Thursday Reads: What Do We Do Now?

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Good Afternoon!!

I’m feeling even more confused than ever today. I hope I can think clearly enough to get some kind of post up. I can’t say I’m surprised, but it appears that Congressional Democrats have decided to try to “work with” incoming POTUS Trump.

NYT: Senate Democrats’ Surprising Strategy: Trying to Align With Trump.

Congressional Democrats, divided and struggling for a path from the electoral wilderness, are constructing an agenda to align with many proposals of President-elect Donald J. Trump that put him at odds with his own party.

On infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling trade agreements, Democrats are looking for ways they can work with Mr. Trump and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, elected Wednesday as the new Democratic minority leader, has spoken with Mr. Trump several times, and Democrats in coming weeks plan to announce populist economic and ethics initiatives they think Mr. Trump might like.

Democrats, who lost the White House and made only nominal gains in the House and Senate, face a profound decision after last week’s stunning defeat: Make common cause where they can with Mr. Trump to try to win back the white, working-class voters he took from them, or resist at every turn, trying to rally their disparate coalition in hopes that discontent with an ineffectual new president will benefit them in 2018.

Mr. Trump campaigned on some issues that Democrats have long championed and Republicans resisted: spending more on roads, bridges and rail, punishing American companies that move jobs overseas, ending a lucrative tax break for hedge fund and private equity titans, and making paid maternity leave mandatory.

Some Democrats are even co-opting Mr. Trump’s language from the campaign. “Every single person in our caucus agrees the system is rigged,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan.

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That’s just great. Trump’s infrastructure plan is nothing but an attempt to enrich himself with government funds, Ivanka Trump’s child care proposal will benefit only the wealthiest families who itemize their taxes, and Trump’s plan to install tariffs on foreign imports would bankrupt all of us. Not to mention the fact that Trump is reportedly considering a “Muslim registry” and quickly deporting or “incarcerating” up to 3 million immigrants.

And this garbage about winning back the white working class is hopeless and sickening. Without the support of people of color, the Democratic Party is history. The white working class men who supported Trump want to hold onto their white privilege a lot more than they worry about economic inequality. But the media and quite a few Democrats are focused on regaining the Reagan Democrats.

Joshua Holland at Rolling Stone: Stop Obsessing Over White Working-Class Voters.

Amid a spate of brutal hate crimes against people of color – with Muslim women shedding their hijabs to avoid random attacks, and the word “nigger” making an ugly resurgence in our discourse – the political press appears to have coalesced around the idea that we really need to understand the pain felt by the white people who elected Donald Trump.

It’s clear that white working-class voters in the Rust Belt provided Trump with a razor-thin margin of victory in the Electoral College, despite losing the popular vote by historic margins. The data show that Trump won a number of Midwestern counties with lots of blue-collar whites that went for Obama in 2012, in some cases by large margins.

But how we interpret that data has important ramifications for how the Democratic Party moves forward. If, as a New York Timesheadline blares, Trump’s win was in large part a result of non-college educated white voters who supported Obama in 2012 defecting to the Republicans – perhaps for good – then the logical conclusion is that Democrats have to reach out to this group specifically or face the prospect of future losses. And that means speaking not only to their economic anxiety, but also appealing to their cultural and social grievances. It might mean, for example, moderating the party’s support for gun safety measures, which are an important wedge issue for many rural white people in those key states Trump flipped. The last time the party decided to chase blue-collar “Reagan Democrats,” it resulted in Bill Clinton’s push for welfare reform.

If, on the other hand, Trump energized just enough Republican-leaners who stayed home in 2012, and Hillary Clinton failed to turn out just enough Democratic partisans, then we can attribute this disaster to factors that aren’t specific to this group. It may be that she was an unpopular candidate who faced a perfect storm of media coverage tainted by a tendency toward false equivalence, hackers releasing her campaign’s internal emails, a clumsy intervention by FBI Director James Comey and latent misogyny – all of that while running against a celebrity who dominated nearly every news cycle. If that’s the case, then the solution, whatever it is, should be the same for blue-collar white Democrats as it is for Democrats in general – running a better candidate who’s more focused on a progressive economic agenda, for instance – and we shouldn’t indulge in a lot of handwringing over this one group of white people.

Based on what we now know, there’s good reason to believe this last analysis is the correct one.

Please go read the rest.

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It seems to me that a better project for Congressional Democats would be to investigate the Russian influence on our election and on the man who will be POTUS. There are a few who are interested in doing that.

David Corn at Mother Jones: Senior House Democrat Calls for Congressional Probe of Russian Meddling in 2016 Election.

On Tuesday, the chief of the National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, said a “nation-state”—meaning Russia—had intervened in the 2016 elections “to achieve a specific effect.” He was referring to the hacking of Democratic targets and the release of the stolen information via WikiLeaks. And on Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called for a congressional investigation of Russian meddling in the campaign. On Thursday, the call for a Capitol Hill inquiry gathered momentum, with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House government oversight committee, publicly urging the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), to launch such a probe.

In a letter sent to Chaffetz and released publicly, Cummings noted that he and Chaffetz had discussed opening such an investigation on Wednesday and that Chaffetz had told him he was “open to considering such an investigation” but wanted Cummings to “show the evidence” that Russia had tried to influence the election. Cummings did so in this letter, citing Rogers’ statement. Cummings also pointed to a statement issued on October 7 by the Office of Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, which said, “The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow—the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

Read the full letter at Mother Jones.

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CNN: GOP senator: Investigate Russia.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and one of the chamber’s most experienced foreign policy hands, said the attempt by a foreign country to interfere with the US voting process needs better understanding and a vigorous response.

“Assuming for a moment that we do believe that the Russian government was controlling outside organizations that hacked into our election, they should be punished,” Graham told reporters Tuesday. Referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Graham added that, “Putin should be punished.”

Graham, who wants the hearings to examine all Russia’s “misadventures throughout the world,” has the support of colleagues on both sides of the aisle. As other Republicans issued warnings about Russian activities, the hearings could become a source of tension between the GOP and the new President.

“You could see, going forward, a Congress that’s really at loggerheads with the White House on policy toward Russia,” said Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University.

More at the link.

The biggest piece of news this morning IMO is that DNI James Clapper has announced his resignation. He’s not going work with Trump on the transition.

We’ll have to wait to see why Clapper resigned, but I have to wonder if it has anything to do with the apparent war between the FBI and the Intelligence community that has been the backdrop to this election. Once he out of the government, Clapper would have more ability to speak out publicly (or leak privately) about what has been going on behind the scenes.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll just give you two more links to check out.

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Joshua Foust: This Is Not Normal.

About the nicest thing you can say about President Trump’s incoming administration is that it is without precedent. But there is another way of looking at it: it is not normal.

Normal, you might argue, is a bad thing when people are hurting. In fact, there is enough polling about why people voted for Trump to suggest that a vague “need for change” was a powerful motivator. Though opinions about what needed to change varied widely — from economic issues to vague fears of a wrong direction to naked white supremacy — the fact is enough Americans did not want a “third term” for Obama and voted the Democrats out of power. (That many did so apparently uncaring about the consequences for minorities is its own, separate discussion.) ….

“Normal,” as a concept, matters. The old adage that it is just the setting on a dryer is not just wrong but misleading. When something is abnormal it is important to understand why. If a person is not normal they could be brilliant or they could be sick, and knowing the difference is the distance between life and death. In politics, too, there is normal and there is abnormal. An insurgent candidate swinging a party or the country right or left is normal — Marco Rubio winning the GOP nomination and the general election would have been normal, for example. But Donald Trump is not normal. In fact, the things he represents, the decisions he has made and is continuing to make, and the entourage he has surrounded himself with, are not normal. They are so abnormal that they look like the opening stages of authoritarianism — something those of us steeped in the study of authoritarian countries recognize like a flashing light at a railroad crossing.

The one thing authoritarians want you to do is to accept that their conduct is normal, even when it is not. They do not want you to yearn for a freer, less oppressive and less corrupt time, and they do not want you to think it odd when, say, a government agency is purged or a bunch of protesters are arrested and vanish into the prisons without ever seeing trial. They want you to think it is normal when the President is openly selling your interests out to a foreign power, or when he is using the levers of government to materially enrich and empower his family. The presumption of normality during abnormal times is one of the most powerful weapons the authoritarian has, and that is why it is so important to recognize how profoundly abnormal Donald J. Trump will be as president. So I assembled a list.

