I don’t even know where to begin this morning. I wish I could write a coherent diatribe like the one Dakinikat wrote yesterday, but I can’t do it. I have a sense that things are very wrong, but I can’t explain the feeling in any rational way.
As we head into the holiday season, I feel as if the country is leaderless. The public focus of the Obama administration and the media is on the glitches in a website; and yet in the background are terrible problems that are building and growing more and more intractable as our political “leadership” fiddles with nonsensical issues like Obamacare and Benghazi.
As Dakinikat noted yesterday, there is a problem of growing poverty and income inequality become institutionalized and normalized. There is the issue of gun violence and our total failure to respond to it with any kind of rational regulations on guns. There is the devolution of education in the U.S., and of course there is the continuing attack on women’s autonomy and Democratic politicians seeming willingness to use women’s bodies as bargaining chips. Finally there are the already institutionalized problems of racism and hatred of immigrants. What have I missed?
As our real problem grow, it seems the American political and media classes, either don’t notice because as part of the wealthy 1% they simply aren’t affected, or because they’ve got theirs and they just don’t care about the mass of people who are struggling to survive in a poisonous system. And because of the obsessive focus on the end-of-year holidays, nothing will happen in Washington until we hit the next debt limit and our “leaders” mobilize briefly to kick the can of our economic and social problems down the road once again and so they can return to their focus on minutiae.
Is there any solution to the political and economic stagnation we find ourselves in? Is the situation really as surreal as it feels to me on this Tuesday morning? Am I nuts?
Anyway, here a some of the stories leading the news at the moment.
Jeff Bezos tells Amazon customers to expect home delivery by drones. NBC News reports:
Amazon.com hopes to deliver small packages to your home in just 30 minutes by unmanned drones within five years, chief executive Jeff Bezos said Sunday.
In an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Bezos was actually less optimistic than what his company said in its online announcement, which declared that tiny robot aircraft could be landing on front porches as soon as 2015.
Bezos said Amazon already had the technology in place and had even flown a working prototype, which he showed off in a video the company published Sunday:
He promised “half-hour delivery, and we can carry objects, we think, up to five pounds, which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.”
The rest of the work, Bezos said, is in quality control and getting the plan OK’d by the Federal Aviation Administration — something technology experts said was unlikely on Bezos’ time frame.
So basically, this is just a silly idea that has no chance of actually happening anytime soon. But the media sees it as more urgent than poverty, income inequality, and people getting killed with guns day in and day out.
From the Washington Post: U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test.
Scores in math, reading and science posted by 15-year-olds in the United States were flat while their counterparts elsewhere — particularly in Shanghai, Singapore and other Asian provinces or countries — soared ahead, according to results of a well-regarded international exam released Tuesday.
While U.S. teenagers scored slightly above average in reading, their scores were average in science and below average in math, compared to 64 other countries and economies that participated in the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which was administered last fall. That pattern has not changed much since PISA was first administered in 2000.
Gee, I wonder why this is happening? It seems like something that should concern our “leaders.”
The test scores offer fresh evidence for those who argue that the United States is losing ground to competitors in the global market and others who say a decade’s worth of school reform has done little to improve educational outcomes.
“While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools — has failed to improve the quality of American public education,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. The AFT released a video on Monday in which it implored the public not to blame teachers, the unions, parents or students for poor PISA results.
But were intentions really good? Check out these years-old headlines on profiteers (including the Bush family) who cleaned up after passage of the Orwellianly titled “No Child Left Behind” law was passed.
Bush Profiteers Collect Billions from No Child Left Behind (Project Censored: The News That Didn’t Make The News, March 30, 2007)
Bush’s Family Profits From `No Child’ Act (LA Times, Oct. 22, 2006)
No Bush Left Behind (Bloomerg Businessweek, Oct. 15, 2006)
There are plenty more headlines where those came from.
And yet, nearly a decade later, we’re stuck with that awful law and the damage it has done to our public education system. Why have Democrats done nothing to reverse it? Most likely because they too profit from the continuing privatization of education.
What about the latest media narrative on Obama care?
From the Washington Post: Health-care enrollment on Web plagued by bugs:
The enrollment records for a significant portion of the Americans who have chosen health plans through the online federal insurance marketplace contain errors — generated by the computer system — that mean they might not get the coverage they’re expecting next month.
The errors cumulatively have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1, according to two government and health-care industry officials. The White House disputed the figure but declined to provide its own.
