October 2, 2013 archive

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It’s a ‘good’ thing.

70% of intelligence staff out in government shutdown

Al Jazeera

October 2, 2013 12:04PM ET

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that roughly 70 percent of the intelligence workforce – including staff from the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency – have been furloughed.

“I’ve been in the intelligence business for about 50 years. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Clapper said at the hearing on the controversial spy programs.

“I think this, on top of sequestration, seriously damages our ability to protect the security and safety of this nation and its citizens,” Clapper said.

He added that the agencies risk losing valuable staff, especially after layoffs forced by the so-called “sequestration” budget cuts that went into effect earlier this year.

Clapper: U.S. shutdown ‘a dreamland’ for foreign spy services


10/2/13 10:39 AM EDT

Clapper said the law only allows civilian workers to be kept at work if their work addresses “an imminent threat to life or property.”

“Our applying that standard is what results across the board in furloughing roughly 70%,” he said. “I think that will change if this drags on.”

The ranking Republican on the panel, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said he was puzzled by reports that 72% of intelligence agency civilian workers have been furloughed as non-essential.

“The intelligence community either needs better lawyers who can make big changes to the workforce or are you over-employing in those areas?” he asked.  “It can’t be that 70% of the intelligence community is being furloughed and we’re still able to meet our national security responsibilities.”

“One of the smartest bankers we got”

Talking Jamie Dimon With Sam Seder of ‘The Majority Report’

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

POSTED: October 1, 11:20 AM ET

Pareene hilariously told the CNBC panel that anybody could do Jamie Dimon’s job as badly as he’s done it, offered himself in half-seriousness as an option and made the absolutely accurate point that any other boss in any other industry who had overseen the regulatory problems that took place at Chase under Dimon would be looking for work.

“If you managed a restaurant, and it got the biggest health department fine in the history of restaurants,” Pareene said sensibly, “no one would say ‘Yeah, but the restaurant’s making a lot of money. There’s only a little bit of poison in the food.'”

I hadn’t seen the exchange until yesterday when Sam played it on his show. It’s an amazing piece of tape that tells you everything about why the financial press constantly misses major scandals – their only sources of information are bank spokestools and they have no clue about even the most obvious things, like the fact that the whole country north of TriBeCa and south of Battery Park cringes at the sound of Dimon’s name.


On This Day In History October 2

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 2 is the 275th day of the year (276th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 90 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1959, “The Twilight Zone” premiered on CBS television.

The Twilight Zone is an American anthology television series created by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964. The series consisted of unrelated episodes depicting paranormal, futuristic, dystopian, or simply disturbing events; each show typically featured a surprising plot twist and was usually brought to closure with some sort of message. The series was also notable for featuring both established stars (e.g. Cliff Robertson, Ann Blyth, Jack Klugman) and younger actors who would later became famous (e.g. Robert Redford, William Shatner, Mariette Hartley, Shelley Fabares). Rod Serling served as executive producer and head writer; he wrote or co-wrote 92 of the show’s 156 episodes. He was also the show’s host, delivering on- or off-screen monologues at the beginning and end of each episode. During the first season, except for the season’s final episode, Serling’s narrations were off-camera voiceovers; he only appeared on-camera at the end of each show to promote the next episode (footage that was removed from syndicated versions but restored for DVD release, although some of these promotions exist today only in audio format).

The “twilight zone” itself is not presented as being a tangible plane, but rather a metaphor for the strange circumstances befalling the protagonists. Serling’s opening and closing narrations usually summarized the episode’s events in tones ranging from cryptic to pithy to eloquent to unsympathetic, encapsulating how and why the main character(s) had “entered the Twilight Zone”.

Late Night Karaoke

The Looting of American Workers’ Pensions

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In his latest expose at Rolling Stone, contributing editor Matt Taibbi reports how Wall Street is making millions in profits looting the pension funds of American workers. He opens the piece with an outline of Rhode Island Treasure Gina Raimondo’s Rhode Island Retirement Security Act of 2011 and how state workers ended up funding their own “disenfranchisement”

What few people knew at the time was that Raimondo’s “tool kit” wasn’t just meant for local consumption. The dynamic young Rhodes scholar was allowing her state to be used as a test case for the rest of the country, at the behest of powerful out-of-state financiers with dreams of pushing pension reform down the throats of taxpayers and public workers from coast to coast. One of her key supporters was billionaire former Enron executive John Arnold – a dickishly ubiquitous young right-wing kingmaker with clear designs on becoming the next generation’s Koch brothers, and who for years had been funding a nationwide campaign to slash benefits for public workers.

