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Washington, D.C. (March 12, 2012) – Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich today released the following statement after an American soldier killed at least 16 Afghan civilians, including children:
“Yesterday’s shooting in Afghanistan which left at least 16 civilians dead is a tipping point. This shooting follows days of deadly rioting after it was revealed that U.S. troops had incinerated copies of the Koran. Despite more than a decade at war and nearly $600 billion of U.S. tax-payer dollars, it is obvious that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan has created instability in that country, not stability.”
“According to a recent Washington Post poll, more than half of the American public wants the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan before it can complete its stated mission of training Afghan troops. Increasing anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan has placed U.S. troops at great risk. There is no amount of troops, training or money that will result in a stable Afghanistan. It is time to bring the troops home now.”
Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Through Diplomacy Act (Introduced in House - IH)
H. R. 4173
To direct the President of the United States to appoint a high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran for the purpose of ensuring that the United States pursues all diplomatic avenues to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, to avoid a war with Iran, and for other purposes.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
March 8, 2012
Ms. LEE of California (for herself, Mr. JONES, Mr. CONYERS, Ms. WOOLSEY, Mr. KUCINICH, Ms. WATERS, Mr. STARK, Mr. ELLISON, Mr. FILNER, and Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
To direct the President of the United States to appoint a high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran for the purpose of ensuring that the United States pursues all diplomatic avenues to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, to avoid a war with Iran, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Stop War Through Diplomacy Act'.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress finds the following:
(1) In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on December 10, 2009, President Obama said, `I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach--and condemnation without discussion--can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.'
(2) In his address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on March 4, 2012, President Obama said, `I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power. A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort to impose crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.'
(3) While the Obama Administration has rejected failed policies of the past by engaging in negotiations with Iran without preconditions, only four of such meetings have occurred.
(4) Official representatives of the United States and official representatives of Iran have held only two direct, bilateral meetings in over 30 years, both of which occurred in October 2009, one on the sidelines of the United Nations Security Council negotiations in Geneva, and one on the sidelines of negotiations brokered by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (referred to in this Act as the `IAEA') in Vienna.
(5) All of the outstanding issues between the United States and Iran cannot be resolved instantaneously. Resolving such issues will require a robust, sustained effort.
(6) Under the Department of State's current `no contact' policy, officers and employees of the Department of State are not permitted to make any direct contact with official representatives of the Government of Iran without express prior authorization from the Secretary of State.
(7) On September 20, 2011, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, called for establishing direct communications with Iran, stating, `I'm talking about any channel that's open. We've not had a direct link of communication with Iran since 1979. And I think that has planted many seeds for miscalculation. When you miscalculate, you can escalate and misunderstand.'
(8) On November 8, 2011, the IAEA issued a report about Iran's nuclear program and expressed concerns about Iran's past and ongoing nuclear activities.
(9) On December 2, 2011, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned that an attack on Iran would result in `an escalation that would take place that would not only involve many lives, but I think it could consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret.'
SEC. 3. STATEMENT OF POLICY.
It should be the policy of the United States--
(1) to prevent Iran from pursuing or acquiring a nuclear weapon and to resolve the concerns of the United States and of the international community about Iran's nuclear program and Iran's human rights obligations under international and Iranian law;
(2) to ensure inspection of cargo to or from Iran, as well as the seizure and disposal of prohibited items, as authorized by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 (June 9, 2010);
(3) to pursue sustained, direct, bilateral negotiations with the Government of Iran without preconditions in order to reduce tensions, prevent war, prevent nuclear proliferation, support human rights, and seek resolutions to issues that concern the United States and the international community;
(4) to utilize all diplomatic tools, including direct talks, targeted sanctions, Track II diplomacy, creating a special envoy described in section 4, and enlisting the support of all interested parties, for the purpose of establishing an agreement with Iran to put in place a program that includes international safeguards, guarantees, and robust transparency measures that provide for full IAEA oversight of Iran's nuclear program, including rigorous, ongoing inspections, in order to verify that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes and that Iran is not engaged in nuclear weapons work;
(5) to pursue opportunities to build mutual trust and to foster sustained negotiations in good faith with Iran, including pursuing a fuel swap deal to remove quantities of low enriched uranium from Iran and to refuel the Tehran Research Reactor, similar to the structure of the deal that the IAEA, the United States, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany first proposed in October 2009;
(6) to explore areas of mutual benefit to both Iran and the United States, such as regional security, the long-term stabilization of Iraq and Afghanistan, the establishment of a framework for peaceful nuclear energy production, other peaceful energy modernization programs, and counter-narcotics efforts; and
(7) that no funds appropriated or otherwise made available to any executive agency of the Government of the United States may be used to carry out any military operation or activity against Iran unless the President determines that a military operation or activity is warranted and seeks express prior authorization by Congress, as required under article I, section 8, clause 2 of the United States Constitution, which grants Congress the sole authority to declare war, except that this requirement shall not apply to a military operation or activity--
(A) to directly repel an offensive military action launched from within the territory of Iran against the United States or any ally with whom the United States has a mutual defense assistance agreement;
(B) in hot pursuit of forces that engage in an offensive military action outside the territory of Iran against United States forces or an ally with whom the United States has a mutual defense assistance agreement and then enter into the territory of Iran; or
(C) to directly thwart an imminent offensive military action to be launched from within the territory of Iran against United States forces or an ally with whom the United States has a mutual defense assistance agreement.
SEC. 4. APPOINTMENT OF HIGH-LEVEL U.S. REPRESENTATIVE OR SPECIAL ENVOY.
(a) Appointment- At the earliest possible date, the President, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall appoint a high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran.
