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Photos by: joanneleon. September, 2013.


Chicago 25 Or 6 To 4


"Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it"
-- William Pitt the Elder
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

-- Lord Acton

News & Opinion

Shutdown Updates

The kabuki is very strong this weekend and you can just imagine what the Sunday shows will be like this morning (which I won't be watching).  I'll include Costa's tweets with the news excerpts but with warning that he's really far into the kabuki weeds.  I'm skipping the NYT articles because Dean Baker has been sending out warnings that their articles on the budget/shutdown are very misleading.

Dean Baker.  You'll need to read the whole thing on the specifics with the numbers and failure to recognize the changes that have occurred during the past three years.  Here's his last paragraph.

Be Skeptical, Be Very Very Skeptical in Reading NYT Budget Reporting
Saturday, 12 October 2013 20:15

The reality is that the sharp deficit reduction we have seen in the last three years has thrown millions of people out work and cost the country more than $1 trillion in lost output. It is bizarre that this fact is rarely noted in the NYT's budget reporting and it instead tries to imply that there is some urgency about addressing deficits projected for the distant future that may not even materialize.

McAuliff, Siddiqui, Huffington Post.
Last Hope? Still Stuck And Running Out Of Time, Reid And McConnell Meet On Debt Ceiling

After a plan from House Republicans was rejected by Obama Friday, Collins tried to advance a compromise that would have lifted the debt limit through January, and extended spending until March. It would have given Republicans a two-year delay of a medical device tax, and kept spending at levels they accept.

Democratic leaders shot that down, even though it had the support of at least five Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). They argued there was no reason to accept the compromise.

McConnell has been at the center of resolving two previous fiscal showdowns -- over the 2011 payroll tax and the 2012 fiscal cliff -- and the House was forced to ultimately swallow his deals.

Costa gets the sense that the poll numbers and the lack of unity between the House Rs and Senate Rs is weakening them significantly. Plus the House recessed until Monday so this supposedly takes them out of the negotiating game. I don't understand why if most of the bargaining is going on in the back rooms. A number of people on the left are like a group of drunken soccer fans in a pub after a big victory, except the game is not over yet and there's a good chance that it wont' be over for six weeks or six months.  The pre-capitulation was done ahead of time, twice actually.  In 2011, Obama designed and Dems voted for the sequester.  So we're stuck with budget numbers that are severely lower than the already low budget numbers we'd like.  And then the second pre-capitulation came when Reid and Pelosi asked for a continuing resolution at severely low sequester budget levels.  So right out of the gate, we gave the Republicans the severe budget cuts that they wanted.  And they want to keep the numbers that low or as low as possible.

Important: I'll ask you to read the tweets linked here and then bookmark this.  I'll explain why later, after this is over. We'll come back to this.

The Collins plan in its current form is supposedly dead.  

How the Collins budget plan collapsed

The frustration clearly boiled over on the Senate floor on the 12th day of the shutdown as Collins and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) engaged in a heated back-and-forth over the Democratic leaders’ rejection of Collins’ plan, according to several sources who witnessed the exchange.
Murray, the No. 4 in Senate leadership, pointedly told Collins that it was unacceptable to lock in cuts at the sequestration spending levels. Collins scoffed at the Democratic position, arguing she had worked to find a solution that both sides could accept.
Collins said in a statement issued Saturday afternoon that a group of six Senate Democrats and six Senate Republicans met twice Saturday to see if her proposal could be salvaged. She called those sessions “constructive.” Other key Senate Republicans in the effort are Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

The spotlight is on the red kabuki clowns in the main circus ring. Not red clowns vs blue clowns.  Upper red clowns vs lower red clowns. Or whatever.  

Costa says that people are calling the Collins plan the "Obama-Collins" plan but I think this McConnell plan is the Obama plan based on the basic design of the sequester. The sequester was designed to force Democrats to cut entitlements and the Republicans to cough up some tax revenue.  I think they've largely given up on the revenue part and will try to say that tax reform, elimination of loopholes will bring revenue (we know the loopholes will find their way back in). The entitlement reforms are probably all ready to go. I don't know if the tax reforms could be implemented quickly.  Will we see a deal that raises spending levels to pre-sequester levels in exchange for entitlement reforms?  I can see that happening, and adding a pledge to work on tax reform in some specified period of time.  However, I doubt they'll raise spending levels to pre-sequester.  I bet they don't raise them all the way and cave on that. I notice that we're not hearing a lot about temporary extensions anymore or clean CRs.

