Posts tagged government
Posts tagged government
Iranian-American journalist Hooman Majd explains on today’s Fresh Air how the Iran sanctions have affected the lives of citizens
When you notice the amount of hardship we are dropping onto the citizens of a country, it is worth asking whether our policies are working in this regard. We are against the Iranian regime, not its people. However, this does not translate well into the populace. After all, the burden is on us to explain why we are doing anything to sanction the government. The reasons never seem good enough in hindsight. We are paranoid when it comes to Iran acquiring some form of nuclear weapon. After all, Pakistan and North Korea already have nuclear capabilities, and we do not fret over them the way we do with Iran. No meetings. No diplomacy. Only when the flame starts being lit at the tip of the dynamite, we go into high gear in order to avert disaster.
Jim McElhatton of The Washington Times • From the announcement that Rand Paul’s column, in conservative D.C. newspaper The Washington Times, is being cancelled amid widening plagiarism allegations against the Kentucky Senator. As we mentioned earlier today, Paul’s damage control strategy started to change, from duel threat to adviser-issued pseudo-admission. source (via shortformblog)
The fact that this man wished we were still of a time where ‘dueling’ was still available tells a load about his persona. We cannot have someone like this as President in 2016. It is bad enough he is sitting in our federal body of elected officials.
My favorite part of the post is the “evidence” offered by the false-flag crowd: The shooter’s name was CIAnCIA. Get it? (nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)
Whether this is a joke or not, it goes to show that many Americans are skeptical of anything being presented during a tragedy. This is unacceptable. We’ve become accustomed to be a conspiring society. This devours at the idea of staying together as a community, and exasperates the issue of this country being a dog eat dog society. If there is a shooting somewhere, I will not begin to automatically question anyone and everyone. Trust me, there will be a healthy dosage of that happening, but we cannot continue on like this. The Boston Marathon bombing, for instance, was not ammunition for a conspiracy theorist. It spits on the idea of respecting the dead, they were not just some ‘victims’ in a tragedy. They were people, and others are willing to reduce them as casualties in a broader government conspiracy. I refuse to accept this level of audacity.
An unfortunately deranged individual walked into a mall with a firearm looking to take people out. Let’s start investigating. Not pointing fingers at the government.
"There has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material — and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago," writes Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers. He concludes: “Snowden did what he did because he recognized the NSA’s surveillance programs for what they are: dangerous, unconstitutional activity. This wholesale invasion of Americans’ and foreign citizens’ privacy does not contribute to our security; it puts in danger the very liberties we’re trying to protect.” In a separate essay published at The Daily Beast, Ellsberg adds, “I definitely have a new hero in Edward Snowden, the first one since Bradley Manning, and I’m glad it didn’t take another 40 years.”
Snowden has allowed us to highlight even more attacks on our Constitution. America post-9/11 has become an America devoid of any 4th and 5th amendment guarantees. Our government says that what they’re doing with these data collection operations is legal, but the Fisa court which handles the warrants for collecting our information is clandestine in nature. How are we supposed to have effective oversight over such a court? For our government to keep telling us “it’s ok - shh”, is unacceptable. It is time to update the checks and balances that we have in this country, as promised by our Constitution. Just imagine if there was ever another attack on America, we would devolve into a complete autocratic military state (if we aren’t there already).
There is definitely good reason to have secretive communication intelligence, but the potential for abuse that we see now with what the NSA is doing, is unconstitutional in any sense of the word. Senator Frank Church said, in 1975(!), that our country’s intelligence gathering capabilities can be frankly turned against us at any time. He couldn’t even imagine what we have now at the time. But we can come back from this police state with people like Snowden. Snowden proved that regular Joes like him, that have the information on hand, can turn around a government with hands all over our private lives.
Lets try to remember what this country stands for, and it’s definitely not about surrendering ourselves for freedom. We fight for it.