(b) Criteria for Appointment- The President shall appoint an individual under subsection (a) on the basis of the individual's knowledge and understanding of the issues regarding Iran's nuclear program, experience in conducting international negotiations, and ability to conduct negotiations under subsection (c) with the respect and trust of the parties involved in the negotiations.
(c) Duties- The high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran shall--
(1) seek to facilitate direct, unconditional, bilateral negotiations with Iran for the purpose of easing tensions and normalizing relations between the United States and Iran;
(2) lead the diplomatic efforts of the Government of the United States with regard to Iran;
(3) consult with other countries and international organizations, including countries in the region, where appropriate and when necessary to achieve the purpose set forth in paragraph (1);
(4) act as liaison with United States and international intelligence agencies where appropriate and when necessary to achieve the purpose set for in paragraph (1); and
(5) ensure that the bilateral negotiations under paragraph (1) complement the ongoing international negotiations with Iran.
SEC. 5. DUTIES OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE.
(a) Elimination of `No Contact' Policy- Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall rescind the `no contact' policy that prevents officers and employees of the Department of State from making any direct contact with official representatives of the Government of Iran without express prior authorization from the Secretary of State.
(b) Office of High-Level U.S. Representative or Special Envoy- Not later than 30 days after the appointment of a high-level United States representative or special envoy under section 4(a), the Secretary of State shall establish an office in the Department of State for the purpose of supporting the work of the representative or special envoy.
SEC. 6. REPORTING TO CONGRESS.
(a) Reports- Not later than 60 days after the high-level United States representative or special envoy for Iran is appointed under section 4, and every 180 days thereafter, the United States representative or special envoy shall report to the committees set forth in subsection (b) on the steps that have been taken to facilitate direct, bilateral diplomacy with the government of Iran under section 4(c). Each such report may, when necessary or appropriate, be submitted in classified and unclassified form.
(b) Committees- The committees referred to in subsection (a) are--
(1) the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives; and
(2) the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate.
SEC. 7. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act such sums as may be necessary for each of fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
If Congressman Dennis Kucinich becomes simply Dennis Kucinich sans the "Congressman" his value to the peace movement need not diminish.
I admit it's been nice having someone in Congress who would say and do what he would. There have been and remain other relatively strong voices for peace, but none as strong as Kucinich's. His resolutions have forced the debates. His bills have changed the conversation. His questioning of witnesses has afflicted the comfortable while seeking to comfort the afflicted. Perhaps Congressman Norman Solomon will pick up the baton. Time will tell.
We need his voice in Congress
This is your last chance to help Dennis Kucinich win his tough primary fight.
The election is Tuesday.
If you want to help one of our truly great progressive members of Congress, you need to act now.
Click here to donate to the Kucinich campaign. Any amount helps!
I know you remember when Dennis stood up as that first brave and prophetic voice against the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq.
I know you remember when he brought articles of impeachment to the House floor, a lonely progressive, trying to defend the Constitution against the illegal and immoral acts of the Bush/Cheney crowd.
I know you remember when he was the last member of Congress publicly defending single-payer health care for all.
I know you remember when he was one of the few who voted "no" on the original Patriot Act. Remember why? He read it.
And I know you understand that Dennis is still fighting these battles today, one of the few still standing up to prevent the deja vu of an attack on Iran, under the same false pretenses as the attack on Iraq a decade ago.
No one else has a record of leading the progressive struggles we care about like Dennis Kucinich. Shouldn't we be doing everything we can to keep him in Congress?
Think of how much we will miss him next year, if Dennis is not there to hold the warmongers accountable, to raise his passionate and intelligent voice for peace, to keep pressing for Medicare for All.
Click here to make a last-minute donation to Dennis. We need him back in Washington!
Then pass this email on to all your lists, call your friends in northwest Ohio, to make sure they vote for Dennis on Tuesday.
Dennis Kucinich helped PDA get off the ground back in the summer of 2004. With your help, we can keep working together for a better nation.
Thanks for all you do,
Tim Carpenter & Steve Cobble of PDA
Last chance--donate to Dennis now. The election in Ohio is Tuesday!
|Paid for by Progressive Democrats of America (http://www.pdamerica.org)
Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee
New bill passed by Congress makes it a felony to protest or assemble nearby protected government officials
The House of Representatives approved a bill on Monday that outlaws protests or civilian intrusions in any area where government officials are nearby, tearing away at the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.
The new legislation would make it a federal offense for anyone to protest or assemble without permission on grounds where the Secret Service is protecting a government official or any building or grounds “restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”
The language of the bill is incredibly broad and open to the interpretation of prosecutors. Starting with making it illegal to trespass on the grounds of the White House, the grounds or buildings included as off-limits even cover those that the President – or whatever other official protected by the Secret Service – is residing temporarily. It would even include a peaceful protest outside a presidential candidate’s concession speech, for example.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) was one of only three in the House to vote against the bill. On his official Facebook account on Tuesday, Rep. Amash wrote, “The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect it’s illegal.”
“Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights,” he added.
The bill already passed the Senate on February 6 and has only to be signed by President Obama to become law. The government already has inordinate ability to crush free speech, silence protesters, and arrest civilians peacefully assembling, but this legislation would mark the beginning of the end of the First Amendment.
They do make a lot of good statements, but they don't act on them. Consider this from Gaius Publius at AMERICAblog:
. . . Our caucus is not totally ineffective, however. They do statement-making very well — just like I showed you at the start of this post. I'm proud of their statements, and I'm very glad they make them. But I think they have a name problem.
So I'm going to rename them — The Progressive Statement Caucus.
There. And I entirely support their ... statements.
(I told you I'd be writing about effective progressive coalitions. This is just a start. Do you think the phrase "party loyalist" is going to turn up? And not in a good way?)
