Topsail Island. March, 2013. Photo by joanneleon.
Louis Armstrong - I'm In The Market For You - July, 1930, Los Angeles
News and Opinion
Senate Opposes ‘Chained CPI’ Cuts to Social Security, Veterans’ BenefitsAnd the kabuki begins again. There is a great chasm between the Democratic Senate and the Republican House. The great negotiator Obama seeks to bring them together. The next debt ceiling hostage deadline is in May.
(Press Release) Bernie Sanders: 'The time has come for the Senate to send a very loud and clear message to the American people: We will not balance the budget on the backs of disabled veterans who have lost their arms, their legs and their eyesight defending our country. We will not balance the budget on the backs of the men and women who have already sacrificed for us in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor on the widows who have lost their husbands in Iraq and Afghanistan defending our country.'
WASHINGTON, March 22 – The Senate tonight voted to block cuts in benefits for Social Security and disabled veterans.
The amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) put the Senate on record against changing how cost-of-living increases are calculated in a way that would result in significant cuts.
“The time has come for the Senate to send a very loud and clear message to the American people: We will not balance the budget on the backs of disabled veterans who have lost their arms, their legs and their eyesight defending our country. We will not balance the budget on the backs of the men and women who have already sacrificed for us in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor on the widows who have lost their husbands in Iraq and Afghanistan defending our country,” Sanders said.
Senate passes first budget in four years but major battles loomBut Durbin is going to create a Social Security Commission, and this article only mentions Medicare and Medicaid now, not Social Security, which they are clearly gunning for despite the cheers about blocking chained CPI cuts.
Pre-dawn 50-49 vote passes Senate budget at odds with House fiscal blueprint as Obama prepares his own proposals
The Senate had not passed a budget resolution since 2009 because of fiscal policy disputes with Republicans that forced Congress to turn to numerous stop-gap spending measures, in order to avoid government shutdowns. Neither of the new budgets would be passed by the opposing chamber and each gives a very different ideological platform from which to put forward its vision of the future of government in America.
The Democrats' plan aims to reduce deficits by $1.85tn over 10 years, through an equal mix of tax increases and spending cuts. It includes unspecified tax rises worth about $975bn. The Republican plan seeks $4.6tnin savings over the same period, without raising new taxes. It aims to reach a small surplus by 2023 through deep cuts to healthcare and social programs that aid the poor.
President Barack Obama intends to release his own budget vision for 2014 next month, in a move that may go some way to uniting the two proposals so far. In a statement on Saturday, the White House said it was "encouraging that both the Senate and House have made progress by passing budgets through regular order".
Durbin Says Odds of Deficit Deal Less Than 50 PercentZombie catfood commission is back again, with a new name and zeroing in on Social Security this time. Can't wait to see who is appointed to this one!
“There has to be a negotiating position” in which “everything is on the table, including revenue,” Durbin said.
Durbin said changing the formula for calculating cost-of- living increases for Social Security recipients is a “real possibility, if it’s created in the right way,” Durbin said.
Durbin, a member of Obama’s deficit-reduction commission, said the president would be able to win Democratic support for changes in entitlement programs if Republicans agree to more tax revenue.
U.S. Senator Durbin to push Social Security reform commissionThere is a Washington Post article about the new Social Security catfood commission. Check out some of the comments. Mind you, this is the Washington Post.
WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - The No. 2 U.S. Senate
Democrat said on Wednesday he will introduce legislation to form
a task force to find ways of shoring up the U.S. Social Security
retirement program for the next 75 years.
Assistant Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin said the
panel would be modeled after the "Simpson-Bowles"
deficit-reduction commission that made recommendations to
Congress at the end of 2010, but failed to garner enough support
to push its comprehensive budget savings through Congress.
Durbin's proposed group would be made up of 18 members, six
appointed by Obama, six House members and six senators, equally
split between Democrats and Republicans.
If 14 out of 18 commission members embraced the ideas, they
would be put on a fast track to passage in the Senate and House
of Representatives. The panel would have six months to produce
and vote on a plan.
From Media Matters.3/22/2013 3:40 AM EDT
I would agree to a Social Security Commission on one condition ...
