Monday, December 19, 2011

Best Albums/Mixtapes of 2011

20. Civilians - Wye Oak
19. Section.80 Mixtape - Kendrick Lamar
18. The Big Roar - The Joy Formidable
17. El Camino - The Black Keys
16. Slave Ambient - The War on Drugs
15. undun - The Roots
14. Nostalgia, Ultra - Frank Ocean
13. King of Limbs - Radiohead
12. Under the Influence Mixtape - Domo Genesis
11. Return of 4Eva Mixtape - Big K.R.I.T.
10. 4 - Beyonce
9. Live Love A$AP - A$AP Rocky
8. Ceremonials - Florence+The Machine
7. Cults - Cults
6. Helplessness Blues - Fleet Foxes
5. House of Balloons - The Weeknd
4. Watch the Throne
3. W H O K I L L - tUnE-yArDs
2. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
1. The Year of Hibernation - Youth Lagoon

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Man Bill Keller

The Politics of Economics in the Age of Shouting

Here's a link to one of my favorite op-eds of recent weeks. Bill Kellere is a former Chief Editor and Correspondent for the Times, and always offers enlightening insight into the world of politics.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Living Room Candidate
This site is phenomenal in delivering the context behind all our presidential elections since 1952. It was in 1952 that the first political campaign commercials were used, and when going through this site it is amazing to see the impact this tool would have in the future of elections going forward. The commercials gathered tell the intriguing stories of how each specific race for the presidency unfolded.

Welcome Back Wolves (NBA)

Yeah, this is just about how excited I am that the Timberwolves and the NBA are back! I already have plans to go to the home opener with friends, and maybe it's the anticipation that surrounded the lockout, but I am confident in the Wolves chances this year. They may be young and inexperienced, and I am not comparing them to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but they have just as much talent as those guys. A lot of critics point out that the pieces don't exactly fill all the holes on paper, but once the puzzle is put together this team has potential. I sometimes sit back and think that I am setting my expectations to high, and that this will come back to disappoint me, but there's no doubt these guys will be fun to watch no matter what the result.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Warfare of Ghengis Khan

An inspirational moment from the best television show of all time. If you are into politics and you have never seen this show, you don't know what you are missing out on. Long Live Aaron Sorkin!

Theatrics in Politics

The theatrics in politics are becoming a little overblown, and this years republican race does not appear it will stray from the norm. These two ads are from the Perry and Romney campaigns, and even though both are internet spots, I can't see them ever being played on TV. They both are overly serious - far too comparable to movie trailers - and the fact that they mix both seriousness and claims that can often be far from factual is a little bit laughable for me. I wouldn't doubt that these are somewhat effective, but they just seem to over the top to me. I think this makes the candidate less believable.

A Must-See Movie (Reaffirming the last post...)

Charles Ferguson is a great documentary filmmaker, who directed another one of my favorites, "No End In Sight," which I also recommend. This film won the 2010 Oscar for best Documentary.

A Shout Out to the "Occupiers"

The biggest problem we face is the income inequality divide. You would be remissed to not know that currently the top 10% of our population owns 71% of the wealth, while the bottom 40% own less than 1% of the wealth. Redistribution of wealth is the first step toward fixing this country. Even if we bring economic growth back up to pre-crisis levels, if we don't fix the income inequality the money will continue to funnel to the wealthy elite and we will slowly approach a plutocracy. 

(I agree with a lot of journalists covering this spectacle though, in that the "Occupiers" really haven't developed a concrete message as to what they specifically want Washington to do. Their motive is clear, but they need to start making demands.)

Now it's up to you decide.... 

Cutting and Raising Revenue toward Prosperity (The Democratic plan as I understand it)

 If you guessed the Democrat proposal is pretty close to the exact opposite, then you're basically right (go figure huh?). They actually want to reduce the deficit too, and actually just proposed a plan to cut it by $4 trillion over the next ten years. The only difference is that they want to do it through spending cuts and raising revenue (taxes on the wealthy and big business). A lot of Democrats actually don't even like this proposal because it goes too far in the cutting of entitlement programs (social security/medicare - and you can't lose the senior citizen vote). Now back to taxes, because so many Republicans feel that raising taxes on the rich is bad medicine for fixing the economy. They will tell you that we need to restore market confidence and all of a sudden those big businesses will start hiring more people and we will be back on track like that - magic! The funny thing is, those same big businesses are sitting on record profits, and a good chunk of that money they do spend is going toward politicians campaigns because undoubtably will they obtain favors in return (now I could branch out into campaign finance reform, which could put a cap on big business campaign spending, but conservatives are vehemently opposed to this). I am personally for keeping our government programs, taxing the wealthy to pay their fair share, and effectively putting the money back in the hands of the middle class (the part of the population that truly drives our economic prosperity). Consumer spending is what will bring our economy back; they will end up being the factor that pushes the business world to start investing again and adding jobs. 

