You are browsing the archive for 2015 January 21.

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7 Big Lies 'American Sniper' Is Telling America

January 21, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

There is a backlash against the film's misleading take on sniper Chris Kyle's character.

The film American Sniper, based on the story of the late Navy Seal Chris Kyle, is a box office hit, setting records for an R-rated film released in January. Yet the film, the autobiography of the same name, and the reputation of Chris Kyle are all built on a set of half-truths, myths and outright lies that Hollywood didn't see fit to clear up.

Here are seven lies about Chris Kyle and the story that director Clint Eastwood is telling:

1. The Film Suggests the Iraq War Was In Response To 9/11: One way to get audiences to unambiguously support Kyle's actions in the film is to believe he's there to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The movie cuts from Kyle watching footage of the attacks to him serving in Iraq, implying there is some link between the two.

2. The Film Invents a Terrorist Sniper Who Works For Multiple Opposing Factions: Kyle's primary antagonist in the film is a sniper named Mustafa. Mustafa is mentioned in a single paragraph in Kyle's book, but the movie blows him up into an ever-present figure and Syrian Olympic medal winner who fights for both Sunni insurgents in Fallujah and the Shia Madhi army.

3. The Film Portrays Chris Kyle as Tormented By His Actions: Multiple scenes in the movie portray Kyle as haunted by his service. One of the film's earliest reviews praised it for showing the “emotional torment of so many military men and women.” But that torment is completely absent from the book the film is based on. In the book, Kyle refers to everyone he fought as “savage, despicable” evil. He writes, “I only wish I had killed more.” He also writes, “I loved what I did. I still do. If circumstances were different – if my family didn't need me – I'd be back in a heartbeat. I'm not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.” On an appearance on …read more


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The Real Problem with Obama's State of the Union Address

January 21, 2015 in Economics

By David Boaz

David Boaz

“Nobody shoots at Santa Claus.” Al Smith’s jibe at FDR came to mind as I listened to President Obama’s laundry list of free stuff in the State of the Union speech.

The laundry list could have been worse. Cato Institute researchers counted 104 separate proposals in President Clinton’s 2000 address. I didn’t have the patience to count last night, but I’m sure there were fewer. There were some big tickets there, though, from tax hikes to free college.

As a libertarian, of course, I’d like to hear something like, oh, “the era of big government is over.” And maybe a program of economic freedom, civil liberties and peace.

Instead, we got a sweeping vision of a federal government that takes care of us from childhood to retirement, a verbal counterpart to the Obama campaign’s internet ad about “Julia,” the cartoon character who has no family, friends, church or community and depends on government help throughout her life. The president chronicled a government that provides us with student loans, healthcare, oil and the Internet.

Coercion, collectivism and bureaucracy are poor tools for decision making and progress.”

The spirit of American independence, of free people pursuing their dreams in a free economy, was entirely absent. Indeed, the word “freedom” appeared only once in the speech.

Obama prefers words such as “together” and “one people.” It’s common for political leaders to use such language, and then to present themselves as the embodiment of the nation, so that criticism of the official or his policies is divisive and unpatriotic.

Barney Frank memorably said, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.” But I didn’t choose to invade Iraq. Or to saddle the country with $18 trillion in public debt. Coercion, collectivism and bureaucracy are poor tools for decision making and progress.

The highest-profile item in the speech was a proposed $320 billion tax increase (over ten years), introduced rather evasively as “let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth.”

The president wants more and better jobs. And yet he wants to raise taxes on the savings and investment that produce economic growth and better jobs. And he proposes a higher minimum wage, which would cost some low-skilled workers their jobs. Those proposals are not well thought out.

Speaking of doing things together: If he wants to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Twitter Turns Obama's GOP Rebuke Into Awesome Meme

January 21, 2015 in Blogs

By Allegra Kirkland, AlterNet

What would a return to Classic Obama be without a little jab at his opponents’ expense?

Last night’s State of the Union speech is being widely celebrated as an assured, progressive rebuke to the years of GOP bullying we’ve endured. Holding forth on the need for policies that raise the minimum wage, protect the environment and help the middle class, President Obama was at his confident, straight-talking best. And what would a return to Classic Obama be without a little jab at his opponents’ expense?

