Auld Lang Syne 2011
Here's to 2012. Hoping 2012 brings better times for everyone.
Blogging to the highest common denominator
“If you don’t do what you’re supposed to do for Mitt Romney on Tuesday,” Christie said, defiant in only a suit jacket against the biting cold and wind-whipped rain, “I will be back, Jersey-style, people. I will be back.”I understand it was clear he was joking. But joking or not, that bully schtick sells to the swing voters. Suspect there's a lot of Jersey Shore fans in that demo. And he really is Gleasonesque. Hell, he even looks a little like Jackie. That could win over the elderly vote who still remember, and maybe somewhat long for, the days of The Honeymooners.
It is a dead-level time for us as a people. There are now 146 million Americans who are ranked as "low-income" or "poor." Somebody really should do something about that. How we treat them in our politics is going to be the ultimate test of our moral credibility as a nation. Do we treat this situation as the national disgrace that it is, and commit ourselves as a nation to eliminating it? Or do we turn away from them, blame them for the malaise we feel in our lives, and drink deeply again from the supply-side, trickle-down snake oil? Do we look at the president — a Democratic president — and scream that this is no longer tolerable to us as a people? Or do we nod sagely and deplore the lack of civility and bipartisan cooperation in our government and hope that cooler heads will prevail, that the great national purpose of our age is to deprive ourselves further of what was supposed to be the promise of the country in the vague and futile hope that somehow, somewhere, things will get better down the line?If you read nothing else this weekend. Read this in its entirety.
The moral act is to scream.
The stock market’s rebound from the financial crisis three years ago has created a potential windfall for hundreds of executives who were granted unusually large packages of stock options shortly after the market collapsed.So in other words, when the market crashed, the execs got mega stock options at a low price. Market recovers, they get to buy the revalued stocks at a bargain basement rate and the companies get a huge tax write off for the enhanced compensation. Which robs the national treasury of their tax revenue. Little taxpayers are effectively subsidizing executive payoffs, which are already astronomically high.
Now, the corporations that gave those generous awards are beginning to benefit, too, in the form of tax savings.
Thanks to a quirk in tax law, companies can claim a tax deduction in future years that is much bigger than the value of the stock options when they were granted to executives. This tax break will deprive the federal government of tens of billions of dollars in revenue over the next decade. And it is one of the many obscure provisions buried in the tax code that together enable most American companies to pay far less than the top corporate tax rate of 35 percent — in some cases, virtually nothing even in very profitable years.
Groups like American Crossroads (which I helped found) will narrow the Democratic money advantage.Otherwise, shorter op-ed: This is my wish list and I'm counting on my high priced, stealth smear ad campaign to make it come true.
I think David Brooks belongs in a cage.I have nothing to add to that, however, our estimable blogging hero has much more to say on the subject of Mr. Brooks "to-the-manor-born sociopathy" along with his usual delicious roasting of Brooks' fellow sociopaths. So, you know what to do
“Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source,” Mr. Perry said in Clarinda, earning a loud round of enthusiastic applause.OK, so maybe those furriners up north aren't so threatening because they're mostly white folks and mostly speak English, so it's not really like a foreign country. Not like those evil furriners on the south border who don't even understand our language and refuse to learn to speak Amurkin at all. But it wasn't that long ago this same crowd was all hyped up about the existential threat of the imaginary NAFTA Superhighway which was going to destroy our sovereignty and create a North American government allowing them there Mexicans free passage all over our great land. A grave concern that still hadn't completely died as late as last year.
Nation Hahn: Things can change. RT: @debitking: On this day in 2007, John McCain was still in 4th place in the polls. #campaignfactsRelated thought: Newt moved to the top of the Ohio polls.
Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House more than doubled, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home equity.If they did include home equity, no doubt the gap would be much greater. But it's not just the wealth, it's the disparity between the life experience. Few of our current political overlords, who talk about making hard choices on austerity cuts, have faced the real tough choices of the poor. Whether to get their kid a badly needed new pair of shoes, or pay a utility bill. Between heat and a doctor's visit. Between food and medications. Wondering how long they can ignore that odd noise the car is making before the engine breaks down.
Over the same period, the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan.
The comparisons exclude home equity because it is not included in congressional reporting, and 1984 was chosen because it is the earliest year for which consistent wealth statistics are available.
"We just haven't had as much face time," Republican chairwoman Trudy Caviness in Wapello County said. "That's why we're so undecided."Indeed, the GOP hopefuls "have barely visited the state." There's a number of reasons for this that I laid out in a longer post at the Detroit News.
"Umm. . ." I said, stalling for time.I remember not long ago having shocked her, and the entire dinner table for that matter by expressing distaste for Glenn Beck as a reliable source of information and I really try to be polite to nice people but I settled on:
"Well, I'm not a big fan of his."
" Yeah, I think he tends to make things up or tell us things he gets from rumor and web sites without verifying them, but I think that's true of Fox in general. I remember the first time I listened to him years ago, but maybe it was Hannity. I get them confused sometimes because I never watch Fox."The look of astonishment still had not faded.
"But anyway, he was going on and on about how the PC Liberals had banned Christmas lights in -- I think it was Muskegon Michigan -- or wearing red and green clothing on Christmas -- and of course it was immediately checked by another network and it wasn't and of course it was a surprise to the mayor who had never heard of the whole thing -- and of course Fox never hinted that it had been caught in a lie."
"You know my son says the same thing about Fox: 'they make up stories mom, don't watch them.' "
"Well he must be a brilliant guy if he agrees with me," I said a bit relieved.
" He's got a PhD in Biochemistry."
"Well he sounds smart in spite of that"
" He is," said the proud mother, " but still, what I don't like is when they tell us we can't say Merry Christmas any more."
"but who ever told you that? That's what I mean. Nobody, and certainly not anyone in government has said that -- only Fox News! Merry Christmas! See, no black helicopters."
These past few days I have met with my constituents in Arkansas’s First District, they are angry and they don’t understand why Congress cannot sit down, hammer out our differences, and have a solution we can all support. My constituents are honest, hard-working people who deserve a Congress that will put partisan politics aside in favor of the greater good. Congress must come together and act to ensure that my constituents, and millions of Americans all across the country, are not hit with higher taxes on January 1st...I've been to Arkansas. I'm pretty sure the First District is not a hotbed of liberalism. When his constituents compel him to make a statement like that, it tells me the tide is turning.
We are now in a position that requires all options to be on the table, that requires Republicans to not only demand a willingness to compromise, but to offer it as well.
[I]n an interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday, Mr. Boehner said the two-month extension would be “just kicking the can down the road.”Which is exactly what he said when they were holding the economy hostage back in July over the debt ceiling. Oh wait, no he didn't. Pretty sure that was Cantor who said they could deliver a two year bill. Because nobody wanted to be debating another government shutdown at Christmas time. But Cantor blew up that arduously crafted "grand bargain" back then, leaving Boehner to play the useful fool.
All of those riders were removed by Democrats in the final bill. As appropriators from both parties noted in negotiations, there was no point in catering to the most conservative House members because they would never vote for the spending bill anyway. And sure enough, 86 Republicans, mostly from the hard right, bucked their leadership and opposed the measure. It “does not offer drastic spending cuts,” explained one of them, Joe Walsh of Illinois.Of course it's not all good news. GOPers won some awful concessions. There were cruel cuts to discretionary spending that protects the public commons and the working class poor. The cruelest of all being a 25% cut in winter fuel assistance. But as Steve said:
Given what far-right congressional Republicans wanted out of this agreement and didn’t get, it’s not a bad omnibus. It would have been infinitely better had Americans not elected the most right-wing House in modern history, but under the circumstances, there’s reason to feel satisfied.Not sure satisfied is the right word. But I am relieved it wasn't worse. So there's that...
