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Political Science Club

The goal of the Political Science Club is to create a space for students to discuss topics that are important to them. We encourage healthy discussion and debate from a wide range of perspectives.  Ideally, the membership of the Political Science Club should reflect the diversity of views among the student population. And while there is nothing wrong with having strongly-held views, in keeping with the values of the Department of Political Science and the discipline itself, the discussions MUST be civil and fact-based. 

TOPIC SUGGESTIONS: While the Political Science Club officers typically determine which topics are going to be discussed, we want to give others an opportunity to suggest topics that are of interest to them.  To do so, click here

DISCORD: The Political Science Club hosts a discord server for all of its members to mingle and continue discussion of topics from club sessions. If you would like to join the server, click here.

EMAIL: Any questions or concerns can be communicated to the club officers as well as the faculty advisor through the Political Science Club email address: cocpolisciclub@my.canyons.edu

 

Club Meeting Time: Tuesday @ 4:00 p.m. in Bonelli Hall 306 or via Zoom 

 

Political Science Club Information

 

February 27, 2024

Topics: Alabama Supreme Court on Embryos, Russia-Ukraine War 2-Year Anniversary

1. Alabama Supreme Court Rules Embryos Are Children: This past Friday, February 16, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos qualify as children under the state's Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, enacted in 1872, which allows parents to recover punitive damages in the event of a child's death.  Unlike a woman's eggs, which can be retrieved from the ovary and frozen prior to fertilization, an embryo is created after the egg and sperm are fertilized.  Such embryos can likewise then be frozen, a practice common among couples looking to delay starting a family or who are having difficulties concieving.  The case was brought by several couples whose embryos were destroyed when a patient dropped them on the floor in a fertility clinic's cold-storage section.  The court said that nothing in the act's language stops it from being applied to frozen embryos.  The ruling added it was not the court's role to make such an exception - especially considering a 2018 constitutional amendment that made it state policy to "recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children."  According to Chief Justice Thomas Parker, in a concurring opinion to the ruling, "Carving out an exception for the people in this case, small as they were, would be unacceptable to the People of this State, who have required us to treat every human being in accordance with the fear of a holy God who made them in His image."  Justice Greg Cook wrote in a dissenting opinion that the decision would likely force in vitro fertilization (IVF) providers in Alabama to stop freezing embryos.  "No rational medical provider would continue to provide services for creating and maintaining frozen embryos knowing that they must continue to maintain such frozen embryos forever or risk the penalty of a Wrongful Death Act claim," he wrote.  Indeed, just days after the ruling, on Wednesday, February 21, a major Alabama health system announced that it would suspend IVF treatment.  "We are saddened that this will impact our practices' attempt to have a baby through IVF, but we must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments," a spokesperson for the University of Alabama at Birmingham said.  IVF, which accounts for an estimated 2% of births in the U.S., entails extracting eggs from a woman, fertilizing them in a lab and transferring the embryos into the woman's uterus.  Embryos that are not immediately transplanted are typically placed in cold-storage to be preserved.  The UAB spokesperson said all parts of the process through egg retrieval would continue, but egg fertilization and embryo development at the health system's division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility was pausing while it assesses the ruling's legal implications.  The UAB is the state's largest hospital and the eighth largest hospital in the U.S.

"Explainer: Alabama's highest court ruled frozen embryos are people. What is next?"

"How Alabama's frozen embryo decision is shaking the nation: What you need to know"

"Alabama attorney general's office says it has 'no intention' to prosecute IVF families, providers"

"Alabama Supreme Court rule embryos are children. New what?"

"Alabama Supreme Court's Embryo Ruling Embodies America's Legal Heritage"

"Biden blasts Alabama Supreme Court's 'outrageous and unacceptable' frozen embryo ruling"

2. Russia-Ukraine War 2-Year Anniversary: This Saturday, February 24, marks the 2-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  While Ukraine has so far been able to fend off the invasion - regaining half of the land initially occupied by Russian forces and inflicting staggering casualties on Russia's much more powerful military - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently admitted that the situation on the front lines has become "extremely difficult".  Since the failure of Ukraine's summer counteroffensive, it is no longer time for major maneuvers aimed at finding a breech in the Russian strategy, according to high-ranking Ukrainian sources.  "We changed from an offensive to a defensive operation," admitted the country's new army chief, General Oleksandr Syrsky, in an interview on February 13.  Indeed, it is hard to imagine any other option for the Ukrainian army.  For months it has been up against an imposing Russian defensive line of trenches, concrete cones and minefields stretching 10 to 15 miles deep, preventing any armoured vehicle from piercing through.  In the Ukrainian battlefield, the massive use of drones is also having a serious impact on offensive operations.  With these "eyes" positioned all along the front lines by both sides, the battlefield has now become "transparent," rendering obsolete the element of surprise so important in earlier Ukrainian victories.  As a result, the front line is deadlocked and neither side seems able to bend their opponent.  "As in World War I, we have reached such a technological level that we find ourselves at a dead end," said Valerii Zaluzhnyi, who recently lost his position as commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces.  The alarming shortage of ammunition is also forcing Ukraine to adopt a more cautious stance.  In such static warfare, hundreds of thousands of shells are fired by each army every month.  However, the blockage of further U.S. military aid by Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, along with failures in artillery deliveries promised by European states, have severely handicapped Ukraine's capacities.  According to military experts, the "fire ratio" - which measures the difference in the rate of artillery fire between enemies - is currently one to ten in favor of Russia.  Along with flagging stocks of ammunition, dwindling manpower is another of the Ukrainian army's major problems.  According to a declassified document sent to the U.S. Congress, Ukraine has suffered losses at around 70,000 dead and 120,000 wounded in two years.  Russian losses are estimated at 315,000 dead or wounded.  In addition to the losses, the exhaustion of Ukrainian soldiers, some of whom have been deployed since the start of hostilities, means that rotations will also be necessary over the coming months.  Ukraine's official objective remains unchanged: to reconquer the territories annexed or occupied by Russia since 2014, which represents 18% of its territory.  According to analysts, only increased Western support could enable such an objective.  Such a scenario is far from certain, both given Republican opposition in the U.S. House of Representatives to further military aid without major Democratic concessions on border enforcement and the inability - or unwillingness - of key European states like Germany to increase military spending and ammunition production.

"Russia-Ukraine war rages as Navalny's death spurs global outcry"

"Russia-Ukraine war: Key events in 2nd year of Russia's invasion of Ukraine"

"Ukraine: Will Russia's war against Ukraine ever end?"

"Ukraine-Russia war hits 2-year mark with Kyiv desperate for more U.S. support and fearing abandonment"

"Two years after Putin ordered a war on Ukraine, what's changed in Russia?"

"Russia was ridiculed at the start of the war. Two years on, it has reasons to be confident"

 

February 20, 2024

Topics: US-Russia Weapons Space Race, Israel-Hamas War New Developments

1. US-Russia Weapons Space Race Heats Up:  This past Thursday, February 15, the Biden administration announced that Russia is pursuing an "antisatellite capability" that represents a serious concern but did not yet present an active threat to Americans' safety.  The statement was made after the administration declassified intelligence at the behest of a member of Congress.  The system is still in development, said John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "There is no immediate threat to anyone’s safety," he told reporters Thursday.  "It is not an active capability and it has not yet been deployed."  The intelligence the White House declassified was limited, and Kirby didn’t confirm if there is any nuclear component to the Russian antisatellite device—though he did say it would violate a decades-old treaty banning the deployment of nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction in space.  Intelligence that remains classified indicates that Russia is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon in space that could be used to target satellites, according to reporting by The Wall Street Journal.   The disclosure by the White House came a day after Representative Mike Turner, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a cryptic statement about an unspecified "serious national-security threat" to the U.S. and requested that Biden declassify information around it.  The unusual maneuver caught administration officials and lawmakers alike by surprise, and fueled fevered speculation in Washington about the nature of the threat that so alarmed Turner.  White House officials were eager to reassure lawmakers and the public that Russia’s capability, while serious, was not something that posed an imminent danger to Americans or allied countries.  U.S. intelligence officials have had concerns about Russia and Chinese space capabilities for decades, and have long viewed satellite infrastructure as a vulnerable target in the event of a major conflict with either adversary.  But those fears, which they have sometimes expressed publicly, have grown more urgent in recent years as satellites have become increasingly integral to military capabilities and global communications systems.

"Russia's Advances on Space-Based Nuclear Weapons Draw U.S. Concerns"

"Is Russia developing space-based nuclear weapons? What we know of US claim"

"Next frightening war frontier: Russian nukes in space"

"Is Russia looking to put nukes in space? Doing so would undermine global stability and ignite an anti-satellite arms race"

"How the US is preparing to fight - and win - a war in space

"Russia nuclear anti-satellite weapons would require a firm US response, not hysteria"

2. Israel-Hamas War New Developments:  Last week, Israel gave Hamas, the terrorist group that governs Gaza, a deadline to return the hostages still in their captivity or face a ground offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza Strip.  The first timeline it has provided for looming operations in the city that have become a source of tension with the US and the Biden administration.  Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, is set to begin around March 10 and has in recent years been a flashpoint for violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories.  Israel has launch airstrikes on Rafah in recent weeks and threatened to send in troops, as heavy fighting continues around Khan Younis, a city further north.  Israel says the two cities are Hamas's last strongholds in the strip in thinks hostages are being held there.  Also last week, Israel rescued two hostages from a residential area of Rafah.  The Biden administration warned Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against conducting group operations without a credible plan to ensure the safety of civilians in Rafah, which had a prewar population of 300,000.  Netanyahu said over the weekend that he had spoken with President Biden and other world leaders.  "I tell them clearly: Israel will fight until complete victory is achieved," Netanyahu said.  "And yes, that also includes operating in Rafah, of course after we allow civilians in the fighting areas to evacuate to safe areas."  Aid organizations and civilians living in Gaza have said people have nowhere else to go, having been displaced by the war and followed Israeli instructions to move south to Rafah.  The Ramadan deadline may be a part of efforts by Israel to increase pressure on Hamas to reach a hostage deal, some analysts said.  In Islam's lunar calendar, the beginning of Ramadan is determined by the sighting of a crescent moon, meaning the start and ending of the month can only be approximated ahead of time.  Any ground offensive would likely severely hamper further aid for Gazans in Rafah, where a food crisis is taking hold.  Hunger and desperation have caused fights to break out between Gazans over aid deliveries.  Israel has warned for weeks it is preparing to enter Rafah, where more than half of the population of Gaza is sheltering in around 20% of the strip, but its government has faced international criticism for the plan because of the toll it could take on civilians.

"US pushes for UN to support temporary Gaza ceasefire, oppose Rafah assault"

"US urges Israel to drop plans for Rafah ground offensive"

"US vetoes call for immediate Gaza ceasefire at UN"

"US warns Israel against ground offensive into Rafah in draft UN resolution"

"US proposes Security Council resolution backing temporary ceasefire to stymie Rafah push"

"US circulates rival UN resolution for temporary Gaza cease-fire"

 

February 13, 2024

Topics: Border Deal Collapses, Pakistan Elections

1. Senate Border Deal Collapses: This past Tuesday, February 6, US Senators threw in the towel on a $118 billion national-security and border package after sharp opposition from Republicans scuttled the deal, forcing frustrated lawmakers to urgently seek a backup plan to deliver aid to Ukraine as it loses ground in its campaign to repel Russia.  The abandonment of the plan left Democrats seething over what they called a bait-and-switch by Republicans after four months of talks, while GOP lawmakers said the deal's border provisions weren't strong enough.  Both sides, however, signaled that they could try to move to a narrow bill focused on foreign assistance and weapons.  Later Tuesday, House Republicans failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas after they accused him of failing to enforce immigration laws and stop illegal entries from Mexico.  The vote failed with 214 in favor and 216 against, after a handful of Republicans joined Democrats in rejecting the measure.  Senator Mitch McConnel of Kentucky, the Senate's Republican Minority Leader, said of the border compromise: "It looks to me and to most of our members as if we have no real change here to make law."  The deal was the result of talks that started last year, after Republicans insisted on border changes as a condition for sending billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine.  They later soured on the emerging deal, fueled by criticism from former President Donald Trump, the front-running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.  Democrats said Trump wanted to deny President Biden a policy win ahead of the election, which Trump denied.  Trump called the deal a "trap" meant to shift blame regarding Biden's border record to Republicans.  The next day, on Wednesday, February 7, the deal failed to pass the Senate, with 49 votes in favor and 50 opposed, well short of the 60 votes necessary to secure against a possible filibuster.  With the border measure dead, Senate Democrat Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York moved to schedule a procedure vote to advance a narrower, $95.3 billion version of the package that would fund Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan but exclude border security provisions.  The failure of the immigration deal followed months of private negotiations between Senators James Lankford (Republican, Oklahoma), Krysten Sinema (Independent, Arizona), and Chris Murphy (Democrat, Connecticut), who took to the Senate floor Wednesday to express their deep disappointment.  The deal would have established a new asylum process at the border to deliver faster case resolutions and swifter deportations for migrants who do not qualify.  It would also have set a higher bar for those claims and created new limits on the number of immigrants seeking asylum to prevent the system from getting overwhelmed.  The bill would have required the government to "shut down" the border to asylum seekers if more than 5,000 migrants attempt to cross in a day.  There are currently over 10,000 illegal-crossing a day at the US-Mexico border, a record high.

"What's in the Senate's sweeping $118 billion immigration and foreign aid bill?"

"Senate Republicans block bipartisan border package, then scramble to find support for Ukraine aid"

"Trump praises collapse of bipartisan border deal: 'I think it's dead'"

"What a border deal collapse means for 2024"

"Biden determined to use stunning Trump-backed collapse of border deal as weapon in 2024 campaign"

"The Border Deal Flopped. But It Probably Wasn't a Complete Waste of Time"

2. Pakistan Elections: This past Sunday, February 11, former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held talks with other parties to form a new government in Pakistan, as followers of jailed opposition leader Imran Khan took to the streets to protest the alleged rigging of this past week's election.  Thursday's election, in which no party won a majority and which has been marred by allegations made by Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Isaf (PTI) party, who was barred from competing, of vote tampering after official results were heavily delayed, has left Pakistan's next government and the country's stability in question.  Sharif held negotiations Sunday with both of the parties he would need to form a coalition government, but no agreement was announced.  Thousands of follows of Khan, who previously served as prime minister from 2018 to 2022, came out in cities across the country, adding to the pressure building over the disputed election.  It was the first demonstration since a crackdown against its protests in May of last year saw some 10,000 arrested.  Those protests were the result of Khan's imprisonment following a corruption conviction.  He is currently serving a three-year jail sentence.  Khan's party is facing off against not only the other major parties but also Pakistan's powerful, and US-backed, military, which it believes to behind the past week's alleged rigging as well as the prior crackdown.  Khan, who was barred from running himself, was dismissed from office in a parliamentary vote in 2022 after tensions with the military.  Pakistan's military, which has appealed for calm, admits to interfering in politics in the past but says in no longer does.  Candidates associated with Khan's party emerged with the largest haul of seats, which confounded predictions of a Sharif victory based on a series of moves by the authorities that hobbled the PTI party's chances, including making its candidates run as independents.  Candidates associated with the party won 97 of the 265 seats, but it says that rigging robbed it of dozens more.  Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) party came in second place, with 75 seats, even after the three-time prime minister returned from exile to lead the campaign.  Any coalition he is able to hammer out will be potentially shaky, making it hard to carry through tough decisions needed to stabilized the fragile economy.  There was anger against the other parties and the military at the protests Sunday, which were held outside local election offices in locations across the country.  In Rawalpindi, those blocked from reaching the protest sites staged spontaneous mini-demonstrations on the roadside.  Later in the day, police used tear gas and made baton charges against the crowd, protestors said.  Police said that protesters were in breach of a law that is currently being enforced which prohibits a gathering of four or more people.  "Who will save Pakistan? Prisoner 804," was a popular chant by the crowd in Rawalpindi, referring to Khan's prisoner number.

"Khan's PTI leads as final results in Pakistan election called"

"Why Nawaz Sharif failed to win Pakistan election despite tacit army support"

"Pakistan releases official election results, independents affiliated with Khan's PTI secure most seats"

"Delays, deals, nepo babies, trends and vote rigging: Five takeaways from Pakistan's elections"

"Pakistan election: Imran Khan's party wants to form government, threatens protests"

"The powerful lesson behind Pakistan's stunning election result"

 

February 6, 2024

Topics: Welcome Back, the Super Election Year

Welcome Back!

Our first meeting of the Spring semester will feature an informal introduction of the club offices and current office-holders as well as a reminder that all positions will be up for election for the coming Fall semester!  Please consider running for a club office: club involvement will improve your changes of transferring to the four-year college of your choice!

American Elections: Not only will our club feature elections, but so will our county, state and country!  2024 is a presidential election year, obviously, and the likely Republican and Democratic Party candidates will again be Donald Trump and Joe Biden respectively.  But the primaries are not yet over and Trump and Biden do still face challengers within their parties.  Former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is still challenging Trump for the Republican Party nomination while US House Representative Dean Phillips (MN - 3rd) of Minnesota and best-selling author Marianne Williamson are still challenging Biden for the Democratic Party nomination.  California, like most states in the US, will hold its primary election on Tuesday, March 5th or "Super Tuesday."  The death of long-serving California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) on September 29, 2023 means that Californians will also vote for a new senator.  Twenty-seven candidates are running for the position, with the top candidates including three prominent Democrats from the US House Representatives, Katie Porter (CA - 47th), Adam Schiff (CA - 30th) and Barbara Lee (CA - 12th), as well as Republican and former Los Angeles Dodger Steve Garvey.  Setting aside the presidential primary, all other political offices contested in the March 5th primary election will be "top two," meaning that the top two vote-getters, regardless of political party, will advance to the general election on Tuesday, November 3rd.  The Santa Clarita Valley is in the 27th District of the US House of Representatives and is currently represented by Republican Mike Garcia (CA - 27th).  Garcia is facing two Democrat challengers, comedian Steven Hill, who goes by the nickname "Satan," as well as, more seriously, businessman and former NASA official George Whitesides.  Turning to state elections, Santa Clarita is located in the 40th District of the California State Assembly, currently represented by Democrat Pilar Shiavo and in the newly redistricted 23rd District of the California State Senate.  Shiavo is being challenged by Republican and former sheriff deputy Patrick Gipson. There are five candidates currently running for the California State Senate seat, Democrats Blanca Gomez, Ollie McCaulley, and Kipp Mueller, as well as Republicans James "DJ" Hamburger and former California Assembly representative Suzette Martinez Valladeres.  It should be mentioned that both Hamburger and Valladeres are COC alumni.  Californians will also vote on Proposition 1, which if passed would authorize $6.38 billion in bond funding to build mental health treatment facilities.  LA County voters will decide the fates of three of the five LA County Board of Supervisors offices.  Santa Clarita is in the 5th District of LA County, currently represented by Kathryn Barger, who is running for reelection.  Additionally, LA County voters will also decide whether to reelect the controversial District Attorney George Gascón, who faces eleven challengers.

"US presidential election 2024: What are the key dates?"

"2024 Presidential Election Interactive Map"

"Joe Biden v Donald Trump - where contest will be won and lost"

"California elections, 2024"

"California will finally see a highly competitive contest for U.S. Senate"

"Election 2024: 10 California Congressional races to watch"

"Gavin Newsom raised millions for his mental health ballot measure. His opponents have $1,000"

International Elections: The year 2024 is also notable for the large number of elections internationally, with 7 of the world's 10 most populous countries voting.  In addition to the US, the other six countries are Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia, Mexico.  Overall, countries that are home to nearly half of the world's population will hold elections in 2024.  Two widely reported elections have already happened in January.  Taiwan elected a new president, Lai Ching-te, of the more pro-independence, anti-Chinese Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).  However, voters gave the rival and more pro-Chinese Kuomintang Party (KMT) the majority in the legislature.  In Bangladesh, President Sheikh Hasina was reelected, although the election was criticized for irregularities on election day and the previous arrests of thousands of opposition members, leading to the conclusion that the elections were not free and fair.  Of the other mentioned countries, Pakistan will holds its election on February 8th while Indonesia will hold its election the next week, on February 14th.  Russia will vote on March 17th.  India, the world's largest democracy, will vote in late April and early May.  Finally, Mexico will vote on June 2nd.

"List of elections in 2024"

"2024: The Super Election Year"

"The Ultimate Election Year: All the Elections Around the World in 2024"

"Over 50 countries go to the polls in 2024. The year will test even the most robust democracies"

"The global elections Washington should be watching in 2024"

"2024 is the biggest global election year in history"

"2024 is a big election year around the globe. Will democracy win?"

 

November 30, 2023

Gavin Newsom vs. Ron DeSantis Governor Showdown!

Please join the COC Political Science Club as we host a viewing party for the epic debate between California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, in what may be a potential preview of the 2028 presidential election.

Time: Thursday, November 30, from 6:00 to 7:30 pm

Place: Canyons Hall 211

"How to watch DeSantis-Newsom debate" (Hint: join us!)

"Newsom and DeSantis prepare to square off for Fox debate"

"Hannity wants a red vs. blue state debate. Newsom and DeSantis have other plans"

"Gavin Newsom Wants Fox News Viewers to Hear Him Out"

"California vs. Florida: The Newsom-DeSantis rivalry is part of an epic culture war"

"DeSantis vs. Newsom is the debate we should be having"

 

November 28, 2023

Topics: Biden to Skip Climate Conference, Argentina Elects Libertarian

1. Biden to Skip Climate Conference:  This past Sunday, November 26, White House officials announced that President Joe Biden will not attend a United Nations climate summit in Dubai this week, skipping an annual gathering of world leaders focused on addressing global warming.  While the officials did not say why Biden will miss the summit, known as COP28, other top administration officials including John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, will participate in the forum.  Officials have said privately for weeks that the president was unlikely to attend the summit this year, but his expected absence has drawn criticism from climate advocates who say that his administration has not done enough to stress climate policies.  Since taking office, Biden has attended the annual gathering - first in Glasgow in 2021 and then in Egypt in 2022 - and used the opportunity to highlight his administration's climate-change agenda.  The event this year comes as the president and his administration are grappling with the Israel-Hamas war, which in recent days has reached a critical juncture amid a hostage deal and temporary pause in fighting.  The COP28 summit, which is expected to draw leaders form nearly 200 countries and public figures such as Pope Francis is set to begin Thursday.  One that day, Biden is to attend the National Christmas Tree lighting in Washington and meet with Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, according to a schedule released by the White House.  Vice President Kamala Harris is also not expected to attend the gathering.  Addressing global warming and climate change has been one of the Biden administration's central policies.  Last year's climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act, is distributing billions of dollars to clean-energy companies, promoting the shift to electric vehicles and supporting the domestic production of rechargeable batteries.  Earlier this month, Biden referred to climate change as "the only existential threat to humanity."  Some environmental groups, however, say the administration is not doing enough.  A group of scientists recently sent a letter to Biden urging him to commit to more action on climate change.  "There's no question it's unfortunate if the president chooses not to go," said Rachel Cleetus, a climate-policy direct at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit advocacy group, which sent the letter.  Government officials and business leaders gathering in Dubai will discuss how nations will reach their climate goals and debate whether to issue a statement on phasing out fossil fuels.  The summit is also expected to showcase plans by the world's biggest fossil-fuel producers to address climate change.  "This is your opportunity to show the world that, in fact, you are central to the solution," the Emirati official leading COP28, Sultan al-Jaber, said at a recent conference of top oil-and-gas officials in the United Arab Emirates.  Climate activists have complained that the conference, held this year by one of the world's top crude-oil producers, is providing a platform for the fossil-fuel industry and its claims that it is playing a key role in addressing climate change.  Jaber highlights the seeming contradictions that will play out at COP28.  He is the chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation, one of the world's biggest crude producers, and the founding chief executive of Abu Dhabi-based renewable-energy firm Masdar.

"President Biden Plans to Skip COP28 Climate Talks Beginning This Week in Dubai"

"Biden to skip UN climate summit: Reports"

"President Biden Plans to Skip COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai"

"Biden expected to skip COP climate summit, trip to Africa"

"UAE planned to use COP28 summit for oil deals, documents show"

"World stands on frontline of disaster at COP28, says UN climate chief"

2. Argentina Elects Libertarian:  Last Sunday, November 19, Javier Milei, a libertarian economist and political outsider who pledged to flatten Argentina's political establishment, won the presidency by an overwhelming margin in a major shift for a country buffeted by one of the world's highest rates of inflation and mounting poverty after years of populist rule. Milei, a 53-year-old congressman, took nearly 56% of the vote to 44% for Economy Minister Sergio Massa with 98% of the ballots counted in the runoff election, the National Electoral Directorate said.  "Today, the reconstruction of Argentina begins," Milei said to an ovation as he celebrated victory with supporters. "It’s the end of Argentine decadence," he added, calling the results Sunday "the miracle of electing a liberal, libertarian president."  Massa conceded the loss in a speech shortly after 8 p.m. The 51-year-old had been hobbled by his role steering economic policy for 16 months in President Alberto Fernández’s leftist administration, which was blamed by Argentines for what economists called the worst crisis in a generation.   Massa said he had called Milei to concede and congratulate him on the victory. "Starting tomorrow, the challenge of issuing political, social and economic guarantees to Argentina is the responsibility of the new president-elect, and we hope that’s what he’ll do," Massa said in a speech as he announced his retirement from politics.  He assured a smooth transition to the new government.  The victory of the firebrand economist over the ruling Peronist movement opens the door to a broadscale economic overhaul that he has promised for this country of 46 million people.  Milei’s proposals include adopting the U.S. dollar as the national currency, scrapping the central bank, prioritizing commerce with capitalist nations like the U.S. over China, and reducing a bloated state sector.  Milei’s agenda is likely to face pushback from labor unions, social movements and the powerful left-leaning political forces in Congress, the biggest bloc in that body, and in provincial and municipal governments.  It means that Milei, a self-described anarcho-capitalist who became known to millions through TikTok and YouTube but had no entrenched movement of his own, will have to rely on a coalition with centrist and conservative political factions who would likely moderate his more radical proposals.  Among the most daunting challenges for Milei when he takes office on December 10 will be trying to narrow a gaping budget deficit and sort out about $41 billion in unpaid import bills left by the unpopular and free-spending government led by Fernández and his vice president, Cristina Kirchner.  Inflation is running at 143%, more than 40% of the population is living in poverty, and factories have been forced to halt production because of a shortage of dollars to pay for imports.  Argentina’s crisis is considered by economists to be the worst since a $100 billion debt default in 2001 that led to a revolving door for five presidents in two weeks and riots that resulted in more than 30 deaths.

"The lion, the wig and the warrior: Who is Javier Milei, Argentina's president-elect?"

"Argentina presidential election: far-right libertarian Javier Milei wins after rival concedes"

"Javier Milei: Argentina's far-right outsider wins presidential election"

"Argentina election: Javier Milei's radical proposals face test of reality"

"Fiery right-wing populist Javier Milei wins Argentina's presidency and promises 'drastic' changes"

"How young Argentines helped put a far-right libertarian into power"

 

November 21, 2023

Topics: House Passes Stopgap Bill, Biden-Xi Summit Meeting

1. House Passes Spending Bill: On Tuesday, November 14th, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a plan that would continue funding federal agencies until early next year, in a critical step in averting a partial government shutdown, with new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) relying heavily on Democratic votes to get his bill across the finish line.  The 336-95 vote exceeded a two-thirds threshold required under a special procedure employed by Johnson to sidestep internal GOP disagreements.  The measure was subsequently approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate the next day, on November 15th, with a final vote of 87-11.  The bill's passage showed many lawmakers had little appetite for brinkmanship just ahead of their Thanksgiving break, opting for a "clean" measure that extends funding at current levels but pushes off fights over issues including border security, federal spending levels and Ukraine funding.  Just ahead of the vote, House Democratic leaders threw their support behind the bill, saying in a statement that it avoided "harmful cuts and ... extreme right-wing policy riders."  The short-term proposal extends government funding at current levels for some federal agencies until mid-January and for others, including the Defense Department, until early February, while lawmakers work on fiscal full-year funding plans.  Lawmakers missed their initial annual deadline of September to finish that work, prompting the needed for an initial extension to November 17.  In remarks Tuesday before the vote, Johnson said he was no fan of short-term spending patches - called continuing resolutions, or CRs.  But he said the measure's passage would avert a shutdown, give the GOP more time to pass conservative full-time spending plans and prevent House Republicans from being jammed by Senate Democrats' own budget ideas.  The House currently has 434 members - 221 Republicans and 213 Democrats.  The bill needed the support of 290 lawmakers to reach the two-thirds threshold, and all but two Democrats - Representatives Jack Auchincloss (D-MA) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) voted in favor of the measure.  Among Republicans, 127 voted for passage, and 93 voted against passage.  Three lawmakers did not vote.  Some Republicans complained the measure lacked border-security provisions or immediate spending cuts that they favor.  Some also reject short-term spending patches on principle.  Relying on House Democrats comes with some risk for Johnson, who was elected to the speakership less than three weeks ago.  Previous House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was removed after he endorsed a temporary spending bill that passed with more Democratic support than Republican votes.  Johnson's bill also shelved for now several priorities that congressional leaders have said they want.  Lawmakers from both parties have said they want to pass billions of dollars for Israel's military against Hamas, and Democrats and some Senate Republicans want to send more money for Ukraine in its battle against Russia.  The White House proposed a $106 billion supplemental bill that includes funding for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, as well as the border and some domestic projects.