Sam Stein, Huffington Post.  What I've lost track of is the defense spending numbers in these budget numbers.  I'm not sure why the Republicans are so wild over these numbers.  I think I've missed a big detail, as in, were they able to bump the defense numbers back up and keep the lower domestic spending $. Otherwise, I'm not sure why the Rs are so set on keeping the low sequester level of spending in these negotiations.  I need to go back and study the numbers and analysis a bit because this makes no sense to me and if the Republicans really were trying to keep those lower sequester numbers, with the defense cuts (if you remember, the sequester had painfult cuts to both sides, defense and domestic, equally hated by Ds and Rs, and the sequester numbers get increasingly worse with time).  Did the Rs manage to eliminate the defense cuts and keep the domestic cuts?  BTW, the HuffPo front page and headlines are ridiculous. Even more tabloid ridiculous than usual. But the content in some of the stories is decent.

Government Shutdown Negotiations Stuck On Sequestration

The party’s leadership rejected an offer from Senate Republicans on Saturday morning mainly because the proposal locked in those budget cuts for too long.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called it the “single biggest sticking point” in negotiations, while his counterpart in leadership, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) deemed it the central dispute.

“The parties have different views. We passed a budget of $1.058 trillion and they passed one -- the Ryan budget -- [at] $988 [billion],” Schumer said. “So that is a serious issue.”
Hints that Republicans may end up playing ball on sequestration emerged this week. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) hinted that he would be willing to trade sequestration relief for entitlement reforms. Democrats aren’t ready to make that exchange yet because they view it as imbalanced, and because they want to get through the current crisis first.

Dean Baker, a few days ago.
Paul Ryan Wants to Save Money by Cutting Medicare, Change Is of Less Importance

Ryan is not going to save money from changing Medicare, he will save public dollars by cutting Medicare. In other words, Ryan wants seniors to pay more money for their health care. It's very polite of the NYT to assist Ryan in pushing his agenda by attempting to conceal its impact, but what happened to the old days when newspapers were about informing readers.

So after all of that, you really need a good laugh. Check this out (1:39, well worth it).

Everyone The U.S. Government Owes Money To, In One Graph


Ah, the Military/Intelligence machine wants to get rid of Justin Amash.  I've been saying that Establishment GOP will be looking to take over the party but I think this is something different. This is revenge for the Amash-Conyers amendment that scared the living hell out of the 1% corporate, establishment machine, whatever you want to call it.  That group of bipartisan lawmakers defied their party leadership and don't do what they are told. They actually represent the people who voted for them and not Wall Street and the War Machine.  Will we see the same thing on the left, trying to get rid of anyone who wants real reform on the massive surveillance programs?  Yes, I think we will.  It's simply unacceptable for the people who run the show to have members of Congress who vote their conscience and represent the 99% and not the 1%.  Whether or not we agree with some of these members on the Right on other things, and I certainly don't, this big bipartisan group did come together on issues of national security and there is enough common ground that they could actually get some things done.  Anyway, I think this primary is part of a bigger push by the Corporate Republicans, those who would get behind a Chris Christie presidential run, and we are going to see a massive campaign to do a makeover the Republican party, with a ton of money behind it, from Wall Street, the War Machine and Big Oil, all of whom have the same goals and run the show.
GOP rival announces Justin Amash primary

A businessman is challenging libertarian Rep. Justin Amash in the Republican primary for his Michigan House seat.

Brian Ellis announced the campaign on Tuesday, saying Amash “has turned his back on conservative principles.” Ellis’s campaign bio describes him as a “fiscal and social conservative Republican who embraces traditional values, limited government, and strong national security.”
Ellis, who founded an investment advisory firm, is reportedly well-funded by a group of state business leaders who want to see a more traditional Republican in the House.