Durbin can't be on it.Yeh, we know what that means! They will label it a "gift from politicians" then freeze it from any honest cost of living increase, and tax it. Who in the hell trusts the maniacs in Washington?I don't think we need another commission, I think we need to start paying more workers a living wage. That alone would reduce the budget demands on a host of public assistance programs, as well as deepen the payroll tax revenue stream without changing rates.
Of course, Walmart and McDonald's hate this idea, because they like enhancing their bottom lines at taxpayer expense.Technically, Social Security cannot be insolvent because it has no obligations.
The courts ruled in 1964 that it was simply a tax with no obligation to pay out any benefits and allowed the Johnson administration to empty the trust fund. It's been empty ever since.
What we need is a law keeping congress' hands out of the till. Start there.
REPORT: The Washington Post Overwhelmingly Favors Cutting Social Security Benefits Over Increasing RevenueThe media is flooded with news stories about specific cuts caused by the sequester. The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) had a big hand in the Obamacare legislation. Bill Frist works there now with Tom Daschle on healthcare legislation. Ed Rendell and Haley Barbour are the co-chairs of the Immigration task force for the BPC.
The Washington Post wrote editorials mentioning policies that would cut Social Security benefits more than editorials mentioning Social Security revenue increases by nearly six to one, according to a Nexis search of Post editorials since late 2010. This analysis was performed as Social Security becomes a major topic in the upcoming budget negotiations.
A Nexis search of Washington Post editorials published after November 30, 2010, with the search terms "section(editorial) and byline(editorial) and (social security)" turned up 75 editorials, omitting duplications, in which Social Security was mentioned. The results showed that 23 editorials mentioned benefit cuts or policies that would effectively result in lower benefits than exist under current law, such as proposing changes to the cost of living adjustments to lower outlays or specific changes such as the "chained CPI." The Post mentioned boosting revenue through a payroll tax increase, or more generally increasing taxes on the wealthy to pay for Social Security and other retiree programs, in just four editorials -- a huge disparity of almost six-to-one in favor of benefit cuts over increased revenue. Vague or unspecified references of "reform" to Social Security were not included in this analysis.
House and Senate Remain Divided on Solving the Sequester
With the upcoming Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposals soon to be due in Congress, the sequester makes the job of Republicans and Democrats even more difficult. The House and Senate pushed their respective budgets forward on Thursday and Friday.
In these times it is common to see commissions and think tanks come up with their own solutions for the long-term debt, even critiquing current proposals.
[...] Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force.“The failure of the parties to negotiate an alternative to the sequester profoundly disappoints us and the American public. The challenge of developing an alternative seems eminently doable, compared to previous fiscal challenges that we negotiated successfully. The sequester is bad policy. The economic recovery remains extremely fragile, and immediate spending cuts will act as a further fiscal drag while doing nothing to address the drivers of our future debt burden.”
Cyprus talks to continue; no deal yetThis sounds very familiar because we've seen it around here, on a smaller scale, for several years now. Glenn's research on the Chomsky criticisms shows that these particular kind of attacks on Chomsky come from the left. The phony left gatekeepers, perhaps. More work needs to be done, more research and exposure done of the Left Gatekeepers. Note, Left Gatekeepers is a term that I used, not Glenn. Interestingly, in this piece, Glenn calls out one of the Guardian's journalists who used the techniques he talks about in this article against Chomsky.
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus officials and international representatives ended torturous negotiation in the early hours of Sunday with no agreement on a plan to raise money the island nation needs to qualify for a bailout package. Talks are set to resume later Sunday in Brussels, but time is running out: Failure would mean Cyprus could declare bankruptcy in just two days and possibly have to exit the eurozone.
Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/...
How Noam Chomsky is discussedMarch 18, 2013
The more one dissents from political orthodoxies, the more the attacks focus on personality, style and character
One very common tactic for enforcing political orthodoxies is to malign the character, "style" and even mental health of those who challenge them. The most extreme version of this was an old Soviet favorite: to declare political dissidents mentally ill and put them in hospitals. In the US, those who take even the tiniest steps outside of political convention are instantly decreed "crazy", as happened to the 2002 anti-war version of Howard Dean and the current iteration of Ron Paul (in most cases, what is actually "crazy" are the political orthodoxies this tactic seeks to shield from challenge).
