Archive for the ‘RANT — politics’ Category

syrianwarThough little consolation, Assad has acknowledged that when his army killed demonstrators in Daraa in the beginning of the uprisings, the regime had made a significant error.  It is worth wondering whether Bashar Al-Assad had thought that squashing the protests would be as easy as his father, Hafez Al-Assad, had demonstrated in previous eras. Assad’s tactics indicate that he borrowed lessons from his father, whom in 1982, both brutally and successfully, ended a rebellion in Hama. In the process  of ending said rebellion, he had slaughtered an estimated 14,000 people, many of whom were women and children. Bashar must have thought, and might still think, that the current conflict could be violently quelled just as quickly. But that has not happened, and the noteworthy fact that those killed in Hama in 1982 were predominantly Sunni, reveals interesting dimensions about the ongoing predicament; the children of Hama in 1982 were likely raised on the tales of Assad senior’s massacre, and, it would seem, have grown up to become segments of the rebellion we are all witnessing today.
Decades later, it is easy to see manifestations of the effect that the Hama massacre has had. However, the crisis is so much more than the vengeance of Syrian Sunnis. It has also evolved into a much larger geopolitical proxy-war between Gulf Sunni monarchies, their western sponsors, and what is now referred to as the Syria-Hezbollah- Iran axis, with Iran still being the salient target. Qatar has made it clear that it thinks the Syrian rebels should be armed, and has provided assistance to the rebels. The U.S. and its western allies have a similar agenda.
Small numbers of CIA operators are already in southern Turkey assisting rebels with logistics, and coordinating arms delivery into Syria. The prospect of a regime change in Syria offers a unique chance to isolate Iran from one of its few Arab allies, and in the process would deal a powerful blow to Hezbollah. Hezbollah itself, has already faced turmoil and resentment at home in Lebanon for its continued support, and justification, of Assad’s violence. But just how dirty the U.S. is willing to get its hand, remains unclear. And as the conflict continues to rage on, it seems more and more unlikely that the U.S. will directly intervene.
Unfortunately, the proxy-war aspect of the Syrian conflict continues to eclipse the often neglected, and crucial point, that the uprisings developed locally, and organically. It is commonly argued by self-proclaimed anti-imperialists that the uprisings are now nothing more than an extension of western foreign policy. But such assertions neglect the inconvenient fact that the revolution inside Syria is still largely being carried out by Syrians. There are elements of Al-Qaeda in eastern Syria, and other foreign fighters but their presence has not been substantiated as being more then minimal. Syria is now undergoing a civil war, and of that we can be certain. There are still pockets of Syrians who support the regime, mostly Alawites, other small pockets of minorities, and upper-class elites, who fear that what might follow Assad could be worse. But high-ranking deflections, such as Manaf Tlass and others, prove that the revolution still has its roots in Syria, and is not being imported from the outside. There are still demonstrations organized by local community members, and it is hard to argue that they would be putting their lives in very real danger if they did not believe what they were doing was for their motherland. 
Foreign interests will always be present in any revolution. Have we forgotten Libya? Or the general western blindness towards the brutal squashing of the Bahraini uprisings?  But the agendas of foreign powers always comes second to the will of the native people, and to argue against revolution simply because it is coated in vested interests is to argue against all revolutions. It is unclear of what will follow the Assad era, but progress will never be achieved by stunting the natural resistance of the majority of the Syrian people. 
– Talal Alyan
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“What endures is not the fact of democratic liberalism but the myth of it.” Chris Hedges.

obamaAmidst the adulation for Obama and his re-election, its seems evident that his fan base must consist of either complacent centrists, or political tourists. (People who fancy themselves liberal, but are perfectly content to gobble up his leftist slogans despite them being entirely void of any real reform and policy.) The tangible hazard can be found in the unsettling abandonment of civil liberty and anti-war movements by people who, it seems, feel their battle was won when a black democrat was sworn into office four years ago. For the slightly more informed and rational liberal, the tired logic goes as follows: support the lesser of two evils. The argument would have some merit if it were not for three essential factors; Obama’s re-election negatively reinforces the long-standing democratic party’s belief that they can rely on liberal support regardless of their actual policies, it lulls liberals into a state of complacency and inaction, and, in this case, the lesser of evils is so by such a small margin it does not make sense that we grant him our support.

The case against Obama is made easier by his recent inaugural speech, which serves as a helpful backdrop to contrast his impassioned words against his actual policies.

