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The administration came up with exactly the right solution to this problem: The House voted 425-0 on Wednesday to approve a measure that would ensure the Pentagon is able to pay death benefits to the families of U.S. service members kil...
The administration came up with exactly the right solution to this problem: The House voted 425-0 on Wednesday to approve a measure that would ensure the Pentagon is able to pay death benefits to the families of U.S. service members killed in the line of duty. The vote came shortly after the White House said President Obama has instructed the Defense Department to ensure that the roughly $100,000 payouts are made as scheduled when necessary. Around the same time the House passed the bill, though, the legislation became somewhat moot, as the Defense Department announced it had found a donor to pay death benefits until the shutdown is over. In a statement, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said his department is "entering into an agreement with the Fisher House Foundation that will allow the federal government to provide the family members of fallen service members with the full set of benefits they have been promised, including a $100,000 death gratuity payment." The Fisher House Foundation provides temporary housing for the families of loved ones undergoing medical treatment at military and Veterans Affairs hospitals. The Fisher House Foundation had said Tuesday that it would step in and provide the $100,000 benefit to any family members of killed troops who were being denied the money because of the shutdown. The difference now is that the Pentagon has formally agreed to pay back the Foundation after the shutdown ends. The House bill is expected to be ignored by the Senate, because Democrats controlling the chamber have said they are opposed to approving piecemeal short-term spending measures instead of reopening the entire federal government.
about 2 hours ago
Sadly, it's now a rule of thumb that if you see it on 60 Minutes, it's probably not true. We learned early on in this economic Depression that some contracts are more sacred than others. We learned, for instance, how important it was to...
Sadly, it's now a rule of thumb that if you see it on 60 Minutes, it's probably not true. We learned early on in this economic Depression that some contracts are more sacred than others. We learned, for instance, how important it was to honor the $165 million in bonuses promised to AIG employees. (You remember, the same guys who labeled junk mortgage securities as sound investments because they were paid so much money to lie? Good times!) It was all about the rule of law: LARRY SUMMERS: We are a country of law. There are contracts. The government cannot just abrogate contracts. Every legal step possible to limit those bonuses is being taken by Secretary Geithner and by the Federal Reserve system. The government cannot just abrogate contracts. Remember that. ROBERT KUTTNER: You don’t think when the auto workers come in as part of the auto rescue deal, they’re not being asked to abrogate contracts? Of course they are. Let's look at the sanctity of contracts in New Jersey, since blowhard Chris Christie is a presidential hopeful. His administration used accounting tricks to cover a $168 billion pension shortfall. First of all, New Jersey's pension problems came to a head in 1997, during the rein of one Christine Todd Whitman, who cooked up a high-risk scheme to finance tax cuts by refusing to make the state's mandated pension payments from general revenue. Instead, she and state treasurer Brian Clymer floated a $2.75 billion bond issue that would fund the payments. In other words, she and Clymer were gambling that the market would generate enough money to cover their pension obligations, so they could borrow that money right away for tax cuts. (The state paid $23.9 million in bond fees, by the way. Plus interest.) This was a radical idea for the time, and not everyone was thrilled with the plan. The mayor of Edison N.J. filed a lawsuit to stop it. The State Supreme Court refused a stay, saying the point was moot -- but agreed with the plaintiff that the bond authority was merely a legal shell created to get around the state's debt ceiling without putting it to a public vote. Ironic, huh? And of course the inevitable happened: Whitman's pension obligation bonds (and just about every other state's) became a ticking time bomb. From I've read, the Whitman bonds made no payments for the first 12 years and then, during the last 18 years, they were supposed to pay both the deferred interest and the current interest. Whitman assumed that the irrational exuberance of the market would continue to generate high returns -- in other words, the state of New Jersey was looking at a massive balloon payment. And that Republican governors have a gambling problem! Just to make things interesting, average annual returns on the bonds haven't even been enough to cover the interest payments. Let me point out the obvious: This is how politicians have passed the buck for decades, simply because the Reagan years made them so wary of the political fallout from tax increases. See how well that worked out? When a state is in debt and cuts taxes, the cost of the tax cut is actually a loan that taxpayers will pay interest on, sooner or later. And that's the real story of these pension funds. Elected officials gambled the money away, gave copious chunks of the pension funds in inflated fees and kickbacks to Wall Street donors, and spent the mortgage payments on tax cuts to help them get elected. They bet the easy money would keep on flowing, because they forgot the basic law of gambling: The house always wins. This happened in so many states, I can't even keep count. So when a politician starts a'splaining to you that public workers are just greedy, and the health of your state or municipality is dependent on stripping them of their pensions, they're lying. Someone gambled away those pension funds, and in a just world, someone would be going to jail. But we don't punish the people in charge anymore, just the people they screwed.
