What To Do About Regulation In The US

Listening to the radio yesterday, I heard a sound bite from a republican congresswoman who claimed that government enforced regulations on such things as food safety were stifling the economy.  I understand that she feared for the the well being of her precious deity (the economy) but I can’t help but feel she would find these regulations more than necessary if one of her friends or family members had died from eating tainted food at a restaurant or supermarket.  So, do such organizations as the FDA, OSHA or the EPA really burden the economy?

In one sense, yes they do. Continue reading

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Who’s To Blame For High Gas Prices?

Have you heard somebody ask this question recently?  If so then you probably took them aside and explained to them that no single individual could be blamed for rising fuel prices.  Obviously it is an issue of supply and demand.  Global demand has now grown larger than global supply, which you can learn about in this article.  Though some people in the US claim that allowing more drilling in pristine wilderness or in the sea will somehow lower gas prices, all available information points to the fact that there is not enough petroleum under US territory to seriously augment global supply.  The only thing to be gained from more oil exploration and production in the United States is corporate profits, campaign funding, and degraded wilderness.  Conservation and the use of non-fossil fuels is the best means of making gas prices fall, but as the developing countries increase their standard of living they will continue to demand more cars and more luxuries.  Afterall, just remember what plastic is made out of!

So, supply and demand affect prices.  This is a simple economic concept that most people have heard of and understand.  It is a feature of the economy.  However, one Tea Party affiliated group has decided to ignore reality and try to blame market forces on a single individual.  Rather than explain it all to you, I’ll encourage you to read this blog by Brian Merchant,

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We Are Not Their Lapdog

A few weeks ago, the US news media was consumed with coverage of one event.  It did not pertain to Yemen or Syria, Bahrain or Jordan.  Rather the US media, and indeed many international venues, focused on the the national conference of AIPAC: the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.  This is a group dedicated to promoting “US-Israeli relations,” that is to say, Israeli interests.  On AIPAC’s website, they boast of having the support of 328 House members and 76 Senators.  That is more support than any group of US citizens can claim in the federal government!  Furthermore, they claim to be behind the passage of dozens of pieces of legislation, promoting our shared interests of course.  However, the interests of Israel are not universally the interests of the United States.  Due to special interest groups like AIPAC, the US sends billions in foreign aid and military technology to Israel each year (we also send these weapons and aide to their adversaries as well).  All this is done because of the belief that Israel is the only country in the middle east we can rely on.  Just how similar are we?  According to AIPAC, we are more similar than anybody could even realize. Continue reading

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Word of the Day: Sortition

The United States ranks 22nd on the corruptions perceptions index, behind such countries as Hong Kong, Iceland, and Qatar. For a nation that once prided itself as the greatest in the world, this is a tragic figure. Our sliding position in the world can be seen in our declining status in education, health, research, etc. Contrast the historic downward trend in these metrics with the uptick in political corruption and we can see an obvious correlation. Continue reading

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History Repeats Itself

In 1979, the USSR invaded Afghanistan in an effort to support the communist regime of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.  The USSR finally extracted itself from Afghanistan in 1989, after nearly 15,000 casualties and no clear victory.  Without the Russians there, the communist government of Afghanistan collapsed and was replaced by Warlords and the Taliban in a matter of years.  Afghanistan moved on and attempted to rebuild itself (though in ways ultimately unacceptable to the west); the USSR, however, did not.  Though revolutions and turmoil in eastern Europe, coupled with western agitation, are often attributed to the fall of the Soviet Union, the costs and consequences of the war in Afghanistan are also attributed a role in the demise of the USSR.  Afghanistan has frequently been called the graveyard of civilizations, Greece, Britain, the USSR, and many others have discovered why.  Is the US next? Continue reading

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Vermont’s Single Payer Experiment

Governor Peter Shumlin earlier signed into law a bill that has the ultimate ambition of implementing Single Payer Health Care for all 620,000 residents of Vermont. Naturally many people are eager to help these efforts fail but the movement is an honest one. Organizations like Vermont Health Care for All – which is made up of citizens, physicians, and politicians – have worked tirelessly for the past decade to get the word out about single payer in Vermont. The only people who have fought these efforts are the representatives of the insurance industry and free market advocates who mistakenly believe that market forces can dominate in the realm of insurance. Despite their efforts, Vermont is on its way to showing the American people what they are missing. Continue reading

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Why Liberals Should Support The Tea Party

The TEA Party has generated a lot of attention during it’s short existence.  Nonetheless it has attracted a wide variety of supporters and interest.  From religious extremists to libertarians, conspiracy theorists, or people generally disappointed with the Republican/Democrat status quo, many people have placed their faith in this political movement to change the country. Continue reading

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Should Congress Be Run Like Jury Duty?

In the last blog here you read about the prospect of requiring political officials to recuse themselves from legislation in which there may be a conflict of interest. Currently only judges recuse themselves from cases but my ultimate proposal was to require congressmen to do the same thing. Though this would be one mechanism to eliminate a fair amount of corruption in the legislative (and executive) branches of state and federal government, it is not necessarily the best way. Continue reading

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What Does It Mean To Recuse Onself?

Perhaps you’ve never heard the word ‘recuse’ before. According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary, recuse means “to disqualify (oneself) as judge in a particular case; broadly : to remove (oneself) from participation to avoid a conflict of interest.” Generally, we hear of judges recusing themselves from trials in order to avoid a conflict of interest. One such example involves the newest Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and her recusal from several supreme court cases because of her involvement with those cases in lower courts. The rules dictating when a justice should be recused from a case are dictated in the United States Code Title 28, Section 455, though in the end it is up to a judge to recuse him or herself from a case. Since there is little authority to compel a justices and judges to recuse themselves from a case, several attempts to legislate these guidelines have recently surfaced. This piece at the West Reference Attorney Blog does a great job of detailing these recent efforts. Continue reading

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$5 a gallon? Take the train

If anybody has had the misfortune of witnessing the political debates of the past year then you know high speed trains have been brought into the political fray.  Unfortunately, the issue of improving the transportation infrastructure of the United States has been divided along party lines, with Republicans sabotaging these projects  while Democrats light-heartedly support them.  Republicans claim that they don’t want to support rail projects because nobody would use them.  However, as the report cited in this study and reviewed in this Fast Company article shows, the number of permanent jobs generated by high speed rail construction is astronomical.  Despite the data and the evidence from around the world, Republican leaders continue to oppose anything proposed by Obama.  Josh Laumer does a great job of covering this in his piece, Growing Amtrak Ridership On A Collision Course With Political Surrealism. Continue reading

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