Win an Apple Macbook Air and a 32GB Ipod Touch!

For your chance to win an apple macbook air and a 32GB ipod touch either share our Facebook photo and like our facebook page or RT our photo on twitter and follow us.

The winner will be announced next thursday and we must have over 50 shares or 50 retweets! So get sharing/retweeting now and you could have these 2 fantastic items by the end of next week!

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The links are:

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Digestible Politics

Kenyan MPs Salaries Cut

Public outcry has led to the Kenyan government to cut MP salaries by $45,000 to $75,000 (approximately 40%). Protesters called the Kenyan MPs ‘MPigs’ forcing this decision despite a previous decision in May where MPs saw their salary rise to $120,000.

However, MPs will receive a $58,000 car allowance for agreeing with the cut, as well as a large pension, an armed guard, a diplomatic passport and access to airport VIP lounges. The MPs believe that they deserve the high salaries, often providing financial help to their constituents. Although many would agree the MPs are hard working the public outrage stemmed from the fact that they were receiving well over the national average income of $1,800 per year.

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Should Kenyan MPs have their salary cut? If so what should be done with the money?

Thanks for reading this short post!

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The American Constitution

For our American readers, a lot of this, if not all of this, will probably be something you have known since your childhood. But, I feel that it is necessary that we write a blog on the fascinating constitution: how it was formed, what it involved and how different people view it!

How and why was the Constitution formed?

In 1776, thirteen colonies declared their independence from Great Britain by signing the Declaration of Independence, making them ‘free and independent’ states. Consequently, this lead to the War of Independence between the former colonies and Britain from 1776-1783. The colonies had to pay tax to Britain, even though they had no representation in the British Parliament, so wanted to form their own system of government. In 1781, the newly independent colonies established a confederacy through the Articles of Confederation – a confederal government has a lot of power given to the states but little to the national government. However, this confederacy almost turned their victory in gaining independence into a defeat because it proved to be a disaster as their was little power for the national government, thus they failed to make a nation. In 1787, a group of people (now collectively known as the Founding Fathers) agreed to meet up at the Philadelphia convention to amend the Articles of Confederation. In the end, they scrapped the Articles of Confederation and created a new constitution with a number of compromises as to the allocation of powers.

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What were the compromises?

Three key compromises were the formation of government, state representation and choosing the president. Under British rule there had been a central government (unitary) with a lot of power for the national government, but the Articles of Confederation created a confederal government which gave a lot of power to the states (not the national government). The compromise was a federal government where the states and the national government had equally important powers. Representation for the states varied depending on their size. Large states wanted proportional representation where they would have more representatives compared to small states, but small states wanted equal representation regardless of state size. The compromise was to have a bicameral system (two houses): the House of Representatives would be proportional and the Senate would have equal representation. Finally, some people wanted a directly elected president and others wanted him/her to be appointed. The compromise was to have an indirectly elected Electoral College who would be elected by the people (in the Primaries) who then go on to choose the president (at the national party convention).

How liberals view the constitution

Liberals (such as the Democrats) would argue that the constitution creates a lot of gridlock (difficult to pass laws) and little accountability. Liberals also believe the Bill of Rights (defines citizen’s rights) is very important, but the system allows for the erosion of civil liberties during times of emergency. Finally, to a liberal, the courts have shown themselves slow and unwilling to intervene on a number of issues – especially social issues such as guns, abortion and gay rights.

How conservatives view the constitution

Conservatives (such as the Republicans) believe that the federal government exploits the vagueness of the constitution at the expense of states right and powers. The vagueness of the constitution can be seen through the ‘elastic’ clauses, such as the ‘necessary and proper’ clause, which allows the government to make laws which are ‘necessary and proper’ – conservatives wonder what laws are necessary and proper. They also question the growth of the courts through their power of judicial review, which allows the court to interpret the meaning of the constitution

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From a non-partisan view

The American constitution is the longest serving constitution in the world and the fact that compromises were made from the left and right meant that that there should be a good balance between the federal government and the state governments. Also, the difficulty of amending the constitution means that it requires broad based support for changes to be made to it.

Questions

  • Does the constitution fulfil its main functions?
  • Does the constitution need changing?
  • What are the pros and cons of the constitution?

