• State of the Union Mayhem: President Obama gave his 8th and final State of the Union
speech on Tuesday evening. Whatever your politics, it was one helluva speech. He took
shots at every Republican in the country -- the only really bipartisan efforts mentioned
21:Late Night Legislation). It seems to some of us that Obama used his last SOTU
address to air out a bunch of dirty laundry, all while keeping his own soiled
undergarments close to his chest. It was an entertaining hour-long vent, if nothing
else. Affordable Care Act aside, we view the President's last 7 years as typical,
status-quo politics. The Economist called Obama's speech "an effort to stake out,
ahead of Iowa, the ground for legitimate debate in a civilized society." We'll see.
• Sixth Republican Debate Tonight: Steve Holland and Emily Stephenson write for
Reuters, and they think there could be fireworks on tonight's debate. Fireworks?
Yes. Informed public debate? Probably not. And we're not just taking jabs at
Republicans -- Democratic debates have been full of grandstanding, as well. And
that's not to mention the atrocious job CNN did of moderating one the DNC's
exchanges. Mind you, tonight's debate will be moderated by Neil Cavuto and Maria
Bartiromo of Fox Business Channel. Anderson Cooper, eat your heart out. What we
expect: a lot of fighting and a lot of sound-bites. Watch out for the bullshit.
• Panda Watch 2016: Just kidding, we're talking about the presidential candidates.
Here's where everyone stands, according to national polls. In the Iowa Democratic
Presidential Caucus (Bloomberg/DM Register Poll), Clinton is polling at 42%,
Sanders at 40% -- Hillary is likely freaking out. Bernie isn't supposed to be doing that
well. This is very reminiscent of 2008. For the Republicans (Iowa Caucus,
CBS/NYTimes Poll): Trump at 36%, Cruz at 19%, Rubio at 12%, Carson and Bush at
6%. And Chris "Krispy-Kreme" Christie is pulling 3%. Good for you, pal, have a
donut. The Republican numbers could change wildly after tonight.
• Besides outrage from Republicans over the President's SOTU address and the
specter of an entertaining political knife fight on TV tonight, there is not much new
to report on the political front. The Iowa Caucuses kick off in less than a month, so
things should start getting interesting soon. The two biggest themes here: Trump
and Sanders. I don't think anyone put either of these two this close to their respective
party's nods. They are there, however, for incredibly different reasons.
• US Thanks Iran for Swift Release of 10 Navy Sailors: "The sailors were detained on
Tuesday when one of their two vessels broke down while training in the Gulf." 10
"Sailors," "training" in the Persian Gulf? Those are very poor euphemisms for "10
Navy SEALs," "on an operation" in the Persian Gulf. With their safety procured, we
are left to wonder what was actually going on. I, for one, do not buy the headline.
The US military does train on foreign soil, but that foreign soil is almost
unequivocally found within the borders of our allies.
• Ten Sunni Mosques Bombed in Iraq: According to Turath Mahmoud al-Azzawi, the
bombings "were perpetrated in an organized way and some of them were committed
at security inspecting points. Armed men dismount from military vehicles, enter the
mosque then bomb it using explosives." A member of the Iraqi parliament referred
to the attacks as "purely racist," and claimed that they were aimed at sabotaging the
relationship between Kurds and Shiites.
• IDF Readying Itself for Threat from ISIS in the Sinai: Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)
have been changing their training strategies and tactics to focus more on fighting in
urban areas and "protecting southern Israeli agricultural farms, which may be
vulnerable to infiltration by ISIS elements," according to ynetnews. This is the 3rd
time they've changed strategies. According to a senior IDF official, "We in the IDF
have improved our lethality. We also understand that the threat has changed, and
have made moves that will answer the blows they have yet to land." Israeli officials
are concerned about their shared border with Egypt, where, evidently, Egyptians
have been fighting ISIS.
• ISIS Attack Kills 10, injures 15 in Istanbul's Sultanahmet: An explosion on Tuesday
in one of Istanbul's beloved tourist districts has killed 10 people. According to
Hurriyet Daily News, the suicide bomber recently entered Turkey from Syria.
Another high-profile attack at the hands of the Islamic State.
• Islamic State has the media priority in the Middle East -- little reporting is done that
does not have them involved. The burden that the refugee crisis puts on neighboring
states, coupled with consistent violence, is making the situation difficult for
government officials, specifically, Angela Merkel. Iran has historically been
uncomfortable with the US presence in the Gulf, and the US Navy has constantly
maintained a two-carrier presence, at least. It is almost surprising to me that it has
taken this long for a spat to arise. But to be sure, another country's Naval vessels
found "training" off the coast of Florida would probably be met with a more
aggressive response from our officials.
