Standard and Poor’s is warning that it may downgrade the United States’ credit rating -- again. After downgrading our national credit, the firm said they are not seeing “any good evidence that there is more cooperation between the two parties than there was in 2011, nor that the American policymaking system as a whole is any more effective, stable, and predictable than it was in 2011 based on the latest debate.”
From this article at The Daily Kos (bolding added for emphasis):
The Senate began its process of amending the farm bill this afternoon. Fom what I can tell from the Senate website, as of now, three amendments have received a vote so far:
--Sen. Maria Cantwell's (D-WA) amendment "to allow Indian tribes to participate in certain soil and water conservation programs"passed 87-8. The eight "No" votes were all Republicans: John Cornyn (TX), Ted Cruz (TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Mike Lee (R-WY), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).
--Sen. Pat Roberts's (R-KS) amendment to cut an additional $12 billion from the supplemental food assistance program (SNAP, or food stamps) failed 58-40. Three Republicans broke party lines against it: Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Roger Wicker (MS).
--However, the amendment on which I would like to focus attention here is that of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Gillibrand proposed to restore the $4 billion that the current farm bill--designed by Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS)--cuts from SNAP (Supplemental Food Assistance, known as food stamps--as I indicated above) and to offset this restored funding with a limitation on crop insurance reimbursements. Our current crop insurance subsidies benefit large farms at the expense of smaller ones and are one of the many glaring manifestations of corporate welfare that Congress never fixes. Gillibrand's amendment would, in essence, cut corporate welfare spending to restore social welfare spending. Did this progressive proposal pass? Not even close. It failed 26-70: not even a majority of Democrats voted for it.
Which Democrats voted against restoring food stamps--voting against veterans, children, seniors, and struggling to get by?
And that's when we find out that yes, as a matter of fact, our own Senator McCaskill voted against it.
I'm not saying absolutely here that she and all the Democrats who voted against it shouldn't have, necessarily. I'd just like a good, intelligent, honest answer why they did.
This seems as thought it was a vote FOR the common worker AND would have been against corporate welfare.
What was not to like? Then, coincidentally, I saw this New York Times editorial piece today:
It's insane, it's unfair, it's irresponsible on their part and it's even downright, truly immoral, even if it is legal, since they buy this kind of legislation from our government representatives with their "campaign contributions", which also need to be outlawed but that's a story for another day.
How do you take profits from and access the markets of a nation and then not pay anything back into it, so, well, let's see, that same nation can have good to great infrastructure like roads and schools and highways and sewage treatment, etc., etc. SO YOU CAN KEEP MAKING A PROFIT?
Forget about patriotism for a minute, how about paying some taxes so the whole thing functions and continues to function and it stays afloat?
Now, today, Apple, Inc., is shown to be doing the same thing:
Apple CEO Tim Cook appears today before a U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that's charging Apple with using had a web of offshore entities to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes. Apple has $102 billion in offshore accounts and shifted billions of dollars in profits out of the U.S. into affiliates based in Ireland where it negotiated a tax rate of less than 2 percent, according to the panel’s report. But Cook won't apologize today. Quite the contrary. In prepared remarks already distributed to the media, he and Apple have the chutzpah to recommend lower corporate tax rates on foreign earnings, in order to encourage companies to bring cash back to the U.S. and not “undermine U.S. competitiveness.”
This is exactly the same argument being used by Google, Amazon, GE, and every other major corporation that's hiding its income abroad. It's the same argument they're using here in the UK. They couldn't care less about U.S. competitiveness, or British competitiveness, or the competitiveness of any other nation. Their only interest is shrinking their corporate taxes, reducing their costs, and making the most money they possibly can. I don't blame them: That's what corporations are supposed to do. But to dress this up as anything else is a sham."
--Robert Reich, Economist, Columnist for the NY Times, Professor, Writer, etc.
Don't get me wrong, here, either. I don't for a moment think these are the only two firms doing this, far from it. I just think these are two of the worst, most egregious examples of this national theft and greed.
What I think we need to do, as a nation, and I've said this before, is to, first, make offshoring profits illegal because as crazy and destructive as all this is, it's quite legal in our country to do this, to offshore profits, however unpatriotic and even, possibly, I think it can be argued, treasonous. Then, second, put into place a minimum, say, 10% base tax all companies and corporations and even the wealthy must pay for both having access to our markets but also so we can help pay for the infrastructure that makes their company's profits possible in the first place.
