Posts tagged with: politics

20140305-cuba-exteriors-sl-1538_53ee39d1154ce422fc2278062244c068What just happened with Cuba?

Yesterday, President Obama announced that, “the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.” He instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations that have been severed since 1961. High-ranking officials will visit Cuba and the U.S. will reestablish an embassy in Havana. He also instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

The President also says the U.S. will take steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba. Americans who travel to Cuba will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island. U.S. financial institutions will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions and exporters will be able to sell goods to the country.

Can the President do all that?

Sort of. The president controls the State Department, but the Congress controls the money. Senator Rubio (R-FL) has said that he’ll do everything he can to block funding for a Cuban embassy and prevent an ambassador from being selected.

The trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba also cannot be lifted without congressional approval. The executive branch has the authority under current law merely to issue licenses that permit US citizens and corporations to do business with Cuba, travel there, and send money to family members there.

Why the change now, after 50 years?
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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
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Political-Corruption-Bigger-Threat-than-TerrorismPolitical corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. While it isn’t as endemic in the U.S. as it is in some countries (Somalia, North Korea, and Afghanistan being the most corrupt), the problem still exists. According to the Justice Department, in the last two decades more than 20,000 public officials and private individuals were convicted for crimes related to corruption and more than 5,000 are awaiting trial, the overwhelming majority of cases having originated in state and local governments.

But measuring corruption based on convictions can be tricky for a variety of reasons, ranging from inadequate data to partisan bias. One alternative measure is to use perceptions, especially of state and local governments. Oguzhan Dincer and Michael Johnston surveyed the news reporters covering state politics in addition to the investigative reporters covering issues related to corruption during the first half of 2014 to gauge their perception of state corruption:

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Barack_Obama_signature_and_pen (1)Rather than just responding to the advances of modern liberalism, conservatives should consider how they would transform the United States. Over at Public Discourse, Samuel Gregg discusses President Obama’s final years in office and how conservatives should react.

A major challenge facing conservatives after Obama will be the breadth and depth of modern liberalism’s impact since 2008. This includes the relentless promotion of lifestyle liberalism at the level of social policy; the easy-money, top-down approach to the economy; and a foreign policy that’s alienating firm allies ranging from Israel to Australia, and which even many liberals have given up defending. This list doesn’t even include the cavalier approach to the rule of law that’s characterized the past six years.

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The Fraser Institute has released the tenth edition of their annual report on economic freedom in North America. The report considers how such factors as size of government, takings and discriminatory taxation, and labor market freedom affect people’s freedom to choose how to produce, sell, and use their own resources, while respecting others’ rights to do the same. Read the report below to see where your state ranks.

jerusalem-synagogue-attackWhat just happened in Jerusalem?

Two Palestinian men armed with axes, meat cleavers, and a pistol, entered a synagogue complex in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of West Jerusalem on Tuesday morning and killed four rabbis, one from the UK and three from United States (all had dual-citizenship in Israel). Israeli police killed the assailants in a gun battle that critically wounded one officer. 

According to the New York Times, relatives identified the attackers as two cousins, Odai Abed Abu Jamal, 22, and Ghassan Muhammad Abu Jamal, 32.

What was the motive for the attack?

According to the relatives of the killers, they were motivated by what they saw as threats to the revered plateau that contains al-Haram al-Sharif (known to Jews as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism) and the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

Orthodox Jewish campaigners in Israel have increasingly been challenging the long-standing ban on Jews praying at the Temple Mount. Since the Crusades, the Muslim community of Jerusalem has managed the site.
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globalslaveryindexThere are 35.8 million people living in some form of modern slavery, claims the Global Slavery Index. The Index is a report produced by the Walk Free Foundation, a global human rights organization dedicated to ending modern slavery.

This year’s Index estimates the number of people in modern slavery in 167 countries, and includes an analysis of what governments are doing to eradicate the this form of human suffering.

According to the Index, of those living in modern slavery 61 percent are in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia.

