Daily Archive: 10/11/2013

Oct 11 2013

Economic Populist: Will the White House Accept A Government Default, When It Doesn’t Have To?

Over at Wonkblog Ezra Klein, one of MSNBC’s favorite neoliberals, writes:

The problem with President Obama’s shutdown strategy



 

The political theory here is clear: Obama is trying to marshal public opinion against the GOP. If enough Republicans are getting angry calls from their constituents and seeing polls that look disastrous for their party, they’ll find a way to back down.

 

But it can backfire badly. Every second Obama stood at that podium made it a bit harder for the Republican Party to retreat. The more he repeats that this is their shutdown and they need to end it, the more their party suffers if they can’t find a way to prove the president wrong. Obama’s efforts to move public opinion toward  him also moves  Republican opinion against him.

 

… the White House is still pursuing a strategy that makes it harder for Boehner and the Republicans to back down. Their gamble is that the power of public opinion will overwhelm the power of presidential polarization. And if the Republican Party loses totally — loses in a way where they can’t tell themselves it was a win — that’ll be the end of these tactics.

The problem with this kind of brinksmanship tactics is that they may lead to an economic collapse ~ and given Europe’s ongoing problems with the scourge of harsh austerity policies in the context of a monetary system built broken, that might be a worldwide economic collapse.

Now, the threat of the economic collapse does not come from the Government Shutdown, it comes from the risk of default on the government debt, due to the US Treasury running out of juggling options before it needs to sell a new issue of Treasury bonds to avoid a default on payment of government obligations.

And the puzzling point is that the Administration insists that the risk of default is real, even though the Administration itself can take the threat of default off the table.

Oct 11 2013

Sam Adams Award

In Russia, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden appeared in public for the first time since he was grated asylum by the Russian government. He met with other whistleblowers and activists to receive the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence.

RT News interviewed whistleblowers and activists Jesselyn Radack, Thomas Andrews Drake, Ray McGovern and Coleen Rowley in their studio after the award was presented.

Oct 11 2013

Never Mind Bush, Obama Worse Than Nixon

This is the most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered.

That is what David E. Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, told former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie. Sanger was one of 30 journalists Downie interviewed for a report on the Obama administration’s efforts to control leaks. Downie, who was one of the editors involved in the Post’s Watergate investigation, called the administration’s “war on leaks” the most aggressive since the Nixon administration.

The Obama Administration and the Press

by Leonard Downie Jr. with reporting by Sara Rafsky, Committee to Protect Journalists

Leak investigations and surveillance in post-9/11 America

U.S. President Barack Obama came into office pledging open government, but he has fallen short of his promise. Journalists and transparency advocates say the White House curbs routine disclosure of information and deploys its own media to evade scrutiny by the press. Aggressive prosecution of leakers of classified information and broad electronic surveillance programs deter government sources from speaking to journalists.

Compounding the concerns of journalists and the government officials they contact, news stories based on classified documents obtained from Snowden have revealed extensive surveillance of Americans’ telephone and e-mail traffic by the National Security Agency. Numerous Washington-based journalists told me that officials are reluctant to discuss even unclassified information with them because they fear that leak investigations and government surveillance make it more difficult for reporters to protect them as sources. “I worry now about calling somebody because the contact can be found out through a check of phone records or e-mails,” said veteran national security journalist R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity, an influential nonprofit government accountability news organization in Washington. “It leaves a digital trail that makes it easier for the government to monitor those contacts,” he said.

“I think we have a real problem,” said New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane. “Most people are deterred by those leaks prosecutions. They’re scared to death. There’s a gray zone between classified and unclassified information, and most sources were in that gray zone. Sources are now afraid to enter that gray zone. It’s having a deterrent effect. If we consider aggressive press coverage of government activities being at the core of American democracy, this tips the balance heavily in favor of the government.”

At the same time, the journalists told me, designated administration spokesmen are often unresponsive or hostile to press inquiries, even when reporters have been sent to them by officials who won’t talk on their own. Despite President Barack Obama’s repeated promise that his administration would be the most open and transparent in American history, reporters and government transparency advocates said they are disappointed by its performance in improving access to the information they need.

In an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Leonard Downey discusses freedom of the press and the Obama administration.

I found that these leaks investigations and a program called the Insider Threat Program, instituted since the Bradley Manning leaks, that requires government employees to monitor each other to make sure that they’re not leaking information to anyone, including journalists, to have really frightened government officials. Many, many reporters that I interviewed here in Washington say that government officials are afraid to talk to them. They’re afraid that their telephone conversations and their email exchanges would be monitored. That is to say that investigators could come in later, as they did in several leaks investigations, and use their telephone and email records in order to find the contacts between government officials and reporters. So they’re simply scared to talk to reporters.

