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Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.  

Just about anything goes, but attacks and pie fights are not welcome here.  This is a community diary and a friendly, peaceful, supportive place for people to interact.  

Everyone who wants to join in peaceful interaction is very welcome here.



Hey! Good Evening!


This evening's music features Texas piano player Big Walter Price.  Enjoy!



Big Walter Price - Pack Fair and Square


"Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who'll get the blame."

  -- Bertrand Russell


News and Opinion




Grand Bargain Circus - Red Clowns Ready?

Jugglers_Circus_Amok_by_David_Shankbone

There's a big deal brewing in the Beltway Bigtop that's been years in the making.  The Grand Bargain is now officially on the red clown leadership's radar.  But can they get their ducks in a row?  Will the rank and file blue clowns have an attack of conscience?  And what about the audience - will they meekly accept the shears as the Ringmaster and clowns together begin to fleece them?  Or will they bombard the clowns with rotten tomatoes, imprecations, incantations and entreaties frightening them away from yet another of the Ringmaster's big plans as they did with the Ringmaster's recent plan to engage in yet another stupid and expensive war of choice?

Here's a wrap up of the past couple of days under the Beltway Bigtop.

Bigtop Blame-a-Rama - Juggling the Hot Potato of Blame

The lights have been doused under the Beltway Bigtop as the red clowns and blue clowns could not come to agreement over how best to rob the audience.  The blue clowns adamantly protected the Ringleader's plan to demand tribute of the audience for his donor cronies in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries in return for health care insurance products of dubious utility.  The red clowns would not give up their demands to kill the Ringleader's program as well as demands for a smorgasbord of environmental destruction, means-testing for medicare, limitation of court awards for medical malpractice, repeal of taxes on some of their cronies and a contraceptive-free dessert bar.

Killer-Klowns-from-Outer-Space-pies

As the sun came up on the Beltway Bigtop Tuesday morning there were lines of circus employees leaving the parking lot as the tall order of the day began - the search for a scapegoat.

While both the red clowns and the blue clowns stayed up until the wee hours juggling the hot potato of blame back and forth between the red clown-controlled Ring 1 and the blue clown-controlled Ring 3, the Ringmaster called the red clowns "irresponsible" and upbraided them for their, "ideological crusade."

The US government shut down early Tuesday for the first time since 1996 after lawmakers divided over Obamacare failed to reach an agreement to fund federal agencies through the next fiscal year.

President Barack Obama called it the "height of irresponsibility."

Speaking Tuesday afternoon, Obama slammed Republicans for shutting down the government as part of an "ideological crusade" designed to kill his signature health care law.

"I urge House Republicans to reopen the government," Obama said at the White House Rose Garden, while surrounded by Americans he said would benefit from the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile one of the red clowns' leaders, Boner T. Redclown, did impressions of the Ringmaster over in Ring 1 as he passed juggling potatoes back and forth with Harry T. Blueclown over in Ring 3.  Harry T. Blueclown, for his part, returned the relentless hail of hot potatoes with all of the speed and bravado he could muster.
House Speaker John Boehner imitated the president on the House floor as he described their ultimately fruitless conversation Monday evening in the hours before a U.S. government shutdown.

“I talked to the president earlier tonight,” the Ohio Republican said before dropping his voice to sound more like President Barack Obama. “‘I’m not gonna negotiate. I’m not gonna negotiate. We’re not gonna do this.’ Well, I would say to the president, ‘This is not about me. This is not about Republicans here in Congress. It’s about fairness for the American people.’”

House Republicans repeatedly sent bills that would have temporarily funded the federal government but cut funding or delayed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate’s Democratic majority repeatedly stripped those bills of their anti-Obamacare provisions and sent them back to the House for approval, setting up the impasse that led to the first U.S. government shutdown in 17 years.

Audience reaction was mixed to the impressions and the rapid-fire juggling spectacle, however, the Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions was quick to assign responsibility for Boner T. Redclown's performance to a subset of the most effusive and animated of the red clowns.  Some in the Beltway Bigtop's Office of Promotions claim that a conspiracy is afoot amongst some of the red clowns to force Boner T. Redclown into his behavior, while others claim that Boner T. Redclown and his leadership group
 held a meeting outside of the Bigtop and stole the schtick of the more animated red clowns.