A letter received by Lisa Savage:
Thank you for contacting me regarding defense spending. Maine has unique needs that often require bi-partisan solutions, focused attention and thinking outside of the box. That is why I appreciate your taking the time to get in touch with me and why I come home to Maine nearly every weekend.I share your concern that we continue to pour money into our defense budget, and I believe that it should not be exempted from the fiscal reforms that our country so desperately needs. Moreover, during these tough economic times, I believe it is irresponsible to force cuts to social service and support programs that help people get back on their feet without addressing our bloated defense budget.The Budget Control Act (BCA), which raised the debt ceiling this summer, established a committee to trim the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Without a deal, a set of automatic spending reductions in defense and non-defense programs could begin to impact programs as early as January of 2013.I am deeply frustrated by the committee’s failure to reach an agreement. Washington seems to be more interested in posturing and scoring political points than coming together to find real solutions to our current deficit crisis. I think we need to take a more balanced approach that doesn’t threaten our economic recovery or place overwhelming burdens on our most vulnerable citizens, seniors and veterans. Congress should agree on such a framework before 2013 in order to avert arbitrary across the board spending cuts laid out in the BCA.In that framework, we must responsibly address our country’s fiscal challenges, and that means tough choices are ahead. All government spending must be held to a higher standard, including our defense and military spending, and I will work to ensure that Congress takes a balanced approach to reducing our deficit.Thank you again for sharing your views with me. In addition, I also provide occasional email updates on a range of issues affecting people in Maine. If you would like to receive this information, please visit my website at https://michaud.house.gov/contact-mike/newsletter and sign up for my email newsletter. I appreciate the opportunity to represent Maine in Congress.With warmest regards,Michael H. Michaud
Member of Congress
By John Grant
The United States is finding the occupation of other nations more and more challenging. Consider the burning of Korans in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the bombing deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers and a host of other recent disasters. Economic challenges at home only add to the difficulty.
In such a frustrating quandary, Washington and Pentagon leaders are falling back on what they feel the US does best: Secret killing.
RALEIGH, NC -- In an odd political bedfellows moment, three North Carolina congressmen - two progressive Democrats and one religious-right Republican - joined forces Monday to urge the Obama administration to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
At an anti-war town hall meeting in the Legislative Building, Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones and Democratic U.S. Reps.David Price and Brad Miller sought to keep the pressure on the administration to end the American combat operations by the middle of 2013.
"Our concern is that too many times, administrations will say that the date for coming home is a year from now, 18 months from now, 24 months from now, and we the American people just accept it," Jones told 150 people in the legislative auditorium.
"Bull," Jones said. "You can't trust any of them. I'm talking about both parties."
By George Zornick, The Nation
As budget wonks comb over President Obama’s outline for fiscal year 2013, a startling White House plan has become clear: the administration is seeking to undo some mandatory cuts to the Pentagon at the expense of critical domestic programs. It does so by basically undoing the defense sequester that kicked in as a result of the Congressional supercommittee on debt. This wasn’t a featured part of the White House budget rollout, and for good reason—it undercuts the administration’s carefully crafted message of benevolent government action and economic fairness.
Kucinich welcomed Dr.
Do not outsource the war in Afghanistan - end the war!
From: The Honorable Barbara Lee
Did you know that more military contractors died in Afghanistan last year than U.S. soldiers?
I urge you to read the New York Times article from this past Saturday detailing the privatization of the war in Afghanistan. The switch over to private contractors over military professionals raises serious concerns about Congress’ role in overseeing the war effort.
By John Nichols, The Nation
The Constitution of the United States can be amended in two formal ways: from the top down and from the bottom up.
But New Mexico legislators have found a third way and, hopefully, other state legislators around the country will follow their lead.
The US Constitution is traditionally amended via a process that begins with the endorsement of an amendment by the US House and US Senate and then the ratification of that amendment by the requisite three-fourths of state legislatures. That’s the top-down route. The bottom-up route begins when two-thirds of the state legislatures ask Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments.
By Dave Lindorff
The attacks and attempted attacks this week on Israeli embassy personnel in Georgia, India and Thailand should serve as a serious warning to the people of both Israel and the US that there will be an increasingly heavy price to pay for the kind of government-sponsored terror that both countries have long practiced, and that too many Americans and Israelis have mindlessly cheered on.
The technology of terror has become so wide-spread, and the materials needed to construct magnetically-attached car bombs, cell-phone detonators, armor-piercing IEDs, diesel/fertilizer bombs and the like, so accessable at consumer shops, hardware stores and local junkyards, that any government, and even any relatively savvy non-government group, can assemble and employ them.
On February 1, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the United States will end its combat missions in Afghanistan by “mid- to the latter part of 2013.”
This announcement – whether intended by the Obama Administration at this time is not clear – marks a welcome and accelerated withdrawal timetable. Previously, combat operations were supposed to end in 2014.
The New York Times called the pronouncement “a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan.”
The sooner American military forces exit from Afghanistan – after spending so many lives and treasure – the better.
This step was pressed for in amendments offered last year in the Senate by Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and in the House by Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC).
Many questions still remain. While Sec. Panetta has indicated a shift towards an "training, advice and assist" role, there has been too little clarity on what this means, including whether there will be what Panetta calls “an enduring presence” in Afghanistan that could continue for years and what will be the actual timetable for the withdrawal.
In support of the Administration’s decision, a bipartisan group of six House members is circulated for signatures a letter to go to President Obama.