• Internet Service Providers Trying to Screw You: Republicans are trying to pass a bill
that would allow ISPs to, essentially, charge whatever they want for internet access,
and the FCC could be left holding its member and without recourse. The "No Rate
Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act" is the name of the bill. Presently, the
FCC can investigate consumer claims that they're being overcharged for services,
and this bill could eliminate that ability. More legislation, written vaguely, that could
be interpreted in myriad of ways. ArsTechnica is a great source for the latest.
• We're running the "lite" version on our tech coverage this week -- still ramping things
up. With that said, our focus has been and will continue to remain on technology's
impacts on society, legal issues and privacy. Also, we really don't like it when
companies and politicians conspire to stick it to consumers.
• December Jobs Report: Total nonfarm jobs increased by 292,000 in December, with
the current unemployment rate unchanged at 5%. This is a pretty significant jobs
number – 2014 and 2015, combined, saw ~3 million new jobs created. We haven’t
seen employment gains like that since the late ‘90s. Macroeconomist Dean Baker (co-
director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research) sees trouble in some key
areas still: “even as unemployment has fallen, there has been no increase in the pace of
nominal wage growth... the most recent data actually show the rate of wage growth
You can find Dean’s entire piece on TruthOut.
• Questioning Capitalism?: Economist Richard Wolff just released his latest weekly
economic update podcast, and boy, is it interesting. He breaks down the meaning of
capitalism as an economic system, which is great because there’s a lot of confusion.
Free Enterprise, Private Enterprise, Public Enterprise, Free Market… what does all of
it mean and what should we be doing? Is there a way to incorporate the democratic
model in our private enterprises? Mr. Wolff thinks so, and I am starting to agree.
Listen to his latest show here.
• Chinese Market Turmoil: Chinese stock markets have started 2016 off with the wrong
kind of bang. The Shanghai Composite is off 8.5%, after plunging lows of 15%. Put
another way, ~$1 trillion in market value has gone up in smoke in less than two
weeks. All of this stems from fears that the Chinese economy is slowing and
responding sluggishly to government intervention. Some analysts have already begun
claiming that this is an isolated problem. Markets stateside have reacted by kicking off
the new year with the worst performance in over 90 years. Ouch.
• Jobs. People need them, and, increasingly, they have them. But we think the bigger
story here is wages – they’ve been sluggish-to-stagnant for decades, while corporate
profitability has sky-rocketed. Richard Wolff poses the question: “if you have nothing
but your ability to work, with which to get the goods and services that you need to
live, how free, exactly, are you?” Probably not that free. China's problems could very
well become our problems. If we learned anything from the 2008 meltdown and the
ensuing fallout, it's that our global markets are more interconnected than ever. Greece
circa 2010 was Europe's September 2008 in the United States. Stay tuned.
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The Weekly Bust
Jan 14 2016
We're pretty convinced our democracy isn't working that great, and we have reason to believe that these problems are systemic. We will be covering a lot of these topics in our news updates. The recent spending bill passed in December was stuffed full of unwanted legislation. There's a major trade deal in the works -- the Trans Pacific Partnership. It would make private tribunals for corporations, allowing them to circumvent national laws. Help us get the word out.
A number of us have spent time on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. We've been at war for over a decade. New threats have emerged from the Islamic State, with a growing number of attacks taking place throughout the world. Mr. "X" brings his intelligence experience to bear by keeping us all up-to-date.
We're very concerned about the effect technology has on society and government. With the latest passing of a hush-hush Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act in the U.S., we grow worried. The fine line between security and liberty is getting blurred. France now faces renewed uncertainty as they grapple with a recent terrorist attack. And Edward Snowden is still seen as a traitor in the eyes of many in Washington. Jeff is our guy.
Dan lived through the financial melt-down of 2008, and although markets have rebounded in spectacular fashion, there is plenty to address. Recent tremors in Chinese markets have been felt in the U.S. Income inequality has become a major buzzword, and the prospects of a $15 minimum wage pose questions. We think there is a lot to talk about, and we'll be digging through the sludge in search of what's relevant. For Dan's latest article, click here.
A lot of our key themes have within them inherent questions of constitutionality. The 1st and 2nd amendments are a constant talking point. Blake cuts through the noise to give you an independent view of the issues and their standing with the constitution.
Middle East & ISIS
Tech & Privacy
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