Monday, February 27, 2012

Romney vs. Santorum: The Battle in Michigan and Arizona

Primary elections for the Republican presidential candidates will be held in Michigan and Arizona tomorrow!  While there are numerous rumors floating around about Romney having the upper-hand in both states, these races have been known to be highly unpredictable.

Rick Santorum (left) and Mitt Romney (right)

Michigan

In 2008, Romney won Michigan with the support of the state's conservatives who turned out in huge numbers to vote. However, with the added drama of Romney's op-ed piece entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt," (details his opposition of the auto bailout), the citizens of Michigan may not be so friendly towards him anymore. So basically, Romney supports bailing out the banks, but not the auto industry. Pretty typical Romney.  The problem for him is, polls show voters in Michigan approve of the bailout.  Some analysts have claimed more than 1 million jobs were saved by the bailout.  With that said, Romney's feeble attempt at lessening the blow of his op-ed included a statement that his wife owns "a couple of Cadillacs."  Ok...

As crazy as Santorum is, at least he is more consistent than Romney; he opposed both bailouts.  Santorum has attacked Romney for "support[ing] his friends on Wall Street and then turn[ing] his back on the people of Detroit." Good point.

Although Romney was born and raised in Michigan, he has been struggling to connect with the average blue-collar Republican who is still struggling and feeling the effects of the recession. Also, let's not forget, Romney is "not concerned about the very poor" and he thinks "corporations are people." This kind of rhetoric is simply not going to fly with the average American.

Romney recently attacked Santorum for being a career politician, saying that since he has never worked in the private sector, he does not know enough about economics to lead the country in an economic revival. Advertisements by both Romney and Santorum have been flying around like crazy, signaling that this is going to be a tight race between the two. We will have to wait and see what happens in Michigan tomorrow, but Romney better watch out!

Arizona

At first glance, it looks like Arizona might just be a slam-dunk for Romney.  With the endorsement of Senator John McCain and Arizona's large Mormon population, many are saying this is probably a done deal.  But maybe not...

Rick Santorum is putting up a pretty good fight!  The Tea Party in the state is strong and immigration issues are close to the heart.  

Although about 10% of voters in Arizona are Mormon, this might just not be enough to pull Romney through.  It looks like it will be a battle between Mormons (who are known to be loyal voters) and evangelicals and tea party members (who make up about 35% of the Republican party). Voter turnout is projected to be low in Arizona this year.  The lower the turnout, the more likely Santorum will win, and the higher the turnout, the more likely Romney will prevail.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

What do you think will happen in the primaries tomorrow?  Do you think Romney will be able to pull through?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Race-Based Affirmative Action: Does it Really Promote Equality?



From personal experience, I know that affirmative action has always been a hotly contested subject on college campuses.  Is it fair?  Should colleges take race into account when making admissions decisions?  Does it really promote true equality?  Is this policy unfair to qualified non-minority students?  Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case during its term that starts in October.  This will be the first time affirmative action has been revisited since the 2003 University of Michigan case.

First, of all, here is a little background on affirmative action.

1.  The Supreme Court first approved affirmative action in 1978 in the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case.

2. In 2003, Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the court's decision in Grutter v. Bollinger reaffirming this practice (involving the admissions policy of the University of Michigan).  The reasoning behind this was that a diverse student body improves the education of all students.  O'Connor mentioned that if in 25 years, racial prejudice was no longer as prevalent, affirmative action would no longer be necessary.  Of course, not all the justices agreed with this statement.

3.  (Side note) Here in California, the state outlawed "preferential treatment" by race in 1996 with Proposition 209, so the ruling in Texas will not really affect us here.  A few other states have adopted similar laws.

4.  In 2005, Justice O'Connor (a well-known moderate) retired and George W. Bush replaced her with Justice Alito (pretty conservative and not a big fan of affirmative action).  Also, Elena Kagan, the newest justice, (pretty liberal) has announced that she will recuse herself since she worked on this case in a lower court when she was solicitor general.

5.  The Texas case that the Supreme Court has decided to deal with this October started in 2008 when Fisher, a white applicant, was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin.  Her record was not good enough for admission, but she still felt as if she was turned down because she was white.

What has affirmative action in college admissions accomplished? 

Well, since the University of Texas has adopted this policy, the number of African-American students matriculating has nearly doubled!  


The number of Latino graduates has increased by almost 50 percent.


The University of Texas is ranked sixth nationwide in undergraduate degrees awarded to minors.

If the Supreme Court ultimately chooses to take race completely out of the equation in college admissions, this will affect students nationwide.  Will this help or will it hurt?