The 20 signers thus far as of 2/8 are (and this list will be updated daily):
Justin Amash (MI)
Bruce Braley (IA)
Lois Capps (CA)
Judy Chu (CA)
John Conyers, Jr. (MI)
Jimmy Duncan, Jr. (TN)
Sam Farr (CA)
John Garamendi (CA)
Raul Grijalva (AZ)
Janice Hahn (CA)
Martin Heinrich (NM)
Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL)
Walter Jones (NC)
Barbara Lee (CA)
John Lewis (GA)
Ben Ray Luján (NM)
Jim McGovern (MA)
Gary Peters (MI)
Henry Waxman (CA)
Lynn Woolsey (CA)
The letter follows:
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We write to express our support for the Administration’s announcement on February 1st that the United States will complete combat operations in Afghanistan by the end of next year.
From information reported in the media, the U.S. intends to transition from major combat operations in Afghanistan to a “training, advice and assist role” by the middle-to-latter part of 2013. We applaud this announcement by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to accelerate the transition away from combat operations, and it provides assurance that the timeframe outlined in your 2009 speech at West Point will be carried out. As you know, many of us support an even more rapid withdrawal of all our troops from Afghanistan.
The majority of Americans want a safe and orderly military withdrawal from Afghanistan as quickly as possible, as recent public opinion polls indicate. The desire by the American people for an accelerated transition in Afghanistan was reflected in votes taken in Congress last year, in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate during their respective debates on amendments offered by Representatives McGovern and Jones and by Senator Merkley to the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. These votes show there is strong bipartisan political support to take bold steps regarding U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
The past 10 years have cost America dearly in the blood and sacrifice of our military servicemen and women and their families, and in our nation’s fiscal health and security. The United States intervened in Afghanistan to destroy al Qaeda’s safe haven, remove th Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, and pursue those who planned the September 11th attacks on the United States; those objectives have largely been met and no longer require a large presence of combat troops in Afghanistan. While questions remain about the details of the announced transition – when and how quickly U.S. troops will be coming home, the number and purpose of troops that might remain in Afghanistan and for how long a period, the costs and the savings of accelerating the completion of combat operations – the February 1st announcement clearly signals that now is the moment to initiate the transition, end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home.
Members of Congress
Excerpted from Sarah Anderson at IPS:
Key elements of tax reform to reverse extreme inequality
This section draws heavily from the forthcoming book by my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Chuck Collins, 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It (Berrett-Koehler, March 2012).
New income tax brackets for the 1 percent. Under our current tax rate structure, households with incomes over $350,000 pay the same top income tax rate as households with incomes over $10 million. In the 1950s, there were 16 additional tax rates over the highest rate (35 percent) that we have today.
A tax on financial speculation. The richest 1 percent of Americans contributed to the 2008 economic meltdown by moving vast amounts of wealth into the speculative shadow banking system. Our society is still paying the mammoth social costs of this meltdown — through home foreclosures, unemployment, and the destruction of personal savings. A modest federal tax on every transaction that involves the buying and selling of stocks and other financial products would both generate substantial revenue and dampen short-term speculation. For ordinary investors, the cost would be negligible. A financial speculation tax would amount to a tiny insurance fee to protect against financial instability.
A higher tax rate on income from wealth. Giving tax advantages to income from wealth also encourages short-term speculation. With carefully structured rate reform, we can end this preferential treatment for capital gains and dividends and, as Warren Buffett and other analysts have noted, encourage long-term investing.
A progressive estate tax on the fortunes of the 1 percent. The wealthiest Americans have all benefited from generations of investments in pubic goods that have left the United States with an infrastructure — in everything from education and roads to dispute resolution — that enables wealth creation. Our wealthy have a responsibility to give back to the society that has given them so much. The current estate tax on inherited wealth stands at 35 percent and only applies to estates over $5 million ($10 million for a couple). Congress could raise additional revenue from those with the greatest capacity to pay by establishing a progressive estate tax with graduated rates and a 10 percent surtax on the value of an estate above $500 million, or $1 billion for a couple.
An end to tax haven abuse. By one estimate, the use of tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals costs the federal treasury $100 billion a year.23 These havens are transferring wealth out of local communities into the foreign bank accounts of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful.24 Tax havens, or more accurately “secrecy jurisdictions,” can also facilitate criminal activity, from drug money laundering to the financing of terrorist networks.
A wealth tax on the top 1 percent. A “net worth tax” could be levied on household assets, including real estate, cash, investment funds, savings in insurance and pension plans, and personal trusts. Such a tax could be calibrated to tax wealth only above a certain threshold. For example, France’s solidarity tax on wealth only kicks in on asset value in excess of $1.1 million.
The elimination on the cap on social security withholding taxes. Extending the payroll tax to cover all wages, not just wage income up to $110,100, would be an important step. Some of our richest Americans are done paying withholding taxes in January, while ordinary working people pay all year.
Our current levels of extreme inequality did not suddenly appear. They have grown steadily over the past 30 years. Reversing this inequality trend will be a long-term challenge. But we have transformed a highly divided nation into a more stable and equitable society before. We can certainly do it again.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 3, 2012) -- Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today sent the following message to his colleagues in Congress.
See video here.
During an interview last month on CBS’ Face the Nation, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta set the record straight on Iran: “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No.” But if you read recent news reports lately, you’d think otherwise.
The media coverage on Iran is mirroring the coverage in the lead-up to the Iraq war: grand claims about a smoking gun that doesn’t exist. For example, The New York Times incorrectly reported last month that the latest International Atomic Emergency Agency (IAEA) report on Iran concluded that their nuclear program had a military objective. The paper’s public editor, Arthur Brisbane, was forced to acknowledge their mistake and wrote: “Some readers, mindful of the faulty intelligence and reporting about Saddam Hussein’s weapons program, are watching the Iran nuclear coverage very closely.” Other media outlets such as National Public Radio, PBS and The Washington Post have been challenged on their coverage too.