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Guns In America

Gun policy has been a very contentious issue in recent years, especially in the light of the incidents at Sandy Hook and Aurora. As a result Obama has made some key proposals:

  • Reintroduce an expired ban on “military-style” assault weapons
  • Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds
  • Background checks on all gun sales
  • Ban on possession and sale of armour-piercing bullets
  • Harsher penalties for gun-traffickers, especially unlicensed dealers who buy arms for criminals
  • Approve the appointment of the head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

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Here are some statistics on guns in America which sparked Obama’s desire to propose such changes”

  •  9,960 people were killed by a gun in the USA in 2010, a rate of 3.2 per 100,000 people.
  • They have the 26th highest death rate by guns annually in the world
  • Gun ownership is declining – In 1990 46% of households and 29% of individuals said they owned a gun, today this has fallen to 32% and 21

The second amendment of the constitution gives American citizen the right to “bear arms”. As a result, the reforms proposed by Obama has created arguments, feeling that he is becoming ‘imperial’ in manner, taking the law into his own hands and becoming to dominant – something the Founding Fathers wished to prevent through their implementation of a series of checks and balances on the executive.

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Obama’s 2014 Budget

President Barack Obama is proposing a $3.77 trillion U.S. government budget for 2014 that would change taxes for the wealthy and adjust how Social Security benefits are calculated, a plan that fails to satisfy members of both parties.The proposal intends to reduce the deficit by nearly $2 trillion during the next decade, through a combination of new revenues and budget cuts.  It includes a minimum 30 percent tax on people making $1 million or more a year. Obama is pushing for a compromise between Republicans who refuse to raise taxes and Democrats who are seeking to protect popular programs that provide pensions and health care to the elderly and poor.

budget 2014

The president says his proposed budget is not his ideal plan to cut the deficit, but an effort at compromise to end what he says has been a cycle of short-term, crisis-driven decision-making. Competing budget plans have already been passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate, setting the stage for tough negotiations.

Republicans are opposed to raising more government revenue, after a deal with Democrats earlier this year that increased income-tax rates on wealthy Americans.  And lawmakers in the president’s Democratic Party are angry over his suggestion to switch to a modified formula to measure inflation, which will lower annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients.

President Obama’s Proposed 2014 Budget Overview:

  • Includes $1.8 trillion of additional budget deficit reduction over 10 years
  • Closes tax loopholes and reduces tax benefits for the wealthiest
  • Includes $400 billion in health savings
  • Includes $1 billion investment to launch manufacturing innovation institutes
  • Provides $50 billion for infrastructure investment

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America Through The Years

This is a quick summary on how the two major parties of America, the Democrats and the Republicans, have transformed since they were established in the 18th century. To understand this, you must understand what traditions and ideologies are. A tradition is a long established custom or belief and ideology is a system of ideas and ideals of how people think, for example a conservative ideology.

In the 18th century the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists were established which would form the basis of the Democrats and the Republicans. The Federalists believed in centralised government and are what is known today as the Republicans. The Anti-Federalists (otherwise known as the ‘Democratic-Republicans) believed in decentralised government and are what is known today as the Democrats. In 1828, Andrew Jackson (who was the president from 1829-37) renamed the ‘Democratic Republicans’ the Democrat Party and began to establish a liberal ideology which believed in protecting the interest of the poor.

By the 1860s, Slavery was a big issue on the agenda. Southern Democrats, in contrast to today, preached the economic virtues of slavery whilst Lincoln’s Republican Party, in the North, opposed it, and as a result won the civil war (1861-1865). This created an era of Republican domination in America.

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However, in the 1930s, there was an economic depression which sent the Republicans into political wilderness – exactly what the Republicans did in the 1860s. The Democrat ‘New Deal Coalition’ helped to establish a coalition of support between minorities, poor, unionists, blue-collar workers, less educated, and liberally minded people causing support for the party to soar. This created a reversal in the beliefs of the parties on the role of the federal government. The Democrats now wanted a centralised government, whilst the Republicans wanted a decentralised government.

Democrat support continued into the 1960s where they promoted civil rights through affirmative action. Affirmative action is programmes that entails giving those members of a previously disadvantaged minority group a head start in such areas as higher education and employment. The term is often regarded as being synonymous with ‘positive discrimination’. Affirmative action is now required by law for all federal government agencies and for those organisations in receipt of federal funds.

More recently though, trends in party dominance are not so clear. With each one or two terms leading to a president from a different party. This is most likely the result of increased partisanship. Partisanship is an adversarial political system in which parties compete for power and hold sharply different ideologies. In this system politicians from one party wholeheartedly supports their party policies and are often reluctant to acknowledge the accuracy of their political opponents. This could be seen in the recent Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which was signed into law by Obama in 2010. With ALL Republicans voting against it and virtually all Democrats voting for it – the result was 219:212.

What is your ideological position and why?

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