Thursday, April 30, 2009
Sen. Dick Durbin, on a local Chicago radio station this week, blurted out an obvious truth about Congress that, despite being blindingly obvious, is rarely spoken: "And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." The blunt acknowledgment that the same banks that caused the financial crisis "own" the U.S. Congress -- according to one of that institution's most powerful members -- demonstrates just how extreme this institutional corruption is.
The ownership of the federal government by banks and other large corporations is effectuated in literally countless ways, none more effective than the endless and increasingly sleazy overlap between government and corporate officials. Here is just one random item this week announcing a couple of standard personnel moves:
Former Barney Frank staffer now top Goldman Sachs lobbyist
Goldman Sachs' new top lobbyist was recently the top staffer to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., on the House Financial Services Committee chaired by Frank. Michael Paese, a registered lobbyist for the Securities Industries and Financial Markets Association since he left Frank's committee in September, will join Goldman as director of government affairs, a role held last year by former Tom Daschle intimate, Mark Patterson, now the chief of staff at the Treasury Department. This is not Paese's first swing through the Wall Street-Congress revolving door: he previously worked at JP Morgan and Mercantile Bankshares, and in between served as senior minority counsel at the Financial Services Committee.
So: Paese went from Chairman Frank's office to be the top lobbyist at Goldman, and shortly before that, Goldman dispatched Paese's predecessor, close Tom Daschle associate Mark Patterson, to be Chief of Staff to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, himself a protege of former Goldman CEO Robert Rubin and a virtually wholly owned subsidiary of the banking industry. That's all part of what Desmond Lachman -- American Enterprise Institute fellow, former chief emerging market strategist at Salomon Smith Barney and top IMF official (no socialist he) -- recently described as "Goldman Sachs's seeming lock on high-level U.S. Treasury jobs."
Meanwhile, the above-linked Huffington Post article which reported on Durbin's comments also notes Sen. Evan Bayh's previously-reported central role on behalf of the bankers in blocking legislation, hated by the banking industry, to allow bankruptcy judges to alter the terms of mortgages so that families can stay in their homes. Bayh is up for re-election in 2010, and here -- according to the indispensable Open Secrets site -- is Bayh's top donor:
Goldman is also the top donor to Bayh over the course of his Congressional career, during which Bayh has received more than $4 million from the finance, insurance and real estate sectors:
In a totally unrelated coincidence -- after the Government, as Matt Taibbi put it, enacted "a bailout program that has now figured three ways to funnel money to Goldman, Sachs"-- this is what happened earlier this month:
Goldman reports $1.8 billion profit
Goldman Sachs reported a much stronger-than-expected first-quarter profit Monday, bouncing back from its worst quarter as a public company. . . .
In reporting its results a day earlier than expected, New York-based Goldman said it earned $1.81 billion, or $3.39 a share, for the quarter ended March 31. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a profit of $1.64 a share.
Goldman shares, which have surged more than 70% during the past month, continued rising late Monday, gaining about 4.7% for the day.
Nobody even tries to hide this any longer. The only way they could make it more blatant is if they hung a huge Goldman Sachs logo on the Capitol dome and then branded it onto the foreheads of leading members of Congress and executive branch officials.
Of course, ownership of the government is not confined to Goldman or even to bankers generally; legislation in virtually every area is written by the lobbyists dispatched by the corporations that demand it, and its passage then ensured by "representatives" whose pockets are stuffed with money from those same corporations. Just as one example, as Jane Hamsher reported about Bayh:
Bayh's little "lobbyist problem" is considered by many to be what tanked his Vice Presidential aspirations. His wife Susan earns about $837,000 a year serving on seven corporate boards, among them Wellpoint, a health insurance company for which Bayh helped secure a $24.7 million dollar grant. She's on the board of ETrade, even as Bayh is on the Senate Finance Committee.
Bayh wants people to believe he's a "moderate" who sits in the "center."
Center of K Street, maybe.
Meanwhile, the only citizen protests relating to this mass robbery are driven by anger at the government for treating bankers too harshly and unfairly -- one of the most classic manifestations of what Taibbi, in a separate piece, so aptly calls the "peasant mentality":
After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like [Glenn] Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over. . . .
Actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish . . . can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff.
One might think it would be a big news story for the second most-powerful member of the U.S. Senate to baldly state that the Congress is "owned" by the bankers who spawned the financial crisis and continue to dictate the government's actions. But it won't be. The leading members of the media work for the very corporations that benefit most from this process. Establishment journalists are integral and well-rewarded members of the same system and thus cannot and will not see it as inherently corrupt (instead, as Newsweek's Evan Thomas said, their role, as "members of the ruling class," is to "prop up the existing order," "protect traditional institutions" and "safeguard the status quo").
That Congress is fully owned and controlled by a tiny sliver of narrow, oligarchical, deeply corrupted interests is simultaneously so obvious yet so demonized (only Unserious Shrill Fringe radicals, such as the IMF's former chief economist, use that sort of language) that even Durbin's explicit admission will be largely ignored. Even that extreme of a confession (Durbin elaborated on it with Ed Schultz last night) hardly causes a ripple.
* * * * * *
Here's Jane Hamsher, with Rachel Maddow, in February, assessing the motives of people like Evan Bayh and analyzing who owns and controls them (begins at the 3:00 minute mark):
Friday, April 24, 2009
In 2002, Military Agency Warned Against 'Torture'
- The military agency that provided advice on harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as "torture" in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon's chief lawyer and warned that it would produce "unreliable information."
"The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel," says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency. Parts of the attachment, obtained in full by The Washington Post, were quoted in a Senate report on harsh interrogation released this week.
Army Field Manual 34-52 Chapter 1 says
- "Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."
A declassified FBI e-mail dated May 10, 2004, regarding interrogation at Guantanamo states "[we] explained to [the Department of Defense], FBI has been successful for many years obtaining confessions via non-confrontational interviewing techniques." (see also this)
Brigadier General David R. Irvine, retired Army Reserve strategic intelligence officer who taught prisoner interrogation and military law for 18 years with the Sixth Army Intelligence School, says torture doesn't work.