The mistakes include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies. The errors have been accumulating since HealthCare.gov opened two months ago, even as the Obama administration has been working to make it easier for consumers to sign up for coverage, the government and industry officials said.
Figuring out how to clean up the backlog of errors and prevent similar ones in the future is emerging as the new imperative if the federal insurance exchange is to work as intended. The problems were the subject of a meeting Monday between administration officials and a new “Payer Exchange Performance Team” made up of insurance industry leaders.
Okay, but what is with the bizarre impatience about some computer glitches from a media that couldn’t care less about institutionalized poverty, racism, and gun violence? And then there’s the Obama administration’s defensive response, as reported by USA Today: Obama to launch new health care law campaign
President Obama and his aides will seek to rally public support for his embattled health care plan in the coming weeks, starting with a White House event Tuesday.
Obama will promote the effort in a speech while surrounded by people who have benefited from the new law, according to an addition to the White House schedule.
The Affordable Care Act has come under heavy political attack since its rollout in October. Problems have included a malfunctioning website and the cancellations of polices that do not meet new federal standards.
In the coming days, Obama and aides will highlight what they call successful aspects of the law. They include provisions that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing health conditions, and allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26.
A few writers have tried to look at the “Obamacare crisis” slightly more rationally than the mainstream corporate media.
Here’s Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter: As Healthcare.gov Bugs Are Fixed, the ‘Obama’s Katrina’ Script Continues To Be Shredded.
It’s been 11 days since The National Journal‘s Ron Fournier wrote that Obamacare is President Obama’s Katrina. Oh, and it’s also his Iraq, Fournier wrote. Obama’s Katrina and Iraq. Both.
Since then, however, the Healthcare.gov website has been vastly improved and many of the bugs initially reported have been fixed, according to the administration late Sunday.
Back on November 20, Fournier made sure to provide himself with an escape hatch, though, noting that Healthcare.gov isn’t the same in terms of the actual events during and after Katrina, or throughout the Iraq War. Instead, Fournier wrote, the similarities had more to do with incompetence in the execution of a major policy initiative.
Yeah, so incompetence that lasted literally for years in both Iraq and New Orleans, leading to massive body counts on both fronts, is the same as a glitchy website launch. Okeedokee. Roger that. In reality, yes, both administrations made mistakes, but those mistakes were vastly different in terms of magnitude — not to mention that the Bush administration’s response to its mistakes was to, well, make even more mistakes. Again, foryears.
On the other hand, the Obama administration realized there were problems with the website and rushed to address those errors. Within two months most of those problems have been resolved, and, bonus, no one died.
For more rational perspective, read the rest of the post at the link.
I particularly like this uncharacteristically long post by TBogg at Raw Story: Are-We-There-Yet?-American [sic] just wants to go home because we aren’t there yet. Here’s just a taste:
You may remember that about a month ago, which is four score and seven years ago to the iPhone generation for whom a Japandroids download that takes over 20 seconds is an eternity times infinity, that the Great Socialism Project That Will Stomp America Flat (aka Obamacareor Communism) had some internet user problems which is why there are absolutely no healthcare services available in America right now so you should just rub some dirt on your burst appendix, suck it up, and quit yer bellyaching. In an effort to fix what wasn’t working, the Obama White House brought in some better quality nerds who, fortified with 5 Hour Energy IV drips, promised to get it up and working by Dec 1 or GTFO.
Please go read the rest.
Charles Pierce also had a few choice words for Ron Fournier and the rest of the Obama-hating press.
Ace reporter Ron Fournier of the Associated Press has another scoop for y’all. There is absolutely no fking way on god’s green and pleasant earth that this Obama fellow will be elected president again. He has blown his chance for that third term, and probably the fourth and fifth as well. Ron would like the Pulitzer committee to leave the medallion on the doorstep. Watch out, Obama. The Horsemen ride at daybreak! [....]
I heard my friend Eric Boehlert on the radio this morning, warning us that the traditional end-of-the-year retrospectives are likely to sing in close harmony on the theme of the collapsing Obama administration, even though his poll numbers are pretty much where they’ve been for a couple of years now, and even though the Republicans in Congress continue to have the approval ratings of skin disease. I think he’s right, and I think Fournier, who’s been a tool so long they ought to sell him at Home Depot, is just trying to get a jump on things here.
More hilarity at the link.
And what’s with the efforts to deny that racism exists? From Raw Story: Black female professor reprimanded for pointing out existence of structural racism to white male students.
