Monday, July 16, 2012

We've moved!

We're makin' moves here at Conflict Revolution, so come visit us at our new spiffy location and official domain!

Be sure to stay connected to us via facebook and twitter as well for all of our most recent updates and posts. 

If this is the first time you've visited our blog, please join us on our new, more comprehensive website.  If you're already a loyal reader of CR, thanks for all the support you've given us as we've worked to get our proverbial foot in the revolving door of cultural punditry and 24/7 hack commentary.  We've got a long way to go. 

Either way, we look forward to seeing you at the new digs. 

-Matt, Stephen, and the rest of the CR team

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wednesday Morning News and Updates

As an attempt to stimulate the African American vote towards the Republican party, Mitt Romney was booed today at the NAACP conference for promising to repeal Obamacare. After being caught off guard, Romney went off script to explain that a survey of the Chamber of Commerce revealed that members were not hiring as many people due to the new health care reform. He also acknowledged that 90% of African Americans vote for Democrats, but wanted to ensure that if he won he would be representing every race, religion, and sexual orientation. Good effort, Romney.

Speculation continues on the death of Eva Rausing, one of England's richest women, after being discovered dead in her home due to her husband's arrest on suspicion of possession of illegal drugs. Could this become the next OJ Simpson case? 

Fourteen European countries, many of them the already on the front line of the European financial crisis, are considering raising their retirement age to 67 and 69 by 2050. Riots and uproar are expected to come from these European countries, but due to the increase in senior citizens as well as unemployment rate among young people, Europe has been backed into a corner. 

The Justice Department and FBI have launched a review on thousands of criminal cases dating back to at least 1985 due to flawed forensic evidence. The Washington Post began this report early April with two men convicted of crimes based on FBI hair analysis that wrongly placed them at the crime scene. The Post have also claimed that the Department and FBI have both known the potential flaw in their DNA evidence, and is now paying the price for it. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Debunking Liberal Economics Volume 1 "A College Degree is the Key to the Middle Class" Issue 2: What are we paying for?

I’ll start this post by highlighting how when people like Matt talk about how we need more federal funding for college, they often highlight how engineers and computer scientists create real value in the economy. I’ll start by agreeing, yes those degrees do create value. However, unfortunately, we don’t have much reason to think that federal funding is actually creating more engineering degrees. Let’s look at some statistics from the Department of Education, shall we?

Tuesday Morning News and Updates

Major global financial institutions, such as the London interbank offered rate, JP Morgan, and Citigroup, are currently under the scrutiny of British and American lawmakers. Politicians are questioning whether regulators allowed false rates to be reported by major banks that led up to the economic crisis in 2008. The litigation as well as investigation is still underway.

CIA's decision to eliminate Osama bin Laden last year posing as a vaccination team has significantly impacted the progress Pakistan has made towards the eradication of polio. Due to the mistrust of vaccination teams in the country, children have not been allowed to get the right vaccinations they need in the past year. While the CIA made a decision in how to eliminate one of the country's biggest threat, have they cost the lives on innocent Pakistani children?

Current polls have determined that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are still deadlocked in the race for presidency. Who will come out on top? November will tell.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Morning News Update

Los Zetas, a Mexican drug cartel, has claimed that Bank of America has helped launder money through a Texas based racehorse business with BofA accounts. While the bank has admitted in errors of laundering in the past, the question remains whether or not Bank of America has any sort of participation in such money laundering and if they have any efforts in preventing this in the future.

At 11:50 AM this morning, President Obama proposed the extension of tax cuts for citizens earning less than $250,000 a year. This will cost the government $150 billion in revenue in 2013. While Romney's campaign efforts supports tax cuts for individuals on all income levels, will Obama's venture of building a stronger middle class win him the presidential election?

Our poor, earthquake-damaged Washington Monument has now postponed is open date to past 2014. The 5.8 earthquake that shook it last year has caused renovations to reach up to $15 million.

A seemingly death sentence to a cancer patient has turned out to become a potential cancer killing life saver. While unfortunately the patient who received the new drug therapy passed away, the new-found realization of what this drug could do has paved a new path for cancer research. 