During the closing section of the speech, Obama said, “I have no more campaigns to run.” A handful of Republicans in the audience clapped at the prospect of an Obama-free political landscape, prodding the president to offer up this ad-libbed line: “I know because I won both of them.” His comeback caught fire on social media, quickly becoming the “most social” moment of the evening, according to Mashable. Twitter confirmed that the line generated the most tweets per minute during both Obama's address and Senator Joni Ernst's GOP response. Here are five of our favorite takes on the meme. 

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Fox News Already Having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad 2015

January 21, 2015 in Blogs

By Eric Boehlert, Media Matters

And it's only January!

What happened to the extended victory lap?

Convinced that last year's midterm losses for Democrats signaled the effective end of Barack Obama's presidency and a resounding victory for all things conservative and Republican (“On Fox News, there were smiles all around“), just three weeks into the new year Fox News is left wondering what happened to the “lamest” of the lame duck presidents. The one Fox News was going to mock for two more years while trying to tarnish his legacy.

Rebounding to approval ratings not seen since 2013, instead of floundering, Obama is riding a crest of post-midterm successes, while Americans reward him for the country's rebounding economy. The result: Obama's the one quietly circling the victory track.

“You can hardly tell from our NBC/WSJ poll that the Republican Party was the big winner from the midterm elections just two months ago,” noted NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann this week. “Somehow, Obama and the Democrats stole the Republicans' post-election honeymoon.”

If that didn't sting badly enough, Fox continues to wrestle with the unfolding crisis over the network's demonstrably false and stunning claim that some parts of Europe, including in France as well as Britain's second largest city, Birmingham, have become Islamic and are “no-go zones” for non-Muslims, including for British law enforcement.

The misstep became an international punchline, with observers in Europe guffawing at Fox News' trademark ignorance. “When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fool's Day,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told ITV News. “This guy is clearly a complete idiot,” he said, referring to Steve Emerson, who Fox had hosted to discuss recent terror attacks in Paris.

In a rare move, Fox apologized repeatedly for its colossal “no-go zone” blunder. Yet the story continues to haunt the network: Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo announced on Tuesday that the city might sue Fox News over the bogus claim that portions of Paris remain cordoned off from non-Muslims. “The image of Paris has been prejudiced, and the honor of Paris has been prejudiced,” Hidalgo told CNN.

Bottom line: It's not even February and Fox News is already having …read more


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Allow Highly Skilled Immigration and Boost the Economy

January 21, 2015 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) just introduced the bipartisan Immigration Innovation Act (I-Squared), which aims to liberalize and expand the immigration system for highly skilled workers.

As virtually all the research shows, attracting more high-skilled immigrants will stimulate economic growth and job creation by boosting innovation and productivity.

Hatch touted I-Squared by writing that even “[t]he president recognizes we face a high-skilled worker shortage that has become a national crisis.” Although there are tight labor markets for some high-tech occupations, the information sector is not one of them, and it’s by no means a national crisis. Wages for computer scientists, many engineers, and scientists are growing more quickly than for other occupations, but wage increases and a tight labor market are not the same as a shortage.

The real benefits of I-Squared wouldn’t come from filling jobs in “shortage” occupations, which don’t exist for most technology occupations, but from increasing the productivity of the American economy.

The productivity gains from immigrant inventions and innovations are tremendous.”

Economists at Rutgers and Princeton found that a 1-percentage-point increase in college-educated immigrants as a share of the population increased patents per capita by 9 percent to 18 percent. Economists from Harvard and the University of Michigan also found a 10 percent increase in the number of workers with H-1B visas in a city boosts the entire city’s patent output by almost 1 percent, a huge increase given the small numbers of H-1Bs relative to the workforce. They concluded that H-1B workers boost patents and innovation so much that they have a significant effect on long-term economic growth while also creating more jobs for Americans with similar skills.

The productivity gains from immigrant inventions and innovations are tremendous. From 1990 to 2010, 10 percent to 25 percent of the total combined productivity growth across 219 American cities was caused by H-1B workers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions. Those large gains occurred not just because of patenting but because skilled immigrants have different skills than Americans with similar educations. A larger, more diversely skilled immigrant workforce in the STEM occupations boosts wages and jobs for American workers.

