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Michael Moore: Yes, Clint Eastwood Threatened to Kill Me

January 30, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

Filmmaker Moore also has a few choice words for those who threaten critics of “American Sniper.”

“American Sniper” director Clint Eastwood is known not only as an accomplished actor and director but also as a political loose cannon. His monologue that involved talking to an empty chair at the 2012 Republican convention went viral, and forever ingrained him in the minds of Americans as a hardcore, if slightly unhinged, Republican.

It has long been reported that Eastwood jokingly threatened to kill left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore during a 2005 National Board of Review dinner. In a Facebook status written Thursday night, Moore, who is a critic of Eastwood's latest film, and of the whole idea that snipers like Chris Kyle are courageous, confirmed what happened that night:

A lot of people are asking me if this is true as this “rumor” about Clint Eastwood confronting  me in 2005 has now re-surfaced and floated around the internet in the past few days. So I thought I should say a few words…

Ten years ago this past week, Clint Eastwood stood in front of the National Board of Review awards dinner and announced to me and to the crowd that he would “kill” me if I ever came to his house with my camera for an interview.

“I'll kill you,” he declared.

The crowd laughed nervously. As for me, having just experienced a half-dozen assaults in the previous year from crazies upset at 'Fahrenheit 9/11' and my anti-war Oscar speech, plus the attempt by a right wing extremist to blow up my house (he was caught in time and went to prison), I was a bit stunned to hear Eastwood, out of the blue, make such a violent statement. But I instantly decided he was just trying to be funny, so I laughed the same nervous laugh  everyone else did. Clint, though, didn't seem to like all that laughter.

“I mean it,” he barked, and the audience grew more quiet. “I'll shoot you.”

There was a smattering of approving applause, but most just turned around to see what my reaction …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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More Tax-and-Spend on the Way

January 30, 2015 in Economics

President Obama’s budget proposal, to be released Monday, presents an opportunity to tackle the long-term fiscal crisis facing the nation. Unfortunately, the White House seems positioned to waste the opportunity. The responsible thing to do, says Cato scholar Nicole Kaeding, would be to propose a plan to tackle our looming entitlement catastrophe and cut spending. “The nation’s long-term fiscal situation needs a solution,” argues Kaeding, “and the White House is releasing an unserious plan that shirks the very real responsibility to address our troubled entitlement programs.”

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Source: CATO HEADLINES

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Mitt Romney Says He Won't Run for President Again

January 30, 2015 in Blogs

By Tom McCarthy, The Guardian

Romney tells supporters he's clearing the way for “our next generation of Republican leaders,” like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush.

Former presidential nominee Mitt Romney told supporters on Friday that he was not making a third run at the White House, putting an end to weeks of what appeared to be possible preparation for such a bid.

“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney said in a statement to supporters. 

The statement was released just before a conference call with close advisers and donors. Audio of Romney reading the statement was broadcast at the top of the call.

With 22 months to go until the election, one of the biggest questions of the cycle has been answered: will he do it again? Romney’s decision to stay on the sidelines created space for other candidates, and positioned Romney as one of the Republican party’s top arbiters of who will fill that space.

Romney was to have dinner on Friday with New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the New York Times reported. He met with former Florida governor Jeb Bush in Utah last week. 

Romney said he was not preparing to run because a member of “our next generation of Republican leaders” would have a better chance at winning.

“I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case,” Romney said in the statement.

Romney said if he had decided to run he would have had a shot at winning. “I am convinced that with the help of the people on this call, we could win the nomination,” he said. “Our finance calls made it clear that we would have enough funding to be more than …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why CodePink Calls Kissinger the Real 'Low-life Scum'

January 30, 2015 in Blogs

By Medea Benjamin, AlterNet

Senator John McCain called activists “scum.” Clearly he's forgetting the despicable crimes Kissinger oversaw.

A very angry Senator John McCain denounced CodePink activists as “low-life scum” for holding up signs reading “Arrest Kissinger for War Crimes” and dangling handcuffs next to Henry Kissinger’s head during a Senate hearing on January 29. McCain called the demonstration “disgraceful, outrageous and despicable,” accused the protesters of “physically intimidating” Kissinger and apologized profusely to his friend for this “deeply troubling incident.”

But if Senator McCain was really concerned about physical intimidation, perhaps he should have conjured up the memory of the gentle Chilean singer/songwriter Victor Jara. After Kissinger facilitated the September 11, 1973 coup against Salvador Allende that brought the ruthless Augusto Pinochet to power, Victor Jara and 5,000 others were rounded up in Chile’s National Stadium. Jara’s hands were smashed and his nails torn off; the sadistic guards then ordered him to play his guitar. Jara was later found dumped on the street, his dead body riddled with gunshot wounds and signs of torture.

