Stephen Fry tells the story of his close encounter with the Mormon Church.
I just had a thought. Remember that Pew poll that found that roughly half Americans blame Obama and half blame the Republicans for the flight delays caused by the Sequester? I discussed it earlier today, Democrats Own Sequester Air Traffic Exception. In that article, I argued that Obama should not take the poll as indicating that the right thing to do is to sign the repellent air traffic Sequester exception bill that is headed to his desk. If he signs it, it is all his; he can’t blame it on the Republicans.
Well, I was over at the Maddow Blog reading Steve Benen about how the Republicans are wrong to think they won the air traffic debate. But it got me thinking in a broad sense about the Pew poll. It shows that a great many people are not paying any attention at all. But it also shows that all of Obama’s contortions and bending over backwards to accommodate the Republicans bought him essentially nothing. (This is more evidence that I am right in thinking that Obama wants to cut entitlements, but let’s leave that for now.)
Who does Obama think he is impressing with all of this post-partisan nonsense? It isn’t effective in regards to policy. And we see clearly that it isn’t effective in regards to public opinion. So what audience is he playing to? Posterity? I often wonder if that isn’t the case. And that is perhaps even more misguided than any other audience. In the long run, historians will look back on this period of time and see it as a tragedy. I don’t think Obama will look that bad, but that will be despite his constant pitch to the center, not because of it.
The Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma was born in 1848 on this day. The great French mathematician Henri Poincare was born in 1854. Publisher William Randolph Hearst was born in 1863. The Dutch artist and print maker Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman was born in 1882. Japanese Emperor Hirohito was born in 1901. The great director Fred Zinnemann was born in 1907. And French comedic director Gerard Oury was born in 1919.
Rod McKuen is 80 today. Conman Bernie Madoff is 75. Jerry Seinfeld is 59. Daniel Day-Lewis is 56. Michelle Pfeiffer is 55. Rapper Master P is 46. Tennis player Andre Agassi and actor Uma Thurman are 43.
Although I could easily have given the day to Poincare, how could I when Duke Ellington was born on this day in 1899? Now, in general, I don’t like big bands. They tend to homogenize jazz. But Ellington’s was one of a few exceptions to this. You would never mistake him for Glenn Miller. (Even though he wasn’t bad at all!) Here is Duke Ellington with his band doing his composition “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”:
And here is the Duke Ellington Trio doing the great Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train”:
I just caught a few minutes of Martin Bashir on MSNBC. He had a small panel and they were discussing the air traffic fix to the Sequester debacle. And man, aren’t those Republicans bad! They’re willing to let old folk go hungry but spring into action when it comes to their own comfort. Apparently, the Democrats have nothing to do with this. The 45 Republicans in the Senate were able to get the bill passed without Democratic help and Obama’s intention to sign the bill into law is due to the incredible ventriloquism of the Republican Party!
During the segment, there was a clip of Jay Carney castigating the Republicans. At no point did he add the truth, “Of course the president is going to sign the bill.” Don’t think Obama has no choice. He could hold a press conference and tell the people, “I have always been in favor of shared sacrifice. This bill is not shared sacrifice. I can’t help the more affluent among us avoid inconvenience while requiring poor children and the elderly to suffer. I cannot sign this bill.” But of course he will sign the bill because his idea of shared sacrifice has always been that the rich make a mess and the poor clean it up. Balance!
My more pragmatic colleagues will counter that Obama is in a political bind because the people blame the Republicans and him equally for the flight delays. And this is kind of true, as The Hill just reported. But flight delays are something that, as I said, mostly affect the more affluent. Thus, any poll is going to be skewed. Actually, the numbers don’t look bad at all. Who do the people blame? Republicans: 34%; Obama: 32%; Neither/Don’t Know: 34%. That 32% is the Republican base. If you asked Americans who was to blame for the Boston Marathon bombing, most would say the Tsarnaev brothers, but 32% would say Obama.
