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Photos by: joanneleon. September, 2013.


Nelson Amos plays "Spanish Romance"

News & Opinion

Another fantastic piece by Sarah Kendzior, one of my new favorite journos.

The men who set themselves on fire
Due to joblessness and a bleak economy, self-immolations in industrialised societies are rising rapidly.

As I write this, no one knows who the man was or why he did it. But his act is not unique. He joins a long list of men who have self-immolated since the global financial collapse and subsequent austerity. Around the world, men are setting themselves on fire because they cannot find work.

This is happening in the world's richest and poorest nations, in its allegedly stable democracies and in its most ruthless dictatorships. The men who do this are young and old, of all races and religions, united only by their joblessness and their despair.

In the UK, an unemployed 48-year-old man set himself on fire outside a job centre after not receiving a needed payment. In Morocco, a group of young law students, belonging to a group called " Unemployed Graduates", set themselves on fire after not finding work. In Spain, a man burnt himself alive because he did not have enough money for food. In Greece, a 55-year-old man set himself on fire after screaming that he was in debt. In Bulgaria, several unemployed men self-immolated after condemning graft and corruption. In France, over a dozen people  - both French nationals and immigrants, from different occupations and social classes - set themselves on fire because they could not find jobs.

This is a partial list. Unemployed men have self-immolated in Germany, Iraq, Jordan, China, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. Many cases receive little media attention. The week before the man burned himself alive on the National Mall, a man in a business suit tried to set himself on fire in Houston, Texas, after telling passersby that he could not find a job.

Wall Street Journal and NRO have been out front on the Grand Bargain. Costa, at NRO, didn't really engage in the Shutdown kabuki and has been talking Grand Bargain almost from the start.  He seems to have come out of thin air and almost immediately gained huge numbers of followers and now is doing large amounts of media appearances. And some key insiders are talking to him regularly. That's interesting.  Weird actually.  Where did he come from?

Anyway, the latest concrete thing I've heard is that the Republicans will come up with some kind of temporary deal within 48 hours, so probably by tomorrow. The White House leaked late yesterday that maybe Congress would do a short term funding and debt ceiling bill, which we are not surprised about, to allow them all to have more time to negotiate (now that at least part of the curtain has been pulled back that this whole thing has been about a Grand Bargain all along).  I'm beginning to think it's even bigger than a Grand Bargain.  They are going to a hell of a lot of trouble to set up and stage this whole thing.  But then again we're talking about major, major initiatives.  Cutting Social Security and Medicare and a complete reworking of the tax code, both conservative wet dreams.  Dems have already given away the huge cuts to spending levels, sequester levels, and I think the only reason they'd do that is if they're confident of cutting a deal later. What else will the Dems get?  An immigration bill that they can use to guilt trip the base for objecting to cuts to SS/Medicare and undermining the New Deal?  They'll use a very emotional, passionate issue to work this whole thing, IMHO, as they did with LGBT rights.  It's outrageously unfair to put everyone in that position but of course they will.  Maybe some women's and children's issues that they also like to exploit.  And what about the TPP?  Seems too far out there to include something like that but will they bury it in some massive deal?  I don't think so but I have no idea how they'll sell that unless every member of Congress is offered an amazing job and they plan to retire after voting for that, and maybe move out of the country too because passing it might likely amount to something like treason, IMHO, which people will realize eventually.

Boehner Ties Deal to Talks on Debt
Speaker Won't Propose End to Standoff Unless Democrats Agree to Broader Deficit Negotiations

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said Sunday he wouldn't bring up bills to fully reopen the government or increase the country's borrowing limit unless Democrats agree to broader talks aimed at trimming the deficit. The speaker insisted he couldn't muster enough votes to pass either one without the concessions.

Either Sperling said too much (has happened before) or the White House is playing the mixed messages game (has also happened before).
White House Backs Temporary Debt-Ceiling Fix
Administration Officials Says Near-Term Increase Would Give Sides More Time for Talks

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration on Monday indicated it could support a temporary increase to the nation's borrowing limit to give Republicans and Democrats, locked in a bitter fight over funding government operations, more time to negotiate a longer-term solution.
The U.S. Treasury has said it could as soon as Oct. 17 have trouble paying bills because it will run out of room to maneuver under a $16.7 trillion borrowing cap set by Congress. With the debt limit deadline fast approaching, White House adviser Gene Sperling said the Obama administration could accept an increase that lasts a few weeks, allowing the two sides more time to negotiate.
White House spokesman Jay Carney later sought to play down the significance of Mr. Sperling's remarks, saying the administration has never opposed a short-term extension. He said the White House just wants Congress to lift the borrowing limit "without drama or delay."

