“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Thursday, February 28, 2013

After over a thousand days of detention without trial, the US Army has finally given a first glimpse into the proceedings against Bradley Manning. The Pentagon gave in to the pressure of numerous Freedom of Information Act demands and published documents related to the case. The 25-year-old army private faces numerous charges, including 'aiding the enemy' - for allegedly leaking thousands of diplomatic cables to Wikileaks.

 Obama’s War On Whistleblowers “Goes To Eleven”
January 30, 2013 | Filed under Barack Obama | Posted by Doug Johnson Wizbang

The Washington Post notes that the Obama administration is squeezing current and former federal officials to find out who talked to The New York Post about Stuxnet.
Federal investigators looking into disclosures of classified information about a cyberoperation that targeted Iran’s nuclear program have increased pressure on current and former senior government officials suspected of involvement, according to people familiar with the investigation.
The inquiry, which was started by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. last June, is examining leaks about a computer virus developed jointly by the United States and Israel that damaged nuclear centrifuges at Iran’s primary uranium enrichment plant. The U.S. code name for the operation was Olympic Games, but the wider world knew the mysterious computer worm as Stuxnet.
Prosecutors are pursuing “everybody — at pretty high levels, too,” said one person familiar with the investigation. “There are many people who’ve been contacted from different agencies.”
The FBI and prosecutors have interviewed several current and former senior government officials in connection with the disclosures, sometimes confronting them with evidence of contact with journalists, according to people familiar with the probe. Investigators, they said, have conducted extensive analysis of the e-mail accounts and phone records of current and former government officials in a search for links to journalists.
At the time I was of the opinion that it was someone from the Obama administration (as opposed to a former Bush official) who couldn’t contain their enthusiasm to tell someone about the really cool thing they’d done. Maybe that’s the case, maybe it’s not, but what is true is that the Obama folks are big believers in leaking information to the press, as even progressives such as Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian note:
Like all of the Obama leak prosecutions – see here – none of those revelations resulted in any tangible harm, yet all revealed vital information about what our government was doing in secret. As long-time DC lawyer Abbe Lowell, who represents indicted whistleblower Stephen Kim, put it: what makes the Obama DOJ’s prosecutions historically unique is that they “don’t distinguish between bad people – people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money – and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions”. Not only doesn’t it draw this distinction, but it is focused almost entirely on those who leak in order to expose wrongdoing and bring about transparency and accountability.
That is the primary impact of all of this. A Bloomberg report last October on this intimidation campaign summarized the objections this way: “the president’s crackdown chills dissent, curtails a free press and betrays Obama’s initial promise to ‘usher in a new era of open government.’”
The Obama administration does not dislike leaks of classified information. To the contrary, it is a prolific exploiter of exactly those types of leaks – when they can be used to propagandize the citizenry to glorify the president’s image as a tough guy, advance his political goals or produce a multi-million-dollar Hollywood film about his greatest conquest. Leaks are only objectionable when they undercut that propaganda by exposing government deceit, corruption and illegality.
…This Obama whistleblower war has nothing to do with national security. It has nothing to do with punishing those who harm the country with espionage or treason.
It has everything to do with destroying those who expose high-level government wrongdoing. It is particularly devoted to preserving the government’s ability to abuse its power in secret by intimidating and deterring future acts of whistleblowing and impeding investigative journalism. This Obama whistleblower war continues to escalate because it triggers no objections from Republicans (who always adore government secrecy) or Democrats (who always adore what Obama does), but most of all because it triggers so few objections from media outlets, which – at least in theory – suffer the most from what is being done.
Obama’s lapdog media are well-trained and properly muzzled – they wouldn’t think of complaining or asking hard questions. Don’t take my word for that, ask 60 Minute’ Steve Croft.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Will the press ever turn on Obama?

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - With just days to go before the automatic spending cuts kick in if the sequestration takes effect, Americans are still favoring President Obama over Congress. A new poll by the PEW Research Center says close to half of Americans blaming Congress for the automatic cuts and less than a third blaming the President, however pollster and political analyst John Zogby says that could start to change if the sequester goes into effect.

"You know normally, traditionally the guy at the top is to blame for what's good or what's bad but right now Congress is losing its battle in public opinion," said Zogby.
"'A' it's always easy to blame Congress and 'B' they don't have the bully pulpit that one President can have." 

Zogby says President Obama is still enjoying a majority vote but that can change if the cuts go into effect long enough.

"You know you're not going to feel them Monday morning, but you're going to feel them eventually," said Zogby. "And if there's a proactive battle over the next wave which is the actual operating budget for the next fiscal year you know the sentiment towards the President could decline."

He says pollsters like him will continue to conduct surveys to see if the public's opinion changes if the automatic spending cuts kick in. 

"That's when the polls may change and that's why we do them so that we're right there to find out if they did," said Zogby. 

Zogby says he does think the sequestration will go into effect, he doesn't see any suggestion of an agreement being made.

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is an architect of a GOP proposal that would allow deep automatic spending cuts to take effect Friday but authorize Obama to choose where to chop and where to trim. My oh my, Obama would have to govern instead of campaign.

Toomey draws up measure to soften sequester

Proposal would allow Obama to choose where to cut
February 27, 2013 12:16 am

By Tracie Mauriello / Post-Gazette Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is an architect of a GOP proposal that would allow deep automatic spending cuts to take effect Friday but authorize the president to choose where to chop and where to trim.

