I take capsules of turmeric (Indian spice) every day and about a half hour after I took them today, I coughed — and a big cloud of turmeric came out! Scared the crap out of me…
You might think the GOP hates the poor and the elderly and, really, all of those that rely on entitlement payments of one sort or another. But I’ll bet you didn’t know how much they hate them.
They hate them enough to introduce a bill that prioritizes paying off our debt to China over their monthly checks.
That’s right. Congressman Tom McClintock of California has introduced H.R. 421 – “To require that the Government prioritize all obligations on the debt held by the public in the event that the debt limit is reached.” This bill would prioritize payments to China and our other creditors over our own citizens should Congress not raise the debt ceiling.
According to Talking Points Memo, Pat Toomey will do the same in the Senate.
“I intend to introduce legislation that would require the Treasury to make interest payments on our debt its first priority in the event that the debt ceiling is not raised,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) wrote in a Friday Wall Street Journal op-ed.
If passed, Toomey’s plan would require the government to cut large checks to foreign countries, and major financial institutions, before paying off its obligations to Social Security beneficiaries and other citizens owed money by the Treasury — that is, if the U.S. hits its debt ceiling.
UPDATE: Here’s the text of Toomey’s Senate bill (S.B. 163 – “The Full Faith and Credit Act”, [aka, "The Pay China First Act"]):
In the event that the debt of the United States Government, as defined in section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, reaches the statutory limit, the authority of the Department of the Treasury provided in section 3123 of title 31, United States Code, to pay with legal tender the principal and interest on debt held by the public shall take priority over all other obligations incurred by the Government of the United States.
(H/T to hope4usa who emailed me the Senate bill [all two pages of it.])
Here are some reactions from around the country.
Hard to believe, but true: members of the new Republican majority have introduced legislation that rips the hard earned Social Security benefits out of the hands of seniors, widows and disabled workers—and hands them over to creditors like China. This ‘Pay China First’ plan would treat retired American workers as second class citizens in line behind foreign lenders even though Social Security had nothing to do with the nation’s $14 trillion debt. Working Americans want us to focus on cutting wasteful spending—and keep our hands off of their hard earned benefits.
House Republicans’ new proposal to put foreign creditors – including China – before American families is deeply troubling and will hurt our economic recovery. There is no question that we must come together as a Congress now to put a long-term plan in place to reduce the deficit. But this country must not put China first, and fail to extend that same full faith and credit to American taxpayers. We must get our fiscal house in order, and at the State of the Union the President laid out ideas to tackle this challenge. But for the new Republican majority to do so at the expense of the economic security of American families and seniors is reckless and irresponsible. Democrats will fight any legislation that doesn’t put American families first.
Kent Conrad, Chairman of the Budget Committee:
It is a dreadful idea. Basically what the Republicans are saying is pay China first; we’re going to forget about the American public and the things that they need. Somehow they are secondary?
It is a dreadful idea. It’s brinksmanship on the part of Republicans and they are resting it on the backs of the most vulnerable and least politically-powerful citizens of our country. One more in a long, long line of dick moves we’ll see from the GOP over the next two years, no question.
I’m just sayin’…
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group of more than 550 U.S. mayors, is calling for a background check system that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. (I know here in Philadelphia, mayors have been continuously stymied by the NRA-owned state legislature every time they try to put even small roadblocks in the way of gun purchase on demand.)
To make a point, NYC for the second year sent undercover investigators to one of the largest Phoenix gun shows — two weeks after Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot — to illustrate how easy it is to use the gun show loophole to illegally buy weapons:
On January 23, 2011, undercover investigators working for the City of New York attended the Crossroads of the World gun show in Phoenix. One investigator purchased a Glock 9 mm semiautomatic pistol without a background check. Because the gun dealer is a private seller and not a federally licensed firearms dealer, no background check was required and the transaction was apparently legal, assuming the seller was, in fact, an “occasional seller.” This gap in federal law that enables private sellers to sell guns without background checks is sometimes called the Gun Show Loophole because such sellers congregate at gun shows. The investigator also purchased 33-round extended magazines for the Glock from a separate seller – also legal because the 1994 law that banned such sales expired in 2004.