Sen. Rob Portman floating deal to end stalemate
Portman floating ideas for ending budget mess

WASHINGTON — A few faint glimmers of hope surfaced in the U.S. fiscal standoff yesterday, both in Congress and at the White House, with President Barack Obama saying he would accept a short-term increase in the nation’s borrowing authority to avoid a default.
Separately, a Senate aide said Republican Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohioan influential on budget issues, is floating a plan to cut federal spending and reform the tax code as part of a broader deal to reopen shuttered government agencies and raise the government’s debt ceiling.

Separately, a Senate aide said Republican Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohioan influential on budget issues, is floating a plan to cut federal spending and reform the tax code as part of a broader deal to reopen shuttered government agencies and raise the government’s debt ceiling.

Although Portman’s initiative might not gain traction, most lawmakers believe that a budget deal like it will be necessary to end the stalemate.
Under the proposal, Obama would win a full year of government funding, instead of a spending bill lasting only several weeks that would force new negotiations in November or December, the aide said.
Republicans would get the strict across-the-board spending cuts that already are in place; many liberal Democrats, and some more-centrist Republicans, want to scrap them.

In addition, the fiscal package would contain $600 billion in savings over 10 years proposed by Obama in his budget submissions to Congress.
The aide said the savings would come mainly from “mandatory” programs. Those generally refer to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

[Emphasis added]

Some of the latest tweets from Costa.

Two of the best progressive investigative journalists out there, David Dayen and Marcy Wheeler did a blogtalkradio show on Sunday.  It's about an hour long and packed with info and opinion on various topics including the shutdown, economics, mortgage fraud and NSA surveillance.

Marcy Wheeler & David Dayen Virtually Speaking Sundays

Marcy Wheeler & David Dayen & Jay Ackroyd offer a counter point to the Sunday morning talk shows. Plus political satire from Culture of Truth.

If this is true, it's a big story and it looks like it's true.  It's WSJ but it's Siobhan Gorman who comes highly recommended by some trusted sources on the left.  I hope you're able to read the whole thing.  It's behind a paywall now but wasn't yesterday, or maybe it's now behind a paywall because some kind of metered usage thing, I'm not sure.  There should be a lot of stories in other media outlets based on this one.
Meltdowns Hobble NSA Data Center
Investigators Stumped by What's Causing Power Surges That Destroy Equipment

Chronic electrical surges at the massive new data-storage facility central to the National Security Agency's spying operation have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery and delayed the center's opening for a year, according to project documents and current and former officials.

There have been 10 meltdowns in the past 13 months that have prevented the NSA from using computers at its new Utah data-storage center, slated to be the spy agency's largest, according to project documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

One project official described the electrical troubles—so-called arc fault failures—as "a flash of lightning inside a 2-foot box." These failures create fiery explosions, melt metal and cause circuits to fail, the official said.

Get ready for a huge push, a major campaign from the Corporate wings of both parties and in my opinion, for an attempted transformation of the Republican party over the next two years. Grayson said there are three wings of the Republican party and I mostly agree.  One of them is the corporate wing.  

Remember I was saying that I thought there was some big makeover attempt coming from the Republicans? I had Morning Joe on this morning, and while the show makes me nauseous and I stopped watching it a couple years ago (or more), during this past week I've had the TV on because I'm interested in what the game is and Morning Joe is a good place to assess that.  They're establishment all the way.  They also happen to be big promoters of Chris Christie and MSNBC/CNBC love Wall Street and there's some crossover between the two.  