Bozos_Circus_postcard_1960sMonday was a frantic day on Capitol Hill, though all the activity ultimately came to nought: A flurry of last-minute legislative feints failed to prevent the government from shutting down at midnight. But in the process, House Republicans' total crackup was on full, public display.

The breaking point was Speaker John Boehner's penultimate proposal, a bill that would have funded the government -- and Obamacare -- while delaying the health-care law's individual mandate and canceling congressional staffers' insurance subsidies. To Boehner, this was a major concession from the House's previous offering -- a delay of the entire law. To the White House and Senate Democrats, it was just as unacceptable and no concession at all.

But within the GOP, it provoked a freakout on both Boehner's right and left flanks. Moderate Republicans, long silent for fear of the party's angry base, correctly viewed the proposal as inexorably leading to shutdown, and threatened to rise up and block it. "This is going nowhere," New York Representative Peter King told National Review. He claimed to have 25 members on his side and demanded that Boehner instead put a "clean" government-funding bill -- one that didn't touch health care -- on the floor of the House.

Meanwhile, conservatives were also in revolt. The Senate Conservatives Fund sent an email to its supporters denouncing "the Republican establishment in Washington" for telling "lies to help them fund Obamacare." It accused GOP leaders of using the mandate delay as cover to disguise the fact that they were allowing the rest of the law to go into effect -- something the group called unacceptable.

Many in the Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions are eager to sell the narrative that the clowns have cracked up and become completely dysfunctional, creating new norms for governance.

Many of the contributing media outlets in the Beltway Bigtop's Office of Promotion apparently can't seem to remember previous government shutdowns as they swoon from the vapors from their, "discovery" of the, "new governing norms."

In the past the blue clowns have been quite willing to press their advantage as a majority to protect their constituency just as the red clowns are doing now:

There were four shutdowns over abortion funding in the 1970s, a Democratic-led shutdown over funding for the notorious MX missile in 1982, a Democratic-led shutdown over a Supreme Court civil rights ruling in 1984, a Democratic-led shutdown over expanding Aid to Families with Dependent Children (that’s welfare) in 1986, and a Democratic-led shutdown over aid to the Contras and the Fairness Doctrine(!) in 1987. So shutdowns were for quite a while part of the normal business of government. And as I said, there’s a cruel logic to them. When Congress and the White House are held by different parties, Congress has no bigger chip at their disposal than the power of the purse. So they use that, over and over again, to extract often unrelated policy concessions from the executive branch. It may have stopped for a while for various reasons, but it’s back because it’s a very inviting way for a Congressional majority to assert their will.
Weirdo with a hula hoop.
Why Can't the Blue Clowns Play the Game?

While one set of red clowns stalks the Ringmaster holding out hoops for him to jump through, another group of red clowns is sneaking out towards the fringes of the tent brandishing torches and threatening to burn the Bigtop down.

The Ringmaster remains impassive and, out of one side of his mouth refuses to negotiate, while out of the other makes promises to negotiate, but, on his terms:

Placing blame squarely on House Republicans, Obama said “the bottom line is that the Senate has passed a bill that keeps the government open, does not have a lot of extraneous issues to it, that allows us then to negotiate a longer-term budget and address a range of other issues but that ensure that we’re not shutting down the government and we’re not shutting down the economy at a time when a lot of families out there are just getting some traction in digging themselves out of the hole that we’ve had as a consequence of the financial crisis.
Given that the blue clowns control both the Main Ring and Ring 3, one would assume that the party of the Four Freedoms and the Great Society, friend of the working man and the underprivileged, would have pressed their advantage to make some serious gains for their constituency.

Instead, the blue clowns, in concert with the Ringmaster have been working to apply increasing levels of austerity to their constituency while their policies reward the Beltway Bigtop funderswho want austerity.

And the blue clowns aim to please their masters:

Virtually all of the services that will go unfilled during this shutdown, for example, are services for the poor or near-poor. A sclerotic governing system empowers a status quo that is biased toward elites, who are often the only ones able to break the gridlock, when it suits them and their pocketbooks.

