Category: Special Interests


“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice,” laureates write.

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Jimmy Carter with his grandson Hugo. Photo: Jeffrey Moore/The Elders

 

A group of 10 Nobel Peace Prize laureates including former President Jimmy Carter has sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry urging them to reject the “linchpin for tar sands expansion” — the Keystone XL.

The open letter, which appears in a full-page ad in Wednesday’s Politico, is the third sent by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates to Obama urging him to reject TransCanada’s tar sands carrying pipeline, and the first one to which Carter has added his name. Carter is now the first ex-president to voice opposition to the pipeline.

This additional letter shows “the growing urgency we feel for the hundreds of millions of people globally whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened and lost as a result of the changing climate and environmental damage caused by our dangerous addiction to oil,” the signatories, which also include landmine activist Jody Williams, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, write.

“You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change. As you deliberate the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, you are poised to make a decision that will signal either a dangerous commitment to the status quo, or bold leadership that will inspire millions counting on you to do the right thing for our shared climate,” the laureates write.

As for the argument some have made that if the pipeline is rejected the Alberta tar sands crude will just travel by rail, the laureates write that this is “a red herring” because “[i]ndustry experts agree that the Keystone XL project is the linchpin for tar sands expansion and the increased pollution that will follow, triggering more climate upheaval with impacts felt around the world.”

Photo: Steven Tuttle/cc/flickrSusan Casey-Lefkowitz, International Program Director at NRDC, one of the groups sponsoring the Politico ad, writes:

As leaders struggle with what the need to fight climate change means in terms of energy decisions at home, the voice of moral leaders such as these Nobel Peace laureates becomes more important than ever. And they are sending a clear message that political leadership is essential to stand up to entrenched fossil fuel interests and to take the kinds of decisions that will put us on the path of a cleaner energy future.

“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice,” the laureates’ letter states.

The State Department recommendation on the project is expected soon. While the State Department’s review is required because the northern leg of the pipeline crosses an international border, the final decision sits with President Obama, who has indicated his decision could come in the next few months.

Next week, Carter will join two fellow members of The Elders, Pakistani pro-democracy activist Hina Jilani and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, in leading a discussion on climate leadership and activism Paris.

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Calgary Herald

Nobel laureates condemn Keystone as climate-change trigger

Nobel laureates condemn Keystone as climate-change trigger

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter sits down for a conversation with Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library, on the first day of the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library on April 8 in Austin, Texas. Carter is one of 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners who have issued a letter urging President Barrack Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would connect Alberta’s oilsands to refineries on Texas’s Gulf Coast.

Photograph by: Ralph Barrera-Pool/Getty Images/File , Postmedia News

WASHINGTON — Ten Nobel Peace Prize winners from as far afield as Yemen, South Africa and Argentina have signed a letter asking U.S. President Barack Obama to deny a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport oilsands bitumen to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

The laureates, who include former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, argue that denial of a permit would send a strong signal to the world that the U.S. is rejecting a fossil fuels future.

“Let this reflect the growing urgency we feel for the hundreds of millions of people globally whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened and lost as a result of the changing climate and environmental damage caused by our dangerous addiction to oil,” the letter says.

Rejection of the pipeline would set “a powerful precedent” and “would signal a new course for the world’s largest economy,” the letter says.

“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice.”

The letter underscores Obama’s dilemma: By allowing the assessment process to take so long, he has awakened both national and international interest in a project that normally would garner only passing concern.

 

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Depriving the homeless of their last shelter is Silicon Valley at its worst – especially when rich cities aren’t doing anything to end homelessness

homeless in california
There are nearly 90,000 homeless people live in Los Angeles County but only 9,000 to 10,000 beds available in homeless shelters, single-room occupancy hotels, and other facilities. Photograph: David McNew / Getty Images

Across the United States, many local governments are responding to skyrocketing levels of inequality and the now decades-long crisis of homelessness among the very poor … by passing laws making it a crime to sleep in a parked car.

This happened most recently in Palo Alto, in California’s Silicon Valley, where new billionaires are seemingly minted every month – and where 92% of homeless people lack shelter of any kind. Dozens of cities have passed similar anti-homeless laws. The largest of them is Los Angeles, the longtime unofficial “homeless capital of America”, where lawyers are currently defending a similar vehicle-sleeping law before a skeptical federal appellate court. Laws against sleeping on sidewalks or in cars are called “quality of life” laws. But they certainly don’t protect the quality of life of the poor.

To be sure, people living in cars cannot be the best neighbors. Some people are able to acquire old and ugly – but still functioning – recreational vehicles with bathrooms; others do the best they can. These same cities have resisted efforts to provide more public toilet facilities, often on the grounds that this will make their city a “magnet” for homeless people from other cities. As a result, anti-homeless ordinances often spread to adjacent cities, leaving entire regions without public facilities of any kind.

Their hope, of course, is that homeless people will go elsewhere, despite the fact that the great majority of homeless people are trying to survive in the same communities in which they were last housed – and where they still maintain connections. Americans sleeping in their own cars literally have nowhere to go.