about 2 hours ago
Wendy MacNaughton is an illustrator and a graphic journalist based in San Francisco. See more writing and illustrations on her website: wendymacnaughton.com. This image is featured in the new book The Best American Infographics 2013, ...
Wendy MacNaughton is an illustrator and a graphic journalist based in San Francisco. See more writing and illustrations on her website: wendymacnaughton.com. This image is featured in the new book The Best American Infographics 2013, written by Gareth Cook, with an introduction by David Byrne. Read more about the book in this article from BrainPickings.org. Follow Wendy on Instagram: www.instagram.com/wendymac Follow Wendy on Tumblr: wendymacnaughton.tumblr.com
about 3 hours ago
Once again, it's Sen. Bernie Sanders out there fighting the good fight and standing up for what's left of our democracy. Sadly we can't say the same for our United States Supreme Court: The Shutdown, the Koch Brothers, the Court and the ...
Once again, it's Sen. Bernie Sanders out there fighting the good fight and standing up for what's left of our democracy. Sadly we can't say the same for our United States Supreme Court: The Shutdown, the Koch Brothers, the Court and the Tea Party: The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard a case that could give the wealthy an even bigger role in American elections. Sen. Bernie Sanders sat in on the oral arguments in McCutcheon vs. FEC, the case that the court could use to further erode campaign finance laws and extend its controversial 2010 Citizens United ruling which opened the floodgates on campaign spending by corporations and wealthy individuals. “Freedom of speech, in my view, does not mean the freedom to buy the United States government,” Sanders told a rally outside the Supreme Court after the one-hour oral argument. Taking advantage of the Citizens United ruling, the billionaires Charles and David Koch and other wealthy individuals have provided financial backing for the movement that forced a now week-old government shutdown, according to The New York Times. Some House Republicans, Sanders said, have gone along with their party’s right-wing Tea Party wing to fend off well-funded primary challenges. “We are living in a society where a handful of people with incredible sums of money like the Koch brothers and others, are undermining what this democracy is supposed to be about,” Sanders said. “Right now, as we speak, in the House of Representatives there are people who are being threatened that if they vote for a clean CR [continuing resolution to reopen the government] that huge sums of money will be spent against them in the next election,” Sanders said. At issue in the new case is a limit on how much donors may give to all candidates and political organizations during a two-year federal election cycle. The cap now is $123,200. That includes a separate $48,600 limit on contributions to individual candidates during 2013 and 2014. A separate $2,600 limit on how much one individual may give to any specific candidate for Congress in any election is not directly at stake in this case. Sanders said the court’s previous ruling in Citizens United resulted in a record $7 billion being spent in the 2012 election cycle, including at least $400 million by the Koch brothers alone. Sanders has proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn that ruling. His amendment and a companion measure in the House by Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida would make it clear that the right to vote and the ability to make campaign contributions and expenditures belong only to real people. The amendment would effectively prevent corporations from bankrolling election campaigns. Congress and states would have specific authority to regulate campaign finances by, for example, limiting donations, requiring disclosure of donors or creating public-financing systems for campaigns. [...] To read the constitutional amendment, click here. For a fact sheet on the amendment, click here. Here's more from PoliticusUSA: Bernie Sanders Storms The Supreme Court to Stop the Koch Brothers Theft of Democracy: At a rally outside the Supreme Court, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took on the Koch brothers and said, “Freedom of speech does not equal freedom to buy the United States government.” Sen. Sanders said, In the long history of our country people have fought and died for democracy. Democracy means one person, one vote. The fact that all of us have the opportunity to be involved in the political process to stand up for what we believe in. Three years ago, or so the Supreme Court decided that corporations are people. They decided that through independent expenditures billionaires could spend unlimited sums of money to impact elections. Let me say one word to you right now about how relevant that is. As all of you know, the government of the United States shut down. Hundreds of thousands of workers are suffering, millions of people are not getting the services
about 3 hours ago
The minute anyone says the government shutdown is the fault of the Democrats in Congress and President Obama, please show them this video where Speaker of the House, John Boehner takes absolute 100% responsibility for what is now the wor...
