May 2012

Will a billion dollars buy an election?

Democracy and Citizens United

Gone are the days of presidential campaigns raising a million dollars or even millions of dollars for their candidate.  No, now we talk about billions of dollars!  Political parties and aspiring candidate don’t want us to think that money wins elections, but the reality is that money wins elections, or at least gets one into a position to be a viable candidate.  It may come off as a conspiracy theory, by I have to wonder about that as the short-term and long-term effect of the Citizens United decision and how it has and will change the political landscape in American.

GOP opposes public information and "beneficial government programs"

It seems that congressional Republicans prefer to pursue ignorance over information, and any form of government at all.

I

t’s not often that there is dissension among the conservative right. There has been such consolidation and group-think among the new radicalized center of the post-2008 Republican Party that it’s highly unusual for elements of that party, even conservative elements outside of actual politics, to disagree. However, in the oft-conservative Wall Street Journal editors criticized the latest target of the party’s entrenched ideologues; the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is a long-form version of the census but it’s administered annually using a much smaller population sample. Despite the merits of the survey, which has been used since 1850, the Republican-controlled House voted earlier this month to discontinue it.

Though the census is actually provided for in the Constitution (something many opponents seem to forget), the ACS replaced the traditional long-form census sample in 2005 to make the data-gathering more efficient and statistically representative. However, to partially fund the program, which is an enormous logistical effort, and to ensure compliance, there is a fine levied against citizens that do not respond within a certain timeframe. Of course, the alternative to this fine would be simply increasing taxes on everyone. Either way, the money needs to fund the program so that we can continue to compile valuable data on ourselves. This data is used for policy analysis, and is made public for anyone, private or public, that would like to access it; data that is perfectly valid regardless of ideology or political bias.

What are we going to do?

Are we screwed?

I am one of America’s elderly. I am 69 years of age and have been paying in to Social Security since 1957: 56 years. The first job I ever had was in the food industry and so has every job since then. I have worked as an employee, manager, owner, multi-unit supervisor and corporate director. All my life I have counted on Social Security funding as a portion of my retirement. After all, I have paid into the program for over three quarters of my life. Now, I am retired and as I predicted, I am dependent upon every dollar that Social Security and Medicare provides.

Memorial Day and Vietnam Vets

"May we never again fail to honor those who served our nation."

This Memorial Day reminded me that it was 50 years ago we officially entered Vietnam.  Those who served in that conflict may have questioned the merits and wisdom of the United States entering the conflict.  Some may have even protested our involvement.  Yet, they still served with honor and distinction. And, while they might not have supported the war, they did support their brothers in arms.

Detroit Turns Out The Lights

Mayor floats radical plan to reorganize city's population
Even though 82% of Americans live in cities, some of our nation's urban centers are suffering a real population crisis. Detroit is one of the worst hit, as people flee the city from foreclosures and lost jobs. The city has lost 60% of its population since 1950. Entire swaths of Detroit have been essentially abandoned, becoming what one imagines to be a lawless, Warriors-style urban wasteland after dark.
 
 
Of course, it won't be that big a difference in many parts of the city: 40% of the city's streetlights are already broken, and the city has no money to fix them. 

The New World Order and the Global Elite

A conspiracy theory and a fact.

I was watching some wrestling shows from way back in the 90s the other day because I was feeling a little nostalgic. That was my childhood days and it was the period of the ‘New World Order’ in wrestling with Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash being the core members. They are all really big household names and I am sure every American has heard of Hulkamania.

It was then that I googled New World Order and came to realize that there is actually a conspiracy theory that a secretive power elite is hoping to take over the planet with a very global autocratic government. I know this may all seem rather incredulous, but I like to find out about different things and ways of looking at things.

Lowest federal spending growth in 60 years under Obama

A recent MarketWatch report shows that spending growth has actually dropped to a 60-year low.

Looking for truth in politics can be a frustrating search through a haystack of half-truths and misleading information for that proverbial needle. This is particularly true in the era of “say it loud enough and often enough and it becomes true” political strategy. One of the greatest (and loudest) of these has been the allegation that Obama’s tenure has seen the greatest spending spree in recent memory. Whether it’s one of Mitt Romney’s questionable graphs (showing Obama’s spending starting during Bush Jr’s administration), or Speaker Boehner’s assertion that Obama has been spending at a rate “unprecedented in history,” it’s just not true.

Is Congress dumber or just dumbing it down?

A new study shows that grade level speaking among congressional members is sinking.

A new study released by the Sunlight Foundation entitled The Dumbing Down of Congress? highlights the effectual grade level of speeches made by members of congress over the last decade. What it shows is a precipitous decline in the sophistication in the speech-making of our congressional legislators. In the last seven years, congress has slipped an entire grade level in the way that they articulate their various points. The inevitable question becomes, as the study’s title indicates, are we electing lower caliber people to our national offices?

The study was conducted using the Flesch-Kincaid Test, a metric that associates higher grade level with larger words, longer sentences, and more complex syntax. In 2005, Congress spoke at an 11.5 equivalent grade level, where as today it has dropped to 10.6. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution was written at a 17.8, the Gettysburgh Address at an 11.2, and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at 9.4.

NAACP gives official support to gay rights

The news that President Obama officially supports equality in marriage has been in the headlines for over a week now.  As the elections loom ever closer, both Obama and his enemies seek to gather support to their cause and build a strong voter base.  Obama’s public announcement was a risky move for his campaign, though now it appears to be one that is paying off quite handsomely.

According to recent surveys, more than 50 percent of Americans are supportive of equal rights when it comes to gay marriage.  Like most matters of politics, race has some small degree of influence on how these numbers lie and in this case there appears to be a stronger support base from African-American citizens.  This support is likely to grow even more as the NAACP joins Obama in his quest for civil rights.