A faculty member at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Shannon Gibney, received a formal reprimand for her handling of a discussion about structural racism in her Introduction to Mass Communication course.
According to Gibney in an interview with City College News, a white male student asked her, “Why do we have to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?”
She claims she was shocked, because “[h]is whole demeanor was very defensive. He was taking it personally. I tried to explain, of course, in a reasonable manner — as reasonable as I could given the fact that I was being interrupted and put on the spot in the middle of class — that this is unfortunately the context of 21st century America.”
Gibney says another white male student followed the first, saying “Yeah, I don’t get this either. It’s like people are trying to say that white men are always the villains, the bad guys. Why do we have to say this?”
When Gibney attempted, again, to inform the students that they were mistaking a systemic critique for a personal attack, the students continued to argue. Eventually, she told them that “if you’re really upset, feel free to go down to legal affairs and file a racial harassment discrimination complaint.” This is exactly what they did.
This probably has something to do with our f’d up education system too . . . . As far as I can tell, critical thinking has been banned.
Okay, I’ve ranted long enough. What interesting news have you been reading? Let us know in the comment thread.
I’ve been browsing around the internet this morning, and all I can find is really surreal news. The Obamacare “fumble” or “botch” or “mess” or whatever else the pundits decide to call it is still the top story today; and it looks like President Obama could be in for an even worse day than yesterday. He must be glad it’s Friday. All the usual suspects are weighing in on the “problem” and of course Republicans are gloating.
Reuters summarizes Obama’s very bad Thursday: An apologetic Obama unveils fix on health law.
President Barack Obama on Thursday tried to ease the biggest crisis of his presidency, acknowledging missteps with his signature healthcare law and announcing a plan to help those seeing their current health plans canceled because of it.
Obama, trying to limit the political damage to his presidency and fellow Democrats, said health insurers could extend by at least one year policies due to be canceled because they do not comply with new minimum requirements under the law.
With insurers complaining the fix could create new problems and lead to higher premiums, it was not clear whether Obama’s plan would actually work, or soothe his party’s concerns that the botched rollout has undercut Democrats facing tough re-election fights in 2014.
A chastened Obama said he had “fumbled” the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, his biggest domestic policy achievement, and said he would have to work to regain his credibility and the public’s trust.
Also from Reuters: Obama to meet with insurers Friday on Obamacare fix.
The meeting comes a day after the president, under fire for the botched rollout of his top domestic policy achievement, announced he would allow individuals to keep insurance policies that were being canceled under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare….
Insurers and state regulators say that Obama’s fix for policies canceled under the law will create new problems for the industry and could lead to an increase in premiums.
The change, which Obama announced under growing pressure from lawmakers from his Democratic Party, would allow policies that do not meet Obamacare’s standards to be renewed anyway.
From WaPo’s The Fix: ‘Keep Your Health Plan Act’ spells trouble for dozens of Democrats.
Intense focus on the early troubles of the Affordable Care Act already makes this a no good, very bad week for congressional Democrats, who are torn between supporting the signature domestic achievement of the Obama administration, but eager to be seen doing something to address significant concerns with the law….
At issue is the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” a proposal by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) that supporters believe would fulfill President Obama’s now-broken promise to let people keep their current health insurance plan if they like it.
Under the Upton proposal, anyone opting to keep their current plan wouldn’t face financial penalties established by the law. And the measure would allow insurers to sell their minimal plans to new customers. The bill is expected to pass easily in the GOP-controlled House.
Most Democrats believe that the Upton bill would fundamentally gut the ACA by allowing plans not compliant with the new law to continue. They believe that the administrative fixes announced by Obama Thursday will work, or are supporting a proposal by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that would let people keep their current health-care plans for the next year and require insurers to provide information on new plans that meet the law’s stricter requirements.
It is true that public support for many of the law’s crucial components — a ban on lifetime limits on health coverage; an end to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions; extended coverage for dependent children; improvements to Medicare — have always exceeded support for the law itself. White House officials take pains to note that those provisions are now beginning to take effect — on time, as planned.
Most state-run insurance exchanges are working far better than the federal website — which the administration was forced to make as big as it is only because some three dozen states with recalcitrant Republican governors declined to create their own exchanges as envisioned. And lest anyone forget, the old health insurance system was not so hot.
Of course Chuck Todd is thrilled, and he went on Morning Joe this morning to dance on Obama’s grave. From Mediaite:
NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday that the problematic roll-out of the Affordable Care Act represents an all-time political low for President Barack Obama. He said that the president’s press conference on Thursday was aimed more at Democrats in an attempt to keep them from abandoning him or his signature achievement.
