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Arlen Specter: Obama-Bush Stimulus Saved Economy

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The country may be focused on the presidential election but former Senator Arlen Specter says Congress is the key to what happens to the U.S. economy.

“Regardless of who is elected president, if Congress is gridlocked nothing will happen in Washington,” Specter tells The Daily Ticker. And there are many issues that require Congressional attention, including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending reductions that will all take effect by year end if Congress does nothing.

Specter spent 30 years in Washington as a senator from Pennsylvania, most of them as a Republican. But after he voted for the president’s stimulus plan in 2009 — “the single most important vote of 10,000” he notes — Specter switched to the Democratic Party, setting the stage for the end of his political career. He recounts it all in his new book Life Among The Cannibals.
Specter hasn’t endorsed a candidate for the presidential election. He’s critical of Mitt Romney’s constant position shifts and says the former Massachusetts governor doesn’t have a plan to revive the economy. But Specter says President Obama hasn’t had much success with the economy either and should explain why he didn’t follow through on recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles commission to cut the deficit.

Unlike Romney, Specter supports the stimulus plans of Presidents Obama and Bush which together injected about $1.5 trillion into the economy. Those programs “saved us from a depression” says Specter. Now he says it’s up to U.S. voters to do their job come election day by choosing a Congress that will “take care of the people’s business.”

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Arlen Specter: Extremists Run Washington

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Arlen Specter, the fiery former senator from Pennsylvania, has returned to the spotlight, haranguing his Beltway colleagues and giving an unvarnished view of Congress in his new book, “Life Among The Cannibals.” Specter was elected to the Senate in 1980 as a moderate Republican but switched parties in 2009 because “as the Republican party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party,” Specter said at the time. Specter ultimately lost his seat to two-term Republican Congressman Joe Sestak in the 2010 midterm election, ending the storied career of one of the Senate’s most well-known and influential figures.

In a no-holds-barred interview with The Daily Ticker, Specter shares his views on Congress, Citizens United, the Tea Party and more.

On the current state of Congress:

America is not being governed, Specter says. Extremist members in the Republican and Democratic parties are controlling the parties, causing the gridlock that threatens to shut down the government, he notes. As a result, lawmakers are afraid to buck party lines in fear that they will be booted out of office. Specter points to longtime Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who forced to run as an Independent after liberal Democrats voted against him in the state’s 2006 primary and Bob Bennett, the former Republican Senator from Utah, who was defeated in 2010 by an aggressive campaign led by the Tea Party despite being well-liked and having a fairly conservative record in Congress. Olympia Snowe, the moderate Republican senator from Maine, recently announced she was retiring from the Senate because of the increasingly partisanship environment in Washington. The Tea Party, Specter says, intends to drive out all moderates in Congress including sitting senators Dick Luger of Indiana and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

“There’s not a single moderate left in the Republican Congress,” Specter argues. “The art of politics is the art of the possible — it is accommodation. You have a very complex society with many divergent rules. Today, compromise is a dirty word in Congress. The extremists have laid down the gauntlet and they’re tougher than hell.”

On the Supreme Court:

Citizens United “was a horrendous decision,” Specter says. “The court has gone too far …it’s really out of control. It disregarded a 100-year-old precedent.”

Specter, a fervent supporter of healthcare reform, says President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is “constitutional and a legitimate exercise of congressional authority.”


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Documentary: Iraq For Sale

This is your God

Disguised as


I have said before that it is one thing to make a mistake, but it is entirely another to ignore that mistake.

It does not matter if your left, right, religious, atheist, young or old; you must diffuse your lines of separation and stand up against the common threat both foreign and domestic.

Cheers on your weekend!

[youtube://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1T8xgHdMEM 450 300]


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Karl Rove Gets Behind Romney as ‘the Brain’

“(Reuters) – Nearly a decade ago he was dubbed “Bush’s Brain,” for his influence in guiding Republican George W. Bush to the U.S. presidency.

This year, Karl Rove could be Mitt Romney’s brawn.

Perhaps no one, besides Romney himself, will have a greater influence on the course of the Republican presidential campaign this fall than Rove, the brash, often-controversial architect of Bush’s two successful bids for the White House.

Bush called Rove “Turd Blossom,” a term Texans use to describe a flower that grows from a pile of cow dung. This year, thanks to the American Crossroads “Super PAC” organization that he co-founded, Rove will have vast resources to fertilize Romney’s campaign: a massive wallet, one of the loudest megaphones in conservative media, and close ties to Romney’s campaign.

