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Economic Prosperity and the Fiscal 'Speed Bump'


Economic Prosperity and the Fiscal 'Speed Bump'
by Thom Hartmann
Published on Thursday, November 22, 2012 by Common Dreams

An incredible opportunity is coming for America, starting in just a few weeks. The Bush tax cuts will expire. Pentagon spending will be slashed – although still hugely larger than it was just a decade ago. And, to make conservatives smile, funding for programs that keep poor and unemployed people alive and healthy will be cut.


First, when the Bush tax cuts expire, everybody’s taxes will go up, particularly taxes on the rich and the very rich. Which means that if Democrats propose cutting taxes on working class people while ignoring the new rates for the rich, Republicans can sign on and vote for the legislation without violating their blood oath to multimillionaire K-Street lobbyist Grover Norquist. While it goes nowhere as far as it should – which would be to roll back the Reagan tax cuts – it’s a start on moving America in a more egalitarian direction.

Second, most of the cuts to the Pentagon budget are good things. The Pentagon has lost over $2 trillion that they can’t account for – it’s a good guess that you’ll find a lot of it in the 20-bedroom mansions owned by defense contractors and lobbyists that ring Washington DC – and this nation needs a healthy and robust debate on our role as empire. As President Obama said during the campaign, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.

And, third, by breaking out the social spending cuts and requiring Republicans – particularly in the House of Representatives – to go on record on their position to them, the American people will get to see Paul Ryan’s and Mitt Romney’s “47 percent are moochers” philosophy played out writ large. Americans will see, in a way that’s absolutely irrefutable, that the Republican Party is only out for the interests of the top one percent and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about working people or the poor. That could also set the stage for a Democratic victory in the House of Representatives in two years.
Posted by unhappycamper | Thu Nov 22, 2012, 08:21 AM (0 replies)

Panetta Details Steps Needed to End al-Qaida Threat


Panetta Details Steps Needed to End al-Qaida Threat
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2012 – For the United States and its allies, ending the al-Qaida threat calls for a modified military footprint, close work with partners and continued U.S. involvement in regions of the world where violent extremism has flourished, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said tonight.

Addressing a large audience here at the Center for a New American Security, the secretary discussed significant national security challenges and opportunities ahead.

He also outlined priorities that characterize the approaching end of the longest period of sustained armed conflict in the nation’s history.

The priorities, Panetta said, are fighting the war against al-Qaida and its affiliates, ending the war in Afghanistan, implementing the new defense strategy, meeting fiscal responsibilities, countering nuclear proliferation, improving cybersecurity, achieving greater energy security, implementing the Asia-Pacific rebalance, and taking care of service members, veterans and military families.

unhappycamper comment: It's nice that Panetta put "and taking care of service members, veterans and military families" in his nine point list of stuff to do. Number nine is better than not mentioning the need to take care of veterans and their families .
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Nov 21, 2012, 09:28 AM (0 replies)

US sues contractors over troop trailers in Iraq


US sues contractors over troop trailers in Iraq
By MICHAEL TARM, Associated Press – 15 hours ago

CHICAGO (AP) — The U.S. government has filed a civil lawsuit accusing a Houston-based global construction company and its Kuwaiti subcontractor of submitting nearly $50 million in inflated claims to install live-in trailers for troops during the Iraq War.

The lawsuit names KBR Inc. and First Kuwaiti Trading Co., alleging they overcharged for truck, driver and crane costs, and misrepresented delays in providing around 2,250 trailers meant to replace tents used by soldiers earlier in the invasion.

In one instance, the contractors allegedly claimed they paid $23,000 to lease one crane per month when the actual price was about $8,000, according to the lawsuit, which was filed this week in U.S. District Court in Rock Island, Ill., and first appeared in federal court records Tuesday.

KBR, once the engineering and construction arm of Halliburton, has faced lawsuits before related to its work in Iraq. One of the most prominent involved a soldier electrocuted in his barracks shower at an Army base. That case was eventually dismissed.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Nov 21, 2012, 09:20 AM (0 replies)

Wall Street Finds a 'Third Way' to Plunder Our Wealth


Wall Street Finds a 'Third Way' to Plunder Our Wealth
by Richard Eskow | November 20, 2012 - 9:58am

Gotta hand it to 'em: Those Wall Street guys are smart. They've already found two ways to plunder the nation's wealth for their own enrichment, and now they're working on a third.

