Category Archives: Congress

Darth Vader polling higher than all potential 2016 U.S. presidential candidates

star-wars-fav

SOURCE: THE WASHINGTON POST

Nomi Prins: Dodd-Frank Turns Four and Nothing Fundamental has Changed

Editor’s Note: Nomi Prins is a former managing director at Goldman Sachs and a former senior managing director at Bear Stearns. You can read an abridged version of her remarks at her website. I would HIGHLY recommend reading her new book “All The Presidents’ Bankers“, one of the best works on the history of America’s financial elite that has ever been written. She is also author of “It Takes A Pillage” and the novel “Black Tuesday“.

How the Pentagon has been breaking the law for 24 years

Matt Purple writes for Rare:

‘In 1990, Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act. Its text noted the obvious: that “billions of dollars are lost each year through fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement,” and that “more effective general and financial management practices” were needed within the federal government. The law required a slew of government agencies to undergo a yearly audit. One of those agencies was the Pentagon.

Since then, the Pentagon hasn’t been audited a single time. Thanks to dodges by the Defense Department and a lack of enforcement by Congress, the 1990 requirement has been completely disregarded for 24 years. Now a group of fiscally conservative Republicans and anti-war Democrats are demanding compliance. Last week Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2014. The legislation is backed by a curious left-right coalition rarely seen in Washington.’

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Legislating the Way to World War 3? The U.S. Senate’s “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014″

Eric Draitser writes for New Eastern Outlook:

234234‘The US Congress is doing its part to escalate the tensions with Russia over Ukraine and a host of other issues. In so doing, the legislative and executive branches of the US Government work hand in glove to further the US-NATO agenda in Eastern Europe. The bill, propagandistically titled the “Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014,” (S.2277) was proposed by right wing Republican Senator Bob Corker, and has been cosponsored by a significant number of prominent Republicans in the Senate. While Democrats have yet to cosponsor the bill, they are almost without exception behind President Obama and his aggressive policy towards Russia and Ukraine. Indeed, this bill, though obviously partisan in its political character, represents the consensus within the US political establishment – a consensus that presumes US aggression in Eastern Europe to be defensive in the face of Putin’s “expansionism” and “imperial ambitions.”

It goes without saying that such a distorted world-view is par for the course in Washington, where upside-down logic is the predominant way of thinking about the world. However, the proposed legislation is less a response to perceived aggression from Moscow, and more of an attempt to capitalize on the crisis in Ukraine, using it as a convenient pretext for the expansion of NATO, continued militarization of Eastern Europe, promotion of corporate oil and gas interests, and much more. Essentially, the bill provides a blueprint for US intentions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe for the coming years. Moreover, it reflects the greatest concern of all for Washington and its NATO allies: the loss of hegemony in the post-Soviet space. Seen in this way, S.2277 is not truly about punitive measures to punish Russia for its “aggression,” but rather is about pre-emptively attacking Russia politically and economically, while building up to a possible military confrontation. Needless to say, such dangerous and destabilizing actions are a reflection of the moral bankruptcy, not to mention utter insanity, of the US political establishment and the ruling class it serves.’

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Senator Feinstein: The U.S. Is Now At Cold War Levels With Russia

Dustin Voltz reports for the National Journal:

In cartoon: Ukraine in crisis‘Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein thoroughly condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for his role in empowering Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists during an interview with CNN on Sunday, largely laying the blame at his feet for the downing last week of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet.

Regardless of Putin’s level of involvement in the plane crash, Feinstein said U.S. relations with Russia had dipped to a new low. When asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley for if U.S.-Russia relations were now “at Cold War levels,” Feinstein did not hesitate. “Yes,” the California Democrat replied.’

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School Shootings and US Militarism

Chris Ernesto writes for CounterPunch:

‘In the 18 months [now 19 months] since twenty first-graders were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, there have been 74 shootings at U.S. schools.  That averages out to nearly one school shooting per week since the Newtown massacre. In response the 74th incident, which occurred at a high school in Oregon, president Obama said, “We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens,” and that lawmakers should be “ashamed” of not passing stricter gun control laws. Good for Obama for acknowledging something bad about the country he leads — maybe this will make him rethink his “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being” statement last month. But bad for Obama for turning this into a gun control issue.

It’s hard to take seriously a person who decries violence as a means of conflict resolution when that same person orders the assassination of his own citizens and drops bombs on innocent people in other countries.  A few hours after he lamented gun violence in the US he ordered drone strikes in Pakistan, which killed 13 human beings. So, it’s okay for the US to kill people in another country, but it’s not okay for Americans to kill people in their own country? Obviously, Obama is trying to capitalize on the school shootings as a way to gain political favor for his Democratic party, and to prevent people from talking about the real causes of violence in America. But Obama and Democrats aren’t the only ones trying to distract people from addressing the root causes of schoolyard massacres.  Republican lawmakers attempt to explain away the violence by saying the perpetrators are mentally ill and that more security is needed to stop these atrocities from happening.’

