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Mon, 28 Nov 2022
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George W. Bush spent $1.3 million in government money last year, most of ex-presidents

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The government spent more than $1.3 million on former President George W. Bush in 2012, the highest amount spent on any ex-president. According to an analysis released by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the government spent nearly $3.7 million on former presidents in 2012, an amount that is about $200,000 less than what was spent in 2011. The money pays for a pension, compensation, benefits for office staffers and other costs.

The Former Presidents Act gives old Oval Office inhabitants a $200,000 annual pension and $96,000 a year for a small office staff. Taxpayers also foot the bill for things like travel, office space and postage. The large amount spent on Bush seems a little objectionable considering how much former presidents are able to make for books and speaking engagements.

Dollars

IRS regrets making costly 'Star Trek' video parody

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© AP Photo/IRS
The Internal Revenue Service now admits it made a mistake when it spent $60,000 in taxpayer money to produce a video parodying the 1960s Star Trek television series.
The Internal Revenue Service now admits it made a mistake when it spent $60,000 in taxpayer money to produce a video parodying the 1960s Star Trek television series, along with a second Gilligan's Island parody. The Star Trek segment was used to open a 2010 training and leadership conference, while the latter clip was used to avoid the cost of training employees in person.

Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany Jr., R-La., first asked the IRS to hand over copies of the videos in a Feb. 11 letter to Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller.

"It is important to determine whether and to what extent taxpayer resources were devoted to activities unrelated to your agency's core functions," Boustany wrote, claiming the Star Trek video "did not contain meaningful training content."

Miller acknowledged the existence of both videos in his March 4 response along with the $60,000 price tag. A copy of the Star Trek parody surfaced on Friday.

Pistol

Fox Business host pushes Alex Jones' theory: Government is 'arming up' and disarming citizens

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Fox Business host Lou Dobbs on Monday repeated a conspiracy theory pushed by fringe conservative websites like Alex Jones' Infowars, that the federal government was "arming up" while trying to disarm U.S. citizens.

During an interview with National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, Dobbs explained that "the gun owners are going to be the victims here."

"At the same time, we're watching - inexplicably, without any voice from the Department of Homeland Security - we're watching the purchase of another 7,000 AR-15-like rifles. We're watching 2 billion rounds of ammunition, principally .40 [caliber] and 9mm. We are looking at the purchase of 2,700 light armored vehicles in the midst of - at least, allegedly - 2,700 of those vehicles."

"What in the world is going on?" Dobbs exclaimed. "As the Department of Homeland Security seems to be armoring up, and the [Obama] administration is trying to disarm American citizens."

Bizarro Earth

Colorado: Bill repealing adultery officially signed into law

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© CBS
Colorado State Capitol
A proposal to repeal the crime of adultery from Colorado's books has been signed into law.

The legislation that Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Friday removes what Democratic bill sponsors say is an outdated 19-century statute. The bill also would repeal the rarely-used law of contributing to "sexual immorality" by providing a place, such as a hotel room, for unmarried people to have sex.

Dollar

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Sequester nearly starving staffers

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© Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
President Obama has chosen Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, succeeding Tim Kaine, who announced Tuesday he is running for a U.S. Senate seat from Virginia.
Automatic federal cuts are bringing staffers to the brink of starvation, suggested Debbie Wasserman Schultz, at a recent House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.

Restaurants on the House side of Congress are increasing in cost so much that aides are being "priced out" of a good meal, she said, as Fox News reported. The comments came by way of a discussion about the impacts of the sequester on lawmakers' office budgets. Rep. Jim Moran said he may be forced to lay off a staffer - and then Ms. Wasserman Schultz weighed in with her tale of hard times.

Arrow Down

Mother of market bubbles will eventually burst: not all the gold in the world will save you

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Marc Faber, who authors the Gloom Boom & Doom newsletter, is usually pretty bearish on stocks and bullish on gold. Lately, though, gold doesn't seem like it can catch a bid. "Despite the continued reverberations regarding the Cyprus bailout and its involvement of bank deposits, gold struggled to maintain the positive momentum created in the first two weeks of March and instead now looks very likely to move lower, towards $1580/oz," wrote Deutsche Bank commodities analyst Xiao Fu in a note this morning. So, what does Faber have to say about it? This morning, on Bloomberg Surveillance with Tom Keene and Alix Steel, Dr. Doom was asked why gold wasn't holding up. Here's his explanation: When you print money, the money does not flow evenly into the economic system.

It stays essentially in the financial service industry and among people that have access to these funds, mostly well-to-do people. It does not go to the worker. I just mentioned that it doesn't flow evenly into the system. Now from time to time it will lift the NASDAQ like between 1997 and March 2000. Then it lifted home prices in the U.S. until 2007. Then it lifted the commodity prices in 2008 until July 2008 when the global economy was already in recession. More recently it has lifted selected emerging economies, stock markets in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, up four times from 2009 lows and now the U.S. So we are creating bubbles and bubbles and bubbles. This bubble will come to an end. My concern is that we are going to have a systemic crisis where it is going to be very difficult to hide. Even in gold, it will be difficult to hide. Faber is, of course, still bearish on U.S. stocks. He told Bloomberg that he sees "considerable downside risk" in the market. - Business Insider

Megaphone

Jesse Jackson calls for mass protest against Detroit's emergency financial manager

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© Ryan Garza/DFP
Washington, D.C. lawyer Kevyn Orr, 54, addresses the media at the Cadillac Center in Detroit on Thursday, March 14, 2013 after being named as a candidate by Governor Rick Snyder as the emergency financial manager for the city of Detroit. The state's Loan Board voted 3-0 to accept Snyder's appointment of Orr.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson joined the fight against Detroit's emergency financial manager on Friday, calling for mass, nonviolent protest in the city to fend off what he called an attack on residents' voting rights.