“It seemed like he was trying to offer his party – the Democratic Party – and, basically, all the panicked Democrats on Capitol Hill a pound of flesh so that they don’t vote for these other bills,” Todd said of the bills circulating in the House and Senate that would allow those who have lost their health plans to keep them indefinitely….
“I talked to one of the old guard in Obama-land who said they’ve never seen that in private from him,” Todd added. “This is a moment that he hasn’t experienced in national politics before, is the impression that I was being given.”
“This clearly is the low of his presidency politically right now,” the NBC News reporter continues. “We obviously see it in the polls, but just the way he feels, his ability to lead the party, or, frankly, hope that the party doesn’t abandon him right now in this moment.”
I’ll spare you excerpts from those columns and refer you to Jonthan Chait: Conservatives Confident America Rejecting Obamacare, Ready for Every-Man-for-Himself Care.
The keep-your-plan fiasco, in addition to flummoxing Democrats, has not only held out to Republicans the tantalizing prospect that they can discredit and defeat Obamacare, but also drawn into sympathetic focus their own alternative vision.
Here is the basic ideological division. Obama wants the health-care system to do more to pool risk — which is to say, to shift the burden of covering the sick onto the healthy. Republicans want it to do less to pool risk, so that healthy people can be free of the burden of subsidizing the costs of those less medically fortunate.
The small portion of the populace that lies outside of either employer-based or direct government coverage provides the closest existing model for the health-care system conservatives favor. The minority within this market who have insurance, and are losing their plans as a result of regulations preventing insurers from excluding the sick, have dominated public attention and formed what conservatives imagine will be a constituency for their own brand of counter-reform: a deregulated market where healthy people can buy cheap, bare-bones plans, and sicker people have to pay large out-of-pocket costs. Obamacare’s torturous birth pangs have convinced giddy conservatives that they are on the cusp of a great ideological victory.
Read the rest at the New York Magazine link above.
I’ll wrap up this section of my post with the most surreal Obamacare story I could find: Michele Bachmann: I lost my insurance:
Rep. Michele Bachmann says she is one of the people who lost their health insurance because of Obamacare and she won’t go shopping on a health exchange until it’s fixed.
“Are you kidding? I’m not going to waste an hour on that thing,” the Minnesota Republican said when Wolf Blitzer asked her on CNN on Thursday if she’d signed up on the exchange website. “I lost my health insurance under Obamacare. And so now I’m forced to go into the D.C. health exchange. I’m waiting until they fix this thing. I’m not going to sit there and frustrate myself for hours and hours.”
Don’t members of House have their own insurance plan? Did the rest of the House get their plans cancelled too?
Bachmann did not explain what about Obamacare caused her to lose her health insurance. The health law technically requires congressional staff go on the D.C. exchange, but it’s up to the individual congressional office to determine who qualifies as “official office” staff, so many Republicans have placed their aides on the exchange while Democrats have been split.
At the Daily Banter, Bob Cesca explains to Bachmann how to sign up for health insurance at the DC exchange, which is running quite smoothly, thank you very much.
I’ve run on way too long about the Obamacare story, but I haven’t been paying close attention to it and I needed to bring myself up to speed. I hope I didn’t bore the rest of you!
Now let’s look at someone who really has a health care problem. Gawker reports on a woman with stage 4 breast cancer and the vile treatment she has been getting from her daughter’s school because of it (emphasis added).
An Albuquerque mother says her daughter’s elementary school principal banned her from school grounds for the way she smells. Kerri Mascareno was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in August, and while she’s undergoing chemotherapy to shrink her tumor, she’s also struggling with the administration at Tierra Antigua Elementary.
According to Mascareno, the school’s principal, Robert Abney, told her last week that she could no longer visit the school:
“He just said he knows this is going to hurt my feelings and he understands where I’m coming from because his mother had breast cancer and she had the same exact smell and I can no longer be in the school and that with me being in the school that I made his employees ill,” she said.
She claims that when she moved outside, the principal went to his window and told her to move farther away. “He just said that he would have to ask me to sit in my car because he could smell me through the window,” Mascareno said.
Calling Dr. Freud! Robert Abney needs psychological treatment STAT! Men with Oedipal complexes should not be in charge of running schools. I hope Kerri Mascareno sues and gets a million-dollar payday so she can leave the money to her children.