Despite warnings by senior US officials that thousands of Chileans were being tortured and slaughtered, then Secretary of State Kissinger told Pinochet, “You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende.”

Rather than calling peaceful protesters “despicable,” perhaps Senator McCain should have used that term to describe Kissinger’s role in the brutal 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor, which took place just hours after Kissinger and President Ford visited Indonesia. They had given the Indonesian strongman the US green light—and the weapons—for an invasion that led to a 25-year occupation in which over 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed or starved to death. The UN's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR) stated that U.S. “political and military support were fundamental to the Indonesian invasion and occupation” of East Timor.

If McCain could stomach it, he could have read the report by the UN Commission on Human Rights describing the horrific consequences of that invasion. It includes gang rape of female detainees following periods of prolonged …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Did Global Warming Juice Winter Storm Juno?

January 30, 2015 in Economics

By Patrick J. Michaels

image

Patrick J. Michaels

The day prior to Juno hitting southern New England (and not New York), Governor Andrew Cuomo blamed “the changing climate.” Is there any evidence global warming buried southern New England?

According to Jeff Halverson of the Capital Weather Gang, the recent storm (named winter storm Juno by The Weather Channel) was a textbook example of what is technically known as a Miller-B cyclone, and colloquially known as a ‘noreaster, as the primary winds are from the Northeast when the snow is flying. Noreasters are, by far, the major cause of snow along the Atlantic Coast, all the way from North Carolina to Maine.

There’s no denying climate change, as average surface temperatures are about 1.4

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Petrostates Have a Cheap Oil Malady

January 30, 2015 in Economics

By Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford

While consumers in the United States and Europe are cheering low prices at the pump, a variety of states that depend on oil revenue are expecting a period of uncertain income and budget shortfalls. Unfortunately, rather than encourage reform in these typically corrupt and authoritarian countries, the pressure of low oil prices is likely to result in increased instability.

Oil has halved in price in the last six months, dropping to just under $50 per barrel. This plunge is driven by contracting global demand as well as efforts by Saudi Arabia to curtail growing oil production by the United States, Russia and other nonmembers of OPEC. The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is unlikely to alter this situation, as newly crowned King Salman has been careful to emphasize continuity with his predecessor’s policies. As a result, oil prices should remain low for a while. Though oil was less than $20 per barrel for much of the 1980s and 1990s, today’s prices mark a break from the more recent past, when prices had soared as high as $147 per barrel.

In recent years, oil wealth has had a massive effect on petrostates. Oil revenue contributed to continued authoritarianism in some states and encouraged corruption and poor governance. Leaders had little reason to pursue economic development and diversification, resulting in weak economies reliant on oil income and leading many political scientists to describe oil as a curse.

Countries with oil-focused economies face uncertainty and unrest.”

Given the often odious regimes at the helm of the world’s largest oil-producing countries — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Russia — we may be inclined to welcome falling oil prices in hopes that price pressure may finally encourage reform. Unfortunately, these maladies cannot be easily fixed. An oil-focused economy cannot be turned overnight into a diversified economy that appeals to international investors. Rampant, institutionalized corruption cannot be stamped out quickly once it has taken root. And leaders who rely on oil wealth to prop up their authoritarian regimes are unlikely to seek democratic reforms.

Instead, falling oil prices are more likely to breed instability, though not all petrostates will be affected equally. Saudi leaders, for example, can fall back on massive cash stockpiles to see them through the lean times. Instability among OPEC’s Gulf members is unlikely unless oil prices remain low for several years. But other OPEC members and non-OPEC states are less …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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WATCH: Jon Stewart Lays Bare the NFL's Totally Messed Up Priorities

January 30, 2015 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

“The NFL, worried about the wrong sh*t since 1920.”

In honor of Superbowl Sunday, Jon Stewart discussed the various controversies roiling the NFL and causing a media frenzy ahead of the Big Show. These terribly important matters are, of course, “deflate-gate,” also known as “ball-gazi,” or as Stewart referred to it last night, “The ball-o-caust,” and whether or not players wear the right hats to the pre-game press conferences.

Could it be, Stewart wonders, that the league has a distorted sense of prioirites, worried more about what logos the players wear on their head during press conferences, than, say the brain damage they acquire while playing? Or, just for another example, domestic violence among the players.

Stewart sums up the whole, twisted saga of deflate-gate, and how a lowly locker-room attendant appears to be taking the fall for that, because no way would, say, New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady or coach Bill Belichick have had anything to do with making their footballs easier to throw or catch. Why would they do that? Winning isn't that important, is it?