"If the SEC won’t take action, it would be irresponsible for the Financial Stability Oversight Council not to, … The lack of transparency in prices in money- market funds is startling; we would never permit this in any other publicly traded financial instrument … I normally find myself among the loudest defenders of the principle of regulatory independence. But in this case, the national interest — prevention of systemic risk — trumps all other considerations. In this case, the SEC’s mandate to protect the public interest is paramount. If it won’t pursue that mandate, the FSOC should."
"Normalization of relations between Iran and the United States would deprive Khamenei and the deeply invested cohort of radical ideologues around him of a powerful justification for their arbitrary rule, … Continued enmity with the United States has time and again proved to be a convenient excuse for silencing the reformist opposition (as in the case of the 2009 Iranian presidential election, which has simply become known as "the sedition") and managing the increasingly fragmented conservative establishment."
Sequester: How Low Can Spending Go? – Jonathan Cohn
"Within a week or two, political rhetoric may matter a lot less than longer lines at airport security, smaller unemployment checks, and other reminders that less government spending also means fewer government services, … "
Cohn says that it’s not about whether the sequestration cuts are going to happen, it’s for how long they’re going to stay in effect. Obama is talking about what the effects of the sequestration will be while Republicans are saying it is merely exaggeration. Jonathan continues to say that government spending is at its highest in a decade due to (1) health care and (2) spending from the Recovery Act. Medicare reimbursements would be cut by sequestration, but these cuts are mainly targeting discretionary spending, which is at its lowest level to date. The economy will also be hit at a time of slow recovery, when spending is crucially needed.
Do not think conservatives like the idea of a sequester impacting our nation. However, they’d rather take it instead of the Democratic budget plan, which includes a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. Democrats also don’t like the Republican plan, which includes significant spending cuts on social programs. Polling indicates that the general public sides with Obama when it comes to choosing which budgetary path to take. In the end, as Cohn says, debates and blaming fingers will only go so far before someone realizes their check got smaller.
As Cohn pointed out, discretionary spending is at its lowest. What this country needs is investment in infrastructure, for one, and better regulatory oversight over those that control our money. On top of that, we need to remind those sitting in their comfy chairs in Congress that being a legislator isn’t meant to be a game. They hold the country in their hands. Ultimately, if the economy gets hit because they were too busy yelling at someone over political differences, it will not matter who they are. They will be blamed. It was their responsibility to avert something that could’ve easily been handled over compromise. Alas, we are in an age of polarity.
If the sequester hits…
"Broadly speaking, the data now indicate that as people get richer, they report getting happier too … [However t]he U.S. is nearly three times as rich today as it was in 1973 … According to nearly every survey, though, Americans are not at all happier than we were back then."
Economists have been working together with psychologists to study when people are usually happy during the course of a certain day of the week, hour by hour. This also depends on your geography as well. The purpose of which is so that economists like Angus Deaton of Princeton University find out a way to quantify happiness and apply to the areas of GDP and unemployment. One may ask how it’s possible to include happiness in an economic analysis for a country? Studies have been launched before that tried surveying people on how happy they were. There were rational results: for example, Coloradans are happier than Nevadans, considering that Nevada took the brunt of the housing bubble imploding. However, there were also irrational results: the Philippines, a country poor in the relative sense, reports high levels of happiness.
These studies are not recent travails into the topic of quantifying happiness economically. Economist Richard Easterlin published a paper in 1974 that introduced the theory of the Easterlin paradox. In other words, people counter intuitively become less happy the more rich they get. Modern studies have seen a shift away from the paradox, however. Upon the movement of the world governments to run their own happiness surveys, it turns out that France is miserable, England is modestly happy despite being in a recession, and the United States, most intriguingly, is generally happy. The complex part is that there are individual factors to take in in order to understand why people are happy where they are. Poorer nations have fewer choices, so they would be naturally less pleased, but there isn’t conclusive evidence saying that everyone gets happier because they’re just receiving more money.