Indeed, nearly all homelessness in the US begins with a loss of income and an eviction for nonpayment of rent – a rent set entirely by market forces. The waiting lists are years long for the tiny fraction of housing with government subsidies. And rents have risen dramatically in the past two years, in part because long-time tenants must now compete with the millions of former homeowners who lost their homes in the Great Recession.

The paths from eviction to homelessness follow familiar patterns. For the completely destitute without family or friends able to help, that path leads more or less directly to the streets. For those slightly better off, unemployment and the exhaustion of meager savings – along with the good graces of family and friends – eventually leaves people with only two alternatives: a shelter cot or their old automobile.

 

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Washington Examiner

EXography: State government dependence on federal funding growing at alarming rate

By David Freddoso | APRIL 15, 2014 AT 5:18 AM

Source: Annual Survey of State Government Finances, U.S. Census Bureau

Only 11 states depended on the federal government for more than one-third of their total revenues in 2001. By 2012, 24 states found themselves in this situation.

State-by-state data from the U.S. Census Bureau, compiled by the State Budget Solutions nonprofit, illustrates the trend of increasing state dependence on federal financial assistance.

Forty-one of the 50 states have become more dependent on the federal government since 2001 — with federal dollars accounting for an increasing share of their total revenues.

This trend of increased state dependency on Washington reduces state and local control, while threatening the states’ long-run autonomy.

The reason is that with federal patronage comes federal leverage. The original Obamacare plan, for example, was to force states to expand Medicaid by threatening them with loss of all federal matching Medicaid funds if they refused.

Although that particular scheme was struck down by the Supreme Court, state governments hate to turn down revenue, and federal dollars have strings attached that force states either to operate as Washington prefers or lose the money.

This problem is exacerbated by the federal government’s control of the currency and ability to borrow virtually unlimited amounts of money.

 

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EU spy chief rules out Russian military presence in Ukraine

Published time: April 16, 2014 13:27
Pro-Russia protesters gather in front of a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine April 11, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

Pro-Russia protesters gather in front of a barricade outside a regional government building in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine April 11, 2014. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

There is no large Russian military presence in East Ukraine, head of EU intelligence, Commodore Georgij Alafuzoff, has said. The spy chief has dismissed multiple accusations from the West alleging Russian involvement in the unrest in the region.

In an interview with Finnish national news broadcaster, Yle, Alafuzoff said the Russian military had nothing to do with the seizing of government buildings in eastern Ukraine.

“In my opinion, it’s mostly people who live in the region who are not satisfied with the current state of affairs,” said Alafuzoff, referring to the situation in East Ukraine. He went on to say that the people are worried for the welfare of those who speak Russian as their first language in the region.

Alafuzoff echoed the words of the Russian government which has categorically denied interfering in the ongoing unrest. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a press conference on Monday that Moscow is not interested in destabilizing Ukraine and wants the country to remain united.

Anti-Kiev activists in the southeast of Ukraine have seized local government buildings as a mark of protest against the coup-appointed Ukrainian government. In response to the unrest, Ukraine’s interim President Aleksandr Turchinov announced the beginning of an “anti-terrorist” operation in eastern Ukraine.

 

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Dozens of Ukrainian troops surrender APCs in Slavyansk, refuse to ‘shoot at own people’ (PHOTO, VIDEO)

Published time: April 16, 2014 14:21
Edited time: April 16, 2014 20:18

Men wearing military fatigues sit by a Russian flag and a white flag reading "People's volunteer corps of Donetsk" as they ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 16, 2014. (AFP Photo)

Men wearing military fatigues sit by a Russian flag and a white flag reading “People’s volunteer corps of Donetsk” as they ride on an armoured personnel carrier (APC) in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 16, 2014. (AFP Photo)

Dozens of army troops sent to the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk for an “anti-terrorist operation” refused to follow orders and surrendered their weapons and armored vehicles. Some troops openly voiced support for the eastern Ukrainians.

Follow RT’s LIVE UPDATES on military operation in eastern Ukraine

According to Interfax, citing local self-defense activists, some 300 Ukrainian troops agreed to lay down their weapons and “go home” following negotiations in Slavyansk.

“We managed to negotiate with them. About 300 military – only some of those who closed around the city – decided to lay down their arms and go home,” a self-defense activist was quoted as saying.

Reports from the scene said that the locals would not allow the soldiers to take back the APCs, but they were allowed to keep their rifles. The people were cheering the troops.

Meanwhile, the anti-government activists guarding the armored vehicles have said that they did not “seize” them as the media claimed, and that the troops “switched sides” peacefully.

“They were not seized by the self-defense forces. In fact, the Ukrainian troops arrived here flying a Russian flag. In this way, they have taken the side of the people,” a Slavyansk activist told Russia-24 TV.

 

Photos from the scene now show women and children climbing onto the APCs and taking photos with the armed men in camouflage with St. George ribbons.