Yesterday I wrote about two Secret Service agents who have been removed from President Obama’s security detail. Today the WaPo reports that there have been complaints about misconduct by Secret Service agents in 17 countries!
Secret Service agents and managers have engaged in sexual misconduct and other improprieties across a span of 17 countries in recent years, according to accounts given by whistleblowers to the Senate committee that oversees the department.
Sen. Ronald H. Johnson (Wis.), ranking Republican on a Homeland Security subcommittee, said Thursday that the accounts directly contradict repeated assertions by Secret Service leaders that the elite agency does not foster or tolerate sexually improper behavior.
And get this:
Johnson said that one of those disciplined supervisors, Ignacio Zamora Jr., had helped lead the internal investigation into the April 2012 incident in Cartagena, where more than a dozen agents engaged in a night of heavy drinking and carousing with prostitutes ahead of a presidential visit.
One person involved in security in Cartagena said Zamora was chosen for the review because he served as the “second supervisor” on the trip, and was among the managers responsible for the security effort in advance of Obama’s arrival for an international summit.
Zamora is the agent who was disciplined for trying to break into a woman’s hotel room to retrieve a bullet he had left there.
Finally, once again I want to call your attention to a McClatchy article that RalphB linked to yesterday: Questions about ‘60 Minutes’ Benghazi story go beyond Dylan Davies interview; CBS conducting ‘journalistic review’. It’s long, but it is a must read. The writer, Nancy A. Youseff, goes through Lara Logan’s “60 Minutes” report line by line and finds numerous outright lies and distortions. Logan and anyone else involved with the story should be fired immediately and Logan should apply for a job at Fox News.
So . . . what are you reading and blogging about today? Please share your links on any topic in the comment thread.
Dakinikat has arrived safely in Seattle, where she’ll be visiting with her father, her sister, and her elder daughter Jean. I’m going to fill in for her tomorrow morning, but she’ll be back to her regular blogging schedule soon.
I have no idea what’s happening in the news, because I spent last night watching two PBS shows on the JFK assassination. I’ve still been plowing through JFK books too. But RalphB posted a very interesting link last night that I want to highlight. From Jonathan Cohn, via Bob Cesca, Jonathan Cohn explains How to Interpret Obamacare’s Low Enrollment Numbers for October.
According to HHS calculations, 846,852 people have used the site to complete applications. That means they have created accounts and submitted information to see whether they are eligible for federal programs or tax credits. Those applications include people applying for households with multiple members. In total, it represents 1,509,883 people. The federal government has processed applications for the vast majority of them—98 percent, or 1,477,853 people. Of those, about a third have actually selected a health plan or been deemed eligible for a program like Medicaid. That’s 502,466.
How does that half million break down? About four out of five (396,261) are in Medicaid. The rest (106,185) of them have picked private insurance plans. These numbers include both those who enrolled through the website that the federal government is maintaining (healthcare.gov) and those who enrolled through sites that states like California, Kentucky, and Connecticut are running on their own. The majority (three-fourths) of the people getting private insurance have done so through state sites. Just a quarter, or 26,794, have enrolled through the federal site.
But because the media narrative is that the the Obamacare rollout is “failed,” “botched,” and “worse than expected,” all we’re hearing is the 106,185 figure–as if getting people covered by Medicaid doesn’t count. Tell that to the previously uninsured families who will now be able to take their sick kids to a doctor! By the way, in the first month of the Massachusetts health care exchanges, only 123 people signed up. As Bob Cesca puts it,
because there’s an “Obamacare is a Failed Policy” script that must be serviced, the lowest number of the batch has to be quoted. That’s why you’ve been reading about 106,000 rather than 1.5 million.
Have I told you lately how much I think the corporate media sucks?
At a time when many Americans are remembering the JFK assassination and the lax security that contributed to his death, we’re learning about another scandal in the Secret Service. From The Washington Post: Two Secret Service agents cut from Obama’s detail after alleged misconduct.
A call from the Hay-Adams hotel this past spring reporting that a Secret Service agent was trying to force his way into a woman’s room set in motion an internal investigation that has sent tremors through an agency still trying to restore its elite reputation.
The incident came a year after the agency was roiled by a prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, prompting vows from senior officials to curb a male-dominated culture of hard partying and other excesses….
The disruption at the Hay-Adams in May involved Ignacio Zamora Jr., a senior supervisor who oversaw about two dozen agents in the Secret Service’s most elite assignment — the president’s security detail. Zamora was allegedly discovered attempting to reenter a woman’s room after accidentally leaving behind a bullet from his service weapon. The incident has not been previously reported.