Consider also how the nature of the gridlock itself empowers elite goals in this case. Democratic pundits and allies have talked themselves blue about the doomed Speakership of John Boehner, the lunacy of Ted Cruz, and whether the Republican fever will break. Precious few words, by contrast, have been written about the fact that the SOLUTION here, the position that Democrats have been pushing, is a “clean” continuing resolution, which will enforce sequestration limits, a spending cap below societal need and economic demand, into Fiscal Year 2014. And while that would only hold for a couple months, anyone who thinks sequestration will somehow be cancelled (or even “replaced,” which does the economy next to no good from a macro standpoint) by the same people who just shut down the government over “defunding” Obamacare, which is by its nature mandatory spending and not defunded today, is nuts. But Democratic politicians benefit from the virtual silence about how the country is doomed to austerity spending caps for what could be an entire decade. And elites enjoy advantages from such a state of affairs as well.

When the Ringmaster speaks of, "negotiat[ing] a longer-term budget and address a range of other issues," he's not talking about a bold plan to meet his constituency's demands.  The Ringmaster is talking about another round of his "Grand Bargain" negotiations.  

The Ringmaster's base constituency is certainly not demanding cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or other similar cuts to social programs.

American People Fight Obama’s Treacherous Cuts to Social Security and Medicare

 The vast majority, left, right and in-between, have repeatedly made it clear that they do not want cuts to either of these vital programs. A CBS News poll conducted last month shows that 80 percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, opposed cutting spending on Medicare to reduce the budget deficit, while 79 percent were against cutting Social Security for that reason.

The people don’t want the cuts, and the facts don’t support them. There are certainly no economic excuses: The federal deficit politicans howl about is shrinking, as none other than Goldman Sachs’ chief economist has attested. And even if it wasn’t, Social Security doesn’t affect it – a fact that many Americans have copped onto despite the best efforts of politicians to deceive them. Clearly, in a time of growing economic inequality, there is no justification for taking more money out of the hands of the elderly and the vulnerable.

 

The only people demanding entitlement cuts are, hmmmm... the Beltway Bigtop funders:

Mark Thoma has an excellent column at the Fiscal Times linking the fight over the debt ceiling to the larger issue of extreme inequality. ... I’d like, however, to suggest that the reality is even worse than Thoma suggests.

Here’s how Thoma puts it:

Rising inequality and differential exposure to economic risk has caused one group to see themselves as the “makers” in society who provide for the rest and pay most of the bills, and the other group as “takers” who get all the benefits. The upper strata wonders, “Why should we pay for social insurance when we get little or none of the benefits?” and this leads to an attack on these programs.
How, then, are things even worse than he says? Because many of the rich are selective in their opposition to government helping the unlucky. They’re against stuff like food stamps and unemployment benefits; but bailing out Wall Street? Yay! ...

The point is that the superrich have not gone Galt on us — not really, even if they imagine they have. It’s much closer to pure class warfare, a defense of the right of the privileged to keep and extend their privileges. It’s not Ayn Rand, it’s Ancien Régime.

And this just in... the red clown leadership is taking the bait!
Boehner to GOP: Grand Bargain in the Works

House Republicans tell me Speaker John Boehner wants to craft a “grand bargain” on fiscal issues as part of the debt-limit deliberations, and during a series of meetings on Wednesday, he urged colleagues to stick with him.

The revelation came quietly. Boehner called groups of members to his Capitol office all day, taking their temperature on the shutdown and the debt limit. It became clear, members say, that Boehner’s chief goal is conference unity as the debt limit nears, and he’s looking at potentially blending a government-spending deal and debt-limit agreement into a larger budget package.

“It’s the return of the grand bargain,” says one House Republican, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “There weren’t a lot of specifics discussed, and the meetings were mostly about just checking in. But he’s looking hard at the debt limit as a place where we can do something big.”

But can the red clown leadership bring along the rank and file?

The Red Clowns Try To Put Their Scary Monster Back In the Closet

The Ringmaster is clearly ready to do the business and the bidding of the Beltway Bigtop funders.  

In order to signal this to one and all, the Ringmaster has taken to the center ring, lit a fire and is sending up smoke signals to announce that he has appointed his former "opponent," Mitt T. Redclown's policy director, currently a fellow at the Hoover Institution Clown College, to the Social Security Advisory Board.

Given the red clowns' expressed desire to "roll back the new deal," will they come to the table to take down the programs that red clown funders and the blue clown funders both want gone?