What does this mean for President Obama in the upcoming election?


The presidential election is in November.  Arguments for this case will be heard in October, just weeks before the election!  Indubitably, the President will be interrogated about his stance on this delicate issue.  If Obama's view is anything like what it was in 2008, I really like it.

He mentioned that an edge should be given to ALL low-income high school students, regardless of race.  I think that this is a good balance between completely abolishing affirmative action policies and keeping the current race-based policies.  I personally do not think it is fair for a student who is equally qualified for admission to get denied purely because they are not a "minority."  I can understand the effort to put students on an equal playing field, but I still cannot fully accept the fact that well-qualified individuals sometimes get denied admission because of their race.  With all that said, I am still very torn on this issue.

How do you think the Supreme Court will decide?  More importantly, how do you think they should decide?


Friday, February 17, 2012

My Night with President Obama

"We're starting to see what change looks like." President Obama, at the fundraiser tonight.


Tonight I got to see President Obama live and in person!  It was honestly the most excited I've been since I shook Bill Clinton's hand last year.  Tonight, he appeared in SF for a 2012 election fundraiser at the Nob Hill Masonic Center.  After waiting in line for 3 hours in the freezing San Francisco February weather, 7 of my friends and I had one of the most memorable nights of our lives.  I have personally been an Obama fan since he was a Senator in Illinois.  I was a fierce supporter of Obama in 2008 when he ran for office, especially since he was the first President I ever had the privilege of personally voting for.

UC Hastings College of the Law BLSA
As we anxiously awaited the President's speech, we were lucky enough to be serenaded by the beautiful guitar playing and raspy rock voice of Chris Cornell (of Soundgarden and Audioslave).  My two favorite songs he performed were "Redemption Song" and "Imagine."  Very mellow, yet very nice start to the night.

video

The almost 3,000 San Francisco residents who attended the fundraiser were definitely fired up to see their President tonight!  He was greeted with standing applause and outbursts of "I love you!" and "You're amazing!" Obama emphasized that winning this election is not going to be easy, just like it was not easy in 2008.  "I told you," he said jokingly.  He urged all of us to become involved in the movement and to take an active role in the vision we want for our country.

The crowd went wild when Obama gave a heartfelt thanks to teachers, when he mentioned that everybody should "play by the same rules," and why nobody who makes more than $250,000 should pay less in federal taxes than their secretary.

My personal favorite was when Obama said, "Higher education is not a luxury, it is an economic imperative."  Some of you may remember a similar quote from the recent State of the Union speech.  The President encouraged us to work together and to not let partisan politics stand in the way of doing what is right for our country.

Regardless of how popular President Obama was with most of the attendees, there were still numerous groups protesting outside the event and a few rowdy screamers that had to be escorted out in the middle of his speech.  A few of the group protesting include: the Center for Biological Diversity (wants to halt oil drilling in the Arctic), medical marijuana activists (angry about the administration's crackdown on dispensaries), Code Pink, World Can't Wait SF, and of course, people from the Occupy movement.  After a lady was carted out for screaming about killing civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama remarked about how "there is always something going on in San Francisco" and "Folks are not shy about sharing their ideas in San Francisco." This surely is anything but a dull city!

Protesters outside the event. The crowd grew as the night progressed.
All in all, it was a wonderful night! Although Obama is going to face some significant challenges in this election, I have high hopes for this man to continue changing and shaping our country into somewhere we can all have the opportunity to learn, grow, and prosper.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Obama's budget proposal: We can't "cut our way to growth"



Everybody loves a good ol' election year budget proposal.  Economic recovery and job creation now, and the budget deficit later.  The main points of Obama's budget proposal include:

1. Job creation!  That was the central focus of President Obama's election year budget proposal this morning.  Obama proposes pouring $8 million into community colleges and shifting the nation's focus to job training, infrastructure, and research and development.  This is a much needed initiative if we are to get anything done in this country.  Our education system is broken and other countries are beginning to take the lead.  It's about time we put value on educating our citizens and getting them back to work!

2. Asking the wealthy to pay their fair share.  The 2013 budget will have $1.5 trillion in increased taxes, and we can all finally say goodbye to the Bush-era tax cuts for the 1%!  Estate taxes will be raised, and there will be higher rates on investment income.

3. Bring troops back and cut military spending.  The extra money saved here will then be able to go to improving the nation's transportation network.

