Category Archives: USA

South Carolina’s Divisive Message – NYTimes.com

South Carolina’s Divisive Message – NYTimes.com.

Editorial

South Carolina’s Divisive Message

Since it was first held 32 years ago, the South Carolina Republican primary has been won by the party’s most electable candidate, the one backed by the Republican establishment and invariably the winner of the nomination. On Saturday, the state veered in an extreme direction, and the outcome spoke poorly for a party that allowed itself to be manipulated by the lowest form of campaigning.

[…]

South Carolina has moved sharply rightward since Mr. Obama arrived on the national scene. In 2000, 24 percent of state voters said they were “very conservative,” but that number jumped to 34 percent in 2008. Now it is up to 37 percent, according to exit polls. Two-thirds of Saturday’s voters said they supported the Tea Party, reflecting the election in 2010 of four South Carolina freshmen who are among the most extreme members of the House.

In one of the most telling results of the exit polls, most voters said that cutting the federal budget was more important than encouraging job growth. At a time when more than 13 million people remain unemployed, these voters do not want the government to do a thing about it, possibly because it might improve Mr. Obama’s re-election chances.

[…]

It was Mr. Gingrich who pulled the race into the gutter, where he found considerable support.

[…]

As one voter told a reporter, “I think we’ve reached a point where we need someone who’s mean.”

They got that candidate on Saturday.

[…]

Read the full story here: The New York Times

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Do Drones Undermine Democracy? – NYTimes.com

Do Drones Undermine Democracy? – NYTimes.com.

Sunday Review

Do Drones Undermine Democracy?

Washington

IN democracies like ours, there have always been deep bonds between the public and its wars. Citizens have historically participated in decisions to take military action, through their elected representatives, helping to ensure broad support for wars and a willingness to share the costs, both human and economic, of enduring them.

In America, our Constitution explicitly divided the president’s role as commander in chief in war from Congress’s role in declaring war. Yet these links and this division of labor are now under siege as a result of a technology that our founding fathers never could have imagined.

[…]

We don’t have a draft anymore; less than 0.5 percent of Americans over 18 serve in the active-duty military. We do not declare war anymore; the last time Congress actually did so was in 1942 — against Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. We don’t buy war bonds or pay war taxes anymore. During World War II, 85 million Americans purchased war bonds that brought the government $185 billion; in the last decade, we bought none and instead gave the richest 5 percent of Americans a tax break.

And now we possess a technology that removes the last political barriers to war. The strongest appeal of unmanned systems is that we don’t have to send someone’s son or daughter into harm’s way. But when politicians can avoid the political consequences of the condolence letter — and the impact that military casualties have on voters and on the news media — they no longer treat the previously weighty matters of war and peace the same way.

For the first 200 years of American democracy, engaging in combat and bearing risk — both personal and political — went hand in hand. In the age of drones, that is no longer the case.

[…]

WITHOUT any actual political debate, we have set an enormous precedent, blurring the civilian and military roles in war and circumventing the Constitution’s mandate for authorizing it. Freeing the executive branch to act as it chooses may be appealing to some now, but many future scenarios will be less clear-cut. And each political party will very likely have a different view, depending on who is in the White House.

[…]

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For God So Loved the 1 Percent … – NYTimes.com

For God So Loved the 1 Percent … – NYTimes.com.

January 17, 2012, 9:00 pm

For God So Loved the 1 Percent …

Princeton, N.J.

IN recent weeks Mitt Romney has become the poster child for unchecked capitalism, a role he seems to embrace with relish. Concerns about economic equality, he told Matt Lauer of NBC, were really about class warfare.

“When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on the 99 percent versus 1 percent,” he said, “you have opened up a whole new wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God.”

Mr. Romney was on to something, though perhaps not what he intended.

The concept of “one nation under God” has a noble lineage, originating in Abraham Lincoln’s hope at Gettysburg that “this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.” After Lincoln, however, the phrase disappeared from political discourse for decades. But it re-emerged in the mid-20th century, under a much different guise: corporate leaders and conservative clergymen deployed it to discredit Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

During the Great Depression, the prestige of big business sank along with stock prices. Corporate leaders worked frantically to restore their public image and simultaneously roll back the “creeping socialism” of the welfare state. Notably, the American Liberty League, financed by corporations like DuPont and General Motors, made an aggressive case for capitalism. Most, however, dismissed its efforts as self-interested propaganda. (A Democratic Party official joked that the organization should have been called “the American Cellophane League” because “first, it’s a DuPont product and, second, you can see right through it.”)