The most evil industries on earth

If this is true, what will you do about it?

According to one of the new sites that I follow, True Activist, five of the most corrupt industries on earth include the banking industry, energy companies, agriculture, healthcare, and media.  I’m not sure I would agree with this list—where are arms dealers and human trafficking, after all—but it does raise some valid points.

Many of the solutions offered in the article linked above are good ones. I wholeheartedly agree, for example, when it comes to credit unions. In fact, we just switched to one this past fall. But some of these solutions are very costly—especially the one that suggests using clean energy, like fuel cells on your home. Most of us simply cannot afford to do this, even if we desperately want to. So what are we supposed to do?

South Korea opts for stronger trade and military relations with China

Usually, when the news mentions anything about China dealing with Korea, it’s the North that tends to get brought up.  Now, it looks like South Korea and China may be strengthening their ties in the near future.  This new cooperation has the potential to create some very interesting effects on the balance of power within the East Asian region.

For one, North Korea will not be happy if their long-time ally of China decides to shift its focus to the southern neighbor.  China, if its economic interests lie in the South, will be forced to make decisions that conflict with either one half of the peninsula or the other.  Given the DPRK’s track record of being unreliable trade partners and slightly psychotic leaders on the international scene, China may finally decide that doing business with the South is just the smarter thing to do.

Putting people before politics

Money in politics

One of the greatest changes that need to happen in our political system is ending the influence money has on government.  Yet, as reformers devote their time and energy to ridding our system of this corrupting influence, they are often faced with a dilemma: where is the line between being a reformer and being a partisan? Putting people before politics and money isn’t always easy.

Dick Cheney fights on

Mr. Cheney continues to serve

Dick Cheney has worked hard and fought harder throughout his life and career for his personal beliefs. Plagued with heart problems from middle age, Mr. Cheney has never slowed down or shirked his duty. Instead, he has always grabbed the ball and run with it.

There’s a reason why he has had a long successful run in business and government service. There’s a reason why he was drafted to run as Vice President and why he did what the administration believed was necessary in the wake of the worst attack on this country; an attack targeting civilians.

Obama feels, but doesn't do

Empty feelings

Last week, President Obama made the politically motivated statement that he has evolved in his thinking and now personally supports same sex marriage. I emphasize that the statement was politically motivated because he simply expressed how he “felt.” He has no plans to actually do anything to bring it about. Then again, for liberals “feeling” is the same as “doing.”

The true benefit came from the fundraisers that produced an immediate influx of money by the Hollywood set, conducted by entertainers such as George Clooney and Ricky Martin.

Succeeding at calculus

I feel everybody should learn calculus and even multivariable calculus.

Too often, we avoid math because it is just so hard and requires a lot of work. A lot of students just don’t want to spoil their GPA and take a calculus or even worse multivariable calculus that will just ruin their chances to get a job they desire or get into a graduate school they want to attend.

But a lot of these thoughts just exist in their heads. Having been a year out of college, I am observing how a bad grade or even a few of them really does not affect your chances of success later on in life. There are just too many employers and graduate schools to attend that there are a lot of people who are willing to look past any bad grades. Some even welcome the fact that you tried and also math is perceived to be difficult, so you might get points for trying.

Sneaking Anti-Abortion Legislation onto Other Laws

One tactic that is commonly used in politics is to take an existing legislation that is popularly supported and attach to it a less popular law so that your opponents will be forced to give in to your agenda in order to get the main law passed.  The anti-abortion front has decided to use this tactic recently by appropriating a New Hampshire law for the passage of something they wish done that previously already shot down.

Senate Bill 348, aka “Parker’s Law,” requires that all infants in the state of New Hampshire get screening for heart defects as part of their normal routine.  This ruling would drastically increase the chance of these children surviving given the particular health issue.  But anti-abortion factions within the House decided, at the very last moment, to propose that another law that makes abortions after 20 weeks illegal be included in the legislation.  Doing this at the last moment puts everyone on the spot to make a choice quickly, without discussion or thought.

How to educate yourself

If you set your mind to something, then you can achieve it.

Basically, if we really like something then we should be able to attain it. I wish someone had told this to me earlier. I mean, even when it came to getting that girl of your dreams. From my experience, girls love it when there is a guy who thinks the world of them and often times if we keep chasing that girl, we will be able to get her.

The same is true of education. If you are absolutely determined to be a doctor or lawyer or chemical engineer for that matter, then you will go get it and even find the means to get an elite education. This is especially true in today’s information age.

But the thing I want to stress here is that it is important to read about and study a wide variety of subjects so that you have options to choose from. I’m going to tell you something now that might shock some of you and make you feel like I have gone a bit too far. I think I am going to introduce calculus to my son or daughter in grade six and even have him do some linear algebra as early as grade nine.

EU Carbon Law being Ignored

"As it stands now, the offending airlines have until mid-June to provide the information on their emissions. "

A controversial European Union carbon law went into effect at the beginning of this year that requires airlines to meet certain emissions standards in order to freely use airports within the participating EU countries.  This law was enacted in response to the inability of the International Civil Aviation Administration (ICAO) to settle on a global standard for reduction of carbon emissions.  After more than 10 years of nothing getting done, the EU finally made its own law - one that has been causing an uproar in the international community.

Since the law was announced, the outcry against it has died down somewhat.  Now, more than 1200 airlines (the vast majority of them) have chosen to comply with the law and have caused no further problems.  India and China, however, have a number of airlines that are refusing to give their carbon emissions reports to the EU body in charge of monitoring the planes.  Of the resistant airlines, 8 are Chinese and 2 are Indian.  These offenders could be fined, or in worst case scenarios, banned completely from all airports within the EU.

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