In the USA...United Surveillance AmericaAmerica’s police are looking more and more like the military
By Michael Shank, The Guardian
Monday, October 7, 2013 11:28 EDT
America’s streets are looking more and more like a war zone. Last week, in a small county in upstate New York with a population of roughly 120,000 people, county legislators approved the receipt of a 20-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, donated by the US Defense Department to the county sheriff.
Between the Armored Personnel Carriers locking down main streets in major American cities – mimicking our MRAPs in Afghanistan – or Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) and Special Forces units canvassing our country, if we’re not careful, this militarization of our domestic policing will make-over America, and fast.
Here’s how it all happened. A little-known Pentagon program has been quietly militarizing American police forces for years. A total of $4.2bn worth of equipment has been distributed by the Defense Department to municipal law enforcement agencies, with a record $546m in 2012 alone.
In the fine print of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 1997, the “1033 program” was born. It allows the Defense Department to donate surplus military equipment to local police forces.
Though the program’s existed since the 1990s, it has expanded greatly in recent years, due, in part, to post-9/11 fears and sequestration budget cuts. The expanse, however, seems unnecessary given that the Department of Homeland Security has already handed out $34bn in “terrorism grants” to local polices forces – without oversight mind you – to fund counter-terrorism efforts.
Additional militarization, then, deserves congressional attention as the program is harmful and must be scaled back for a number of reasons.
First, the program is transforming our police into a military. The results of such over-militarized law enforcement are apparent from the dispersion of Occupy protesters in Oakland to the city-wide lockdown in Boston. As retired police chief Norm Stamper stated to the Associated Press:
We make a serious mistake, I’m convinced, in equipping domestic law enforcement, particularly in smaller, rural communities, with this much military equipment.
Tanks, grenade launchers, armored vehicles, and assault rifles are just a few of the items that have been transferred from military control to municipal police forces. Law enforcement agencies need only to arrange and pay for shipment in order to receive the items of their choice (pdf). One particularly egregious example is found in South Carolina, where Richland County’s sheriff acquired a tank with 360-degree rotating machine gun turrets. Sardonically, the vehicle has been named “the Peacemaker“.
Swat teams, furthermore, are no longer found only in large, high-crime areas. Instead, even small rural towns now have the equipment to arm their own paramilitary units. Investigative reporter Radley Balko estimates that around 150 Swat raids are performed every day in the United States.
Second, the program encourages waste. Never mind, for a moment, that neither the Defense Department nor the Homeland Security Department has been audited – the only two unaudited government departments incidentally. Any waste from the 1033 program, then, has gone unnoticed thus far.
Municipalities’ stockpiles have grown exponentially with billions of dollars’ worth of weaponry and equipment they simply do not need. This giveaway has created a shopping frenzy among law enforcement officials keen to scoop up equipment before someone else does.
Take a look at these examples. A small town in Georgia without a body of water acquired boats and scuba gear. The same town ordered a shipment of bayonets, which is now collecting dust. In Texas, a town of only 835 residents received more than $3m worth of equipment, including deep-fat fryers, televisions, and playground equipment. The stories abound.
Authorities often claim that the program assists local law enforcement without incurring costs for taxpayers. Yet the program requires that localities accept equipment “as is”, meaning that taxpayers foot the bill (pdf) for all repairs, storage, or maintenance of the growing stockpile. Thus, the arms race ignited by these policies is as wasteful and costly as it is dangerous.
Lastly, the program’s lack of oversight is irresponsible. Indeed, the amount of unaccounted for weapons, fraud, and abuse is alarming. Officially, state coordinators are required to ensure that local law enforcement agencies keep full inventories (pdf) of the equipment they receive, and the localities must report any missing equipment and return any that is unused. But in practice, federal and state authorities infrequently check – if ever – to ensure that inventories are up to date. Effectively, then, it is the recipients of weapons who are left to regulate themselves. The results have been disastrous.
For example, a sheriff in Illinois was accused of lending the assault rifles, which he got through the 1033 program, to his friends. Meanwhile, a firearms manager in North Carolina pled guilty to selling his on eBay. Worse, 11 districts in Indiana were completely suspended from the program because of the high volume of weapons they lost. And a county in Arizona acquired $7m worth of weapons and Humvees before giving them to unauthorized persons and attempting to sell them to boost their budget.
The lack of oversight is appalling. State coordinators admit that they conduct very few in-person inspections. In New York, the state is apparently outsourcing the majority of their inventory work to a part-time, unpaid intern. And in Mississippi, it took six years before federal authorities discovered that a state office, which was ineligible for the program, had received $8m worth of equipment, despite the fact that the Defense Department is supposed to review the program every two years. The Pentagon program cannot continue in this manner. Congress should acknowledge the failure of this program and permanently ban military-grade weaponry, armored vehicles and aircraft from transfer to municipal police forces. If the Defense Department is to continue to lend surplus equipment to localities, it must vastly tighten oversight and ensure that no item go unaccounted for. On-site inspections must be frequent and consequences for noncompliance should be severe.
If America is concerned about helping its police forces prevent violence, there are more cost effective ways of doing that. Since we know that cities and states with lower levels of violence have higher levels of education, healthcare coverage and economic opportunity, and lower levels of poverty and income inequality, that is where we should be investing taxpayer dollars.
