Tag Archives | Government

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change.

"US Capitol, Washington, DC" by Jacqueline Poggi via Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

“US Capitol, Washington, DC” by Jacqueline Poggi via Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

via The Boston Globe:

THE VOTERS WHO put Barack Obama in office expected some big changes. From the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping to Guantanamo Bay to the Patriot Act, candidate Obama was a defender of civil liberties and privacy, promising a dramatically different approach from his predecessor.

But six years into his administration, the Obama version of national security looks almost indistinguishable from the one he inherited. Guantanamo Bay remains open. The NSA has, if anything, become more aggressive in monitoring Americans. Drone strikes have escalated. Most recently it was reported that the same president who won a Nobel Prize in part for promoting nuclear disarmament is spending up to $1 trillion modernizing and revitalizing America’s nuclear weapons.

Why did the face in the Oval Office change but the policies remain the same? Critics tend to focus on Obama himself, a leader who perhaps has shifted with politics to take a harder line.

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What do Occupy and the Tea Party have in Common? More than you Might Think.

In an article entitled “The Six Principles of the New Populism (and the Establishment’s Nightmare)” Robert Reich outlines six points of agreement between “Occupy” leftists and the “Tea Party” right:

[Editor's note: We only took the first few sentences of each point, follow the link to read the entire article.]

1. Cut the biggest Wall Street banks down to a size where they’re no longer too big to fail. Left populists have been advocating this since the Street’s bailout now they’re being joined by populists on the right.

2. Resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act, separating investment from commercial banking and thereby preventing companies from gambling with their depositors’ money. Elizabeth Warren has introduced such legislation, and John McCain co-sponsored it. Tea Partiers are strongly supportive, and critical of establishment Republicans for not getting behind it.

3. End corporate welfare – including subsidies to big oil, big agribusiness, big pharma, Wall Street, and the Ex-Im Bank.… Read the rest

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Kansas Will Auction Off Sex Toys to Recoup $163k in Tax Debts

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via The Topeka Capital-Journal:

Kansas state government is on the verge of a financial windfall with the auctioning of thousands of sex toys seized by the revenue department for nonpayment of income, withholding and sales taxes, an official said Wednesday.

Online shoppers for adult DVDs, novelty items, clothing and other products can participate in a bonanza shopping experience resulting from the four-county raid on a Kansas company known as United Outlets LLC.

Owner Larry Minkoff, who was doing business under the Bang label, apparently resisted requests from the Kansas Department of Revenue for payment of $163,986 in state taxes. It is unclear how much he still owes the state, because those precise records aren’t open to the public.

Agents took action in July to seize business inventory at outlets in Topeka, Wichita, Junction City and Kansas City, Kan., under Minkoff’s control. Two of the five business locations were in Topeka.

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When Humans Lose Control of Government

By Sheila in Moonducks via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

By Sheila in Moonducks via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

via The Atlantic:

The Veterans Affairs scandal of falsified waiting lists is the latest of a never-ending stream of government ineptitude. Every season brings a new headline of failures: the botched roll-out of Obamacare involved 55 uncoordinated IT vendors; a White House report in February found that barely 3 percent of the $800 billion stimulus plan went to rebuild transportation infrastructure; and a March Washington Post report describes how federal pensions are processed by hand in a deep cave in Pennsylvania.

The reflexive reaction is to demand detailed laws and rules to make sure things don’t go wrong again. But shackling public choices with ironclad rules, ironically, is a main cause of the problems. Dictating correctness in advance supplants the one factor that is indispensable to all successful endeavors—human responsibility. “Nothing that’s good works by itself,” as Thomas Edison put it.

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The Rise of the Barbarians and Why the United States Has Lost All Credibility

The Pale Blue Dot, the Earth suspended in a sunbeam like a mote of dust.  Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot

The Pale Blue Dot, the Earth suspended in a sunbeam like a mote of dust.

Aaron Dames writes for Divided Core.

Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

– Hermann Goering

The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities.Read the rest

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Federal Government Is Supplying Schools With Assault Rifles, Grenade Launchers and Other Military Gear

How mad is this? In addition to turning America’s local police forces into paramilitary occupying forces, the Federal government is also sending assault rifles, grenade launchers and all sorts of other military gear to public schools. Yes, you read that right, story via the Wall Street Journal:

A federal program that has drawn criticism in recent weeks for supplying surplus military gear to local police has also provided rifles, grenade launchers and armored vehicles to public schools, some of which were unprepared for what they were getting.

