10/08/2013 archive

2013 Junior League Division Series: Oakland @ Detroit Game 4

Miss yesterday?  Well, you didn’t miss much if you’re a Tigers fan.  Though it was only a three run margin, by comparison with the single score victories in the previous two games the Athletics crushed them.

The big blow was of course in the 5th inning with Brandon Moss’ Solo Shot and Seth Smith’s 2 Run Homer so you could argue that it’s just two bad pitches, but worst of all from a Detroit standpoint is they gave back home field advantage and now they have to win out to advance.

Oakland will be putting up Dan Straily (10 – 8, 3.96 ERA R) against Doug Fister (14 – 9, 3.67 ERA R).  Don’t let the slightly better stats fool you, as recently as August 28th the Athletics lit Fister up for 7 runs and 13 hits.  If the Tigers win we will head back to Oakland County Coliseum on Thursday @ 9 pm ET.  Tonight’s game starts @ 5 pm on TBS.

Government by the Wealthy and for the Wealthy

Economic Confidence Craters As Shutdown, Income Stagnation, and Poverty Roil Americans

By: DSWright, Firedog Lake

Tuesday October 8, 2013 10:32 am

We are now in day 8 of the federal shutdown and it seems Americans are rapidly losing faith that the powers that be can turn the economy around. Confidence in the economy has deteriorated more in the past week than in any week since Lehman Brothers collapsed on Sept. 15, 2008.

And why not? Is there any evidence the economy is turning around for the vast majority/99% of Americans? No.

If anything the shutdown has jarred people awake to the fact that poverty and income stagnation remain at record levels. If things remain as they are we will continue to have massive inequality and little hope of social mobility. The economy is broken for most Americans which even the New York Times is recognizing as seniors are now falling back into poverty.

To recap the state of affairs – the government is shutdown and the economy is rigged for the rich. Now tell me the Koch Brothers lost the 2012 election, seriously, I need a laugh.

As Citigroup proved long ago, an economy run for the benefit of the rich or “plutonomy” is economically sustainable. But is it politically sustainable? Are the vast majority of Americans going to accept slavery and poverty from plutocrats and their extremist attack dogs in Congress?

Kathleen Sebelius’ Incoherent Defense of Obamacare’s Design on The Daily Show

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Tuesday October 8, 2013 10:03 am

When pressed on the Daily Show why Democrats went with a Rube Goldberg health care plan instead of single-payer, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ incoherent defense was that tje Republicans called even this “market based” plan super socialism.

Sebelius sarcastically responded to Stewart’s question about single-payer by saying, “As you know we are facing the end of Western Civilization by having a market based strategy. We are bringing Western Civilization to its knees by selling private insurance plans on a website where people pick and choose.”

I have heard this same basic argument made by several defenders of Obamacare. The point is “look at how badly Republicans flipped out over this conservative law, so imagine how bad they would have flipped out over single-payer.” The problem is this argument makes no sense because, as Sebelius points out, the Republicans already turned their freakout dial to 11. They can’t going any higher. There is nothing worse than the end of “Western Civilization.”

This is not an argument against going to single-player, this is an argument for why you should have gone for single-payer. If the Republicans are going to completely freak out regardless, there is no reason to compromise. The political response from the GOP will be the same.

This highlights why the Democrats are having such a hard time selling the law. Early on they chose to go with bad design to buy off the big industry lobbyists, but they planned to blame the bad design on needing to get Republican votes for a great compromise. When Republican refused to play along it left Democrats holding the bag. Democrats had pro-lobbyists laws, but they don’t want to publicly say they made the law needlessly complex to make lobbyists happy. So the administration is still trying to use the original excuse they planned – even though it now doesn’t make sense.

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

Sean Wilenz: Obama and the Debt

THE Republicans in the House of Representatives who declare that they may refuse to raise the debt limit threaten to do more than plunge the government into default. They are proposing a blatant violation of the 14th Amendment, which states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law” is sacrosanct and “shall not be questioned.”

Yet the Obama administration has repeatedly suppressed any talk of invoking the Constitution in this emergency. Last Thursday Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said, “We do not believe that the 14th Amendment provides that authority to the president” to end the crisis. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew reiterated the point on Sunday and added that the president would have “no option” to prevent a default on his own. [..]