Anyway, the Ted Cruz thing and the radical Tea Party revolt on Obamacare has set off my red flags, big time.   I never believed it was about Obamacare, and the Cruz filibuster was so over the top that it looked like either an act or a set up to me.  Plus, all the talk about the demise of the GOP in the news was just not passing the smell test either, though I agree, of course, that in their current incarnation, they're a dying party.  But the 1% controls the government of this country by using two parties and having two parties is essential.  They can't risk this GOP party selecting a candidate like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul in 2016.  Wall Street and the other Bigs need to hedge their bets and line up two establishment candidates that ensure a continued iron grip on the executive branch and the Senate, a combination that has been wildly successful for them (and with those two under their control, key judge positions are taken care of as well).  The Senate writes almost all of the major legislation now, subverting the Constistution. The executive branch has broad, deep and expanding control of or influence over just about everything at the federal level nowadays.

At this point in time, Chris Christie can't win the Republican nomination in 2016.  Moderate Republican voters have abandoned the party in droves.  Moderate and even extreme Republicans who don't follow the orders of the party leadership get primaried by the Tea Party and the gerrymandering has given a lot of them confidence to defy leadership.  Bigots and misogynists embarrass the party on a regular basis and some of their key issues are killing the party, many of them from the Religious Right.  So if the Religious Right and the Tea Party continue to gain power in the Republican party, it's going to be extinct in the not too distant future or at least will not have enough power to serve its master effectively.  Women, minorities, LGBT have more and more influence and the bigots and misogynists and ideologues are alienating them.  The number of Independents keeps increasing.  The party needs a makeover to survive, to maintain the illusion of two parties and to serve its owners well.

So I think there's a power play going on.  I don't know how successful this "coup" will be or how long it will take, but a major attempt right now makes a lot of sense because their eyes are on 2016.  Getting back to today, a LOT of effort has gone into this Shutdown Kabuki and Debt Ceiling Apocalypse. There is a ton of political coordination going on.  First the Obamacare Shutdown Kabuki, which lasted all of one week, but which nobody is going to forget any time soon.  Within a week, Peter King was on cable news ever day throwing the Tea Party under the bus.  Members of the Senate (and just about everybody) was on the cable news throwing Ted Cruz under the bus.  Boehner is playing some bizarre helpless leader role and Paul Ryan is working in the back rooms to pull together a major deal in the form of the Grand Bargain.  

In addition to all of that, Bob Menendez, Chuck Schumer and John McCain were giving speeches in which Schumer told the audience that an immigration bill would pass this year.  And the word on the massive TPP "trade" bill is that it's going to Congress before the end of the year too.  A new Fed chairman will be on deck soon and an end to quantitative easing is supposedly coming soon which could cause a major shift, economically.  There are a number of experts saying that another crash is inevitable.  

Back to the politics of it all, I think the two wings of the Corporate Party are getting worried about their left and right flank.  A false equivalence is drawn between the Progressive Caucus and the Tea Party. The Tea Party really is radical and they're being set up and thrown under the bus, IMHO. The progressives are called the "far left" which, by anything but a hardline conservative standard, is a ridiculous claim.  But some of them don't obey the Corporate Party leadership sometimes, which is unacceptable.  And both factions have a pretty strong foothold in alternative media, are increasingly taking a sort of outsider position, so their supporters aren't easily manipulated by the media and propaganda machine.  Things like the "Stand with Rand" thing on drone assassinations and the Amash-Conyers amendment on the NSA funding showed what can happen when the two factions find common ground, which is unacceptable to the 1% Corporate Party, mostly because it's hard to control them with money and intimidation.  Progressives have been, to some extent, kept under control. The Left grassroots are veal penned and other things that I won't go into, and Obama did a good job of harnessing the Left in general, which many people have written about.  But Obama is becoming a lame duck and time is running out and there's nobody like him in the wings yet who could exercise such control over the Democrats, even if his team of planners, advisors and political operatives remained in place. Plus, the curtain has been pulled back to some extent.

And then there's the big thing. The Democrats' strategy for winning elections for the past 3+ years has been a lesser of two evils strategy.  The number of Independents has been steadily growing.  The number of bigots and misogynists has been, presumably, shrinking.  The number of people who are strongly religious has been shrinking.  The number of people of color and others who were in the minority, collectively, is growing and the demographic changes in the country are easy to see.  And they're trying to cope with the cultural changes in general, including the younger generation of conservatives, children of current conservatives, etc.  They can see that they'll soon be completely out of sync with a huge % of the population pretty soon.

