Saturday, August 31, 2013

Things happening in the world + knowledge is power = go read.

Here are some good reads of late.

But first a short video of the Jobs with Justice actions to support striking Fast Food workers around Atlanta yesterday...

Quote of the day:
There comes again and again the hour when the masses are ready to stake their life, their goods, their conscience, their virtue so as to acquire the higher enjoyment and as a victorious, capriciously tyrannical nation to rule over other nations (or to think it rules). Then the impulse to squander, sacrifice, hope, trust, to be over-daring and to fantasise spring up in such abundance that the ambitious or prudently calculating prince can let loose a war and cloak his crimes in the good conscience of his people.    
Friedrich Nietzsche; Daybreak Book 3: 189 
 The Case Against Military Intervention in Syria | The Nation 

While Cameron Defers to Parliament, Obama Locks into Warfare State of Mind | Alternet 

188 Representatives, Including 69 Democrats, Call for Debate and Vote Before War With Syria 

Syria intervention cost: Military strikes are a highly cost-ineffective way to help people. 

Don't Call This a Humanitarian Intervention - By Charli Carpenter | Foreign Policy 

ZCommunications | Cruise Missile Law Enforcement by David Swanson 

Interview: Joseph Stiglitz Sees Bleak Future for America If We Don't Reverse Inequality | Alternet

NPR Pushes Myth That Raising Minimum Wage Would Kill Jobs 

Poverty Has Same Effect On The Brain As Constantly Pulling All Nighters | ThinkProgress 

10 Things Every Labor Leader Should Read before the AFL-CIO Convention | Labor Notes 

Thousands Strike Fast Food, Picketing and Occupying | Labor Notes 

Nearly 40% of the Top Paid CEOs Bombed at Their Jobs | The Economic Populist 

Noam Chomsky on being watched - Q

America Is No-Vacation Nation | Alternet 

Cornel West calls Al Sharpton ‘the bonafide house negro of the Obama plantation’ | The Raw Story

A sexologist’s two cents on the 2013 MTV VMAs

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Its time to confront the GOP opposition to Obamacare

The GOP's opposition to the conservative health care reform is pathetic.

Check out this: Missouri Citizens Face Obstacles to Coverage

And you'll understand why progressives and Democrats need to see the GOP opposition to conservative reform and raise them one that will save us all money:  Study: Medicare For All Would Save Half-Trillion In First Years | Crooks and Liars 

Democrats should be on offense; pushing a public-option (rememebr that?), should be pushing efforts to lower the age you can get into Medicare, and should be pushing for Medicare-for-All.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The 1% love big government...

Suzanne Mettler in her excellent book The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy :
Whereas most Americans assume social welfare policy exists in order to provide economic security to average people and to lessen inequality, the policies of the submerged state have aided and abetted the upward distribution of riches, with more and more of the largesse accrued to those at the very top. The sectors that it nurtures, in turn, have invested in strengthening their political capacity, fortifying their ability to defend existing arrangements.

The GOP can't mangage to deal with 1.2243% of the Federal Budget...

Before most of you were up this morning I noted that the recent Transportation/Housing appropriation bill failure proves Republicans are incapable of Governing.

Republicans have completely given up on Governing--the management and oversight of a major industrial economy.

The failure to pass what amounts to 1.2243% of the Federal Budget speaks volumes on their capacity to manage a complex society.  Shades of Katrina anyone?