In a follow-up investigation, agency officials also found that Zamora and another supervisor, Timothy Barraclough, had sent sexually suggestive e-mails to a female subordinate, according to those with knowledge of the case. Officials have removed Zamora from his position and moved Barraclough off the detail to a separate part of the division, people familiar with the case said.
The misconduct wasn’t reported to the inspector general until the end of October after the WaPo had started investigating the incident, but
According to the Secret Service’s internal findings, Zamora was off duty when he met a woman at the hotel’s Off the Record bar and later joined her in her room.
The review found that Zamora had removed ammunition from the chamber of his government-issued handgun during his stay in the room and then left behind a single bullet. He returned to the room when he realized his mistake. The guest refused to let him back in. Zamora identified himself to hotel security as a Secret Service agent.
The report apparently didn’t explain why Zamora took a bullet out of this gun or why the woman refused to let him back into her room. We’ll all have to draw our own conclusions.
Janet Yellen, Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Reserve, will be appearing before the Senate Banking Committee today for her confirmation hearing.
US News and World Report lists “three things to expect” from the hearing: 1.) Republicans talking about inflation, 2) “measured reassurances” to nervous Republicans about nonexisitant inflation from Yellen, and 3) “a jumpy stock market.”
USA Today offers “five things to watch for”: 1) “can she handle a national stage,” 2) “Will she sound like Greenspan or Bernanke?” 3) “How will Yellen reconcile the Fed’s dual mandate to boost employment while keeping inflation low with her own economic philosophy?” 4) “Will she drop clues on tapering?” 5) “How will she handle questions about “too big to fail” banks?”
If Yellen were a man, would USA Today be asking if she can “handle a national stage?” As for question 2, she’ll sound like Bernanke obviously. Read USA today’s speculations at the link.
On the stock question, markets are responding favorably so far. From the WSJ: U.S. Stock Futures Inch Higher.
U.S. stock futures held steady near record levels, as dovish comments from Federal Reserve chairwoman nominee Janet Yellen helped offset disappointing results from some blue-chip companies.
European markets rose as sluggish euro-zone growth figures suggested accommodative monetary policies would remain in place for some time….
Investors will be keenly focused on Ms. Yellen’s confirmation hearing before the Senate banking committee, starting at 10 a.m. In her planned opening statement, released late Wednesday, Ms. Yellen said that because unemployment is still too high, and inflation is running below target levels, the Fed is using its monetary-policy tools, even unconventional ones like asset purchases, to promote a more robust recovery.
“I believe that supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy,” Ms. Yellen said.
Investors will be listening to the question-and-answer period for any clues on when she might expect to start winding down, or tapering, the $85-billion-a-month bond purchase program.
From Bloomberg Businessweek: Yellen Says U.S. Performing ‘Far Short’ of Potential.
“A strong recovery will ultimately enable the Fed to reduce its monetary accommodation and reliance on unconventional policy tools such as asset purchases,” Yellen said in testimony prepared for her nomination hearing before the Senate Banking Committee today in Washington. “Supporting the recovery today is the surest path to returning to a more normal approach to monetary policy.”
Yellen, the Fed’s vice chairman, voiced her commitment to using bond purchases known as quantitative easing to boost growth and lower unemployment that remains above 7 percent more than four years after the economy began to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
“Her approach is, ‘Let’s do more QE now to get the job done faster,’ ” said Laura Rosner, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas SA in New York and a former researcher at the New York Fed. “Yellen is repeating her commitment to getting the job done.”
In three pages of prepared remarks for the 10 a.m. hearing, released yesterday, Yellen, 67, said unemployment is “still too high, reflecting a labor market and economy performing far short of their potential,” and that inflation is expected to remain below the Fed’s 2 percent goal. She also highlighted areas where the economy has improved, saying housing “seems to have turned a corner” and the auto industry has made an “impressive comeback.”
The situation in the Philippines is still desperate, according to the NYT: Traumatized City in the Philippines Begins to Bury Its Dead.
TACLOBAN, the Philippines — Pausing occasionally to dodge driving rains by hiding under loose scraps of plywood, a group of firefighters lowered unidentified bodies into a mass grave here Thursday, six days after the city was largely destroyed in Typhoon Haiyan.