A Ukrainian soldier interviewed by RIA Novosti in Slavyansk said the troops were told they are being sent against “Russian invaders who have taken the local population hostage and are waging war at us,” and that they must “free Donbas from occupants.”

“This morning, we started our attack, but the picture we saw in Kramatorsk turned out to be completely different. We saw in front of us a crowd of locals, mostly adults, women and men. They explained to us that there are no occupants here and there is no one to fight. Instead, they gave us food and talked to us,” the soldier was quoted as saying.

He added that the troops vowed “not to follow orders to shoot at these people.” Some soldiers chose to take the side of the locals, some decided to stay “neutral.” They are now “waiting what comes next.”

Photo from Twitter/@oivshina

Photo from Twitter/@oivshina

Similar developments were also seen in another Donetsk region city, Kramatorsk, where Ukrainian troops began entering Tuesday after taking a nearby airfield by force, captured a day earlier by armed self-defense activists.

As Ukrainian armored vehicles rolled into the city’s center Wednesday, they were surrounded by locals and surrendered. Some of the APCs were filmed flying Russian flags in support of the locals. Kiev eventually confirmed that six APCs were taken away in Kramatorsk but claimed that they were “captured by the extremists.” Earlier, coup-imposed Kiev officials dismissed the news as “fake” and even claimed that by raising Russian flags the troops “infiltrated” the areas “controlled by Russian Army units and separatists.”

In the village of Pchyolkino, south of Kramatorsk, locals blocked part of a large convoy of armored vehicles. The people are demanding that the troops turn back their vehicles and leave for Dnepropetrovsk, where they are stationed.

 

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cyweb74


Local residents trying to block troops on APCs in the same region were filmed showing bullets that they say were fired by the Ukrainian military as warning shots but in the direction of the people. At least one person was injured by such warning shots, according to reports.

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Witnesses:  Fighter jet was shot down Over Kramatorsk Airport

 

© Reuters/Michael Počuev
April 15, 18:31 UTC +4

Troops land in terminal area

 

Kyiv, April 15. /ITAR-TASS/.  Fighter  shot down over Kramatorsk Airport .  Reported by eyewitnesses on the scene.
In particular, they report that four fighter jets flew over Kramatorskom  , the Su-27, allegedly opened fire over the local airfield. Whose aircraft and who is responsible for  the fighter jet is still unknown. Witnesses noted that  an ambulance arrived on the scene to tend to  victims on the airfield.
Newspaper, News of Kramatorsk”, reports that three  were circling over the airfield.   According to  information,  a group of people had gathered near the aerodrome , some of them in camouflage uniforms, many local residents with  children. According to preliminary data, shooting in the aerodrome area wounded one person.

 

About 500 troops with military equipment  entered  Slavyansk
Witnesses report that troops had landed in the terminal area, there are no  more details available at this time.
The situation in Ukraine. Chronicle of events. 15 April
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Russia, West Face Off Over Ukraine at UN

  • A pro-Russian gunman stands guard at a police station that was seized by pro-Russian militants, in the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk, April 13, 2014.

    Ukrainian, Pro-Russian Militia Sustain Casualties in Slovyansk Gunfire

Russia came under heavy criticism from world powers at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council Sunday, as violent clashes flared between pro-Russia separatists and Kyiv government supporters in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant accused Russia of orchestrating the violence.

Power said the instability in Ukraine was “completely man-made.” She said it was “written and choreographed” by Russia. Grant called on the Security Council to warn Russia against “further military escalation.”

Russia, which called the meeting, rejected the charges.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called on the international community to demand that those who are in power in Kyiv stop war on their own citizens, referring to a warning by Ukraine’s government that it will use force against pro-Russia activists in the eastern part of Ukraine if they do not disarm.

In a televised speech Sunday, Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, vowed Kyiv will not let Russia take over eastern Ukraine after its annexation of the Crimean peninsula last month.

He said he will grant amnesty to any pro-Russian separatists who lay down their weapons by Monday but vowed to use force against those who don’t.

Turchynov accused Moscow of carrying out a war against Ukraine, once part of its Soviet empire.

“Blood has been shed in a war which the Russian Federation unleashed against Ukraine. The aggressor has not stopped but continues to incite unrest in Ukraine’s east. It’s not a war between Ukrainians; it’s an artificially created confrontation, whose goal is to see Ukraine weakened and destroyed as a country. But in the end it will weaken our enemies. Russia today has drawn condemnation from the entire civilized world,” said Turchynov.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry immediately dismissed Turchynov’s order to launch the operation as “criminal” and called for its immediate review by the U.N. Security Council. A meeting is set for Sunday night.

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Obama, Putin Talk as Separatists Tighten Grip on East Ukraine

Pro-Russia demonstrators on Monday defied a government deadline to vacate occupied buildings in exchange for amnesty, as Ukraine’s interim president threatened a military crackdown.

Dozens of protesters smashed windows of the police headquarters in the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka and scuffled with police as they took control of the facility.