It looks like the red clowns will have to deal with the remnants of a rather unweildy stage prop that they made for previous shows in order to get down to business:

Frankenstein 1 by Mazzastick[T]here is no doubt that the Republican right in the age of Obama, and to some extent before that, in its desire to roll back what's left of the welfare state, what's left of the New Deal, and back in the Reagan era, in order to crush what was left of the New Deal era, did call, has called into being an almost Frankenstein-like monster in the form of Fox News, a far right-wing talk radio network, and has really created a kind of almost frothing constituency in these very tightly gerrymandered, often rural, white congressional districts. ...

And these people seem to have gone just completely off of the reservation. And it's gotten to the point that the big capitalist elites that called them into being are now sort of horrified of them. And you see The Wall Street Journal in particular, and some of the old-line more centrist type of Republicans like John McCain and Senator Corker from Tennessee, calling them "wacko birds" and being horrified by them. But, you know, the GOP establishment created all of this in many ways. ...

[T]hey've really cultivated a group of people who are motivated by some pretty dark, almost proto-fascistic, certainly racist ... people who don't seem to know where to stop and really are just sort of, you know, Ted Cruz stand your ground, who are willing to go all the way, you know, go to the wall to stop this horrific Obamacare, which they have been told by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing talk machine noise machine is some sort of incredible socialist government intervention in the health care system, which is, of course, completely preposterous, 'cause Obamacare is a fairly center-right corporate-friendly health care intervention. It was designed in part to head off the real social democratic and majority-supported health reform, which was single-payer.

Ironically it is the red clowns' "Frankenstein Monster" (courtesy of the Koch Clowns, Rupert T. Redclown and Rush T. Redclown among others) that has so far saved the audience from the implementation of cuts to "socialist" entitlement programs which are opposed by the vast majority of the audience.

As the clock ticks down to the Debt Limit Doomsday, can the red clowns tame their Fractious Frankenstein monster?

The Ringmaster and most of the blue clowns are happy to enact much of the red clowns' agenda (because it is also the blue clowns' agenda) so long as the red clowns can conveniently be the final recipient of the hot potato of blame. The blue clowns are just too cowardly to enact the corporate agenda of the Beltway Bigtop funders all at once; they mean to implement it in tiny pieces, much like the effect of the Ringmaster's chained cpi, in hopes that the slow implementation will suppress audience outrage.

Stay tuned! And stay tuned after the main event, because the  blue clowns and the red clowns are already making plans for a joint project to benefit the Union of Pickpockets and Banker Bozos just as soon as the center ring goes dark between acts.

Wall Street Deregulation Bills Likely To Attract Bipartisan Support After Shutdown Negotiations

Attention aux PickPockets (dans La Tour Eiffel) by dullhunkWhen the drama surrounding a government shutdown abates, the House of Representatives expects to take up legislation to expand taxpayer support for derivatives, the complex financial products at the heart of the 2008 meltdown. And while traditionally straightforward tasks like funding the federal government have become raucously contentious in recent weeks, a bill subsidizing Wall Street banks is likely to garner significant bipartisan support.

Also on the post-shutdown agenda is legislation that would prevent the Department of Labor and the SEC from implementing new consumer protection standards for 401(k) accounts and other retirement funds.

Both bills are efforts to roll back reforms that passed under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. A small cadre of liberal Democrats are marshaling opposition to the bills, but still expect dozens of Democrats to join a united Republican Party in passing the legislation.

"As we're trying to forestall a government shutdown, we've got these ugly financial services bills on the horizon," said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus. "It's a multi-pronged attack on the middle class."

The Shutdown Game

The government shutdown battle is more like a Civil War reenactment than the real thing. A face-saving bargain will soon be struck, returning 825,000 furloughed federal employees to their jobs at wages that have been frozen for the past two years – not by the Republicans, but on President Obama’s orders. The clock has been stuck with both hands on “austerity” since Obama came fully out of the closet as a GOP fellow-traveler following the 2010 midterm elections. From that moment on, Republican-imposed gridlock has been the only barrier to Obama’s long-sought Grand Bargain to eviscerate entitlement programs. When the current theatrics are over, Obamacare will remain intact and the president will be back on his ever-rightward stride. The GOP will take Obama up on his offer, earlier this year, to cut Social Security and will probably be offered other bits and pieces of the social safety net in the interest of “shared sacrifice” and domestic peace. ...