Nor did anyone know that part of Raimondo’s strategy for saving money involved handing more than $1 billion – 14 percent of the state fund – to hedge funds, including a trio of well-known New York-based funds: Dan Loeb’s Third Point Capital was given $66 million, Ken Garschina’s Mason Capital got $64 million and $70 million went to Paul Singer’s Elliott Management. The funds now stood collectively to be paid tens of millions in fees every single year by the already overburdened taxpayers of her ostensibly flat-broke state. Felicitously, Loeb, Garschina and Singer serve on the board of the Manhattan Institute, a prominent conservative think tank with a history of supporting benefit-slashing reforms. The institute named Raimondo its 2011 “Urban Innovator” of the year. [..]

Today, the same Wall Street crowd that caused the crash is not merely rolling in money again but aggressively counterattacking on the public-relations front. The battle increasingly centers around public funds like state and municipal pensions. This war isn’t just about money. Crucially, in ways invisible to most Americans, it’s also about blame. In state after state, politicians are following the Rhode Island playbook, using scare tactics and lavishly funded PR campaigns to cast teachers, firefighters and cops – not bankers – as the budget-devouring boogeymen responsible for the mounting fiscal problems of America’s states and cities.

Not only did these middle-class workers already lose huge chunks of retirement money to huckster financiers in the crash, and not only are they now being asked to take the long-term hit for those years of greed and speculative excess, but in many cases they’re also being forced to sit by and watch helplessly as Gordon Gekko wanna-be’s like Loeb or scorched-earth takeover artists like Bain Capital are put in charge of their retirement savings.

In a preview of the article, Matt outlines three reasons to follow this scandal:

1)     Many states and cities have been under-paying or non-paying their required contributions into public pension funds for years, causing massive shortfalls that are seldom reported upon by local outlets.

2)     As a solution to the fiscal crises, unions and voters are being told that a key solution is seeking higher yields or more diversity through “alternative investments,” whose high fees cost nearly as much as the cuts being demanded of workers, making this a pretty straightforward wealth transfer. A series of other middlemen are also in on this game, siphoning off millions in fees from states that are publicly claiming to be broke.

3)     Many of the “alternative investments” these funds end up putting their money in are hedge funds or PE funds run by men and women who have lobbied politically against traditional union pension plans in the past, meaning union members have been giving away millions of their own retirement money essentially to fund political movements against them.

(all emphasis is mine)

Last week, Matt joined Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! to discuss how hedge funds are looting the pension funds of American workers

Transcript can be read here

“Essentially it is a wealth transfer from teachers, cops and firemen to billionaire hedge funders,” Taibbi says. “Pension funds are one of the last great, unguarded piles of money in this country and there are going to be all sort of operators that are trying to get their hands on that money.”

2013 Senior League Wild Card Sudden Death: Reds @ Pirates

Argh Mateys.  This be Cap’n Hank Bloodbeard and for the first time in a long, long time the Pirates be ready to pillage and plunder the Senior Circuit.  If’n it helps ye hate on the scurvy Reds remember they be the team o’ Pete Rose, a cut throat player who turned out to be so corrupt a Cap’n he’d bet agin’ his own side.

No Hall for you.  Ever.

The Reds be takin’ the field first behind Johnny Cueto (5 – 2, 2.82 ERA R).  He be better than he look, 8 – 2 at PNC Park, 7 – 2 with a 1.43 ERA in his last 12 starts agin’ the Pirates.

They be puttin’ up Francisco Liriano (16 – 8, 3.02 ERA L) who be vulnerable.  Liriano went 0-3 in four starts against the Reds this season though lack of run support be a significant factor.  But this be his home field, 8 – 1 with a 1.47 ERA in 11 starts at PNC Park. And the Pirates keelhauled Cincinnati on the final weekend of the season.

The Pirates be in the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.  They have 20 straight losing seasons, longest among the four major professional sports.  The Pirates went 50-31 at PNC Park this season 5 – 4 against the Reds.

The Reds be in the playoffs it for the third time in four years and are 13 – 7 against the Pirates in the postseason.  They also took two of three at PNC Park in their last series there Sept. 20 – 22.

And ye think this not be a grudge match between ’em they plunked 28 batsmen this season.

The format o’ the game be rightly called… Sudden Death.