But when local police forces carry assault weapons and patrol America’s main streets with tanks and drones, the lines blur between the military and law enforcement. The growing militarization of the United States appears to be occurring at home as well as abroad, a phenomenon which is troublesome and sure to continue without decisive action. Scaling back the 1033 program is a much-needed start and would cast some light on the blurring line between military forces and the local police who are meant to protect and serve.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
*********For those of you who live in America why is such an article not in your own media ? ******
*************Michele Bachmann is Sleeping with Putin, Proving We Are in the End Times
By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Tuesday, October 8th, 2013, 7:31 am
Well, okay, that’s not the best example because of its stomach-churning implications, but you get my point, I think, about what Bachmann and other tea party Republicans are doing, when you see Bachmann say, as part of a large anti-Muslim diatribe, that “Obama is supporting Al Qaeda, proving that we are in the End Times.”
What Bachmann did was to take a false premise and say because A=B then C. But A is NOT B and even C itself has not been proven to be true regardless of the relationship between A and B.
Now Bachmann sleeping with Putin might well herald the end times, rather like the old adage about dogs and cats, but it illustrates how something that is not true does not make something else true.
I said something about Bachmann’s premise being false: What is rather funny about Bachmann’s claim is that she said this on Saturday, on the very same day that an Army special forces unit sent to Libya by President Obama nabbed al-Qaeda leader as Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, better known by his alias Anas al-Libi, and Navy SEAL Team 6, operating in southern Somalia, attempted to nab Ikrima, a leader of terrorist group linked to al Qaeda, Al-Shabaab.
Will this change Bachmann’s thinking? No. Facts cannot be allowed to intrude on a good anti-Obama diatribe, which began when the Minnesotan lunatic, er, I mean, Representative, invented another lie she could use as an excuse for the whole End Times thing:
President Obama waved a ban on arming terrorists in order to allow weapons to go to the Syrian opposition…US taxpayers are now paying to give arms to terrorists, including al Qaeda.
If you look at what President Obama is ACTUALLY doing as opposed to what Bachmann claims he is doing, back on September 16 a White House press release revealed that,
Today, the President signed a Presidential Determination exercising his authority to waive certain restrictions under the Arms Export Control Act. This action will allow the U.S. Government to provide or license, where appropriate, certain non-lethal assistance inside or related to Syria. This includes: 1) chemical weapons-related personal protective equipment to international organizations, including the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, for the conduct of their operations; 2) chemical weapons-related life-saving assistance for organizations implementing Department of State or U.S. Agency for International Development programs to strengthen local Syrian health care providers’ ability to prepare for and respond to any use of chemical weapons; and 3) defensive chemical weapons-related training and personal protective equipment to select vetted members of the Syrian opposition, including the Supreme Military Council, to protect against the use of chemical weapons. This action is part of longstanding and ongoing efforts to provide life-saving chemical weapons-related assistance to people in need in Syria.
Of course, Bachmann had to completely invent some implications for this completely humanitarian aid (drum-roll please):
This happened and as of today the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists. Now what this says to me, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the end times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history. Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice. Maranatha Come Lord Jesus. His day is at hand. When we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this, these days would be as the days of Noah.
Besides Bachmann’s evident inability to express herself clearly, there are several problems with all this, including the fact that she is speaking of a relationship between things that are demonstrably untrue and other things that cannot be proven to be true.
I’ve used this example before when discussing such absurdities as the GOP’s crazy reaction to the Boston bombing, but it clearly needs to be trotted out again. These attempts to obfuscate remind me a bit of an episode of the British comedy The Black Adder, in which one of Edmund the Black Adder’s cronies tells him that the eyes of the Spanish Infanta are “as blue as the blue stone of Galveston”:
Edmund: Mm! … What?
Percy: The famous Stone of Galveston, My Lord.
Edmund: And what’s that, exactly?
Percy: Well, it’s a famous blue stone, and it comes … from Galveston.
Edmund: I see. And what about it?
Percy: Well, My Lord, the Infanta’s eyes are bluer than it, for a start.
Edmund: I see. And have you ever seen this stone?
Percy: (nods) No, not as such, My Lord, but I know a couple of people who have, and they say it’s very very blue indeed.
Edmund: And have these people seen the Infanta’s eyes?
Percy: No, I shouldn’t think so, My Lord.
Edmund: And neither have you, presumably.
Percy: No, My Lord.
Edmund: So, what you’re telling me, Percy, is that something you have never seen is slightly less blue than something else you have never seen.
Percy: (finally begins to grasp) Yes, My Lord.
Bachmann claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, yet she demeans his name by lying through her teeth as often as she gets the opportunity. I don’t remember that injunction from the New Testament, to lie on Jesus’ behalf. Bachmann, like other Christians real and fake, claims belief in a capital-T Truth, but fundamentalist Christians (like Bachmann) seem to think it is perfectly permissible, even obligatory, to lie on behalf of this Truth.
I suppose that makes as much sense as me saying that because Michele Bachmann has a secret harem of incubi that her husband Marcus is an al Qaeda operative. Much as I despite everything Bachmann and her husband stand for, I would not say this because it is ridiculously, obviously untrue.
This sort of rubbish belongs on the pages of the National Inquirer, but even tabloids can’t match the sheer dishonest creativity of tea party Republicans. And to make matters worse, unlike the National Inquirer, people like Bachmann get to spout their lies before a national audience on a major television network as though it were documented fact.
On Sunday, the White House said, “This operation should be a clear reminder that the United States will seek justice against those who would attack Americans, and never forgets those who are victims of terrorism,” and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the raids “send a strong message to the world that the United States will spare no effort to hold terrorists accountable, no matter where they hide or how long they evade justice.”
