Taking a chomp out of the mess that is US politics, one issue at a time...
Sunday, April 20, 2008
I just have to commend Universal Pictures on their advertising strategy for the new movie, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Due to the elementary-type slogans, such as "My mom never liked you Sarah Marshall", my boyfriend and I braved opening night last night to go to the Grove and see it. The unique advertising strategy has caused quite a stir in Los Angeles this past month and the movie definitely lived up to the hype. It's hilarious! I'd recommend it to everyone.
On an even cooler note, the director and main actor came to the theatre before the showing, wasted and taking pictures of the audience. It as quite a night!
The advertising strategy is the most interesting aspect of the movie for me. Recently I was talking with a peer about the need for unique and outlandish advertisements in our current society where we literally are bombarded with ads every second of the day. The Figueroa Post goes on to say that Universal Pictures hoped that this innovative strategy would leave LA and the rest of the country scratching their heads, wondering "who the f$%& is Sarah Marshall". And it did just that. Kudos Universal Pictures!
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Controversy hit the fashion world this month when Vogue released it's April cover: Lebron James striking an animalistic pose with a basketball in one hand and model, Gisele Bundchen, in the other.
Critics have likened the pose to King Kong, claiming that Lebron James is purposefully portrayed as a crass black man, lusting after a white woman. (NBC Sports) The blog, Of Ignorance, sites some comments written condemning Vogue's choice of cover. One commentator states, "Lebron is straight up perpetuating a stereotype (that of the brutal, wild savage)". Another commentator goes on to say that there are plenty "of black high fashion models" that could have been pictured next to him instead of the white Gisele. What?!?! The same people who are claiming that Vogue is racist are not OK with cross-cultural photographs? If that's not racist I don't know what is...
With the exception of the previous critique, I'd have to admit that commentators are expressing their outrage at the cover because they are genuinely concerned with the possibility that it was intentionally published to be racist. Unfortunately, I think their concern is only stirring up controversy where there should be none. I genuinely do not think the cover was shot to be racist; I actually appreciate the rugged athleticism of Lebron next to the strong, beauty of Gisele. They are both amazingly successful in their respective fields and a perfect mix and match of athletic bodies for the "Shape Issue".
So what exactly does this have to do politics?
The controversy that Lebron and Gisele's differing skin colors has created can be likened to the race aspect of the current fight for the democratic nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Both have faced good and bad publicity based on their skin color; it has gone so far as to have determined Democratic votes in some primaries (or at least appeared to based on exit polls). However, like the Vogue cover, I think it is not their skin colors that should be analyzed and compared. I will only go so far as to say that electing Barack Obama as our next president would be a positive sign that our nation as moved passed the atrocious time when African Americans were slaves and not allowed to vote. Beyond that (and I don't think that should be the deciding factor for any voter, I mean Hillary would represent immense steps forward in the feminist movement), I see no reason to even recognize the different ethnicities of Barack and Hillary. Unfortunately our country is no where near the point where we can turn a blind eye to skin color and acknowledge a human being for their accomplishments and beauty outside of race.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Friday, April 4, 2008
Bush is arguably facing his last major, controversial decision as President of the United States:
Do we attend or boycott the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China?
On one hand, we need to protest the lack of human rights and absolute contradiction to democratic values that China represents. And unfortunately, contrary to guarantees that China would be gladly open their doors and use the 2008 Olympics to end hundreds of years of injustice and intolerance, China seems to if anything have worsened its religious and cultural intolerance as the games approach. Luke Thomas, an active member of the China Freedom Blog Alliance and supporter of Olympic Watch, warns Americans about participating in the 2008 Olympics in the current state of China:
"Please be aware that the Olympic Games will be held in a country where there are no elections, no freedom of religion, no independent courts, no independent trade unions; where demonstrations and strikes are prohibited; where torture and discrimination are supported by a sophisticated system of secret police; where the government encourages the violation of human rights and dignity, and is not willing to undertake any of its international obligations.
Please consider whether the Olympic Games should coexist with religious persecution[,] labor camps, modern slavery, identity discrimination, secret police and crimes against humanity."
Thomas goes on to summarize the countries where China has been responsible for the genocide of entire nations of people. Some of these include Burma and Darfur, with the most recent atrocities being seen in Tibet. And while the Olympic Charter approved Beijing as the home of the 2008 Summer Olympics, they did so with the understanding that China would live by the self-created slogan, we live in "one world" with "one dream". However, Of Ignorance recently posted that China has officially banned filming from the infamous Tienanmen Square due to recent social unrest. This comes as a blow to many foreign activist groups who planned to make the Olympic games their stage in a quest for equality and humanity.
