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The Obnoxious Tea Party Leaders Have Vanished from the Political Stage — Palin, Beck, DeMint, Paul, Bachmann… Poof!

February 27, 2013 in Blogs

By Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon

Who are the names that come to mind when you think about leaders of the Tea Party movement? Maybe Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Jim DeMint, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann? Those were the most popular leaders listed by self-identified Tea Party activists in a 2010 Washington Post poll, at the height of the movement. You could add to that list a handful of other congressmen, especially outspoken Reps. Steve King, Allen West and Joe Walsh, among others.

And then you’d realize that every single one of them either lost their job or abandoned being a voice of the movement.

The 2012 election was devastating for the outspoken leaders in Congress. Allen West lost after a protracted battle, Joe Walsh was trounced by rising star Tammy Duckworth, and Ron Paul retired. Other, lesser-known members like Roscoe Barlett also lost. The two House Tea Party Caucus members who ran for the Senate last year both lost — Reps. Denny Rehberg in Montana and Todd Akin in Missouri.

Meanwhile Jim DeMint, the most prominent Tea Party leader in the Senate, who funded primary challenges against more moderate Republicans, left the Senate a month after the election to head the Heritage Foundation.

As for Bachmann, the founder of the Tea Party Caucus, she’s gone almost completely silent, as MinnPost noted last week. Since the November election, she hasn’t done any national television, has appeared on the radio only once, and has ducked most interview requests. Instead, those close to her say she’s focusing on the quotidian work of a legislator — advancing bills and helping constituents — instead of the more exciting work of being a national movement leader and media star.

The new strategy could be to lay the groundwork for a Senate bid against Al Franken in 2014, or it could just be an attempt to hold on to her seat after a dangerously narrow 1.2 percent margin win in November and an aborted presidential campaign before that. In any case, the most prominent Tea Party leader in Congress seems to have abdicated the role, at least for the moment.

The same is true for Rep. Steve King, who has rarely been heard from since November, when he got …read more

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Bernanke the Comedian

February 27, 2013 in Economics

By Joseph Salerno

Dr. Brendan Brown is an eminent financial economist in the City of London and the author of The Global Curse of the Federal Reserve, initially published in 2011 and just released in its second revised edition. In his book, Brown is critical of Milton Friedman and the monetarists for ignoring the effects of monetary expansion on interest rates and asset prices and for assuming that a stable price level indicates an absence of inflation. Brown adopts Rothbard’s view that the 1920s were an inflationary decade, because, despite the rough price-level stability that obtained, asset and commodities markets were “overheated.” Brown also rejects the monetarist argument that price-level stabilization is the sine qua non of economic stability. He argues that price stabilization policy is one of the “dangerous features of Friedmanite monetarism” which “Austrian critics have long highlighted” and “which in hindsight may have played a role in the growth in Bernanke-ism.” Finally, and most insightfully, Brown also maintains that deflation is effective–and indeed, necessary–to extricate an economy from the depths of a recession or depression.

Needless to say, Dr Brown is no fan of Chairman Bernanke. In fact, in a memo today, Brown perceptively identifies the comedic aspect of Bernanke’s testimony on the first day of his semiannual monetary policy report to Congress. Writes Brown:

Comedy according to the theorists of drama is based on inflexibility of character. The lead role cannot in any way bend his stereotyped behaviour even when this would avoid an accident or disaster which is looming. And so “Don Juan” of Molière is a comedy. Even when the ghostly statue of his slain victim threatens to take Don Juan on a fiery descent into hell, the lead character cannot show remorse and desist from his life of debauchery. Chekhov listed his “Cherry Orchard” as a comedy because the lead characters could not shake themselves out of their nonchalance and avoid bankruptcy by selling the cherry orchard of their villa to a property developer on which he would build bungalows.

And so we come to the monetary comedy which played out in Washington yesterday. Professor Bernanke, adamant as always that the road to economic prosperity and stability takes the form of a rigorous targeting of inflation and supremely confident in a good outcome to his massive monetary experimentation tells his Congressional questioners that he sees no signs of asset …read more

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Sleazy Military Contractors Are Crying Foul Over Drones — They Stand to Lose Billions

February 27, 2013 in Blogs

By Gary Brecher, Not Safe for Work Corporation

This article first appeared at Not Safe for Work Corporation.

All the talk about drones focusses on their “morality.” But there's a funny thing about morality talk: most of it seems to come down to money. This time's no different.

The worst thing about drones is that they’re cheap. That’s interfering with the vacation-home budgets of a lot of very sleazy DoD contractors and their pet Texas congressmen, and that’s why you’re hearing a consensus around how “immoral” drones are.