These assertions, however, have no basis in the history of the 14th Amendment; indeed, they distort that history, and in doing so shackle the president. In fact, that record clearly shows that Congress intended the amendment to prevent precisely the abuses that the current House Republicans blithely condone.

Dean Baker: Republicans Are Shutting Down the Government Because They Want to Stop Obamacare

It is widely reported that the Republicans are looking for a face-saving way to back down from the standoff they created on the budget and the debt ceiling. According to these news accounts, this route could involve another stab at the “grand bargain,” a deal that includes some tax increases and cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

This prospect should inspire outrage beyond the fact that it would make the Republicans huge winners coming from a disastrous losing position. (Polls show that shutting down the government to keep people from getting health care is not a popular position.) That’s an issue for political junkies; the more important point is that millions of seniors who are already struggling would be asked to make further sacrifices for basically no reason whatsoever.

Dave Johnson: If Dems Give In, Social Security And Medicare Will Be Future Hostages

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. [..]

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.

Here’s the thing about this budget “standoff.” If Democrats or President Obama give in again, Social Security and Medicare will certainly be targets, sooner than later. What else?

Josh Silver: Supreme Court Contemplates More Political Bribery Amidst Shutdown

This Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, a case that challenges the $123,200 “aggregate limit” on how much one donor may give to a combination of political candidates, parties and PACs. Welcome to the age of government shutdowns, $7 billion elections, and a blatantly pay-to-play Congress with the lowest approval rating of all time at just 10 percent. Amidst this madness, you would have to be a fool or a scoundrel to think it’s a good idea to increase the money flowing into American politics. The current aggregate limit is already nearly two and a half times the average income of an American family. [..]

And once again the American people are trapped in the middle of what is portrayed in the media as an ideological fight between conservatives and progressives. Look a little closer, and you see that cash is driving the debate a lot more than ideology in the latest chapter in modern American politics.

Robert Sheer: Racism and Cruelty Drive GOP Health Care Agenda

Why anyone who claims to be pro-life would want to deny health care to single mothers is an enduring mystery in the morally mischievous ethos of the Republican Party. But the exclusion of a working poor population that skews disproportionately black in the South is simply a continuation of the divide-and-conquer politics that have informed Republican strategy since Nixon.

The game plan of gutting the Affordable Care Act despite its passage into law and before its positive outcomes are demonstrated can be traced to a “blueprint to defunding Obamacare” initialed by the GOP conservative leadership under the aegis of Heritage Action for America. Ironically that is the political front of the Heritage Foundation, the leading GOP think tank that is credited by some architects of Obamacare as the initial inspiration of their health care program. The difference is that whereas the Heritage Foundation was pushing a mild health care reform based on increased profit for private insurers, as in the plan Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts, the Republicans object to the provisions in this president’s program that broaden access for the needy.

Eugene Robinson: Server Crashes Prove the ACA Is Here to Stay

While Republicans were throwing their silly tantrum, Obamacare became a fact. There is no turning back.

The point of no return was reached when millions of people crashed the websites of the new Affordable Care Act exchanges trying to buy health insurance. Republicans can fight rear-guard battles if they want, but last Tuesday they lost the war. All they can do at this point is harm the nation-and their own political prospects.

Someday, if the GOP captures the presidency and both houses of Congress, President Obama’s health care law could be altered or even repealed. But it would be replaced by some new program that does the same thing, because there is no politically viable way to snatch away the medical insurance that customers are buying through the exchanges.

TPP: Obama’s Trojan Horse

The government shutdown and the threat of default on debt payments kept President Barack Obama from attending the recent round of talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The president has hopes that it will be finished by the end of the year. Major corporations are urging the Pres. Obama not to “water down” the agreement which would put billions in their pockets sucking more money from the 99%, creating an even bigger income gap around the world. The TPP, which has been negotiated in secret since the Bush administration, would prioritize corporate rights over the rights of consumers and workers. In June, Rep. Alan Grayson was allowed to read the text of the TPP, that he described as “an anti-American power grab by big corporations

The TPP is a large, secret trade agreement that is being negotiated with many countries in East Asia and South America.

The TPP is nicknamed “NAFTA on steroids.”  Now that I’ve read it, I can see why. I can’t tell you what’s in the agreement, because the U.S. Trade Representative calls it classified. But I can tell you two things about it.

