In a revealing interview with The Wall Street Journal, House Speaker John Boehner discussed the conversations he had with President Obama during closed-door fiscal-cliff negotiations. Appearing to have a case of battle fatigue after weeks of negotiations, at one point in the interview Boehner said "I need this job like I need a hole in the head." He says he was most shocked by Obama saying that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem. The speaker, just entering his second term, also explained his notorious “Go f--k yourself” snap at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “I was in Ohio, and Harry’s on the Senate floor calling me a dictator and all kinds of nasty things. You know, I don’t lose my temper. I never do. But I was shocked at what Harry was saying about me,” he said. Boehner also discussed his decision to vote for the Senate tax package, saying a "no" vote would do "serious damage to the economy.”
"What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: "At one point several weeks ago," Mr. Boehner says, "the president said to me, 'We don't have a spending problem.' "
"I am talking to Mr. Boehner in his office on the second floor of the Capitol, 72 hours after the historic House vote to take America off the so-called fiscal cliff by making permanent the Bush tax cuts on most Americans, but also to raise taxes on high earners. In the interim, Mr. Boehner had been elected to serve his second term as speaker of the House. Throughout our hourlong conversation, as is his custom, he takes long drags on one cigarette after another."
"Mr. Boehner looks battle weary from five weeks of grappling with the White House. He's frustrated that the final deal failed to make progress toward his primary goal of "making a down payment on solving the debt crisis and setting a path to get real entitlement reform." At one point he grimly says: "I need this job like I need a hole in the head."'
"The president's insistence that Washington doesn't have a spending problem, Mr. Boehner says, is predicated on the belief that massive federal deficits stem from what Mr. Obama called "a health-care problem." Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment—"They blame all of the fiscal woes on our health-care system"—he replied: "Clearly we have a health-care problem, which is about to get worse with ObamaCare. But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem." He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: "I'm getting tired of hearing you say that."'
"With the two sides so far from agreeing even on the nature of the country's fiscal challenge, making progress on how to address it was difficult. Mr. Boehner became so agitated with the lack of progress that he cursed at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Those days after Christmas," he explains, "I was in Ohio, and Harry's on the Senate floor calling me a dictator and all kinds of nasty things. You know, I don't lose my temper. I never do. But I was shocked at what Harry was saying about me. I came back to town. Saw Harry at the White House. And that was when that was said," he says, referring to a pointed "go [blank] yourself" addressed to Mr. Reid."
"Mr. Boehner confirms that at one critical juncture he asked Mr. Obama, after conceding on $800 billion in new taxes, "What am I getting?" and the president replied: "You don't get anything for it. I'm taking that anyway."'
And here you have the latest go-to Republican talking point, "But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem."
Yet in the last year in the Budget Control Act, and the 2011 spring budget deal to avert a shutdown, Congress actually cut $1.5 trillion in spending. After reduced interest payments due to a smaller debt are factored in, a good deal more than $1.5 trillion is cut from spending. The interest savings amount to about $250 billion, bringing the total deficit reduction achieved to date to more than $1.7 trillion. And before that, there was the $700 billion in reduced Medicare spending passed in the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
We have indeed already confronted the "spending problem."
Not that this will keep the GOP from trying to do away with those pesky "entitlements."
A 17-year-old student in Alabama was arrested last week for allegedly plotting to use dozens of homemade grenades to kill at least fellow six students and a teacher at Russell County High School.
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor on Sunday said that Derek Shrout had been arrested after a teacher turned over a journal which indicated that his homemade grenades were just "a step or two away from being ready to explode," according to the Ledger-Enquirer.
A Friday search of Shrout's home turned up bomb-making materials, including dozens of tobacco cans and two large cans filled with pellets to be used as shrapnel. The two large cans were labeled "Fat Boy" and "Little Man," a reference to the atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped on Japan during World War II.
Reports indicated that the 17-year-old student, who was part of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), had gotten mixed up with a white supremacist group after moving from Kansas to Fort Benning with his military family.
"At first through JROTC, he was confident, well-rounded, but as time went by, he was doing the whole white power thing," senior class president David Kelly told WTVM.
JROTC 1st Sgt. David White recalled that Shrout was often seen giving Nazi salutes while at school.