And this, this is not good, because-I just heard the president saying that he was concerned about the safety of our troops and our intelligence officers. It’s important that responsible, knowledgeable government officials be able to talk to reporters about these matters, so that, among other things, they can alert reporters to information that might be harmful to national security or harmful to human life, in which case no responsible news organization would publish those.



Transcript can be read here

Oct 11 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting thea Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial: An Inadequate Offer From the House

Speaker John Boehner on Thursday said he was willing to delay briefly a disastrous default of the country’s financial obligations but was not willing to reopen the government. “I would hope that the president would look at this as an opportunity and a good-faith effort on our part to move halfway – halfway to what he’s demanded,” he said. [..]

Postponing default by raising the debt ceiling for five or six weeks offers only momentary relief, and refusing to do so would have been unthinkable. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday that the public’s retirement savings and benefits were at serious risk if Republicans left the debt ceiling unchanged. Business leaders – the traditional constituency of the Republicans until the Tea Party muscled them out of the way – have been pressuring leaders to change course.

A default would roil the global bond market, push up interest rates, and almost certainly produce another recession. Although Mr. Boehner grandly pronounced the six-week delay to be a major concession, the same danger will stare Congress in the face before Thanksgiving.

Paul Krugman: Dealing With Default

So Republicans may have decided to raise the debt ceiling without conditions attached – the details still aren’t clear. Maybe that’s the end of that particular extortion tactic, but maybe not, because, at best, we’re only looking at a very short-term extension. The threat of hitting the ceiling remains, especially if the politics of the shutdown continue to go against the G.O.P.

So what are the choices if we do hit the ceiling? As you might guess, they’re all bad, so the question is which bad choice would do the least harm. [..]

So are there any other choices? Many legal experts think there is another option: One way or another, the president could simply choose to defy Congress and ignore the debt ceiling.

Wouldn’t this be breaking the law? Maybe, maybe not – opinions differ. But not making good on federal obligations is also breaking the law. And if House Republicans are pushing the president into a situation where he must break the law no matter what he does, why not choose the version that hurts America least?

Sadhbh Walshe: Are Americans Dumb? No, It’s the Inequality, Stupid

The US and UK have pitifully low OECD test scores. They are also the countries with some of the greatest inequality

Are Americans dumb? This is a question that has been debated by philosophers, begrudging foreigners and late night TV talk show hosts for decades. Anyone who has ever watched the Tonight Show’s “Jaywalking” segment in which host Jay Leno stops random passersby and asks them rudimentary questions like “What is Julius Caesar famous for?” (Answer: “Um, is it the salad?”) might already have made their minds up on this issue. But for those of you who prefer to reserve judgement until definitive proof is on hand, then I’m afraid I have some depressing news. America does indeed have a problem in the smarts department and it appears to be getting worse, not better. [..]

So are Americans dumb? The answer appears to be yes, some are. The dumb ones are not the poor minorities or low skilled adults who fared badly on the OECD tests, however, but a certain privileged and selfish elite, who have suffered from no want of opportunities themselves, yet seem to think that denying millions of struggling Americans an equal (or indeed any) opportunity to get ahead is a sensible way forward. The results are in now and clearly it isn’t. The question is will enough Americans be smart enough to do something about it?

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Boehner’s “Offer”: A Ticking Time Bomb is Still a Bomb

A time bomb with a six-week fuse is still a bomb. And as long as the Republicans keep issuing threats and shutting down the government, they’re still playing with dynamite.

It was initially reported that the GOP’s “offer” to extend the debt ceiling for six weeks was rejected by the White House. There’s good reason to reject it. The Republican proposal isn’t a concession. They’re merely rescheduling their threat so that it can hang over the nation until Thanksgiving. They’d still keep the government closed.  And their proposal reportedly included provisions that would prevent the Treasury Department from taking “extraordinary measures” to keep paying the government’s bills – now, and in the future.

The GOP’s stance is: We won’t hurt you with the debt ceiling now, but we’re prepared to do it in a few weeks. We’ll hold off on wreaking widespread economic havoc until then, but in return you must render yourself helpless in the face of our threats – now, and forever – despite the fact that our corporate funders want us to hold off anyway. Oh – and we’ll keep on hurting you with the shutdown in the meantime.

You call that an offer?

Bill Boyarsky: Cruel and Unusual Republicans Want Poor Americans to Starve

Among the many victims of the Republicans’ deranged effort to kill Obamacare are the millions of forgotten poor suffering from bad nutrition or just plain hunger, one of the most shameful afflictions of American life.

They have escaped media attention. But they will be badly hurt if the effort of right-wing Republican House members-backed by their ultraconservative financial supporters-manages to destroy the Affordable Care Act and then bring down what’s left of the social and economic safety net that has for generations provided minimal protection to the poor, the elderly, children and the disabled.