Mr. Toomey and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla, expect to introduce their bill today, but its already under attack by Democrats and some fellow Republicans, who have their own ideas for how to address $85 billion in automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he will allow each caucus to offer only one alternative for an up-or-down vote.

None of the proposals that have emerged so far appears likely to receive enough votes to pass in the Senate.

The Toomey-Inhofe legislation would maintain the overall size of the sequester but would authorize the White House to decide where to cut within broad categories.

As it stands, defense spending would be cut by 13 percent and most other departments and programs would be cut uniformly by about 9 percent over the next seven months.

"It gives no discretion to the managers of the agencies or the administration -- or anyone, for that matter -- to decide which of these programs has greater importance, greater urgency than another," Mr. Toomey said. There are any number of contrasts and comparisons you could make, but -- in my view -- a government subsidy to Solyndra wouldn't be as high a priority as maintaining air-traffic controllers."

Republicans including Sen. John McCain of Arizona have said that kind of approach relinquishes congressional budgetary authority to the president.

"I say to my Republican friends, if you want to just give the president flexibility as how to enact these cuts in defense spending, then why don't we go home and just give him the money?" Mr. McCain said Sunday during an appearance on CNN.

Mr. Toomey said he tried to ease that concern by including a provision that would give Congress final approval over the cuts President Barack Obama would decide to impose.

"I understand [Mr. McCain's] point, and this is why I have consistently said the Senate ought to do its work. We havent been doing budgets these past two years," he said.

"We shouldn't be governing by crisis and governing by [fiscal] cliff. I wish we weren't in this position ... but I'm dealing with the reality that faces us on Friday morning," he said. "I'm trying to make a bad situation less bad."

Democrats say it's inconsistent for senators who have criticized the president's spending priorities to now want to give him more discretion.

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said Republicans are playing politics by forcing the president to take the blame for cuts he's being forced to make. "When the cuts start to affect people, they want to be able to say, 'The president had the flexibility not to do this to you,' " he said.

"There is nothing that Sen. Toomey is doing that improves the situation," Mr. Doyle said. "It's like saying, 'We're going to cut off one of your fingers, but you get to choose which finger.' "

Mr. Obama wants more than the ability to choose where to cut. He also wants more money on the table so he won't have to cut so much. He wants to raise $580 billion in revenue over the next 10 years by closing loopholes and stopping deductions that help the wealthiest taxpayers.

He and other Democrats say the GOP is putting the interests of the wealthy ahead of the needs of the rest of the country by allowing cuts that will reduce essential government services such as funding to Head Start early education, vaccination programs, meat inspections, airport security checks and much more.

"There's no smart way" to cut $85 billion in seven months, Mr. Obama said Tuesday during a public appearance in Newport News, Va. "Do I choose between funding for the disabled kid or the poor kid? Do I close this Navy shipyard or some other one?"

He's looking for additional revenue by closing "wasteful" loopholes and ending deductions he says help only the wealthiest. In exchange, he's willing to cut $930 billion in spending over that period.

The administration has said that if the poor and middle class have to suffer by losing services in order to reduce debt then the wealthy should contribute, too, and that means them paying higher taxes.

Republicans say the rich already are paying more than their fair share.
"Spending always ultimately gets paid for by confiscating [money] from the more productive private sector," Mr. Toomey said during a Senate Budget Committee hearing Tuesday.

Republicans are adamant that they wont let that happen this time.

"The administration can either go ahead and make very disruptive spending cuts ... or they could support my legislation, which would give them the flexibility and the authority to do this in a way that is least disruptive and does the least harm," Mr. Toomey told reporters Tuesday evening.

"I don't think there's going to be any grand bargain" to avoid the sequester entirely, he said.

Washington bureau chief Tracie Mauriello: or 703-996-9292.
First Published February 27, 2013 12:00 am
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Canadians set the record straight on historic revisionism

Today’s letters: The Oscar for historical revisionism goes to …

Paul Russell | Feb 26, 2013 1:00 AM ET | Last Updated: Feb 25, 2013 5:00 PM ET
More from Paul Russell | @justapostie NATIONAL POST

Re: Post Oscars, Feb. 25.
Argo’s Oscar win as best picture embodies all of Canada’s factually historic undercover victories, from Wars in 1776 and 1812 to the invention of the light bulb. Ken Taylor’s U.S. recognition and appreciation in 1979 was so over the top that Ben Affleck’s claim of research oversight verges on wilful blindness.
Another Academy Award-winning movie that overlooked Canada was The Longest Day. Our country has the most successful and third-largest battle contingent taking part on D-Day, but our efforts were not even mentioned in the film. To add insult to injury, Ottawa superstar Paul Anka was cast as a U.S. Ranger.
This is no way for a superpower to treat a trusted neighbour. Just because several Hollywood movies feature Edison’s refinement of the light bulb in 1879, doesn’t mean he really didn’t go to Toronto and purchase the first patent of 1874 from its inventors, Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans.
According to former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, Canada was 90% responsible for the success of Argo. Still, the Oscar went to its American creators, and once again, Canada, got nothing but the “Golden Fleece.”
Michael John Charette, Oakville, Ont.
How’s this for irony? Two of the contenders for best picture at Sunday’s Academy Awards (Lincoln and Argo) are both significantly wanting in historical accuracy. Lincoln mistakenly portrays Connecticut’s senators as having voted against the abolition of slavery, when in fact they most certainly voted for it. In Argo, the CIA is wrongly given the credit for rescuing six Americans from Iran, when it was the Canadian embassy and its ambassador Ken Taylor’s highly clandestine plan that was responsible for their historic rescue. Even former U.S. president Jimmy Carter recently refuted the movie’s inaccurate portrayal of the incident.