Gun shows have been found to be major sources of guns used in crimes. According to the ATF, 30 percent of guns involved in federal illegal gun trafficking investigations are connected to gun shows. Because no records are kept, guns sold by private sellers at gun shows become virtually untraceable.
Two private sellers failed integrity tests by illegally selling guns to an undercover investigator. Each seller sold a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol, one Sig Sauer and one Smith & Wesson, to an undercover investigator even after he declared that he “probably couldn’t pass” a background check. That statement should have immediately stopped the sale because even though occasional sellers are not required to run background checks using the FBI database, it is a federal felony for them to sell guns to people they have reason to believe are prohibited purchasers.
In 2009, the City of New York conducted a similar investigation and documented problems at seven gun shows in three states. Investigators found private dealers who sold to those who said they could not pass a background check, including two sellers who failed at multiple shows. In total, 19 of the 30 private sellers approached in 2009 failed the test.
Since the 2009 investigation, four of the seven gun shows documented on video have changed their practices.
The operator of the Big Reno Show, and the owner of the venue, the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, have each signed agreements with the City of New York agreeing to end no-background check gun sales. The Big Reno Show is one of the nation’s largest gun shows. It has 1,300 tables of exhibits, at the time of the investigation there were 120 private sellers at the show offering 1,700 guns for sale.
The operator of the Big Reno Show has also prevented any seller caught breaking the law in the undercover investigation from returning to the show. The agreement stipulates that all sales by private party sellers will be processed through licensed gun dealers who will perform background checks.
Continue Reading »
Natasha Chart & Chris Bowers @ Virtually Speaking Susie with Susie Madrak
Monday, Jan 31, 8PM pacific, 11pm eastern
Susie hosts a conversation with Natasha Chart and Chris Bowers, well-known policy wonks and ubergeek bloggers who just happen to be married to each other. (They’re also two of the funniest, most politically insightful people Susie knows.) Chris is campaign director for Daily Kos and founder of Open Left. Natasha, who specializes in food and sustainability issues, has blogged just about everywhere, including Pacific Views, Open Left and Suburban Guerrilla.
“Redefining” rape? In other words, the Republicans are not going to do a damned thing about cutting spending or creating jobs and they figure a nice fat piece of red meat thrown to the base may be enough to distract them. So these nasty, anti-woman, sex-hating perverts want to take it out on the poor and the desperate.
I have a little proposal of my own. If any male member of Congress is found to have paid for an abortion, he should lose his job, his pension and any benefits — because after all, if he’s a federal employee, that’s using federal money to pay for an abortion! And I’m willing to help raise money to offer a reward for that verifiable information, because God wants me to help punish these hypocritical transgressors:
Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.
For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.
With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to “forcible rape.” This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. (Smith’s spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.)
Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old’s parents wouldn’t be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn’t be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense.
There used to be a quasi-truce between the pro- and anti-choice forces on the issue of federal funding for abortion. Since 1976, federal law has prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions except in the cases of rape, incest, and when the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. But since last year, the anti-abortion side has become far more aggressive in challenging this compromise. They have been pushing to outlaw tax deductions for insurance plans that cover abortion, even if the abortion coverage is never used. The Smith bill represents a frontal attack on these long-standing exceptions.
Supporters say 3000 people showed up to protest at the Koch brothers summit yesterday, and from the looks of this video, I don’t think they’re exaggerating:
An invitation-only political retreat for rich conservatives, run out of the spotlight for years by a pair of Kansas billionaires, became a public rallying point for liberal outrage on Sunday, as 11 busloads of protesters converged on a resort in the Southern California desert.
An estimated 800 to 1,000 protesters from a spectrum of liberal groups vented their anger chiefly at Charles and David Koch, brothers who have used many millions of dollars from the energy conglomerate they run in Wichita to finance conservative causes. More than two dozen protesters, camera crews swarming around them, were arrested on trespassing charges when they went onto the resort grounds.
Organizers depicted the Koch brothers as symbols of the “unbridled corporate power” that they maintain was loosed by last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United campaign finance case, which lifted a ban on corporate spending in elections.