Protection of property being the prime directive of both wings of the Corporate Party, democracy will remain in shutdown mode in Detroit and all of Michigan’s largely Black cities, whatever happens on Capitol Hill. The markets are hungry to devour the nation’s pension funds, and have chosen Black locales to perfect the model, secure in the knowledge that nobody of consequence will raise a finger to stop them from filching the nest-eggs of the undeserving classes.

The disenfranchisement of Detroit under the iron rule of a corporate lawyer is simply another form of “shared sacrifice” necessitated by austerity – which is why the Obama administration challenges voter ID cards in North Carolina but does not deploy the Justice Department to re-enfranchise the majority of Blacks in the state of Michigan, whose votes have been rendered worthless. Detroit’s ability to borrow money – or, in this case, to be stripped of every asset of value for the benefit of Wall Street bankers – trumps citizenship rights, every time.

"Dramatic, Painful" Government Shutdown Disproportionately Impacts Working Poor, People of Color

Government shutdown: Is a grand bargain the only way out?

Many pragmatic House Republicans have come to a simple conclusion: Navigating their way out of this fiscal mess won’t be easy.

They think their best chance to fund the government, raise the debt ceiling and extract any concession from President Barack Obama is to strike a big budget deal.

Yes, the grand bargain is back.

It’s about the only common thread these days that runs from House Republican leadership down through the rank and file. Most House Republicans privately concede they’re fighting a battle they’re unlikely to win, and to avoid a prolonged shutdown and a disastrous debt default, Washington has to create a package so big that lifting the borrowing limit and funding the government is merely a sideshow. ...

Items frequently mentioned for inclusion in such a compromise include means-testing Medicare, chained consumer price index, raising the retirement age and comprehensive tax reform. Many Republicans would find it hard to reject a package that rewrites the Tax Code, enacts some entitlement reform and repeals Obamacare’s medical device tax.

'Congress acts completely in betrayal of American people'

The GOP’s Shutdown Tab: One Billion Dollars and Counting

Forty million dollars an hour. A third of a billion every day. $1.6 billion every week.  That’s a conservative estimate of the money Republicans are wasting by keeping the federal government closed down.  ...

That $1.6 billion per week figure first received widespread publicity when Morgan Stanley’s analytical team began discussing the potential cost of the shutdown, expressed in “basis points” ... in an investor newsletter this week. (A Morgan Stanley team member confirmed the number with us on Wednesday.) Other groups, including IHS Global Insight, have since offered similar estimates.

While there could very likely be additional costs to the economy, economist Dean Baker said it was difficult to estimate them in advance. “That’s where it gets speculative,” Baker told us earlier Wednesday, “because there are many possible scenarios – if, for example, a single [Food and Drug Administration] inspector misses an outbreak because he or she wasn’t on the job.”

Has GOP Already Defeated Obamacare? State Opt-Outs Leave Millions of Poor Without Insurance



While the red clowns work to make the Ringmaster's program unavailable or difficult to access, the Ringmaster's insurance industry cronies among the Beltway Bigtop funders work to lower their liability.  It's fortunate for them that they had the foresight to write the law such that the policies that they are hawking don't actually have to cover much:
Drastically thin provider networks on Obamacare Exchange plans

The past couple of days I’ve heard constant talk of the deals people are getting on the Obamacare Exchanges, (when the servers are up, of course). $120/month premiums, $500 or less deductibles. All of this sounds like a great triumph of liberal social policy. And if that were the whole story, I would definitely agree.

However, buried in the slimy underbelly of all of it is the new paradigm shift that has been defacto, if not purposefully engineered by the law. That is, the plans on the Exchanges offer *drastically* thin provider networks. ... People may see this in the abstract and think, oh well, a few doctors will be left out. But what is happening nationwide and in my Seattle area is that the highest quality and most major research, teaching and cancer hospitals, as well as a large portion of the top doctors in areas are being left out of the in-network provider list in Exchange plans. As I’ve said, this is a paradigm shift in how health insurance works in our country. People think they are getting the same kinds of plans on the Exchanges that they’ve always gotten through work or the individual markets. They. Are. Not.

