Late Night Round Up…Frozen Buildings and Spitting Camels

image565441g_5546Good Evening

Sitting here watching Road to Morocco with Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour…and enjoying it thoroughly.  Edith Head did the dresses and they are beautiful.

Anyway, just a few things for you tonight, and since I am still suffering from serious political affected disorder…the links will be sparse.

Actually, I should call it political aversion disorder. After seeing some of the crap the right-wing talking heads have said about Hillary Clinton, this evening of laughs is a welcomed treat.

John McCain was on Fox News this morning, opening his mouth and spewing ridiculous comments…according to the Maddow Blog:  The pot accuses the kettle of having an ‘adoring media’

…this was the key quote:

“[Clinton] obviously has an adoring media. She really didn’t answer any questions. Her response to Senator Johnson about whether it was a spontaneous demonstration or not, saying it ‘didn’t matter.’ It ‘didn’t matter’ how these people died? That was stunning. That was really stunning. Of course it matters. It matters for a whole lot of reasons, including to the families and Americans, because the American people deserve to be told the truth and they were not told the truth.”

Clinton never said it “didn’t matter” how the four Americans were killed. She said the opposite.

As was obvious to anyone paying attention, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was preoccupied with preliminary intelligence reports about a possible protest in Benghazi and Clinton said that was irrelevant as compared to the death of four Americans — and she was correct.

If McCain found this too confusing to understand, perhaps the Senate Foreign Relations Committee isn’t the best place for him to serve.

What’s more, Clinton has “an adoring media”? This from a man who spends so much time on the Sunday shows that he has his mail forwarded to green rooms? This from a senator who’s so adored by the D.C. political establishment that he’s considered reporters his base?

You want another WTF reaction to Clinton…of course it is a Fox and Friend giving it up…Brian Kilmeade: Hillary Clinton used ‘Lance Armstrong principle’ by yelling in Senate hearing

“This is the Lance Armstrong principle of when you’re in trouble, yell at the person asking you a question,” Kilmeade declared. “That’s the way that he kept everybody off of him for 15 years. And believe me, that’s what I thought of right away because when she gets angry, you do not want to be in her crosshairs.”

“But the fact is that everyone is looking at the fact that she got angry and thinking, wow, she looks good,” the Fox News host continued to rant. “But her words absolutely defy the logic behind the whole reason for the hearing.”

Video at the link.
Juan Cole has a handy list at Alternet: Top Ten Republican Myths on Benghazi that Justify Hillary Clinton’s Anger   Go and check those out…
Just a couple of more links for you…Spain’s unemployment is frightening. Spain’s unemployment rate reaches record high

Spain’s unemployment rate jumped to the highest in 36 years with the rate expected to continue escalating [AFP]

Spain’s unemployment rate has surged to a modern-day record of 26.02 percent in the final quarter of 2012 as nearly six
million people searched in vain for work in a biting recession, official data shows.

The jobless rate data released on Thursday climbed from 25.02 percent the previous quarter, reaching the highest level since Spain returned to democracy after the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975.

The story for young people was even grimmer: the unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 24 soared to 55.13 percent, up from 52.34 percent the previous quarter.

The result shattered even the modest expectations of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government, which had been forecasting an unemployment rate of 24.6 percent by the end of 2012.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for those young people in Spain…I see what it is like here in the US and unemployment is nowhere near 55.13 percent.
Lately, we have seen a lot of assholes and dicks parading across the cable news screens, and they are not funny…but this bit of dickness from Australia is a laugh: Australia bans ad with Barbara Bush look-alike: ‘There’s only one Dick I’ll be eating with my green coffee

According to ad creator Dan Ilic, Dick Smith foods had planned to run over $100,000 in advertising on Saturday’s Australia Day, but it was given a PG rating because of a scene showing refugees escaping from a burning boat to enjoy Dick Smith’s OzEmite, an alternative to the Vegemite product marketed by American-owned Kraft Foods.

But for many, it will be the barrage of penis innuendos like “I love Dick” that raise eyebrows.

“This is as wrong as a dead dingo’s donger,” Smith says in the advertisement, referring to “false patriotism” in competing food commercials.

“There’s a quick and easy solution to this,” the blog dlisted explained on Thursday. “They should just edit the commercial all the way down and only show the true star, the Barbara Bush-looking memaw who says, ‘There’s only one Dick I’ll be eating on Australia Day.’ She’s at the 0:20 mark and she delivers her line like a memaw who knows her Dicks.”

Got another cool link for you, take a look at these pictures of a frozen building:  In pictures: Ice covers Chicago warehouse after fire

Crane in front of ice covered building

I will end this post with a clip from the movie, Road to Morocco.

The scene where the camel spits in Turkey’s (Bob Hope‘s) face wasn’t planned. The camel did it of its own accord while the cameras were rolling, and Hope’s recoil and Bing Crosby‘s reaction were so funny that it was left in the final cut of the film.

This is an open thread!


Tuesday Reads: Daniel Inouye, Richard Engel, and Fiscal Slope Trial Balloons and Lead Balloons

Sen. Dan Inouye reads with children

Sen. Dan Inouye reads with children

Good Morning!!

Senator Dan Inouye, who died yesterday at age 88 was a Japanese American who fought for the U.S. in World War II. From Time Magazine:

On Dec. 7, 1941, high school senior Daniel Inouye knew he and other Japanese-Americans would face trouble when he saw Japanese dive bombers, torpedo planes and fighters on their way to bomb Pearl Harbor and other Oahu military bases.

He and other Japanese-Americans had wanted desperately to be accepted, he said, and that meant going to war.

“I felt that there was a need for us to demonstrate that we’re just as good as anybody else,” Inouye, who eventually went on to serve 50 years as a U.S. Senate from Hawaii, once said. “The price was bloody and expensive, but I felt we succeeded.”

Inouye had wanted to become a surgeon, but he lost his right arm in a firefight during the war. He was elected to the House in 1959 after Hawaii became a state. Inouye became well known nationally as a member of the Senate Watergate Committee and later as chairman of the Congressional committee that investigated the Iran Contra scandal.

