March 14, 2012
By Eric Blair
“Perhaps it’s time the US stop policing the world. In case they haven’t noticed, things are pretty messed up at home.” –KTRN
In the string of military conflicts that the United States and NATO have been involved in since the second world war they have always attempted to maintain the high road by claiming that they were responding to some kind of threat, and apparently helping the people that they were bombing.
This approach is largely accepted by the general public who is either too afraid or unable to suspect malicious intentions on the part of their masters. In helping themselves to rationalize the nonsensical things that are happening in their name many people are firm believers in the idea that their government is doing good “policing the world”.
We hear this phrase all of the time, even among people who generally disagree with wars and government policy. People say that “NATO has no right to police the world as they do!”, and those people would be right. However, that statement is overlooking one fundamental premise, that being the fact that NATO’s goals and ambitions have nothing to do with “policing the world”. Just as ancient Rome’s government could care less about “bringing civilization to the savages”, today’s Western governments are not interested in “spreading democracy” or “policing the world”.
This is an extremely important point to make because this idea that they are trying to police the world perpetuates the myth of the fair and benevolent state, and downplays the significant damage that they are doing to people’s lives around the world. If we were being honest with ourselves, we would say that they are trying to take over the world’s governments and plunder their natural resources, because that’s what we can see happening around us. War is, and always has been, about conquest for plunder and power. And the many wars that we see taking place around the world today are no different.
Sure, nowadays, the cover story may be that they are “policing the world”, but there is now a mountain of evidence showing that the primary goal of these military actions are to secure natural resources, hijack the local political and financial systems, and establish more military bases to assist in future conquests.
Time after time Western imperial powers vilify foreign dictators who, in many cases, have been directly funded and supported by those same imperial powers in the past. For at least the past century the UK, US and their allies have been shipping billions of dollars worth of weapons to foreign dictators under the guise of “foreign aid”. As a side note, “foreign aid” is another one of those terms that imply a fair and benevolent state, when the reality is far more destructive than the choice of words would lead one to believe.
January 30, 2012
By Lee Drutman
“It’s always about the money and the Political One Perfect has most of it.” –KTRN
If you think wealth is concentrated in the United States, just wait till you look at the data on campaign spending.
In the 2010 election cycle, 26,783 individuals (or slightly less than one in ten thousand Americans) each contributed more than $10,000 to federal political campaigns. Combined, these donors spent $774 million. That’s 24.3% of the total from individuals to politicians, parties, PACs, and independent expenditure groups. Together, they would fill only two-thirds of the 41,222 seats at Nationals Park the baseball field two miles from the U.S. Capitol. When it comes to politics, they are The One Percent of the One Percent.
A Sunlight Foundation examination of data from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics reveals a growing dependence of candidates and political parties on the One Percent of the One Percent, resulting in a political system that could be disproportionately influenced by donors in a handful of wealthy enclaves. Our examination also shows that some of the heaviest hitters in the 2010 cycle were ideological givers, suggesting that the influence of the One Percent of the One Percent on federal elections may be one of the obstacles to compromise in Washington.
The One Percent of the One Percent are not average Americans. Overwhelmingly, they are corporate executives, investors, lobbyists, and lawyers. A good number appear to be highly ideological. They give to multiple candidates and to parties and independent issue groups. They tend to cluster in a limited number of metropolitan zip codes, especially in New York, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
In the 2010 election cycle, the average One Percent of One Percenter spent $28,913, more than the median individual income of $26,364
At the top of this elite group are individuals such as Bob Perry, CEO of Perry Homes, who gave $7.3 million to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads in 2010 and $4.4 million to Swift Vets and POWs for Truth in 2004, and Wayne Hughes, owner and chairman of Public Storage Inc., who gave $3.25 million to American Crossroads in 2010, and Fred Eshelman, CEO of Pharmaceutical Product Development who spent $3 million in 2010 on his own group, RightChange. Sunlight’s Ryan Sibley writes more about the top donors here.