One of the issues this law was sold on was that it would eliminate medical bankruptcy for extreme care needs. However, in the Seattle area, none of the in-network Premera plans (and Regence/Bridgespan pending) have in-network hospitals offering bone marrow transplants. And as far as I can tell, only one of the hospitals offers organ transplants, but I haven’t gotten to researching if the doctors who do those transplants at that hospital are in-network providers. In-network providers exist for basic cancer or heart care treatment, however with the especially thin provider network, this care will likely be defacto rationed, as not enough providers are available to offer the care. ... “Progressives” should be screaming. This should be front page news. The equivalent of Code Pink should be camping on the DC doorsteps and at every capitol building in our country. But the brilliance of this horrifying aspect of the law is that because the “progressive” grass roots love Obama or are otherwise living in denial, they remain silent.

Obamacare: The Gift To Insurers That Will Keep on Giving

One way is to look at what Obamacare is, and what it is not. It most definitely is the legislative manifestation of the insurance industry's biggest wishes of all, providing massive no-strings-attached subsidies to the industry, and using government power to force citizens to become the industry's permanent customers. It also is not what the insurance industry most fears - it is not only not a single-payer system, it doesn't even include a public option that would allow people to altogether avoid the rapacious private-insurance industry. It also does not prevent insurance companies from employing their typical devil-in-the-details tactics - the kind that provide the patina of health insurance while limiting access to actual health services.

Asking exactly why Obamacare was structured like this is another way to see that the law is really a gift to insurers hidden in the gaudy wrapping of altruism. That's because the answer to that critical "why" question is simple: the law was written by the insurance industry.  ...

True, many low-income Americans will initially benefit from subsidized coverage. But as Barron's details in an article appropriately headlined "How to Profit From Obamacare," the growing subsidies will not necessarily be used to provide health care over the long term. Instead, they may increasingly be used to pad the profit margins of the insurers contracted by Medicaid. And with Obamacare statutorily cementing insurers role as profit-taking middlemen between taxpayer subsidies and health care providers, the only way to permanently maintain health care services will be to submit to a now-institutionalized extortion scheme. Either Obamacare coughs up more taxpayer money to pay the insurers' ever-increasing levy, or more people lose their coverage and die for lack of any health insurance whatsoever.

Summing up what this all means in practice, the Institute for New Economic Thinking's Marshall Auerback put it this way:

We’ve had a bailout for bankers and now the principle seems to be extended to the insurance industry. As Randy Wray and I discussed in a recent paper, the health care bill just signed into law entrenches the centrality of private health insurance companies and contain no serious proposals to limit costs. More people will get hit with deductions, co-pays, annual limits (for several more years), exclusions, out of pocket expenses. This will ensure that health care remains too expensive to actually take advantage of new insurance. And many currently insured people are going to get higher taxes. Premiums will rise.
The f#$king corporate state can't even allow the little people to keep the accumulation of crumbs that they have collected from under the rich man's table in the course of a lifetime.  Bastards!
Medicaid patient dies. Who gets the house?

When Cathy Bode's maiden aunt died of old age in 1997, she left her house to her niece. The blue bungalow on a bluff overlooking this working-class city was Rose Guido's last remaining asset. Her savings had been consumed to pay for the nursing home where she spent her final years. When the savings ran out, Medicaid paid the bill. A year after 85-year-old Aunt Rose died, Bode got a letter from a collection agency saying her aunt's estate owed Medicaid $51,000. Bode, a schoolteacher, could either reimburse the government or sell the house. So Bode, who did not have $51,000 or any other place to live, became a bit player in a long-running feud between West Virginia and the federal Medicaid program. State officials are fighting back against a problem that increasingly affects elderly people in nursing homes and their adult children across the country.

The governor, state attorney general and a congressman are working to kill an obscure federal law known as the Estate Recovery Act. They say the law is unfair and inhumane. The text fills just one page of the voluminous Medicaid Act, but it has caused anguish among middle-class Americans in nearly all 50 states.

The showdown in West Virginia could have ramifications nationwide.

The Estate Recovery Act requires states to recoup the costs Medicaid paid for nursing home care from the estates of individuals after they die. To many Americans, that means wiping away the family homestead. To pay that Medicaid bill, many families must liquidate the house that their parents owned and wanted to pass on.

"This is not just an economic issue; this is a cultural issue," says Darrell McGraw, West Virginia's attorney general. "Part of our ethic is work hard, do well, save and pass on to your progeny the results of your labor. This defeats that proposition."

Edward Snowden’s E-Mail Provider Defied FBI Demands to Turn Over Crypto Keys, Documents Show

The U.S. government in July obtained a search warrant demanding that Edward Snowden’s e-mail provider, Lavabit, turn over the private SSL keys that protected all web traffic to the site, according to to newly unsealed documents.