Remember this: Drones are a threat to the sleaziest acquisition program in the history of defense contracting: the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. There have been some pretty disgusting lemons in the sorry history of the DoD — you just have to think back to SDI, also known as “Star Wars,” to find a weapons system that not only didn’t work but was never meant to work — but I’d have to say that the F-35 is an even bigger con job than Star Wars.

Don’t just take it from me — serious hawks who actually know what they’re talking about when it comes to military aviation are saying this. John McCain, who crashed a few fighter jets in his time, joined Robert Gates when he was still SecDef to go public with what every Pentagon insider already knew: The F-35 is a godawful piece of boondoggle junk, and nobody wants it.

I can’t sum up the F-35 better than McCain did:

“It has been an incredible waste of the taxpayers' dollar and it hurts the credibility of our acquisition process, our defense industry…[and]…reinforces the view of some of us that the military-industrial- congressional complex that President Eisenhower warned us about is alive and well.”

So there’s the lineup: In the blue corner, everybody with any decency or sense. In the red corner, a bunch of Texas Congressmen who own stock in the companies involved. My money’s on the Texans, I’m sorry to say, because there’s just too much money to be made on the F-35 for these pigs to pass up.

I'm talking about more money than you can possibly imagine. Guess how much each F-35 is supposed to cost. (That’s not what it’s actually going to …read more

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Sen. Paul Introduces REINS Act for 113th Congress

February 27, 2013 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul this week introduced the REINS Act, or Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2013. The REINS Act, which passed in the House of Representatives in the previous Congress and was introduced by Sen. Paul in the Senate as well, would require Congress to approve every new major rule proposed by the Executive Branch before it can be enforced on the American People. Click HERE to read the bill, which currently has 21 co-sponsors, in its entirety.

‘The REINS Act effectively constrains the President’s authority by limiting the size and scope of rule-making permissions,’ Sen. Paul said. ‘Once major rules are drafted, they must be approved by both chambers of Congress and only then can the rules go into effect.’

‘It is important for Americans to know and understand how government regulations and laws come to be. The REINS Act will open the regulatory process to scrutiny and cut red tape at the same time,’ he continued.

A companion version of the REINS Act was introduced in the House in January by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.).

…read more

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'Argo' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' Showcase the Banal Militarism of Hollywood

February 27, 2013 in Blogs

By Fouad Pervez, Foreign Policy in Focus

The latest Academy Awards ceremony, which crowned the well-intentioned but fatally flawed Argoas the year’s best film, merely formalized the nearly universal acclaim that director Ben Affleck has received for his gripping CIA drama set in Iran. It also said a lot about what’s wrong with Hollywood today.

Indeed, the Oscars this year seemed to exhibit more American exceptionalism andless diversity than previous years. Just 10 years ago, filmmaker Michael Moore used his acceptance speech to slam the recently launched Iraq war, issuing a prescient warning that was widely criticized for its political content but notable for its inclusion.  This year, we had Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, and a military entourage for the first lady. We also had very few brown faces, and no mention of anything happening in the world outside of Hollywood.

Hollywood may be returning to making “serious movies,” but the scope of that seriousness still only extends to mostly white American characters. Argo’s main shortcoming was its poor job contextualizing the situation in Iran in the 1970s. It also followed the Hollywood trend, frequently rewarded, of humanizing Americans while dehumanizing everyone else. Nearly every Iranian in Argoresembled a religious fanatic, and there was minimal effort to explain the source of Iranian rage—in this case, the imposition of a U.S.-backed tyrannical dictator. Given the strong beltway lobby for war with Iran, this caricature is not helpful.

One could argue that it isn’t Hollywood’s job to provide such context, but this misses the reality of the society we live in. The arts serve as a form of cultural diplomacy and fill in gaps in public understanding left by journalism. In an age when foreign news bureaus have been decimated, news research budgets slashed, and local stringers and fly-in celebrity journalists comprise “world news” in America, Hollywood could genuinely enhance the public discourse by giving life to regions of the world most Americans know little about. Instead, films like Argo andZero Dark Thirty opted to serve as PR arms for the Pentagon and CIA.

Instead of a critical examination of controversial issues like war, drone strikes, and torture, we get what David Sirota calls the “Military Entertainment Complex,” whereby the government essentially lobbies Hollywood to serve as its mouthpiece.

There are exceptions—particularly …read more

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Obama’s Fear of Spending Cuts

February 27, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

According to President Obama, the $62 billion in new taxes this year imposed as part of the fiscal-cliff deal will have no effect on economic growth. In fact, the president believes that he can safely impose another $58 billion in tax increases to replace spending cuts from the upcoming sequester. And, of course, Obamacare’s almost $42 billion in new taxes (and regulations) in 2013 don’t have any impact on hiring or investment. But, the president says, the $44 billion in cuts this year resulting from the sequester will throw the U.S. economy back into recession.