"House passes GOP funding bill to avert government shutdown"

"House GOP starts Thanksgiving recess early after hardliners revolt on spending bill"

"Democrats help Johnson pass GOP bill to avoid government shutdown"

"US Senate passes stopgap funding bill to avert government shutdown"

"Biden signs stopgap spending bill, averting government shutdown"

"US House Speaker Johnson's 'honeymoon' ends as hardline Republicans rebel"

2. Biden-Xi Summit Meeting: US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a less contentious tone at their summit last week on Wednesday, November 15th, a reset that will be quickly tested by deep US-China disagreements.  With relations between the two countries at near a low point, Biden and Xi agreed to resume communications between their militaries, cooperate on choking off fentanyl production and begin a dialogue on the risks of artificial intelligence.  Their four hours of talks at a secluded estate outside San Francisco included a walk in the wooded grounds.  "We made some real progress," Biden said in a tweet.  The talks, he later told reporters, were "some of the most constructive and productive conversations we've had."  The outcome is likely to face pressure in coming months, with disagreements over an election in Taiwan and the Chinese navy's harassment of ships from the Philippines, a US ally.  The US and China have differed sharply over the Israel-Hamas war.  Biden, a Democrat who is running for re-election next year, also faces political risk at home from Republican politicians who argue that he is going easy on Beijing.  Biden and his top aides spend months negotiating with top Chinese officials over the summit, hoping that face-to-face communication would prevent tensions between the two world powers from escalating.  Xi too had an incentive to meet as he grapples with economic turbulence at home and seeks to stem the exodus of foreign capital.  The agreements reached last Wednesday, though incremental, and the more positive tone, contrast with the meetings of recent years and give Washington and Beijing more time to steady ties that have been on a downward pitch for years.  Biden said that he an Xi agreed that if there is "any concern about anything between out nations, or happening in our region, we should pick up the phone and call."  Still, both countries are still set on courses certain to continue to generate friction.  Washington and Beijing find themselves in opposing camps on both Russia's war in Ukraine as well as the Israel-Hamas conflict.  A senior Biden administration official said Biden made clear to Xi Washington's concerns about Ukraine and asked for China's help in urging Iran against steps that could escalate the Middle East conflict.  Meanwhile, Xi urged Biden to demonstrate that the US does not support Taiwan independence and supports China's "peaceful reunification" with the self-governing island.  Xi also appeared to push back against the White House view that relations with China are defined by competition, saying that he rejects the idea of a "major-country competition."  Asked if he trusts Xi, Biden said, "Trust but verify, as the old saying goes.  That's where I am."  Responding to a separate question of whether he sees Xi as a dictator, Biden said, "Well look, he is."  In June, China lashed out at Biden after he described Xi that way.  The summit is likely to be the last meeting between the two leaders before the intense US presidential election campaign, in which China could become a hot-button issue.  That fact lent a greater sense of urgency to use the meeting to steady relations.

"Readout of President Joe Biden's Meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China"

"U.S. and China agree to resume military talks.  Takeaways from the Biden-Xi summit"

"Takeaways from the Biden-Xi summit, where low expectations were met"

"Three Takeaways From the Biden-Xi Meeting"

"Biden-Xi summit: modest outcomes from fentanyl to pandas: Analysis"

"Biden calls Xi a dictator after carefully planned summit"

 

November 14, 2023

Topic: Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment

1. SCOPE: The Santa Clarita Organization for the Planning and the Environment (SCOPE) is a grassroots organization dedicated to environmental protection in the Santa Clarita Valley.  They address issues such as pollution, wildlife conservation, and plastic reduction through advocacy, legal action, and community initiatives. Their work usually involves mitigating the environmental impact of local projects and promoting healthier living conditions.  The COC Political Science Club will be welcoming Lynne Plambeck, the President of SCOPE, as guest speaker this Tuesday, November 11.  She holds BA from California State University and runs a recycling business.  She has also served on various water-related boards and committees, and is a recognized conservationist with several awards.  Lynne Plambeck will talk about the power of individual and collective actions in addressing environmental issues, such as air and water pollution and global warming.  She will also go through the history of Val Verde's landfill and community action, advice on student engagement through public processes, and strategies for grassroots movements.

Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment

History of SCOPE

"More than 1,200 odor complaints lodged against Santa Clarita Valley landfill"

"Val Verde residents concerned about landfill heard in court Friday"

"County announces Chiquita Canyon progress; residents want to known when smell will get better"

"Neighbors raising a stink about Chiquita Canyon landfill in Castaic"

 

November 7, 2023

Topics: Labor Strike Victories, Israel-Hamas War Intensifies

1. Labor Strike Victories:  Last week, on Sunday, October 29th, United Auto Workers (UAW) leaders approved a tentative deal with Ford that includes a pay hike of at least 30% for full-time workers and could more than double pay for others, in a victory for the union's fight to roll back 15 years of labor concessions.  Bargaining continued at the two other large automobile corporations, General Motors and Stellantis, without any deal, although there are reports of progress.  UAW President Shawn Fain on Saturday ordered a walkout at GM's Spring Hill, Tennessee, engine and assembly plant.  At Ford, the new deal includes $8.1 billion in manufacturing investments and could give workers up to $70,000 in extra pay over the 4-1/2 year life of the contract.  Cost-saving provisions such as paying workers at component plants less than employees at vehicle assembly lines will also be eliminated by the new contract.  The deal also eliminates all lower wage tier plants, an issue Fain highlighted from the start of the bargaining process.  Temporary workers will more than double their pay.  Permanent workers could see top wage rates rise to $42.60 per hour by 2028, including estimated cost of living allowances (COLA).  The UAW was not the only labor union this year which has seen success in advocating for higher wages and better working conditions.  Here in Los Angeles, both the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) have staged strikes this year for better working conditions.  Lasting more than six months, from May 2 to September 27, WGA's 11,500 screenwriters went on strike over a labor dispute with the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP).  The 148-day strike was the longest interruption to American film and television production since the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the second longest labor stoppage that the WGA has performed since the strike of 1988, which lasted 153 days.  The union had sought minimum increases in pay and future residual earnings from shows between 5% and 6%, depending on the position of the writer.  The studios had wanted between 2% and 4%.  The compromise deal that was eventually reached will raise wages and residuals between 3.5% and 5%, among other benefits.  For their part, the SAG strike, which began on July 14 of this year, is on-going, although the union is currently considering what the studios have described as their "last, best, and final" offer.  Other labor activities to watch out for include a potential strike at the campuses of the California State University (CSU) system, as well as an on-going strike of bus drivers here in the Santa Clarita Valley.

"Current Strikes in the U.S."

"The UAW is already looking ahead to the next auto strike"

"Winners and losers of the UAW talks with GM, Ford and Stellantis"

"Striking actors are reviewing Hollywood and TV studios' 'best and final offer'"

"Cal State faculty set to strike if demands not met"

"Santa Clarita Strike"

2. Israel-Hamas War Intensifies:  The Israel-Hamas War intensified last week after Israel's prime minister resisted pressure from the US to pause strikes on Hamas after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged him to do more to protect civilians in Gaza.  "Israel refuses a temporary cease-fire that does not include the freeing of our hostages," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters after meeting with Blinken on Friday, November 3rd.  "Israel does not allow the entry of fuel into the Gaza Strip and is opposed to transferring money to the strip."  The US is stepping up pressure on Israel, saying it has a moral imperative to pause the fighting while humanitarian relief - and particularly fuel - is delivered to Gaza, US officials say.  France, Spain, and other European nations have issued similar appeals.  Since the terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel on October 7th, the Israeli military, or Israel Defense Force (IDF), has carried out a bombing campaign in Gaza that targets militants and their infrastructure but that has also killed thousands of civilians, many of them children, and forced two-thirds of the enclave's more than two million people to flee their homes.  Only a trickle of food, water and medicine has been allowed through.  Israel has blocked supplies of fuel that are needed for electricity, saying that Hamas hordes fuel for military purposes.  Israel's defiance over a proposed humanitarian pause has become a source of contention between Washington and the Israeli government.  "A number of legitimate questions were raised in our discussion today," Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv, "including how to use any period of pause to maximize the flow of humanitarian assistance, how to connect a pause to the release of hostages, how to ensure that Hamas doesn't use these pauses or arrangements to its own advantage.  These are all questions we need to tackle."  Western pressure on Israel to ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza does appear to be having some effect.  For instance, Israel has allowed more trucks carrying humanitarian aid through Gaza's southern border with Egypt.  Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh called on Egypt to open its borders and let Palestinians flee the war.  Egypt has so far rejected such a request.  Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, meanwhile, warned that a regional war with Israel was a realistic possibility, as fears grow that the conflict could spill into a second battlefront with the Lebanese militant group, especially as Hezbollah may receive additional military equipment from Wagner, a Russian military group. Israel's Foreign Ministry warned citizens Friday to exercise caution when traveling abroad, citing increased violence against Israelis and Jews around the world.  Increased instances of anti-Semitism and hate crimes against Jews have also spiked in the US as the war has continued.  However, while polls indicate that important generational and ethnic divisions have emerged, most Americans continue to strongly support Israel.

"Israel-Hamas war: What will it take for a ceasefire in Gaza?"

"Israel's war with Hamas rages in the Gaza Strip despite mounting calls for a cease-fire"

"Israel-Hamas war live updates: Over 10,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza, Hamas-run health ministry says"

"As Israel-Hamas war continues, Secretary Blinken urges humanitarian pauses in Gaza"

"As Israel-Hamas war intensifies, so does antisemitism and Islamophobia on colleges campuses"

"Around the world, the left is tearing itself apart over Israel"

 

October 31, 2023

Topics: House Gets a Speaker, Newsom Goes to China

1. House Gets a Speaker:  On Wednesday, October 25th, the US House of Representatives elected Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana as the new speaker.  A staunch religious conservative, Johnson overcame the divisions that had paralyzed the chamber after a band of Republican hard-liners led by Representative Matt Gaetz (R, Florida) ousted former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R, California) three weeks ago.  The choice of Johnson, who led an effort to help former President Donald Trump try to overturn the 2020 election results, came after the House GOP nominated and then rejected a series of leadership candidates.  With a speaker now in place, lawmakers can finally return to work, with many eager to pass aid for Israel and address a looming government-funding deadline next month.  Known for his conservative stances on cultural issues and spending, Johnson breezed to victory in one round - unlike McCarthy, who required 15 ballots back in January - brining a measure of calm and unity to the party not seen since Republicans took over the House in the 2022 elections.  Democrats cast Johnson as too conservative to lead the chamber and said Republicans had squandered three weeks in their intraparty fighting.  Representative Pete Aguilar (D, California) said that the GOP had chosen in Johnson a person who "can pass their extreme litmus test" on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, both of which Johnson has opposed.  The new speaker faces a series of pressing legislative issues while managing the Republicans' narrow 221-212 majority, in which any single member can still force a vote to try to remove the speaker.  Congress has a November 17 deadline to keep the government funded.  In a letter to his colleagues, Johnson proposed advancing a temporary spending measure until either January 15th or April 15th, while working to advance the eight or 12 individual annual appropriations bills that have not yet cleared the House.  Lawmakers will also have to grapple with the Biden administration's $106 billion request to fund aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and manage the flow of migrants at the US border.  Last month, 117 House GOP lawmakers, including Johnson, voted against $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine.  Also making news in the House of Representatives this week were lawmakers from New York, George Santos (R, New York's 3rd District) and Jamaal Bowman (D, New York's 16th District), both of whom face legal challenges.  On Friday, October 27th, Representative Santos pleaded not guilty to the latest charges against him during an arraignment in a federal courthouse on Long Island, N.Y.  The scandal-plagued freshman is facing a second arraignment on a growing list of corruption charges linked to his 2022 campaign.  Santos, the only openly gay Republican lawmaker currently serving in Congress, has acknowledge lying to voters about most aspects of his life before winning office, has denied any criminal wrongdoing and says he is running for reelection next year.  The day before, on Thursday, October 26th, Representative Bowman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for falsely pulling a fire alarm in a House office building in late September, shortly before the House was scheduled to vote on a government funding bill.  The building was subsequently evacuated.  Bowman struck a deal with the Washington, D.C., Attorney General's office in which he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor offense, despite the fact the disrupting Congressional proceedings is a federal criminal offense punishable by imprisonment.  According to the terms of the deal, Bowman's sentencing will be deferred for three months.  During that time, Bowman will be on probation, will pay a $1,000 fine and will write a letter of apology to the US Capitol Police.  If he fulfills these terms, prosecutors will drop the charge at his sentencing hearing on January 29th.

"Who is Mike Johnson? Five things to know about the new Republican House speaker"

"55 Things You Need to Know About Mike Johnson"

"House Republicans pass first government funding bill under new Speaker"

"Where House Speaker Mike Johnson stands on Ukraine, Israel"

"George Santos pleads not guilty to new fraud charges"

"Rep. Jamaal Bowman pleads guilty to falsely pulling fire alarm in Capital Hill office building"

2. Newsom Goes to China:  On Wednesday, October 25th, California Governor Gavin Newsom met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing's Great Hall of the People.  The meeting appears to have served the interests of both leaders.  In the case of President Xi, is likely that his meeting with the prominent Democratic Party governor is part of a charm offensive in order to lay the groundwork for his meeting with President Joe Biden in San Francisco in November.  In the case of Newsom, it is likely that meeting such a high-profile foreign leader is part of a shadow campaign for president, at least in the instance that Biden is unable to run for reelection next year.  China rolled out a red-carpet welcome for Newsom, who is on a weeklong trip in the country promoting cooperation on climate change.  The California Democrat also took meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Vice President Han Zheng before his audience with Xi on Wednesday.  "I'm here with an open hand, not a closed fist," said Newsom after the meeting, a nod to simmering tensions between the US and China.  Xi, asserting the importance of ties between the two countries, told Newsom that strengthened climate cooperation could become a "new highlight in the development of China-US relations."  US climate envoy John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhau, are planning to hold an in-person meeting in early November in California.  China and California have a long history of cooperation on climate change - the one issue that Beijing and Washington have been willing to discuss in a time of otherwise deteriorating ties.  Launched by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, the China-California climate partnership has been lauded by both sides for helping China develop its electric-vehicle mandate and establish the world's biggest emissions-trading program.  Photos released by Newsom's office showed him shaking hands warmly with Xi as Wang smiled in the background.  Han addressed Newsom, the first US governor to meet with China's leader since former California Governor Jerry Brown in 2017, as an "old friend."  Xi has not officially accepted Biden's invitation to meet him on the sidelines of the coming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, but a drumbeat of diplomatic activity is raising expectations that it will take place.  Before traveling to China, Newsom traveled to Israel to meet with victims of the Israel-Hamas war.  Later next month, on November 30, Newsom is also scheduled to debate against Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.

"Governor Newsom Meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping"

"Gov. Gavin Newsom Meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping"

"U.S. and China seek to ease tensions ahead of possible Biden-Xi summit"

"'Divorce is not an option' for US and China, Newsom says after Xi meeting"

"Newsom's China trip reignites rumblings of a 'shadow campaign' as crises multiply on Biden's watch"

"California Gov. Newsom's Israel visit draws support and criticism, supporters of Palestinian gather at Capitol"

"Biden advisers bristle at Gavin Newsom's plan to debate DeSantis"

 

October 24, 2023

Topics: Military Aid to Ukraine and Israel, Latin American Elections

1. Military Aid to Ukraine and Israel:  President Joe Biden declared the world at an "inflection point in history," in an Oval Office address last Thursday, October 19, linking Israel's battle against Hamas to Ukraine's fight against Russia and stressing the need for the U.S. to continue funding both wars.  "American leadership is what holds the world together," Biden said.  "American alliances are what keep us, America, safe.  American values are what make us a partner that other nations want to work with.  To put all that at risk and walk away from Ukraine and turn our backs on Israel; it's just not worth it."  The next day, Friday, October 20, Biden requested from Congress a $105 billion national security package that includes military aid to Ukraine and Israel, as well as additional funding for the US-Mexico border and priorities in the Indo-Pacific region.  In a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young outlined the funding request, which in addition to $61.4 billion in aid for Ukraine and $14.3 billion in aid for Israel, included $9.15 billion in funding for humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians, $7.4 billion in funding for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region, and $13.6 billion to address security at the US-Mexico border.  But the administration still faces challenges in securing the funding - especially in selling it to the American public, where public support for Ukraine has lagged as the war has continued.  Unlike Ukraine aid, at the moment, public opinion favors for support Israel, with 7 in 10 Americans - including 81% of Republicans and 74% of Democrats - favoring aid to Israel, with a plurality (41%) saying it would be a "good idea" to send Israel weapons if needed, according to Economist/YouGov polling.  However, just as public support for Ukraine aid began to fall, so too could public support for Israel weaken, especially among younger Democrats.  Also of issue for the White House is the fact that Congress will have to vote to approve the aid package, which at the moment is impossible as the House of Representatives remains locked in a bitter standstill over a battle for the Speaker's gavel.  Two front-runners for the position, Steve Scalise (R, Louisiana) and Jim Jordan (R, Ohio), were both forced to withdraw their candidacies last week.  Jordan's bid failed after two votes in the House: 20 House Republicans voted against Jordan on the first ballot, while 22 House Republicans voted against him on the second ballot.  Jordan needed 217 votes to become speaker, and he ended the second round with only 199.  Since Jordan's decision to withdraw, nine other Republicans have entered the race.  The fight was triggered on Tuesday, October 3, when a group of rebel Republicans, led by Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, staged an effort to remove then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy.  In the intervening 20 days, North Carolina Representative Patrick McHenry has served as interim speaker, but with limited powers.

"5 takeaways from Biden's Oval Office address"

"Letter Regarding Critical National Security Funding Needs for FY 2024"

"US aid to Israel and Ukraine: Here's what's in the $105 billion national security package Biden requested"

"Majority of Americans oppose more US aid for Ukraine in war with Russia"

"Democrats Have a Palestinian Problem"

"The GOP speaker contest has entered its 'who?' era"

"House speaker race widens to 9 Republicans vying for nomination"

2. Latin American Elections:  Two key elections took place in Latin America last week, with citizens of Ecuador voting for president on Sunday, October 15, and citizens of Argentina voting for president the following Sunday, October 22.  Additionally, two months ago, on Wednesday, August 20, citizens of Guatemala also elected a new president.  In the case of Guatemala, former diplomat Bernardo Arévalo of the progressive Movimento Semilla political party was confirmed the winner of Guatemala's presidential election by the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal.  Arévalo, who won 61% of the popular vote, had faced a slew of legal challenges and allegations of irregularities since his unexpected victory over the candidate favored by the country’s ruling elite, former First Lady Sandra Torres of the conservative Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza political party.  While still facing legal obstacles, he is expected to take office on Sunday, January 14, 2024.  According to US political observers, Arévalo’s victory represents a crucial check on democratic backsliding in Guatemala, itself the result of citizen insecurity, lack of economic opportunity, corruption, narcotrafficking, and other organized criminal networks, which have collectively undermined the performance of democratic institutions in the country and the region.  In Ecuador, Daniel Noboa of the libertarian and pro-business Acción Democrática Nacional political party, became to youngest person to be elected president in Ecuador at the age of only 35.  The election was closer than that in Guatemala, with Noboa winning just 52% of the popular vote to defeat Luisa González of the progressive Movimiento Revolución Ciudadana political party, who won 48% of the vote.  The eldest son of Ecuador's richest man, Álvaro Noboa, Noboa campaigned both on tackling inflation as well as fighting rising crime, at one point even proposing turning ships into floating jails for the most violent criminals.  Meeting these promises will be a tall order for Noboa, given that he will only be president for the remainder of the term of current president Guillermo Lasso, who announced a premature end to his tenure as president earlier this year.  Lasso's term would have ended in May of 2025, which will now be the end-point of Noboa's tenure in office.  Finally, Sunday's presidential election in Argentina failed to produce a winner, with none of the three candidates gaining an outright majority.  Economic Minister Sergio Massa of the liberal Frente Renovador political party won 36% of the vote, out-spoken economist Javier Milei of the libertarian and populist La Libertad Avanza political party, an early front-runner, surprisingly won only 30% of the vote, and Security Minister Patricia Bullrich of the conservative Propuesta Republicana won 24% of the vote.  Massa and Milei will now face off in a run-off election next month, on Sunday, November 19.

"A Guide to 2023 Latin American Elections"

"Anti-corruption candidate Bernardo Arévalo wins Guatemala’s presidential election"

"Noboa, 35, to become Ecuador's next president following election dominated by spiraling crime"

"Ecuador's 2023 Election: What Noboa's Victory Means"

"Argentina presidential vote: Economy Minister Massa grabs surprise lead over right-wing populist"

"Amid triple-digit inflation, Argentina's presidential election heads to a runoff"

 

October 16, 2023

Topics: Independent Presidential Candidates, Conflict in the Caucasus

1. Independent Presidential Candidates:  On Thursday, October 5th, prominent progressive political philosopher and emeritus Princeton University professor Cornel West announced that he was abandoning his bid for the Green Party's nomination for president and would run as an independent instead.  Four days later, on Monday, October 9th, prominent environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the assassinated New York senator and one-time presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, similarly announced that he was abandoning his bid for the Democratic Party's nomination and would likewise run as an independent.  Finally, during a multi-day trip to Charleston, West Virginia, the senior senator of the state, Joe Manchin, indicated that he may also run for president as an independent, possibly for the No Labels organization.  How these three potential independent bids may impact next-year's presidential election subsequently became a major topic of debate last week.  West's decision to run as an independent was greeted by some Biden supporters with relief because as an independent West will have far less ballot access than he would have had as the nominee of the Green Party.  Likewise, Biden supporters have also argued that with Kennedy also dropping his bid for the Democratic Party nomination, Biden will now be able to consolidate the left-of-center vote.  Others, however, maintain that West may still pose a challenge to Biden because of his potential to tap into discontent among some Black voters unhappy with Biden's ability to secure new voting rights legislation or broad student debt relief.  Indeed, it would not take much for West to sway some young Black voters in key cities such as Atlanta, Philadelphia or Milwaukee, they note.  Whether Kennedy's independent bid will harm Trump more than Biden is another debated question.  On the one hand, opinion polls complied by FiveThirtyEight show Kennedy appeals more to Republicans than Democrats by a large margin, indicating that his candidacy may harm Trump more than Biden.  On the other hand, Kennedy's deep-pocketed donors, his famous Kennedy name, combined with a lack of broad enthusiasm among Democratic voters for Biden given his age, may mean that Kennedy could, like West, still harm Biden in the swing-states.

"The 2024 U.S. Presidential Race: A Cheat Sheet"

"RFK Jr., West independent bids leave both parties fretting about 2024"

"Third Party Candidates Shouldn't Get Their Hopes Up"

"How RFK J. could hurt Biden, Trump in 2024 election with independent bid"

"Nobody knows how RFK Jr.'s expected independent run could shake up 2024"

"Cornel West and RFK Jr. Are Both Helping Biden Now"

2. Conflict in the Caucasus:  Geopolitical tensions remain high in the Caucasus, a transcontinental region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, comprising the states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia.  The Caucasus Mountains, including the Greater Caucasus range, have historically been considered as a natural barrier between Eastern Europe and West Asia.  During the Soviet Era (1922-1991), Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia were all controlled by the Russian Communist Party as three of the 15-members of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  Following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, all three became independent countries only now loosely leagued together as part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).  Since gaining independence in 1991, Armenia and Azerbaijan have clashed repeatedly, most notably over the area of Nagorno-Karabakh, a majority ethnic-Armenian region within the territory of Azerbaijan.  In 1923, the USSR established the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast - home to a 95% ethnically Armenian population - within the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, despite the area being claimed by each state.  Armed fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region was kept under relative control during Soviet rule.  But as the Soviet Union began to collapse, so did peace in the region.  Amid Soviet dissolution, just as Armenia and Azerbaijan achieved independent statehood, Nagorno-Karabakh officially declared independence.  War erupted between Armenia and Azerbaijan, each claiming the region, resulting in roughly 30,000 casualties and creating hundreds of thousands of refugees.  This war is now known as the First Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988-1993).  By 1993, Armenia had gained control of Nagorno-Karabakh and occupied 20% of Azerbaijan's geographic territory.  In 1994, Russia brokered a ceasefire known as the Bishkek Protocol, leaving Nagorno-Karabakh de facto independent, but still heavily reliant on close economic, political, and military ties with Armenia.  While clashes between the two continued, the bilateral acceptance of a ceasefire lasted until September 2020, with the outbreak of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.  Lasting less than two months, from September 27 to November 10, 2020, a ceasefire was again brokered by Russia, with approximately 2,000 Russian soldiers deployed as peacekeeping forces.  During that war, Azerbaijan reclaimed most of the territory it had lost two decades prior, leaving Armenia with only a portion of Karabakh.  The Russian ceasefire also established the Lachin corridor, a small strip of land to be monitored by Russian peacekeepers that would serve as a transit route connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.  However, distracted with its invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022, Russia has no longer been able to maintain the peace.  On September 19, 2023 Azerbaijan began a lightning offensive and occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, and subsequently announced that the ethnic Armenian enclave would be dissolved on January 1, 2024 and its territory fully incorporated into Azerbaijan.  Faced with the prospect of rule by Azerbaijan, more than 100,000 ethnic-Armenians, about 80% of Nagorno-Karabakh's population, have fled to Armenia.  Further escalation of the conflict remains a possibility, according to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Background: "Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict"

"The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: A Visual Explainer"

"Conflict in the Caucasus May Not Be Over"

"How Armenia and Azerbaijan's conflict could still destabilize the region"

"Fears linger in Armenia of Azerbaijani invasion"

"Armenia in Crisis: How Did We Get Here and What's Next"

"Armenia wants a UN court to impose measures aimed at protecting rights of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians"

 

October 10, 2023

Topics: Kevin McCarthy Ousted as Speaker of the House, War in the Middle East

1. Kevin McCarthy Ousted: On Tuesday, October 3rd, members of the lower chamber of the US Congress, the House of Representatives, voted to vacate or remove Kevin McCarthy from the position of Speaker of the House.  The highest leadership office in the House of Representatives, the House Speaker decides both which bills are debated in the chamber and which bills receive a vote.  The Speaker is also second in line for presidential succession after the Vice-President (meaning, for example, that if both the President and Vice-President die or are otherwise removed from office, the House Speaker becomes the next US President).  Despite earning the support of 210 of the 221 House Republicans, eight hardline Republicans teamed up with 208 Democrats to oust McCarthy, marking the first time in American history that a House Speaker has been removed.  House Representative Matt Gaetz, who represents the 1st House District of Florida, introduced the motion to vacate McCarthy, and was among the eight Republicans who voted for the motion.  According to Gaetz, McCarthy deserved to be removed because of his recently negotiated deal with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown.  Gaetz claimed that such deal making both lacked transparency and violated the terms of a deal that brought McCarthy to the Speakership after 15 rounds of voting in January.  After his removal, McCarthy rejected Gaetz's accusations, claiming instead that Gaetz's motion was driven not by principled fiscal conservatism but rather by personal pique.  According to McCarthy, Gaetz was upset about an on-going House Ethics Committee inquiry into Gaetz's alleged sexual misconduct and misuse of funds, an investigation that McCarthy has allowed to continue since coming to the Speakership.  House Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC, 10th District) has become the interim House speaker, but has only limited powers, most regarding the vote to replace McCarthy, which could take place as early as Thursday, October 12th.  House Republicans are expected to hold a candidate forum Tuesday and then an internal party election on Wednesday.  At the moment, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH, 4th District) and Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA, 1st District) are the leading candidates to replace McCarthy as the next House Speaker.  The next Speaker will face several pressing challenges, including funding the government.  The McCarthy deal to avoid a government shutdown only keeps the government going with a "continuing resolution" or CR until November 17th.  Aid for Ukraine, which was not included in the government-funding deal in order to placate hardliners like Gaetz, is a second concern.  Representative Jordan has told reporters that he is "against" another aid package for Ukraine, stating that "The most pressing issue on Americans' minds not Ukraine.  It is the border situation, and it's crime on the streets.  An everybody knows that.  So let's address those."  Representative Scalise, by contrast, voted for a previous $300 million aid package, as well as $40 billion in supplemental funding.  Additionally, the new House Speaker will also have to address the issue of military aid to Israel in its recently declared war against the Islamist militant group Hamas.

