Foaming at the Mouth

So given that foaming soap is the answer to saving water and soap, as well as reducing the burden on water treatment plants, what should be done?  Should we individually use foaming soap?  I think we should go further, requiring that all liquid soap dispensers sold should be foaming soap dispensers.

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Do We Need to Invade Switzerland?

A recent economic study found that $7.6 trillion is hidden in tax havens around the world.  That’s over $1000 for every person on the planet.  Of course, most of the people on this planet wouldn’t know the first thing about how to move their money offshore to a tax haven.  Only multinational corporations and people with tens of millions in wealth have those resources.

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Ukraine is Just the Beginning

Russia has now proposed an easing of tensions with the West over its ambitions for parts of Ukraine, including Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.  But even as relief is in sight there, we must realize that Ukraine is only the beginning of the list of European trouble spots with connections to Russia.

The former Soviet republic of Moldova has a breakaway Russian-speaking region called Transnistria that has 1600 Russian troops stationed within its borders.  There are fears that Russia could invade Western Ukraine in order to reach Transnistria.  Or put another way, Russia could use Transnistria as an excuse to invade much more of Ukraine than simply its Russian-speaking eastern and southern parts.

If fears of Russia reaching across other territories to come to the aid of Russian speakers are to be taken seriously, then Transnistria is small potatoes.  The real problem of Europe is Kaliningrad.

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Saber Rattling in Ukraine

Crimea should be part of Russia, but not this way.  The invasion of Crimea is the perfect occasion to teach Putin a lesson in humility.

The right and International law are on our side.  In fact we have treaty obligations to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine (though you wouldn’t know it from the US media).  So it’s time to act.  But what can we do?  A lot:

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Peak China

I’m traveling to Beijing this Thursday, so I need to write this blog entry…

First there was peak oil, the idea that has fascinated many since the 1970s that oil production was about to peak and then collapse, leaving our economy crippled.  Then there was “peak everything” as it has been called, the regular doomsaying that everything from clean water to the ingredients of computer chips are running out.

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Defund Guantanamo

In Doctor Strangelove, the Russians develop a nuclear doomsday device that will destroy the world if they are attacked.  The perfect deterrent, except they keep the device top secret.  Woops!  Republicans have now developed the same thing in reverse: a threat that isn’t a threat, according to them.  Having threatened to do the unthinkable (cause default on US debt) if they don’t get their way, they now say default wouldn’t be that bad.

If that’s the way Republican thinking is evolving, we may be headed for default after all.  Or, at least, we’re headed for a situation where President Obama may have to make some tough decisions.  If, as Republicans say, the US can pay the obligations it really needs to and defer the rest, then it would be up to the executive branch (i.e. the President) to decide what to defer funding on.  The President says you can’t just pick and choose what parts of the government to fund.  But in case he has to, I have some suggestions that he may like:

1) Defund Guantanamo.  Military bases maintained in hostile territory are always expensive, so this will save quite a bit of money.  Just put all the people there on a ship and get them out overnight.  The Cubans will occupy it the next day, and there would be no way we could ever go back.  (And terminate the lease to be sure of that.)  Guantanamo shut down, money saved, international festering sore instantly healed.

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Immigration Reform Thoughts

I was rereading my earlier post on how immigration reform doesn’t require amnesty, and had a few more thoughts.

I had written that immigration of low-skilled workers could be based on employment, just like it is for highly skilled workers.  But in addition, we need to recognize that in the long term, immigration should depend on other factors as well, and should allow periods of unemployment because these are understandable.

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Recall Elections

The recent recall election in Colorado unseated two Democratic lawmakers who had voted for moderate state gun control measures, chilling the climate for gun control there and arguably nationwide.  How do recall elections work, and how could increasing use of recalls affect politics?

The states have different laws regarding whether and how recalls are allowed.  Most states do not authorize recall elections, while nineteen states do.  In Colorado, along with California, a petition to recall an officeholder that gathers enough valid signatures triggers a recall election with a two-part ballot.  Part 1 asks if the officeholder should be removed from office, and Part 2 contains a choice of candidates to replace them.  All voters may mark Part 2 no matter how they vote in Part 1.  However, the incumbent officeholder may not appear on Part 2.

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Why Immigration Reform Doesn’t Need Amnesty

The Immigration bill seems to be moving forward but the central mechanism of the bill, creating a path to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally, is flawed.  Not because I adhere to the “no amnesty” principle, but simply because this is not the simplest or best approach.

The truth is we need immigrants to do many jobs.  We can all agree on that.  And we should also be able to agree that it is bad for us as a society to have a population in legal limbo who can’t get driver licenses or do so many other things legally, so they live an illegal unregulated existence.

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The debt monster

The national debt has gone from 36% of the economy to 72% between 2007 and 2012.  It has doubled in proportion to the economy in five years.  That was largely due to the Bush Wars and the Obama Stimulus, but also due to our recurring deficit of hundreds of billions of dollars.  Currently the interest on the debt is about $400 billion per year.  But what if interest rates go up?

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