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In the wake of school shootings in Sandy Hook, Conn., and elsewhere, some school security departments developed SWAT teams, added weapons to deal with any contingency and called on the federal government to help supply the gear. But now the program is facing renewed scrutiny from both outside observers and police using the program.

In south Texas, near the Mexican border, the sprawling Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District has 34,700 students and operates its own SWAT team, thanks in part to military gear it was given in recent years.

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The Business of America is Dirty Tricks: Meet the United States Chamber of Commerce

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Former Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York | 65 LIberty Street by Gryffindor via Wikimedia Commons

Lee Fang writes at the Baffler:

Any glance at the inert state of political progress in our market-addled age has to leave even the most dogged investigator a bit bewildered. We live, after all, in an era of economic and ideological drift—of street occupations and ballot-box insurgencies. Yet our institutions of national government remain in shameful fealty to a laissez-faire fantasy. With metronomic predictability, the wise men of Washington preach austerity amid a raging jobs recession and wish away the bulwarks of economic security that make life in these United States (barely) tolerable for fixed-income retirees and poor people who have had the unpardonable bad taste to fall ill. As major manufacturing metropolises go bankrupt, as wages continue to go south while productivity climbs, as mortgages and pension plans are pillaged by the bailed-out banking class, we are trapped in a political consensus that urges government continually to shrink and depicts tax increases on the rich as an unholy abomination against the market’s righteous will.

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How the Government and Private Elites Have Teamed Up for Decades to Astroturf America

Dean G. Acheson, U.S. Secretary of State, January 21, 1949 to January 20, 1953

Dean G. Acheson, U.S. Secretary of State, January 21, 1949 to January 20, 1953

Recently it was reported that a blue-ribbon, anti-Iran nonprofit is so well-connected that it may have been working intimately with the U.S. government behind the scenes. Journalist Glenn Greenwald wondered whether the group, United Against Nuclear Iran, is in fact a government front. That would hardly be as unusual as you’d think.

After serving as President Harry Truman’s secretary of state, Dean Acheson reminisced that 1940s organizations he had supported — the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies and the Citizens’ Committee for the Marshall Plan — were “uniquely and typically American.” Many groups engage in protest, Acheson noted, but “few organize privately to support Government, and fewer still to support policies and measures not directly beneficial to themselves or their group.”

My research discloses that these organizations, far from being extraordinary, were just the most famous of dozens of elite, bipartisan “citizens committees” that have secretly collaborated with the administration of the day, whether Democratic or Republican.… Read the rest

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The US is an oligarchy, study concludes

"Bedsheet banner" by Charles Hutchins via Flickr.

“Bedsheet banner” by Charles Hutchins via Flickr.

Report by researchers from Princeton and Northwestern universities suggests that US political system serves special interest organisations, instead of voters.
The US government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities has concluded.
The report, entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, used extensive policy data collected from between the years of 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the US political system.
After sifting through nearly 1,800 US policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile) and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the United States is dominated by its economic elite.
The peer-reviewed study, which will be taught at these universities in September, says: “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

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How the Occupy Movement Helps Us Progress

Occupy Wall Street protesters have taken over Zuccotti Park as a base of operations. 17 September 2011 by David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

Occupy Wall Street protesters have taken over Zuccotti Park as a base of operations. 17 September 2011 by David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

The words ‘Occupy’, and the concept of the 99% and the 1% have become so enmeshed in our daily lives, hardly an American alive can deny their importance. Still, when pundits deign to look back upon the short history of the movement, and recent years’ progressive activism in general, they wonder “what good has it done”, and “where have they gone”, and “why couldn’t they just play by the rules?” The underlying implication is that such protests are somehow outside the ‘conventional wisdom’ of the political landscape, and therefore should be easily forgotten. But their ideas demand the attention of people everywhere, from Gezi Park to Taiwan, from Brazil to Ferguson, and anywhere citizens have been forced to exert their rights by literally occupying their own turf against tyrannical powers.… Read the rest

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