Obama, Putin to continue diplomacy

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged U.S. President Barack Obama to discourage the Ukrainian government from using force against protesters.

During a phone conversation Monday with Obama, the Russian leader denied claims of Russian agents’ involvement in the protests as “speculations based on unreliable information.”  Putin said the protests vented public anger about the Ukrainian government’s reluctance to recognize the interests of Russian speakers in the east.

The Kremlin said it had requested the call. The White House said the call was frank and direct.

The White House said Obama urged Russia to use its influence to get separatists in the country to stand down.

“The president emphasized that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged President Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized,” the White House said in a statement.

The two sides agreed to continue efforts to seek diplomatic cooperation in the context of the Ukrainian situation ahead of a four-party meeting (EU, Russia, U.S. and Ukraine) scheduled to take place in Geneva on April 17.

Demanding a referendum

The demonstrators are demanding a referendum on whether to split with Ukraine and join Russia – similar to last month’s vote in Crimea.

Donetsk, a province with 4.3 million people – 10 percent of Ukraine’s population – and much of its heavy industry, is the biggest prize of the eastern regions where pro-Russian separatists have captured government buildings in the past week.

Ukrainian leader Oleksandr Turchynov said he is not against a national referendum on what kind of country Ukraine should be.  He said he is certain a majority would support a united and independent Ukraine, possibly giving broader localized rights to the east.  He said such a vote could be held at the same time as the May 25 presidential election.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday he believes Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the eastern part of the country should be part of drafting a new constitution.

CIA visit

 

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“CIVIL WAR HAS BEGUN IN UKRAINE” = headline in major Russian paper this morning. No clarifying context, of course. pic.twitter.com/SGsoCw1ZeW
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RFE/RL

In Eastern Ukraine, The Hunt For A Smoking Gun — And A Real Russian Holding It

Pro-Russian gunmen stand guard outside the mayor's office in Slovyansk, Ukraine, on April 14. Can Kyiv prove some are Russian servicemen?

Pro-Russian gunmen stand guard outside the mayor’s office in Slovyansk, Ukraine, on April 14. Can Kyiv prove some are Russian servicemen?

By Daisy Sindelar
As separatists continue to hold government buildings throughout the Ukrainian east, a desperate search is on to prove that Russian forces are behind the coordinated actions, much as they were in Crimea.

The proof would cement suspicions that Russia, which has maintained a military presence on Ukraine’s eastern border for months, is preparing to further destabilize its already fragile neighbor, if not annex certain portions of it outright.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov continues to insist that Russia has none of its forces inside Ukraine.

But Western officials say they are already convinced of Russian involvement. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said the weekend instability that swept through cities like Slovyansk, Mariupol, and Kramatorsk “was choreographed in and by Russia.”

Ukrainian officials, too, have offered evidence of Russian involvement. In an interview with RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya said the armed men seizing government buildings were armed with automatic rifles used by the Russian Army, and not the types of rifles stolen from Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) forces, as many pro-Russian protesters have claimed. (Although he does not offer specific details, Deshchytsya appears to be referring to documented use of Kalashnikov AK-100 rifles, which are not part of the Ukrainian arsenal.)

But it may be Andriy Parubiy, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, who holds the true smoking gun. Parubiy, a former lawmaker and Euromaidan protest leader, announced on April 15 that SBU agents had detained officers from the Russian Defense Ministry’s main intelligence wing, the GRU, for involvement in the eastern actions.

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Lavrov denies east Ukraine unrest was conducted by supposed Russian agents

Lavrov denies east Ukraine unrest was conducted by supposed Russian agents

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denied allegations that the current unrest in southeastern Ukraine is the work of supposed Russian agents. Ukrainian acting Foreign Minister Andrei Deshchytsya called Lavrov on Saturday and, “in the course of the conversation, tried to hold Russia accountable for the aggravation of the situation in the south and southeast of Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

A statement recently published by the Russian Foreign Ministry says that there are no reasons to accuse Russia of aggravating of the situation in Ukraine’s southern and southeastern regions.

In response, Sergey Lavrov said that there are no grounds for such claims. He added that the US has already put forward similar accusations against Russia, but failed to give any concrete evidence.

Mr. Lavrov also said that Ukraine’s current authorities should try their best to prevent any acts of violence in Ukraine. The Russian minister also told his Ukrainian counterpart that Ukraine’s government should stop threats to start attacks against protesters who have occupied several buildings in the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk. Ukraine’s authorities should use only peaceful means, Mr. Lavrov said. They should start a dialogue with their opponents in the country’s south and southeast, fulfill their lawful demands and involve the opposition in the formation of Ukraine’s new constitution.

When Andrey Deshitsa asked about the possibility of holding a four-sided meeting between Russia, the US, the EU and Ukraine, Sergey Lavrov answered that preparations for such a meeting are already under way. The details of the agenda, the format and the place of this meeting are still being discussed.

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The New American

George Will Promotes Plan to Grant President Legislative Powers

Written by 

In an April 9 opinion piece published in the Washington Post, commentator George Will praises the Goldwater Institute’s Compact for America and its component calling for an Article V constitutional convention.