 Ezra Klein has more:
But what did those spending cuts actually look like? And why were they too sharp even for many Republicans? 
It’s worth taking a step back to understand the position House Republicans had put themselves in. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget had tried to keep the sequester’s discretionary spending level of $967 billion. But they wanted to give more of that money to defense, which necessitated even deeper cuts to domestic spending. That was fine in the abstract. But the THUD bill was one of the first times they had to get specific.
Here’s what some of those cuts looked like in practice and why they lost so many votes: 
– Community Development Block Grant funding was cut to $1.6 billion, or 47 percent below the post-sequestration 2013 level of $3 billion. By most accounts, this was the cut that doomed the bill, repelling Democrats and some moderate Republicans. (The GOP leadership made a last-ditch effort to restore about $350 million here, to no avail.) 
These grants are, essentially, a form of aid to cities. “Communities use these funds to rehabilitate affordable single-family housing, improve damaged streets, sewers and water systems in low-income neighborhoods, and provide community services to seniors and children,” explains Doug Rice of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Los Angeles, for instance, funds domestic-violence shelters and summer programs for kids. 
The block grants also tend to be popular with mayors in districts across the country. And they’ve already taken a hit in recent years — states have lost $2.5 billion in total since 2010 (compared with what would have happened if spending had stayed constant). Cutting more proved to be too much. 
– Housing vouchers were kept at roughly sequester levels, or $17 billion. At first glance, this doesn’t look like a cut to the nation’s largest rental-assistance program. After all, funding for this program will be at $16.3 billion in 2013 (once sequestration bites down). 
But many liberal groups had worried that the sequester cuts were already too low. CBPPestimates that the House bill would leave 100,000 low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children without housing assistance, compared with last year. By contrast, CBPP estimated that the Senate bill, with about $600 million in extra funding, would bridge the gap. 
– Transportation got cut to $15.3 billion, or 15 percent below 2013 levels. The House had already agreed to spend about $50 billion in 2014 on highway and transit programs as part of the big transportation bill passed last year. But this new appropriations bill made tweaks to just about everything else. 
For instance, the House budget bill would entirely eliminate the TIGER grant program, which has sent more than $3 billion to states that have competed to come up with the most beneficial transportation projects. (Republicans have complained that the Obama administration has politicized the program.) 
The bill also made a slight 2 percent cut to the New Start program, which helps cities invest in things like light rail and bus rapid transit. And it cut Amtrak’s budget by 21 percent. The latter, says Joshua Schank of the ENO Center for Transportation, would likely force Amtrak to slow down or hold off on planned upgrades throughout the Northeast. 
Some of these cuts reflect the fact that Republican voters are increasingly concentrated in rural and suburban areas, while Democrats tend to be clustered in cities. That might help explain why the Republican budget tended to cut transit programs while leaving key highway programs alone. (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for instance, got a small 1 percent cut in spending.) But many of these programs tend to spread money across districts all over the country. 
Are there any other options? Right now, the Senate is debating its own THUD bill, which would set spending for housing and transportation at pre-sequestration levels — or about $54 billion for next year, about $10 billion higher than the House bill. The problem is that this likely won’t prove popular with the House GOP, either. 
Rep. Hal Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House appropriations committee, has said that the chances for the House THUD bill, with its unpopular cuts, are “bleak at best.” But he also thinks the higher spending levels of the Senate bill “are also simply not achievable in this Congress.” That won’t make it easy to find a compromise.

Happy Days are Here Again....

The real reason why politicians campaign on deficit reduction and not jobs?  There is no reason for a jobs program when everything is going great.  Remember, you don't matter, the 1% does.

Equating whistle-blowers with traitors is not only crude, but also fundamentally antidemocratic

Go read Ben Wizner the director of A.C.L.U.’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project over at the NYT's.

Appropriation bill failure proves Republicans are incapable of Governing.

Republicans are incapable of Governing a major industrialized nation.  Their ideology has driven them so far from reality that even the most basic day to day tasks of Governing are becoming impossible. Yesterday's appropriations disaster in the House proves that.

Now to those not paying attention, I'm likely to hear the snark: yeah well the Democrats can't either. But that's fundamentally not true.

Democrats in the Senate don't have the 60 votes needed to kill off debate--they don't have a super majority needed to shutdown right wing opposition; that's different.

Its a difference that voters will hopefully take with them in to the polls else America faces a major crisis.

Via the Wall Street Journal A House Spending Bill Is Dealt a Setback:
House Republican leaders Wednesday abruptly halted debate on a bill that would have required deep spending cuts to transportation and housing programs, the latest sign of chaos in Congress over spending two months before a new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Republican leaders pulled the $44 billion appropriations bill from the House floor amid opposition from Democrats and some centrist Republicans who thought it cut spending too much. Some conservatives thought the bill spent too much, even though the cuts were bigger than required by an across-the-board spending reduction known as sequestration.
"With this action, the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted three months ago," said Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky.), who has bridled as the Republican budget forced his panel to write spending bills that cut domestic programs more deeply than the Pentagon. He called for scrapping the GOP budget's "unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts."

