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Federal pension grab in new budget


Leave it to David Dayen to dig out the nasty details of the Ryan-Murray budget deal and how federal workers will be sacrificed to the deficit gods:

2013 has not been a pleasant year if you work for the federal government. You’ve been subject to pay freezes, furloughs and shutdowns. One of you got yelled at by a Tea Party Republican at the World War II memorial. And if Congress passes the budget deal announced Tuesday night by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray – a big if – you will get a final Christmas present: You’ll have to pay more into your pension, an effective wage cut that just adds to the $114 billion, with a “B,” federal employees have already given back to the government in the name of deficit reduction.

The deal between House and Senate negotiators Ryan and Murray would reverse part of sequestration for 2014 and 2015, itself a major source of pain for federal workers. But negotiators want to pay for that relief in future years, with the overall package cutting the deficit by an additional $23 billion. And one of the major “pay-fors” is an increase in federal employee pension contributions. President Obama’s 2014 budget included such a proposal, which would have raised the employee contribution in three stages, from 0.8 percent of salary to 2 percent. Congress had already made this shift for new hires; the Obama proposal would affect all workers hired before 2012.

That proposed increased contribution translated to a 1.2 percent pay cut, and a total of around $20 billion in givebacks over 10 years. Negotiators were pressured by the powerful Maryland Democratic delegation, including Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen and Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, into softening the blow on federal employees, many of whom live in their districts. According to Sen. Murray, the increase in contributions now equals about $6 billion over 10 years. But negotiators traded some of the cuts to federal employee pensions with different cuts to military pensions, also totaling $6 billion. So whatever the occupation, people who work for the government will bear the brunt of the pain.

Read it and weep. Once again, the deficit madness gets pushed to a different segment of the population so the rich may rest in luxury.

Three snowstorms in one week?

What, are we turning into North Dakota?

The cycle of poverty


You see this everywhere you go in the city: Poor people screaming at their kids. And we can’t do a fucking thing about it until we’re willing to spend some money on real support services:

Not legally defined as child abuse, it’s known as harsh or authoritarian parenting. Regardless of race or income level, mothers and fathers everywhere are capable of it.

But low-income parents who struggle with stresses from overwhelming issues such as hunger, or lack of a job or adequate housing, seem to engage in harsh parenting more often, researchers have concluded.

And children in poverty suffer from it in ways science is just beginning to understand.

Harsh parenting unleashes so-called toxic stress in children, researchers say, changing the structure and functionality of their brains, heightening chances for negative behavior, and potentially condemning a child to a life hampered by heart disease, among other maladies.

“This is an incredibly important public-health issue,” said Joan Luby, professor of psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. After studying 145 children over 12 years, she authored an article about the effect of poverty on children’s brains in the journal JAMA Pediatrics in October.

Think of harsh parenting as an agent as destructive as lead poisoning, said Daniel Taylor, a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in North Philadelphia.

Such parenting, often involving “quick ‘do-as-I-say’ orders from Mom or Dad without the buffering effect of a loving, supportive attitude,” causes the release in children of stress hormones such as cortisol that are toxic to developing brains, Taylor said.

One possible consequence is damage to a child’s amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates emotion. The child becomes hyperactive, gets into fights, has attention deficits, and cannot be calm, Taylor said.

Missing a heart

Very strange story:

Family sues U.S. over serviceman’s missing heart (via NewsWorks)

The family of a Chester County Marine who committed suicide is suing the U.S. in Philadelphia court, claiming military authorities returned his remains without the heart and then lied to his parents about it. Sgt. Brian LaLoup, 21, at the time of his…

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Wack and Wackier

This should be colorful!

It was but 20 minutes before the filing deadline to primary Texas Sen. John Cornyn, and Texas Republicans thought the coast was clear. No one of any mettle is going to run against “Big John,” they thought. And when the deadline passed, they were right: No one of any mettle would be running against John Cornyn. Congressman Steve Stockman would be, though! Hoo boy.

This is great principally because Steve Stockman is earth’s funniest person. Come to think of it, he may share that title with another member of the Texas House delegation, Rep. Louie Gohmert, who has declined to challenge Cornyn this cycle. What a shame! They could’ve both run against Cornyn and gotten their asses kicked together, then run off together to start a traveling vaudeville act focusing on physical humor. But no, Stockman will fight Cornyn alone.

The main reason that Cornyn will likely crush Stockman is that Cornyn is already extremely conservative while Stockman is a straight-up clown. OK, that’s not persuasive enough in this day and age of Republican primaries, is it? Fine, then, Stockman will lose because he has no money ($32,000 on hand and much more than that in debt) and Cornyn has a lot ($7 million).

Stockman, who announced his decision first to World Net Daily, explained that he decided to jump into the race because Cornyn didn’t support fellow Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on a procedural vote in the Senate ahead of the government shutdown. (This was when Cruz, for strange parliamentary reasons, was trying to filibuster a vote on the very House bill defunding Obamacare that he had asked be sent over to the Senate.)

Midnight train to Georgia

Gladys & the Pips:

How can you mend a broken heart

The Rev. Al:

Otis Redding died today in 1967

Here’s his set from Monterey:

All I want for Christmas is you

Mariah Carey with her over-the-top performance at Disney World:

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