The Republicans are already insisting on major cuts to the nation’s biggest and most successful nutrition program, food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Amy Goodman: Single-Payer Prescription for What Ails Obamacare

While the ACA was deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court, the opinion gave states the option to opt out of the Medicaid expansion, which 26 states with Republican governors have done. A New York Times analysis of census data showed that up to 8 million poor people, mostly African-Americans and single mothers, and mostly in the Deep South, will be stranded without insurance, too poor to qualify for ACA subsidies, but stuck in a state that rejected Medicaid expansion.

So, while partisan bickering (between members of Congress who have among the best health and benefits packages in the U.S.) has shut down the government, the populace of the United States is still straitjacketed into a system of expensive, for-profit health insurance. We pay twice as much per capita as other industrialized countries, and have poorer health and lower life expectancy. The economic logic of single-payer is inescapable. Whether Obamacare is a pathway to get there is uncertain. As Dr. Woolhandler summed up, “It’s only a road to single-payer if we fight for single-payer.”

Oct 11 2013

On This Day In History October 11

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

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 11 is the 284th day of the year (285th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 81 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1982, The Mary Rose, a Tudor carrack which sank on July 19 1545, is salvaged from the sea bed of the Solent, off Portsmouth.

The Mary Rose was a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 19 July 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight. The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971 and salvaged in 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology. The surviving section of the ship and thousands of recovered artefacts are of immeasurable value as a Tudor-era time capsule.

The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose was a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable in complexity and cost only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961. The finds include weapons, sailing equipment, naval supplies and a wide array of objects used by the crew. Many of the artefacts are unique to the Mary Rose and have provided insights into topics ranging from naval warfare to the history of musical instruments. Since the mid-1980s, while undergoing conservation, the remains of the hull have been on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. An extensive collection of well-preserved artefacts is on display at the nearby Mary Rose Museum.

The Mary Rose had no known career as a merchant vessel. She was one of the largest ships in the English navy throughout more than three decades of intermittent war and was one of the earliest examples of a purpose-built sailing warship. She was armed with new types of heavy guns that could fire through the recently invented gun-ports. After being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she was also one of the earliest ships that could fire a broadside, although the line of battle tactics that employed it had not yet been developed. Several theories have sought to explain the demise of the Mary Rose, based on historical records, knowledge of 16th-century shipbuilding and modern experiments. However, the precise cause of her sinking is still unclear, because of conflicting testimonies and a lack of conclusive physical evidence.

Oct 11 2013

Grand Bargain Circus – Red Clowns Wrangle

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_Duel_After_a_Masquerade_Ball

Greetings Circus fans!  Welcome back to the Circus that, like rust, never sleeps.  For the past couple of days the red clowns have separated into rival gang factions to fight out their final strategery.  Watching clowns enter into public backbiting and recriminations is always amusing for the audience and the pie has been flying.  

It seems that according to the folks at the  Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions that the Hot Potato of Blame has fallen into Boner T. Redclown’s Ring 1 and cannot be returned to Harry T. Blueclown’s Ring 3 due to a preponderance of audience belief.  

The Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions now says that this shutdown was planned, long in advance by a consortium of red clown groups and heavily funded by red clowns from the Koch Klowns organization:

The current budget brinkmanship is just the latest development in a well-financed, broad-based assault on the health law, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative initiative. Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.

The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight.

Great amusement for the audience has resulted!  While the Koch Klowns have been climbing the rigging and shouting that Kochs are not to blame, the rank and file red clowns have been quite agitated at each other due to the fact that their gambit to force the Ringmaster and the blue clowns to capitulate has failed to be an early success. The blue clowns and much of the audience have had many a moment of amusement as the red clowns have piled into a clown bus and have been chasing Cruz T. Redclown around the arena:

Clown Bus by guthrieschroederRep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) on Monday echoed Peter King’s statement that the person to blame for the current government shutdown is Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

“If I had to cast blame anywhere, I would say it was Sen. Cruz and those who insisted upon this tactic that we all knew was not going to succeed,” Dent told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“What he did essentially, Sen. Cruz, basically, he took a lot of folks into the ditch. Now that we’re in the ditch, you can’t get out of the ditch, the senator has no plan to get out of the ditch, those of us who do have a plan to get out of the ditch and will vote to get out of the ditch will then be criticized by those who put us in the ditch in the first place.”

As one group of the red clowns played “chase the scapegoat,” other set to work on what the red clown leaders strategery:

Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the Rules Committee, tells us Speaker John Boehner doesn’t yet have his debt-ceiling proposal finalized. For now, no legislation is headed toward his committee, and it’s all about messaging. … “I’d say if you ran the clock on it, 48 hours,” Sessions adds, when asked how long it’ll take Boehner to unveil the leadership’s plan.