It’s a dramatic re-emergence for Rove, who resigned as Bush’s deputy chief of staff in 2007 amid questions about his role in the firing of a federal prosecutor.

In an interview with Reuters, Rove described his vision for Crossroads, which he founded with his friend Ed Gillespie in 2010. Crossroads – which has received seven-figure donations from several wealthy Republicans – hopes to spend $300 million on this election.”

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Clinton Sees NATO Role in Pressuring Syria’s Assad Regime

“U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Turkey may seek NATO’s support in dealing withSyria as the UN Security Council made clear the Assad regime’s truce violations won’t prevent the deployment of as many as 300 cease-fire observers.

Turkey may invoke the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s charter provision triggering consultations if a member’s security is threatened, Clinton said yesterday in Paris following a meeting of the alliance in Brussels. While there is little sentiment for military intervention to oust Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, involving NATO would add a new lever of pressure on the Damascus government.

“We have to keep Assad off-balance by leaving options on the table,” Clinton said at the “Friends of Syria” meeting in Paris. Turkey has already discussed with NATO “the burden of Syrian refugees on Turkey, the outrageous shelling across the border from Syria into Turkey a week ago, and that Turkey is considering formally invoking Article 4” of the NATO charter…..”

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Panetta: US Constantly An Inch From War

“Now excuse me, I have a flight home to catch”

Brussels, Belgium (CNN) — The United States is prepared for “any contingency” when it comes to dealing with North Korea, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told CNN.

“We’re within an inch of war almost every day in that part of the world, and we just have to be very careful about what we say and what we do,” Panetta said Wednesday on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”

During a wide-ranging interview at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about Syria, the Secret Service and North Korea. The two were in Belgium for meetings to prepare for a NATO summit in Chicago next month.

Panetta’s assessment of North Korea followed last week’s launch by Pyongyang of a long-range rocket. Despite the failure of the launch — with the rocket breaking apart 81 seconds after liftoff, it drew condemnation from the United States and countries in the region.

When asked whether the threat posed by North Korea kept him awake at night, Panetta said: “Unfortunately these days, there’s a hell of a lot that keeps me awake. But that’s one that tops the list.”

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You May Not Have Known, But Illinois Has Corrupt Officials

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The finance chief for a small city in northern Illinois has been arrested and charged with stealing more than $30 million from the city coffers and using the money to sustain a luxurious lifestyle.

MyFoxChicago reports that Rita Crundwell, 58, the comptroller of Dixon, is accused of using city funds to finance her horse farm and buy expensive items ranging from tractor-trailer trucks to a motor home to jewelry.

She held the position as comptroller since the early 1980s, in the boyhood home of former President Ronald Reagan. The federal complaint against her alleges that she embezzled more than $3.2 million just since last fall. That’s on top of a salary of $80,000.

She allegedly bought a $2.1 million motor home, in addition to several trucks that cost as much as $147,000, according to the report.

Dixon Mayor James Burke called the allegations a “traumatic event” for the city.

According to a criminal complaint, the siphoning of city funds went undetected for years until another staffer filling in as vacation relief became suspicious and discovered a secret bank account. How an enormous sum — it dwarfed the city’s current annual budget of roughly $8 million to $9 million — could be stolen and escape the notice of a yearly audit left many puzzled.

A Chicago-based corruption watchdog, the Better Government Association, called it a wakeup call for state and local officials to put in place better safeguards, especially in smaller towns that lack rigorous oversight.

“Tens of billions of our tax dollars flow through 7,000 plus units of government in Illinois every year. And we can only watch a few of them,” said the association’s president, Andy Shaw. “Most of them don’t have inspector generals. Most of them don’t have auditor generals. Most of them don’t have watchdog groups looking closely. … It’s ripe for ripoffs.”

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GSA Neely’s Wife Also Likes To Abuse Taxpayer Money

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The widening investigation into questionable spending by General Services Administration official Jeff Neely and other alleged abuses within the agency suggests Neely’s wife was also living large on taxpayer money — with perks including vacations, catered parties and even a free parking spot.

Some of the most specific details about Deb Neely’s involvement have emerged over the past few days of congressional hearings, following the April 2 inspector general’s report about an $823,000 Las Vegas conference organized by her husband.

GSA inspector general Brian Miller said Wednesday during a Senate hearing on GSA that Neely’s wife had a dedicated parking space at an agency facility in California.

