Suppose a nation was so blessed with natural resources that it almost could not be poor. Suppose that this nation led the world in gold and chromium production, that it was second in the world in platinum, zirconium, and manganese production, third in vanadium production, fifth in diamond production, seventh in iron and coal production, and produced large amounts of many other minerals and valuable elements as well.
Now suppose that this nation was also among the most richly endowed agricultural areas in the world — that it produced very large export crops of apples, apricots, pears, lemons, tangerines, grapes, and oranges, and that it also was among the world’s major producers of corn and wheat. Such a land would be even more blessed than Saudi Arabia, because as valuable as oil is today, it is affected by the market price of energy for that single resource.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), among other prominent Democrats, blamed the Tea Party for S&P’s downgrade of the U.S. government's long-held AAA credit rating. In the aftermath of this historic U.S. fiscal shift, which arrived despite the $2.5 trillion deficit reduction plan passed last week, the congressional blame game is an inevitable outcome, and Sunday shaped the springboard for Congress to indulge the media in partisan pandering.
"This is the Tea Party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered even the will of many Republicans in the United States Senate who were prepared to do a bigger deal," Sen. Kerry said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, referencing the Senate’s bipartisan "Gang of Six" plan, which compromised spending cuts for tax increases.
Responding to Kerry’s accusation, John McCain (R-Ariz.) — who recently called House Republicans "hobbits" for their thwarted balanced budget amendment — defended Tea Party Republicans, while congratulating them for keeping their 2008 campaign promises.
The White House has informed Governors that they are forbidden from opting out of the Department of Homeland Security’s controversial Secure Communities (SComm) program. The plan mandates the cooperation of federal, state, and local law-enforcement agencies in the identification, arrest, and deportation of criminal aliens. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the branch of DHS tasked with managing the program.
On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security informed Governors that the SComm program does not require state ratification and that it would operate in those states with or without approval of the state government. Furthermore, state executives were told that any agreements entered into by DHS with states regarding the scope of the particular state’s participation in the identification and tracking scheme were immediately null and of no legal effect.
Most Americans are aware that U.S. forces are involved in missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Those who pay closer attention to the news may know that American troops are also active in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. But according to Nick Turse of TomDispatch.com, those six nations comprise only five percent of the total number of countries in which the Department of Defense is conducting operations. “A secret force within the U.S. military,” says Turse, “is undertaking operations in a majority of the world’s countries” — at a rate of 70 such operations per day.
This “secret force” is known as the U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM. “SOCOM carries out the United States’ most specialized and secret missions,” Turse writes. “These include assassinations, counterterrorist raids, long-range reconnaissance, intelligence analysis, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.”
Environmental contention stirs as discussions cultivate over the long-delayed 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian crude oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands in northeastern Alberta, Canada, to southern parts of the United States. Due to environmental concerns, lawsuits from oil refineries, and opposition in the U.S. Congress, the project has been on hiatus, as it lingers in the State Department’s permitting process, awaiting President Obama’s approval. In urging the President to act, Republicans and business leaders allege that the $7 billion expansion will create 20,000 jobs — 13,000 construction jobs and 7,000 manufacturing jobs — and ease U.S. dependence on foreign oil. TransCanada, the Canadian company that proposed the expansion, estimates that the pipeline would deliver over one million barrels of oil a day to the U.S. "We could help reduce the amount of imports from the Middle East," asserted TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha, "which would ensure energy security for the United States."
With gold bouncing up from $1,668 an ounce on Friday, August 5 to $1,778 on Tuesday, August 9, it was the biggest three-day rally since the start of the great recession in 2008. At the same time, the equities markets were falling precipitously, losing over 600 points on the Dow on Monday alone. What is the connection?
The easy answer is fear, loss of confidence, and uncertainty. A credit rating agency has taken away the United States' top-tier AAA rating on its bonds, the spreading debt crisis in the Eurozone has now reached Italy and Spain, and the assumptions tying the financial system together are beginning to be questioned. In its report entitled “On the Coming Gold War,” Redburn Partners says a “rising gold price is a warning signal: it casts doubt on the US economy…. Gold is the only asset to outperform in periods of either uncontrollable inflation or deflation: the US economy is on the knife-edge between the two … gold is a vital barometer.”
The state of Wisconsin is seeking relief from the No Child Left Behind education reform law after the Obama administration announced it would permit states to receive waivers from the strict testing requirements under NCLB. In an announcement made by Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday, Duncan indicated that states would be allowed waivers if they utilize other accountability measures. Wisconsin State Superintendent Tony Evers and Governor Scott Walker immediately jumped at the opportunity. They created a task force that represented a number of state education interests in order to find alternative accountability measures that would best suit Wisconsin’s interests.
According to Evers, No Child Left Behind, George W. Bush’s signature education law, is broken.
Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute concurs. Citing a study conducted by Jaekyung Lee at Harvard in 2006 using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Coulson explains:
The Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals ruled August 8 that two American citizens detained and tortured without trial or court hearing by the Bush-era Defense Department may sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
U.S. Navy veteran Donald Vance and fellow American Nathan Ertel were employed by the private U.S. government contractor Shield Group Security in 2006 outside the Baghdad green zone and witnessed the sale of U.S government munitions to Iraqi rebel groups for money and alcohol. After becoming FBI informants, the two were detained and tortured by federal officials for 97 days (Donald Vance) and six weeks (Nathan Ertel) at Camp Cropper in Iraq after contacting the FBI about corruption in the now-defunct federal contractor.
Judge David Hamilton wrote in a 2-1 appellate court decision that concluded, "The wrongdoing alleged here violates the most basic terms of the constitutional compact between our government and the citizens of this country." The district court had earlier ruled that the allegations are the kind that “shocks the conscience."
Students attending a summer school program in Louisville, Kentucky, were treated to lessons on American liberty that focused on the superiority of the free market, the gold standard, the American Constitution, and the failures of tyrannical regimes.
USA Today reports:
During the five-day Vacation Liberty School, talks, skits and activities mixed conservative values and early American history, including stories about how colonists' prayers once helped turn back a threatening French fleet and the principle of equal opportunity, but not necessarily equal results.
Do you think our elected leaders are crazy? You might be right.
According to the thesis of a new book, nearly every one of the great and powerful leaders of history have at least one trait in common: They were (are) mentally ill.
In a purposefully provocative new book entitled First-Rate Madness, Nassir Ghaemi, professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, claims that some of history's most noteworthy and respected leaders demonstrated signs of being mentally disturbed in one way or another.
Evidence of mental illness, writes Ghaemi, is not only a common thread running throughout these leaders' personalities, but it is the presence of that trait that distinguishes them in the field of public service.