You are browsing the archive for 2014 June 23.

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Sen. Paul Introduces Amendment to Prioritize Transportation Funding

June 23, 2014 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Rand Paul introduced an amendment to H.R. 4660, the minibus appropriations bill, which would prioritize grant funding for certain transportation projects based on the economic benefits of the projects to the public.

“The interstate highway system is of vital importance to our national economy,” said Sen. Paul. “In Kentucky and across the country we have bridges and roads in need of repair and replacement. It is critical that we prioritize our transportation projects. This amendment would place common sense and practical criteria on projects funded through appropriations.”

The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Mitch McConnell, would prioritize grants issued through the National Infrastructure Investments program. Grants through this program are designated for capital investment improvements that are to provide significant impact to the country, or a specific region.

“I thank Sen. Paul for introducing this important amendment,” Sen. McConnell said. “We are committed to advancing Kentucky’s critical transportation infrastructure and will continue to work together on this priority.”

Sen. Paul’s amendment establishes the following criteria for the grants:

Whether the project will have a positive impact on one or more interstate highways
The projects in need of repair or replacement have been deemed to be structurally or functionally obsolete and a risk to public safety
The economic impact of the project on interstate commerce by focusing on shipping and trucking commerce, proximity to other states, and availability of alternative routes

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Paul Appears on CNN's State of the Union- June 22, 2014

June 23, 2014 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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Sen. Paul Appears on NBC's Meet the Press

June 23, 2014 in Politics & Elections

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Source: RAND PAUL

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The Tea Party's Embarrassing Irony: Its Ideal Nation Rejects Basic American Beliefs

June 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Elias Isquith, Salon

Tea Partiers like Rand Paul want a “democracy” in which big questions are never debated.


Of U.S. political culture’s many hypocrisies, few are more jarring than Americans’ ambivalence about democracy itself. Truth be told, despite its reputation as “the leader of the free world” and its history as the “arsenal of democracy,” America is a land where democracy is celebrated only in its most abstract and idealized form. Most everyone agrees that government of the people, by the people, for the people sounds pretty great. But when the reality of that principle is revealed — when all the happy talk of the greater good and the public will is replaced by the prosaic, undignified tedium of actual self-governance — millions of Americans, on both the left and the right, find themselves so disillusioned that they either reject politics entirely or, worse still, embrace an ideology so rigid and utopian as to serve as a kind of secular faith.

Once you’ve noticed it, Americans’ discomfort with the grit and grime of real-world democracy can at times feel omnipresent. Take Frank Capra’s beloved 1939 film, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” in which Jimmy Stewart’s naive but idealistic Jefferson Smith is able to overcome the corruption and rancor of the U.S. Senate not through negotiation and compromise but because of his indomitable will, evidenced by his decision to filibuster to the point of exhaustion. Or to look at this pathology from the opposite end of the telescope, note how Netflix’s popular “House of Cards” series acknowledges the myriad trades and settlements of democratic governance but, through Frank Underwood, a protagonist who is both a master politician and a ruthless sociopath, presents this mode of behavior as fundamentally immoral and corrupt. The good guy keeps on fighting; the bad guy cuts a deal.

Or how about we leave the realm of popular entertainment (which admittedly is structured to celebrate the triumph of the individual above all else) and turn instead to actual American politics, where a lead actor since at least 2011 has been that group of dedicated and uncompromising right-wing ideologues known as the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Understanding Political Islam

June 23, 2014 in Economics

The rise of political Islam into prominence poses important questions both for people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and for policymakers in the West. Since 9/11, the thrust of Western foreign and security policy toward the MENA region has aimed at containing radical forms of Islam. In a new study, Cato scholar Dalibor Rohac examines the roots of political Islam, the policy implications of its rise, and the longer term prospects for secular liberal democracy in the region.

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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My 500-Mile March to Protest Sheldon Adelson, The Koch Brothers and Big Money’s Influence in Politics

June 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Kai Newkirk, AlterNet

Month long protest march pushing for campaign finance reforms ends in arrests.


(Editor's note. Late Sunday, fifteen 99Rise pro-democracy protesters were arrested outside the California Statehouse. Last week,the Assembly approved SB1272 for its second reading. The bill would ask all California voters this fall to reject the U.S. Supreme Court's recent campaign finance rulings. It must be approved at a third reading before going to the Gov. Jerry Brown. This essay by 99Rise's co-founder was written as their protest march approached Sacramento.)

