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In the land of the blind…

02 Oct

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.  [http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/09/26/2682131/national-parks-government-shutdown/]

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.

http://rt.com/usa/obama-determination-child-soldiers-597/

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”?)

http://rt.com/usa/doj-grants-school-officers-462/

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.)

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/10/schools-guns-police/1823579/

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:

http://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/03/05/12269/controversy-over-cops-schools-flares-anew

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.” […]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/10/03/shut-o03.html

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.

http://www.rense.com/general37/char.htm

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.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/01/politics/government-shutdown-closings/index.html?iref=allsearch

http://www.prisonplanet.com/obamacare-fines-to-be-seized-from-bank-accounts.html 

Further update:

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

http://rall.com/2013/10/07/obamacare-i-have-the-dish

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6 Comments

Posted by on October 2, 2013 in austerity, Congress

 

6 responses to “In the land of the blind…

  1. Kitt

    October 8, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I question what was written at the link about Obama care. I don’t have evidence or proof one way or the other, and even if it’s off by many percent, the whole Obama care scam is disgusting anyway. But those numbers seem way over the top. There is no subtlety in them. Meaning that if they are what will be typical, people might actually, finally rebel. And we know The Powers don’t want that to happen.

    Like

     
    • Teri

      October 8, 2013 at 10:21 am

      I don’t know, Kitt. I don’t usually read Prison Planet, as their news is a bit odd some of the time.
      That being said, the numbers given by this one guy match the early reporting I saw on penalties and out of pocket expenses. I need to go do some digging to see if I saved those original articles from more than a year ago.

      I had hoped that Prison Planet would follow up with the experiences of others, but so far they haven’t. Of course, the ACA website is apparently fraught with technical issues, so it may be awhile before we have much to go on.

      I don’t really believe at this point that TPTB give a shit what the peasants say or how much they (we) object to anything. First of all, we aren’t too inclined to rebel. And certainly not on this issue – “democrats” feel they have to back the Obamacare shit (Alter net, Hullabaloo, HuffPo, and Daily Kos, to name just a few websites, never mind all the dems in Congress, have all gone gaga over the ACA since the “republicans” began their defund tactics). Secondly, they have the fire power; what do they care? I read more and more articles about the cops in this country using their military hardware and killing “suspects” rather than even attempting to arrest. Furthermore, we long ago breached the Posse Comitatus Act and Oblahblah has his own executive order in place (written exactly like Bush’) in which he allows himself the privilege of ordering the military out into the streets in “a time of civil unrest”.

      In any case, it will be very interesting to get more (and perhaps more accurate) info on the numbers. (It will also be interesting to take note on how soon the ACA website is running smoothly. It may have glitches until the debt ceiling and budget fights are over.)

      If you happen to run across other up-to-date reporting on the costs and penalties of the ACA, let me know, hey?

      -Teri

      Like

       
  2. Kitt

    October 8, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    I don’t disagree with any of that or think that you’re overstating any of it. It’s just that if I look at those numbers for myself, I’m shit out of luck. I, and many others, can’t realistically deal with those numbers. So…what then? I don’t know.

    Like

     
    • Teri

      October 9, 2013 at 6:32 am

      I don’t even know if the individual states or the federal gov’t decides the monthly fees and the maximum out of pocket expenses, Kitt. Since some of the expense of the exchanges comes from state money, I assume that the states have some input on this sort of control mechanism. But that may be an erroneous assumption on my part.

      I had wondered how the federalees would know if I declined coverage should my boss throw me off our company policy and I decided to go without coverage rather than sign up for the ACA – I do have an answer for that one now. The other day, my employer gave me a paper to sign which he has to turn in to some federal agency. The paper reads that he has group coverage, has offered it to me, and that I am going to continue using it. I.e., the government will have a record of every employed person’s coverage (or lack thereof) in employer-based healthcare. They will thus know if I qualify for our state exchange and if I am simply avoiding the ACA in my state. I don’t know how they are going to go about ascertaining the status of self-employed persons.

      I cannot find the articles I thought I had saved re:costs to individuals on the ACA; however, that info was at least a year old, so maybe some of the fine print was altered through Congress in the meantime. I do remember that I was shocked upon reading them and realized immediately that should my boss throw me off our company’s group plan, I could not afford the ACA, which was going to end up being more expensive than my current BCBS policy – which is pricey and has a high deductible.

      There are too many unknowns on this one. At this point, all I have is the Prison Planet article with the one guy’s experience, and as you point out, that may be BS.

      I don’t think we have any advocates in this whole fiasco and I certainly do not think that the decision makers give a shit if we can’t afford their product. The whole point of the ACA is to make money for the private insurance companies and pharmas via enforced enrollment. And they have to make sure that a bunch of employed people have to sign up or the states are just stuck with the poorest of the poor on their state exchanges – and that would be completely undo-able since so many states have budget shortfalls. (Thanks, BofA and JP Morgan!)

      I can really only repeat that while I don’t know the bottom line on this one, I have no illusions about the PTB being afraid of us rising up over it no matter what that bottom line is. We are a supine people now, Kitt.

      That doesn’t mean I quit speaking up or protesting or whatever myself, it just means I no longer assume there will be any of my neighbors standing with me or watching my back.

      Like

       
      • Teri

        October 9, 2013 at 7:18 am

        Update for you, Kitt,

        I just found another first-person experience quite by accident. This has to do with the ACA in NY. I surmise by this that the states do, indeed, play a part – and maybe the primary part – in setting the costs for their exchanges.

        Warning – it ain’t pretty in NY either.

        http://rall.com/2013/10/07/obamacare-i-have-the-dish

        I am going to add this to the main post as well.

        And here is a calculator tool put together to help you figure out what you’d pay in your state:

        http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/

        Like

         
  3. Kitt

    October 9, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Thanks Teri. I haven’t opened that link yet. It’s too intimidating. I’ve been using all my ‘eyes shut’ go-to-area ever since they passed this ObamaCare shit. So I guess I’m continuing to do so…for now.

    Like

     

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