The July 16 order came after Texas-based Lavabit refused to circumvent its own security systems to comply with earlier orders intended to monitor a particular Lavabit user’s metadata, defined as “information about each communication sent or received by the account, including the date and time of the communication, the method of communication, and the source and destination of the communication.”

The name of the target is redacted from the unsealed records, but the offenses under investigation are listed as violations of the Espionage Act and theft of government property — the exact charges that have been filed against NSA whistleblower Snowden in the same Virginia court.

The records in the case, which is now being argued at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, were unsealed today by a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia. They confirm much of what had been suspected about the conflict between the pro-privacy e-mail company and the federal government, which led to Lavabit voluntarily closing in August rather than compromise the security it promised users.

NSA Chief: Phone Surveillance Foiled ‘One, Perhaps Two’ Plots

Obama Claim of '54' Foiled Plots 'Wildly Misleading'

When the scandals surrounding the NSA collection of Americans’ telephone data emerged, the administration defended it with repeated claims that they had disrupted 54 terrorist plots thanks to their constant spying on your telephone calls. ...

Sen. Patrick Leahy [at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing] pushed heavily for details and revealed that the claims were wildly misleading, at best.

Leahy first got NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander to admit that of the 54 putative plots, only 13 had anything to do with the United States, and on additional questioning he conceded that the program had only actually foiled one, or “perhaps two” plots from the surveillance.

NSA director admits to misleading public on terror plots

... Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy pushed Alexander to admit that plot numbers had been fudged in a revealing interchange:

“There is no evidence that [bulk] phone records collection helped to thwart dozens or even several terrorist plots,” said Leahy. The Vermont Democrat then asked the NSA chief to admit that only 13 out of a previously cited 54 cases of foiled plots were genuinely the fruits of the government’s vast dragnet surveillance systems:

“These weren’t all plots, and they weren’t all foiled,” Leahy said, asking Alexander, “Would you agree with that, yes or no?”

“Yes,” replied Alexander.

Former NSA Chief Fantasizes About Putting Snowden on 'Kill List'

Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee known for blowing the whistle on the agency's unconstitutional dragnet surveillance practices, should be put on the "kill list" used by the Obama administration to take out assumed enemies, former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden jived Thursday during a panel discussion on cybersecurity hosted by The Washington Post.

During a discussion of Snowden's recent nomination for a European human rights award, Hayden told the audience with tongue in cheek, "I must admit in my darker moment over the past several months, I'd also thought of nominating Mr. Snowden, but it was for a different list," much to the delight of the audience who laughed it off.

Getting in on the joke, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) added, "I can help you with that."

Obama Quietly Okays Military Aid to Countries That Use Child Soldiers

Amid the hoopla of the government shutdown, the White House quietly passed a bill Monday that overrides a law banning military aid to countries that use child soldiers.

The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 prohibits the U.S. government from providing military assistance to countries that directly use, or support the use of, child soldiers. Built into the law is an option allowing the U.S. president to override the ban if he/she deems it necessary.

On Monday, President Obama issued complete waivers to Yemen, Chad, and South Sudan, opening up those countries to U.S. military aid despite their known use of child soldiers, declaring in a written memorandum it is "in the national interest of the United States" to override the ban. ...

"Obama is becoming an expert at waiving human rights laws," writes Ken Hanly in Digital Journal. "He waived part of a law last month that banned the US from supplying lethal aid to terrorist groups so he could send aid to Syrian rebels.

Afghan SOFA Unlikely Due to Karzai’s Objection to Death Squads

The US has set the end of this month as its artificial deadline for signing a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA, also Bilateral Security Agreement, or BSA) with Afghanistan to govern the presence of US troops inside Afghanistan after the scheduled end of NATO operations at the end of 2014. The driving force behind this push to have the SOFA in place so far ahead of the end of next year was to prevent a repeat of the embarrassment that the US suffered when it was unable to get the terms it wanted–specifically, full criminal immunity for US troops–in Iraq and wound up withdrawing all troops instead of leaving a force behind after the stated end of military operations.

The news today out of Afghanistan does not bode well for the US to meet its deadline. Although the issue of criminal immunity still seems likely to me to be just as big a barrier in Afghanistan as it was in Iraq, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has raised a different concern that the US seems quite unlikely to address in the way he wants. From Reuters:

But two issues have emerged as potential “deal breakers”, President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, told reporters late on Tuesday.