Will points out a few of the proposal’s “benefits,” insisting that the balanced budget amendment (BBA) that it aims to enact “delivers immediate benefits to constituents.” Unfortunately, Will’s analysis of the Compact for America ignores several of its distinctly unconstitutional provisions.

First, before state legislatures vote for an Article V con-con proposal such as the Compact for America that could cause real and radical damage to our Constitution, they should first consider whether a balanced budget amendment is necessary and whether it would actually repair the damage already done by a Congress committed to ignoring the constitutional limits on its power.

The fact is that determined citizens and state legislators could rescue the United States from its financial peril without resorting to opening up the Constitution to tinkering by 38 or more state-appointed delegates, many of whom would be bought and paid for by special interests and corporations.

Imagine for a moment the brand of “conservative” delegates that might be chosen by state partisans to represent them at an Article V convention. It isn’t unlikely that Arizona might choose John McCain, Jan Brewer, or Sandra Day O’Connor. New York might send Michael Bloomberg. South Carolina could appoint Lindsey Graham. Similar selections could be predicted in every state.

Next, there is no historical proof that a balanced budget amendment would drive Congress back to within its constitutional corral. Even the most conservative estimates indicate that about 80 percent of expenditures approved by Congress violate the U.S. Constitution. That fact wouldn’t change by adding an amendment to the Constitution.

Whether these bills spend our national treasure on unconstitutional and undeclared foreign wars, billions sent overseas in the form of foreign aid, expanding the so-called entitlement programs, or redistributing wealth via corporate and individual welfare schemes, none of these outlays is authorized by the Constitution.

And don’t forget, a committed, concerned, and constitutionally aware citizenry can balance our budget more quickly than any balanced budget amendment and without the danger of letting the wolves of special interests and their political puppets into the constitutional hen house.

Third, rather than forcing Congress to adhere to spending money in only those areas specifically permitted by the Constitution in Article I, the Compact for America’s Balanced Budget Amendment specifically allows Congress to spend money on anything, no matter how unconstitutional, so long as the amount does not exceed the limits set in Section 2 of their BBA. If approved, the CFA’s BBA would do nothing to break Congress of its unconstitutional spending habits, habits that have nearly ruined the economic might of this Republic.

In fact, under the CFA’s budget-balancing scheme, Congress could continue spending on projects and programs not authorized by the Constitution.

Section 3 of the CFA’s BBA explicitly authorizes an increase in the federal debt limit to 105 percent of the actual debt level on the effective date of this amendment. That hardly sounds like a balanced budget and is not something true conservatives should support as a remedy to a runaway federal government.

 

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Man in despair over billsOr Adding A National Sales Tax To The Income Tax?   

The stated purpose of Compact for America, Inc. is to get a balanced budget amendment (BBA) ratified.  Here is their proposed BBA.  State Legislators recently introduced it in Arizona. 1

The gap between what this BBA pretends to do – and what it actually does – is enormous. It has nothing to do with “balancing the budget” – it is about slipping in a new national sales tax or value-added tax in addition to the existing federal income tax.

We have become so shallow that we look no further than a name – if it sounds good, we are all for it.  We hear, “balanced budget amendment”, and think, “I have to balance my budget; they should have to balance theirs.”  So we don’t read the amendment, we just assume they will have to balance theirs the same way we balance ours – by cutting spending.

But that is not what the BBA does.  In effect, it redefines “balancing the budget” to mean spending no more than your income plus the additional debt you incur to finance your spending.  To illustrate:  If your income is $100,000 a year; but you spend $175,000 a year, you “balance” your budget by borrowing the additional $75,000.  See?

Under the BBA, Congress may continue to spend whatever it likes and incur as much new debt as it pleases – as long as 26 States agree.  And since the States have become major consumers of federal funding, who doubts that they can’t continue to be bought?  Federal grants make up almost 35% of the States’ annual budgets!  The States are addicted to federal funds – who thinks they won’t agree to get more money?

The BBA enshrines Debt as a permanent feature of our Country; gives it constitutional approval; does nothing to reduce spending or “balance the budget”; authorizes a new national tax; and wipes out the “enumerated powers” limitation on the federal government.

Let’s look at the BBA, section by section, using plain and honest English.  And then let’s look at how our Framers wrote our Constitution to strictly control federal spending.

Compact for America’s BBA

Section 1 says the federal government may not spend more than they take from you in taxes or add to the national debt. [Yes, you read that right.]

Section 2 accepts debt as a permanent feature of our Country – the “Authorized Debt”. This is the maximum amount of debt the federal government may incur at any given point in time.

  • Initially, when the Amendment is ratified, the “authorized debt” may not be more than 105% of the then existing national debt.  So!  If the national debt is $20 trillion when the Amendment is ratified, the federal government may not initially add more than 105% of    $20 trillion [or $1 trillion] to the national debt.
  • After that initial addition to the national debt, the “authorized debt” may not be increased unless it is approved by State Legislatures as provided in Section 3.