The performances in Argo would have been just as formidable, had they got the documented facts straight.
Victor Redlick, Toronto.
Surprise, surprise! The United States has taken credit for getting six citizens out of Iran in 1979. No wonder — Hollywood is simply a reflection of America. For many Americans, the rest of the world is an afterthought, not worthy of its attention, let alone gratitude. The movie reflects the pervading attitude that the world is America and all else might as well be on another planet.
Argo should not have been nominated, being one of the weaker movies of the year. I’m convinced that if Ben Affleck had been nominated for best director, neither he nor the movie would have received the attention they did and neither would have won in their respective categories. I think the win speaks more to the influence of George Clooney than to the movie’s artistic merits.
Marc Lafleur, Caledon, Ont.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

500-Year-Old Machiavelli Arrest Proclamation Discovered in Italy

This week the city of Florence recreated the “Bando,” the official proclamation, which 500 years ago gave any citizen of Florence with any knowledge of the whereabouts of one Niccolo Machiavelli just one hour to report the information to the authorities.
Because at one point Machiavelli was fighting the bad guys!
He lost. And he lost his beloved Florence to the Medici family, aided and abetted by the Pope’s invading army.
So disillusioned, he wrote the political guidebook “The Prince,” declaring that the end justifies the means. That rulers and governments can and should be brutal to defend themselves.
The 500th anniversary of Machiavelli’s book and his arrest is now being marked in Florence.
That’s where we found the man who recently uncovered the “Bando” while researching the role of town criers in Renaissance Italy. Stephen Milner is visiting professor at Harvard’s Center for Renaissance Studies, the Villa I Tatti.

"America, since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, has stubbornly resisted doing a strategic review of all U.S. commitments abroad to determine which remain vital to the national security. Before we decide what our defense forces should be, let us determine what is in the U.S. vital interest to defend at risk of war.”


By: Patrick J. Buchanan
2/22/2013 02:30 AM

In that year of happy memory, 1972, George McGovern, the Democratic nominee, declared he would chop defense by fully one-third.
A friendly congressman was persuaded to ask Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird to expatiate on what this might mean.
The Pentagon replied the Sixth Fleet might have to be pulled out of the Med, leaving Israel without U.S. protection against the fleet of Adm. Sergei Gorshkov, and provided the congressman a list of U.S. bases that would have to be shut down.
Radio ads were run in the towns closest to the bases on the Pentagon list, declaring they would be closed and all jobs terminated, should McGovern win.
Something akin to this is going on with the impending sequester.
A cut of 7 percent, $46 billion, in Pentagon spending, says Army chief Ray Odierno, will mean a “hollowing” out of his force.
The Navy? The carrier Harry Truman will not be sailing to the Persian Gulf. The Abraham Lincoln will not be overhauled in Newport News. Thousands of jobs will be lost.
Reporter Rowan Scarborough writes that the Air Force has produced “a map of the U.S. that shows state-by-state the millions of dollars lost to local economies,” should the guillotine fall.
Military aid to Israel may be cut, says John Kerry.
But if an evisceration of the national defense is imminent, why did Obama not tell us in 2012? Why were the joint chiefs silent, when they are panicked now? Are the generals, admirals and contractors all crying wolf?
Undeniably, spending cuts by sequester slicer, chopping all equally, is mindless. And with the national security, it manifests a failure of both parties to come to terms with the world we are now in.
The Cold War is over. The Soviet Union is gone. Mao’s China is gone, though a mightier China has emerged, as America’s share of the global economy is shrinking. Moreover, as ex-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen contends, our greatest strategic threat is not Kim Jong Un or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the soaring national debt.
And if, as Republicans insist, we have a debt crisis because we are “spending too much,” spending will have to be cut — discretionary spending, entitlements and defense. And the only question about the defense cuts is not whether they are coming, but where.
What is needed is what America, since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, has stubbornly resisted doing: a strategic review of all U.S. commitments abroad to determine which remain vital to the national security. Before we decide what our defense forces should be, let us determine what is in the U.S. vital interest to defend at risk of war.
Start with NATO. In 1961, President Eisenhower urged JFK to bring home the U.S. forces and let the Europeans raise the armies to defend themselves, lest they become military dependencies.
Yet, more than 20 years after the Wall fell, the Red Army went home, East Europe broke free and the Soviet Union fell apart, we have scores of thousands of troops in Europe.
Why? The European Union’s economy is 10 times that of Russia. Europe’s population is twice Russia’s.
Why are we still there?
Though we have given NATO war guarantees to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, our McCainiacs want them handed out to the Ukraine and Georgia. Yet no president in his right mind is going to go to war with a nuclear-armed Russia over some Caucasus dustup or Baltic brawl.
If Richard Nixon could achieve a modus vivendi with Chairman Mao, have we no statesman who can patch it up with Vladimir Putin? A first step might be to pull all U.S. missiles out of Eastern Europe and put our democracy-meddlers on the next plane out of Moscow.
Even as Ike was telling JFK to bring the troops home from Europe, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was urging JFK not to put his foot soldiers in Asia — advice not taken there, either.
On retirement, Robert Gates said any future defense secretary who advises a president to fight another land war in Asia ought to have his head examined. So why do we have 28,000 U.S. troops in Korea and 50,000 in Japan?
In his Guam Doctrine, Nixon declared that in any future Asian war, we should provide the weapons to our Asian allies and they should do the fighting. Does that not still make sense today? Before we can decide the size and shape of our defense budget, we need a consensus on what we must defend.
And if Republicans wish to remain a viable party, they cannot delegate these decisions to the “We-are-all-Georgians-now!” crowd that plunged us into Iraq and is bawling for intervention in Syria and war on Iran.
The GOP desperately needs a credible, countervailing voice to the uber-hawks whose bellicosity all but killed the party in the Bush era.
Obama is president because of them. And his most popular act, according to voter surveys from 2012? Ending the war in Iraq.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Both parties in Washington, D.C. are abandoning taxpayers in order to curry favor with the legacy media and special interest establishment – both of which are dead set against any reduction in the size and scope of government.