This method is applied with particular aggression to those who engage in any meaningful dissent against the society's most powerful factions and their institutions. Nixon White House officials sought to steal the files from Daniel Ellsberg's psychoanalyst's office precisely because they knew they could best discredit his disclosures with irrelevant attacks on his psyche. Identically, the New York Times and partisan Obama supporters have led the way in depicting both Bradley Manning and Julian Assange as mentally unstable outcasts with serious personality deficiencies. The lesson is clear: only someone plagued by mental afflictions would take such extreme steps to subvert the power of the US government.
A subtler version of this technique is to attack the so-called "style" of the critic as a means of impugning, really avoiding, the substance of the critique. Although Paul Krugman is comfortably within mainstream political thought as a loyal Democrat and a New York Times columnist, his relentless attack against the austerity mindset is threatening to many. As a result, he is barraged with endless, substance-free complaints about his "tone": he is too abrasive, he does not treat opponents with respect, he demonizes those who disagree with him, etc. The complaints are usually devoid of specifics to prevent meaningful refutation; one typical example: "[Krugman] often cloaks his claims in professional authority, overstates them, omits arguments that undermine his case, and is a bit of a bully." All of that enables the substance of the critique to be avoided in lieu of alleged personality flaws.
As a result, I've read a huge quantity of media discussions about Chomsky over the past year. And what is so striking is that virtually every mainstream discussion of him at some point inevitably recites the same set of personality and stylistic attacks designed to malign his advocacy without having to do the work of engaging the substance of his claims. Notably, these attacks come most frequently and viciously from establishment liberal venues [...]
So to recap: Chomsky is a sarcastic, angry, soporific, scowling, sneering self-hating Jew, devoid of hope and speaking from hell, whose alpha-male brutality drives him to win at all costs, and who imposes on the world disappointingly crude and simplistic arguments to the point where he is so inconsequential that one wonders whether he has ever changed even a single thing in his 60 years of political work.
What's particularly strange about this set of personality and style attacks is what little relationship they bear to reality. [...]
But what is at play here is this destructive dynamic that the more one dissents from political orthodoxies, the more personalized, style-focused and substance-free the attacks become. That's because once someone becomes sufficiently critical of establishment pieties, the goal is not merely to dispute their claims but to silence them. That's accomplished by demonizing the person on personality and style grounds to the point where huge numbers of people decide that nothing they say should even be considered, let alone accepted. It's a sorry and anti-intellectual tactic, to be sure, but a brutally effective one.
Noam Chomsky: Edward W Said Lecture: Violence and Dignity -- Reflections on the Middle EastHoly crap, look at this tweet (h/t Glenn Greenwald):
(Q&A)Noam Chomsky: Edward W Said Lecture: Violence and Dignity -- Reflections on the Middle East
Seems like twisted thinking to me. Here is the Foreign Policy article:
Drone critics wanted greater transparency. Careful what you wish for.
According to Daniel Klaidman at the Daily Beast, "[T]he White House is poised to sign off on a plan to shift the CIA's lethal targeting program to the Defense Department." Many critics of the government's targeted-killing policy have been calling for such a move, hoping that it would (in Klaidman's words) "toughen the criteria for drone strikes, strengthen the program's accountability, and increase transparency." That may be. But if what those critics really want is to end the practice of killing suspected al Qaeda fighters with unmanned aircraft far from active combat zones, they should be careful what they wish for.
So, moving operations to the Pentagon may modestly improve transparency and compliance with the law but -- ironically for drone critics -- it may also entrench targeted-killing policy for the long term.
For one thing, the U.S. government will now be better able to defend publicly its practices at home and abroad. The CIA is institutionally oriented toward extreme secrecy rather than public relations, and the covert status of CIA strikes makes it difficult for officials to explain and justify them. The more secretive the U.S. government is about its targeting policies, the less effectively it can participate in the broader debates about the law, ethics, and strategy of counterterrorism.
Guatemala genocide trial continues; watch or listen liveThe CIA has been working with Syrian rebels for a long time. The reason for bringing it out into the open now is not clear.
Efrain Ríos Montt, the former de facto dictator of Guatemala, is in court today for the third day of his trial on charges of genocide against some 2,000 Ixil Maya during the country's 36-year civil war. Listen here, or watch here. I also created this Twitter list so you can follow the accounts of people live-tweeting from the courtroom (or listening to the audio/video stream, where dialogue is in Spanish and Ixil Maya only).
