughout the media industry, from Anderson Cooper to Jimmy Fallon.  The commercial caused many Americans to laugh at her stupidity, but unfortunately, she won the Iowa senate race.  Keep that in mind; the same woman who said that castrating pigs prepared her for legislating won 53% of the vote and was elected to represent the entire state of Iowa in congress for 6 years.  If this is the kind people we are electing to govern us, than America is in far greater danger than I have feared.

#5: “Commercials” by Mitch McConnell

Here’s another ad that attempts to be humorous but just ends up being ridiculous.  Seriously, what idiots allowed for such a stupid idea for a commercial to pass a board room, and then ACTUALLY BE RECORDED AND RELEASED?  Mitch McConnell must have had babies running his campaign.

#4: “#Got Balls?” by Bob Quast 

When you thought that there couldn’t be a candidate crazier than Joni Ernst running in the Iowa senate race, you discover this strange campaign ad by Bob Quast, the conservative Democrat who opposed Bruce Braley, the Democratic candidate who won the primary and went on to lose to Ernst.  The ad starts nice with him rolling a stroller and walking his dog, but gets dark when he casually mentions the death of his sister to display his stance on gun control and attack Braley, all while the cheery background music continues.  While holding his Glock, Quast invites Braley to a public debate and promises to leave his gun at home.  This part would be funny if Quast showed more joy in his face than presenting himself with his dark serious look.  Aside from his conservative positions, it’s no wonder that Quast lost the primary.

#3: “Shot” by Joni Ernst

You might be surprised that I have two campaign ads by Joni Ernst on this list, but Joni Ernst is so hilarious and so entertaining that I had to have another one of her ads on the list.  The narrator’s opening statement that “she’s not your typical candidate” when you see Ernst stroll up on her motorcycle in a leather jacket is certainly correct.  I can’t think of any other female politician who would do something so attention-grabbing yet conventional.  Its not everyday you see a candidate for the U.S. Senate showing off their redneck credentials, especially in an ad that’s supposed to be promoting their campaign.  When I first saw this ad I initially thought it was fake, or that it was some parody of a Republican because I thought it was just simply too weird.  However, I was strongly incorrect.  This is an actual campaign advertisement that’s supposed to be taken seriously, AND SHE WON!

#2: “Alaska Agreement” by Dan Sullivan 

This is the third ad on this list that features a candidate shooting a gun and the fourth to have a candidate holding one.  What’s with American political candidates and guns?  They’re supposed to be promoting the messages of their campaigns during their ads, not shooting their guns.  Granted, the commercial is a lot more entertaining when they have one, simply because its a object not usually used in campaign ads.  As an American, it’s kind of embarrassing.  It makes like us look like we’re conservative rednecks who only vote for folks who shoot weapons while running for office.  The aspect of this ad in contrast to the others that makes it so great and hilarious is the fact that him shooting the TV is completely unexpected.  Alison Lundergan Grimes’s ad opens with her skeet shooting, Bob Quast merely held up his glock, and Joni Ernst was seen loading her rifle after her omniscient ad narrator tells the audience “she carries more than just lipstick in her purse”, but when the camera’s view shift, Dan Sullivan is seen clutching his rifle and shoots the TV out of nowhere.  It isn’t until he turns around that the viewer sees that he was holding his handgun the entire time.  I don’t think anyone watching the ad, even once hearing “you’re gonna wanna do this to your TV”, thought to themselves “let me guess: he’s gonna shoot a TV?”  My reaction and many others when first watching it was more of a “WTF?  Did he just actually shoot a TV?  Well, I didn’t see that coming.”  For that, Dan Sullivan, the new Republican senator from Alaska, receives the #2 spot on this list.