If the approach to the Sequester is going to be, “Let’s do what we can,” then why don’t we just repeal all the defense cuts? I’m sure the Republicans would vote for that too. But the Democrats will not do that. They know that such an approach is just giving the Republicans everything they want and getting nothing in return. Thus, carving out the air traffic exception to the Sequester is a joint project between the Republicans and the Democrats. And shame on MSNBC for pretending otherwise. They are looking more and more like Fox News.
There used to be a large minority of the gay community that never wanted marriage equality. These people didn’t want to be like the straight population and they feared that their movement would be co-opted by the corrupt mainstream society. They were right.
Recently, it was announced that American hero and government scapegoat Bradley Manning would be the Grand Marshall of the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. After this announcement the SF Pride board president Lisa L Williams released a hysterical statement saying it was all untrue. She said, “Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform—and countless others, military and civilian alike—will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride.”
Glenn Greenwald countered her argument in some depth. He pointed out that her claim that Manning put people in harm’s way is “a substance-free falsehood originally spread by top US military officials which has since been decisively and extensively debunked, even by some government officials.” He then goes on to note all of the vile sponsors of the parade that are a-okay with Williams:
As I argued last month, the problem is that the LGBT community is no longer a liberal constituency. In a short period of time, the assimilation will be complete. There will be no “gay” identity and those previously associated with it will go on to be liberal or conservative as their incomes dictate. So it is no surprise that in San Francisco especially, those who organize the Gay Pride Parade are no more liberal nor willing to counter power than the organizers of Chicago’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. But it is still sad, because even the gay community in San Francisco knows what it is to be an oppressed minority. They should celebrate Bradley Manning and not spit government claims at him like he were a witch on trial in Salem.
Say goodbye to the scary anti-establishment San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. For good and bad, say goodbye to gay culture itself.
I have an immigration plan that should gain wide bipartisan support in Congress. This is because it will appeal to Republicans. Also: Democrats will go along with anything. There are three pillars of my plan: border security, guest workers, and path to citizenship.
First, border security. The Canadian border is fine the way it is, because they’re white like us. But we really need to make the border with Mexico secure. May I suggest: the Berlin Wall. Let’s set up two walls with armed guards every 20 feet on top of the north wall. Anyone who gets over the south wall will be shot. This would require a total of a bit more than 1.5 million guards at a total cost of $30 billion per year, if we pay them minimum wage and give them no benefits. But that is a small price to pay for securing our borders.
Second, guest worker program. American workers are famously demanding. What we need is a program that will allow any employers to hire guest workers if they can’t find American workers at a price they like. But I know what you’re thinking, “With the ridiculously high $7.25 federal minimum wage, won’t the guest workers still break the backs of the American businessman?” No, because we will not only eliminate the federal minimum wage, we will make it illegal for states to set a minimum wage. With these pro-growth policies, the US economy will be as strong as Bangladesh.
Third, path to citizenship. This is a contentious issue, but I think I have a workaround. As I discussed last week, we could set the path to citizenship to a reasonable length like 125 years. Given that humans seem unable to live longer than 124 years, we would be safe from any poor or brown-skinned person becoming a citizen. But I know what you’re thinking, “With advances in science, isn’t it possible that in the future people might live longer thus allowing a few people to become citizens?” That’s an excellent point. That’s why I’m putting a clause in the bill that would link the path to citizenship to one year longer than the maximum age that any person can live.
This is a plan that Republicans can embrace. And who cares what the Democrats think, although I suspect many of them would support it as well. So what do you say guys? I can see the headline in the New York Times now, “Bipartisan Immigration Reform Passed!”
Our best wishes go out to Jamelle Bouie. We hope he has a speedy recovery.
Bouie was a very insightful commentator over at The American Prospect, but he is totally wrong this morning. He wrote an article at the Plum Line, A Small Victory Against Anti-Tax Conservatives. In it, he discussed new legislation to require sales taxes be collected on all internet purchases. It is apparently getting a lot of bipartisan love. Bouie noted, “What Heritage and Norquist want is a Republican Party governed by ideology alone, where no tax is acceptable, no matter what. That they’re losing this fight is a sign Republicans are at least open to bucking anti-tax extremists.”
This is a sure sign that Bouie has caught Washington Pundit’s Disease (WPD). It starts by affecting the memory. In his case, he has forgotten the last two years of American politics. This is so sad!