The minute anyone says the government shutdown is the fault of the Democrats in Congress and President Obama, please show them this video where Speaker of the House, John Boehner takes absolute 100% responsibility for what is now the worst attack on America's government in the history of our Nation. On the October 6th edition of This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Boehner said: (referring to the shutdown) "The threat of Obamacare was so important, it was time for us to take a stand. And we took a stand." This "stand" that the Republicans have taken is going to have devastating consequences on the economy, children with cancer will not receive state of the art treatment options, injured soldiers will not be receiving treatment or benefits, the FDA has begun to stop food inspection, the CDC has stopped giving out life saving flu vaccines. People are going to die. People are going to lose fortunes. The only good thing that will come out of this disaster is that plenty of Republican members of congress will be looking for new jobs come 2014. Jon Hotchkiss is the creator of the new science series, This vs That. Please like his FACEBOOK PAGE so he can stay in touch. Thank you.
about 3 hours ago
Eight Democratic members of Congress joined with activists on Tuesday to block a street in view of the Capitol, an attempt to reignite immigration reform efforts that have stalled out in the House. Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Civil rig...
Eight Democratic members of Congress joined with activists on Tuesday to block a street in view of the Capitol, an attempt to reignite immigration reform efforts that have stalled out in the House. Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Civil rights veteran John Lewis (D-GA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Al Green (D-TX), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) participated in the protest. More than 200 people were arrested in total, including faith leaders, members of advocacy groups and other activists. The “civil disobedience” was part of the “Camino Americano Rally and March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect” and it was also designed to send a message to House Speaker John Boehner and Republican leaders to bring immigration up for a vote. “We know the votes are there,” Gutierrez said at the rally. “They know the power of our vote, they know the popularity of immigration reform, they know the hunger and passion in our community, and yet we still have not seen immigration reform signed into law by the President because other Republicans are holding it up.” Approximately 15,000 people took part in the rally on the National Mall. Rangel was seen giving a thumbs up as he was being handcuffed. This wasn’t Lewis’ first, or even his second time arrested. According to his office, it is at least the 45th time. The congressman was arrested more than 40 times alone during the Civil Rights movement, and five times as a member of Congress. “He was arrested twice at the South African embassy protesting apartheid, twice at the Embassy of the Sudan protesting genocide in Darfur and today he was arrested to demand dignity and respect for immigrants,” Lewis spokewoman Brenda Jones said in a statement. The arrests mark the third major act of civil disobedience by immigration reform advocates in the past few months. The first one was held Aug. 1 and the last one mid-September. In all three cases, police were prepared to make arrests. According to U.S. Capitol Police, the members of congress and others arrested, will be charged with “crowding, obstructing, and incommoding.” Gutierrez pledged in a speech to “lock arms with my colleagues and go to jail today for the father who was deported and cannot see his children, see them grow up, and see them prosper in the United States, the country of their birth.”
about 4 hours ago
In light of last night's documentary League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis, we felt it was important to revisit the statements NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the other week to Fox Sports broadcaster John Lynch concerning the...
