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The Deal

[ 157 ] January 1, 2013 |

I’m not prepared to make a sweeping judgment of the deal Obama worked out with Republicans over the fiscal slow incline. Obviously there’s some major problems with it. Higher taxes should probably start at less than $250,000 and certainly not $400,000. It only buys us 3 months before yet another round of absurdity over the debt ceiling (let’s hope something on immigration can get done before then. I’m skeptical since the Republicans are going to try and reject nearly every one of Obama’s cabinet nominations). On the other hand, rich people will pay more in taxes and cuts to social programs were avoided.

I do think though that Michael Cohen’s piece blaming the entire mess on Republican extremism makes sense.

Was it worth risking austerity policies that squeeze the middle class simply to lock in even higher tax revenues? Perhaps. People can certainly disagree, and personally, I’m not completely sold on my own rosy take. But when you’re dealing with House Republicans, who could have very easily passed a tax cut bill after going over the cliff that ignored EITC or unemployment insurance, or even set the tax threshold at $500,000 and dared Democrats in the Senate to block it, I find it very difficult to criticize the president too harshly.

In the end, Obama went with the bird-in-hand of a certain deal. Arguing that he could have gotten a better agreement had he held out sounds reasonable, but it ignores the potential obstacles in dealing with a political party that has no interest in the plight of working people or the responsibilities that come with running a large country.

And the consider this: about two weeks ago, the left was up in arms over the possibility of benefit cuts to social security and Medicare. None of that happened – the country’s social insurance programs will remain largely untouched. At least, for the time being.

In fact, when one looks at the likely deal that will resolve this latest fiscal crisis, it is only further evidence of the GOP’s utter hypocrisy on fiscal matters. Consider the major concessions the Republicans got from Obama: a less onerous change in estate taxes, which most directly affect the wealthiest Americans, and a tax break for those making between $250,000 and $400,000.

That’s right: we fought this entire battle so Republicans could make it harder for rich people to avoid paying more of their fair share in taxes.

A party that has made deficit reduction its clarion call, and in particular, reducing the size of government spending, appears to have received virtually nothing in the way of major spending cuts in this deal or deficit reduction for that matter. When push came to shove, reducing tax burdens was all that mattered to the GOP.

Of course, this result is neither startling nor unexpected, at least to those who have paid close attention to the Republican party over the last four years. It is ironic that on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation, a party that was formed by courageous slavery abolitionists has become, 150 years later, a party that is courageously fighting to ensure that wealthy Americans do not pay one penny more in taxes.

Like Cohen, it’s really hard for me to have a rosy view of the American future so long as one party (either really) takes a position that it will completely shut down the country for political purposes. I don’t know how this ends either, not with the science of redistricting ensuring Republican control in many states they receive the minority of votes, the very real possibility of Republican-led states changing election laws to split up their electoral votes before 2016, and an increasingly radical agenda. In the longer term, I feel better knowing that people of my generation and younger are beginning to play a larger role in politics. I may well be too optimistic here.

Krugman notes:

So why the bad taste in progressives’ mouths? It has less to do with where Obama ended up than with how he got there. He kept drawing lines in the sand, then erasing them and retreating to a new position. And his evident desire to have a deal before hitting the essentially innocuous fiscal cliff bodes very badly for the confrontation looming in a few weeks over the debt ceiling.

If Obama stands his ground in that confrontation, this deal won’t look bad in retrospect. If he doesn’t, yesterday will be seen as the day he began throwing away his presidency and the hopes of everyone who supported him.

Of course, I had no hope for Obama when I voted for him and I’m not sure why anyone would. We all knew what Obama was by November 2012 and there’s no reason to think what we don’t like about him will change. Voting is not a morality tale–it’s a choice of who is less evil. That choice was clear. I’m not at all confident over his behavior in the debt ceiling. But at the very least, this bill does raise more revenue and taxes the rich more fairly without cutting social services. From a short-term view then, I guess this leans more toward a win. But short-term views aren’t the most valuable and real judgment should be withheld until the debt ceiling it resolved.

Death List 2013

[ 31 ] January 1, 2013 |

Another year, another death list.

1. Manoel de Oliviera
2. Joan Fontaine
3. Billy Graham
4. Helen Thomas
5. George Shultz
6. Clark Terry
7. Little Jimmy Dickens
8. Nancy Reagan
9. Luis Echeverria
10. Bob Barker

The passing of Mike Wallace, Ernest Borgnine, Phyllis Diller, and Sun Myung Moon opened 4 spots on this year’s list, but then I also made some additional changes to move people along who weren’t really that aged.

I Didn’t Hear Nobody Pray

[ 4 ] December 31, 2012 |

Happy, safe, holiday, etc.

Seriously, no one wants your life to end up befitting a Roy Acuff song. That’s really never ended well for anyone.

