User Picture

The Band’s “The Band”

By: Elliott Tuesday September 23, 2014 8:00 pm


Robbie Robertson tweeted tonight was the 45th anniversary of the release of The Band, one of the All Time Great albums ever, and I’m not alone making this declaration.

Up on Cripple Creek

The second LP, simply called The Band, was begun the following spring. This time, everyone went to California to record right from the beginning. They rented a large house from Sammy Davis Jr., nestled in the Hollywood Hills, turning the pool house into a recording studio, nailing baffles all along the outside wall and in the process creating a shining example of visual ugliness on the outside that sounded great on the inside. Everything but “Up On Cripple Creek”“Jemima Surrender” and “Whispering Pines” was recorded here. The latter three were cut back in New York at the Hit Factory.

Big Pink had been a fine, even superiour debut. The Band was their masterpiece. Robertson, now the dominant songwriter (he had only written four songs on first LP), had grown by leaps and bounds. Likewise, DankoManuelHelm, Robertson and Hudson, as good as they had been to this point, had reached a whole other level of ensemble playing. The sum was much greater than the parts, and the parts were as good as any that existed.

A lot of thought went into this record. Robertson and John Simon had spent a week in Hawaii planning the sessions. Everyone living together in the Sammy Davis house with wives and the odd additional family member created a kind of clubhouse atmosphere (reminiscent of Big Pink) where the creative flow of ideas was constantly facilitated by the proximity of the equipment and each other…

Read the rest at the official website.

Rag Mama Rag


I Was Surprised to Find Myself on MSNBC Talking Peace

By: David Swanson Tuesday September 23, 2014 7:58 pm

Attempted to embed video here:

Anti-war protests sprout up across the US
Anti-war protests sprung up across the U.S., as American and Arab partners began airstrikes in Syria. Ed Schultz and activist David Swanson discuss.

Video: Democracy Now with a Very Insightful IS/Syria/US Analysis

By: jbade Tuesday September 23, 2014 4:57 pm

Very nice. Medea  of  CODEPINK and Vijay, Trinity College demonstrating deep a knowledge of the Syria/ US/IS/ bombing thing.

Vijay’s assertion that the US was bombing “symbolic empty buildings” while a couple hundred thousand people in a town are being shelled yet the US does not bomb IS to help those people is very troubling. Deep thoughtful, fact based analysis-

Short version

Mining the Earth: 23 Sep 2014

By: KateCA Tuesday September 23, 2014 4:32 pm

Why East Kentucky Kids Use Orange Crayons to Draw Streams

Mining the Earth

*KY.   Back lung disease among coal miners at levels seen 40 years ago is “back with a vengeance”.  This time around, its worst cases occur not just among underground miners, but surface-miners as well.  All the “easy-pickins” of past mining are gone; consequently, miners today have to “cut through more rock to extract coal from smaller seams, releasing more dust . . . including [very dangerous] silica”.  The industry is reportedly objecting to increased dust-control rules.

*KY.  Two senators aware of the resurgence of black lung  are working to ensure “fairer treatment for coal miners with black lung disease as they pursue benefits claims.”  Despite the devastating consequences of black lung disease among miners Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Bob Casey (D-PA) don’t expect any rush to enact their bill, and intend to re-introduce it next year.

*VA.  Members of the Alliance for Appalachia showed up at the White House to demand an end to mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia.  They met with administration officials last week concerning water pollution resulting from mountaintop removal mining and rallied for clean water outside the White House.  They’re focusing on a 2009 MOU President Obama signed which included steps to be taken to increase environmental oversight in the permitting process.  The Alliance for Appalachia is advocating stronger steps and action.

*Canada.  “A Quebec judge has rejected the Iron Ore Companyof Canada’s efforts to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed by two Innu communities which claim the miner has violated their rights for nearly 60 years and are seeking $900 million in compensation.  Those would be the Innu First Nations of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lack John.  Rio Tinto is the mine operator.  The lawsuit is now proceeding.