We will continue to maintain relentless pressure on terrorist groups that threaten our people or our interests, and we will conduct direct action against them, if necessary, that is consistent with our laws and our values.
For Bachmann then, this can only mean President Obama is signalling his support for al Qaeda. But what is really happening is that she is signalling her own divorce from reality, ethics, common decency, and abrogating any right to claim a relationship to Jesus Christ, who never once in his short career said, “Blessed are the liars, and those who lie in my name.”
**************Republican Rep. Dent: Ted Cruz ‘put us in a ditch’ without ‘a plan to get out’
By Scott Kaufman
Monday, October 7, 2013 15:31 EDT
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) on Monday echoed Peter King’s statement that the person to blame for the current government shutdown is Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
“If I had to cast blame anywhere, I would say it was Sen. Cruz and those who insisted upon this tactic that we all knew was not going to succeed,” Dent told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“What he did essentially, Sen. Cruz, basically, he took a lot of folks into the ditch. Now that we’re in the ditch, you can’t get out of the ditch, the senator has no plan to get out of the ditch, those of us who do have a plan to get out of the ditch and will vote to get out of the ditch will then be criticized by those who put us in the ditch in the first place.”
Dent also challenged House Speaker John Boehner’s assertion that there aren’t enough votes to pass a “clean” continuing resolution to fund the government, saying “I believe there are the votes to pass a clean CR.”
Earlier this afternoon, Obama issued Boehner the same challenge. “Hold a vote,” the president said. “Call a vote right now. Let’s see what happens. If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there aren’t enough votes, then they should prove it. Let the bill go to the floor and let’s see what happens. Just vote.”
On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested that Boehner’s afraid such a vote would actually pass, as almost 20 Republicans, including Rep. Dent, have agreed to support it.
“Are you [Boehner] afraid this measure will pass, the government will reopen and the American people will realize you took the country hostage for no apparent reason?” Reid said.
Click to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvXPogHH81Q
*************Harry Reid will push for ‘clean’ debt ceiling increase
By Arturo Garcia
Monday, October 7, 2013 17:15 EDT
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to introduce a bill calling for an increase to the federal debt ceiling that will not include social program cuts demanded by House Republicans, ABC News reported on Monday.
The bill, which has been referred to as a “clean” increase, is scheduled to come before the Senate floor Monday evening or early Tuesday, with just over 10 days left until the U.S. Treasury Department will lose the ability to borrow more money to pay off the country’s financial obligations. For it to pass in the Senate, not only would Democrats need to vote for it unanimously, but they would need to attract six Republicans. On Oct. 2, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) accused Reid’s party of “scaring people” over the prospect of the country defaulting on its debts.
The Washington Post reported that President Barack Obama’s administration supports raising the debt limit both for a six-week period, as well as through the 2014 midterm elections. During an appearance at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C., Obama challenged House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), “Call a vote right now, and let’s see what happens,” in response to statements from Boehner saying there were not enough votes in the GOP-dominated House of Represenatatives to pass an increase.
A spokesperson for Boehner, Brendan Buck, told the Post that he would continue to make a debt limit increase contingent on including cuts to social service programs like Social Security and Medicare.
“Any debt-limit increase is going to require cuts and reforms to address America’s enormous budget deficit,” Buck said to the Post.
****************Tea Party Captive John Boehner Says No Debt Ceiling Vote Without ACA
By: Dennis S
Monday, October 7th, 2013, 7:24 pm
Here’s my first problem. After disciplining myself to stay clear of the absurd partial government shutdown issue, the most recent pronouncement by former bar back, family saloon mop-jockey, Tea Party Bitch and Speaker of the House John Boehner, has forced my hand. I can’t just watch the threatened House refusal to raise the debt ceiling march by unabated.
Here’s my second problem, oft-stated in these quarters. A large part of the nation’s population that bows at the altar of political extremism is, to be charitable, politically dumber than a box of rocks, naïve as a tiny-town blond on her first day in the big city and lazy as hell. That pretty much shuts the door to reasonable discourse with someone who is devoid of actual facts and whose opinions are molded by media Benedict Arnolds with but one goal in mind; millions upon millions of dollars in their bank accounts. And if a country must be reduced to relative ruin to fill those coffers, who gives a s**t. Certainly not Limbaugh or O’Reilly, two snake-oil social carnival barkers with bottom lines exceeding their groupies by a factor of thousands, sometimes, millions.
So I’m swimming upstream against a tide of possibly the most ill-informed public in modern times, all the more incredible given the endless sources of legitimate information. But let me plow this non-fertile intellectual ground nonetheless with inevitable duplications girding my efforts.
Let’s start at the beginning; Boehner’s arrogant, tea-driven pronouncement that there will be no house vote on boosting U.S. borrowing authority absent “concessions” from President Obama. Of course, “concessions” simply mean paths (you’ve already seen a few) to the total destruction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, hereafter known as ACA for our purposes. Exactly how much camouflaged brown-envelope money, back-room deals, slit-skirted ladies, endless free dinners, scholarships for the kids, admissions to Fancy Schmancy U for the not-quite-smart-enough Congressional son or daughter, trips to exotic locales, and après-term million dollar per year jobs and assorted other political catnip must be dangling in front of House members to rid the country of ACA? I know I’m going “House of Cards” on you, but nothing short of variations of the above could drive elected officials to vote 42 times to repeal ACA when chances for such a repeal were zero!
