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Paris and What Should Be Done

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The horrific attacks in Paris on Friday have, predictably, led to much over-reaction and demands that we do more of the exact things that radicalize people and make them want to attack us. The French military wasted no time bombing Syria in retaliation for the attacks, though it is not known where exactly the attackers were from. Thousands of ISIS fighters in Syria are not Syrian, but came to Syria to overthrow the Assad government from a number of foreign countries -- including from France and the US. 

Ironically, the overthrow of Assad has also been the goal of both the US and France since at least 2011.

Because the US and its allies are essentially on the same side as ISIS and other groups – seeking the overthrow of Assad – many of the weapons they have sent to the more “moderate” factions also seeking Assad’s ouster have ended up in the hands of radicals.
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Does the Bell Toll for the Fed?

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Last week Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen hinted that the Federal Reserve Board will increase interest rates at the board’s December meeting. The positive jobs report that was released following Yellen’s remarks caused many observers to say that the Federal Reserve’s first interest rate increase in almost a decade is practically inevitable.

However, there are several reasons to doubt that the Fed will increase rates anytime in the near future. One reason is that the official unemployment rate understates unemployment by ignoring the over 94 million Americans who have either withdrawn from the labor force or settled for part-time work. Presumably the Federal Reserve Board has access to the real unemployment numbers and is thus aware that the economy is actually far from full employment.
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Save The Apologies, Just Stop Promoting War!

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Usually when politicians apologize it’s because they have been caught doing something wrong, or they are about to be caught. Such was likely the case with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who recently offered an “apology” for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Blair faces the release of a potentially damning report on his government’s conduct in the run-up to the 2003 US/UK invasion of Iraq. 

Similarly, a batch of emails released from the private server of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton show Blair pledging support for US military action against Iraq a full year before the decision to attack had supposedly been made. While Prime Minister Blair was assuring his constituents that he was dedicated to diplomacy in the Iraq crisis, he was communicating through back channels that he was ready for war whenever Bush decided on it.
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We Must Oppose Obama's Escalation in Syria and Iraq!

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Today Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to outline a new US military strategy for the Middle East. The Secretary admitted the failure of the US “train and equip” program for rebels in Syria, but instead of taking the appropriate lessons from that failure and get out of the “regime change” business, he announced the opposite. The US would not only escalate its “train and equip” program by removing the requirement that fighters be vetted for extremist ideology, but according to the Secretary the US military would for the first time become directly and overtly involved in combat in Syria and Iraq.

As Secretary Carter put it, the US would begin “supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL (ISIS), or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground.”
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House Benghazi Hearings: Too Much Too Late

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Last week the US House of Representatives called former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to appear before a select committee looking into the attack on a US facility in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. The attack left four Americans dead, including US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

As might be expected, however, the “Benghazi Committee” hearings have proven not much more than a means for each party to grandstand for political points.

In fact, I would call these Congressional hearings “too much, too late.”
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Debt Ceiling Debate: Don’t Mention Warfare/Welfare State!

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The US Treasury’s recent announcement that the government will reach the debt ceiling on November 3 means Congress will soon be debating raising the government’s borrowing limit again. Any delay in, or opposition to, raising the debt ceiling will inevitably be met with hand-wringing over Congress’ alleged irresponsibility. But the real irresponsible act would be for Congress to raise the debt ceiling.

Cutting up its credit card is the only way to make Congress reduce spending. Anyone who doubts this should listen to the bipartisan whining over how sequestration has so drastically reduced spending that there is literally nothing left to cut. But, according to the Heritage Foundation, sequestration has only reduced spending from $3.6 trillion to $3.5 trillion. Only in DC would a less than one percent spending reduction be considered a draconian cut.
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Politicians Exploit School Shooting While Ignoring Bombing Victims

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Following the recent Oregon school shooting, many politicians rushed to the microphones to call for new gun control laws. President Obama even called on gun control supporters to “politicize” the shooting, while some members of Congress worked to establish a special commission on gun violence.

The reaction to the shooting stands in stark contrast to the reaction to the US military’s bombing of an Afghanistan hospital run by the international humanitarian (and Nobel Peace Prize winning) group Doctors Without Borders.
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I Wish Nobody Was Bombing Syria

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The US regime change policy for Syria has been a catastrophe. More than 200,000 killed and an entire country reduced to rubble at least partly because President Obama decided that “Assad has lost his legitimacy.” How is it that the president of a country 6,000 miles away has the authority to decide whether another leader belongs in office or not? What if Rouhani in Iran decided that Obama had lost his legitimacy for killing a number of American citizens by drone without charge or trial? Would we accept that?

At least three years of US efforts to train rebels to overthrow the Syrian government has produced, as General Lloyd Austin, Commander of US Central Command, testified last month, “four or five” trained and vetted “moderates” in Syria. The $500 million appropriated for this purpose has disappeared.
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Congress and the Fed Refuse to Learn From Their Mistakes

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This month marks the seventh anniversary of the bursting of the housing bubble and the subsequent economic meltdown. The mood in Congress following the meltdown resembled the panicked atmosphere that followed the September 11th attacks. As was the case after September 11th, Congress rushed to pass hastily written legislation that, instead of dealing with the real causes of the crisis, simply gave the government more power.

Just as few understood the role our interventionist foreign policy played in the September 11th attacks, few in Congress understood that the 2008 meltdown was caused by the Federal Reserve and Congress, not by unregulated capitalism. Not surprising to anyone familiar with economic history, the story of the 2008 meltdown starts with the bursting of the Fed-created tech bubble.
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Blame America? No, Blame Neocons!

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Is the current refugee crisis gripping the European Union “all America’s fault”? That is how my critique of US foreign policy was characterized in a recent interview on the Fox Business Channel. I do not blame the host for making this claim, but I think it is important to clarify the point.

It has become common to discount any criticism of US foreign policy as “blaming America first.” It is a convenient way of avoiding a real discussion. If aggressive US policy in the Middle East – for example in Iraq – results in the creation of terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda in Iraq, is pointing out the unintended consequences of bad policy blaming America? Is it “blaming America” to point out that blowback – like we saw on 9/11 – can be the result of unwise US foreign policy actions like stationing US troops in Saudi Arabia?
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