In light of last night's documentary League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis, we felt it was important to revisit the statements NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the other week to Fox Sports broadcaster John Lynch concerning the proposed settlement of the players' class action lawsuit. Those statements and the NFL's longstanding unequivocal rejection of any relationship between concussions and brain trauma are an outrage and disrespectful to all those players whose lives have been devastated. Goddell's disingenuous portrayal of the league's concern about the health and safety of the players is incredible at best. His assertion that the league has been forthcoming with medical information as it has become available, defies credulity. Goodell's unbelievable contention that the league has acted in good faith and has not misled the players, flies in the face of reality. Over the years, the NFL has staunchly refused to acknowledge the accumulating body of impartial, documented, medical evidence underscoring the risk of permanent brain damage from repeated blows to the head. For over 40 years, many prestigious and well-recognized medical groups have steadfastly maintained that concussions are brain injuries. The NFL, however, sought to hide behind the veil of inaccurate statements made by its own Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Safety Committee, which was formed in 1994. Chaired by an unqualified leader, it promulgated reports deliberately designed to mislead the players and the public. Twenty-five years later, during Congressional hearings, the Committee and league representatives continued to deny the connection between football and brain trauma. The conspiracy between the league and its physicians is tantamount to a pattern of civil racketeering, intended to deprive injured players disability benefits, medical care, and rehabilitation treatment. Thus, Goodell's pronouncement that if the litigation were to proceed it would reveal nothing contradictory to the NFL's position is directly inconsistent with its prior and long-standing position that there is no connection between football and brain damage. In deflecting a question about whether this was a victory for the league, Commissioner Goodell claimed the settlement was good for the players. He was insistent that "no presumption of guilt" can be implied, despite the mounting numbers of brain-damaged players. The cloak of secrecy surrounding this settlement insures that no one will ever know what the league knew or for how long. This was indeed a major victory for the league, but a travesty for the players. Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity to provide meaningful protection and redress for past, present, and future players. The devil is in the details, which remain secret. If it is such a benefit to the players wouldn't it also be valuable to reveal those terms? The gross settlement proceeds will not provide meaningful financial compensation to the vast majority of players who have suffered and will continue to suffer the lifelong consequences of brain trauma. The settlement excludes players who died from their brain injuries before 2006 and only provides compensation to players diagnosed with "severe cognitive impairment." A "mild" brain injury is only mild if it is someone else's brain, and those players are also excluded from this settlement. The settlement does not provide lifelong reimbursement of medical or rehabilitation care. Are the settlement proceeds intended to compensate players for their cognitive, emotional and behavioral deficits that will plague them for the remainder of their lives, or for necessary medical treatment? The brains of these players will not spontaneously and miraculously recover. Further, to be effective, the recently enacted safety rules must be enforced by significant penalties not only on players who violate the rules, but more significantly on teams and coaches who implicitly condone barbaric behavior. I
about 4 hours ago
It's quite a week in Washington, D.C. House Speaker John Boehner kicked off the week by threatening to destroy the global economy if President Obama does not give in to Tea Party demands. The shutdown of the federal government, planned ...