For days, the bodies had sat in public. First they were uncovered on roadsides; then they were placed in body bags. After that, they were collected, and nearly 200 were stored at the biggest site, a government office. In the nearby City Hall, the center of local government relief efforts, the stench from the bodies could be powerful when the wind blew off the harbor….
The official death toll for Tacloban City rose to 2,000 on Thursday, but that covers only bodies that have been collected or visually confirmed by authorized officials. The visually confirmed bodies are those readily visible from roadsides, as relief crews have yet to start digging through towering piles of debris, much of it studded with nails.
There are also 3,000 injured, by the official tally, and 194 people for whom the paperwork has been completed for them to be declared missing.
Up in Canada, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is still refusing to step down:
It’s clear now, amid more damning allegations and public embarrassment, that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has no intentions of relinquishing his post.
City council must decide how to continue operating after Wednesday’sdramatic pleas from councillors for the mayor to seek treatment for alleged substance abuse.
He faces yet another challenging day at City Hall on Thursday following the release of more police documents alleging disturbing details about the mayor’s erratic behaviour.
Ford, however, has repeatedly refused to step aside, even after admitting last week that he had smoked crack cocaine about a year ago possibly while drunk..
“I can’t change the past,” he said in council Wednesday. “All I can do is move on and that’s what I’m doing.”
It’s like a family intervention played out in public; but the target of the intervention is in control of a large city. “He continues to be the chief magistrate of the city; he continues to have signing powers,” says city councilman Anthony Perruzza.
I’ll end with some feel-good news. I’ve been following the Ryan Ferguson story for a few years now. Ferguson is a young Missouri man who has been in prison for 10 years for a murder he didn’t commit. Yesterday he was finally freed. If you aren’t familiar with the case, here is some background from CBS News and a timeline of the case from KDSK.com.
Ferguson — who was serving 40 years for the 2001 murder and robbery of Kent Heitholt, an editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune — said he was still dealing with the shock of walking out of the clink.
“When I finally realized it was actually over, it was incredible relief because I was afraid,” he told the news station. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. They don’t really tell you a whole lot. It was a sensation like no other, and seeing my family right there and hugging them, and knowing that we were going to go home together — it was amazing.”
A state appeals court vacated Ferguson’s conviction after the panel found he did not receive a fair trial.The panel found that prosecutors withheld evidence from defense attorneys and managed to get a conviction from two witnesses who later recanted their testimony.
Ferguson was arrested after his friend, Chuck Erickson, told cops in 2003 that the pair attacked Heitholt during a night of drinking. A night janitor, Jerry Trump, also said during the trial that he saw the two teens near the parking lot where the editor was killed.
Erickson later admitted that he lied about what happened the night Heitholt was killed and Trump told a courtroom years later that he was coached by prosecutors before he testified. Trump could face perjury charges.
So…. those are my picks for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a great day.
(Uh, this post is full of the word shit…those with fragile sensibilities have been warned.)
Last week Boston Boomer mentioned the repetition of political news stories, that it is difficult to even find something to write about that really isn’t a re-hash of something we have said before.
It really has been the SSDD, same shit different day, and I am sick and tired of it.
So this post will highlight the usual crap, and touch on a few items that are just interesting…and have nothing to do with all the bullshit that is being spread around these days.
There is a group of states who have said no to Obamacare, 26 states who now will have their insurance one stop shop marketplaces set up and run by the Feds. (Sounds ironic doesn’t it.)
A total of 26 Republican-led or Republican-leaning states have declined to establish insurance exchanges, a centerpiece of the reforms ushered in by the Affordable Care Act, ceding control of a critical element of their health care system to the federal government.
The ACA requires the creation of the one-stop marketplaces called exchanges to connect buyers and sellers of health insurance — the vehicle through which the law would expand coverage and protect consumers. The law encourages states to build their own exchanges under the guidelines. If they refuse, the federal government will take on the task.
By last Friday’s deadline, just 17 states and Washington, D.C., submitted their plans for exchanges. Just four of them are governed by Republicans — Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. An additional seven states intend to build their exchanges in partnership with the federal government. The exchanges are scheduled to go live on Jan. 1, 2014.
Of the remaining 26, twenty-four have Republican governors. The other two, Montana and Missouri, have decidedly conservatives electorates and Republican-controlled legislatures.
Kaiser Health News has a chart of where the states stand:
Personally, I think this story is a prime example of the political machine dishing the same old shit once again.
When the ACA created this structure, it seemed like a no-brainer that states would be on board. Why would any of them, especially the ones hostile to the law, willingly give up control of their health care systems to Washington?