Jackson and several other opponents to an EFM pledged to file a lawsuit next week challenging the constitutionality of Michigan's new emergency manager law. It takes effect Thursday and grants broad powers to the incoming emergency financial manager, Kevyn Orr, a Washington, D.C., bankruptcy lawyer.

"As opposed to having a city council that's democratically elected and a mayor, you'll have a plantocracy, a plantation-ocracy, replacing a democracy," Jackson said.

Jackson was joined by Detroit City Councilwomen JoAnn Watson and Brenda Jones, U.S. Rep. John Conyers and a union representative at a rally inside city hall that drew about 100 people. He also called on the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene to protect Detroiters' rights to vote.

"We marched too long and bled too much and died too young for the right to vote to have a governor ... take away the impact of our vote," said Jackson, president and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Camcorder

Shocking drone campaign visualization highlights civilian casualties

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Wesley Grubbs
Wesley Grubbs of Pitch Interactive told HuffPost Live on Tuesday that he created an interactive graph of the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan to highlight civilian causalities.

"We want to shock people," he explained. "What we tried to do though with this was not just shock people with the number of casualties, but to shock people with the amount of information that we really don't know."

The data visualization illustrates the number of casualties from drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and 2013, categorizing the victims as either children, civilians, alleged combatants, or high-profile targets. The graph is based on data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the New America Foundation.

"The topic itself became very interesting to us because we are lead to believe these drone strikes that we are doing in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world have this sort of laser precision and we're only getting the bad guys," Grubbs said. "Once we actually started researching this topic we realized that is not quite the case."

Arrow Down

NYPD whistleblower suspended and sent to psychiatric ward

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Brooklyn cop Adrian Schoolcraft, pictured with copies of police states in 2009, sues NYPD for locking him up in psych ward.
So far hundreds of people have been arrested for protesting peacefully and over the weekend the NYPD deployed the "LRAD", which is a sound cannon that projects a painful tone into peoples ears while commanding them to disperse.

In the midst of these protests the stop and frisk policy is on trial in a class action lawsuit, as we reported last week.

So far it has been revealed in court through whistleblower testimony and audio evidence that the NYPD's stop and frisk policy was motivated by racism and quotas. This is something that we all know about police departments all over the country, but it was extremely important to get this confirmation in court because way too many people still refuse to recognize the brutality that takes place and authoritarianism.

The whistleblower testimony that has come to light so far has been unexpected, because police departments, and the NYPD in particular are very unforgiving towards those within their ranks who attempt to do anything to change the status-quo.

Just recently a report with claims against the NYPD from 2010 was finally made public, when this report was released two weeks ago the world also learned that its author was suspended from the NYPD and involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward. The claims that this officer made weren't even as serious as those being brought up in court over the past week, so there is no telling the kind of persecution that these new whistleblowers will be forced to endure.

Arrow Down

Jailing the messenger: The predicament of a military whistleblower

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© AP
Bradley Manning (right) pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges facing him
America should be embarrassed for not having the courage to "accept the truth that Manning revealed".

It is interesting to observe how the US government and major media are staying silent on the case of Bradley Manning, the 25-year-old private first-class in the Army who leaked a vast collection of classified documents to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

Those of us who consider him a true American hero for what he did can finally heave a sigh of relief now that the word "accused" need no longer be affixed to his whistleblower status.

On February 28, before a military judge, Manning acknowledged responsibility for releasing the information and pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges facing him. This partial plea could mean a 20-year sentence, but the prosecution hopes to put him away for life for "aiding the enemy" - the most serious of the 12 charges to which he pleaded not guilty.

In his statement at the pre-trial hearing, Manning stated:
"I believe that the public release of these cables would not damage the United States, however, I did believe that the cables might be embarrassing, since they represented very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organisations."
I interpret the word "enemy" in his "aiding the enemy" charge to mean "truth". If you ask the hundreds of thousands of surviving Iraqis and Afghanis facing a volatile and uncertain future, they are likely to look you in the eye and tell you that Bradley did aid the truth, by revealing it to the world. A banner at a recent rally held in support of Manning in Afghanistan read:
"BRADLEY MANNING, YOU ARE A HERO OF SUFFERING AFGHANS."
You see, truth has become a dirty word in the mainstream lexicon. Truth is the embarrassing enemy here. So, maybe it is no wonder that the government is being so secretive about one of the most, if not the most important criminal case in American military history, and is afraid of having anything said in that courtroom be made public.