The president seems to labor under the impression that nearly all government spending adds to the economy and that wealth in private hands does not. Certainly, though one can debate the relative efficiency of programs funded by the government, a case can be made that some government spending can add to economic growth when such spending truly represents an investment (to use the president’s favorite buzzword) in, for example, scientific research, infrastructure, or education. In reality, however, most government spending has little to do with investing. Even under a fairly broad definition of “investment,” such spending represents less than 13 percent of this year’s budget. By far, most of the rest consists simply of transfer payments — that is, taking money from one person and giving it to another. Transfer payments add to GDP only in a technical sense, but they do not create any new wealth or increase productivity.

On the other side of the equation, it is important to remember that every dollar that the federal government spends must first be extracted from the private sector, through either taxes or borrowing. That means that those resources are not available for the private sector to invest in ways that grow the economy.

Raise taxes to replace spending cuts and watch the economy slow.”

President Obama may think that the rich sit around like Scrooge McDuck, watching piles of money in their vaults, but in reality individuals, even rich ones, either spend their money or they save and invest it. If they spend it, it helps provide jobs for the people who make and sell whatever it is they buy. If instead the money is saved or invested, it provides capital to start businesses and hire workers. And so, even in those few cases where government spending can be termed an …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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The Voting Rights Act Doesn't Reflect Current Political Conditions

February 27, 2013 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

Neither minority voting rights nor the ability of the federal government to enforce those rights are at stake at Shelby County v. Holder. Both of those are secure regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in the case.

Instead, Shelby County considers whether the “exceptional conditions” and “unique circumstances” of the Jim Crow South still exist such that an “uncommon exercise of congressional power” is still constitutionally justified—to quote the 1966 Supreme Court that approved Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as an emergency measure.

That is, while the “historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable,” as the court said 43 years later, the modern use of Section 5—which requires federal “preclearance” of any changes in election law in certain jurisdictions—“raises serious constitutional concerns.” Most recently renewed in 2006, the provision adopts flawed assumptions and flies in the face of the 15th Amendment’s requirement that all voters be treated equally.

Neither minority voting rights nor the ability of the federal government to enforce those rights are at stake at Shelby County v. Holder.”

Section 5’s preclearance scheme is an anachronism, based on 40-year-old data that doesn’t reflect current political conditions. For example, the racial gap in voter registration and turnout is lower in states originally covered by Section 5 than it is nationwide. Blacks in some covered states actually register and vote at higher rates than whites. Facetious tests and sinister devices are now permanently banned—while even individual violations are exceedingly rare and no more likely to occur in Section 5 jurisdictions.

Indeed, the list of Section 5 jurisdictions is bizarre: six states of the Old Confederacy, plus Alaska, Arizona, and parts of states ranging from New Hampshire to South Dakota. Three New York counties are covered, all New York City boroughs. What’s going on in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan that isn’t in Queens or Staten Island? Four justices famously hail from Gotham; maybe they know something we don’t.

Moreover, it is Section 2—the nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting—that is the heart of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5, meanwhile, was a temporary tool that supplemented Section 2 and overcame “widespread and persistent discrimination in voting”—thus eliminating the extraordinary circumstances that originally justified it.

But three generations of federal intrusion have been more than enough to kill Jim Crow. As Justice Thomas wrote in 2009, an acknowledgment of Section 5’s unconstitutionality “represents a fulfillment of the Fifteenth …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Fifty-four Foreign Governments Partnered with CIA Torture

February 27, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Many reporters and I have written extensively about the CIA’s “extraordinary renditions” that were approved by George W. Bush after Sept. 11, 2001, as he heeded Dick Cheney’s advice to move into “the dark side” of our war on terror.

CIA agents kidnapped alleged terrorist leaders from the streets of various nations and sent them to other countries known for torturing their prisoners. This was a classified operation, but some survivors eventually revealed the horrors of their interrogations. Others were tortured in CIA secret prisons — “dark sites.”

Soon after taking office, President Barack Obama appeared to end the renditions, yet some remain in secret. I’ll have more on that later.

What my fellow journalists and I didn’t know — until a startling Feb. 5 report, “Globalizing Torture,” by the Open Society Justice Initiative — was the extent of the other countries complicit with the CIA in its torture programs.

