August 17, 2012 archive

How to Kill Grandma and Grandpa Faster; or, Paul Ryan’s Gonads

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In April of 2011, Rollingstone‘s contributing editor Matt Taibbi wrote a piece about Paul Ryan and budget proposal titled, Tax Cuts for the Rich on the Backs of the Middle Class; or, Paul Ryan has Balls

I heartily laughed at Matt’s description of Paul Ryan:

Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s latest entrant in the seemingly endless series of young, prickish, over-coiffed, anal-retentive deficit Robespierres they’ve sent to the political center stage in the last decade or so, has come out with his new budget plan. All of these smug little jerks look alike to me – from Ralph Reed to Eric Cantor to Jeb Hensarling to Rand Paul and now to Ryan, they all look like overgrown kids who got nipple-twisted in the halls in high school, worked as Applebee’s shift managers in college, and are now taking revenge on the world as grownups by defunding hospice care and student loans and Sesame Street. They all look like they sleep with their ties on, and keep their feet in dress socks when doing their bi-monthly duty with their wives.

You have to admit that is scathingly accurate.

I thought of my own Tea Party House “Rat”, Michael Grimm. Grimm a former FBI agent and freshman representative from New York’s newly redrawn 11th who is currently the target of a federal grand jury investigation into the fundraising for his 2010 campaign. He fits Matt’s description to a tee.

Although Grimm is not a member of the Tea Party Caucus, he has voted lock step with them. When Grimm voted for Ryan’s first budget plan which called for a fix voucher and cuts to Medicaid that that would hurt the poor and elderly, Staten Island Tea Partiers were vocally upset with him. But I can almost guarantee they will give him a second chance to screw them, and everyone else, come November.

Back to Matt’s article. With his wry wit, he goes on to describe Ryan’s goal to reduce taxes for the wealthiest by asking seniors to cut back on their health care in order to pay for those tax breaks. That takes balls.

Never mind that each time the Republicans actually come into power, federal deficit spending explodes and these whippersnappers somehow never get around to touching Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The key is that for the many years before that moment of truth, before these buffoons actually get a chance to put their money where their lipless little mouths are, they will stomp their feet and scream about how entitlements are bringing us to the edge of apocalypse.

The problem, of course, is that to actually make significant cuts in what is left of the “welfare state,” one has to cut Medicare and Medicaid, programs overwhelmingly patronized by white people, and particularly white seniors. So when the time comes to actually pull the trigger on the proposed reductions, the whippersnappers are quietly removed from the stage and life goes on as usual, i.e. with massive deficit spending on defense, upper-class tax cuts, bailouts, corporate subsidies, and big handouts to Pharma and the insurance industries.

This is a political game that gets played out in the media over and over again, and everyone in Washington knows how it works. Which is why it’s nauseating (but not surprising) to see so many commentators falling over themselves with praise for Ryan’s “bold” budget proposal, which is supposedly a ballsy piece of politics because it proposes backdoor cuts in Medicare and Medicaid by redounding their appropriations to the states and to block grants. Ryan is being praised for thusly taking on seniors, a traditionally untouchable political demographic .

Medicaid cuts that would deeply effect the elderly are never discussed by the media, even now with Ryan the presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee:

While the Republican vice-presidential candidate is careful to avoid touching Medicare benefits for anyone at or near retirement, his budget would impose immediate cuts to Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor that funds nursing-home care and other benefits for 6 million U.S. seniors. [..]

The proposed Medicaid changes are often overlooked amid the debate over Ryan’s Medicare plan, which has taken center stage in the presidential contest since the Wisconsin congressman was chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate on Aug. 11. It’s politically important because those 65 and older are a crucial voting bloc. [..]

Health-care policy specialists say it’s politically easier to cut Medicaid because most voters don’t understand it. [..]

Many middle-income Americans who may be unfamiliar with Medicaid end up relying on the program in their old age because they exhaust their assets. Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care so they turn to Medicaid, which does. [..].

Without Medicaid, current and future Medicare recipients would be in deep financial trouble, as would nursing homes and hospitals that would be under obligation to treat them even if they lack coverage. Ryan’s budget would do this just to give the top 2% another tax cut that wouldn’t even be covered by the cuts.