*Canada.  Imperial Metals has now built an upstream dike at the Mount Polley Mine, scene of the August 4th disaster when a tailings dam was breached and 2.8 billion gallons of toxic waste water  was released.  With the dike completed, investigators can enter the site and begin their work.

*Canada.  Environment Minister Mark Polak denies that cut-backs on inspections and reports resulted in the Mount Polley Mine breach.

Stalker: Obama’s obsessive harassment of Syria & Ukraine

By: Jane Stillwater Tuesday September 23, 2014 10:04 am
     CBS is premiering a new TV show called “Stalker” this October, and this program is fierce and scary as hell — all about a bunch of creepy guys who go around stalking their prey mercilessly.
      But what is the exact definition of a stalker?  “A person who harasses or persecutes someone with unwanted and obsessive attention.”  Further, “Any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear can be considered stalking.”
     I personally know of two insanely obsessive examples of stalking at its worst.
     In one case, the unwanted and illegal harassment has gone on for years and involves relentless fear-producing acts of violence so intense that it is like being in a horror movie.  Home invasions in the middle of the night.  Masked attackers brandishing weapons.  Harassing phone calls.  False lies and accusations.  Family members followed and stalked.
    Imagine your worst nightmare and multiply it by a thousand — and then imagine this horror going on for three years.  Imagine going to the authorities and begging for help but having no one believe you or even listen to you!

Peter Van Buren: Apocalypse Now, Back to the Future in Iraq

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday September 23, 2014 9:04 am

Back around again

This article originally appeared at To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

On April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King delivered a speech at Riverside Church in New York City titled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” In it, he went after the war of that moment and the money that the U.S. was pouring into it as symptoms of a societal disaster.  President Lyndon Johnson’s poverty program was being “broken and eviscerated,” King said from the pulpit of that church, “as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war… We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.  I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.”  Twice more in that ringing speech he spoke of “the madness of Vietnam” and called for it to cease.

Don’t think of that as just a preacher’s metaphor.  There was a genuine madness on the loose — and not just in the “free-fire zones” of Vietnam but in policy circles here in the United States, in the frustration of top military and civilian officials who felt gripped by an eerie helplessness as they widened a terrible war on the ground and in the air.  They were, it seemed, incapable of imagining any other path than escalation in the face of disaster and possible defeat.  Even in the years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, when there was a brief attempt to paint that lost war in a more heroic hue (“a noble cause,” the president called it), that sense of madness, or at least of resulting mental illness, lingered.  It remained embedded in a phrase then regularly applied to Americans who were less than willing to once again head aggressively into the world.  They were suffering from, it was said, “Vietnam syndrome.”

Today, almost 25 years into what someday might simply be called America’s Iraq War (whose third iteration we’ve recently entered), you can feel that a similar “madness” has Washington by the throat.  Just as King noted of the Vietnam era, since 9/11 American domestic programs and agencies have been starved while money poured into the coffers of the Pentagon and an increasingly bloated national security state.  The results have been obvious.  In the face of the spreading Ebola virus in West Africa, for instance, the president can no longer turn to civilian agencies or organizations for help, but has to call on the U.S. military in an “Ebola surge” — even our language has been militarized — although its forces are not known for their skills, successes, or spendthrift ways when it comes to civilian “humanitarian” or nation-building operations.

We’ve already entered the period when strategy, such as it is, falls away, and our leaders feel strangely helpless before the drip, drip, drip of failure and the unbearable urge for further escalation.  At this point, in fact, the hysteria in Washington over the Islamic State seems a pitch or two higher than anything experienced in the Vietnam years.  A fiercely sectarian force in the Middle East has captured the moment and riveted attention, even though its limits in a region full of potential enemies seem obvious and its “existential threat” to the U.S. consists of the possibility that some stray American jihadi might indeed try to harm a few of us.  Call it emotional escalation in a Washington that seems remarkably unhinged.