Congratulations to Roger Federer's seventh Wimbledon title over Andy Murray this weekend. It's been more than two years since Federer has won a major title. Congrats Federer, you still got it!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Guest Post: Frederick Douglass on the 4th of July and the American Dream, 1852

File:Frederick Douglass c1860s.jpg

I hate to be "that guy" on a day of national celebration, pointing out the gross inequities and hypocrisies of an otherwise free and prosperous country. Frederick Douglass had no such qualms, however, in his scathing "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" delivered in Washington D.C. on July 5th, 1852, excerpted here:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Is this sentiment only limited to historical American hypocrisy regarding the slave trade, which President Abraham Lincoln abolished after a bloody civil war? Nay - Susan B. Anthony was not to be outdone, with the National Woman Suffrage Association's "Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States" just 24 years later.

As I continue my series on Incarceration in America, here are a couple articles more, food for thought, on this day of liberty. Freedom isn't free - literally and figuratively:

Probation Fees Rise, Firms Profit and the Poor Go to Jail - NYT

Teen on American justice: 'I'm dead' - Sentenced to 162 years in Jail


A quick post this morning before everyone gets on with their 4th of July celebrations.  With America's mid-summer FESTIVAL OF FREEDOM occurring this year on a Wednesday, time is of the essence.  At least everyone agrees that Thursday, July 5, 2012 will be among the least productive days of the year.

Stephen and I may have our political differences, but as a band of one hit wonders once said, our mutual love for America is like a river running soul deep.  In preparation for the 236th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, we're ranking our top five favorite moments in American history.

These are issued with the qualifier that there was an incomprehensible amount to choose from in this assessment, so while I can't speak for Stephen, my list may be at least as reflective of the first five things that came to my head as it is of a carefully chosen five greatest moments. 
Without further adieu, then, counting down our five greatest moments:   


Stephen: US victory over the Axis in WWII - triumph of freedom over fascism

Matt: Going a bit more unconventional with this one, because the Miracle on Ice deserves to be on here somewhere.  If there is one sports victory that symbolizes the story of America, it's the hockey triumph of a team of unheralded amateur Americans over the heavily-favored Russians in the 1980 Olympics.  That the game was in the dregs of the Cold War and had geopolitical significance, even only superficially, makes it all the better.


Stephen: Manifest Destiny.  The exploration and conquering of the West.

Matt: Building of the railroads, preceded by the building of the canals.  America's first major infrastructure projects, which set the stage for the United States to become an industrial powerhouse.


Stephen: "We hold these truths to be self evident" - the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and accompanying revolt of a small band of colonists against one of the greatest empires in the history of the world.  From day one it seemed nearly inevitable that this nation would be powerful, if just by the willpower of its people.

Matt: The progressive reform, women's suffrage, and civil rights movements of the 20th century. We've got more work to do, but the task of making good on America's political and economic promises began here.


Stephen: "One small step" - the NASA moon landing

Matt: Have to agree with Steve here, in addition to a psychological victory over the Soviet Union, the Space Race heralded unprecedented technological advances that remain with us today, including my #1...


Stephen: "Mr Gorbachev tear down this wall" the winning of the Cold War, proving economic and political freedom > communism

Matt: The invention of the internet, right here in the United States.  No other modern invention has had such a political, cultural, and economic impact on the world, all while bringing people closer together than ever before.  

If there's something you think we left off the list, be sure to tell us all about it in the comments.   Wherever you are today, be sure to celebrate our great country - if you're looking for a little bit of musical Americana, I would recommend looking no further than one Ray Charles...

Happy Independence Day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Guest Post: Obamacare, Revisited

If nothing else, Conflict Revolution aspires at least to the bottom rungs of the pundit class, so it should come as no surprise that we've given the Supreme Court decision on health care some good air time over the past few days.  Adding today to our burgeoning portfolio of analysis on this subject is Stephen DeGenaro, the second most well-known law student in America once or currently affiliated with Georgetown University.  CR readers may remember Steve's excellent legal analysis of the SCOTUS arguments over Obamacare back in March, and now that the case is settled, the closest thing Conflict Revolution has to a legal correspondent is back to dissect the final ruling. 