Section 3 says whenever Congress wants, it may increase the national debt if 26 of the State Legislatures agree.  [Yes, you read that right.]

Section 4 says whenever the national debt exceeds 98% of “the debt limit set by Section 2”, the President shall “impound” sufficient expenditures so that the national debt won’t exceed the “authorized debt”.  And if the President doesn’t do this, Congress may impeach him!

This is a hoot, Folks!  I’ll show you:

  • No debt limit is set by Section 2!  The national debt can be increased at any time if Congress gets 26 State Legislatures to agree.  Can 26 States be bought?
  • Section 6 defines “impoundment” as “a proposal not to spend all or part of a sum of money appropriated by Congress”.  Who believes Congress will impeach the President 2 for failing to “impound” an appropriation made by Congress?

Section 5 says any new or increased federal “general revenue tax” must be approved by 2/3 of the members of both houses of Congress.

Now pay attention, because this is a monstrous trick to be played on you:  Section 6 defines “general revenue tax” as “any income tax, sales tax, or value-added tax” levied by the federal government.

And when you read the first sentence of Section 5 with the definition of “general revenue taxin place of “general revenue tax”, you see that it says:

“No bill that provides for a new or increased income tax, sales tax, or value-added tax shall become law unless approved by a two-thirds roll call vote…” 

Do you see?  This permits Congress to impose a national sales tax or value added tax in addition to the income tax, 3 if 2/3 of both houses agree.  [Yes, you read that right.]

 

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Independence Hall, where the 1787 Constitution was crafted

Q: How are amendments to the federal Constitution made?

A: Article V of our Constitution provides two method of amending the Constitution:

  1. Congress proposes amendments and presents them to the States for ratification; or
  2. When 2/3 of the States apply for it, Congress calls a convention to propose amendments.

Q: Which method was used for our existing 27 amendments?

A:  The first method was used for all 27 amendments including the Bill of Rights which were introduced into Congress by James Madison. 3

Q:  Is there a difference between a constitutional convention, con con, or Article V Convention?

A:  These names have been used interchangeably during the last 50 years.

Q:  What is a “convention of states”?

A:  That is what the people pushing for an Article V convention now call it. 

Q: Who is behind this push for an Art. V convention?

A:  The push to impose a new Constitution by means of an Article V convention (and using a “balanced budget” amendment as justification) started in 1963 with the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations.  1    Today, it is pushed by:

Q:  Why do they want an Article V Convention?

A:  The only way to get rid of our existing Constitution and Bill of Rights is to have an Article V convention where they can re-write our Constitution.  Jordan Sillars, Communications Director for Michael Farris’ “Convention of States”, said:

“… 3. I think the majority of Americans are too lazy to elect honest politicians. But I think some men and women could be found who are morally and intellectually capable of re-writing the Constitution” [boldface mine].

Q: How can they impose a new constitution if ¾ of the States don’t agree to it?

A: Only amendments require ratification by ¾ of the States (see Art. V). But a new constitution would have its own new method of ratification – it can be whatever the drafters want.  For example, the proposed Constitution for the Newstates of America is ratified by a referendum called by the President.

Q: Can a convention be stopped from proposing a new Constitution?

A:  No.  Once the delegates are duly appointed & assembled, they are acting under the inherent authority of A People to alter or abolish their form of government [Declaration of Independence, 2nd para]; and have the sovereign power to do whatever they want at the convention.

Q: Is this what happened at the Federal Convention of 1787?

A:  Yes.  Pursuant to Article XIII of The Articles of Confederation, the Continental Congress resolved on February 21, 1787 (p 71-74) to call a convention to be held at Philadelphia “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation”.  But the delegates ignored this limitation and wrote a new Constitution.  Because of this inherent authority of delegatesit is impossible to stop it from happening at another convention.  And George Washington, James Madison, Ben Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton won’t be there to protect you.

Q: Did the delegates at the Convention of 1787 introduce a new mode of ratification for the new Constitution?

A:  Yes. The Articles of Confederation required the approval of all 13 States for amendments to the Articles to be ratified.  But the new Constitution provided it would become effective if only 9 of the 13 States ratified it (Art. VII, cl. 1, U.S. Constitution).

Q:  Who would be delegates at a Convention?

A:  Either Congress appoints whomever they want; or State governments appoint whomever they want.

Q: Who would be chairman at a convention?

A: We don’t know.  But chairmen have lots of power – and George Washington won’t be chairman.

Q: But if the States appoint the delegates, won’t a convention be safe?

A: Who controls your State?  They will be the ones who choose the delegates if Congress permits the States to appoint delegates.  Are the people who control your State virtuous, wise, honest, and true?  [Tell PH if they are, so she can move there.]

Q: But aren’t the States the ones to rein in the federal government?

A: They should have been, but the States have become major consumers of federal funding.  Federal funds make up almost 35% of the States’ annual budgets. The States don’t want to rein in the feds – they don’t want to lose their federal funding.