In one of the most memorable exchanges of the Watergate proceedings, an attorney for two of Nixon’s closest advisers, John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman, referred to Inouye as a “little Jap.”

The attorney, John J. Wilson, later apologized. Inouye accepted the apology, noting that the slur came after he had muttered “what a liar” into a microphone that he thought had been turned off following Ehrlichman’s testimony.

Inouye achieved celebrity status when he served as chairman of the congressional panel investigating the Iran-Contra affair in 1987. That committee held lengthy hearings into allegations that top Reagan administration officials had facilitated the sale of weapons to Iran, in violation of a congressional arms embargo, in hopes of winning the release of American hostages in Iran and to raise money to help support anti-communist fighters in Nicaragua….

The panel sharply criticized Reagan for what it considered laxity in handling his duties as president. “We were fair,” Inouye said. “Not because we wanted to be fair but because we had to be fair.”

NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel and his production team have been released after five days in captivity in Syria. The Guardian reports:

The group disappeared shortly after crossing into north-west Syria from Turkey last Thursday (13 December). NBC had no contact with the kidnappers and asked for a news blackout about the incident, which was observed by mainstream news outlets.

There was no request for a ransom during the time Engel and his crew were missing.

After being abducted they were put into the back of a truck and blindfolded before being transported to an unknown location, believed to be near the small town of Ma’arrat Misrin.

Throughout their captivity they were blindfolded and bound, but otherwise not physically harmed, said the network.

Read more at the link.

According to Beltway Bob (AKA Ezra Klein), a deal between President Obama and Speaker Boehner is in the offing, and it isn’t a good deal for old ladies who are trying to survive on Social Security.

Boehner offered to let tax rates rise for income over $1 million. The White House wanted to let tax rates rise for income over $250,000. The compromise will likely be somewhere in between. More revenue will come from limiting deductions, likely using some variant of the White House’s oft-proposed, oft-rejected idea for limiting itemized deductions to 28 percent. The total revenue raised by the two policies will likely be a bit north of $1 trillion. Congress will get instructions to use this new baseline to embark on tax reform next year. Importantly, if tax reform never happens, the revenue will already be locked in.

On the spending side, the Democrats’ headline concession will be accepting chained-CPI, which is to say, accepting a cut to Social Security benefits. Beyond that, the negotiators will agree to targets for spending cuts. Expect the final number here, too, to be in the neighborhood of $1 trillion, but also expect it to lack many specifics. Whether the cuts come from Medicare or Medicaid, whether they include raising the Medicare age, and many of the other contentious issues in the talks will be left up to Congress.

Now how is that a win for Democrats? If we go over the cliff, Republicans are going to be blamed, and taxes will go up on everyone until Republicans give in to public outcry in early January. But Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid cuts will inevitably be blamed on Democrats, who are supposed to fight for the social safety net. Then in 2014, Republicans will attack them for those cuts, and it will work–just as it did when Romney and Ryan falsely accused Obama of cutting Medicare benefits in the recent presidential campaign. Back to Beltway Bob:

The deal will lift the spending sequester, but it will be backed up by, yes, another sequester-like policy. I’m told that the details on this next sequester haven’t been worked out yet, but the governing theory is that it should be more reasonable than the current sequester. That is to say, if the two parties can’t agree on something better, then this should be a policy they’re willing to live with.

On stimulus, unemployment insurance will be extended, as will the refundable tax credits. Some amount of infrastructure spending is likely. Perversely, the payroll tax cut, one of the most stimulative policies in the fiscal cliff, will likely be allowed to lapse, which will deal a big blow to the economy.

Again, that doesn’t sound like a win for Obama at all. Let’s hope Beltway Bob is wrong again.

Dean Baker on the chained CPI: He argues that the chained CPI is not really applicable to seniors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has constructed an experimental elderly index (CPI-E) which reflects the consumption patterns of people over age 62. This index has shown a rate of inflation that averages 0.2-0.3 percentage points higher than the CPI-W.

The main reason for the higher rate of inflation is that the elderly devote a larger share of their income to health care, which has generally risen more rapidly in price than other items. It is also likely that the elderly are less able to substitute between goods, both due to the nature of the items they consume and their limited mobility, so the substitutions assumed in the chained CPI might be especially inappropriate for the elderly population.

Baker explains for the umpteenth time that it is wrong to use Social Security cuts to lower the deficit.

It is important to remember that under the law Social Security is supposed to be treated as a separate program that is financed by its own stream of designated revenue. This means that it cannot contribute to the budget deficit under the law, because it is only allowed to spend money from the Social Security trust fund.

This is not just a rhetorical point. There is no commitment to finance Social Security out of general revenue. The projections from the Social Security trustees show the program first facing a shortfall in 2033 after which point it will only be able to pay a bit more than 75 percent of scheduled benefits. While this date is still fairly far in the future, at some point it will likely be necessary to address a shortfall.

It is reasonable to expect that the changes needed to keep the program fully funded will involve some mix of revenue increases and benefit cuts. However if the chained CPI is adopted as part of a budget deal unconnected to any larger plan for Social Security then it effectively means that there will have been a substantial cut to Social Security benefits without any quid pro quo in terms of increased revenue. This hardly seems like a good negotiating move from the standpoint of those looking to preserve and strengthen the program.

There is much much more at the link. Digby has been writing about this issue for months, and she had another good post on it yesterday.

There has always been some fantasy, mostly held by people who are about to be fleeced by Wall Street sharpies, that this country should be run like a cash business. It cannot and should not be done that way. (Ask Mitt Romney about the role of debt in a modern economy.) The problem is that this focus on debt is making it impossible to do the things we need to do to spur economic growth in the short term, which would close the deficit, and apparently the only way anyone in Washington can see to get around that is to sell off the future security of American citizens as some sort of human sacrifice for no good reason. It simply is not necessary, as Krugman shows.