Immigration

A cornerstone of Obama’s campaign has been his commitment to the issue of immigration. He garnered 71% of the Latino vote by campaigning on promises to reform immigration law. At the inaugural speech, he reiterated his commitment to immigrants saying, “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.” It was enough to send to the audience into a hysteric cheer. What Obama failed to mention, however, was that his administration oversaw the largest deportation of immigrants ever, during the 2012 fiscal year, (409,849.)

War

Obama brought up the Orwellian concept of ‘Perpetual War’ in his address, saying his presidency would be opposed to the idea that constant war was needed to attain peace. On the same day of his address, drones killed 3 people in Yemen. The Obama administration has vastly expanded the practice of covert killing in places where the U.S. is not at war. The drone strikes allegedly only target known militant terrorists. However, the claim becomes harder to believe when one learns of tactics such as the ‘signature strike’, in which any militant aged males who happens to be within certain geographic bounds can be considered a legitimate target. The common response to these assassinations by pseudo-liberals, is to point to the myth that Obama ended the war in Iraq. He did not. The withdrawal was a result of a Bush-era deal made with the Iraqi government, the U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, one that Obama fought against.

Health Care

The debate for and against Obamacare is probably the best indicator of the huge shift to the right both parties have made in the past few decades. The individual Mandate is a central part of Obamacare and yet very few people have discuss its origins. In 1989, a right-wing think-tank called the Heritage Foundation proposed the Individual Mandate, which forces individuals to buy private health care, as an alternative to the Employer Mandate. The idea was championed by the right and in the early nineties endorsed by nearly half congress republicans, including Newt Gingrich. Despite the concept’s history of being conceived and supported by the right, political discourse now finds the mild left defending it as a sensible answer to the country’s healthcare woes. It is worth noting that the AHIP, an insurance lobbyist group, advocates the individual mandate, for obvious reasons.

– Talal Alyan

Last night at 11:45 p.m., President Barack Obama was announced the 44th President of the United States. Winning battlefield states; Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin, Obama was able to secure his spot in the White House for the next four years with an electoral vote of 284.

Before President Obama gave his victory speech, he tweeted “This happened because of you. Thank you.”

The polls showed that President Obama had received strong support from women, African American, Hispanic and young adult voters, similar to the 2008 election that made him the first African American president of the United States.

During the presidential campaign, President Obama vowed to create a brighter, better future for the American people. He asked the people to stick with him while he reignites economic growth and helps us recover from the worst recession we have seen since the Great Depression, which took place during the presidencies of Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt (short history lesson).

Under President Obama’s second term, according to his website www.barackobama.com, we should expect to see the following policies and economic changes;

  • A long-term economic plan which will invest in education, small businesses, clean energy, infrastructure and tax cuts to help bring jobs back into the United States
  • Cutting taxes by 3,600 dollars for the typical middle class family
  • Cut tuition growth in half over the next decade with a plan to double campus based student aid
  • End the war in Iraq by bringing our troops home from Afghanistan
  • Give women the right to their own health care choices
  • Improve health care for all Americans

According to NBC news source, during Election Day, President Obama awaited results at his home in Chicago where he had a family dinner, and participated in a pick-up basketball game, which is his Election Day tradition.

Congratulations President Barack Obama.

-Chelsey Perry

In honor of the previous Jerk Cast, I figured I’d explain further into our main discussion of the cast: Dogs Against Romney. Prior, I didn’t understand what fellow casters (Julia, Charlie, and Paige) meant when they spoke of Mitt Romney and the “dog on the roof” situation. Though after googling, I saw images flooding my google images of photos of young puppies looking sad stating, “Dogs Against Romney.” Now, just to be clear, Mitt isn’t the best candidate in my opinion, he steps on my toes… a lot. However, after hearing that he strapped his dog, Seamus, to the roof of his car for a total of 12 hours, I hated that man even more. Now, if you are like me and had no idea what the hell everyone was freaking out about, here is the lowdown:

In 1983, Romney and his family went on a trip from Massachusetts to Canada. While the Romney’s clearly have no sense of organization or humanity, the Romney’s decided that rather than making room within the car to place their beloved pet, that they would strap him to the top of the roof while speeding during a freeway. While speeding on the freeway, Seamus was leaking a brown blood from the cause of her gastric distress. When the Romney’s saw this, they simply cleaned it with a towel and kept on their journey… with Seamus still strapped to the top of the car. After the photos and information was leaked to the media, Romney, rather than apologizing for his actions stated that the air tight kennel was something Seamus “enjoyed” and that he wouldn’t repeat his actions, but only because of the publicity it’s received.

