The plan, according to an outline circulated by House Speaker John Boehner’s office, draws mostly on Republican ideas, mixing and matching pieces of previous debt ceiling proposals. It includes no new tax revenue. It would enact immediate spending cuts of $913 billion over ten years, in exchange for a short-term debt ceiling increase of $900 billion. It would create a bipartisan committee of 12 lawmakers tasked with finding at least $1.5 trillion more in spending cuts; programs targeted by the commission would include entitlement programs, defense spending, and discretionary spending programs. If the committee’s recommendations—which must be voted on before December 23, 2011—are approved, Obama can raise the debt ceiling by another $1.5 trillion, effectively raising it through the 2012 election season.
However, if the commission’s recommendations are not adopted, or a balanced budget amendment is not sent to the states (as the GOP wants), it will trigger across-the-board spending cuts to defense and non-defense programs, the Boehner outline says. While Social Security, Medicaid, veterans benefits, and military pay would be exempted from the triggered cuts, Medicare would be eligible.
The plan also calls for a vote in Congress on a balanced budget amendment, or BBA, after October 1 and before the end of the year. Boehner’s outline does not specify what kind of BBA the House and Senate would be voting on.
All in all, the final deal amounts to a big win for Republicans.
For an accurate assessment of what appears to be a complete cave-in, see the previous post.
For some background on how terrible a balanced budget amendment would be for our economy, while at the same time producing an even more dysfunctional government, see this post.
[A] slew of millionaire politicians who spent the last decade exploding the national debt with Endless War, a sprawling Surveillance State, and tax cuts for the rich are now imposing extreme suffering on the already-suffering ordinary citizenry, all at the direction of their plutocratic overlords, who are prospering more than ever and will sacrifice virtually nothing under this deal (despite their responsibility for the 2008 financial collapse that continues to spawn economic misery). And all of this will be justified by these politicians and their millionaire media mouthpieces with the obscenely deceitful slogans of “shared sacrifice” and ”balanced debt reduction” — two of the most odiously Orwellian phrases since ”Look Forward, not Backward” and ”2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate”
How can the leader of the Democratic Party wage an all-out war on the ostensible core beliefs of the Party’s voters in this manner and expect not just to survive, but thrive politically? Democratic Party functionaries are not shy about saying exactly what they’re thinking in this regard:
Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, said polling data showed that at this point in his term, Mr. Obama, compared with past Democratic presidents, was doing as well or better with Democratic voters. “Whatever qualms or questions they may have about this policy or that policy, at the end of the day the one thing they’re absolutely certain of — they’re going to hate these Republican candidates,” Mr. Mellman said. “So I’m not honestly all that worried about a solid or enthusiastic base.”
In other words: it makes no difference to us how much we stomp on liberals’ beliefs or how much they squawk, because we’ll just wave around enough pictures of Michele Bachmann and scare them into unconditional submission.
“So far, the drones policy has been an unmitigated disaster. The handful of Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders killed have been replaced by a more ruthless leadership which has progressively expanded its operational ambit into the Pakistani mainland. To the extent that “militants” are killed, they are mostly foot soldiers whose death has no discernible impact on the outcome of the insurgency; indeed, it merely helps deepen resentment and broaden the militants’ support base. The CIA practice of bombing funerals and rescuers has ensured that even those who might otherwise disdain the Taliban identify with them as common victims of a uniquely barbarous adversary. Unable to strike back at the US, the Taliban instead revenge themselves on Pakistani soldiers and civilians in attacks that are no less brutal.”—
Syrian forces have killed nearly 142 people, including at least 100 when the army stormed the flashpoint protest city of Hama to crush dissent on the eve of Ramadan, activists have said.
Rights groups said it was one of deadliest days in Syria since demonstrators first took to the streets on March 15, demanding democratic reforms and the downfall of the government.
As reports of the brutal crackdown on Hama unfurled, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Turkey condemned the violence, while a US diplomat said it was “full-on warfare”.
“It is one of the deadliest days” since the protests erupted, Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.
The U.S. response (Obama said he was “appalled”):
“It is resorting to some desperate last ditch attempt, trying to save itself. It is full-on warfare on its own people,” [J. J.] Harder, the press attaché of the US embassy in the Syrian capital, said.