1)    There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret.

2)    This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.

3)    What they can’t afford to tell the American public is that [the rest of this sentence is classified].

(Well, I did promise to tell you only two things about it.)

I will be fighting this agreement with everything I’ve got. And I know you’ll be there every step of the way.

Besides this agreement being labeled a secret except for the business insiders who are negotiating it, the corporations want Congress to “fast track” it’s approval which the president the ability to put an accord before lawmakers for an up-or-down vote. This would assure that the TPP would pass without congressional oversight. However, some lawmakers are balking, at not only fast tracking the agreement, but the agreement itself:

A growing chorus of lawmakers is calling for trade negotiators to address issues including currency manipulation, food-safety standards and competition with state-backed industries as the administration seeks “fast-track” authority to smooth eventual passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I oppose fast-track authority like what we have had in the past,” Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat, said on a conference call today with reporters. “We are not just here to rubber stamp what gets done” by trade negotiators, she said. [..]

Negotiations are “being done without sufficient input from members of Congress,” DeLauro said. Lawmakers should have more of a say because the TPP is a 21st century agreement that goes beyond traditional tariff deals, she said. The TPP would entail issues including environmental protection, Internet trade, access to medicines and market access for small businesses.

A bipartisan group of 60 senators — a bloc big enough to sink a trade accord — on Sept. 24 urged the administration to include provisions to prevent currency manipulation in U.S. free-trade agreements.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Juan González to discuss how this corporate “Trojan Horse” would rewrite US laws and regulation

While the text of the treaty has been largely negotiated behind closed doors and, until June, kept secret from Congress, more than 600 corporate advisers reportedly have access to the measure, including employees of Halliburton and Monsanto. “This is not mainly about trade,” says Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “It is a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade. The other 24 chapters either handcuff our domestic governments, limiting food safety, environmental standards, financial regulation, energy and climate policy, or establishing new powers for corporations.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation is fighting the fast tract of this agreement and calling for open congressional hearings.

President Obama was scheduled to meet with the leaders of the other eleven countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bali, supposedly to plan the “end-game” for this massive trade deal. However, he has made a sudden decision to cancel his trip, claiming that this was a casualty of the government shutdown. Obama’s announcement adds to the impression that goal of completing TPP at APEC has become unobtainable and reveal how precariously the negotiations are going.

There are reports that the remaining TPP country leaders who will be attending the APEC meeting will still be convening “with the aim of hammering out a framework.” As we’ve also previously mentioned, smaller issue-specific intersessional meetings have also grown more frequent and gone even further underground. So while the news of his trip getting cancelled is indeed welcome news, the TPP still could be signed even as its contents remain hidden from the public.

They also have  website “Why the Heck Should I Care About the TPP?” which lets you click through different facts about the agreement and how it will impact us as users.

We here at Stars Hollow and Docudharma urge you to take action and demand Congress exercise their Constitutional authority to oversee the U.S. trade negotiations.

On This Day In History October 8

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 8 is the 281st day of the year (282nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 84 days remaining until the end of the year.


On this day in 1871, flames spark in the Chicago barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary, igniting a 2-day blaze that kills between 200 and 300 people, destroys 17,450 buildings,leaves 100,000 homeless and causes an estimated $200 million (in 1871 dollars; $3 billion in 2007 dollars) in damages.

The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration  that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871, killing hundreds and destroying about 4 square miles (10 km2) in Chicago, Illinois. Though the fire was one of the largest U.S.  disasters of the 19th century, the rebuilding that began almost immediately spurred Chicago’s development into one of the most populous and economically important American cities.

On the municipal flag of Chicago, the second star commemorates the fire. To this day the exact cause and origin of the fire remain a mystery.

The fire started at about 9 p.m. on Sunday, October 8, in or around a small shed that bordered the alley behind 137 DeKoven Street.[3]  The traditional account of the origin of the fire is that it was started by a cow kicking over a lantern in the barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary. Michael Ahern, the Chicago Republican reporter who created the cow story, admitted in 1893 that he had made it up because he thought it would make colorful copy.