I didn’t ask to be known as “the guy who protested inside the Supreme Court.” But there I was, standing up during oral arguments of McCutcheon v. FEC (known colloquially as “Citizens United, Part 2”), shouting to nine justices in robes that I represented the vast majority of Americans who believe that corporations aren’t people; that money shouldn’t buy free speech; and that the highest court in the land had an opportunity to finally turn things around with its decision of the case.

While my story—and the first-ever inside-the-court video I took—garnered a decent amount of headlines, the Court was, unsurprisingly, not swayed by my protest. Their McCutcheon decision expanded an already out-of-control system of unlimited spending in politics. It was an unbridled loss for all Americans who treasure a one-person, one-vote political system, not a system where the people with the biggest bank accounts have the biggest microphones and most influence.

Some personal background: I’ve been a community organizer for 15 years. I’ve served as a Deputy City Councilman and fought for a number of progressive fights in different capacities. I know what it’s like to work within the system to try to accomplish meaningful change. But despite some of the victories I shared in over those years, it was all too obvious that we were losing the war. It didn’t matter that we were good at playing the game. The game was rigged; its rules were fixed. I developed the conviction that in order to make real progress we had to change that game and write new rules. And history shows that only a mass movement …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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What Makes a Slut? Apparently, Just Being a Woman

June 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Jessica Valenti, The Guardian

The ubiquitous slur is a warning to women to conform to narrow feminity standards or else.


Sandra Fluke heard it when she talked about insurance coverage for birth control. Sara Brown from Boston told me she was first called it at a pool party in the fifth grade because she was wearing a bikini. Courtney Caldwell in Dallas said she was tagged with it after being sexually assaulted as a freshman in high school.

Many women I asked even said that it was not having sex that inspired a young man to start rumors that they were one.

And this is what is so confounding about the word “slut”: it's arguably the most ubiquitous slur used against women, and yet it's nearly impossible to define.

The one thing we do know about “slut” is that it's the last thing a woman should want to be. Society is so concerned over women and girls' potential for promiscuity that we create dress codesschool curricula,even legislation around protecting women's supposed purity. Conservative columnists opine that women having sex is tantamount to a“mental health crisis”, and magazine stories wonder if we're raising a generation of “prosti-tots”.

Leora Tanenbaum, the author of SLUT! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation, told me that “a 'slut' is a girl or woman who deviates from norms of femininity. The 'slut' is not necessarily sexually active – she just doesn't follow the gender script.”

This nebulous, unquantifiable quality of the slur is what makes it so distressing – there's no way to disprove something that has no conclusive boundaries to begin with. And because it's meant to be more of an identity than a label, it's a term not easily shaken off. “Slut” sticks to a person in a way that “asshole” never will.

So what makes you a slut? It seems the the only hard and fast rule is that you have to be a woman.

Men, of course, are immune – absent, really – from the frenzy of concern. For instance, a new study out of the University of Michigan showed that teen girls who “sext” are called sluts while boys who do …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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WATCH: John Oliver's Latest Epic Rant Hilariously Nails Dr. Oz and the Supplement Industry

June 23, 2014 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

“We're all looking for flowery language from our physicians.”


Look, even John Oliver can admit that Dr. Oz is a terrifically good-looking man. “Any seat Dr. Oz is in is the hot seat,” Oliver cracked about the TV huckster's turn being grilled last week in a Senate hearing about the dietary supplement industry.

Oprah's favorite doctor admitted during the hearing that his blatant peddling of “miracle weight loss” products is just a tad bit overblown in the hearing, though he still managed to make a number of questionable assertions, like, “No one is claiming magic” (actually, he has claimed magic a number of times,) and admitted he sometimes uses flowery language to appeal to his audience.

“Yes,” retorted Oliver. “We're all looking for flowery language from our physicians.”

Oliver's Sunday night rant about the dietary supplement industry, clocking in at 16:25 minutes, was quite possibly his most epic rant yet. It started with Oz (“Name me one case where a man named Oz claimed mystical powers and led people astray”) and moved from there to the deplorably unregulated and staggeringly profitable dietary supplement industry. Full of both facts and cracks (fact: Since 1994, the dietary supplement industry has grown from a $4 billion industry to a $32 billion industry), Oliver hammered away brilliantly exposing the “shockingly overrated” and sometimes dangerous claims of the purveyors of supplements.

No doubt supplements are very popular. “More people wrote to their congressmen about dietary supplements than about the Vietnam War,” the English comedian informs. But do people really know what they are getting when they buy and take these “magic” pills?

