Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sleepless in the hinterlands.

It is 3 a.m. on Tuesday.  We are set to default on Thursday.  One might expect a plethora, a cornucopia, a veritable Roman feast of news on the budget negotiations – you know, the kind of news coverage on one single topic that is so repetitive that one wants to visit the vomitorium in short order.  But, no, there is, in fact, rather a dearth of real information on what our dear leaders have in store for us.  Wall Street took an upswing yesterday after a really bad day on Friday.  Apparently they were buoyed by some news (I’m not sure where they get this information – they must have better sources than I do) that the parties in Washington may be coming to some accord.  Or, and this is more likely, the Wall Street power brokers are going to make big bucks on the default.  They know how to make a shitload by shorting the market.

Of course, one would have to be an idiot (i.e., an average American) not to see what is coming.  If we actually default on our debts, expect Mafia-like hikes in interest rates and the value of your house to plummet very quickly; these things will happen anyway, but much more rapidly with a default.  The big banks don’t feel they got enough from you in ’08 – now they want the rest.  Congress is happy to distract you while your pockets are picked.  No matter how the specifics of this particular debt ceiling debate end, the plan is for austerity.  Lots of austerity.  Any excuse for austerity.  An end, or broad defunding, of most of the New Deal programs, including social security, Medicare and Medicaid.  The end of food stamps, WIC, housing aid, the FDA, USDA, EPA – any program that serves the public.  Privatization of the commons.  The approval of the Keystone pipeline and the secret passage of the TPP.

The very vocal and sadly deluded group of Americans who think all the jobless and homeless amongst us can magically conjure up income out of thin air while there are no jobs and the corporations continue to lay people off will welcome all this.  Because, if I may be so blunt, they are stupid.  They really believe, with a fervor heretofore unseen in any group of hostages in the history of humankind, that the enforced misery of their own group is a Good Thing.  They do not think the masters will turn on them.  They truly believe that all government programs – run with our tax money, mind – that help anyone in any way are examples of horrible governmental overreach, while funding the military, giving no-bid contracts to Raytheon, and invading other countries at random is some good shit.  These are the people who cheered for Ted Cruz on Sunday as he spoke about the unfair closing of the war memorials and parks.  “Let the people in!  These are our parks!”  And the crowd chanted, “USA!  USA!”   And Sarah Palin, also present for some vague, but doubtless deity-driven reason, signed autographs – without a single misspelling – for the crowd.  Dumb fucks.  Ted Cruz is the one who made sure your war memorials were shut down.  You think they aren’t coming after your job, your house, your retirement?  Think they won’t take your back yard in some ginned up “eminent domain” flimflam and give it to a fracking company?  Think your family won’t die from drinking that water?  Ain’t you special, though?

So I finally found an article on CNN about the “negotiations” vis-a-vis the debt ceiling.  Here it is, in toto, with my own notes in bold.

Reid urges patience, remains optimistic over deal prospects
By Tom Cohen and Matt Smith, CNN

Washington (CNN) — Two steps forward, one step back.

A surge of optimism on Monday for a possible compromise to end the partial government shutdown and avoid a U.S. default as soon as this week got jolted by the sudden postponement of a White House meeting between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders.

In a brief statement, the White House said the meeting announced earlier in the day was put on hold “to allow leaders in the Senate time to continue making important progress” toward a solution.

It was unclear if the development signaled a problem or was needed to give more time for talks between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, to finish an agreement that could win approval in the Senate and the House.

Negotiations heated up with the Democratic and Republican leaders signaling progress. Both Reid and McConnell took to the Senate floor to express optimism for a compromise on the twin priorities that they expected to be reasonable and acceptable to both sides.

Reid’s tone remained positive as night fell over the Capitol.

“We’ve made tremendous progress,” he said, saying that “everyone just needs to be patient” and that “perhaps tomorrow will be a bright day.”

Key negotiators also maintained an upbeat posture and financial markets, which Washington is watching very closely considering their volatility over the political impasse, also ended the day higher with Wall Street heartened by news of a possible deal, especially on the debt limit.

At the same time, both sides noted that nothing had been finalized and the postponement of the meeting between congressional leaders and Obama and Vice President Joe Biden raised a new question mark in the process.