#1: “Message” by Natalie Tennant 

#1 on this list goes to Natalie Tennant, the failed West Virginia Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate for this crazy campaign ad that includes her bragging about West Virginia’s energy industries and (for whatever reason) shutting off the power to the White House.  First some random psycho easily runs into the White House with a knife, then Natalie Tennant just flicks a switch somewhere in West Virginia and its electricity goes out?  Geez, the secret service is doing a worse job than I thought.  Natalie Tennant automatically gets first place on this list for the realistic special effects of shutting off the White House, but she gets bonus crazy points by doing it AS A DEMOCRAT!!  The other Democratic candidates on this list shifted away from President Obama in order to save their campaigns, but Tennant took this a step (or rather; a leap) forward by openly condemning Obama to the point that she cut off his power.  To give her credit, she has a lot of balls for making such an ad.  Most Democrats are weak spineless cowards who are afraid to say the President’s name, and most Republicans are too stupid to have thought of such an idea for a campaign ad (just look at all the ads made by Republicans on this list), but Natalie Tennant, on the other hand, is such a idiotic headstrong Democrat that she produced this ad, which I imagine caused more humor for the public than support.  She might’ve lost the election by 28% and not have won a single district, but at least she made #1 on this list for craziest campaign ad of the year.  I guess that’s something to be proud of…right?

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The Battle for the Senate

Fight for the Senate 2014The votes are being counted, and soon we will know the outcome of Tuesday’s highly anticipated midterm elections (which would usually be considered an oxymoron).  Despite what politically apathetic individuals may claim, the midterm elections this year are extremely important.  If the predictions made by many political experts become reality, the U.S. congress will be dominated by the Republicans.  The prospect of a senate controlled by Republicans has frightened many on the left, forcing prominent Democrats like the Clintons who rarely play a direct role in campaigns anymore to help secure seats for their fellow party members, whether they be incumbents or senatorial hopefuls.  On the Thursday before the election, Bill Clinton visited Kentucky to endorse Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic opponent of Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell.  During the weekend, the potential 2016 presidential candidate and former first lady Hillary Clinton traveled to New Hampshire to publicize her support for incumbent Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is facing a tougher struggle against her opponent Scott Brown than was initially expected.

The senatorial race in Kentucky has been one of the most crucial races this year, not because of it being a swing state that could provide the Democrats with safe ground, but for its importance of defeating Republican leadership.  But unfortunately the Democrats did not produce a great contender to defeat McConnell.  Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was an aggressive candidate who competitively battled McConnell, but her inability to stand strong on the Democratic platform or be proud of her liberal policies did not resonate with Kentuckians, and ultimately caused her to lose the race.  This, of course, is not surprising at all.  Center-right Clinton Democrats like Grimes who are afraid to say President Obama’s name do not stand a chance against the powerful, wall street-backed Mitch McConnell, who will replace Harry Reid as the Senate Majority leader if the Republicans are successful in winning the senate.

One highly competitive senate race (perhaps the most anticipated senate race of the year) besides that in Kentucky is the race in Iowa, the key swing state that went Democrat in the last three presidential elections, between Republican State Senator Joni Ernst and Democratic Representative Bruce Braley.  In a Des Moines a poll released on Sunday, Ernst was the clear winner, but a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday showed a 47-47% dead heat in the senate race there.  Joni Ernst, the ridiculous conservative mother who’s campaign ad “squeal” has gone viral online, has surprisingly run a great campaign, one that has caused Braley a significant challenge.  Braley the populist progressive and his campaign team have fought back against Ernst’s growing popularity by accusing her of being on the side of bankers and the elite.  This campaign tone has led Braley to be endorsed by Elizabeth Warren instead of bigger names like the Clintons or Obama.  As I write this post, the race in Iowa is very close, with Ernst ahead by 2 points.  It will be interesting to see who wins this close election.  It could very well mean control or subordinate in the senate for the Democrats.

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Larry Hogan after winning the Republican Primary