Q: Did Thomas Jefferson say the federal Constitution should be amended every 20 years?

A: No! In his letter to Samuel Kercheval of July 12, 1816, Jefferson wrote about the Constitution for the State of Virginia, which he said needed major revision.  And remember James Madison’s words in Federalist No. 45 (3rd para from the end):

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce … The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which … concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.” [boldface mine]

The powers delegated to the feds are “few and defined” – what’s to amend?  All else is reserved to the States or the People – so State Constitutions would need more frequent amendments.  Do you see?

Q:  Did Alexander Hamilton say in Federalist No 85 (next to last para) that a convention is safe?

A:  No!  He said, respecting the ratification of amendments, that we “may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority”.  But today, our State legislatures don’t protect us from federal encroachments because:

  • We have been so dumbed down by progressive education that we know nothing & can’t think;
  • State legislatures have been bought off with federal funds; and
  • Our public and personal morality is in the sewer.

Q: Did Our Framers – the ones who signed The Constitution – think conventions a fine idea?

A:  No!

“Conventions are serious things, and ought not to be repeated.”

 

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Creating A Problem 

Inciting A Reaction

Implementing A Manufactured Solution

~Desert Rose~

US considers offering military help to Ukraine – Kerry advisor

Published time: April 14, 2014 18:50

AFP Photo / Dibyangshu Sarkar

AFP Photo / Dibyangshu Sarkar

An advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the United States may decide to send arms to eastern Ukraine as tensions continue to worsen there between pro-Russian protesters and supporters of the country’s interim government.

Reuters reported on Monday that US State Department Counselor Thomas Shannon — a senior diplomat and member of Sec. Kerry’s inner circle — said the possibility of providing arms to Ukrainian forces is indeed currently on the table.

“Obviously we are looking at that as an option … but at this point I can’t anticipate whether or not we are going to do that,” Reuters quoted Shannon as saying.

The counselor’s remarks come following yet another intense weekend in Ukraine, where government buildings, a military airport and other facilities in the east of the country were reportedly seized by armed pro-Russian protesters. Weeks after a similar standoff in the adjacent peninsula of Crimea led to the severing of ties with Ukraine and the subsequent approval of a referendum agreeing to join the Russian Federation, critics in the West are questioning whether or not Moscow has been involved in the latest series of events.

“From our point of view what we are seeing in a series of cities mimics what we saw in Crimea both in terms of the tactics and in terms of the people involved,” the State Department’s Shannon told Reuters early this week. “From our point of view there is a very obvious Russian hand in all of this and we consider these actions to be destabilising and dangerous.” William Hague, Britain’s foreign ministry, has made similar remarks as well.

Thomas Shannon (AFP Photo / Nelson Almeida)

Thomas Shannon (AFP Photo / Nelson Almeida)

But Vitaly Churkin — Russia’s envoy to the United Nations — has denounced rumors of his country playing any role in the unrest as false, and the Foreign Ministry has called allegations “irresponsible.”

Also on Monday this week, Moscow’s envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said he was worried about the possibility that force would be used against pro-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine, and said he strongly believes “it might lead to a civil war.”

 

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Kerry adviser says arming Ukraine forces is an option

BERLIN Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:30am EDT

(Reuters) – The United States is considering supplying arms to Ukraine, where unrest in eastern cities bears the hallmarks of a Russian destabilization drive, an adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday.

Ukraine’s president on Monday threatened military action after pro-Russian separatists occupying government buildings in the east ignored an ultimatum to leave and another group of rebels attacked a police headquarters in the troubled region.

Asked during a trip to Berlin whether the United States could arm Ukrainian forces, senior diplomat Thomas Shannon said: “Obviously we are looking at that as an option … but at this point I can’t anticipate whether or not we are going to do that.”

Republican Senator John McCain has suggested providing weapons to the Ukraine government, which says the occupations that began on Sunday are part of a Russian-led plan to dismember the country.

 

 

 

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US ambassador to Kosovo hired by construction firm he lobbied for

  • The Guardian, Monday 14 April 2014 11.53 EDT
Christopher Dell with Kosovo PM
Christopher Dell with Kosovo PM Hashim Thaci in 2009. Dell took joined Bechtel when he finished his career at the State Department. Photo: Office of the Kosovo PM

A US ambassador to Kosovo, who lobbied for the construction of a $1bn road through the war-torn country, has taken up a post with the American construction giant that secured the lucrative contract.

Christopher Dell, a career diplomat nominated by Barack Obama to represent the US in Pristina, was employed by the Bechtel Corporation, which he helped win a contract to build a highway to neighbouring Albania.

Dell took on a role as an African country manager with Bechtel late last year, months after ending a three-decade career at the State Department.

His employment at Bechtel, America’s largest engineering and construction firm, has ignited a debate over the controversial road-building project, named the “Patriotic Highway”.

