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All I Want for Christmas is a (Real) Government Shutdown

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The political class breathed a sigh of relief Saturday when the US Senate averted a government shutdown by passing the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. This year’s omnibus resembles omnibuses of Christmas past in that it was drafted in secret, was full of special interest deals and disguised spending increases, and was voted on before most members could read it.

The debate over the omnibus may have made for entertaining political theater, but the outcome was never in doubt. Most House and Senate members are so terrified of another government shutdown that they would rather vote for a 1,774-page bill they have not read than risk even a one or two-day government shutdown.
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Eric Garner, the Torture Report, and Authoritarian Psychology

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What do the NYPD arresting officers of Eric Garner, the CIA officials responsible for the crimes detailed in the Torture Report and U.S. foreign policy officials all have in common? They are all agents of  institutions that have adopted an “authoritarian psychology.” So what does authoritarian psychology mean?

Alexandre Kojeve, a French fascist in Vichy France, and lifelong close friend of Neocon Godfather Leo Strauss, explained authority as follows: “Authority is the possibility of an agent acting upon others without these others reacting against him, despite being capable to do so, and without making any compromises. Any discussion is already a compromise.”

This is anathema to the authoritarian because it means their absolute authority or of the institution they represent has been lost, even if only to an imperceptible degree. That is the nature of authoritarian psychology and authoritarian government by Kojeve’s and fascist logic.
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Torture and the Myth of Never Again: The Persecution of John Kiriakou

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In a Galaxy Far, Far Away

The United States sanctioned acts of torture by the Central Intelligence Agency and others. The acts took place in secret prisons (“black sites”) against persons detained indefinitely without trial. They were described in detail and explicitly authorized in a series of secret torture memos drafted by John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury, senior lawyers in the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. (Office of Legal Counsel attorneys technically answer directly to the DOJ, which is supposed to be independent from the White House, but obviously was not in this case.) Not one of those men, or their Justice Department bosses, has been held accountable for their actions.

Some tortured prisoners were killed by the CIA. Attorney General Eric Holder announced recently that no one would be held accountable for those murders either. “Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths,” he said, “the Department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Jose Rodriguez, a senior CIA official, admitted destroying videotapes of potentially admissible evidence, showing the torture of captives by operatives of the US government at a secret prison thought to be located at a Vietnam-War-era airbase in Thailand. He was not held accountable for deep-sixing this evidence, nor for his role in the torture of human beings.
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Do They Really Oppose Torture?

The Senate Intelligence Committee released its long-awaited report on CIA torture of detainees and the reaction has been strong. While some still maintain that torture is justified, the emerging details of the program have left most of the country disgusted and ashamed.

Many in the current Administration blame the Bush people for this dark chapter, claiming that President Obama finally put an end to what his predecessor started.

Senator John McCain, an advocate for war and an interventionist foreign policy, has nevertheless been one of the strongest voices opposing torture. He has recalled his time as an abused prisoner of war in Vietnam to argue the importance of facing up to the recent behavior of the US government and making necessary corrections.

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US Foreign Policy: Into the Heart of Darkness

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The United States is careening toward an unnecessary new cold war with Russia.  Cold War II may be even more dangerous than the first Cold War, because the constitutional checks and balances and the attention span of the people regulating the US government’s behavior have broken down. While Ukraine is now at the center of this madness, the neocon-driven march to folly has roots reaching well beyond the Ukraine. 

At the same time the United States is rushing to an unnecessary and unwarranted confrontation with Russia, it is engaged in perpetual war on terror that is creating enemies in the Islamic world faster than we can kill them. Moreover, the grand-strategic focus of the war on terror has degenerated into a swamp of contradictions. About the only outcome that is clear in the war on terror is that defense contractors will be the winners.  And then, there is the looming pivot to a confrontation with China. 

In short, the warmongering politicians of American Empire, like those of the Roman Empire, have succumbed to the delusion of their own invincibility and are driving the United States into the age-old cul-de-sac of military overextension. 

Yet at the same time the country is careening to disaster, the American people are tuning out on their government and its actions.
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'A Litany of Federal Crimes' - Judge Napolitano on the CIA Torture Report

"The most compelling, detailed documented report of government intentional infliction of pain on non-combatants ever produced in American history since the time of the Civil War." That is how RPI Advisory Board Member Judge Andrew Napolitano reacted to today's release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques.
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Washington’s Frozen War Against Russia

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For over a year, the United States has played out a scenario designed to (1) reassert US control over Europe by blocking E.U. trade with Russia, (2) bankrupt Russia, and (3) get rid of Vladimir Putin and replace him with an American puppet, like the late drunk, Boris Yeltsin.