Is this true? Ritholtz is saying that hospitals are no longer required to provide care to whoever comes in their doors.  Millions more will have coverage now under Obamacare, but what about the tens of millions who still won't have coverage?  And as for the main point being made by this article, after a lot of apologizing, I think he's saying that Obamacare is good for investors.  That's fine as long as it's good for the people but the jury is still out on that.  
The Obamacare Portfolio

When the health-care law was passed, my team did just that: We sat down to discuss exactly what impact it might have. Not the politics or the electoral implications, but what result this was likely to have in the real world. We came to several conclusions:

• The nation was going to create up to 50 million new health-care consumers;

• Demand for medical services and equipment was likely to rise;

• Innovative pharmaceuticals, procedures and techniques would also see increased demand;

• Hospitals would no longer be on the hook for free emergency room services, as they have for almost 3 decades.

What’s that you say? Hospitals are mandated to give away free services?

Yes. In response to some earlier bad behavior from hospitals called “patient dumping,” a mandate for unfunded medical care was created and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) said, “Hospitals provide care to anyone needing emergency healthcare treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay.”

That’s right, Reagan created a universal coverage mandate, forced the private sector to pay for it, thereby creating the world’s most expensive, least efficient health-are program. Hospitals hated it, the poor and indigent took advantage of it, and prices were jacked up in response to it. Eventually, the costs spread to everyone else.

Given that history, it is no surprise that hospitals were quietly pleased with Obamacare. After the Supreme Court ruled on the legality of the new rules in June 2012, hospital stocks rallied. It should come as no surprise: They get to remove a huge cost that they had no ability to control. They also get a massive number of new paying customers. And they now have some control over who their patients will be.

It's just cruelty. Plain and simple.  This president has shown us in so many ways that he's a ruthless man.  Not only is he ruthless, he's working with an ideology that is flawed, and the evidence keeps pouring in that it's a failure.
Will Seniors Have to Pay for President Obama’s Victory on Budget Standoff?

What is not in dispute right now is that most seniors are not doing very well. The median income for a person over age 65 is less than $20,000 a year. Relatively few seniors are enjoying anything that could be considered a comfortable retirement. It is completely wrongheaded to look to make their situation worse by the reducing the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment by adopting the chained CPI as the measure of inflation.

This switch would reduce benefits by roughly 0.3 percentage points annually, implying a cut of 3 percent after 10 years and a cut of 6 percent after a person has been retired for 20 years. This is a larger hit to the income of the typical senior than the tax increases faced by the typical wealthy person as a result of the ending of the Bush tax cut last fall. Seniors will be hit even harder if Medicare is cut in ways that lead to increased out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries.

Asking some sacrifice from seniors would be understandable if the country were in a situation where it was really strapped for resources and we were asking for everyone to do their part. However this is clearly not the situation we are in today.
Perhaps President Obama and the other grand bargainers who think these sorts of cuts to seniors make sense have some theory under which budget cuts in a downturn boosts private sector demand, but most of us have to live in the real world, not the dreams of budget cutters. At this point we have a vast amount of evidence; cutting spending in a downturn leads to slower growth and fewer jobs. That is not a debatable point. It’s sort of like the earth being round, it just happens to be true.
Other advocates of deficit reduction may just be confused because they continue to think that the federal government’s budget is like a family budget. This is less pernicious than a deliberate effort to hurt workers in order to boost corporate profits, but this confusion should not be allowed to be a basis for national policy.

I don't even have a word for the kind of feeling this dredges up in me.  Some kind of mixture of disgust and deja vu.
Labour will be tougher than Tories on benefits, promises new welfare chief
Rachel Reeves vows to cut welfare bill and force long-term jobless to take up work offers or lose state support

Labour will be tougher than the Tories when it comes to slashing the benefits bill, Rachel Reeves, the new shadow work and pensions secretary, has insisted in her first interview since winning promotion in Ed Miliband's frontbench reshuffle.

