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Photo by: joanneleon. September, 2013.



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Mayors Nutter and Landrieu: Black Males Are an Endangered Species
The legislators discuss the roots of urban violence at the National Press Club.

Young, Black men are dying in America. Has the nation even noticed or has it bought into the notion that their lives are less valuable than others'? Those are two of many candid and difficult questions asked by Mayor Michael Nutter (Philadelphia) and Mayor Mitch Landrieu (New Orleans) during a joint appearance at the National Press Club to discuss urban violence.

[...]

Nutter lamented Congress' "mean-spiritedness" and seeming unwillingness to help people living in poverty and lawmakers' desire to cut programs that actually help those who really need it. Their attitude, he suggested, is not the American way.

"I thought we looked after folks. We look after everybody around the world," he said, adding, "We cannot just take care of the rest of the world and not take care of ourselves. It is the epitome of ... the shoemaker whose kids have holes in their shoes. We're actually big enough and bad enough as a country that we can do both."

Picking up on that theme of "mean-spiritedness" that Mayor Nutter spoke about, read this Bloomberg article by a former advisor to Mitch McConnell where he talks about what the Republicans might do in negotiation with Pres. Obama re: the Grand Bargain. Basically he says they should go for an unprecedented "tax reform" which would, I presume, wipe out our progressive tax structure. The decades long conservative wet dream of flattening the tax code. He says that if they bump the debt ceiling up a trillion, Obama will need to come back once more before 2016, and that will be the time to go in for the kill with entitlements, already having radically changed the tax structure so that it will be nearly impossible for Democrats to demand the reciprocating tax increase/revenue increase to bring down the debt and would severely weaken the bargaining position of demanding increases in revenue for spending cuts.

What he doesn't mention is that it would also be political suicide for the D party to cut entitlements before a presidential election too.  I don't know how much stock to put in this, but I picked up the link from a Bloomberg News editor on Twitter. What I do know is that the Grand Bargain is on the table again.  What we'll end up losing, I don't know, but what I do know is that Democrats are bound and determined to undo that sequester. You know, the one the White House designed in order to force the Democrats to undermine Social Security and the Republicans to increase revenues.  The Dem leadership and some key Dem Senators have been talking about the sequester non-stop, when they're not playing the kabuki game with the Republicans about the stupid non-filibusters and government shutdowns that will never happen in any meaningful way and the Obamacare that will not be defunded.  They're ramping up the shock doctrine scenario every day.  Look over there, look over there, look at that shiny object! Meanwhile, the back-stabbing White House negotiated in secret with eight Republican senators all summer trying to get a Grand Bargain.

But speaking of meaninfulness, listen to what this creep is proposing as a strategy.

How Republicans Can Win Debt Fight

As someone who has dedicated his life to advancing Republican economic philosophy, it would be a once-in-a-generation accomplishment to secure an agreement to fundamentally change the tax code in a revenue-neutral way. If done correctly, changing the tax code could raise the standard of living, reduce dependence on government programs and shrink the size of the debt; it could convert the recipients of transfer payments into taxpayers.
A tax code stripped of its exotic sounding and demagogic provisions would also render subsequent tax increases more difficult to achieve, disarming Democrats in future negotiations. Those seeking to raise revenue would have to advocate for either new taxes or rate increases.
This agreement wouldn’t require Republicans to abandon their efforts to rein in entitlements. There will be ample opportunities to re-engage on that issue in future debt-limit debates. A $1 trillion increase would guarantee at least one more visit to the debt-limit circus before the end of Obama’s second term. And time will only make Medicare and Social Security insolvency more imminent, dramatic and urgent.
Having that debate against the backdrop of a new tax code would help the proponents of entitlement reform. If Republicans play the long game on the debt ceiling, they can achieve something of significance and put the Republican in charge of negotiating the next fiscal agreement in the strongest possible position.

Obamacare! Obamacare! Ted Cruz! Green eggs and ham!  Meanwhile...
In Debt Limit Fight, GOP May Further Muddy The Waters With Tax Reform Demand

House Republicans reportedly are considering several ways to add a framework for tax reform to legislation needed to increase the federal government’s borrowing authority. Could such a rider increase the chances of reform happening in the near future? Sadly, no. Indeed, it is likely to bury a tax code rewrite even more deeply in Washington’s partisan muck.

The GOP leadership remains unsure about what this amendment would look like, to say nothing of what they’d finally accept once the bill works its way through the legislative meat grinder. But it seems pretty clear that adding tax reform to their debt limit wish list is little more than a talking point. And real reform would remain as elusive as ever, if not more so.

Keep in mind that the House GOP is not going to include an actual tax reform plan in its version of the debt bill. They are, in fact, far from agreeing among themselves on what such a proposal would look like. But they could try to tie an outline of their tax reform goals, and perhaps a timetable for reform, to a debt limit extension.