One is a U.S. desire to run independent counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan after 2014, Faizi said. The other was a U.S. refusal to agree to a wide-reaching promise to protect Afghanistan from foreign aggression.

Karzai has long opposed operations in Afghanistan by U.S. special operations forces and the CIA, particularly when they run the risk of causing civilian casualties.

“These things are strongly related to our sovereignty,” Faizi said. “We find it to be something that will definitely undermine our sovereignty, if we allow the U.S. forces to have the right to conduct unilateral military operations.”





The Evening Greens




National Parks Will Close To The Public But Stay Open To Drilling If The Government Shuts Down

A review of the most recent contingency plans completed in December 2011 for federal agencies shows that under a government shutdown, federal land management agencies would be required to close national parks, wildlife refuges, and national forests to the general public but keep them open to most oil, gas, and mining operations.

The National Park Service’s contingency plan says:

Effective immediately upon a lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service will take all necessary steps to close and secure national park facilities and grounds in order to suspend all activities except for those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property…Where ever possible, park roads will be closed and access will be denied.
...

Drilling is currently happening in 12 national parks, including in Padre Island National Seashore in Texas and Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida. The National Park Service’s contingency plan did not specify what impacts the shutdown would have on oil and gas operations within these areas but it does note that “access to personal and commercial inholdings and leased facilities is permitted.”

Additionally, while the Bureau of Land Management will not be able to process new oil and gas permits, oil and gas production at existing operations is expected to continue in other locations onshore according to the Bureau of Land Management’s contingency plan. Yet only minimal agency personnel necessary for “protection of human life and property” will be on duty for inspections and enforcement and to oversee drilling activities such as “well shut-ins, re-completions, and downhole/equipment changes in drilling/plugging operations.” Current mining operations on public lands may continue as well, provided they do not need new authorizations or permits.

‘Alarming’ presence of radioactivity found by Pennsylvania fracking wastewater study

Researchers have found high levels of radioactivity, salts, and metals in water and sediment located downstream from a treatment facility which processes fracking wastewater from oil and gas production sites in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale formation.

A Duke University team analyzed water and sediment samples from the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, finding radium levels 200 times greater than samples taken upstream from the plant and far higher than what’s allowed under the Clean Water Act.

Radium is a radioactive metal that can cause diseases like leukemia and other ill-health effects if one is exposed to large amounts over time.

The treatment facility processes flowback water - highly saline and radioactive wastewater that resurfaces from underground after being injected into rocks in the fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, process. ...

"The occurrence of radium is alarming - this is a radioactive constituent that is likely to increase rates of genetic mutation" and can be "a significant radioactive health hazard for humans," said William Schlesinger, a researcher and president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, who wasn't involved in the study.






Rally Against Mass Surveillance


October 26th, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Right now the NSA is spying on everyone's personal communications, and they’re operating without any meaningful oversight. Since the Snowden leaks started, more than 569,000 people from all walks of life have signed the StopWatching.us petition telling the U.S. Congress that we want them to rein in the NSA.

On October 26th, the 12th anniversary of the signing of the US Patriot Act, we're taking the next step and holding the largest rally yet against NSA surveillance. We’ll be handing the half-million petitions to Congress to remind them that they work for us -- and we won’t tolerate mass surveillance any longer.

StopWatching.us is a coalition of more than 100 public advocacy organizations and companies from across the political spectrum.

Click here for more information



Blog Posts of Interest

Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.
What's Happenin'



A Little Night Music



Big Walter And His Thunderbirds - You're The One I Need

Big Walter Price - San Antonio Rose

Big Walter - Oh Ramona

Big Walter - Gamblin' Woman

Big Walter Price  - Get To Gettin

Big Walter And The Thunderbirds - Watusi Freeze

Big Walter Price + His Thunderbirds - Feelin' A Little Worried

Big Walter Price & Albert Collins - My Tears

Big Walter Price - Breakfast In Bed

Big Walter - Shirley Jean

J. Geils - Pack Fair and Square





It's National Pie Day!

The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.  

Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.

Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us?  Well you'll see why very soon.  So what are you waiting for?!   Head on over now and be one of the first!

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Thu Oct 03, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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