The same ACA blackmail exists with the partial government shutdown, but the stakes are much lower and the country can theoretically survive a few more weeks of that nonsense though a further extension would push us back into a deep recession. The government cannot survive refusal to raise the debt ceiling. That’s a generational and international economic predicament of the highest order.
The U.S. has been debt-free exactly one time, back in 1835 under Andrew Jackson (sad to say, the first Democrat elected president). PolitiFact says it’s mostly true that there was only one day of no debt, though this has been the subject of historical debate. However short the absence of debt was, it was followed by a horrific economic crisis, mostly landing in the lap of Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren. An April 2011 NPR story by Robert Smith backgrounds the path to debt freedom by Jackson who, though a Democrat, would have been very comfortable snuggled up to the modern-day House Tea Party Caucus. It’s worthwhile on background to visit this site. Pay special attention to the role of the states and the ultimate outcome of the Jacksonian strategy. The similarities to our current desperate situation are striking and those with open minds could learn a lot from the Jackson experience.
So we’re clear, the definition of debt is quite simple: Money owed creditors by any level of government as accumulated deficits, plus interest. There’s Net and Gross dept. Included in gross debt are bonds, currency swaps and the most dangerous and irresponsible financial instrument in the world, Credit Default Swaps. What percentage of debt is represented by largely unregulated CDSs is unknown. It’s estimated there are some 60 TRILLION in Credit Default Swaps out there. Net debt is simply the difference between gross debt and government fiscal assets. I’ve written on this specific subject before. The Jackson blip notwithstanding, we’ve always been in debt from the very birth of our great nation when the founding fathers inherited $75 million in Revolutionary War debt. Wars have been great contributors to our debt. We’re currently hovering around $16.7 trillion that the fed owes its creditors who hold U.S. government debt securities.
The real measure of concern is government debt to Gross Domestic Product. Among industrialized nations, we’re on the high side at 101.6. Japan is a whooping 211.70, troubled Greece 156.90, Italy 127.00, Portugal 123.60, Ireland 117.60, the United Kingdom 90.70 and Germany 81.90.
I’ve written about the easy fix for this alleged debt “problem” before. Collect taxes from the cheap corporate bastards that go to the ends of the earth (literally) to avoid paying them. Why do you think Mitt Romney took such a shine to the likes of Bermuda and the Cayman Islands and numerous other tax-dodging destinations? Because their corporate tax rates were ZERO. Granted, you really have to manipulate the books to escape paying your fair share to the country where you make most of your money, but by golly the offshore whores have mastered the art of cheating America out of trillions over time.
The conservative estimate is that major corporations escape paying well over $100 billion per year in taxes. Look ‘em up. They’re listed on a lot of sites. Add individual tax cheats and you probably double that number. Collect what these tax traitors owe. The U.S. corporate tax rate is supposedly 35%. No corporations pay it. The effective tax rate is about 12%. A huge percentage of Fortune 500 companies don’t pay a dime.
Regulate and go through these cooked corporate books with the equivalent of an accountant Palomar telescope. Legislate hiding of profits to the junk pile. Regulate Credit Default Swaps down to the last penny. Regulation, in fact, is one key reason some progressives have placed a woman named Warren at about the same level (if not higher) as a woman named Clinton when considering the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate.
Just the thoughts of an old guy in Upstate South Carolina.
*****************Jay Carney smacks down ABC’s Jonathan Karl: ‘I’m sure you’ll represent’ GOP talking points
By David Edwards
Monday, October 7, 2013 15:39 EDT
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney took a jab at ABC Senior White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on Monday and suggested that he was little more than a Republican Party stenographer who would “represent” House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) point of view.
During Monday’s White House briefing, Carney was telling Reuters correspondent Mark Felsenthal about Boehner’s insistence over the weekend that Republicans would not pass a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling when Karl broke decorum and interrupted.
“That’s not what he said, Jay,” Karl objected. “I’m telling you that’s not what he said.”
“I’m having a conversation here,” Carney shot back. “I’m sure you’ll represent what the Speaker’s saying in a minute.”
And when the ABC reporter’s turn came, he did exactly that.
“What the Speaker said is they are not going to pass a clean debt limit increase,” Karl explained. “He didn’t give a specific set of demands. He said he’s not going to have a clean debt limit increase. If the Speaker of the House sticks to the position, are we going to default?”
“If you’re saying, if the Speaker attaches to the debt ceiling increase a recognition of, you know, the importance of motherhood, we might accept that… I’m trying to be funny, but nobody laughed so I apologize. It’s been a long shutdown already.”
“We’re not going to negotiate over Congress’ responsibility to raise the debt ceiling,” the press secretary added.
Earlier this year, media observers called Karl’s reporting “highly problematic ethically” after he claimed that emails showed that the Obama administration had edited references to terrorism out of talking points about attacks in Benghazi for political purposes. Even after CBS News and others revealed that those emails had been doctored by Republicans, Karl continued to stand by his reporting.
According to the media watchdog group FAIR, Karl’s “high profile at ABC demonstrates that conservative messages can find a comfortable home inside the so-called ‘liberal’ media.’”
*************Obama Dares Boehner to Prove That He Doesn’t Have The Votes to Open the Government
By: Jason Easley
Monday, October 7th, 2013, 2:22 pm
President Obama is calling John Boehner’s bluff and daring him to prove that he doesn’t have the votes to reopen the government through a House vote on a clean CR.