The Syrian authorities have consistently accused “armed gangs” and fundamentalist Salafist Muslims of stirring the unrest and aiming to sow chaos in the Sunni-majority country.
Asked if he accepted the Syrian government’s contention that its forces were up against armed gangs, Harder said: “The Syrian government is completely delusional. They are making up fanciful stories that no one believes.”
Germany threatened to new sanctions on Damascus along with its EU partners, and France warned Syria’s leaders “will have to answer for their deeds,” and Italy called the Hama crackdown “the latest horrible act of violent repression”.
Criticism also came from neighbour Turkey, which said it was “deeply saddened and disappointed … by the current developments on the eve of holy month of Ramadan”.
Because the truly poisonous effect of industrial age institutions, by undercounting real costs, and overcounting real benefits, isn’t merely that they limit us to creating fake, thin artificial value and ponzi-like hollow “profit” today—but, more perniciously, that they shatter the incentives for great achievement tomorrow. They crumple the human spirit, smash the human psyche, dull the human brain, and toxify the human heart (think I’m kidding? Read this).
An economy built on undercounting costs and overcounting benefits is one where we squander endless amounts of human potential on earth-shattering achievements like disposable razors with yet more blades, even more vulgar deodorant marketing campaigns, and gloopier, fattier “food-like products”. Needless to say, the trajectory of such a system of human organization doesn’t ascend to higher and higher peaks of prosperity—but descends into social fracture, drooling idiocracy, mass stagnation, and decline.
Scott Walker authorized payment to Michael Best & Friedrich of up to $500,000; to date, the firm has billed Wisconsin nearly $100,000. Scott Walker has provided no explanation for why this contract is appropriate and has yet to respond to open record requests seeking information. Not surprisingly, the state’s largest paper (and Walker endorser), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, still hasn’t touched this story. For more, see the article linked above.
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”—Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Our intellect assumes, instinctively, that the world is motionless: things are there and motion is added to them, as it were. We try to reconstruct motion starting from motionlessness, as when we produce the illusion of motion when we move from still to still on a reel of film. But in reality it is motion, not things, that is primary; things are not entities to which motion is attached but mental crystallizations of motion. It seems to follow from this that the world is essentially mental.”—
Leszek Kolakowski, Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? We know, from philosophy and physics and even rudimentary introspection, that the world as we perceive it is a mental construction, a collection of impressions and ideas so divorced from the structure of reality as to constitute a creation. The stones which seem solid and opaque are merely latticeworks of vibrating particles; when we touch something it is merely a question of fields colliding; there is no explanation even for the qualia of color, the way colors exist in our minds; we cannot, as Schrödinger memorably insisted, account for yellow. Time is a mystery.
So: in a literal sense, the world is an illusion, or more precisely a creation: we generate the sphere of our existence from certain forms of raw perceptual data and a great deal of inventive, synthetic, and largely mysterious mental activity, activity we might even consider artistic.
The question: is this important? Does it matter in the least? Since we cannot seem to escape this world but for moments of incommunicable ecstasy (in the original sense), is its psychological or conscious genesis more than epistemological trivia? Is it consequential that “the world is essentially mental”?
In 1982 and 1991 the SEC - the US government agency which is supposed to protect stock-market investors from stock-price manipulation and short-swing profits by insiders — promulgated rule changes that gave the wolves free access to the chicken coop.
Under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, large-scale stock repurchases can be construed as an attempt to manipulate a company’s stock price. In November 1982, however, SEC Rule 10b-18 changed all that. The new rule provided companies with a “safe harbor” that assured them that manipulation charges would not be filed if each day’s open-market repurchases were not greater than 25% of the stock’s average daily trading volume for the previous four weeks and if the company refrained from doing buybacks at the beginning and end of the trading day. Under these rules, during the single trading day of, for example, July 13, 2011, a leading stock repurchaser such as Exxon Mobil could have done as much as $416 million in buybacks, Bank of America $402 million, Microsoft $390 million, Intel $285 million, Cisco $269 million, GE $230 million, and IBM $220 million. And, according to the rules, buybacks on these scales can be repeated day after trading day. [read mas]
Can you explain to me how lobbist work,and how big business profits on our suffering? I know its a huge question, sorry
The answer to the second question is off-the-charts huge - I’ll try to put a post together in the next few days with some background.