Due to the fact that Republicans will likely win control of the Senate, the media has been focusing much more on the senatorial races than the gubernatorial ones.  However, there are many very important governor races this year, the most significant of which are Wisconsin, Florida, South Carolina, and my state; Maryland.  Initially, Maryland was expected to go easily to our Lieutenant Governor Anthony G. Brown (who would be our first African-American Governor if victorious), but Republican Lawrence Hogan Jr., the conservative businessman with very little political experience, has run an effective campaign which has largely targeted Brown and the O’Malley administration for not strengthening the Maryland economy.  Judging by the results obtained so far, Hogan will likely become Maryland’s next governor.  One may wonder why the majority of Marylanders would choose Hogan over Brown, who’s political and academic credentials far outperform Hogan’s, in a state that is solidly liberal.  He has managed to succeed by bragging about his experience as a businessman and through a series of calculated issues that are highly weighed in his campaign.  Since 2011, Hogan has led and chaired “Change Maryland”, a grassroots organization that has relentlessly lobbied for tax cuts.  The issue of tax cuts expanded to become Hogan’s main platform for election, which has resonated with many middle and upper class Marylanders.  While remaining fiscally conservative, Hogan has managed to appeal to Marylanders by being an ideological moderate on social issues, most of which he has not spoken.  The elephant in the room of his campaign is that in order to institute the tax cuts he has been advocating for, his administration will have to cut spending and social programs.  The support of Governor Chris Christie has also strengthened Hogan’s influence in Maryland. Christie, the Republican Governor of the historically blue state New Jersey and a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has traveled to Maryland several times throughout the race to show his support for Hogan, who like Christie is largely a moderate who can be quite aggressive towards his political enemies.  Ultimately, Hogan’s success has been so substantial due to the populism of his campaign.  Throughout the race, he has portrayed himself as the small businessman who cares about average Marylanders and is an alternative to liberal politicians like Brown who have been running the state for decades.  This conservative populism has appealed to Maryland voters, and is what has led to his victory.  Hogan’s electoral success is very disappointing to liberals such as myself.  I would prefer that Maryland experience progressive change, not change that cuts back on social programs and education, which Brown has promised to strengthen if elected Governor.  The fact that Maryland could fall so easily and so swiftly to Republican control really reveals the weakening of the Democratic party.

And so ends another election season.  We will receive the complete results of the races soon.  So far, it doesn’t look good for the Democrats.  I think the perfect metaphor for these midterm elections is a battle between two armies: the democrats and republicans, and the democrats are getting slaughtered.  It can truly be said that this is a sad day for Democrats and liberals across the country.  As the red states on the map continue to increase, so does the Republicans’ control of the Senate and the influence of their party on the American public.  Now that both houses of congress are controlled by the Republicans, President Obama’s next two years in office look terribly grim.  He may not be the ballot this year, but his policies sure are.  Each time a state goes to the Republicans, the less likely his policies are able to be instituted.  Congress could barely pass any legislation before these elections, now that an ideologically divided party dominates it, gridlock will likely get worse.  Those in power fill up their pockets while the American people are screwed over.  Perhaps we deserve it for electing such shady incompetent people into office.  We Americans get the government we deserve.

 

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Bibliography:

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/elections/kentucky/2014/10/30/bill-clinton-campaigns-kentucky-democrat-alison-lundergan-grimes/18187481/

http://www.cnnmagicwall.com/#explore?type=past&geo=us&level=senate&year=2014&demographic=none&is3d=false

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_states_and_blue_states

 

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McCain choosing sides

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Senator John McCain poses with Syrian rebels. Among them is ISIS Caliph Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi circled on the left, and ISIS terrorist Muahmmad Noor (far right).

Over the past few months, the entire nation has been building its condemnation of the terrorist group ISIS.  Those who are usually non-interventionists like myself have now joined the hawks on solving the issue of destroying ISIS.  It seems that everyone and their mother, democrat or republican, support the bombing of the Islamic State, especially the media.  “Bomb, bomb, bomb” has been the response of every republican politician when asked on what they believe should be done to prevent the spread of the barbaric terrorists.  One of these republicans is the same man who called for airstrikes in Iraq to counter them in the beginning of the crisis, and is known for his imperialistic tendencies.  When asked what the U.S. should do about ISIS by FOX News host Greta Van Susteren, Senator John McCain simply replied, “Kill ’em”.  The simplicity of his remark perfectly reflects McCain’s foreign policy, which is characterized by its aggressiveness and weak, undeveloped claims that attempt to justify American military intervention wherever.  It is because of his “hammer and nail” foreign policy that he is so inconsistent in who he views as America’s enemy.  Although the logic in his foreign policy is severely limited, he still has the audacity to criticize President Obama for giving a speech he would approve of if it were given by any Republican.