In his last paragraph, Matt say this about Ryan and his budget:

The absurd thing is that Ryan’s act isn’t even politically courageous. It’s canny calculation, but courage it is not. It would be courageous if Ryan were, say, the president of the United States, and leaning on that budget with his full might. But Ryan is proposing a budget he knows would have no chance of passing in the Senate. He is simply playing out a part, a non-candidate for the presidency pushing a rhetorical flank for an out-of-power party leading into a presidential campaign year. If the budget is a hit with the public, the 2012 Republican candidate can run on it. If it isn’t, the Republican candidate can triangulate Ryan’s ass back into the obscurity from whence it came, and be done with him.

All Paul Ryan has are his “balls” because he certainly doesn’t have a heart or a conscience.

So much for obscurity. Little did Matt know.  

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Every Banker Had a Good Time

As the leaders of the People’s Republic of Plutocracy, Inc. prepare for the corporate coronations of Romney and Obama in Tampa and Charlotte, they’re fervently hoping Occupy Wall Street won’t spoil all the fun by sending dangerous American citizens into the streets to tell the truth all over the place.  In Beltway offices, Homeland Security meetings, and conference calls with the militarized police departments of the One-Percent, the same questions are being asked about Occupy Wall Street. Who are those people?  Why are they going to the national conventions with protest signs and devious plans to say whatever they want about the government, right out loud, in broad daylight where other citizens might hear them?  What the hell do they think this is, a democracy?  

I’ve got a feeling it’s not going to matter how many riot police are in the streets, pepper-spraying everyone in the twilight’s last gleaming, Americans are going to hear what Occupy Wall Street has to say in Tampa and Charlotte about the “government” and the “job creators” and this trickle down train wreck they call an economy.

Oh yeah . . .

Oh please believe me, I’d hate to miss the train.  Oh yeah.

The chorus of our new national anthem is inspiring, isn’t it?  Feel free to sing along Fox viewers, low information voters, brainwashed birthers and cable pundits, pulpit pounders of the Westboro Baptist Church and Obamabots of the Great Orange Asteroid . . .  

Every worker had a hard year,

Every banker had a good time,

Every general had a wet dream,

Every fat cat saw the sun shine.

Oh yeah.

On This Day In History August 17

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning brand cialis Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=can-propecia-cause-depression “On This Day in History” here.

This is your morning prezzo viagra generico pagamento online a Venezia Open Thread. Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

August 17 is the 229th day of the year (230th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 136 days remaining until the end of the year.

The Dakota War of 1862 (also known as the Sioux Uprising, Sioux Outbreak of 1862, the Dakota Conflict, the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 or Little Crow’s War) was an armed conflict between the United States and several bands of the eastern Sioux or Dakota which began on August 17, 1862, along the Minnesota River in southwest Minnesota. It ended with a mass execution of 38 Dakota men on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota.

Throughout the late 1850s, treaty violations by the United States and late or unfair annuity payments by Indian agents caused increasing hunger and hardship among the Dakota. Traders with the Dakota previously had demanded that the government give the annuity payments directly to them (introducing the possibility of unfair dealing between the agents and the traders to the exclusion of the Dakota). In mid-1862 the Dakota demanded the annuities directly from their agent, Thomas J. Galbraith. The traders refused to provide any more supplies on credit under those conditions, and negotiations reached an impasse.

On August 17, 1862, four Dakota killed five American settlers while on a hunting expedition. That night a council of Dakota decided to attack settlements throughout the Minnesota River valley to try to drive whites out of the area. There has never been an official report on the number of settlers killed, but estimates range from 400 to 800. It is said that until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the civilian wartime toll from the Dakota conflict was the highest in U.S. history (excluding those of the Civil War).

Over the next several months, continued battles between the Dakota against settlers and later, the United States Army, ended with the surrender of most of the Dakota bands. By late December 1862, soldiers had taken captive more than a thousand Dakota, who were interned in jails in Minnesota. After trials and sentencing, 38 Dakota were hanged on December 26, 1862, in the largest one-day execution in American history. In April 1863 the rest of the Dakota were expelled from Minnesota to Nebraska and South Dakota. The United States Congress abolished their reservations.

Cartnoon

The past is never forgotten; it’s never even past

This originally appeared here April 27, 2011.