The first question is a little easier to answer. Basically, lobbyists represent either private interests, corporations or advocacy groups. They are paid to influence decisions made by officials within the government, usually legislators (congress) or regulators (EPA, SEC, FDA, etc.)
A general rule for lobbying is that the amount of money spent on lobbying is directly proportional to the amount of influence they exert over legislation.
When an evil motherfucker of a corporation or bank starts lobbying congress, they tend to get what they want: watered-down financial regulation, modest healthcare reform, minimal environmental oversight, back-door agreements on tax loopholes, and on and on and on.
“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”—Martin Luther King Jr. , Beyond Vietnam (via lilmaj132)
Like Congress, the president is bound by Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that “(t)he validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.” Section 4 was passed after the Civil War because the framers worried that former Southern rebels returning to Congress would hold the federal debt hostage to extract political concessions on Reconstruction. Section 5 gives Congress the power to enforce the 14th Amendment’s provisions. This does not mean, however, that these provisions do not apply to the president; otherwise, he could violate the 14th Amendment at will.
Section 4 requires the president not to put the validity of the public debt into question. If the debt ceiling is not raised in time, there will not be enough incoming revenues to pay for all of the government’s bills as they come due. Therefore he has a constitutional obligation to prioritize incoming revenues to pay the public debt: interest on government bonds and any other “vested” obligations.
What falls into the latter category is not entirely clear, but a large number of other government obligations — and certainly payments for future services — would not count and would have to be sacrificed. This might include, for example, Social Security payments.
To be sure, the president could keep paying Social Security if he could keep the total amount of debt constant by redeeming bonds in the Social Security trust fund for cash and immediately selling new bonds to replace them. But the money coming in may not be able to keep pace with the money going out. Even if he tries his best, the president may not be able to pay every Social Security check in full on time.
If the president stopped paying parts of Social Security or other government programs that the public relies on, we would have a partial government shutdown. This would quickly put enormous pressure on Congress to raise the debt ceiling to make it possible to resume normal government operations.
Thus, even if Social Security and other social safety net programs are not part of “the public debt,” under Section 4, failure to pay them promptly and in full will probably lead to a political solution to the debt crisis within a week or so. The closest precedent is the 1995 government shutdown precipitated by the Republican-controlled Congress’ battle with President Bill Clinton.
“We know that the end game is the Democrats will blink, but uncharacteristically, they haven’t done so yet. And enough Senators regard cuts to Social Security with no corresponding sacrifices from better heeled interests (from the military industrial complex to the rich) as fatal to their re-election chances so as to make bringing them to heel daunting in the limited time left. It is hard to come up with words that are strong enough to describe what an appalling display of misguided ego, inept negotiating postures, bad policy thinking, and utter disregard for the public interest are on display in this fiasco. But as a friend of mine likes to say, “Things always look darkest before they go completely black.”—Team Obama Fiddles While Debt Ceiling Fires Burn (via azspot)
They did the last Democratic president; and they feel even more strongly that this one is illegitimate, depite his thumping majority in the last election. Here’s the scenario. The House GOP pushes for completely unserious Boehner plan (including a balanced budget amendment) that they know will be vetoed; they then filibuster the Reid plan in the Senate, forcing Obama to invoke a 14th Amendment executive prerogative, which they will then turn around and impeach him for.
Far-fetched? I hope so. But every time you think you have reached the end of Republican extremism, they manage to move further out of the solar system. But it will take a huge effort by the propaganda machine on the right to make Obama’s decision not to default his fault, rather than the GOP’s. At this point, if the Reid plan cannot make it through the Senate on time or through the House at all, I’m beginning to believe that Obama should invoke this controversial power, given the extreme danger the stalemate is creating for both the US and the global economy, and challenge the courts to reverse it.
I suspect it would be popular among Independents. And allow Obama to regain the initiative over events dictated by a single faction in one party in one chamber whose fanaticism is only matched by their irresponsibility.
“I think marriage in general is not a healthy institution in our society. If people want civil rights, then that’s what I feel we should be fighting for. Couples, people who are each other’s kin or primary intimacies, a friend who takes care of a friend for 30 years in the same household—all should have basic civil rights. To bring that whole movement for social justice under the rubric of ‘gay marriage’ seems to me just to reinforce patriarchal notions of who is worthy of care and support. It also lets down the gay people who don’t want to be married.