So the pervading question remains, do we attend the 2008 Olympics and indirectly support China's inhumanity? Or do we boycott them, breaking ties with a country avidly buying up our debt and crushing hundreds of young athletes dreams of a gold medal. Nancy Pelosi offers her advice in an interview with ABC, "I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table."
And I agree with her. Looking past our financial dependence on China and boycotting the Opening Ceremonies sends the message that as a country who embraces democracy and touts tolerance of all, we do not tolerate the injustice that currently defines the domineering Chinese government. However, when it comes to the actual sporting events, that's all they really are. Having American athletes compete in events against other countries is simply a competition, not a symbol of unification and support. We don't need another Moscow. It is unnecessary to ruin the years and decades of hard work that Olympic athletes have put into the upcoming summer simply because the International Olympic Committee had overly optimistic reformation dreams for China.
This idea of a partial boycott seems to be rippling throughout democratic nations around the world. The question in most of the European Union is not whether they will boycott the Olympics, but how far they will take that boycott. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has already asserted that she will not be attending the Olympic Games and I'm sure many leaders will follow in her footsteps. (ABC)
Bush's upcoming decision is going to be extremely controversial, and probably more than some realize. Already over the weekend there were demonstrations in San Francisco, most notably the continuation of the Human Rights Freedom Torch Relay, a peaceful protest started in Greece to protest the lack of human rights in China. It will be interesting to see where America falls on the boycott continuum and whether or not Bush attempts to make a stand for human rights and justice.
Monday, March 24, 2008
My pleasant surprise at his nomination seems to fly in the face of my previous post, An Undemocratic Democrat Candidate? In it, I strongly argue for the hypocrisy that the idea of superdelegates espouses. Basically, the idea that ultimately the party elite should control the democrat presidential nominee. And while I understand the argument that leaving such an influential decision in the hands of ignorant, uncaring voters is risky, I have to protest at such labels. True, many young voters (such as myself) have little knowledge of the different ideologies of each candidate, mainly a result of a lack of energy and time spent on the subject.
However, Jason Rae seems to be an exception. Here is a college student who has not only spent the time to become knowledgeable in politics and our government, but he has been elected to this "elite" position within the Democratic Party. And with his election comes hope for young voters, the future leaders of our nation. I only hope that he is the first of many to set a positive example for my contemporaries. We need more interest and activism in politics from college-age voters on both sides of the aisle. In this respect I find it fitting that Jason Rae has pledged his support to Obama, a man he describes as having "a drive and enthusiasm...that I don't see in very many people." (The Hill) Together, Jason Rae and Barack Obama symbolize the change that this country needs and I expect they will both be pivotal players in shaping the future of our national government.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Strictly speaking a recession is defined by economists as two consecutive quarters of declining GDP (or negative growth). So by definition, the United States has yet to enter a recession, technically it has yet to even enter the first quarter of a recession. However, the numbers tell a different story.
The average consumer is experiencing a substantial rise in commidity prices due to inflation. And this inflation has extended beyond luxury commidities to items like gas, food, and medicine. Coupled with stagnated pay (when 85,000 people have lost jobs in 2008 alone, it would be foolish to expect a salary raise), this inflation creates a significant problem for low to middle class consumers. The practical side of this can be seen in the dramatic decrease in spending for the average American. (CNN)
And interestinly enough, this idea of inflation spurring a lack of spending can cause a cyclical pattern, entrapping our economy in borderline recession. A rise in prices in the food and oil industries cripple spending not just in those economic realms, but in luxury goods as well. Because the average American is spending more money on gas, they are spending less money on games, large cars, and traveling. This in turn continues to cripple any possible economic growth as a result of increased consumer spending. Hence the advice that Americans continue to spend even while in a recession.
The housing market is another large part of our current virtual recession. Because the economy is doing so poorly and inflation is on the rise, less families are purchasing homes. This leads to a decrease in value for houses currently on the market because there is less of a demand. And the decrease in value leads to an increase in foreclosures. Basically, home owners go into debt like this; they originally take out a loan for lets say 75% of the total price of the house. However in the current housing market, that original value has dropped by 30%, making that original loan now more than the actual value of the house. So if a person in this situation was forced to sell their home, they would owe the bank money even after the sale. As Frankly My Dear says, this whole idea of sub-prime loans is a "fall-out" from "the burst of the housing U.S. market" in 2006. Unfortunately, the dramatic decrease in house values that this fall-out created as perpetuated the problem two years later.