John Boehner came up with a new “offer” this week-end to raise the rates on those who make a million or more each year and also agreed to take the debt ceiling off the table for the next year. Krugman thinks this is a bad deal which Obama has no good reason to take — and I would agree with him if I didn’t still see a very dangerous possibility that the administration wants to pursue some unacceptable spending cuts in order to deliver on that “balanced approach.” A looming debt ceiling fight is a very good excuse for them to do that. If kicking the can down the road another year will stop them from cutting more spending, then I’m inclined to say take the deal.

Obviously, this whole thing is ridiculous. They should get rid of this idiotic debt ceiling vote altogether: after all once they appropriate the funds they’ve agreed to pay for them whether through taxation or borrowing. This yearly vote allows them to get credit for the goodies and then later refuse to pick up the tab. But unless they are willing to give it up completely, I’d be glad to at least see it be delayed until the White House stops talking about cutting vital programs.

And yes, the taxes should go up for all income over $250,000. They can afford it. But not if the price is changing to the Chained CPI which will take the food out of the mouths of 90 year old women and squeeze veterans and disabled people who can’t afford it. In other words, the devil is in the details. If Obama hangs tough as Krugman prescribes and wins on all these points without giving up the store (also known as “making tough choices ” his own base “won’t like”) then I say go for it. I’m just not sure I have much faith that’s the game plan. If it isn’t, then maybe he should take Boehner’s offer, repeal the sequester and put this to bed for the time being. There’s been more than enough cutting already to drag this economy down. Let’s see what happens if we stop the austerity insanity for a while.

Dr. Dakinikat would probably agree with that.

Meanwhile, most Americans disapprove of the the proposed cuts to safety net programs, so maybe this will turn out to be another trial balloon that goes over like a lead balloon.

Most Americans want President Obama and congressional Republicans to compromise on a budget agreement, though they, too, are unhappy about the options that would avert the “fiscal cliff,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The strong support for compromise belies widespread public opposition to big spending cuts that are likely to be part of any deal.

Most Americans oppose slashing spending on Medicaid and the military, as well as raising the age for Medicare eligibility and slowing the increase of Social Security benefits, all of which appear to be on the table in negotiations. Majorities call each of these items “unacceptable.”

Wow. I’m running out of space already? Suddenly, a week before Xmas there’s more happening in the news. We’ll have to discuss other items in in the comments. So what’s on your reading list today?


Saturday Reads: Austerity, Medicare, and Punishing the Baby Boomers

fiscal cliff fix

Good Morning!!

Following on Dakinikat’s post last night, The Austerity Plot, here are some more links about Jonathan Chait’s very very bad recommendation that Obama should cave on raising the Medicare enrollment age.

David Dayen’s reaction was immediate and shrill: Jon Chait’s Miserable Endorsement of Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age.

Let’s look at Chait’s reasoning. I would probably start with the fact that he’s not 64 or 65. My parents are, and until my dad reached Medicare in November, they were paying $2,500 a month on the private market for health insurance. So I’ll be happy to provide him with their phone number so he can tell them how it’s “tolerable” for them to spend two years more than they expected doing that.

But soft! Here are his actual reasons. One, Democrats have to accept concessions (that’s always a good strategic place from which to begin a negotiation!), and the scolds seem to like raising the eligibility age. So let’s give ‘em what they want. This is a bizarrely content-free assertion. The phrase “If Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles wanted you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it?” springs to mind. Second, he thinks that Republicans will somehow forget that this only raises $100 billion, at most, over 10 years, and will then drop any demands to hit a particular number in the negotiations….

The one thing we know will be a side effect of increasing the Medicare eligibility age is that insurance premiums will skyrocket. It will make Medicare more expensive because they lose relatively healthy 65 and 66 year-olds from their risk pool, and it will make private insurance more expensive because they add relatively sick 65 and 66 year-olds to their risk pool. Insurers hate the idea for just this reason. As a result, everyone’s premiums will rise, and cost-shifting will ensue from the government to its citizens.

The original Shrill One, was even more shrill than usual.

…why on earth would Obama be selling Medicare away to raise top tax rates when he gets a big rate rise on January 1 just by doing nothing? And no, vague promises about closing loopholes won’t do it: a rate rise is the real deal, no questions, and should not be traded away for who knows what.

So this looks crazy to me; it looks like a deal that makes no sense either substantively or in terms of the actual bargaining strength of the parties. And if it does happen, the disillusionment on the Democratic side would be huge. All that effort to reelect Obama, and the first thing he does is give away two years of Medicare? How’s that going to play in future attempts to get out the vote?

As Dakinikat wrote, Beltway Bob immediately accepted Chait’s assessment of the likely “deal,” even though he explained very clearly last night as host of the Rachel Maddow Show that doing this would be insane and counterproductive.

Ed Kilgore defended Chait:

I do think it’s kind of important that progressives allow each other a bit of liberty in discussions about big fiscal issues: after all, even the Right-Wing Noise Machine is in a bit of disarray on the subject at the moment. I know some people think resisting anything that affects Social Security or Medicare benefits is the ultimate Red Line that cannot be crossed. Personally, my own fear is that in defending that Red Line, congressional Democrats will wind up making concessions on Medicaid and other low-income programs that in my opinion are more morally compelling than keeping Medicare precisely the way it is today.

Maybe my fears are misguided, or maybe I just don’t share the obsession of some liberals in keeping Medicare pristine as a potential model for a universal single-payer health care system somewhere in the distant future, even if that means today’s poor folks have to suffer as a lower priority.

Apparently, Kilgore doesn’t understand that millions of poverty stricken elders are on Medicare and that millions of middle class Americans rely on Medicaid for nursing home care in addition to Medicare. It’s not an either/or thing.

Atrios gave Chait the Wanker of the Day Award, and yesterday evening, Chait issued an “acceptance speech” that doubled down on his recommendations for Medicare cuts in a post that I personally found offensive–but then I’m one of those loser 65-year-olds, so what do I know?