Please go to the link and read the list ASAP.

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Matthew Yglesias’s hair is on fire: We have 100 days to stop Donald Trump from systemically corrupting our institutions.

The country has entered a dangerous period. The president-elect is the least qualified man to ever hold high office. He also operated the least transparent campaign of the modern era. He gave succor and voice to bigoted elements on a scale not seen in two generations. He openly praised dictators — not as allies but as dictators — and threatened to use the powers of his office to discipline the media.

He also has a long history of corrupt behavior, and his business holdings pose staggering conflicts of interest that are exacerbated by his lack of financial disclosure. But while most journalists and members of the opposition party think they understand the threat of Trump-era corruption, they are in fact drastically underestimating it. When we talk about corruption in the modern United States, we have in mind what Andrei Shleifer and Robert Vishny define as “the sale by government officials of government property for personal gain.”

This is the classic worry about campaign contributions or revolving doors — the fear that wealthy interests can give money to public officials and in exchange receive favorable treatment from the political system. But in a classic essay on “The Concept of Systemic Corruption in American History,” the economist John Joseph Wallis reminds us that in the Revolutionary Era and during the founding of the republic, Americans worried about something different. Not the venal corruption we are accustomed to thinking about, but what he calls systemic corruption. He writes that 18th-century thinkers “worried much more that the king and his ministers were manipulating grants of economic privileges to secure political support for a corrupt and unconstitutional usurpation of government powers.”

We are used to corruption in which the rich buy political favor. What we need to learn to fear is corruption in which political favor becomes the primary driver of economic success….

This is how Vladimir Putin governs Russia, and how the Mubarak/Sisi regime rules Egypt. To be a successful businessman in a systemically corrupt regime and to be a close supporter of the regime are one and the same thing.

Those who support the regime will receive favorable treatment from regulators, and those who oppose it will not. Because businesses do business with each other, the network becomes self-reinforcing. Regime-friendly banks receive a light regulatory touch while their rivals are crushed. In exchange, they offer friendly lending terms to regime-friendly businesses while choking capital to rivals. Such a system, once in place, is extremely difficult to dislodge precisely because, unlike a fascist or communist regime, it is glued together by no ideology beyond basic human greed, insecurity, and love of family.

All is not lost, but the situation is genuinely quite grave. As attention focuses on transition gossip and congressional machinations, it’s important not to let our eyes off the ball. It is entirely possible that eight years from now we’ll be looking at an entrenched kleptocracy preparing to install a chosen successor whose only real mission is to preserve the web of parasitical oligarchy that has replaced the federal government as we know it. One can, of course, always hope that the worst does not come to pass. But hope is not a plan. And while the impulse to “wait and see” what really happens is understandable, the cold, hard reality is that the most crucial decisions will be the early ones.

I’ve quoted more than I should, but this is vitally important. Now please head on over to Vox and read the rest.

Post your thoughts and links in the comment thread. I’ll be adding more too. Take care Sky Dancers.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Immigration Facts and Ferguson Fears

Vivien Leigh reads

Good Afternoon!!

 

President Obama’s executive action on immigration tops the news today. Ferguson is a close second. I’ll be focusing mostly on those two stories in this post.

Immigration

Before I get started, I want to point you to a new post by Darren Hutchinson of Dissenting Justice. It will give you some reality-based ammunition to deal with crazy wingnut friends, relatives, and Facebook and Twitter followers.

FACTS: President Obama’s Immigration Policies Are Absolutely LEGAL.

ATTENTION: Before you can argue that the government has violated a law, you must actually READ the law.

FACT: Congress has the exclusive power to pass laws regarding immigration (U.S. Const. Article I, Section 8, Cl. 4).FACT: Executive Power of the US is vested in the President, which means the President, not Congress, executes the immigration laws (U.S. Const. Article II, Sect. 1, Cl. 1)….

FACT: Consistent with the Constitution, the INA gives the Executive Branch (President, Homeland Security, Attorney General, and Secretary of State) the power to enforce immigration laws (8 U.S.C. Sect. 1103-1104)….

FACT: The Executive Can “Cancel” the Removal of Certain Deportable Individuals. 
The INA allows the Attorney General to cancel removal (deportation) or adjust the status of certain categories of undocumented individuals. The statute explicitly spells out the criteria for doing so. Thus, the statute provides an “intelligible criteria” for the Attorney General to follow. (8 U.S.C. Section 1229b(a)-(b))….

The Executive Can Give Temporary Protected Status to Certain Deportable Individuals. The INA also allows the Attorney General to grant “Temporary Protected Status” (TPS) to deportable individuals from certain countries that the Attorney General has placed on a TPS list. As required by Supreme Court doctrine, the INA gives SPECIFIC guidelines – or an intelligible principle – for the Attorney General to follow when determining whether to give TPS designation to a country. The statutory factors include serious conditions in the individual’s home country, like armed conflict; natural disasters; a request for temporary protected status by the country; or “extraordinary and temporary conditions” that preclude the safe return of the individual, so long as TPS does not conflict with the interests of the US.
(8 U.S.C. Sections 1254a-i)

Those are the highlights. There’s more at the link. I plan to save Hutchinson’s post for future reference. I’m thinking of printing it out in case I get in a political argument with my brother over Thanksgiving dinner.

jimmy stewart reads in bed

Obama has been vilified from day one by people who obviously have never read the Constitution or any U.S. laws dealing with their various political hobby horses, and I’m sick and tired of it.

You all know I not a fan of Obama when he ran for president in 2008, and I still think he’s a conservative technocrat who is far to willing to support privatization of public services. But he is the President of the United States now. I support his efforts to reform immigration laws. He’s only taking executive action because Congress is full of stupid and irrational people who are too lazy or stubborn to cooperate with him. Sadly, the DC media is largely made up of wealthy, privileged people who got their jobs because through nepotism and/or because they attended elite universities and are too lazy or stupid to provide accurate information to the public. Therefore, people who don’t focus on politics like we do get false information from TV news or “journalists” who do not understand what journalism is.

Rant over.

A few more links on the immigration story:

Washington Post Wonkblog, Flow chart: Who qualifies for Obama’s immigration offer?

The president’s executive action would delay deportation for the undocumented mother of a child born in the U.S. on Thursday — but not an undocumented mother who gave birth here one day later. Similarly, the president has offered deferrals to children brought to this country by their parents before their 16th birthday — but not a few weeks after.

Such deadlines serve a purpose: They’re meant to discourage new immigrants from coming in the future, or to dissuade women already here from giving birth with the goal of securing deferrals. But they also show that the president’s action falls far short of a comprehensive solution. It offers, instead, a fragmented answer that will leave many immigrants disappointed.

Check out the flow chart at the link for details.

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Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, Bringing perspective to Obama’s move on deportations.

Now that President Obama has announced his executive action to temporarily shield millions from deportation, confirming the administration’s view that this move is well within his authority, the battle now shifts to a political fight over the policy itself, and over whether it violates “political norms.” Is this action so provocative an affront to Congress that it sets a precedent for future GOP presidents to use discretion to selectively enforce laws liberals like?

Embedded in the legal opinion that the Office of Legal Counsel released to justify the move is an important nugget that should, in theory, help take the steam out of the idea that this move is a flagrant violation of political norms.

Obama’s action temporarily shields from deportation the parents of children who are U.S. citizens and legal residents, and also expands the program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to protect people brought here illegally as children. But it excludes parents of DACA recipients.

The reason for this offered by the OLC memo is that protecting parents of legal residents is in line with Congressional intent, as expressed in statute, while protecting DACA parents isn’t:

[T]he parents of DACA recipients are differently situated from the parents of U.S. citizens and LPRs [Legal Permanent Residents] under the family-related provisions of the immigration law. Many provisions of the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] reflect Congress’ general concern about separating individuals who are legally entitled to live in the United States and their immediate family members….But the immigration laws do not express comparable concern for uniting persons who lack lawful status (or prospective lawful status in the United States with their families…Extending deferred action to the parents of DACA recipients would therefore expand family-based immigration relief in a manner that deviates in important respects from the immigration system Congress has enacted.