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Agenda 21 Fears Sweep Across America

Josh Voorhees writes for Slate:

‘State lawmakers in Missouri last week revived an effort to significantly curtail local planners’ ability to adopt the type of smart-growth policies long touted by urban developers, demographers, and climate scientists. The bill, which sailed through the state’s lower chamber this past Monday, represents the latest victory for a onetime fringe movement that has spent the past two decades slowly gaining traction among conservatives by warning of an actual, real-life U.N.-orchestrated global takeover.

The specific target of the Missouri legislation may be well-known to heavy consumers of conservative media, but most Americans have probably never heard of it: Agenda 21, a nonbinding resolution that was signed by President George H.W. Bush and 177 other world leaders at the end of the United Nations’ 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The effort was hailed at the time as an important, albeit voluntary, action plan to promote sustainable development in the face of a rapidly expanding global population, but ultimately failed to become much more than a feel-good Democratic talking point back in the United States. In 2012 a full 85 percent of Americans didn’t know enough about the U.N. resolution to have an opinion on it, according to a poll commissioned by the American Planning Association that summer.

Not everyone forgot about it, however. Agenda 21 remained front and center for a subset of right-wing conservatives who warned that it was a harbinger of a looming new world order that would culminate with the seizure of land and guns, and an end to the American way of life. If that last part sounds like the plot of a dystopian novel written by Glenn Beck, well, that’s because it is. But what began as a far-fetched conspiracy theory has since transformed into an effective, almost methodical movement to block the type of “livability” initiatives that President Obama and his allies have made a priority. If you look past the black helicopters in the anti-Agenda 21 origin story, you’ll find a series of smart-growth-blocking victories at the state and local levels in nearly every corner of the country…’

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Preaching to the Choir: Politics and Propaganda

U.S. House bans the Department of Energy from acknowledging climate change

Lindsay Abrams reports for Salon:

House bans the Department of Energy from acknowledging climate change‘Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., is on a roll. After successfully passing a budget amendment back in May that basically forbids the Pentagon from acknowledging climate science — despite the fact that the Department of Defense considers doing so to be vital to national security — his newest effort prohibits both the U.S. Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers from spending “to design, implement, administer or carry out specified assessments regarding climate change.”

“Spending precious resources to pursue a dubious climate change agenda compromises our clean-energy research and America’s infrastructure,” McKinley said on the House floor, according to the WV Gazette. “Congress should not be spending money pursuing ideologically driven experiments.” Neither amendment is likely to get past the Democrat-controlled Senate, of course, but they remain nonetheless a fascinating exercise in anti-science sentiment among House Republicans (only five Democrats supported the most recent amendment).’

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Senate panel votes to double U.S. funding for Israel’s Iron Dome system

Donna Cassata reports for the Associated Press:

‘Congress is showing tangible support for longtime ally Israel as Gaza militants fire rockets, backing a measure that would double the amount of money for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee approved a defense spending bill on Tuesday that would provide $621.6 million for Israeli missile defense, including $351 million for the Iron Dome system that intercepts short-range rockets and mortars. In the latest hostilities between Israel and Hamas, Iron Dome has been successful in shooting down rockets and preventing Israeli deaths.

“It works,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the subcommittee.’

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Members of Congress Declare “Immunity” from Insider Trading Probe

Nadia Prupis reports for Common Dreams:

‘The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee is refusing to cooperate with an insider trading investigation, saying its employees are “absolutely immune” from having to comply with subpoenas from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe ordered the committee last week to explain why it hadn’t responded to the SEC’s year-long request for documents, phone records and the testimony of staff director Brian Sutter, as part of a probe into whether he or other House members leaked private information about health care policy to insurance companies.

Rather than turning over the information, top House lawyer Kerry W. Kircher answered the order by requesting that the case be dismissed. Kircher claimed that the request for documents violates the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution, which protects members of Congress from outside inquiry into “legislative acts” during their time in office.’

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Gallup: Americans Losing Confidence In All Branches of U.S. Gov’t

Justin McCarthy reports for Gallup:

‘Americans’ confidence in all three branches of the U.S. government has fallen, reaching record lows for the Supreme Court (30%) and Congress (7%), and a six-year low for the presidency (29%). The presidency had the largest drop of the three branches this year, down seven percentage points from its previous rating of 36%.

Americans' Level of Confidence in the Three Branches of Government

These data come from a June 5-8 Gallup poll asking Americans about their confidence in 16 U.S. institutions — within government, business, and society — that they either read about or interact with.’

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John McCain’s War

Editor’s Note: The Steve Clemens’ piece mentioned by Thom Hartmann in these videos is titled “‘Thank God for the Saudis’: ISIS, Iraq, and the Lessons of Blowback“. And if you’re interested, you can download a copy of the film “Charlie Wilson’s War” here.