It took Osama bin Laden $400,000 to $500,000, 19 hijackers, and much planning to produce the fallen towers of 9/11 and the ensuing hysteria in this country that launched the disastrous, never-ending Global War on Terror.  It took the leaders of the Islamic State maybe a few hundred bucks and two grim videos, featuring three men on a featureless plain in Syria, to create utter, blind hysteria here.  Think of this as confirmation of Karl Marx’s famous comment that the first time is tragedy, but the second is farce.

One clear sign of the farcical nature of our moment is the inability to use almost any common word or phrase in an uncontested way if you put “Iraq” or “Islamic State” or “Syria” in the same sentence.  Remember when the worst Washington could come up with in contested words was the meaning of “is” in Bill Clinton’s infamous statement about his relationship with a White House intern?  Linguistically speaking, those were the glory days, the utopian days of official Washington.

Just consider three commonplace terms of the moment: “war,” “boots on the ground,” and “combat.”  A single question links them all: Are we or aren’t we?  And to that, in each case, Washington has no acceptable answer.  On war, the secretary of state said no, we weren’t; the White House and Pentagon press offices announced that yes, we were; and the president fudged.  He called it “targeted action” and spoke of America’s “unique capability to mobilize against an organization like ISIL,” but God save us, what it wasn’t and wouldn’t be was a “ground war.”

Only with Congress did a certain clarity prevail.  Nothing it did really mattered.  Whatever Congress decided or refused to decide when it came to going to war would be fine and dandy, because the White House was going to do “it” anyway.  “It,” of course, was the Clintonesque “is” of present-day Middle Eastern policy.  Who knew what it was, but here was what it wasn’t and would never be: “boots on the ground.”  Admittedly, the president has already dispatched 1,600 booted troops to Iraq’s ground (with more to come), but they evidently didn’t qualify as boots on the ground because, whatever they were doing, they would not be going into “combat” (which is evidently the only place where military boots officially hit the ground).  The president has been utterly clear on this.  There would be no American “combat mission” in Iraq.  Unfortunately, “combat” turns out to be another of those dicey terms, since those non-boots had barely landed in Iraq when Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey started to raise the possibility that some of them, armed, might one day be forward deployed with Iraqi troops as advisers and spotters for U.S. air power in future battles for Iraq’s northern cities.  This, the White House now seems intent on defining as not being a “combat mission.”

And we’re only weeks into an ongoing operation that could last years.  Imagine the pretzeling of the language by then.  Perhaps it might be easiest if everyone — Congress, the White House, the Pentagon, and Washington’s pundits — simply agreed that the United States is at “war-ish” in Iraq, with boots on the ground-ish in potentially combat-ish situations.  Former State Department whistleblower and TomDispatch regular Peter Van Buren spent his own time in Iraq and wrote We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People about it.  Now, he considers the mind-boggling strangeness of Washington doing it all over again, this time as the grimmest of farces. Tom


Apocalypse Now, Iraq Edition

Fighting in Iraq Until Hell Freezes Over
By Peter Van Buren

I wanted to offer a wry chuckle before we headed into the heavy stuff about Iraq, so I tried to start this article with a suitably ironic formulation. You know, a déjà-vu-all-over-again kinda thing. I even thought about telling you how, in 2011, I contacted a noted author to blurb my book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, and he presciently declined, saying sardonically, “So you’re gonna be the one to write the last book on failure in Iraq?”

Caliphate vs Caliphate… Obama’s wild goose chase

By: David Seaton Tuesday September 23, 2014 6:45 am

“Globalization is the caliphate of the financial markets”

Andrés Rábago’s quote is rather perfect.  Here is Wikipedia’s definition of the Muslim Caliphate:

Conceptually, a caliphate represents a sovereign state of the entire Muslim faithful, (the Ummah), ruled by a caliph under Islamic law (sharia).

Globalization being the universal rule of the financial markets under the laws of liberal economics, with the bankers being a collegiate “caliph” and “god” being written as “$”.