“Even today, we found out that the wife of the regional commissioner (Neely) had a parking space throughout the year of 2012 at the federal building,” he said.

Sources familiar with the investigation later confirmed to Fox News that Deb Neely was afforded the parking spot at the San Francisco office.

Other records indicate that Neely’s wife “personally handled party arrangements, directed the actions of federal employees and ordered thousands of dollars of food at taxpayer expense,” Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Monday during a House oversight hearing.

He also said Neely’s wife once reportedly impersonated a federal employee so she could join her husband at a private sector conference.

“The impression conveyed by these documents is that Mr. Neely and his wife believed they were some sort of agency royalty who used taxpayer funds to bankroll their lavish lifestyle,” said Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Investigations also uncovered what appears to be an e-mail from Neely to his wife in which he talks about taking her on an official, 17-day trip to Hawaii and Guam as a possible “birthday present.”

She wrote back: “Its yo birthday … We gonna pawty like iz yo birthday!”

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Leon Panetta Has Racked Up $860,000 Flying

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Since becoming secretary of Defense in July, Leon Panetta has flown home to spend time at his walnut farm in Monterey, Calif. 27 times, according to the Pentagon.

Panetta is required by post-9/11 department rules to travel on a military plane with communications equipment, which Defense officials have estimated costs something on the order of $32,000 for each round trip to Monterey and back. The rules require Panetta to compensate the taxpayers for the cost of a commercial plane ticket: about $630.

Of course, $630 wouldn’t get Panetta a private ride on a jet that leaves and returns at times of his choosing, but the secretary says he has no choice.

It’s harder to make that argument, though, when you are the one calling for deep cuts in Defense spending and also issue the orders that cause a soldier making $20,000 a year to uproot his family to the other side of the country or separate from them entirely. Privates shipped to Ft. Bliss don’t get to spend their weekends at home.

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NIH Under Fire For Spending Taxpayer Funds On “Homoerotic” Website

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The National Institutes of Health has spent millions of dollars over the past decade to fund the construction of an HIV-prevention website that, among other sexually explicit features, includes a graphic image of homosexual sex and a Space Invaders-style interactive game that uses a penis-shaped blaster to shoot down gay epithets.

The grant money went to a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota that created a site called Sexpulse. The goal was to draw in what are termed MISM — or “men who use the Internet to seek sex with men” — in order to educate them and ultimately reduce their risk of contracting HIV.

But the site used unorthodox methods to get subjects’ attention and keep them interested. The site includes pornographic images of homosexual sex as well as naked and scantily clad men. It includes several risqué interactive features, like the Space Invaders-style arcade game.

The conservative Traditional Values Coalition, which flagged the government-backed research and described it as “gay porn,” complains the website and studies are a multimillion-dollar waste.

“We can’t spend money on this. America is broke,” coalition President Andrea Lafferty said. “People are losing their homes, they’re losing their jobs … and what we’re doing is we’re funding year after year these cockamamie grants by people at NIH.”

NIH records show the government started awarding grants to the Minnesota team beginning in 2001, renewing them almost every year since then. The 2012 grant was valued at more than $680,000; in total, NIH has awarded more than $5 million to the team. The researchers started developing the Sexpulse site in 2005 and continue to work on the project — the project leader told FoxNews.com that total funding through 2015 is expected to top $7 million.

The values coalition, which frequently complains about NIH spending, is drawing attention to the Sexpulse grants as Congress renews a heated debate over government waste in the wake of the General Services Administration scandal. In that case, an internal report found the agency spent more than $820,000 on a Las Vegas retreat.

“This is a lot more money,” Lafferty noted of the NIH funding.

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Oil Speculation and Dodd-Frank Regulation, Oh My

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A day after President Obama called for increased oversight of speculation in energy markets, House Republicans struck back, at least indirectly.

On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee voted on budget legislation that would, among other things, repeal the Resolution Authority granted the Federal Reserve in the Dodd-Frank legislation and subject the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to the annual appropriations process.

The developments speak to the starkly different philosophical approaches the two parties have regarding regulation of financial markets. They are related because the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) was given authority in the Dodd-Frank Act to impose position caps on oil traders, beginning in January 2011.

These limits have not yet been implemented because the CFTC’s budget was slashed ahead of Dodd-Frank’s passage, says Leo Hindery, founder of InterMedia Partners, a private equity firm, and a former economic adviser to President Obama.