A former FBI interrogator -- who interrogated Al Qaeda suspects -- says categorically that torture does not help collect intelligence. On the other hand he says that torture actually turns people into terrorists.
A 30-year veteran of CIA’s operations directorate who rose to the most senior managerial ranks, says:
- "The administration’s claims of having ‘saved thousands of Americans’ can be dismissed out of hand because credible evidence has never been offered — not even an authoritative leak of any major terrorist operation interdicted based on information gathered from these interrogations in the past seven years. [...] It is irresponsible for any administration not to tell a credible story that would convince critics at home and abroad that this torture has served some useful purpose.
This is not just because the old hands overwhelmingly believe that torture doesn’t work — it doesn’t — but also because they know that torture creates more terrorists and fosters more acts of terror than it could possibly neutralize."
The FBI interrogators who actually interviewed some of the 9/11 suspects say torture didn't work.
A former US Air Force interrogator said:
- It's extremely ineffective, and it's counter-productive to what we're trying to accomplish. When we torture somebody, it hardens their resolve. The information that you get is unreliable ... And even if you do get reliable information, you're able to stop a terrorist attack, al Qaeda's then going to use the fact that we torture people to recruit new members.
I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
The Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously found that torture doesn't work.
See also these people.
- Five months into the school year and fearing bad publicity, Atlanta Public Schools kicked 105 students out of class on Jan. 30 for failing to get vaccinations they should have had on Day One, documents show. The district says all its schools are now 100 percent in compliance with state law on vaccinations.
Meanwhile, the Fulton County School System said last week that all its kindergartners and sixth-graders, except 212 students at three schools, are properly vaccinated.
Those two Atlanta-area districts were the worst at ensuring their students complied with Georgia’s school vaccination law when they were audited during the 2007-08 school year, Spotlight reported last fall.
Since then, school and health officials said they’ve gone to extraordinary lengths, including home visits and organized trips to clinics, to make sure this year’s kindergartners and sixth-graders have all required shots.
- Redundancy plans have caused violent protests in private sector companies, left-wing students have blocked universities and unions are planning a demonstration on Labour Day. “There is a risk of revolution,” Dominique de Villepin, the former prime minister, said.
- A clutch of political and labour leaders in Germany have raised the spectre of civil unrest after the country's leading institutes forecast a 6pc contraction of gross domestic product this year, a slump reminiscent of 1931 and bad enough to drive unemployment to 4.7m by 2010.
Michael Sommer, leader of the DGB trade union federation, called the latest wave of sackings a "declaration of war" against Germany's workers. "Social unrest can no longer be ruled out," he said.
- KINGSTON, April 23 (Reuters) - Jamaica's government put police and the army on alert to prevent violent demonstrations as it prepared to announce tax increases on gasoline, cigarettes and other consumer items on Thursday.
Police and soldiers were deployed at what the government called "strategic" locations across the Caribbean island to quell any violent protests. Finance and Planning Minister Audley Shaw was expected to announce the tax increases during a budget debate later on Thursday.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding told the nation during a national broadcast Wednesday night that Jamaicans should brace for tougher times because the island could not continue to borrow money to fill holes in the budget.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
- WASHINGTON, April 22 (Reuters) - They have no fear, they never tire, they are not upset when the soldier next to them gets blown to pieces. Their morale doesn't suffer by having to do, again and again, the jobs known in the military as the Three Ds - dull, dirty and dangerous.
They are military robots and their rapidly increasing numbers and growing sophistication may herald the end of thousands of years of human monopoly on fighting war. "Science fiction is moving to the battlefield. The future is upon us," as Brookings scholar Peter Singer put it to a conference of experts at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania this month.
Singer just published Wired For War - the Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, a book that traces the rise of the machines and predicts that in future wars they will not only play greater roles in executing missions but also in planning them.
Numbers reflect the explosive growth of robotic systems. The U.S. forces that stormed into Iraq in 2003 had no robots on the ground. There were none in Afghanistan either. Now those two wars are fought with the help of an estimated 12,000 ground-based robots and 7,000 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the technical term for drone, or robotic aircraft.
Ground-based robots in Iraq have saved hundreds of lives in Iraq, defusing improvised explosive devices, which account for more than 40 percent of U.S. casualties. The first armed robot was deployed in Iraq in 2007 and it is as lethal as its acronym is long: Special Weapons Observation Remote Reconnaissance Direct Action System (SWORDS). Its mounted M249 machinegun can hit a target more than 3,000 feet away with pin-point precision.
From the air, the best-known UAV, the Predator, has killed dozens of insurgent leaders - as well as scores of civilians whose death has prompted protests both from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Predators are flown by operators sitting in front of television monitors in cubicles at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, 8,000 miles from Afghanistan and Taliban sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan. The cubicle pilots in Nevada run no physical risks whatever, a novelty for men engaged in war.
5 hours after the 9/11 attacks, Donald Rumsfeld said "my interest is to hit Saddam".
|A Defense Intelligence Terrorism Summary issued in February 2002 by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency cast significant doubt on the possibility of a Saddam Hussein-al-Qaeda conspiracy.|
And at 2:40 p.m. on September 11th, in a memorandum of discussions between top administration officials, several lines below the statement "judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [that is, Saddam Hussein] at same time", is the statement "Hard to get a good case." In other words, top officials knew that there wasn’t a good case that Hussein was behind 9/11, but they wanted to use the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to justify war with Iraq anyway.
Moreover, "Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the [9/11] attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda".
And a Defense Intelligence Terrorism Summary issued in February 2002 by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency cast significant doubt on the possibility of a Saddam Hussein-al-Qaeda conspiracy.
And yet Bush, Cheney and other top administration officials claimed repeatedly for years that Saddam was behind 9/11. See this analysis. Indeed, Bush administration officials apparently swore in a lawsuit that Saddam was behind 9/11.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
- The days of an open, largely unregulated Internet may soon come to an end.
A bill making its way through Congress proposes to give the U.S. government authority over all networks considered part of the nation's critical infrastructure. Under the proposed Cybersecurity Act of 2009, the president would have the authority to shut down Internet traffic to protect national security.