The first way? Identify and finance a wave of Democratic politicians who would join with Republicans in deregulating Wall Street. The second? Employ the same so-called 'centrist' Democrats, along with their Republican cohorts, to bail them out after they crashed the economy. That bailout continues, and the assurance of protection from being prosecuted for their criminal misdeeds.

Now comes Wall Street's "third way" of hijacking the nation's wealth: it's trying to persuade Democratic supporters to support the dismantling of the social contract that has held our society together for 75 years. And it's using many of the same tactics -- and many of the same faces -- it used in its first two forays.

If you liked Wall Street deregulation, an inequitable bank bailout, and a get-out-of-jail-free card for bank executives, you're going to love this.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Nov 21, 2012, 08:55 AM (47 replies)

The Currency of Classified Information and the Selective Prosecution of Bradley Manning


Bradley Manning in April 2012.

The Currency of Classified Information and the Selective Prosecution of Bradley Manning
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 10:35
By Danny Weil, Truthout | Op-Ed


Pivot now to the case of Bradley Manning. The Army private is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic documents to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

One could argue the Navy SEALs' breach of classified, secret information and the Uniform Code of Military Justice is far more serious than the crimes that Bradley Manning is accused of. The seven SEALs basically lifted classified information, and then peddled the information like a commodity to a software corporation for their own personal profit. This use of classified information should be distinguished from the Manning case, where there was no profit motive whatsoever. Nor was one alleged.

So while the SEALs receive a reprimand and a fine, Manning languishes in a federal prison under what some have called unduly harsh - even torturous - conditions - including extended periods of solitary confinement for more than 900 days.

It would seem that Manning is being subjected to selective prosecution and arbitrary and capricious confinement by the government.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Nov 21, 2012, 08:32 AM (0 replies)

Bolton: ‘Use rendition’ to Guantanamo and ‘gentle persuasion’ for Benghazi suspects


Bolton: ‘Use rendition’ to Guantanamo and ‘gentle persuasion’ for Benghazi suspects
By David Edwards
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 14:58 EST

Neoconservative former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation John Bolton is suggesting that the U.S. should restart its practices of using “rendition” and torture to investigate the September attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

During an interview on Tuesday, Fox News host Martha MacCallum told Bolton that she was frustrated that “we’re two months out, and it seems to me, nowhere” in the investigation.

Bolton, who served as an adviser to former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, replied by blasting President Barack Obama’s administration for treating the attack “like it’s a bigger bank robbery” and allowing the FBI to investigate.

“I think it’s through the counterterrorism efforts internationally of the CIA and other elements of the intelligence community that we’re most likely to find out who did it, track them down and do that terrible thing that the Obama administration doesn’t like to do, use rendition to get these people to Guantanamo Bay and try a little gentle persuasion to see what might have happened,” he opined.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Nov 21, 2012, 08:03 AM (2 replies)

Homeland Security Wants to More Than Double Its Predator Drone Fleet Inside the US, Despite...


Homeland Security Wants to More Than Double Its Predator Drone Fleet Inside the US, Despite Safety and Privacy Concerns
by Trevor Timm
Published on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 by Deeplinks blog / EFF


Yesterday, California Watch reported that DHS signed a contract that could be worth as much as $443 million with General Atomics for the purchase up to fourteen additional Predator drones to fly near the border of Mexico and Canada. Congress would still need to appropriate the funds, but if they did, DHS' drone fleet woud (sic) increase to twenty-four.

While many people may think the US only flies Predator drones overseas, DHS has already spent $250 million over the last six years on ten surveillance Predators of its own. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—a division of DHS—uses the unmanned drones inside the U.S. to patrol the borders with surveillance equipment like video cameras, infrared cameras, heat sensors, and radar.

They say the drones are vital in the fight to stop illegal immigrants, but as EFF reported in June, the DHS Inspector General issued a report faulting DHS for wasting time, money, and resources using drones that were ineffective and lacked oversight. The Inspector General chastised the agency for buying two drones last year despite knowing these problems and recommended they cease buying them until the problems could be fixed.

Perhaps worse, DHS is also flying Predator drone missions on behalf of a diverse group of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies for missions beyond immigration issues. We know they have lent the drones out to the county sheriff's department in North Dakota and the Texas Rangers, among others, but unfortunately, we don’t know the full extent DHS lending program. DHS, as is their custom, is keeping that information secret.

Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Nov 21, 2012, 07:57 AM (1 replies)

The Praetorian Republic


In all this scandal, the most significant information is not the details of the erotic traffic through military camp beds, but rather what is reflected by the impressive lifestyles and paraphernalia surrounding these men.