"In the hallway, at breakfast, at the lunch tables, after school where we have our bus parking lot, he'd have his big old group of friends and they'd go around doing the whole white power crazy stuff," White said.
"Why would you want to go to a school and blow it up? You know you're going to hit somebody else; you're not just going to, in particular, hit one person. You're going to injure more than one."
ABC News reported on Monday that Shrout's targets included five African-American students, one student who he believed was gay and one African-American teacher. Police believed that he learned to make explosives by searching the Internet.
For his part, Shrout told police that his journal was simply a work of fiction. He is being held in the Russell County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday on charges of attempted assault.
By Suevon Lee, ProPublica, Jan. 7, 2013
U.S. gun policy is set by both state and federal law. We previously published an explainer on the ways states have eased gun restrictions. But federal policy, too, has become more gun friendly in recent years — and we're not just talking about the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that struck down the handgun ban in Washington, D.C., and held that people have a right to keep guns in their homes.
Here, we outline five federal policies relating to guns you may not have known about:
1. A federal firearms trace database is off-limits to the public.
How often do federally licensed gun dealers sell guns that are then used in crimes? It's hard to know, because for nearly a decade such gun trace data has been hidden from the public. Even local law enforcement had been, until recently, barred from accessing the database for anything but narrow investigations.
Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, licensed dealers are required to record certain information about a buyer and the gun's serial number at the point of sale. These records go into a database maintained by The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. A tool to catch criminals, the database in the early 2000s became a political flashpoint, as the Washington Post details. Outside research tying seized guns to a small handful of dealers spurred the federal government to impose tougher sanctions and inspections on gun retailers and manufacturers.
But those sanctions sparked a backlash: Since 2003, the Tiahrt Amendments, so named after the former Kansas Republican congressman who introduced the measures, have concealed the database from the public. Prior to 2010, local police could access the database only to investigate an individual crime but not to look for signs of broader criminal activity.
Despite the relaxing of some restrictions, parts of the original Tiahrt Amendment remain in place. The ATF can't require gun dealers to conduct an inventory to account for lost or stolen guns; records of customer background checks must be destroyed within 24 hours if they are clean enough to allow the sale; and trace data can't be used in state civil lawsuits or in an effort to suspend or revoke a gun dealer's license.
Biologists say manatees in Peru's Amazon rainforest are in danger of extinction.
A wildlife organization is trying to save the animals, but one of the biggest threats to their existence is a part of Peruvian culture.
Even though legislation forbids it, people continue to capture the manatees for human consumption.
We arrived on the land, resided on by A family of Alamaba-Coushatta tribal members reside on the land, and when we arrived at 5pm on January 4th, we began setting up for the dance. Workers were milling about at the end of their work day and immediately noticed our banners. Police showed up shortly thereafter, but we were not disturbed in our peaceful demonstration of solidarity with Idle No More, Hunger Striking Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, and all affected by toxic tar sands exploitation.
I'm not sure what George Will was smoking before he made an appearance on ABC's This Week on Sunday morning, but apparently he believes that Democrats agreeing to extend tax cuts for income under $400-450K somehow marks the beginning of the decline of liberalism and now no other taxes can ever be raised. And of course in Will's world, we must go after "entitlements" because the only way to keep them was going to be to raise taxes on the middle class.
Never mind that, as Robert Reich reminded him, we did just raise taxes on the middle class with the expiration of the payroll tax holiday. I'm just wondering how many things Republicans have voted for to which he's asserted that same sense of finality? Or anyone else, for that matter? Will, like other Republicans, seems to have a little bit of trouble with that whole concept of compromising -- which, as much as people may dislike the results, is what used to be considered the normal way politics operated in Washington. Now it's become a series of hostage taking events, with Republicans continually threatening to kill the hostage if they don't get what they want.
I'm pretty sure Will has been predicting liberals' demise for quite some time now, but if his party thinks the way they're operating these days is an acceptable form of governing, and if they continue to push to destroy our social safety nets, the voters will start to wake up to the fact that we've got a problem with one of the political ideologies in this country -- and it's not liberalism.