The government also would have access to digital data from a vast array of industries including banking, telecommunications and energy. A second bill, meanwhile, would create a national cybersecurity adviser -- commonly referred to as the cybersecurity czar -- within the White House to coordinate strategy with a wide range of federal agencies involved.
Nonetheless, the proposal to give the U.S. government the authority to regulate the Internet is sounding alarms among critics who say it's another case of big government getting bigger and more intrusive.
Silicon Valley executives are calling the bill vague and overly intrusive, and they are rebelling at the thought of increased and costly government regulations amid the global economic crisis.
Others are concerned about the potential erosion of civil liberties. "I'm scared of it," said Lee Tien, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based group.
"It's really broad, and there are plenty of laws right now designed to prevent the government getting access to that kind of data. It's the same stuff we've been fighting on the warrantless wiretapping."
- MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Two FBI workers are accused of using surveillance equipment to spy on teenage girls as they undressed and tried on prom gowns at a charity event at a West Virginia mall.
The FBI employees have been charged with conspiracy and committing criminal invasion of privacy. They were working in an FBI satellite control room at the mall when they positioned a camera on temporary changing rooms and zoomed in for at least 90 minutes on girls dressing for the Cinderella Project fashion show, Marion County Prosecutor Pat Wilson said Monday.
Gary Sutton Jr., 40, of New Milton and Charles Hommema of Buckhannon have been charged with the misdemeanors and face fines and up to a year in jail on each charge if convicted.
And, just for laughs...
- Organizer Cynthia Woodyard said volunteers, donors and participants are angry.
"I can't even begin to put words around what I consider an unspeakable act, the misuse of surveillance by a branch of our government in a place we felt so secure," she said. "Never in a million years would we have thought something like this would happen. We're in shock."
In SHOCK, she says. Really? REALLY?? LINK
Monday, April 20, 2009
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday praised the Obama administration’s early decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan as “hardly distinguishable” from that of President Bush.
“We’re on the right track in both places,” said McConnell, who was returning from his first visit to Iraq in three years. The Republican leader said Obama’s February announcement of an August 2010 pullout date for most U.S. troops in Iraq was a wise reversal of his campaign pledge of a quicker withdrawal, and likewise endorsed Obama’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.
“The present strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, which from my point of view is hardly distinguishable from the strategy of the previous administration, is the right thing to do and gives us the best chance to avoid another attack here at home,” he said.
Right...because the reason they attacked us before 9-11 is because we weren't interventionist enough. Full story...
- WASHINGTON (AP) -- Cut a latte or two out of your annual budget and you've just done as much belt-tightening as President Barack Obama asked of his Cabinet on Monday.
The thrifty measures Obama ordered for federal agencies are the equivalent of asking a family that spends $60,000 in a year to save $6.
Obama made his push for frugality the subject of his first Cabinet meeting, ensuring it would command the capital's attention. It also set off outbursts of mental math and scribbled calculations as political friend and foe tried to figure out its impact.
The bottom line: Not much.
The president gave his Cabinet 90 days to find $100 million in savings to achieve over time.
For all the trumpeting, the effort raised questions about why Obama set the bar so low, considering that $100 million amounts to:
--Less than one-quarter of the budget increase that Congress awarded to itself.
--4 percent of the military aid the United States sends to Israel.
--Less than half the cost of one F-22 fighter plane.
--7 percent of the federal subsidy for the money-losing Amtrak passenger rail system.
--1/10,000th of the government's operating budgets for Cabinet agencies, excluding the Iraq and Afghan wars and the stimulus bill.
- Axelrod suggests 'Tea Party' movement is 'unhealthy'
Posted: 11:18 AM ET
From CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Senior White House adviser David Axelrod on Sunday suggested the "Tea Party" movement is an "unhealthy" reaction to the tough economic climate facing the country.
Axelrod was asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" about the "spreading and very public disaffection" with the president's fiscal policies seen at the "Tea Party" rallies around the country last week.
"I think any time you have severe economic conditions there is always an element of disaffection that can mutate into something that's unhealthy," Axelrod said.
Axelrod appeared to backtrack when pressed on whether the movement is unhealthy.
"Well, this is a country where we value our liberties and our ability to express ourselves, and so far these are expressions," he said.
"The thing that bewilders me is that this president just cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people," Axelrod argued. "I think the tea bags should be directed elsewhere because he certainly understands the burden that people face."
Democratic strategist James Carville disagreed with Axelrod on CNN's "State of the Union" when John King asked him if it's unhealthy for "an American to go out and hold a sign and say 'I think my taxes are too high.'"
Carville said, "No." He called the Tea Party movement "harmless and damaging to Republicans."
On CBS, Axelrod also responded to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's recent insinuation that his state could secede from the union in response to government overreach under President Obama.
"I don't think that really warrants a serious response," Axelrod said. "I don't think most Texans were all that enthused by the governor's suggestion."
If you say so.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Law enforcement officials are vastly expanding their collection of DNA to include millions more people who have been arrested or detained but not yet convicted. The move, intended to help solve more crimes, is raising concerns about the privacy of petty offenders and people who are presumed innocent.
Until now, the federal government genetically tracked only convicts. But starting this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will join 15 states that collect DNA samples from those awaiting trial and will collect DNA from detained immigrants — the vanguard of a growing class of genetic registrants.
The F.B.I., with a DNA database of 6.7 million profiles, expects to accelerate its growth rate from 80,000 new entries a year to 1.2 million by 2012 — a 17-fold increase. F.B.I. officials say they expect DNA processing backlogs — which now stand at more than 500,000 cases — to increase.
Law enforcement officials say that expanding the DNA databanks to include legally innocent people will help solve more violent crimes. They point out that DNA has helped convict thousands of criminals and has exonerated more than 200 wrongfully convicted people.
But criminal justice experts cite Fourth Amendment privacy concerns and worry that the nation is becoming a genetic surveillance society.