"Kevin McCarthy ousted as House Speaker in historic vote"

"Speaker McCarthy ousted in historic House vote, as scramble begins for a Republican leader"

"Who will be the next speaker of the House? Here are a few possibilities"

"US House's Scalise, Jordan locked in two-way speaker race, for now"

"What to know about the House speaker race"

"Lawmakers Urge Quick Resolution to Speaker Race Amid Attack on Israel"

2. War in the Middle East:  On Saturday, October 7th, the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which governs the Palestinian territory known as the Gaza Strip, launched a devastating surprise attack against Israel, firing thousands of missiles as well as using bulldozers, hang gliders, and motorbikes to stage what is being called the worst breach of Israel's defenses since Arab armies waged war against Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Indeed, the attack was timed to coincide with that earlier conflict, which was also launched on the Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret.  Throughout Sunday, Israel's military, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), was still working to evacuate civilians from the towns and villages near Gaza which had been attacked, as well as to treat hundreds of wounded civilians and recover the bodies of the dead.  As of Monday, more than 900 Israelis have been confirmed dead, almost all civilians, along with 73 IDF soldiers.  Another 2,150 have been reported wounded.  The largest number of casualties were concert-goers at the Supernova Music Festival, near the border with Gaza, where militants opened fire on the crowd, killing at least 260.  The naked and lifeless body of one of the killed concert-attendees, a 30-year-old German tourist named Shani Louk, was later filmed being paraded through the streets of Gaza.  At least 150 Israelis, mostly women, children, and seniors, were also taken hostage by Hamas fighters, likely to be used as human-shields.  President Joe Biden, condemning the attack, also noted that at least 11 Americans were among those killed.  He admitted that Americans were also likely among those who had been kidnapped.  At least 413 Palestinians have been killed and around 2,300 injured in Israeli counterstrikes on Gaza, in a military operation that the IDF is calling "Swords of Iron."  The Israeli cabinet approved a declaration of war against Hamas after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Saturday a call-up of 360,000 military reservists, saying in a televised address: "We are at war and we will win."  Meanwhile, another Islamist militant group, Hezbollah, which is based in southern Lebanon, also fired mortar shells and missiles at Israeli targets.  The Hezbollah attack raise the specter of a second front opening in the conflict.  The endgame for Israel, Hamas and the rest of the Middle East will likely be determined in the coming days based on the scale of the Israeli counter-offensive and whether another front opens up with Palestinian militants in southern Lebanon or the West Bank, triggering a broader regional conflagration.  Also of issue is the role of the Iranian government.  According to a Wall Street Journal article, some Hamas officials claimed on Saturday that officers of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard helped to plan, equip and fund the attack.  Other Hamas officials, however, have denied that they received Iranian aid, but welcomed intervention on their behalf.  The Iranian government has also denied involvement.  Due to the hostages, Israeli's counter-offensive is likely to be drawn-out and complicated.  Hamas officials have claimed that the hostages have been spread out across Gaza and will be executed in response to any Israeli attack.

Background: "Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"

"Israel's War on Hamas: What to Know"

"What is Hamas, what is happening in Israel and Gaza Strip, and other questions"

"Israel at war with Hamas after unprecedented attacks"

"Pentagon pushing U.S. defense industry to bolster Israel in fight against Hamas"

"Statement from President Joe Biden on American Citizens Impacted in Israel"

"Surprise Palestinian Attack Spawns Fear of Wider Mideast War"

 

October 3, 2023

Topics: Republican Debate Recap, Shake-up in the Senate

1. Republican Debate Recap:  On Wednesday, September 27, in Simi Valley, California, the Republican Party held their second presidential debate in the lead-up to the November 5, 2024 presidential elections.  This time seven candidates took part in the debate: Former North Dakota governor Douglas Burgum, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, current Florida governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and US Senator representing South Carolina Tim Scott.  Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who participated in the first debate, failed to meet the 3% polling requirement to again qualify.  Former President Donald Trump, who is still leading the other candidates in polls by large margins, again chose not to participate and instead traveled to Detroit, Michigan where he gave a speech addressing the UAW strike.  Trump's speech was aired an hour before the debate.  The debate itself lasted two hours with four short intermissions.  Ramaswamy, who was seen by many as the winner of the first debate, but whose poll numbers have fallen from 11% to just 6.5% since that debate, again was the focus for much of time.  He had the most speaking time, at 12 minutes and 30 seconds.  DeSantis, who is still second in the national polls behind Trump with 14.5% compared to Trump's 53.8%, spoke for the second longest amount of time, at 12 minutes and 5 seconds.  Scott was third, at 11:21, then Christie at 10:27, then Haley at 10:22, then Pence at 9:38.  Burgum had the least amount of speaking time, despite several direct questions from the moderators, at only 7:39.  The top issues discussed during the debate, again based on time spent on the issue, were border security (5 minutes and 50 seconds), government spending (4:46), education policy (4:20), foreign policy (4:12), and race relations (2:59).  The debate was held at the Ronald Reagan Library and Reagan's name and his policies were frequently mentioned during the debate.  Nevertheless, the candidates were clearly divided between those who favored continuing Reagan's neoliberal free trade policies and interventionist foreign policies, including Haley, Christie, and Pence, and those who instead favored moving the Republican Party in a more protectionist and isolationist direction, including Ramaswamy and DeSantis.  Haley, whose poll numbers have risen the most since the first debate, was the most aggressive in the debate, attacking both DeSantis and Scott over energy policies, and telling Ramaswamy that "Ever time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber."  Perhaps the oddest moments involved an exchange between Haley and Scott over the cost of curtains, as well as two mentions of sleeping with teachers.  Christie attacked President Joe Biden as too beholden to the teachers unions, referencing the fact that Biden's wife, Jill Biden, has spent her career as a community college professor.  Pence later joked that his wife, Karen Pence, was also a teacher, but at a non-unionized private school.  A third debate is scheduled for November 8th, in Miami, Florida.  The polling requirement to qualify for the third debate will rise to at least 4% in national polling.  Whether that debate, or any of the debates so far, will matter is yet to be seen, as Trump's polling lead continues to widen despite not taking part.

"Takeaways from the second Republican presidential debate"

"Second Republican debate: The biggest moments from debate stage"

"Who won the second Republican debate?"

"Who Won the Second Republican Debate?"

"1 winner and 3 losers from Fox's dud of a second GOP debate"

"Conservatives call for GOP candidates to drop out after 2nd debate: 'Time to thin the herd'"

2. Shake-Up in the Senate:  Two events have rocked the US Senate in the last two weeks.  First, on Friday, September 22nd, Bob Menendez, the senior senator from the state of New Jersey, along with his wife and three New Jersey businessmen, were indicted on charges of bribery and corruption.  He now faces growing calls, both from within his Democratic Party as well as from opposition Republicans, to resign from the Senate.  Second, the following Friday, September 29, Dianne Feinstein, the senior senator from the state of California, and also a member of the Democratic Party, died of natural causes.  She was 90 years old.  Democrats currently hold a slim 51-seat to 49-seat majority in the Senate, although this is only because the 3 Independents in the Senate vote as a block with the 48 Democrats.  Given that state governors appoint replacement senators in instances of resignation or death, and given that both New Jersey and California have Democrat governors, this number will not change, even if Menendez does step down.  Menendez maintains his innocence and has even indicated that he plans to run for reelection despite the indictment.  His current 6-year term ends in January 2025.  New Jersey House Representative Andy Kim (D-NJ 3rd District) has announced that he will run against Menendez for the Democratic Party nomination.  While New Jersey is generally considered a safe seat for the Democratic Party, some within the party worry that Menendez's refusal to resign could result in a Republican winning the seat this November.  California Governor Gavin Newsom wasted no time announcing Feinstein's replacement.  On Sunday, October 1, Newsom announced that Laphonza Butler, president of EMILY's List, a pro-abortion advocacy group, would be his choice to serve out the remainder of Feinstein's term, which was also set to end in January 2025.  This is the second time that Newsom has appointed a California senator.  He earlier appointed junior California Senator Alex Padilla to the Senate on January 20, 2021 to replace the then junior California Senator Kamala Harris, who had become Vice President.  Padilla's appoint was controversial at the time as Harris had been the only black woman in the Senate.  In response to the controversy Newsom promised to appoint a black woman should another Senate vacancy arrive.  By appointing Butler, who is a black woman, Newsom has kept that promise.  However, the appointment is not without its own controversy.  This is because another black woman is currently running for Feinstein's seat in the November election: Barbara Lee (D-CA 12the District).  Two other prominent California Democrats from the House are also running, Adam Schiff (D-CA 30th District) and Katie Porter (D-CA 45 District).  Progressives in California had wanted Newsom to appoint Lee.  Schiff, however, is the preferred candidate of fellow California House Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 11th District).  The former Speaker of the House, Pelosi is the top fund-raiser in the Democratic Party and is still seen as the de-facto leader of the party, recently announcing her intent to run for reelection.  It is speculated that Newsom appointed Butler rather than Lee in order to not advantage Lee in her race against Schiff and to stay in the good graces of Pelosi and her donors.  Feinstein, for her part, will be remembered as California's longest serving senator and as the longest serving female senator of any state.  Her legacy, however, is seen by some as damaged by her decision not to resign from the Senate despite obvious signs of mental ill-health.

"U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, His Wife, and Three New Jersey Businessmen Charged with Bribery Offenses"

"Here are the Democrats who have called for Menendez to resign"

"'A bad look'": Shocking Menendez scandal casts a shadow over Democrats in 2024"

"The complicated senate race to replace Diane Feinstein"

"Who is Laphonza Butler, California's incoming senator?"

"Dianne Feinstein's historic career began in tragedy and ended in controversy"

 

September 27, 2023

DEBATE VIEWING PARTY!

The second Republican Party Presidential Primary Debate is on Wednesday, September 27, from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.  Tickets are not for sale to the general public, however, the debate can be streamed live at the Fox News website: http://www.foxnews.com.  The Political Science Club will host a viewing of the debate in Bonelli Hall 241 at 6 pm.  

Join us via Zoom: https://canyonsonline.zoom.us/j/82384911098

 

September 26, 2023

Topics: UAW Strike, Natural Disasters in Libya and Morocco

1. UAW Strike:  On Friday, September 15th, for the first time ever, members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) began a simultaneous strike against Chrysler, General Motors (GM), and Ford, the so-called "Big Three" or the three largest American car manufacturers.  (Chrysler is now part of Stellantis, a multinational corporation formed from the merger of the Italian-American conglomerate Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles and French car and kitchen equipment company Peugeot Groupe in 2021.)  Contract negotiations between the union and the car companies occur every four-years.  In past negotiations, the UAW negotiated its contract with one of the Big Three, with the other two usually falling in line with any agreement.  In 2019, the renegotiation happened at GM, which reached a deal with the union only after a six-week strike by 48,000 workers had cut production by 300,000 vehicles, costing the company $3.6 billion in net profit.  Even though this time the strike is affecting all three companies, it is more targeted.  The union believes that it can afford to extend the strike, thanks to its $825 million strike fund that could pay $500 a week to all the UAW's big-three members for 11-weeks.  It also has the public on its side; two in three Americans tell pollsters that they support unions, almost an all-time high.  The UAW argues that American carmakers' recent good fortune should be shared out more evenly, pointing to record profits and ballooning executive pay.  The self-described "audacious and ambitious" set of demands from Shawn Fain, the UAW's new leader, includes a cumulative pay rise of 36% over the next four years.  Also on the wish list are a return of more generous pension provisions and a rapid end to a wage-tier scheme introduced in 2007 after bail-out induced by the financial crisis, whereby new workers are paid less than existing employees.  The car companies have countered by offering a pay increase of around 20% and some other concessions.  They contend that meeting all the union's demands would frustrate their costly green ambitious to turn themselves from manufacturers of gas-power internal-combustion engine (ICE) vehicles into software-powered makers of electric vehicles (EVs).  Moreover, they argue that their wages are already much higher than at non-unionized car-makers, such as Tesla, the leader in EVs.  The strike is likely to also have political implications for next year's presidential campaign.  Michigan, the traditional home-state of the Big Three, has become a swing-state, voting for Republican-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 and then Democratic-candidate Joe Biden in 2020.  The state will likely again be vital in 2024 in the likely rematch between Trump and Biden.  The UAW endorsed Joe Biden in 2020 but has so-far refused to endorse either candidate, in part due to their opposition to the Biden Administration's 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which provides government subsidies to non-unionized EV companies like Telsa.  Both Trump and Biden will travel to Detroit this week in dueling attempts to win the UAW to their side.

"What is UAW?  What to know about the union at the heart of industrywide auto workers strike"

"Everything you need to know to feel smart about the UAW strike"

"UAW strikes more GM, Stellantis facilities, cites Ford progress"

"The UAW is asking to bring back pensions.  This economist says it's not a good idea"

"Auto workers still have room to expand their strike against car makers.  But they also face risks"

"Bideconomics on the Line"

"Biden, Trump to join UAW picket line in Michigan this week"

2. Natural Disasters in Libya and Morocco:  If there is time in the meeting (and if not, next week), the COC Political Science Club will also address the recent natural disasters in northern Africa.  Morocco's Atlas mountains were hit by a 6.8 magnitude earthquake on Friday, September 8, killing at least 2,900 and severally injuring many thousands more.  Only three days later dams collapsed in eastern Libya, sending 30 million cubic meters of water through several cities, sweeping away entire neighborhoods.  So far, more than 11,300 people in the Libyan city of Derna have died, the Libyan Red Crescent said on September 14.  Another 10,000 are still missing, many having been dragged by the currents into the Mediterranean Sea.  The immediate impact of the two disasters are "death, injuries, fractures, shock, wounds, and mental health trauma," according to the international non-governmental organization MedGlobal.  Moreover, "the long term impact will be worse, depriving patients with non-communicable diseases, children, and pregnant women of access to healthcare and drugs, interrupting the supply chain, and disrupting the already strained healthcare system" of the two countries.

"Thousands dead after earthquake and flooding in North Africa"

"Death Toll From Libya Floods, Morocco Quake Hits 8,000 as Politics Slows Aid"

"Middle East countries respond to Morocco earthquake, Libya flooding with aid and solidarity"

"What's delaying lifesaving aid after Morocco and Libya natural disasters? Politics"

"Over 8,000 dead in Morocco earthquake, Libya floods"

"How to help those affected by the Morocco earthquake and Libya flood"

 

September 19, 2023

Topics: Constitutional Day Special: Trump and the Constitution

1. Trump and the Constitution:  In honor of Constitution Day, which was on Sunday, September 17, the COC Political Science Club will examine the on-going political debate on former-President Donald Trump's eligibility to run for reelection to the presidency in 2024 under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.  The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution, enacted in 1865, 1868, and 1870 respectively, are collectively referred to as the "Civil War Amendments" as they were passed by the US Congress and ratified by the states after the US Civil War (1861-1865) as part of the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877) efforts to transition the United States away from enslavement and racial discrimination.  Briefly, the 13th Amendment (1865) abolished practices of enslavement, the 14th Amendment (1868) granted citizenship to all persons "born or naturalized in the United States," including formerly enslaved people as well as "equal protection under the law" to all Americans and US residents, and the 15th Amendment (1870) prohibited voter discrimination on the basis of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude."  The 14th Amendment is the longest of the three amendments, consisting of five sections.  What has been debated in recent weeks regarding Trump and the 14th Amendment is Section 3 of that amendment.  In sum, the purpose of Section 3 was to bar those who had fought for or supported the southern Confederate States of America in the Civil War for eligibility for future political and military offices, both at the federal and state level.  This is the full-text of Section 3: 

"No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.  But Congress may by a vote two thirds of each House, remove such disability."

At issue now is whether Section 3 can be used to bar Donald Trump for eligibility for future office, include President of the United States.  Those who argue that Section 3 can be used to disqualify Trump claim that his denial of his election defeat in 2020, insofar as such denials resulted in the riot in the US Congress building on January 6, 2021, amounted to "support" for an "insurrection or rebellion".  Advocates of this view include legal scholars Michael Luttig, a retired federal judge, and Laurence Tribe, a retired Harvard Law professor, who together made the case in a recent The Atlantic article, "The Constitution Prohibits Trump From Ever Being President Again."  Also making similar arguments were law professors William Baude, of the University of Chicago, and Michael Stokes Paulsen, of the University of St. Thomas, in their 126-page University of Pennsylvania Law Review article, "The Sweep and Force of Section Three."  Opponents of this view have responded that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has found that the January 6 riot did not amount to an insurrection and moreover that while Trump faces many legal charges, no court so far has criminally charged him for inciting an insurrection or rebellion.  Also of issue is whether Trump counts as an "officer of the United States," and so subject to disqualification, with an opinion article in Reason Magazine arguing that Trump is an officer, while another opinion article in the Wall Street Journal arguing instead that the term "officer" in the 14th Amendment refers specifically to appointed officials, like military officers, and not to elected ones.

"The 14th Amendment plan to disqualify Trump, explained"

"The Constitution's disqualification clause and how it's being used to try to prevent Trump from running for president"

"What's the 14th Amendment and can it block Trump's 2024 presidential bid?"

"14th Amendment challenges against Trump's candidacy mount as campaign pushes back"

"Trump faces another 14th Amendment candidacy challenge, this time in Minnesota"

"Election officials reject calls to unilaterally block Trump from ballot using 14th Amendment but will defer to courts"

 

September 12, 2023

Topics: College Rankings and Affirmative Action, North Korea meets with China and Russia

1. College Rankings and Affirmative Action:  Last week, on Thursday, September 7th, the Wall Street Journal released their new ranking of US four-year colleges. Unlike other rankings, such as the influential ranking of the U.S. News and World Report, which is only partly (40%) based on student "outcomes" such as graduation rates, the methodology of the new Wall Street Journal ranking emphasizes outcomes, with 70% of a college’s score based on a calculation of graduate rates, future salaries, and the cost of tuition.   Only 20% of the ranking is based on the "learning environment," such as class-size, while 10% is based on the diversity of the student body.  The U.S. News and World Report made headlines earlier this year by changing their ranking methodology to weigh more heavily the diversity of the student body of collegesPrinceton University, which is ranked first by U.S. News and World Report, also came out on top in the new ranking.  Stanford University was the top California private college, ranking fourth, while UC Berkeley was the top California public college, ranking 51st.  California State University Northridge, the top transfer destination for College of the Canyons students, ranked only two spots behind at 53rd, the best of the Cal State colleges. UCLA ranked far below CSUN, at only 75th.  How to rank America’s 2,832 four-year colleges has long been a topic of controversy.  However, that controversy was thrown into overdrive earlier this year, when the US Supreme Court, in the case of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, ruled that race-based affirmative action programs in the college admissions process violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  The ruling overturned two earlier Supreme Court cases, Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), which had validated some affirmative action in college admissions, provided that race had a limited role in decisions.  Defenders of affirmative action argue that the Supreme Court's decision still allows for the use of affirmative action insofar as Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, allowed for admissions essay questions addressed to applicants' experiences with race and racism.  California's public colleges and universities have been banned from using affirmative action since 1996, when voters passed Proposition 209, with 54% of Californians voting for the proposition and 45% voting against.  California voters reaffirmed that ban in 2020, when Proposition 16, which would have repealed Proposition 209, was defeated, with 57% of Californians voting against the proposition and only 42% in favor.  It is important to note that only the most selective private colleges and universities, such as Princeton and Stanford, had used affirmative action previous to the Supreme Court ruling.

"The 2024 Best Colleges in America: Princeton, MIT and Yale Take Top Spots"

"Supreme Court rejects affirmative action as unconstitutional"

"The Common App Enters an Uncommon Era"

"Supreme Court affirmative action ruling prompts college diversity essay 'loophole'"

"How the End of Affirmative Action Could Affect the College Admissions Process"

"What is affirmative action? History behind race-based college admissions practices the Supreme Court overruled"

"Why California Rejected Racial Preferences, Again"

2. North Korea Meets with China and Russia:  Last week, on Saturday, September 9th, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un marked the country's 75th founding anniversary with a parade of paramilitary groups and diplomatic exchanges with China and Russia, pledging deeper military ties and joint military exercises.  Kim observed the parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang and held talks with a visiting Chinese delegation, state media KCNA reported on Saturday.  The parade displayed rocket launchers hidden in delivery trucks and tractors towing troops and weapons, highlighting the militia's role as guerrilla fighters in a war.  China's President Xi Jinping and Russia's President Vladimir Putin both sent letters expressing their willingness to strengthen strategic communication and working-level cooperation.  It is notable that both Xi and Putin decided to skip the other major international meeting this past weekend, the annual two-day summit of the Group of 20 (G20) in New Delhi, India.  The G20 is an intergovernmental forum comprising of the heads of state of the world's 19 largest economies as well as delegations from the European Union and the African Union.  "Growing China-Russia-North Korea cooperation and Xi skipping the G20 Summit in India give the appearance of a widening fissure in Asia's geopolitical landscape," said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha University in South Korea.  According to Easley, "Most stakeholders in the region want to avoid a new Cold War, but this looks increasingly difficult as Beijing and Moscow prop up Pyongyang and North Korea aligns itself with China and Russia's challenges to the international order."  Kim is expected to travel to Russia this week to meet with Putin to discuss weapons supplies to Moscow to support its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  A major Russia-North Korea arms deal, which would breach numerous international sanctions, could worry Beijing, according to Easley, as "association with an emerging pariah state bloc could have negative repercussions for China's globalized but struggling economy."  Military tensions in the Korean Peninsula are at their highest point in years, as the pace of both North Korea's nuclear missile tests and US combined military exercises with South Korea and Japan have intensified.

"North Korea: China and Russia in first post-pandemic visits"

"North Korea's Kim marks founding day with parade, promises to China, Russia"

"China and Russia attend North Korea's 75th founding anniversary parade"

"Why China, Russia, and North Korea Joining Forces in the Indo-Pacific Isn't a Prelude to War"

"Seoul's spy agency says Russia has likely proposed North Korea to join three-way drills with China"

"Russia proposes joint naval drills with North Korea and China"

 

September 5, 2023

Topics: Maui Fire Recovery, China's Economic Slowdown

1. Maui Fire Recovery:  This week marks one-month since the Hawaiian island of Maui was ravaged by wildfires.  Here are the latest updates on recovery effects.  The confirmed death toll remains at 115, where it has stood for nearly two weeks.  Of that number, 58 victims have been identified by Maui Police.  The number of people on the official list of those missing from the Maui wildfires remains at 385, unchanged now for a week.  Of the fires, the Lahaina fire is now 100% contained, with 2,170 acres impacted.  While the Kula fire and Olinda fire are 95% and 90% contained respectively.  The Maui Fire Department has stated that putting out the fires completely will take some time, but assures residents that they pose no active threat to any communities.  However, an unsafe water advisory continues for residents in some Lahaina and Upper Kula areas.  On Saturday, September 2, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy visited the fire-ravaged Lahaina and held a press conference after touring the disaster area and speaking with community leaders.  McCarthy pledged that "we'll be here for you."  At this time, residents are still not allowed to return to the disaster area in Lahaina.  There will be a coordinated effort to develop a plan for safe return once hazardous materials have been removed, with the disaster area restricted to authorized personnel only.  Questions regarding the cause of the fires remain with House Republicans launching a second investigation into the issue.  President Joe Biden, who has faced criticism for his handling of the disaster, said he welcomes the Republican-led probe.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has estimated that the recovery efforts will cost over $5.5 billion.

"From Maui, an updated on recovery efforts almost a month after the wildfire"

"'Don't forget about us': Maui victims struggle one month after deadly fires"

"Power lines likely caused Maui's first reported fire, video and data show"

"Biden takes hit for Maui wildfire response"

"Joe Biden Spending $700 to Maui Fire Victims Sparks Backlash: 'Insulting'"

"Hawaii residents fear 'the next catastrophe'"

2. China's Economic Slowdown:  China's economy limped through August.   The economic slowdown as three causes.  First, a prolonged slump in China's real-estate market deepened.  Second, factories were hit by sinking exports as the US and other western countries seek to "de-risk" against dependencies on Chinese goods.  Finally, Chinese consumers kept a tight leash on spending.  A new batch of data last week also heaped further pressure on China's policy-makers to do more to revive crumbling growth, with a mix of targeted measures so far showing little effect.  Last Thursday, China's central bank lowered the minimum down payment for some borrowers, an attempt to spur home buying.  It also said banks can lower the rates they charge on existing mortgages.  But many economies say such piecemeal measures, while helpful, do not go far enough to restore household and business confidence in an economy beset by painfully high youth unemployment, cratering exports and worsening strains in the property sector.  Manufacturing activity shrank for the fifth consecutive month in August, while services-sectors activity slowed against as consumers continued to pare back spending, according to gauges of activities published last week by China's National Bureau of Statistics.  Sales at China's biggest real-estate developers were down by a third from the same month a year ago, new figures showed.  The data extend a long run of downbeat news on the world's second-largest economy, a spell of weakness that means China cannot be counted on this year to boost a global economy dogged by persistent inflation and feeble growth, especially in Europe.  As such, many economists believe China's present troubles foreshadow a new era of much slower growth.  Beijing wants to rebalance China's economy toward consumption and away from real-estate investment.  That would be difficult for any country - but China's aging population and its deepening rivalry with the US make it even more challenging.

"Why is China's economy slowing down and could it get worse?"

"China's economy is in trouble.  Here's what's gone wrong"

"China's manufacturing activity shrinks in August"

"Chinese economic slowdown is a result of debt supercycle"

"Country Garden: Debt-laden China property giant in record loss"

"A growth engine for 40 years, real estate is now China's greatest liability"

 

August 29, 2023

Topics: Republican Debate Recap, BRICS Expands

1. Republican Debate Recap:  On Wednesday, August 23, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Republican Party held their first presidential debate in the lead-up to the November 5, 2024 presidential election.  Eight candidates took part in the debate: Former North Dakota governor Douglas Burgun, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, current Florida governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, former Vice President Mike Pence, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and US Senator representing South Carolina Tim Scott.  Former President Donald Trump, who is leading the other candidates in polls by large margins, chose not to participate and instead released a pre-recorded interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, at the same time as the debate.  Trump and Carlson had a 46-minute exchange that touched on topics as varied as whether the deceased sex-trafficker and billionaire financier Jeffery Epstein really killed himself in jail or was murdered.  Trump largely ignored his Republican rivals and spent most of the interview attacking President Joe Biden, whom Trump criticized as having spent 40% of his presidency on vacation, noting that "He looks horrible at the beach."  The debate itself lasted two hours with several short intermissions.  The two leading candidates behind President Trump, Governor DeSantis, who is polling at around 14% nationally, and Ramaswamy, who is polling at around 11% nationally, were stood center stage and commanded most of the attention, with Ramaswamy especially aggressively attacking the other candidates as "bought and paid for" and "super PAC puppets," while also being attacked as sounding "like ChatGPT."  Ramaswamy also was the most defensive of President Trump, calling him the "greatest president of the 21st century."  While not garnering the headlines of Ramaswamy, DeSantis was also seen as having had a good performance, highlighting especially his governorship of Florida and his 2022 reelection to office.  Former Vice President Pence, who is polling behind both DeSantis and Ramaswamy at around 6% nationally, was also often the focus of the debate, and ended up with the most speaking time, 12.37 minutes, compared to 11.47 minutes for Ramaswamy and 10.22 minutes for DeSantis.  The second Republican debate will be held on Wednesday, September 27, at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.  The exact time is still to be determined.  It is likely that fewer candidates will qualify for the next debate.

"Who Won the First Republican Debate?"

"2 winners and 3 losers from the first Republican debate"

"Who won, who lost and who fizzled in the first Republican debate"

"Who won the first US Republican presidential debate? An expert reviews the highlights"

"Ramaswamy emerges as lighting rod at GOP debate"

"Where the GOP primary stands, with Trump still front and center"

"One Debate Down, Republicans Face Tougher Qualifications for Round 2"

2. BRICS Expands:  From Tuesday, August 22 to Thursday, August 24, leaders of the BRICS economic bloc held a historic three-day summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.  While initially devised in 2001 by an economist at the investment bank Goldman Sachs as a means of grouping newly developed countries with high investment potential, the bloc of countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - formalized their economic partnership in 2006.  Leaders have met annually since 2009.  In December of 2010, South Africa was added, making for the current BRICS acronym, the process for new admission having been devised in August of that year.  Led primarily by China, BRICS are now considered the foremost geopolitical rival to the US-led G7 bloc of leading advanced economies, a grouping which also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK, with European Union leaders more recently being invited to observe and participate in annual meetings.  Like the G7, which first formed in 1973 as the Library Group to promote the shared political values of pluralism, liberal democracy, and representative government, BRICS likewise aims to promote its members' interests and values, although being composed of three democratic countries (Brazil, India and South Africa) and two non-democracies (Russia and China), the bloc places less of an emphasis on political values and far more on promoting shared economic concerns.  BRICS especially aims to act as a counter-weight to the G7 among developing countries, especially in Africa and Latin America, and has formed several initiatives for the purpose of providing an alternative source of development aid to the G7-led World Bank and International Monetary Fund, most notably the BRICS New Development Bank and the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement.  Last week's summit resulted in several headlines about BRICS, most notably its further expansion.  On Thursday, August 24, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that six additional emerging market economies have been invited to join the bloc: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.  Full membership will take effect in January of 2024.  While the expansion could further empower BRICS as a counter-weight to the US and the G7, especially in matters of global energy supply, the additional members will also complicate collective decision making, especially given the Middle East regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

"BRICS welcomes new members in push to reshuffle world order"

"Does BRICS expansion mean a new global order?"

"BRICS expansion sparks joy in Africa"

"Xi Jinping dominates BRICS summit as leaders endorse Beijing-led expansion"

"How BRICS Expansion Will Impact South America"

"BRICS expansion could be a bad idea. Here's why"

 

August 22, 2023

Welcome back!

For our first meeting of the Fall 2023 semester, the COC Political Science Club will preview the first Republican Party presidential debate, which is scheduled for Wednesday, August 23 at 6 pm.  

The highly anticipated debate is set to take place 9 pm (6 pm Pacific) on August 23 at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, where the Republican National Convention will also be held in 2024.  The event will be hosted by Fox News.  Here are the FAQs:

When is the debate?

The debate will take place from 9 pm to 11 pm Eastern on Wednesday, August 23rd.  That's 6 pm to 8 pm here on the Westcoast!