Scary Clowns at PDC2008 Party at Universal Studios by D.Begley

But even as Boner T. Redclown was busy juggling and formulating his strategery, out of a dark corner of Ring 1 came the nearly-famous Ryan T. Redclown who was once Mittens T. Redclown’s second in a clown duel with the Ringmaster.  It appears that Ryan T. Redclown has been working on a little strategery of his own as he loaded the cannon with an op-ed from the Clown Street Journal which he fired off at the Ringmaster and the blue clowns in Ring 3.

In an editorial voice sweeter than the Circus’ cotton candy, Ryan T. Redclown turned away from the stage and projected his message at the audience in calm and reasonable tones.  Why, his message was just like that of the Ringmaster:

obama ryanIf Mr. Obama decides to talk, he’ll find that we actually agree on some things. For example, most of us agree that gradual, structural reforms are better than sudden, arbitrary cuts. For my Democratic colleagues, the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act are a major concern. And the truth is, there’s a better way to cut spending. We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs.



Who knows what this means? But it’s interesting, especially when you compare it to what the president said today:

I’ve put forward proposals in my budget to reform entitlement programs for the long haul and reform our tax code in a way that would close loopholes for the wealthiest and lower rates for corporations and help us invest in new jobs and reduce our deficits. And some of these were originally Republican proposals, because I don’t believe any party has a monopoly on good ideas. So I’ve shown myself willing to go more than halfway in these conversations, and if reasonable Republicans want to talk about these things again, I’m ready to head up to the Hill and try. I’ll even spring for dinner again.

Why, it sounds like Ryan T. Redclown is eager for yet another round of Grand Bargain Fever with the Ringmaster!  Oh, wait, what’s that, oh my, I think there’s going to be music in the air…  Yes indeed!  The Grand Calliope is being drawn in by horses to play soothing music…

Yes, the Ringmaster is cautiously optimistic that a Grand Bargain short term deal can be made and a faction of the red clowns looks like they might go for it…

Calliope,_the_wonderful_operonicon_or_steam_car_of_the_muses,_advertising_poster,_1874The Obama administration on Monday indicated it could support a temporary increase to the nation’s borrowing limit to give Republicans and Democrats, locked in a bitter fight over funding government operations, more time to negotiate a longer-term solution. …

Other Republicans said the time had come for conservatives to relent in trying to link government funding with measures to dismantle the health law. Senate Democrats have rejected multiple bills approved by House Republicans to fund federal agencies while also delaying or scaling back the health law.

“The question now is whether the people who fell for the Cruz folly will recognize that it was built on a false premise,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), referring to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other conservatives who pushed Republicans to call for defunding the health law as a condition of financing government operations. “The whole thing was a joke from the beginning.”

Oh, looky there!  The red clowns are admitting that the whole attack on the Ringmaster’s “One Big Accomplishment” was nothing but a clownish prank to start with!  The question that is being promoted is, on whose terms will the audience be robbed, the red clowns’ or the Ringmasters?  In point of fact, since the red clowns and the blue clowns and the Ringmaster are all in the pay of the Beltway Bigtop funders, it has always been the funder’s terms that will ultimately decide the terms of the robbery of the audience.
 

The Market That Didn’t Bark

Clown dog

Speaking of those Beltway Bigtop funders, many of the red clowns are at pains to assuage their fears about the possiblilty of a default, saying that a default wouldn’t be that bad:

“It really is irresponsible of the president to try to scare the markets,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. “If you don’t raise your debt ceiling, all you’re saying is, ‘We’re going to be balancing our budget.’ So if you put it in those terms, all these scary terms of, ‘Oh my goodness, the world’s going to end’ – if we balance the budget, the world’s going to end? Why don’t we spend what comes in?”

Many of the Beltway Bigtop funders, whose entire existence revolves around the stability of markets are suddenly less than thrilled with the red clowns’ strategery:

Veteran Republican fundraisers are increasingly alarmed by the defiant stance of hard-line conservatives amid the federal government shutdown, prompting fears that many key donors may be restrained in their giving going into the 2014 midterms.

The growing unhappiness among longtime GOP check-writers and party elders underscores the deepening divisions over the ascendant tea party wing, which fueled this past week’s shutdown and is demanding Democratic concessions in exchange for reopening the government and raising the nation’s debt limit.

While the funders are nervous, it appears that the markets themselves are not.  Perhaps it is a result of the intoxication that comes of having looted the economy, gotten away with it and still being left to run rampant, but the markets are not making movements commensurate with the dangers inherent in a default:

The paralysis in Washington continued to weigh on markets. Analysts have expressed particular concern that the fight over the budget will stymie efforts to raise the budget ceiling, resulting in a US default with damaging economic consequences.