“DNA databases were built initially to deal with violent sexual crimes and homicides — a very limited number of crimes,” said Harry Levine, a professor of sociology at City University of New York who studies policing trends. “Over time more and more crimes of decreasing severity have been added to the database. Cops and prosecutors like it because it gives everybody more information and creates a new suspect pool.”
- ATLANTA - A man who says he desperately needed to use an airplane bathroom after eating something bad in Honduras faces a federal charge after being accused of twisting a flight attendant's arm to get to the lavatory, the FBI said Wednesday.
oao Correa, 43, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he had a bathroom emergency 30 minutes into a March 28 Delta Air Lines flight from Honduras to Atlanta, but found the single coach aisle on the Boeing 737 blocked by a beverage cart. He said he asked if he could use the lavatory in business class, but was told no.
Transportation Security Administration policy requires passengers on international flights to use the restroom in their seating class.
When the cart wasn't moved after a few minutes, Correa said, he ran for the business class lavatory. He said the flight attendant put up her arm to block him, and he grabbed it to keep his balance.
A Delta flight attendant said Correa grabbed her right arm, pulled it down and twisted it, according to authorities.
The man was arrested after the plane landed in Atlanta after a three-hour flight and Correa was held for two days in jail, authorities said. He was charged with interference with a flight crew, said Gregory Jones, head of the FBI in Atlanta, and released on bond after appearing before a U.S. magistrate.
"I'm devastated," the Concord, Ohio, man told the paper. "I've never had any event with the police in my life."
- Murtha's Earmarks Keep Airport Aloft
State-of-the-Art Pennsylvania Facility Sees Few Travelers but Lots of Funding
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 19, 2009
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- The John Murtha airport sits on a windy mountain two hours east of Pittsburgh, a 650-acre expanse of smooth tarmac, spacious buildings, a helicopter hangar and a National Guard training center.
Inside the terminal on a recent weekday, four passengers lined up to board a flight, outnumbered by seven security staff members and supervisors, all suited up in gloves and uniforms to screen six pieces of luggage. For three hours that day, no commercial or private planes took off or landed. Three commercial flights leave the airport on weekdays, all bound for Dulles International Airport.
The key to the airport's gleaming facilities -- and, indeed, its continued existence -- is $200 million in federal funds in the past decade and the powerful patron who steered most of that money here. Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) is credited with securing at least $150 million for the airport. It was among the first in the country to win funding from this year's stimulus package: $800,000 to repave a backup runway.
The facility, newly renamed the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, is a testament to Murtha's ability to tap streams of federal money for pricey, state-of-the-art projects that are rare among regional airports of comparable size.
Murtha, dubbed the King of Pork by critics, consistently directs more federal money to his district than any other congressman -- $192 million in the 2008 budget. His pattern of steering millions in earmarks to defense contractors who give to his campaign and hire his allies as lobbyists is being scrutinized by the FBI as part of an investigation of a lobbying firm led by one of Murtha's closest friends.
The lawmaker, who uses the airport frequently during his campaigns, has steadily steered millions of taxpayer dollars to it to build a new terminal with a restaurant; a long, concrete runway sturdy enough to handle large jets; and a high-tech radar system usually reserved for international airports.
The airport's passenger count has fallen by more than half in the past 10 years. When Johnstown native Bill Previte arrived on a recent morning, he lamented that his plane was half-empty and that the terminal was deserted.
"Doesn't it seem kind of ridiculous to have a motorized carousel for the baggage claim when 15 people get off the airplane?" he said. "It's obvious: There's not enough population to justify this place."
Friday, April 17, 2009
- The Regime has made it official that "right-wing extremism" is a threat to Homeland Security.
That political genus is divided into two species – "white supremacist and anti-government groups" – with the latter further differentiated into various sub-species, including immigration reform activists, "disgruntled military veterans," gun rights advocates, members of citizen militia groups, anti-globalists, constitutionalists, "hate groups," and others deemed politically unsuitable by the Regime.
Less than two years ago, Congress enacted – by a vote of 404–6 – the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. Its first offspring was an official commission to examine potential content-based Internet restrictions. At some point, it also begat a specialized section within the Homeland Security Department called the Extremism and Radicalization Branch (which we'll call the ERB).
This means that for the first time in American history, the federal government has a full-time intelligence organ devoted exclusively to scrutinizing the political opinions and affiliations of U.S. citizens. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this development as a milestone in our nation's apostasy from its founding as a constitutional republic.
Earlier this month, the ERB's "Homeland Environment Threat Analysis Division" issued a nine-page "Intelligence and Analysis Assessment" of "right-wing extremism" for the supposed benefit of state and local law enforcement agencies. That document consists of reheated leftovers from several previous "intelligence analyses" of the "radical right," including the FBI's notorious 1999 Project Megiddo broadside.
The ERB report concludes with the observation that the Department of Homeland Security "will be working with its state and local partners over the next several months to ascertain with greater regional specificity the rise in rightwing extremist activity in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the political, economic, and social factors that drive rightwing extremist radicalization."
This is significant chiefly because it acknowledges that every "local" police agency in the United States is now a sensory organ, and enforcement appendage, of the Homeland Security State.
...you have nothing to worry about.
- The Obama administration suffered a bit of a legal setback this afternoon: a federal judge in California rejected the administration's assertion of the state secrets privilege in the civil suit brought by an Islamic charity that was allegedly subjected to illegal NSA surveillance. The order, in Al-Haramain v. Bush, requires the government to come up with a way to safeguard the classified information it plans to present in the NSA's defense by May 8. Judge Vaughn Walker noted that the government has elsewhere made provisions for the discussion of Top Secret/SCI information. It so happens that the plaintiffs attorneys have been cleared to that level. Walker crafted his order narrowly to prevent the government from appealing it immediately to the Ninth Circuit. On May 8, it will be interesting to see whether the administration presents a plan for safeguarding classified info -- or whether it re-asserts the state secrets privilege.
I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows they're bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work, or scared of losing their job. A dollar buys a nickel's worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild on the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do and there's no end to it!
We know the air is unfit the breathe and our food is unfit to eat. And we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be! We know things are bad, worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house and suddenly the world we're living in is getting smaller and all we say is, "Please, at least leave us leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my TV, and my toaster oven, and my steel belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone!"