I, along with millions of other losers, committed the horrendous crime of being born after WWII ended and thus became part of the despised population bomb called the “baby boom.” Never mind that we didn’t ask to be born when we were and that public officials have known about our huge numbers ever since 1960 at least, the problem is all our fault. Supposedly, Ronald Reagan fixed the problem by having us pay more into the system so that Social Security and Medicare would be there when we got old, but now that is all forgotten because the superrich need more money to sock away in foreign tax havens.

WH_CARTOON_071029

Kenneth Baer and Jeffrey Liebman wrote about it in a NYT op-ed yesterday:

For decades we have known that the retirement of the baby boomers would be a monumental event for the economy. But now that it’s happening, many fiscal policy makers are acting as if the boomers are eternal teenagers and are turning a blind eye to how the boomers’ aging changes how we should approach economic policy. And this affects two of the central issues of the negotiations: how much the government should spend and how we can cut unemployment.

Consider the debate over spending. The Congressional Budget Office projects that if current policies continue, total federal spending will rise to 24 percent of gross domestic product in 2022. Republicans and Washington deficit hawks argue that this means spending is out of control, since over the past 40 years government spending has averaged 21 percent.

Their proposed solution is a cap on government spending as a percentage of the economy. Mitt Romney wanted to cap spending at 20 percent of G.D.P. Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, has proposed a cap of 20.6 percent with Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri. Just this week, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a 2016 Republican presidential aspirant, suggested an 18 percent cap.

These plans ignore the simple fact that you cannot repeal the aging of the boomers. The main reason expenditures are rising this decade is that spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is increasing by a whopping 3.7 percent of G.D.P. as the baby boomers age and retire. This demographic fact also has been driving increases in disability insurance payments as more knees give way and backs give out.

In addition, policy-makers need to be looking at unemployment differently, according to Baer and Liebman, but are they capable of doing that? Not likely. Read more about it at the link.

rich xmas

In other “news,” on Thursday, Fox News’ Monica Crowley (did you know she has a Ph.D.?!) claimed that Americans committed “national suicide” by re-electing Obama, because now the rich will have to pay more taxes.

“From a conservative perspective, November 6 was a national suicide,” Crowley asserted. “There is a very thin, fine, red line between us and total destruction of the American idea. That thin, red line was the Republican Party. If this party also commits suicide, this will be catastrophic.”
Raw Story (http://s.tt/1wd0V)

Charlie Crist has officially become a Democrat.

Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist announced his official switch from independent to the Democratic Party with a beaming Twitter post Friday night after a Christmas event at the White House.

Posing in a photo with an unidentified woman holding the official Florida voter registration papers, Crist tweeted he was “proud and honored to join the Democratic Party in the home of President @BarackObama!”

I wonder if he’s going to get a job in the administration? Or will he run for governor against Rick Scott?

Finally, Susie Madrak has a must-read post at Crooks and Liars: Obama Cheaps Out On Sandy Recovery to Prop Up Austerity Sham. It’s a quick read, so please go read it at the link.

That’s all I have for today. Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading list?


Sunday Reads: GOP Pigs and Spots in Space…

$(KGrHqEOKnIE44R2dbwLBOWl4kko9w~~_35Good Morning!

It is the first Sunday in December, the year has gone by so damn fast. There has been all sorts of juicy items in the news, and I’ve got plenty of articles to share with you this morning.

Let us start of with several links on foreign policy, Hillary Clinton has been extremely busy in her final leg as Secretary of State.

The recent UN decision to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state has sparked another confrontational response from Israel. After the UN vote was announced an Israeli official made a statement that included the government backed settlement and construction of 3,000 new West Bank units.

The Daily Beast/Newsweek has a post up, Explaining Israel’s Reaction to the U.N.’s pro-Palestinian Vote

Israel’s leaders stayed surprisingly calm last week. In the weeks leading up to Thursday’s vote on upgrading the Palestinians’ U.N. membership, a few senior Israeli officials drafted a position paper focusing on how the government should respond. The U.N. move, the writers warned, threatened to “severely damage” Israel’s credibility and undermine the Jewish state’s position in future peace negotiations. But more than that, they added, the initiative could open the door to war-crimes prosecutions against Israelis at the International Criminal Court. The five-page paper, dated Nov. 12 and obtained by Newsweek, advised that if the vote went ahead, Israel should “exact a heavy price” from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas—a price to include dismantling his Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. “A softer approach would amount to waving a white flag and admitting that the Israeli leadership is unable to rise to the challenge,” the writers concluded.

The upgrade, which the General Assembly approved last week by a huge majority, is a bitter pill for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It includes not only a boost in the Palestinians’ status from (U.N. jargon alert!) “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state,” but also a recognition of their right to all of the West Bank and Gaza, including territory that Israelis have settled since 1967. Even some dovish Israelis have problems with the resolution’s sweep. And yet Israel’s response—a dismissive statement from the prime minister and the floating of plans to build thousands of new housing units in the West Bank—fell well short of the threats to topple Abbas. “This is a meaningless resolution that won’t change anything on the ground,” Netanyahu said in a handout just before the vote.

Clinton has made it clear that she was not pleased with Israel’s decision to expand settlements further into the West Bank. New Israeli Settlements Set Back Peace, Clinton Says

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Israeli plans for new settlements near East Jerusalem do not help efforts to bring about a two-state solution to the Palestinian crisis.

Clinton told Israeli officials in Washington that plans for new settlements abutting East Jerusalem “set back the cause of a negotiated peace.”

“We all need to work together to find a path forward in negotiations that can finally deliver on a two-state solution. That must remain our goal,” Clinton said.

Clinton continued her remarks,

“President Abbas took a step in the wrong direction this week,” Clinton said. “We opposed his resolution. But we also need to see that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank still offers the most compelling alternative to rockets and permanent resistance.”

She says Palestinian Authority leaders deserve credit for real achievements on the ground — making their streets safe, overhauling governing institutions and cooperating with Israel to help enhance Israeli security.

“At a time when religious extremists claim to offer rewards in the hereafter, Israel needs to help those committed to peace deliver for their people in the here and now,” Clinton said.