This legal opinion probably precludes any future expansion of this program to cover parents of DACA recipients. And it underscores two things: First, that the proposal is heavily focused on providing relief from humanitarian hardship endured by U.S. citizens and permanent residents, a longtime intention of Congress, as expressed in statute. Second, it shows that the proposal’s legal rationale is tightly circumscribed to reflect that Congressional intent.

Follow me below the fold for much more . . .
Read the rest of this entry »


Wednesday Reads: Bang the drum, slowly.

d615f40c2c872220010ba12ab5f1cc89Good Late Morning

I have this “thing” set up so that I get an email every time Congress votes…for instance…

Yesterday’s Keystone Vote came through like so:

113 Congress – Session 2

On Passage of the Bill

S.2280
A bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Vote Date: November 18, 2014 at 12:55PM
Roll Call Number: 280
Required For Majority: 3/5

Vote Result: Bill Defeated

Vote Counts
59 YES
41 NO
0 Abstentions

2d63249a437314c55c144c987624866eDemocratic Party: 14 YES, 39 NO, 0 Abstentions
Republican Party: 45 YES, 0 NO, 0 Abstentions

via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z

Now…it is just a little annoying sometimes…what with the same shit over and over.

Take a look at a few bills from the past couple days:

113 Congress – Session 2

On the Cloture Motion

S.2685
A bill to reform the authorities of the Federal Government to require the production of certain business records, conduct electronic surveillance, use pen registers and trap and trace devices, and use other forms of information gathering for foreign intelligence, counterterrorism, and criminal purposes, and for other purposes.

Vote Date: November 18, 2014 at 02:26PM
Roll Call Number: 282
Required For Majority: 3/5

DM2000072109:SAED:APR1956 - Drum Cover  ( Baileys Archives)Vote Result: Cloture Motion Rejected

Vote Counts
58 YES
42 NO
0 Abstentions

Democratic Party: 52 YES, 1 NO, 0 Abstentions
Republican Party: 4 YES, 41 NO, 0 Abstentions

via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z

 

Let me know if you see a trend.

113 Congress – Session 2

On Agreeing to the Amendment

H R 1422
Stewart of Utah Part A Amendment No. 1

DM2000080701:SAED:JAN1952 - Drum CoverVote Date: November 18, 2014 at 12:33PM
Roll Call Number: 523
Required For Majority: YEA-AND-NAY

Vote Result: Agreed to

Vote Counts
232 YES
184 NO
18 Abstentions

Democratic Party: 9 YES, 184 NO, 8 Abstentions
Republican Party: 223 YES, 0 NO, 11 Abstentions

via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z

2d654bf4406773286596c8342cf10a9bA couple more…why not?

113 Congress – Session 2

On Motion to Recommit with Instructions

H R 1422
EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act

Vote Date: November 18, 2014 at 12:52PM
Roll Call Number: 524
Required For Majority: RECORDED VOTE

Vote Result: Failed

Vote Counts
195 YES
225 NO
14 Abstentions

Democratic Party: 194 YES, 1 NO, 6 Abstentions
Republican Party: 1 YES, 224 NO, 9 Abstentions

via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z

113 Congress – Session 2

On Agreeing to the Resolution

b80902d0fb68076e6590bba5eb63f1afH RES 756
Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 1422) EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act; providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 4012) Secret Science Reform Act; and providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 4795) Promoting New Manufacturing Act

Vote Date: November 18, 2014 at 08:30AM
Roll Call Number: 522
Required For Majority: RECORDED VOTE

Vote Result: Passed

Vote Counts
227 YES
192 NO
15 Abstentions

Democratic Party: 0 YES, 192 NO, 9 Abstentions
Republican Party: 227 YES, 0 NO, 7 Abstentions

 

266ae38a2c7c71a48f17d62d9ccba459 The beat goes on…

113 Congress – Session 2

On the Nomination

PN1515
Leslie Joyce Abrams, of Georgia, to be United States District Judge for the Middle District of Georgia

Vote Date: November 18, 2014 at 01:28PM
Roll Call Number: 281
Required For Majority: 1/2

Vote Result: Nomination Confirmed

Vote Counts
100 YES
0 NO
0 Abstentions

Democratic Party: 53 YES, 0 NO, 0 Abstentions
Republican Party: 45 YES, 0 NO, 0 Abstentions

via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z

0981187fbe709bdf799529ed4e2e5979Holy shit, how did she get through there?

But it isn’t all total opposite when it comes to party breakdown in the voting results.

113 Congress – Session 2

On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass

H R 5162
An Act to allow a certain parcel of land in Rockingham County, Virginia, to be used for a child care center

Vote Date: November 17, 2014 at 01:54PM
Roll Call Number: 520
Required For Majority: 2/3 YEA-AND-NAY

Vote Result: Passed

Vote Counts
378 YES
1 NO
55 Abstentions

Democratic Party: 171 YES, 0 NO, 30 Abstentions
Republican Party: 207 YES, 1 NO, 26 Abstentions

via NYT Politics http://ift.tt/Hx3Z2z

1309b4e6df0c0b3b2bc0e452cc126e4aYou know, I don’t really care anymore. When it comes to the next two years…all these emails just tick off a familiar beat. Like a tribal drum banging away, spreading word of the doom ahead.

Mitch McConnell: I’m Not a Scientist—Except on Keystone XL Pipeline | New Republic

Mitch McConnell Is Not A Scientist, Except When He Is | Wonkette

McConnell’s looming apocalypse: GOP conservatives plan budget showdown – Salon.com

But the real article that got me going on all this shit was the headline on this one:

DM2001071603:SAED:COVER:JUN1951- Childen. (© BAHA)Republicans: Keystone pipeline down, but not out | Boston Herald

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.

“I look forward to the new Republican majority taking up and passing the Keystone jobs bill early in the new year,” the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday, shortly after the bill fell one vote short of the 60 votes needed to advance. He was joined by incoming Senate Energy Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who said the fight wasn’t over.

46ab8a3cc89a6bd989f09e06a3cadb17Keystone “jobs” bill?

Give me a fucking break…

Republicans are likely to have enough votes to assure the bill’s passage in January, when they will have at least 53 seats — 54 if Cassidy wins the Louisiana runoff.

“If you look at new Congress, you can count four more (GOP seats) right away, and there may be others,” Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, the lead sponsor of the bill, said after the 59-41 vote Tuesday. “You can see we’re well over 60.”

Hoeven acknowledged that Republicans would need 67 votes to override a veto, but said one possibility is to include Keystone in a larger energy package that may not prompt a veto threat.

85ac030586abe19ad48cf7f5f8e6cae5The vote was one of the last acts of this Senate controlled by the Democrats. It is expected to complete its work by mid-December.

Cassidy, Landrieu’s Republican opponent, said Louisiana families “need better jobs, better wages and better benefits,” and the pipeline would provide them.

Democratic divisions were on vivid display in a bill that pitted environmentalists against energy advocates.

While Obama opposes the measure, likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has repeatedly refused to take a position. Most recently, her spokesman did not respond to two requests over the weekend to do so.

Ho hum…

At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said the measure is something “the president doesn’t support because the president believes that this is something that should be determined through the State Department and the regular process that is in place to evaluate projects like this.”

Ugh…You know, if he was still in the senate, I bet Obama would be the only abstention.

e7b7afacd23f608835ca7561648e8fdfThe rest of today’s links in dump format…since this post is so damn late. (And my internet is so damn slow.)

The Grinch Who Taxed the Internet | Commentary : Roll Call Opinion

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., seems poised to take one last shot at changing how online purchases are taxed. Reid has signaled he’ll bring the unpopular Marketplace Fairness Act up for a vote by tacking it onto the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which is headed for certain renewal.

Passed in 1998 with bipartisan support, the ITFA bars states from taxing access to the Internet and imposing discriminatory Internet-only taxes. The legislation will expire on December 11 and pressure from the tech sector is on for its renewal. While the ITFA has proven enormously popular and indisputably successful, it has little to do with online sales taxes.