It's quite a week in Washington, D.C. House Speaker John Boehner kicked off the week by threatening to destroy the global economy if President Obama does not give in to Tea Party demands. The shutdown of the federal government, planned and engineered by anti-government extremists in Congress and their billionaire backers, continues. And the Supreme Court started a term in which conservatives on the Court could further gut campaign finance laws, restrict women's access to abortion, undermine fair housing and educational opportunity, and weaken separation of church and state. In other words, it's the perfect week for the Values Voter Summit, the annual event at which thousands of Religious Right activists have a chance to rub shoulders with the movement's leaders and the Republican politicians who court them. The summit's lead sponsor, the Family Research Council, has asked its supporters to pray, "May God cause this years [sic] VVS to have a profound impact in informing Christian and conservative leaders, and in shaping the 2014 elections for righteousness!" People For the American Way has joined the Southern Poverty Law Center, Faithful America, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza in urging public officials not to participate in the festival of extremism, but experience indicates that the chance to preen before these super-motivated right-wing activists is impossible for many Republican politicos to pass up. The schedule gives you a pretty good sense of what the Values Voter Summit will be like: the first four speakers are senators from the Tea Party wing of the GOP: Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz. Of course, that's after the pre-event breakfast, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition," a panel on gun rights. (No, you are not reading The Onion.) Current and former Republican House members scheduled to speak on Friday are all Tea Partiers: Allen West, Jim Bridenstine (Okla.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Jim Jordan (Ohio), and Steve Scalise (La.) The Values Voter Summit makes clear how completely the Religious Right's leaders are working to merge their activists' anti-abortion and anti-gay zeal with the anti-government extremism of the Tea Party. Actually, it goes beyond that. Movement leaders are trying to give the Tea Party's agenda a biblical foundation. A couple of weeks ago, for example, Family Research Council spokesman Ken Blackwell said that there is "nothing more Christian" than throwing millions of low-income families off food stamps. The Tea Party - Religious Right convergence is also evident on a panel called "Where do we go from here: Challenging Tyranny," whose speakers include FRC's Ken Blackwell and Dean Clancy of the Koch-funded FreedomWorks. The Family Research Council has been leading cheers for Ted Cruz, the shutdown Svengali. Cruz appeared on Perkins' radio show last week for a fawning interview in which Cruz blamed President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the shutdown and accused Democratic leaders of holding veterans hostage. For his part, Perkins called Obamacare a "government takeover of health care" and a "lurch toward socialism" and said there is nothing more important than stopping it. Perkins even portrayed the government shutdown as a reason to attend VVS, because there won't be as much traffic on the streets. Perkins recently sent out a fundraising letter in which he called on Congress to use both the government funding bill and the looming debt limit deadline to force through limits on the Obama administration's requirement that insurance plans cover contraception. He is also promoting the dangerous idea being floated by Tea Party Republicans that failure to increase the debt ceiling is no big problem. Of course, if you're an old-school Religious Right activist who is really motivated by hostility to legal equality for LGBT people, the Values Voter Summit will have plenty of anti-gayness
about 4 hours ago
Click here to view this media A Georgia congressman who is running for Senate said on Tuesday that he was fighting to delay, defund and repeal President Barack Obama's health care reform law because it would literally "destroy everything...
Click here to view this media A Georgia congressman who is running for Senate said on Tuesday that he was fighting to delay, defund and repeal President Barack Obama's health care reform law because it would literally "destroy everything we know as a nation." In an interview with CNN, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) told host Wolf Blitzer that he supported the government shutdown if it would help put an end to what he called "the flaw of the land." "We need to defund it, we need to delay it, we need to put it on the shelf and stop this implementation because it is destroying our economy," he opined. When it came to the upcoming fight to raise the nation's debt ceiling, Paul had a simple condition: amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget, a process that would take years. "So, you're not demanding any concessions on Obamacare in order to raise the debt ceiling?" Blitzer asked. "Well, Obamacare must go," Broun replied. "It's destroying America.... Wolf, I want to get the American people the relief that they need from this out-of-control spending, and I'll do everything that I possibly can do to do that." "And Obamacare is going to destroy everything we know as a nation," he added. "Wolf, I'm a doctor. I'm a medical doctor!" The CNN host pointed out that Broun had recently said something very similar to the National Review, telling them that the "law is going to destroy America and everything in America, and we need to stop it." "Are you going to stand by all those pretty extreme words?" Blitzer pressed. "Well, I've already told you, today, Obamacare is already destroying job creation, it's already hurting our economy," Broun insisted. "It's already destroying jobs, it's going to destroy our liberty, it's going to destroy everything." "It's going to push us into a total economic collapse of America. And that's exactly what I mean by it's going to destroy America." "Alright," Blitzer sighed.
about 5 hours ago
about 5 hours ago