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Trapwire: Worse Than 1984

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The recent release of e-mails from STRATFOR, a right wing global intelligence company, and documents about the surveillance system Trapwire by Wikileaks, has become the talk of the web and Twitter. David Seaman, an up and coming new media advocate and host of The DL Show, explains everything you need to know about Trapwire:

Anyway, here’s what Trapwire is, according to Russian-state owned media network RT (apologies for citing “foreign media”… if we had a free press, I’d be citing something published here by an American media conglomerate): “Former senior intelligence officials have created a detailed surveillance system more accurate than modern facial recognition technology-and have installed it across the U.S. under the radar of most Americans, according to emails hacked by Anonymous.

Every few seconds, data picked up at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States are recorded digitally on the spot, then encrypted and instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database center at an undisclosed location to be aggregated with other intelligence. It’s part of a program called TrapWire and it’s the brainchild of the Abraxas, a Northern Virginia company staffed with elite from America’s intelligence community. [..]

So: those spooky new “circular” dark globe cameras installed in your neighborhood park, town, or city-they aren’t just passively monitoring. They’re plugged into Trapwire and they are potentially monitoring every single person via facial recognition. [..]

In related news, the Obama administration is fighting in federal court this week for the ability to imprison American citizens under NDAA’s indefinite detention provisions-and anyone else-without charge or trial, on suspicion alone.

So we have a widespread network of surveillance cameras across America monitoring us and reporting suspicious activity back to a centralized analysis center, mixed in with the ability to imprison people via military force on the basis of suspicious activity alone.

The Young Turks’ host Cenk Uygur breaks down what Trapwire is and why it is a danger to individual freedom.

Noah Shachtman at The Danger Room takes an in depth look at the “sleazy” connection of STRATFOR to Trapwire and the CIA:

On Nov. 4, 2009, Fred Burton, the vice president of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, co-wrote an essay on emerging terrorist threats and the means to stop them. Particularly impressive, Burton wrote, was a new software tool called Trapwire, which works “with camera systems to help detect patterns of preoperational surveillance … to help cut through the fog of noise and activity and draw attention to potential threats.” [..]

What his customers reading that November 2009 essay may not have realized was that Burton was also marketing them a product. On Aug. 17 of that year, Stratfor and Trapwire signed a contract (.pdf) giving Burton’s company an 8 percent referral fee for any business they send Trapwire’s way. The essay was partially a sales pitch – a fact that Burton neglected to mention. [..]

That’s a breach of trust and possibly worse, says Matthew Aid, author of Intel Wars: The Secret History of the Fight Against Terror. “It’s a conflict of interest.” [..]

Stratfor’s now-famous business partner, Trapwire Inc., began as a division of Abraxas Corporation, one of the more prominent intelligence contractors to crop up after the 9/11 attacks. Begun by Richard “Hollis” Helms, the former head of the CIA’s European division, the company grew so quickly that by 2005, Helms boasted it was “the largest aggregate of analytical counter-terrorism capabilities outside of the U.S. government.” The CIA began entrusting Abraxas with one of its most sensitive tasks: constructing false identities, front companies, and cover stories for agents traveling overseas. At one point, so many CIA employees were jumping ship for Abraxas that the director of the CIA asked it, and a handful of other firms, to stop recruiting in the agency cafeteria.

Today, contractors make up about one-third of the 845,000 people with top-secret security clearances in this country, the Washington Post estimates. It’s safe to assume that at least the same portion of the $80 billion annual intelligence budget goes to these outside firms. The Post counted 1,931 private companies in nearly 10,000 locations across America working on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence efforts.

TrapWire is already used in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Texas, DC, London, and other locales around the USA. Although a spokesperson from NYPD denies that they are using Trapwire, there are other companies that are doing the same surveillance that are just as sinister. Remember that NYPD has labeled people “professional agitators” for filming their activities but now they have a tool that can be used to shut down peaceful demonstration and association. It could be easily used to violate the First and Fourth Amendment rights of citizens wherever this type of surveillance is used.

CNN Host Does Her Homework

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I have to admit that I very rarely watch CNN these days but today while reading through the posts at Crooks & Liars, I may have to consider watching Soledad O’Brien. Most of the this morning Romney surrogate John Sununu was spouting half truths and bold faced lies about Medicare and the Romney/Ryan budget proposal that would leave seniors with a fixed voucher for private insurance. When he tried to spew the same talking points to Ms. O’Brien on her CNN show Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, he found himself in a debate with someone who had done her homework:

You can read the transcript of the exchange here

Sununu had been making the rounds of talk shows for several days spouting the same talking points virtually unchallenged. He even, rudely, out shouted Andrea Mitchell on her MSNBC show who was not as well prepared to counter the debunked party line.