OP/ED | 2/22/2013 @ 8:00AM |24,320 views
The Non-Existent Spending Cuts Wrought By The 'Devastating' Sequester

By Bill Wilson FORBES
In a city known for its perpetual evasion of responsibility and chronic shifting of blame, Washington D.C.’s sequester debate is more of the same – albeit with an interesting twist.
Ordinarily spending debates in our nation’s capital can be scripted long before they unfold: Democrats accused Republicans of “divisive,” harsh” and “burdensome” cuts, while Republicans stride hurriedly past television cameras with not-so-bright looks on their faces.
Meanwhile the legacy press goes into overdrive exaggerating the impact of these “cuts” – demonizing any politician who dares to support them as the equivalent of a puppy murderer. At this point Republicans invariably cave under the pressure – and the burden of both parties’ bad decisions gets shifted even further onto future generations of taxpayers.
Sound familiar?
“Members of Congress who would otherwise like to cut spending know they’re going to take a beating from the media and special interests,” concludes The Cato Institute’s Tad DeHaven. “Few politicians are willing to take that heat. Fewer still can even articulate why spending cuts and smaller government are good.”
This basic storyline – played out time and time again – is directly responsible for our nation’s $16.5 trillion debt, its soaring deficits, its unfunded liabilities and its inability to sustain anything resembling a real economic recovery. In fact the $630 billion tax hike associated with the recent “fiscal cliff” deal is the latest example of our economy paying the price for politicians’ refusal to rein in spending.
But the current debate over sequester – an across-the-board $85 billion reduction of budget authority which translates into just a $53.8 billion cut to outlays this fiscal year ending September 30 – is notable for both its unfounded hysteria as well as a surprising role reversal.
To recap, the sequester was originally supposed to total $109 billion – but lawmakers delayed its onset by two months during the fiscal cliff negotiations. Now U.S. President Barack Obama – who first proposed the sequester as part of the 2011 debt ceiling deal – wants to delay it again.
According to Obama, the sequester would represent “a huge blow to middle-class families and our economy as a whole.” Obama’s White House has also referred to the sequester as “devastating,” saying its cuts would “imperil our economy, our national security (and) vital programs that middle class families depend on.”
Sounds frightening – but is it true? Of course not. According to The Wall Street Journal ”federal domestic discretionary spending soared by 84 percent with some agencies doubling and tripling their budgets” during Barack Obama’s first two years in office. In fact the sequester would scale back just one of every six dollars in discretionary spending increases since 2008 – hardly a “huge blow.” Also, discretionary spending in 2008 was already tremendously inflated – having increased by more than 60 percent over the previous eight years.
In other words this isn’t even really a cut – “devastating” or otherwise – it’s a modest growth rate reduction following years of unnecessary, embarrassing and unsustainable excesses.
Where the sequester debate deviates from the norm is in its dramatis personae. Unlike prior spending debates, the sequester features Republicans attempting to shift the onus for cutting government onto Obama. U.S. Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly referenced “the president’s sequester” while decrying its “harmful cuts.”
What hypocrisy. Obama and Boehner both supported the sequester as an excuse for yet another unsustainable run-up of our nation’s credit limit – which exhausted its latest $2.1 trillion increase last December (after less than seventeen months).
“The debt ceiling deal in 2011 was agreed to by Republicans and Democrats, and regardless of who came up with the sequester, they all voted for it,” U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) said recently. “So, you can’t vote for something and, with a straight face, go blame the other guy for its existence in law.”
Exactly. Boehner and Obama’s game of “pin the tail on the sequester” ignores not only their shared support for the measure – but also their shared responsibility in overstating its impact.
More to the point it highlights the extent to which leaders of both parties in Washington, D.C. are abandoning taxpayers in order to curry favor with the legacy media and special interest establishment – both of which are dead set against any reduction in the size and scope of government.
Bill Wilson is president of Americans for Limited Government.

A constitutional foreign policy would keep America safe, while avoiding conflicts that pose no direct national security threat to the United States. Deter through strength and lead by example.