Grifters

[ 32 ] December 29, 2012 |

I was thinking of watching The Grifters again. Instead, I just watched the Rick Warren interview on Piers Morgan. Might as well see the real thing.

The White Race Cannot Survive Without Dairy Products

[ 66 ] December 27, 2012 |

I occasionally get the question of what the above phrase means. It was my tagline when I wrote at my own blog and it is on the rotating lines at the top of this blog. It is a quote from Herbert Hoover, a strong believer in eugenics along with everything else. The full quote is as follows:

“In its broad aspects, the proper feeding of children revolves around a public recognition of the interdependence of the human animal upon his cattle. The white race cannot survive without dairy products.”

In a sense, what Hoover is doing here is combining his very real concern for nutrition and food distribution with his racial sensibilities. The intertwining of racial ideology and social reform was all too common in the early 20th century and engaged in by figures ranging from Theodore Roosevelt to Margaret Sanger.

You can see this quote on Google Books in the very exciting journal The Dairy World (and what a wide world it is), 1922, Volume 1, p.18. Also, the equally thrilling publication The Milk Dealer, Volume 11, 1921, p. 86

…..Yglesias makes the connection between Hoover’s remarks and the soon skyrocketing milk prices (due to the Truman-era poison pill on milk without a farm bill). Obama’s plot to destroy white people is now clear for all to see!!!!!

Markey

[ 148 ] December 27, 2012 |

Some of you Massachusetts experts will have to inform me of Ed Markey’s capabilities to defeat Scott Brown.

I don’t think any of us directly addressed the Kerry nomination. One of Obama’s many weaknesses is his belief that leading elected politicians are the primary proving ground for leading administration jobs. He’s gone to this well time and time again, effectively destroying the political careers of top Democrats in red states for no real reason. In this case, the Kerry selection gives Republicans the chance to get Scott Brown back in the Senate. Republicans played Obama like a violin since part of destroying Susan Rice’s credibility was to help retake the Senate in 2014 by taking the Massachusetts special election.

Let’s hope Markey or whoever comes out of the primary can beat Brown.

The Year in Labor

[ 27 ] December 26, 2012 |

Pretty bloody awful, at least according to Ned Resnikoff. The exception was the Chicago Teachers Union strike. As Ned states:

If there’s a common theme to the labor movement’s recent victories, it’s that they occurred outside of the American unionism model which has persisted since the second half of the twentieth century. The CTU strike was the closest thing to a mainstream labor negotiation, since it involved collective bargaining over a contract; but strikes are exceedingly rare in modern America, and CTU is an unusually democratic and community-based union. The fast food and Wal-Mart strikes resembled labor actions of the Gilded Age and the thirties more closely than any major union campaigns in recent American history. Even UNITE HERE’s explicitly electoral campaign focused on consolidating a permanent base of power within the state instead of rallying behind a single candidate.

For the large unions operating within America’s post-World War II status quo, the past year was a nearly unmitigated disaster. However, in low-wage service and retail workplaces—arguably America’s new economic center of gravity—labor was able to make some small but significant gains by reverting back to an older, more militant for of unionism.

I would generally agree with this analysis.

Ronald Reagan: Gun Control Advocate

[ 80 ] December 26, 2012 |

Adam Winkler reminds us of something always worth remembering: Ronald Reagan advocated for gun control.

Republicans in California eagerly supported increased gun control. Governor Reagan told reporters that afternoon that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” He called guns a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” In a later press conference, Reagan said he didn’t “know of any sportsman who leaves his home with a gun to go out into the field to hunt or for target shooting who carries that gun loaded.” The Mulford Act, he said, “would work no hardship on the honest citizen.”

Now of course context is always important. Reagan was responding to black people defending themselves against institutionalized racism by carrying firearms. As Winkler notes, the history of gun control and race in this country is deeply intertwined as racists and conservatives wanted to ensure their power over African-Americans by keeping the weapons in the hands of whites. Challenging that paradigm was central to the Black Panthers’ ideology. How many of today’s gun nuts would be happy to pass laws restricting the rights of black people (or liberals) to own firearms remains unknown, but there’s no question that at the center of today’s gun culture, with an increasing divide between gun owners and non-gun owners that reflects larger partisan divides in American politics and life, that the need and even requirement to use violence to protect “our way of life” (read white, Christian, conservative) is at the heart of the movement. Thus the threats against President Obama, the very real and non-metaphorical eliminationist language, and the deep-seated fear at the heart of the rhetoric.

It’s also very much worth noting that the NRA traditionally supported gun control as well. The organization’s current extremism only dates to the 1970s, a period where not coincidentally, conservative whites were increasingly nervous about the direction of the country, what with the blacks and the gays and feminists and the UFW hunger strikes and such.