Who is moderating?

Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum will moderate the debate.

Where can I watch the debate?

The debate will be broadcast exclusively on the Fox News Channel.  The Fox Business Network will also simulcast the debate.  Viewers will be able to livestream the debate at FoxNews.com.

Who will be on the debate stage?

To qualify, candidates must garner donations from at least 40,000 national contributors and poll consistently above 1 percent in three national polls or two national polls and a state poll.  Candidates will also have to secure donations "with at least 200 unique donors per state or territory in 20+ states or territories."  Also, and most controversially, candidates must pledge to support the Republican presidential nominee, whoever that may be. 

Eight candidates have met all of these criteria:

  1. Former North Dakota governor Douglas Burgun
  2. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
  3. Current Florida governor Ron DeSantis
  4. Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley
  5. Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson
  6. Former Vice President Mike Pence
  7. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy
  8. US Senator representing South Carolina Tim Scott

What about Trump?

While he has met the other criteria, former US President Donald Trump has refused to sign the pledge to support the Republican nominee and has hinted at a third party run if he does not win the nomination.  That said, he is currently by-far the leading candidate for the Republican nomination in all polls.  

Instead of attending the debate, President Trump has pre-recorded an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson which will be aired on X, the social media platformer formerly known as Twitter, at the same time as the Republican debate.

"Everything to know about the first Republican presidential debate"

"How Fox's Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum are thinking about the Trump debate question"

"DeSantis Braces for Onslaught at Debate With Trump Set to Skip"

"Will Donald Trump show up at next week's presidential debate? GOP rivals are preparing for it"

"Trump is 'tempted' to attend the first GOP presidential debate"

"Fluid situation: First Republican debate could bring game-changing moment for party and Trump"

 

May 23, 2023

Final Meeting of the Semester!

For our final meeting of the Spring 2023 semester, the COC Political Science Club will discuss political documentary creators, most notably those creators that focus on social science and science content, including:

PBS Frontline

PBS NOVA

DW Documentary

Daily Dose Documentary

Wendover

After looking at these sources, attendees will choose a documentary to watch.  Drinks and snacks will be provided!  Please join us!

 

May 16, 2023

Topics: Writers' Strike, Pakistan on the Brink

1. Writers' Strike:  On Tuesday, May 2, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), of which there are both West and East associations, the labor union representing over 11,500 film and television writers, called a strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).  The strike is the largest interrpution to American film and television production since 2007-2008 strike, which lasted about 100 days.  Every three years, the AMPTP negotiates a new contract with the WGA.  This year, talks over a new contract broke down as the studios and writers grappled with how streaming has upended their business models and working conditions.  The writers' complaints boil down to two issues.  First is the amount of work on offer.  There were nearly 600 original scripted television shows in 2022, but in the age of streaming, more content does not necessarily mean more work.  Many writers' rooms last for fewer weeks and employ fewer writers than in the past.  Especially controversial have been so-called "mini rooms," where a few writers map out several episodes before a show gets the green light.  The second problem lies with "residuals" - what a writer gets paid each time an episode or film they worked on is rebroadcast.  In the streaming-era, films and TV shows can be rebroadcast on demand.  Writers argue that the industry has not yet found a way to equitably adjust their payment system to account for this huge change.  Also of issue are AI writing systems like the recently released ChatGPT.   Writers are seeking a pledge from the studios to never use AI to replace them.  A writers' strike is felt across Hollywood.  When shows stop production, everyone in the industry is impacted: camera people, costume designers, caterers and others are also out of work.  Late-night talk shows are the first to go dark.  The Milken Institute, a think-tank in Santa Monica, estimates that the previous strike in 2007-2008 cost California's economy $2.1 billion.

"Writers strike: What TV shows are being affected"

"'I got a check the other day for $8': TV and film writers share why they're on strike"

"Streaming broke the career ladder, striking Hollywood writers say"

"What Is A Mini-Room, And Why Do Striking Hollywood Writers Hate It So Much?"

"Writers Strike In Hollywood: Average Residual Checks Can Barely Cover an In-N-Out Burger"

"Hollywood's Screenwriters Are Right to Fear AI"

2. Pakistan on the Brink: On Tuesday, May 9, former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested by paramilitary troops in a sudden operation that saw officers smash their way into a courthouse in the capital Islamabad to detain him.  Two days later, on Thursday, May 11, Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled that the arrest had been unlawful, and he was released on bail.  Khan subsequently accused the Pakistan military of being responsible for the arrest.  The stated reason for Khan's arrest is alleged graft.  On May 10th, before being taken into custody, he was charged with and pleaded not guilty to corruption in connection to a land deal.  Yet the arrest appears more likely to be related to his escalating quarrel with Pakistan's armed forces.  On May 6, Khan claimed at a public rally that Major-General Faisal Naseer of the army's intelligence service was plotting to murder him.  He had also earlier blamed Shehbaz Sharif, who replaced him as prime minister in April, 2022, and other senior officials for an attempt on his life in November, when he was shot in the leg.  Khan's arrest prompted mass protests in Pakistan, and has served to escalate a political and constitutional crisis within the country that has dragged on for months.  Khan has never accepted his removal from the premiership last year as legitimate.  In January, he tried to force the government to hold early national elections, an effort in part supported by the Supreme Court, which ordered elections to be held in the crucial province of Punjab on May 14, an order the central government and parliament rejected.  Pakistan's resulting constitutional crisis has been further worsened by its on-going economic crisis.  In April, inflation hit an annual rate of 36.4%, with food-price inflation running at 48.1%.  GDP growth is projected to be only 0.5% this year, while the country has an estimated $77.5 billion in loan repayments due by June 2026, with no sign that the IMF will resume its emergency lending to Pakistan without a repayment plan.  While civil war may be on the horizon, the more immediate risk is a breakdown of law and order.  At least eight people were been killed and nearly 300 injured during the most recent protests and hundreds were arrested.  The government has shut down mobile internet and social media, declared a state of emergency across much of the country, and has called in the army to quell unrest.

"Who Is Imran Khan?"

"Pakistan's political turmoil over Imran Khan's arrest, explained

"Pakistan on the Brink: What the Collapse of the Nuclear-Armed Regional Power Could Mean for the World"

"Pakistan: Civil war of another kind"

"Pakistan: Authorities must show restraint and lift internet restrictions immediately"

"In Pakistan's political crisis, Imran Khan's battle with Army chief Asim Munir"

 

May 9, 2023

Topics: Title 42 Ending, Middle East Roundup

1. Title 42 Ending:  This Thursday, May 11, the COVID-19 US border restriction Title 42 will come to an end, a major policy shift with both humanitarian and political implications.  Part of US Code, the codification by subject matter of general and permanent US federal laws, Title 42 deals specifically with Public Health and Welfare policy, section 265 of which dictates that during a pandemic, the government can suspend entries and imports into the country in order to prevent further spread of communicable diseases.  In March of 2020, on the advisement of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Trump administration invoked the statue.  Title 42 allows border agents to rapidly expel migrants who have illegally crossed the border back to Mexico without an asylum hearing.  Despite running against Trump's immigration policies, President Joe Biden kept Title 42 in effect, despite objections from immigrant-rights groups as well as members of his own party.  Indeed, the Biden administration even expanded Title 42's provisions in response to a surge in illegal crossings in January of 2023.  The policy's expiration would once again allow migrants seeking asylum to ask for protection without the threat of being immediately sent back to Mexico, a right normally guaranteed by the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, which the US joined in 1968.  It is expected that with the end of Title 42, illegal entry into the US will again surge.  In anticipation, the Biden administration last week sent 1,500 troops to the border.  Despite the administration's assurance that the troops would only assist border agents with humanitarian and logistical matters, the decision was also criticized by Democratic politicians.  The number of illegal entrants into the US had already been rising.  In April, the US Border Patrol apprehended around 183,000 migrants, a 13 percent increase from March.  In order to deter the expected surge, the Biden administration has issued new asylum regulations.  The changes deny asylum to most migrants caught crossing the border without authorization if they pass through another country enroute to the US without seeking protection or who have failed to use other legal pathways, which the administration has expanded.

"What is Title 42 and what does it mean for immigration at the southern border?"

"How Title 42's expiration will reshape immigration policy at the U.S.-Mexico border"

"'Living in anarchy': Migrants wait in Mexico one week before the end of Title 42"

"As Biden takes control of the border with the end of Title 42, Congress is absent on immigration reform"

"Biden admin to send 1,500 troops to southern border for roles ahead of expected migrant surge"

"Biden rolled out tougher asylum rules.  Advocates say it's a betrayal of his promises"

2. Middle East Roundup:  While US public interest in the Middle East may have waned since the Biden administration's chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in May of 2021, the region's politics remain as compelling as ever, reflective of continued US involvement.  The most compelling story of the year so-far in the region has involved intense and large-scale protests in Israel over attempts by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reform the country's judicial system.  As Israel has no written constitution, its parliament, the Knesset, and its Supreme Court have long vied for power over one-another, with the court acting as the only check on the Knesset.  The reforms would allow the Knesset to appoint judges to the judiciary, including to the Supreme Court.  Judges are currently appointed from within the judiciary, by the Judicial Selection Committee.  Opponents of this process claim that such an appointment procedure allows judges to "appoint themselves."  Giving the unicameral Knesset, and therefore the parties in power, the power to appoint judges would rob the Israeli political system of the one check on its power, opponents of the reforms argue.  In light of the protests, in late March, Netanyahu paused the reforms, at least for now.  The protests of the judicial reforms have not stopped Israel-Palestinian tensions from continuing to simmer.  Following the death of Palestinian activist Khader Adnan in an Israel prison on Tuesday, May 2, as a result of a hunger-strike, Palestinian militant groups launched over 100 rockets indiscriminately into Israel, prompting an Israeli military response.  A shacky ceasefire, brokered by Egypt and Qatar, was agreed to the next day.  In addition, this week, the Arab League voted to reinstate Syria, allowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to once again attend the body, which had expelled his government over a decade ago at the start of the Syrian Civil War for its brutal repression of pro-democracy protests.  The reinstatement signals a willingness among states in the region to move on from the civil war, which began in March of 2011 and which has now dragged on for over 12 years.  Finally, next Sunday, May 14, Turkey is expected to hold its general elections.  Presidential elections are held to elect the President of Turkey using a two-round system.  Simultaneously, parliamentary elections are held to elect 600 members of the parliament to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.  The election is drawing international attention as it may result in the end of the reign of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has led the country, either as prime minister or as president, since 2003.  Despite Erdoğan's dominance over the political system, not to mention Turkish media, his inept response to the devastating earthquake in February has for the first time in nearly two decades made him vulnerable to political challenge.

"Israel judicial reform: Why is there a crisis?"

"Netanyahu Faces Complicated Path to Judicial Compromise"

"Prominent Palestinian detainee Kader Adnan dies in Israeli prison after 87-day hunger strike"

"Prominent Palestinian hunger striker dies in Israeli custody"

"Arab League votes to reinstate Syria despite violent conflict"

"Turkey's Election: Global Implications and Significance.  Why Turkey's Choice Matters for the World?"

 

Professor Showdown: Thursday, May 4th @ 4:00 p.m. in Hasley Hall 306 or via Zoom at meeting ID: 886 9224 9993

Please join the College of the Canyon’s Political Science Club as we host the Political Science Department faculty for a panel-discussion of the most pressing local, national and international political issues of 2023. The event will feature an hour-long period of questions, responses and discussion with the faculty, followed by half an hour of audience Q & A. You can attend either in-person at Hasley Hall, room 306 or via Zoom, meeting ID: 886 9224 9993.

 

May 2, 2023

Topics: News Media Shake-Up, US-South Korea Diplomatic Summit

1. News Media Shake-Up:  On Thursday, April 20, the online entertainment website BuzzFeed announced that it was shutting down its once popular news division, BuzzFeed News as part of move to layoff 15% of its workforce, around 180 employees.  Originally known for online quizzes and top-10 "listicles," the company had by the late 2000s begun covering a variety of topics, including politics.  In 2011, BuzzFeed hired Ben Smith, formerly the editor of the politics-focused newspaper Politico, to expand its political reporting.  BuzzFeed News grew throughout the 2010s, gaining its own website in 2018.  By 2021, the website had won several journalism awards, including the National Magazine Award, the George Polk Award, and the coveted Pulitzer Prize for its investigative reporting on China's mass detention of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in its Xinjiang province in a four-part series titled "Built to Last."  The closing of BuzzFeed News was only the first of several major shake-ups in the news media last week.  On Monday, April 24, the news channel and website Cable News Network (CNN) announced that it had fired its longtime host Don Lemon following his short and controversial run as cohost of the morning show "CNN This Morning."  Lemon, who had worked at the network for 17 years, had been forced to publicly apologize two months earlier for criticizing Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, claiming that Haley, who is 51-years old, was past her prime.  "Nikki Haley isn't in her prime, sorry," Lemon said, claiming that "When a woman is considered to be in her prime - in her 20s, 30s, and maybe her 40s."  Lemon's remarks damaged his relationship with his two female cohosts, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins.  The next day, on Tuesday, April 25, rival cable news channel and website Fox News announced that it had fired Tucker Carlson, host of its flagship evening show, "Tucker Carlson Tonight," which had been the highest-rate cable show in the US, with over 3.5 million nightly viewers.  According to reporting by the LA Times, Carlson was pushed out by the network-owner Rupert Murdoch.   Finally, on Thursday, April 27, the lifestyle magazine and website Vice announced that it was ending its nightly global news show, "Vice News Tonight," which had first aired from 2016 to 2019, only to be relaunched in 2020 on the Vice TV network.  The meaning of these events for the future of news is debatable.  Writing in the LA Times, television critic Lorraine Ali claimed that cable news will quickly recover.  However, Fox News has subsequently lost over $800 million in stock value since Carlson's firing, raising questions about the future of the network.  Meanwhile, writing for the LA-based National Public Radio (NPR) station and website KRCW, business reporter Bobby Allyn argued that the ending of BuzzFeed News and "Vice News Tonight" may harbinger hard times ahead for news websites.

"Broadcast bloodbath: Tucker Carlson, Don Lemon are out in major media shake-up"

"BuzzFeed News, Which Dragged Media Into the Digital Age, Shuts Down"

"BuzzFeed News shutters amid digital media reckoning"

"The dramatic end of Don Lemon's controversial tenure at CNN"

"Tucker Carlson Is Out at Fox.  What Happened?"

"Tucker Carlson, Don Lemon, And the Future of Cable News"

"BuzzFeed's Jonah Peretti and Gawker's Nick Denton on why the 2010s digital media boom went bust"

2. US-South Korea Diplomatic Summit:  On Wednesday, April 26, President Joe Biden and President Yoon Suk Yeol of the Republic of Korea (ROK), or South Korea, completed a six-day official State Visit at the White House to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the US-ROK Alliance.  The summit marked the fifth meeting and second summit between Biden and Yoon in less than a year, and is only the second state visit hosted by Biden, following French President Emmanuel Macron's visit in November of last year.  The two presidents reaffirmed their commitment to the alliance as "ironclad."  Also unveiled at the diplomatic summit were several new and continuing initiatives between the two countries involving (1) defense and security cooperation, (2) economic, commercial, and environmental cooperation, (3) technology, digital, and space cooperation, as well as (4) expansion to development, education and people-to-people ties.  Among the biggest announcements were commitments involving nuclear security, with South Korea pledging not to pursue its own nuclear weapons program in exchange for greater nuclear security protection from the US.  The US pledged to deploy US nuclear-armed submarines to South Korea and involve the Korean government in its nuclear planning operations.  The agreement marks a major win in the Biden administration's efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation.  The agreement also comes in the wake of fears of nuclear build-up in North Korea, which in February launched newly developed intercontinental ballistic missiles to demonstrate the combat readiness of its nuclear forces.  At the summit, Biden said that a nuclear attack from North Korea would mean 'the end' of its regime.  The nuclear defense pledge was not universally welcomed.  As the agreement does not include stationing US nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, some South Koreans worry that the US pledge may not be enough to deter the North Korean threat.  South Korean conservatives especially lamented what they described as the "nuclear shackles" of Yoon's pledge not to pursue nuclear weapons.  Responding to the nuclear pledge, Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, announced that her country would stage more aggressive displays of its own military strength in response.  Russia's foreign ministry also criticized the US-South Korea agreement, warning that it would destabilize the region and the wider world, and could set off a potential arms nuclear arms race.  The Chinese government similarly denounced the deal.  Also at issue at the summit were questions about whether South Korea would pledge to stop selling the most advanced computer chips to China in accordance with US efforts to prevent China from gaining a technological edge as well as whether South Korean-made electric vehicles (EVs) would be eligible for new US subsidies to promote clean energy.  According to reports, Korean chip and car industries were disappointed by a lack of progress on those issues at the summit.

"South Korean-American pie: Unpacking the US-South Korea summit"

"Why Biden and Yoon's Agreement Is a Big Deal"

"Biden warns North Korea nuclear attack on US or its allies would result in end of regime"

"Kim Jong-un sister says Joe Biden is 'in his dotage' as she criticises nuclear pact"

"Experts react: The US and South Korea strike a deal on nuclear weapons.  What's next for the alliance?"

"The U.S.-South Korea Washington Declaration meets with criticism in Seoul"

 

April 25, 2023

Topics: DeSantis Sinks in the Polls, Sudan on the Brink of Civil War

1. DeSantis Sinks in the Polls:  Last week, several new public opinion polls were released showing that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had fallen further behind former president Donald Trump in their so-far unofficial race for the 2024 Republican Party presidential nomination.  While Trump officially announced his campaign for president on November 15, 2022, DeSantis, currently on a nation-wide tour to promote his new book, The Courage to Be Free, has yet to formally announce his candidacy, although he has teased an announcement on several occasions.  In addition to Trump, on the Republican side, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson have also formally announced their candidacies, while on the Democratic side, only author Marianne Williams and environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, of the famed Kennedy family, have formally entered the race.  President Joe Biden is expected to announce a campaign for reelection soon, perhaps as early as this Tuesday.  Of the polls that show DeSantis now trailing Trump, a new Harris/Harvard poll conduced from April 18 to 19 shows Trump leading the Florida governor by 35 points among Republican voters in a hypothetical GOP presidential primary, while a new Wall Street Journal poll shows Trump leading DeSantis by 13 points among likely Republican voters in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up.  An earlier December poll by the Wall Street Journal had shown DeSantis leading Trump by 14 points.  There are likely several reasons for Trump's surge and DeSantis's slump.  First, Trump's indictment on March 30 by a Manhattan grand jury for campaign finance violations involving hush payments to a porn star, which Trump has called a politicized weaponization of the judicial system, has caused Republicans to rally around the former president.  Also earlier this month, DeSantis suffered an embarrassing setback in his on-going battle with the Disney corporation, which outmaneuvered the governor in his attempt take back control of a special taxing district long controlled by the entertainment giant.  In addition, DeSantis made two legislative moves in the last two weeks which also may have harmed his presidential chances, at least in a general election.  Most recently, on Wednesday, April 19, the governor signed legislation expanding a ban on lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida public schools, legislation which LGBTQ rights groups have labeled as "Don't Say Gay."  Earlier, on Friday, April 14, DeSantis signed legislation banning abortion in Florida after 6-weeks of pregnancy.  The ban will only take effect if the state's current 15-week ban is upheld in an ongoing legal challenge that is currently before the state Supreme Court.  The ban could have wider implications for abortion access throughout the South, given that neighboring states Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi have banned abortion at all stages of pregnancy, while George forbids the procedure after a heartbeat can be detected, which is around six weeks.  For his part, Trump has opposed such restrictive abortion bans, and has repeatedly warned his party that such legislation is a vote-loser.

"Trump looms over DeSantis despite voters craving new 2024 candidates: Polls"

"NBC News poll: Nearly 70% of GOP voters stand behind Trump amid indictment, investigations"

"Ron DeSantis loses again to Disney"

"DeSantis expands anti-LGBTQ 'Don't Say Gay' law. Might as well not say 'president' either"

"DeSantis faces political quagmire on abortion"

"'Destroy This Guy': Why Trump's Campaign Against DeSantis Is So Personal"

2. Sudan on the Brink of Civil War:  On Saturday, April 15, tensions between the armed forces of two of Sudan's most powerful generals, General Mohamed Hamadan Dagalo, known locally as "Hemedti," and General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who only 18 months earlier jointly orchestrated a military coup to derail the nation's transition to democracy, erupted into an unprecedented battle for control of the resource-rich country of more than 46 million people.  At least 56 were killed in the initial fighting, with nearly 600 wounded.  Both men, each with thousands of troops deployed in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, vowed not to negotiate or cease fire, despite mounting global diplomatic pressure.  The fighting marks a deadly setback for a country which four years ago ended the rule of long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir through largely peaceful popular protests.  In recent months, negotiations had been under way for a return to the democratic transition which had been halted by the October 2021 coup.  Under mounting international pressure, the paramilitary force known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Hemedti, were in negotiations with the Sudanese Armed Forces, Sudan's official military, led by al-Burhan, as well as pro-democracy civilian groups, and had reached a preliminary deal to restart the democratic transition in December.  However, the agreement provided only broad outlines of the transition, and as a result has faced several subsequent delays.  A key dispute - and the underlying cause of the current fighting - involves how the Hemedti-led RSF would be incorporated into the al-Burhan-led Sundanese military, and who would have ultimate control over fighters and weapons.  On Wednesday of last week, the RSF deployed forces around the town of Merowe, north of the capital.  The move was strategic, as the town has a large airport and is near a key electricity dam on the Nile River.  The next day, the RSF also sent forces into the capital of Khartoum, where fighting between the RSF and the military broke out on Saturday.  The clashes have subsequently spread to other areas in the country, including the Darfur region, where United Nations facilities were attacked and looted.  The prospects for an immediate cease-fire appear to be slim given the rivalry between the two generals.  The conflict also has an international element, with the RSF receiving the backing of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, which has offered to provide heavy weapons, as well as Libya and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, on the other hand, has thrown his weight behind al-Burhan.  Russia's potential impact on the conflict and its potential ability to use Sudan to exert power in the region is likely the biggest concern for the United States, according to analysts.

"Rival generals are battling for control in Sudan. Here's a simple guide to the fighting"

"What is happening in Sudan? A simple guide"

"What is happening in Sudan? Fighting in Khartoum explained"

"Sudan crisis explained: What's behind the latest fighting and how it fits nation's troubled past"

"Why the conflict in Sudan matters to the rest of the world"

"All U.S. embassy staff evacuated from war-torn Sudan, White House says"

 

April 18, 2023

Topics: Feinstein Pressured to Resign, Pentagon Leaks

1. Feinstein Pressured to Resign:  On Wednesday, April 12, the office of California Senator Dianne Feinstein released a statement announcing that she has asked Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) "to allow another Democratic senator to temporarily serve until I'm able to resume my committee work."  The announcement is referring to the Senate Judicial Committee, which Feinstein once chaired.  The request comes after the 89-year-old Senator was hospitalized in early March with shingles.  Her absence from the Senate has left Democrats in a difficult position, given the party's slim 51-49 majority in the chamber.  Without Feinstein, the oldest sitting senator, the confirmation of President Joe Biden's judicial and administration nominees has been delayed.  Feinstein has already missed nearly three-quarters of Senate votes this year because of illness.  While Feinstein announced in February that she would not seek reelection upon the completion of her six-year term in January 2025, her absences in the Senate and especially on the Judiciary Committee are now prompting calls for her resignation.  California Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA 17th District) tweeted Wednesday that her resignation was necessary in order to put "country ahead of personal loyalty."  He was joined by Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips (D-MN 3rd District), who also on Twitter called it a "dereliction of duty" for Senator Feinstein to remained in office and for Democrats to "remain quite."  Representative Khanna is co-chair of House Representative Barbara Lee's campaign for Feinstein's seat.  Lee (D-CA 13th District)  is running against two other high-profile Democrats, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA 30th District) and Representative Katie Porter (D-CA 47th District).  If Feinstein does resign, California Governor Gavin Newsom would be able to appoint a replacement who would serve out the remainder of her term.  There have already been calls for Newsom to appoint Lee, who is Black, in such a scenario, given that there are currently no Black women serving in the Senate.  Such an appointment would likely give Lee an advantage over Schiff and Porter in the November 2024 election.  However, at 76, Lee is also among the older members of Congress.  As such, others have called on Governor Newsom to appoint newly elected Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass instead, who is 69.  Appointing Bass, who is also Black, would allow the governor to still keep to his promise to appoint a Black women to Senator Feinstein's seat, should it become available.  Others have criticized calls for Feinstein's resignation as a sexist double standard for women given that other male senators, including John Fetterman (CA-PA) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have recently taken leaves of absences for health-related issues. 

"The Democrats (Still) Have a Dianne Feinstein Problem"

"Why Some Democrats Are Calling for Dianne Feinstein to Resign"

"Gillibrand, Baldwin Say They Don't Support Calls for 89-Year-Old Feinstein to Resign from Senate"

"Newsom faces political minefield with calls for Feinstein to resign"

"Who Would Replace Dianne Feinstein?"

"Dianne Feinstein digs in"

2. Pentagon Leaks:  On Thursday, April 13, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira in connection with a leak of what appear to be highly classified intelligence documents, a security breach that may posed a threat to US ties to some allies and efforts to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia.  The sensitive materials show the extent of America's involvement in the Ukraine war, including details of Ukrainian battle strategies and weapons deliveries.  The leaks also show that the US is spying on allies, including Israel, Egypt and South Korea.  The event is being described as the biggest leak of top-secret information in the US since Edwards Snowden's leak of military papers in 2013.  The Biden Administration has subsequently sought to reassure US allies that there would be no more breaches of classified intelligence.  Attorney General Merrick Garland released a statement confirming Teixeira's arrest in connection with the "investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information."  The arrest caps a fast-moving probe by the FBI, the Pentagon and others to pinpoint the source of a leak of documents that appeared to have exposed details of US surveillance of adversaries and allies alike, touching off multiple diplomatic storms and raising worries about undermining Kyiv's fight against Russia.  Other revelations of the leaks include a secret agreement made by China to provide Russia with arms as well as a rift between the US and the United Nations over support for Ukraine.  Teixeira had been in the Air National Guard since 2019 and was a member of the 102nd Intelligence Wing.  The wing's website states that its mission is to "provide worldwide precision intelligence and command and control."  Teixeira held the rank of airman first class and was a junior Air Force communications specialist, although it is not clear how he had access to the classified documents.  The documents appear to have been first posted online by Teixeira in January on a small group chat on Discord, a social media platform popular among video game enthusiasts.  The documents stayed within that small group until early March, when another member reposted several of them to a larger Discord group, where the material began circulating more widely.  Discord released a statement condemning the leaks.

"How Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old guard leaked documents from deep inside the Pentagon"

"What we know about Jack Teixeira, the suspected leaker of Pentagon documents"

"Why alleged Pentagon leader Jack Teixeira had top secret access aged 21"

"MAGA-world is rushing to defend Jack Teixeira"

"Pentagon leaks paint gloomy picture of long war"

"From Putin's health to spying on allies: Five key takeaways from leaked Pentagon documents"

 

April 11, 2023

Topics: President Trump Indicted, President Tsai Travels

1. President Trump Indicted: On Thursday, March 30, former US president Donald Trump was indicted for his role in paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election, marking the first time in American history that a former president has faced criminal charges.  The Manhattan grand jury returned the indictment of President Trump Thursday morning, starting a process that continued on Tuesday, April 2, when the criminal case against the former president was unsealed by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.  The charges allege that Trump repeatedly violated New York's business-records laws in trying to cover up a payment to Daniels in an attempt to buy her silence.  The indictment further alleges Trump and others in his campaign staff violated election laws and falsified business records as part of a broader scheme to suppress negative stories during the presidential campaign.  According to District Attorney Bragg, Trump and the other participants "mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the payments made in furtherance of the scheme."  Under New York law, the crime of falsifying business records is a misdemeanor.  However, it is a felony punishable by up to four years in prison to falsify records when there is a specific intent to commit or conceal another crime.  The crime requires proof of an intent to defraud.  "These are felony crimes in New York state, no matter who you are," Bragg said at a news conference after the arraignment.  The strength of the case against Trump is highly contested, although many legal experts consider the case to be weak.  One the one hand, Bragg has evidence at his disposal, including checks and invoices that can be used to show how the scheme to keep the payments under wraps all worked.  He will also likely have the testimony of others, including Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and a firsthand witness to many of the allegations.  On the other hand, the case also represents an untested welding of minor criminal offenses, and is arguably built on an unstable foundation of circumstantial evidence and insider testimony from a hostile witness (Cohen), whose credibility Trump's defense team will likely assail.  Relying too heavily on Cohen's testimony could therefore be risky, as he is a convicted perjurer who has been outspoken in his loathing of Trump.  Moreover, to win the case, it is likely that Bragg will have to show that in falsifying the business records, Trump was attempting to defraud someone or some entity out of something.  But the identity of any alleged victim is far from clear.  Finally, the case also involves two possible technical challenges, first that the statute of limitations may have already passed, and second that by breaking the one-time payment of $130,000 to Daniels into 34 separate charges, Bragg may have violated the doctrine of multiplicity, which prohibits prosecutors from breaking down a single crime and charging it as many.  It should be noted that Trump could still run for president even if he is convicted.  Also, he is expected to face additional and arguably more serious legal challenges in the future.

