The tea party mandate in Iowa

Now that Michele Bachmann had won the straw poll at Ames, the corporate media narrative has shifted from questioning the importance of the straw poll to reaffirming its relevance this presidential election.

However, there is a real message to be taken from the results where nearly 60% (Bachmann’s 28.5% and Ron Paul’s 27.6%) of the votes cast were for candidates who were aligned with the tea party.

If there was any backlash against the tea party after the very recent debt ceiling debacle, it is absent in Iowa and especially among the Republicans there.

People might quibble about the poll’s value as a predictor of the eventual Republican nominee, but it is clear today that in Iowans’ choice of Bachmann and Paul is a mandate for the tea party.

Ron Paul and liberals’ moral dilemma

A self-labeled liberal at Reddit watched last night’s GOP debate (read my recap and thoughts) in Iowa and he found himself convinced that he might vote for Ron Paul over Barack Obama.

Many of the other responders reminded him than Paul is against a lot of things that progressives hold dear. Obama, they reminded him, is a progressive; Paul’s views regarding Social Security, welfare, and abortion are too extreme.

Myself, I asked him a fair question:

Can you look at yourself in the mirror and honestly say that the fat chance that Ron Paul would single-handedly gut Social Security and all of entitlement spending is morally equivalent to Ron Paul unilaterally stopping the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people who are victims of all our wars?

People forget that Social Security and Medicare are laws that Congress (not the president) decides whereas our illegal, unconstitutional wars are unilaterally waged by the president.

Ron Paul cannot end Social Security or Medicare alone, but he can and will end the wars.

I am tired of the argument that the potential of someone’s welfare check being cut is more important than immediately stopping the murders occurring everyday in our name.

We wonder why people in the rest of the world hate us. We are selfish; and we hold welfare checks more important than the lives of those we kill.

Thoughts on the GOP debate in Iowa

1. Jon Huntsman looked good and he positioned himself as the moderate. Unfortunately, as one of the moderators commented, he might be running in the wrong party. He also looks extremely polished; cosmopolitan, even. He is this election cycle’s John Edwards.

2. Tim Pawlenty is trying to run as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick. His attack on Michele Bachmann is nothing more than him proving to Romney that he could be the Biden to Romney’s Obama. He looked extra desperate tonight when he first went on the offensive against Bachmann. Bachmann might look crazy and her record of results as a congresswoman might be sub-par, but when put up against Pawlenty’s dithering and compromising, she looked principled while Pawlenty looked petty and political in comparison. It has only been over a week since the debt ceiling debacle and Republicans, rightly or wrongly, thought that their leadership capitulated to the Democrats. Pawlenty suggesting more of John Boehner’s leadership style will not endear him to Republicans.

3. Herman Cain’s answers were forgettable. Half the time, he was excusing and qualifying his previous statements. Blah blah blah shariah law blah blah blah Muslims.

4. Newt Gingrich was good as usual, except he looked and sounded he was stuck in the 1990s. It might be news to Gingrich, but Bill Clinton has not been president in over a decade. There is a decade worth of new voters that do not remember or care about the Clinton administration and the political hijinks of that time. At one point he was attacking the moderators! That made for good television, but Chris Wallace is not running for president. Gingrich’s performance in this debate is further proof his irrelevance.

5. Michele Bachmann was on fire tonight and survived Tim Pawlenty’s onslaught. She is not a dim-wit; she is a Sarah Palin with a brain. She was first to answer a question and was first to attack Barack Obama. Her performance might be excellent, but her actual answers were seriously lacking in substance. At one point, she repeated the flat-out lie that torture led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. One thing I found interesting, however, was that she has decided to explicitly (and quite publicly on national television) oppose raising the debt ceiling. By claiming that she led the fight to oppose raising the debt ceiling, she is taking the blame (or credit) for it. This might win her points with the hardcore tea party base, but with that debate proving unpopular with the general public, it might not be so wise.

6. Mitt Romney just articulated a whole cadre of new positions tonight. Corporate media narrative that he is a front-runner was repeated the entire night. Fox News wanted to remind the viewers who the front-runner was tonight. He was uninspiring as usual.

7. Rick Santorum’s strategy tonight was to attack Ron Paul. He also hates the Constitution, it turns out. Santorum made clear that he is a Big Government neoconservative of the Bush variety (and that he hates homosexuals) and that he wants to legislate morality. Ineffective, desperate, and after this debate, his campaign is dead in the water.