As you may recall from the the U.S.’s disputes on whether or not we should intervene in the Syrian Civil war by arming the rebels, McCain and many of his fellow war-hawks, Hillary Clinton included, strongly supported assisting the rebel militias.  When President Obama made the decision against this, and instead focused on removing the Assad regime’s chemical weapons through diplomacy, the war-hawks criticized him for it as they always do.  While other congressmen rallied for aiding the rebels, Senator McCain took this a step further.  He met with members of the Free Syrian Army and other insurgent groups when he traveled to northern Syria in May 2013.  During this trip, he took photos with some of the rebels he met with, some of which he posted online himself.  Of the men found in a few photos with the Arizona Senator shares a strong resemblance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the now caliph (supreme leader chosen by Allah) of the Islamic State.

monMcCain’s communications director, Brian Rogers, has of course denied the claims that the man in the photos is Al-Baghdadi, but would not reveal the identity of the individual.  This comes as a surprise and is ironic that McCain, one of the first politicians to call for airstrikes on ISIS at the beginning of the 2014 Iraqi insurgency, could have actually spoken to the group’s leader.  Because of this, many have accused McCain of being hypocritical for condemning ISIS considering how he likely met with ISIS members when in Syria.  Of course, no one is defending ISIS, they’re just frustrated at McCain for so quickly switching sides in who he supports, ISIS or Assad.  It’s quite possible that some of the more radical opposition leaders who he met contributed to the formation of ISIS.  What this shows is that he had no knowledge of the people who he met with there or their background.  The essential principle of the McCain doctrine is challenging powerful nations that aren’t U.S. allies, and constantly criticizing any of their military expeditions while justifying U.S. imperialism and supporting our military allies such as Israel and the UK.  He just likes to target whoever appears to be the bigger bully, which was Bashar Al-Assad in 2013, and supports anyone will opposes the bully alongside him, and disregards the extremist members of the opposition.  This is the case in the situation in Iraq and Syria.  Upon hearing how successful the terrorist group ISIL was in capturing Iraqi and Syrian territory and murdering innocent civilians, McCain jumped to advocate military intervention in Iraq against ISIL, a coalition of groups of which some were initially supported by him when fighting Assad, but when they invaded Iraq, he switches sides.

Anyone who knows McCain’s foreign policy of bombing, invading, and occupying shouldn’t be too shocked by these claims. Whenever or wherever there’s a military conflict going on, especially one that includes a regime hostile to the U.S., McCain advocates for the U.S. to exercise its imperialistic powers by crushing the foreign tyrants.  He believes that war is the solution to every problem and that the lives of our military personnel are perfectly dispensable, as if they are made sorely for serving his and other war-hawk’s interests.  The fact that such a man who associates no value with human life and thinks that violence is the primary solution to everything could have become the President of the United States is scary.  If he was elected, our republic might’ve been reorganized into the first American Empire.

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Bibliography:

http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/McCain-ISIS-kill-beheading/2014/09/02/id/592202/

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/12/world/middleeast/try-as-he-may-john-mccain-cant-shake-falsehoods-about-ties-to-isis.html

http://socioecohistory.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/senator-john-mccains-whoops-moment-photographed-chilling-with-isis-chief-al-baghdadi-and-terrorist-muahmmad-noor/

http://www.mediaite.com/tv/facts-are-stubborn-things-mccain-carney-battle-over-obamas-isis-speech/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_John_McCain#Foreign_policy

