Wednesday, June 8, 2011

D.C.’s Irreconcilable Differences

By Rick Manning
Americans are dissatisfied and frustrated with their government because our elected representatives seem unwilling to do what is in the obvious best interest of the nation.
In Washington, D.C. last week we saw the same tired dance that has led us to this budget mess as Republicans left town determined to force major budgetary cutbacks including possible changes to the nation’s soon to be insolvent Medicare system, while Democrats emerged from a meeting with the President emboldened that they will take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives over the Medicare issue.

Just one day after House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan explained to the President what his proposal to save Medicare entails, and Majority Leader Cantor urged the Democrats to quit demogoguing the issue, former Speaker Pelosi told ABC News, "What we want is to change the view that the Republicans have that it is OK to abolish Medicare [and] to make seniors pay more for less while we give tax breaks to big oil.”

Pelosi’s words coming straight from a White House meeting hardly inspire confidence that Obama and Congressional Democrats are going to embrace a bi-partisan “let’s get it done” attitude necessary to create a path to a balanced budget in this time of fiscal crisis.

In one statement, Pelosi encapsulated the entire problem in Washington.
Boldness in attempting to solve any problem is met with attacks by those who know that anyone who attempts to change the status quo is risking their political power and authority. So, the default response in Washington, DC is the “moderate” one, of doing nothing but tinkering around the edges of problems.
Unfortunately, the more than $14 trillion deficit our nation has amassed (more than $5 trillion since 2007) puts our entire economy in jeopardy, and time has run out for political gamesmanship.

Let’s be clear. Paul Ryan’s budget is not a radical document. It doesn’t balance the budget for twenty seven years! And that balance is only achieved if all of the positive economic projections are met (they won’t be.)
Twenty seven years to bring the budget to balance is nowhere near radical enough to be honestly considered as a solution to the fiscal crisis facing our nation.

Yet, Ryan’s proposal is viewed in some quarters as the equivalent of hiding FDR’s wheelchair on a meanness scale.
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The ‘Success’ Of Auto Bailouts Comes At A High Cost

Video by Frank McCaffrey
ALG Editor’s Note: In the following featured video, ALG President Bill Wilson takes the Obama Administration to task for its role in the auto bailout loans, which as the Washington Post notes, GM and Chrysler still have not fully paid back, earning Obama three Pinocchio’s:
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Panic Has Led To Even More Disaster During the Recession

By Adam Bitely
Since the economy began to tumble in 2008, panic has been the number one driver of quick, knee-jerk legislative “fixes” in Washington, D.C. From multiple iterations of “stimulus”, TARP, auto-bailouts, and a myriad of new regulations that will supposedly prevent future financial downturns, panicked reaction from D.C. politicians has caused politicians to launch harebrained schemes that will solve the nation’s problems.

How did we end up with so many different schemes to fix the economy?
The first reaction from any politician when a crisis emerges is to “fix” the problem. The economic crisis that came to a head in 2008 led politicians to immediately claim that they could set a recovery in motion with a wave of their legislative wands. Bailing out poorly performing banks would stop the problem — or so the politicians told us.

At the height of the panic in the fall of 2008, John McCain even suspended his flailing presidential campaign to fly back to Washington to make sure he had a hand in fixing the economy and to take the credit for doing so.

However, the economy is so complex, composed of so many individuals that make decisions based on the information that they have, that no person, or group of people, can possibly dictate the correct solution to a problem. The panicked reactions from the political class only causes bad problems to become worse, and leads to so many different negative outcomes that the panicked legislative fixes pile up on themselves.
As Politico noted, Obama said this week that it was "important to remember how close we came to disaster" and that "our task is not to panic, not to overreact" in the face of an "uneven" recovery.

Obama should take note of his own advice. After all, ObamaCare was passed out of the panic that he and other politicians shared that Americans don’t receive the adequate amount of health care. Signs of Obama’s panicked overreaction were even more evident when he followed in the footsteps of George Bush by calling for another round of “stimulus” funds. Obama continued his overreaction to the nation’s poorly performing economy even further when he sent even more bailout funds to GM and Chrysler.
Panic is what politicians operate off of — and it’s what causes bad economic policy.
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Chevron RICO Complaints Point to Collusion Between Trial Lawyers, Ecuadorian Courts and Green Groups

By Kevin Mooney
Although trial lawyers frequently have the upper hand in litigation built around environmental charges, they are taking a beating at the hands of Chevron Corp., which has been on a roll in U.S. federal courts. Through its U.S. discovery efforts, the company has acquired documents that belong to the lawyers for plaintiffs in Lago Agrio, Ecuador that includes evidence of potentially unlawful collusion.