A recent publication from the Center for Strategic and International Studies titled “The IAEA’s Iran Report and Misplaced Paranoia,” noted that “With few exceptions, these revelations are not exactly new. More importantly, neither is the thrust of the report: that Iran is developing some capabilities that can only be understood as preliminaries to the development of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, early coverage of the report’s release gives the opposite impression.”
Many have recognized that the media failed to do its job in the lead-up to the Iraq war. The potential consequences of treading on that same path with Iran are grave. The U.S. has thus far spent over $1.2 trillion of borrowed money on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military action against Iran would be disastrous for the region and for U.S. moral standing. A serious diplomatic track based on mutual trust and respect is the only way to achieve increased transparency.
Dennis J. Kucinich
Member of Congress
By Dave Lindorff
Let’s see now. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence who oversees both the FBI and the CIA, is warning that Iran’s leaders have “changed their calculus” and, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, “now appear willing to conduct an attack within the US.”
Speaking at a Join Intelligence Committee hearing in Congress, the aptly-named Clapper said that Iranian leaders, “probably including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei” are “now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States as a response to real or perceived actions that threaten the regime.”
Well gee, that sure should come as a shocker.
Imagine if a bunch of the craziest war-hungry Republicans in the House filmed themselves in a nutty bat-guano video packed with lies addressed to the President of the United States. And then imagine President Barack Obama almost immediately agreeing with them. I can think of two ways in which such a series of events could go unnoticed, as it just has.
First, it could be about something insignificant. But this was about undoing the automatic cuts to the military mandated by the failure of the Supercommittee (remember, the top news story of a few months back?). The military, across various departments, swallows over half of federal discretionary spending, and there's no greater obsession in the corporate media than the great Spending vs. Cuts issue. This is NOT insignificant.
Second, it could be about something that the elites of both major parties agree on, the media therefore ignores, most Republican voters love, and Democratic voters pretend not to notice because the President is a Democrat and an election is less than a year away.
If you're guessing the second option, you are right. (Tell them what they've won, Leon!) You are now the proud owners of the most expensive military ever seen, plus coming increases that will be presented as "cuts."
When the Supercommittee failed, automatic federal budget cuts were to kick in -- half to things we need and half to the bloated military. The military cuts would take us back to 2004 spending. We seem to have survived 2004 and the years preceding it OK.
The Pentagon claims to be making other cuts already, but they are "cuts" to dream budgets resulting in actual budget increases -- and that's not even counting increased war spending through other departments.
House Republicans have sent President Obama this crazy video opposing military cuts and introduced legislation to slash 10% of non-military government jobs instead. In the Senate, John McCain is said to be working on a similar bill.
Meanwhile "Defense" Secretary Leon Panetta has just announced the Obama Administration's position: They will oppose the automatic cuts, or any other actual cuts, to the military. This will mean severe cuts to education, transportation, and -- as President Obama indicated in his State of the Union speech -- to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
At last Thursday's press conference the first question following Panetta's remarks was:
"Mr. Secretary, you talked a little bit on this, but over the next 10 years, do you see any other year than this year where the actual spending will go down from year to year? And just to the American public more broadly, how do you sort of explain what appears to be contradictory, as you talk about, repeatedly, this $500 billion in cuts in a Defense Department budget that is actually going to be increasing over time?"
Panetta had no substantive answer. And he didn't need one. The media almost unanimously put out the false story that the military was undergoing serious cuts. That first year's cut, by the way, is 1%, to be followed by nine years of larger increases.
You might have forgotten that in 2008, three times in three presidential debates, Senator John McCain proposed cutting the military, while Senator Obama campaigned on increasing it -- one promise he has actually kept.
Lately supporters have been saying that the President will become the Obama of our Dreams once he's a lame duck. But the history and the logic of lame duck officials is that they become less, not more, representative of the public will. And the public will is strongly in favor of major cuts to the military.
Others may be inclined to suggest that while Obama and Panetta are increasing the military and calling it "cuts," they are actually cutting the budget for wars. Some may have been misled by this line in the State of the Union: "Take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home."
But in reality, Obama and Panetta are proposing to cut the war budget by only $27 billion. Meanwhile, the $27 billion has already been spent elsewhere in the Pentagon budget. Plus military spending is on the rise in other departments. Plus any new wars and confrontations -- like in Iran or Syria -- will offer the opportunity for supplemental bills. And less expensive but more secretive and equally deadly wars are underway, investment will increase in drones and special forces, and I have doubts we could rebuild our nation here at home for $13.5 billion even if we had it, while continuing to dump over $1 trillion into preparations for the crime of war year after year.
We do have the option to resist.
Avoiding Disaster: The Consequences of Attacking Iran, and its Alternatives
- A Briefing on Middle East Security and Global Terrorism -
· Paul R. Pillar, Georgetown University, Professor and Former National Intelligence Officer
· Geneive Abdo, The Century Foundation, Director of the insideIRAN project
· Jamal Abdi, National Iranian American Council, Director of Policy
· Heather Hurlburt, National Security Network, Executive Director
· Alejandro J. Beutel (Moderator), Muslim Public Affairs Council, Government & Policy Analyst
Monday, January 30, 2012
121 Cannon HOB
- Lunch will be served -
Rising tension with Iran has led some in Washington to wonder if the United States is inevitably sliding toward war. Iranian officials recently threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for nearly one-fifth of the world’s oil, and an Iranian nuclear scientist was mysteriously assassinated in the fourth such attack in two years.
Sometimes lacking from these discussions is serious consideration of the potential consequences of a preemptive military strike against Iran. Many believe that such an attack could quickly escalate into a regional war.