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A nation rebuilt

6688075993_b96f8d00b8_z13 years ago today, on a day that was supposed to be just another ordinary Tuesday in September ended up transforming into a day that changed America forever, and perhaps the entire world, when two hijacked airliners crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York city, resulting in the collapse of the towers.  It took nearly four years to fully construct the Twin towers, which were powerful symbols of American capitalism and western prosperity (due mainly to their location), but they both collapsed within two hours. The images of fire and smoke billowing out of the towers will haunt the minds of Americans and will leave a horrible stain upon the Bush presidency and the entire government forever. What many forget about when remembering the attacks is the attack on the Pentagon, in which a third plane crashed into the Pentagon, leading to the partial destruction of its western side.  Almost 3,000 people died in the attacks, whereas 2,400 Americans (mostly navy men) died in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.  9/11 was the worst terrorist attack on the U.S.  It was an event that dramatically changed every American’s life, and the lives of so many others.  Since 9/11, we have become a very different country in our foreign policy and how we operate in the homeland.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 was a terrible defeat for security and intelligence agencies.  It was an embarrassment not only for the U.S. government, but for the entire nation that a band of terrorists could easily hijack four airliners and slip through the defenses of what is supposed to be the most powerful country in the world.  This prompted congress to call for for heightened security measures and proposals to increase the national defense budget.  The department of Homeland Security, a cabinet department that is considered vital to domestic security with seven agencies and nine divisions, was created in response to the attacks.  The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is perhaps the most well known of the department’s agencies.  The TSA itself was actually established a whole year before the department, and added to DHS only two months after the attacks, which displays how eager we were to tighten airport security.  Airport security, what used to be a necessary yet much simpler process, is now a very laborious one, in which travelers routinely walk through full body scans, strip off their shoes and belts, empty their pockets, and power on their electronic devices to prove they are not bombs.  If you’re lucky enough (or you’re a male of a minority group), you might even get selected for a very personal pat-down.  All this comes before you even get to your flight.  To ensure travel security on board, cockpit doors are now reinforced or bulletproof, far more air marshals have been placed on flights, pilots are now allowed to carry firearms on board, and can monitor cabin activity with security cameras.  Because of all these safety precautions and regulations, travelers are being monitored and inspected throughout their entire travel experience, limiting their personal privacy.   However, this reality of being constantly watched goes far beyond transportation security, thanks to whistle blowers like Edward Snowden, we now know infringement upon our privacy and violation of the fourth amendment is a constant exercise of security and intelligence agencies such as the NSA, FBI, CIA, and many other three-letter acronyms.  Conservatives who hate 133314_600big government should regard these agencies as their worst fears and greatest enemies.  They truly are instruments of the governmental bureaucracy that limit our individual freedom.  Fortunately, we can have freedom of speech and are allowed to express our opinions online, but we aren’t guaranteed that our online messages won’t be intercepted by the NSA.  We aren’t informed that we’re put on watch lists either, yet this doesn’t restrict them from committing these acts.  Our government’s big brother behavior reminds me of an old Soviet joke: “In Soviet Russia, they claim we have freedom of speech.  In America, they have freedom after they speak.  That’s a nice little feature”. It seems that in the government’s attempt to protect us from terrorism, we are beginning to lose this “nice little feature”.  One may argue that it isn’t wrong for the NSA to follow the posts of individuals when they are shared publicly because they are simply accessing information that everyone has access to.  This maybe true, but the wiretapping, reading of personal emails before they are even sent, and recording of private conversations are certainly condemnable actions which directly violate our privacy rights and are unconstitutional.  Yet the bureaucrats of these agencies and the conservatives who usually oppose big government strongly support this spying as long as it prevents terrorism.  I thought that the main purpose of expanding security would be to protect us from the terrorists, but it seems that the gov pursue their own people as if they are the terrorists they’ve sworn to defeat.  Our common fear of terrorism has turned us against each other.  Issues like NSA spying will likely open up the discussion on how state security programs can be instituted that don’t infringe upon our rights, but it brings up an interesting question.  Should we, as Americans, sacrifice our civil liberties if it means protecting ourselves from terrorists?