When Israeli and Palestinian leaders are ready to return to direct negotiations, Secretary Clinton says President Barack Obama will be a full partner.

She says the United States stand ready to help Israel make more permanent its cease-fire with Hamas forces in Gaza. But that requires the continued cooperation of the new Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

“We look to Egypt to intensify its efforts to crack down on weapons smuggling from Libya and Sudan into Gaza,” Clinton said. “I am convinced that if more rockets are allowed to enter Gaza through the tunnels, that will certainly pave the way for more fighting again soon.”

After Clinton made this statement she was joined in agreement by the British Foreign Secretary William Hague: Clinton and Hague attack Israel decision to build new settlements both,

…have launched attacks on an Israeli decision to build fresh settlements on occupied territory in the West Bank.

The Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu‘s decision to approve the construction of 3,000 new homes is widely seen as a response to the United Nations vote earlier this week that recognised a Palestinian bid to be a “non-member observer state”.

The US, with Israel, strongly opposed that move, while Britain abstained in the vote. But now both countries have criticised the Israeli settlement decision, saying it hurts the chances of a two-state solution and the search for peace in the troubled region.

Hague’s comments were the following.

Hague said he was “extremely concerned” at the plans, which have been reported in the Israeli press as including a four-square-mile area just east of Jerusalem that is seen as vital to keeping open a viable land corridor between the city and any future Palestinian state.

Hague asked Israel to reverse the decision and said the prospect of a successful two solution was receding. “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties,” he said in comments Saturday. “If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve.”

Hague added: “They would undermine Israel’s international reputation and create doubts about its stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians.”

Sticking with Foreign Policy, I thought this was an interesting piece written by Stephen M. Walt. Never underestimate the power of confusion

If you read this blog, you’ve probably heard about the various “isms” in the field of international relations. There’s realism, of course, but also liberalism, idealism, and social constructivism. And don’t forget Marxism, even though hardly anybody claims to believe it anymore. These “isms” are essentially families of theory that share certain common assumptions. For example, realists see power and fear as the main drivers of world affairs, while liberals place more weight on human acquisitiveness and the power of institutions.

But there’s another major force in world affairs, and sometimes I think it deserves an “ism” all its own. With tongue in cheek and apologies to a famous Chinese sage, I’ll call it “Confusionism.” For Confusians, ignorance and stupidity are the real key to understanding state behavior, not fear, greed, ideals, class interests, or any of those other things that people think drive world affairs. When Confusians seek to explain why states act as they do, they start by assuming that leaders do not understand the problems they face, have only a vague sense of where they want to go, and no idea at all about how to get there. Instead of starting with the rational actor assumption beloved by economists, realists, and most liberals, Confusians hone in on all the reasons why humans typically get things wrong.

Hmmm, “isms” (aren’t those the things right-wing southern secessionist dislike?)

Confusionism is the opposite of the assorted conspiracy theories that you often read about. Some people believe that the world is run by a shadowy network of elites (e.g., the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg, Council on Foreign Relations, etc.). Other people think everything is ultimately the product of some secret Zionist conspiracy, or the machinations of oil companies and the military-industrial complex. Islamophobes are convinced there is some sort of well-oiled Muslim plot to infiltrate Europe and America, impose Sharia law, and stick all our young women in harems. If you read enough Robert Ludlum, watch The Matrix too often, or spend enough time patrolling the nether regions of the blogosphere, you might find yourself thinking along similar lines. If that happens, get help.

Okay, that is the first three paragraphs, just go read the whole thing will ya?

There is one thing I am grateful for these last four years, and that is Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. I will miss her tremendously when she retires at the start of Obama’s second term, and personally, I would feel more comfortable with John Kerry as SoS…but that is another story. Anyway, Clinton’s replacement will reveal new US foreign policy direction

With the imminent retirement of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, much speculation has arisen in Washington concerning her replacement. No matter whom the president chooses to nominate for the post, the political process of confirmation by the US Senate is sure to reveal much about the mindset of Republicans and Democrats entering Obama’s second term, and will certainly indicate the direction of US foreign policy in coming years.

Following President Barack Obama’s reelection, it was widely believed that US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice would be the president’s nominee to succeed Clinton.

With impeccable academic credentials, and experience as an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton White House, Rice is more than qualified. Rice is known for her direct and idealistic style of negotiation, and her less conciliatory, more confrontational style would likely take the practice of US foreign policy in a different direction than that charted by Clinton’s more pragmatic approach.

A greater and more direct US role in Middle Eastern affairs, and more emphasis on the role of foreign governments in human rights abuses and issues of social justice would likely mark the tenure of Rice.

Supposedly, there are rumors that Hillary is not thrilled with the prospect of Susan Rice replacing her at the Department of State. According to  Michael Sneed: Hillary Clinton no fan of Susan Rice, prefers Kerry for State

The big question: Who would Secretary of State Hillary Clinton like to get her job?

It ain’t embattled U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who is dealing with the way she handled the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Sneed is told if Hillary had to choose between Rice and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who is head of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, she would prefer Kerry.

“Hillary is not close to Rice, who is tough — but is not the friendliest person,” said a top White House source. “And Hillary’s brief comment recently that Rice had done ‘a great job’ was considered underwhelming and tepid,” the source added.

Yes, that bit of gossip is followed by a story on Kate Middleton, but it does go along the lines of how I think many of us perceive the situation…that Kerry would be a better fit after Clinton.

Okay, enough on Foreign Affairs and Policy, before we go on to other stories…take a quick look at this from Tommy Christopher: Persistent Romnesia: Former Mitt Romney Chief Strategist Says ‘Nobody Liked Romney Except Voters’

If the recent fiscal cliff/Susan Rice piñata party news doldrums have got you down, take a break with what has to be the first published example of a resignation letter from every future job. Former Romney campaign chief strategist Stuart Stevens has penned the most deluded piece of writing since Norma Desmond filled out an order for new headshots. In a hilarious op-ed for The Washington Post, Stevens explains, among other things, that “Nobody liked Romney except voters.”