The Economics of Cutting toward Prosperity (Republican plan as I understand it)

Their proposal is to wrap our arms around this massive debt we have and to take any means necessary in getting rid of it, or at least putting a dent in it. This inevitably means massive cuts to government programs, which range from medicare, to social security, to environmental protection, to research & development, to MOST importantly education (along with many more). If you don't know by now, their biggest claim is that they won't raise taxes to reduce the deficit. Yes, that means they wont raise taxes on you and me, but it means they also won't raise taxes on the wealthy or big business (they would rather try the trickle down theory and see if greediness is just a fluke). The Republicans would rather sell off government programs and properties and put them into privatization. Sure, it sounds like a good deal for the government to make a little money and in the process get a few things off its hands that it has to worry about, but I quite frankly don't trust the business world (especially after the economic crisis they have put us in). You see, in business there is always a profit motive - in government there is not. 

"The funniest smart guy, or the smartest funny guy?" (I'll go with the latter)

I was showed this clip in my mass media and popular culture course this past week. I loved it so much that I figured I would share it. Jon Stewart is truly overlooked as one of the smarter men in our political system, and maybe he didn't start with all of this knowledge, but I think over time he has found a responsibility in himself and his show to counter the current political culture of misinformation. Now, I understand he still reminds us that his comedy central half-hour is purely fake news - parody - but it really does play a vital role in the dissemination of political messages and sets the record straight when there is so much demagoguery from politicians. The Daily Show does a nice job of cleaning up those unsubstantiated claims, and I love how Stewart lays the smackdown on Tucker Carlson in this clip! Something to be said too about a guy who can articulate his argument so calmly and clearly, never once being phased by Carlson's confrontational style. 

Romney Flustered on Fox

This past week, prospective Republican presidential candidate, Willard "Mitt" Romney, ran into some tough questions on Fox News. Actually, lets be honest Fox never poses that tough of a challenge in its interviews, especially against their own kind, but Brett Baier was able to get under Romney's skin in his most recent interview - or maybe Mitt just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. It appears what has actually got to Romney is that Fmr. Speaker Newt Gingrich has just got his name called on the Republican game show: "What will you do if we give you a meteoric rise in the polls?". I think Mitt actually has a little fear when it comes to Newt, he does probably fall second in name recognition to Mitt and seems to have that knack for what saying what conservative voters want to hear - ignorance. I just posted this though because it gave me a good laugh. Watch for when Romney really gets irritated and shifts his posture rather abruptly. Ahhh....the state of politics today. Good for a chuckle and thats about it.

Herman Cain Drops Out of Race

Finally, the obnoxious candidacy of Herman Cain can be put in the books. It was a nice run while it lasted, and this viral candidate will claim that the "liberal" media led to the downfall of his run, but ultimately they were the same ones who put Cain on the map. His rather outrageous statements and interesting internet campaign commercials would not have received any attention if it wasn't for the mainstream media. They might have used the coverage to poke fun at Cain, but this would benefit him by driving more conservatives to rally behind the Godfather's Pizza CEO. This "15 minutes of fame" gave his campaign some relevancy and, quite frankly, was the only thing that allowed Cain a remote chance at the Republican nomination.

Friday, December 2, 2011

2011 Grammy Nominations Controversy?

I'm gonna stray away from my normal postings on politics for a moment and comment on my second favorite passion: music. A lot of news surrounding the Grammy Nominations Concert last night, and quite frankly I could care less about the controversy the media has stirred up. On a quick side bar, the concert was actually pretty impressive, a lot bigger production than past years, and I believe it was actually better than recent award shows like the AMAs and MTV's Music Awards (One of a million award shows they now air annually). Most of the reports today though, are that Country's darling Taylor Swift was snubbed by the nominating panel when she was left out of the Best Album category. I am more disturbed that Kanye West and his musical mastery was left off the list, while popularity ruled the day with artists like Katy Perry and Bruno Mars getting nods???? Sure they have had their chart toppers and should rightfully be commended for their undeniably talented ability to tap into pop culture and what the audience wants to hear, but artists like Adele, Bon Iver and Kanye West have a much more unique talent of pushing the envelope, introducing new genres, and taking risks while all the while staying completely original. At the same time, the paradox I often struggle with is letting some of my favorite artists get the recognition they deserve. I'd almost rather they stay unrecognized and keep that "indie aura" that surrounds them. The Grammys did surprise us last year though, as the fairly unknown band Arcade Fire took home Record of the year. It was a first for the award show to stray from popular consensus and rather pick the best musical composition no matter what genre or popularity. I hadn't given any thought to arcade fire and now it's up there as one of my most played albums on my ipod. Here's to the Grammys continuing to break from tradition, but not too far......or I guess I'm not really sure what I want.