Since 9/11, we have witnessed the rise of racism of Arab and Muslim Americans.  Ignorant Americans have alienated Muslims from society, judging them as savage outcasts who have been indoctrinated by a violent religion that condoles terrorism.    This too, is because of the fear.  Upon hearing that the attackers were likely Muslim fundamentalists, Americans began to fear all Muslims.  Over night, what was once just another religious group had been transformed into army of savages by the media.  The reactionary fear that Americans felt after 9/11 contributed to this tendentious image.  It was the media that influenced so many to share this fear of Muslims.  It was and has been the media which has molded the Muslim stereotype, and has brainwashed so many Americans into believing it.  This propaganda is dispensed by your typical conservative commentators who so effectively turn fear to hatred, and thus, hatred for Muslims was built off this fear.  “Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.” We have witnessed this hatred for a certain minority group many times throughout American history.  One of the more recent examples of this is during the Joseph McCarthy period (also known as the second red scare) during the 50s when Senator McCarthy planned to purge the government, the screen actors guild, and many other institutions and labor unions of communists.  This came at a time when it was unclear who the dominant world superpower was, the United States or the Soviet Union.  American propaganda films and the media displayed the Soviets as our enemies, and because they were communists, it was considered Un-American to hold such beliefs.  Although most Americans didn’t know (and most still don’t know) what communism is, they rallied for the cause of McCarthy, Nixon, Eisenhower, and many other conservatives who swore to make Anti-communism an American principal.  In this defense of Americanism, hundreds were accused of being communists, lost their jobs, and were blacklisted to prevent them from ever obtaining a job again.  It’s no doubt that the fear many Americans had for the Soviet Union and its world influence is what caused them to have an intense anger of communists.  This is very similar to what many Muslims experience America as a result of 9/11.  Because of al-Qaeda and many other Islamic terrorist groups, the Muslim Americans who have come to escape this terror have been accused of embodying the same radical ideals as the terrorists (which is highly illogical).  A Gallup poll shows just how wide spread Islamophobia is.  It found that among western societies, the United States has the highest rates of feeling disrespect for Muslims.  It was also found in this poll that those with a great deal of prejudice report the lowest academic achievement of individuals polled and are more likely to be Republicans, which is not at all surprising.  Overall, these statistics show a high intolerance of Muslims among Americans.  Whether this intolerance is justified or not is not easily determinable.  On a positive note, there has been a growing tolerance of Islam and its followers in the U.S. just as the tolerance of gays has significantly grown throughout the years.  Now when conservatives condemn ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups, they denounce them because they’re radical Muslim fundamentalists, not just because they’re Muslim.

It was decided that in order to prevent another deadly terrorist attack, the U.S. would not only increase its security at home and how one enters America, but also that we would go to the countries where al-Qaeda was most prominent and fight their terror abroad.  This resulted in the United States once again becoming a nation with a strong military presence throughout the world.  Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, American foreign policy shifted to humanitarian issues, but for the last thirteen years, U.S foreign policy has been defined by its anti-terrorism ambitions.  Afghanistan was the first country to become a battleground in the war on terror.  President Bush and his associates made the case for war by accusing the Taliban, the extremist group which controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, of hosting and assisting al-Qaeda.  On September 20th, Bush demanded that the Taliban deliver Osama bin Laden and destroy all al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan.  The Taliban stated it would comply if America showed detailed evidence that bin Laden was responsible for the attacks, which we did.  The Taliban, however, was slow in its response, and thus the U.S. began airstrikes in Afghanistan, very similar to the tactics used in Iraq today on ISIS.  Conflict grew between the parties, and a war that still continues to this day began.  Gradually, the U.S. was dragged into several other wars in its attempt to defeat terrorism, such as the war in Iraq, North-West Pakistan, and Yemen (just to name a few).  Despite  promises made by Bush and other officials from his administration that these wars would be short ones in which the U.S.’s supreme military power would demolish all the terrorist militias and trample the terror-supporting regimes of the Middle East, the war on terror, especially the war in Afghanistan, still continues.