The past few days have made crystal clear the perfidy of the economic side of this US war against Russia.

It all began at the important high-level international meeting on Ukraine’s future held in Yalta in September 2013, where a major topic was the shale gas revolution which the United States hoped to use to weaken Russia. Former US energy secretary Bill Richardson was there to make the pitch, applauded by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Washington hoped to use its fracking techniques to provide substitute sources for natural gas, driving Russia out of the market. This amounts to selling Europe a pig in a poke.

But this trick could not be accomplished by relying on the sacrosanct “market”, since fracking is more costly than Russian gas extraction. A major crisis was necessary in order to distort the market by political pressures. By theFebruary 22coup d’état, engineered by Victoria Nuland, the United States effectively took control of Ukraine, putting in power its agent “Yats” (Arseniy Yatsenyuk) who favors joining NATO. This direct threat to Russia’s naval base in Crimea led to the referendum which peacefully returned the historically Russian peninsula to Russia. But the US-led chorus condemned the orderly return of Crimea as “Russian military aggression”. This defensive move is trumpeted by NATO as proof of Putin’s intention to invade Russia’s European neighbors for no reason at all.
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The Long Arm of US Law

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In a perfect illustration of just how ridiculous the US government’s tax policies are, Mayor of London Boris Johnson is being pursued by the IRS for capital gains taxes he owes for selling his residence in London. Apparently Mr. Johnson was born in New York and, despite the fact that his parents returned to Britain when he was five years old, has never given up his US citizenship. Like many other people who through no fault of their own become United States citizens, he never realized that the US government, situated as it is across an ocean, claims to be the rightful owner of a substantial portion of his income and assets.

If Mr. Johnson hasn’t paid capital gains tax on the sale of his house, I’m assuming that he also hasn’t filed a yearly Form 1040 tax return, nor has he probably submitted his annual Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). I’m sure IRS is salivating right now just thinking about all the penalties, back taxes, and interest they can charge him.

The sad thing about this situation is that it takes a prominent example like this to expose the absurdity of US tax laws. US citizens living abroad have for years been seeing their access to foreign bank accounts cut off due to over-reaching laws such as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), and the situation will only get worse. While Mr. Johnson may end up getting a slap on the wrist due to his political stature, the same cannot be said for other innocent victims, not just the accidental Americans, but those who have lived and worked abroad for years and decades and now find themselves shut offfrom an international banking system that now sees Americans as toxic.
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Our Enemies, the Presidents

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Two summers ago Judge Andrew Napolitano joined the faculty of Mises University, the Mises Institute’s summer program for students. He was interested in teaching a nine-session special seminar to a select group of attendees. Students didn’t know what the format would be, but they were all thrilled at the opportunity. As it turns out, they were treated to a high-level seminar with a professor who spoke with authority, pulled out obscure legal references without notes, and traversed the room interacting with students. It was an experience they would not soon forget.

And this is the Judge Napolitano who comes through in Suicide Pact: The Radical Expansion of Presidential Powers and the Assault on Civil Liberties: the law professor in command of his material, presenting his case, anticipating objections, and leaving his audience spellbound.

Had the Judge given us nothing but a blow-by-blow overview of the enormities of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, we would have been in his debt. But Suicide Pact does much more than just this. For one thing, the Judge looks beyond the presidents to the whole federal apparatus, which – “checks and balances” civics lessons to the contrary notwithstanding – is so often complicit in presidential misdeeds. For another, he cuts through the delusions of left and right alike. While he places special emphasis on the outrages of the past two presidential administrations, he will admit of no golden-age mythology. Presidential crimes and overreach are not strange aberrations, explains the Judge. They extend back into American history for more than two hundred years.

Not ten years after the ratification of the Constitution, for example, the Alien and Sedition Acts curtailed civil liberties to a degree that shocks us even today. Critics of the president and Congress could find themselves fined or imprisoned. Ordinary Americans were punished for offhand remarks, as were newspaper writers and even a US congressman from Vermont.
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House Chooses New Cold War With Russia

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Last week the US House voted overwhelmingly in favor of an anti-Russia resolution so full of war propaganda that it rivals the rhetoric from the chilliest era of the Cold War. Ironically, much of the bill condemns Russia for doing exactly what the US government has been doing for years in Syria and Ukraine!
 
For example, one of the reasons to condemn Russia in the resolution is the claim that Russia is imposing economic sanctions on Ukraine. But how many rounds of sanctions has the US government imposed on Russia for much of the past year? I guess sanctions are only bad when used by countries Washington doesn’t like.
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