"What does indictment mean with Donald Trump facing charges"

"How strong is the New York case against Donald Trump?"

"The dubious legal theory at the heart of the Trump indictment, explained"

"Why a liberal and conservative agree Trump's indictment is unwise"

"Analysis: How Trump's indictment will complicate his 2024 reelection bid"

"Don't Indict Trump with This"

2. President Tsai Travels: On Wednesday, April 5, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with Speaker Kevin McCarthy of the US House of Representatives and a bipartisan group of congressional leaders at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The meeting occurred despite objections from the Chinese Communist Party, which considers Taiwan a break-away region. In a speech given at the Reagan Library after the meeting, President Tsai vowed to "defend the peaceful status quo" in which the people of Taiwan can continue to thrive in a free and democratic society.  She also thanked the US for its support of Taiwan.  The "unwavering support," Tsai said, "reassures the people of Taiwan that we are not isolated, we are not alone."  Paraphrasing the late US President Ronald Reagan's policy of "peace through strength," she added that to "preserve peace, we must be strong."  Among the Democratic and Republican officials present were Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher and Illinois Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi, co-chairs of a new House select committee that focuses on China.  Republican Mike Garcia, who represents Santa Clarita in the House of Representatives, was also present at the event, according to another report.  Outside the venue, a few dozen people staged protests against Tsai's visit, while others staged a counter-protest in her support.  A propeller plane also flew circles about the library, trailing a banner that read: "One China; Taiwan is a part of China."  In response to the meeting, the Chinese government sanctioned the Reagan Library and many of its leaders and associates.  Also, on Saturday, April 8, China sent warships and dozens of fighter jets toward Taiwan, announcing the start of three-days of "combat readiness patrols" around the island.  However, the patrols did not replicate the more aggressive previous exercises, during which missiles were fired into the sea, disrupting shipping and airline flights.  That earlier set of provocative actions were taken in response to former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in August of 2022.  Despite China's objections, some analysts see the California meeting as an effort to tame Beijing's temper, as it did not take place in Taipei, Taiwan's capital, which was what McCarthy had originally proposed.  While Tsai's meeting with McCarthy generated the most controversy, it was only one of a series of meetings scheduled by the Taiwanese president.  On Tuesday, April 4, she met with several other bipartisan members of Congress in New York City, including Hakeem Jeffries, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, and had a breakfast meeting with Republican Senators Dan Sullivan and Joni Ernst and Democratic Senator Mark Kelly.  After her US meetings, Tsai next traveled to Central America, visiting Guatemala and Belize to shore up ties with Taiwan's dwindling allies in the region.  Those visits came after Honduras decided to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of Beijing.  Nevertheless, despite the loss of Honduran support, the bipartisan nature of the US meetings may signal growing support for Taiwan in the US, a symptom of the broader rising tensions between the US and China.

"China and Taiwan: A really simple guide"

"Taiwan's president is in the Americans - and China's not happy"

"Taiwan's president seeks to strengthen relations with allies in Central America visit"

"IMF says U.S.-China tensions could cost the world about 2% of its output"

"China military 'ready to fight' after drills near Taiwan"

"Chinese military simulates sealing off Taiwan after president's trip to U.S."

 

March 28, 2023

NOTE: The Club will meet an hour early this week, at 3 pm.

Topics: Possible Trump Indictment, Xi Goes to Moscow

1. Possible Trump Indictment: On Monday, March 20, a grand jury in Manhattan reconvened to consider charges against Donald Trump.  The former US president is suspected of falsifying business records to hide hush money paid to Stephanie Clifford, better known by her pornography stage name Stormy Daniels, whom he allegedly slept with in 2006.  Prosecutors must prove that this facilitated a second crime, of falsifying campaign expenses.  The grand jury is expected to vote on whether to indict President Trump this week.  In response, the 45th US president called for his supporters to rally to his defense.  "THEY'RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH," he wrote on the social-media platform he started, Truth Social.  Police set up barricades outside Manhattan's criminal court in anticipation protesters.  So far, however, Trump's call for protests have failed to gain traction.  While President Trump faces several other more serious impending legal battles, the Stormy Daniels case is arguably the weakest, and certainly most convoluted.  In 2016, Michael Cohen, the president's then personal lawyer (who later went to prison himself), paid the pornstar $130,000 out of his own pocked.  Trump then allegedly reimbursed Cohen with payments disguised as routine legal expenses.  Falsifying business records can be a misdemeanor under New York law.  The felony indictment would indicate that prosecutors are going to argue that the minor crime facilitated a more serious one: failing to declare the payment, which was made a few weeks before the election, as a de facto campaign expense.  While the payment probably did benefit the campaign and was indeed undeclared, the legal theory for prosecuting Trump in Manhattan is untested.  The campaign-finance rules that he may have broken are federal.  The accounting rule is a state one.  Linking the two in this way is unusual, and a judge is likely to find it unwarranted, according to legal analysists.  Also, even if Trump is indicted, he will still be able to run for president.

"The hush money case that may lead to Trump's indictment, explained"

"The Potential Trump Indictment Is Unwise"

"Transforming Stormy Daniels' Hush Payment Into a Felony Would Reinforce Trump's 'Witch Hunt' Complaint"

"Why Even Some of Trump's Critics Think the Stormy Daniels Case is Weak"

"Trump wants to be handcuffed for court appearance in Stormy Daniels case, sources say"

"Donald Trump: His four biggest legal problems"

2. Xi Goes to Moscow:  From Monday, March 20, through Wednesday, March 22, Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, hosted Xi Jinping, his Chinese counterpart, in Moscow.  President Putin endorsed a Chinese plan for a ceasefire and negotiations in the war in Ukraine.  The plan does not acknowledge Russia's aggression or Ukraine's territorial integrity.  Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine's president, has rejected it, as have Western leaders.  Nevertheless, while Xi is unlikely to negotiate peace between Russia and Ukraine, China did achieve a diplomatic breakthrough several days earlier, successfully brokering a reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia had ended diplomatic relations with Iran in early 2016, following the attacks on its diplomatic missions in the country.  Xi appears to have personally played a role in the Iran-Saudi deal, having visited the Saudi capital of Riyadh in December and hosted Iran's president in Beijing last month.  While China's proposed plan for peace in Ukraine signified more its support for Russia than for peace, the Iran-Saudi breakthrough is arguably more important, signaling Xi's willingness to leverage China's economic clout in third-party negotiations; China is a big purchaser of oil and gas from both countries.  Moreover, the deal is also China's first foray into Middle East mediation, an area that for the past few decades was largely occupied by the US, which may now be seeking to withdraw from the region, despite President Biden pledging last summer that his administration "will not walk away" from the region.  The respective peace plans are also just two examples of China's new approach to foreign policy, which it unveiled on Wednesday, March 15, as the "Global Civilization Initiative."  The document argued that countries should "refrain from imposing their own values or models on others and from stoking ideological confrontation."  To attempt to counter's China's growing international ambitions, especially in Africa, US Vice-President Kamala Harris began a week-long trip to Africa, arriving in Ghana on Sunday, March 26.  Harris will also travel to Tanzania and Zambia, before returning to Washington next Sunday, April 2.

"No path to peace: Five key takeaways from Xi and Putin's talks in Moscow"

"Inside China's Peace Plan for Ukraine"

"China's Ukraine Peace Plan Is Actually About Taiwan"

"The Potential Inroads and Pitfalls of China's Foray Into Middle East Diplomacy"

"China is Uniting the Middle East - That's Bad News for U.S."

"10 Things to Know about the U.S.-China Rivalry in Africa"

 

March 21, 2023

Topics: Bank Failures, Great Power Tensions

1. Bank Failures: On Friday, March 10, 2023, Silicon Valley Bank failed after a bank run, marking the second-largest bank failure in US history and the largest since the financial crisis. It was one of three March 2023 bank failures, two within 48-hours.  According to a study published in the wake of the failures, another 190 banks are potentially at risk.  The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), a mid-sized American lender, sent shock waves through the financial system.  SVB got into trouble as interest rates rose, the value of its bond-holdings plunged and nervy depositors took out their money as a result.  An attempt to raise capital to plug a shortfall in its finances failed, leading to a run on its deposits and the collapse of its market share price.  On March 13, the China-based bank HSBC purchased SVB's British assets for £1, but American regulators have struggled to find a buyer for the rest of the bank.  Two days after SVB imploded regulators took control of Signature Bank, which is based in New York.  The speed and size of the failures rattled markets, wiping billions off banking stocks.  In a coordinated action, the US Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation stepped in to protect depositors at both banks and set up a facility that allows banks to tap emergency funds.  The failure of the banks complicates the Fed's efforts to lower interest rates, as it will now have to weigh up stability in the banking system when engaging in monetary tightening to fight inflationary pressures.  The failures also quickly became politicized, with progressive Democrats blaming the passage in 2018 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA), a law supported by both Republicans and centrist Democrats which eased the banking regulations imposed by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a 2010 law passed after the 2007-2008 Financial Crisis.  Several Republicans and conservative commentators argued that the bank failures were rather the result of "woke" policies, such as Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing limitations as well as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) hiring initiatives.  Others across the political spectrum have criticized the difference between the federal government's quick readiness to help wealthy investors as compared to their slow reaction to help the poorer Americans, such as those impacted by the Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

Wikipedia Entry: "Collapse of Silicon Valley Bank"

"Here's how the second-biggest bank collapse in U.S. history happened in 48-hours"

"The tech industry moved fast and broke its most prestigious bank"

"Why Silicon Valley Bank failed"

"Analysis: What Silicon Valley Bank collapse means for the U.S. financial system"

"Analysis: Why Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank failed so fast"

2. Great Power Tensions:  On Monday, March 15, Anthony Albanese, the prime minister of Australia, and Rishi Sunak, the prime minister of Britain, met with US President Joe Biden in San Diego to announce the next stage of the three countries' AUKUS defense pact, which was first unveiled on September 15, 2021.  In a landmark agreement, Britain is to help design and build a new type of submarine for Australia, and America will sell nuclear-power submarines to Australia in the 2030s.  The deal expands the involvement of Britain and Australia in policing the Indo-Pacific.  In response, Chinese President Xi Jinping condemned the move, warning of "dangerous storms" if the deal was put into effect.  Prime Minister Albanese has subsequently attempted to ease tensions with China, a key trading partner, assuring that the deal does not mean Australia is abandoning its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and pledging that Australia would not use the submarines to help the US defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion of the island.  Rising tensions between the US and China were then matched with rising tensions between the US and Russia the next day, Tuesday, March 16, when two Russian fighter jets intercepted a US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone flying above the Black Sea.  The jets brought down the drone in international waters, prompting a race to recover the drone, which if retrieved by the Russians could give them insight into US spying capacities.  The encounter was the first military tussle between America and Russia since the start of the Ukraine war.  US officials condemned the actions of the Russian jetfighters as "unsafe and unprofessional."  The rising tensions between the US, China and Russia comes only two weeks after the Wall Street Journal published an article detailing the findings of a January report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a foreign policy think tank, which argued that the US military was not yet prepared to fight a war against both powers at once.  Russian media was quick to highlight the study's findings.  Chinese President Xi is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin from Monday to Wednesday of this week, further sharpening East-West tensions over the conflict in Ukraine.

"What is the Aukus submarine deal and what does it mean? - the key facts"

"Aukus deal: US, UK, and Australia agree on nuclear submarine project"

"AUKUS deal: China condemns 'Cold War mentality'"

"What's known and not about US drone-Russia jet encounter"

"Is the United States Creating a 'Legion of Doom'?"

"2023: What's the Worst That Could Happen?"

 

March 14, 2023

Topics: Walgreens and Abortion Pills, Mexico Cartel Kidnappings 

1. Walgreens and Abortion Pills: On Thursday, March 9, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state will not renew a $54 million contract with the drugstore chain Walgreens over the company's decision not to sell abortion pills in 20 Republican-controlled states.  Three days earlier, the governor tweeted that "California won't be doing business with @walgreens - or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women's lives at risk," signaling the decision.  The pill in question is mifepristone, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to induce abortions during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.  The FDA in January eased its regulations to let patients obtain the drug directly from pharmacies rather than healthcare providers.  However, pharmacies must be specially certified to dispense the drug.  As with other drug stores, Walgreens' decision to seek certification to sell mifepristone has been complicated by last year's Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization to overturn the earlier 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which had legalized abortion across all US states.  The Dobbs decision returned the power to legislate on abortion to the state governments.  Subsequently, some Democrat-led states, like California, have moved to expand abortion access, while some Republican-led states have sought to restrict abortion access.  As a result, in states where abortion is now restricted, doctors likely cannot legally prescribe and pharmacies cannot legally dispense abortion drugs like mifepristone.  Also, many states, including states where abortion access has not be restricted, maintain stricter regulations on dispensing mifepristone than the FDA permits.  Pharmacists who violate such state laws can lose their licenses and even face prison sentences.  Given such circumstances, as an editorial in the Wall Street Journal argued, it is reasonable that Walgreens would be cautious about selling mifepristone in those states.  Moreover, as an opinion column in the Washington Examiner noted, it is therefore also likely the other drug retailors, such as CVC, Rite Aid, and Costco, will be forced to make a similar decision, forcing California to cut ties with them as well, leaving the state with few partners to deliver vital medical services to its residents.

"Walgreens won't sell an abortion pill in 20 states after threats of legal action.  Here's what that means"

"Newsom's begun cutting California's ties with Walgreens over abortion pill - how fare will he go?"

"California to halt $54M Walgreens contract over company's policy on abortion drug sales

"Walgreens gets dragged into abortion war"

"The Expanding Battle Over the Abortion Pill"

"Walgreens Says Its Hands Are Tied on the Abortion Pill.  Experts Say That's Not True"

2. Mexico Cartel Kidnappings: On Tuesday, March 7, two of the four Americans who authorities say were kidnapped in Mexico were found dead, according to the governor of Tamaulipas, a northeast Mexican state on the border with the US.  Of the two survivors, one was shot three times in the legs, according to his wife.  A Mexican woman was also killed by a stray bullet during the kidnapping, which occurred last Friday, March 3.  Three days later a faction of Mexico's Gulf Cartel left five men tied up and handcuffed on a Matamoros street with a sign claiming that they were responsible.  The men admitted to involvement in the incident but denied shooting any of the victims.  The handwritten message was signed by Grupo Escorpiones, a faction within the Gulf Cartel.  "We have decided to hand over the people directly involved in the events who acted on their own initiative, showing a lack of discipline and action against the rules that the CDG [Cartel del Gulfo] has always operated under, respecting the life and integrity of the innocent," the sign said in Spanish.  The U.S. citizens from South Carolina drove into Matamoros from Brownsville, Texas, last week for cosmetic surgery (specifically for abdominoplasty or a "tummy tuck") and soon after were attacked by armed men, according to video footage and Mexican authorities.  Zindell Brown and Shaeed Woodard were found dead, while Latavia "Tay" McGee and Eric James Williams were rescued alive.  The two survivors were returned to the U.S. and the bodies of the two dead Americans were handed over to U.S. authorities late Thursday.  Mexican authorities said that investigations indicate that the Americans were most likely attacked on the basis of mistaken identity, but have not ruled out other possible motivations.  The attack comes in the wake of rising fentanyl overdose deaths in the U.S.  Most of the illegal fentanyl is smuggled into the country from Mexico, although ingredients for the drug are thought to come to Mexico from China. On Wednesday, March 8, the day after the kidnapping deaths, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R - South Carolina), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R - Louisiana) held a press conference on legislation that would combat fentanyl trafficking by Mexican drug cartels.  Graham made headlines at the conference by declaring that "Drug cartels in Mexico have been terrorizing Americans for decades.  We are going to unleash the fury and might of the U.S. against these cartels."  Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called Graham's remarks "irresponsible" and blamed the fentanyl deaths on "social decay."

"Mexico cartel turns in own men over US kidnapping"

"Fentanyl Flow to the United States"

"Politicians say they'll stop fentanyl smugglers.  Experts say new drug war won't work"

"The U.S. Must Defeat Mexico's Drug Cartels"

"A US military insurgency against the Mexican drug cartels would be bloody and difficult"

"Mexico's leader denies his country's role in fentanyl crisis.  Republicans are furious"

 

March 7, 2023

Topics: Student Loan Forgiveness, Partial TikTok Bans

1. Student Loan Forgiveness: On Tuesday, February 28, the Supreme Court heard challenges to President Joe Biden's student debt relief plan.  The proposal, which would cancel between $10,000 and $20,000 in current debt for most borrowers, has been on hold since conservative opponents filed a series of lawsuits last fall.  Although lower courts have heard and ruled on the issues, ruling against the loan forgiveness, the Supreme Court will have the last word on whether Biden's plan moves forward in a case titled Biden v. Nebraska and U.S. Department of Education v. Brown.  Given the tenor of Tuesday's oral argument, the answer will likely be against Biden's loan forgiveness proposal.  During questioning, the six Republican-appointee justices indicated that they strongly disagree with the politics of student loan forgiveness.  The Biden administration has framed the plan as an extension of the student debt moratorium put into place by the Donald Trump administration at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.  The moratorium froze all federal student loans, penalties and interests as a way of helping stabilize the economy during the pandemic and has been continually renewed.  In addition to the Trump moratorium, White House lawyers also argued that loan forgiveness is authorized by the 2003 HEROES Act, a law designed to pause student loan payments for U.S. soldiers serving in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The administration says the law authorizes loan forgiveness, as it permits the secretary of education to "waive or modify" provisions of student financial assistance when a "national emergency" threatens to put borrowers "in a worse position financially."  The conservative justices appeared skeptical of this justification, with Justice Clarence Thomas noting that payment forbearance "fits more comfortably" in terms of the HEROES Act than debt cancellation, although Thomas has expressed support for student loan forgiveness in other settings.  The three Democrat-appointee liberal justices, along with Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, however, questioned whether the plaintiffs challenging the Biden proposal had standing to sue.  If the liberal justices persuade two conservatives to side with them on this technicality, an estimated 26 million student borrowers may see their debt absorbed by the federal government at an estimated cost of over $400 billion.  Should the Supreme Court rule against the debt relief plan, student loan payments will resume 60 days after the Court issues its ruling

"HEROES Act at Center of Debt-Relief Legal Fight"

"No, the HEROES Act Doesn't Let Biden Forgive Student Loans"

"Americans Like Biden's Student Debt Forgiveness Plan.  The Supreme Court ... Not So Much"

"Borrowers Should Prepare to Start Paying Their Student Loans This Summer.  Many Aren't Ready"

"Plan B to cancel student loan debt? The White House won't go there even as pressure mounts"

"Is it fair to forgive student loans?  Examining 3 arguments of a heated debate"

2. Partial TikTok Ban: On Wednesday, March 1, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to give President Joe Biden the power to ban TikTok.  Titled "Deterring America's Technological Adversaries" or DATA, the bill would revoke longstanding protections that for decades have shielded creative content, like the short videos on TikTok, from U.S. sanctions.  The bill passed the committee on party lines, with all 24 Republicans voting in favor and all 16 Democrats opposing.  However, many of the Democrats voting against the bill noted that they objected mostly to the bill's scope, preferring a more targeted approach.  Rhode Island Democratic Representative David Cicilline said that there was "broad and maybe universal support on this committee to do exactly what this bill attempts to do.  But it's incredibly important that it be done right, and that it be done well."  Now that it has passed the committee, the next steps will be determined by House Republican leadership, which controls what bills get a vote on the House floor.  The bill has a long way to go: should it pass a House floor vote, the Senate would have to pass companion legislation and a reconciled version would finally have to be signed by Biden.  In December of last year, Senator Marco Rubio (R. - Florida) introduced similar legislation into the upper-chamber of Congress.  Rubio, along with Maine Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democratic party, reintroduced the bill in early February, 2023.  Senators Mark Warner (D. - Virginia) and John Thune (R. - South Dakota) have also introduced a bi-partisan TikTok ban.  Two days before the committee vote, on Monday, February 27, the Biden Administration announced a ban of TikTok on all federal devices for all government agencies.  Agencies will have 30 days to comply with the ban.  Such a ban follows decisions of 27 state governments to also ban TikTok on government devices.  The Canadian government announced a ban of the app on their government devices the same day as the White House.  The European Union enacted a similar ban last week.  The Indian government banned the app entirely in June 2020.  Proponents of banning TikTok note that the app is owned by ByteDance, a company based in Beijing and so subject to Chinese laws.  Those laws compel businesses to assist the government whenever asked, perhaps forcing the company to give the Chinese government access to user data, which TikTok officials have admitted is a possibility.  In addition, proponents of the ban also argue that the Chinese government may be ordering ByteDance to push certain kinds of content, like propaganda and disinformation, on American users.  Responding to such fears, Chinese officials have accused the U.S. of "insecurities."  For its part, however, China's "Great Firewall" has long banned many U.S.-based social media platforms on national security grounds, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and many others.

"Proposed bill would give Biden the power to ban TikTok"

"9 questions about the threats to ban TikTok, answered"

"Will the US ban TikTok?"

"TikTok: how the west has turned on gen Z's favourite app"

"'Spy balloon in your phone': growing calls to ban TikTok threaten its future"

"TikTok's potential ban in U.S. could be boon for Meta and Snap"

 

February 28, 2023

Topics: California Senate Race 2024, Russo-Ukraine War One Year Anniversary

1. California Senate Race: On Tuesday, February 14, California Senator Dianne Feinstein announced that she will not seek a sixth term in office and will retire from the Senate at the end of 2024, officially creating an open primary battle to replace the trailblazing senator.  Feinstein, 89, has been subject to critical reports in recent years over her mental acuity, but defended herself against those claims, citing the death of her husband, Richard Blum, last year, as the reason for occasional mental lapses.  The race to replace her is shaping up to be a close contest between at least four House Representatives from the state, Representatives Adam Schiff (of the 30th District's Burbank area), Katie Porter (of the 47th District's Irvine area), Barbara Lee (of the 12th District's Oakland area), and Ro Khanna (of the 17th District's Fremont area).  All four representatives belong to the Democratic Party.  According to a recent UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, Reps. Schiff and Porter are nearly tied in voter preference and hold a strong early lead ahead of Lee and Khanna.  Schiff has the support of 22% of those poll participants, with 20% backing Porter, 6% for Lee and 4% for Khanna.  About 4 in 10 registered Democrats and nonpartisan voters in the poll said that they hadn't made up their minds on a candidate, so the race still has plenty of room to shift between now and the March 2024 primary.  Because California has a top-two primary, it is all but assured that the two candidates advancing to the general election in November of 2024 will both be Democrats.  Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (of the 11th District's San Francisco area), who is still seen as a leader in the Democratic Party, has endorsed Schiff, perhaps explaining his early lead.  Schiff also became a prominent figure during the Trump Administration due to his role on the House Intelligence Committee, which he chaired from January 2019 to January of 2023.  In that role, Schiff accused former-president Donald Trump of colluding with Russia in his 2016 election victory.  While such alleged collusion is now largely seen as discredited, Schiff continues to defend this claim.  Porter, a former law-professor at UC Irvine, has likewise gained national attention for her sharp questioning of corporate CEOs and government officials, often using whiteboards to explain her arguments.  Like Schiff as well, however, Porter has also become a controversial figure, in her case because of accusations from former staff-members of being a difficult boss.  For his part, Representative Khanna has garnered bi-partisan praise for his strong advocacy of free speech as well as his calls for more regulations on big tech.  Finally, Lee is the most politically experienced of the four candidates, having served in Congress since 1998.  Best known nationally for her anti-war activism, Lee recently broke from this reputation by supporting US military aid to Ukraine.

"Sen. Dianne Feinstein announces she will retire from Congress"

"First Look at the California Senate Race: Adam Schiff and Katie Porter Ahead in Campaign to Replace Dianne Feinstein"

"Schiff edges out Porter in California Senate race poll"

"Barbara Lee, a Longtime Congresswoman, Is Running for Senate in California"

"California's 2024 Senate Race Is Poised to Be a Historic Showdown - Here Are the Candidates to Watch"

2. Russo-Ukraine War Anniversary: Friday, February 24th marked the one year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  US President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and Russian President Vladimir Putin all marked the occasion with defiante and belicose speeches, signaling that no party in the war planned to back down any time soon.  Following his surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv last Monday, where he pledged another $500 million more in military support, Biden next visited the Polish capital of Warsaw, where he gave his speech on the war's anniversary.  Repeatedly denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden pledged that "Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia" and promised that the US would not waver in its support for Ukraine, even as the conflict enters a new, more uncertain phase.  Speaking three days later in Kyiv, President Zelenskyy likewise struck a defiant tone, insisting that he was "certain" his country would win the war.  Finally, speaking on the same day as Biden, President Putin pledged to escalate the Russian military invasion, announcing that he had signed a degree "putting new ground-based strategic complexes on combat standby duty."  Most notably in the speech, Putin said that he was suspending Russian participation in the New START Treaty, the last major nuclear arms control treaty between the US and Russia.  The treaty, which took effect in 2011, was set to expire in February 2026.  New START had allowed each country to inspect each other's nuclear arsenal multiple time each year.  The treaty also required regular communication about an array of nuclear-related military equipment and operations to avoid misunderstandings or accidents.  Putin's suspension of Russia's participation in the treaty raises the stakes in the war in Ukraine, potentially signaling a readiness to deploy nuclear weapons.  In another major development related to the war, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg last week claimed that China is considering supplying arms to Russia.  Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Moscow in the spring.  If China does indeed decide to provide military aid to Russia, such a decision would like be negotiated and announced at that meeting.

"After a year of war in Ukraine, all signs point to more misery with no end in sight"

"Putin and Biden's speeches compared in under a minute"

"The last US-Russia arms control treaty is in big trouble"

"What happens now after Russia suspends the last nuclear arms treaty with the U.S.?"

"Biden calls nuclear treaty suspension a 'big mistake'; Putin courts Beijing ahead of Xi trip"

"China lethal aid to Russia for Ukraine war would come at real coast, U.S. says"

 

February 21, 2023

Topics: Ohio Train Derailment, Earthquake in Turkey

1. Ohio Train Derailment: On Friday, February 3rd, thirty-eight of the 141 cars of a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed outside of East Palestine, Ohio, a town of 4,700 residents.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has since said that the derailment appears to have been caused by a mechanical problem on one car, saying a wheel bearing appeared to have overheated.  Eleven of the derailed cars were carrying a variety of chemicals including vinyl chloride, a cancer-causing substance.  The crash caused a fire spanning the length of the derailed cars, igniting the vinyl chloride, releasing other chemicals that can cause eye and throat irritation, dizziness, nausea, and headache.  The risk of coming into contact with these chemicals, as well as possible explosions, meant that firefighters could not immediately put out the blaze.  Two days after the crash, officials monitoring the situation said there was serious concern that one of the cars would explode.  Authorities then ordered the evacuation of about 1,500 residents of East Palestine and initiated a controlled burn of the remaining vinyl chloride to avert explosion, sending a toxic plume into the air.  The disaster has been compared to the infamous 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident given the potentially disastrous long-term health effects that could result.  The Biden Administration, as well as Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, have both faced bipartisan criticism for their seemly inept response.  Secretary Buttigieg initially blamed the Trump Administration for relaxing freight train braking regulations in 2018.  The NTSB later called Buttigieg's claim "misinformation" as the braking regulations in question would not have applied to the derailed train.  The disaster also places into newly negative light the fact that the Biden Administration blocked rail worker unions from striking against unsafe operating conditions in early December, 2022.  Equally cast in newly negative light are the large freight train corporations themselves, like Norfolk Southern, which the unions have long criticized for cutting costs at the expense of safety.

"'We just need answers': distrust grows in Ohio town after toxic train derailment"

"Here's what the derailed Ohio train was carrying - and what was burned"

"Ohio train derailment fact check: What's true and what's false?"

"The Ohio Train Disaster Is on Biden's Hands"

"Rubio calls for Buttigieg's resignation following Ohio train derailment"

"Norfolk Southern's Profits and Accident Rates Rose in Recent Years"

2. Earthquake in Turkey: Three days after the Ohio train derailment, on Monday, February 6th, at 4:17 am local-time, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Gaziantep, in southern Turkey, with strong tremors felt in Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Iraq and provinces around Kahramanmaras.  Around the epicenter in Turkey as well as in neighboring Syria, thousands of poorly constructed or conflict-damaged building collapsed.  Over 6,000 buildings collapsed in Turkey alone.  The initiate death-toll was estimated at around 16,000 people, but has subsequently climbed to over 42,000 and is expected to rise further as more bodies are discovered when clean-up commences.  The earthquake damage may also cause deadly diseases in the region to spread, killing even more.  As of now, it stands as the world's deadliest earthquake since 2010, when 300,000 people died in Haiti, and higher than in Japan in 2011, where 21,000 were killed, although most from the resulting tsunami.  Turkey imposed a three-month state of emergency in the affected areas.  Critics have lambasted Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for lax regulatory policies that allowed construction firms to avoid safety measures that would have made more buildings earthquake-proof.  President Erdogan faces re-election in May of this year.  Here in Southern California, some have argued that enforcement of the state's own earthquake safety construction standards should be reexamined in light of the disaster.

"Key developments in the aftermath of Turkey, Syria quakes"

"Turkey earthquake: Rescue effort ends in all but two areas"

"In Turkey and Syria, Politics is Worsening the Earthquake's Impact"

"Earthquake compounds Turkish leader's woes as election nears"

"Some California building share a flaw with the ones that fell like 'pancakes in Turkey quake, but similar devastation is unlikely"

"Deadly warnings for California from Turkey earthquakes: What to learn from devastation"

 

February 14, 2023

Welcome Back Meeting!