Realizing that they needed to rely on others, these businessmen took a new tack: using generous financing to enlist sympathetic clergymen as their champions. After all, according to one tycoon, polls showed that, “of all the groups in America, ministers had more to do with molding public opinion” than any other.

The Rev. James W. Fifield, pastor of the elite First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, led the way in championing a new union of faith and free enterprise. “The blessings of capitalism come from God,” he wrote. “A system that provides so much for the common good and happiness must flourish under the favor of the Almighty.”

[…]

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Why Is Europe a Dirty Word? – NYTimes.com

Why Is Europe a Dirty Word? – NYTimes.com.

Op-Ed Columnist

Why Is Europe a Dirty Word?

PARIS

QUELLE horreur! One of the uglier revelations about President Obama emerging from the Republican primaries is that he is trying to turn the United States into Europe.

“He wants us to turn into a European-style welfare state,” warned Mitt Romney. Countless versions of that horrific vision creep into Romney’s speeches, suggesting that it would “poison the very spirit of America.”

Rick Santorum agrees, fretting that Obama is “trying to impose some sort of European socialism on the United States.”

[…]

Yet there is something serious going on. The Republican candidates unleash these attacks on Obama because so many Americans have in mind a caricature of Europe as an effete, failed socialist system. As Romney puts it: “Europe isn’t working in Europe. It’s not going to work here.”

[…]

But the basic notion of Europe as a failure is a dangerous misconception. The reality is far more complicated.

[…]

It’s absurd to dismiss Europe. After all, Norway is richer per capita than the United States. Moreover, according to figures from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, per-capita G.N.P. in France was 64 percent of the American figure in 1960. That rose to 73 percent by 2010. Zut alors! The socialists gained on us!

Meanwhile, they did it without breaking a sweat. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that employed Americans averaged 1,741 hours at work in 2010. In France, the figure was 1,439 hours.

If Europe was as anticapitalist as Americans assume, its companies would be collapsing. But there are 172 European corporations among the Fortune Global 500, compared with just 133 from the United States.

[…]

Read the full article here: The New York Times

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The 1 Percent Paint a More Nuanced Portrait of the Rich – NYTimes.com

The 1 Percent Paint a More Nuanced Portrait of the Rich – NYTimes.com.

Among the Wealthiest One Percent, Many Variations

KINGS POINT, N.Y. — Adam Katz is happy to talk to reporters when he is promoting his business, a charter flight company based on Long Island called Talon Air.

But when the subject was his position as one of America’s top earners, he balked. Seated at a desk fashioned from a jet fuel cell, wearing a button-down shirt with the company logo, he considered the public relations benefits and found them lacking: “It’s not very popular to be in the 1 percent these days, is it?”

[…]

As a member of the 1 percent, he is part of a club whose name conjures images of Wall Street bosses who are chauffeured from manse to Manhattan and fat cats who have armies of lobbyists at the ready.

But in reality it is a far larger and more varied group, one that includes podiatrists and actuaries, executives and entrepreneurs, the self-made and the silver spoon set. They are clustered not just in New York and Los Angeles, but also in Denver and Dallas. The range of wealth in the 1 percent is vast — from households that bring in $380,000 a year, according to census data, up to billionaires like Warren E. Buffett and Bill Gates.

[…]

Read the full article here: The New York Times

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As Rick Santorum Secured Earmarks, 2006 Donations Flowed In – NYTimes.com

As Rick Santorum Secured Earmarks, 2006 Donations Flowed In – NYTimes.com.

Donors Gave as Santorum Won Earmarks

The announcements flowed out of Rick Santorum’s Senate office: a $3.5 million federal grant to Piasecki Aircraft to help it test a new helicopter propeller technology; another $3.5 million to JLG Industries to bolster its bid to build all-terrain forklifts for the military; $1.4 million to Medico Industries to upgrade equipment for its munitions work.

Each of the news releases represented an earmark or, in some cases, multiple ones — the practice by which members of Congress set aside money in federal spending bills for what critics often denounce as pet projects back home.

[…]

But an examination of Mr. Santorum’s earmark record sheds light on another aspect of his political personality, one that is at odds with the reformer image he has tried to convey on the trail: his prowess as a Washington insider.

A review of some of his earmarks, viewed alongside his political donations, suggests that the river of federal money Mr. Santorum helped direct to Pennsylvania paid off handsomely in the form of campaign cash.