Influential research by University of California, Berkeley, economist Charles Jones found that 50 percent of U.S. productivity growth from 1950 to 1993 could be attributed to growth in the share of scientists and engineers in the workforce. I-Squared’s reforms to the H-1B system could more than triple the annual flow of engineers and scientists into the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Why We All Cling Blindly to Our Beliefs

January 21, 2015 in Blogs

By Tim Lott, The Guardian

We are becoming ideologues, embracing systems of ideas that won't bend even an inch before the facts.

What is the connection between a multi-millionaire and an Islamist terrorist? The answer struck me as I watched Jacques Peretti’s documentary The Super-Rich and Us this week.

Peretti catalogued how the rich and privileged live in a world of fantasy – of symbols, just as religious fanatics do. They amass money pointlessly, far more than they can ever spend. They store it among the bricks and mortar of empty houses in London, in tax havens, in gold and jewels. What is the point of all this money? How many expensive meals can they eat, how many luxury cars can they drive, how many of their homes can they live in?

Just like “holy scriptures,” yachts and private islands are purely totemic. They represent a belief system and an identity. That identity reassures the wealthy that they are virtuous. If it were not so (they tell themselves) they would not be so successful. It also gives them a reason to get up in the morning – to make more money.

You and I are not so different. We too have beliefs and value systems, not all of which we can always sensibly defend. When those beliefs are threatened we become aggressive. The more penetrating the criticism of our worldview, the angrier we become.

This is partially evidenced by the furious tone of the arguments unfolding since the Charlie Hebdo murders. I’m not talking about the anger of “us” against the killers. People on the “same side” argue bitterly about their separate take on events.

Those who thought the cartoons were unduly provocative were labeled appeasers; those who called for their immediate reprinting were said to be stoking Islamophobia. Those who did not sign up to the reassuring trope that Islamic terrorists have “nothing to do with Islam” attracted a particularly furious response. Those who want a tightening of the security state are bitterly opposed by those who consider civil liberties a priority.

The back and forth …read more


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Investor Summits: Photo-ops for CMs and Industrialists

January 21, 2015 in Economics

By Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar


Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

Narendra Modi did not invent the idea of chief ministers holding investor summits. But he certainly took the idea to a pinnacle that produced such impressive publicity that other states are aping him in grand style. In recent times, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab have all held investor summits, while Tamil Nadu plans one for next May. Of course, none will match in scale and hype last fortnight’s Vibrant Gujarat summit, which beat all others in number of VIPs (such as US secretary of state John Kerry), and investment pledges.

Yet, the barest look at hard investment data shows that only a small fraction of investment pledges — Industrial Entrepreneurs Memoranda (IEMs) or memoranda of understanding (MoUs) — actually fructify. Some states attract plenty of investment without jamborees, while other states with lots of ballyhoo don’t attract much. Probably most, or all, actual investments would have come about with no investor summits at all. Investor jamborees are about atmosphere and hype. They are little but good photo-ops for CMs and top industrialists.

The annual reports of the Economic Freedom of the States of India, a publication of the Friedrich Naumann Institute and Cato Institute, have long revealed low rates of conversion of IEMs into investment, year after year. The data are provided by Indicus Analytics, which calculates average annual rates of conversion of memoranda into actual investment from August 1999 to July 14, 2014. This will appear in the forthcoming 2014 report of the Economic Freedom of the States of India (see accompanying graphic).

Businessmen simply dole out huge promises to lend fake prestige to a CM’s jamboree.”

The table provides a reality check. The highest rate of conversion is no more than 19 per cent, in Haryana, followed by Uttarakhand (15 per cent), Gujarat (13 per cent), Jammu and Kashmir (13 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (11 per cent) and Rajasthan (10 per cent). For Chhattisgarh and Odisha, the conversion is so low that it is not statistically different from zero. In Bihar and Jharkhand, it is just 1 per cent.

Industrial growth has been as fast in Maharashtra as in Gujarat, or faster. Yet, the conversion rate in Maharashtra has been only 8 per cent against 13 per cent in Gujarat. The big difference is that Maharashtra does not hold big investor jamborees. This suggests that whether investors invest or not has little to do …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Sen. Paul's State of the Union Response- January 20, 2015

January 21, 2015 in Politics & Elections

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Obama's Class Warfare

January 21, 2015 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

The American economy is finally coming back, after one of the slowest post-recession recoveries in recent history. So naturally President Obama has decided that what we really need now is a return to the era of tax and spend. Oh, and of course, a healthy batch of class warfare too.