Pieter Feith, the senior EU diplomat in Kosovo when the contract was secured, criticised the way the US ambassador pushed through the deal, and has called for an inquiry. Feith accused Dell of withholding information about the Bechtel contract, and lobbying Kosovo to agree to what he describes as an ill-advised deal with a US company, which placed enormous pressure on the fledgling country’s budget.

It is routine for western ambassadors to push the business interests of companies from the countries they come from. But it is unusual for a former diplomat to land a job with a major corporation after using their sway to secure lucrative government contracts.

After he was appointed ambassador in 2009, Dell had huge influence in Kosovo, where the US is widely viewed as a supervising power and is feted for its role in securing independence for the tiny Balkan state. A statue of President Clinton adorns the capital, Pristina, and boulevards are named after George W Bush and other US officials.

As the International Civilian Representative in Kosovo between 2008 and 2012, Feith was the other major figure in the country, entrusted with wide-ranging powers by the US and EU, including the ability to overrule Kosovan officials. For several years, Feith and Dell served side by side, the two most senior foreign officials supervising Kosovo’s campaign for recognition as a sovereign state following the 1999 war.

At the time Dell was encouraging Kosovo’s government to sign the highway contract, Feith said he had grave concerns about awarding the enormous contract to a consortium consisting of Bechtel and its partner, Turkish firm Enka. Feith believed the deal risked undermining Pristina’s finances.

Feith said he clashed with Dell over the logic of an impoverished, nascent country undertaking such a huge infrastructure project, and instead argued that the money should be spent on tackling Kosovo’s unemployment rate, which stood at 40%.

Feith also said he asked to see details of the contract, which he believed was part of his mandate, but was denied access by the US embassy. “Information was withheld, and all of a sudden we were presented with a fait accompli of this contract being concluded and being a liability on the budget,” he told the Guardian.

The Bechtel-Enka deal was signed in April 2010, despite concerns from the IMF, the World Bank, EU diplomats, Feith, and the Kosovan government’s own legal adviser. Dell and the State Department declined requests for comment. Bechtel defended its employment of the former ambassador and said any suggestion that his appointment was improper was “unfair and offensive”.

But Andrea Capussela, who served as head of Feith’s economic department in Kosovo and was a vocal critic of the road-building scheme, said: “Ambassador Dell’s employment at Bechtel raises a rather serious question mark over the whole project.”

“This contract was irrational for Kosovo, and caused considerable damage to it,” he added. “The State Department would do well to investigate this.”

Feith declined to comment on Dell’s employment at Bechtel. However, he did say a wider inquiry into the probity of the highway deal was warranted, although he did not specify which organisation would conduct such an investigation.

“We have been involved in the fight against corruption in Kosovo, and anything that can help, ex-post, to clarify, elucidate or provide transparency about what has happened is beneficial for the future of the young state,” he said. “If there is an investigation, I would welcome it.”

The government in Pristina argues that the Patriotic Highway has connected northern Albania and Kosovo, replacing crumbling mountain roads with a four-lane highway, and will provide an economic injection into the region. However, critics point out that its costs have more than doubled from the original estimate.

The initial offer was to complete the Kosovo section of the highway for $555m (€400m). The price subsequently rose to $916m (€660m), to pay for 102km of road. In the end, the project cost $1.13bn (€820m) for what turned out be only a 77km stretch of highway. By comparison, Kosovo’s total government budget in 2012 was €1.5bn.

 

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Bechtel Delivers Second Stretch of the Kosovo Motorway Ahead of Schedule and Within Budget

Completion Marked With Launch of Motorway Safety Campaign

By Marketwired .  July 13, 2012 02:48 PM EDT

LONDON — (Marketwire) — 07/13/12 — Bechtel and its joint venture partner, Enka, have completed an additional 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) of the Kosovo motorway bringing the total distance completed to 26.4 miles (42.5 km). The new section, which opened today, connects to the stretch of motorway delivered in November 2011 which goes from Morinë at the border with Albania to Suhareka. The motorway now extends to the Dule interchange in Northern Kosovo. The latest stretch of motorway was built in less than a year, ahead of schedule and within budget.

“Each day we are getting closer to our dream of achieving the Kosovo motorway, thanks to Bechtel-Enka. The motorway is already making a huge difference to the lives of Kosovans with reduced journey times but people should drive safely too,” said Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi.

To mark the opening of the new motorway section, Bechtel and Enka, together with the Kosovo government, launched a new safety campaign along the Kosovo motorway with the slogan: “Yes to Safety, No to Speed.” The week-long campaign aims to encourage responsible driving on Kosovo’s first motorway and includes postcards and promotional cars along the route displaying the safety message.

“Safety is one of our core values. We hope our motorway safety awareness campaign will make drivers think twice about driving safely and not speeding on the new motorway,” said Mike Adams, president of Bechtel’s civil infrastructure unit.

When complete, the full 63.4-mile (102-km) motorway will extend from Morinë to the north of Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, and will serve as the centerpiece of Kosovo’s national transport system, helping to promote trade and economic development in Kosovo and throughout the region. The motorway is scheduled for completion in 2013.

 

 

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