326fb5c8e368594019f91a51982eb5a5The 7 Numbers You Need to Make Sense of the 2014 Midterms – NationalJournal.com

Men and women’s politics were further apart in 2014 than they’ve been in any U.S. election in two decades.

That’s one of many hard truths laid bare by the midterms, which generated a huge collection of data—from election returns to exit polls to financial disclosures—to help us make sense of two things: what exactly happened in the November elections and what it means going forward.

The top lines are obvious: Republicans took the Senate, padded their lead in the House, and grabbed contested wins in gubernatorial races. But here are seven numbers that illustrate what was going on beneath the surface.

0fa6447567f97d0c8c0f35fef9f10805Beyond the Stereotyped South – NYTimes.com

Sometimes the hardest place to photograph is in your own backyard: When everything is familiar, it’s a challenge to make things look interesting. Yet, Tamara Reynolds has done just that in “Southern Route,” looking hard at the American South, which she calls home, and offering a searing, honest portrayal of the country’s most stereotyped region.

She knows that for some, the South evokes images of poverty and obesity, memories of racism and slavery, or words like “hillbilly” and “redneck.” The area that divided the country 150 years ago is stuck between pride and progress. Ms. Reynolds looks beyond these generalities to capture the genuine spirit of Southerners.

Although there is evidence of stereotypes, she said in her artist statement, “I have also learned that there is a restrained dignity and a generous affection that Southerners possess intrinsically.”

513a055353ac85270ff8bc12d970c6c2Take a look at those pictures at the link.

Can they do something about all these women coming forward about Bill Cosby raping them? Bill Cosby: Netflix postpones comedy special following Janice Dickinson’s claims star ‘raped me too’ – News – TV & Radio – The Independent

Another woman comes forward to accuse Cosby of rape | theGrio

The Grio story is terribly graphic.

Meanwhile, in news around the world:

03e64b3b9dafe343db093b50c324c339allAfrica.com: Gambia Must Stop Wave of Homophobic Arrests and Torture

The arrest, detention and torture of eight people since the beginning of the month as part of a crackdown on “homosexuality” by the Gambian authorities reveals the shocking scale of state-sponsored homophobia, Amnesty International said.

“These arrests took place amid an intensifying climate of fear for those perceived to have a different sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

“This unacceptable crackdown reveals the scale of state-sponsored homophobia in Gambia. Intimidation, harassment, and any arrest based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity is in clear violation of international and regional human rights law. The Gambian authorities must immediately stop this homophobic assault”.

Amnesty International considers people who are arrested and detained solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity to be prisoners of conscience. They should be released immediately and unconditionally.

74234567ed311d0961ecd9849952de73More at the link.

Japan’s 311 mph super maglev train takes passengers for run

Japan’s magnetically levitating maglev train, faster than Japan’s bullet train, is doing test runs with passengers, members of the public, in central Japan. The world’s fastest maglev train, the 311 mph (500 km/h) Series L0 (pronounced “L zero”) prototype, made its first public run.

The trains will enter service between Tokyo and Nagoya in 2027, barring any setbacks, said Gizmodo. One hundred passengers traveled a 27-mile route between the cities of Uenohara and Fuefuki on the Shinkansen train earlier this month, reaching speeds of up to 311 miles per hour. The train’s use of maglev technology reduces friction. The Central Japan Railway Company is running eight days of testing for the experimental maglev. The Daily Mail said selection of those lucky enough to experience the trial runs will be by lottery. A total of 2,400 people will take the high-speed ride over eight days. Almost 300,000 people had applied for the passes, said the Daily Mail. As the video of a recent trial run indicated, guests saw the stats on monitoring screens and snapped away with their cameras.

When completed in 2027,said Katie Amey in the Daily Mail, “their exceptional speed capacity will cut the travel time by half, linking Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station with Nagoya in about 40 minutes, a journey which currently takes approximately 80 minutes.” The are expected to eventually consist of 16 carriages and carry up to 1,000 passengers at a time, she said.

2ce38884f4d88b3076350cdec7c2a133Geez…no thank you.

Italian police record a mafia oath ceremony for the first time – Europe – World – The Independent

Italian police have released video of recruits for the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate taking a loyalty oath – the first time such a ritual has been recorded, authorities claimed.

The footage was filmed secretly near a farmhouse in northern Italy, although the Carabinieri paramilitary police in Milan did not reveal how they were able to capture the ceremony without being discovered by the syndicate.

Police said the video shows a meeting of suspected mobsters in Castello di Brianza in northern Italy and that one of the recruits was just 17 years old.

The video also shows members taking a loyalty oath where they have to swear “under the splendor of the moon” and are reminded that traitors are expected to kill themselves and thus must keep an extra bullet on them at all times.

As four men huddle, one man repeats the loyalty oath: ”Right in this holy evening, in the silence of the night, under the light of the stars and under the splendour of the moon, I create the holy chain…the holy society.”

But did they get to record the secret handshake? /snark.

And finally…the photos for this post come from the African magazine, Drum.

Apartheid Exposed in Drum Magazine – Slide Show – NYTimes.com

Miriam Makeba posing for Drum Magazine

Miriam Makeba posing for Drum Magazine

Apartheid was an inescapable fact of daily life in 1950s South Africa. But when the staff of Drum magazine got to the Johannesburg offices, the feeling was of having ‘‘walked into a different world, a world outside South Africa,’’ says Jürgen Schadeberg, the art director there in the 1950s. Inspired by the American magazines Life and Look, Drum’s documentary portrayals of black urban life, arts, politics and culture were revolutionary. Some of those images will be part of a major exhibition that opens at the International Center of Photography this month called ‘‘Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life.’’ ‘‘It was dangerous and difficult work,’’ Schadeberg says, recalling how the secret police kept the magazine under surveillance. ‘‘What we tried to show was how unjust apartheid was.’’

405babfdb2772a28da080fc28671ae13

  • YEAR DRUM WAS FIRST PUBLISHED: 1951
  • PEAK CIRCULATION IN SOUTH AFRICA: 100,000
  • COUNTRIES IT HAS BEEN DISTRIBUTED IN OUTSIDE SOUTH AFRICA: NIGERIA, GHANA, TANZANIA, KENYA, UGANDA AND RHODESIA (NOW ZIMBABWE AND ZAMBIA

 

Well, that’s all folks!

 


Saturday Quick Hits

Predictions 2014

Predictions 2014

Good Morning!!

I’m really struggling to get going this morning, so I’m going to start you off with a few cartoons and some quick links. I have another post planned for later on today, and I hope you’ll stop by then.

Right wing “Christian” hate was a dominant characteristic of 2013,

so I guess it’s appropriate that the year is ending with an incredibly disgusting and ludicrous example of what some Americans have become.

Duck Dynasty Camoflage

Duck Dynasty Camoflage

The New York Times finally weighed in on the disastrous decision of A&E to revoke their suspension of ridiculous hate monger Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty.

The indefinite suspension of Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family at the center of the A&E Network’s huge ratings hit “Duck Dynasty,” became definite Friday — at zero episodes. The network announced he would not be suspended after all.

A&E released a statement, noteworthy both for its concessions to the Robertson family’s refusal to accept the suspension as well as its timing — at close of business on Friday of a holiday weekend on the slowest week of the year in the entertainment business.

The bottom line: Phil Robertson will resume work on the show when it begins taping new episodes in the spring.

The network moved to suspend Mr. Robertson on Dec. 18 after comments he made about gay people in a magazine interview. At the time A&E described the comments, which described homosexual acts in crude terms and labeled them a sin, as extremely disappointing and not reflective of the network, which considered itself “champions of the L.G.B.T. community.”

Shame on you, A&E!! And don’t forget the racism, misogyny, pedophilia, religious bigotry, and general overall ignorance in Roberton’s interview. A&E now tacitly supports those “values” as their “core principles.”

Way back in 1968 when I first saw Kubrick’s magnificent 2001: A Space Odyssey, I never could have imagined that the future of the U.S. would be so pathetic and embarrassing. Sigh . . . We’ve left 2001 far behind us, and this is what has become of the dreams of my generation.

The good news, at least about gay marriage, is that the battle is over and the good guys won.