The movement for gay marriage has had a strong push among very class-privileged people, because they are the people with trusts and with property and with health care. If you’re gay, black, poor and you don’t have any access to insurance, the question of whether your partner can be included on your insurance is just not relevant to the health needs of your life. What would be more relevant is national health care!”—
When widespread protests broke out in Syria in March, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime turned to its feared security services to smother the anti-government movement.
The bloody response has so far succeeded where other attempts to put down the “Arab awakening” have failed, and President Assad remains in power.
Verifying the toll of the crackdown is difficult, since the government has banned most journalists and observers, but activists and researchers say more than 10,000 people have been detained and at least 1,500 killed since March. A response of proportional size in the United States, by way of comparison, would have meant more than 136,000 people detained and 20,450 killed.
At least 66 people are believed to have died while in the custody of Syrian authorities, according to a list provided by activists to Human Rights Watch researcher Nadim Houry in June.
Outside audiences have encountered the regime’s brutal response primarily through grainy YouTube footage and second-hand accounts relayed by expatriate activists.
These brushstrokes paint a useful yet broad picture: a dozen people killed in this city, a thousand people protesting in that city.
But first-hand accounts from those who have been through the packed cells of Assad’s jails or those who have come under gunfire from his troops offer a more personal understanding of the uprising. [read their stories]
(New York) – Amnesty International has obtained copies of a secret draft Saudi Arabian anti-terrorism law that would allow the authorities to prosecute peaceful dissent with harsh penalties as “terrorist crime.” Under the draft law, the definition of terrorist crimes is so broad that legitimate dissent would, in effect, be criminalized.
The organization obtained copies of the “Draft Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing of Terrorism,” which would also allow extended detention without charge or trial. Questioning the integrity of the King or the Crown Prince would carry a minimum prison sentence of 10 years…
Under the draft law, terrorist crimes would include such actions as “endangering…national unity”, “halting the basic law or some of its articles”, or “harming the reputation of the state or its position”.
Violations of the law would carry harsh punishments. The death penalty would be applied to cases of taking up arms against the state or for any “terrorist crimes” that result in death.
A number of other key provisions in the draft law run counter to Saudi Arabia’s international legal obligations, including those under the United Nation Convention against Torture.
The draft law allows for suspects to be held in incommunicado detention for up to 120 days, or for longer periods – potentially indefinitely – if authorized by a specialized court.
Incommunicado detention facilitates torture or other ill-treatment and prolonged detention of that nature can itself amount to torture.
Detainees in incommunicado detention are also, by definition, denied access to a lawyer during their investigation.
The draft law allows for arbitrary detention: it denies detainees the right to be promptly brought before a judge, and to be released or tried within a reasonable time. It gives the specialized court the power to detain without charge or trial for up to a year, and to extend such detention indefinitely. Detainees are not given a means to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in front of a court.
It also fails to include a clear prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.
The draft law gives wide-ranging powers to the Minister of the Interior “to take the necessary actions to protect internal security from any terrorist threat.” It does not allow for judicial authorization or oversight of these actions.
For my readers in Saudi Arabia. The organization that reported this news, Amnesty International, has now been blocked in Saudi Arabia.
This whole protracted self-inflicted debt debacle has truly revealed the state of affairs in this country. Journalism is being reduced to he-said-she-said publicity while talking points have been camouflaged as the heart of the matter. Ignorant ideology has been peddled as sensible solutions. What is flaunted as compromise is in fact caving. The lack of a moral outcry against the defunding programs that aid the most vulnerable is deafening. And all the while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Our country is rotting from the inside out before our very eyes and all some people can muster up is “how does this affect me?”. We truly are in decline.
Apparently McConnell just told Leader Reid that he will not negotiate directly with him, and will only negotiate with President Obama.
McConnell also told Reid that he would not allow Reid’s bill to pass with a simple majority vote, so in other words, he’s going to allow the Senate to filibuster. This means that the Senate would not be allowed to vote on Reid’s bill until Sunday at 1am and in the mean time, the House would be voting on Reid’s bill sometime tomorrow.
