You are browsing the archive for 2013 October 16.

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The GOP Has Surrendered for Now — But It Will Try More Extortion Soon and Dems Have to be Strong

October 16, 2013 in Blogs

By Joan Walsh, Salon

Democrats humbled the GOP this round, but they can't hand them what they want in the next.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that Democrats shouldn’t spike the football or dance in the end zone once they succeed in lifting the debt ceiling and reopening government, because decorum. Or something. It would be bad taste and it might even make Republicans crazier. That’s a real risk. I would have denied that crazier than this was possible a few months ago, but I’ve learned: Never bet against their capacity for crazy.

Still, part of me disagrees with that assessment, strongly. I think Democrats should do whatever is necessary to make clear to Republicans that this was a political disaster for them, and a genuine disaster for the country, and it should never be tried again. If humiliation would do that, I’m all for it.

On the other hand, it’s a mistake for Democrats, liberals especially, to celebrate this deal – because we can still lose.

Let’s be clear: Republicans got something for their bad behavior: tougher income verification requirements for Affordable Care Act subsidies, and a shorter debt-ceiling hike than Democrats said they wanted. And Republicans gave…nothing. They merely did their jobs and reopened the government and averted a global economic disaster. They put down the gun, and they released the hostage. That’s all.

They’re also getting a promise of formal negotiations over the budget. Now that should happen anyway, so that’s not a big deal. But Democrats have spent the last month on GOP turf: conceding that they must talk about deficit reduction, with pious nods to Saints Simpson and Bowles and now, yuck, Blessed Leon Panetta — and that they’re open to everything. And most of them mean it.

I just watched Sen. Chuck Schumer tell MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that once this deal is out of the way, Congress will resume budget negotiations, and everything, including so-called “entitlements,” must be on the table. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was a little bit more balanced, insisting Democrats should only look at entitlement cuts in exchange for more revenues from people who can …read more


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Building Dedication Ceremony for Second Medical Marijuana Alternative Treatment Center this Friday in Egg Harbor

October 16, 2013 in PERSONAL LIBERTY

By drosenfeld

Compassionate Care Foundation to Name Dispensary in Honor of Late Medical Marijuana Advocate Diane Riportella

EGG HARBOR—This Friday, October 18th, Compassionate Care Foundation will hold a ceremony to dedicate its soon-to-open medical marijuana dispensary to Diane Riportella, a medical marijuana advocate who lost her battle with ALS last year. Officiating the ceremony will be William Thomas, CEO of Compassionate Care, and Paul Riportella, Diane’s husband. The dispensary is located at 100 Century Drive in Egg Harbor Township.

October 16, 2013

Drug Policy Alliance

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Senate Leaders Strike Deal to Raise Debt and End Government Shutdown

October 16, 2013 in Blogs

By Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Senate majority leader Harry Reid announces compromise. Republicans concede defeat.


Republican leaders conceded defeat in their two-week battle to derail Barack Obama's healthcare reforms on Wednesday, agreeing to a series of votes that were likely to re-open the government and avert a looming debt default.

With just hours until a deadline set by the US Treasury for extending the debt limit, House speaker John Boehner signalled he was ready to accept a Senate-drafted peace deal that contained almost no concessions to conservatives who had driven the country the brink of a new financial crisis.

Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, announced the deal on the the floor of the Senate just after midday. He called for all sides to work together to implement the deal. “Now is not the time for pointing fingers,” he said.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, acknowledged the fight was over and said the shutdown and debt crisis should be over later on Wednesday.

“This has been a long, challenging few weeks,” McConnell said. “This is far less than many of us had hoped for, but it is far better than some had sought.”

The deal crafted by Reid and McConnell will fund the government until 15 January and lift the debt ceiling until 7 February. It will force both sides into a formal budget conference to try to reach a longer-term deal by 13 December.

The only apparent change to the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans had targeted in their budget standoff, involves asking the Obama administration to carry out better checks on the incomes of those applying to take part in new insurance exchanges.