The difficulty of this situation is that, regardless it was almost thirty years ago, Romney’s actions still follow him. This is completely understandable. Romney is about to be in charge of millions of American’s, all whom of which believe in human and animal rights to a certain degree. Knowing that such a man in high ranking thinks this is completely normal worries the Nation. We see it in terms that since he is okay with Seamus being strapped to the top of his car, and only avoids it when publicity forces anger, that maybe possibly, we could be the next dog. If Romney is elected President, does this mean that we are soon to be the next Seamus? Bleeding from gastric distress terrified, only for Romney to clean up the mess but still continue?

– Lakota Gambill

Voters all over Pennsylvania are laying down their cheese steaks to discuss a proposed voter ID law that would require everyone to show a valid, government issued identification at the polls on Election Day in November.  I know that for many readers this leads to two questions: “so what?” quickly followed by “who cares?”

So what?  A law that requires voters to present government ID may not seem like a very radical idea, but in reality a law like this would target a few specific demographics that statistics show tend not to have government identification.  These groups are mostly minorities and the elderly, and for those of you not familiar with this three ring circus we call politics, pretty much everyone in those groups are Democrats who would be casting their vote for President Obama in November.

Who cares?  Well, if you like Barack (I shook his hand once, we are on a first name basis) then you probably should care.  Pennsylvania is a major battleground state in what is shaping up to be a neck and neck race for the oval office.  So if you want to keep Mitt Romney’s special Mormon undergarments out of the White House washing machine, listen up.

Politics is full of sly handiwork and redistricting that have the specific goal of getting a candidate the upper hand in the election, so this is no big deal, right?  Wrong!  When politicians play dirty, they are sneaky about it.  Being sneaky is politics 101, you learn it in dirty politician school right before you start the chapter on bagging call girls and never actually answering a question.  Pennsylvania House Republican Leader Mike Turzai spoke about the law, saying “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.  Done.”  That’s pretty bold Mr. Turzai…and not sneaky whatsoever!

But even more insulting than passing a law that deliberately disenfranchises nearly ten percent of (mostly Democrat) Pennsylvania voters is the fact that Republican supporters of the law say that it is necessary to prevent voter fraud.  Proponents of the law who are not quite as bold as Turzai claim that the enormous issue posed by voter fraud needed to be addressed, and that the law is in no way part of a partisan agenda.  For the record, there were 13 cases of voter fraud recorded between 2000 and 2010, so it is comforting knowing that Republicans are tackling such a serious issue.  Next on their agenda is the enormous number of undocumented leprechauns running wild through the woods of Pennsylvania.

To learn more about voter ID laws and make sure that you are prepared to cast your vote in November check out this website http://letmypeoplevote2012.com/ and keep on Jerkin.

-Heather Lewis

Photo courtesy of the observer.com

When College Democrats approached us about co-hosting a talk from Rolling Stone sweetheart Matt Taibbi, we nearly pooped our pants. Through wit and careful analysis, Taibbi has slowly made the spread of information sexy again. And we love him for that. Knowledge, disguised by a little snark, is the media industry’s best weapon to combat apathy—especially political. Our Noise editor Shea Garner sat down with Taibbi before his talk in Maxwell last week. Enjoy their conversation—verbatim, no bullshit.

Jerk: Your recent string of articles in Rolling Stone about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital have garnered a lot of attention. While it’s great to inform the public, some people say giving Romney any publicity is like giving attention to a screaming baby. What do you say to that?

Matt Taibbi: Well, that’s an interesting question. When I decided to do that article, I actually tried not to get into these Blue versus Red political debates. The articles I write, I try as much as possible to write about these things that resonate for people on both sides of the aisle, and this was an article that I thought was really less about Mitt Romney as a person than it was about private equity business and financialization—this whole idea that American business used to be about making stuff and selling it, and now, the new way of doing things, is just about making financial products and squeezing value out of things that we’ve already built. That’s what I was trying to write an article about. The consequence of it is that it turns into this gigantic anti-Romney article, and that’s why everyone is reading it, unfortunately. But that’s more of a marketing thing than my intent.

Jerk: On the flipside of Romney, Obama has seemingly made it one of his very publicized missions to cut student loan rates. A lot of politicians promise these things and never deliver. Do you see this getting any easier for college students like us?