The President said, “The truth of the matter is that there are enough Democratic and Republican votes in the House of Representatives right now to end the shutdown immediately with no partisan strings attached. The House should hold that vote today. If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there are not enough votes then they should prove it. Let the bill go to the floor, and let’s see what happens. Just vote. Let every member of Congress vote their conscience, and they can determine whether or not they want to shut the government down. My suspicion, my very strong suspicion is that there are enough votes there, and the reason that Speaker Boehner hasn’t called a vote on it is because he doesn’t apparently want to see the government shutdown end.”
John Boehner made a colossal blunder when he went on national television yesterday, and lied his tan off about the House not having the votes necessary to reopen the government. House Republicans have been coming out of the woodwork for days, and telling the country they would be willing to vote for a clean CR. Everybody knows that the votes are there for passage. The only thing stopping the government from reopening is John Boehner’s refusal to allow a vote.
There is one question that Speaker Boehner can’t answer. If House Republicans are willing to vote in favor of reopening individual parts of the government, why won’t they allow a vote on the Senate passed bill that would open the whole government? Everytime that this question is asked the Republicans duck and dodge, and try to change the subject to the bills that they have passed, but they refuse to talk about the one that they will not allow a vote on.
When Boehner blatantly lied yesterday about the House’s ability to pass a clean CR, he opened the door for President Obama to issue a challenge that the Speaker will never accept. Obama and the Democrats aren’t just winning the political argument. The Democrats are exposing to the world the fact that House Republicans are unfit to govern.
John Boehner is outmatched, outwitted, and he has had his bluff called by President Obama.
**************Boehner’s Bad Math: 195 Dems + 22 Repubs Doesn’t Equal Magic 217
By: Sarah Jones
Monday, October 7th, 2013, 1:51 pm
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) keeps saying that he doesn’t have the votes to pass the “clean CR” that passed the Senate. Boehner refuses to prove that he doesn’t have the votes by putting it up for a vote.
There are now at least 22 Republicans (and a lot more if they’d make it a secret vote) who are willing to end this shutdown by voting for the clean CR, according to Jennifer Bendery at the Huffington Post. Her count:
The number of those Republicans hit 22 (a soft 23, including Rep. Rodney Davis) — surpassing the magic 17 votes needed to pass a clean funding bill if all 200 Democrats stick together and team up with them.
There are 195 Democrats who would vote for the CR (200 excluding five non-voting delegates) that is set at Republican spending levels, because Democrats are putting their country first. (Note: I don’t agree with this clean CR business, since it was set at Republican levels and the American people didn’t vote for that, but we’re ten steps down the hostage plank at this point.)
Someone needs to tell John Boehner that 195 plus 22 equals 217. Even in Republican Math.
Let’s recall that this all started because Republicans claimed that ObamaCare was destroying the economy. They never provided any proof of that claim. The CBO has repeatedly said that ObamaCare lowers the deficit, and Republican claims about ObamaCare creating a part-time economy were also discredited. If these things were really true, Republicans would let Democrats fall flat on their ObamaCare faces. Of course, the real problem is that Americans want their ObamaCare. The real problem is that once again, Democrats came up with a way to help average Americans and that makes Republicans look bad.
But really, none of this is even relevant because it doesn’t matter why Republicans object to ObamaCare.
Republicans don’t get to hold the economy hostage because they are out of power and they disagree with policy being set by the party that won power per the democratic process. Republicans have placed themselves in opposition to the country’s best welfare. They have made their position the party that will crater the economy unless it gets concessions. Logically this places them against the country – Democrats must entice them to keep them from destroying the country. This is not a good bumper sticker for 2014.
Cartoonists are already noting that Republicans have managed to do what Al-Qaeda couldn’t. At some point, it loses its cuteness, if it ever had any. If only the Democrats had a missile like Sarah Palin, they’d be accusing Republicans of working for terrorists.
Republicans are claiming they “stumbled” into this shutdown, but it was planned by conservative groups as soon as Obama’s second term started.
Republicans aren’t good at math. We know this. But can’t someone get Speaker Boehner a calculator?
***************From Hostage Takers to Buffoons, House Republican Ineptitude Heads for Default
By: Sarah Jones
Monday, October 7th, 2013, 6:20 pm
Even a short term debt ceiling agreement is up in the air now. Not the actual debt ceiling limit, but a short term agreement. We can’t even do that now, if Robert Costa’s readings are accurate.
Costa tweeted, “One of my best House R sources thinks Boehner may, just may, be able to get votes for short-term DL ext, but even that is up in air”
One of my best House R sources thinks Boehner may, just may, be able to get votes for short-term DL ext, but even that is up in air
— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) October 7, 2013
Robert Costa just published a detailed breakdown at the National Review, in which he writes that many House conservatives are unlikely to support any debt ceiling “deal”.
“They may try to throw the kitchen sink at the debt limit, but I don’t think our conference will be amenable for settling for a collection of things after we’ve fought so hard,” Representative Scott Garrett (R-NJ) told Costa. “If it doesn’t have a full delay or defund of Obamacare, I know I and many others will not be able to support whatever the leadership proposes. If it’s just a repeal of the medical-device tax, or chained CPI, that won’t be enough.”
They must get something more than everything they want, in order to stop destroying America. Got it?
We had an indication this was coming. “You’re seeing the tremor before the tsunami here,” Ted Yoho (R-FL) said a few days ago, swearing, “I’m not going to raise the debt ceiling.” So there. Neener neener, economy!
It is indeed the House of Indecision, as Costa quoted a Republican aide saying in a separate article.
“It’s the House of indecision,” says a weary Republican aide familiar with the talks. “We don’t have the votes for a big deal, small deal, or short-term deal.”