“You don’t very often get a chance to be across the street from a bunch of billionaires who are scheming to do things against our democracy,” said Kathy Clearly, 63, a retired schoolteacher who arrived by bus from Los Angeles and brandished a protest sign at the rally.
The political retreat, held at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa about 130 miles east of Los Angeles, amounted to a victory lap for the Koch brothers, who helped finance conservative candidates in the fall campaigns through their company’s political action committee, which spent $2.5 million, as well as through advocacy groups like Americans for Prosperity.
Many candidates they supported, including a number backed by the Tea Party, gained election as part of the Republican takeover of the House.
The Koch brothers themselves and their guests — Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, was expected to attend — were nowhere to be seen near the protest Sunday and made no public statements. Sport utility vehicles with tinted windows shepherded attendees in and out of the complex, and two dozen Riverside County sheriff’s deputies in riot gear, their batons out, guarded the entrance to keep out anyone not registered as a guest.
Liberal groups have begun a calculated political and legal strategy in recent weeks to make the Koch brothers a target of their efforts to stop the Republican momentum.
Yet another stick in the spokes of the geopolitical world wheel! And of course, climate change has nothing to do with the extreme weather affecting crops around the world — and neither does the fact that Wall Street hedge funds have allegedly been locking up the commodities market, driving up the costs of food. That’s because we live in America, where reporters never ask rude questions!
U.S. grain prices should stay unrelentingly high this year, according to a Reuters poll, the latest sign that the era of cheap food has come to an end.
U.S. corn, soybeans and wheat prices — which surged by as much has 50 percent last year and hit their highest levels since mid-2008 — will dip by at most 5 percent by the end of 2011, according to the poll of 16 analysts.
The forecasts suggest no quick relief for nations bedeviled by record high food costs that have stoked civil unrest. It means any extreme weather event in a grains-producing part of the world could send prices soaring further.
[...] “Even if we have a good year, we are not going to have the inventories we’ve seen before. I really do think the time of cheap food prices is over, and that’s just it,” said analyst Chris Mann of Traders Group Inc in Chicago.
“Everything is set to the point where supply equals demand right now. But if you pull one thing out of it, or if you disrupt the equation in some little way or tweak it, I think, with inventories as tight as they are, it will really have an impact on prices. A drought, a flood, anything,” said Mann.
You’ll notice he doesn’t mention a thing about hedge funds pouring massive amounts of money into the commodities market after the housing market collapsed, and instead driving up food prices — which in turn, promote global economic and political unrest:
When this process of “hedging” was tightly regulated, it worked well enough. The price of real food on the real world market was still set by the real forces of supply and demand.
But all that changed in the mid-1990s. Then, following heavy lobbying by banks, hedge funds and free market politicians in the US and Britain, the regulations on commodity markets were steadily abolished. Contracts to buy and sell foods were turned into “derivatives” that could be bought and sold among traders who had nothing to do with agriculture. In effect a new, unreal market in “food speculation” was born. Cocoa, fruit juices, sugar, staples, meat and coffee are all now global commodities, along with oil, gold and metals. Then in 2006 came the US sub-prime disaster and banks and traders stampeded to move billions of dollars in pension funds and equities into safe commodities, and especially foods.
“We first became aware of this [food speculation] in 2006. It didn’t seem like a big factor then. But in 2007/8 it really spiked up,” said Mike Masters, fund manager at Masters Capital Management, who testified to the US Senate in 2008 that speculation was driving up global food prices. “When you looked at the flows there was strong evidence. I know a lot of traders and they confirmed what was happening. Most of the business is now speculation – I would say 70-80%.”
Masters says the markets are now heavily distorted by investment banks: “Let’s say news comes about bad crops and rain somewhere. Normally the price would rise about $1 [a bushel]. [But] when you have a 70-80% speculative market it goes up $2-3 to account for the extra costs. It adds to the volatility. It will end badly as all Wall Street fads do. It’s going to blow up.”
The speculative food market is truly vast, agrees Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, president of the Strategic Investment Group in New York. She estimates speculative demand for commodity futures has increased since 2008 by 40-80% in agricultural futures.
That this happened in the administration of President Arugula!