In order to discuss the potential consequences of a military strike against Iran, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is hosting a briefing with some of the nation’s top Iran and U.S. national security experts.
Would a military strike eliminate Iranian ability to develop a nuclear weapon? How would an attack affect regional and U.S. security? What would be the effect on oil prices and the global economy? How would an attack affect the Iranian regime and pro-democracy activists?
Keith Ellison Barbara Lee
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Lee: National Strength Tied to Economic Strength
Members join Lee in penning letter to President asking for restraint on military spending
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued the following statement in response to the Pentagon’s preview of the 2013 budget request:
By Steven Kull, World Public Opinion .org
This article was originally published in tandem with an article by R. Jeffrey Smith on IWatch, a publication of the Center for Public Integrity.
What do average Americans say when they are faced with the budget tradeoffs on national security that policymakers face today? When polls ask in the abstract about defense spending, Americans are often reluctant to cut it. However when Americans are asked to consider the deficit and presented with tradeoffs, majorities cut defense and cut it more than any other area of the budget. Furthermore when they learn how much of the budget goes to defense, large majorities cut it, on average quite deeply.
(Image Credit: Greg West)
This issue has become confused in public discussion, because many polls simply ask Americans whether they favor cutting defense, increasing it, or keeping it the same. These find that more favor cuts than increases, but those favoring cuts are still fewer than half of those surveyed. A February 2011 Pew poll found only 30% ready to cut, while fewer (13%) favored increases, and most (53%) said they accepted current levels.
When pollsters frame the issue in terms of the budget deficit, the number ready to cut defense may rise to about half. Most recently, an October Washington Post/Bloomberg Poll asked respondents whether they supported or opposed "reducing military spending" to help reduce the nation's budget deficit. Fifty-one percent supported it and 42 percent were opposed. Some polls have found lower numbers in support.
As respondents are given more information, support for reductions rises. When Quinnipiac University in March simply told respondents that defense, Social Security and Medicare together constitute more than half of the federal budget, 54% favored cutting defense spending.
And when they are asked to choose between defense and other programs, defense is consistently the most popular program to cut. When CBS/NY Times, on several occasions over the least year asked respondents to choose where they would prefer to cut Medicare, social security or the military, 45-55 percent chose the military, 16-21 percent Medicare, 13-17 percent Social Security.
If respondents are given choices between large and small cuts, overall support for cutting rises even more. In a Kaiser Foundation poll conducted in September, 67% favored some reduction in defense to address the deficit, with 28% favoring a major reduction and 39% a minor reduction.
In this new report (PDF), the Congressional Research Service gives its stamp of approval to law-altering presidential signing statements, emphasizing that both Obama and Bush used them, and blurring the distinction between how these presidents and their predecessors (Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton) used them. The CRS is "nonpartisan" in the sense of "bipartisan." When both parties do it, that means it is not illegal.
Note the false claim that cuts have already been made. Cuts to dream budgets are not cuts to actual spending. Note the use of dollar figures arrived at by combining 10 years of budgets to make possible cuts sound large, as viewers assume a single year's budget is under discussion. Note the pretense that the automatic cuts will all be made to the military, whereas the law actually permits making them to the State Department and other areas as well. Note the claim that they will save jobs by cutting 10% of public jobs, as if military jobs are jobs and non-military jobs are not, even though the same dollars produce more jobs when spent in non-military industries. And of course there is no mention here of how enormous U.S. military spending is in comparison with the rest of the world.
Here's the bill: HR3662. Thanks to Mike Prokosch for pointing this out.
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Down Payment to Protect National Security Act of 2011'.
SEC. 2. REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES.
(a) Definition- In this section, the term `agency' means an executive agency as defined under section 105 of title 5, United States Code.
(b) Determination of Number of Employees- Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall determine the number of full-time employees employed in each agency. The head of each agency shall cooperate with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget in making the determinations.
(c) Replacement Hire Rate-
(1) IN GENERAL- During the period described under paragraph (2), the head of each agency may hire no more than 1 employee in that agency for every 3 employees who leave employment in that agency.
(2) PERIOD OF REPLACEMENT HIRE RATE- Paragraph (1) shall apply to each agency during the period beginning 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act through the date on which the Director of the Office of Management and Budget makes a determination that the number of full-time employees employed in that agency is 10 percent less than the number of full-time employees employed in that agency determined under subsection (a).
(d) Waivers- This section may be waived upon a determination by the President that--
(1) the existence of a state of war or other national security concern so requires; or
(2) the existence of an extraordinary emergency threatening life, health, public safety, property, or the environment so requires.
SEC. 3. REDUCTION OF DISCRETIONARY SPENDING LIMITS TO ACHIEVE SAVINGS FROM FEDERAL EMPLOYEE PROVISIONS.
Section 251(c) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 is amended to read as follows:
`(c) Discretionary Spending Limit- As used in this part, the term `discretionary spending limit' means--
`(1) with respect to fiscal year 2012--
`(A) for the security category, $684,000,000,000 in new budget authority; and
`(B) for the nonsecurity category, $359,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(2) with respect to fiscal year 2013--
`(A) for the security category, $686,000,000,000 in new budget authority; and
`(B) for the nonsecurity category, $361,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(3) with respect to fiscal year 2014, for the discretionary category, $1,051,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(4) with respect to fiscal year 2015, for the discretionary category, $1,070,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(5) with respect to fiscal year 2016, for the discretionary category, $1,091,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(6) with respect to fiscal year 2017, for the discretionary category, $1,115,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(7) with respect to fiscal year 2018, for the discretionary category, $1,141,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(8) with respect to fiscal year 2019, for the discretionary category, $1,166,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
`(9) with respect to fiscal year 2020, for the discretionary category, $1,192,000,000,000 in new budget authority; and
`(10) with respect to fiscal year 2021, for the discretionary category, $1,217,000,000,000 in new budget authority;
as adjusted in strict conformance with subsection (b).'.