Of course, that’s not true. Boehner does have the votes, unless he’s still pretending that the Hastert Rule is a real thing, and it’s not. It’s only real as far as his career goes, so while we can understand that Boehner is choosing to let the country implode in order to save his own skin, it’s becoming harder and harder to justify.
Unless, of course, they’re not dealing with reality. To wit, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) is pretending that not raising the debt ceiling is no biggie:
Burr: “I’m not as concerned as the president about the debt ceiling bc the Fed are the only people buying our bonds.”
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) October 7, 2013
This opinion places Burr in opposition to actual experts on the economy, but hey. Whatevs.
As the Maddow Blog pointed out in late September, Burr wasn’t always this extreme. He once called the idea of shutting down the government over ObamaCare “dumbest idea” he’d ever heard.
“I think it’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of,” Burr said at the time. “Listen, as long as Barack Obama is president, the Affordable Care Act is going to be law.”
And who can forget Republican Representative Dennis Ross of Florida admitting that this entire debacle is all about wounded GOP pride. Seriously.
If you’re wondering how Republicans can be so out of it when the polls keep instructing them otherwise (as if the ONLY issue here is their own political survival, forget the people or this country), perhaps this level of utter cluelessness will be informative. When asked if the Republicans have their next move mapped out and if Boehner has any legislation drawn up regarding the debt ceiling, “Negatory,” Representative Pete Sessions replies. You see, it’s all about “messaging”. “We’re going to keep with our great, positive attitude and tell the president, ‘you’ve got to sit down and negotiate.’”
So, their great positive attitude involves tanking the economy and shutting down the government because they lost an election. Huh. Also: Only in Republican world is holding a gun to the country’s head before being willing to “talk” an act of good faith.
Republicans don’t understand this president very well at all, but then, we tend to project our own values onto others so this is understandable. They never should have threatened the country. They could have threatened anything but the American people and the democratic process, and this President wouldn’t have felt compelled to take a stand.
But they don’t know who Barack Obama is, and they don’t even know what they want. They certainly don’t know how to get what they want, unless losing 2014 has been their secret goal.
Republicans shutdown the government and they can’t sort out how to pass the CR that was funded at levels they requested. Now they can’t figure out how to pass a short term agreement to raise the debt ceiling in order to pay for the bills they themselves approved.
Republicans are obviously incapable of governing.
*****************Blame Obama Backfires as Disapproval of Republican Shutdown Tactics Surges to 70%
By: Sarah Jones
Monday, October 7th, 2013, 4:34 pm
Oopsie. Republicans were planning on blame for the GOP shutdown being shifted to Democrats as time went on, but a new Post-ABC poll shows that in week 2, more Americans disapprove of the GOP’s tactics. Disapproval “shot up to 70 percent, with 51 percent disapproving ‘strongly,’” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
At the time, President Obama’s approval rating went up a few notches. Or, as Ted Cruz likes to call it, “Winning GOP Style.”
The poll asked the question, Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the way The Republicans in Congress are handling negotiations over the federal budget? Just 24% approved, with 70% disapproving. That’s moving in the wrong direction for the GOP, since in the polling from September 25-29, 63% disapproved of Republicans and 26% approved.
“Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling negotiations over the federal budget?” 45% approve to 51% who disapprove, which is an up from the 41% approval to 50% disapproval in the September 25-29th poll.
But the public is blaming Democrats too. They have 61% disapproval, and 35% approval, but Republicans have 51% who disapprove strongly. That number grew from 42% in the September 25-29 poll. In the September 25-29 poll, 56% disapproved of Democrats while 34% approved.
This is that phenomenon that Republicans bank on – the blame for “gridlock” and “shutdown” gets spread around, especially with our media reporting “he said she said” style instead of fact checking. So Republicans take a hit, but so do Democrats. Republicans bank on the “both sides do it” false equivalency meme that our media likes to embrace. But even the white knight of false equivalency might not be able to save the GOP this time, because polls are also showing them losing the House in 2014 against generic Democrats.
Yes, it’s early for 2014 predictions and the Republican party is no doubt soothing itself with dreams of gerrymandered safe districts and the short term memories of the American voters, but if they let this shutdown continue and default on the debt ceiling, they can forget 2014. They are already facing challenges in red states due to their unprecedented failure of governing responsibility.
It should be noted that the poll question itself is a misleading one. Do you approve or disapprove of the way the party is handling “negotiations over the federal budget”? That’s not what’s going on. That is how Republicans are framing what’s going on, but it’s not what’s going on.
A) No one is “negotiating”. B) Republicans refused to come to budget conference 18 times, preferring to wait until they had two hostages in their crosshairs. C) This is not about the federal budget; it’s about whether or not one party should be allowed to hold the government hostage when they lose elections. D) ObamaCare is unrelated to the federal budget. It’s a law that already passed and was vetted by both the Supreme Court and the voters. If this is about the “federal budget” why did Republicans shutdown the government over ObamaCare?
So, even within the framework of this poorly worded, Republican narrative oriented question, Republicans are still losing support for the way they are handling things. Meanwhile, Obama’s approval over his handling of it is moving skyward. If Obama is the enemy of Republicans, this means they are losing their battle against this President.
*****************Bernie Sanders Terrifies the Koch Brothers By Outting Their Role In the Government Shutdown
By: Jason Easley
Monday, October 7th, 2013, 3:58 pm
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is standing up the Koch brothers attempted takeover of the United States government by outing the conservative billionaires’ role in causing the government shutdown.
