It might appear that the U-S-of-A has gone bonkers. So let me clear up any confusion that you might have: Yes, it has!
Yet, it hasn’t. More on that in a moment.
First, though — whether looking at the “tea party” congress critters who’ve swerved our nation’s political debate to the hard right, or at the peacocks of Wall Street who continue to preen and profit atop the wreckage they’ve made of our real economy — it’s plain to see that America is suffering a pestilence of nuts and narcissists in high places. These “leaders” are hell bent to enthrone themselves and their ilk as the potentates of our economic, governmental and social systems, and they are aggressively trying to snuff out the light of egalitarianism that historically has been our society’s unifying force.
Bill Moyers, America’s most public-spirited journalist, summarized the…
The US is “special” (in the pejorative sense) in many ways: one of 3 nations in the world that refuse to use the metric system (the other two are Liberia and Myanmar), the nation that imprisons the highest proportion of its citizens (we really lead here: no other nation is even close), the only advanced nation that witnesses mass killings of its citizens as a part of daily life, and so on. Our healthcare system, though recently improved, lags far behind that of other advanced nations. And the US does not provide paid maternity leave. John Zarocostas reports in McClatchy:
The United States is the only Western country—and one of only three in the world—that does not provide some kind of monetary payment to new mothers who’ve taken maternity leave from their jobs, a new U.N. study reports.
Two other countries share the U.S. position of providing “no cash benefits during…
Soon after the Isla Vista mass shooting, an e-mail from Breitbart News, one of the slicker right-wing Web sites, popped into my inbox. Considering the source, the breathless subject line was startling: THE WORLD’S FIRST SMART RIFLE – NOW IN SEMI-AUTO
A smart gun, as you probably know, is one that can be fired only by an authorized person, such as the weapon’s legal owner. Anyway, that’s the usual meaning. The way a smart gun works, smartplanet.com explains, “is that the gun’s biometric system is set up to recognize the rightful user through a unique identity marker such as a person’s fingerprint, magnetic rings, RFID chips or other proximity devices.”
A smart gun is a technological fix. If guns were smart, we wouldn’t need to worry so much about their falling into the wrong hands—such as the hands…
If early polling data is anything to judge, youth voter turnout for this year’s November midterm elections will be dismal.
It’s tempting to think this can be explained by Americans of all age groups — not just young people — failing to turn out during midterm elections. Only 41% of Americans came out to vote in the 2010 midterms, compared to national voter turnout that reached 58% in the 2012 presidential election. And yet the numbers show something striking about young people specifically: In recent years, our generation has turned out in smaller percentages for midterms than any other age group.
In 2010, just 24% of 18-29 year-olds came out to vote. This year looks no different. Recent polls show that 79% of voters over the age of 65 are “absolutely certain” that they’ll vote in the 2014 midterm elections, but only 23% of voters between the ages of 18…
As President Obama continues to push the highly controversial and secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal in East Asia, a similar agreement is being negotiated on the other side of the planet between the U.S. and the European Union called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). While the TPP has been getting a lot of scrutiny in Washington, D.C, and in some media outlets, the TTIP has largely gone unnoticed in America. That dynamic is likely to change for at least one critically important provision currently shared by both trade deals.
Last month, the Financial Times reported that the US is using these negotiations “to push for a fundamental change in the way business regulations are drafted in the EU to allow business groups greater input earlier in the process”. At first, De Gucht said that this was “impossible”. Then…
Paul Ryan Spending Cuts Face Backlash From Moderate Republicans
By ANDREW TAYLOR 08/12/13 03:11 AM ET EDT
WASHINGTON — Midway between the 2012 and 2014 election campaigns, moderate Republican conservatives are beginning to foment a revolt of their own – a backlash to anti-spending tea party shrillness as budget cuts begin to significantly shrink defense and domestic programs.
Tea party forces may have dominated the House GOP’s approach to the budget so far, but pragmatists in the party have served notice they won’t stand idly by for indiscriminate spending cuts to politically popular community development grants, education programs and even Amtrak.
Voting in the spring for the tea party budget developed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who was Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate last year, was one thing. But as long as a Democrat occupies the White House, Ryan’s budget is little more than a nonbinding wish list –…
America’s dependence on oil inflicts a heavy toll on our environment – polluting our ocean waters, destroying natural landscapes and fouling our air. With oil companies taking greater and greater risks to satisfy the world’s demand for oil, the environmental toll of America’s oil dependence continues to rise.
