Pros have a plan for improving politics

A bipartisan group of former legislators and other business professionals have written a proposal for improving our political system. The proposal, “Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen Our Democracy,” [1] is the work of a group of former Senators, state Governors and other former appointed officials and has the support of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) in Washington. The proposal includes changes for improving the voting system and the work schedule of Congress, and it includes a plan for encouraging more citizens to serve at community and national levels. [2]

The group worked towards a consensus proposal. Not all of the ideas are equally supported by all individuals that worked on the document however the goal was to produce a group of recommendations through compromise. The group called, the BPC Commission on Political Reform, also held town hall meetings during 2013 and 2014 to gather input from citizens. The commission’s goal was to investigate the causes and consequences of America’s partisan political divide. The proposal includes more than 60 recommendations grouped into suggestions for improving the election process, [Rec. 1.1-1.19, pp 31-51],  for improving the daily flow of work in both branches of Congress, [Rec. 2.1-2.19, pp 53-72], and ideas to help return a sense of national duty and pride to the average citizen, [Rec. 3.1-3.24, pp 73-99]. A summary of just the recommendations is available at the beginning of the proposal.  [pp 13-18, 1]

“E pluribus unum. “Out of many, one.”” [p21, 1]

One nation, with many voices, can work together and achieve. Working together with a goal of a compromising win/win is needed. One united nation is not half red and half blue, it is red, white and blue.

The Commission on Political Reform provides strategies for improving the daily work of the Congress and for improving the election process. The report shares a concern over the changes that have occurred in campaign funding since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision on Citizen’s United and the 2014 decision on McCutcheon. The Commission on Political Reform includes recommendations for improved disclosure of campaign contributions, {Rec. 1.16}, and for limiting use of leadership PACs, {Rec. 1.17 and 1.18}, but proposes that an additional bipartisan commission be appointed to assess the impact of the Supreme Court decisions on our nation’s election process and to make further recommendations regarding campaign finance reform. {Rec 1.19} [pp 48-51,1] The expense of the election process has made fund raising an ongoing need for members of Congress and reduces time available for working towards a functional government.

Not voting or running for office in a system that seems corrupt and dysfunctional might seem like a simple solution for American citizens who want to stay out of politics but it is our nation, our elected officials, our appointed Supreme Court — it is our system to improve for all of us whether we currently like it or not.

The Commission recommends coordinating the time that members of the House and Senate spend in Washington D.C. and in their home districts with a schedule including the same three five-day workweeks spent in Washington and the remaining week of the month spent in their home district. [Rec. 2.1, p 55-56, 1] Currently the House and Senate are frequently not in session at the same time and the mismatched schedules are sometimes used as leverage to encourage take-it-or-leave voting or reduce time for deliberations.

More scheduled time for joint party meetings for formal and informal discussion is recommended [Rec. 2.2 and 2.3, p 57, 1], as well as monthly meetings with the President in attendance [Rec 2.4, p 58, 1]. Improving the effectiveness of committees is the focus of Recommendations 2.5 through 2.9, 2.11 and 2.12 [p 59-60, 64-67 1]. Submitting bills  at least three days in advance of a vote to provide time for members and the public a chance to read the proposed legislation and comment is Recommendation 2.10 [p 61, 1].

The budget cycle currently is an annual duty of Congress; the Commission recommends that the budget approval be changed to a two year cycle which would allow more time for oversight. A two year cycle would also allow agencies affected by federal budget changes to be able to better plan their agency’s budget. [Rec. 2.18, p70, 1] Limiting additions to appropriations bills is the focus of Recommendation 2.19 [p 71, 1].

Read it and weep that the system needs work, or read it and rejoice that some are still ready to work on improving the system, but read the proposal because it is our nation to care about and to take care of.
Not voting might seem like a simple way to stay out of a system that seems corrupt and dysfunctional – but whether we, American citizens, vote or not it is still our nation, and our elected officialsGoverning in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen Our Democracy,” – See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/06/25/Senate-Alums-Know-How-Fix-Our-Broken-Government#sthash.39nSlaMt.dpuf
“Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen Our Democracy,” – See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/06/25/Senate-Alums-Know-How-Fix-Our-Broken-Government#sthash.39nSlaMt.dpuf
“Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen Our Democracy,” – See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/06/25/Senate-Alums-Know-How-Fix-Our-Broken-Government#sthash.39nSlaMt.dpuf
“Governing in a Polarized America: A Bipartisan Blueprint to Strengthen Our Democracy,” – See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/06/25/Senate-Alums-Know-How-Fix-Our-Broken-Government#sthash.39nSlaMt.dpuf

A greenhouse ap for revealing political donations

My new hero is a sixteen year old interested in politics and coding. He created an ap that reveals the amount and types of donations that a politician received. The information is available as a pop up that can appear while reading an article that includes the names of current politicians. The pop up includes the campaign donation information gathered during the last election cycle by the website opensecrets.org. A click on the pop-up can take you to that website for more recent fund-raising totals or to other sites regarding the politician’s support of campaign finance reform .

An interview reveals more about the ap and the inventor’s goals of increased transparency in politics. [1]

And the ap is free and available to download for use with Safari, Chrome and Firefox. See the website for more information about using the ap and for links to download: [2]

Corporate personhood may make sense to the Supreme Court but they aren’t the ones who issue birth certificates.  You can call me old fashioned but I like personhood to include an actual person.

1996, the year GM crops were planted commercially

Genetically modified crops were introduced commercially in 1996. Advantages were to include more resistance to pests and less need for herbicides however the pests and weeds have become resistant to the modifications. [1] We don’t really  know the long term effects of the foods on human health.

A disadvantage of the modified corn is that the grain itself was modified to produce internally a chemical harmful to pests. Bt corn produces a protein derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. The Bt protein content of pollen from the GM corn was found to be harmful enough to negatively impact the larval stage of Monarch butterflies in areas adjacent to corn fields. [2] Typically a pesticide is applied to the exterior of a food and is removed before eating by washing or peeling the food. Clearly a modified grain that forms a pesticide within the food itself has disadvantages in that peeling or washing can’t remove the pesticide from the food. So in 1996 an interesting experiment was begun with the food supply and it is still taking place.

The following link is to an animated map which shows the increasing rates of obesity in the US between 1985 and 2010. [3] The animation is a little fast over the 25 year time span but it can be seen that more categories had to be added during the 1990s when the map changed from mostly pale blue (10-14%), to dark blue (15-19%), and to peach (20-24%), around the year 2000, and then advanced to orange (25-29%) around 2007, and finally red (>30%). The overall rate for 2011-2012 was 34.9%. [4]

We had sugary foods throughout the 1900’s but we didn’t have Bt corn as 76% of the corn crop [5] or other genetically modified foods. Not enough is known about autoimmune and fertility risks that may be associated with Bt corn or other genetically modified crops. [6] Gliadin, one of the types of protein in wheat, may be associated with an autoimmune type of diabetes [7] as well as the autoimmune condition of Celiac disease.[8]

/Update, 11/3/2017 – the Roundup herbicide which contains glyphosate and which is frequently used with genetically modified crops and some other crops, may also be affecting physiology in a way that increases risk of weight gain and high blood sugar due to inhibition of CYP enzymes. This is still considered hypothetical rather than proven information however – more research is needed.

/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and  the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./