The president wants to junk the sequester caps that have been largely responsible for reducing our estimated deficit from $1 trillion a year to a more manageable but still sizable $469 billion this year. He would increase discretionary spending for next year by $68 billion above the spending caps enacted in 2011, with the increases roughly split between defense and non-defense spending. If these increases are enacted, discretionary spending would increase roughly 7 percent from this year to next, compared with average growth of 4 percent from 2004 to 2013.

The president would pay for his spending spree with a massive tax hike on small businesses and capital investment. The tax hike would cost Americans $320 billion over ten years, including higher taxes on capital gains, banks’ assets, and financial transactions. He would also end the tax deductibility of earnings in the highly popular 529 College Plans.

He’s launching a new era of tax and spend.”

That capital-gains increase, by the way, would give America a higher capital-gains tax rate than such competitors as Canada, Greece, Norway, and Spain. If you include the state capital-gains taxes in 42 states, we would also be higher than Sweden and Finland. And, of course, countries such as South Korea, the Netherlands, and New Zealand have no capital-gains tax at all.

Meanwhile, the bank tax would almost certainly hit small community banks hardest and would make it harder for small businesses and start-ups to obtain loans. And the new tax on 529 Plans would sock it to those middle-class families that try to save for their children’s educations rather than rely on government largesse.

These new taxes would be in addition to a whole new batch of indirect taxes or business mandates that the president is calling for. For example, the president wants businesses to provide paid sick leave and “parental leave” (it’s not just maternity leave any more). And to place the new mandates in context, let’s not forget that this is the year that Obamacare’s employer mandate begins to phase in.

Speaking of context, remember as well that the president’s new tax hikes would come on top …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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America's Great North Korea Folly

January 21, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

North Korea has been in a conciliatory mood recently, suggesting a summit with South Korean president Park Geun-hye. Pyongyang also indicated that it would suspend nuclear tests if the United States cancelled joint military exercises with the South. The North’s deputy UN ambassador said ”many things will be possible this year on the Korean Peninsula” if Washington responded positively.

Of course, the United States refused and went ahead with the naval maneuvers. In fact, the Obama administration recently expanded sanctions on North Korea in response to the Kim regime’s apparent hacking of Sony pictures. Alas, past experience suggests the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) likely will respond with new provocations. The National Interest’s Zachary Keck predicted a new nuclear test, which would be the first in two years. Military adventurism is another possibility.

Unfortunately, the DPRK routinely employs brinkmanship and confrontation. Frustration with the Kim regime led retired Gen. John Macdonald to propose turning the movie The Interview into reality: “We’ve got to do something…”

Since Pyongyang hasn’t changed its behavior, the United States should try a different approach, but not an assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un. Washington should start by dropping the annual military exercise and reducing America’s military presence. The administration also should develop a comprehensive engagement plan for the North.

The DPRK is Northeast Asia’s biggest security challenge. The Kim dynasty has spent decades spewing threats against South Korea, Japan and America. The nuclear news only gets worse: Sources in Seoul recently suggested that the North might have miniaturized its nuclear weapons. Three successive U.S. presidents have pledged to halt North Korea’s nuclear program, without effect. Washington’s attempt “to do something” through isolation backed by sanctions has solved nothing.

Obviously, there’s no guarantee that engagement would yield a more positive result. However, China’s growing frustration with the younger Kim provides an unexpected opportunity for Washington.

North Korea wants to talk. The U.S. should talk. Washington has little to lose. And possibly something to gain.”

So far, Beijing has proved unwilling to apply significant pressure on the DPRK lest the result be a messy collapse with the advantage to a united Korea allied with America. But the People’s Republic of China has tired of the antics of its irresponsible neighbor, especially the latter’s nuclear-weapons program. One scholar told me last year that “the relationship was becoming colder than ever before.” Pyongyang failed to invite Chinese officials to the three-year commemoration …read more

Source: OP-EDS