I know that BB wrote a great post on the “delusions” of the GOP and Romney’s camp, but anything that can make a reference to Sunset Blvd is too good to ignore.

And when it comes to the GOP, not only are they delusional…they are cruel. How One GOP Plutocrat Helped Make 20,000 Kids Homeless

Homelessness in New York has skyrocketed, thanks in part to years of conservative policy predicated on right-wing ideology.

There are   20,000 kids  sleeping in homeless shelters in New York City, according to the city’s latest estimate, a number that does not include homeless kids who are  not sleeping in shelters because their families have been turned away. Up to 65 percent of families who apply for  shelter don’t get in , and their options can be grim.

“Some end up sleeping in subway trains,” Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst at Coalition for the Homeless, tells AlterNet. “Some go to hospital emergency rooms or laundromats. Women are going back to their batterers or staying in unsafe apartments.”

Families that make it into shelters are taking longer to leave and move into stable, permanent housing. Asked by reporters why families were staying  30% longer than even last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “… it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before.”

“Is it great?”  He elaborated a day  later in response to outcry over his comments. “No. It’s not the Plaza Hotel … but that’s not what shelter is supposed to be and that’s not what the public can afford or the public wants.”

The above alternet story has many pages, it is important that you read them all. I have one more story related to the homeless. Winter problem: More homeless are living in cars

Phil Bell sleeps under three sleeping bags and two blankets in the back seat of his 1998 Buick. He parks outside truck stops and stores that are open 24 hours and rarely turns on his engine.

“You can’t leave the car running because it calls attention to you and burns too much gas,” he explains. “Being in the car is better than being outside or in a tent, but it gets really cold.”

Bell, 39, has been homeless since September. He was laid off by a Detroit auto parts maker and couldn’t pay his rent. He loaded his possessions into his car and took off. He made it this far and is looking for work here.

“I’m lucky,” Bell says. “At least I’ve got the car. Most people out here on the streets don’t have anything.”

I know these are long reads…if you can’t read them all in one shot, book mark them for later.

Now let’s get on with the easy Sunday reads, after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Something to think on from Common Dreams

I rarely violate fair use and copy something in its entirety having been well schooled in that as a professor.  However, Common Dreams has this great set of numbers that needs to be reprinted.  We don’t profit from anything so hopefully, they’ll be forgiving.  Also, I’m actively plugging the work they do so, they do have a subscribe button and a donate button.   Also, please notice I’ve recognized the author of this great set of numbers too.  So, forgive me but this is wonderful and here it is in its entirety.  It also includes a great looking Banksy-like graphic.

Published on Monday, November 19, 2012 by Common Dreams

Ten Numbers the Rich Would Like Fudged

The numbers reveal the deadening effects of inequality in our country, and confirm that tax avoidance, rather than a lack of middle-class initiative, is the cause.

1. Only THREE PERCENT of the very rich are entrepreneurs.

According to both Marketwatch and economist Edward Wolff, over 90 percent of the assets owned by millionaires are held in a combination of low-risk investments (bonds and cash), personal business accounts, the stock market, and real estate. Only 3.6 percent of taxpayers in the top .1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. A 2009 Kauffman Foundation study found that the great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds. (photo: withayou via flickr)

2. Only FOUR OUT OF 150 countries have more wealth inequality than us.

In a world listing compiled by a reputable research team (which nevertheless prompted double-checking), the U.S. has greater wealth inequality than every measured country in the world except for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, and Switzerland.

3. An amount equal to ONE-HALF the GDP is held untaxed overseas by rich Americans.

The Tax Justice Network estimated that between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden offshore, untaxed. With Americans making up 40% of the world’s Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, that’s $8 to $12 trillion in U.S. money stashed in far-off hiding places.

Based on a historical stock market return of 6%, up to $750 billion of income is lost to the U.S. every year, resulting in a tax loss of about $260 billion.

4. Corporations stopped paying HALF OF THEIR TAXES after the recession.

After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, corporations have paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes.

U.S. corporations have shown a pattern of tax reluctance for more than 50 years, despite building their businesses with American research and infrastructure. They’ve passed the responsibility on to their workers. For every dollar of workers’ payroll tax paid in the 1950s, corporations paid three dollars. Now it’s 22 cents.

5. Just TEN Americans made a total of FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS in one year.

That’s enough to pay the salaries of over a million nurses or teachers or emergency responders.

That’s enough, according to 2008 estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN’s World Food Program, to feed the 870 million people in the world who are lacking sufficient food.

For the free-market advocates who say “they’ve earned it”: Point #1 above makes it clear how the wealthy make their money.

6. Tax deductions for the rich could pay off 100 PERCENT of the deficit.

Another stat that required a double-check. Based on research by the Tax Policy Center, tax deferrals and deductions and other forms of tax expenditures (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes), which largely benefit the rich, are worth about 7.4% of the GDP, or about $1.1 trillion.

Other sources have estimated that about two-thirds of the annual $850 billion in tax expenditures goes to the top quintile of taxpayers.

7. The average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 IN NET WORTH.

The Insight Center for Community Economic Development reported that median wealth for black and Hispanic women is a little over $100. That’s much less than one percent of the median wealth for single white women ($41,500).

Other studies confirm the racially-charged economic inequality in our country. For every dollar of NON-HOME wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent.

8. Elderly and disabled food stamp recipients get $4.30 A DAY FOR FOOD.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has dropped significantly over the past 15 years, serving only about a quarter of the families in poverty, and paying less than $400 per month for a family of three for housing and other necessities. Ninety percent of the available benefits go to the elderly, the disabled, or working households.

Food stamp recipients get $4.30 a day.

9. Young adults have lost TWO-THIRDS OF THEIR NET WORTH since 1984.

21- to 35-year-olds: Your median net worth has dropped 68% since 1984. It’s now less than $4,000.

That $4,000 has to pay for student loans that average $27,200. Or, if you’re still in school, for $12,700 in credit card debt.

With an unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds of almost 50%, two out of every five recent college graduates are living with their parents. But your favorite company may be hiring. Apple, which makes a profit of $420,000 per employee, can pay you about $12 per hour.