The 34-year-old Reeves, who is seen by many as a possible future party leader, said that under Labour the long-term unemployed would not be able to "linger on benefits" for long periods but would have to take up a guaranteed job offer or lose their state support.

Adopting a firm party line on welfare, the former Bank of England economist stressed that a key part of her task would be to explode the "myth" that Labour is soft on benefit costs, and to prove instead that it will be both tough and fair.

Well, here's some interesting responses from that Guardian article immediately above.  I've bolded some key things but do read the whole thing and don't miss his closing words.  Oh, and I take back every nice thing I said about Ed Milliband his House of Commons speeches on bombing Syria.  But I'm still really glad that the House of Commons shut down Cameron.
Absolutely amazing, a NuLabour Party trying to outflank the Tories on Social Security by tacking to the right of an already rightwing policy agenda set by the Tories.
Has Labour not learn't anything about changing the "narrative" and setting its own agenda and priorities?

First and foremost, unemployment payments make up but a small part of the overall social security bill, most of which is paid out to those aged 65 and over.
Secondly, and under the present neoliberal economic policies all major UK Parties have embraced since the late 70's, high unemployment levels are a built in feature - we see this in both the BoE's and Fed's pronouncements that ZIRP and QE type monetary policies will continue until the unemployment rate reaches 7%, which is now deemed acceptable by policymakers.

So, given you are mandating effectively an unemployment rate far higher than that deemed acceptable even in the 90's, why are those policymakers are choosing to abandon being vilified by the very forces that deem 7% a necessary evil to contain wage inflation and maintain a supposedly 'flexible' labour force?

If Labour want's to get elected it actually needs to challenge directly this meme of the Right and the neoliberal cohorts who infect business, politics and our supposed 'free' media.

By actively buying in to the prevailing hatred against those impacted directed by this neoliberal madness - in the hope of winning over a few votes in a few margins, Labour once more is abandoning its core voting constituency in favour of mollifying an extreme rightwing media that's owned by proponents and supporters of neoliberalism - specifically Murdock, Rothermere and the owners of the Torygraph.

So Mr Ed, its time for Labour to stand up and count for something, either you accept 100% the neoliberal economic pipe dream that is wreaking havoc in this country and globally, or you embrace a social democratic platform that is opposed to the present prevail economic system that benefits a tiny minority at the expense of the entire planet.

As for Ms. Reeves - well, at her age and with her education, she's fully indoctrinated with neoliberal idealism and should be stuck in a padded cell with others of her ilk - knowing the salaries of the BoE, to put it bluntly she's not got a 'fucking' clue of what she's talking about - apart from what she reads in a bigoted Press that detests its own nationals.

So Ed sir, either grow some balls, or fuck off!!!!

My vote is going to Plaid Cymru in the 2015 election, Green in local elections and I've yet to make my mind up for the Euro elections, but I can assure you it will not be any of the three legacy parties or the looney's at UKIP.

It's no good, they are simply too ensconced in their collective bubble of Randroid bullshit. Like in the States any real change from this sociopathic paradigm is going to have to come from outside the prevailing system
Ms. Reeve's neoliberal, almost fascist-esque pronouncements, have probably tilted the balance in favour of a "Yes" vote for full independence in Scotland - basically, given NuLabour has now abandoned any semblance social democracy, the only option for left-of-centre Scots is to vote SNP.

I look forward to this, as it will constitute the largest kick up the arse to a Westminster clearly not up to its job, and neoliberal madness that's poisoning much of the nation, Europe and our world.

Well done Ms. Reeves, and once Scotland has independence, and given NuLabours abandonment of social democratic principles, Wales too will demand independence from this madness.

At 48 years of age this month, this is now my sole principle political aim for the rest of my life.

Westminster fuck off.
Tories fuck off.
Liberal Democrats fuck off.
NuLabour fuck off.

We deserve much better than this - hence Westminster, the Union and NuLabour are not fit for purpose - only fit for further enriching an already wealthy beyond belief ruling elite.

"The White House statement didn't mention that part"
Malala Yousafzai tells Obama drones are 'fueling terrorism'

The White House says the first couple invited Malala -- the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize -- to the White House "to thank her for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan."