Bouie may think so, but the Heritage Foundation and Gover Norquist are not really against this sales tax legislation. It is just that they are contractually obligated to oppose all new tax proposals. I can assure Bouie (because I do remember the last two years), that they are not putting much pressure on Republicans to oppose this bill. Remember (which Bouie sadly can no longer do): Republicans are not against new taxes. For the umpteenth time (which sometimes helps WPD victims and sometimes doesn’t): they are against new taxes on the rich. That’s it. They had no problem allowing payroll taxes to go back up. What’s more, a bit more than a year ago, they were fighting an extension of the payroll tax cut (“holiday”).
So this recent move does not, not, not show that the Republicans are moving even just a little on taxes. This is the position they’ve had all along. And Jamelle Bouie used to know that. But apparently he’s entered Stage 2 of WPD where he now feels the compulsion to make nice and pretend that the Republicans are showing signs of being reasonable. It’s sad when anyone gets WPD, but especially when it effects a fine writer in his prime. All we can do is help him remember.
Sympathy cards can be sent to Jamelle Bouie care of The American Prospect, 1710 Rhode Island Ave, 12th Floor, Washington, DC 20036.
Over the weekend, Lori Montgomery at the Washington Post wrote, GOP Moves Away From Entitlements and Toward Tax Reform in Budget Deal. In it, she explained that because seniors don’t like the idea of entitlement cuts, the Republicans are planning to focus on tax reform. And in the name of this tax reform (that mustn’t raise any new revenue), they will threaten to crash the economy with the Debt Ceiling.
You must remember the Debt Ceiling, because it is the only economic policy from the past few years that truly terrifies me. The federal government can only borrow money up to whatever debt amount—called the Debt Ceiling—that Congress has set. For the last 2 years, Republicans have been threatening to not raise the Debt Ceiling, and that will cause the federal government to default on its debt obligations. It’s kind of like an individual saying, “I know I ran up $1,000 on my credit card, but I don’t think my debt level should be above $100, so I’m not going to pay my bill.” Failing to raise the Debt Ceiling would not only greatly harm our economy, it would make any debt problems of the federal government far, far worse.
What I find so amazing about this is that the politicians who are threatening to crash the economy are exactly the same people who argue that if we don’t get our debt under control, we will become like Greece and be unable to borrow money at the low interest rates we have been able to borrow at for the last 4 years. This comparison to Greece is ridiculous, of course. There are a number of ways that we are distinctly not like Greece. But if we don’t raise the Debt Ceiling, we will default on our debts. That will cause interest rates on government debt to skyrocket. And that really will be an economic catastrophe.
The Republicans actually don’t care about that. This has never been about debt or economics or policy. It is about forcing the government to do their bidding even while they are a minority party. And from their perspective, it might work out very well. If they crashed the economy, there would be fewer tax revenues, so the deficit would go way up. But because we’d defaulted, the cost of borrowing would be much higher. There would be no recourse but to savage spending—especially on the poor and weak. Of course, it might also mean the end of the Republican Party as a major force in American politics, but I’m not sure conservatives think that far ahead.
But let’s assume that the Republicans don’t actually plan to force a debate. What is it that they are using this ultimate threat for? They want to cut marginal income tax rates and pay for them by closing loopholes. As we’ve seen before, that will necessarily be a regressive policy change because the big money is in the mortgage interest deduction. But even more than that, it is a way to stop the Democrats from raising taxes on the rich through the closure of loopholes that affect them. So if you’ve ever wondered why it is such a big deal to conservatives to do this kind of revenue neutral tax “reform,” there you have it: it is to protect the rich from future tax cuts and probably give them new tax cuts right away.
The best case scenario is that the Republicans are willing to risk crashing the economy in order to lower the taxes of the rich. The worst case scenario is that the Republicans think that crashing the economy would be a good thing. Take you pick. It makes the Republican Party a pernicious actor in our public policy.
It is also possible that crashing the economy would completely backfire against conservative desires. The situation could be so bad that the government had no recourse but to radically raise taxes.