Pew Poll: Opposition to NSA surveillance unites right and left

Opposition to NSA Surveillance Unites Conservatives, Solid Liberals

SOURCE: PEW RESEARCH

John Oliver on Dr. Oz, Nutritional Supplements and Lobbying

House of Representatives moves to ban NSA’s ‘backdoor search’ provision

Spencer Ackerman reports for The Guardian:

NSA surveillance.Surveillance reform gained new congressional momentum as the US House of Representatives unexpectedly and overwhelmingly endorsed stripping a major post-9/11 power from the National Security Agency late Thursday night. By a substantial and bipartisan margin, 293 to 121, representatives moved to ban the NSA from searching warrantlessly through its troves of ostensibly foreign communications content for Americans’ data, the so-called “backdoor search” provision revealed in August by the Guardian thanks to leaks from Edward Snowden.

The move barring funds for warrantless searches “using an identifier of a United States person” came as an amendment added by Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, and Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, to the annual defense appropriations bill, considered a must-pass piece of legislation to fund the US military. Also banned is the NSA’s ability, disclosed through the Snowden leaks, to secretly insert backdoor access to user data through hardware or communications services.’

READ MORE @ THE GUARDIAN…

Public Faith in Congress Falls Again, Hits Historic Low

Rebecca Riffkin reports for Gallup:

Confidence in Congress since 1973‘Americans’ confidence in Congress has sunk to a new low. Seven percent of Americans say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress as an American institution, down from the previous low of 10% in 2013. This confidence is starkly different from the 42% in 1973, the first year Gallup began asking the question. These results come from a June 5-8 Gallup poll that updated Americans’ confidence in 17 U.S. institutions that Americans either read about or interact with in government, business, and society.’

READ MORE @ GALLUP…

Obama tells Congress he doesn’t need permission for new Iraq War

Jason Ditz writes at Antiwar:

‘Earlier this year, President Obama gave tentative support to the idea of repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq, noting that the war was over. Congress never pulled the trigger, with hawks arguing against it.

Tonight, on the eve of a new US military operation in Iraq, President Obama is arguing he doesn’t need any Congressional authorization for his new foray into Iraq, since the old AUMF is still on the books.’

READ MORE @ ANTIWAR…

The 10 most corrupt states in the U.S.

Chris Matthews reports for Fortune:

A new study from researchers at the University of Hong Kong and Indiana University estimates that corruption on the state level is costing Americans in the 10 most corrupt states an average of $1,308 per year, or 5.2% of those states’ average expenditures per year.

The researchers studied more than 25,000 convictions of public officials for violation of federal corruption laws between 1976 and 2008 as well as patterns in state spending to develop a corruption index that estimates the most and least corrupt states in the union. Based on this method, the the most corrupt states are:

1. Mississippi
2. Louisiana
3. Tennessee
4. Illinois
5. Pennsylvania
6. Alabama
7. Alaska
8. South Dakota
9. Kentucky
10. Florida

READ MORE @ FORTUNE…

New York politician claims he was too drunk to recognize bribe

Ten major ways Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton are exactly the same

From The Screeching Kettle:

‘Although many Americans have understandably given up hope in the political system, the charlatans in Washington nonetheless continue to do their song and dance. Once again, another election is dawning upon us, and once again, two shills are being prepped and readied to assume the imperial mantle. On the right, we have Rand Paul, who is attempting to merge the Ron Paul libertarian movement with the GOP once and for all, and on the left, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party favorite who gets her rocks off laughing about bombing Iran. These two might seem drastically opposed to one another on the surface, but as was the case with the previous election, and the one before that, and the one before that, the two candidates actually have much more in common than one may originally be led to believe.’

READ MORE @ THE SCREECHING KETTLE…

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor succumbs to tea party challenger

Robert Costa, Laura Vozzella and David A. Fahrenthold report for The Washington Post:

Eric Canto delivers his concession speech in Richmond, Virginia‘House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, was badly beaten in a primary contest Tuesday by an obscure professor with tea party backing — a historic electoral surprise that left the GOP in chaos and the House without its heir apparent.

Cantor, who has represented the Richmond suburbs since 2001, lost by 11 percentage points to Dave Brat, an economist at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. It was an operatic fall from power, swift and deep and utterly surprising. As late as Tuesday morning, Cantor had felt so confident of victory that he spent the morning at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill, holding a fundraising meeting with lobbyists while his constituents went to the polls.

By Tuesday night, he had suffered a defeat with few parallels in American history. Historians said that no House leader of Cantor’s rank had ever been defeated in a primary. That left stunned Republicans — those who had supported Cantor, and even those who had worked to beat him — struggling to understand what happened.’