In a statement, the White House says the United States "joins with the Pakistani people and so many around the world to celebrate Malala’s courage and her determination to promote the right of all girls to attend school and realize their dreams."

In a statement released after the meeting, Malala said she was honored to meet with Obama, but that she told him she's worried about the effect of U.S. drone strikes. (The White House statement didn't mention that part.)

Effort underway to declassify document that is legal foundation for NSA phone program

In the recent stream of disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance programs, one document, sources say, has been conspicuously absent: the original — and still classified — judicial interpretation that held that the bulk collection of Americans’ data was lawful.

That document, written by Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), provided the legal foundation for the NSA amassing a database of all Americans’ phone records, say current and former officials who have read it.
“The original legal interpretation that said that the Patriot Act could be used to collect Americans’ records in bulk should never have been kept secret and should be declassified and released,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) said in a statement to The Washington Post. “This collection has been ongoing for years and the public should be able to compare the legal interpretation under which it was originally authorized with more recent documents.”
The broad outlines of the judge’s argument have been revealed via a Justice Department “white paper.” And last month, the administration released a 29-page opinion written in August that defended the program by asserting essentially that as long as some Americans’ phone records might be “relevant” to a terrorism investigation, the government may collect them all. But that opinion, current and former officials said, is not a substitute for Kollar-Kotelly’s original interpretation.

“If the question is, ‘How was this program authorized and what type of legal analysis first took place?’ the 2013 opinion is just not responsive,” said one former senior Obama administration official. “It’s hard for me to imagine, with all that’s already out there, that highly classified intelligence material would be so deeply entwined in the legal analysis in that original interpretation that they couldn’t somehow release it.”

POLITICO Cyber7 Conference: Gen. Keith Alexander
Published on Oct 10, 2013
POLITICO Cyber7 Conference: Gen. Keith Alexander, Commander of U.S. Cyber Command and Director of the National Security Agency headlines the cybersecurity conference in a conversation with POLITICO's Tony Romm.

NSA's Alexander to telecom industry: Trust me

Many of the media reports on NSA surveillance have been inaccurate, Alexander said. “People do not understand what’s going on,” he said. “The facts are not known.”

In a recent conversation with a U.S. CEO, the executive had the impression that the NSA was conducting surveillance that would be illegal and “we’d probably be in jail,” Alexander said. But that’s not the case, he said, describing the NSA’s collection of U.S. phone records as a “limited” program, with the phone records database queried less than 300 times last year.
He also urged TIA members to get the facts about NSA surveillance, but also said he couldn’t disclose too much information. “I would love to be transparent,” he said. “If only the good guys would come into the room—all the bad guys please stay outside—let us talk. We’ll tell you how we’re going to catch them.”

Alexander, who took no questions from the audience, said U.S. residents need to understand what the NSA is doing with the data it collects, not what it “could” be doing with it. Most of the media reporting on the Snowden leaks is “sensationalized and inflamed” with a focus on what the agency could be doing with the data, he said.

Some short clips of Snowden published by Wikileaks (so most likely cell phone video from Sarah Harrison).
Edward Snowden receives Sam Adams award in Moscow

Now is a good time to review the "Shock Doctrine" and/or to watch a documentary like this one.
The Shock Doctrine

A documentary adaptation Naomi Klein's 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine. An investigation of disaster capitalism, based on Naomi Klein's proposition that neo-liberal capitalism feeds on natural disasters, war and terror to establish its dominance.

Based on breakthrough historical research and four years of on-the-ground reporting in disaster zones, The Shock Doctrine vividly shows how disaster capitalism -- the rapid-fire corporate re-engineering of societies still reeling from shock -- did not begin with September 11, 2001.

The films traces its origins back fifty years, to the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, which produced many of the leading neo-conservative and neo-liberal thinkers whose influence is still profound in Washington today.


October 26th, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
A Rally Against Mass Surveillance

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 571,000 people from all walks of life have signed the 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.

12pm Eastern, Saturday October 26th
Gather at Columbus Circle in front of Union Station, then march to the Capitol Reflecting Pool

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