The Praetorian Republic
El País, Spain
By Lluís Bassets
Translated By Camden Luxford
18 November 2012
Edited by Kath­leen Weinberger

War molds those who wage it in a very similar way across all eras and regimes. There are many similarities between a victorious general of the Roman Empire and another from the empires of our own days. A person must have a very special personality to manage a direct power that shifts borders, destroys nations and cities, snatches lives, health and estates from thousands of people in response to a mere executive order. This Praetorian personality is generally projected in a similar way in all situations and contexts.

Not even liberal democracies, or the most evolved of states, manage to achieve the perfect subjugation of military-to-civil power when there are victorious generals in the middle, made vain by their victories and acclaimed by the citizenry and, in our times, by the media. Because of this, there appears a tendency, which we have seen proliferate in authoritarian regimes, to create a world apart, which is fed by state finances, full of privileges and benefits, and intoxicated by an inbreeding that refuses to subject itself to rules, scrutiny and, in times of austerity, the belt tightening that affects everybody.

The Praetorian republic, when consolidated as a world apart, works with rules that are different from and even opposed to those of the rest of the society: it is socialist in liberal systems and liberal in socialist systems. We saw this in the vanished Soviet Union, in which the only economy that functioned with efficiency until the very end was the military. We have seen it in Egypt, where 30 percent of the country’s economy is in the hands of a military that, until the arrival of Morsi to the presidency, still struggled with the Muslim Brotherhood for its continued right to interfere in and even veto the political decisions of the government.

It also functions as a world apart in the United States, as the Petraeus case (now also the Allen case) is currently revealing to us bit by bit. In this case, the interesting portion is not the sexual or sentimental affairs of the generals, but rather the extravagant lifestyles and privileges enjoyed by these personalities. These men are idolized by their societies, feared and respected by politicians, adulated by journalists and disposed to impose their points of view and decisions on the government itself and the president.

Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Nov 21, 2012, 07:53 AM (1 replies)

Climate Change Denier Likely to Lead Congressional Science Committee


Climate Change Denier Likely to Lead Congressional Science Committee
By Christine Gorman | November 14, 2012

Republican Party leaders in the House of Representatives will decide whether Representatives Lamar Smith of Texas, James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin or Dana Rohrabacher of California will succeed Ralph Hall, also of Texas, as chair of the House Committee. Because of term limits, Hall cannot continue heading the group, which has jurisdiction over energy research, NASA, the National Weather Service and the National Science Foundation, among other things.

“The (ABC, NBC and CBS television) networks have shown a steady pattern of bias on climate change. During a six-month period, four out of five network news reports failed to acknowledge any dissenting opinions about global warming, according to a Business and Media Institute study.

“Climategate revealed that climate science is less about honest debate than ideological warfare. Despite the relentless push to dismiss the emails and to clear the scientists involved, the leaked emails can only be honestly read as an exposure of partisanship among climate change scientists. For that reason, it tainted not only the science but the investigations that would follow as groups scrambled to exonerate the scientists involved and to minimize the impact of their words.”

“In my lifetime, there has been no greater example of this threat [the military-industrial complex], which Eisenhower warned us about, than the insidious coalition of research science and political largesse–a coalition that has conducted an unrelenting crusade to convince the American people that their health and their safety and–yes–their very survival on this planet is at risk due to manmade global warming. The purpose of this greatest-of-all propaganda campaigns is to enlist public support for, if not just the acquiescence to, a dramatic mandated change in our society and a mandated change to our way of life. This campaign has such momentum and power that it is now a tangible threat to our freedom and to our prosperity as a people.

Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Nov 21, 2012, 07:41 AM (11 replies)

Rights Groups Call for Ban on Futuristic Killer Robots


MQ-9 Reaper drone. Rights groups fear such weapons are precursors to greater autonomy for machines on the battlefield.

Rights Groups Call for Ban on Futuristic Killer Robots
by Thalif Deen
Published on Monday, November 19, 2012 by Inter Press Service

The predator drone – an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – is one of the relatively new lethal weapons used by the United States for targeted killings of suspected terrorists, particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

MQ-9 Reaper drone. Rights groups fear such weapons are precursors to greater autonomy for machines on the battlefield. (Photo: U.S. Air Force) And since it is unmanned and remotely controlled, the drone does not risk the lives of U.S. soldiers.


On Monday, a report jointly published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) has warned of an even more deadly weapon: killer robots.

Described as fully autonomous, these weapons will have the capability to select and fire on targets without human intervention in future wars.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Nov 20, 2012, 09:47 AM (1 replies)
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