Well I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don't want you to protest, I don't want you to riot, I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime on the street. All I know is that first, you've GOT to GET MAD! You've got to say, "I'M A HUMAN BEING, GOD DAMNIT. MY LIFE HAS VALUE!!"
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now, and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GONNA TAKE THIS ANYMORE!!"
Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil prices. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out and yell, "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GONNA TAKE THIS ANYMORE!!"
- WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews.
Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional.
Of course it was unintentional. No one in government would ever intentionally violate your rights. Continue reading...
Thursday, April 16, 2009
By It’s going to be a real disaster…
The current administration’s economic strategy will create an unmitigated disaster – not only our country’s worst financial calamity, but the greatest economic disaster in recorded history.
I first warned my readers about what was happening last December, in a letter titled The End of America:
“The coming great inflation will destroy America’s economic leadership. It will lead – eventually – to the return of settling international obligations in gold instead of paper dollars. And this will happen much faster than anyone expects.
“By the time Obama leaves office, you will not be able to exchange dollars for any sound currency in the world without permission from the U.S. government. The price of gold will be well over $2,500 per ounce. Most importantly, commodities will no longer be priced in dollars either, but instead in the currencies of the leading producer. Americans haven’t experienced anything like this since the Great Depression.”
Since I wrote that first warning, I have become much more concerned and much more afraid. What the president has done is actually worse – much worse – than even the dire scenario I had envisioned. Not only is the administration planning on enormous deficit spending this year, but the current plan calls for increasing deficit spending for the next decade – spending that will more than double our entire national debt during his presidency.
The Congressional Budget Office produced the following graphic, which compares the deficits of the 1980s and 1990s to the current and future budgets. Assuming Obama remains in power over the next eight years and assuming these deficits aren’t actually much larger (which almost always happens), the Congressional Budget office estimates the president’s budget will add more than $10 trillion to the total federal debt by 2019 – approximately as much total debt as was outstanding at the beginning of 2007.
Obama plans to borrow more money over the next eight years than all of the other presidents – combined.
It’s very hard to put this in perspective. The numbers have become so large they’re almost meaningless. “Twenty trillion” has 13 zeros: $20,000,000,000,000. Nobody can think about a number that large. But consider this… In 1980, the entire federal debt totaled $930 million. Assuming we’re paying 5% on our debt in 2019, we will spend more money on interest than our entire national debt of 1980.
This level of debt is going to be a huge problem because no one will want to pay the money back – ever. And it can’t be financed forever. The poor will blame the rich. The rich will leave and take their wealth offshore. And absolute chaos will follow. The dollar will be completely destroyed.
Now… I know… you’re thinking, “I’ve heard all of this before. But the end of the world somehow doesn’t happen. We find a way out.”
Not this time. In fact, when I wrote last year that the dollar would cease to be the world’s reserve currency much faster than anyone expects, I’m sure no one took me seriously. But since then, we’ve heard two of the world’s leading powers – China and Russia – both openly suggesting a new world reserve currency must be created. Putin is even talking about using gold to settle international trade. It will happen because no one will want to be a creditor to the United States.
As more and more people try to get out of the dollar, the government will be forced to forbid the free exchange of dollars into other currencies – and perhaps even to forbid the purchase of gold bullion. This will happen. I guarantee it. And it will happen during the Obama administration.
That’s why it’s critical for you to take precautions now, while you still can.
The first thing you should do, if you haven’t yet, is buy gold bullion. It’s easy: You just call a few coin dealers, find out who offers the lowest premium on bullion, and wire them the money. Once you have the coins, they’re easy to hide, easy to store, and easy to transport. There’s no law (yet) saying you can’t take bullion out of the country. If things start moving that way, you should have enough time to get the bullion out before the law passes. If not… well… you can clip your coins easily and use the gold to pay for whatever you might need.
I also believe you should immediately buy gold stocks. In fact, I’m convinced you’ll never have a chance to buy gold stocks this cheaply again… Gold stocks have never been cheaper compared to the price of gold itself. This is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I truly hope you’ll capitalize on it.
The second thing you should do is move as large a percentage of your financial assets as possible out of the country. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about this yet to offer any good advice. I’m working on it.
And the third thing you ought to do is to build a stimulus package for yourself. I realize it’s paradoxical. But the coming crisis will make lots of people rich. It’s not hard to generate a paper fortune in a huge inflation. All you have to do is own the most important economic assets: energy, communication, and transportation. Thing to do right now is buy the assets you know the government has to have for the economy to function. These assets will remain in private hands, and their values will increase the most.
I can tell you what happens to countries that go bankrupt. I’ve been to Argentina. I’m familiar with the history of Mexico and Great Britain. We’ll see the same things here, shortly: inflation, huge tax increases, capital flight and, eventually, capital controls.
It will probably take decades for Americans to realize socialism doesn’t work. But that clarity might not happen during my lifetime. And I don’t want my assets to be stuck inside a banana republic in the midst of a huge socialist experiment. I’m graveyard serious: If you do not take precautions and prepare yourself and your family for the inevitable collapse of our currency, you will suffer incredibly over the next decade.
- STATE AND FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONS - SOVEREIGNTY - Stating findings of the Legislature claiming sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution.
This of course throws into question the legitimacy of Lincoln's war of aggression against the Confederacy, but that's a whole different discussion.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
- Happy Patriots' Day. April 15 is the one day a year when our country asks something of us -- or at least the vast majority of us.
For those who wear a military uniform, those who serve the rest of us as policemen and firefighters and teachers and other public servants, every day is patriots' day. They work hard for our country; many risk their lives -- and some lose their lives.
But for the rest of us, the civilian majority, our government asks very little. Except for April 15. On this day, our government asks that we pay our fair share of taxes to keep our beloved country strong and safe.
Continue reading...(no, seriously, you don't have to)
As an aside, it's slightly encouraging that, unlike the GOP during the Bush years, democrats are not completely in lockstep with the Obama administration on many issues. With regards to this DHS report, a top democratic congressman is "dumbfounded" by this report.