Unlike the other 99.99% of Americans who do not make these contributions, these elite donors have unique access. In a world of increasingly expensive campaigns, The One Percent of the One Percent effectively play the role of political gatekeepers. Prospective candidates need to be able to tap into these networks if they want to be taken seriously. And party leaders on both sides are keenly aware that more than 80% of party committee money now comes from these elite donors.
Political scientists Wendy K. Tam Cho and James G. Gimpel have called these elite donor networks “campaign gold” after discovering just how much big contributors tend to flock together, making it easy for candidates to raise substantial sums of money at a single event.
October 31, 2011
By Patrick Henningsen
It’s not so much we are witnessing history unfold, as it is Washington’s hypocrisy unravel before our eyes.
Washington is infested with busy-bodies who run from one briefing to the next, one press conference to the next, in a drive to conduct their symphonies of policy and media in a desperate bid to remain relevant. Some try harder than others. Inside the beltway, original ideas, humility, honor and integrity are somewhat hard to come by these days.
They are the high-flying political class in the United States, an elite tribe who are so detached from reality that it’s become an almost embarrassment to watch. The Orwellian doublespeak which is now coming out the State Department’s office of nation-building is hitting new highs.
They grandstanded on the TV, and fawned Tunisia and Egypt during the celebrated Arab Spring. Then they ordered Libya and Syria to ‘show restraint and let democracy take it’s natural course’.
Even if – armed insurgents were burning down government buildings in Tripoli, and or firing upon and killing police in Syria.
Obama confidently that other governments “must be responsive for their citizens aspirations”.
Even if, those citizens are being backed and financed by the US State Department, Whitehall, Élysée Palace and allies Qatar.
Hillary Clinton ordered Libya to “respect the universal rights of its own people, including the right to free expression and assembly.”
Even if – her own government cannot even manage to cater for this right any more, even in the United States of America.
In the US, the erosion of our basic rights provided by the Bill of Rights and US Constitution has been a long and painful process.
9-11 gave us the naziesque Patriot Acts I & II – two bills which have achieved nothing since their inception, and yet, are still as enthusiastically championed by Barack Obama as they were by GW Bush.
The anti-war demonstrations of 2003 gave us “free speech zones”, in country where freedom to assemble, where and when you want, used to be a god-given inalienable right. Now its a mere privilege.
The G20 demonstrations of 2009 gave us police brutality on a mass militarized scale, not seen before domestically. Thousands of paramilitary police where shipped in to Pittsburgh, sound canons were deployed and students were chased down, tear gassed and beaten in what came to known as forced compliance.
Even an obvious avant garde demonstration, a silent disco at the Jefferson Memorial saw police beat and injure Americans who were only trying to test the vital signs of a US Constitution in critical condition.
What elite political performers like Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton are really saying to the governments of Libya, and now Syria, and later to Algeria and Iran- is that you cannot put down an armed insurrection in your countries, but in the US we reserve the right to beat and shoot our own citizens, and arrested without charges- if they attempt to demonstrate in public.
In other words, “Do as we say, not as we do.”
President Obama will have the world believe that America is less brutal to its own citizens than the rest of the world, but as hundreds of thousands of people in the Occupy Movement now get their first taste of civil disobedience, it is inevitable that some will be unlucky enough to get the hard end of the state’s velvet fist. Indeed, Scott Olsen found this out the hard way in Oakland this week.
And the Occupy Movement will also learn very quickly that we cannot ignore the rights which our US political elite have been denying the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Libya for all these years now- and expect to be afforded those same rights by the same criminal US government here at home.
September 19th, 2011
The New York Times
By: Jeff Zeleny and Megan Thee-Brenan
President Obama’s support is eroding among elements of his base, and a yearlong effort to recapture the political center has failed to attract independent voters, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, leaving him vulnerable at a moment when pessimism over the country’s direction is greater than at any other time since he took office.