The tax reform amendment would likely be one of many ideas the GOP would add to their version of a debt limit extension, which Treasury estimates must be passed no later than Oct. 17. Other possible GOP asks include a delay in the Affordable Care Act, permitting the Keystone pipeline, and rolling back a raft of environmental regulations as well as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The National Review Online published one version last evening.

OMG! OMG! Government shutdown! Platinum coin! Crazy people! Meanwhile... Max Baucus has been working on "tax reform" for months and if you recall, there was a leak about how he had a deal for Senators who wanted to sign their names to requests to retain tax loopholes for their favorite owners lobbyists after which Baucus promises to keep that classified for 50 years.  The goal? Cutting the corporate tax rate for the good of globalization.  Make a big deal about ridding the country of the ridiculous and unfair corporate tax loopholes and subsidies. Cut the tax rate for corporations even though some of the biggest ones don't pay any anyway.  And of course those loopholes could never be slipped back into massive mega legislation going forward, could they?  Cutting the corporate tax rate and lowering the tax rate on the 1% who have realized all the gains, when corps and the 1% are richer than ever, when so many people are living through a Depression would be impossible to do, wouldn't it?  Watch this swing, baby!  Note that Mikulski, sometimes a pretty straight shooter, is talking about mid November for a Grand Bargain.  I have no idea what gets put into a debt ceiling deal and what comes later.  It sure would be nice if Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or somebody would lay out what's going on for the public and not just engage in the circus sideshow kabuki that gets more outrageous every time and the more outrageous the kabuki, the worse we'll be screwed later, I believe.  But don't expect it to end after the debt ceiling bullshit.
Tax reform’s status: Heard the latest rumors?

With lawmakers tight-lipped on their plans for the biggest overhaul of the Tax Code in a generation, lobbyists, staffers and others who collectively make up Washington’s tax world are resorting to the next best thing: swapping rumors.
[...]
Camp is at the center of all the rumor-mongering. After years of preparation, the longtime tax-reform advocate is edging closer to unveiling a bill. He’s begun a series of closed-door meetings with fellow Republicans to go over ideas. And while Baucus is working on his own proposal, Camp is attracting most of the buzz because he’s believed to be much closer to producing a detailed draft.
Whatever Camp puts out will be a big deal for Republicans, tax policy and millions of Americans who may be only vaguely aware of his reform push — even if, as is likely, his plan goes nowhere fast in Congress.
[...]
And even if his plan is dead on arrival, it could become the new starting point in future negotiations or get stripped for parts by other lawmakers searching for ways to pay for other legislation.

Did you watch the Senate Intelligence hearing yesterday? Yeah that was a real piece of work.  I don't know what that was.  A Keith Alexander PR session?  If so, he didn't do himself much good even if he did have his new BFF, Benjamin Wittes from Lawfare, whose quote of praise he used when he sent out that two-page letter to all the NSA families a week or so ago, there to testify and tell the country how they should not be concerned, how Keith Alexander has got this.  The hearing to watch is next Wednesday, Leahy's Judiciary committee hearing on FISA oversight, with Alexander and Clapper as witnesses again.  Meanwhile, DiFi did some weird things yesterday in that hearing.  Anyway, you should read this post by emptywheel.
Dianne Feinstein Gives NSA Apologist Ben Wittes More “Oversight” Time than Ron Wyden

The problem is, Dianne Feinstein had already deviated from normal Senate policy by giving Senators just 5 minutes to ask questions [...] Which meant that when Ron Wyden asked his first question — about geolocation — General Keith Alexander knew he could filibuster. As he did.

[...]

But when the first round ended, DiFi said they didn’t have time for a second one, because they had to move onto the two non-governmental witnesses, Ben Wittes and Tim Edgar. Wyden tried to just ask his questions quickly, but Susan Collins objected.

Wittes — who recently admitted that he is an NSA apologist, according to the dictionary definition of the term — had an unfettered (and unsworn) opportunity to read his statement, which seemed to take up far more than the 5 minutes Wyden got to exercise oversight (the entire statement, with admittedly long footnotes, was 13 pages, though I’m not certain he read it all).

This is burning through the news wires.  Chuck Grassley published the information he got from the inspector general about LOVEINT (a riff on SIGINT, signal intelligence and HUMINT, human intelligence).  Most of the incidents involve foreign nationals.  I don't believe this is the extent of it, not for a minute, but it will still cause quite a stir now that there are some specifics.  This is from Isikoff, NBC.  No wonder Keith Alexander is out there furiously trying to do damage control. In the past few weeks it was the Foreign Policy takedown with Hayden throwing him under the bus. Last week it was the pictures and accounts of his Star Trek "information dominance" control center. And now this.  He knows that he and Clapper are going down. But I bet it's pretty tricky to take down a guy as powerful as him, who has access to all that data.  You saw how they took down Petraeus. These things have to be done carefully. All speculation on my part, of course.
'Loveint': NSA letter discloses employee eavesdropping on girlfriends, spouses

In one case revealed by Ellard, an NSA employee for five years snooped on the phone calls of nine female foreign nationals "without a valid foreign intelligence purposes." In another, 2011 instance, an NSA employee admitted it was "her practice" to eavesdrop on foreign phone numbers "she obtained in social settings" in order to ensure she was not talking to “shady characters.'' Both employees resigned before any disciplinary action could be taken.

