Government shutdown crisis continues without a solution

October 16, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Good morning:

I have been up all night composing this article about the failure of our Congress to increase our government’s debt limit. I conclude that the so-called financial crisis is not a real crisis and the Tea Party Republicans are financial terrorists generally committed to destroying our government and specifically committed to destroying Obamacare by blocking efforts to increase the deficit to fund it.

I followed events all day yesterday expecting Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell would reach an agreement late yesterday or today and the Senate would pass a bill substantially consistent with that agreement.

That did not happen because the House Republicans decided to meet and resume their effort to reach an agreement, an act that Reid and McConnell interpreted as a rejection of their efforts. Therefore, they decided to stop their effort.

The 271 House Republicans spent most of the day attempting to reach an agreement but ultimately could not agree to any of the bills under consideration. They finally gave up and cancelled a scheduled vote.

The New York Times described what happened.

By Tuesday afternoon, House Republican leaders were back with a new proposal to fund the government through Dec. 15, extend the debt ceiling into February and deprive not only lawmakers but all their staff members of employer assistance to buy their health care. By extending that provision to staff members, Republican leaders hoped to appeal to its far-right flank, but it angered more moderate Republicans and was not enough for the conservative hard core.

Complicating the speaker’s task, Heritage Action, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s political arm, which wields great influence with the most conservative elements of the Republican Party, opposed the plan.

“I think there’s always hope there can be a final package I can vote on, but this is not the one,” said Representative Ted Yoho, Republican of Florida, as he and two other Tea Party conservatives left the speaker’s office.

The major stumbling point preventing the Republicans from agreeing on a proposal was a disagreement regarding whether lawmakers and their staff members should pay the full cost of their health insurance premiums, unlike most workers at American companies, and how to restrict the administration from using flexibility to extend the debt limit beyond a fixed deadline.

Of course, this disagreement actually has nothing to do with the crisis, which is about raising the $16.7 trillion government debt limit. According to the Treasury Department, the federal government has approximately $35 billion in cash on hand and “expects to run out of “extraordinary measures” to keep on paying all of the government’s bills on Thursday, at which point outgoing payments might exceed that cash, plus any revenues, on any day going forward.”

After the House Republicans abandoned their effort to agree on a proposal, Harry Reid and Mitch McDonnell resumed their effort to agree on a bill to present to the Senate for a vote. A spokesperson for majority leader Reid announced that he was optimistic that he and Senator McConnell would soon reach an agreement. That has not happened as of 6 am, Central Daylight Time.

According to the National Journal,

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Senators were discussing a deal that would fund the government until January 15 and raise the debt limit until February 7. It would also create a bicameral conference to come to a long-term tax and spending plan, with a report due by December 13. The proposal would only touch Obamacare at the margins: tightening income-verification standards for people who receive subsidies and a possible one-year delay of the reinsurance tax, which is paid by employers.

Assuming they do reach an agreement and the Senate passes it, the House must still approve it.

Unless many of the Republicans in the House vote for the Senate bill, there is no way that the House will pass it.

I believe the goal of the Tea Party Republicans is to shut down the federal government indefinitely. I do not believe they are negotiating in good faith and I predict Thursday will come and go without an agreement to raise the debt limit. According to Mother Jones, for example, Tea Party Republicans were pushing to add an anti-abortion birth-control provision to the debt ceiling deal. The provision would permit all private sector employers who pay for employee health insurance to refuse to cover the cost of birth control.

Injecting a contentious irrelevant issue at the last minute into a bitter debate on increasing the debt ceiling to avoid forcing the government to default on its financial obligations only serves to derail legitimate debate. I consider it to be an act of financial terrorism.

Assuming the Congress fails to pass a bill increasing the debt limit, President Obama should end the shutdown, order all federal employees back to work, and direct the Treasury to pay all of its financial obligations when they come due. This would include issuing checks to government employees with full backpay.

The United States does not have to borrow money because it issues its own currency and the dollar is the world’s preferred currency. Issuing new currency does not require printing new money. It can be accomplished by the Federal Reserve throwing a few switches to credit the Treasury.

In fact, the debt-limit statute is unnecessary and should be abolished. With the exception of Denmark, the United States is the only nation in the world with such a statute. There is a good reason why other nations do not have such a statute.

Nations create budgets for each fiscal year and when they do, they consider national debt as well as the amount budgeted. When our Congress passes a budget, it should be presumed to have authorized paying for everything in the budget. That is the procedure followed by every other nation, except Denmark.

Put another way, the Congress should not be permitted to shut down the federal government because it refuses to increase the nation’s debt to fund the federal budget that it passed. For example, Congress should not be permitted to use the debt limit statute to prevent funding Obamacare, a program that Congress considered and approved.