Watch:

 

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Source: ALTERNET

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Sens. Paul and Boxer Announce the Invest in Transportation Act

January 29, 2015 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. -U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R- KY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today announced that they will be introducing the Invest in Transportation Act of 2015. This bipartisan legislation would extend the Highway Trust Fund, which supports millions of jobs. The bill would also boost economic growth and create jobs by providing an incentive for companies to bring back some of the estimated $2 trillion in foreign earnings that are being held overseas.

Senators Paul and Boxer today released a white paper explaining the details of their proposal, which will be introduced in the coming weeks. To read the document, click HERE.

‘I am pleased to be working with Senator Boxer on a bipartisan solution to a tax and highway spending problem. The interstate highway system is of vital importance to our economy. All across the country, bridges and roads are deficient and in need of replacement. We can help fund new construction and repair by lowering the repatriation rate and bringing money held by U.S. companies back home. This would mean no new taxes, but more revenue, and it is a solution that should win support from both political parties,’ Sen. Paul said.
Sen. Boxer said, ‘This bipartisan repatriation proposal is a win-win for our economy and our country. First, it will bring back hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign earnings that are sitting offshore, which can be invested here in America to create jobs. Second, the taxes paid on those earnings will be used to extend the Highway Trust Fund, which supports millions of jobs nationwide. I hope this proposal will jumpstart negotiations on addressing the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, which is already creating uncertainty that is bad for businesses, bad for workers and bad for the economy. I will also be working with Senator Inhofe and my colleagues on the Environment and Public Works Committee on other proposals to pay for rebuilding our nation’s aging transportation infrastructure.’

The legislation would strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs by allowing companies to voluntarily return their foreign earnings to the United States at a tax rate of 6.5 percent. The rate is only for repatriations that exceed each company’s average repatriations in recent years, and funds must have been earned in 2015 or earlier. Companies would have up to five years to complete the transfer.

The measure would ensure that a portion of the …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Sens. Paul and Flake Issue Letter of Support for U.S.-Cuba Policy Reform

January 29, 2015 in Politics & Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have issued a letter backed by seven Republican senators to President Barack Obama affirming their commitment to work to expand trade and travel between the United States and Cuba. The letter – also signed by U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Boozman (R-AR), and Susan Collins (R-ME) – marks the public emergence of a coalition of GOP senators intent on ensuring Congress plays an integral role in reforming and modernizing U.S.-Cuba policy.

‘Our hope is that changes to the current trade and travel relationship will advance our goal of bolstering the vulnerable private sector and increasing entrepreneurship while decreasing the role of state-controlled enterprises,’ wrote the Republican senators.

‘With the significance of your recent announcements related to Cuba, we look forward to Congress turning its attention toward modernizing U.S.-Cuba policy to the benefit of U.S. citizens and the Cuban people alike. Congress must play an integral role in reforming our policy toward Cuba.’

The signed letter can be viewed HERE.

### …read more

Source: RAND PAUL

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Improving Educational Options for Georgia Children

January 29, 2015 in Economics

By Andrew J. Coulson

Andrew J. Coulson

Like a dozen or so other states, Georgia has a K-12 scholarship tax credit program. It allows individuals and businesses to donate to non-profit Student Scholarship Organizations (SSOs), and the SSOs help families pay tuition at their preferred private elementary and high schools. The donors receive a state tax cut in the amount of their donation, in return for having made a host of new educational options available to children.

One catch is that the program’s total size is tightly capped at $58 million, limiting the number of children who can be served. This year, that cap was reached within a few hours on January 1st. Legislators will debate in the coming session whether or not to raise the cap. There is good reason for them to do so.

Studies of a similar program in Florida have found that it improves the academic achievement of students who switch from public to independent schools and that it also improves achievement among students remaining in public schools. Moreover, the program has been found to save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every year because the private sector educates students more economically than does the public sector.

It is the freest and most market-like systems that best serve families.”

In recognition of these advantages, the Florida legislature has repeatedly raised the cap on its scholarship tax credit program. In fact, it has added an automatic growth provision to the law. As a result, the program’s cap now rises annually so long as total donations in the preceding year either closely approached or hit the cap.

In doing this, Florida has been following the consensus of international research on education system quality. Several years ago I reviewed the research from all over the world comparing alternative approaches to running and funding schools. A key challenge in drawing lessons from foreign studies is that there are many economic and cultural factors that also affect student achievement, besides the design of the school system itself. Fortunately, many countries have different types of school systems operating side-by-side within their own borders.

By focusing on studies of these within-country differences in education systems, I discovered a clear pattern: it is the freest and most market-like systems that best serve families. These systems treat both educators and parents with respect. Educators are free to use the curricula and methods they deem best, and parents are free to choose among …read more

Source: OP-EDS