10. The American public paid about FOUR TRILLION DOLLARS to bail out the banks.

That’s about the same amount of money made by America’s richest 10% in one year. But we all paid for the bailout. And because of it, we lost the opportunity for jobs, mortgage relief, and educational funding.

Bonus for the super-rich: A QUADRILLION DOLLARS in securities trading nets ZERO sales tax revenue for the U.S.

The world derivatives market is estimated to be worth over a quadrillion dollars (a thousand trillion). At least $200 trillion of that is in the United States. In 2011 the Chicago Mercantile Exchange reported a trading volume of over $1 quadrillion on 3.4 billion annual contracts.

A quadrillion dollars. A sales tax of ONE-TENTH OF A PENNY on a quadrillion dollars could pay off the deficit. But the total sales tax was ZERO.

It’s not surprising that the very rich would like to fudge the numbers, as they have the nation.

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.

Thank you Paul Bucheit and Common Dreams for making this available.  Facts should speak louder than Republican memes.


Why Isn’t Mitt Romney Getting Hammered on the Bain-Sensata Story?

I know everyone here has probably heard about the Bain-owned company Sensata Technologies, which is currently in the process of shipping all of its jobs to China. Mitt Romney has significant financial holdings in Sensata and in other Bain-connected Chinese Companies. Sensata workers have reached out to Mitt Romney repeatedly, begging him to use his influence to save their jobs, but he has ignored their pleas. Workers have now set up a tent city they call Bainport (see photo), and today they held a rally with workers who were laid off by a Bain-owned Samsonite plant in France. Here is the Bainport website.

FREEPORT, Ill. — French Samsonite workers who were laid off and robbed of their severance pay by Bain Capital will join Freeport Sensata workers for a rally at “Bainport” in Freeport, Ill., at 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13.

The rally is in protest of Bain’s decision to close the Freeport, Ill., Sensata Technologies plant and outsource 170 jobs to China. The plant is set to close in November.

“We’re coming to Bainport to show our support for American workers fighting against the same economic model that destroys good jobs likes ours in France,” said Samsonite worker Brigitte Petit. “The struggle to save these Sensata jobs from outsourcing is a struggle on behalf of good jobs across the globe.”

Sensata Technologies, 2520 S. Walnut Road, Freeport, which was created by Bain Capital in 2006, develops, manufactures, and sells sensors and controls for major auto manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors.
Despite rising profits, the company plans to institute the final layoffs in November. The workers are training their Chinese replacements, who have been flown to Illinois by the company.

During the retraining, the American flag flying over the Freeport, IL plant was removed and replaced by the Chinese flag.

Romney has significant investments in Sensata as well as in other corporations in China; and he has gotten tax breaks from outsourcing  jobs to China–including the Sensata jobs. Yet, during his debate with President Obama on October 3, Romney had the nerve to claim he didn’t know the U.S. gives tax breaks to outsourcers.

I simply can’t understand why the Obama campaign isn’t using this scandal to hammer Romney unmercifully. There has been some coverage of the issue in the corporate media, but not enough to reach all those low information voters out there. Ed Shultz has been talking about the issue over the past couple of days, and perhaps that will have an effect.

Although Romney didn’t make the decisions that led to the crisis in Freeport, he is still closely tied to Bain and does have influence over the company he founded. From the NYT, July 18, 2012:

There’s a plant in Freeport that makes sensors and controls for cars and airplanes. It’s owned by Sensata Technologies, a company that Bain bought in 2006, somewhere between four and seven years after Mr. Romney left the company. Last year, Sensata announced that it was moving the plant to China at the end of 2012 and laying off all 170 workers, and now those workers are asking Mr. Romney to intervene with his colleagues to save their jobs.

“If he wanted to, all he needs to do is call up the management of Bain Capital and say, ‘Look, don’t do this,’ ” one worker, Tom Gaulrapp, told Reuters.

Mr. Romney had nothing to do with that decision…. Nonetheless, Mr. Romney remains deeply tied to business decisions like this. As Bain’s founder, he established its business model, which is to wring the maximum efficiency from a company for the benefit of Bain’s investors, even if that means closing plants, shipping jobs to China, and laying off American workers. That’s how private equity often works, and Bain has done it many times before, sometimes to the benefit of a company’s workers, and sometimes to their detriment.

If Romney is elected president, I expect we’ll see a lot more of these kinds of stories. Jesse Jackson wrote an op-ed about Sensata and the Romney economic model a couple of days ago: A taste of the Mitt Romney economy

Mrs. Dot Turner has worked at what is now Sensata Technologies in Freeport, Ill., for 43 years. The company does sophisticated work creating sensors for automobiles. It enjoyed record profits last year. But not enough for its owner — Bain Capital — which is moving the jobs and the machinery to China….

The Sensata workers called on Mitt Romney — an investor in Sensata through his Bain holdings — to intervene. A group went to Iowa during the primaries to ask him to come to Freeport; they met with no success. Another group went to the Republican convention to ask him to come to Freeport; they had no success, either.

So, with the open support of Freeport’s mayor and City Council, the workers set up a “Bainport” encampment in the Stephenson County Fairgrounds right across the street from the plant. “Welcome to Bainport, a taste of the Romney economy,” reads one sign. “Romney does have a jobs plan; too bad it’s for China,” reads another. And Mrs. Turner and others began to make their voices heard.

“We are suffering from the Bain model of capitalism,” Mrs. Turner said. “This is the way Bain works. They take over good companies, and then ship their jobs to China to make even more money.

“So when I hear Romney talking about creating jobs, he’s saying one thing and we are experiencing another. He’s creating jobs, but the jobs are in China, not here. And now under Bain, Sensata plans to give the managers and the supervisors their golden parachutes, but not the workers. I’ve been here 43 years, and they offer a lump sum payment for 26 weeks of salary. And the lump sum means taxes will take a big part of it.” Probably a bigger part than Romney pays in taxes on his income.