Don't blame Obama for signing it. Blame Congress for passing it.It is useful to remember Obama doesn't have line item veto power. He would have to kill the entire bill to make a symbolic point, which was probably worth making. However, the practical effect of a veto would have had an undeniably adverse effect on thousands of innocent bystanders whose survival and well being depend on the spending authorizations. Not to mention, the de facto spending freeze it would cause for at least a couple of months. Is that really better?
Obama didn’t place this odious amendment into the bill; Republicans did, even if they didn't place the exact language into the bill, they created the impetus for including crap like this in an irrelevant bill in the first place. Go after them!
Perry officially retired in January so he could start collecting his lucrative pension benefits early, but he still gets to collect his salary — and has in turn dramatically boosted his take-home pay.Sadly, this early "retirement" doesn't mean he's retired as the governor of Texas. No, he's still keeping that title and the salary. If he manages to serve his whole term, his retirement payments will be raised to reflect his additional years of "service." This is all perfectly legal and at the taxpayers' expense.
Perry makes a $150,000 gross salary as Texas govenor. Now, thanks to his early retirement, Perry, 61, gets a monthly retirement annuity of $7,698 before taxes, or $6,588 net. That raises his gross salary to more than $240,000.
“I do advocate totally rethinking the safety net, personal security programs completely,” Perry said in a November 2010 interview. “Why is the government collecting your tax money for retirement and health care programs? That’s not a stated constitutional role.”Classic GOP definition of shared sacrifice. We working class losers get to do the sacrificing, while the "producer" class gets to take our share of the national treasury. Which seems only fair -- to them
In his most ambitious policy prescription so far as a presidential candidate, Perry proposed a partial privatization of Social Security for future retirees, changes that would not affect the federal benefits he will receive.
Dear President Obama and DC Dems: Fk you. No seriously, Just fk you, each and every one of you merry gentlemen and gentlewomen. Why the hell do you think we should fight for you, if you don't fight for us?I was going to write up my disgust, but while I was getting ready for my big dinner date this evening, my new blogging hero beat me to it. So outsourcing my rage to Charles P. Pierce's eloquence:
Oh, they have made a day of it. First, the pillars of Jell-O in the Senate roll over on the itty-bitty surtax they wanted to lay on the plutocrats to pay for a payroll tax cut for the rest of us. Then, the president announces that he's not going to veto after all the bill in which 400 years of Western jurisprudence is pretty much torn to ribbons and tossed to the wind, albeit slightly less deeply into the wind than the original monstrosity would have liked. And, finally, Ron Wyden of Oregon steps forward to give cover to zombie-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan's latest attempt to "reform" Medicare in the same way that Arthur (Bomber) Harris "reformed" the building codes in Dresden. It's a Very Special Holiday Episode of the long-running hit comedy, Ah, Who Gives a Fk Anyway? [...]That's just the highlights. Definitely read it all to experience the full range of my anger.
It cannot be emphasized enough. Of the three issues under discussion, the polling data on two of them simply could not be clearer. The American people want taxes raised on the very wealthiest among us, and the American people do not want Paul Ryan's clammy hands anywhere near the Medicare program. Public opinion is (distressingly) ambivalent on the detainee provisions, but it's not overly popular with the people who have to implement it, and it has retired Marine generals throwing bricks at it, and, dammit, the president taught constitutional law, or so we are told repeatedly. [...]
Here's a tip, gang: The American people are not angry at government because people yell at each other and nothing ever gets done. The American people are angry because people yell at each other and nothing the American people really want ever gets done. They want higher taxes on billionnaires. They want Medicare kept out of the hands of the vandals. If they think about it a little, they even like their jurisprudence with a little habeas corpus sprinkled on top. Instead, they get endless platitudes, and the steady, futile placating of an insatiable political opposition.
