State of the Union

The Raw Story

At the end of a yearlong investigation and undercover sting, the federal government is finally taking action to bring down an interstate Amish raw milk operation run by the Rainbow Acres Farm in Pennsylvania. The moo-juice in question is unpasteurized and therefore its interstate sales run afoul of U.S. law. Law-abiding citizens can now go back to safely consuming milk harvested from controlled factory conditions from cows given optimum dosages of hormones and antibiotics.

For more background on raw milk’s devotees and detractors, see John Schwenkler’s 2008 piece on the milk wars.

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The Age of America is Over — So Says the IMF

Today the Swiss franc made yet another new high against the super dollar, as it has been doing for 120 days. What you are reading in the graphs is less and less of the foreign currency that one dollar can buy. Of course, gold and silver also consistently hit new highs.

Swiss franc:

Read More…

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Constant Conservative Ron Paul

When Ron Paul ran for president in 2008, polls showed that Americans-at-large were worried about an increasingly bad economy, angry at Washington for bailing out Wall Street and weary of the Iraq War. GOP primary voters found themselves defending a Republican president who was on the unpopular side of all three issues, supporting a Republican nominee who agreed with him, and having to choose from a Republican field of candidates virtually indistinguishable from their president, their nominee and each other. Except one.

With Ron Paul all but declaring his candidacy for president this week, polls show that Americans at large are most worried about a bad economy, Obama’s high negatives indicate a persistent distrust and disgust with Washington, and this president’s three Middle Eastern wars are arguably more unpopular than Iraq and Afghanistan were three years ago.

Yet, even though they will have adjusted their various positions accordingly, 2012 GOP primary voters will generally find a field of candidates willing to bash the White House for basically doing the same things these same candidates once defended a Republican president doing. In fact, most potential 2012 candidates will be as guilty of contributing to big government as the president they’ll criticize. Mitt Romney gave us the blueprint for government-run healthcare. Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich gave Republican support for cap and trade. Rick Santorum ran cover for Bush’s entire statist agenda by touting the president’s alleged social conservatism. Adding ideological insult to injury, most of these candidates still promote an astronomically expensive foreign policy while they simultaneously and contradictorily claim we must cut spending. By and large, these candidates are conservative in rhetoric only, not their records, as has been the case with most Republican presidential candidates for decades.

That is, again, except one. Read More…

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Hate Speech Makes a Comeback

Well, it sure didn’t take long for the Tucson Truce to collapse.

After Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot on Jan. 8 by a berserker who killed six others, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and wounded 13, the media were aflame with charges the right had created the climate of hate in which such an atrocity was inevitable.

The Washington Post story on the massacre began, “The mass shooting … raised serious concerns that the nation’s political discourse had taken a dangerous turn.”

Following Barack Obama’s eloquent eulogy and call for all of us to lower our voices, it was agreed across the ideological divide that it was time to cool the rhetoric.

This week, however, hate speech was back in style.

After Donald Trump called on Obama to release his original birth certificate and produce the academic records and test scores that put him on a bullet train from being a “terrible student” at Occidental College to Columbia, Harvard Law and Harvard Law Review editor, charges of “racism” have saturated the airwaves. Read More…

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Just in Case We Didn’t Have Enough to Worry About

Remember those remaining US nuclear reactors of the same design as Fukushima? Some are in Alabama.

All three units at TVA’s 3,274-megawatt Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama tripped about 5:30 EDT (2230 GMT) after losing outside power to the plant, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

A TVA spokeswoman said the station’s backup power systems, including diesel generators, started and operated as designed. External power was restored quickly to the plant but diesel generators remained running Wednesday evening, she said.

The Browns Ferry units are among 23 U.S. reactors that are similar in design to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan where backup generators were swept away in the tsunami that followed the massive earthquake on March 11.

More on Browns Ferry’s potential vulnerabilities at Washington’s Blog.

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Republicans for Obama 2012

The paltry menu of downcast Republican contenders for the 2012 election has left many conservatives wanting. But the truth of it is, Republicans already have a candidate who fits their desires and who has one of the most dependable assets for Election Day success on his side: incumbency.

Bush Republicans, at least, seem to have their dream candidate in the White House already, so why not cast their votes for Obama in 2012? Once you strip away the tribal commitment to party that most Americans apply every four years, it would only be sensible to vote for the president’s reelection.

On taxes, Obama is their man. He was happy to keep the Bush tax cuts and though he may push for higher taxes in his second term, many a lionized Republican hero has been willing to do so as well. Reforming the tax code to avoid the loopholes rampant in the current system has been a conservative talking point in the past as well.

On the budget, Republicans truly can’t complain. Yes, Obama has increased deficit spending to levels not seen since WWII, but massive expenditures and debt-ridden government are an honored pastime for Republican presidents. If debt and deficits were a Facebook status, Republicans would “Like” it. The big hoopla over the so-called “budget showdown” was mere political posturing, as the courageous slasher Paul Ryan’s $38 billion in cuts turned out to be $352 million instead, which is inconsequential enough to the overall budget for it to have not happened at all.

On healthcare, Republicans again seem to have their best shot with allegiance to Obama. Their ostensible top contender Mitt Romney is a vigorous supporter of ObamaCare, having established it in Massachusetts as governor. Furthermore, as House leader John Boehner said recently on ABC News, the Ryan plan Republicans got behind “transforms Medicare into a plan that’s very similar to the President’s own healthcare bill.”

On keeping terror suspects locked up, Obama is a Republican wet dream. He rather quickly abandoned his plans of closing Guantanamo and bringing those detainees to trial, instead opting for the Republican plan to keep the torture chamber in operation and leave the detainees imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial. Recent revelations from Wikileaks documents have made public the gritty details.