Written by Amrit Singh, senior legal officer of the National Security and Counterterrorism program at the Open Society Justice Initiative, the report is “the most comprehensive account yet assembled of the human rights abuses associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations” (

The report “details for the first time what was done to the 136 known victims and lists the 54 (yes, 54!) foreign governments that participated in these operations” (“Secret CIA black sites and globalizing torture,”

According to the report, these governments’ involvement included “hosting CIA prisons on their territories; detaining, interrogating, torturing and abusing individuals; assisting the CIA in the capture and transportation of detainees; permitting the use of their airspace and airports for secret CIA flights transporting detainees; providing intelligence leading to the CIA’s secret detention and extraordinary rendition of individuals; and interrogating individuals who were being secretly held in the custody of other governments.”

As I have been reporting, some of these nations joining in torture are deeply ashamed and are sharply punishing those of their intelligence officers and others who were so unstintingly helpful to the CIA.

The countries whose governments have been permanently stained by our CIA’s limitless masters of torture include: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, the …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Leon Panetta: A Legacy of the Conventional Wisdom

February 27, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

In a likely end to his public career, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is retiring after the Senate confirmed his successor, Chuck Hagel, on Tuesday.

Panetta’s previous experience at the Office of Management and Budget led some to hope that he would ably lead the Pentagon into a new world of limited resources. But he turned out to be a reincarnation of Ronald Reagan’s first defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger

Known as “Cap the Knife” from when he headed OMB, Weinberger turned into “Cap the Shovel,” promoting a large-scale military buildup even as deficits rose dramatically.

The most important issue facing the Pentagon today is how to operate with less money. The 9/11 terrorist attacks sparked a global campaign against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, two lengthy wars, and several more limited operations. Military outlays exploded. The wars are winding down and al-Qaida is much weakened. But America’s aggressive, interventionist military policy is creating more enemies than it is killing and Washington’s fiscal position has collapsed. Even Panetta acknowledged that “We’re facing a huge budget crisis in the country.”

His failure to accommodate a rapidly changing world will be Panetta’s most important, and disappointing, legacy at the Pentagon.”

Yet rather than propose reasonable cuts, he engaged in scaremongering, proclaiming that we “cannot maintain a strong defense if sequester is allowed to happen.” Even though America would retain the world’s most advanced military and remain allied with every major industrialized state other than China and Russia.

Panetta also told Congress that the cuts would “undermine our ability to meet our national security objectives and require a significant revision to our defense strategy.” Yet such a revision is long overdue.

He worried that the cuts would reduce America’s “ability to be … engaged around the world” and “ability to support the Afghan war.” However, Washington should reduce its role after the collapse of hegemonic communism and rise of allied states, and the United States should withdraw from Afghanistan. Panetta has even opposed accelerating America’s exit from its long war in Afghanistan.

The shift from justified counter-terrorism to unjustified nation-building occurred long ago and failed to deliver honest and competent governance in Kabul. In response, Panetta gave the most cliched answer of all: “I think because of those that have paid the price for this war we owe it to them to stick to this mission and get it finished.” But that means more …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Scandal Spectacle: The 10 Most Corrupt and Compromised Cardinals Voting For the New Pope

February 27, 2013 in Blogs

By Adele M. Stan, AlterNet

Ordinarily, the prelates of the Roman Catholic Church like a good spectacle. If you’ve ever witnessed the pomp and regalia of a bishops’ procession, you know what I mean: the robes rendered in luxurious fabrics, the exotic millinery, the swinging brass chancer billowing clouds of fragrant smoke. But as the cardinals assemble this week in Rome to begin the task of choosing a pope to replace the retiring Benedict XVI, the convergence of men in red hats and ankle-length cassocks is less a glorious display than a spectacle of scandal.

The pope’s abdication, unprecedented in the post-Renaissance period, comes under an acrid cloud of corruption that includes scandals involving the Vatican Bank, sexual harassment by prelates, and most troubling, the collusion of the hierarchy in covering the crimes of sexually predatory priests who preyed on young children and guileless teenagers, and once discovered, turned many of them loose to prey on still more.

Leaving aside issues concerning some fishy doin’s at the Vatican Bank (recounted here by Lynn Parramore), or the sexual harassment scandal that inspired this week’s resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh (in which three priests and one former priest accused the cardinal of making sexual advances toward them*), we focus our gaze here on 10 cardinals who either aided and abetted the priests who abused children, or who served as apologists for the church in its failure to report their crimes. This list is by no means definitive or complete; there are likely many more among the 120 cardinals entrusted with the election of the next pope who traded the safety and welfare of children entrusted to the church’s spiritual care for the safety of their own place in the hierarchy of the world’s oldest Christian denomination.

It is worth noting that during the height of the sex abuse of children by priests, the church’s presiding disciplinarian was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who went on to become Pope Benedict XVI. Offending priests were rarely disciplined, and were almost never reported to law enforcement authorities; Ratzinger instead focused his energy on silencing liberation …read more