READ MORE @ THE WASHINGTON POST…

The NSA Bill That Just Passed Is So Weak, Original Backers Voted Against It

Dana Liebelson writes for Mother Jones:

‘On Thursday, the House voted 303-121 to pass the USA Freedom Act, a bill intended to end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, which privacy-minded House members on the left and right originally cheered. The measure lost support from NSA critics after the House Rules Committee gutted key reforms in the 11th hour. On the House floor Thursday, a largely bipartisan group of legislators who once supported the bill  opposed the measurebecause they believe it will actually codify the NSA’s controversial surveillance.

“I’m disappointed that this popular bipartisan bill has been so drastically weakened,” Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), a sponsor of the original bill, said. Representative Rush Holt (D-N.J.) asked, “How could anyone vote for legislation that doesn’t uphold the constitutional standard of probable cause?”  Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich), also an original sponsor who voted against the new version, wrote in a lengthy Facebook post, that the revised bill “doesn’t look much like the Freedom Act…It mocks our system of government that [President Obama and lawmakers] worked to gut key provisions of the Freedom Act behind closed doors.”‘

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U.S. Elections 1988-2016

Privacy advocates fear NSA bill is being gutted

Kate Tummarello writes for The Hill:

‘Privacy advocates are worried that a bill intended to reform the surveillance activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) is being watered down before it heads to the House floor. “Last stage negotiations” between members of the House and the Obama administration could significantly weaken provisions in the NSA bill, people familiar with the discussions say.

“Behind the scenes, there’s some nervousness,” one House aide said. Earlier this month, the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees came together to approve a compromise version of the USA Freedom Act. That bill, authored by Patriot Act author Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), would scale back many of the sweeping surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden.

To win the support of NSA defenders, lawmakers abandoned some reform provisions in Sensenbrenner’s original bill. One of the major changes was dropping the appointment of a constitutional advocate to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves the NSA’s spying requests, and substituting it for a panel of experts. The bill was also stripped of language that would have allowed tech companies to publish more specific information about the number and types of government requests for user data they receive.’

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Who watches the watchers? Big Data goes unchecked

Josh Gerstein and Stephanie Simon report for Politico:

AP Photo‘The National Security Agency might be tracking your phone calls. But private industry is prying far more deeply into your life. Commercial data brokers know if you have diabetes. Your electric company can see what time you come home at night. And tracking companies can tell where you go on weekends by snapping photos of your car’s license plate and cataloging your movements. Private companies already collect, mine and sell as many as 75,000 individual data points on each consumer, according to a Senate report. And they’re poised to scoop up volumes more, as technology unleashes a huge wave of connected devices — from sneaker insoles to baby onesies to cars and refrigerators — that quietly track, log and analyze our every move.

Congress and the administration have moved to rein in the National Security Agency in the year since Edward Snowden disclosed widespread government spying. But Washington has largely given private-sector data collection a free pass. The result: a widening gap in oversight as private data mining races ahead. Companies are able to scoop up ever more information — and exploit it with ever greater sophistication — yet a POLITICO review has found deep reluctance in D.C. to exercise legislative, regulatory or executive power to curb the big business of corporate cybersnooping.’

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The Great Climate Change Conspiracy

‘The climate change denial hoax is a well-oiled, sophisticated machine with cogs turning in every sector of our society. Corporations, front groups, wealthy philanthropists, anonymous donors, scientists, politicians and self-interested groups combine to spin a spider’s web and deceive the public. These groups have done everything in their power to pull the wool over the eyes of the general population. This is the great climate change conspiracy.’ (Truthloader)

Cenk Uygur: Democrats Aren’t Weak, They’re Much Worse

‘”Michael Boggs, the Georgia judicial nominee whom progressive groups are determined to defeat, is finally receiving a confirmation hearing, and his fate now rests in the hands of Senate Democrats. Boggs will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next Tuesday, according to an aide to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who will chair the hearing. For months, President Barack Obama has taken heat from his base for nominating Boggs, a Georgia state judge, to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.” The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur breaks it down.’ (The Young Turks)

Is Democracy Only Available to the Elite? Interview with Dr. Martin Gilens

‘Thom Hartmann talks about a new study that shows the average American has no say in the political process with Dr. Martin Gilens, Professor of Politics at Princeton University / Co-Author w/Professor Benjamin Page of Northwestern University of the new study, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, author several books, latest-Affluence & Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America.’ (Thom Hartmann)

Why everyone is quitting Congress

‘Congress members with a total of 660 years of experience combined among them are walking out of Congress. All of our most seasoned representatives are leaving of their own volition. According to Rep Henry Waxman from Wisconsin, who’s been in office for 40 years, it’s because Congress has become a gridlocked joke. He said, quote, “I think that Congress is much more partisan and paralyzed than I’ve seen it my whole career.” The Resident discusses.’ (The Resident)