For our first meeting of the Spring semester, the College of the Canyons Political Science Club will host an ice-breaking game of political trivia, along with meet-and-greet socializing.  Nominations for open club leadership positions will also be taken.  After, the club will discuss last Tuesday's 2023 State of the Union Address.

Topics: 2023 State of the Union Address

1. State of the Union Address: On Tuesday, February 7, President Joe Biden gave his second State of the Union Address and his first since the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.  Speaking for an hour and 13 minutes, President Biden spent much of the address highlighting his administration's major legislative accomplishments, especially the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  He stressed the fact that that second law was passed with Republican support, along with "300 bipartisan laws," according to the text of the speech, including also the CHIPS and Science Act.  Despite the emphasis on bipartisanship, the president was constantly heckled and at times engaged his detractors, for example by accusing some Republicans of trying to undermine Social Security and Medicare.  That last accusation yielded the most memorable moment of the speech, as President Biden responded to Republican boos by ad-libbing: "As we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?  They're not to be touched? . . . We got unanimity!"  He then called on everyone to "stand up for seniors" - which they did.  Such a public pledge against entitlement-spending cuts will likely constrain Republican's room for negotiations with the Biden Administration over the looming issue of the debt ceiling.  Republicans had previously called for sharp spending cuts in exchange for votes to raise the ceiling.  Also notable about the speech was the relative absence of foreign policy issues, aside from protectionist economic and industrial policies, despite the on-going war in Ukraine, which received only passing mention by the president, perhaps signaling that foreign policy issues will not feature heavily in the 2024 presidential election.  Newly-elected Governor of Arkansas Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the state's first female governor, gave the official Republican Party rebuttal, which was widely praised by conservative media.  

"State of the Union 2023: Five takeaways from Biden's speech"

"Biden's State of the Union address: key takeaways"

"At the State of the Union, Republicans Give Biden the Gift of Heckling"

"Chris Christie says House GOP jeering Biden at State of the Union was 'big mistake'"

"For a President Who Spends His Days Confronting Russia and China, a Domestic Focus"

"Fact-checking Joe Biden's 2023 State of the Union address"

"'CRUSHED IT': Sarah Sanders showered with praise from GOP following 'tremendous' SOTU rebuttal"

 

November 29, 2022

Final Meeting of the Semester!

For our final meeting of the semester the College of the Canyons Political Science Club will again host a game of political trivia!  Please join us and test your political knowledge!

 

November 22, 2022

Topics: 2024 Election Campaigning Begins, LGBTQ+ Rights and the World Cup

1. 2024 Election Campaigning Begins: On Wednesday, November 15, former-president Donald Trump announced that he would again run for president in 2024 from his Mar-a-Lago club and home in Palm Beach, Florida.  The announcement – and official filing – came eight days after the 2022 midterm elections, which saw a lackluster performance from Trump-backed candidates in key Senate and competitive House elections.  As a result, Democrats were able to retain control of the Senate.  That said, Republicans did win a slim majority in the House of Representatives.  The strongest performance for Republicans came in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis cruised to reelection, leading to speculation that he may now be a stronger standard-bearer for the Republican Party than Trump.  Indeed, a new YouGov poll found that more American voters now prefer that DeSantis be the Republican nominee for president in 2024 that the former president.  Other potential Republican candidates include Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, who has strong support among the religious-right, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, who performed well among moderate suburban voters to win a special election in 2021, and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and former-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, both of whom, if either were to become the party's choice, would be the first non-white, and in Haley's case, first female, Republican nominees, among others.  After the stronger-than-expected performance for Democrats in the midterms, President Joe Biden is likely to run for reelection, despite turning 80-years old earlier this week.  Nevertheless, given his age, Biden is expected to be challenged for his party's nomination, perhaps by California Governor Gavin Newsom, who like DeSantis easily won reelection two weeks ago, or by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who as a former-banker would likely enjoy strong support from Wall Street.  Also, while he has said that he would not run against Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders recently remarked that he “has not ruled out another run for president.”  Other potential candidates from the Democratic Party’s far-left or progressive wing include Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, as well as New York House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will turn 35-years old the month before the November 5, 2024 election, the minimum age-eligibility for the office of president.

"What Trump vs. DeSantis says about the future of the American right"

"The non-Trump 2024 field starts to make their moves"

"Who’s next? Republicans who might go up against Trump in 2024"

"Ranking the Democrats who could run for president in 2024"

"Shadow 2024 race: Newsom vs. DeSantis"

"Progressive group to press Biden not to run in 2024"

2. LGBTQ+ Rights and the World Cup: Also on Wednesday, November 15, the US Senate advanced the Respect for Marriage Act, which would enshrine same-sex and interracial marriage recognition into federal law, clearing the way for the bill’s final passage.  In a 62-37 vote, senators agreed to end debate on the bill and advance it to a floor voteTwelve Republicans joined all 50-members of the Democratic caucus to vote in support of the bill, surpassing the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.  LGBTQ+ rights were top-of-mind this week as the 2022 men's World Cup tournament started on Sunday, November 20 in the tiny but oil-rich Middle Eastern state of Qatar, where homosexuality is prohibited.  The tournament, held every four years, determines the world’s best soccer-playing country, and is the most-watched sporting event.  After missing the 2018 World Cup, the United States Men’s National Team qualified this time and will compete in Group B, which also includes Wales, England, and Iran.  The top-two teams from each group qualify for the knockout stage; while England is favored to win the group, most expect the US to finish second, although not to make it far beyond the first knockout round.  Favorites to win the tournament include France, the reining-champion, as well as Brazil, which has won the World Cup a record five-times, and Argentina, which features the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, who at the age of 35 is likely playing in his last tournament.  The controversial decision to award to World Cup to Qatar was made in 2010 by the sport’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).  Most sports analysts had expected the 2022 World Cup to be awarded to the United States, which was instead given co-hosting rights with Canada and Mexico for the 2026 tournament.  It is likely that FIFA officials were bribed as an incentive to award the World Cup to Qatar, which until recently did not have the necessary stadiums or other sports or tourism infrastructure.  Billions have been spent to construct both in the past decade, a process that has itself become controversial due to the low-pay and slave-like conditions faced by the largely migrant-workforce.  According to one estimate, over 6,500 workers died during the construction.  Qatar's bid for the tournament was strongly supported by France and its then-president Nicolas Sarkozy, likely because Qatar is a major client of French weapons manufacturers.  Current French President Emmanuel Macron has continued that support, recently warning against criticizing Qatar, saying that "sports should not be politicized," a statement that was widely condemned by human rights advocates.

"Same-sex marriage bill clears key hurdle in Senate. Here’s what it does – and doesn’t – do"

"Qatar World Cup: ‘Football is leaving behind its LGBT fans’"

"‘It’s not safe and it’s not right.’ Qatar says all are welcome to the World Cup but some LGBTQ soccer fans are staying away"

"Qatar World Cup ambassador says homosexuality is ‘damage in the mind’"

"Qatar: Security Forces Arrest, Abuse LGBT People"

"Qatar: Six things you need to know about the hosts of the 2022 FIFA World Cup"

"Why Qatar is a controversial host for the World Cup"

"France's Weapons Industry is Growing Rich off Dictatorships"

November 15, 2022

Election Retrospective!

Topics: Midterm Results, Russia Abandons Kherson

1. Local and California Elections Results: While votes are still being counted, Republican candidates appeared to have performed well in the Santa Clarita Valley.  In the race to represent the 40th district in the California Assembly, incumbent Republican Suzette Martinez Valladares holds a 52.2% to 47.8% advantage over challenger Democrat Pilar Schiavo with 66.98% of the ballots counted.  In the race to represent the 27th district in the national House of Representatives, incumbent Republican Mike Garcia holds a 55.4% to 44.6% advantage over challenger Democrat Christy Smith with 67.4% of ballots counted.  While no winner has been declared in the Assembly race, Garcia has claimed victory in defense of his House seat.  In the race for the three open Santa Clarita City Council seats, incumbents Laurene West, Bill Miranda, and Marsha McLean all appear to be headed to reelection.  Despite some Republican victories, both locally and elsewhere in the states, Democrats still dominated most state-level races in California, retaining their large majorities in both the state Senate and Assembly.  Governor Gavin Newsom won reelection as the state's governor, although by a smaller margin, with 58.3% of the vote to beat his Republican challenger Brian Dahle, who won 41.7% of the vote (in 2018, Newsom won 61.9% of the vote).  There is growing speculation that Newsom may now run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2024, although he has denied such rumors.  Of the state ballot propositions, the winning propositions were Proposition 1 (adding abortion rights to the state's constitution), Proposition 28 (mandating funding for arts and music education in the state's schools) and Proposition 31 (banning flavored tobacco-products in the state).  Because of the wide-spread use of vote-by-mail in California, several races remain too-close-to-call, however, in the race to be the next mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass has opened up a growing lead over Rick Caruso.

"California Election Results"

"Why Calfironia keeps repeating same election story"

"L.A. eleciton result updates take time. Here's why"

"Bass takes slight lead over Caruos in LA mayor's race as count goes on"

"Prop. 27 is one of the biggest California election flops in decades. Here are the others"

"Here's a game plan: Biden replaces Harris with Newsom and then resigns"

2. Nationwide Election Results: Nationally, Democrats fared better than expected in America's midterm elections.  While Republicans appear to be on course to win a small majority in the House of Representatives, this is a good result for President Joe Biden, as presidents historically see significant loses following their election, and an embarrassment for Republicans, who had expected a "red wave" blowout victory, especially given record-high inflation and President Biden's record-low approval ratings.  More importantly, Democrats retained control of the Senate, picking up the state of Pennsylvania, and now hold a 50 to 49 majority (the state of Georgia is set to hold a run-off election next month, but even if Republican candidate Herschel Walker prevails Democrats would still hold the majority thanks to Vice-President Kamala Harris, who can break tied votes in the chamber).  Holding the Senate will allow Biden to continue to advance his foreign policy agenda as well as to continue to appoint judges to the federal judiciary.  However, Republican control of the House will likely spell an end to the administration's domestic policy ambitions, although Biden has pledged to work with Republicans on possible bipartisan goals.  There was some good news for Republicans, who performed well in the Democrat-stronghold states of New York and California, and especially in Florida, where Republican governor Ron DeSantis easily won reelection.  His strong performance, plus loses for several candidates backed by former president Donald Trump, may give DeSantis an edge over Trump as the two vie for the Republican Party presidential nomination for 2024.

"The red wave that wasn't: 5 takeaways from a disappointing night for the GOP"

"How Joe Biden and the Democratic Party defied midterm history"

"Unreal midterm elections and the search for sanity in America"

"A GOP-Run House will fix inflation simply by stopping Biden's enormous spending"

"Donald Trump's Gift to Democrats"

"Biden's Democracy Argument Worked"

3. Russia Abandons Kherson: On Wednesday, November 9th, the day after the US Midterm Elections, Russian military leaders ordered Russian troops to withdraw from Kherson, the only Ukrainian provincial capital Russia controlled, and pull back to the far side of the Dnieper River, which it has fortified.  Russian supply chains were failing as Ukrainians have destroyed most Russian transport trucks.  Ukraine said it would wait for evidence that Russia really is pulling out.  If it recaptures Kherson, a city Vladimir Putin vowed six weeks ago would be part of Russia forever, Ukrainian forces will find it easier to attack Russian positions in occupied Crimea.  Also last week, Ukraine took delivery of its first NASAMS and Aspide air-defence systems from the United States.  These will be used to shoot down Russian missiles and drones, which have been targeting Ukraine's civilians and civilian power infrastructure in recent weeks, military actions considered to be war crimes.

"Russia's withdrawal from Ukraine's Kherson explained in maps"

"Timeline: Key developments in Ukraine's Kherson since invasion"

"Russia withdrawing, Ukrainian officials fear 'city of death'"

"Russia's withdrawal from Kherson in a humiliating setback. Here's what it means for the war"

"Russia's Kherson retreat shows the shifts in the Ukraine war"

"What Russia's announced pullout from Kherson means for the war in Ukraine"

 

November 8, 2022

Election Day Special!

Tuesday, November 8, 2022 is election day nation-wide and, in California, the final day of the state's 11-day election window.  The College of the Canyon's Political Science Club will be hosting an election-day watch party.  Come join us as we monitor the early returns and discuss their ramifications.  All are welcome!

Below are some useful websites to monitor the returns:

  • RealClearPolitics - the nation's most respected election poll aggregator is the best webiste for monitoring the nation-wide election results.
  • California Secretary of State - the website of the California SOS will post the final state-wide election results.
  • LA County Registrar - the website of the LA County Registrar will post the county-wide election results.

Other watch-parties online and in-person:

  • LA Mayoral Candidate Rick Caruso will be hosting an in-person watch party at his Grove Mall.
  • The political commentary YouTube show Breaking Points will be hosting an live-stream watch party on their YouTube channel featuring hosts and guests from around the political specrum.
  • Most major TV and YouTube news channels will also have live coverage if you prefer a more partisan perspective; for a run-down of media political bias, go to the website AllSides.

 

November 2, 2022

Election's Eve Special!

While voting-by-mail has already begun in the state, the first day of in-person voting in California starts on Friday, October 29 and runs through the official day of the election, Tuesday, November 8.  (By virtue of the 2016 Voter Choice Act (VCA) or SB 450, Californians have an 11-day window to vote in person at their nearest Voter Center.  There are three Voter Centers in the Santa Clarita Valley (SCV), located at the Castaic Sports Complex, the Higher Vision Church, and Canyon Country Park, although California citizens can vote at any Voter Center in the state.)

To help COC students and SCV residents prepare for the election, the COC Political Science Club will be hosting an Election's Eve Special Meeting.  All are welcome to attend!

Election decisions that the meeting will highlight include:

Useful voter information websites that the meeting will also highlight include:

The meeting will begin with a brief summary of Proposition 31.

Proposition 31: Californians will weigh in on a ballot proposition dealing with tobacco regulation this November, Proposition 31.  Called the Flavored Tobacco Products Ban Referendum, the proposition is, as the name implies, a referendum asking voters whether the Senate Bill (SB) 793, which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in August of 2020, should be maintained or repealed.  The law in question prohibited the sale of flavored tobacco products in the state.  As such, if passed, Proposition 31 would uphold the ban.  If the proposition fails, SB 793 would be repealed, once again allowing for the sale of flavored tobacco in California.  To clarify, a "Yes" vote is to uphold SB 793's ban on flavored tobacco and a "No" vote is to repeal SB 793's ban on flavored tobacco.  Supporters of Proposition 31 - who support the ban on flavored tobacco - include Governor Newsom and the California Teachers Association.  They argue that the ban is necessary to prevent younger Californians from taking up smoking, claiming that flavored tobacco products are intended as a "gateway drug" into harmful nicotine addiction.  Opponents of Proposition 31 - who oppose the ban on flavored tobacco - include the major tobacco companies as well as the California Republican Party.  They argue that it is already illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 in the state.  Also, they claim that flavored tobacco cartridges for vaping help smokers who want to use e-cigarrettes to ease their transition away from the more harmful traditional cigarettes.  Finally, they note that banning flavored tobacco will likely lead to both a decline in tobacco sales-tax revenue and the creation of a black-market for such products, and thereby the further criminalization of their mostly Black and Latino users.

 

October 25, 2022

Topics: Californiba Ballot Proposition 30, Boston University's New COVID Strain and the Legacy of Past Pandemics, 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.

1. Proposition 30: Californians will weigh in on a ballot proposition dealing with electric vehicle (EV) subsidies this November, Proposition 30.  Called the Tax on Income Above $2 Million for Zero-Emission Vehicles and Wildfire Prevention Initiative, the official summary of the proposition states that Proposition 30 "Allocates tax revenues to zero-emission vehicle purchase incentives, vehicle charging stations, and wildfire prevention."  The fiscal analysis of the proposition is that it would increase state tax revenue ranging from $3.5 billion to $5 billion annually, with the new funding used to support zero-emission vehicle programs and wildfire response and prevention activities.  A "Yes" vote supports requiring Californians to pay an addition tax of 1.75 percent on personal income above $2 million annually, the additional revenue going to EV-subsidies and wildfire prevention.  A "No" vote opposes the additional tax.  Supporters of the proposition, including the ride-hailing service Lyft, which has spent $45 million in ads for the proposition, and various environmental groups, argue that the proposition would help fund California's transportation transition to EVs.  The proposition is also supported by the state's firefighter unions, who favor the additional revenue the proposition sets aside for wildfire suppression and prevention. Opponents of the proposition, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, as well as the mayors of San Jose and Oakland, argue that the proposition is merely a "cash grab" by Lyft, which wants California tax-payers to fund its transition to an EV-based fleet of drivers.  The proposition is also opposed by California teachers unions, who oppose addition taxes which involve no additional funding for public schools

2. BU's New COVID Strain and the Legacy of Pandemics:  Genetic researchers last week discovered that a genetic legacy of the 14th century bubonic plague in Europe may pose a contemporary health risk today.  The genetic variant, which helped mitigate risk of the so-called "Black Death" to its carriers centuries ago, may make its modern-day carriers more at risk of Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as well as lupus, a rheumatoid arthritis disease.  The discovery is a timely reminder that the medical legacy of pandemics can last for centuries.  It is timely because while the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, now in its third year, may be "over," as President Biden claimed last month, the world is only beginning to grapple with its more lasting health effects.  Among the most controversial debates over COVID's legacy is the future of so-called "gain of function" research, which involves researchers purposefully making existing diseases more deadly in order to develop new treatments.  It is widely speculated that COVID-19 may have been the product of gain-of-function research in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began in December of 2019, although many scientists argue that the origin was more likely a meat and fish market in the city.  This debate came to a head last week when the UK-based Daily Mail first reported that disease researchers at Boston University had developed a more deadly strain of COVID-19.  According to the preliminary publication of the research, the new variant killed 80% of the mice infected with the new hybrid strain.  The university pushed back against the Daily Mail's reporting, calling it "false and inaccurate," and stressed that its researchers were taking all the necessary precautions.  Nevertheless, the National Institute for Health (NIH) announced that it was launching an investigation.

"Why do labs keep making dangerous viruses?"

"Was a study that created a hybrid COVID-19 virus too risky?"

"NIH looking into Boston University's COVID-19 research"

"US health officials probe Boston University's Covid virus research"

"BU researchers created hybrid COVID virus, causing friction with the government"

3. China's 20th Communist Party Congress: The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) concluded this Saturday with the reelection of Xi Jinping to a historic third term as General Secretary, the highest position within the party's leadership structure.  The congress, held every five years, also saw the election of new members to the party's main leadership bodies, including four new officers to the CCP's seven-member Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), which effectively controls both the party as well as the Chinese government.  In addition to Xi, the two members reelected to the PSC were Zhao Leji and Wang Huning.  The newcomers to the committee are Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, Li Xi and Li Zhanshu.  All four are seen as loyalist "Yes-men" to Xi Jinping, signaling Xi's now total control over the CCP.  China analysts note that Xi is now the most powerful person in China since the death of the founder of the CCP, Mao Zedong in 1976.  Xi's consolidation of power will likely mean a continuation of his controversial "zero-COVID" approach the pandemic, involving continued lockdowns in China's major cities, despite the heavy economic toll of the policy.  Another consequence will likely also be a continuation of Xi's aggressive foreign policy, nicknamed by some as "wolf-warrior diplomacy" after the popular 2015 Chinese military action film, Wolf Warrior.  Indeed, tensions between China and the US were already rising before the start of the seven-day congress as a result of a new Biden Administration trade policy designed to weaken China's computer chip industry.  Also making headlines was the fact that the previous leader of the CCP before Xi, Hu Jintao, was dramatically escorted out of the conference in front of the foreign press, an action likely also meant to signal Xi's absolute ascent.  A spokesperson for the CCP said that Hu was simply "not feeling well."  Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who had been critical of Xi's zero-COVID policy, was also removed from senior party leadership, although in a less public fashion.

"Xi Jinping secures historic third term as China's leader"

"China's Xi secures third term, stacks leadership team with allies"

"China's Xi Jinping emerges from the Communist Party congress with dominance"

"Hu Jintao's exit from party congress 'a public humiliation"

"Biden Is Now All-In on Taking Out China"

 

October 18, 2022

Topics: California Ballot Proposition 29, Racism Scandal at LA City Hall, Military Takeovers on the Rise in Africa

1. Proposition 29: Californians will again weigh in on a ballot proposition dealing with dialysis clinics this November, Proposition 29.  The official summary of the proposition states that Proposition 29 "Requires physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant on site during treatment" at dialysis clinics.  Also, the proposition would require clinics to "disclose physicians' ownership interests; report infection data."  The fiscal analysis of the proposition is that it would increase state and local government costs, "likely in the tens of millions of dollars annually."  A "Yes" vote means that chronic dialysis clinics would be required to have a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant on-site during all patient treatment hours.  A "No" vote means that such clinics would not be required to have a physician nurse practitioner, or physician assistant on-site during all patient treatment hours.  Advocates of the proposition argue that it will help ensure that dialysis patients receive safe treatment in dialysis clinics under the care of a doctor or another highly trained clinician in case of emergencies, without risk of infection, and without discrimination.  Opponents of the proposition argue that it would shut down many of the state's dialysis clinics and threaten the lives of 80,000 California patients who need dialysis to survive.  This is the third time that voters have been asked to weigh in on new restrictions to dialysis clinics.  Voters rejected similar propositions in 2018 (Proposition 8) and again in 2020 (Proposition 23).  The proposition is sponsored by the United Health Care Workers West, a union of California healthcare workers affiliated with the Service Employees International Union.  The union's members would benefit from passage of the proposition.

2. Racism Scandal at LA City Hall:  Fallout from what is only the most recent scandal to hit LA City Hall continues.  Last week an audio recording of a meeting between LA City Council President Nury Martinez, councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo and labor leader Ron Herrera was leaked onto the subreddit for the city of Los Angeles.  In the meeting, which concerned the redrawing of the boundaries of the council's 15 districts based on the 2020 census, the four can be heard making racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks.  Martinez especially called city residents with Oaxacan heritage "dark little people" and referred to the Black child of fellow councilman Mike Bonin as a "little monkey" in Spanish.  After first only resigning from the position of council president, Martinez resigned from the council itself on Wednesday.  Also last Monday, Herrera resigned from his position as president of the LA Council Federation of Labor.  So far, de León and Cedillo have refused to resign, although Cedillo had already lost his bid for reelection over the summer to challenger Eunisses Hernandez, who was scheduled to assume his office as the representative of District 1 on December 12, 2022.  Nevertheless, both Cedillo and de León are under increasing pressure to resign.  Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell was made acting President of the council.  O'Farrell cancelled last Friday's city council meeting and also announced that the council will meet virtually this week, citing concerns about COVID-19 exposure.  Both decisions were criticized as attempts to limit public protest.  Also up for debate is whether the redistricting processes should be redone as well as whether more serious reforms to the council should be introduced, such as expanding the number of districts.

"Nury Martinez Resigns From LA City Council, Hours After Public Outrage Shuts Down Session"

"LA City Hall racism scandal: Council men Kevin De León and Gil Cedillo resist resigning amid uproar over audio leak"

"Latino L.A. City Council members' racist slurs expose the problem that undercuts progress"

"L.A.'s Leaked City Council Tape Reminds Us Why 'Smoke-Filled Rooms' Are Bad"

"L.A. City Council crisis exposes Black-Latino divisions - and unity"

3. Military Takeovers on the Rise in Africa:  On September 30, the military of Burkina Faso removed Interim President Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba over his inability to deal with an Islamist insurgency.  Damiba himself had come to power in an earlier coup d'état just eight months previously.  Captain Ibrahim Traore took over as interim leader.  Burkina Faso's multiple coups are illustrative of a concerning trend in West Africa: a rising number of coups.  Including the most recent coup in Burkina Faso, there have been eight coups and coup attempts in the region in the past two years.  Such coups have succeeded in Burkina Faso (now twice), Chad, Guinea, Mali (also twice), and Sudan; in Niger and Guinea-Bissau the coups failed.  There are several potential reasons for the political instability, including poor governance, Islamist insurgencies, as well as climate change.  In a December 2021 report, the Institute for Peace, a US-based foreign policy think tank, argued that the international community should do more to bolster the capacities of regional governance bodies, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as strengthen civil society and democracy in fragile West African states between elections rather than just focusing on elections themselves, among other suggestions.  That many of soldiers in Burkina Faso were also carrying Russian flags is illustrative of another concerning trend: growing Russian influence in Africa.  After being severely sanctioned by the West in 2014 following their invasion of Crimea, Russia began increasingly courting African leaders.  And their engagement appears to have paid off, as many African states have been hesitant to condemn Russia's more recent aggressions, this despite the fact that Russia's now full-scale war in Ukraine will likely lead to fuel and food shortages on the continent.

"Are military takeovers on the rise in Africa?"

"Why Russia is cheering on the Burkina Faso coup"

"Burkina Faso coup fuels fears of growing Russia mercenary presence in Sahel"

"Burkina Faso coup underscores Russia's rise in West Africa"

"Coups in Africa: Why they don't spell the end of democracy"

 

October 11, 2022

Topics: California Ballot Proposition 28, LA Mayoral Race Tightens, OPEC+ Cuts Oil Production

1. Proposition 28: Californians will weigh in on a ballot proposition dealing with education funding this November, Proposition 28.  The official summary of the proposition states that Proposition 28 would provide "additional funding from state General Fund for arts and music education in all K-12 public schools (including charter schools)."  According the fiscal analysis, if passed, the proposition would increase annual state costs for arts education in public schools by about $1 billion.  A "Yes" vote supports with ballot initiative to (i) require an annual source of funding for K-12 public schools for arts and music education equal to, at minimum, 1% of total state and local revenues that local education agencies receive under Proposition 98; (ii) distribute a portion of the additional funding based on a local education agency's share of economically disadvantaged students; and (iii) require schools with 500 or more students to use 80% of the funding for employing teachers and 20% to training and materials.  A "No" vote opposes the ballot initiative, meaning that funding for arts education in public schools would continue to depend on state and local budget decisions.  Supporters of the proposition, including the California Teachers Association and the editorial board of the LA Times, argue that in the light of the fact that barely one in five California public schools have a full-time arts or music program, the proposition would expand access to arts and music education.  Opponents of the proposition, including the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune, argue that while more funding for arts and music education is a good idea in theory, spending mandates unnecessarily constrain the ability of lawmakers to adapt the budget in response to changes in revenue or possible emergencies.

2. LA Mayoral Race Tightens as Candidates Debate for a Second Time:  On Thursday evening, October 6, the two remaining candidates for the office of Mayor of Los Angeles debated for the second time.  The debate was hosted by the LA-based KNX News radio station (97.1 FM) and a video recording of the hour-long debate can be found on their website.  Both candidates are members of the California Democratic Party.  However, Rick J. Caruso, who finished second in the June 7 primary with 36% of the vote, and who owns a real-estate company best known for its Grove and Americana malls, is a former-Republican and is seen as the more moderate of the two candidates.  Karen Bass, who finished first in the June 7 primary with 43.1% of the vote, and who currently represents the 37th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, is seen at the more progressive candidate, although she has faced some criticism from the left for her stances on homlesssness and crime.  During the debate, which one news outlet described as "feisty," Caruso criticized Bass for accepting a $95,000 scholarship from USC for a master's degree in social work, implying a link between the Congresswoman and a recent bribery and fraud case involving USC's social work program.  Caruso also criticized Bass for praising the controversial Church of Scientology in a 2010 speech.  Bass in turn criticized Caruso for not doing enough to prevent sexual abuse at USC while he served on the university's Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2022, and which he chaired beginning in 2018.  Bass also argued that Caruso would not be a strong advocate for abortion-rights given his past opposition to the procedure.  While Bass had built-up a considerable 12-point polling lead over Caruso during the summer, the race has recently tightened.  Among registered voters, Caruso is now just 3 percentage points behind Bass in recent polling.  The third and final mayoral debate is scheduled for Tuesday, October 11 at 7 pm at the Brokaw News Center and will be broadcast commercial-free on NBC4 and Telemundo 52.  It is expected that a scandal over racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks made by LA City Council President Nury Martinez, councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León and LA County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, and which rocked City Hall over the weekend, will be a central topic of the debate.

"Bass, Caruso spar over USC, Scientology, policing and homelessness in L.A. mayoral debate"

"Karen Bass, Rick Caruso discuss major issues in another round of debate"

"Bass, Caruso clash again in 2nd mayoral debate"

"Karen Bass' lead over Rick Caruso shrinks as LA mayoral election campaign enters final weeks"

3. OPEC+ Cuts Oil Production: On Wednesday, October 5, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as their ally oil-rich states, including Russia and Mexico - a group collectively known as OPEC+ - agreed to cut oil production output by 2 million barrels per day, equal to 2% of global supply.  OPEC+'s de-facto leader Saudi Arabia claimed that the cut was necessary to respond to rising interest rates in the West and a weaker global economy.  Crude prices have fallen to roughly $80 a barrel from a high of more than $120 a barrel in early June.  The move is expected to cause gas price to rise, especially in California, which already had the nation's highest average price of $6.38 a gallon as of Monday.  The decision to cut production was seen by many as a rebuke to the Biden Administration by the OPEC+ states, given that rising gas prices heading into November 8's midterm elections will likely harm Democrats' chances, as voters tend to blame the party in power for price increases.  The White House responded by accusing OPEC+ of aligning with Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.  Some Democrats in Congress have introduced bills meant to limit US military aid to Saudi Arabia.  Also, the Biden Administration announced the release of 10 million more barrels from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  The administration may additionally relax sanctions on oil imported from Venezuela, although Republicans would likely object to such a move.

