Archive for August 3, 2011
Congressman Ron Paul warns that the all-powerful new “Super Congress” created by the vote on the debt ceiling will be used to fast-track tax increases while concentrating more power over the nation’s purse strings in the hands of the Washington elite.
As we reported yesterday, the “Super Congress,” which was approved by the House yesterday and is set to be rubber stamped in the Senate today, will establish a new level of unaccountable government, and will strip elected representatives of the right to amend legislation or filibuster on whatever issues it sees fit, not merely limited to the debt situation.
This body will have “extraordinary new powers” to quickly force legislation through both chambers, including gun control, entitlement cuts and tax hikes.
In a statement made yesterday in response to the passage of the Budget Control Act, Congressman Ron Paul expressed his alarm at the establishment of this “disturbing” new committee, and warned that it would be used to ram through tax increases.
“The legislation produced by this commission will be fast-tracked, and Members will not have the opportunity to offer amendments,” said Paul. “Approval of the recommendations of the “Super Congress” is tied to yet another debt ceiling increase. This guarantees that Members will face tremendous pressure to vote for whatever comes out of this commission– even if it includes tax increases. This provision is an excellent way to keep spending decisions out of the reach of members who are not on board with the leadership’s agenda.”
The Congressman added that the committee represents “Nothing more than a way to disenfranchise the majority of Congress by denying them the chance for meaningful participation in the crucial areas of entitlement and tax reform. It cedes power to draft legislation to a special commission, hand-picked by the House and Senate leadership.”
Indeed, the White House has already indicated that it will harness the power of the Super Congress, thereby becoming the de facto deciding 13th member, to terminate the Bush tax cuts from 2012 onwards.
As CBS News reports, Congress will be mandated to carry out an up or down vote, with no amendments allowed, on the recommendations of the super committee on December 23rd, one month after the new body completes its work, which will be focused on cutting Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
“Congress could not modify the committee’s recommendation,” reports CBS, an admission that powers ascribed to elected lawmakers that are enshrined in the Constitution are being completely gutted.
If Congress rejects the super committee’s proposals, “then automatic across the board spending cuts of at least $1.2 trillion would go into effect.”
Second Amendment organizations like Gun Owners of America fear that this new super committee of lawmakers would not stop at ruling over the debt issue, and that it could move on to target the right to bear arms by pushing legislation on “Gun owner registration, “bans on semi-automatic firearms,” and the “adoption of a UN gun control treaty.”
The fact that the establishment of a body which threatens to completely re-write over 200 years worth of constitutionally-based legislative practice has sailed through with barely a whimper of debate from politicians or the mainstream media is a damning indictment of how the Obama administration’s penchant for executive autonomy has aggressively seized control of the political process.
Once again, it is up to the grass roots to raise the alarm on this shocking development in the hope that it can later be shot down by a federal judge still familiar with the basic tenets of the constitution.
China, the largest foreign investor in U.S. government securities, joined Russia in criticizing American policy makers for failing to ensure borrowing is reined in after a stopgap deal to raise the nation’s debt limit.
People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said China’s central bank will monitor U.S. efforts to tackle its debt, and state-run Xinhua News Agency blasted what it called the “madcap” brinksmanship of American lawmakers. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said two days ago that the U.S. is in a way “leeching on the world economy.”
The comments reflect concern that the U.S. may lose its AAA sovereign rating after President Barack Obama and Congress put off decisions on spending cuts and tax increases to assure enactment of a boost in borrowing authority. China and Russia, holding a total $1.28 trillion of Treasuries, have lost nothing so far in the wake of a rally in the securities this year.
“It’s probably frustration more than anything else for China,” said Brian Jackson, a senior strategist at Royal Bank of Canada in Hong Kong. While the nation has concerns, “they realize there’s not a lot of options for them out there and so they need to keep buying Treasuries.”
China held $1.16 trillion of Treasuries as of May, U.S. Treasury Department data show. The nation has accumulated the holdings as a by-product of holding down the value of its currency, a policy U.S. officials have said gives China an unfair advantage in trade.
Expressions of concern about the fiscal health of the U.S. and the impasse among lawmakers have failed to dent global demand for the securities, with yields on 10-year notes declining to the lowest levels since November. Two-year yields fell to a record low in Tokyo trading today.