Josh Marshall:

Since the Supreme Court ruling in June, the writing has been on the wall for banning of marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples in the United States. Since June the number of states with marriage equality has jumped from 12 to 18. But last week’s lower court decisions in Utah and Ohio leave little doubt that the political fight over gay marriage is now essentially over and that gay marriage will be the law of the land in every state in the country in the pretty near future.

The fact that gay and lesbian couples are now lining up to get married in Utah of all places – arguably the most conservative state in the country – might tell you this on a symbolic level. But the logic that points to the end of the political fight over gay marriage is more concrete, specific and undeniable.

Utah, rightly, got the most attention. But there were two cases last week. The other one in Ohio dealt with a much narrower question: whether the state had to recognize gay marriages in the issuance of death certificates. But both cases rested on the same essential premise: that if the federal government can’t discriminate against gay couples, states – by definition – cannot either.

As Judge Timothy Black put it in the Ohio case: “The question presented is whether a state can do what the federal government cannot — i.e., discriminate against same-sex couples … simply because the majority of the voters don’t like homosexuality (or at least didn’t in 2004). Under the Constitution of the United States, the answer is no.”

The other huge story of the day (which the mainstream media will probably play down) is that more than a million Americans will lose long-term unemployment benefits today.

Here are some links, and so far I haven’t seen any on Google news from the big media outlets.

The Columbus Dispatch: 1.3 million set to lose U.S. jobless benefits

More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as extended federal unemployment benefits come to a sudden halt this weekend, with potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy. A tense political battle likely looms when Congress reconvenes in the new, midterm-election year.

Nudging Congress along, a vacationing President Barack Obama called two senators proposing an extension to offer his support. From Hawaii, Obama pledged yesterday to push Congress to move quickly next year to address the “urgent economic priority,” the White House said.

For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government’s “emergency unemployment compensation” will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.

Jobless rates could drop, but analysts say the economy might suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars. Having let the “emergency” program expire as part of a budget deal, it’s unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.

Voxxi: What you should know about the expiration of unemployment benefits This article lists seven reasons why the decision by Republicans to hurt so many American families will be a disaster. Highly recommended.

11KKTV.com Long-Term Unemployed Face Life Without Emergency Benefits

The federal program, which was expanded in 2008 to provide extra income to the long-term unemployed who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state benefits, lapses Saturday because Congress failed to extend the federal program into 2014. For much of the recession, the government not only offered extended benefits beyond those 26 weeks, but also introduced the EUC program to offer up to 99 weeks of assistance in many states.

In the first six months of 2014, 1.9 million additional Americans will use up their state-funded benefits and find themselves without a federal safety net waiting if the program is not renewed. That number will jump to 3.6 million people. According to a report from the White House Council of Economic Advisors and the Labor Department, in October the average length of unemployment was 36.1 weeks – two and a half months longer than state benefits will last with no extension. The long-term unemployment rate is 2.6 percent, roughly one-third of the overall employment rate of 7.3 percent.

“In no prior case has Congress allowed special extended benefits to expire when the unemployment rate was as high as it is today,” the report says.

It’s also been quite a while since anyone was able to receive 99 weeks of benefits, which average about $300 per week. Over the past two years, the average maximum weeks of available benefits has dropped from 85 to 54, or 36 percent, according to Congressional Research Service data.

That’s just sick. In fact it is so far beyond sick, I don’t even know how to begin to characterize it.

Why are the Republicans doing this?

Christmas GOP and Obama

Christmas GOP and Obama

And don’t forget what’s happening to people on food stamps.

Food Stamps Removed

Food Stamps Removed

I wish I had some cheerful news for you. I’ll look around and try to find some. For now, I’d better get this post published before everyone gives up on me!

Have a great day, and please post any links that have caught your eye in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads

autumn reading1

Good Morning!!

Is is just me or is there just about no important news coming out of Washington DC? We just finished with a horrible crisis in the government, and there’s another one coming up when Congress and the President have to deal with the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling once again. Yet there seems to be very little focus on dealing with this ongoing threat to the country’s ongoing well-being.

This silence on the economic situation makes me nervous. I suspect there’s a lot of planning and discussion behind the scenes on how those in power are going to convince the mass of Americans to give up our social safety net–they’re trying to figure out how to loot Social Security and Medicare.

I don’t think they’re going to be able to do it, because Americans are awake to the possibility now. As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, President Obama still dreams of a “Grand Bargain,” and so do many other powerful people like Pete Peterson, Alan Simpson, and lots of Republican and Democratic politicians. Just look at how Twitter responded when “Fix the Debt” tried to hawk its greedy plans on the social media site recently. Dakiniat wrote about that yesterday too.  So I guess I see the current silence on as the calm before the storm which will hit after all the politicians enjoy their long, relaxing Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations.

Meanwhile, the biggest political story at the moment is the apparent mess that the government made of the Obamacare website. I haven’t tried to get on the site myself, so I don’t really understand what the problems are. But the media is very focused on them. From what I can tell, the biggest problem seems to be that the site is too slow. Today’s Washington Post reports that the government was aware of the problems but went ahead with the site launch despite them.

Days before the launch of President Obama’s online health ­insurance marketplace, government officials and contractors tested a key part of the Web site to see whether it could handle tens of thousands of consumers at the same time. It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously.

Despite the failed test, federal health officials plowed ahead.

When the Web site went live Oct. 1, it locked up shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users attempted to complete the first step, according to two people familiar with the project.

As new details emerged about early warning signs of serious deficiencies in HealthCare.gov, Obama on Monday gave a consumer-friendly defense of the health-care law, insisting that the problems many Americans have faced in trying to enroll in insurance plans will be fixed quickly.

“There’s no sugarcoating it: The Web site is too slow; people have been getting stuck during the application process,” he said at a White House event.

At the same time, he admonished Republican critics of the federal insurance exchange, saying that “it is time to stop rooting for its failure.”

Obama’s reaction to the problems isn’t getting good reviews, even from supposedly liberal journalists. At the Atlantic, Garrance Franke-Ruta called Obama “Insurance Salesman In Chief.

Of all the things Barack Obama ever expected to be during the course of his life, a television insurance salesman is probably not one of them.

But that’s the role he took on Monday morning in a Rose Garden speech pitching insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplaces and acknowledging for the first time just how troubled the website to access them is. His remarks failed to address many of the specific concerns raised byreporters and technologists about the gargantuan Healthcare.gov website, and he and provided no new information about what went wrong or how, specifically, it will be fixed.

Instead, his message was more like an infomercial designed for the general public: We know there are problems with the site and we are on it. Meanwhile, we’re offering a great product that will save you money, so keep on trying, even if it’s a little frustrating.

Young_Lincoln_By_Charles_Keck

On yesterday’s Morning Joe,

Washington Post healthcare reporter and commenter Ezra Klein pushed back against the administration’s reference to the problem as bugs and technical problems.“These aren’t glitches, the website, to a first approximation, simply isn’t working” Klein said on Monday’s Morning Joe. Early traffic problems that occurred when the site was overwhelmed by visitors on the first few days may have actually masked the public from the larger problems, he said, like garbled or false information being sent to insurers.

“No one beta-tested the site, which is almost criminal,” the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein said.

“They keep using the word unacceptable. It’s not unacceptable, it’s outrageous,” Mike Barnicle said.“This is the president’s singular achievement, and to be so reticent about the problems that have gone is kind of surprising.”

Politico criticized Obama’s “passive” response to the problems with the website:

Once again, Barack Obama risks looking like a bystander to his own presidency.

Here’s what he did to kick off the week: assemble a crowd in the Rose Garden to hear him repeat how “frustrated” he was about the many problems that plagued the launch of the Affordable Care Act’s website, promise that a “tech surge” was already on its way to set those problems right and implore people to bear with him until they see what the program can do.

Here’s what he didn’t do: explain why those problems weren’t addressed before the Oct. 1 launch, why he didn’t seem to be aware of them before they went very public, or who would be suffering the consequences for any of it. He didn’t apologize. He announced, in broad terms, who would be coming in to help. But he didn’t say anything about who would be shown the exits.