The president’s effort to seize the initiative on the economy was well received by the public, and clear majorities support crucial pieces of his new job-creation program. But despite Mr. Obama’s campaign to sell the plan to Congress and voters, more than half of those questioned said they feared the economy was already in or was headed for a double-dip recession, and nearly three-quarters of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.
Republicans appear more energized than Democrats at the outset of the 2012 presidential campaign, but have not coalesced around a candidate. Even as the party’s nominating contest seems to be narrowing to a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a majority of their respective supporters say they have reservations about their candidate. Half of Republicans who plan to vote in a primary say they would like more choices.
A snapshot of the Republican Party, four months before the first primary ballots are cast, shows that voters are evenly divided between preferring a presidential nominee who can defeat Mr. Obama or one who aligns with them on most issues. A majority of voters who support the Tea Party movement place a higher priority on winning back the White House.
The Republican primary campaign is unfolding in a more conservative electorate than four years ago, with 7 in 10 Republican voters calling themselves conservative and one-quarter who say they are moderate.
The poll, which was conducted after Mr. Obama’s economic address to Congress last week, contains considerable warning signs for the president. The poll found a 12-point jump since late June, to 43 percent, in the number of Americans who say the economy is getting worse. And for the first time since taking office, his disapproval rating has reached 50 percent in the Times and CBS News polls.
“I don’t disapprove of Barack Obama as a person, but as a president he has disappointed me greatly,” said Ann Sheets, 69, a Democrat from Chattanooga, Tenn., speaking in a follow-up interview. Ms. Sheets added, “I’m realistic enough to know how difficult it is and I am not against compromise, but I voted for a backbone. You have to draw some lines in the sand, and I don’t think he has done that.”
The poll found a 43 percent approval rating for Mr. Obama. It is significantly higher than Jimmy Carter, who had an approval rating of 31 percent at a similar time in his presidency, according to the Times and CBS News poll, which showed Ronald Reagan with an approval of 46 percent and the elder George Bush at 70 percent.
The president’s support has fallen to its lowest levels across parts of the diverse coalition of voters who elected him, from women to suburbanites to college graduates. And a persistent effort over the past year to reclaim his appeal to independent voters has shown few signs of bearing fruit, with 59 percent of this critical electoral group voicing their disapproval.
While Mr. Obama has not yet succeeded in winning over independent voters, who comprise the most influential piece of the electorate, neither have Republicans. The field is largely unknown to independents, and few have a favorable opinion of any of the candidates.
As the Republican Party experiences something of a reinvention, with Tea Party activists often clashing with the party’s weakening establishment, the poll found an overall electorate that is not entirely in step with the campaign messages of the party’s candidates.
More than 8 in 10 Republicans voters would like to see the national health care law repealed, at least in part. About half say illegal immigrants should be deported, rather than offered a chance at citizenship or an opportunity to serve as guest workers.
Yet in stark contrast to the positions taken by some presidential candidates, three-quarters of Republicans say global warming exists — either as a result of human activity, natural patterns in the earth’s environment, or both. Nearly 6 in 10 favor allowing same-sex couples to either form civil unions or marry. And only one-third of Republicans support a ban on abortion.
A slim majority of Republican voters say it is important for a presidential candidate to share their religious beliefs. And more than one-third of Republican primary voters say that most people they know would not vote for a candidate who is Mormon.
Mr. Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, struggled during his presidential bid four years ago to explain his Mormon traditions to some voters. Mr. Perry speaks frequently to Republican audiences about his evangelical beliefs.
The poll was taken as Republicans hopefuls are drawing sharp distinctions with one another in a series of nationally televised debates.
A fight over Social Security has emerged as one of the early yet defining differences between Mr. Perry, who has called the program a “monstrous lie,” and Mr. Romney, who has called for maintaining the current system with some changes to shore up its long-term financial condition. The poll found that nearly three-quarters of Republicans said they thought Social Security and Medicare were worth their costs.