"OPEC+ makes deep oil output cuts sought by Saudi Arabia and Russia, snubbing US"

"OPEC will cut production by 2 million barrels a day, likely sending gas and oil prices back up"

"Inside the White House's failed effort to dissuade OPEC from cutting oil production to avoid a 'total disaster'"

"Biden to release 10M more barrels from Strategic Petroleum Reserve in November in wake of OPEC+ cuts"

"US could ease Venezuela sanctions, allow Chevron to pump oil"

"Biden's 'unthinkable' options for punishing OPEC"

 

October 4, 2022

Topics: California Ballot Propositions 26 and 27, Hurricane Ian, and Russia's "Partial" Mobilization

1. Propositions 26 and 27: Californians will weigh-in on two gambling-related ballot propositions this November, Propositions 26 and 27.  Called the Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands Initiative, Proposition 26, if passed, would make three changes to California law regarding gambling.  A "Yes" vote supports this ballot initiative to (i) legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks; (ii) tax profits derived from sports betting at racetracks at 10%, and (iii) legalize roulette and dice games, such as craps at tribal casinos.  A "No" vote opposes this ballot initiative, thus continuing to prohibit sports betting in California and roulette and dice games at tribal casinos.  Called the Legalize Sports Betting and Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Initiative, Proposition 27, if passed, would also change the legal status of sports betting in the state.  A "Yes" vote supports legalizing online and mobile sports betting for persons 21 years of age or older, establishing regulations for mobile sports betting industry, imposing a 10% tax on sports betting revenues and licensing fees, and allocating tax revenue to account for homelessness programs and an account for tribes not operating sports betting.  A "No" vote opposes this ballot initiative, thus continuing to prohibit sports bettingin California.  Advocates of the propositions argue that ever since the Supreme Court struck down a federal law against sports betting in 2018, such gambling has spread, so California would be better off regulating and taxing the practice.  Opponents of the propositions, such as the LA Times editorial board, argue that both would increase gambling addiction in California, would they maintain is already a pressing issue in the state.

2. Hurricane Ian: After causing damage to both Cuba and the US territory of Puerto Rico, (already hard-hit by Hurricane Fiona), Hurricane Ian, a category 4 hurricane, slammed into Florida on Thursday before moving on the Carolinas and eventually dissipating Sunday morning.  The hurricane, one of the strongest to ever hit the mainland US, has displaced over 40,000 people, destroyed over 50 buildings, and left at least 72 dead.  Most experts expect the death toll to continue to rise as recovery efforts begin.  Clean-up is expected to cost at least $63 billion, according to insurance experts, and could take years to complete.  Responding to the hurricane will likely prove an important test for Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who has emerged as a potential challenger to Donald Trump for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 2024.  Also, given that DeSantis may stand in the way of his reelection, President Joe Biden's ability to cooperate with the governor may also become an issue.

"Cuba requests U.S. aid after Hurricane Ian knocks out power"

"Biden to visit hurricane-ravaged Florida and Puerto Rico"

"Dozens are dead from Ian, one of the strongest and costliest U.S. storms"

"DeSantis defends early hurricane response as questions mount over evacuations"

"The grotesque politicization of Hurricane Ian"

3. Russia's "Partial" Mobilization: Following a major victory by Ukraine against the invading Russian military in early September, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "partial" military mobilization involving the conscription of at least 300,000 Russians.  In addition, President Putin announced that he will annex four partially occupied provinces of Ukraine via referendums in defiance of international law.  News of the mobilization was met with protests and chaos in Russia, as hundreds of thousands of draft-eligible men have sought to flee Russia in the days since.  Nearly 200,000 have already left, according to reports.  The referendums in the Ukrainian providences have also been denounced as "shams" and "phony," given that residents have been forced, often at gunpoint, to participate by occupying Russian soldiers.  Once fully annexed, President Putin could claim that Ukrainian troops defending their own country are on "Russian" soil, justifying a nuclear response.

"What Does Russia's 'Partial Mobilization' Mean?"

"Explainer: What does Vladimir Putin's 'partial' mobilisation mean for Russia's military machine?"

"Protest erupt in Russia's Dagestan region as minorities say they are being targeted by Putin's mobilization orders"

"Russians flee to neighboring countries to avoid fighting in Putin's war against Ukraine"

"Russia holds annexation votes; Ukraine says residents coerced"

"Here's What Would Happen If Putin Ordered A Nuclear Strike In Ukraine"

 

September 27, 2022

Topics: California Ballot Proposition 1, Santa Clarita Elections, Women's Rights Protests in Iran

1. Proposition 1: Californians will weigh-in on seven ballot propositions this November, Propositions 1, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31.  In the build-up to the November 8 General Election, the Political Science Club will examine each proposition, beginning with Proposition 1.  Called the Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment, if passed, the proposition would amend the California Constitution to enshrine a right to abortion and contraceptives.  While abortion and contraception rights are already guaranteed under California law, supporters of the proposition argue that elevating those rights into the state's constitution is important given the US Supreme Court's 2022 decision in case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned the nation-wide right to abortion formerly guaranteed by the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade District Attorney of Dallas County.  However, opponents of the proposition argue that the amendment could be interpreted as guaranteeing a right to an abortion after viability, even up to the point of birth and even if the baby is healthy and the mother's health is not threatened.  While most Americans support the right to abortion, most oppose abortion after viability, opponents of the proposition claim.  A more cynical take on the proposition is that it represents an effort on behalf of the state's governor, Gavin Newsom, to better position himself with progressive and liberal-voters if he runs for president in 2024.

2. Santa Clarita Elections: Santa Clarita Valley residents will weigh in on two partisan election races this November, the first for the 40th District of the California Assembly and the second for the 27th District of the Congressional House of Representatives.  These district numbers reflect the redistricting resulting from the 2020 National Census: the Santa Clarita Valley was formerly part of the 38th Assembly district and the 25th House district, respectively.  Suzette Martinez Valladares, a member of the California Republican Party, and the current incumbent of the 38th Assembly District, will again run for reelection to represent the new 40th Assembly District.  Her opponent in the race is Pilar Schiavo, a member of the California Democratic Party.  In the June 7 primary, Valladares finished first with 47.4% of the vote (48,053 votes), Schiavo was second with 33.9% (34,386) and Annie Cho, also a Democrat, finished third with 18.6% (18,879).  In California's top-two primary system, Valladares and Schiavo advanced to the General Election.  Mike Garcia, a member of the National Republican Party, and the current incumbent of the 25th House District, will again run for reelection to represent the new 27th House District.  His opponent in the race is Christy Smith, a member of the National Democratic Party.  In the June 7 primary, Garcia finished first with 49.6% of the vote (33,653 votes), Smith was second with 35.4% (24,007), and John Quaye Quarterly, also a Democrat, finish third with 5.9% (4,037).  Garcia and Smith advanced to the General Election.  Writing in the LAist, Brianna Lee has argued that Smith may have an advantage over Garcia given that the new district excludes the Simi Valley, a more conservative area formerly part of the 25th district.

3. Women's Rights Protests in Iran: On Tuesday, September 13, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year old woman, was arrested for improperly wearing her hijab, or head-covering, by the Iranian Guidance Patrol, a morality police which enforces Islamic behavioral codes and other Iranian traditions in the theocratic republic.  After allegedly being beaten in custody, Amini was taken to hospital for severe head-trauma, where she died on Friday, September 16.  While the Iranian government denies that she was beaten, her death has sparked widespread protests throughout the country, prompting government authorities to shut down the internet in the hopes of limiting organizing-efforts.  Iranian women have reportedly cut off their hair and publicly burned their hijabs in support of Amini and in opposition to the Guidance Patrol.  Analysts have described the protests as the Iranian regime's "most serious challenge in years."  Supporters of the fundamentalist Islamist regime, which came to power in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, have organized counter-protests.  

"Who was Mahsa Amini, and Why Did Her Death Spark Protests in Iran?"

"Mahsa Amini's death could be the spark that ignites Iran around women's rights"

"Rage against the regime: how Iran erupted after the death of Mahsa Amini"

"Iran protests rage as Mahsa Amini's father says authorities lied about her death"

"Iran protests: Mahsa Amini's death puts morality police under spotlight"

 

September 20, 2022

Topics: Freight Railroads Unions Reach Deal, Ukrainian Breakthrough Against Russia

1. Freight Raidroad Union Deal: On Thursday, September 15, the biggest freight railroads and union leaders reached a tentative labor agreement to avert a nationwide strike that would have crippled segments of the US economy.  President Biden and White House officials, as well as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, helped to broker the deal to avoid transport disruptions that would have futher entangled supply chains, putting new pressures on prices at a time when inflation is still holding at the 40-year high it reached in early June.  Business leaders and key railroad customers, including energy companies and national retailers, had been calling on the Biden administration to prevent a strike.  The deal must still be approved by a majority of the union membership.  If approved, the deal includes an immediate 14.1% wage increase, rising to 24% over the next five years, and would allow railroad workers to seek certain types of medical care without fear of being punished.  Workers had gone three years without a raise despite facing increasingly difficult working conditions and grueling schedules, even as railroads were earning record profits.  In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein argued that the deal "demonstrated that union solidarity and militancy can be as potent in the 21st century as they were in the 19th century."

"Railroad strike averted after marathon talks reach tentative deal"

"A deal to avert a rail strike is on track, but it won't fix U.S. supply chain issues"

"How an attendance policy brought the U.S. to the brink of a nationwide rail strike"

"U.S. railroads, workers avert shutdown, but work remains to finalize contract deal"

2. Ukrainian Breakthrough Against Russia: On Monday, August 29, Ukrainian generals began a massive counter-offensive against the invading Russian military in the southern Kherson province of Ukraine, which Russia had capture when the invasion first began in late February.  On Thursday, September 6, taking advantage of a thinning Russian defense, the Ukrainian army broke through a weak point in the front lines east of the city of Kharkiv, next encircled the city of Balakliya and then advanced to the village of Volokhiv Yar, essentially recapturing the entire region.  The breakthrough, which the UK-based The Guardian newspaper described as "stunning," is a significant reversal of the war so-far, which had seen six months of grinding advances by the Russian military in the eastern Donbas region.  In addition to the territorial gains, the Ukrainian military also captured tens of millions of dollars worth of Russian military equipment, including tanks, artillery systems, and air defense platform, Ukrainian officials reported.  On Thursday, September 15, the Biden administration announced that the US will send an additional $600 million in military aid to Ukraine in order to help boost the recent momentum.  However, military experts are divided on whether the victory will mark a major "turning point" of the war in Ukraine's favor, or alternatively, whether Russia will now escalate the scale of its invasion, perhaps even turning to nuclear weapons.

"Russian forces are demoralized and degraded - now we just have to 'drive the enemy out,' Ukraine says"

"The Ukraine war has reached a turning point"

"Ukraine Regains Power Over Key City, Suggesting a Turning Point in the War"

"Is Ukraine's Counteroffensive a Turning Point?"

"Putin under pressure: what is Russia's next move?"

"Ukraine's Offensive is Pushing Russia Back - And Raising the Risks of Escalation"

"Moscow could be pushed toward 'nuclear escalation' if the US overreacts to Russia's disastrous invasion of Ukraine, new report warns"

 

September 13, 2022

Topics: The UK'S Dual Political Transitions and California's Green Transition

1. The UK's Dual Political Transitions: On Tuesday, October 6, Liz Truss officially became the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after meeting with Queen Elizabeth at her royal residence in Balmoral, Scotland.  Truss was voted to the position by members of her center-right Conservative and Unionist Party, also known as the Tories, following the resignation of fellow Conservative party-member Boris Johnson in July.  The Conservatives hold a 357-seat majority in the 650-seat House of Commons of the British Parliament, the UK's main legislative body.  Truss, herself a member of Parliament, will now form a new cabinet and lead the UK's executive body.  Two days later, on Thursday, October 8, Queen Elizabeth II died of natural causes at the age of 96.  Her 70-year reign was the longest in British history.  While the Prime Minister, Truss, is head of government in the British political system, the monarch is head of state, or the symbolic leader.  In the US, the President acts as both head of government and head of state.  Elizabeth's son, Charles Philip Arthur George, will now inherent the position as King Charles III.  The UK will face a challening dual political transition in a time of both domestic economic difficulties due to high inflation and rising energy prices and foreign policy difficulties due to the on-going Russo-Ukrainian War and persistent questions related to the UK's 2020 exit from the European Union.

"Liz Truss is now officially the U.K.'s prime minister after meeting with the queen"

"Liz Truss says UK can 'ride out the storm' in first speech as prime minister"

"Liz Truss to meet King Charles for first time since Queen's death"

"What happens next after Queen's death? A day-by-day schedule"

"It's hard to think of a Britian without Queen Elizabeth II. What's her legacy?"

"How King Charles III might rule"

2. California's Green Transition: Meanwhile, California's state government continues to push for a transition to a greener economy, less dependent on fossil fuels.  The state aims to generate 85% of its energy from renewable technologies like solar and wind by 2030.  As part of this plan, state regulators voted to ban sales of new gasoline-fueld cars by 2035.  However, a heat-wave this week has made the decision more controversial as the state's energy producers have struggled to keep up with demand, in part because of the state's reliance on solar power, which cannot generate electricity after sun-set, a time when many of the state's residents return home from work, turn on their air-conditioners, cook dinner, do laundry, watch TV and - in some cases - plug in their electric vehicles (EVs) to charge.  Ironically, the state's governor, Gavin Newsom, urged residents not to charge their electric vehicles (EVs) at night, an announcement that generated mockery from both his Republican critics and even some owners of EVs in the state.

"California plans 2035 ban of new gas car sales. 17 states will decide to follow or not"

"California's move to phase out gas-powered cars could spark battery innovations"

"Heat wave pushes California's energy grid to its limits"

"Californians asked to not charge electric cars - days after gas ban announcement

"California Dems: Buy EVs But Don't Charge Them"

"Facing criticism, state amps up its climate change blueprint"

 

September 6, 2022

Welcome Back!

For the first meeting of the new academic year, the College of Canyons Political Science Club will host a general introduction and welcome meeting for new and returning members.

Please join us either in person in Hasley Hall 306 or via Zoom (use link above) at 4 pm.

Part of the meeting will include a Trivia Game!  Come and test your political science knowledge!

Topics: Biden steps into the Midterm race

1. Biden Midterm Speeches: This Tuesday marks the two-month starting gun in the race for the Midterm Congressional Elections, to be held on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.  Yesterday, Labor Day, September 5, President Joe Biden gave his second major speech, given with variations both in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, meant to rally his Democratic Party by highlighting his achievements in office.  Liberal media outlets emphasized the speech's praise of labor unions.  Conservative outlets, on the other hand, criticized what they characterized as Biden's attack on Republican voters.  Such criticisms mirror that of Biden's first national speech given in the build-up to the Midterms, from last Thursday, September 1, 2022.  In that speech, titled "The Continued Battle for the Soul of the Nation," Biden criticized what he called "MAGA Republicans" for threatening the country's democracy (MAGA is the abrieviation of former's president Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again").  As noted, conservative media outlets also criticized that speech as "divisive."  Liberal outlets, however, praised the speech as "delivering a hard truth."  It is likely that as the Midterm elections near, polticial rhetoric from both parties will become more exaggerated.

"Biden takes his case to two swing states for Labor Day in Midterm push"

"Biden uses Labor Day speeches to focus on two swing states"

"Biden's disgraceful speech is proof that only divided government can heal nation"

"'Destroying Democracy': Biden Doubles Down on "MAGA Republican' Criticism in Labor Day Speech"

"Watergate reporter hits Biden speech for 'deeply partisan tone:' 'Lost opportunity'"

 

May 24, 2022

Political Science Club Trivial Contest

For the club's final meeting, the College of the Canyons Political Science Club will host its Second American Politics Trivia Contest!  Come and compete!

Elections for the Fall 2022 Political Science Club leadership board will also be held.  Come and participate or run for an office!

 

May 16, 2022

Topics: Opiod Deaths, Latin American Elections

1. Opiod Deaths: New provisional data was released this month by the federal government estimating that nearly 108,000 peopled died from drug overdoses from January to December, 2021.  This figure represents about at 15% increased from the number of deaths in 2020, according to Farida Ahmad, a research scientist from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.  Nearly 94,000 died in 2020.  That said, the rise in deaths did slow in 2021 compared to the year-to-year rise from 2019 to 2020, which saw a historic 30% jump.  Of the 108,000 overdose deaths, over 80,000 involved pain-killer opiods, a 15% increase from 2020.  Of that figure, around 71,000 deaths involved illegally manufactured fentanyl, most of which is produced in China and brought into the US illegally from Mexico.

Overdose deaths continued to rise in 2021, reaching historic highs

With 100,000 drug overdoses in 2021, U.S. surpasses a record 

With overdoes deaths rising, here's how to test drugs for fentanyl

The fentanyl trip: How the drug is coming to America

DEA zeroes in on China as fentanyl deaths soar

2. Latin America Elections: Colombia and Brazil will both hold presidential elections this year, Colombia on May 29 and Brazil in October 2022.  The current-front runner in Colombia is Gustavo Petro of the Humane Colombia Party, while the current front-runner in early polling in Brazil is Lula de Silva of the Workers' Party, who previously served as president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010.  Both Petro and Lula have been described as "leftists" and "populists" and their success reflects a larger trend of resurgent populism in Latin America in recent years.  Following left-wing populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador election as president in Mexico in 2018, a string of similar leftists have also come to power, including Alberto Fernández winning the presidency in Argentina in 2019, Pedro Castillo winning the presidency in Peru 2021, Gabriel Boric winning the presidency in Chile in 2022, and Xiomara Castro winning the presidency in Honduras, also in 2022.  In addition, libertarian populist Nayib Bukele was elected president in El Salvador in 2019 and Brazil's current president, Jair Bolsonaro, elected in 2019, has also been described as a right-wing populist.

He's running to be Colombia's 1st left-wing president.  Here's what he plans to do.

What Happens Next in Brazil Now That Lula Has Returned

Crisis of US democracy emboldens Latin American populists, says rights chief

A new group of left-wing presidents takes over in Latin America

Why Salvadoreans love their populist president, Nayib Bukele

Latin America is in danger of going back to the old normal

 

May 10, 2022

Topic: Roe v. Wade and Abortion 

1. Roe v. Wade and Abortion: On Tuesday, May 3, the online political news outlet Politico published a leaked draft of the majority opinion of the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which was argued on December 1, 2021.  While the issue before the Court in that case was whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional, the leaked majority opinion, however, written by George W. Bush appointee Samuel Alito, went further, arguing that the ruling in the 1973 Surpeme Court case Roe v. Wade, which established a nation-wide right to abortion, had been "egrigiously wrong."  Alito's majority opinion, should it hold, would overturn the Roe v. Wade precedent, returning the issue of abortion to the state governments.  It is estimated that at least 23 states and possibility as many as 26 would ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned; 13 states have abortion "trigger laws" which would automatically go into effect.  Many Democrat-controlled states, such as California and New York, have pledged to become abortion "sanctuary states" in response.  Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts authenticated the leaked opinion but noted that its text is not final.  He also condemned the leak as a "betrayal" of the Court's trust and ordered the Court's marshall to investigate the leak's source.  While abortion opponents praised the opinion, abortion supporters condemned it as extreme and argued that it could undermine additional privacy rights.

How We Got Here: Roe v. Wade from 1973 to Today

Explaining Alito's Leaked Draft Opinion Overturning Roe v. Wade

Alito's Opinion is Brilliant and Shrewd

What Alito Got Right

There is perhaps no greater farce than Alito's appeal to democracy

The Irrational, Misguided Discourse Surrounding Supreme Court Controversies Such as Roe v. Wade

An Egregious Breach and Attack on Supreme Court

 

May 3, 2022

Topics: Nuclear Proliferation, Internet Privacy

1. Nuclear Proliferation: Russia's invasion of Ukraine entered its third month last Wednesday, an anniversary which prompted Russian state TV to claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be more likely to launch nuclear war than accept defeat.  The threat of nuclear escalation came just days after Russia tested a new nuclear-capable missile which Putin called the world's best.  These developments not only prompt questions about the growing possibility of nuclear war but also about the dimming prospects of nuclear disarmamanet.  Indeed, with the US and China also looking to update their nuclear arsenals, and with North Korea likewise looking to expand is nuclear missile program, some scholars now speculate that the world may be entering into a new nuclear arms race.

Russia continues threats to use nuclear weapons

Russia state TV shows clips simulating Ireland being wiped out by nuclear weapons

Russian 'nuclear tsunami' will wipe out Britain, Kremlin-backed media threatens

Five Ways of looking at nuclear escalation in Ukraine

2. Internet Privacy: On April 19, Washington Post cultural reporter Taylor Lorenz publishing an article revealing the identity of the creator of the popular conservative TikTok account "Libs of TikTok."  Her article also controversially linked to the home address of the creator (the link was later taken down), leading conservatives to accuss Lorenz of "doxxing."  The incident has renewed debate on the right to privacy in the digital era and the extent to which individuals who become influential in political and cultural spheres can expect a right to anonymity.  

The Price of Privacy: Who gets to keep a secret in a hyperconnected world?

United States and 60 Global Parnets Launch Declaration for the Future of the Internet

Who has the right to be anonymous?

Human rights and democracy in the digial age

April 26, 2022

Topics: Elon Musk and Twitter.

1. Musk and Twitter: First, the founder of the electric car company Telsa, Elon Musk launch a bid to buy the social media platform Twitter, arguing that the platform had become the public sphere of the digital age and as such needed a greater committment to freedom of speech.  While free speech advocates praised the move, advocates of online content-moderation warned against it.  Twitter's board has sought to block the acquisition using a so-called "poison pill" strategy

Elon Musk's Buying Twitter is good for Free Speech

Even Elon Musk Doesn't Know What He Means By Free Speech

Time for an Audit of Twitter Censorship

 

April 19, 2022

Topics: French Presidential Election, Politics of Social Media

1. French Presidential election: France held the first first round of its presidential election on April 10.  Current president Emmanuel Macron of the centrist Republic on the March Party (La Republique En March!) finished first with 9,783,058 votes (27.8%), Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally Party (Rassemblement National) fisinished second with 8,133,828 votes (23.1%) and Jean-Luc Melenchon of the far-left France Unsubdued coalition (La France Insoumise) finished third with 7,712,520 votes (22%).  The top-two finishers Macron and Le Pen with face each other in the second round vote, Sunday, April 24.  This will be a rematch of the 2017 French presidential election, when Macron won with 20,743,128 votes (66.1%) over Le Pen's 10,638,475 votes (33.9%).  Most polls predict another Macron victory, but by a smaller margin.

Macron's polling lead over Le Pen widens ahead of France's Sunday runoff

Macron lead over Le Pen Stabilises as election scrutiny intensifies

French elections: EU apprehensive of Le Pen ahead of French run-off vote

Macron and Le Pen's inevitable face-off exposes a major shift in French politics

French election: Macron vs Le Pen - The rematch

2. The Politics of Social Media: Two major stories about the politics of social media made headlines last week:  First, the founder of the electric car company Telsa, Elon Musk launch a bid to buy the social media platform Twitter, arguing that the platform had become the public sphere of the digital age and as such needed a greater committment to freedom of speech.  While free speech advocates praised the move, advocates of online content-moderation warned against it.  Twitter's board has sought to block the acquisition using a so-called "poison pill" strategy.  Second, the Center for Diseas Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report this month which found that 44% of American teenagers feel "persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness."  This number is up from two previous studies: a 2009 study found that 26% felt this way and a 2019 study saw the number rise to 37%.  Many commentators on the study argued that social media was likely a key cause.

Nearly Half of U.S. Teens Report Feeling Sad and Hopeless: What Can Be Done?

Why American Teens Are So Sad

CDC Finds American Teens "Persistently Sad or Hopeless" - Here's 2 Conservative Solutions

 

March 29, 2022

Political Science Club Trivial Contest

Using Rich Rubino's newly published book, The Great American Political Trivia Challenge: Political Trivia on Steroids (2021), the College of the Canyons Political Science Club will host its First Annual American Politics Trivia Contest!  Come and compete!

 

March 22, 2022

Topics: Supreme Court Nomination, Inflation (continued from last week)

1. Supreme Court Nomination: On February 25th, 2022, President Biden made his first Supreme Court nomination, with Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson being his pick as the 116th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, in light of Justice Stephen Breyer's announcement to retire. Judge Breyer's historic nomination comes as a promise from President Biden to nominate a black woman as his own pick for the next SCOTUS justice. As hearings to confirm Judge Jackson, like many other nominations in the past, her presence has come under both praise and scrutiny. This week, we will discuss the implications of this nomination, as well as how it compares to past nominations.

President Biden Nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson

Jackson pledges to decide cases "without fear or favor"

White House uses GOP's own rhetoric to rebut Supreme Court criticisms

2.  Inflation: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war has caused European natural-gas prices almost to double and sent oil prices soaring to over $115 a barrel.  That has added to the inflation problem facing the world’s central banks.  And this is likely only the beginning.  Last week, US President Joe Biden announced an executive order to ban the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal to the United States.  Also, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz likewise announced that Germany would halt certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would have brought natural gas directly from Russia to Europe.  Both actions will likely further increase the price of energy, and so price inflation: annual inflation in the US hit 7.9% in February.  While they have supported Biden’s response to Russian aggression generally, Republicans have criticized Biden’s 2021 decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have increased oil imports into the US from Canada, as well as his decision to halt new federal oil and gas leases and permits on public lands.  They argue that new drilling would help alleviate inflation.  Democrats have responded that new drilling will not help inflation, which they argue is more the result of corporate greed than actions taken by the Biden administration to address climate change.

Inflation is costing U.S. households nearly $300 more a month.  Here’s how to adjust your budget

Joe Biden won’t get away with blaming Vladimir Putin for inflation

Inflation hits another 40-year high.  The war in Ukraine could make it worse

Here’s everything the Fed is expected to do at its meeting this week

 

March 15, 2022

Topics: Inflation, Florida's Parental Rights in Education bill

1.  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war has caused European natural-gas prices almost to double and sent oil prices soaring to over $115 a barrel.  That has added to the inflation problem facing the world’s central banks.  And this is likely only the beginning.  Last week, US President Joe Biden announced an executive order to ban the import of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas, and coal to the United States.  Also, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz likewise announced that Germany would halt certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would have brought natural gas directly from Russia to Europe.  Both actions will likely further increase the price of energy, and so price inflation: annual inflation in the US hit 7.9% in February.  While they have supported Biden’s response to Russian aggression generally, Republicans have criticized Biden’s 2021 decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would have increased oil imports into the US from Canada, as well as his decision to halt new federal oil and gas leases and permits on public lands.  They argue that new drilling would help alleviate inflation.  Democrats have responded that new drilling will not help inflation, which they argue is more the result of corporate greed than actions taken by the Biden administration to address climate change.

Inflation is costing U.S. households nearly $300 more a month.  Here’s how to adjust your budget

Joe Biden won’t get away with blaming Vladimir Putin for inflation

Inflation hits another 40-year high.  The war in Ukraine could make it worse

Here’s everything the Fed is expected to do at its meeting this week

2.  On Tuesday, March 8 the Florida legislature passed a bill titled "Parental Rights in Education."  Florida Governor Ron DeSandis has pledge to sign the bill into law.  The controversial bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its critics, would limit classroom instruction on sexual orientation in Kindergarten through 3rd grade classes in Florida’s public schools.  The key provision of the seven-page bill reads: “Classroom instruction by school personal or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”  Defenders of the bill argue that this restriction is necessary to ensure the rights of parents to introduced matters of sex and sexual orientation to their children in those grades, if they see fit.  Opponents claim that the bill marginalizes LGBTQ+ individuals in the state and may lead to bulling of LGBQT students as well as students with same-sex parents.

What’s in Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill?

Understanding Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill passes in Florida, goes to governor

‘Parental Rights in Education’ or ‘Don’t Say Gay’?  Explaining the fight over Florida bill that would ban discussion of sexual orientation, gender identity in schools

March 8, 2022

Topics: State of the Union Address, LA mayoral primary campaign begins (continued from last week)

1. On Tuesday, March 1, President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union address to a joint-session of the US Congress.  Biden opened the speech by rebuking Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine, calling it "premeditated and unprovoked."  Biden sought to reassure Americans that the US was doing all it could to punish Putin in the hopes of convincing him to stop the conflict.  In addition to harsh economic sanctions, Biden announced that he would ban Russian aircraft from American airspace and that the US Justice Department will pursue Russian oligarchs in Putin's inner circle.  Beyond Ukraine, Biden called for law-makers to send him several bills that stand little chance of passing in the closely divided Congress, including his "Build Back Better" spending bill (which he did not mention in name), which recently died because of opposition from every Republican and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin (D - W.Va.).  Biden asked Congress to send him legislation that includes Build Back Better's proposals to reduce prescription drug costs, tackle climate change and reduce the deficit.  Biden also touted the administration's successes, such as the COVID-19 stimulus bill known as the American Rescue Plan, a bipartisan infrastructure bill known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the nomination of federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the first black woman on the Supreme Court.  While the speech was criticized by Republicans as "boring," the speech did receive praise from centrist Democrats for its largely moderate tone.  Many progressive groups criticized the speech, however, for failing to mention issues of racial justice and for expressing opposition to calls to defund police departments.