Friday, February 22, 2013

So America continues to move toward bankruptcy. Instead of addressing that, the politicians will spend more. Instead of announcing 15 new “manufacturing” hubs, the president should just announce 300 million “do whatever you want with your own money” hubs. Then American citizens can do as they please. That would actually do some good.

To Government, Every Penny Is Sacred
New programs mean emptier pockets.
John Stossel | February 20, 2013

President Obama has new priorities. That means new spending.
In his State of the Union, he said, “The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem.” But then he went on to list how, under his guidance, government will solve a thousand problems, including some (like climate change and a loss of manufacturing jobs) that are probably not even problems.
The president bragged about creating “our first manufacturing innovation institute” in Ohio and says that he will create 15 more. Politicians claim actions like this are needed to solve the “decline of manufacturing” in America. John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Pat Buchanan also fret about this. But what they call “decline” is myth. There is no decline in manufacturing.
The Federal Reserve says that U.S. manufacturing output is up from 2000, and up almost 50 percent from 1990. Yes, manufacturing employment is down because automation and government’s labor rules led companies to automate and produce more with fewer employees, but that’s OK.
Manufacturing jobs are no better than other jobs. Few parents today prefer their children work in factories rather than offices.
When the need for people in one type of industry decreases—say, making wagon wheels—they are freed up to work in other areas. What America needs is a flexible economy that provides new jobs. For years, we had that.
Workers who lost factory jobs found new work in the fast-growing service industry. Creating software, movies and medical innovation is just as valuable as manufacturing and often more comfortable for workers. Anyway, politicians don’t know where new jobs will appear.
“Yet the president wants 15 ‘manufacturing hubs,’ which I guess will be like Solyndra cities,” lamented Deroy Murdock, one of three libertarian reporters who came on my show to react to our president’s plans.
Murdock’s right. Politicians should accept the fact that making things is something the market does pretty well on its own. This month, the Energy Department’s inspector general reports that, three years after being awarded a $150 million federal grant, a taxpayer-backed battery plant in Holland, Mich., has not produced a single battery. At one point, the company’s workers were paid to do nothing.
“Then we have a ‘college scorecard’ that Obama will bring,” said Murdock. “U.S. News & World Report updates which colleges do a good job, but (now) government will do that?”
Then came the president’s call for more spending on preschool.
“I am sympathetic to people wanting to shove their kids out the door,” joked Katherine Mangu-Ward, “but Head Start, our pilot program for universal preschool, has a not-great record. We spend $8 billion to get very, very little in terms of results. ... We suck at education.”
Well, government does.
Michael C. Moynihan was disappointed that President Obama’s speech contained no talk of significant reform of Social Security and Medicare. “Even in this sort of dire circumstance: no change whatsoever.”
Both parties are guilty of avoiding our “dire circumstance,” said Moynihan. “There was a big announcement in 2011—$300, $400 billion in spending would be cut, (but) this was a mirage, there were no spending cuts. … (What) cuts in Washington mean is that you reduce the rate of increase a little.”Instead of letting obsolete government programs die, bureaucrats come up with new excuses to keep spending. “Like the Rural Electrification Administration,” said Murdock. “That was put in by FDR to bring power to Appalachia. (Now) they put in broadband Internet.”
The Washington Post reports on a federally supported program that is so bad that even President Obama wants it cut. The Christopher Columbus Fellowship spent 80 percent of its money on overhead. Three Republicans introduced legislation to end it, but the subsidy lives on, because one senator, Thad Cochran, R-Miss., likes it.
So America continues to move toward bankruptcy. Instead of addressing that, the politicians will spend  more.
Instead of announcing 15 new “manufacturing” hubs, the president should just announce 300 million “do whatever you want with your own money” hubs. Then American citizens can do as they please.
That would actually do some good.
  1. Why Republicans Are Bungling the Sequestration Debate
    David Harsanyi
    | 2.21.13

Thursday, February 21, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State John Kerry says the greatest challenge to U.S. foreign policy is not emerging China or Middle East instability. It's Congress. In a speech Wednesday at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Kerry cited the adage that "we can't be strong in the world unless we are strong at home." He called the budget impasse a threat. The State Department has said automatic spending cuts would jeopardize $2.6 billion in aid, security assistance and other international programs. Kerry said legislators need to avoid "senseless cuts." Otherwise, he said his credibility as a diplomat might be damaged.

George Galloway or the US Congress: Who do you believe? Have they learned nothing? It is simply the case that the British government, along with its Nato allies including the US, were - in both the wars in Syria and Libya - on the same side as, and even arming and funding, the very extremists, "jihaidists", and even al-Qaida-supporting fighters they claim pose the greatest menace to world peace.