Apparently this was not the first encounter that Ms. O’Brien had with a Romney/Ryan camp spokesperson. While subbing for Anderson Cooper Monday night on CNN’s 360° she cut off spokesperson Barbara Comstock when Comstock spouted the nonsense lie that $700 billion has somehow been “stolen” from Medicare. As soon as Comstock realized that she wasn’t getting away with that talking point she fell back on the debunked canard of “death panels.” Of course the right wing is having a field day with this because they claim that O’Brien was taking her argument from a left wing blog and siting Obama talking points. That’s the best they can do to counter Ms. O’Brien’s accurate fact checking.

It is good to see a news anchor on cable doing their job. Perhaps David Gregory, Chris Matthews, et al should take a page from Ms. O’Brien’s book. I should watch CNN in the morning more often.

SBC Settles with NYS Regulator

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

No agreement is perfect but the settlement that was reached Tuesday afternoon with the New York Department of Financial Services over Standard Charter Bank’s illicit money laundering with Iran and other countries under sanctions was better than most. In particular, SBC’s admission that the “the conduct at issue involved transactions of at least $250 billion.” The fine of $340 million was larger than the $250 million SBC offered but smaller than either the $700 million to $1 billion that SBC might have had to pay if the case had gone to a hearing on Wednesday and large because of the multi-billion dollar transaction admission. So the agreement is being touted as a victory for Benjamin M. Lawsky and his 10-month old agency, the New York Department of Financial Services which took on the bank without the Federal agencies who have been negotiating with SBC.

Yves Smith at naked capitalism has the statement from Mr. Lawsky:

STATEMENT FROM BENJAMIN M. LAWSKY, SUPERINTENDENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES, REGARDING STANDARD CHARTERED BANK

   Benjamin M. Lawsky, New York Superintendent of Financial Services, issued the following statement today.

   “The New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) and Standard Chartered Bank (“Bank”) have reached an agreement to settle the matters raised in the DFS Order dated August 6, 2012. The parties have agreed that the conduct at issue involved transactions of at least $250 billion.

   “The settlement also includes the following terms:

       

  • The Bank shall pay a civil penalty of $340 million to the New York State Department of Financial Services.
  • The Bank shall install a monitor for a term of at least two years who will report directly to DFS and who will evaluate the money-laundering risk controls in the New York branch and implementation of appropriate corrective measures. In addition, DFS examiners shall be placed on site at the Bank.
  • The Bank shall permanently install personnel within its New York branch to oversee and audit any offshore money-laundering due diligence and monitoring undertaken by the Bank.

   “The hearing scheduled for August 15, 2012 is adjourned.

   “We will continue to work with our federal and state partners on this matter.”

This settlement is only with the New York regulator and it includes the transfers with Libya, Mynmar and the Sudan.

While this could have been better, Mr. Lawsky did get the bank to concede that the transfer did indeed involve the $250 billion which resulted in a larger settlement. SBC still must deal with the federal regulators based on the concession with NYDF. As David Dayen at FDL sees it this put a whole new slant on those talks:

In addition, this does not end the legal trouble for Standard Chartered. This only resolves the issues with the New York Department of Financial Services. Federal regulators (including Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the Justice Department) as well as the Manhattan District Attorney must now enter into their negotiations, and if they cannot get as much as the DFS, it will be completely embarrassing. This could cost Standard Chartered at least double this initial figure.

Meanwhile over at the SEC, Wells Fargo walks away from mortgage investment case with a $6.5 million fine and no admission of wrongdoing as usual. Wells Fargo earned $16 billion last year.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has spent nearly four years building cases against the nation’s biggest banks for their role in the mortgage mess.The agency has filed civil actions against Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.

But in recent months, the agency has struggled to bring big cases as it pursued a second round of investigations focused on the banks’ failure to disclose the dangers of mortgage securities. The Wells Fargo case comes just days after Goldman Sachs revealed that the S.E.C. had closed an investigation into a 2006 mortgage deal without pursuing charges. [..]

The action also cited Shawn McMurtry, a former vice president and broker at the bank, over his role in selling the deals. Under the settlement, Mr. McMurtry agreed to a $25,000 fine and six-month suspension from the securities industry.

I’m sure Mr. McMurtry can afford it.