This whole magical, wonderful thing we call the United States of America can't operate, obviously, without good roads and highways and sewage treatment plants and airports and schools, etc., as we all know.
It's not much to ask and it's the only way we can keep this whole thing running.
Oh, and again, it should and would also be patriotic.
At least, with all this sudden pressure on Apple lately, it apparently brought out the following result, just announced within the last few hours:
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the only way, the only way companies and executives of them are going to be brought around to any good change for this country. That is, we have to keep the pressure on them to do the right thing, the moral thing and not just what is legal.
Yessirree, Bob, none other than our own Missouri Senator Roy Blunt was on the best late-night talk show there is last night. The only trouble is--for the Senator, anyway--it wasn't in person and it wasn't good for him.
For those who don't know, Dave does a segment called "Stooge of the Night" wherein Dave lampoons the Senators who voted against the weapons background checks last month, even though their constituents poll solidly for it. The fact is, 85% of Missourians are for background checks but our Senator voted against them.
An example, in case you've never seen one and is, coincidentally, about next-door-neighbor in Arkansas' Senator John Boozman:
As soon as CBS posts it, I'll put it here, likely.
For now, here is a link to more "Stooge of the Night" segments:
It’s one of the few cities where hotel priceshave stayed the same or even dropped in the past year (the average summer rate is $137, according to Kayak). Sightseeing also remains a great value: you’ll get in free at three of Kansas City’s main art museums, as well as two fun factory-style tours (the Hallmark Visitors Center and the Boulevard Brewing Company). The savings continue at dinnertime. KC won the survey for its budget-minded, slow-smoked barbecue: a classic “burnt ends” sandwich at Danny Edwards’ Boulevard BBQ is just $5.99. So kudos, Kansas City. If anything, let's just make it better. Link to the Star's coverage of it:Travel + Leisure ranks KC as nation's most affordable getaway
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/05/21/4246261/kansas-city-offers-nations-most.html#storylink=cpy
Honoré de Balzac (French pronunciation: [ɔ.nɔ.ʁe d(ə) bal.zak]; 20 May 1799 – 18 August 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon. Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multifaceted characters, who are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Benito Pérez Galdós, Marie Corelli, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Many of Balzac's works have been made into or have inspired films, and they are a continuing source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and critics. An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was an apprentice in a law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience. Balzac suffered from health problems throughout his life, possibly due to his intense writing schedule. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal difficulties, and he ended several friendships over critical reviews. In 1850 he married Ewelina Hańska, his longtime love; he died five months later.
The Koch brothers got more bad news over the weekend as the Missouri legislature joined the growing list of states to reject the Koch's proposal to weaken or eliminate state standards requiring the use of renewable energy sources.
Already Kansas, North Carolina, Colorado and New York have voted to keep or -- in the case of Colorado -- strengthen their renewable energy standards. However, there are proposals in another dozen states still being considered, so now is not the time to relax.
Working through a lobbying front group called the American Legal Exchange Council, the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry have proposed laws for more than a dozen states that would reverse the movement toward renewable energy.
Renewable energy standards have been passed in many to require public utilities to use a specific percentage of renewable energy sources to produce power. Most of those standards are being phased in over the next decade.
The people ARE standing up and doing the right thing, even in the state legislature.
"...Presidents universally take credit when the economy does well (such as Reagan,) and choose to blame other factors when the economy does poorly (such as Carter.) But there was a clear pattern, and link, between policy and financial market performance.
Although we hear almost no one in the Obama administration taking credit for record index highs, they should. Because the President deserves attention for how well this economy has done during his leadership.
The auto rescue plan has worked. American car manufacturers are still dominant and employing millions directly and in supplier companies. Wall Street reform has been painful but it has re-instated faith amongst investors. The markets are far more predictable than they were four years ago, as VIX numbers demonstrate greater faith and less risk.
Even for small investors, such as thoughs limited to their 401(k) or IRA investments, the average annual compound return on stocks under President Obama has been more than 24% since the lows of March, 2009. This is a better result than either Clinton, Reagan or FDR – who were the prior winners in our book.
To which, we have only one thing to say to the Republicans, the Right Wingers, the Neoconservatives and all the haters out there:
HASKELL COUNTY, Kan. — Forty-nine years ago, Ashley Yost’s grandfather sank a well deep into a half-mile square of rich Kansas farmland. He struck an artery of water so prodigious that he could pump 1,600 gallons to the surface every minute.
Last year, Mr. Yost was coaxing just 300 gallons from the earth, and pumping up sand in order to do it. By harvest time, the grit had robbed him of $20,000 worth of pumps and any hope of returning to the bumper harvests of years past.