On Wednesday afternoon in the British Parliament, near the end of question time for British Prime Minister David Cameron, a short though incredibly revealing exchange occurred between Cameron and Respect Party MP George Galloway. Whatever one's preexisting views might be of either of these two polarizing figures is entirely irrelevant to the points and facts raised here about this incident.
Galloway stood to ask Cameron about a seeming contradiction in the policy of the British government (one shared by the US government). He wanted to know why it is that the British government is so intent on fighting and bombing Islamic extremists in Mali, while simultaneously arming and funding equally brutal Islamic extremists in Syria (indeed, although it was once taboo to mention, it is now widely reported in the most establishment venues such as the New York Times that while many ordinary Syrians are fighting against the savagery and tyranny of Assad, Islamic extremists, including ones loyal to al-Qaida, are playing a major role in the war against the regime). The same question could have been posed regarding Libya, where Nato-supported rebel factions were filled with fighters with all sorts of links to al-Qaida.
There certainly are reasonable answers to Galloway's point, but whatever one's views might be on those points, there's no denying it's a reasonable question. It is simply the case that the British government, along with its Nato allies including the US, were - in both the wars in Syria and Libya - on the same side as, and even arming and funding, the very extremists, "jihaidists", and even al-Qaida-supporting fighters they claim pose the greatest menace to world peace.
In lieu of addressing the substance of the question, Cameron unleashed a 10-second snide attack on Galloway himself. "Some things come and go," proclaimed the Prime Minister, "but there is one thing that is certain: wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world, he will have the support of [Galloway]." Here is the one-minute video of this exchange:

As usual, anyone who questions the militarism of western governments is instantly smeared as a sympathizer or even supporter of tyrants. Thus, those who opposed the aggressive attack on Iraq were pro-Saddam; those who now oppose bombing Iran love the mullahs; those who oppose Nato intervention in Syria or Libya harbor affection for Assad and Ghadaffi - just as those who opposed the Vietnam War fifty years ago or Reagan's brutal covert wars in Latin America thirty years ago were Communist sympathizers, etc. etc. Cameron's outburst was just the standard smear tactic used for decades by western leaders to try to discredit anyone who opposes their wars.
The more important point here is that of all the people on the planet, there is nobody with less authority to accuse others of supporting "brutal Arab dictators in the world" than David Cameron and his Nato allies, including those in the Obama administration. Supporting "brutal Arab dictators in the world" is a perfect summary of the west's approach to the Arab world for the last five decades, and it continues to be.
In January of last year, Cameron visited the region's most repressive dictators, the close British allies in Saudi Arabia. In Riyadh, he met King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef in order, he said, to "broaden and deepen" the UK-Saudi relationship. That "relationship" was already quite broad and deep, as "Saudi Arabia is the UK's largest trading partner in the Middle East with annual trade worth £15bn a year."
Moreover, "a Saudi official told the BBC the leaders would discuss sales of the latest technology and weaponry, and making Britain a major part of a massive Saudi military expansion." Indeed, as the Guardian noted in 2012, "during the third quarter of last year Britain exported arms valued at more than £1m to Saudi Arabia, including components for military combat vehicles and turrets." In June, Cameron again visited Saudi Arabia as well as the UAE, and the Huffington Post UK reported at the time: "Cameron has been open about his desire to sell arms to the Saudis, the UAE and Oman."
In November - just two months before yesterday's attack on Galloway - Cameron again traveled around to several tyrannical Gulf states - including his close ally Saudi Arabia as well as the United Arab Emirates - in order to sell British fighter jets and other military hardware to those regimes. As Amnesty International UK's head of policy and government affairs Allan Hogarth said: "Saudi Arabia has been the recipient of record-breaking arms deals involving the UK." Indeed, as the Guardian noted during this trip: "In 2009 the Saudi air force used UK-supplied Tornado fighter-bombers in attacks in Yemen which killed hundreds – possibly thousands – of civilians."

Then there was that charming incident in May, 2011, when - at the height of the violent crackdown by the Bahraini regime on democratic protesters - Cameron welcomed Bahrain's Crown Prince to 10 Downing Street and posed for photographers shaking hands with the tyrant. Former Labour foreign minister Denis MacShane protested that Cameron should not be "rolling out the red carpet for Bahrain's torturer-in-chief".
In August, Cameron met with Bahrain's King in London. While the Prime Minister's office claimed he pressed the King to implement greater political reforms, the Guardian noted that the King was "given red carpet treatment in Downing Street".

Just last year, it was reported that - despite a temporary suspension of licenses - "Britain has continued to sell arms to Bahrain despite continuing political unrest in the Gulf state". Indeed, "several licences were granted for arms exports, including in February and March 2011, and during the height of the violence." Specifically:
"According to the figures the government approved the sale of military equipment valued at more than £1m in the months following the violent crackdown on demonstrators a year ago. They included licences for gun silencers, weapons sights, rifles, artillery and components for military training aircraft.
"Also cleared for export to Bahrain between July and September last year were naval guns and components for detecting and jamming improvised explosive devices."
As Maryam Al-Khawaja of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said: "The US, UK and France attack Russia for providing weapons to Syria, but that's exactly what they are doing for the Bahrain government; Russia is criticised for a naval base in Syria, but the US has one here." Of course, Bahrain wasn't the only close UK ally to violently attack democratic protesters in the kingdom. "During last year's uprising, Saudi Arabia sent forces to Bahrain in British military trucks."
Then there's Britain's long-standing support for the Mubarak dictatorship, and Cameron's personal support for Mubarak as the protest movement unfolded. In January, 2011, as tens of thousands of Egyptians assembled to demand an end to their dictatorship, he sat for an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, who asked him whether Mubarak should resign. Cameron said: "What we support is evolution, reform, not revolution." As Egyptian police were killing protesters, this exchange then occurred:

"ZAKARIA: Is Mubarak a friend of Britain?
"CAMERON: He is a friend of Britain. Britain has good relations with Egypt."
The following month, as Mubarak's crackdown intensified, "the British government refuse[d] to say whether it would follow the example of Germany and France and suspend exports of arms and riot control equipment to Egypt." In 2009, Britain sold £16.4m worth of arms to the regime in Egypt.
In 2010, the UK granted licenses for the sale of arms to Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE and Yemen. In July of that year, shortly after Cameron assumed office, "the Scrutiny of Arms Exports report by the Parliamentary Committee on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) show[ed] that there are still 600 existing arms exports licences in place for the sale of goods including assault weapons, ammunition, and surveillence equipment, to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen." In 2011, Der Spiegel reported:
"Britain exported over €100 million ($142 million) in weapons to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in the last two years alone. Included in those shipments are sniper rifles that may currently be in use against the Libyan opposition. Furthermore, Gadhafi's terror police are British-trained."

So who exactly is it that is guilty of supporting every "brutal Arab dictator in the world"? At the top of any honest list, one would find David Cameron, along with the leaders of most leading Nato countries, beginning with the US (see here and here). Indeed, as Der Spiegel noted in April 2011 about yet another of Cameron's trips to visit Arab tyrants: "Cameron flew on to Kuwait, where he got down to the real purpose of his trip: selling weapons to Arab autocrats."
Cameron's so-called "slapdown" of Galloway was predictably celebrated in many precincts. The reality, though, is that it was quite cowardly: he refused to answer Galloway's question, then smeared him knowing that he could not reply, then simply moved on to the next questioner. Galloway was able to respond afterward only by posting an open letter on his website, noting the multiple Arab dictators steadfastly supported not by Galloway but by his accuser, David Cameron.
The more important point here is that this so perfectly reflects the central propagandistic self-delusion amazingly sustained throughout the west. The very same western countries that snuggle up to and prop up the planet's worst dictators are the same ones who strut around depicting themselves as crusaders for democracy and freedom, all while smearing anyone who objects to their conduct as lovers of tyranny. That's how David Cameron can literally embrace and strengthen the autocrats of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Yemen and so many others, while accusing others with a straight face of lending support "wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world".
In the most minimally rational universe, Cameron's act of extreme projection would provoke a sustained fit of mocking laughter. In the propaganda-suffused western world, it all seems perfectly cogent and even inspiring.
The Hillary Clinton version
The outgoing US Secretary of State on Wednesday unleashed this bizarre description of the Egyptian people: "It's hard going from decades under one-party or one-man rule, as somebody said, waking up from a political coma and understanding democracy." As As'ad AbuKhalil astutely replied: "The US and not the Egyptian people were in denial about the true nature of the Sadat-Mubarak regime. No, in fact they were not in denial: they knew full well what they were doing against the Egyptian people."
Indeed, it was Hillary Clinton - not the Egyptian people - who proclaimed in 2009: "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States." (As a related bonus, see this all-time great Hillary Clinton quote about the US role in the world.) In sum, any list of those lending support "wherever there is a brutal Arab dictator in the world" must begin with the leaders of the US and the UK in order to have any minimal credibility.

Cyber Wars. China and the US lead the pack.


White House promises trade war on countries behind cybercrime

China the apparent target as Obama administration says it put trade pressure on governments and prosecute offenders

Staff and agencies, Thursday 21 February 2013 00.16 EST

The White House has said it will step up diplomatic pressure over cybercrime and intellectual property theft from US businesses and security interests, in an announcement that indirectly cast China as one of the biggest perpetrators.
The US attorney general, Eric Holder, said the plan included working with like-minded governments to tackle offenders using trade restrictions and criminal prosecutions. There would be a 120-day review to see whether new US legislation is needed.
"A hacker in China can acquire source code from a software company in Virginia without leaving his or her desk," Holder said.
The report stops short of blaming the Chinese government itself but a study released this week by a private security firm accused the Chinese military of orchestrating numerous cyber attacks against US businesses, a charge Beijing has denied.

The White House report listed 17 cases of trade secret theft by Chinese companies or individuals since 2010, far more than any other country mentioned in the report.
The Obama administration has said its strategy aims to counter what Holder called "a significant and steadily increasing threat to America's economy and national security interests".

President Barack Obama introduced a cybersecurity executive order in his state of the union address that offered a broad outline of how the government plans to deal with cyber threats.
"As new technology has torn down traditional barriers to international business and global commerce, they also make it easier for criminals to steal secrets and to do so from anywhere, anywhere in the world," Holder said.
Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives intelligence committee, has said US companies suffered estimated losses in 2012 of more than $300bn via theft of trade secrets, a large share due to Chinese online espionage.

US corporate victims of trade secret theft have included General Motors, Ford, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Motorola, Boeing and Cargill. A target company can see the payoff from research investment evaporate as a result of corporate espionage and lose market position, competitive advantage and efficiencies.

"We have repeatedly raised our concerns about trade secret theft by any means at the highest levels with senior Chinese officials and we will continue to do so," said Robert Hormats, an under-secretary of state.

Those cases cited mostly involved employees stealing trade secrets on the job rather than cyber attacks.
Victoria Espinel, the White House intellectual property rights enforcement co-ordinator, said the effort aimed to protect the innovation driving the US economy and job creation.