The crosscurrents across the Republican landscape show the promise and peril for the candidates. Nearly half of Republicans surveyed said they considered themselves supporters of the Tea Party, but that finding was tempered by two-thirds of Republicans who said a candidate’s identification with the Tea Party made no difference in their vote.
“Any Republican who gets the nomination, whether it’s my first choice or not, is going to be better than what we’ve got now,” said Allen Hulshizer, 77, a Republican and retired structural engineer from Glenside, Pa. “By the time you get down to the final selections, any one of the top contenders will certainly be better than Obama.”
The nationwide telephone poll was conducted from last Saturday through Thursday with 1,452 adults, of whom 1,356 were registered to vote. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for both groups.
The poll found that most Americans are familiar with the American Jobs Act, the president’s $447 billion proposal to create jobs. Almost half of the public is confident the plan would create jobs and improve the economy. A substantial majority of Americans support the main proposals aimed at creating jobs, including tax cuts for small businesses, improvements in the nation’s infrastructure and payroll tax cuts for working Americans.
Yet despite their support, two-thirds of Americans from broad majorities across party lines are doubtful that Congressional Democrats and Republicans will be able to reach an agreement on a job-creation package despite near universal bipartisan support for compromise. The poll also found a historically low approval rating for Congress, with just 19 percent approving of Republicans, compared with 28 percent that approve of Democrats.
The poll had a few promising signs for Mr. Obama. Americans strongly support his position that creating jobs should be a higher priority than cutting spending. Democrats and independents agree on that view, while Republicans do not. And across party lines, Americans support his position that a deficit-reduction plan should include a mix of tax increases and spending cuts.
But the poll also found a dark mood on Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, with 34 percent approving and 57 percent disapproving. His numbers on job creation are similarly bleak, with 40 percent approving of his performance and 53 percent disapproving. Two-thirds of the public say Mr. Obama has not made progress in fixing the economy, even though a majority of people concede the condition of the national economy is not something a president can do a lot about.
“I have incredible empathy for the spot he’s in. He walked into the huge mess left behind by George Bush,” said Barbara Cornell, 56, a Democrat and hospital chaplain from Shoreline, Wash. Ms. Cornell added, “I believe he is a good person, but there are all these issues and problems that aren’t being dealt with.”
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June 22, 2010
By: Thomas Sowell
When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics.
Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler’s rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions.
“Useful idiots” was the term supposedly coined by V.I. Lenin to describe similarly unthinking supporters of his dictatorship in the Soviet Union.
Put differently, a democracy needs informed citizens if it is to thrive, or ultimately even survive.
In our times, American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it.
The president’s poll numbers are going down because increasing numbers of people disagree with particular policies of his, but the damage being done to the fundamental structure of this nation goes far beyond particular counterproductive policies.
Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere.
And yet that is precisely what is happening with a $20 billion fund to be provided by BP to compensate people harmed by their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Many among the public and in the media may think that the issue is simply whether BP’s oil spill has damaged many people, who ought to be compensated.
But our government is supposed to be “a government of laws and not of men.”
If our laws and our institutions determine that BP ought to pay $20 billion — or $50 billion or $100 billion — then so be it.
But the Constitution says that private property is not to be confiscated by the government without “due process of law.”
Technically, it has not been confiscated by Barack Obama, but that is a distinction without a difference.
With vastly expanded powers of government available at the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats, private individuals and organizations can be forced into accepting the imposition of powers that were never granted to the government by the Constitution.
If you believe that the end justifies the means, then you don’t believe in constitutional government.
June 3, 2010
By Rick Pearson
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial will feature prosecutors feeding voters a steady reminder of the worst elements of Illinois’ political culture — allegations that money, insider influence and personal interest drive public policy in this state.
From charges of trying to shake down a children’s hospital for campaign cash to trying to peddle President Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat for profit, the case will once again put Illinois politics on trial.