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F.H. Buckley speaks at the Acton Institute

On this edition of Radio Free Acton, I was privileged to speak with F. H. Buckley, Foundation Professor at George Mason University School of Law and author of a number of books, his latest being The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America.

The story of American Government is the story of the rise of presidential power, which has seen its fullest, and – for those who believe in the principles of the Constitution and oppose one-man rule – most unsettling flowering in the presidency of Barack Obama. How did a country that was founded on small-r republican principles go from overthrowing the rule of the King George to essentially creating its own elected monarchy, which George Mason, one of the founding fathers, considered worse than the real thing? Buckley discusses this process and our current political dilemma.

Later this week, we’ll post the video of Buckley’s lecture on the same topic, which he delivered yesterday at the Acton Building’s Mark Murray Auditorium at an event co sponsored by Acton and The Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Cheval_de_Troie_d'après_le_Virgile_du_VaticanMore groups are beginning to notice the hypocrisy of nuns advocating for progressive causes, including and especially their stumping for campaign finance disclosure. Over at Juicy Ecumenism, the blog published by the Institute of Religion & Democracy, guest writer T.J. Whittle echoes what loyal PowerBlog readers will recognize as a familiar theme. Namely, the nuns are working in league with leftist organizations interested only in stifling their opponents’ political speech.

In his essay, “Nuns in Glass Buses,” Whittle, a research assistant at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes:

After helping to re-elect President Obama in 2012 and advocating for immigration reform in 2013, Sr. Simone Campbell and the Nuns on a Bus have returned for the 2014 midterm elections. Sr. Campbell, who heads the progressive Catholic group NETWORK and spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, has warned in her typical populist tone that “Our election campaigns are now awash with big money.”

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Winner.

In an otherwise excellent post yesterday on how, of all things, politics in our (basically) two-party system actually brings together Americans like nothing else, Joe Carter ends with this addendum:

Addendum: Casting a “protest vote” for third-party candidates is essentially casting a vote for the party you like the least. For example, say you prefer the Democrats to the Republicans but choose to vote for the Green Party candidate. Since the Green candidate will not win, you vote effectively reduces the vote for the Democratic candidate (your second favorite choice) by one. Had you cast the vote that way, it would have offset a vote for the Republican.

On the one hand, I do not disagree that one should not be deluded about the chances of most (there have been exceptions) third party candidates. One must consider that, in fact, a third party vote is also a passive vote for “the party you like least.”

But, on the other hand, there are times where I can see this as more than a protest vote. As I wrote in 2012, third party votes are different than abstaining to vote altogether in that while the latter may at best be a form of protest, a purely negative act, the former is actually a vote for someone/something. Thus: (more…)

united-by-differenceI can choose between 350 channels on my television, 170 stations on my satellite radio, 10,000 books at my local bookstore, and millions of websites on the Internet. But on my ballot I have only two real choices. I can vote for a Democrat or I can vote for a Republican.

In an age when even ice cream comes in 31 flavors, having only two choices in electoral politics seems anachronistic. But the limitation has an ironically beneficial effect. For as divisive as politics can be, nothing else has such power to unite our pluralistic nation.

From magazines to coffee to houses of worship, our consumer-oriented culture provides us with an unlimited number of choices. Chances are that you don’t watch the same TV shows, listen to the same music, or attend the same concerts as your neighbors. While the range of choices can be individually beneficial, it can be socially atomizing. In the 1950s if you lived in Green Bay you rooted for the Packers — just like everyone else in Wisconsin. Now with satellite broadcast, your favorite “football” team is just as likely to be Manchester United.

The expansion of choices has affected almost all major areas of life, except for one. In electoral politics you are forced to choose between the two dominant political parties. (Technically, other parties are listed on a ballot but the choice is still effectively limited to the two parties. See addendum.) Whether you are a proto-Marxist a theocratic Domnionist or a socially liberal libertarian, your choice of parties is limited to the Democrats or the Republicans. The choice may be nothing more than a vote for the lesser of two evils—Beelzebub rather than Lucifer—but making it requires you to band together with others of varying degrees of unanimity.
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