MT: My next assignment is actually about student loans, believe it or not, and I actually haven’t started delving into the issue. I think that it’s clear that the way that students are burdened with lifetime debt for educations, that half the time don’t result in a guaranteed job after you get out, is an incredible burden on kids. I think it’s awful. It’s one thing for med school students who borrow a ton of money, but they’re going to be able to pay that money back. It’s not hanging over their heads for their entire lives because that’s part of the return for being a doctor. But ordinary kids who go to liberal arts schools and get bachelor degrees get out and are just sort of left to find their way in the world. It just sort of becomes this life-crushing thing for a lot of people and end up into their late-thirties trying to find a way out of it. Debt is a gigantic political issue that’s not talked about enough, and most of the country has either zero net worth or negative net worth, and that’s because one part of society is lending and the other part is constantly having to get into debt. And it starts with student loans.

Jerk: Speaking of debt, we see a lot of discourse back and forth about four increments and bark about results within term limits, when economically, it seems like a lot of trends are decades in the making (a major point in your latest book Griftopia). What do we need to do to stop things like bubble economics and change that in the short term?

MT: Well, in terms of bubble economics, one of the constant threads between the recent bubbles that have come up, whether it’s the internet tech bubble in the 90s, the housing thing in the early part of the last decade, or the commodities in 2008, is this enormous access to sums of money and easy liquidity that’s become a feature of our economy. Sometimes that comes from the private sector, whether it’s junk bonds or securitization of mortgages. They find these get rich quick schemes where they’re able to monetize things that aren’t that valuable, and it creates these enormous sums of money. Other times, it’s the Fed just pumping the economy full of tons and tons of money, which is what happened before the Internet stock boom. It happened before the housing crisis, and it’s happening now. In fact tomorrow, they’re going to announce another round of what they call quantitative easing, which is where they just print a billion dollars and pump it into the economy. And when you have massive amounts of money that is sort of engineered out of nothing, that’s your recipe for an economic bubble because it creates these surges and manias for speculation that encourages everybody to get in on these various booms. If access to the Fed’s trillions were cut off, if you eliminated junk bonds and CLOs for mortgages, it would reduce the mania in the economy.

Jerk: If the US wants to become an actual economic leader again, what key industry do you see as vital within the next decade?

MT: Well, I think right now the thing that is the leading industry for the United States is still the financial services industry. And the reason that traditionally we’ve been the world’s leader in banking is because we have this image around the world of  “this is the safest place to put your money.” Whether it’s dictators in the Middle East or wherever, people felt that the American financial system was sound. They felt comfortable investing here and thought that American businesses were safer to invest in. The problem with that is that we’re losing that competitive edge now because of this newer perception that there is a lot of corruption in our markets. That’s why I think this is a critical moment in our history. When we decide not to prosecute all of these people that committed fraud, that kind of scares people around the world, and it starts to make them think that this isn’t really any different than Russia or Indonesia. That’s a key for us. We could still easily be the banking leader around the world, but we just have to turn that around.

Jerk: Okay, enough about politics. As a magazine, we obviously want to talk about the future of journalism. With the newspaper and periodical industry currently struggling, especially physical publications, where do you see the industry heading? Will we be totally digital soon? As graduates hoping to get a job in that field, what steps are we going to have to take differently?

MT: Well I think there are two things to consider here. One is that people are actually reading more than they used to because of the Internet. So the foundation for some kind of business that’s going to employ people is there. The specific method of how they’re going to be able to monetize that hasn’t been figured out yet. Clearly, newspapers and magazines are on their last legs, or they’re kind of transitioning to a new role in society. I came up publishing alternative newspapers my whole career; I love the feeling of being able to read something in your hands. I think with glossy magazines—it’s kind of like an art form in itself. You know, to try to make it look good. And I think people always will love that, but I think that 90 percent of the people that do read it don’t need that, and it’s going to transition to tablets and stuff. There’s going to be a transition period for people like you when you get out of school where the business hasn’t quite figured out how to pay writers, but they’re going to figure it out eventually. Those jobs are going to come back.

Jerk: As both a writer and contributing editor for Rolling Stone—which do you prefer? Writing or editing?

MT: (Laughs) Well, I edited newspapers for years and years, and I’m a terrible editor because my instinct with people is to tell them not to worry about it, and then I do it for them, which is absolutely what not to do as an editor. It’s two completely different skills. If you’re a good writer, chances are you’re not a good editor, and vice versa. I would prefer the writing. Let’s put it that way.

Jerk: As the Arts & Music editor for Jerk, I feel obligated to ask what’s currently on your iPod.

MT: Oh god, I don’t listen to anything. I listened to rap and hip-hop growing up, and I haven’t bought a new album or anything since like the Clinton administration.