During a visit Monday to a local food pantry, Obama cited progress in the Senate negotiations but also warned of what he called continued partisan brinkmanship by House Republicans who “continue to think that somehow they can extract concessions by keeping the government shut down or by threatening default.”

[How appropriate that he spoke while at a food pantry, considering that this is where most Americans will be obtaining their food in the future.  That is, if the Koch brothers and Jamie Dimon feel uncharacteristic charitable inclinations run up their hind legs.]

“My hope is a spirit of cooperation will move us forward over the next few hours,” Obama said.

The failure of Congress to authorize spending for the new fiscal year triggered the shutdown on October 1.

Another deadline looms on Thursday, when the Treasury says it will need Congress to raise the debt ceiling so it can borrow more money to pay all the government’s bills.

During his visit to Martha’s Table in Washington, Obama said the congressional leaders could “solve this problem today.”

He warned that a default, in which the government would lack enough cash on hand to pay down its debt obligations as well as other daily bills such as Social Security checks, “could have a potentially devastating effect on our economy.”

[Here ya go.  The old Social Security dun.  I’ll type this slowly for y’all: by law, social security does not affect the budget or the deficit.  If they fail to send out SS checks, they are doing it simply to keep your money.  Because they are grifters and scam artists and this is part of the con.]

“We’ve already had a damaging effect on our economy because of the shutdown,” he said. “That damage would be greatly magnified if we don’t make sure that government’s paying its bills, and that has to be decided this week.”

The Treasury Department said it will be unable to pay the government’s bills unless the debt limit is increased by Thursday.

[Jack Lew has apparently run out of Extraordinary Measure rabbits to pull out of the hat.  The $85 billion per month, however, will continue to be printed and handed over to the Godfathers at the big banks on its regular and timely schedule.  Like Mussolini and the trains, baby.]

As reported by CNN’s Dana Bash and CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, the main sticking point involves how long an agreement would fund the government to end the shutdown and increase the debt limit.

Democrats want the debt ceiling increase to extend as long as possible to avoid similar showdowns in coming months.

At the same time, they seek a temporary spending plan to reopen the government while formal budget negotiations work out a longer-term agreement that can negate the impacts of the forced sequestration cuts.

[Oh, yeah, we forgot about the sequestration crap in the excitement over the debt ceiling, didn’t we?  Dumb as a bag of rocks.]

Republicans, however, want a longer spending proposal that would lock in the planned sequestration cuts in coming months, with a shorter debt ceiling extension in order to negotiate further deficit-reduction measures.

[Shocking.  I know.]

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine have spearheaded the bipartisan talks. Separately, Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee also cited progress.

“We’ll get this done. We’re gonna get this done. I feel real confident,” Manchin said.

[We got a really big shew for you tonight, America, a really big shew.]

Manchin said the goal was to get at least 65 Senate votes — which would mean 10 or more from Republicans — to help Speaker John Boehner generate GOP backing in the House despite certain opposition from the tea party conservative wing.

Manchin said Reid and McConnell must work out specifics.

The two party leaders met twice in the morning and early afternoon, and they offered their optimistic assessments after their second face-to-face discussion. Boehner also dropped by McConnell’s office to get an update on the talks, his aide confirmed.

Democratic sources told Bash and CNN’s Deirdre Walsh that the proposal under consideration by Reid and McConnell would fund the government through January 15, allowing it to reopen for at least three months or so.

At the same time, negotiations on a budget for the full fiscal year would have a deadline of some time in December, the sources said.

[“Because,”  the sources continued, “we’d like to have the chance to fuck up Christmas while we’re at it.  It’s just how we roll.”]

Meanwhile, the debt ceiling would be increased through February 7 to put off the threat of default for almost four months, according to sources in both parties.

The budget negotiations were expected to address deficit reduction measures and therefore could impact when the debt limit would need to be increased again.

[Ignore those stories about how the deficit is going down without Congress doing anything about “deficit reduction”.  We need austerity, people.]

In addition, provisions involving Obama’s signature health care reforms could be included, such as strengthening verification measures for people seeking federal subsidies to help them purchase health insurance required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the sources said.

[Hm, more data collection.  Cleverly aimed at making sure fewer actual poor people can get this Obamacare of which we speak.]