That is why the Congress has routinely approved every request to increase the national debt for many years with the notable exception of the Republicans once during the Clinton administration and again during the Obama administration.

It is long past time to call-out the Tea Party Republicans for what they are: a group of financial terrorists committed to destroying our national government.

Senate close to reaching agreement to increase the debt

October 14, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Good afternoon:

News about the government shutdown has dominated the three-day weekend. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and Democratic Senator Harry Reid announced this afternoon that they believe they are close to reaching an agreement that will be approved by a majority of the Senate.

The Republican brand has taken a beating during the past two weeks because of the Tea Party’s extreme intransigence. Hopefully, they have been paying attention and now realize that they have vote for the Senate bill in order to stop the bleeding.

We the people have been readying our torches and pitchforks, so they better git ‘r done.

Hasta manana.

Notes on Death and Dying

October 9, 2013

by Crane-Station for Frog Gravy. cross posted last Wednesday at Firedoglake/MyFDL. I am posting it here, because a couple of our readers are going through some very tough times, dealing with these difficult issues. Our deepest prayers and thoughts are with you.

Notes on Death and Dying

note: Since I have to spend another day at the courthouse, this morning’s post is brief, and I wrote it in prison. Frog Gravy is a nonfiction account of incarceration in jails and in prison in Kentucky in 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes.

Names have been changed.

This post is from jail.

Notes on the Dying Experience

After Ruthie’s mother dies, I develop a fear that will stay with me for nearly the next two years. I fear that I will lose a parent, my son, my husband, or another loved one. None of my family members reside in this state, except for my husband.

During incarceration, I will see women lose parents, and also children, and I will watch in horror as a prison inmate is shackled and belly-chained and herded off to attend, for one-half hour, her son’s funeral- her teenage son, who drowned in an accident.

My mother’s sister is in fact very elderly and sick. I do not know how to help my mother with this from my vantage point, except to tell her what to expect. The dying experience is something that, for some reason or another, is avoided altogether in American culture. In my experience, many families were at a total loss at the bedside of a dying person, and many chose to leave the bedside altogether. I would always try to tell them, at the very least, that we believe hearing is intact until a person dies; hearing is the last thing to go, although of course, it is difficult to research this.

Here are my notes, and they may have come from a book or from memory:

1-3 months prior
-withdrawl from people and from world
-words less important than touch and physical presence, less verbal communication.
-decreased food intake.
-going inside of self.
-less communication.

1-2 weeks
-talking with the unseen.
-picking at clothes.

-decreased blood pressure.
-pulse rapid or slow.
-skin color changes, pale, bluish.
-sleeping but responding.
-complaints of body tired and heavy…

Days or hours:

-intensification of the 1-2 week signs.
-surge of energy.
-decrease in blood pressure.
-eyes glassy, tearing, half open.
-purplish knees, feet, hands.


-fish out of water breathing.
-cannot be awakened.

I try to talk openly with my mother, through letters, and educate her about the dying experience, and what to maybe expect in her sister’s case. My mother and I also exchange a few comments about our culture’s obsession with youth: unless you are young, and skinny, and getting laid, and making a lot of money, you are nothing.

It also occurs to me that I am psychologically and physically dying right here in this cement coffin, slowly, by inches and seconds. It is February, and I have not been out of the cell for any kind or rec since my arrival. Depression is crushing. I am babbling at times. I join others in showing my breasts to the men in the hallway.

Sometimes I wonder why the haters cannot just man up and kill us outright. But, I do not think they would enjoy that quite as much.

Author’s end note: My aunt died after my release, and, I was one of the lucky ones, in that I did not lose a family member during my incarceration. I was given, over and over, this advice: “You cannot live in here and out there at the same time.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Who should win the Nobel Peace Prize?

October 9, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Good morning:

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday and I think it might be fun and productive to discuss and vote on who should be awarded the prize.

Wikipedia provides the following information about the prize:

According to Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Alfred Nobel’s will further specified that the prize be awarded by a committee of five people chosen by the Norwegian Parliament.


Each year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee specifically invites qualified people to submit nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. The statutes of the Nobel Foundation specify categories of individuals who are eligible to make nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. These nominators are:

Members of national assemblies and governments and members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union

Members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the International Court of Justice at the Hague

Members of Institut de Droit International

University professors of history, social sciences, philosophy, law and theology, university presidents and directors of peace research and international affairs institutes

Former recipients, including board members of organizations that have previously received the prize
Present and past members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee

Former permanent advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Institute.