Ides of March

I have this movie as first on my must see list over winter break. It delves into the corruption surrounding politics and how even the best candidate with the best intentions suffers from the inevitable conformity and panders to the given electorate in the name of winning - not values.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Party Not Walking Out on the American People

I read an op-ed by David Brooks in the New York Times the other day that defined the management style of President Obama. It was a very intriguing take on how our president goes about his business of finding solutions and visualizing legislation. Most importantly, it swooped me out of the black hole that is the media’s growing depiction of President Obama’s inability to lead our country. Brooks points out that it does seem as though our president has disappeared from the limelight when it comes to negotiating the lowering of our debt - and this seems far from the personality of the man who outspokenly campaigned in ‘08 and is known for coming off as cocky - but in reality this is the management style that has come to be for President Obama. He sits back and consumes all facets of an issue or policy debate and intervenes when he feels the time is right - after all it is Congress that makes the laws (although most of the time they can’t even accomplish this).
I agree with Brooks’ perspective that this is not an entirely horrible way to lead - and that it does in fact allow us to scale back from the lofty standards President Kennedy misled us to believe were attainable. Brooks goes on to encourage the president to finally step into the debt talks and exercise his passive management style of negotiating with Republicans. But, today, the president did the exact opposite and came out as the assertive party leader that was going to fight for the Democratic plan to lower the debt. He stepped into the ring swinging by stating that he would not back down from raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans (alright, he didn’t exactly state it so candidly, but you knew he meant business). It was an agressive leadership tactic that we had not seen from President Obama in quite some time, and it was great use of the bully pulpit to remind voters of the Republican ultimatum - cut spending on vital programs utilized by the middle class, leave the wealthy and their (barrels of) money alone, and then we will raise the debt limit.
This has become a debate that is being treated like a game in Washington, but most Americans will tell you their economic future is far from something to play around with. President Obama is finally stepping in as the adult in a situation that has been handled childishly by the Republican Leadership. There is no such thing as “cutting to prosperity,” and if we are going to fix our $14 trillion dollar national debt, we are going to do it by cutting waste and eliminating tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations. If the Republicans cannot arrive at this compromise, then they can pull an Eric Cantor and simply walk away from the American people when a solution needs to be found.
This is a time when all voters need to sit back and ask themselves a simple question that can be applied to many different scenarios: At what point do we stop funding the hedge fund manager’s third house, and start funding the college scholarship of a promising student? President Obama did an exceptional job of clarifying this today, and it is clear we have a man who is determined to find the best answer to decreasing our debt - not just a band of puppets settled on pandering to their party base with an election coming near.

Monday, May 30, 2011

An Intro to How I View Politics

"The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself the game of politics." My rendering of the infamous FDR quote when it comes to thinking about the current state of our government. It is understandable, yes, that this is the result of divided government, but you cannot sit here and tell me they don't know what they are doing. It is all part of an attempt to secure more power for your party down the road - but this just becomes a never-ending process.

The result is a government with representatives more focused on selling an image that sustains the party platform, and policy that fits within the contours of an ideology they are required to uphold. The objective should be to sell policy that ultimately solves the problem and that's it.

Case in point - the alternative energy debate stands right now with the Republican view that we cannot cut tax breaks to the big oil companies, and should rather invest more funding into offshore drilling (just another example of the contradictory Republican mantra: cut spending, but also maintain lower taxes). This conservative model for lowering our debt is not a feasible method, but yet it is something the Republican party must stay true to, in order to carry votes in the next election.

The Democratic stance isn't much better but at least they are trying to ween us off the super-teat of oil. They are trying to implement a plan that ends subsidies to the big 5 oil companies, but have recently changed putting these funds toward alternative energy R&D, and instead are conforming to Republican ideals of putting the money saved into lowering the debt. (Funny thing is, Republicans won't even vote on that option)

Yes, I know, both showing an effort to find compromise and lowering the debt are great initiatives. But, I agree with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and the fact that even though our country holds a massive and unsustainable debt, we are not broke! Cutting merely millions of dollars in spending on programs our country needs, will barely make a dent in the long run of our 14 trillion dollar debt. The only items that can lower this debt are the non-discretionary spending programs such as entitlements (medicare/medicaid/social security) and defense. Sure, putting money from programs that were easy to cut as a politician looks better in terms of job security than the big risks that many fear lead to political death. But, the only true answer to lowering the national debt is through reforming entitlements, cutting defense spending, and raising taxes.

So when it comes to childish arguments on how to handle tax breaks to the big oil companies, the real question should be how we are going to end our dependence and bring alternative energies to the fore. The gasoline problem is clearly one that will fail to get better, so instead of even debating whether we need to stop subsidizing (which we clearly do), we need to start establishing alternative energies as the future - the near future. The big oil companies turn billion dollar profits on a yearly basis, I think they will survive without our help. If gas prices continue to rise, so be it, maybe this will create more urgency toward ending our dependency.

Will we ever get rid of the game-playing in politics? I don't know, but the only way to start solving problems is to quit focusing on selling an image, and start selling a real solution.

In my next post I plan to talk about the recent developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This is becoming a very hot button issue, and I will give you my thoughts on the politics of the situation both in the Middle East and here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Beginning of the Beginning

This is the re-start of my blogging experience. I am going to make this one of my summer hobbies and hope to gain a following in the process. Be on the lookout in the next few days for my first new post - it will not disappoint. Don't forget to follow me and tell your friends too. Thanks!