I also appreciate Winkler closing his piece with a shot at Scalia’s so-called originalism, which of course means nothing more than the august jurist claiming the Founders believed the current Republican policy positions of the moment.

Morons

[ 142 ] December 26, 2012 |

All of our favorite conservative writers are up in arms because David Gregory brought a high-powered ammunition magazine onto Meet the Press yesterday in order to discuss gun violence.

William Jacobson is calling for Gregory’s prosecution and wants more of this kind of thing (Legal Insurrection!!!!32131!!!!) Glenn Reynolds of course agrees, etc.

There’s only one logical solution to this problem.

We need to arrest George H.W. Bush for possession of crack cocaine.*

If the problem is really going on television with a proper visual to demonstrate a political problem despite technically breaking the law, consistency demands Bush’s arrest. After all, we all know that crack went to W after the press conference so I feel an intent to distribute charge may be in order……

*Since some in the conservative world are too uneducated to understand metaphor, let me introduce them to another part of the English language. This is called sarcasm.

Coup d’FreedomWorks

[ 44 ] December 26, 2012 |

What the what?

Until this year, the partnership between Kibbe and Armey worked well. Armey’s renown as a former House member drew media attention and crowds of conservative activists — most of them old enough to remember Armey’s role in the Republican revolution in Congress in 1994. And Kibbe’s youthful intellectualism drew a new generation of libertarian soldiers into the FreedomWorks fold. In 2010, the two co-wrote a book, “Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto,” that became a New York Times bestseller and a successful marketing tool for FreedomWorks, which collected the book’s proceeds and used it to attract donations.

The partnership came to a crashing end when Armey marched into FreedomWorks’s office Sept. 4 with his wife, Susan, executive assistant Jean Campbell and the unidentified man with the gun at his waist — who promptly escorted Kibbe and Brandon out of the building.

“This was two weeks after there had been a shooting at the Family Research Council,” said one junior staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “So when a man with a gun who didn’t identify himself to me or other people on staff, and a woman I’d never seen before said there was an announcement, my first gut was, ‘Is FreedomWorks in danger?’ It was bizarre.’ ”

By nearly all accounts, including from those loyal to him, Armey handled his attempted coup badly. Armey says he was stepping in because of ethical breaches by Kibbe and Brandon, accusing them of improperly using FreedomWorks staff resources to produce a book — ironically, named “Hostile Takeover” — for which Kibbe claimed sole credit and was collecting royalties. The use of internal resources for Kibbe’s benefit could jeopardize the group’s nonprofit tax status; the group denies any impropriety.

“This is not only about this one incident,” Armey said. “But that one incident was a matter of grievous concern.”

Armey also accused Brandon, Kibbe and other staff members loyal to them of squeezing him out of media appearances and management decisions while using his name to market the group.

Armey appeared out of touch and unsure of how FreedomWorks operated when he took over that Tuesday morning, according to interviews with more than a dozen employees on both sides who witnessed the takeover. Sitting in a glass-walled conference room visible to much of the staff, he placed three young female employees on administrative leave, then reversed himself when they burst into tears; his wife lamented aloud that maybe they had “jumped the gun.”

Jumped the gun indeed. Of course, given the reality of gun-nut power-hungry conservatives, the idea that Dick Armey would lead an armed rebellion against the leadership of his own organization makes sense. Unfortunately for him, he seems to have read the Guidebook to Overthrowing Mikhail Gorbachev before doing so.

QOTD

[ 78 ] December 25, 2012 |

My brother bought me Jason Wilson’s Boozehound for Christmas. In the introduction is a 1959 quote from A.J. Liebling that should be good for a few comments here:

The standard of perfection for vodka (no color, no taste, no smell) was expounded to me long ago….and it accounts perfectly for the drink’s rising popularity with those who like their alcohol in conjunction with the reassuring tastes of infancy–tomato juice, orange juice, and chicken broth. It is the ideal intoxicant for the drinker who wants no reminder of how hurt Mother would be if she knew what he was doing.

Since the book also discusses the “overrated” in spirits, I assume there will be a whole chapter on absinthe, a liquor that so far as I can tell has its primary value in its small but important role in the sazerac. Otherwise, it’s entire value comes from pretending like I’m in a Hemingway novel.

So I hope you enjoy your Christmas drinks. Just remember that we here at LGM are judging your choices.

The .223 Used Again

[ 204 ] December 25, 2012 |

Another horrible massacre, another high-powered rifle supported by the NRA used for the killing.

Chief Pickering also said that it was likely that the gunman used a semi-automatic rifle, one of three weapons recovered from the shooting scene, to kill the firefighters. He identifed the semi-automatic as a .223 Bushmaster rifle, the same weapon used in the school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

At the very least, can we make the ownership of this gun illegal?

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