Sen. Sanders put the blame for the government shutdown square on the Koch Brothers, “Let’s not kid ourselves. This shutdown is not something that just came about a couple of weeks ago through Ted Cruz. This has been planned by the Koch brothers and other very, very wealthy people from the day after Obama was reelected, and what their feeling is. Let us go to the extreme. Let us be prepared to shutdown the government, not pay the national debt. Let us use every ounce of leverage that we have. Even if it means catastrophic pain for America and the world, so long as we get our way.”
Later Sanders discussed the Koch brothers’ agenda, “If you look at what the Koch brothers agenda is. Look at what many of the extreme right wing people believe. Obamacare is just the tip of the iceberg. These people want to abolish the concept of the minimum wage. They want to privatize the Veterans Administration. They want to privatize Social Security, end Medicare as we know it, massive cuts in Medicaid, wipe out the EPA. You don’t have an Environmental Protection Agency anymore. Department of Energy, gone. Department of Education, gone. That is their agenda, and many people don’t understand it. Koch brothers have poured hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars into the tea party, and to all other kinds of ancillary organizations to push this agenda. So what you are finding now is a continuation of the class warfare that as been going on this country for the last many years. The rich are getting richer. Poverty, number of people in poverty all time high. Middle class disappearing, and these guys using Citizens United and other forms are now banging away and doing everything they can to get more tax breaks for the people on top, and devastating cuts for working families.”
The Koch brothers don’t like the kind of attention that Bernie Sanders brings to them. They want to operate behind closed doors. The Koch brothers know that their agenda is doomed if the American people understand what they are trying to accomplish. Charles and David Koch are happy to let their Republican stooges like John Boehner and Ted Cruz take the fall for them. As long as they are willing to spend the money, Republican politicians are disposable goods.
The Koch Brothers are the real power behind the government shutdown.
The point that Sen. Sanders made can’t be expressed often enough. The real ideology and agenda behind the government shutdown belongs to the Koch brothers. The Koch boys hate Obamacare because they don’t want the working and middle class people to have the same access to healthcare that they do. They are opposed to anything that empowers working class individuals, because are seeking a new Gilded Age where the employer controls the lives of their employees.
Sen. Sanders is one of the few members of congress that is willing to stand up and tell the Koch brothers no. Bernie Sanders is also doing something that is very important. He is pulling back the curtain and showing America who is really running the Republican show.
At heart, the Koch brothers are cowards who hide behind Citizens United in order to anonymously advance their agenda. A senator like Bernie Sanders scares the Koch Brothers. He ignores their money and rallies the masses to join the fight. If the American people are ever going to get their government back from the conservative money men, they are going to have to send more people like Bernie Sanders to the House and Senate.
October 7, 2013Health Exchange Delays Tied to Software Crash in Early Rush
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — The technical problems that have hampered enrollment in the online health insurance exchanges resulted from the failure of a major software component, designed by private contractors, that crashed under the weight of millions of users last week, federal officials said Monday.
Todd Park, President Obama’s top technology adviser, said the failure occurred in the part of the Web site that lets people create user accounts at the beginning of the insurance sign-up process. The crash prevented many people from viewing any of their insurance options or gaining access to information on what federal subsidies might be available.
“At lower volumes, it would work fine,” Mr. Park said of the Web site, healthcare.gov. “At higher volumes, it has problems.”
“Right now,” he added, “we’ve got what we think we need. The contractors have sent reinforcements. They are working 24-7. We just wish there was more time in a day.”
In some cases, the Web site does not recognize users who established accounts before Oct. 1, when the online marketplaces opened for consumers to shop for insurance. Other users are prevented from establishing accounts. Some who successfully established a marketplace account received an e-mail asking them to verify their e-mail addresses, but the link provided did not work.
The identification of the software component as the main cause of the Web site’s problems was the most detailed explanation that federal officials have given since the online marketplaces opened. The officials also rejected mounting criticism about the Web site’s overall design, saying that the rest of the site appears ready to handle the large volume of traffic.
But because of the initial failures, other parts of the complex system have yet to be proved under the intense strain of real-world conditions. And outside experts said that White House officials should have spent more time tending to the computer code and technology of the Web site, rather than recruiting Hollywood celebrities to promote it.
“It’s poorly designed,” said Luke Chung, the president of a database company in Virginia who has publicly criticized the site in recent days. “People higher up are given the excuse that there are too many users. That’s a convenient excuse for the managers to pass up the chain.”
Those comments echoed similar criticism on sites across the Internet, where Web designers and developers speculated about the reasons for the ongoing problems at the Web site, healthcare.gov. One discussion on the popular Web site reddit.com was titled “How not to optimize a website.”
White House officials declined to identify the private contractors who had built the account creation function, citing a decision to keep that information private. They said the contractors had moved that part of the new system to beefed-up hardware and were busy rewriting the software code to make it more robust and efficient.
In the past week, wait times have dropped by half, officials said.
Officials said they had also added staff members at call centers to provide customers an alternative to the online system. The Web site currently says that people “in a hurry” can apply faster at a government call center using a toll-free telephone number, (800) 318-2596. But an operator at the call center said Monday that he could not help because he, too, was “experiencing technical difficulties with the Web site.”
Aneesh Chopra, who preceded Mr. Park as the federal government’s chief technology officer and helped create an earlier version of healthcare.gov, said he was confident that the system would be working effectively in the coming weeks.