Investors in Treasuries earned 3.12 percent in the three months ending July 31, based on Bank of America Merrill Lynch data. That means a $10 million holding earned $312,000 in the period.
China’s central bank welcomes this week’s legislation that raised the U.S. debt limit, preventing a default, and will “closely observe” the implementation, Zhou said in a statement on the central bank’s website today. Xinhua said the move “failed to defuse Washington’s debt bomb for good,” in a commentary dated yesterday.
Standard & Poor’s indicated last week that anything less than $4 trillion in deficit cuts would jeopardize its AAA rating for the U.S. The measure enacted by Obama yesterday threatens automatic spending cuts to enforce $2.4 trillion in spending reductions over the next 10 years.
Obama said yesterday the debt measure was a “first step” on a path that must also include increasing revenue. The $14.3 trillion debt ceiling will be raised by at least $2.1 trillion.
“They are living beyond their means and transferring part of the problems onto the world economy,” Putin told a youth camp at Lake Seliger outside Moscow Aug. 1. “In a way, they are leeching on the world economy.”
Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings say their AAA credit ratings for the U.S. may be downgraded if lawmakers fail to enact deficit-reduction measures and the economy weakens. China’s Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. today cut its grade for the U.S. to A from A+ with a negative outlook.
“China hopes the U.S. administration and the Congress would take responsible policy measures to handle its debt issue,” Zhou said. He highlighted the global role of U.S. Treasuries, saying that any “large fluctuations and uncertainties” in the market for the securities would undermine financial stability and hinder the world economic recovery.
The Xinhua commentary said that the higher debt ceiling and plans to reduce spending were not enough to make any sizable dent in the nation’s fiscal burden. It referred to a “madcap farce of brinksmanship” before the agreement was reached.
A previous Xinhua commentary on clashes between Republicans and Democrats said that “the ugliest part of the saga is that the well-being of many other countries is also in the impact zone when the donkey and the elephant fight,” referring to the symbols often used for the Democratic and Republican parties.
Obama signed the debt-limit compromise yesterday. The measure raises the ceiling until 2013.
In his statement, Zhou also commented on China’s foreign- exchange reserves, which are the world’s largest at more than $3 trillion.
The Asian nation will continue to “seek diversification in the management of reserve assets, strengthen risk management, and minimize the negative impacts of the fluctuations in the international financial market on the Chinese economy,” Zhou said. China will also take “effective measures to maintain relatively rapid growth to safeguard economic and financial stability,” he added.
This is a remarkable sequence of pictures from Calculated Risk showing that no major economic indicator has returned to its pre-crisis level. In other words, after two years of recovery, not a single key broad measure of the economy has actually recovered.
The ingenious thing about these graphs, which I’ve never before seen, is that they compare key recession indicators as a share of their pre-recession peaks. The outcome reveals each recession in the last 50 years as a kind of hanging icicle. Ours is by far the longest, and we don’t yet know when we’ll trace our way back to the 2007. Here’s why I don’t expect the path up to get much smoother in the near future.
Gotta love the Onion from time to time for a sanity break!
SEWARD, NE—Claiming he wasn’t afraid to let everyone in attendance know about “the real mess we’re in,” Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke reportedly got drunk Tuesday and told everyone at Elwood’s Corner Tavern about how absolutely fucked the U.S. economy actually is.
Bernanke, who sources confirmed was “totally sloshed,” arrived at the drinking establishment at approximately 5:30 p.m., ensconced himself upon a bar stool, and consumed several bottles of Miller High Life and a half-dozen shots of whiskey while loudly proclaiming to any patron who would listen that the economic outlook was “pretty goddamned awful if you want the God’s honest truth.”
“Look, they don’t want anyone except for the Washington, D.C. bigwigs to know how bad shit really is,” said Bernanke, slurring his words as he spoke. “Mounting debt exacerbated—and not relieved—by unchecked consumption, spiraling interest rates, and the grim realities of an inevitable worldwide energy crisis are projected to leave our entire economy in the shitter for, like, a generation, man, I’m telling you.”
A drunken Bernanke attempts to find the Aerosmith song “Back In The Saddle” on the bar jukebox.