Happiness is a more microeconomic value. Davidson explains the case of Yvrose Jean Baptiste, who lost all of her capital following the Haitian earthquake in 2010. Visiting Yvrose after receiving $4000 in donations, Anderson “didn’t need any official statistic” to see that she was better off than she was before. The rationale here is that more money does equal more happiness, but relative to the general wealth of the country the person inhabits. Agrarian societies will report a higher level of happiness from a small increase in capital, but that’s due to a low GDP compared to urban industrial societies, where it takes a more modestly increased amount of money to raise happiness. In either case, money still gives more happiness.
There’s one catch to take away from all of this. Even though the GDP of America has gone up over the years, we have not been any happier than we were in 1973. Reasons for this could be because the majority of our citizens have not been included in this increase of wealth. The government may also be spending tax dollars on things that wouldn’t make people better off. This could shed some light on just what it could take to increase our happiness as a people. Let’s build policies that would make people better off all around, and not what favors a select few.
"The Republican Party isn’t reinventing itself so much as reverting to its previous form. There’s little evidence of a rethinking of core Republican policy ideas … That’s the problem with the Republican establishment reasserting control. They’re still the establishment."
Klein starts by saying that there is something interesting happening to the Republican Party but it is yet to be seen just what direction this is taking the GOP. From the general looks of things, there seems to be an inner party civil war with the establishment Republicans, and the Tea Party. The establishment is winning by eliminating some of the more radical Republicans who’ve represented the party, and geared up to change face, especially the presidential contenders for 2016.
Former Republican Minnesota Congressman Win Weber credits this shift in the Republican Party to the “waves” of the Tea Party “receding”. However, this merely means that the Republican Party is going back to its ways pre-Tea Party, and doesn’t mean that anything is changing fundamentally. Evidence includes a recent speech by Eric Cantor, who brought up policies that he himself has described as being “on the shelf for a while”, and not introducing any new ideas at all. Klein says that the most important idea that came up involved with giving school districts with impoverished students more money – and it sounds like a liberal idea.
The Republican Party still has its sights set on the deficit, no matter the different policies politicians like Cantor are bringing back into the limelight. It is yet to be seen if the GOP are going to actually propose any new legislation. When Democrats decided it was time to reform the party, the Democratic Leadership Council in 1988 sought to quell inner bickering, and set an agenda. It may be time for Republicans to do the same.
“The truth is that no one can accurately predict the predilections and voting patterns of our future citizens. Instead, we should focus on supporting lasting immigration reform because it is the right thing to do and the status quo is far worse. The future of our national security, economy, and our children depend on it.”
Cardenas is “pleased” the discussion about immigration reform has come up and that a group of senators were able to get together and tackle the issue. However, not many conservatives are getting behind the bipartisan plan, due to skepticism that has roots in a failed attempt at immigration reform by Reagan in 1986. Cardenas isn’t saying questioning the government so assertively is a bad thing. In fact, it is encouraged in order to make sure policies are being correctly implemented. But there are some things conservatives should know before they go out on a limb to fight “amnesty”.
First thing to know, according to Cardenas, is that Democrats “control the Senate and the White House”. Second, is that “we already have ipso facto amnesty” due to Obama’s executive order halting the deportation of children of illegal immigrants. The choices that conservatives have to make are between accepting the current “executive fiat”, or accepting a bipartisan approach to “improve the status quo”. And if you want to still say that we can have a better path to immigration, instead of just complaining, “we are all ears for a … fix within … realities of the moment.”
According to Cardenas, the far left of the political spectrum have “poured more resources” to go against any immigration reform, despite the demographic shift and shrinking population. Those whose concerns are chiefly what the political consequences of immigration reform will be should remind themselves of how it was thought it was necessary to accept Hawaii and Alaska into the Union at the same time, due to fears of a dynamic shift in political balance. The main objective for addressing immigration reform now is to positively upgrade the status quo.
Paul Krugman on the Republican message of “takers”.