A senior Republican aide told the Guardian that Boehner had agreed to allow the House to vote on the deal, which in practice means it would pass with support from Democrats and moderate Republicans, although it was still unclear when this would happen.

Recriminations among Republicans flew thick and fast, with moderates accusing House conservatives of trashing the party's reputation in pursuit of an impossible ambition to repeal Obamacare entirely.

Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, said this had “been the best two weeks for the …read more


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On World Food Day, Here's What We Need to Do So We Don't Cook the Planet

October 16, 2013 in Blogs

By Ronnie Cummins, AlterNet

Few people understand that the worst U.S. and global greenhouse gas emitter is “Food Incorporated.”

“Here's the single most important thing you need to know about the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report: It's not too late. We still have time to do something about climate disruption. The best estimate from the best science is that we can limit warming from human-caused carbon pollution to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit – if we act now. Bottom line: Our house is on fire. Rather than argue about how fast it's burning, we need to start throwing buckets of water.” – Michael Brune, Director, Sierra Club, Sept. 27, 2013

Michael Brune is right. Our house is on fire. We’d better start throwing buckets of water.

Today, World Food Day, I urge everyone who wants to help put out the fire to take a close look at the food you eat. Where did it come from? How was it grown or raised? What did it take to get it from the farm to your table?

These questions are rarely part of the climate-change debate. Yet they should be.

Transportation, manufacturing and energy corporations are considered major greenhouse gas (GHG) polluters. Climate scientists agree that if we want to cool the earth, we have to build solar arrays and wind generators, instead of fracking wells and coal plants. We have to retrofit homes, commercial buildings, factories, transportation and electrical grids. We need to walk, carpool, ride bikes, trains and buses, instead of mindlessly cruising the highways in gas-guzzling cars, trucks and SUVs.

But few people understand that the worst U.S. and global greenhouse gas emitter is “Food Incorporated.” The global food and farming system of today, with its intense dependence on biotechnology, chemicals and fossil fuels, is destroying the natural capacity of plants, trees and soils to sequester the excess greenhouse gases that are cooking the planet.

The fastest route to averting a climate disaster is to drastically reduce emissions from industrial agriculture and forestry, and start sequestering billions of tons of greenhouse gases in our plants, forests and soil.

This “Great Transition” must be driven by a mass consumer …read more


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Show Us the Money

October 16, 2013 in Economics

By Jason Bedrick

Jason Bedrick

A bank would never grant a loan to a business that failed to disclose its overhead. So why do taxpayers and state legislators consistently vote to increase spending on public schools without knowing their full cost?

A new report from the Cato Institute finds that state education departments routinely understate the cost of public schools and often completely fail to report key spending categories. This may be contributing to the public’s vast underestimation of the true cost of public education.

When government agencies offer incomplete or misleading data, they deprive taxpayers of the ability to make informed decisions.”

The report, “Cracking the Books: How Well Do State Education Departments Report Public School Spending?,” assigns A-to-F grades for the completeness, timeliness, and accessibility of the spending data that the departments publish on their websites. The report reveals that very few state education departments provide complete and timely financial data that are understandable to the general public.

The most useful figures for comparing school districts of varying sizes are the annual per-pupil expenditures (PPE). However, half of all state education departments report PPE figures that leave out major cost items such as buildings, interest on debt, and pensions, thereby significantly understating what is actually spent. Alaska’s Department of Education website does not report PPE figures at all.

Other important spending categories are often omitted. Eight states fail to provide any data on capital expenditures, ten states lack any data on average employee salaries, and 41 states lack any data on average employee benefits.

Few states manage to publish timely spending data. By the end of the last calendar year, only 13 states had published per-pupil spending data for the 2011–12 school year. Most states’ data were a year behind, and for a handful of states the most recent spending data were two or three years old.

In addition, states too often report spending data that are hard to find or interpret. For example, the commonly used term “current expenditures” gives the false impression that it refers to data that are recent, which is not necessarily the case.

The average citizen is unlikely to know that “current” refers to “operating” expenditures, indicating that the figure excludes some major categories of spending, such as capital expenditures. Moreover, state education departments often use undefined acronyms that are practically impossible for the average citizen to decipher.