After examining the many institutions and aspects of life that have been fundamentally changed as a result of those attacks 13 years ago, it’s seems that they really have created a new country, or at least a new government.  One so paranoid that its spies on its own people, constantly violates their privacy as well as their personal freedom, and reserves billions of dollars each year for defense spending.  Yet perhaps all of it is worth it in order to keep us safe and maintain our domestic tranquility.  However, a new threat has risen in the Middle East, one that has killed and displaced thousands of Iraqis, beheaded those who don’t accept its strict interpretations of sharia law, and exiled religious and ethnic minorities to their deaths.  The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria displays barbarism that is unparalleled in modern times.  At a time when 43% of Americans believe the Afghan war is a mistake and even more that the Iraq war was one, most Americans now support military intervention in Iraq to counter ISIS and its deadly rampage through Iraq and Syria simply because they are informed in just how brutal ISIS is.  Now, the military, and departments of defense and homeland security race to counter this rampage and protect our homeland from probably one of the most powerful Islamic terrorist groups ever.  Considering all the safety precautions and advancements in defense we have instituted after 9/11 and the costs the American people have paid for it, we may be a much safer nation than we were thirteen years ago, but not necessarily a wiser one.

 

 

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Bibliography:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11_attacks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-9/11

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/03/promises-promises-us-safe_n_947688.html?utm_hp_ref=decade-after-911—national-security

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airport_security_repercussions_due_to_the_September_11_attacks

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_Security_Administration

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Afghanistan_(2001%E2%80%93present)

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Russia’s humanitarian invasion of Ukraine

invasion cartoonIf you’ve been following the crisis in Ukraine throughout the year, you know just as well as I that certain fateful events occasionally occur in the conflict that return it to the headlines, such as the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych or the tragedy of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.  The crisis has re-entered the headlines and constant coverage of Western media once again due to Russia’s partial invasion of Ukraine.  Russia has supported the separatists since the beginning of the conflict, both tactically and militarily by supplying them with arms, but now they have decided to directly intervene in the fighting.  Over a month ago, the Ukrainian military was making substantial victories against the separatists until the Russian military directly intervened in the conflict, by firing on Ukrainian artillery and fighting alongside the rebels.  Satellite images of Russian tanks rolling down the eastern Ukraine countryside are circulating online, as well as close-up videos of Russian tanks.  Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s minister of Foreign Affairs, said that the satellite images of Russian tanks “were from computer games”.  NATO officials have stated that over 1,000 Russian troops have entered Ukraine.  Despite all this evidence, Moscow continues to deny that they are involved in the conflict in anyway.  When the Ukrainian government called for a cease fire with Russia, Putin said that it was implausible because “Russia is not a party in the conflict”, which is obviously a lie.

One of the most peculiar parts of Russia’s intervention is their use of humanitarian aid trucks to disguise the invasion as charitable one that only seeks to assist the Ukrainians, but this too, is a lie.  The invasion began August 22nd, when a convoy of Russian Humanitarian aid trucks crossed the border into eastern Ukraine without permission of the Ukrainian government, and entered the rebel-held territory of Luhansk to provide medical assistance to the Pro-Russian citizens of the region.  Shortly following this, the Russian military entered south-eastern Ukraine to provide military and strategic assistance to the separatists.  Thanks to the help of the Russians, Ukrainian nationalists have suffered heavy loses in the cities of Novoazovsk and Mariupol, forcing them to retreat.  The fact that this resurgence by the Pro-Russian separatists is occurring shortly after news of the Russian invasion is no coincidence.  Although Moscow continues to deny their invasion, Pro-Russian separatists have publicly admitted that Russian troops are fighting with them.  Aleksandr Zakharchenko, Prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, stated that somewhere between 3,000 to 4,000 Russian troops are fighting alongside the separatists.  However, the separatists say these troops aren’t there because they’ve been commanded to, they’re supposedly fighting there on their own volition.  They are on vacation and they’d rather spend their vacation fighting in Ukraine than on the beach.  Even though they deny a calculated invasion, the Russian government and state-controlled media have acknowledged that Russian troops have entered Ukraine, but they too call these soldiers “volunteers” who have chosen to fight for the Pro-Russian self-proclaimed republics on their own behalf.  These are obviously complete fabrications.  Even if some Russian troops decided that they would volunteer to help the rebels (which I’m not denying), how were they able to initiate such an organized invasion that occurred on the exact same day that the convoy of aid trucks (which the Kremlin doesn’t deny) entered Ukraine?  I find it hard to believe that it was just a coincidence.   Also, how were these “volunteers” allowed to import Russian military equipment into Ukraine without formal permission of Russian military authority?  It’s incredibly impractical and further reveals how fraudulent the Russian government is.