“Dodd-Frank was a painful bill to get passed,” Hindery recalls. “It didn’t do everything a lot of us wanted but, that said, it was a pretty good piece of legislation despite untold opposition.”

Unable to stop Dodd-Frank from becoming law, Hindery says its opponents, a.k.a. “Republicans”, are now trying to “gut” the legislation. (To be sure, one man’s “gutting” of legislation is another man’s attempt to cut the budget and let free market capitalism work.)

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Sen. Boxer Urges GSA To ‘Clean House’

Barbara Boxer knows a thing or two about corruption. She can tell you first hand that when you have someone abusing taxpayer money, they won’t stop unless they get fired.

Washington (CNN) — Describing the billions of dollars in contracts and services handled by the General Services Administration as a den of temptation, senators from both parties called Wednesday for the agency at the center of a spending scandal to clean house as it roots out corruption.

“The party’s over,” declared Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, at the third congressional hearing in three days on the controversy that has embarrassed the Obama administration in an election year.

Speaking to GSA Inspector General Brian Miller and Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini, Boxer said the panel “will support you and encourage you to clean house” at the vast federal procurement agency.

At the same time, Boxer emphasized that the GSA has a history of misconduct dating back decades under Republican and Democratic administrations, and that it was a person appointed by President Barack Obama who uncovered the latest wrongdoing.

Boxer and other Democrats sought to frame the controversy as an ongoing problem at GSA rather than anything unique to the Obama administration, and Republicans on the panel cited what they called a systematic failure resulting from a culture of misconduct at the agency.

Ranking Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma said of the GSA that “if there’s anyone who has a propensity to do something dishonest, that’s where they ought to be” because “they deal with huge numbers.”

“I am concerned that this type of waste has become an embedded part of the culture at the GSA,” Inhofe said, noting the wrongdoing occurred at a time of fiscal austerity, including calls by Obama to cut government waste. “One can only wonder what kind of waste would have occurred in a better economy.”

Boxer later used an extended closing statement to encourage Tangherlini to take substantive steps to solve the problems at GSA once and for all, no matter what it takes.

“There still are ugly things that are going to come out. Let’s face it,” Boxer said of continuing investigations by Miller.

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Debt Ceiling Party Like It’s August, 2011

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The government will face a major test on whether it has the capacity to govern when it faces big tax and budget decisions at the end of the year, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Wednesday.

Before 2013, the country will be forced to deal with the expiration of tax cuts that affect nearly all taxpayers, automatic budget cuts, as well as another debate over raising the country’s debt limit.

“It will be a big test in Washington, a big test of the country to govern itself in how Washington deals with those challenges,” Geithner said ahead of a meeting on Friday of finance ministers from the Group of 20, representing the world’s leading industrialized and emerging market economies.

A protracted fight over how to rein in the country’s trillion dollar plus deficits and raise the debt limit in 2011 forced the government to the brink of several shutdowns and stripped the country of its top credit rating.

The Treasury expects the country to hit the debt ceiling or the legal limit it is allowed to borrow before the end of the year and individual tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush – known as the Bush tax cuts – will expire December 31.

As well, $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts are set to kick in early January, which will force the Obama administration and Congress to deal with the country’s fiscal problems.

“Hopefully we use it as an opportunity to make another significant step towards long term fiscal reform at that time,” Geithner said.

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Billing Taxpayers for Food A Running GSA ‘Joke’

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The practice of gaming the system in order to bill taxpayers for food at lavish conferences was so widespread within the General Services Administration that it became a “running joke” among certain employees, the GSA inspector general testified Tuesday.

Inspector General Brian Miller, who blew the whistle on agency spending with a report on its $820,000 conference in Las Vegas, explained how leaders with the western region of GSA got around the administration’s rule of not having food at conferences. The work-around was simple — just hold an awards ceremony, and food would be provided at taxpayer expense.

“Many times in Region 9, witnesses told us that it became a running joke with the Region 9 regional commissioner that even at staff meetings he would say, ‘We’re going to have a meeting in another location and we’re going to have food so we have to do what?’ And his senior staff is said to have said, ‘Give out awards,'” Miller said.

Fox News earlier reported that the GSA was creating questionable awards so employees could have free food. They even created something called a “Jackass” award.

The Region 9 commissioner Miller referred to in his testimony Tuesday before a House transportation subcommittee is Jeffrey Neely. That official did not attend Tuesday’s hearing, after having invoked his right not to answer questions at a congressional hearing a day earlier.

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