“That’s prime land,” he said not long ago, gesturing from his pickup at the stubby remains of last year’s crop. “I’ve raised 294 bushels of corn an acre there before, with water and the Lord’s help.” Now, he said, “it’s over.”
...Vast stretches of Texas farmland lying over the aquifer no longer support irrigation. In west-central Kansas, up to a fifth of the irrigated farmland along a 100-mile swath of the aquifer has already gone dry. In many other places, there no longer is enough water to supply farmers’ peak needs during Kansas’ scorching summers.
And when the groundwater runs out, it is gone for good. Refilling the aquifer would require hundreds, if not thousands, of years of rains.
This is in many ways a slow-motion crisis — decades in the making, imminent for some, years or decades away for others, hitting one farm but leaving an adjacent one untouched. But across the rolling plains and tarmac-flat farmland near the Kansas-Colorado border, the effects of depletion are evident everywhere. Highway bridges span arid stream beds. Most of the creeks and rivers that once veined the land have dried up as 60 years of pumping have pulled groundwater levels down by scores and even hundreds of feet.
On some farms, big center-pivot irrigators — the spindly rigs that create the emerald circles of cropland familiar to anyone flying over the region — now are watering only a half-circle. On others, they sit idle altogether.
Two years of extreme drought, during which farmers relied almost completely on groundwater, have brought the seriousness of the problem home. In 2011 and 2012, the Kansas Geological Survey reports, the average water level in the state’s portion of the aquifer dropped 4.25 feet — nearly a third of the total decline since 1996.
And that is merely the average. “I know my staff went out and re-measured a couple of wells because they couldn’t believe it,” said Lane Letourneau, a manager at the State Agriculture Department’s water resources division. “There was a 30-foot decline.”
And as it says above, we see this coming and we've seen it coming. There have been warnings. We can't go on like this forever. It isn't, it wasn't sustainable. We can't just take and take and take.
Something's got to change.
What has struck me most about our current situation, both about drought and the 2008 financial crisis, the worst in 80 years, since the Great Depression, is that it is, in those two ways--the financial crisis and drought--so very much like those years, the 30's. That is, people hurt by both the financial crisis and the drought.
In the case of the Depression, it was all man-made.
Turns out, really, it could be argued this one is, too. As if that isn't enough, Robert Reich, writing from Europe today, posts the following on Facebook: At a time when you'd expect nations to band together to gain bargaining power against global capital, the opposite is occurring: Xenophobia is breaking out all over.
Here in Britain, the UK Independence Party -- which wants to get out of the European Union -- is rapidly gaining ground, becoming the third most popular party in the country, according to a new poll for The Independent on Sunday. Almost one in five people plan to vote for it in the next general election. Ukip's overall ratings have risen four points to 19 per cent in the past month, despite Prime Minister David Cameron's efforts to wrest back control of the crucial debate over Britain's relationship with the European Union. Right-wing nationalist parties are gaining ground elsewhere in Europe as well. In the U.S., not only are Republicans sounding more nationalistic of late (anti-immigrant, anti-trade), but they continue to push "states rights" -- as states increasingly battle against one another to give global companies ever larger tax breaks and subsidies. WWIII, anybody? One last thing from Facebook today that wraps this all up:
It seems certain executives in Washington would still be getting bonuses--large ones--even now, what with this sequestration in effect, supposedly cutting budgets of our federal government.
What the heck, right?
People are being laid off in all kinds of offices and work but another already-well-paid group gets bonuses?
Does that make any sense?
So what one Senator rides in and proposes to right this wrong?
You got it, our very own Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill:
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) speaks during a press conference in May, 2011. McCaskill introduced a bill Friday that would eliminate bonuses for members of the Senior Executive Service during sequestration. (Photo:Geoff Holtzman / Talk Radio News Service)
Washington - An elite group of federal employees is set to receive cash bonuses despite this year’s automatic budget cuts, according to a report that a Senate subcommittee issued Friday.
The report revealed that members of the government’s highly paid Senior Executive Service - who make up less than 1 percent of the federal workforce - had received more than $340 million in bonuses from 2008 through 2011. The bonuses came on top of annual salaries that ranged from $119,000 to $179,000.
In a process known as sequestration, $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts took effect March 1, forcing the government to slash services and furlough workers. A month later, the Obama administration froze bonuses for the vast majority of federal workers.