SEC. 4. REDUCTION OF REVISED DISCRETIONARY SPENDING LIMITS TO ACHIEVE SAVINGS FROM FEDERAL EMPLOYEE PROVISIONS.
Paragraph (2) of section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 is amended to read as follows:
`(2) REVISED DISCRETIONARY SPENDING LIMITS- The discretionary spending limits for fiscal years 2013 through 2021 under section 251(c) shall be replaced with the following:
`(A) For fiscal year 2013--
`(i) for the security category, $546,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $501,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(B) For fiscal year 2014--
`(i) for the security category, $551,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $500,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(C) For fiscal year 2015--
`(i) for the security category, $560,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $510,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(D) For fiscal year 2016--
`(i) for the security category, $571,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $520,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(E) For fiscal year 2017--
`(i) for the security category, $584,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $531,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(F) For fiscal year 2018--
`(i) for the security category, $598,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $543,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(G) For fiscal year 2019--
`(i) for the security category, $610,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $556,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(H) For fiscal year 2020--
`(i) for the security category, $624,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $568,000,000,000 in budget authority.
`(I) For fiscal year 2021--
`(i) for the security category, $638,000,000,000 in budget authority; and
`(ii) for the nonsecurity category, $579,000,000,000 in budget authority.'.
SEC. 5. CALCULATION OF TOTAL DEFICIT REDUCTION.
Section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 is amended--
(1) in paragraph (3)(A), by striking `$1,200,000,000,000' and inserting `$1,073,000,000,000';
(2) in paragraph (4), by striking `On January 2, 2013, for fiscal year 2013, and in' and inserting `In';
(3) in paragraphs (5) and (6), by striking `2013' each place it appears and inserting `2014'; and
(4) in paragraph (7), by striking subparagraph (A) and by striking `(B) FISCAL YEARS 2014-2021- ', moving the remaining text 2 ems to the left, and redesignating clauses (i) and (ii) as subparagraphs (A) and (B), respectively.
A 24-member delegation from Japan is in Washington, D.C., this week opposing the presence and new construction of U.S. military bases in Okinawa. Participating are members of the Japanese House of Councilors, of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, and of city governments in Okinawa, as well as leading protest organizers and the heads of several important organizations opposed to the ongoing U.S. military occupation of Okinawa.
The famously stingy U.S. tax payer, frequently seen bitterly protesting outrageously wasteful spending of a few million dollars, is paying billions of dollars to maintain and expand some 90 military bases in Japan (and to make those who profit from such business filthy rich). Thirty-four of those bases, containing 74% of their total land area, are in Okinawa, which itself contains only 0.6% of Japanese land. Okinawa is dominated by U.S. military bases and has been for 67 years since the U.S. forcibly appropriated much of the best land.
The people of Okinawa tell pollsters year after year that they oppose the bases. Year after year they elect government officials who oppose the bases. Year after year they march, sit-in, protest, and demand to be heard. Year after year, the national Japanese government confronts the issue and fails to take any decisive steps to resolve it. Year after year, the people of the United States remain blissfully unaware that, as in so many other places around the world, our military occupation of Okinawa is ruining people's lives.
Members of the delegation spoke at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C., Monday night. Toshio Ikemiyagi thanked people who came to hear them and pointed out that we all looked healthy and alert. That, he said, is because you have all had sleep. You've been able to sleep at night without deafening jet noise, he said. Ikemiyagi is the lead attorney on a lawsuit challenging the Kadena Air Base's noise pollution. He played us a video on Monday of what it is like. For the people who live there, he said, the war that ended 67 years ago has never ended.
Keiko Itokazu, a Member of the Japanese National Diet, depicted in this painting, said the Okinawan people had been heartbroken since having been unable to protect a 12-year-old girl from gang rape by U.S. troops in 1995. The Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Japan gives U.S. troops immunity from Japanese prosecution. Between 1979 and 2008, U.S. forces in Okinawa caused 1,439 accidents (487 of them airplane related), and 5,584 criminal cases (559 of them involving violent crimes). The list includes fatal driving incidents, residential break-ins, taxi robberies, sexual violence, and other serious crimes against local citizens.
I spoke recently with Maria Allwine who describes herself as "a former Marine Corps spouse." She said, "It is common practice for military personnel to use Japanese women as 'mama-sans,' exchanging house cleaning and sexual favors for money. Nothing new, but it's given a wink and a nod by military brass. Those who don't cheat are considered abnormal by their peers."
The sex police are as absent as the skinflints from their usual place of prominence in U.S. political debate when it comes to occupying other people's countries. Imagine, however, just for a moment, that even one Japanese military base existed in the United States, and imagine that even one Japanese soldier committed a single crime. Can you imagine some things that U.S. television talking heads might say?
Our military is trying to build yet more bases in Okinawa. Why, you ask? Word around town is that even the Pentagon thinks it serves no purpose, but the Marine Corps likes to hold onto anything it's got. The Marines have even named one of their bases in Okinawa for Smedley Butler, the author of "War Is A Racket," and a man whom the Marines once imprisoned at Quantico for having spoken badly of Benito Mussolini. Don't look for logic. Look for petty rivalry and power, combined with unaccountability and we the people missing in action.