Ironically the answer, by and large, is politics. Conservatives activists detest “Obamacare” and argue that any governor who agrees to build an exchange is abetting the law, even though the consequence of not doing to is to surrender more control to Washington. There is a substantive gripe, too: conservatives contend that the law offers too little flexibility for states to craft the exchanges in accordance with their needs.
I still wish like hell this Obamacare would magically morph into a single payer option, which would be the best way to get healthcare coverage to the masses. But that wish of mine is itself bullshit because it will never happen.
More crap is expected next month as the GOP right-wing nuts (CPAC) get together to discuss the topics they love. Maddow has a contest going on at her blog: TRMS writing challenge: The missing CPAC panels
Seriously, here are some of the actual titles of scheduled events:
CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, hits Washington March 14-16. In addition to speeches by Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Steve King, Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint, Phyllis Schlafly, Sarah Palin, Brent Bozell, Rick Santorum and the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, CPAC is proud to present these panels (all real, BTW):
- Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?
- The Future of the Movement: Winning with Generation X/Y
- Stop THIS: Threats, Harrassment, Intimidation, Slander and Bullying from the Obama Administration
- How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Plastic Water Bottles, Fracking, Genetically Modified Food, & Big Gulp Sodas
- Is America Coming Apart?
- The Fight for Religious Libery(sic): 40 years After Roe V. Wade
- Getting Hollywood Right
- Free at Last: When the Right to Work Came Back to the Midwest
Good grief! Now if that is not a list of the same old shit, I don’t know what is!
There was some surprising news last night, I expected to have to write about the latest controversial execution in my home state of Georgia, but check it out…a last minute stay of execution was granted to Warren Hill, a man that has learning disability. Warren Hill granted stay of execution
Warren Hill, 53, has been granted a stay of execution from the federal appeals court for the 11th circuit. Photograph: Ho/AFP/Getty Images
Warren Hill, an intellectually disabled prisoner, has been spared the death chamber just 30 minutes before he was due to die by lethal injection in Georgia despite a US supreme court ban on executions of people with learning difficulties.
Hill, 53, had already taken an oral sedative of Ativan to help calm himself for the gurney before he learned of the stay of execution from the federal appeals court for the 11th circuit. The court agreed to consider the issue of his intellectual disabilities in the light of a 2002 US supreme court ruling that prohibits executions of “mentally retarded” prisoners as a breach of the constitutional safeguard against cruel and unusual punishment.
Georgia is the only state in the union that insists prisoners must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that they have learning difficulties – a standard that experts say is almost impossible to achieve.
Hill had been scheduled to be executed at 7pm at the same prison where Troy Davis was put to death in September 2011 amid massive international outcry. Davis’s death, despite substantial evidence of his innocence, prompted dramatic scenes at the prison where hundreds of protesters were confronted by armed Swat police armed with a police helicopter flying overhead.
This article from the Guardian makes a point to mention there were fewer protesters this time around.
Hill’s scheduled execution attracted a comparatively small response, with few protesters and campaigners present in the prison grounds as the appointed hour approached. This was the second time in seven months that Hill has come close to the death chamber: last July he was spared by just 90 minutes and the experience was repeated on Tuesday night with just 30 minutes to go.
I guess many people are feeling the apathy that SSDD brings to those who deal with the same shit every day, you know what I am talking about…that feeling of why even bother, things are never going to change. Shit always trickles downward…and it is invariably the same folks getting shit on, over and over again.
One more political link: GOP lawmakers propose $30 million a year to fund Cops in Schools program
Freshman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and six other House Republicans have proposed legislation that would spend $30 million a year on federal grants to help put police officers in schools across the country.
The Protect America’s Schools Act is a reaction to the December shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children dead. After that shooting, National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre suggested that children in schools be protected by armed guards, and Meadows’s bill would appear to be a step in that direction.
“According to a recent Gallup poll, 53 percent of Americans believe that increasing police presence at schools would be very effective in preventing future tragedies,” Meadows said last week. “After speaking to local law enforcement, superintendents and principals in my district, I believe this is the best path forward.”
His bill, H.R. 751, would fund the Cops in Schools grant program, which has not been funded since 2005. Up to $30 million per year could be distributed in grants to help states afford the placement of police in schools.
Meadows said this spending would be offset with unspent funds from the operations budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The winners and runners-up in the second annual Shit London photography awards, celebrating the city’s ugliest buildings, worst shop names and most depressing views…