5 takeaways from Biden's State of the Union address

7 key takeaways from Biden's 2022 State of the Union speech

Biden's State of the Union address won't help Democrats politically

Biden's approval rating rises after State of the Union address

Biden's State of the Union address signals a major pivot, but to what?

2. On Tuesday, February 22nd candidates for LA mayoral election participated in the first primary debate.  The primary election is scheduled for Tuesday, June 7, with the top-two finishers competing in the general election, Tuesday, November 8.  Of the six declared candidates, five participated in the debate: LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, realtor Mel Wilson, LA City Councilman Kevin de Leon, U.S. House Representative Karen Bass and LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino.  Absent from the debate for scheduling reasons was real-estate developer Rick Caruso.  Polls show that homelessness as well as public safety are the main issues on voters' minds.  However, pledges among the candidates to maintain or even increase LA policing was met with protest at the debate.  The LA Police Union recently endorsed Caruso, after he pledged to add 1,500 more officers.  Representative Bass, who has proposed maintaining current police numbers but moving 250 more officers onto patrol duty, currently leads the race in early polling.

L.A. on the Record: The mayor's race is 108 days out

LA mayoral candidates debate pressing issues

2022 LA Mayoral election will be one of the most intense

Karen Bass raises most money in 2022 LA mayoral election

LA Times poll finds Karen Bass takes early lead in LA mayor's race

 

March 1, 2022

Topics: Russia invades Ukraine, LA mayoral primary campaign begins

1. On Tuesday, February 22nd Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into the separatist eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass.  The following day, Russia began a full-scale invasion of the rest of Ukraine, launching a multi-pronged pincer attack.  With Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, facing missile bombardment, Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy declared martial law and ordered every male Ukrainian between 18 and 60 to remain in the country to participate in a counter-offensive.  US President Joe Biden condemned the invasion as "premeditated" and has imposed new sanctions against Russia, as have many European states.  So far, however, European states have hesitated over removing Russia from the global banking network known as SWIFT, fearing rising energy costs.  It is expected the conflict between Russia and Ukraine will further increase inflation globally and especially in the US and Asia.

What does Putin want in Ukraine? The conflict explained

Zelenskyy says he's open to talks with Russia; EU support for Ukraine grows - live updates

West prepares to play 'long game' on Russian sanctions

Eight sobering realities about Putin's invasion of Ukraine

S&P 500 closes 1.5% higher after sharp reversal, as traders shake off Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Will Russia Invasion of Ukraine Embolden China?

2. On Tuesday, February 22nd candidates for LA mayoral election participated in the first primary debate.  The primary election is scheduled for Tuesday, June 7, with the top-two finishers competing in the general election, Tuesday, November 8.  Of the six declared candidates, five participated in the debate: LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, realtor Mel Wilson, LA City Councilman Kevin de Leon, U.S. House Representative Karen Bass and LA City Councilman Joe Buscaino.  Absent from the debate for scheduling reasons was real-estate developer Rick Caruso.  Polls show that homelessness as well as public safety are the main issues on voters' minds.  However, pledges among the candidates to maintain or even increase LA policing was met with protest at the debate.  The LA Police Union recently endorsed Caruso, after he pledged to add 1,500 more officers.  Representative Bass, who has proposed maintaining current police numbers but moving 250 more officers onto patrol duty, currently leads the race in early polling.

L.A. on the Record: The mayor's race is 108 days out

LA mayoral candidates debate pressing issues

2022 LA Mayoral election will be one of the most intense

Karen Bass raises most money in 2022 LA mayoral election

LA Times poll finds Karen Bass takes early lead in LA mayor's race

 

February 22, 2022

Topics: Homelessness in Los Angeles, Canadian Anti-Mandate Protests

1. In January 2019, Los Angeles County had 58,936 people experiencing homelessness.  By January 2020, the number had risen to 66,433.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the county's annual count of the unhoused was cancelled in 2021, but is set to restart this week, in February, 2022.  Most expect the count to again reveal an increase, this despite the passage in 2016 of LA City Proposition HHH, which authorized $1.2 billion in bond funding to address homelessness and the passage in 2017 of LA County Measure H, which authorized a 10-year, quarter-cent sales tax increase to further fund homeless services.  With public sentiment beginning to turn on the issue, and with the up-coming June 7 primary election for the LA Mayoral race, elected officials have taken up a range of positions on how to address the issue, from the criminalization of encampments to the requisition of empty buildings.

'Indelible mark of shame': L.A. pivots to clearing homeless camps amid Covid surge, housing crisis

Super Bowl 2022 shines light on LA's homeless crisis: 'There's no hiding this problem'

'Dying on the streets': Homelessness crisis is top issue in Los Angeles mayoral race

2. On January 28, 2022, a "Freedom Convoy" of tens of thousands of protesters in pick-up trucks, eighteen-wheelers and SUVs shut down much of downtown Ottawa, Canada's federal capital.  The cause of the protest was the introduction of a law which requires truck-drivers who enter the country, including Canadian ones, either to be fully vaccinated or to stick to quarantine rules.  The protest has inspired imitators around the world, including in Israel and New Zealand.  To clear the protesters, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and his governing Liberal Party invoked the 1988 Emergency Act for the first time, granting authorities sweeping powers, including the ability to freeze the financial assets of those participating in the protests.  Critics of such measures, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, warn of the threat to civil liberties involved in such a response.

Canadian Freedom Convoy: What new charges, financial sanctions will come after protesters leave Ottawa?

NZ, Australia vaccine mandates protests gain in numbers

There Are No Winners in the Canadian Protests

Canada's increasingly autocratic government

The Neoliberal War on Dissent in the West

 

February 15, 2022

Topics: Ukraine-Russia Potential Invasion, Congressional Stock Trading

1. Despite diplomatic efforts, America and Europe are still no closer to ending Russia's military threat to Ukraine.  After talks in Moscow, French president Emmanuel Macron said that Russian president Vladimir Putin had promised not to escalate the situation, but Russia denied that.  In Washington, American president Joe Biden said a Russian invasion would prompt the cancellation of Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany; Oalf Scholz, Germany's new chancellor, however, did not confirm if Germany would support such a cancellation.  

Biden meets privately with national security team on Russia-Ukraine crisis

U.S has intel that Russian commanders have orders to proceed with Ukraine invasion

Ukraine tensions: Biden agrees in principle to summit with Putin

2. In 2012, the US Congress passed the STOCK Act, meant to ban its members from trading stocks on non-public information obtained as sitting members of Congress.  However, the issue was far from resolved, as enforcement of the act has been flawed.  As a result, some contend that members of Congress should be completely banned from trading stocks while in office.  Three Senators have recently introduced two bills to that effect.  Jon Ossoff, a Democrat elected in George in 2021, introduced the Ban Congressional Stock Trading Act on January 12 with Mark Kelly, a Democratic senator for Arizona.  The next day, Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, introduced his Banning Insider Trading in Congress Act.  Despite broad public support, both bills face large hurdles to surmount.  

57 members of Congress have violated a law designed to stop insider trading and prevent conflicts-of-interest

There's finally momentum to stop stock trading in Congress

Stock ban proposed for Congress to stop insider trading among lawmakers

 

October 28, 2021

Topics: IATSE and Workers Rights

1. In the past week, a major strike within the film industry was averted, preventing the the shut down of thousands of productions across the country. The strike pertained to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) calling for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers' (AMPTP) to address ongoing workplace problems, such as excessive working hours and unlivable wages, specifically as they relate to new media. This week, we will discuss the strike as it relates to the recent trend towards workers demanding more rights, better wages, and better working conditions, reflected not only by the strike, but the labor shortages seen in the past few months.

EXPLAINER: What’s behind the looming Hollywood strike?

 
 

October 7, 2021

Topics: Current debate in Congress over infrastructure bills and the role of the United Nations.

1. In early August, the Senate passed a huge bipartisan infrastructure bill that included funding to fix roads, bridges, transportation, broadband improvement, and some environmental remediation. During a time of intense partisan polarization, the bipartisan support for the bill in the Senate was striking. However, the bill has yet to pass the House because progressives are trying to pass President Biden's "Build Back Better" proposal, a $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” bill, which includes child care support, affordable housing, affordable education, and investment in clean energy.

Here's what's in the bipartisan infrastructure bill

'Wrong': Bernie Sanders Rejects Kyrsten Sinema's Criticism of Infrastructure Bill Delay

A top House progressive says $1.5 trillion is not enough to pass social spending plan

2. In recent times, the United Nations has faced several issues that have major implications for the international community as well as being a test to the institution. Just this past week, Ethiopia’s federal government declared seven senior UN officials as “persona non grata,” unwelcome in the country. The expulsions reflect a broader trend of government hostility toward aid agencies and obstruction of humanitarian assistance in violation of international humanitarian law.  At the same time, in a statement released on Sunday, North Korea warned the U.N. Security Council not to criticize its missile program. The statement included unspecified threats against the international body. The Political Science Club will be examining the relevance of the United Nations.

Millions at Risk as Ethiopia Expels UN Officials

North Korea threatens top UN body after emergency meeting

September 30, 2021

Topics: Haitian migrants and the Australia, United Kingdom, United States (AUKUS) submarine deal.

1. Thousands of Haitian migrants who had gathered on the southern border were deported back to their home country last week, even though some of them haven't lived there for a decade. They'd been living in Chile. But increasingly, Haitians in that country are fleeing, in response to a pandemic-battered economy, rising anti-immigrant sentiment, and new government policies.

Why A Growing Number Of Haitian Migrants Are Headed To The U.S.

2. Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom have all signed onto a deal -- referred to as AUKUS -- with each other to create a new nuclear-powered submarine class. The announcement of the deal came as an unwelcome surprised to the French government which had already signed a deal to build submarines for Australia. The deal, originally signed in 2016, has faced a series of legal challenges in France. As a result, none have been produced. When the AUKUS deal was announced, the French government recalled their ambassadors from the United States and Australia because they were upset by being kept in the dark and for not being included in the deal. This is happening at a time when President Biden promised to begin to mend relations that were strained under the Trump administration.

Questions for the U.S. pile up in the wake of Australian sub deal

September 23, 2021

Topics: In a special Political Science Club meeting, Prof. Karl Striepe (pronounced streep-uh) discussed journals of importance to political scientists, emphasizing those of particular value to students including Perspectives on Political Science, PS: Political Science & Politics, among others. In future presentations, Prof. Striepe will discuss important books in political science. 

 

September 16, 2021

Topics: The California Gubenatorial Recall Election and President Biden's recent vaccine plan. 

 1. California Gov. Gavin Newsom staved off an attempt to remove him from office on Tuesday, September 14, 2021. Newsom, a Democrat, faced serious headwinds and multiple crises as polls over the summer showed him in real jeopardy of being recalled. With the help of party leaders including President Joe Biden, Vice President Harris and others, Newsom succeeded in rousing Democratic voters with a message that warned a Republican replacement would roll back Covid protections and betray the state's progressive character. The recall election asked voters whether Newsom should be removed — "yes" or "no" — and gave voters who wanted him ousted the choice of 46 alternatives. As of this posting (9/15/2021 at 11:35am), nearly 64% voted against recalling the governor. 

The No's have it - Gov. Gavin Newsom survives in California recall election

5 takeaways after California governor handily defeats recall

2. On 9 September 2021, President Biden announced a series of vaccine mandates that will affect over 100 million Americans: all federal employees and contractors, workers at companies with over 100 employees, federal workers who are employed at a health care provider receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding, and employees at schools receiving Head Start funding, among others. Republican governors immediately announced their intention to challenge these mandates in court, including Govs. Brian Kemp (R-GA) and Kristi Noem (R-SD). Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state has lifted virtually all pandemic mitigation measures, said in a press conference that he opposes mandates of any kind. 

Biden to vaccine mandate legal challengers: 'Have at it'

Biden to announce vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 employees

September 9, 2021

Topics: The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report -- since we did not have to discuss it last week -- and the Texas law pertaining to abortions. 

 1. The recent IPCC report, which characterizes climate change as (1) clearly "human-caused," (2) "unequivocal," and (3) "an established fact,” makes more precise and warmer forecasts for the 21st century than the report issued in 2013. The report exams five possible scenarios for the future, based on realistic assumptions about how much carbon emissions are likely to be cut. In all five scenarios, carbon emissions exceed the thresholds set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Under each scenario, the report indicates that the world will cross the 1.5-degree-Celsius warming mark in the 2030s, earlier than some past predictions. 

‘Code red’: UN scientists warn of worsening global warming

Scientists challenge 'alarm bells' in IPCC climate change report: 'Not the end of the world'

2. Gov. Abbott (R-TX) recently signed a law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion after the point at which medical professionals can detect cardiac activity (i.e., usually around six weeks), before many women are even aware they are pregnant. The law not only allows private citizens to sue abortion providers. If a person drives a woman to a clinic or provides financial assistance to obtain an abortion, they can be sued. The law makes no exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest. Additionally, the private citizens who bring these suits don't need to show any connection to those they are suing.

What The Texas Abortion Ban Does — And What It Means For Other States

Supreme Court votes 5-4 to leave Texas abortion law in place

September 2, 2021

Topics:  The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and the situation in Afghanistan. 

 1. The recent IPCC report, which characterizes climate change as (1) clearly "human-caused," (2) "unequivocal," and (3) "an established fact,” makes more precise and warmer forecasts for the 21st century than the report issued in 2013. The report exams five possible scenarios for the future, based on realistic assumptions about how much carbon emissions are likely to be cut. In all five scenarios, carbon emissions exceed the thresholds set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Under each scenario, the report indicates that the world will cross the 1.5-degree-Celsius warming mark in the 2030s, earlier than some past predictions. 

‘Code red’: UN scientists warn of worsening global warming

Scientists challenge 'alarm bells' in IPCC climate change report: 'Not the end of the world'

2.  The last U.S. plane departed Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai International Airport a few hours before dawn, marking the end of America's longest war and leaving the country's future in disarray and uncertainty under Taliban rule. Taliban fighters and their supporters rallied across Afghanistan to celebrate the end of 20 years of foreign military presence on Tuesday, while in Washington, President Biden defended his decision to end the conflict as well as the execution of the evacuation and withdrawal. 

 

Biden defends departure from ‘forever war,’ praises airlift

Council of Foreign Relations: Timeline of the war in Afghanistan 

The last US troops have departed Afghanistan

SPRING 2021 MEETINGS

May 14, 2021

Topics: Removal of Rep. Cheney from GOP leadership, Israeli-Palestinian conflict

 1. After the January 6th riot at the Capitol Building, a schism has emerged between those who support former President Donald Trump and those who do not. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the third highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, has been one of the most vocal of those who have rebuked Trump for inciting the attack on January 6th.  In response, the House Republicans, with the support of Minority Leader McCarthy, voted to remove her from her position of Conference Chair.

Cheney on Trump: 'He's going to unravel the democracy to come back into power' (CNN)

What Liz Cheney told Republican colleagues before they quickly voted her out (FoxNews)

GOP Ousts Cheney From Leadership Over Her Criticism Of Trump (NPR)

2.  The Israeli-Palestine conflict escalated erupted into violence after protests over the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers from East Jerusalem. Israel appears to be pressing ahead with a fierce military offensive in the Gaza Strip, killing as many as 10 senior Hamas military figures and toppling a pair of high-rise towers housing Hamas facilities in airstrikes. Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, showed no signs of backing down and fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities. The United Nations is warning that there is a potential of an "all out war." 

Israel steps up Gaza offensive, kills senior Hamas figures (AP)

The explosion of Israeli-Palestinian violence poses a test for Biden (CNN)

Judith Miller: Israel-Palestinian conflict – why violence has real consequences for Israel's Arabs, Hamas (FoxNews)

April 22, 2021

Topics: Derek Chauvin guilty verdict, DC Statehood, 

 1. Derek Chauvin, the police officer primarily involved in the death of George Floyd, was found guilty of second degree murder, third degree murder, and manslaughter on Tuesday April 20, 2021. This court decision has sparked a variety of opinions on the outcome of the case as well as the implications of this court decision for future similar situations.

Derek Chauvin Found Guilty Of George Floyd's Murder

Democrats characterize Derek Chauvin verdict as progress, not justice

Derek Chauvin guilty of murder in George Floyd's death

2.  The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to pass a bill that would grant statehood to Washington, DC, a Democratic priority that faces obstacles to final passage even with the party now in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. The party line vote was 216-208.  

House passes bill that would grant DC statehood

House passes DC statehood bill to make district 51st state after heated floor debate

 

March 26, 2021

Topics: Spa Shootings/Stop the Asian Hate, Crisis at the southern border. 

1. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Asian Americans have received hate crimes as a result of the COVID-19 disease originating from Wuhan, China. On March 16, three different shootings occurred throughout spas in Atlanta, Georgia. Unfortunately eight victims were found dead, six of them being Asian. This shooting was suspected to specifically target Asians, causing outrage in the Asian American community for hatred and discrimination against their culture. Robert Aaron Long has been identified as a suspect for the shootings and was arrested with charges for murder.

Sources:

8 dead in Atlanta-area shootings, suspect arrested

Georgia massage parlors turn into war zones

2. Currently at the United States southern border thousands of immigrants are being kept in border patrol detention centers with children and teens separated from their families. The United States government has fallen under heavy scrutiny for the treatment of the immigrants along side not allowing media sources in to document the situation withing the border detention centers. On Wednesday, March 25 President Joe Biden formally appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to assess and respond to the current crisis at the southern border

Sources:

How the current US-Mexico border crisis compares with the peak of the Trump era in 2019

Biden appoints Vice President Harris as point person to address migrant surge

Despite 'Ample Warning,' U.S. Was Unprepared For Latest Surge Of Migrant Children

April 2, 2021

Topics: Crisis at the southern border, Trial of Derek Chauvin

 1. Currently, at the southern border of the United States, thousands of immigrants are being kept in border patrol detention centers with children and teens separated from their families. The Biden administration was being heavily criticized for not allowing media sources to view the detention centers.  They have since allowed some media outlets to view the facilities. On Wednesday, March 25 President Joe Biden formally appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to assess and respond to the current crisis at the southern border. Since then, the number of unaccompanied minors continues to rise. 

Sources:

How the current US-Mexico border crisis compares with the peak of the Trump era in 2019

Biden appoints Vice President Harris as point person to address migrant surge

Despite 'Ample Warning,' U.S. Was Unprepared For Latest Surge Of Migrant Children

2.  On May 25, 2000, George Floyd died after being detained by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. When Floyd's final moments, recorded on video, were made public, demonstrations erupted in scores of cities across the country as veteran activists and newfound allies alike rallied to the cause of racial justice. While the vast majority of the demonstrations were peaceful, there were also incidences of looting and destruction of property.  Chauvin faces three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and a lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty. For many, the significance of the trial extends beyond determining the guilt or innocence of Derek Chauvin. Many view it as an opportunity for the judicial system to demonstrate that people of color, especially those in the black community, can seek and receive justice in court. Although it has received less attention, former officers J. Alexander Kueng and two other officers, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, were also charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter.  

 Chauvin trial continues

Top homicide detective says Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd was 'totally unnecessary'

Derek Chauvin trial: New footage shows George Floyd pleading with officers

 

March 26, 2021

Topics: Spa Shootings/Stop the Asian Hate, Crisis at the southern border. 

1. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Asian Americans have received hate crimes as a result of the COVID-19 disease originating from Wuhan, China. On March 16, three different shootings occurred throughout spas in Atlanta, Georgia. Unfortunately eight victims were found dead, six of them being Asian. This shooting was suspected to specifically target Asians, causing outrage in the Asian American community for hatred and discrimination against their culture. Robert Aaron Long has been identified as a suspect for the shootings and was arrested with charges for murder.

Sources:

8 dead in Atlanta-area shootings, suspect arrested

Georgia massage parlors turn into war zones

2. Currently at the United States southern border thousands of immigrants are being kept in border patrol detention centers with children and teens separated from their families. The United States government has fallen under heavy scrutiny for the treatment of the immigrants along side not allowing media sources in to document the situation withing the border detention centers. On Wednesday, March 25 President Joe Biden formally appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to assess and respond to the current crisis at the southern border

Sources:

How the current US-Mexico border crisis compares with the peak of the Trump era in 2019

Biden appoints Vice President Harris as point person to address migrant surge

Despite 'Ample Warning,' U.S. Was Unprepared For Latest Surge Of Migrant Children

March 19, 2021

Topics: The Filibuster, Legislative Obstructionism, and Voter Suppression and other topics TBD. 

1. With the Senate evenly split 50/50, some Democrats are calling to either abolish or fundamentally modify the filibuster after Republican state legislatures started passing bills designed to make it more difficult for people to vote. Democrats claim the voting restrictions are intended to reduce voter turnout among groups that typically support the Democratic Party (e.g., blacks, Hispanics, young people). Under the normal rules of the Senate, Democrats need the support of 10 Republican Senators to pass any legislation. (This is because 60 votes are needed to end debate and vote on a bill). Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have made it clear that they plan to use the filibuster to prevent Congress from passing legislation in support of President Biden's agenda. 

Sources:

Anti-filibuster liberals face a Senate math problem

As filibuster clash paralyzes Senate, Democratic frustration grows

March 12, 2021

Topics: (1) Governor Cuomo Allegations (2) Texas and other states opening up (3) the Filibuster and Legislative Obstructionism

1. Governor Cuomo (D-NY) has recently been accused of sexual harassment. A Times Union article published complaints from a woman (who has not been identified) stating that Gov. Cuomo engaged in inappropriate misconduct in the governor's mansion. This is the sixth allegation of sexual harassment. Gov. Cuomo continues to deny the allegations made against him. However, some Democratic party members are calling for his resignation or possible impeachment.

Sources:

New York Democrats start to discuss running for governor as Cuomo resists calls to resign

Cuomo faces new sexual harassment allegation, this time at Executive Mansion

Report: Cuomo groped female aide in governor’s residence

2. On March 2, Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) announced that the mask mandate for Texas would be lifted through an Executive Order against the advice of public health experts. Gov. Abbott plans to completely reopen Texas by March 10. The Governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves has also taken the initiative to reopen Mississippi along with Texas. President Joe Biden has expressed his concerns towards the reopening of states while vaccines are still being administered.

Sources:

Governor Abbott Lifts Mask Mandate, Opens Texas 100 Percent

Texas and Mississippi to lift mask mandates and roll back Covid restrictions

3. With the Senate evenly split 50/50, some Democrats are calling to either abolish or fundamentally modify the filibuster after Republican state legislatures started passing bills designed to make it more difficult for people to vote. Democrats claim the voting restrictions are intended to reduce voter turnout among groups that typically support the Democratic Party (e.g., blacks, Hispanics, young people). Under the normal rules of the Senate, Democrats need the support of 10 Republican Senators to pass any legislation. Senate Republicans, led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have made it clear that they plan to use the filibuster to prevent Congress from passing legislation in support of President Biden's agenda. 

Sources:

Anti-filibuster liberals face a Senate math problem

As filibuster clash paralyzes Senate, Democratic frustration grows

 

March 5, 2021

Topics: (1) Protests in Myanmar, (2) COVID Relief Bill, (3) President Biden orders bombing of Syria.  
1. In Myanmar's 2020 parliamentary election, the National League for Democracy (NLD) competed with various smaller parties, including the military-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The NLD,  under the leadership of Suu Kyi,  won the election in a landslide, winning 396 out of 476 elected seats in parliament. The USDP,  regarded as a proxy for the Myanmar military,  won only 33 of the 476 elected seats. (According to Myanmar's 2008 Constitution, which was written by the military, the NLD retains additional unelected seats amounting to 25% of the parliament -- allowing it to veto constitutional changes). As the election results began emerging, the USDP rejected them, urging a new election with the military as observers. While more than 90 other small parties contested the vote, Myanmar's Union Election Commission (UEC) declared there were no major irregularities in the voting. The military, which claimed to have found 8 million irregularities in voter lists in over 300 townships, called on the UEC and government to review the results. The commission dismissed the claims for lack of any evidence. On February 1, the day parliament was set to convene, Myanmar's military detained the head of the NLD and other members of the ruling party. The military declared a state of emergency for one year and began closing the borders, restricting travel and electronic communications nationwide. Protesters have been battling in the streets ever since. (Wikipedia)

Sources:

UN agency says at least 18 dead as Myanmar police ramp up use of force on protesters after military coup

Myanmar protesters undeterred after bloodiest day

2. On February 27th, the House of Representatives passed its $1.9 trillion Coronavirus Relief Package by a vote of 219-212. The vote was mostly along party lines with two  two Democrats joining all Republicans in opposing it. The Senate is currently debating the bill. Democrats hope to pass the legislation by March 14, when current unemployment aid programs expire. The bill likely to pass the Senate differs from the House bill in two important respects. First, the House bill included a provision that would have increased the federal minimum wage to $15.00 over a number of years. The Parliamentarian, who is responsible for ensuring that the rules of the Senate are followed, determined that the minimum wage increase could not be passed using the reconciliation process. Additionally, the House bill provided $1,400 checks to couples and individuals making $200,000 or  $100,000 a year, respectively. The Senate version of the bill lowered the income caps to couples and individuals making $160,000 and $80,000, respectively. Republicans in the Senate are employing a number of tactics to slow down passage of the bill but it appears to be on target to pass within the next week. 

Sources:

House passes $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, sends it to Senate

The latest on the COVID-19 stimulus bill

Sen. Ron Johnson to delay $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill by having all 600+ pages read in the Senate

3. On February 26, President Joe Biden ordered airstrikes on buildings in Syria that the Pentagon said were used by Iranian-backed militias to attack U.S. targets in Iraq.
Citing unconfirmed local reports, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes killed at least 22 people. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby portrayed the bombings as carefully calibrated, “proportionate” and “defensive.” According to NBC News, "The president’s decision appeared aimed at sending a signal to Iran and its proxies in the region that Washington would not tolerate attacks on its personnel in Iraq..."  Senators from both parties expressed frustration that they were not notified ahead of time about the strikes. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) told Politico, “I learned about it on the news. I’m on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees. I don’t think I should be learning about it that way.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican hawks said they supported Biden’s decision, underscoring the blurring of partisan lines on the issue of presidential war powers.

Sources:

Biden administration still hasn't briefed top senators on Syria strike

Biden orders airstrikes in Syria, retaliating against Iran-backed militias

US firepower in Syria strike is revealed as officials brace for Iran's next move

February 26, 2021

Topics: (1) Trump at CPAC, (2) Biden nominations, (3) Report on Death of Jamal Khashoggi
1. Former President Trump will give his first political speech since leaving office on Sunday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a four-day event that began last night. The annual event, which is hosted by the American Conservative Union, is attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States. A handful of would-be presidential hopefuls will be on hand for this year's conference, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, as well as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri. However, recent polls suggested that former President Trump is the overwhelming favorite among CPAC attendees. Additionally, GOP leaders who have been critical of former President Trump, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, or Rep. Liz Cheney were not given any speaking time. Is former President Trump the de facto leader of the Republican Party, despite losing his re-election bid? And, if so, what does that mean for the Republican Party in 2022 and 2024? 

Sources:

Trump to reemerge on political scene at CPAC (The Hill)

Former Ambassador Haley isolated after Trump fallout (The Hill)

CPAC kicks off as Trump, Republicans eyeing 2024 campaigns seize chance to woo conservatives

2. The first task of any incoming administration is to have the new president's Cabinet choices approved by the United States Senate.  As of Thursday, the Senate has confirmed 10 out of 23 of President Biden's Cabinet members including Avril Hanies (Director of National Intelligence), Anthony Blinken (Secretary of State), Llyod Austin (Secretary of Defense) among others. However, President Biden's nominee for Chief of the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden, is running into opposition. Most troubling for President Biden is the fact that Sen. Manchin (D-WV) publicly announced his intention to oppose her nomination. The challenge President Biden is facing in securing Tandem's nomination may be a harbinger of things to come. In order for President Biden enact his agenda, he will need the support of every Democratic Senator including progressives such as Sens. Sanders (I-VT) and Warren (D-MA), centrists such as Sens. Tester (D-MT) and Kelly (D-AZ) and conservatives such as Sens. Machin, and Sinema.  How will the ideological diversity of the Democratic Party affect President Biden's ability to carry out his agenda?

Sources:

Key senators oppose Biden budget pick, confirmation at risk

Why hasn't Biden given up on Neera Tanden yet?

3. On October 2, 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen living in Northern Virginia and writing columns for The Washington Post, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents related to his planned marriage. He was never seen again. Although the Saudi government initially denied any knowledge of his death, Saudi Arabia's Attorney General eventually stated that the murder was premeditated and convicted five Saudi citizens. In November of 2018, the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, had ordered Khashoggi's assassination. The Biden administration is expected to release a report soon that addresses the key question in the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: What role, if any, did Saudi Arabia's crown prince have in the death?If the report by the U.S. intelligence community implicates Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it could damage the already complicated relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia. 

Sources:

Biden Administration Poised To Release Report On Killing Of Jamal Khashoggi

February 19, 2021

Topics:
We will begin by discussing the continued power outages and disruption of water service in Texas and elsewhere as a result of the recent storm.  

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