His “nobody’s madder than me” Monday echoed the kinds of statements he’s repeatedly made about problems over the last few months — “Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it” (the IRS scandal), “It’s not as if I don’t have a personal interest” (the NSA scandal), “This is not a world we should accept” (Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons). He puts himself forward as a man frustrated with what’s happened on his watch, promising change, insisting that nothing of the sort could ever happen again.

I have to agree. Obama’s passivity is one of the biggest complaints I have about his presidency–particularly in the way he has (or hasn’t) dealt with the economic crisis.

The New York Times reports that it will take “weeks of work” to fix the website problems, despite the fact that most of the problems have been identified.

In interviews, experts said the technological problems of the site went far beyond the roadblocks to creating accounts that continue to prevent legions of users from even registering. Indeed, several said, the login problems, though vexing to consumers, may be the easiest to solve. One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly.

“The account creation and registration problems are masking the problems that will happen later,” said one person involved in the repair effort.

Personally, I’m finding this all pretty depressing, because it was starting to look like the Democrats could retake the House in 2014. The Obamacare mess isn’t going to help that project.

Today, CNN reported the results of new new poll that found that: 75% say most Republicans in Congress don’t deserve re-election.

A CNN/ORC International survey released Monday also found a majority saying that the Republicans’ policies are too extreme. And according to the poll, Democrats have an 8-point advantage over the Republicans in an early indicator in the battle for control of Congress. But with more than a year to go until the 2014 midterm elections, there’s plenty of time for these numbers to change.

The poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, just after the end of the 16-day partial federal government shutdown that was sparked in part by an effort by House conservatives to dismantle the health care law, which is President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

A majority of those questioned blamed congressional Republicans for the government shutdown and said the President was the bigger winner in the deal to end the crisis.

The survey also found nearly eight in 10 saying the shutdown was bad for the country, and the standoff has led to a loss of confidence and satisfaction in government. And more than seven in 10 think that another shutdown is likely.

I hope Obama gets serious about fixing the Obamacare problems so Republicans can’t get up off the mat.

leaves books

Another big story in the news is the $13 billion penalty the Justice Department is seeking to get from JP Morgan Chase.

From Bloomberg: JPMorgan Guilty Plea Sought by Holder Shows Harder Stance.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon went to Washington almost a month ago to see if U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would settle a criminal probe of mortgage fraud at the bank if it paid more money to resolve related civil investigations.

Holder’s team, which included Deputy Attorney General James Cole and Associate Attorney General Tony West, said ending the investigation by the U.S. attorney in Sacramento would require the bank to plead guilty to something, according to a person familiar with the talks, which were held in a conference room that was Robert F. Kennedy’s office when he had Holder’s job….

Later, the department proposed the bank plead guilty to making false statements related to sales of toxic mortgage bonds. The bank proposed a nonprosecution agreement, which Holder rejected, the person said. The bank agreed to assist the continuing criminal probe. The negotiation typifies the harder line the Obama administration is taking in its second term.

Well, that’s good news IMHO.

Holder’s refusal to let JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank, escape criminal liability for its mortgage-bond sales, and the move to extract penalties for wrongdoing that led to the financial crisis, may go a long way toward appeasing critics of the Justice Department who have been urging charges against bankers since the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008….

The effort began on orders from President Barack Obama, who promised in his 2012 State of the Union address to hold banks accountable for their role in helping trigger the deepest recession since the Great Depression. A mortgage task force of prosecutors and regulators set up to carry out the president’s mandate produced the record $13 billion deal, which requires a formal sign-off by both sides.

Great! Let’s hope Obama follows through. Another good sign is that The Wall Street Editorial page is up in arms about the settlement.

The tentative $13 billion settlement that the Justice Department appears to be extracting from J.P. Morgan Chase JPM +0.21% needs to be understood as a watershed moment in American capitalism. Federal law enforcers are confiscating roughly half of a company’s annual earnings for no other reason than because they can and because they want to appease their left-wing populist allies.

The settlement isn’t final and many details weren’t available on the weekend, but we know enough for Americans to be dismayed. The bulk of the settlement is related to mortgage-backed securities issued before the 2008 financial panic. But those securities weren’t simply a Morgan product. They were largely issued by Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, both of which the federal government asked J.P. Morgan to take over to help ease the crisis.

So first the feds asked the bank to do the country a favor without giving it a chance for proper due diligence. The Treasury needed quick decisions, and Morgan CEOJamie Dimon made them in good faith. But five years later the feds are punishing the bank for having done them the favor. As Richard Parsons notes nearby, this is not going to make another CEO eager to help the Treasury in the next crisis. But more pointedly, where is the justice in such ex post facto punishment?

The WSJ complains that banks are being turned into “public untilities.” I think that’s exactly what they should be.

We’d like to see Mr. Dimon fight the charges, but the political reality is that he and his bank don’t have much choice. His board is eager to move on, and the government will only turn the screws harder if he resists. In a post Dodd-Frank world, banks are public utilities and no CEO can afford to resist the government’s demands.

The real lesson of the Morgan settlement isn’t that justice has finally been done to the perpetrators of the crisis. That would require arresting Barney Frank and those in Congress who blocked the reform of Fannie and Freddie, plus the Federal Reserve governors who created so much easy credit.

Hahahahahahahaha!! The oligarchs don’t like it much when the shoe is on the other foot, do they?

I’m already running out of space, so here are a few more headlines link dump style:

CBC News: U.S. drone strikes break international law, report finds

Rolling Stone: U.S. Drone Strikes Violate Laws of War

CBS News: Sparks Middle School student: Gunman said “you ruined my life and now I’m going to ruin yours”

WaPo: Economy added 148,000 jobs in September, jobless rate fell to 7.2 percent

What’s the deal with Facebook?

BBC News: Facebook lets beheading clips return to social network

MacLeans: Facebook now allows teens to post public updates

Time: Keeping Teens ‘Private’ on Facebook Won’t Protect Them

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please share your links in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads: Nightmare on Capitol Hill

Nightmare on Capitol Hill Dave Granlund

Good Morning!!

Yes, it’s real–too real. We’re approaching the deadline for raising the debt ceiling–it’s Thursday–and Congress is still dithering. But it looks like they may figure out a way to kick the can down the road again, as long as Ted Cruz doesn’t decide to have another tantrum.

According to the Hill this morning, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are close to agreeing on “a deal” to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling for a few more months. The two Senate leaders huddled for hours yesterday trying to put together some kind of package that would satisfy House Republicans and convince them not to bring down the U.S. Government and the global economy.

An emerging deal to reopen the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling until February gathered political momentum Monday evening after Senate Republicans signaled they would likely support it.

Lawmakers and aides said the legislation would fund the government until Jan. 15 and extend the nation’s borrowing authority until February but leave ObamaCare largely untouched.

The agreement would also set up another “supercommittee” to try to deal with the next round of automatic sequester cuts. The committee would have until December 13 to report to Congress. Anyone who thinks they’ll agree on anything, please raise your hand.

The big question is whether a package to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling can pass muster in the House.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was briefed on the deal Monday, and members of his conference were taking a wait and see attitude.

“When we see it, we’ll know what it is. Do you know what it is yet?” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, asked reporters as he left Boehner’s office.

“As soon as we see something in writing, then we can understand how we can thoughtfully understand what we’ll do with it,” Sessions said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wouldn’t comment on the emerging Senate deal, but he told reporters House Republicans will meet Tuesday morning “to discuss a way forward.” “Possible consideration of legislation related to the debt limit” was added to Cantor’s daily House schedule for Tuesday.

Ted Cruz Onward Michael Ramirez

Of course the biggest potential fly in the ointment is Texas junior Senator Ted Cruz and his gang of Tea Party House members. Cruz wouldn’t say whether he’s planning another fake filibuster or some other effort to kill the Affordable Care Act. However, Cruz did hold a secret meeting with House Republicans last night, according to Roll Call.

Sen. Ted Cruz met with roughly 15 to 20 House Republicans for around two hours late Monday night at the Capitol Hill watering hole Tortilla Coast.

The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering. The Texas Republican senator and many of the House Republicans in attendance had insisted on including amendments aimed at dismantling Obamacare in the continuing resolution that was intended to avert the current shutdown.