For Democrats, the trial represents a long-feared day of reckoning after 18 months of a Blagojevich-fueled circus. The challenge is to weather months of testimony involving pay-to-play charges as the party tries to maintain its control of state government, led by Gov. Pat Quinn, who replaced Blagojevich as governor after twice serving as his running mate.
“It’s not a plus. It’s not a plus,” acknowledged House Speaker Michael Madigan, the veteran Southwest Side lawmaker who is chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party.
May 5, 2010
by Bruce Kennedy
A recent news item is causing a flurry of agitation across the U.S. beef industry.
According to an Associated Press report, the Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Agriculture have launched an investigation into whether the nation’s largest meat-packing companies have been manipulating and driving down cattle prices.
So far, there has been no comment from the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), the federal agency responsible for regulating trading practices within America’s livestock industry. The GIPSA has come under criticism in the past for not putting enough bite into its role as a watchdog. A 2006 report by the Government Accountability Office said GIPSA hadn’t taken sufficient steps to correct “identified weaknesses in GIPSA’s investigation and enforcement activities.”
David Ray, vice president of public affairs for the American Meat Institute, a meat packers trade group, says the reports of a government investigation are both unsubstantiated and ironic — considering, he says, that “cattle prices are 10% to 12% higher than a year ago, and are predicted to remain strong through 2010.”
Others in the industry point out an unprecedented joint effort by the Justice and Agriculture departments, launched earlier this year — not an investigation, but a series of nationwide public workshops on competition and regulatory issues within the U.S. agriculture industry. In a press statement issued in March, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the workshops underscore the Obama administration’s commitment to “enforcing the antitrust laws effectively to ensure fair and open competition that protects both consumers and farmers.”
Jeremy Russell, spokesperson for the National Meat Association, another meat packers organization, notes those joint workshops are looking at competitiveness across nation’s entire agriculture industry, and not just at beef. “They’re casting a big tent,” he says. “They’re really looking to bring everybody in to talk about this issue, and get all of the opinions.”
Russell believes the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act, which requires meat packers to report daily price, volume, import and export information to the USDA, has helped maintain a level of transparency in the industry.
Government’s Push On Ethanol Has Fueled a Feed Corn Quandary
But some cattle producers remain concerned about the decades-long shift by meat companies away from buying cattle on the cash market — a shift which reportedly hurts smaller feedlot and ranching operations. “These producer groups continue to create a scuffle that has serious serious political and economic impacts,” Russell says. “And [the producers] have a lot of political capital, so they can push on Washington and move them in different ways.”
Other analysts believe that consumers benefit from the current pricing situation. “The goal of meat packers is to make profits by satisfying consumers,” says Dr. Alexandre Padilla, economics professor at Metropolitan State College of Denver. “They provide quality meat at a lower price than other companies. There is no doubt that some small farms and ranches will lose out … but it’s not up to the government to decide who should make profits and should not make profits or what should be the price of meat. It’s up to the consumers via the market.”
The current rise in beef prices, says Russell, “has to do with input costs, the price of corn, the expense of transport, the rising cost of fuel.” And those corn prices, notes Ray of the AMI, are also contributing to a significant reduction in the number of cattle in the U.S.
“In 2007, when the government passed the Renewable Fuel Standard mandating that nearly 30% of the corn raised in the U.S. would be burned as fuel, animal agriculture quickly pointed out that this would drive some producers out of business,” says Ray. “[W]hen corn prices skyrocketed to nearly three times their historic average in 2008, many producers either went out of business or started liquidating their breeding animals. That has been one of the primary [reasons], but not only reason, why the U.S. finds itself with a smaller herd in 2010.”
While those variables affect current market prices, Russell says, the anti-competitive issues are part of the meat industry trying to become more efficient. “In the face of these really big changes that are happening, whether it’s ethanol or just rising fuel costs in general,” he says, “those are the kind of things that are … having an impact on the bottom line.”