However, the market still considers a US default unlikely, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

“If the markets were really fearful of a default…. we wouldn’t be down a half a percent or three-quarters of a percent,” Cardillo said. “We would be down a heck of a lot more.”

vampire squid by snigl3tPerhaps the Titans of Wall Street  are feeling secure because they have been so amply provided for by the Circus and their appointed retinue of government lackeys.   Perhaps they feel that they can rely upon the safety net that bailed them in before:

What the Fed did with Bear Stearns was highly controversial. They utilized the [exigent circumstances clause] without technically breaking any laws. Are we saying that we will bailout a stupid investment bank, but we won’t bailout the US Treasury using the same clause? That would be madness.

Or perhaps they’re not worried because, well, they pay for the clown show as a distraction and they know that their hired clowns will fall into the roles that are assigned them.

The blue clowns will, rather than making their own demands and fighting for what 99% of the audience wants, claim to be battered spouses in a relationship with an awful abuser:

Remember how Republicans “won” the 2000 election? Remember how they tricked the country into going to war in Iraq? They used non-democratic means to get what they couldn’t get legitimately, and it worked, so they did it more. They got used to getting their way using bullying, so they did it more. Now it’s flat-out hostage-taking. And they’re doing it more.

Again and again, Republicans take a hostage and demand something they could not get through elections or the legitimate constitutional legislative process. … They continue these tactics because it is getting them what they – and the billionaires and giant corporations who fund them – want. They do it because it works. And then they do it again, because it worked.

But who do the blue clowns’ actions serve?  When time after time, they “compromise” with the red clowns, who are, after all, only doing what their funders demand, are they not giving the funders what they want, just more slowly than they want it?

Perhaps the market’s failure to react in horror to the horrors that are being presented is merely a reflection of the fact that they own the Beltway Bigtop and the clowns work for them.

Who should the audience root for, red clowns?

When Paul Ryan talks about “reforming” entitlements, he’s talking about eliminating them, because he does not now believe — nor has he ever believed — that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are legitimate functions of the national government. He will get rid of them piecemeal if he has to do so, but he is as dedicated to their elimination as he ever was when he was mooching off my money. When Paul Ryan talks about “reforming” the tax code, he doesn’t mean making sure the people to whom all the money has been shoved upwards over the past four decades start paying their fair share again. He means “broadening the base” — You pay more. Jamie Dimon doesn’t. — and he means “lowering the rates” — on the people who buy him his $4000 bottles of wine — and he means “simplifying the code” — eliminating loopholes for the 20 minutes it takes before tax lawyers open up a hundred new ones.

Or blue clowns?

“This is a confidential document, last offer the president – the White House made last year to Speaker Boehner to try to reach this $4 trillion grand bargain.  And it’s long and it’s tedious and it’s got budget jargon in it.  But what it shows is a willingness to cut all kinds of things, like TRICARE, which is the sacred health insurance program for the military, for military retirees; to cut Social Security; to cut Medicare. And there are some lines in there about, “We want to get tax rates down, not only for individuals but for businesses.”  So Obama and the White House were willing to go quite far.”

Colourful Clowns

Oct 11 2013

Grand Bargain Circus – Red Clowns Wrangle

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_Duel_After_a_Masquerade_Ball

Greetings Circus fans!  Welcome back to the Circus that, like rust, never sleeps.  For the past couple of days the red clowns have separated into rival gang factions to fight out their final strategery.  Watching clowns enter into public backbiting and recriminations is always amusing for the audience and the pie has been flying.  

It seems that according to the folks at the  Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions that the Hot Potato of Blame has fallen into Boner T. Redclown’s Ring 1 and cannot be returned to Harry T. Blueclown’s Ring 3 due to a preponderance of audience belief.  

The Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions now says that this shutdown was planned, long in advance by a consortium of red clown groups and heavily funded by red clowns from the Koch Klowns organization:

The current budget brinkmanship is just the latest development in a well-financed, broad-based assault on the health law, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative initiative. Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.

The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight.

Great amusement for the audience has resulted!  While the Koch Klowns have been climbing the rigging and shouting that Kochs are not to blame, the rank and file red clowns have been quite agitated at each other due to the fact that their gambit to force the Ringmaster and the blue clowns to capitulate has failed to be an early success. The blue clowns and much of the audience have had many a moment of amusement as the red clowns have piled into a clown bus and have been chasing Cruz T. Redclown around the arena:

Clown Bus by guthrieschroederRep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) on Monday echoed Peter King’s statement that the person to blame for the current government shutdown is Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

“If I had to cast blame anywhere, I would say it was Sen. Cruz and those who insisted upon this tactic that we all knew was not going to succeed,” Dent told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“What he did essentially, Sen. Cruz, basically, he took a lot of folks into the ditch. Now that we’re in the ditch, you can’t get out of the ditch, the senator has no plan to get out of the ditch, those of us who do have a plan to get out of the ditch and will vote to get out of the ditch will then be criticized by those who put us in the ditch in the first place.”