“We’re getting the shaft all the way,” Mrs. Turner continued. “And we’re not going to take it quietly. We can fight for our jobs. We may not win, but we are in their face. You may roll over me, but I’m not going to shut my mouth while you do it.”

The United Steelworkers Union has just released a video about what is happening in Freeport.

A few more resources on the Bain-Sensata story:

Democracy Now covered the story last Wednesday: As Bain Ships Jobs to China, Bainport Protesters Arrested for Blocking Illinois Factory’s Closure

Campaign for America’s Future: Is This Why Romney Won’t Talk To Sensata Workers Whose Jobs Are Being Shipped To China?

Crooks and Liars: ‘When I Hear Mitt Romney Speak it Makes Me Sick to My Stomach’

NY Daily News: Romney’s ‘Bain’ in the Neck

Please spread the word about this in any way you can. I’ll have another post on Romney’s China connections soon. Use the comments to discuss this story or anything else related to the 2012 election campaign. Thank you for reading this post!


Caturday Reads: A cure to PAD*

Friday Night Ohana: my kittos, Lily and Rue, last night having “facetime” that defies the space-time continuum… the dog on my Macbook Air is my angeldog on the other side, Callie. The kittos are resting on my foot (under the covers).

Morning, news junkies… it’s been awhile, so welcome back to Caturday!

Please Note: *PAD=Political Affective Disorder.

So, I’d like to start by getting some election season political ranting out of the way as a housekeeping matter. I hope y’all don’t hate me after this, but here goes:

  1. Can we just take it as a given that Republican pols are generally very skeery people with skeery politics and lying faces (Exhibits A-Z: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan)? Obviously. Especially to a more liberal (and correctly so, in my liberal opinion) crowd such as Sky Dancing. But, I am kind of tired of this being used as a reason itself to vote for Oprecious, as if he is not guilty of being kinda “skeery moderate Repub” himself on more than a few issues, frankly. Just me personally, ok? I understand this is a stinky lesser of evils game and everybody just tries to make the best decision they can where their voting and advocacy is concerned in an election year. So I’m not judging or pointing any fingers here, but I am asking if maybe we could try to elevate the conversation that is going on *elsewhere* in the blogosphere and offline. I think there are plenty valid reasons to vote *for* Obama (as opposed to *only* against Rom/Ry)–I’m voting FOR O too (and against R/R for that matter), albeit, begrudgingly, and I’ll be glad to devoting a post or three to making that case in the days ahead. But, I’m not going to chalk it up to Dems being saviors, while the GOP is satanic. I mean, they are kinda satanic ;) but, it’s not a compelling argument (to little ol’ me anyway)! Because while upwards of 99% of Republican pols scare the bejeebers out of me, upwards of 90% of pols that claim to be Democrats scare me as well. They’re almost all owned by the Oligarchy/Wall Street/War Party. Even Bill and Hillary, much as I love ‘em, are working within that system, not outside of it. To improve the system, of course, but nonetheless they are part of it.
  2. I think it is really remarkable that the first time I’ve ever heard so-called Mr. Economy Romney say anything remotely (note: I am not saying fully, just remotely…) intelligible on the economy was yesterday when he pointed out that the job numbers don’t include people who have stopped looking for work. Well, gee, golly, were you just born yesterday, Mr. Romney? Of course, Mittens only said this because all his usual trickle down lies wouldn’t have served his case and telling the semi-truth (see The Note’s Zunaira Zaki and her Fact-Checking Mitt Romney Job Claims) here was actually beneficial to him. And, worse it was compounded by his general inability to make sense on the economy and his wingnut surrogates and their bizarro world conspiracies. The truth is, both the ostensible “left” and “right” made me tune out yesterday with their reaction to the unemployment stats. Neither side cares about unemployed people, period. It’s all tribal and it’s all my guy rulez, your guy droolz.
  3. It reminds me of Hillary saying, And, some people think elections are a game, they think it’s like who’s up or who’s down…it’s about our country, it’s about our kids futures…and it’s really about all of us together.”
  4. Here’s your Lazy Persons, Sununu: Almost 2,400 Millionaires Pocketed Unemployment Benefits (h/t Delphyne)

Alrighty, now that I’ve gotten those doozies out of the way. Are you still with me? I hope so… ’cause I’ve got a few links and discussion for you that I hope bring some relief for you during this political season of suck.

First up… Paticheri: Ethno,Graphic.Food. Go read it. It’s AWESOME. I’ve linked you to the post I’m currently savoring (“A Taste of Salt: Marakkanam, Bar Nuts, and Roasted Tomatoes”) and that I left comments on. It is an incredible trip that will take you around the world on a grain of NaCl!

This next one is a gem of a youtube that I am very very narcissistically proud of myself for digging up this week (go me and my googling abilities!)…

“This Little Light of Mine” was my absolute favorite song in choir as a kid (back when I used to sing…shhhhh! ;)

I love this song even more as an adult and being able to appreciate all the history of human resilience behind it. And, of course it’s a youtube of the wonderful Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Lizz Wright, and Toshi Reagon singing from Harlem… what is not to love?

Another DIVINE youtube (which I snagged from the delectable Owl Report on facebook last week) of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, France 1960. BEHOLD the wonder:

Next up, a reminder to check out PBS Independent Lens’ “Half the Sky” while its up (till October 9th) if you haven’t already… Part 1Part 2:

A couple more links…

Happy News about an Unhappy (Degaying…) Practice…via Joyce Arnold’s Queer Talk over at Taylor Marsh’s: New California Law Bans ‘Conversion’ Therapy. Please check it out! Hopefully this is the start of a trend, and eventually kids will be talking about these conversion ‘therapies’ in school the way they now talk about Jim Crow.

I’d like to end with a really wonderful blog by my friend, Marie–a young woman who is so gorgeously candid in her recovery! This is a personal request to check it out and help spread the word to any young (or really, any-aged!) people you know suffering from eating disorders and/or addiction.

Alright, the comments are yours to soapbox all over, Sky Dancers. Make it worth it — and, have a lovely autumn weekend!