Liberal groups in this country are the ones pushing back against austerity, against the unfairness of the unequal income distribution, pushing for a tax code that's fairer and pushing to keep our social safety nets in place. Will and his ilk are ready to throw grandma and the poor and the middle class under the bus and back over them a few times.
Transcript below the fold.
This 2-minute story is about a powerful new solution that will help feed starving people in every city, town and village in America as told by Howard G. Buffett, Eva Longoria, Bono and Ben Afflect. This is a message funded by the Howard G. Buffett foundation and directed specifically to the world's most productive, hard-working men and women -- America's farmers.
In a recent Parade magazine article, Buffet (Son of Warren Buffet) was asked what made him turn his attention from global hunger to hunger in America:
"Before, I never understood how difficult things were in this country, and how they were getting worse. In America, hunger is hidden; people are ashamed of it. I was in Tucson at a food distribution [center] and noticed a woman walk in with three kids. She looked around and then walked back out. I later found out it was the first time she had ever asked for help, and she was embarrassed."
"Last year I attended a Thanksgiving dinner at Harris Elementary School right here in Decatur, where I learned that 92 percent of the kids are on free or reduced-cost lunches. I spoke with some parents who told me that school lunch is the best meal their kids get all day. That shocked me because the school sits in a community that has the largest food-processing facility in the world for corn and the second largest for soybeans; 1,500 to 2,000 train cars roll out of those plants and through these kids' neighborhoods every day. The irony of that is unbelievable."
"In this country, the number of people who are living on the edge, who exist paycheck to paycheck, who have been foreclosed on, has exploded. If you're choosing between medicine or food, between school supplies for your kids or food, between paying the electric bill or food, those are tough choices—and they happen every day. Yet I have hope, because the single biggest difference between fighting global hunger and fighting hunger in this country is that I don't believe we can get global hunger down to zero. There will always be conflicts and infrastructure challenges [abroad]. But there's no reason we cannot put hunger out of business in America."
Here are the ways Howard Buffett is trying to achieve his goal of putting hunger out of business in America:
Map the Meal Gap: Feeding America first published the Map the Meal Gap project in early 2011, with the generous support of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and The Nielsen Company, to learn more about the face of hunger at the local level. In August, 2011, with the support of the ConAgra Foods Foundation, child food insecurity data was added to the project.
At the link you can interact with their map, which reflects data from 2009 and 2010, to begin learning how the residents in your community are struggling with hunger and what the anticipated needs will be to meet future goals. There is a donation link, a food bank locator, a "Tell Congress" take action link and further information about the project.
2014 Hunger in America Study: Hunger in America, also known as the Hunger Study, is the largest study of charitable food assistance in America. Hunger in America 2014 is the most recent in a series of Hunger Studies, which are conducted every four years. Feeding America is the primary sponsor of this study, with generous funding from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
The purpose of the Hunger in America 2014 study is two-fold. First, it will collect information on the current work of the Feeding America network of food banks. This includes talking to agencies that get food and grocery items from food banks (agency survey) and from the clients they serve (client survey). The information collected from this study will help Feeding America, and its network of food banks, to better understand the agencies they work with to provide hunger relief. Second, it will also identify issues faced by both the agencies and the clients they serve. Findings from this study will give Feeding America the information they need to fight hunger in America for the next several years. Feeding America will use the data to advocate for government assistance such as TEFAP, CSFP, and SNAP. The findings will also support fundraising efforts by helping to educate donors and the public about the scope of services provided by food banks.
Invest an Acre :The Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Feeding America and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) has established Invest An Acre, an innovative partnership that engages U.S. farmers in helping provide food to their neighbors.
Through Invest An Acre, farmers are able to invest the proceeds from one acre or more of their crops in Feeding America to support their local food bank. This is the first effort to mobilize farmers on a national scale to support hunger relief.
Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, providing food assistance to people in every county through a network of more than 200 food banks.
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation brings resources to support this vital work by creating an opportunity for every U.S. farmer doing business with ADM to invest a portion of proceeds at the point of sale, either when the farmer signs a contract or delivers the crop.
ADM is one of the largest agricultural processors in the world. It operates the world’s premier crop origination and transportation network, connecting crops and markets in more than 75 countries. ADM transforms oilseeds, corn, wheat and cocoa into products for food, animal feed, industrial and energy uses.