Cybersecurity and intelligence experts welcomed the White House plan as a first step but some said much more needed to be done. "You've got a nation-state taking on private corporations," said former CIA director Michael Hayden. "That's kind of unprecedented ... We have not approached resolution with this at all."
The US Chamber of Commerce, America's largest business lobby, offered a lukewarm statement of support, while other industry groups expressed more enthusiasm for the effort.
"We strongly endorse and applaud the administration's focus on curbing theft of trade secrets, which poses a serious and growing threat to the software industry around the world," said Business Software Alliance president and chief executive Robert Holleyman.
The report that laid out the strategy repeated a 2011 White House recommendation that the maximum sentence for economic espionage be increased to at least 20 years, from 15.
Another part of the solution was promoting a set of "best practices" that companies would use to protect themselves against cyber attacks and other espionage, Espinel said.
The report said the FBI was "expanding its efforts to fight computer intrusions that involve the theft of trade secrets by individual, corporate and nation-state cyber hackers".

US trade representative Ron Kirk said the problem of trade secret theft in China was a factor in the decisions of some US companies to move operations back to the United States. The companies have "had very frank conversations with the Chinese, [saying] 'You know it's one thing to accept a certain level of copyright knock-offs but if you're going to take our core technology then we're better off being in our home country'".

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

“Since Bush 1, when some of us began to argue loudly that a mindless ideological pursuit of free trade would imperil America’s industrial base, the total of U.S. trade deficits in goods with the world is approaching $10 trillion — 10 thousand billion dollars!"


By: Patrick J. Buchanan
2/19/2013 02:15 AM

“It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.”
So said Barack Obama in his State of the Union.
And for one of his ideas to reignite that engine, Republicans applauded.
“And tonight, I am announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union — because trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.”
One wonders if any of those in the hall who rose robotically at the phrase “free and fair” were aware of the trade results just in from 2012.
What were the 2012 figures for the European Union?
U.S. exports to Europe fell, imports from Europe rose, and our trade deficit with the EU shot up 16 percent to $116 billion.
We ran a trade deficit with Italy of $20 billion, with Ireland of $25 billion, with Germany of $60 billion. The Europeans are eating our lunch.
What about South Korea, the country with whom we signed a free-trade deal in 2012?
U.S. exports to Korea fell last year, and due to a surge in imports our trade deficit in goods with South Korea soared 25 percent to $16.6 billion.
Seoul’s trade minister who cut that deal and cleaned our clock should get a medal and the kind of bonus Americans reserve for people like hedge fund managers and the folks who ran Fannie and Freddie.
And Japan? Last year, Nippon ran a $76 billion trade surplus with the United States, second largest of any country.
But that is insufficient for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has bullied the Bank of Japan to drive down the yen 20 percent against the dollar in three months — to increase exports to America and cut imports.
Look for the U.S. trade deficit with Tokyo to explode.
What about that NAFTA treaty the establishments of both parties heralded in the Clinton era? How has that worked out for Uncle Sam?
Last year, the United States ran a trade deficit of $32 billion with Canada and twice that, $61 billion, with Mexico.
What was America’s overall trade position in 2012?
We ran a global trade deficit in goods of $736 billion. That is 5 percent of the U.S. economy. We are hemorrhaging jobs, factories, wealth.
In banking, consulting, lawyering — i.e., services — we had a nice surplus. That’s what we Americans do now.
Since Bush 1, when some of us began to argue loudly that a mindless ideological pursuit of free trade would imperil America’s industrial base, the total of U.S. trade deficits in goods with the world is approaching $10 trillion — 10 thousand billion dollars!
Might this humongous dumping of foreign goods into the U.S.A., killing our factories, and the liberation of our transnational elite to close plants, outsource production, and bring foreign-made goods back free of charge into the U.S. market, have had something to do with killing the middle class?
The U.S. median income stopped growing in the mid-1970s, the same time we began to run 40 straight years of ever-expanding trade deficits.
And how are we doing with China?
Well, if one reads the weekend Wall Street Journal, Feb. 9-10, on page A3 in the lower left-hand corner is a box with a story headlined, “Trade Gap Shrinks 21 Percent as Oil Imports Decline.”
A positive headline, but about December only. In the 10th paragraph, however, was this tiny item: “Although the trade deficit with China narrowed 15.5 percent in December … the year-long deficit grew to a record.”
“Grew to a record”? What did that mean?
Elsewhere, one learns that the U.S. trade deficit in goods with China was not only an all-time record, but the largest between any two nations in the history of the world — $315 billion.
China now exports 6.3 times as much in manufactured goods to the United States, $417 billion’s worth, as we export to China.
Over two decades, Republicans in the lead, America granted Beijing most favored nation status, then permanent normal trade relations. Then we squired Beijing into the World Trade Organization.
And since the courtship began, the trade surpluses China has run with the United States have enriched, empowered and emboldened her so that, today, brimming with ethnonational arrogance, China has laid claim to all the islands in the South and East China seas and is telling the U.S. Navy to stay out of the Yellow Sea and Formosa Strait.
And the free-trade fanatics responsible for building up this Asian colossus challenging us in the Pacific now tell us we must “pivot” — i.e., shift — our planes, ships and troops out of Europe and the Mideast to Asia and the Western Pacific to contain the mighty and mammoth power their stupidity created.
Every nation seems to understand what our baby boomers were never taught. A trade balance is a measure of national power that reliably identifies rising and falling nations.