As one group of the red clowns played “chase the scapegoat,” other set to work on what the red clown leaders strategery:

Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the Rules Committee, tells us Speaker John Boehner doesn’t yet have his debt-ceiling proposal finalized. For now, no legislation is headed toward his committee, and it’s all about messaging. … “I’d say if you ran the clock on it, 48 hours,” Sessions adds, when asked how long it’ll take Boehner to unveil the leadership’s plan.

Scary Clowns at PDC2008 Party at Universal Studios by D.Begley

But even as Boner T. Redclown was busy juggling and formulating his strategery, out of a dark corner of Ring 1 came the nearly-famous Ryan T. Redclown who was once Mittens T. Redclown’s second in a clown duel with the Ringmaster.  It appears that Ryan T. Redclown has been working on a little strategery of his own as he loaded the cannon with an op-ed from the Clown Street Journal which he fired off at the Ringmaster and the blue clowns in Ring 3.

In an editorial voice sweeter than the Circus’ cotton candy, Ryan T. Redclown turned away from the stage and projected his message at the audience in calm and reasonable tones.  Why, his message was just like that of the Ringmaster:

obama ryanIf Mr. Obama decides to talk, he’ll find that we actually agree on some things. For example, most of us agree that gradual, structural reforms are better than sudden, arbitrary cuts. For my Democratic colleagues, the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act are a major concern. And the truth is, there’s a better way to cut spending. We could provide relief from the discretionary spending levels in the Budget Control Act in exchange for structural reforms to entitlement programs.



Who knows what this means? But it’s interesting, especially when you compare it to what the president said today:

I’ve put forward proposals in my budget to reform entitlement programs for the long haul and reform our tax code in a way that would close loopholes for the wealthiest and lower rates for corporations and help us invest in new jobs and reduce our deficits. And some of these were originally Republican proposals, because I don’t believe any party has a monopoly on good ideas. So I’ve shown myself willing to go more than halfway in these conversations, and if reasonable Republicans want to talk about these things again, I’m ready to head up to the Hill and try. I’ll even spring for dinner again.

Why, it sounds like Ryan T. Redclown is eager for yet another round of Grand Bargain Fever with the Ringmaster!  Oh, wait, what’s that, oh my, I think there’s going to be music in the air…  Yes indeed!  The Grand Calliope is being drawn in by horses to play soothing music…

Yes, the Ringmaster is cautiously optimistic that a Grand Bargain short term deal can be made and a faction of the red clowns looks like they might go for it…

Calliope,_the_wonderful_operonicon_or_steam_car_of_the_muses,_advertising_poster,_1874The Obama administration on Monday indicated it could support a temporary increase to the nation’s borrowing limit to give Republicans and Democrats, locked in a bitter fight over funding government operations, more time to negotiate a longer-term solution. …

Other Republicans said the time had come for conservatives to relent in trying to link government funding with measures to dismantle the health law. Senate Democrats have rejected multiple bills approved by House Republicans to fund federal agencies while also delaying or scaling back the health law.

“The question now is whether the people who fell for the Cruz folly will recognize that it was built on a false premise,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), referring to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other conservatives who pushed Republicans to call for defunding the health law as a condition of financing government operations. “The whole thing was a joke from the beginning.”

Oh, looky there!  The red clowns are admitting that the whole attack on the Ringmaster’s “One Big Accomplishment” was nothing but a clownish prank to start with!  The question that is being promoted is, on whose terms will the audience be robbed, the red clowns’ or the Ringmasters?  In point of fact, since the red clowns and the blue clowns and the Ringmaster are all in the pay of the Beltway Bigtop funders, it has always been the funder’s terms that will ultimately decide the terms of the robbery of the audience.
 

The Market That Didn’t Bark

Clown dog

Speaking of those Beltway Bigtop funders, many of the red clowns are at pains to assuage their fears about the possiblilty of a default, saying that a default wouldn’t be that bad:

“It really is irresponsible of the president to try to scare the markets,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. “If you don’t raise your debt ceiling, all you’re saying is, ‘We’re going to be balancing our budget.’ So if you put it in those terms, all these scary terms of, ‘Oh my goodness, the world’s going to end’ – if we balance the budget, the world’s going to end? Why don’t we spend what comes in?”