Sources said the House Republicans meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast with Cruz were some of the most conservative in the House: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Steve Southerland II of Florida, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Justin Amash of Michigan.

The group is a collection of members who have often given leadership headaches in recent years by opposing both compromise measures as well as packages crafted by fellow Republicans….While the emerging deal to reopen the government and hike the debt ceiling increase may have been a hot topic, it was not immediately clear what the group actually discussed. But the fact that such a group met with Cruz at all could give House GOP leaders even more heartburn as they consider themselves what to do if the Senate passes the measure.

If Cruz and his buddies decide to cause more trouble, they could bring about a default by dragging the fight out until after Thursday. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew could probably keep the U.S. afloat for a few more days, but it would be touch and go. Joshua Green wrote yesterday at Bloomberg Businessweek that “Ted Cruz Could Force a Debt Default All by Himself.”

How could this happen? Because the Senate can move quickly when necessary, but only by unanimous consent. Let’s say Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) strike a deal today (that’s looking unlikely). Cruz surely won’t like it and has said repeatedly, “I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare.” If he’s true to his word, he could drag out the proceedings past Thursday and possibly well beyond. “If a determined band of nut jobs wants to take down the global economy, they could do it,” says Jim Manley, a former top staffer for Reid. “Under Senate rules, we are past the point of no return—there’s not anything Reid or McConnell could do about it.”

If Cruz is truly determined to block or delay any deal that does not touch Obamacare, here’s how he’d do it: The hypothetical Reid/McConnell bill would probably be introduced as an amendment to the “clean” debt-ceiling raise that Democrats introduced—and Republicans defeated—last week. Reid voted against cloture on the motion to proceed to that bill, a procedural tactic that allows him to reconsider the bill later on. Let’s say he does so by 5 p.m. Monday. There would need to be a cloture vote on the motion to proceed. Cruz would dissent, but he wouldn’t be able to round up 41 votes for a filibuster….

The real killer is that Senate rules stipulate there must be 30 hours of post-cloture debate, unless senators agree unanimously to waive it. Reid and McConnell would want unanimous consent to move quickly, but Cruz could refuse, thereby forcing 30 hours of debate. This would drag things out until Tuesday at 11:30 p.m. Then there would be a vote on the motion to proceed (requiring a simple majority), followed by an intervening day, assuming Cruz withheld his consent to vote earlier. So now we’re looking at a Thursday cloture vote on the bill itself, followed by another 30 hours of post-cloture debate that would blow right past the Treasury deadline.

Ted Cruz Jesus

Let’s hope even Cruz isn’t that delusional and foolhardy. Booman also points out that the Senate can change the rules and limit post-cloture debate for this one vote. That takes 67 votes.

At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green calls what Cruz and other Tea Party Republicans are doing “backdoor impeachment.”

The dance over the debt ceiling and the fight over the government shutdown are nothing less than impeachment on the cheap: a chance to negate the will of the majority by ostensibly placating the letter of the law. Unable to win the last two presidential elections or to persuade a Supreme Court majority that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional, House Republicans have arrived at a point where default and closure are the next best things. This combustible brew of race, class, and economic anxieties bubbles all too closely to the surface.

These days, the GOP comes across as hating Obamacare more than loving their countrymen, and the nation is returning that ire (PDF). Less than a quarter of Americans view the Republicans favorably, and a majority dislikes them, three-in-10 intensely. The GOP’s goal of recapturing the Senate in 2014 is now looking more like a dream than a reality, as Republicans are “forced to explain why they are not to blame and why Americans should trust them to govern both houses of Congress when the one they do run is in such disarray.” Indeed.

Unfortunately, the calamity of a potential default has tempered neither judgment nor passion. On Saturday, Ted Cruz—the man who lit the match, won the Values Voters Straw Poll with 42 percent of the vote. Channeling her inner Glenn Beck, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) concluded that the President “committed impeachable offenses.” Bachmann also proclaimed that civil disobedience was a potential response to Obama’s “thuggery,” and compared the Obama presidency to Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood.

I hope you’ll read the rest at the link.

Ted Cruz is stealing the right wing nut show for now, but in the House Paul Ryan raised his ugly head over the weekend to complain about the ACA’s individual mandate and requirement that women have access to birth control. From HuffPo:

Sources told the Post that, in a private meeting with House Republicans, Ryan said that by kicking the can down the road, the GOP would lose “leverage” in their fight against Obamacare.

Ryan’s main concern appears to be delaying the health care law’s individual mandate, but ThinkProgress points out that Ryan also emphasized the need to give employers the ability to deny birth control coverage based on moral or religious reasons.

Meanwhile most people around the country and even on Wall Street don’t seem all that concerned about what’s happening in Washington DC. I guess that after multiple emergencies in which political leaders “cried wolf,” everyone just assumes that Congress will find some way to keep the country going. Still, is this any way to run a country? Shouldn’t citizens be up in arms? Will Durst has a wacky column about this at Cagle Post called “Fukushima Sushi.”

Which is harder to believe? The ludicrous shenanigans going down in Washington or the fact that nobody seems particularly interested in doing anything about them? Good neighbors — it looks like we got ourselves one heck of a bumper crop of official dysfunction this year. Near as high as Manute Bol’s eye.

You’d think with national parks closed, veteran’s benefits being withheld and a possible catastrophic debt ceiling crisis looming, folks would be atwitter like chicken inspectors on a rotisserie spit during a power surge. And you’d be as wrong as a Bergman film on Comedy Central.

What the country seems to be seeking here is a little something called political responsibility. Which, in these dark days, is a wee bit of a tad of a total and complete oxymoron. Real similar to saying Fukushima sushi. Or elegant squalor. Comfortable rock.

Driving the point home: Weird normality. Spherical edge. Iron kite. Freedom shackle. Fresh detritus. Flammable sleet. Placid hammer. Colossal shrimp. Diminutive giant. Formal jeans. Sensitive linebacker. Salable autonomy. Veteran rookie. Vegetarian butcher. Pork tartare. Reality TV.

Keeping it real: Precarious certainty. Serene devastation. Bitter honey. Catholic condom. Heaven’s basement. Gelatinous needle. Sadistic lover. Banker’s compassion. Macabre solace. Chaste indiscretion. Temporary tax. Restorative annihilation. Healthy fries. Unhungry shark.

Lots more oxymoron’s at the link. How he came up with so many, I’ll never know.

Now what stories are you focusing on today? Please share your links on any topic in the comments.


Saturday Reads: Obama Talks to Rouhani, Pakistan and Kenyan Disasters, Republican Terrorism, and More

Harvard-Square-Out-of-Town-News

Good Morning!!

It’s a beautiful Fall day in New England, the Red Sox have taken the American League East with the best record in baseball after winning 97 games with one game left to play. On top of that, the Yankees are pitiful. The playoffs start next Friday. It just doesn’t get better than this.

There is quite a bit of news for a Saturday. First up, President Obama spoke on the telephone to Iranian President President Hassan Rouhani yesterday–the first time leaders of the U.S. and Iran have spoken directly since 1979. The AP reports:

The United States and Iran took a historic step toward ending more than three decades of estrangement on Friday when President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by phone and agreed to work on resolving global suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

The 15-minute call capped a week of seismic shifts in the relationship that revolved around Rouhani’s participation in the annual U.N. meeting of world leaders. The night before the two leaders spoke, U.S. and European diplomats hailed a “very significant shift” in Iran’s attitude and tone in the first talks on the nuclear standoff since April.

The diplomatic warming began shortly after Rouhani’s election in June. But it is rooted in both presidents’ stated campaign desires — Obama in 2008 and Rouhani this year — to break through 34-year-old barriers and move toward diplomacy.

Iran is also seeking quick relief from blistering economic sanctions that the U.S. and its Western allies have imposed on Tehran to punish it for refusing to scale back its nuclear activities. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but years of stonewalling inspections and secrecy about its activities have fueled fears it is seeking to build warheads.

Rouhani and Obama spoke while the Iranian president was in his car and headed to the airport to fly back to Tehran, with Obama at his desk in the Oval Office. Rouhani’s aides initially reached out to arrange the conversation, and the White House placed the call.