Another possible change to the health care reforms would delay a fee on employers, unions and other plan sponsors that raise money to compensate insurance companies for taking on high-risk customers in the early years of Obamacare.

[Fees, on the other hand, are bad by their very nature.  Boy, this idea must be causing all sorts of mental anguish on the Hill.  We don’t like fees, and yet we are really committed to giving the big insurers extra compensation on top of the captive customer pool income we have handed them.  What to do, what to do?  And who thought of this fucking idea, anyway?]

CNN political analyst John Avlon said Monday that Democrats wanted to press what they perceive as an advantage over Republicans on how the public is perceiving the latest round of Washington budget and deficit brinkmanship.

“What’s behind it (are) poll numbers that saw Republicans getting their butt kicked because of this whole gamesmanship,” Avlon said.

Mindful that the Thursday debt deadline is days away, House Republican leaders are considering all their options even as Republican and Democratic Senate leaders try to craft a deal on the debt ceiling, said a GOP leadership aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in austerity, Congress


In the land of the blind…

Updated below.

So they shut down the government.  Everyone has their favorite shut-down list; here are a few things I would like to note about the matter:

The national parks are closed.  Not to the oil and natural gas companies, however, who get to continue their rape of the land unabated, although only minimal personnel from the Bureau of Land Management will be on duty to oversee their operations.  []

The military, the CIA, the NSA, Homeland Security, and all the various spy-on-everyone agencies will be unaffected by the shut down.  So if you are worried about the terrorists (which may include some of your neighbors – one cannot be too careful) getting your ass during this time, rest easy.  And Congress passed a bill at the last minute making sure the active-duty military will get paid during the shut down, so the killing of foreigners in a dozen countries (or dozens?  who knows the number at this point?) will continue at its same frenetic pace without undue financial stress on the “warriors”.  The Veterans Administration, though, will stop processing disability claims.

A whole bunch of the civilian federal workforce will be furloughed without pay.  Congress may or may not decide later to enact a law to give them back-pay for this time, but these workers know better than to count on that happening.  These are the same employees who are already working under a three-year pay freeze and who have had unpaid furlough days imposed on them since last March, thanks to the sequester.  Congress, however, will continue to get paychecks.  Well, duh.  They make the rules.

The WIC program ceases to function.  Because, as per US tradition, low-income women and children are the easiest to exploit (followed by women and children generally, the elderly, the halt and the lame) and the least likely to have their complaints registered by Congress.

The Federal Reserve will continue to print $85 bb a month and give it to Jamie and Loyd.  Because they are the Job Producers.  Because, why the fuck not?   If you can’t see the rich irony and delicious humor in this, I can’t help you.

Can’t wait for the debt ceiling crapstraviganza to begin later this month.  Maybe they’ll take our social security then.  Oh, and do away with the food stamp program altogether – what’s 50 million hungry Americans, in the larger scheme of things, I mean – and lower the corporate tax rates to zero.  Actually, the tax rate on the largest corporations in this country is already in negative numbers territory, since they get subsidies after paying no taxes at all on their income.  Well, perhaps Congress will fast track the TPP for Obama; then the companies will get to run the country in fact as well as in theory.


In news unrelated to the shut down, I  enjoyed the story on Monday about how Obama has decided, once again, to continue to provide money, military aid, and training for 6 of the 10 countries that use child soldiers.  But I suppose it’s a good thing that someone’s children are getting an education and training at our expense, since Congress is determined to abandon our own; although one might reasonably note the moral turpitude of limiting that education to the use of lethal weapons.

Oh, and speaking of children, here’s a little gem overlooked in the media frenzy to give all due coverage to the government shut down:

The US Department of Justice has pledged $44mn in grants to provide 356 school resource officers to 141 cities and counties nationwide in what it calls an effort to make schools safer following events like the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting in December.

Grants intended to fund more police officers in schools will go to law enforcement agencies across the country, the Justice Department (DOJ) said Friday as it unveiled the entire list of recipients.[…]

(Teri’s note: So how is this different from what the NRA suggested?)