“And hell, as long as we’re being honest, I might as well tell you that a truer estimate of the U.S. unemployment rate is actually up around 16 percent, with a 0.7 percent annual rate of economic growth if we’re lucky—if we’re lucky,” continued Bernanke, nearly knocking a full beer over while gesturing with his hands. “Of course, if everybody knew that, it would likely cripple financial markets across the entire fucking globe, even in various emerging economies with self- sustaining growth.”
After launching into an extended 45-minute diatribe about shortsighted moves by “those bastards in Congress” that could potentially exacerbate the nation’s already deeply troublesome budget imbalance, the Federal Reserve chairman reportedly bought a round of tequila shots for two customers he had just met who were seated on either side of him, announcing, “I love these guys.”
Numerous bar patrons slowly nodded in agreement as Bernanke went on to suggest the United States could pass three or four more stimulus packages and “it wouldn’t even matter.”
“You think that’s going to create long-term economic growth, let alone promote job creation?” Bernanke said. “We’re way beyond that, my friend. There are no jobs, okay? There’s nothing. I think that calls for another drink, don’t you?”
While using beer bottles and pretzel sticks in an attempt to explain to the bartender the importance of infusing $650 billion into the bond market, the inebriated Fed chairman nearly fell off his stool and had to be held up by the patron sitting next to him.
Another bargoer confirmed Bernanke stood about 2 inches from her face and sprayed her with saliva, claiming inflation was going to “totally screw” consumer confidence and then asking if he could bum a smoke.
“Sure, we could hold down long-term interest rates and pursue a program of quantitative easing, but c’mon, we all know that’s not going to make the slightest bit of difference when it comes to output, demand, or employment,” Bernanke said before being told to “try to keep [his] voice down” by the bartender. “And trust me, with the value of the U.S. dollar in the toilet, import costs going through the roof, and numerous world governments unprepared for their own substantial debt burdens, shit’s not looking too good for us abroad, either.”
“God, I’m so wasted,” added Bernanke, resting his head on the bar.
Later in the evening, Richard Kampman, a truck driver who was laid off in 2010, said Bernanke approached him in the men’s restroom and attempted to strike up a conversation about various factors contributing to the current financial crisis.
“He stumbled up to the urinal and started mumbling on about the depressed housing sector or something,” said Kampman, who claimed Bernanke had to use both hands on the wall to steady himself. “Then after a while he just sort of stopped and I couldn’t tell if he was laughing or crying.”
“Then he puked all over the sink and the mirror,” Kampman added.
Customers at the bar told reporters the “shitfaced” and disruptive Bernanke refused to pay for his drinks with U.S. currency, claiming it was “worthless.” Witnesses also confirmed that near the end of the evening, Bernanke put money into the jukebox and selected Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” to play five times in a row.
“This is what it’s all about,” said Bernanke, who reportedly danced alone in the middle of the dark tavern. “Fucking love this song.”
A Swedish man was arrested last month after authorities discovered that his effort to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen had ended with a small meltdown.
Richard Handl told The Associated Press Wednesday that he had obtained radium, americium and uranium, but the attempt split atoms had only been a hobby.
Most of the radioactive elements came from common items like smoke detectors and old clock hands, which were bought on eBay. He also purchased a Geiger counter from the U.S. by mail order.
Handl blogged about his efforts, including the “meltdown” that took place on his stove in May.
“A meltdown on my cooker!!!” he wrote. “No, it not so dangerous. But I tried to cook Americium, Radium and Beryllium in 96% sulphuric-acid, to easier get them blended. But the whole thing exploded upp (sic) in the air…”
After suspecting that the enterprise might not be legal, Handl queried Sweden’s Radiation Authority.
“Wednesday, I was arrested and sent to jail, when the police and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authory searched my apartment,” he explained. “I was ordered by the police to get out of the building with my hands up, then three men came, with geiger-counters and searched me.”
“So, my project is canceled!”
In 2010, Gucci fashion designer Mark Suppes successfully built a $40,000 fusion reactor in a warehouse in Broklyn. He was the 38th independent “fusioneer” hobbyist in the world to achieve nuclear fusion.
y more than a two-to-one margin, Americans say the agreement to raise the debt ceiling will make the economy worse, a new poll Wednesday shows.