[…]

In just one piece of legislation, the defense appropriations bill for the 2006 fiscal year, Mr. Santorum helped secure $124 million in federal financing for 54 earmarks, according to a tally by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog group. In that year’s election cycle, Mr. Santorum’s Senate campaign committee and his “leadership PAC” took in more than $200,000 in contributions from people associated with the companies that benefited or their lobbyists, an analysis of campaign finance records by The New York Times shows.

[…]

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Election laws: Holder v states | The Economist

Election laws: Holder v states | The Economist.

Election laws

Holder v states

Expect plenty of scuffles in the run-up to the general election

RONALD REAGAN appointed him to a federal judgeship. He served as acting attorney-general under George Bush junior. He has backed a law allowing investigators to interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their rights. As a federal attorney he prosecuted two prominent Democratic congressman; in private practice he represented large corporations. This is the CV not of a Republican judicial candidate, but of Eric Holder, Barack Obama’s attorney-general. Long unpopular with the right as well as the left, Mr Holder may well spend the coming year even more embattled than usual.

In 2011 34 states proposed laws to strengthen voter-identification requirements. Backers portray these laws as a bulwark against voting fraud. Critics argue that such fraud is exceedingly rare, and these laws would provide little defence against it; instead, they contend, the laws are intended to make it harder for minorities, young people and the poor—groups that lean Democratic—to cast their ballots.

On December 13th, Mr Holder waded into the controversy.

[…]

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Rick Perry: Marines urinating on corpses were just kids, shouldn’t face criminal charges

Rick Perry: Marines urinating on corpses were just kids, shouldn’t face criminal charges.

Perry: Urinating Marines are ‘Just Kids’

The Texas governor said Marines shouldn’t face criminal prosecution for a “dumb” mistake.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry told CNN Sunday that the Marines who were filmed urinating on Afghan corpses were just kids being kids and the White House has gone “over the top”  in its criticism. “When you’re 18 or 19, you do dumb things. These kids made a mistake, there’s not any doubt about it,” the Republican presidential hopeful said.
[…]
Although the Marines should be “appropriately punished” Perry criticized “the idea that this administration would go after these young people for a criminal act.”
[…]
Read the full article here: Slate Magazine

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America for sale: How a private-equity firm would flip the United States to China. – Slate Magazine

America for sale: How a private-equity firm would flip the United States to China. – Slate Magazine.

Fire Congress, Dump Mississippi and Alaska

How a private-equity firm would refurbish the United States for quick resale to China.

Like many large corporations, America is going through a painful transition as it reaches maturity. Growth has stagnated, expenses have soared, and shareholders are getting antsy. While emerging markets offer potential, competitors are rapidly eating away at the United States’ market share. Analysts are bearish, with many believing the country is on the decline. Is it time for a leveraged buyout?

Probably not. Still, it’s a fun thought experiment: What sort of changes and cost-cutting measures would a firm like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital impose if it wanted to buy the country at a discount and refurbish it for a quick, profitable sale to, say, China?

Though the United States carries a $15 trillion debt load, if you look past its bloated budget and shaky governance, the country has some valuable assets. America has vast real estate holdings, a productive workforce, reliable cash flows, and a globally recognized brand name. An aggressive private-equity outfit, though, would find a lot to cut and a lot of people to fire. Here’s a 10-point plan to get the country shipshape.

[…]

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Drillers must employ best practices to keep ‘fracking’ boom alive – Houston Chronicle

Drillers must employ best practices to keep ‘fracking’ boom alive – Houston Chronicle.

Drillers must employ best practices to keep ‘fracking’ boom alive

Updated 02:30 p.m., Saturday, January 7, 2012

As recently as 2001, the production of gas naturally occurring deep inside shale rock provided less than 2 percent of total U.S. natural gas production. Today, it is approaching 30 percent. As late as 2007, it was commonly assumed that the United States would be importing large amounts of liquefied natural gas from the Middle East and other areas.

Today, almost overnight in natural-resource years, we are not only self-sufficient in natural gas, we have enough natural gas for the rest of this century on the basis of current demand. This same horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology is now being used in liquids-rich shales to increase oil production. These resource plays are in their infancy and can clearly improve the energy security of the United States.

Nonetheless, the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale rock to release gas trapped deep beneath the Earth’s surface has inspired public fear-mongering, mostly around presumed threats to air quality and water quality. Most of that fear is unfounded.

[…]

Read the full story here: The Houston Chronicle

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