“Not only do they deter crime, but they provide opportunities for positive relations between students and law enforcement,” Karen Servas, a Modesto City School District grant writer who worked with the city police department to appeal for funding, told McClatchy. […]

(Teri’s note: Can you say, “propaganda”?  Can you say, “Get the kids used to being handled by the po-po on a daily basis”?  Can you say, “Always submit to authority”?)

From a January, ’13 article on this issue of cops in our public schools:

[…] As early as Dec. 18, a group representing student mental health organizations and practitioners released a joint statement saying, ‘Inclinations to intensify security in schools should be reconsidered. We cannot and should not turn our schools into fortresses.

The groups’ position is actually backed up by the public: Only 41% support a National Rifle Association proposal to put armed police officers in schools, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released last week. […]

(Teri’s note: the Sandy Hook shooting occurred on 14 Dec.,  2012.  This article was written on 11 Jan., 2013.   I.e., even after the Sandy Hook shooting and yet close enough to the shooting that it was still fresh in mind, most of the public did not want cops in schools.)

An excellent article regarding the effects of cops in schools is the following, and I highly recommend you read it if this topic interests you in the least:

Update, 3 Oct.:

In an interview [yesterday], President Barack Obama offered talks on cutting basic social programs such as Medicare and Social Security in return for Republican support for funding federal operations and raising the national debt ceiling. […]

Obama’s remarks added to mounting evidence that behind the appearance of partisan warfare in Washington, the two big business parties are planning to use a crisis produced by an extended government shutdown as a smokescreen for reaching a deal to impose historic attacks on the bedrock social programs left over from the New Deal and Great Society periods.

In the interview, Obama said he agreed on the need to continue eliminating “unnecessary” social programs and was ready to discuss cuts in “long-term entitlement spending.” He also said he would accept Republican demands that there be no increase in personal income tax rates.

“The Democrats have already said they are ready to reopen the government at funding levels the Republicans have set,” the president said. He was referring to the acceptance by Democrats in the House of Representatives of a funding level $42 billion lower than the previous Democratic proposal.

Obama also hinted that he was willing, as part of future budget talks, to accede to demands from Republicans, speaking on behalf of corporate interests, for changes in his Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010 and is slated to become largely operational in January. The implication was that he would consider proposals such as repealing a tax on the makers of medical devices and increasing the cutoff for full-time workers from 30 hours a week, thereby loosening requirements for employers to provide health care coverage for their workers.

Indicating the sweeping character of the budget deal Obama is seeking, he said he was prepared to negotiate “a whole range of issues” if and when Republican House Speaker John Boehner allows a vote to reopen the government without anti-Obamacare provisions and Republicans agree to raise the debt ceiling. He wanted, he declared, a budget “that enables us to deal with problems long-term.” […]

In pondering further the situation we find ourselves in today, I want to add a few thoughts about the government shutdown.  You must realize at some level that the shutdown doesn’t hurt the Powers That Be at all; in fact, they have managed to slough off about a million federal workers and their salaries (tough shit if those people can’t afford their mortgage payments this month), and inconvenient government expenses like the WIC program.  These employees and programs have long been a target of both political parties, although the Republicans are more overt about it.   Certainly the Democrats, led by Obama, have done their part to cut funding at every opportunity and give away parts of the discretionary budget to Republican demands, usually before even being asked.   Obama constantly and proudly proclaims he will be happy to cut Social Security.  His Affordable Care Act  has already sliced into Medicare.

As part of the shutdown, the FDIC is bereft of damn near all employees – this is the only agency that protects our money (as opposed to the money of the elites). Most of the regulatory agencies, in fact, such as the FTC and the Financial Crimes Enforcement, are likewise shuttered.  Which means: who protects our cash assets as Congress gets into the debt ceiling issue – a “debate” that has surely been set up in advance to be as detrimental to the common man as possible?