I’m not sure what it means to “work on resolving global suspicions that Tehran is trying to build a nuclear weapon,”–do they want to calm suspicions or tamp down the nuclear efforts? But at least it’s a step in the right direction. The New York Times has more:

“Resolving this issue, obviously, could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect,” Mr. Obama, referring to Tehran’s nuclear program, told reporters at the White House after the 15-minute phone call. “It would also help facilitate a better relationship between Iran and the international community, as well as others in the region.”

A Twitter account in Mr. Rouhani’s name later stated, “In regards to nuclear issue, with political will, there is a way to rapidly solve the matter.” The account added that Mr. Rouhani had told Mr. Obama, “We’re hopeful about what we will see from” the United States and other major powers “in coming weeks and months.”

More detail about the call itself:

Mr. Obama placed the call from the Oval Office around 2:30 p.m., joined by aides and a translator.

He opened by congratulating Mr. Rouhani on his election in June and noted the history of mistrust between the two nations, but also what he called the constructive statements Mr. Rouhani had made during his stay in New York, according to the official. The bulk of the call focused on the nuclear dispute, and Mr. Obama repeated that he respected Iran’s right to develop civilian nuclear energy, but insisted on concessions to prevent development of weapons.

Mr. Obama also raised the cases of three Americans in Iran, one missing and two others detained. In a lighter moment, he apologized for New York traffic.

The call ended on a polite note, according to the official and Mr. Rouhani’s Twitter account.

“Have a nice day,” Mr. Rouhani said in English.

“Thank you,” Mr. Obama replied, and then tried a Persian farewell. “Khodahafez.”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that: U.S. Says Iran Hacked Navy Computers.

U.S. officials said Iran hacked unclassified Navy computers in recent weeks in an escalation of Iranian cyberintrusions targeting the U.S. military.

The allegations, coming as the Obama administration ramps up talks with Iran over its nuclear program, show the depth and complexity of long-standing tensions between Washington and Tehran.

The U.S. officials said the attacks were carried out by hackers working for Iran’s government or by a group acting with the approval of Iranian leaders.

The most recent incident came in the week starting Sept. 15, before a security upgrade, the officials said. Iranian officials didn’t respond to requests to comment.

The allegations would mark one of the most serious infiltrations of U.S. government computer systems by Iran. Previously, Iranian-backed infiltration and surveillance efforts have targeted U.S. banks and computer networks running energy companies, current and former U.S. officials have said.

I’m sure Glenn Greenwald will have a highly disapproving story about this in the Guardian today. Oh wait, he’s probably more outraged that the NSA was able to discover the Iranian spying . . . Never mind.

When Rouhani got home, he was “met by hardline protesters chanting ‘Death to America,'” according to BBC News.

Hundreds of people gathered at Tehran airport, with supporters hailing the trip and opponents throwing shoes.

An Agence France-Presse journalist said some 200-300 supporters gathered outside the airport to thank Mr Rouhani for his efforts.

But opposite them were about 60 people shouting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.

Mr Rouhani raised his hand to the crowds as he was driven off.

A New York Times reporter described the scene as chaotic, with dozens of hardliners hurling eggs and shoes at the president’s convoy.

There was another powerful earthquake today in Pakistan, according to CNN.

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck in Balochistan province Saturday about 96 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Awaran, the United States Geological Survey said.

Rasheed Baloch, the Deputy Commissioner Awaran told CNN seven people died when a house collapsed in Mashkay Tehsil as result of new earthquake on Saturday.

Just Tuesday, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck the same area of Pakistan. The death toll in that quake has risen to 366 people and another 765 are injured….

Baloch said a rescue operation was under way in Awaran district to retrieve the dead bodies and shift the injured to hospitals.

The remoteness of the affected area and damaged communications networks are hindering the rescue operation, officials said.

The Atlantic has a good article following up on “Tragic and Heroic Stories from Survivors of the Kenyan Mall Attack.”

Witness accounts and survivor stories from the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi continue to emerge, telling a freighting [sic] story of violence and terror. Yet, as the investigation continues, there are still some disturbing questions about the attack that have yet to be fully explained.

Now that more access has been granted to the ruined mall, images confirm that three floors of the building collapsed, presumably because of a large explosion. The Associated Press reported today that the collapse was actually caused by the Kenyan military, supporting a claim made by the terrorists themselves. It’s still not clear how or why they managed to set off the explosion, but it may have killed some (perhaps most?) of the hostages still inside the building.

The official death toll is still listed at 67, but it’s likely that unrecovered bodies will be found in the rubble. As many as 60 people are still missing.

CNN is also reporting today that the terrorists did not just plant weapons inside the mall in the days before the attack, as had been previously reported, but that members of al-Shabab had rented out a storeand were actually running it as functional business for nearly a year.

While investigators, including the FBI, continue their work, we’re learning more about what happened inside the mall during the attack, and what those who lived through it endured.

Check out some of the survivor stories at The Atlantic link.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a shocking report yesterday, according to BBC News. IPCC climate report: humans ‘dominant cause’ of warming.

A landmark report says scientists are 95% certain that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s.

The report by the UN’s climate panel details the physical evidence behind climate change.

On the ground, in the air, in the oceans, global warming is “unequivocal”, it explained.

It adds that a pause in warming over the past 15 years is too short to reflect long-term trends.

The panel warns that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all aspects of the climate system.

To contain these changes will require “substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions”.

Too bad no humans in powerful positions are likely to do anything about it.

Back in the USA . . . 

Congress is still battling over whether or not to crash the global economy because Republicans don’t want ordinary Americans to have health care, Ted Cruz is still getting headlines for making an ass of himself, and the media is still trying to blame Democrats and Republicans equally for the mess we’re in.

From the Washington Post: Obama chides Republicans as shutdown looms.

With Washington barreling toward a government shutdown, a deadlocked Congress entered the final weekend of the fiscal year with no clear ideas of how to avoid furloughs for more than 800,000 federal workers. Millions more could be left without paychecks.

The Senate on Friday approved a stopgap government funding bill and promptly departed, leaving all of the pressure to find a solution on House Republican leaders.

President Obama weighed in, sternly lecturing GOP leaders that the easiest path forward would be to approve the Senate’s bill, which includes money for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s prized legislation achievement, which he signed into law in 2010. But a far-right bloc of House and Senate Republicans banded together to leave House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) virtually powerless to act.

“My message to Congress is this: Do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time,” Obama said in the White House press briefing room.

Boehner’s leadership team offered no public comment and remained out of sight most of Friday, hunkering down for another weekend on the brink. For Boehner, this is the latest in a series of unstable moments that have become the hallmark of his three-year run as speaker.

Al Gore uncharacteristically joined the fray, according to The Hill. Gore to GOP: ‘How dare you?’

Former Vice President Al Gore accused Republicans Friday of engaging in “political terrorism” by using a government shutdown as leverage to defund ObamaCare.

“The only phrase that describes it is political terrorism,” Gore said at the Brookings Institution, according to ABC News. “Why does partisanship have anything to do with such a despicable and dishonorable threat to the integrity of the United States of America?”

The former vice president also criticized Republicans for threats to link defunding ObamaCare to the debt ceiling, which is set to expire Oct. 17.

“Now you want to threaten to not only shut down our government but to blow up the world economy unless we go back and undo what we did according to the processes of this democracy?” Gore said. “How dare you?”

But the media is still pushing their “both sides do it” narrative. At The Atlantic, James Fallows offers Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead. Here’s just a taste:

As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement,represents a failure of journalism*** and an inability to see or describe what is going on. For instance: the “dig in their heels” headline you see below, which is from a proprietary newsletter I read this morning, and about which I am leaving off the identifying details.

This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

Now please click the link and go over to The Atlantic–it’s a must read.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll go with a link dump on Ted Cruz–if you have the stomach for the details you can go to the sources.

Huffington Post: Student Cited By Ted Cruz As Proof Of Obama’s Failure Is Actually Grateful For Obamacare

John Dickerson at Slate: Why Senate Republicans Hate Ted Cruz

Jonathan Chait: Ted Cruz Now Ruining John Boehner’s Life, Too

Politico: Ted Cruz again refuses to back John Cornyn

Those are my recommendations for today. What are you reading and blogging about? See you in the comment thread!