US govt faces veteran anger at extremism report
The US Homeland Security Department, under fire for saying US forces returning from the Iraq and Afghan wars were potential right-wing extremist recruits, said Wednesday it honors US veterans.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sought to douse anger among conservatives and veterans groups like the American Legion over a report from her department warning of a rising threat of right-wing extremism.
"We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not -- nor will we ever -- monitor ideology or political beliefs," Napolitano said in a statement amid charges that the department had done just that.
American Legion chief David Rehbein on Tuesday blasted the report as "incomplete, and, I fear, politically-biased" and took special aim at its warning that returning veterans having difficulties reintegrating society could be recruited by right-wing groups for possible terrorist attacks.
So I can't help but feel a little timid for asserting myself against the State, and against the Obama administration for the same things I used to defend the Bush administration for. Of course, at the time I wasn't aware of the economics of deficit spending. I had no idea what the Fed was, what inflation was, and the mechanics behind who bought our debt and how we went about paying it off, or, most importantly, how much we had actually borrowed. I hadn't fully considered the implications of our interventionist foreign policy, of denying Habeas Corpus, or rendition, or torture, etc. At one time I took the hard neo-con line, that terrorists didn't deserve rights; it never occured to me the scope of the power my attitude granted the government - this power to, at will, declare anyone they wanted a terrorist and arrest and detain them indefinitely with absolutely no due process. To this day I have no sympathy for terrorists or jihadists or whatever, but no one should have the power to declare someone as such and arrest them with total impunity. No one. And of course, ignorant of economics and drunk on American exceptionalism, I thought we could continue these aggressive interventions until the end of time. We were Americans; we would always find a way.
Of course, these Tea Parties aren't about torture or rendition, but economics goes hand-in-hand with foreign policy. After all, these adventures have to be paid for, somehow. And I can't help but wonder if a very large percentage of those who protested today weren't in favor of much of the same policies they protested against when a so-called conservative occupied the White House. This is troubling to me. I understand that the movement started gaining traction when Bush was still in office. Much of the anger over this calamity is rooted in Bush's TARP bailout. And talk of a massive economic stimulus against which we now protest was in the works long before Obama took office. So the timing seems suspicious, but maybe it's not so suspicious. I don't know.
What I do know is that the "conservative" movement always finds its voice as the minority - how convenient! It was strong and potent during the Clinton years, so potent that the naive conservative couldn't help but be ecstatic for the prospects of a clean sweep of the three branches by the GOP after the 2000 election. They had legislated, supposedly, so effectively during the Clinton years, that with a Republican in the White House there would be no obstacles in the way of a total conservative remake of government. Lower taxes. Spending cuts. Slicing and dicing the bureaucracy. More efficient government. But if you payed attention you learned, the hard way, that the two parties are really nothing more than two wings of the same bird of prey, and while there are slight intricacies in practice, if not massive differences in the rhetoric, the two parties had the same goal.
This is clear now to any objective observer of politics; if you hated Bush, you must hate Obama. And if you hate Obama yet loved Bush, or vice-versa, you have to examine the motivations behind that. Because between Bush and Obama nothing has changed, except the aggressiveness of the policy. Obama is doing the same things Bush did, only on a larger scale. He has broken every campaign promise, and has validated Bush for everything he ran against McCain for, as "the 3rd Bush term", during his campaign. Obama is, in fact, the 3rd Bush term.
And that is my concern for these protests. Are they nothing more than sour grapes for the fact that a Democrat is now president, and that Democrats control all three branches of government, as Republicans did 8 years ago? Or is this rage merely carried over from the end of the Bush presidency, a movement that had its infancy at the TARP bailout mere months before Bush left office and has exploded due to the government take-overs of the banking and automobile industry, the many hundreds of billions of "stimulus" which amounts to little more than cash payouts to favored corporations and industries, as well as wasteful welfare and entitlement programs democrats have wanted to shove down our throats for years? $75 Million to pave three miles of highway? Is this what it's about? Do people finally realize that things would not be any different had McCain won in November?
The timing is terrible. Many of those now jumping on the bandwagon of the movement have no credibility. Dick Army. Sean Hannity. Glenn Beck. Even myself. All at one time shills for the Bush administration, ardent defenders of all we now hate about Obama. None of us will have any real credibility until the GOP regains control and we focus the same criticism on them as we did the Democrats. Have we simply had a recent and ill-timed epiphany about the role of government, the real causes of this economic calamity, the people who truly pull the strings of government and our economy? Have we really, just now, realized the disastrous implications of our hyper-interventionist foreign policy? Do we see a difference between Bush's attack on the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 10th Amendments and Obama's attack on the 2nd, or do we now view them all as one and the same?
I know where my heart lies. Where does yours?
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
- Just a couple of weeks ago, Forbes rated Portland, Maine America's "most livable" city.
Though the weather can be a challenge, and the recession has taken its toll on the seaside community, Portland is seen as a haven from crime and other turbulence. Indeed, Maine ranks third in a recent survey of "safest states" to live in.
According to the Portland (Maine) Police Department, the most pressing crime problems afflicting their relatively tranquil community include stolen pocketbooks, fraud, and the occasional robbery.
So, naturally, the PPD recently received a pair of M113 armored personnel carriers -- better known as "tanks" -- from the Pentagon. Oh, sure, people complain that they are a bit "too much," acknowledges PPD Capt. Ted Ross. But he insists that the vehicles will "reduce the exposure to danger for officers who approach ... hostile or armed confrontations."
They might also come in handy if the PPD ever has to deal with a handful of wound-up college students at a campus dance, as their colleagues did over the weekend at Colby College in Waterville.
Early Easter Sunday morning, police from several Maine communities responded to a call from Colby campus security. When the first pair of officers arrived, security personnel were restraining two students, one of whom supposedly interfered with attempts to provide medical care to another student who had apparently fallen ill.
Each student had been swarmed and forced face-down on the floor by campus security. One of them, Ozzy Ramirez, was bleeding into the floor. A video taken at the time (and available at the website of The Exception magazine) shows a bloody Ramirez pinned and pleading to be let up while other students angrily -- but non-violently -- criticize the use of excessive force by security personnel.