A fundamentalist reading of our system would go something like this: “there is no $ but the $ and the NYSE is its witness” to which its devotees would add, “peace be upon it”.

However, our system is bleeding charisma.

Charisma is a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a leader. Max Weber

What is the heart of our system’s charisma? It’s symbol might be the Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty: our faith is based on our system’s heretofore eternal ability to create endless wealth and spread it around widely enough so its glaring inequalities were accepted painlessly.  This version of the economy has been in the tank since Lehman Brothers went down and the middle class of the developed countries, not having had the darshan of  “$” for quite a while are losing the faith.

Our economy’s inability without end to cut the mustard for the middle class is a gross betrayal of faith which might be compared to some future pope saying ex-catedra that God didn’t exist and that he had sold the Vatican to the Holiday Inn chain and was taking the proceeds and moving with his husband to the Bahamas. The tragic chaos and desolation of betrayed faith would shatter the lives of millions.

Thus under the rule of the global caliphate, the natives are restless: Scotland, Catalonia, even in the USA, where according to Reuters, one out of four Americans would like to “secede”, all this while thousands march worldwide to “save the planet”.  However, with Karl Marx on the “ash heap of history”, sitting there in the penalty box, waiting to get back in the game, it seems to me that, for the moment, the only revolution in town is Islamic…

Am I the only one to see a resemblance between Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Pol Pot… between the Islamic State and the Khmer Rouge? With the difference that the Khmer Rouge were a relatively small group of whacked out Maoists in a tiny out of the way place like Cambodia and the IS (according to the CIA) consists of 31,000 well armed, well trained, fanatical, young men (and women) who come from all over the world, bankrolled by some of the most pious of Arab billionaires, armed with one of history’s most powerful ideologies, smack dab in the middle of the world’s most strategic real estate. “Bring ‘em on” said George W. Bush…. well now here they are.

What impresses me most is not all the beheading. We think this brutality is a message directed to us… it isn’t; it is a message for everybody except “us”. Americans might be shocked and disappointed to discover that after several centuries of  colonial oppression a great part of the world’s population can see a white man get his throat cut with total equanimity if not a certain schadenfreude.

What truly does impress me is that the CIA puts IS’s numbers at 31,000. This certainly is no a small group of terrorists.

Anyone with even a superficial knowledge of statistical sampling should shudder at that number. With only 30,624 Muslims randomly polled you would have a reliable indicator of the Ummah’s opinion on any subject, so it would be safe to say that for every young man (or woman) with enough courage and initiative to travel so far at so much risk of death, there must be thousands on thousands of young men (and women) who wish they had the guts to do so too.

Certainly these numbers tell us that even the most moderate Muslims could imagine a young family member involved, very much in the same way that moderate Irish or Basques could easily have a family member in the IRA or ETA and while they disapprove of what they do, they don’t stop loving them… As a friend of mine from a very rich family once told me, “blood is thicker than toothpaste”.

This means that our success in running down and exterminating the young men (and women) of the Islamic State may bring us much more trouble down the road than we have today.

A very reliable leading indicator of how wrong this could all go is the recent statement by Tony Blair advocating sending in ground troops… I’m waiting to hear what Bush thinks.

Cross posted from:

Without Intending to do so, Wisconsin Budget Request Strengthens Arguments for Taking Federal Medicaid Money

By: WI Budget Project Tuesday September 23, 2014 6:37 am


Without intending to do so, the Department of Health Services (DHS) budget request has substantially strengthened the arguments for expanding BadgerCare and taking federal funding available for that purpose, which would  erase much of the state’s currently projected Medicaid funding shortfall.  There are many compelling reasons to accept the federal funding, and the DHS budget request unveiled last week adds to that list.

The following are four aspects of the budget request that bolster the arguments for expanding BadgerCare eligibility for adults up to 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL).  Although the first point noted below is reason enough to take the federal funding, a closer reading of the DHS budget request reveals other reasons why the strong arguments for expanding BadgerCare are now even stronger.