BAGHDAD — The United States military officially declared an end to its mission in Iraq on Thursday even as violence continues to plague the country and the Muslim world remains distrustful of American power.Panetta also said the many "lives lost in Iraq were not in vain." Wish I could believe that, but I still don't know what the hell we were ever doing there and don't see what we accomplished that was all so great.
In a fortified concrete courtyard at the airport in Baghdad, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta thanked the more than one million American service members who have served in Iraq for “the remarkable progress” made over the past nine years but acknowledged the severe challenges that face the struggling democracy.
As many as 2 million Iraqis — nearly 6 percent of the country's estimated more than 31 million population — are thought to have been forced from the cities and towns where they once lived and are housed in circumstances that feel temporary and makeshift.The last via Atrios who rightly notes, "We'll never really acknowledge the hell we unleashed."
More than 500,000 of those are "squatters in slum areas with no assistance or legal right to the properties they occupy," according to Refugees International, a Washington-based advocacy group. Most can't go home: Either their homes have been destroyed or hostile ethnic and sectarian groups now control their neighborhoods.
“Zany is not what we need in a president.”Somebody get this man a dictionary. Zany is Harpo Marx. Zany is Buddy Hackett. Zany is Robin Williams as Mork from Ork. Zany is Stephen Colbert. One might even stretch to call Charlie Sheen zany. Hell, I have zany moments myself.
“Zany is great in a campaign. It’s great on talk radio. It’s great in print, it makes for fun reading,” Mr. Romney told The New York Times. “But in terms of a president, we need a leader, and a leader needs to be someone who can bring Americans together.”
MADISON, Wis. -- The signatures of Mickey Mouse and Adolf Hitler will be counted on recall petitions targeting Gov. Scott Walker as long as they are properly dated and include a Wisconsin address, the board charged with reviewing the petitions was told Tuesday. [...]This comes up every time the Republicans and conservatives want to justify their voter suppression tactics. So on a whim, I just did a quick check on Google. There is actually someone listed in the white pages directory as Mickey Mouse. In fact, there several people with the surname Mouse. No Adolph Hitlers showed up, but there were three with the last name so it's possible there's a real person out there with that name too. I mean, besides that unfortunate baby with the crazy parents who was involved in the birthday cake scandal.
"We will flag them, but we will not strike them without challenge," Buerger said after being asked whether Mickey Mouse's signature would be counted. He noted that in previous recall petitions, Adolf Hitler's name was struck because the address given was in Germany, not because of the name itself.
“The longer this race goes, the more you’re going to see these Republican candidates try to mortgage the general election to try and win the primary campaign,” said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for the president’s re-election campaign.Meanwhile, Chris Christie hosted a million dollar fundraiser for Willard the other night. Christie gathered some 500 illuminaries of the Jersey GOP and told the media "he expects the primary process to be a 'long slog' that won’t be determined by the first few states to hold contests."
“The longer the race,” Mr. Axelrod said, “the harder it will be to scramble back.”
“As you’ve watched Gov. Romney perform over the last number of months in the many debates that our Republican presidential candidates have participated in, the things that are constant in Gov. Romney’s performances are things that will be constants in his presidency,” Christie added, listing the character traits Romney possesses including: maturity, intelligence, thoughtfulness, honesty, “and he has the integrity of his principles."Of course, this is exactly the same rhetoric he might use if he was running for President.
“That’s the kind of leader we need in the Oval Office," he said. "We do not need a Chicago ward politician in the Oval Office.”
Under the Republican bill to extend a payroll tax holiday scheduled to be voted on in the House as early as Tuesday, those Americans with gross adjusted income over $1 million would no longer be eligible for food stamps or jobless pay, producing $20 million in savings to help pay for the tax cut for American workers. The idea is also embraced by many Democrats, who had a similar version of the savings in a Senate bill to extend the payroll tax cut, as did a failed Republican Senate bill.As is rightly being pointed on the internets, the number of millionaires engaged in collecting this sort of welfare is negligible. The big bucks handouts to the super-wealthy can be found elsewhere.