Ramirez and another student, Jacob Roundtree, were arrested and charged with assault and criminal trespass; a third, Michael Talarico, was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct.
At a campus forum held yesterday student witnesses disputed the official account, insisting (as summarized by the Kennebec Journal's Morning Sentinel) that "campus security guards ... harassed and assaulted students without provocation and that police sprayed one student with Mace three times, also without provocation."
However the incident began, the involvement of local police exacerbated it. Confronting a small crowd of angry, upset college students, the police -- rather than trying to defuse and de-escalate the situation -- went the "shock and awe" route.
This emergency summons brought officers from Oakland, Winslow, Fairfield, Waterville, the Kennebec County Sheriff's Department, and the State Police -- to deal with a total of three allegedly misbehaving college students and a small but orderly crowd of their classmates.
Yes, Maine is a perfectly safe place to live, as long as you can avoid the police.
But a debate is also taking place over whether it would be better to simply allow these merchants to arm and defend themselves - they are currently prohibited from doing so. Maybe someday before our entire economic and social fabric is ripped to shreds we'll figure out that not only can we not afford to police the world, but we are simply incapable of it.
- Undeterred Somali pirates hijack 3 more ships
MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) - Undeterred by U.S. and French hostage rescues that killed seven bandits, Somali pirates brazenly hijacked three more ships in the Gulf of Aden, the waterway that's become the focal point of the world's fight against piracy.
The latest trophy for the pirates was the M.V. Irene E.M., a Greek-managed bulk carrier sailing from the Middle East to South Asia, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.
The Irene was attacked and seized in the middle of the night Tuesday - a rare tactic for the pirates.
- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As a deep recession strips Americans of their jobs, homes and investments, the 2009 U.S. tax season promises to see a large uptick in first-time delinquent income taxpayers.
"Our calls are up 280 percent," said Richard Boggs, founder and chief executive of Los Angeles-based Nationwide Tax Relief, a firm that helps delinquent taxpayers resolve tax issues.
"We've seen a huge rise in what we call the rookie delinquent taxpayer," he said. "They are incredibly scared, and they have no idea what's going to happen to them because, God bless them, they've never owed before."
As the weak economy puts job security and a steady flow of income on a slippery slope, many are wary of the U.S. tax man, tax consultants say.
With household balance sheets under pressure, more U.S. households are having trouble keeping up with their day-to-day bills and struggling to pay their taxes.
"Folks are not paying their taxes because they are spending it on necessary living expenses," said Kristin Lavieri, an accountant with Weinstein & Anastasio, PC in Hamden, Connecticut.
She added that more of the self-employed, who are required to pay taxes each quarter, are likely to end up with back taxes. "When there is not enough money for general operating expenses, there most definitely isn't going to be enough for quarterly estimates," Lavieri said.
- The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement officials about a rise in "right-wing extremist activity," saying the economic recession, the election of America's first black president and the return of a few disgruntled war veterans could swell the ranks of white-power militias.
A footnote attached to the report by the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines "right-wing extremism in the United States" as including not just racist or hate groups, but also groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.
- AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry joined state Rep. Brandon Creighton and sponsors of House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 50 in support of states’ rights under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“I believe that our federal government has become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of our citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state,” Gov. Perry said. “That is why I am here today to express my unwavering support for efforts all across our country to reaffirm the states’ rights affirmed by the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I believe that returning to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution and its essential 10th Amendment will free our state from undue regulations, and ultimately strengthen our Union.”
Perry continued: "Millions of Texans are tired of Washington, DC trying to come down here to tell us how to run Texas."
A number of recent federal proposals are not within the scope of the federal government’s constitutionally designated powers and impede the states’ right to govern themselves. HCR 50 affirms that Texas claims sovereignty under the 10th Amendment over all powers not otherwise granted to the federal government.
It also designates that all compulsory federal legislation that requires states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties, or that requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding, be prohibited or repealed.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
by Jack Hunter
When America declared a war on poverty in the 1960s, it was believed that more assistance by the federal government would lead to eradicating the problem. What we got instead was bigger government and an army of dependents for whom welfare became not merely a helping hand but a way of life. And today, even though the government has done little to actually help the poor and has even made things worse, many still believe the war on poverty must continue by offering even more of the welfare that helps to perpetuate it.
When America declared a war on terror at the beginning of the 21st century, it was believed that massive intervention in the Middle East by the federal government would lead to eradicating the problem. What we got instead was bigger government both home and abroad and a new army of terrorists for whom the U.S. invasion of Iraq was their primary reason for joining Al-Qaeda. And today, even though government actually did nothing to stop the growth of global terrorism and even made things worse, many still believe the war on terror must continue by offering even more of the intervention that helps to perpetuate it.
And it is this same mindless, reckless, and fruitless government repetition that perpetuates America's war on drugs. Since beginning the war on drugs in the 1970s and escalating our efforts in the '80s, this battle has done virtually nothing to reduce drug use and has in fact created more battles. Writes Ethan Nadelmann in The Wall Street Journal, "Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76 percent of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons."
Please continue reading...
A panel of Wall Street Journal economists were asked if Greenspan and the Fed were responsible for the housing bubble, and a majority of them said yes, they were. One economists, Judy Shelton, even dared to ask why we need a central bank in the first place.
Good question, Judy.
- NEW YORK, April 6 (Reuters) - Amid the wreckage of a broken U.S. financial system, the Federal Reserve is emerging as the chief overseer of an economic order that has yet to fully take shape.
Yet given the institution's opaqueness and its failure to prevent the current financial crisis, critics say the country would not be well served if the central bank were anointed as an all-powerful supra-regulator.
"I have intense concerns with the Fed as a regulator," said William Black, professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. "Fed regulators have no power within the institution, and the institution is inherently hostile to vigorous regulatory action against the big banks."
Though the proposal to make the Fed the main systemic regulator is backed by key figures in Congress, including Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, analysts say there is plenty of reason to be skeptical of the U.S. central bank's supervisory prowess.