Mr. Chopra noted that when United Airlines and Continental merged their online reservations systems, it took weeks to iron out problems.
“This is par for the course for large-scale I.T. projects,” Mr. Chopra said. “We wish we could launch bug-free, but in reality that’s not that easy to do. The reality is that if you have a product that people want, people will tolerate glitches because they expect them.”
Administration officials said they had relied heavily on contractors to build and operate the federal exchanges, under supervision of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In the weeks before the marketplaces opened for business, those contractors expressed high optimism that their computer systems would work.
The prime contractor for the federal exchange — CGI Federal, a unit of the CGI Group, based in Montreal — and the company operating a “data services hub” for the government — Quality Software Services Inc., a unit of the UnitedHealth Group — told Congress at a hearing on Sept. 10 that they were ready for a surge of users when enrollment opened on Oct. 1.
But in recent days, officials at the companies declined to answer questions about the Web site’s problems. Linda F. Odorisio, a spokeswoman for CGI, and Matthew H. Stearns, a spokesman for UnitedHealth, refused last week and again on Monday to answer questions about their companies’ performance. Both companies said they had passed operational readiness reviews conducted last month by the federal government.
The Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said that CGI had received $88 million for work on the federal exchange through March, while Quality Software Services had received $55 million for work on the data hub. The hub allows exchanges to get information about a person’s income and citizenship from the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.
As the engineers for the contractors struggle to recover from the Web site’s failures, officials said, the partial shutdown of the federal government is also hampering efforts to carry out Mr. Obama’s health care law and has slowed work on a federal insurance marketplace for residents of more than 30 states.
All insurers participating in the federal exchange have been assigned an account manager, who serves as the primary point of contact with the exchange. The account manager is supposed to assist insurers, clarifying their responsibilities and answering questions about the federal Web site, enrollment transactions and other operational matters.
But many of the account managers have been furloughed in the shutdown.
The Obama administration has drafted a manual describing operations of the federal exchange, including the enrollment process. But federal officials said the shutdown had delayed a final review of the manual by lawyers and other federal employees who have been furloughed.
Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said that work being done on the Web site, in response to “overwhelming demand,” had begun to show results, reducing wait times and allowing more people to enroll.
“But,” she said, “we won’t stop until the doors to healthcare.gov are wide open.”
Quentin Hardy contributed reporting from San Francisco.
October 8, 2013U.S. Adults Fare Poorly in a Study of Skills
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
American adults lag well behind their counterparts in most other developed countries in the mathematical and technical skills needed for a modern workplace, according to a study released Tuesday.
The study, perhaps the most detailed of its kind, shows that the well-documented pattern of several other countries surging past the United States in students’ test scores and young people’s college graduation rates corresponds to a skills gap, extending far beyond school. In the United States, young adults in particular fare poorly compared with their international competitors of the same ages — not just in math and technology, but also in literacy.
More surprisingly, even middle-aged Americans — who, on paper, are among the best-educated people of their generation anywhere in the world — are barely better than middle of the pack in skills.
Arne Duncan, the education secretary, released a statement saying that the findings “show our education system hasn’t done enough to help Americans compete — or position our country to lead — in a global economy that demands increasingly higher skills.”
The study is the first based on new tests developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a coalition of mostly developed nations, and administered in 2011 and 2012 to thousands of people, ages 16 to 65, by 23 countries. Previous international skills studies have generally looked only at literacy, and in fewer countries.
The organizers assessed skills in literacy and facility with basic math, or numeracy, in all 23 countries. In 19 countries, there was a third assessment, called “problem-solving in technology-rich environments,” on using digital devices to find and evaluate information, communicate, and perform common tasks.
In all three fields, Japan ranked first and Finland second in average scores, with the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway near the top. Spain, Italy and France were at or near the bottom in literacy and numeracy, and were not included in the technology assessment.
The United States ranked near the middle in literacy and near the bottom in skill with numbers and technology. In number skills, just 9 percent of Americans scored in the top two of five proficiency levels, compared with a 23-country average of 12 percent, and 19 percent in Finland, Japan and Sweden.
“The first question these kinds of studies raise is, ‘If we’re so dumb, why are we so rich?’ ” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “Our economic advantage has been having high skill levels at the top, being big, being more flexible than the other economies, and being able to attract other countries’ most skilled labor. But that advantage is slipping.”
In several ways, the American results were among the most polarized between high achievement and low. Compared with other countries with similar average scores, the United States, in all three assessments, usually had more people in the highest proficiency levels, and more in the lowest. The county also had an unusually wide gap in skills between the employed and the unemployed.
In the most highly educated population, people with graduate and professional degrees, Americans lagged slightly behind the international averages in skills. But the gap was widest at the bottom; among those who did not finish high school, Americans had significantly worse skills than their counterparts abroad.
“These kinds of differences in skill sets matter a lot more than they used to, at every level of the economy,” Dr. Carnevale said. “Americans were always willing to accept a much higher level of inequality than other developed countries because there was upward mobility, but we’ve lost a lot of ground to other countries on mobility because people don’t have these skills.”
Among 55- to 65-year-olds, the United States fared better, on the whole, than its counterparts. But in the 45-to-54 age group, American performance was average, and among younger people, it was behind.
American educators often note that the nation’s polyglot nature can inhibit performance, though there is sharp debate over whether that is a short-run or long-run effect.
The new study shows that foreign-born adults in the United States have much poorer-than-average skills, but even the native-born scored a bit below the international norms. White Americans fared better than the multicountry average in literacy, but were about average in the math and technology tests.