(Yes, you read that right. A contributing editor to Rolling Stone doesn’t listen to music.)

Jerk: Going off what we were talking about with the Internet—social media networks like Twitter are breaking news before many major sources, and it seems like analytical news isn’t as immediate or accessible to the public. The public then relies on humorists—The Daily Show, Colbert—and people like you to deliver some sort of analysis and opinion that’s easy to eat up or more entertaining. Do you see that as dangerous at all?

MT: I do think it’s dangerous that a lot of stuff that I write about, like politics, that particular corner of our political universe, is now unbelievably complicated, convoluted, and boring. It’s intentionally so. I think they try as hard as they can to make it as inscrutable and difficult for people as possible. So the only way for people to get any kind of grip on it is to do what I do, and dress it up with every conceivable literary bell and whistle to make it swallowable. And that’s not good, because the reality is that people are not going to read about collateralized debt obligations and quantitative easing. They’re just not going to do it. They fall asleep. That’s bad because it makes our politics inaccessible to people, and I think it’s a serious problem. Our media is totally trending in the other direction. It started in the 90s with magazines like Maxim that started with boxes this big, and then boxes this big, and next thing you know it’s like a couple of headlines. Now people can’t digest anything that’s more than just a tweet, really. They’re training a whole generation of readers to not be able to digest modern politics, which is a problem.

Jerk: What’s your favorite drink to talk politics over?

MT: (Laughs) I don’t drink so much anymore since I came back from Russia, but you know, it would be Vodka, I would think.

Jerk: Rolling Stone obviously has its own personality. Writing for a publication, you take that personality into account, but outside of that you don’t necessarily feel the need for that association. How do you portray yourself outside of Rolling Stone or how do you differentiate that?

MT: Well, the only difference is that I’ve been working with those guys for so long that I think probably my style outside of the magazine has morphed into what it is inside the magazine. But when I came to Rolling Stone, I had a lot of really bad habits because I was my own editor before that. You learn in a professional, legitimate, major, glossy magazine that you can’t meander. Every single paragraph has to be pretty lean and concise. Then, there’s the fact checking issue, which is if you haven’t gone through it at that level, it’s like having to go through an IRS audit with every article you write. It takes a long, long time to get used to. I guess the good thing is, now that I’ve been there for so long, I can’t write the other way anymore. When I think about it, I think, “How am I going to source that when I publish it?”

Jerk: How important is a partner’s political views in a relationship to you? Could you ever sleep with a crazed Tea Partier?

MT: (Laughs) If it’s a long-term relationship, I don’t think it works. I guess not all the time though. I met James Carville last year. I went down to his place, and he’s married to Mary Matalin. They’re basically mirror images of each other. She’s a republican consultant. But I guess that’s more like the professional discipline that kind of tied them together. I think one of the problems is that American politics has become so blood sportish that if you’re a genuinely red state person I just don’t see those people tolerating living with a blue state person. My wife isn’t very political at all. She has no interest in politics, and that works just fine.

What do you hope to deliver to a room full of college students tonight a month and a half before the 2012 election?

I talk a lot about Wall Street, but tonight I’m going to talk about campaign journalism, my experience coming to that, and what you don’t see, what they’re not telling you, what some of the illusions and deceptions are in a campaign. I just want to tell people how to watch out for certain kinds of propaganda in campaign journalism. And I sort of tell a bunch of funny stories about my own experience getting there.

-Shea Garner

Meet the Bloggers: Heather Lewis

Posted: September 7, 2012 by jerkmagblog in RANT -- politics
Tags: , ,

Greetings Jerks!  I’m Heather Lewis and I’m going to be bringing you all the political updates you will need this fall.  I am new at Jerk and I couldn’t be more excited to be covering the mudslinging and scandals bound to come our way this campaign season.  But before we get to that I will tell you all a little bit about myself…

 Year and Major: I am a senior political science major, heavy on the politics, light on the science.
Hometown: Allentown, PA, the Billy Joel song says all you need to know.
Most Embarrassing Moment: The aftermath of 90% of the things that come out of my mouth.
Biggest Lie I’ve Gotten Away With: I’ve gotten away with it, why spoil the fun now?
Movie I Could Watch Over and Over: Any and all of the Harry Potter movies, my Hogwarts application is pending.
Feel free to follow me on twitter @hp_lewis, subscribe to my blog and give me feedback or let me know your thoughts about the upcoming election!
**If you’re interested in becoming a Jerk Blogger, contact us at jerkmagblog@gmail.com