The least popular base in Okinawa is probably Futenma Air Base, which sits in the middle of a city, near schools, a hospital, and houses -- houses which military helicopters have been known to crash into. The Marine Corps plans to bring the accident-prone MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to Futenma in 2012. Overwhelmingly, the people of Okinawa want the base closed, and do not want it relocated to a less populated area, and do not want it combined with another existing base. For the past 16 years, residents of Henoko, a location under consideration for relocation of the base, have held a continuous sit-in protest without pause. They have also risked their lives hanging onto a floating platform in the ocean, surrounded by supportive fishing boats, successfully preventing the military from surveying the site for construction.
Hiroshi Ashitomi has been a leader of the nonviolent resistance in Henoko for 16 years. "We use our own bodies," he said on Monday, "to resist aggressive actions by the Japanese government." Pointing to the picture of Gandhi in the collage on the wall at Busboys, Ashitomi said, "We follow the example of Gandhi. It is not easy. We receive threats from the police. But we are determined to use nonviolent resistance, and we get a lot of support from all over Japan. We are trying to protect the environment, so many young people from all over Japan come to our tent and participate in our resistance."
In fact, the environment and the rights of certain endangered species have come to dominate the anti-base movement in Okinawa. Apparently the rights of humans are far less interesting than the rights of the black naped tern, the blue coral, or above all the dugong. The dugong is the manatee-like creature in this photo. Osamu Makishi of the Citizens' Network for Okinawan Biodiversity spoke movingly about these species and their ecosystem on Monday, which he said are protected by treaty.
The Japanese delegation is meeting with Congress Members, including Senator Jim Webb on Wednesday, urging them to close and consolidate bases. I once accompanied a group of Italians on almost identical visits to Congress. The people of Vicenza, Italy, oppose the bases the U.S. military and the national Italian government impose on them, just as the people of Okinawa do. The congress members and staffers we met with at that time gave not the slightest damn for human rights or the environment or popular opinion. I don't think any of the Japanese delegates expect to encounter such humanity this week either. Their hope is to highlight the financial costs to the United States of the occupation of Japan. My hope is that we can help them by telling our misrepresentatives that we agree with the members of the delegation. If you're inclined to help, please call your rep and two senators with that message.
Specifically, the delegation is asking for the closure of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station; cancellation of plans to construct a new Marine Corps air base at Cape Henoko; reduction of unbearable noise caused by air operations at Kadena Air Base; withdrawal of any proposal to integrate Futenma's helicopter squadrons into Kadena's operations; an end to the construction of six new helipads in the Yanbaru forest in northern Okinawa; and revision of the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement to allow fair prosecutions of crimes.
Ultimately, however, the members of the delegation want the bases all to be closed. And they do not want them relocated to Guam or Australia or anywhere else, except perhaps to the United States. Itokazu suggested that the U.S. government could save money and produce jobs by bringing bases home. But, of course, we don't want a military occupation any more than Japan does, and the same money would produce more jobs if spent on a non-military industry.
Base opponents in Okinawa work with others in Korea, Guam, and Hawaii, and with former residents of Diego Garcia, as well as others around the world. An international conference called "Dialogue Under Occupation" was held in Okinawa last summer. In fact, people are working extremely hard in cities around the world to shut down or prevent the construction of giant military bases that we in the United States pay for and are endangered by but have very little awareness of.
John Feffer of the Institute for Policy Studies (see http://closethebase.org ) believes Futenma can be closed and can serve as a model for closing more. It is very difficult, however, Feffer says, to accomplish base closings cleanly without some sort of asterisk attached. When a base was closed in Seoul, Korea, a new one was opened outside it. When bases were closed in the Philippines, a Visiting Forces Agreement was drawn up. Yet, the Navy left Vieques, and the President of Ecuador seems to have found the magic formula in his proposal that any U.S. base in Ecuador be matched by an Ecuadorean base in Florida.
Here is another proposal: bring in the IAEA for inspections. No independent organization has verified U.S. claims to no longer be storing nuclear weapons in Japan. On the model of Iran, if full inspections are not permitted by, say, Thursday, or even if they are, we should seriously consider launching preemptive strikes against ourselves. The Constitution that the United States imposed on Japan 65 years ago forbids war preparation, yet the United States trains its forces in Japan to fight wars elsewhere in the world. Are we spreading democracy or hypocrisy? Are we building trust or animosity?
Ikemiyagi says democracy requires U.S. withdrawal from Okinawa. As with the location of nuclear power plants in Japan, he says, the Japanese government wants the military bases out of sight. If Tokyo wants bases, he says, then put them in Tokyo. The people of Okinawa have had enough.
Haven't we all?
It’s three years since President Obama promised to close Guantánamo.
Remind President Obama of his promise. Sign the petition on the White House’s “We the People” website urging him to honor his promise. 25,000 signatures are needed by February 6 to secure a response, so please sign up, and please spread the word.
What happened to President Obama’s bold promise?
Three years ago, on January 22, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order promising to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay within a year, but he did not move swiftly to implement his promise, and Congress then stepped in with onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners or their transfer to the US mainland for any reason, even to be tried or imprisoned.
Instead of being closed, Guantánamo still holds 171 men, even though 89 of these men were cleared for release more than two years ago by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force (PDF), which was established by the President after taking office.
By Dennis Kucinich and Russell Simmons on Huffington Post
This is not a progressive issue or a conservative issue. This is not a Tea Party issue or a liberal issue. This is an American issue. Money is destroying our politics and our political system. The signs are everywhere. A "super PAC" supporting Mitt Romney spent $3.5 million to knock Newt Gingrich out of the lead in Iowa. A super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich is spending a greater amount of money to return the favor to Mitt Romney in South Carolina. Our electoral system has become such a joke that two late-night comedians are now actually participating in it and are generating great laughter just by demonstrating how it operates.