Even though the Kremlin denounces all claims that Russia is a belligerent in the War in Donbass, Putin, as always, never misses the opportunity to flex his muscles and display his Russian pride.  During a private phone conversation, Putin told a European official, José Manuel Barroso, that he could “take Kiev in two weeks” if he really wanted to.  Many are interpreting this statement as a direct threat to the Ukrainian government, but the Kremlin, specifically Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin aide, asserted that this was a complete misinterpretation of Putin’s narcissistic comment.  Apparently, Putin said it as a response to an accusation of Russia invading Ukraine made by Barroso, at which Putin replied that the idea of an invasion is ridiculous because the Russian military is so strong, if Putin really wanted the rest of Ukraine, he could take it all, including its far-eastern capital, in two weeks.  The Russian government and media are similarly projecting Putin’s remark as: “our military is so strong that we could take all of Ukraine very quickly and easily, we haven’t done this yet so therefore any accusations of us invading them are invalid” rather than a threat on Ukraine saying “We’re so powerful that we’ll take Kiev in two weeks!”.  Its difficult to say which meaning the comment has, even if Russia says it is the former.  After all, Russia doesn’t have a reputation for being truthful.  Either way, the statement is a brash one that will certainly increase tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which Putin obviously isn’t trying too hard to prevent.

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Obama enters the Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, Estonia for a press conference.

Throughout the week, as more evidence of a Russian invasion in eastern Ukraine was acquired by NATO and the media, more western officials have publicly condemned Russia, especially Putin, for the invasion.  Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany and a close ally to Mr. Putin, denounced Russia for their aggressive actions when she sided with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on the issue out of sympathy for the Ukrainians.   On the 3rd of September, President Obama visited Tallinn, Estonia to meet with the Presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on the issue of Russia’s military ambitions in Ukraine and how it could impact the three Baltic states (who were all added to NATO in 2004).  Later, during a NATO Summit in Wales which Obama also attended, Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity along with the rampage of the terrorist group ISIS, was a serious subject.  British Prime Minister David Cameron accused Russia of “ripping up the rulebook with its annexation of Crimea and its troops on sovereign soil in Ukraine” and claimed that the solidarity of NATO is more necessary than ever in order to combat the threat that Russia and ISIS pose to their countries.  It seems that Europe and the West are united in their condemnation of Putin’s imperialism, but merely speaking out against him isn’t enough to prevent the spread of Russian military units and Pro-Russian separatists throughout Ukraine.  They’ve yet to punish Putin and his men for their actions.  But of course, if they did, it wouldn’t be the first time the West has punished the eastern European power for its actions.   The United States has consistently sanctioned Russia for its military presence in Ukraine for months.  The European Union also began sanctioning it in the middle of the summer.  These attempts by Western powers have done little to pressure Putin into diminishing Russia’s interference in the conflict.  Russia has actually increased its military presence since the economic sanctions were instituted, with events such as the invasion and providing separatists with medical assistance.  It seems that Putin simply ignores any punishments he receives for his bad behavior.  Instead, he listens to what his people tell him, to seize as much land as he wants and to restore Russia to its former glory as a world superpower.

The pressure upon President Putin by his people to increase Russian territory and fight the Ukrainian nationalists who have been projected as Neo-Nazis by Russian media is a significant factor which influences Putin’s unwillingness to compromise with the EU and U.S.  If sanctioning the Russian economy multiple times hasn’t succeeded in causing Putin to back down, it’s difficult to know what will without starting a massive war.  If one thing is sure, it’s that Russia certainly has invaded Ukraine and has no intention to end the incursion anytime soon.  It’ll be interesting to see in the weeks and months to come what will happen in the Ukraine crisis, if Russia launches an all-out invasion on Ukraine or it permits peace to exist in the region once again.  No one except for Putin knows for sure.

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Bibliography:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Invasion_of_Ukraine_(2014)

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/03/world/europe/ukraine-crisis.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29040079

http://www.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/news/world/2014/09/03/obama-visits-estonia/15008601/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/05/nato-4000-rapid-reaction-force-baltics-russia

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