Many of the Beltway Bigtop funders, whose entire existence revolves around the stability of markets are suddenly less than thrilled with the red clowns’ strategery:

Veteran Republican fundraisers are increasingly alarmed by the defiant stance of hard-line conservatives amid the federal government shutdown, prompting fears that many key donors may be restrained in their giving going into the 2014 midterms.

The growing unhappiness among longtime GOP check-writers and party elders underscores the deepening divisions over the ascendant tea party wing, which fueled this past week’s shutdown and is demanding Democratic concessions in exchange for reopening the government and raising the nation’s debt limit.

While the funders are nervous, it appears that the markets themselves are not.  Perhaps it is a result of the intoxication that comes of having looted the economy, gotten away with it and still being left to run rampant, but the markets are not making movements commensurate with the dangers inherent in a default:

The paralysis in Washington continued to weigh on markets. Analysts have expressed particular concern that the fight over the budget will stymie efforts to raise the budget ceiling, resulting in a US default with damaging economic consequences.

However, the market still considers a US default unlikely, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

“If the markets were really fearful of a default…. we wouldn’t be down a half a percent or three-quarters of a percent,” Cardillo said. “We would be down a heck of a lot more.”

vampire squid by snigl3tPerhaps the Titans of Wall Street  are feeling secure because they have been so amply provided for by the Circus and their appointed retinue of government lackeys.   Perhaps they feel that they can rely upon the safety net that bailed them in before:

What the Fed did with Bear Stearns was highly controversial. They utilized the [exigent circumstances clause] without technically breaking any laws. Are we saying that we will bailout a stupid investment bank, but we won’t bailout the US Treasury using the same clause? That would be madness.

Or perhaps they’re not worried because, well, they pay for the clown show as a distraction and they know that their hired clowns will fall into the roles that are assigned them.

The blue clowns will, rather than making their own demands and fighting for what 99% of the audience wants, claim to be battered spouses in a relationship with an awful abuser:

Remember how Republicans “won” the 2000 election? Remember how they tricked the country into going to war in Iraq? They used non-democratic means to get what they couldn’t get legitimately, and it worked, so they did it more. They got used to getting their way using bullying, so they did it more. Now it’s flat-out hostage-taking. And they’re doing it more.

Again and again, Republicans take a hostage and demand something they could not get through elections or the legitimate constitutional legislative process. … They continue these tactics because it is getting them what they – and the billionaires and giant corporations who fund them – want. They do it because it works. And then they do it again, because it worked.

But who do the blue clowns’ actions serve?  When time after time, they “compromise” with the red clowns, who are, after all, only doing what their funders demand, are they not giving the funders what they want, just more slowly than they want it?

Perhaps the market’s failure to react in horror to the horrors that are being presented is merely a reflection of the fact that they own the Beltway Bigtop and the clowns work for them.

Who should the audience root for, red clowns?

When Paul Ryan talks about “reforming” entitlements, he’s talking about eliminating them, because he does not now believe — nor has he ever believed — that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are legitimate functions of the national government. He will get rid of them piecemeal if he has to do so, but he is as dedicated to their elimination as he ever was when he was mooching off my money. When Paul Ryan talks about “reforming” the tax code, he doesn’t mean making sure the people to whom all the money has been shoved upwards over the past four decades start paying their fair share again. He means “broadening the base” — You pay more. Jamie Dimon doesn’t. — and he means “lowering the rates” — on the people who buy him his $4000 bottles of wine — and he means “simplifying the code” — eliminating loopholes for the 20 minutes it takes before tax lawyers open up a hundred new ones.

Or blue clowns?

“This is a confidential document, last offer the president – the White House made last year to Speaker Boehner to try to reach this $4 trillion grand bargain.  And it’s long and it’s tedious and it’s got budget jargon in it.  But what it shows is a willingness to cut all kinds of things, like TRICARE, which is the sacred health insurance program for the military, for military retirees; to cut Social Security; to cut Medicare. And there are some lines in there about, “We want to get tax rates down, not only for individuals but for businesses.”  So Obama and the White House were willing to go quite far.”

Colourful Clowns

Oct 11 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Warnings on Default

There are a few fools in the House and Senate who don’t understand the consequences of the US defaulting on its debt payments. Flirting with default is not an option to solve a budget impasse. It’s a recipe for global financial disaster.

The right’s antics could cause a Depression: The terrifying default aftermath

by David Dayen, Salon

Normally with a financial crisis, there’s at least agreement on the need for a response. Not with these lunatics

The biggest threat from the twin calamities of the government shutdown and the debt limit breach is not actually the real-world effect; it’s what happens the next day, and the day after that. In other words, the most frightening thing about default, which is much more problematic than the shutdown, is what happens afterward. [..]