Nominations are considered by the Nobel Committee at a meeting where a short list of candidates for further review is created. This short list is then considered by permanent advisers to the Nobel institute, which consists of the Institute’s Director and the Research Director and a small number of Norwegian academics with expertise in subject areas relating to the prize. Advisers usually have some months to complete reports, which are then considered by the Committee to select the laureate. The Committee seeks to achieve a unanimous decision, but this is not always possible. The Nobel Committee typically comes to a conclusion in mid-September, but occasionally the final decision has not been made until the last meeting before the official announcement at the beginning of October.

Here are five people who are considered heavy contenders for the prize:

1. Malala Yousafazi: She is the Pakistani teenager who survived a shot in the head by a member of the Taliban because she advocated for the right for girls to attend school.

2. Dr. Denis Mukwege: He is a gynecological surgeon in the Democratic Republic of Congo who has operated on and repaired the insides of many Congolese women who were victims of rape despite having been targeted for assassination and exiled. He has returned to continue his work.

3. Dr. Claudia Paz y Paz: She is the first woman to serve as Attorney General in Guatemala and despite constant threats, she the first to prosecute human rights abuses under General Ríos Montt’s dictatorship.

4. Chelsea Manning: Formerly known as Bradley Manning, she leaked the largest cache of government documents to Wikileaks in U.S. history and was convicted by a military jury of violating the Espionage Act.

5. Edward Snowden: He is a government contractor who revealed to the Guardian that the NSA had been spying on American citizens via a program known as PRISM. The revelation spawned numerous other revelations of wiretapping and other surveillance policies, including that of EU and other world officials.

For more information on these five nominees, please go here.

Just for fun, you may also want to test your knowledge about the prize and to whom it has been awarded in the past.


Hello, everyone.

We thank those of you who have responded to our plea.

We are not out of the woods yet, so please keep the donations coming.

We have some other health related expenses that we have been putting off.

Remember that producing articles and maintaining this blog requires substantial time and effort. If you have not already done so, please take a moment and consider making a donation.

As you depend on us, we depend on you.

Thank you


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Nobel Prize Winners 2013 and a brief ‘shutdown’ comment

October 9, 2013

by Crane-Station


Nobel Prize Awards for 2013 have been announced for many scholarly pursuits. The Nobel Prize for Peace will be announced on October 11, Friday, at 11 AM CET. The five contenders are listed here. (note: There may be more).

The Nobel Prize in Physics
has been awarded to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs, for their work at the Large Hadron Collider, that contributed to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was jointly awarded to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel
“for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
was jointly awarded to James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman and Thomas C. Südhof
“for their discoveries of machinery regulating vesicle traffic, a major transport system in our cells.”

The Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced tomorrow at 10 AM CET.

The Nobel Prize for Economics will be awarded on October 14 at the earliest.

Question for discussion: Who do you think may be awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace?


heads up. satiric rant

Heightened security and surveillance at Pearly Gates forces many of the blessed to choose to go straight to Hell.

This comes on the heels of a recent development where God installed additional security and scanning systems at the gated entrance to eternal paradise, making entry into Heaven nearly impossible.

Many of the blessed, who merely lived quiet and private working lives on Hell on Earth are boarding busses to Hell, because Heaven is “just such a hassle to get in to.”

David Jackson, who consumed unsafe food and died in septic agony during the recent US government shutdown said, “All I ever did on earth was try to survive, get along and raise a family. I was looking forward to going to Heaven and spending my eternity in peace. But then, they confiscated my water, stripped me naked, scanned me, and stole my soul. I chose Hell because it’s just so much more welcoming.”

Another of the blessed in the long, twisting line asked Saint Peter what the main problems with living conditions in Hell would be, and Saint Peter answered, “Gnashing of teeth. That’s the main complaint.”

“But I don’t have any teeth.”

“Teeth will be provided. Or, we can send you back to Earth, to live with Republicans, who hate you because, just glancing at your paperwork here…because you are indigent.”

“That’s okay,” said the sad and depressed man. “I’ll give Hell a try.”


food safety inspections affected by shutdown

List of agencies and affected operations

Alfred Nobel image by Solis Invicti under creative commons on flickr

We need your donations to continue this website

October 7, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Crane and I are struggling to survive on my social security and Medicare, which have been reduced due to cutbacks.

We have not paid our rent or electric bill for this month and have just been notified by our landlord that we will be evicted next month, if we do not pay our rent by the 15th.

We desperately need donations.

Without donations we can no longer maintain this website.

Please make a donation today.


Our mental health system is failing

October 5, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Good morning:

Take care of your mentally ill brothers and sisters because our mental health system is failing.

Miriam Carey (34) is dead today. Police in Washington, D.C. killed her on Thursday outside the Capitol Building after she refused to stop her vehicle and surrender to their authority. They shot her multiple times after chasing her down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House where she had crashed her vehicle into a barrier at the entrance to the driveway in an apparent effort to enter the White House without permission. She was an unarmed dental hygenist and her 1-year-old baby was strapped into a child safety seat in the back seat of her vehicle.