So what does our declining economy have to do with politics? Everything. This "recession" is not affecting the upper class. While their monthly bills may be tallying up to a higher dollar amount, they continue to drive Hummers and large SUVs without having to worry about the affordability of gas prices. Taking this into account, how much sense does the Republican trickle down theory have in our current situation? Tax breaks for the wealthy may spur spending in the upper crust of society, but eight years of this has obviously not led to a trickle down of wealth to the lower classes. If anything, it has only served to widen the gap between the rich and poor and we obviously need to approach this national problem from a different angle. The economy should be a major battleground in the presidential campaigns of both parties and I look forward to hearing some solutions and changes that will aid the average man of achieving the "American Dream".
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Heaven forbid Barack Obama goes to church. A church with a black Reverend no less.
Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his black rights activist speeches have made headline news recently. Because his sermons are something new? Or untrue? Or especially decisive? No; Rev. Wright has been publicly scrutinized because he is the spiritual leader of presidential hopeful, Barack Obama.
And on to the age-old argument of Church vs. State.
The sermons most scrutinized of Wright’s are those publicly supporting Obama and denouncing Hillary Clinton and her easy life, “Hillary Clinton was not a black boy raised in a single parent home.” (CNN) In addition Wright has been recorded criticizing America’s actions regarding terrorism and our country’s racist history.
But Jeremiah Wright is certainly not the first American to speak out against the hypocrisy that has ruled our nation for years. And he is definitely not the first religious leader to push his political views on a congregation. (Four years ago, my church handed out pamphlets reminding the community how “good Catholics” are supposed to vote.)
The issue is that Barack Obama has admitted his devotion and following of Wright’s church. He even went so far as to credit one of Wright’s sermons for the title of his novel, The Audacity of Hope. (CNN) And as a presidential hopeful, Obama’s religious affiliations are everyone’s business. No one claims to separate every action and decision from their values and we can only assume that Obama has shaped some of those values by the words of Jeremiah Wright.
So what does this mean for the future of our country? If elected, is Obama going to shape public and foreign policy around the notion of black supremacy? Denounce the founders of our nation because they were rich white men? I doubt it. Despite some of the more controversial beliefs of his Reverend, Barack Obama is still the levelheaded, inspirational leader he has been since the beginning of this presidential campaign. And in his defense, he has announced his disagreement with a number of Wright’s beliefs, including Wright’s political advocacy of Obama in his sermons.
All of this being said, it now resides in the hands of the voting public as to whether Obama’s “spiritual guide” remains a news headline and an influential factor in this primary campaign. People have to decide if they believe that Obama can differentiate between the radical religion and rational beliefs.
I, for one, don’t know anyone who agrees full-heartedly with his or her religious leader. I go to a Catholic church that believes abortion is murder and the Republican Party part of the religious right. On the other hand, I am very much pro-choice and a full-fledged, liberal democrat. And as much as I enjoy attending church, I remember to take everything my priest, and the man who baptized me, says with a grain of salt.
It is undemocratic that Reverend Jeremiah Wright touts his support of Barack Obama at religious gatherings. By doing so he crosses the line between religious leader and political advocate and for that, he deserves the scrutiny of the people. But Obama is not at fault. He has maintained the wall between Church and State throughout his campaign, mentioning religion only when it comes to his values and inspiration. Not once has Obama used religion as a reason or as a means for pulling out of Iraq, for remodeling our nation’s health care, for revamping our education system.
The backlash that Obama has suffered because of Wright is unjustified. And this recent attack appears to be more of a strategic political move against Obama than a valid critique of his character.
I have no doubt that an investigation into the religious leaders of past and present politicians would reveal some startling and radical beliefs. And know that every Catholic politician has listened to countless sermons classifying abortion as murder and the use of contraception as sinful. However that does not mean that every Catholic yearns to see Roe v. Wade overturned. And certainly the majority of American Catholics use some form of contraception in the current day and age.
And so, ultimately the State wins. Religion, while important to one’s belief system, cannot govern a country so racially and culturally diverse as ours. Any politician who attempts to use religion has such will commit political suicide. And while Barack Obama is free to attend any kind of spiritual gathering he so desires, people can be comforted in the fact that he is not an idiot. Obama will not run our country from a pulpit.