And all of these outcomes pale in comparison to what would happen if the government defaulted on any of its debts. Put the misguided statements of debt limit denialist Republicans aside. Based on current cash on hand at the Treasury Department, roughly 32 percent of the funds owed (pdf) between Oct. 18 and Nov. 15 would have to go unpaid. That’s a massive reduction in federal spending, and would cause a significant hit to Gross Domestic Product. Prioritization of payments, which may be unconstitutional, would certainly be a logistical nightmare, forcing Treasury to rewire its payment system (pdf) and pick and choose between up to 100 million monthly invoices.

If one of the missed payments is to a holder of U.S. debt, then you have a default event that could cause credit markets to freeze, the U.S. dollar to plummet, and financial institutions to struggle to secure short-term lending on which they rely. With the dollar and the U.S. Treasury bond serving as a benchmark for world markets, Businessweek says that the resulting global apocalypse would dwarf the implosion of Lehman Brothers that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. And it would injure the perceived stability of U.S. debt maybe forever, raising our borrowing rates as investors decide a country that threatens to default for no good reason isn’t worth putting their money into. [..]

Armed with the knowledge that Congress won’t meaningfully help recover the economy, the White House needs to think very hard about forsaking the various options they could use to try and avert a debt default. It’s not just that the alternative is a disaster; it’s a prolonged disaster.

IMF piles pressure on US to reconcile differences and prevent debt default

by Larry Elliot and Jill Treanor, The Guardian

Shares and oil prices rise in hope of six-week extension as OECD warns US deadlock threatens world economy

The International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development both issued sharply worded warnings to Republicans and Democrats amid signs that America’s Asian creditors were becoming alarmed at the potential consequences of the impasse. [..]

Speculation about a deal emerged after Jack Lew, the US Treasury secretary said there would be chaos if the US defaulted – a message rammed home by the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and the OECD’s secretary general Angel Gurría.

Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, said there would be very dangerous consequences for the US economy and very dangerous consequences outside the US economy if the default was not prevented.

She distanced herself from the infighting in Washington, noting: “The IMF does not make recommendations about how, politically, this can be resolved. We don’t take a political view. We just look at the economic consequences.

“When it affects the largest economy in the world, we are bound not only to look at the immediate domestic consequences but at what happens elsewhere, so that we can have a dialogue with our members to help them prepare. I hope we will be able to look back in a few weeks and say what a waste of time that was. But we have to look at the risks no matter how unlikely they are to materialise.”

On Wednesday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren addressed the Senate warning that “this is no time to act out dangerous fantasies.

“We’re in this position for one reason, and one reason only: because Congress told the government to spend more money than we have – and Congress told the Treasury to run up our debt to pay for it – but now Congress is threatening to run out on the bill,” Senator Warren said.  “…The idea that we can somehow renege on our debts without paying a huge price is a fantasy-and a very dangerous one.” [..]

“This fight is about financial responsibility. Financially responsible people don’t charge thousands on their credit cards and then tear up the bill when it arrives. Financially responsible nations don’t either….If we default on our debt, we could bring on a worldwide recession-a recession that would pummel hard-working middle class people, people who lost homes and jobs and retirement savings and who are barely getting back on their feet,” said Warren.

Talks between White House and Republicans fail to end US shutdown

by Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Hopes that a deal might be in sight disappear as Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner fail to see eye to eye

Discussions between Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner broke up after 90 minutes with little apparent progress, although there was a marked change in tone on both sides that suggests a deal could still be close. [..]

But the Republicans refused to lift a separate threat to spending authorisation, which has led to a partial shutdown of the government since 1 October.

Obama had insisted on at least a temporary reprieve from both threats before he would agree to negotiate over Republican demands to repeal his healthcare reforms and cut spending.

On Thursday night, it appeared the president had chosen to stand his ground and may have initially refused to accept the partial climbdown from Boehner.

The game continues and no one is hitting the brake.

Oct 11 2013

2013 Junior League Division Series: Detroit @ Oakland Game 5

Pretty much the last of the Division Series, Senior League Championship starts tomorrow @ 8:30 pm ET on TBS between the Cards and Dodgers.

Oddly enough both Detroit and Oakland have won away in a seesaw series with the largest margin of victory being 3 runs in the opening game at Comerica Park on Monday with the 3 score 5th being the decider.

Tonight Verlander (13 – 12, 3.46 ERA R), the losing Pitcher in Game 2 who got chased after 7 innings, is making a second appearance because despite his disappointing performance he is the Tiger’s ace.  Time to earn the big bucks because you can pay anyone to lose and for much less money.

He’ll be opposed by Sonny Gray (5 – 3, 2.67 ERA R) who is largely an unknown quantity.  He has a little better than 1 KO per inning in the regular season and closed out with a 9 – 0 victory over Seattle (nothing to brag about).

So it will be some exciting, you betcha.