But by law, agencies still must pay bonuses to Senior Executive Service employees who meet certain performance criteria, the report said.
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, introduced a bill Friday that would eliminate bonuses for members of the Senior Executive Service during sequestration. McCaskill leads the Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, which produced the report.
“The idea that some of the highest-paid federal government employees could be getting bonuses while others are being furloughed is outrageous,” McCaskill said in a statement. “This legislation will ensure that doesn’t happen.”
Senator Claire McCaskill.
You go, girl.
(And who's that other Senator we're supposed to also have? What's his name? And what's he do?)
One reason the left plays down the growing skills-based gap is that it accepts at face value the conservative claim that educational failure is its root cause. But the decline of labor unions is just as important. At one time union membership was highly effective at reducing or eliminating the wage gap between college and high school graduates. That’s much less true today. Only about 7 percent of the private-sector labor force is covered by union contracts, about the same proportion as before the New Deal. Six decades ago it was nearly 40 percent.
The decline of labor unions is what connects the skills-based gap to the 1 percent-based gap. Although conservatives often insist that the 1 percent’s richesse doesn’t come out of the pockets of the 99 percent, that assertion ignores the fact that labor’s share of gross domestic product is shrinking while capital’s share is growing. Since 1979, except for a brief period during the tech boom of the late 1990s, labor’s share of corporate income has fallen. Pension funds have blurred somewhat the venerable distinction between capital and labor. But that’s easy to exaggerate, since only about one-sixth of all households own stocks whose value exceeds $7,000. According to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, the G.D.P. shift from labor to capital explains fully one-third of the 1 percent’s run-up in its share of national income. It couldn’t have happened if private-sector unionism had remained strong.
Reviving labor unions is, sadly, anathema to the right; even many mainstream liberals resist the idea. But if economic growth depends on rewarding effort, we should all worry that the middle classes aren’t getting pay increases commensurate with the wealth they create for their bosses. Bosses aren’t going to fix this problem. That’s the job of unions, and finding ways to rebuild them is liberalism’s most challenging task. A bipartisan effort to revive the labor movement is hardly likely, but halting inequality’s growth will depend, at the very least, on liberals and conservatives better understanding each other’s definition of where the problem lies.
--Timothy Noah, author of "The Great Divergence: America's Growing Inequality and What We Can Do About It"
The Great Divide is a series on inequality — the haves, the have-nots and everyone in between — in the United States and around the world, and its implications for economics, politics, society and culture. The series moderator is Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a Columbia professor and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist for the World Bank.
"I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being, first and foremost, and as such, I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole."
Malcolm X was far brighter and far more right, more correct than most of the establishment wanted to give him credit at the time--at least publicly--without doubt.
Most white people then and even far too many to this day have no idea what black people in this nation have gone through nor still go through to this day.
And they don't care to know, either, most of them.
Could we stop saying the other political side "Hates America"? Please? It's nonsense. It's untrue. It's patently untrue. It's downright stupid.
That other political party, whichever one being referred to "loves America" just as much as any one person or any one group. To say otherwise is just patent silliness or irresponsibility or something but it serves no good whatever.
I've heard it from Left Wingers, Right Wingers, Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats and far too many sources.
It gets old. It's gotten very tiresome. It serves no good purpose, too. It gets us nowhere.
That "other political party", again, whoever you're referring to, understands America and things differently, likely vastly differently than you but the fact is, we're all Americans and we all want good things for our country.
The problems arise because, first of all, we don't talk to one another, second, we get emotional and let that get in the way, third, we don't want to listen to the other side and finally, we haven't been good at working at compromises any longer, for all the above reasons.
Let's get to work. All of us. Together. For the betterment of the country.
Literally that, notes on tonight's near-record Powerball jackpot prize drawing:
1) If you were one of 175,223,510 people (you can't imagine that many), standing, say, in the middle of them, and a mile up someone with a paper airplane was to gently push it out over that crowd, that's how likely it is you'd get the jackpot prize;
2) If we must have lotteries for millions--and apparently we must--someone needs to set one up where each winner wins, at most, 1 million dollars. It would spread the prize out over the region and state and nation and do far more good for far more people and it would be greatly less likely to mess people up with such large sums. Could you imagine if 600 people tonight each won $1 million, spread out equally over the entire country? It would do a nation of good, in not a world;
3) If no one wins tonight, it will get perilously close to 1 billion dollars for a jackpot prize Wednesday evening.
4) If one person only wins this second-largest-ever jackpot prize, it will likely--very likely--screw them up.