This financial opacity may be contributing to widespread misperceptions about public-education spending. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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VIDEO: Lew Rockwell Explains the Upside of Government Default

October 16, 2013 in Economics

By Mises Updates

In his recent appearance on RT, Lew Rockwell discusses the upside of government default.

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Rethinking Australian Investment Treaty Policy

October 16, 2013 in Economics

By Simon Lester

Simon Lester

The recent Australian elections were decided mostly by domestic policy issues, but their outcome will have an impact beyond the border, as the new government may rethink Australia’s somewhat unique view on the international investment regime. Whereas most of the world supports a core set of investment rules, Australia has long been a skeptic. The Liberal-National coalition, however, has indicated that it is more amenable to these rules. If they decide to revise current policy, Australia will have an opportunity to refine its thinking on rules that were developed decades ago and are ripe for modernization.

The international investment regime came to the average Australian’s attention several years ago when tobacco company Phillip Morris used an obscure Hong Kong-Australia investment treaty to challenge Australia’s plain packaging cigarette laws before an international tribunal. This challenge helped cement Australian doubts about these treaties.

If we can get international investment rules right, we will be able to liberalize investment without interfering with national autonomy and causing needless controversy.”

In its 2004 free trade agreement with the US, Australia had objected to the inclusion of investor-state rules (rules that allow for investors to sue governments directly), and these rules were ultimately excluded from the treaty. This was a major departure from US policy, one that has not since been repeated. Australia’s ability to dictate the terms to the US indicates the strength of Australian convictions on the issue. A few years later, Australia made a policy of excluding investor-state rules from trade agreements permanent, based on findings of an independent agency called the Productivity Commission. In response to these findings, Australia announced that it would no longer pursue investor-state provisions in its international agreements.

Thus, as a matter of formal government policy, Australia was already wary of these rules. The plain packaging case simply brought more attention to the issue and affirmed for many Australians the correctness of this view.

Now Australia might abandon its position, at least as a hard and fast rule. As noted, the Liberals have previously expressed a desire to change course on this issue. For example, rather than categorically exclude investor-state rules, Australia might now consider using them on a case-by-case basis.

The obvious places to carry out a new policy would be in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations and in bilateral talks with China and Korea. In these talks, Australia has previously asked to be …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Teen Unjustly Punished by School for Helping Drunken Friend Home

October 16, 2013 in Blogs

By Jodie Gummow, AlterNet

Honor student charged with violating school’s zero-tolerance policy against alcohol use—despite being sober

North Andover High in Boston has come under harsh criticism for stripping an outstanding student of her captain position all because she did the right thing in agreeing to pick up a friend from a party who was too intoxicated to drive home.

The incident began after Boston honor student, Erin Cox received a call from a friend at a party who was obviously drunk.  Subsequently the 17-year-old drove there to pick up her friend to ensure she would get home safely.  However, as she arrived, police showed up arresting a dozen kids for underage drinking and warning 15 others—including Cox—that they would receive a summons for drinking, Boston Herald reported.

Following the incident, her school decided to punish Erin for her good deed – by demoting her from her position as captain of the volleyball team and suspending her for five games for violating their zero drug and alcohol policy.  This was despite the fact that Erin had not been drinking and that Boxford police Office Brian Neely vouched for her sobriety in writing.

In response, thousands have taken to social media onreddit and facebook to express their outrage over the school's action:

One angry man griped on facebook: “She did what we teach our kids to do!! Friends don’t let friends drive drunk!’  Others have argued that Cox should be praised for her efforts rather than condemned.

In protest, Cox's family filed a lawsuit against the school in an effort to reverse its decision, but a judge ruled it did not have jurisdiction over the matter. 

Consequently, Cox’s attorney said in a statement that the family is now planning to file formal legal action against the school district, “in the hope that officials there will think twice before imposing sanctions on any student whose only offense involves trying to prevent yet another drunk-driving tragedy,” CNN reported.