8. Ron Paul made me holler and hoot at the television screen. Paul reminded me once against why he galvanized me to hit the dirt and campaign for him back in 2007. His first answer was lacking energy, but his subsequent answers and his clear, consistent, and principled antiwar views made him stand out among his fellow Republicans. Anyone saying otherwise is being intellectually dishonest.

Best moments: The fact that the Republicans rediscovered the Constitution (except Rick Santorum) and are articulating its importance. There is also the fact that the Federal is an actual topic in this debate. It is unthinkable that the Federal Reserve and its destructive monetary policies could even be a topic of discussion in an election debate, if it were not for Ron Paul.

Lowest moments: Rick Santorum constantly interrupting Ron Paul. Michele Bachmann’s migraine possibly acting up. Jon Huntsman looking so shiny and polished. All of Herman Cain.

Final thoughts: The moderators did a great job with their questions and the way they handled the candidates and kept control of the debate. I did not like that they only asked Ron Paul a few questions, but the questions they did asked him gave him the opportunity to differentiate himself from the Republicans.

loveandhisthings:

In 2009 and 2010 alone, there were more U.S. troops who committed suicide then troops killed in combat during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

And after they get discharged and cast out like used gum by Uncle Sam, almost half them have suicidal thoughts and nearly a fifth of veterans have planned to kill themselves.

Whether it be inside or outside the theater of combat, war kills.

The tea party must learn to love the downgrade

As pointed out by Angela Thorn, the Democrats (with the help of the Republican establishment beginning with Sen. John McCain’s ridiculous “tea party as hobbits” analogy) have launched a coordinated media-blitz to pin the blame for S&P’s recent downgrade of the country’s credit rating on the tea party.

On a Fox News Sunday show, David Axelrod used the phrase “Tea Party Downgrade” referring to the recent S&P action. John Kerry used the exact same phrase on MSNBC this morning. MoveOn.org blasted out an email using the same phrase in the title.

Apparently, the twenty-two Republican freshmen in the House are to blame for all the debt, deficit, and downgrade! Somehow, in less than a year, they managed to drag the country into the brink of ruin. McCain was wrong; the tea partiers are not just hobbits, but mutants possessing superpowers!

I hold no love for the tea party and while I do recognize that their rise and political power is of consequence, I am not ready to credit them for the federal government’s much-deserved downgrade. To do that is to ignore the role the other 413 House representatives had in the debt ceiling debate (which, according to the approved corporate media narrative, is negligible).

If the Republican and Democratic leadership were serious about compromising, they could have easily ignored the tea party. Instead, they intentionally created this theater and when it was all said and done, colluded with one another to place the blame on their shared enemy: the tea party.

However, the downgrade and the subsequent bipartisan blame game poses a political opportunity for the tea party. The tea party ought to embrace the downgrade and claim credit for it. If anything, the downgrade makes it more costly and more prohibitive to expand the government: a necessary step to constrain the size and scope of government.

The tea party must not only embrace, but learn to love the downgrade.

Britons as barbaric as Americans

Turns out that Britons are as barbaric as their American cousins: the majority want to reinstate the death penalty

In a Survation poll for The Mail on Sunday newspaper, 53 percent said they wanted capital punishment back, with 34 percent opposed.

[…]

When asked which method should be used, 66 percent opted for lethal injection, with 12 percent calling for hanging, five percent for the electric chair and four percent for a firing squad.

I guess the British are not as enlightened as I hoped they were. Even more worrying is that a horrifyingly large number of them, a full 21% of Britons surveyed chose the more brutal, inhumane forms of capital punishment.

Holy shit.

Horrific, but is it really that surprising? They have been bombing Afghanistan and Iraq alongside their American counterparts for years, is it a wonder that this thirst for blood affects their domestic policy as well?

Heroic hacktivists release potentially ‘incriminating’ police data

The heroic hacktivists of Anonymous have directed their cyberwar against 70 police agencies they accuse of targeting sympathizers of the hacker group.

Anonymous is claiming that they have obtained potentially embarrassing and incriminating data that will discredit the agencies. The last time the hacking collective  made the claim of possessing damning information, they uncovered that the security firm HBGary hatched a plan, which they were planning to present to Bank of America, to target and discredit supporters of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks (including prominent political blogger Glenn Greenwald).

The fallout of that discovery was well-documented, which included HBGary’s COO Aaron Barr’s resignation. Given such a record, these police agencies have every reason to worry about what might Anonymous could release.

Following through their threat, the hacker group have released 7.39 gigabytes of data on Pirate Bay. And according to the Associated Press, police agencies are taking the hacking seriously.

It remains to be seen whether the release would uncover anything of value; frankly, it could be nothing. However, as I have commented on Twitter regarding Anonymous: I will give anyone who acts against the Police State the benefit of the doubt always; and never for the State.

Romney campaign’s $1 million loot from mystery firm

Mitt Romney, the corporate media-sanctioned front-runner, has been the recipient of one the largest political donations ever this election season. Except how his campaign received some of these money is raising some serious legal questions.

A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.

A former FEC counsel describes it as “subterfuge” while Dave Weigel calls it money laundering.

Who are these people donating such large sums to Romney anyway? According to Politico, Romney’s donor list includes a billionaire who profited off the housing bubble’s collapse, bankers, and a few wealthy people.

This campaign revelation has come at a bad time for Romney. With the debt ceiling brouhaha over and no major news going on in the next few weeks, all eyes are will be on him.1 His prolonged silence in the debt ceiling debate, Sarah Palin’s salvo, fellow Mormon John Huntsman’s imploding campaign, his non-participation in the Ames Straw Poll, and now this mysterious campaign donation will ensure that he will suffer the brunt of unwelcome media scrutiny in the next few days.

Though, it is doubtful that this controversy would seriously hurt Romney’s presidential campaign in any significant way. If his ideological flip-flops have not hurt his lead in the polls, then why would illegal contributions? If anything, this would be seen as yet another media-led witch-hunt against the wealthy and their expensive political speech. Romney would only benefit from such “attack.”

1 Except the deepening famine crisis in Somalia, the increased violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, the continued violence in Libya, the stock market’s free-fall, the weakening dollar, and so on. But I digress.

The self-deluding meme of a ‘weak Obama’

As soon as the debt ceiling deal was announced, progressives from the Left immediately attacked President Barack Obama’s so-called capitulation to the Tea Party, with liberal columnist Paul Krugman calling it “an abject surrender.” This surrender, progressives argue, has weakened Obama and raises questions about his reelection chances.

But here is the problem with this meme of an unwilling, weak-willed (or to quote a friend of mine, “ball-less”) Obama capitulating to the evil Tea Party: it is simply not true. One only has to look past the current political theater being played out to recognize Obama’s gleeful abuse of the enormous power he wields.

As pointed out by Arthur Silber:

When one considers the destructive powers of the weapons at his command, as well as the bloodily murderous enthusiasm with which he uses them, and when one contemplates the enormous powers he enjoys entirely apart from and in addition to those weapons, it will easily be seen that Obama is the single most powerful individual in the entire history of humankind.

Even ignoring the widespread reports that it was the White House that first suggested cuts to Social Security and the ridiculous back-and-forth in the debt ceiling debate, many of Obama’s policies that progressives disagree with have not been provoked or been the result of Republican political machinations.

Was it Republicans that pressured a weak-willed Obama to ignore the law and bomb Libya? Was it the tea party that pressured Obama to wage the White House’s unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers? Was Obama being “ball-less” when he went after Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks or when his Justice Department decided not to prosecute Bush’s torture criminals? I guesss it was Boehner and Cantor that forced Obama to increase the drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Was Obama being weak and incompetent when he claimed the right to assassinate Americans extra-judicially?

To summarize, Obama’s decidedly anti-progressive policies have been and always been his own.

The belief that Obama is weak is self-delusional. Obama, with the help of a complicit Congress, has greatly expanded the powers of the executive branch and edged that office closer to an imperial presidency. Small government Republicans, progressive Democrats, and the libertarian-leaning faction of the tea party underestimate Obama at their peril. As I have said before, Obama is not just Bush Lite; he is Bush Squared.

UPDATE: Of course, Glenn Greenwald pointed this myth out two days ago.

Iowa a Test of Ron Paul as Mainstream Candidate

Mr. Paul’s libertarian views have moved from the fringe toward the mainstream of conservative thinking in the past several years, with his warnings about fiscal meltdown gaining new resonance and the 2008 financial crisis allowing him to press his longstanding critiques of the Federal Reserve.

Now, as he again seeks the Republican presidential nomination, he is hoping to show that he can translate the new attention into votes. And his first test is the straw poll next month, where he is hoping he can organize his band of followers into a political machine capable of beating some or all of his brand-name rivals.