1)  The $760 million in additional state revenue needed simply for a cost-to-continue budget – The DHS budget request seeks an increase of $760 million in state General Purpose Revenue (GPR) simply to maintain current Medicaid and BadgerCare benefits.  A WCCF summary of the DHS document explains the primary reasons for that increase, and the next two items in this blog post also shed light on a couple of the factors.  Finding that much additional funding will be extremely difficult at a time when the state is facing a $1.8 billion structural deficit (which means that $1.8 billion of new revenue is needed in 2015-17 before the state can set aside any funding for spending increases).  Expanding BadgerCare would take a very large bite out of the Medicaid shortfall and would help avoid deep cuts in Medicaid eligibility or services.

2) A large increase in projected enrollment of childless adults – The budget request indicates that DHS now expects the number of childless adults enrolled in BadgerCare to reach 145,000 by the end of the current fiscal year.  That’s almost 50% more than DHS projected during budget deliberations, and 10,000 more than DHS assumed when the department revised its enrollment projections in late June!  As that number grows, so do the potential savings from expanding BadgerCare and taking the increased federal funding (which would finance 100% of spending for childless adult coverage in 2015 and 2016, and 95% in 2017).  Based on the assumptions made in the budget bill about average per member costs, we calculate that the state share of covering 10,000 additional childless adults will be roughly $41 million GPR in 2015-17, which is a factor that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau didn’t take into consideration in its August estimate of the potential savings of a BadgerCare expansion.  Expanding BadgerCare to 138% of the federal poverty level would cut that incremental cost to about $1.3 million if the expansion is in effect by July 1, 2015, or to about $11 million GPR if the change were delayed until January 2016.

3) A widening gap between the regular Medicaid match rate and the federal match for expansion states – In contrast to the federal matching rate for Medicaid expansions, which is fixed by statute, the regular federal match rate for each state fluctuates and is declining in Wisconsin.  That federal share, known as the federal Medical Assistance percentage (FMAP), is determined by a formula and automatically declines when a state’s median income is increasing. According to the DHS budget request, the federal Medical Assistance percentage (FMAP) for Wisconsin is falling from slightly over 59% in federal fiscal year (FFY) 2014 to slightly under 58% in FFY 2017. A 1.1 percentage point drop might not sound like much of a difference, but the DHS document indicates that it is expected to cost Wisconsin $188 million during the next biennium.  The FMAP decline in 2015-17 was only partially accounted for in the LFB’s August calculation of the substantial savings from expanding BadgerCare to 138% of FPL.  I estimate that the latest FMAP estimate will increase the potential savings of a Medicaid expansion by roughly $1 million more in 2015-17 than the LFB calculated.

4) Demonstrating flaws in the logic behind the Governor’s rejection of the Medicaid funds – The Governor contends that it would be risky to accept the increased Medicaid funding, but the DHS request illustrates one of the flaws in that line of argument. The much higher federal match rate for expansion states is locked in by statute, and that helps make the federal share of Medicaid expansion spending more secure than the regular federal match rate, which is gradually declining. In addition, the Governor’s alternative plan relies on another source of federal funding – the subsidies for Marketplace insurance plans – to finance coverage of parents the state cut from BadgerCare.  As I noted in a previous blog post, over the next couple of years there are more reasons to fear the elimination of that subsidy funding than the federal funds for Medicaid expansions.

To sum up, the Fiscal Bureau estimated in August that expanding BadgerCare to 138% of the federal poverty level would save state taxpayers $261 million to $315 million in the next biennium, even if the expansion doesn’t take effect until January 2016.  Based on the latest enrollment estimates in the DHS budget request and their assumptions about the federal match rate, we estimate that the lower end of the potential savings is $31 million GPR more than the LFB indicated (or $41 million more if the change took effect by July 1, 2015).  To close the $760 million hole in the Medicaid budget, it’s critically important for Wisconsin to expand BadgerCare and accept the increased federal funding.