The schools’ decision sends a clear and arbitrary message to teenagers about drink-drinking – don’t help your friends.

Still, Cox wouldn’t have done it any differently, telling the Boston Herald that …read more


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Europe Tries Welfare Reform

October 16, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

If Congress — once it reopens the government and gets back to its usual business of redistributing taxpayers’ money — has any interest in reforming our burgeoning welfare state, they might look, of all places, to Europe, where serious reforms are underway.

Leading the way is Great Britain. While in the United States the federal government funds 126 separate anti-poverty programs, 72 of which provide cash or in-kind benefits to individuals, Britain is consolidating its six major welfare programs (the jobseeker’s allowance, the income-support allowance, the employment-support allowance, the child tax credit, the working tax credit, and housing benefits) into a single grant.

While someone receiving the seven most common U.S. benefits (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, food stamps, WIC, housing assistance, utilities assistance, and free commodities) rakes in more than $35,600 in benefits in the ten most generous states, Britain has now capped the new consolidated grant at no more than £500 per week (about $40,000 a year) for a family, and just £350 (about $29,000 a year) for single individuals. It is estimated that as many as 40,000 households — about 1.6 percent of those receiving benefits — will have their total benefits reduced as a result of the benefit cap.

Even Scandinavians want to cut back on benefits to encourage growth.”

The idea, according to welfare secretary Ian Duncan Smith, is that “benefits should be a safety net — but not something that gives claimants an income out of reach of many hard-working families.”

At the same time, by moving away from a patchwork of different programs to a single universal credit, Britain will shift welfare payments to put a greater emphasis on children. It is estimated that the consolidation means some 2.8 million British households, mostly couples without children, will eventually receive lower benefits (although current recipients are being held harmless during the transition), while some 3.1 million households will actually get more money.

Moreover, the benefits will now be paid in a monthly lump sum, rather than weekly or biweekly, and paid directly to the recipient rather than to intermediaries like landlords. The poor will be treated like adults, with responsibility for their own finances, rather than childlike wards of the state.

And there will be a greater overall emphasis on moving recipients from welfare to work. “We want to help people find a job and move away from benefits,” Duncan Smith explained.

Meanwhile …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Guilty of Sedition? Tea Party Threatens America’s Economic and Political Systems

October 16, 2013 in Blogs

By Lynn Stuart Parramore, AlterNet

Pushing the country toward disaster is what right-wingers call patriotism. Perhaps there's another name for it.

Members of the Tea Party like to wrap up in the American flag and call themselves patriots. But does a love of country include wrecking the country?

The behavior of the GOP’s extremist faction is looking increasingly outlandish and unprecedented, like the machinations of some lunatic fringe in a country far, far away. But they're right here. They want to destroy the U.S. government and they will plainly thwart laws they don’t like in the name of foolhardy austerity and unregulated markets. Hindering a law by using threats or force, by the way, is sedition, and some have argued that the Tea Party members are guilty of this crime.

Certainly extortion has become the Tea Party’s method of choice, behavior Andrew Reinbach of Huffington Post suggests might make them subject to the 1951 Hobbs Act, which covers “extortionate threats of physical, economic and informational harm.”

As these radical elements push the country toward default, there is no doubt that much damage has already been done. The fragile U.S. economy has taken a blow as communities across the country have suffered from the shutdown. American consumers will likely be stuck with higher interest payments. The financial rating agency Fitch has warned that it may downgrade the country’s creditworthiness. That could happen even if lawmakers agree to a last-minute deal.

The deadline for default is Thursday, whether crazed Republicans can be dealt with or not. It’s difficult to say when exactly when the unpaid bills will start piling up as America’s creditors call in their debts. No one really knows precisely what would happen, because a default hasn’t occurred in modern times. But the stock market would likely take a nose dive, interest rates would spike, and a credit crunch could ensue. All of which could bring us right back to catastrophic recession. Fast. 

Like a mentally unstable person standing on a bridge and mesmerized by the sight of the river below, the right seems hypnotized by a compulsion to jump into uncharted waters. They …read more