Feeding America has 53 food banks operating in communities near ADM locations.
The Howard G. Buffett Foundation is underwriting all Feeding America costs as well as a public awareness campaign. ADM is managing the accounting and transactions with farmers and the local food banks. All of the proceeds from Invest An Acre will go towards helping the hungry in the local community.
Due out on newstands January 17th, Matt Taibbi's latest expose on the Big Banks, Big Government, and Wall Street is available online now. As always, it's another "Must Read" if you haven't yet done so. Here's a snippet...
It has been four long winters since the federal government, in the hulking, shaven-skulled, Alien Nation-esque form of then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, committed $700 billion in taxpayer money to rescue Wall Street from its own chicanery and greed. To listen to the bankers and their allies in Washington tell it, you'd think the bailout was the best thing to hit the American economy since the invention of the assembly line. Not only did it prevent another Great Depression, we've been told, but the money has all been paid back, and the government even made a profit. No harm, no foul – right?
It was all a lie – one of the biggest and most elaborate falsehoods ever sold to the American people. We were told that the taxpayer was stepping in – only temporarily, mind you – to prop up the economy and save the world from financial catastrophe. What we actually ended up doing was the exact opposite: committing American taxpayers to permanent, blind support of an ungovernable, unregulatable, hyperconcentrated new financial system that exacerbates the greed and inequality that caused the crash, and forces Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to increase risk rather than reduce it. The result is one of those deals where one wrong decision early on blossoms into a lush nightmare of unintended consequences. We thought we were just letting a friend crash at the house for a few days; we ended up with a family of hillbillies who moved in forever, sleeping nine to a bed and building a meth lab on the front lawn.
How Wall Street Killed Financial Reform
But the most appalling part is the lying. The public has been lied to so shamelessly and so often in the course of the past four years that the failure to tell the truth to the general populace has become a kind of baked-in, official feature of the financial rescue. Money wasn't the only thing the government gave Wall Street – it also conferred the right to hide the truth from the rest of us. And it was all done in the name of helping regular people and creating jobs. "It is," says former bailout Inspector General Neil Barofsky, "the ultimate bait-and-switch."
The bailout deceptions came early, late and in between. There were lies told in the first moments of their inception, and others still being told four years later. The lies, in fact, were the most important mechanisms of the bailout. The only reason investors haven't run screaming from an obviously corrupt financial marketplace is because the government has gone to such extraordinary lengths to sell the narrative that the problems of 2008 have been fixed. Investors may not actually believe the lie, but they are impressed by how totally committed the government has been, from the very beginning, to selling it.
If anyone would like a change of pace from the typical debates we've seen over this "fiscal cliff" deal and who made out and who didn't, the upcoming debacle over raising the debt ceiling and what's really lead to the lack of upward mobility and record income disparity in the United States, I'd highly recommend you set aside some time to watch at least the first few segments from Up With Chris Hayes from this Saturday.
Unlike most of the brain-draining discussions we're treated to on the majority of our corporate media and despite the presence of guest Veronique de Rugy appearing again in less than a month on Hayes' show, I don't think most of our readers here will be disappointed with the discussions that went on.
As Hayes has been talking about for some time now, if you really want to know who our members of Congress represent, forget the rhetoric and look at how they vote and who they protect when we see them finally act and not just what we hear them saying during their posturing on television. As was pointed out during the discussions here, despite the fact that President Obama talked about protecting the middle class in this deal, most Americans are going to see their taxes go up with the expiration of the payroll tax holiday.
As the panel members discussed during the segments, there was bipartisan agreement on that for some good reasons, like not wanting to undermine the integrity of the Social Security trust fund. But as was also noted, that should have been replaced with a renewal of the Making Work Pay tax credit, which you can read more about here: Making Work Pay vs. the payroll tax cut, in two charts.
Sadly, our Congress is still showing themselves to be more worried about their rich campaign donors and this deal to make it through their last round of Shock Doctrine governance was no exception.
You can read more on all of this from Hayes' blog here and more video below the fold: The fiscal cliff deal: A tax hike for the real middle class: