Alice Salles

Recent Posts From Alice Salles

Doomed to repeat history: Funding Syrian rebels could create another Libya-like foreign policy crisis

Watching history repeat itself was not enough for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

The senator from Kentucky took the stage yesterday morning and didn’t stop talking until he made sure the public and the empty chamber had listened to his concerns.

During his remarks on the floor of the Senate, Paul highlighted his reasons to oppose the amendment authorizing president Obama’s plan to provide training and arms to what he calls moderate rebels in Syria. The plan passed both the House and the Senate as an amendment to the continuing resolution funding the government until December 11.

Before the vote, however, Paul raised and urged the empty chamber to put an end to Obama’s plan of arming fighters in Syria who have not proven to be fundamentally opposed to ISIS. “We gave 600 tons of weapons to the Syrian rebels in 2013 alone,” Paul said as he urged his colleagues to keep in mind that the United States is not the only country providing weapons to the rebels.

According to Paul, a Wall Street Journal report detailed “millions of dollars in direct US aid to rebels” from “nearly 8 months ago or more.” As the aid continues to be funneled to rebels in Syria, Paul claims that “no one really knows where that all ended up: Jane’s Terrorism Center noted, the transfer of Quatari arms to targeted groups has the same practical effect as shipping them to Al Nusra, a violent jihadist force.”

By not knowing where these weapons are going and who’s actually making use of the military training, Paul believes passing a resolution that will fund this operation abroad in the hopes that that it might deter ISIS is ludicrous:

More hypocrisy: Senate opens debate on amendment to partially repeal the First Amendment while taking corporate cash

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)’s S.J. Res. 19, the constitutional amendment proposal that would severely handicap our First Amendment political speech protections, has just been pushed forward in the Senate.

The Hill reports that early on Monday, the Senate advanced the amendment proposal after 20 Republicans voted with Democrats. The amendment, which would reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has been worded to restrict the work performed by issue-focused nonprofit organizations and political action committees. It would also target corporations, which is the reason why this amendment is being so widely supported by liberals.

While most Republicans originally stood against boosting the regulatory burden on political speech, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) - among others - voted to push the motion forward. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), among others, voted against the proposal.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has claimed he will spend as much time as Republicans need to debate the issue. To him, campaign spending reform is necessary to curb the easy flow of what he calls “dark money” in politics. According to Reid, “this constitutional amendment is what we need to bring sanity back to elections and restore Americans’ confidence in our democracy.”

Stuck in the Senate: House-passed government funding measures stalled by Harry Reid

“One of my great frustrations with Congress is the chaos,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) before members of the Carrollton Rotary Club on August 27. “I think we need a change in Washington, D.C., but when you get there you realize why there is so much inertia and how hard it is to change things when you get there.”

During the speech, Rep. Massie highlighted his frustration with the Senate’s lack of enthusiasm for going over the appropriation bills the House has passed so they may pass it before Congress hits the September 30th deadline. According to Massie, the Senate won’t review any of the nine bills that have passed so far:

“They’re not planning on passing any of them in the Senate. They are planning on doing one bill continuing resolution.”

While the House has spent the summer ensuring the bills funding the government for the new fiscal year are passed, Senate members have been reluctant to go over the specifics. The difference between passing several bills and one major bill, Massie explained, is that a continuing resolution will be their last shot at keeping the government functioning once they run out of time, putting the decision in the hands of four people, instead of the whole congressional body.

HealthCare.gov CEO: This enrollment period is going to be even more complicated

Things are running far from smoothly at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ headquarters.

According to The Hill, HealthCare.gov’s newly appointed CEO admitted concern when talking about the many challenges the agency will have to face once the enrollment period rolls in.

The former head of Connecticut’s state exchange Kevin Counihan believes the shorter sign-up period, among other issues, will certainly add more anxiety to the enrollment process, creating headaches for government officials and distress to consumers.

It’s not enough to know technical flaws have been linked to one of the most disastrous government-run program launches in history. It’s also not enough to know that the failure is undoubtedly associated with the Obama administration’s faulty managerial skills; now, we are faced with yet another uncomfortable reality, government officials never learn the lesson.

While reporting the exchange website has indeed gone under extensive repairs since the last botched attempt to provide a health care plan marketplace for consumers, The Hill also highlighted Counihan’s remarks regarding his HealthCare.gov concerns:

“In some respects, it’s going to be more complicated. Part of me thinks that this year is going to make last year look like the good old days.”

Thought Police alert: federal government dedicates $1 million to wage a war on memes

It’s never too late to wage a war on something you deem terrifying – if you’re the government. A recent report has highlighted the obvious: Washington has no idea of what to do with all the easy taxpayer cash it has access to.

It’s almost as if bureaucrats aren’t good at spending your money wisely!

According to The Week, the federal government is using a grant offered to the National Science Foundation to target memes. That’s right; Washington has used about $1 million of your money to finance a database of memes they deem suspicious. Officials, following instructions that tell them to single out any “suspicious memes” or any “false and misleading” political ideas that may have turned into memes, hunt for these images by browsing through social media websites.

The Indiana University is the official headquarters for the special “war on memes” department. The official title of the program is “Truthy.” It’s reportedly inspired on Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness” concept.

And what do officials do while browsing for potentially life-threatening memes?

They look for the origin of the memes so they may identify the source as a professional political activist or just a good old Internet user like you, for an instance.

While the program seems harmless enough on the surface, one million dollars thrown at an effort to catalog memes and identify their sources so that the federal government can put up a web service offering the public info on suspicious meme trends seems eerily close to what a thought police would look like. Or am I just seeing things here?

Uber learns its lesson: In Washington, you only go legit when you go full crony

David Plouffe and Uber

Before Catherine Ann Novelli, Apple’s VP for “global government affairs,” was nominated as the Obama administration’s under secretary for economic growth, energy, and the environment, Congress used the excuse Apple moved money around to reduce its owed taxes while simply following the tax code to grill its CEO Tim Cook.

Politicians who were angry Apple didn’t use its influence to gain some leverage with lawmakers by creating political action committees used this official investigation to serve as a way to teach Apple - and other companies - just how they must proceed to be allowed to play the game.

The message was clear: either ramp up your lobbying and spend more of your hard-earned money on political campaign efforts, or be prepared for a major Beltway shakedown.

Unlike Apple, Uber - the transportation company that was recently under the spotlight for being threatened by the Taxi cartel - did not wait until a shakedown was put in place to act; the company has recently hired President Obama’s former campaign manager and White House adviser David Plouffe as a senior vice president of policy and strategy.

What does that mean? That his influence in Washington will help assure Uber’s strong ties with government are in place, helping sustain the company’s dominance over the industry.

Militarized police supporters in Congress such as Nancy Pelosi get big bucks from defense contractors

The recent stories coming from Ferguson, Missouri have stirred the police militarization debate by putting the spotlight on the police’s use of “surplus” war gear to contain a mass of protestors in the suburbs of St. Louis.

The protests followed the killing of Michael Brown, and while most are peaceful, local police — and now the National Guard — have proceeded to use rubber bullets, tear gas and other aggressive methods such as curfews to fight locals and even journalists covering the events.

Without proper coverage, it’s nearly impossible to know what is truly going on in Ferguson, especially because the Federal Aviation Administration banned helicopters to fly below 3,000 feet over the region as soon as the unrest began. News crews often use helicopters to cover live events, but with the ban, law enforcement agents on the ground have a free pass to act according to their understanding of the situation.

No accountability.

One essential piece of this equation, however, is missing from the public debate; lawmakers who support the government’s program allowing the distribution of leftover war gear and weapons to local police departments are also the same lawmakers who receive a considerable amount of financial support from defense contractors.

The prospects of a book about Bowe Bergdahl scare Obama supporters

Bowe Bergdahl

A book on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and his story could soon become a reality, but not without the participation of his six former platoon mates, which is making some publishers nervous; neither of the former mates have any positive words to share on who they call a “premeditated” deserter.

Publishers have shown hesitation over what they have read so far from a draft of the book proposal. According to the agents representing the six former platoon mates, the book would play right into what conservatives have been using to criticize President Obama’s handling of Bergdahl’s rescue, which required a prisoner exchange that saw the release of five terrorism suspects who had been held in Guantanamo until the swap took place.

Some of the prisoners the Taliban requested in exchange for Bergdahl were reportedly considered senior Taliban commanders. At least one of the prisoners had been allegedly linked to the mass killing of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan between 2000 and 2001.

The book also claims the former Taliban captive put the lives of his platoon mates in danger while possibly aiding his kidnappers. Over fears related to how the public would receive the details presented by this book, publishers are afraid the “Right [will] use[ing] it to their ends.” According to Sarah Durand, a senior editor at Atria Books “Conservatives are all over Bergdahl and using it against Obama.”

Ex-Im officials have blown through their travel, lobbying budget as they scramble to save the crony Bank

Export-Import Bank officials have been playing lobbyists not only to U.S. lawmakers, but also to business owners. According to Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney, serving a dual purpose is far from cheap to the taxpayers sustaining the agency.

While rallying Congress to renewal the Ex-Im Bank’s charter, officials have been traveling all over the country to recruit businesses. According to a press release from the Export-Import Bank published last week, “[O]fficials from the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. (Ex-Im Bank) will hold a series of forums, discussions, and small-business stops to increase awareness among American small businesses of how the Export-Import Bank can help them boost their exports abroad, while creating jobs here at home.”

The travels may seem of little importance to supporters of the Ex-Im Bank, but the problem lies elsewhere; during 2012, for an instance, Ex-Im spent $2.7 million in travel expenses while budgeting $1.7 million.

During the next fiscal year, the agency budgeted $1.2 million and spent $2.2 million, but the year of 2014 has been just as concerning. According to The Hill, Ex-Im budgeted $1.3 million, but has already estimated that the total spending may reach the $2.3 million mark.

Officials attempting to boost the public support of the bank and encourage businesses to lobby for subsidies are the ones doing most of the traveling, which is essentially creating a vicious cycle.

White House eases “lobbyist ban” that never really stopped the revolving door

When it comes to President Obama and special interests, hypocrisy is what automatically comes to mind. The candidate who once promised the country he would fight special interests in Washington hasn’t kept his word as president, and is now once again showing no signs of change.

After lobbyists appealed a federal court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit against the administration over banning registered lobbyists from serving on federal advisory boards, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget has released a new guidance making it possible for registered lobbyists to serve on advisory boards again while representing a client.

In spite of the so-called ban, which was placed in 2010, former lobbyists were never banned from serving. In many cases former lobbyists served on advisory boards without the need of receiving special waivers, which is the loophole they often explored to go around the 2010 ban.

Candidate Obama’s ethics plan indicated where he once stood on special interests, at least on paper.

“No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.”

Alice Salles

Contributor


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