There are many technologies and policy tools, however, that can curb America’s dependence on oil. By taking strong action to cut down on energy waste and shift to cleaner sources of energy, America could reduce its consumption of oil for energy by 1.9 billion barrels of oil per year by 2030 – 31 percent of today’s oil use – while achieving President Obama’s goal of reducing oil imports by one-third by 2025 and putting the nation on track to ending its dependence on oil.
America’s dependence on oil inflicts a heavy toll on our environment – harming our air, water and land. And with oil companies now having to go to greater lengths – and take greater risks – to satisfy the world’s demand for oil, the environmental impact of oil consumption will only increase in the years to come.
Global warming – Oil consumption is the number one source of carbon dioxide – the most important global warming pollutant – from the U.S. economy. America’s emissions of global warming pollution from oil burning alone exceed the total emissions of every nation in the world other than China.
Air pollution – Combustion of gasoline in motor vehicles produces nearly one-third of the nation’s air emissions of nitrogen oxides and more than one-fifth of emissions of volatile organic compounds. These two pollutants are responsible for the ozone smog that threatens the health of millions of Americans. Oil refineries are also major sources of toxic air emissions.
Oil spills and leaks – Oil spills such as the BP Deepwater Horizon impose massive damage on the environment. Over the past decade, more than 1 million barrels of oil products have leaked from petroleum pipelines, while there are approximately 7,300 reports of leaking underground oil storage tanks each year, which threaten the safety of groundwater supplies.
Rising environmental threats – As oil from easy-to-reach reservoirs has run out, oil companies have increasingly used riskier and more environmentally destructive methods to obtain oil. Production of oil from Canada’s tar sands has destroyed vast areas of boreal forest, polluted local waterways with toxic substances, and increased global warming pollution. In the United States, the risks of deepwater offshore drilling were demonstrated by the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, while oil companies hope to someday use processes similar to those used in Canada’s tar sands region to produce oil from shale in the American West.
America has the tools to curb our dependence on oil, starting now. By taking strong action on a variety of fronts, the United States could reduce its use of oil for energy by 31 percent below 2008 levels by 2030.
The benefits of an oil reduction strategy would accrue to all sectors of the economy and every region of the United States.
Oil consumption would be reduced by 35 percent in the transportation sector, 31 percent in homes, 39 percent in businesses, and by 9 percent in the industrial sector relative to 2008 levels.
Each of the 50 states would experience significant reductions in oil consumption, ranging from a 3 percent decline in fast-growing Nevada to a 45 percent drop in Michigan.
The policy steps that are needed to achieve these reductions in oil consumption include:
Fuel economy improvements in light-duty vehicles consistent with achievement of a 62 miles per gallon fuel economy/global warming pollution standard by 2025.
Aggressive efforts to put millions of plug-in electric vehicles on the road through light-duty vehicle global warming pollution standards and other strategies.
Requiring the sale of energy-efficient replacement tires for cars and light trucks.
Encouraging the development of vibrant communities with a range of available transportation options, including transit, biking and walking.
Requiring large employers to work with their employees to reduce the number of single-passenger automobile commutes to workplaces.
Transitioning to a system in which automobile drivers pay for insurance by the mile instead of at a flat rate – providing a financial incentive for reducing driving.
Doubling transit ridership over the next 20 years through expansion of public transportation systems, while further increasing ridership through efforts to make transit service more efficient, more reliable and more comfortable.
Establishing a clean fuel standard that reduces life-cycle global warming pollution from transportation fuels by 10 percent by 2020 – encouraging a shift away from oil as a transportation fuel.
Promoting bicycling through investments in bike lanes and other facilities for bicyclists.
Building high-speed rail lines in 11 federally designated corridors, providing an alternative to air and car travel.
Improving the fuel economy of heavy-duty trucks, airplanes and trains.
Retrofitting existing homes and businesses to save energy, and adopting strong building energy codes to ensure that new homes are as energy efficient as possible.
Setting strong standards and creating strong incentives for the replacement of inefficient industrial boilers and process heat systems with high-efficiency models.
Curbing oil use in the federal government through improved energy efficiency and a shift to cleaner fuels.
To catalyze these changes – and protect Americans from the environmental, economic and national security costs of continued dependence on oil – the United States and individual state governments should set aggressive goals for oil savings and mobilize the resources needed to achieve those goals.