"What's clear about the instances of abuse is that these have nothing to do with terrorism," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "This is about individuals prying into the private lives of the people closest to them. It's an abuse of government data that should not be in the government's hands."

US intelligence chiefs urge Congress to preserve surveillance programs
Officials refuse to say in Senate testimony whether cell site data had ever been used to pinpoint an individual's location

US intelligence chiefs used an appearance before Congress on Thursday to urge lawmakers not to allow public anger over the extent of government surveillance to result in changes to the law that would impede them from preventing terrorist attacks.

General Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, conceded that disclosures by the whistleblower Edward Snowden "will change how we operate". But he urged senators, who are weighing a raft of reforms, to preserve the foundational attributes of a program that allows officials to collect the phone data of millions of American citizens.

In testy exchanges at the Senate intelligence committee, Alexander and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, refused to say on the record where the NSA had ever sought to trawl cell site data, which pinpoints the location of individuals via their phones.
[...]
Asked by Udall whether it was the NSA's aim to collect the records of all Americans, Alexander replied: "I believe it is in the nation's best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox – yes."
[...]
At the start of the hearing, the Democratic chair of the committee, Diane Feinstein, outlined a separate bill she is introducing with Republican vice-chairman Saxby Chambliss.

Their proposed legislation broadly echoes the small tweaks the intelligence establishment says it will consider, but does not go further. Feinstein said their bill would change but preserve the program of collecting and storing phone records of Americans under section 215 of the Patriot Act.

A must read by Greenwald.
Sen. Ron Wyden: NSA 'repeatedly deceived the American people'
About the Snowden disclosures, the Oregon Democrat told the NSA chief: 'the truth always manages to come out'

The Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday held a hearing, ostensibly to investigate various issues raised about the NSA's activities. What the hearing primarily achieved instead was to underscore what a farce the notion of Congressional oversight over the NSA is.

In particular, the current chair of the Senate Committee created in the mid-1970s to oversee the intelligence community just so happens to be one of the nation's most steadfast and blind loyalists of and apologists for the National Security State: Dianne Feinstein. For years she has abused her position to shield and defend the NSA and related agencies rather than provide any meaningful oversight over it, which is a primary reason why it has grown into such an out-of-control and totally unaccountable behemoth.

Underscoring the purpose of yesterday's hearing (and the purpose of Feinstein's Committee more broadly): the witnesses the Committee first heard from were all Obama officials - Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander, Deputy Attorney James Cole - who vehemently defended every aspect of the NSA. At the conclusion of their testimony, Feinstein announced that it was very, very important to hear from the two non-governmental witnesses the Committee had invited: virulent NSA defender Ben Wittes of the Brooking Institution and virulent NSA defender Timothy Edgar, a former Obama national security official. Hearing only from dedicated NSA apologists as witnesses: that's "oversight" for Dianne Feinstein and her oversight Committee.
[...]
Wyden spoke yesterday for 6 minutes - part of of it as monologue and part of it questioning Gen. Alexander - and it's really worth watching the video, embedded below. The Oregon Democrat condemned what he called "the intrusive, constitutionally flawed surveillance system" the NSA built. About Snowden's whistleblowing, he said that NSA officials should have known from "a quick read of history, in America, the truth always managed to come out." And his primary point was this: "the leadership of NSA built an intelligence collection system that repeatedly deceived the American people."

Another must read. Hersh says that "The Obama administration lies systematically". I've been saying this since 2009 and for that I've taken a lot of abuse, including being trailed by a group of people who said that making statements like this made me a racist and was compared with murderous, despicable night riders who hunted down slaves and maimed and killed them.  The kind of abuse and character assassination that occurs on this site, and was tolerated by the site owner and moderators, was unforgiveable and the people who engaged in this absolutely destroyed any shred of integrity that they had. But here's Sy Hersh saying the same thing. Is he a "pateroller" too?
Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the 'pathetic' American media
Pulitzer Prize winner explains how to fix journalism, saying press should 'fire 90% of editors and promote ones you can't control'

He is angry about the timidity of journalists in America, their failure to challenge the White House and be an unpopular messenger of truth.

Don't even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends "so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would" – or the death of Osama bin Laden. "Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true," he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011.

The Obama administration lies systematically, he claims, yet none of the leviathans of American media, the TV networks or big print titles, challenge him.

[Emphasis added]



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Stop Watching Us.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.



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