Consequently, Chevron has filed an amended RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) complaint that reinforces the case against attorneys and consultants who have orchestrated the anti-corporate campaign.

Chevron is defending itself against allegations that it is responsible for alleged environmental damage in the Amazon region of Ecuador. The litigation began in New York back in 1993, but the case was moved to Ecuador a decade later. Although Chevron has never operated in Ecuador, it purchased Texaco Petroleum in 2001, which was the subject of the initial suit. Plaintiffs accused Texaco of dumping oil-drilling waste in unlined pits they claim later contaminated the forest and caused illness to the local population. In response, Chevron pointed out that Texaco remediated environmental impacts that resulted from its operations. Moreover, this remediation was certified by government agencies in Ecuador.

“All legitimate scientific evidence submitted during the litigation in Ecuador proves that TexPet’s remediation was effective and that the sites it remediated pose no unreasonable risks for human health or the environment,” Chevron officials have pointed out. Moreover, Ecuador’s state-owned company, Petroecuador, was actually the majority owner of the consortium that included Texaco and bears responsibility, with the government of Ecuador, for any environmental damage that has occurred in the region, Chevron has argued.

Nevertheless, in February, an Ecuadorian court in Lago Agrio issued an $18 billion judgment against Chevron. Since then the company has fought back vigorously. It claims the ruling is illegitimate and unenforceable because of documented evidence of fraud on the part of the plaintiffs, the Ecuadorian government and that country’s judiciary. Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York concurred after hearing the evidence and issued a preliminary injunction that barred any attempt to enforce Ecuadorian judgment outside of that country.

In late March, in a related matter, an international arbitration panel at The Hague ruled in favor of Chevron in a separate, $700 million Ecuadorean claim involving previous Texaco work. The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the Ecuador's courts violated international law.

The amended RICO from Chevron strongly suggests that the plaintiffs’ lawyers and consultants provided “clandestine assistance” to the Ecuadorian court in drafting the judgment against Chevron.

"There is no apparent explanation as to how the judgment would have incorporated these errors and irregularities without cooperation between the Ecuadorian court and the plaintiffs' representatives," stated R. Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel. "This is another instance of the fraud and corruption that have permeated the Ecuadorian judicial proceedings."

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Will Washington Foment War Between China and India?

Will Washington Foment War Between China and India?
News Link  •  WAR
06-07-2011  • 

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  What is Washington’s solution for the rising power of China?

The answer might be to involve China in a nuclear war with India.

The staging of the fake death of bin Laden in a commando raid that violated Pakistan’s sovereignty was sold to President Obama by the military/security complex as a way to boost Obama’s standing in the polls.

The raid succeeded in raising Obama’s approval ratings. But its real purpose was to target Pakistan and to show Pakistan that the US was contemplating invading Pakistan in order to make Pakistan pay for allegedly hiding bin Laden next door to Pakistan’s military academy. The neocon, and increasingly the US military position, is that the Taliban can’t be conquered unless NATO widens the war theater to Pakistan, where the Taliban allegedly has sanctuaries protected by the Pakistan government, which takes American money but doesn’t do Washington’s bidding.

Ron Paul Could Win It All?

Ron Paul Could Win It All?
News Link  •  Politics: Libertarian Campaigns

06-07-2011  • 
  The Republican Who Can Win ...The candidate would know Americans are more worried about their jobs and their savings than abstractions like 'big government.' To win the presidency in 2012, the Republican candidate will require certain strengths. Among them, a credible passion for ideas other than cost-cutting and small government. He or she will have to speak in the voice of Americans who know in their bones the extraordinary character of their democracy, and that voice will have to ring out steadily. That Republican candidate will need, no less, the ability to talk about matters like Medicare and Social Security without terrorizing the electorate. Americans already have plenty of cause for fear. – Dorothy Rabinowitz/Wall Street Journal
Dominant Social Theme: America needs strong leaders who do not scare the public about complex issues better debated behind close doors. Wise leaders can shepperd us through the uncertainty.

