Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 50,296
Number of posts: 50,296
Posted by WillyT | Wed Dec 4, 2013, 09:28 PM (2 replies)
Detroit Is Beta-Test of the GOP Plan To Sell The Federal Government to Corporations
By: Rmuse - politicususa.com
Saturday, July, 20th, 2013, 2:38 pm
In the software world, the concept behind beta-testing is an external pilot-test of a product before commercial quantity production for public consumption. During the beta test stage, a product has already passed an internal pilot-test where glaring defects have been removed, but since the product may still have some minor problems that require user participation, it is released to selected customers to test under normal, everyday conditions to spot and correct remaining flaws. Republicans have long sought to privatize government, and they have given indications that their penchant for restricting revenue sources and creating phony debt crises is part of their anti-government agenda to manufacture a scenario where the government is bankrupt to give corporations the opportunity to buy-out government assets and programs for a profit. On Thursday, the first beta-test of selling off a city to corporations began in earnest when an emergency manager in Detroit filed for bankruptcy, and it is a harbinger of the Republicans’ plan for the federal government.
Republicans have long sought to sell off government assets they claim are prohibitively expensive to private, for-profit enterprises they claim are better equipped to administer them because they will base operations on sound corporate business models. What Detroit is experiencing is the Bain Capital vulture capitalist tactic of taking over a company, leveraging it with debt, declaring bankruptcy, and selling off assets and firing union employees all while turning a profit. Michigan governor Rick Snyder followed Bain’s tactics in appointing his cohort to lead the city, disband the government, and create conditions allowing the emergency manager to declare the city bankrupt to sell off assets allegedly to satisfy creditors.
It is not common for a municipality to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy according to U.S. Courts, and the purpose is to “provide a financially distressed municipality protection from its creditors while it develops and negotiates a plan for adjusting its debts. Reorganization of the debts of a municipality is typically accomplished either by extending debt maturities, or refinancing the debt by obtaining a new loan.” It may not be typical for municipalities, but it follows the Bain model right down to “refinancing the debt to obtain a new loan” that is part and parcel of leveraging a company, or in Detroit’s case, a city, with more debt it will never be able to repay without selling off all its assets.
In Detroit’s case, the city was leveraged to the hilt with state-backed bond money to allow it to meet payroll for its employees, and by feigning resistance by creditors, unions, and pension boards to take pennies on the dollar for their assets to assist in restructuring the city’s finances, the bankruptcy gives the emergency manager power to liquidate city assets, including public employee pensions, to satisfy demands for payment. Willard Romney would be proud of emergency city manager Kevyn Orr’s adherence to the Bain tactics; especially because as city employees and residents suffer like hundreds-of-thousands of employees Bain companies ruined, corporations will buy government assets for a pittance.
Everything emergency city manager Orr has done is in line with Bain tactics including misrepresenting the city’s financial situation to create the necessity for cutting expenses, services, and finally declaring bankruptcy not unlike Bain Capital did to companies they took over. An attorney for Detroit, Krystal Crittendon, criticized a recent financial report filed by Orr and said the numbers do not accurately represent the city’s fiscal woes, and it follows typical Republican rhetoric regarding the federal debt. She said, “The whole foundation that brings him here is false. We do not have a $15 billion or a $20 billion debt problem. We have less than a $2 billion short-term debt problem that we could manage if we just went out and collected revenues that are owed to the city; stop giving tax abatement to people who can actually afford to pay taxes.” Republicans have resisted raising taxes, or even funding the IRS to collect taxes, from corporations and the wealthy while they complain social programs like Social Security and Medicare are driving the country into bankruptcy as a reason to cut spending and turn over operations like Medicare to privatization.
What Detroit suffered is a microcosm of...
Posted by WillyT | Wed Dec 4, 2013, 08:52 PM (13 replies)
Posted by WillyT | Wed Dec 4, 2013, 04:07 PM (3 replies)
Afghans describe relatives' deaths in recent U.S. drone strike
Residents of a village in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province say a Sept. 7 attack killed 14 civilians, most of them their relatives. The U.S. says 11 were killed, mostly Taliban fighters.
By David Zucchino - LATimes
December 1, 2013, 8:00 a.m.
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Miya Jan was filling potholes on the rutted trail that leads to his village in rugged eastern Afghanistan when he heard the whine of a drone aircraft overhead.
The sunburned 28-year-old farmer looked up and saw a gray, narrow-winged drone circling the village. A few minutes later, he said, it fired a missile that landed with a tremendous thud across a stony ridge line.
Jan ran to the explosion site and recognized the burning frame of his cousin's blue pickup truck. Inside, he said, he saw blackened shapes — people whose torsos had been sheared off. He recognized the smoking remains of his brother, his brother's wife and their 18-month-old son. Jan and other villagers say 14 people were killed in the attack; U.S. and Afghan officials place the toll at 11.
"There were pieces of my family all over the road," said Jan, recalling the deadly Sept. 7 late afternoon incident in an interview last week. "I picked up those pieces from the road and from the truck and wrapped them in a sheet to bury them.
"Do the American people want to spend their money this way, on drones that kill our women and children?" he asked.
The repercussions of such strikes are felt far beyond the dark escarpments of Kunar province. The grief and rage of...
Posted by WillyT | Wed Dec 4, 2013, 02:33 PM (7 replies)
CROWLEY: The big question that's always asked, are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago? In general?
FEINSTEIN: I don't think so. I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that, the fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs, trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnatometers. The bomb maker is still alive. There are more groups that ever and there's huge malevolence out there.
Link (w/Video): http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2013/12/01/feinstein-terror-is-up-worldwide/
Posted by WillyT | Wed Dec 4, 2013, 02:13 PM (10 replies)
Illinois Legislature Approves Cuts in Troubled State Retirement System
By RICK LYMAN - NYT
Published: December 3, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois legislature on Tuesday ended a day of emotional debate and fierce back-room arm-twisting by passing a deal to shore up the state’s debt-engulfed pension system by trimming retiree benefits and increasing state contributions.
With one of the nation’s worst-financed state employee pension systems — some $100 billion in arrears — Illinois has been the focus of intense attention across the country as states and municipalities struggle to come to grips with their own public pension problems. The compromise reached in Illinois, a staunchly blue state with a strong labor movement that had successfully resisted previous efforts to trim pensions, could provide a template for agreements elsewhere.
The top leaders of both legislative houses, Democrats and Republicans, had cobbled together the bill and pushed strenuously for its passage, supported by the state Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Farm Bureau. Union leaders and some Democratic lawmakers opposed it, just as strenuously, arguing that the bill fell too harshly on state workers who had paid into their pension plans over the years with the understanding that the benefits would be there when they retired. Some Republicans also opposed the bill, saying it did not trim enough to solve the state’s pension troubles.
“Today, we have won,” Gov. Pat Quinn, who made overhauling the pension system a focus of his administration, said in a statement after the vote. “This landmark legislation is a bipartisan solution that squarely addresses the most difficult fiscal issue Illinois has ever confronted.” He is expected to sign the legislation on Wednesday.
We Are One Illinois, a coalition of labor unions that opposed the bill, issued a very different assessment. “This is no victory for Illinois,” it said in a statement, “but a dark day for its citizens and public servants.”
The battle now turns to the courts...
Posted by WillyT | Tue Dec 3, 2013, 11:27 PM (2 replies)
Detroit Ruling on Bankruptcy Lifts Pension Protections
By MONICA DAVEY, BILL VLASIC and MARY WILLIAMS WALSH - NYT
Published: December 3, 2013
DETROIT — In a ruling that could reverberate far beyond Detroit, a federal judge held on Tuesday that this battered city could formally enter bankruptcy and asserted that Detroit’s obligation to pay pensions in full was not untouchable.
The judge, Steven W. Rhodes, dealt a major blow to the widely held belief that state laws preserve public pensions, and his ruling is likely to resonate in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and many other American cities where the rising cost of pensions has been crowding out spending for public schools, police departments and other services.
The judge made it clear that public employee pensions were not protected in a federal Chapter 9 bankruptcy, even though the Michigan Constitution expressly protects them. “Pension benefits are a contractual right and are not entitled to any heightened protection in a municipal bankruptcy,” he said.
James E. Spiotto, a lawyer with the firm Chapman & Cutler in Chicago who specializes in municipal bankruptcy and was not involved in the case, said: “No bankruptcy court had ruled that before. It will be instructive.”
For people in Detroit...
Posted by WillyT | Tue Dec 3, 2013, 11:10 PM (20 replies)
Fate of Detroit’s Art Hangs in the Balance
By RANDY KENNEDY - NYT
Published: December 3, 2013
A Diego Rivera mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Part of the collection may be auctioned off.
With a ruling by a federal judge on Tuesday that Detroit is eligible to enter bankruptcy, the fate of the city’s art collection — one of the finest in the country — now moves front and center in the legal battle over the city’s future.
But the judge, Steven W. Rhodes, questioned for the first time the push by some of the city’s largest creditors to sell paintings and sculpture from the Detroit Institute of Arts, a sale that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars or more. While he did not say specifically that the art should be spared, Judge Rhodes, in a brief mention of the institute by name, said that such a sale would not have helped Detroit avoid bankruptcy.
“A one-time infusion of cash by selling an asset,” he said, would have only delayed the city’s “inevitable financial failure” unless it could have also come up with a sustainable way to enhance income and reduce expenses. Judge Rhodes added that in considering selling assets, a city “must take extreme care that the asset is truly unnecessary in carrying out its mission.”
Some creditors argue that the art is not necessary for the city’s mission. Derek Donnelly, managing director of the Financial Guaranty Insurance Company, a creditor, told The Detroit Free Press, “The D.I.A. or art is not an essential asset and especially not one that is essential to the delivery of services in the city.” A coalition of creditors filed a motion last week asking the judge to appoint a committee to oversee an independent appraisal of the collection, which is owned by the city and includes masterpieces by Bruegel, van Gogh and Cézanne. Financial Guaranty did not return telephone calls seeking comment on Judge Rhodes’s statement.
Michael G. Bennett, an associate professor of law at Northeastern University School of Law, who was in the courtroom during the ruling, said, “Judge Rhodes seemed to be saying something that amounted to a defense of the collection.”
Posted by WillyT | Tue Dec 3, 2013, 10:14 PM (20 replies)
United Nations counterterrorism official launches investigation into NSA surveillance
By Jacob Kastrenakes _ TheVerge
December 2, 2013 04:05 pm
The United Nations senior counterterrorism official is launching an investigation into the surveillance activities of both the United States' and the United Kingdom's intelligence agencies. UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson said that he would be initiating an investigation into both the NSA and GCHQ in an op-ed published in the Guardian today. Emmerson writes that he's identified five areas of contention worth considering: whether Snowden should be given the legal protections of a whistleblower, whether his leaks damaged US or UK national security, whether his leaks show the need for surveillance overhaul, whether British parliament was misled about the intrusiveness of surveillance, and whether British parliament's current intelligence oversight system is thorough enough.
Following the investigation, Emmerson will deliver a series of recommendations to the UN general assembly next fall. "These questions are too important for the UN to ignore," Emmerson writes. He notes that there are several other issues at hand beyond the five specifically identified, including how a government contractor — not even a direct US government employee — was able to acquire such sensitive information. Emmerson has been critical of other United States' policies lately, having issued a UN report stating that the US should detail civilian casualties by drones.
In his op-ed, Emmerson was also highly critical of security officials who have attacked the Guardian for publishing the leaked surveillance documents. "The astonishing suggestion that this sort of journalism can be equated with aiding and abetting terrorism needs to be scotched decisively," Emmerson writes. He says that attacking the Guardian only serves to avoid the real issues. "The Guardian has revealed that there is an extensive program of mass surveillance that potentially affects every one of us ... The Guardian's revelations are precisely the sort of information that a free press is supposed to reveal.
Posted by WillyT | Tue Dec 3, 2013, 02:11 PM (5 replies)
Former NSA chief compares Snowden to terrorists
Posted by CNN's Jason Seher
Washington (CNN) - Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden said Sunday that Edward Snowden, who has disclosed secrets about how the NSA surveils both at home and abroad, has created a "catastrophic" situation for American intelligence agencies.
"This is catastrophic for the safetay and security of the American nation, what this very narcissitic young man has done," Hayden told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."
Multiple reports allege Snowden has created a "doomsday cache" of government secrets that would release to the public should he be incarcerated or harmed.
Hayden said he has "no reason to doubt" those reports, but added that the looming threat of future disclosures should not dissaude American agencies from pursuing Snowden. The retired general said abandoning the effort to bring Snowden to justice would be like "negotiating with terrorists."
Posted by WillyT | Tue Dec 3, 2013, 02:04 PM (8 replies)