By Stephen DeGenaro

Matt has graciously asked me back to reflect upon the Obamacaretax decision from this past Thursday’s case, and I’m more than happy to oblige and provide insight where I can.  I have not gotten around to reading more than a few pages of the opinion (though I plan on doing so this summer and I encourage everyone else to do so – I think it’s a borderline civic duty to read at least a summary of the most important SCOTUS decisions in the past 25 years), but I hope to do a couple things with this essay.  First, I plan to give a basic Con Law 1 summary of the Taxing Power generally so you have a little knowledge about the substantive law.  Second, I want to briefly make some observations and thoughts I have as a result of the decision and the media attention it has been receiving. 

As a starting item, it should be noted that the taxing power is not as clearly defined as the Commerce Clause power is.  It is rarely tested at the highest court in the land, and the substantive law may seem a little counter-intuitive at first.  So if you are confused by this, do not worry: at least you didn’t need to take a test on it. Further, remember that this is an extremely basic description of the taxing power. 

Pursuant to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1, Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes.  Congress cannot use the tax as a penalty to punish behavior that it is not allowed to regulate under the Constitution. However, the court will only invalidate a tax on the ground that it is a penalty if the tax is extraneous to any tax need (the tax does not generate any tax revenue). In United States v. Kahriger, the Court established deference to Congress’s determination: as long as the tax generates some tax revenue, the court will not invalidate the tax on the grounds that it goes beyond the taxing power (the tax may violate some other constitutional ground, but it is constitutional pursuant to this provision of the Constitution).

So this may be confusing, especially since the Obama Administration keeps insisting that the mandate is a penalty not a tax.  However, remember the administration has a policy incentive to not refer to the mandate as a tax.  Also keep in mind that law often uses words differently than how they are colloquially used.  The important thing to take from the previous paragraph is that the mandate may still be a constitutional tax even if it has punitive effects as long as it is generating tax revenue.  For example, think of cigarettes: a large number of states place a very high tax upon cigarettes as a means to penalize people who buy them.  However, the cigarette tax generates a substantial amount of tax revenue.  Therefore, it is still constitutional.  That is how something that, for political purposes is considered a penalty, but legally is a tax. 

Now to the more interesting thing about the trial: the aftermath of the decision.  I have a few things that are worth mentioning because I find them interesting.

First, this proves that pundits generally do not know what they are talking about.  A lot of people were predicting, especially after the oral arguments, that the case would come down along partisan lines.  It just goes to show you that Supreme Court decisions that are as complex as we may think (further underscored by the immigration decision announced a few days before the Obamacare ruling).  Outcomes are not necessarily predictable.
Second, and one that is most closely related to the first point: Chief Justice Roberts decided this case on its merits, and not out of any political considerations whatsoever.  It has been frustrating to see both pundits with no legal training at all affirmatively declare that it was a political decision, but it has been even more so to see legal minds say it: they absolutely should know better.  For what it’s worth, Chief Justice Roberts’ jurisprudence in this case is consistent with his past holdings: Burkean conservative who will exercise judicial restraint and not strike down an act of Congress unless there is no way to read the statute constitutionally.  Furthermore, Chief Justice Roberts is one of the three most brilliant minds in the American legal community, and might be the best lawyer in the country.  He did not decide this case based on extrinsic considerations – he is way more professional than that.  In fact, he summed this up so eloquently that I could not come close to bettering, so I’ll quote directly from the opinion: 
“The Framers created a Federal Government of limited powers, and assigned to this Court the duty of enforcing those limits. The Court does so today. But the Court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the Constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people.”
I firmly believe this is the case, and I strongly encourage you all to reserve your judgment as well. 

Transitioning from that quote is my third point, and hopefully a positive note to end on: the outcome gives us a presidential election that will be considered strongly on the merits on the presidential philosophies of each candidate moving forward, and not on some bickering about the legality or constitutionality of some law that has already been decided.  In a way, both sides get to claim a policy victory.  Democrats get to run on the mandate as a step towards providing increased benefits to Americans if they are elected in such numbers so as to control both houses and the Presidency.  At the same time, the fact that it has been deemed a tax allows Republicans to run on their lower taxes platform, and this decision will most certainly revitalize the Tea Party base of the GOP.  In November, the election will be a referendum between these two ideals.  Like Chief Justice Roberts indicated, we get to make that decision – it is as much our obligation to do so as it was his to decide ACA’s constitutionality. 

Thanks once again to Matt and the other Stephen for inviting me to contribute.  I look forward to the opportunity to join the discussion again.

Share your opinion on the Supreme Court's ACA ruling in the comments section....