Each year, the federal government hands approximately $10 billion over to the richest 1% of Americans — mainly to rich retirees — according to an IBD analysis of data on various federal transfer programs.According to the latest figures, the average Social Security beneficiary collects $14,124 annually. The other big money bite is for health care.
Using IRS data, IBD found that the top 1% of income earners claimed approximately $7 billion in Social Security benefits in 2009. That year, the program paid super-rich seniors — those with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $10 million — an average of $33,000 each.
Medicare, meanwhile, paid roughly $2.6 billion in health care subsidies for the richest 1% of enrollees...One might think these people already have gold plated health care insurance so I wonder how that works. Do these Medicare payments function as a undercover subsidy to the insurance companies, where they pick up the after Medicare costs? Also more generally, certain studies find that because of the way Medicare is financed, this so-called entitlement leads to "net transfers from the poor to the wealthy" since "the rich tend to live longer than the poor."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) spoke out against the war on drugs on Monday, saying that "we need to do much different and much better than what we've done."This was a local event where Christie was touting how much he saved the state of New Jersey in incarceration costs with the his expansion of the state's drug court program. It's actually good policy and Christie defends it well.
"I don't believe the only weapon we use against the drug problem is incarceration," he said in a short video released by his office. "I just don't think it's worked. And I think we see it over and over again that there's evidence that it hasn't."
Such programs defy Republican orthodoxy on the drug war, but Christie insisted that treatment, unlike jail time, attacks the root causes of drug-related crime: "Our experience tells us that there's a lot of folks who are non-violent drug offenders who are spending a lot of time in ... prisons and not being treated for the underlying addiction that's the problem that drives their continued involvement in crime."This is exactly the sort of rhetoric that could win over a lot of Ron Paul voters and other libertarians.
HoneyBearKelly: RT @MiaFarrow: 1 in 45 American children is now homeless. That's 1.6 million children. #povertyNo doubt they are also -- what's the new euphemism for hungry these days -- food insecure? That's criminal. We're the richest country in the world. This shouldn't happen here.
Janke knew the gunmen could be anywhere on the 3,000-acre spread in eastern North Dakota. Fearful of an armed standoff, he called in reinforcements from the state Highway Patrol, a regional SWAT team, a bomb squad, ambulances and deputy sheriffs from three other counties.This is apparently the "first known arrests of U.S. citizens involving the spy planes in domestic cases". Emphasis on the known.
He also called in a Predator B drone.
As the unmanned aircraft circled 2 miles overhead the next morning, sophisticated sensors under the nose helped pinpoint the three suspects and showed they were unarmed. Police rushed in and made the first known arrests of U.S. citizens with help from a Predator, the spy drone that has helped revolutionize modern warfare.
But that was just the start. Local police say they have used two unarmed Predators based at Grand Forks Air Force Base to fly at least two dozen surveillance flights since June. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration have used Predators for other domestic investigations, officials said.
"The FBI publishes characteristics of people you should report as possible terrorists. The list includes the possession of “Meals Ready to Eat,” weatherproofed ammunition, and high-capacity magazines; missing fingers; brightly colored stains on clothing; paying for products in cash; and changes in hair color. I fear that such suspicions might one day be used to imprison a U.S. citizen indefinitely without trial. Just this year, the vice president referred to the Tea Party as a bunch of terrorists. So, I think we should be cautious in granting the power to detain without trial."writes Senator Paul in the National Review.
In the department of forgotten but not gone from the scene, Herman Cain appeared on Fox News' Sean Hannity show tonight, where it was revealed he'll be back next week to give his breakdown of this weekend's GOP debate.Fox "News," wingnut welfare for those who aren't bright enough to snag a RW think tank sinecure.