Free-Market Analysis: We are longtime fans of Dorothy Rabinowitz. This courageous women wrote a serious of articles some 25 years ago that thoroughly debunked the mania that swept the US having to do with accusations that nursery school teachers were sexually exploiting the children under their care.
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U.S. Aims Missiles at Hackers

U.S. Aims Missiles at Hackers
News Link  •  Science, Medicine and Technology

06-07-2011  •  David Talbot via 
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The Pentagon will soon release a strategy that formalizes a long-articulated position: the United States reserves the right to launch conventional attacks in response to the cyber kind. But figuring out who is behind such attacks may be difficult, or impossible.

"To say that cyberattacks can be acts of war, and that they can be met by kinetic responses, simply confirms a longstanding Department of Defense consensus," says Stewart Baker, a lawyer who was policy chief at the Department of Homeland Security for part of the Bush administration. "Neither of those statements make a strategy, however."

Baker adds that the threat "is much less effective than we'd like, because we largely lack the ability to identify who is attacking us in cyberspace. Until we solve that problem, we might as well claim that we'll respond to cyberattacks by blowing horns until our attackers' fortifications all fall down and their ships all sink."
This problem is illustrated by the famous recent cyberattack involving Stuxnet—a computer worm that damaged Iran's nuclear centrifuges last year.

The Stuxnet worm was a highly sophisticated piece of code that specifically attacked Siemens control systems, causing centrifuges to self-destruct. It leveraged four separate and previously unknown holes in Windows software. And it took care not to damage computers themselves, or other systems.

Real US Debt is $61 Trillion

Real US Debt is $61 Trillion
News Link  •  Government Debt & Financing

06-07-2011  • 
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When the U.S. government reports its debt, it does not include payment that it is required to make to seniors, veterans and retired employee. If those were included, as they should be, the US debt would be an far greater number than the already outrageous number the government does publish. Accountant Sheila Weinberg, founder of the Institute for Truth in Accounting, has done the accounting correctly and has come up with these numbers: Total US debt $61 trillion, which comes out to $534,000 per household. These numbers provide a picture of why the debt is really such a big problem. No way, no how can it be paid off, given the simple fact that most households don't have $534,000 to turn over to the government. Default is really the only long-term option. It will be done either in straightforward fashion, where the government pays pennies on the dollar for what it owes. Or it will be done in stealth fashion by the Fed printing up dollars to pay for the government obligations, which will create huge price inflation that will screw the average worker and also those on fixed incomes such as retirees.
Jack Gregson

Video: NATO Intensifies Airstrikes on Libya The Associated Press

Protesters Urge Yemen's Interim Leader to Start Transition

Anti-government protestors read local newspapers featuring on the front page a photograph of Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and a headline that reads in Arabic, " What's after Ali Abdullah Saleh", in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Photo: AP
Anti-government protesters read local newspapers featuring on the front page a photograph of Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and a headline that reads in Arabic, " What's After Ali Abdullah Saleh", in Sanaa, Yemen, June 7, 2011
Anti-government protesters in Yemen are urging the country's interim leader to form a transition council that would create a new government, while President Ali Abdullah Saleh recovers from serious injuries in Saudi Arabia.

Demonstrations continued on Wednesday outside of Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur Hadi's residence in the capital, Sana'a. However, soldiers moved in and cleared out tents that had been set up by some of the protesters.

Meanwhile, Saudi officials say Saleh is in "stable" condition as he recovers from injuries sustained during a rocket attack on the presidential palace last week.

Yemeni officials initially said the president had shrapnel wounds.  However, U.S. and Yemeni officials later said that President Saleh's injuries were more severe.

On Tuesday, diplomatic sources said he had burns over 40 percent of his body, including his face, neck and chest.  He also is believed to have suffered a serious head injury.

Anti-government unrest has continued in Yemen in the president's absence.

On Tuesday, there was more fighting in Taiz, Yemen's second-largest city.  Also, government forces clashed with militants in the southern city of Zinjibar, more than a week after hundreds of suspected Islamic militants seized control of the town.

Nearly 400 people have been killed since a popular uprising against Saleh began in January.  The president is facing increased calls to accept a peace deal put forward by the Gulf Cooperation Council that would end his nearly 33-year rule.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.