That said, when it comes to lots of money, I defer to Mark Twain's quote: "I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position."
And Dorothy Parker's:
“I don't know much about being a millionaire, but I'll bet I'd be darling at it.” Good luck campers and have a great weekend.
Jeremy Irons sets out to discover the extent and effects of the global waste problem, as he travels around the world to beautiful destinations tainted by pollution. This is a meticulous, brave investigative journey that takes Irons (and us) from skepticism to sorrow and from horror to hope. Link:Trashed (2012) - IMDb
We will have volunteers out this weekend at the Cosentinos and/or Price Chopper in Brookside collecting signatures if you would like to sign. If you would like to help and take a shift collecting signatures even better! To sign you must be a registered voter in Kansas City, MO. If you want to volunteer it doesn’t matter where you live, your help is needed and appreciated. To volunteer for this weekend or any other shift please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and our volunteer coordinator will get back with you.
That phony, bogus, trumped-up IRS scandal that's going around right now by the Republicans and "All Who Hate Obama"?
That's just what it is, phony.
George W. Bush had just the same situation and his administration went after far more groups, too.
And forget that this same IRS, now, also went after Liberal groups. Sure, forget or ignore that.
Here's the real IRS, America--it's companies not paying taxes, period and cheating you and I:
Another aspect of the real tax scandal that's being ignored: Google, Amazon, Starbucks, every other major corporation, and every big Wall Street bank, are sheltering as much of their U.S. profits abroad as they can, while telling Washington that lower corporate taxes are necessary in order to keep the U.S. "competitive." Baloney. The fact is, global corporations have no allegiance to any country; their only objective is to make as much money as possible -- and play off one country against another to keep their taxes down and subsidies up.
I'm in London for a few days, and all the talk here is about how Goldman Sachs just negotiated a sweetheart deal to settle a tax dispute with the British government; Google is manipulating its British sales to pay almost no taxes here by using its low-tax Ireland subsidiary (the chair of the Parliamentary committee investigating this has just called the do-no-evil firm "devious, calculating, and unethical"); Amazon has been found to route its British sales through a subsidiary in low-tax Luxembourg, and now receives more in subsidies from the British government than it pays here in taxes; Starbucks' tax-avoidance strategy was so blatant British consumers began boycotting the firm until it reversed course.
As global capital becomes ever more powerful, giant corporations are holding governments up for ransom -- eliciting subsidies and tax breaks from governments concerned about their nation's "competitiveness" -- while sheltering their profits in the lowest-tax jurisdictions they can find. Major advanced countries need a comprehensive tax agreement that won't allow global corporations to get away with this." --Robert Reich, economist, author, professor, columnist for The New York Times The least corporations and the wealthy could do--the least--is pay some minimum amount, say, 10% of profits, at least, no matter what other deductions they take so we can pay, as a nation, for our schools and infrastructure and so they can have access to our markets. But that would make sense. Links:
A soldier from Liberty, Mo., died this week in Afghanistan after drowning while attempting to cross a body of water during combat operations, the defense department announced Friday.
Sgt. 1st Class Trenton L. Rhea, 33, drowned Wednesday in Kandahar. He served with the 200th Military Police Command, U.S. Army Reserve, in Belton, Mo.
Rhea was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He had previously served a tour in Iraq and at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
He is survived by a wife, Leah, and three daughters.
He grew up in the small western Kansas town of Oakley.
Now, what should happen, what hopefully will happen, is that someone down at our local newspaper will get inspired and realize this is a story they should cover. Up to this point, for that matter, all they did was take a story off the AP wire, from the Wichita Eagle Beacon, and repaste.
This is a story right in our own back yard coming, as it does, out of Kansas and now Missouri, nearby Liberty, for one thing.
Second, we're right here, in May, virtually right on top of Memorial Day. The timing is right for that reason, too.
Third, I don't believe they've done any local stories on any soldiers from Missouri or Kansas in these wars for quite some time, if they ever did one.
Fourth, look at all this soldier has been through and done. He was from Liberty, he was out of the Army Reserve in Belton, he had been in Iraq and at Guantanamo and served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. If anyone's life might tell what we've been doing out across the world for the past decade, it looks as if this soldier's story would.
Finally, the fact that he leaves a wife and three daughters deserves this story be told, if they, the family, would and will allow.
I hope they would and I hope the Star does it.
I don't think enough of us here in America know what our soldiers have done and are doing for our country. This might just be the perfect time and place to tell one of those stories.