In a USA Today/Gallup survey conducted Tuesday and released Wednesday afternoon, 41 percent of those surveyed say they think the bill — signed into law by President Barack Obama soon after it passed the Senate Tuesday — will make the economy even worse. Just 17 percent say they think the deal will make the economy better, while 33 percent said they don’t think it will have any effect.
Overall, 46 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the deal, while 39 percent approve. Only one in five say it is a “step forward” in tackling the federal government’s debt.
Support for the deal was strongest among the Democrats surveyed, with 58 percent saying they approve of it. Twenty-six percent of Republicans and 22 percent of tea party supporters say they back the deal.
The president’s approval rating for his handling of the negotiations is 41 percent, as 49 percent of those surveyed say they disapprove of his performance in working out the deal.
Still, that is better than House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) both did — their disapproval ratings were about 20 percentage points higher than their approval ratings.
The poll was conducted Aug. 2 and surveyed 1,012 adults. The error margin is plus or minus four percentage points.
Ron Paul & The Judge On Cavuto Talking About ‘Super Congress’
A federal judge has ruled that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld can be sued personally for damages by a former U.S. military contractor who says he was tortured during a nine-month imprisonment in Iraq.
The lawsuit lays out a dramatic tale of the disappearance of the then-civilian contractor, an Army veteran in his 50s whose identity is being withheld from court filings for fear of retaliation. Attorneys for the man, who speaks five languages and worked as a translator for Marines collecting intelligence in Iraq, say he was preparing to come home to the United States on annual leave when he was abducted by the U.S. military and held without justification while his family knew nothing about his whereabouts or even whether he was still alive.
The government says he was suspected of helping pass classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces get into Iraq. But he was never charged with a crime, and he says he never broke the law and was risking his life to help his country.
Court papers filed on his behalf say he was repeatedly abused while being held at Camp Cropper, a U.S. military facility near the Baghdad airport dedicated to holding “high-value” detainees, then suddenly released without explanation in August 2006. Two years later, he filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington arguing that Rumsfeld personally approved torturous interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis and controlled his detention without access to courts in violation of his constitutional rights.
Chicago attorney Mike Kanovitz, who is representing the plaintiff, says it appears the military wanted to keep his client behind bars so he couldn’t tell anyone about an important contact he made with a leading sheik while helping collect intelligence in Iraq.
“The U.S. government wasn’t ready for the rest of the world to know about it, so they basically put him on ice,” Kanovitz said in a telephone interview. “If you’ve got unchecked power over the citizens, why not use it?”
The Obama administration has represented Rumsfeld through the Justice Department and argued that the former defense secretary cannot be sued personally for official conduct. The Justice Department also argued that a judge cannot review wartime decisions that are the constitutional responsibility of Congress and the president. And the department said the case could disclose sensitive information and distract from the war effort and that the threat of liability would impede future military decisions.
But U.S. District Judge James Gwin rejected those arguments and said U.S. citizens are protected by the Constitution at home or abroad during wartime.
“The court finds no convincing reason that United States citizens in Iraq should or must lose previously-declared substantive due process protections during prolonged detention in a conflict zone abroad,” Gwin wrote in a ruling issued Tuesday.
“The stakes in holding detainees at Camp Cropper may have been high, but one purpose of the constitutional limitations on interrogation techniques and conditions of confinement even domestically is to strike a balance between government objectives and individual rights even when the stakes are high,” the judge ruled.
In many other cases brought by foreign detainees, judges have dismissed torture claims made against U.S. officials for their personal involvement in decisions over prisoner treatment. But this is the second time a federal judge has allowed U.S. citizens to sue Rumsfeld personally.
U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen in Illinois last year said two other Americans who worked in Iraq as contractors and were held at Camp Cropper, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, can pursue claims that they were tortured using Rumsfeld-approved methods after they alleged illegal activities by their company. Rumsfeld is appealing that ruling, which Gwin cited.
In May, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Attorney General John Ashcroft could not be personally sued for adopting a policy that led to the arrest and 16-day detention of an American Muslim who was never charged with a crime. The court sets a high bar for suing high-ranking officials, requiring that they be tied directly to a violation of constitutional rights and must have clearly understood their actions crossed that line.