If McConnell wants to filibuster Reid’s bill, I say it’s time for them to break out the cots, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen since the Senate already adjourned tonight. It would be nice to see a clean bill pass that simply raises the debt ceiling instead of these bills they’ve been negotiating passing. I guess we’ll find out shortly if that’s too much to hope for or not. In the mean time, they’re taking this dangerous game of chicken with our economy right up to the wire with more stalling from Republicans.
Afghanistan is not often perceived as a mineral Holy Grail.
But, as it turns out, between $1-3 trillion in mineral wealth lies unexplored across the Hindu Kush. There’s enough uranium, lithium, copper and iron ore to potentially turn Afghanistan into a commodities powerhouse.
The Pentagon knows all about it - how could it not? And the Russians have known about it since at least the 1970s, when they mapped out all the uranium riches of northern Afghanistan.
For its part, Islamabad is still obsessed with viewing Afghanistan as a pliable satrap. But the going gets much juicier when one looks at key Eurasian players such as Russia, India and China and their own, non-Pentagonised reasons to come to this mineral Walhalla. [read more]
A well deserved respite for Iona Craig. Her stories and nearly-live tweeting of the events in Sanaa throughout the Yemeni revolution have been crucial to my understanding of what’s truly going on in that tinderbox.
Tomorrow marks 250 days since daily protests began in Yemen. I, along with just one other foreign journalist, Jeb Boone, have been here to see every day of them. This weekend, for the first time since January, I’ll be taking a break from Yemen.
The past six months have been astonishing, exhilarating, sometimes terrifying, harrowing but above all exhausting. Indeed nearly everyone in Sana’a today is worn out.
Violence aside, months of shortages, most notably: electricity, fuel and as a consequence, water, have been draining (no pun intended) to live with.
As freelancers living here our lives couldn’t be further removed from our established colleagues of visiting foreign correspondents.
I think I hit the wall in the days after Saleh’s departure on June 5, after trying to keep up with demands of editors and producers whilst living on 2-3 hours sleep during the Hasaba war. (Note: ringing a journalist continuously at 3am without notice for a phoner will not be well received - as one US producer found out.)
Just as fresh faced visiting journalists started flooding in (a Yemen journalist flood is aprox. six) to stay in their comfy hotels with a constant supply of water and electricity, I was spending my mornings collecting water to take home to wash out of a bucket. (This isn’t meant to be a ‘woe is me’ fish for sympathy. I was far from alone in my daily quest for water and electricity and unlike most Yemenis I only have to look after number one.)
Ironically today’s Friday prayers protest was labelled the “Friday of Patience” – something worth praying for at the moment.
My own patience ran out along with the water having done the night time petrol queues for six hours (they later stretched to more then six days) trying to help out friends. (Women were put in a separate, usually much shorter queue so a female driver could get to the front hours ahead of men). I’d had enough of the endless dark nights, inability to store food or work from home, or even take a shower; not to mention spending endless mornings in a mix of government buildings and hotel foyers meeting ministers and stone-faced officials trying to secure my visa renewal.
Despite my bemoaning the past six months have, without a doubt, been the most memorable of my life. I’ve met many inspiring and brave people. I’ve experienced some wonderful and brutal moments. I feel fortunate to have witnessed all of them. But I will be glad to return to the land of electricity, running water and fuel and rid myself of my wasp-like persona.
This year’s Ramadan is going to be a particularly tough time for Yemenis. I’ll be away for less time than Saleh (ongoing visa issues permitting) and look forward to returning with a spring in my step.
When Peter Coy, the Bloomberg Businessweek Economics Editor, appeared this morning on “Washington Journal,” he brought along a chart for his discussion of the magazine’s cover article, “Why the Debt Crisis is Even Worse Than You Think.” But, the chart, purported to show a national fiscal gap, did not match Coy’s talking points. As Coy concluded commenting that cuts would be needed to Social Security and other entitlements, C-SPAN moderator Susan Swain pointed out that Coy’s chart showed a long-term surplus for Social Security of $22 trillion. Coy confirmed as accurate her interpretation of the chart and, after some stumbling, admitted that, “The trust fund is not the crucial issue.” Indeed, his own figures show that it is not an issue at all. So, why did he continue to insist that Social Security cuts are needed?
To watch the interview, go to the video and fast-forward to the 28 minute mark. Discussion of the Social Security surplus occurs around the 30 minutes mark.