Brian Beutler over at Talking Points Memo has more. GOP’s Long-Predicted Comeuppance Has Arrived:
  Republicans have dealt with some embarrassing moments on the House floor over the past year, but none so revealing or damning as today’s snafu, when they yanked a bill to fund the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. Even the recent farm bill fiasco wasn’t as significant an indictment of the GOP’s governing potential.
It might look like a minor hiccup, or a symbolic error. But it spells doom for the party’s near-term budget strategy and underscores just how bogus the party’s broader agenda really is and has been for the last four years. 
In normal times, the House and Senate would each pass a budget, the differences between those budgets would be resolved, and appropriators in both chambers would have binding limits both on how much money to spend, and on which large executive agencies to spend it. 
But these aren’t normal times. Republicans have refused to negotiate away their budget differences with Democrats, and have instead instructed their appropriators to use the House GOP budget as a blueprint for funding the government beyond September.Like all recent GOP budgets, this year’s proposes lots of spending on defense and security, at the expense of all other programs. Specifically, it sets the total pool of discretionary dollars at sequestration levels, then funnels money from thinly stretched domestic departments (like Transportation and HUD) to the Pentagon and a few other agencies. But that’s all the budget says. It doesn’t say how to allocate the dollars, nor does it grapple in any way with the possibility that cutting domestic spending so profoundly might be unworkable. It’s an abstraction. 
Indeed, Paul Ryan’s entire reputation rests upon these kinds of abstractions. His budgets imagine huge cuts to Medicaid and food stamps and Medicare and so on, but they have no binding force. His allure to the conservative movement as a vice presidential nominee was that he’d be uniquely suited to turn these abstractions into reality. 
But many close Congress watchers — and indeed many Congressional Democrats — have long suspected that their votes for Ryan’s budgets were a form of cheap talk. That Republicans would chicken out if it ever came time to fill in the blanks. Particularly the calls for deep but unspecified domestic discretionary spending cuts. 
Today’s Transportation/HUD failure confirms that suspicion. Republicans don’t control government. But ahead of the deadline for funding it, their plan was to proceed as if the Ryan budget was binding, and pass spending bills to actualize it — to stake out a bargaining position with the Senate at the right-most end of the possible. 
But they can’t do it. It turns out that when you draft bills enumerating all the specific cuts required to comply with the budget’s parameters, they don’t come anywhere close to having enough political support to pass. Even in the GOP House. Slash community development block grants by 50 percent, and you don’t just lose the Democrats, you lose a lot of Republicans who care about their districts. Combine that with nihilist defectors who won’t vote for any appropriations unless they force the President to sign an Obamacare repeal bill at a bonfire ceremony on the House floor, and suddenly you’re nowhere near 218. 
Yes, the House can pass things like the defense appropriations bill. But only because they’ve plundered other programs to provide the Pentagon with consensus-level funding. They can’t fund most of the rest of the government without violating the Ryan budget.“With this action, the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted three months ago,” said an angry appropriations chair Hal Rogers (R-KY). “Thus I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration — and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end.” 
All of this is a harbinger for the coming fight over funding the government. If House Republicans can’t establish a position of their own, then the Senate will drive the whole process (its Transportation/HUD bill will probably pass on a bipartisan basis this week) and appropriations will be extended past September one way or another on the strength of Democratic votes. 
It also suggests that the GOP’s preference for permanent sequestration-level spending, particularly relative to increasing taxes, is not politically viable. If they want to lift the defense cuts, they’re going to have to either return to budget negotiations with Democrats, or agree to rescind sequestration altogether. 
But it raises much bigger, existential questions for the Republicans as a national party. If they can’t execute key elements of their governing agenda, even just to establish their negotiating positions opposite the Democrats, what can they do, and what argument can they possibly make for controlling more (or all) of Washington?