This tribunal is the first and only genocide trial in history held in a domestic court against a former head of state, and is a huge historic moment for Guatemala. It's also an important moment for the United States.
Our military and our government were intimately involved in orchestrating, funding, and propping up to power the Guatemalan generals who led the bloody civil war that killed at least 200,000, and left tens of thousands more "disappeared." Montt was trained in the US Army's own School of The Americas, and aided by our CIA under the Reagan administration.
But denial persists. Supporters of Montt and the military legacy he represents call the trial a form of political persecution or "political lynching," and deny that any genocide took place.
Reports indicate CIA helping Syria rebels obtain arms and intelligence
Citing unnamed current and former US officials, the newspaper said the new CIA effort reflected a change in the administration’s approach that aims to strengthen secular rebel fighters.
The CIA has sent officers to Turkey to help vet rebels who receive arms shipments from Gulf allies, the report said.
Martin Bashir and O'HanlonPower failure at the Fukushima Daiichi plant left spent fuel pools without power for the cooling systems. The company admits they are still running on "makeshift" equipment, two years after the accident. Meanwhile, Japan is working to convince their citizens that they need to continue using nuclear power, and the US is investing in nuclear power for the first time in 30 years. There is still no solution for the spent fuel rods. They sit in these pools, and as the article says, cooling problems could cause a nuclear accident with releases that are worse than the original Fukushima accident after the tsunami.
These two geniuses today assured each other on TV that US intervention in Syria is necessary and will be relatively painless. [...]
Bashir does not seem to have noticed that MSNBC produced and is still showing a documentary on the way the Bush Administration lied the US into war with Iraq. Now he is helping to do the same. pl
Fukushima Blackout Hints at Plant’s VulnerabilityHow embarrassing.
This week’s partial blackout, which started Monday, halted crucial cooling systems for as long as about 30 hours at four pools where used fuel rods are stored. The company that operates Fukushima Daiichi, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, said the plant had not been in danger because the fuel rods were never close to overheating, a state that could have led to a new, catastrophic release of radioactive materials.
Tokyo Electric, also known as Tepco, acknowledged the concern. “Fukushima Daiichi still runs on makeshift equipment, and we are trying to switch to something more permanent and dependable,” a Tepco spokesman, Masayuki Ono, told reporters Tuesday as the company worked to restore the cooling systems.
This week’s blackout did not affect the cooling systems for the three reactors, according to Tepco. Still, much of the continuing concern about the plant has focused on the fuel pools, which contain far more radioactive material than the reactors and were built with less shielding.
The four pools affected by the latest blackout contain more than 8,800 highly radioactive fuel rods, Tepco said, enough to cause a release much larger than the original accident, which forced the evacuation of some 160,000 residents in northeastern Japan. However, experts say that as the rods have aged with time, they are producing less heat, reducing the prospect of a catastrophic fire or melting.
Reports of My WMD Are Greatly ExaggeratedStop whining, peons, says the guy with the private army and the CIA-on-the-Hudson.
Ten years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the American war machine might be revving up for another strike, this time in Syria. The push has accelerated in the last few days after rebels and government forces accused each other of using chemical weapons in a rocket attack Tuesday outside of Aleppo, though reports now suggest such weapons were not fired.
Graham, who has been urging an intervention for the past 18 months, argues it is too risky to wait for a proper assessment of whether the Assad regime has chemical weapons.
Many Israeli officials have joined the hype, claiming that there is hard evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons earlier this week. Cabinet Ministers Tzipi Livni and Yuval Steinetz assured President Obama on Wednesday during his visit to Israel that they had proof of the attack, though it has not been made public.
Russia, which is Syria’s most powerful ally, says that Western nations are engaged in “delaying tactics” that distract the global community from focusing on aid and negotiations in the region. Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vitaly I. Churkin, said the possibility that rebels fabricated the attack in an effort to mobilize Western forces is not out of the question. Current events, he said, are mirroring those leading up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. It was a war, Churkin has said, that “is not in line with the Geneva document.” The allegations toward Syria, he continued, are a stepping-stone for repeating the same violations.
Stop Whining About Privacy, Bloomberg Says
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg thinks your concerns about privacy in a world of city- and drone-mounted surveillance cameras are unimportant. His advice to radio audiences Friday morning? “Get used to it!”
