Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* PUSSY RIOT’S FINAL STATEMENTS
BY J.Y., Eastern Approaches
LAST Wednesday, in the culminating day of their rather rushed, nine-day trial, the three defendants from the punk-art collective “Pussy Riot” had a chance to read out their final statements to the court. The women, Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezdha Tolokonnikova, face three years in prison for hooliganism, stemming from their performance of a pointed and crass protest song called “Our Lady, Chase Putin Out!”inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in February. The verdict will come this Friday.
No matter the exact outcome the often bizarre, at times absurd trial has elevated the trio into the realm of global dissident celebrities. With their last words to the court,the young women added their own, surely durable contributions to a very particular brand of Russian protest speech: the “last word” in court. They spoke of art, of freedom, of a search for meaning, peppered with references to the Gospels and to Montaigne’s Essays and to “ontological humility.”
Their speeches prompted Kirill Serebrennikov, a noted film and theater director, to comment last week on the “rare oral genre of literature” contained in the last statements of the accused in politically motivated trials in Russia, from the victims of the Stalin show trials of the 1930s, to the poet Joseph Brodsky, to the former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovksy. As Mr Serebrennikov put it, the statements of the three women from Pussy Riot are “already a classic of the genre.” […]
* THEY’RE “EARNED BENEFITS” NOT “ENTITLEMENTS”
By RFK Lives, Daily Kos
Webster-Merriam defines “entitlement” as follows:
en·ti·tle·ment noun -ˈtī-təl-mənt\
Definition of ENTITLEMENT
1a : the state or condition of being entitled : right b : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract
2: a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program
3: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges
In the current debate, that 3d definition is the one that (at least implicitly) tends to resonate. Alan Simpson’s favorite greedy geeezers line is emblematic of this thinking. People who spent decades paying into these programs didn’t earn the benefits they’re getting now. They’re receiving these benefits b/c they’re entitled.
In one of the greatest acts of political sleight of hand, the GOP has spent the past 3 decades distracting Americans from our neo-gilded age income and wealth distributions. Reagan started it w/ his “welfare queens.” Today, his party has been depressingly effective at engendering the belief that state and local govt. employees are getting undeserved pension and medical benefits. It’s all part of a brilliant divide and conquer strategy amongst the 99% to keep them from teaming up and confronting the 1%.
We will never prevail in any economic debate unless and until we change this way of thinking. If someone starts w/drawing from a 401k into which they’ve paid for decades, no one begrudges them for doing so. Why are SS and Medicare any different? My parents paid into those programs for decades, and it would be extremely cruel to question their ability to draw from them now. I’ve been paying into those programs for years, and I will have no qualms about benefitting from them in a future that gets closer by the day. […]
* LESSON FOR REPORTERS: SOCIAL SECURITY DOES NOT ADD TO THE BUDGET DEFICIT
Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research
Associated Press decided to use a “Fact Check” to wrongly tell readers that Social Security adds to the budget deficit. The piece acts as though Social Security’s impact on the budget is somewhat mysterious, with supporters of the program, like Representative Xavier Becerra and Senator Bernie Sanders, being confused into thinking that the program doesn’t add to the deficit, even though it really does.
There actually is not much mystery here to those familiar with government budget documents. There are two different measures of the deficit. There is the unified budget deficit, which adds in the payroll taxes collected for Social Security, just like any other source of revenue, and treats the benefits paid out by Social Security just like any other expenditure. In this measure, Social Security will add to the deficit in any year in which its benefit payments exceed its tax collections. (This is the case, even if the fund still has a surplus due to the interest it collects on the government bonds it holds, although it means that Social Security is contributing to the deficit because it is spending some of the interest it has earned.)
However there is also the on-budget deficit, which reflects the fact that Social Security is not supposed to be counted as part of the budget. This mysterious budget can be found in just about every single budget document the government publishes (e.g. here, Summary Table 1), saving arithmetically challenged reporters the need to subtract out Social Security taxes and spending from the unified budget. (The on-budget deficit also corresponds to the debt subject to the legal limit, which has played such a prominent role recently.)
Under the law, Social Security cannot possibly contribute to the on-budget deficit. It can only spend money that has been collected from the designated payroll tax or from the investment of past surpluses. (The money from general revenue to make up for the temporary payroll tax cut the last two years is an exception to this rule.) If benefit payments exceed current revenue and the money available in the trust fund, as the Congressional Budget Office projects will happen in 2038, then Social Security would not be able to pay full scheduled benefits. It could not force the government to increase its deficit. […]
* THE ONE HOUSING SOLUTION LEFT: MASS MORTGAGE REFINANCING
By Joseph E. Stiglitz and Mark Zando, NYTimes
MORE than four million Americans have lost their homes since the housing bubble began bursting six years ago. An additional 3.5 million homeowners are in the foreclosure process or are so delinquent on payments that they will be soon. With 13.5 million homeowners underwater — they owe more than their home is now worth — the odds are high that many millions more will lose their homes.
Housing remains the biggest impediment to economic recovery, yet Washington seems paralyzed. While the Obama administration’s housing policies have fallen short, Mitt Romney hasn’t offered any meaningful new proposals to aid distressed or underwater homeowners.
Late last month, the top regulator overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac blocked a plan backed by the Obama administration to let the companies forgive some of the mortgage debt owed by stressed homeowners. While half a million homeowners could be helped with a principal writedown, the regulator, Edward J. DeMarco, argued (we believe incorrectly) that helping some homeowners might cause others who are paying on their loans to stop so that they also could get their mortgages reduced. […]
* GENERAL WESLEY CLARK SPEAKING 2007 ON IRAN LIBYA SYRIA IRAQ AFRICA AND 911
In this stunning but little-known speech from 2007, Gen. Wesley Clark claims America underwent a “policy coup” at the time of the 9/11 attacks. In this video, he reveals that, right after 9/11, he was privy to information contained in a classified memo: US plans to attack and remove governments in seven countries over five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.
He was told: “We learned that we can use our military without being challenged …. We’ve got about five years to clean up the Soviet client regimes before another superpower comes along and challenges us.”
“This was a policy coup…these people took control of policy in the United States….” […]
* TrapWire: AMERICAN CITIES UNDER TOTAL SURVEILLANCE?
A secret surveillance program known as TrapWire was revealed by WikiLeaks last week, but continuing distributed denial of service attacks have in turn eliminated access to the site for many people. The loose-knit hacktivism collective Anonymous has pounced on the TrapWire story, though, and has launched an operation to expose the truth behind the program and the companies it is connected to. RT Web Producer Andrew Blake broke the story last week and is back to bring up the facts about an effort to blanket America in a state-of-the-art surveillance system.