Aaron Alexis (28) is dead today. Police in Washington, D.C. killed him in a building at the Washington Navy Yard when he refused to surrender to their authority after shooting and killing 12 people in the building with a sawed-off shotgun. He was a government contractor who passed through security to get into the building.

Ms. Carey and Mr. Alexis were mentally ill and delusional when they died. Both sought mental health treatment and were untreated before they were killed.

On September 17th, I warned readers that Mr. Alexis

may have been suffering from schizophrenia and experiencing paranoid delusions on Monday [the day of the shootings].

I relied on a report by

In Rhode Island [six weeks before the shootings], Alexis told the officers he had gotten in an argument while boarding a flight in Virginia, and he believed the person he argued with sent three people to follow him. He said he never saw the people but believed they were using a microwave machine to send vibrations into his body so he could not fall asleep. He said he checked into two hotels previously, one on the Navy base, and could not get away from them.

He would not tell officers what the voices were saying. But he also told them he did not have a history of mental illness in his family and had never had any similar episodes, the report said.

‘‘He was concerned for his own safety,’’ Newport Police Lt. William Fitzgerald said Tuesday.

Later that day, Newport police alerted police at the naval station and sent them a copy of the police report because Alexis said he was a contractor, Fitzgerald said.

‘‘What he was claiming didn’t sound right,’’ he said.

Five days before the shootings, he traveled to Washington, D.C. on another business trip. Over the course of the next five days he changed hotels twice and visited two hospital emergency rooms seeking medication to help him sleep. He also purchased the sawed-off shotgun that he used to kill the 12 people at the Navy Yard. The purchase was lawful.

CBS News is reporting today that police in Stamford, Connecticut took Ms. Carey to a hospital for a mental health evaluation after she,

told police in December that she was a prophet, that President Obama would place the city of Stamford under a “lockdown” and that he had her and her residence under electronic surveillance.

On September 29th before the incident that ended with Ms. Carey’s death, CBS 60 Minutes reported:

The mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard two weeks ago that resulted in the deaths of 13 people, including the gunman, was the 23rd such incident in the past seven years. It’s becoming harder and harder to ignore the fact that the majority of the people pulling the triggers have turned out to be severely mentally ill — not in control of their faculties — and not receiving treatment.

In the words of one of the country’s top psychiatrists, these were preventable tragedies, symptoms of a failed mental health system that’s prohibited from intervening until a judge determines that someone presents an “imminent danger to themself or others.” The consequence is a society that’s neglected millions of seriously ill people hidden in plain sight on the streets of our cities, or locked away in our prisons and jails.

On September 18th I described what Crane and I did to assist a delusional person we knew:

In the fall of 2003, Crane and I received an odd telephone call from a student we knew at Seattle University. The call seemed odd because he claimed loud voices in the walls of his apartment had prevented him from sleeping for several days. We decided to pay him a visit.

He admitted us to his apartment after we convinced him that we were not two impostors attempting to trick him into opening the door.

We spent about an hour checking his apartment and the rest of the building, which contained four apartments above an underground parking lot. We did not hear any voices or see anything out of order.

Because he remained uncharacteristically anxious and fearful, we invited him to come and stay with us for a few days. Fortunately, he accepted our invitation.

This incident kicked-off a bizarre month in which Crane and I took him to see mental health professionals and alternated sleeping during the night so that one of us would always be awake. The diagnosis was always the same: Rapid Repeating Bipolar Disorder with Paranoid Delusions. He disagreed with the diagnoses because the delusions were so real to him that he could not distinguish them from ordinary reality and the anti-psychotic medication dulled his senses.

We finally persuaded him to voluntarily enter a secure mental health treatment hospital after a couple of property destruction incidents in our home and a threat to kill us in our sleep.

There is no known cure for this condition, but the delusions can be smoothed out and managed with appropriate anti-psychotic medication. Fortunately for our friend, his parents can afford to pay for his health care and medication.

Had his financial circumstances been otherwise, he would be homeless, in jail or dead.

Mr. Alexis’s story is worse than any horror movie could be because it is real and the tragic result was so preventable.

Take care of your brothers and sisters when they are sick, because if you don’t, no one else will.

Please create a quiet moment in your life today and light a candle in your heart for Miriam Carey and Aaron Alexis.

What happened to them could happen to you or to someone you know.


Hello, everyone.

Producing articles and maintaining this blog requires substantial time and effort. Please take a moment and consider making a donation.

As you depend on us, we depend on you.

Situation is desperate.

We need your help!


Fred and Crane


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