Bloomberg’s tough-guy, fatalistic attitude is well and fine for a man with $27 billion. He can buy all the privacy he wants. But you can’t. And he doesn’t care.
“You wait, in five years, the technology is getting better, ther’ll be cameras everyplace ... whether you like it or not,” Bloomberg said.
Cyprus bailout: Kremlin 'could punish Europe' in reprisal for bank levy
Fears mount that Russia could act against European companies if charge on deposits hits €30bn Russian investments
However, with Russian investors having an estimated €30bn (£26bn) deposited in banks on the island, the growing optimism about a deal was accompanied by fears of retaliation from Moscow. Alexander Nekrassov, a former Kremlin adviser, said: "If it is the case that there will be a 25% levy on deposits greater than €100,000 then some Russians will suffer very badly.
"Then, of course, Moscow will be looking for ways to punish the EU. There are a number of large German companies operating in Russia. You could possibly look at freezing assets or taxing assets. The Kremlin is adopting a wait and see policy."
Mike Ingram, an analyst at City broker BGC Partners, said: "In Russia, historically, if they want an asset they just grab it. If they want cash out of a [EU] business [in Russia] they just create a tax bill or raid offices and make your life unpleasant. They could also make life difficult diplomatically on issues such as Syria. They might also rattle a few sabres over deployment of the missile defence system."
Anonymous (you know, that cyberterrorist group?) is working to raise awareness about the plight of the Rohingya people. h/t to DSWright whose tweet I saw this morning. It's another story of profound human suffering, largely ignored and the least we can do is to try to shine a light on it in whatever way that we can. Even for those with genuine empathy for people like the Rohingya, it is tempting to say "there is nothing I can do for them" or to give in to feelings of overwhelming despair at the size and scope of such problems, but there are small things that we can do, like taking just a few minutes to read and become aware, to spread the word, to contact our State Dept (see below) which has resumed relations with Myanmar.
The Rohingya Genocide
Rohingya found adrift off PhuketSo it looks like some Thai people intended to help this particular boat of Rohingya when they came ashore and then they were detained after law enforcement authorities got involved and they will be pushed back out to sea. This is just one of many groups of refugees.
102 Rohingya caught in Phuket
More Boatpeople Land North of Phuket: Third Boat May Be Lost at Sea
Phuket: Future uncertain for Rohingya children
Contact US State Department
Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest
God has a half a million followers on Twitter but he only follows one. Justin Bieber.
The most miraculous thing about Jesus was that he was the only white guy within 20 miles.— God (@TheTweetOfGod) March 23, 2013
Cyprus bailout talks "at very delicate stage": government reut.rs/WNa9zw— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) March 24, 2013
JPMorgan Chase wins an award for "best crisis management." Practice makes perfect. online.wsj.com/article/SB1000…— David Dayen (@ddayen) March 23, 2013
CIA gives "actionable intelligence" to Syrian rebels. That's the same as giving lethal aid. on.wsj.com/YkX8QQ— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) March 23, 2013
Obama Doctrine: Inspirational speech sprinkled with hard-truths in lieu of actual policy changes. Repeat as needed.— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) March 21, 2013
Excellent post on Cyprus and the borderline racist assumptions abt its economy. brianmlucey.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/jus…— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) March 24, 2013
Cyprus: Could it Happen Here? alternet.org/economy/cyprus…— AlterNet (@AlterNet) March 23, 2013
"Wall Street Bonuses Are Expected To Jump 15 Percent This Year" businessinsider.com/wall-street-bo…— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) March 23, 2013
US Senate voted last night overwhelmingly to get rid of the estate tax? WTF? senate.gov/legislative/LI…— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) March 23, 2013
America’s Willing Executioners: How Iraq Was Destroyed by Antique Cold Warriors in the Service of Pirate Capitalists counterpunch.org/2013/03/22/ame…— Jeffrey Kaye (@jeff_kaye) March 23, 2013
@alanaldingmanI'm from NC & did 5-stop speaking tour there in Feb, so know what you mean. Bad guys win if good guys give up, so don't.— Col. Morris Davis (@ColMorrisDavis) March 23, 2013
#OpRohingya refers to/raises awareness about genocide in Myanmar.
Manhattan Melodymakers - I'm An Unemployed Sweetheart (1931)