“Paul Ryan, for example, has lately made a transparently dishonest attempt to claim that when he spoke about “takers” living off the efforts of the “makers” — at one point he assigned 60 percent of Americans to the taker category — he wasn’t talking about people receiving Social Security and Medicare. (He was.) Which brings me back to Mr. Jindal, who declared in his speech that “we are a populist party.” No, you aren’t. You’re a party that holds a large proportion of Americans in contempt. And the public may have figured that out.”
Where Republicans would earlier use the term “class warfare” against Democrats, this time, it didn’t work. Their response is to change things around, but their goals are still the same: to serve the rich. A recent statement by Bobby Jindal exemplifies this. He said that Republicans can no longer “be the party that simply protects the well-off”. However, there’s no policy proposal to back this statement. Instead, the Louisiana governor is pushing the elimination of the income tax, and increasing sales taxes, making the burden fall more on the bottom 60%.
We are hitting another point where Republicans are looking for a sharper sound bite to make themselves look better, but their planned ideas are still as on the right as ever. Krugman asks why this is happening now, especially when the Reps just lost a presidential election. He honestly says he doesn’t have an answer, but “it’s important to understand” that conservatives seem to live in their own world, being spoon fed answers from Fox News, and being taught that any information that goes against their views is wrong without a doubt.
It is no doubt that, as exemplified by the infamous 47% comment by Romney, that conservatives will always point fingers, never targeting a pragmatic solution. And the answer to all of the world’s problems is to just cut more taxes on the rich. Paul Ryan, trying to backtrack on statements made against “takers”, said he was excluding those on Social Security and Medicare. It’s easy to target outsiders when your audience is of the same political party as you and you keep them sheltered from reality. Jindal said Republicans are a “populist party”. Case and point.
Paul Krugman on the mistake of current budget deficit worries.
"The medium-term budget outlook isn’t great, but it’s not terrible either — and the long-term outlook gets much more attention than it should… The deficit scolds dominating policy debate will, of course, fiercely resist any attempt to downgrade their favorite issue. They love living in an atmosphere of fiscal crisis: It lets them stroke their chins and sound serious, and it also provides an excuse for slashing social programs, which often seems to be their real objective."
These days, you will hear everywhere that our budget deficit is our biggest problem, yet no one cares to explain why. To be honest, it isn’t our biggest problem, and it more or less solved. Our medium-term budget isn’t bad, and the long-term one is getting more attention than it deserves. Deficits are supposed to be there for when an economy is down so as to manage demand. It’s normal we have a large deficit considering the state of our economy.
Will fiscal outlook be better? Consider the $1.5 trillion agreed-on spending cuts from 2011 and the $600 billion agreed-on increased revenue earlier this year. Our debt-to-GDP ratio will only be moderately higher by 2022. The Center of Budget and Policy and President Obama both call for another $1.4 trillion over a decade to stabilize debt in the future. Even without this, things aren’t so bad. There are things to consider as they’ll become more problematic in the future, such as Social Security. But how can we decide how to address issues that won’t take effect until another 30 years into the future?
Concerning Social Security, there was a chance to solve any future debt issues before Baby Boomers retired. However, with the budget surplus Clinton left, Bush thought it was a better idea to have two wars and a bunch of tax cuts, eliminating a chance at a said solution. Raising the eligibility age for Medicare and adjusting the CPI are all that’s being talked about, but those are not real reforms. Most likely, within 20-30 years, Social Security will exhaust its coffers. The action being taken to solve this problem, right now is to try cutting more from the program… which is exactly as counterintuitive as shooting yourself in the foot in the middle of the war.
An argument is that cutting some benefits now would set up a smoother transition for other ageing populations entering the program in the future. However, these cuts can end up permanent, so maybe it is better to have those sitting in office in the future handle the problem? Basically, enough with the fervor of solving budget problems that are well off into the future. We have much more pressing problems demanding our attention right now. The ones calling for action on the deficit now use the situation to their advantage in order to get the cuts in social spending that they want.
Simply put, there are many more important things to take care of. Like climate change, or unemployment.