So the Religious Right and the bigots, are going to be thrown under the bus and they'll make a run for all of those Independent voters, youth, a wider swath of demographics and try to transform into a moderate Republican party, IMHO, and Chris Christie will be the guy who will do it, along with a lot of others, of course.  Maybe people like Michael Bloomberg will be key as well.  Personally, I don't know how well this is going to work out.  It's going to be really tricky. Christie, for example, is still pro-life, anti-gay marriage, etc.  But that's for another discussion another day.  Right now I think it will be interesting to watch the status quo Republicans try to throw off the Tea Party after using them as a tool to initiate and set up some radical legislation in the near future, in coordination with the White House and the Democratic party leadership.  I really hope they fail on that.  I think it will fail and that what's coming is bigger than they can harness. I think that real change is coming and what the Corporate parties are looking for is not real change.

Anyway, thanks for indulging me on that long, rambling musing.  The thing with throwing the Tea Party and the Religious Right under the bus has been on my mind for a couple of weeks but what triggered this discussion of it was an appearance on Morning Joe today by Matt Lewis of "The Week".  Take a look at two recent things he wrote there (I'm not even familiar with "The Week" by the way but it was mentioned this morning and like Costa at the NRO, it might be a good place to get a sense of what's going on, not sure).   The first article had a different caption on MSNBC than the title below, but you'll get the idea.  It was a pretty bizarre appearance by Lewis, with a lot of talk about right-wing and Saul Alinsky and modern cultural references. I'll excerpt but you'll need to read the whole thing.

The GOP is losing young Christians
Big-hearted youngsters looking to "do unto others" won't find their calling in today's rancorous politics

"Alinsky, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!"

That's the reverence many modern conservatives hold toward the late liberal organizer Saul Alinsky, whose book Rules for Radicals — which was dedicated to Lucifer — has become an esteemed political bible for conservatives hoping to learn from the left.
It wasn't always this way. A couple decades ago, the Christian Coalition provided ground troops for the conservative movement. But today, perhaps having seen what happened to their parents' generation, many young Christians are choosing to be conscientious objectors in the culture wars. Some of this may be due to changing attitudes concerning some hot-button social issues. But there's also a growing sense among young Christians that political involvement, no matter how pure the original motives, is a corrupting force. Christians who attempt to be in this political world, but not of this political world, are constantly faced with ethical conundrums.

Chris Christie is the big winner of the government shutdown
His 2016 prospects are suddenly looking a whole lot brighter

If you're looking for someone who benefits politically from the government shutdown, look no further than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Several of his potential 2016 rivals, like Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul, were all — to varying degrees — backing the quixotic "defund ObamaCare" strategy. Today, they look like children in comparison to a get-things-done governor like Christie. I don't necessarily think this shutdown will be on the minds of voters in 2016, but what we are witnessing is merely the latest example of a Congress that can't get its act together. Voters will have to ask themselves, "Can we trust these guys to govern?"
Republicans might also benefit from having a leader who can stand up to the rebels within the GOP – especially if the shutdown hurts Republicans, causing them to re-evaluate which leaders deserve to be taken seriously.

Paints a glorified picture of the moderate Republican. Costa promotes this piece on Twitter several times and also promotes Peter King, a moderate, and Portman.
A G.O.P. Moderate in the Middle ... of a Jam

Though Libertarian-leaning House members have garnered much of the attention in Congress with their vocal complaining, challenges to the leadership and scorched-earth tactics, it is moderate Republicans like Mr. Dent, 53, who could end up deciding the fight if it reaches the point where both Republican and Democratic votes are required to settle key issues.

And Mr. Dent, whose square jaw, sandy hair and pale blue eyes make him look more like a local news anchor than a member of Congress, said he was ready to help should the opportunity arise.

“I’m a center-right member of Congress in a center-right district in a center-right country,” Mr. Dent said. “When you’re in this business of governing, sometimes you must step up and govern.”


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.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

The Evening Blues
U.S. Gov't Quietly Pushes to Conclude Trans-Pacific Partnership (a.k.a. “Corporate Coup D'Etat”) by bobswern
12 years ago today by temptxan
Our Dream Come True: Solar Power is as Cheap as Gas, Coal Plants Closing Slashing CO2 Emissions by FishOutOfWater
Pictorial Response to Today's NYTimes Koch Brothers Exposé

Sociologists on Transgender

More Tunes

Mediterranean Sundance - Al Di Meola

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