The fire’s spread was aided by the city’s overuse of wood for building, a drought prior to the fire, and strong winds from the southwest that carried flying embers toward the heart of the city. The city also made fatal errors by not reacting soon enough and citizens were apparently unconcerned when it began. The firefighters were also exhausted from fighting a fire that happened the day before.

After the fire

Once the fire had ended, the smoldering remains were still too hot for a survey of the damage to be completed for days. Eventually it was determined that the fire destroyed an area about four miles (6 km) long and averaging 3/4 mile (1 km) wide, encompassing more than 2,000 acres (8 km²). Destroyed were more than 73 miles (120 km) of roads, 120 miles (190 km) of sidewalk, 2,000 lampposts, 17,500 buildings, and $222 million in property-about a third of the city’s valuation. Of the 300,000 inhabitants, 90,000 were left homeless. Between two and three million books were destroyed from private library collections. The fire was said by The Chicago Daily Tribune to have been so fierce that it surpassed the damage done by Napoleon’s siege of Moscow in 1812. Remarkably, some buildings did survive the fire, such as the then-new Chicago Water Tower, which remains today as an unofficial memorial to the fire’s destructive power. It was one of just five public buildings and one ordinary bungalow spared by the flames within the disaster zone. The O’Leary home and Holy Family Church, the Roman Catholic congregation of the O’Leary family, were both saved by shifts in the wind direction that kept them outside the burnt district.

Economic Populist: How Fixed Interest Payment Consol Bonds Avoid A Default

I have talked about the broader economic/historic and political/ethical dimensions of Consol Bonds, but this diary is simply about how a certain type of Consol Bonds can be used to avoid default.

What do I mean by “Fixed Interest Payment” Consol Bonds? I mean a bond without a maturity date, that specifies the dollar amount to be paid as interest twice a year. These would be sold on the open market, just as we sell ordinary 10yr bonds. Since the dollar value of the interest payment is specified, and there is no maturity date, no Face Value is required, and so no Face Value is specified.

Consol Bonds are actually a quite old-fashioned type of bond, widely covered in elementary financial mathematics because of their simplicity.

The point of a Consol Bond was that there is no maturity date. Instead, the government just pays the interest, and if they want to retire the debt, they buy the Consol Bond back from the open market. “Consol” stands for “Consolidated”, since they were originally used by the British, starting in Colonial Days before the French and Indian war to “consolidate” a number of different bonds with different maturity dates.

2013 Senior League Division Series: Braves @ Dodgers Game 4

The Dodgers can put the Braves away today at Dodger Stadium and that would be just fine by me.

On Friday Atlanta won a close one.  Dodgers scored in the 1st off a Walk and an RBI Double.  Brave answered in the 2nd with a Single, a Sacrifice, and an RBI Double.  Braves got ahead again in the 4th on a Leadoff Double a Sacrufice, and an RBI Single.  Braves took the lead for good in the 7th with a leadoff Walk, a Single, a 2 Out Walk, and a 2 RBI Single.  The Dodgers’ attempted comeback in the 8th was 1 Run short, off a Leadoff Walk and a 2 RBI Home Run.  Braves 4 – 3, Series tied at 1.

Sunday the Dodgers dominated at home after falling behind in the 1st to the Braves who had a 1 Out Double, a 2 Out RBI Single, a Walk, and another RBI Single.  In the 2nd the Dogers started to put it away, Single, Single, Walk to load them, 2 RBI Sacrifice, 2 RBI Home Run.  Braves answer in the 3rd with a Single, a Single, a 1 RBI Sacrifice, an RBI error, then an inning ending Double Play.  The Dodgers added to the misery in their half with a Leadoff Double, an RBI Single, an error and an RBI Single.  There was a meaningless Wild Pitch.  The bats remained silent unti the Dodgers 8th, HBP, 2 Out Walk, RBI Single, RBI Single, RBI Single.  Too little too late for the Braves in the 9th with a 1 out Single and a 2 RBI Home Run.  Dodgers 13 – 6, lead the Series 2 – 1.

Today the Dodgers send out Ricky Nolasco (13 – 11, 3.70 ERA R) to put the Braves away.  They counter with  (1 – 2, 1.65 ERA R) who’s only pitched 13 innings to ‘earn’ his spectacular ERA.  Game starts at 9:30 pm ET on TBS.