On war, it’s hard to imagine a more hawkish Republican ideal than the guy they’ve already got in the White House. The Iraq War is ongoing and U.S. troops are likely to remain for years. Obama’s surge in Afghanistan was right out of the Republican playbook, and seems similarly unending. The Libyan intervention was lauded as the right decision by most Republicans. The less public wars going on in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere are perfectly in line with Obama’s Republican predecessor (except in cases where Obama has out-Bushed Bush). All this coincides with Obama’s unyielding increases in defense spending, a Republican talking point if there ever was one.

All in all, the chances the unimpressive 2012 Republican contenders could win – coupled with the fact that Republicans seem to have their ideal candidate in office as it is – leads one to believe their efforts to try to elect a Republican would be wasteful indeed. Save the time and resources and just print your Obama 2012 stickers for the next Republican National Convention.

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Cue Ride of the Valkyries. Ben Bernanke is pre-flighting the helicopter. He explained today it’s become necessary to Destroy the Dollar in Order to Save It (transcript courtesy of Zero Hedge):

Q: There are critics who say that Fed policy has driven down the value of the dollar and a lower value to the dollar reduces American standard of living.

How do you respond to criticism that essentially Fed policy has reduced American standard of living?

Bernanke: Thanks. First I should start by saying that the Secretary of the Treasury, of course, is the spokesman for US policy on the dollar [dollar? what do we know about the dollar?]…the Federal Reserve believes that a strong and stable dollar is both in American interests and in the interests of the global economy…

There are many factors that cause the dollar to move up and down over short periods of time [so don’t look at me–er, us], but over the median term, where policy is aimed, we are doing two things.

First, we are trying to maintain low and stable inflation, by our definition of price stability, by maintaining the purchasing value of the dollar, keeping inflation low—that’s obviously good for the dollar.

The second thing we’re trying to accomplish is to get a stronger economy and to achieve maximum employment. And, again, a strong economy, growing with attracting foreign capital is going to be good for the dollar.

So in our view, if we do what’s needed to pursue our dual mandate of price stability and maximum employment, that will also generate fundamentals that will help the dollar in the medium term.

Q: (inaudible) noticing that it’s been unsuccessful so far.

You’ll have to look to someone who was at the press conference to verify if Mr. Bernanke was actually, physically speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He manages it on paper.

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Jailing Advisers at Gitmo

This New Yorker piece on recent Wikileaks documents on Guantanamo brilliantly summarizes the Bush — and now Obama — detention policy:

Here are some of the reasons we’ve held people at Guantánamo, according to files obtained by WikiLeaks and, then, by several news organizations: A sharecropper because he was familiar with mountain passes; an Afghan “because of his general knowledge of activities in the areas of Khost and Kabul based as a result of his frequent travels through the region as a taxi driver”; an Uzbek because he could talk about his country’s intelligence service, and a Bahraini about his country’s royal family (both of those nations are American allies); an eighty-nine year old man, who was suffering from dementia, to explain documents that he said were his son’s; an imam, to speculate on what worshippers at his mosque were up to; a cameraman for Al Jazeera, to detail its operations; a British man, who had been a captive of the Taliban, because “he was expected to have knowledge of Taliban treatment of prisoners and interrogation tactics”; Taliban conscripts, so they could explain Taliban conscription techniques; a fourteen-year-old named Naqib Ullah, described in his file as a “kidnap victim,” who might know about the Taliban men who kidnapped him. (Ullah spent a year in the prison.) Our reasons, in short, do not always really involve a belief that a prisoner is dangerous to us or has committed some crime; sometimes (and this is more debased) we mostly think we might find him useful.

The Obama administration’s official justification for continuing to hold detainees without charge or trial is not a new phenomenon. “Too dangerous to release, but too difficult to prosecute” is likely to be history’s most commonly used excuse for suspension of habeas corpus. That detainees could serve as future confidants (among other strange reasons) has not come into the fray until now.

Unfortunately, predictable bipartisanship in Washington means that neither party is demanding an explanation for suspending habeas appeals.

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Truth in Advertising: Bernanke at WSJ

Fed Chairman Bernanke is giving his first press conference. Watching it via the Wall Street Journal live feed, the viewer is presented with this most appropriate advertisement:

Some press handler should advise Bernanke to use the singular pronoun more often. The Fed chairman awkwardly refers to the Fed making policy in the plural  “we,” even though to the public, he is seen as a single figure — making him sound as if he’s using the royal “we.”

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ABC: Ron Paul and Trump on the “Fringe”

Political analysts at ABC News place Ron Paul and Donald Trump in the same category, the “fringe.” Their headline yesterday:

Donald Trump and Ron Paul: Republican Fringe Out in Front of 2012 Field

But don’t worry, folks — the rest of the analysis, which reads in part like a high school civics essay, reassures us that less scary candidates like Romney and Pawlenty will get into the race soon:

To be sure, there’s plenty of time for the more establishment-oriented candidates like ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and ex-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to recapture the spotlight. Most voters are paying very little attention to the process at this time.

And again today on The Note blog, ABC’s reporters cite their own cutting edge analysis to characterize Paul as part of the same “fringe” as Trump:

Even more broadly, there’s also growing concern among the GOP establishment, not only in states like New Hampshire and Iowa but also around the country that the Republican presidential field is fast becoming defined not by the mainstream but by the fringes.

With Trump raising questions about President Obama’s birth certificate and whether or not he was qualified to attend Columbia University and Harvard Law School and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., a favorite of the libertarian-leaning grassroots during the 2008 election cycle, announcing a presidential exploratory committee yesterday, party leaders are wondering what has become of those who they see as the more serious establishment contenders.

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