April 27, 2010
By Rick Klein
As President Obama considers his options for a Supreme Court vacancy, Senate Republicans are preparing to use the upcoming hearings to explore what they say is the expanded role of government under the Obama presidency, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee told ABC News.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said in an interview that Republicans are planning a sharp focus on the president’s approach to governance — regardless of who the president nominates — to ensure that the newest member of the high court won’t be a “rubber-stamp” for the Obama agenda.
“It’s pretty clear to me that President Obama sees judges as allies in an effort to promote an agenda he thinks is best for the country,” Sessions said. “And a lot of people see it that way — he’s just part of that movement.
“And that’s not law. That’s not law — that’s politics. And it’s a poison in our legal system, and the American people are not happy about it. They see it for what it is, and they don’t think that courts ought to be there to rubber-stamp President Obama’s or anybody’s agenda.”
Sessions said Republicans on the Judiciary Committee will bring a particular scrutiny to the nominee’s stance on such issues as the new health care law’s requirement that individuals purchase insurance; government bailouts of private businesses; property rights issues; gun rights; and the president’s criticism of the Citizens United ruling that opened the door to corporate campaign contributions.
“What I’m hearing from my constituents is a cry that Washington is losing all recognition that it is a government of limited, delegated powers, and that it is assuming roles that go far beyond anything the governed ever thought that they would be doing,” Sessions said.
“You have the fundamental question: Is this what the framers [of the Constitution] had in mind when they created a limited government, and created a Commerce Clause?” he added.
While the specific response from Republicans will of course depend on the nominee and his or her record and writings, Sessions said he’s not optimistic about what he presumes will be the nominee’s approach on the most pressing issues of the day, given what the president has said publicly about his policies, plus the role of the courts.
“The nominee’s entitled to be fairly treated, to be judged on their own record — not on the president’s speech or somebody else in Congress who may have said this or that,” he said. “But some of these issues are pretty fundamental.”
March 15, 2010
By E. Huff
Beginning on January 1, 2010, Russia has officially banned imported poultry products from countries that use chlorine in their processing methods. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will no longer allow chicken imports from the U.S. because the chlorine baths used to sanitize chickens do not meet Russian food safety standards.
Since it comes from Russia, many may dismiss the ban as being politically charged with no scientific validity. However many nations around the world, including all within the European Union, have banned poultry imports from chlorine-using countries because of the dangers posed by the chemical. These countries use different methods to disinfect meat, including air chilling and electrolyzed water treatments, which do not expose the meat to harmful chemicals.
Putin expressed that Russia is working to become poultry self-sufficient by the year 2015 but, until then, will import only from nations that do not use chlorine in meat processing. Each year, the import quota will be dropped until, eventually, all chicken will be domestically raised in Russia.
When the issue first surfaced back in 2008, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Export Council tried to persuade Russia that the chlorine treatment methods used on chicken are both safe and effective. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the hypochlorus chemical used, which is an active form of chlorine, is an effective antimicrobial.
Rather than reconsider the safety of its own treatment methods, U.S. regulators tried to use rhetoric to convince Russia to accept U.S. imports and failed miserably. Russia refused to hear any of it, ending $825 million worth of U.S. chicken imports into its country.
The truth about chlorine chicken baths is that not only are they not truly effective but they expose people to a steady stream of toxic chlorine every time they consume chicken. Chlorine is known to increase cancer risk and cause other serious problems including respiratory illness and heart disease. Like other environmental halogens, chlorine contributes to thyroid dysfunction as well.
The levels of chlorine used in chicken baths, which average somewhere between 20 and 50 parts per million (ppm), do not always kill all the pathogens present. According to a European Consumers’ Organization study conducted in 2007, 83 percent of U.S. chicken that had been treated in chlorine baths still contained harmful pathogens. The bath essentially becomes a pathogen cesspool that contaminates all the other chickens that are submerged in it.
It is no wonder that Russia, the E.U., and a growing list of nations around the world are refusing chlorinated U.S. chicken.