Watch this rant, both terrifically informative and hilariously entertaining:

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Source: ALTERNET

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America Should Stay out of Iraq's Revived Killfest: Only Iraqis Can Save Their Country

June 23, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The uber-hawks and neocons like Richard Cheney who led America into the disastrous invasion of Iraq are campaigning for a repeat. If only the U.S. will go to war along the Euphrates a second time, they promise, everything will turn out well.

Americans should ignore these Sirens of Death. Attempting to forcibly transform Iraq never was Washington’s responsibility. Having botched the job once, U.S. policymakers should not try again. There certainly is no public support for new military adventures in Mesopotamia.

There was much to despise about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. He was a murderous thug with outsize ambitions, but he helped constrain Iran, America’s and Israel’s more feared nemesis. Hussein also enforced an ugly stability at home: he held his fractured country together, suppressed sectarian violence, allowed Christians and other religious minorities to live in peace, and kept al-Qaeda out of areas under his control.

As many analysts, including yours truly, warned, his forced departure would be welcome in principle but bloody in practice. Thousands of Americans killed, tens of thousands of wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, millions displaced, historic Christian communities ravaged, triumphant Shiites wielding a sectarian state against angry Sunnis, bitter conflict spawning violent jihadists, cities acting as terrorist training camps, and metastasizing Iranian influence. Such is George W. Bush’s legacy.

Yet he found little gratitude in Baghdad for Americans’ sacrifice. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ruled with a harsh hand, favored his Shia supporters, and rejected a permanent U.S. military garrison. President Barack Obama achieved no more success in dealing with Maliki. Attempting to force a permanent U.S. presence would have created popular resentment, put Washington’s imprimatur on an authoritarian, corrupt regime, and turned American military personnel into targets of angry mobs and trained terrorists.

The Middle East appears to be a tragedy permanently set on repeat.”

Nor would a U.S. garrison have saved Iraq from internal collapse. American troops could not have forced positive political change.  Washington’s only leverage would come from threatening to withdraw its forces—which Maliki almost certainly would have accepted before relaxing control. Employing U.S. troops against Baghdad’s opponents, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and other Sunni extremists, would have been far worse. Eight years of war and occupation was enough. America had no obligation to safeguard the artificial Iraqi state and preserve incompetent sectarian rule forever.

Washington nevertheless helped arm the Iraqi military, but a secret program begun last …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Cancel Aid to Egypt

June 23, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Much about the Obama administration’s foreign policy has been an embarrassment. Some of its failures, such as Iraq, must be shared with its predecessor. In Egypt President Barack Obama and especially Secretary of State John Kerry incompetently followed in the footsteps of several administrations.

Three years ago Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship ingloriously collapsed. Although student-led protests in Cairo triggered the regime’s demise, it was Mubarak’s plan to move from military rule to family rule that led the generals to abandon him. The Obama administration was constantly following events, first embracing Mubarak, then calling for a negotiated transition, and finally endorsing his overthrow. The Egyptian people ignored Washington at every turn.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral success upset the military’s plans to retain power, but the “deep state” persisted. Mohamed Morsi was elected president, but he had little control—not over the military, which was an empire unto itself, or the police, which refused even to defend the Brotherhood’s headquarters from mob attack, or the courts, whose judges were Mubarak holdovers, or the bureaucracy, staffed during three decades of Mubarak’s rule.

Leave Egyptians to settle their fate.”

Nearly a year ago General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi squashed any possibility of the government slipping outside the military’s control by staging a coup. He coordinated with anti-Morsi demonstrators to take over in the name of democracy, but quickly set about arresting anyone who dared to criticize the coup or its excesses. Since then thousands have been killed, hundreds sentenced to death, and tens of thousands detained. Human rights leaders who led demonstrations against Mubarak are among those receiving lengthy prison terms for organizing protests against Sisi.

Through it all the Obama administration took the least principled position possible. Although U.S. law required a cut-off of financial aid, the president simply refused to characterize the coup as a coup, as if not saying the word made it something else. Officials worried about lost leverage, even though Egyptian officials have always ignored Washington’s political advice. They had little reason to worry; the U.S. had never before stopped subsidizing Cairo’s authoritarian and corrupt rulers. When Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states stepped forward waving large wads of cash, Sisi and his fellow generals lost any reason to heed American advice.

Washington eventually held back the military portion of the $1.55 billion in planned U.S. assistance, apparently to demonstrate a little, but not too much, disapproval. Particularly grotesque regime abuses—mass death …read more

Source: OP-EDS