It has been very interesting (and illuminating) to watch how corporate media treats the Ames Straw Poll in their reporting. It is at once both: a “political bell-weather” or a “test” that would make or break a presidential run, and utterly inconsequential with the corporate media-sanctioned front-runners (i.e., Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and inexplicably Gov. Rick Perry of Texas) not participating in the straw poll.

Regardless of the outcome of the straw poll in Iowa, one thing is for sure: Ron Paul would never be mainstream enough for corporate media. His consistent antiwar views has all but precluded him from that.

Botched Paramilitary Police Raids: An Epidemic of ‘Isolated Incidents’

An interactive map of botched SWAT and paramilitary police raids, released in conjunction with the Cato policy paper “Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids,” by Radley Balko.

When does it stop becoming “botched” and starts becoming “protocol?” Or maybe this is as Jeffrey Tucker said, “The business of government.”

Socialism for the rich as Obama, GOP threaten cuts to seniors and the poor

Lost in this debt ceiling debate is the role of the Federal Reserve has played in it. While House Republicans and the White House quibble on fiscal policy and how much hurt they want to inflict upon America (while cooperatively ignoring the massive war spending that continues to drain this nation’s wealth), Sen. Bernie Sanders and the General Account Office (GAO) discovered that the Federal Reserve doled out $16 trillion in corporate welfare, many of them to the very same banks that were responsible for the housing bubble and the subsequent economic recession the United States finds itself in.

Below are the recipients of the Federal Reserve largesse, many of them foreign banks that are not going to “create jobs” in the United States.

Citigroup: $2.5 trillion
Morgan Stanley: $2.04 trillion
Merrill Lynch: $1.949 trillion
Bank of America: $1.344 trillion
Barclays PLC (United Kingdom): $868 billion
Bear Sterns: $853 billion
Goldman Sachs: $814 billion
Royal Bank of Scotland (UK): $541 billion
JP Morgan Chase: $391 billion
Deutsche Bank (Germany): $354 billion
UBS (Switzerland): $287 billion
Credit Suisse (Switzerland): $262 billion
Lehman Brothers: $183 billion
Bank of Scotland (United Kingdom): $181 billion
BNP Paribas (France): $175 billion

The amount of money the Federal Reserve gave to Citigroup and Morgan Stanley alone is more than the amount of spending both the White House and the morally bankrupt House Republicans are threatening to cut, which according to Robert Greenstein of the usually non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, will severely harm seniors and the poor.

The monetary policy enacted by the Federal Reserve is what drives and empowers the failed fiscal policy of Congress, regardless of which party is in momentary control. It is also the same monetary policy that funded and continues to fund Bush’s and Obama’s murderous foreign policy.

Unfortunately, corporate media has been successful in framing the debt ceiling “debate” as an ideological clash between “socialism” and those who believe in “small government.”

As Americans (the poor and the shrinking middle-class) tear each other to shreds, the Federal Reserve with the rich and politically-connected recipients of its gifts stand back and enjoy the spectacle.

Experts: Drone Strike Has the ‘Hallmark of al-Qaeda’

A missile from what witnesses described as an unmanned aerial vehicle left dozens of people dead and countless more injured in Pakistan’s volatile tribal region this morning, a deadly strike that experts say shows all the classic signs of Islamic terrorism.

Charles Davis’ excellent spoof of the media’s knee-jerk reaction to blame Muslims for any and all terrorist attacks.

Anders Breivik cites Jesus several times in his manifesto

Much ado has been raised about Anders Breivik’s hate-filled (and apparently mostly plagiarized) manifesto with the New York Times implying that American bloggers and right-wingers might have incited Breivik to violence.

The man accused of the killing spree in Norway was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about the threat from Islam, lacing his 1,500-page manifesto with quotations from them, as well as copying multiple passages from the tract of the Unabomber.

Ignoring the spurious attempt to link the Unabomber with the right-wingers (he was anti-state, not anti-Muslim), this reminds me too much of the attempt to link Sarah Palin with the Giffords shootings (we found out later that the shooter was quite liberal).

Anders Breivik also cites Jesus in 32 out of the 1,500 pages in his manifesto, as well as mentioning Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Al Gore.

It makes me wonder: is Jesus to blame for the killings in Norway?

(The answer, of course, is an emphatic “no.”)

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