I suspect that we will see a lot of the federal workforce gradually replaced with private entities now that they have finagled the situation to get these people off the payroll. And, yes, of course they will take our social security, medicare, and whatever else they can grab as they negotiate over the debt ceiling.  Because, why the fuck NOT take it?  The people have shown a tolerance for – indeed, a joyful complicity in – all the austerity measures thus far imposed throughout the last 5 years. (I would count the crash of ’08, when they started the bank bailouts while our retirement funds were cleaned out and the confiscation of our homes began, as the first austerity measures).  I find it simply unbelievable, inconceivable, that the country has so quickly been altered the way it has.  We paid for our social security.  It is our money – of course we are entitled to it.  It does not contribute to the debt and deficit at all.  Receiving it does not make anyone a “socialist living on government handouts”.  Likewise, a desire to have a government that spends its tax dollars for the good of the people rather than to instigate strife and war throughout the world does not make that person, or such a government, “fascist”.  As a matter of fact, we are headed for a fascist-style government, but not because our leaders are overly indulgent of the huddled masses, but for exactly the opposite reasons: our government is leading us to a place where the great wad of citizens are heavily controlled, but have little or no say in what the government does or in how its monies are spent.

Here is as good an explanation of fascism as I have seen:

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread
domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

You might notice that we are rapidly getting there.  You might also notice that this is the agenda of the far right, the neocons and the neoliberals.  You might also be aware that quite a number of Americans seem to find this shift in style of governance acceptable. If not, why do they refer to a government that works on behalf of its people and that actually spends its money for the people as a “nanny state”?  Odd, that we don’t similarly call Jamie Dimon (to use but one familiar name) a “deadbeat” or say that Exxon is “living off the nanny state”.  And yet our government is supposed to serve us.  Corporations and their CEOs are supposed to earn a living the same way we do, not be handed our tax money in the form of gratuitous subsidies, bailouts and legalized tax evasion.

We will see that the outcome of the debt ceiling “negotiations” will be more of the same, an acceleration of the same, and as I mentioned in the main body of this post, I would not be at all surprised if the TPP and its Atlantic counterpart get quietly passed before the end of the year.   Even without the TPP, we will have plenty of privatizations, austerity, and permanent loss of gov’t services that up until now have protected and served the common weal.

I even find it doubtful that should we hit the debt ceiling and begin to renege on our debts there would be much real objection from the financial powers.   LLoyd, along with a few of his Bankster CEO buddies were at the WH visiting with its occupant yesterday, and emerged to tell the cameras that the shutdown was one thing, but an actual default would take us into uncharted territory.  He suggested this was no way to negotiate [health] policy; then frowned condescendingly at the country in his most serious and self important “we’re doing God’s work” way.  But let’s look at it.  Interest rates on the country’s debt would almost certainly rise, perhaps dramatically, and so would rates on most other sovereign debt, corporations, individuals, and entities around the world, as the US would not necessarily lose its status as the benchmark standard; the rate hike on the US might simply cause an equivalent rate hike across the boards.  The biggest beneficiary of this rate increase would be the banks themselves, which just happen to be on the receiving end of those higher interest rates.  The very same banks who would ensure that the US and all credit ratings were downgraded to widen risk/yield spreads in the first place.  Meanwhile, the Fed, a private bank-owned corporation with its unfettered authority over US public monetary policy and currency, would still continue printing and gifting money into its Banks for free.  Neither its trillion dollar plus a year direct on-balance-sheet transfer program (the so-called “quantitative easing” or “stimulus” as it’s also ridiculously referred to, as though giving a trillion dollars to Goldman Sachs stimulated anyone in the economy other than Mr. and Mrs. Blankfein) would be affected, nor would its massive collection of “collateralized facilities”, those off-balance-sheet transactions where the banks pledge mortgage-related securities and bonds of notoriously dubious (nonexistent) value for trillions of dollars from the Fed, also at approximately zero percent rate of interest.  So, everyone in the world could end up paying higher interest rates to the Banks, while the Banks continue to get unlimited sums of money for free from the Fed.  That’s called a windfall.  And a partially shutdown government is a government that has already achieved the austerity that the Banks prefer: a government ready to focus on the only two important things: military expenditures and servicing its debt, either by paying up or by forfeiting collateral.  Let’s see: Goldman gets New York, Wells Fargo takes California, Bank of America gets…

And your average US citizen, having gone full retard as of this writing, will cheer madly for all of it, thinking it will only affect the “deadbeat” poor folks, none of whom he personally knows. Yet.

Two further links for you.   One is a list of gov’t offices shut down as of yesterday, and one is an article about one man’s experience on the Obamacare website. 

Further update:

Another person’s experience on his state’s ACA exchange:


Posted by on October 2, 2013 in austerity, Congress