Although Obama is not exactly planning to cut the deficit in half as soon as possible like Republicans want, this plan will most likely give the country the jumpstart that it needs to get the economy back on track again.  If we don't invest in education and infrastructure now, we will end up paying for it in the long run.  There are so many jobs out there that most Americans just are not trained to do because of lack of education.  There is NO reason why we should have empty jobs and nobody to fill them.  This is a recipe for disaster, especially as more and more jobs are getting shipped overseas.

One of the important issues missing from Obama's budget proposal:  The President did not call for any structural changes to Medicare, which accounts for a large percentage of the nation's debt.  We will have to wait and see what will happen with that one.

Good news for Obama: The President's poll numbers are up again!  Troops are completely withdrawn from Iraq, the payroll tax cut victory happened, and January and February (so far) are bringing in good economic numbers.  As the economy improves and we shift our focus to jobs and improving education, so do the President's poll numbers!

What do you think about the President's proposal?

For a quick overview of who the "winners" and "losers" of Obama's budget plan are, watch this video with Jennifer Granholm, Michigan's governor.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Is it really "Obama vs. Religious Freedom?"


Is President Obama waging a war against religious freedom in this country? Well, there are those new Health and Human Services regulations that require some religious groups who provide health care to their employees to include contraception...war is surely declared!

NOT.  After going to Catholic school from Pre-Kindergarten through high school, I have my doubts about these radical and highly exaggerated statements.  After the Florida primary, Newt Gingrich emphatically stated that Obama's administration has "declared war on the Catholic Church and other religious organizations," and Mitt Romney thinks that the President is forcing "religious organizations to violate their conscience."  These statements just do not add up with what is actually going on here.  The Obama administration is not "forcing" anyone to do anything that would violate his or her "conscience."

No woman will be "forced" to buy or use contraception; it is simply made available to women who choose to use it.  Thus, I fail to see the "forcible" element here.  Also, what most people have not realized is that there is an exemption for churches who mainly employ those of their own faith.  They will NOT be required to provide free contraception in employees' health care plans if it goes against their religious principles.  Regardless of her faith or lack thereof, no woman should be denied access to affordable health care because someone else thinks it is morally "wrong."  Despite what most people think, a large percentage of Catholic women support using birth control and most of them use it themselves.

Personally, I think these new regulations have been a long time coming and I am glad that women's health is finally being lifted from the back burner.  With that said, this could potentially diminish Obama's chances at winning the Catholic vote in this upcoming election.  However, I am satisfied that he is doing what is right for women instead of caving into political pressure, which he has been guilty of in the past.

Religious freedom is in little danger here.  Every woman in America will still have the choice to either take birth control or not.  At least now, women of more modest means will actually have a choice in the matter.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Is Congressional Insider Trading a Thing of the Past?



The Senate just passed a bill that will ban insider trading by members of Congress and force members to disclose stock transactions within 30 days!  Kudos to President Obama for calling out Congress on this horrible practice in last week's State of the Union.  Watch President Obama in the State of the Union state boldly that he would immediately sign a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress.  Congress' ratings are at an abysmal rate of below 15% and I think this is their first attempt at stepping their game up!

Finally members of Congress, who seem to think that they are practically royalty these days, will be held accountable for their actions under federal law like the rest of us.  Although this bill is a step in the right direction, I wonder what new schemes Congress will come up with to get around it.  Time will tell!

Although my view seems a bit cynical right now, I think most Americans are feeling a deep distrust for the people who are supposedly "representing" our interests.  It's about time Congress steps up and helps make sure that the lifestyle regular Americans are able to live is a little bit more like the lifestyle they live.

If the House is as receptive to the new bill as the Senate was, we'll be heading in the right direction.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Breast Cancer Screenings, Political Pressure, and the Pro-Life Battle Against Women




As most of you already know, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation cracked down under the pressure of right-wing political groups and ended its support of breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood.  This is a huge slap in the face to women all across America who have counted on these services for the preventative care that they deserve.

When some people hear "Planned Parenthood," their mind immediately shifts to young teenage girls sneaking off to the center to get birth control behind their parents' backs.  Although this may be partly true, this misconception trivializes the important and essential services that Planned Parenthood provides for women.  Women all across the country rely on the free or low cost breast cancer screenings that Planned Parenthood (used to) provide.

1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer in the course of her lifetime.  Catching breast cancer at the earliest stages is absolutely KEY.  I am appalled that so many Republicans choose to disrespect women on such a large scale.

What can YOU do to put GOOD pressure on the RIGHT people:

1. Click here to sign your name at the end of this letter to say that you stand with Planned Parenthood!

2. Donate to Planned Parenthood. Any contribution helps!

Thank you for reading my first blog entry!

--Ashley