Some argue Fed policy was instrumental in stoking the housing bubble. Policy-makers not only kept interest rates at extreme lows for an extended period before raising them again in 2004-2006, but also suggested any speculative excess in housing was regional in nature and would not affect the national economy.
The Fed occasionally pointed to the systemic risks raised by the dominant position in the U.S mortgage market held by state sponsored mortgage banks Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But many analysts argue it also neglected some of its regulatory functions, allowing dangerous risk-taking to fester and looking the other way as signs of mortgage fraud mounted.
"There were obviously some significant lapses, so widening their regulatory authority isn't really what the system needs," said Conrad DeQuadros of RDQ Economics in New York, and formerly an economist at fallen investment giant Bear Stearns.
Banking giant Citigroup, for example, fell squarely under the Fed's regulatory domain. Yet it was allowed to take heavy bets on consumer credit, of a magnitude worthy of a hedge fund, including using off-balance sheet vehicles. These risks brought Citi to the edge of bankruptcy and required several doses of capital from U.S. taxpayers to keep it afloat.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
Obama seeks $83.4 billion more in 2009 war fundsWASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama asked the U.S. Congress on Thursday for an extra $83.4 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, citing threats from al Qaeda and a resurgent Taliban.
The request, to cover the rest of the 2009 fiscal year which ends on September 30, comes on top of more than $822 billion that Congress has approved to fund the wars since September 2001, Obama said.
"We face a security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan that demands urgent attention," he said in a letter to Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, urging lawmakers to approve his request swiftly.
"The Taliban is resurgent and al Qaeda threatens America from its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border."
Almost 95 percent of the funding would go to support military efforts to stabilize Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama said in the letter released by the White House.
The request also includes funding for other national security priorities of the administration, including assistance for anti-drug efforts in Mexico, security assistance in Lebanon and closing down the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Congress has already approved $65.9 billion for the wars in 2009 and some anti-war Democrats expressed reservations about the new request.
But Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Obama's policies on Iraq and Afghanistan enjoyed broad support on Capitol Hill.
"The alternative to the supplemental is a sudden and precipitous withdrawal ... from both places. And I don't know anybody who thinks that's a good idea," Gates said.
Well allow me to introduce myself, Mr Gates, and I have a few million others I'd like you to meet as well. Of course, you elites like to pretend people like us don't really exist, like Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster.
I had a brief discussion recently about Obama's surprise visit to Iraq, and many of the "conservative" persuasion were more than a little shocked at the notion that Obama may have received a rousing ovation from the troops there.
Of course, like Obama's faux town hall meeting in France in which not one question came from an actual Frenchman, it's possible that the troops for which the blessing of being in the presence of The Anointed One was bestowed upon were vetted so that no blaspheming non-believers were present. But the first thing that came to my mind was: why would it be surprising?
Oh, that's right, I forgot. Obama is a Democrat and everyone "knows" the military hates Democrat traitors and loves Republicans. Apparently the troops know better. They love Obama's policies because they're the same as Bush's. Sure, the campaign rhetoric was decidedly anti-war - particularly anti-Iraq war - but in practice nothing "changed". We have the same Secretary of Defense. The Iraq pullout, which was a central theme of Obama's campaign, has been put on hold indefinitely. And the war in Afghanistan is on the verge of escalation. What has changed?
Economically, Obama is FDR to Bush's Hoover. Like FDR, who trashed Hoover for his socialist economic policies before taking office, and then subsequently adopted and accelerated Hoover's socialist economic policies, Obama is aggressively pursuing the very economic policies that he trashed Bush for during his campaign.
The logic is so ass-backwards that a 5 year-old could point out its insanity, yet the Obama/Bush economic policy is simply this: it was massive and reckless spending that got us into this calamity, and only massive and reckless spending will get us out of it. And if you think the brain trust at the top has any clue what they're doing, you haven't been paying attention. The criminals shaping our monetary policy openly admit they're in "uncharted waters".
At best they're incompetent. At worst they're aiding and abetting an economic disaster that will be used as the impetus for a global economic restructuring and the loss of our sovereignty and freedoms. I leave you to decide what's what. The end result will be largely the same: we will all suffer. We will leave to our heirs a world much poorer than the one we inherited.
...same as the old boss...
What is the psychology behind this glaring contradiction? Why is it that Bush was hated for these policies yet Obama is still wildly popular, at least among those who supported him in the first place?
Is it because the rhetoric is different? Surely not. Once in office Obama's empty message of hope quickly mutated into the same fear tactics the Bush regime so effectively used.
Is it because Obama is more eloquent? Really? Any serious, objective analysis of Obama's oratory skills compared to Bush's tells us that, when you sound that inept, it's all relative anyway. In other words, Bush may have sounded dumber than Obama, but that's not really saying anything. In the rare instances Obama cannot rely on a teleprompter, one is left wondering where people get their definition of "eloquent" from.
The reality is, Americans view politics the way they view reality TV. And when we watch reality TV, we call it reality but to us it's all entertainment. People like Obama, people didn't like Bush. And there was obviously no particular reason for it. We all have that one person we know, and there's nothing you can pinpoint about the person, you just don't like him. And so we like Obama, and we cheer him on to succeed, and we love what he has planned for us. The warrantless wiretapping. The torturing. The signing statements. The war-mongering. The spending. The debt. The encroachment on our civil liberties. It's all water off a duck's back to us, because it's Obama. But we hated Bush for these very same things. And it doesn't occur to us that, despite the campaign rhetoric about John McCain, that Obama is really the third Bush term. Obama is now everything we feared about a John McCain presidency. Aren't there any conscientious liberals out there who see the qualities they hated in Bush now manifested in Obama?
Ignorance is always bliss, this we know. And for now, Americans can view their politics the way they watch American Idol, and they can shield themselves in a cloak of American exceptionalism, and think everything will be fine because everything always ends up being fine for the simple fact that we're Americans. But the day will soon come when reality will become too painful and too overwhelming to ignore. We will walk around stupefied, murmuring to ourselves, "How could this happen to us?"