Saturday, December 01, 2012

Fiscal Cliffnotes

Besides being a painful waste of time, following the so-called fiscal cliff shenanigans is at least marginally more fun than last time.  Watching GOPers roil as their own alternate universe comes in contact with the real one--like matter and antimatter clashing at the edges--has become at best boring, but it has unfortunate real world waste in economic terms, which always get paid ultimately by the least able to pay and the most vulnerable. (This link also source of this cartoon.)  The last insane fight, over the debt ceiling, cost over $16 billion just to the federal government.  This time the entire economy is likely to take a big hit.

But it's worth at least a few notes.  First, the White House is sticking to what it believes the economy and the country require.  President Obama's opening proposal was delivered to Congress by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and quickly leaked to the press by GOPers in the act of rejecting it.  The Washington Post:

President Obama offered Republicans a detailed plan Thursday for averting the year-end “fiscal cliff” that calls for $1.6 trillion in new taxes, $50 billion in fresh spending on the economy and an effective end to congressional control over the size of the national debt.

But it also offered some $60 billion in budget cuts and savings, which GOPers lied about before they rejected it.  GOPer congressional leadership had hissy fits over it, but don't seem able to come up with their own proposals, only demands on what the President should and shouldn't propose.

A few days later comes word (at least unofficially) that President Obama and the Dems are not going to make another proposal until GOPers agree to higher taxes on the wealthy.  And why should they?  Several polls show strong public support for it, and Warren Buffett went public again with a minimum tax proposal for the rich.

President Obama is out making speeches about this tax proposal, but also supporting the bill the Senate passed to make sure the tax cuts for the middle class remain past January 1.  A couple of GOPers in the House said publicly the GOPer should take this deal right away, but the leadership is balking, or perhaps just floundering.

On Friday, House Dem Leader Nancy Pelosi said if the House leadership doesn't schedule the Senate bill for a vote, she would circulate a discharge petition, which would overrule the leadership and bring it to the floor.  The petition requires 218 votes and therefore some GOPer support, and while it is unlikely to get 218 right away, it will be there as an alternative as time goes on and the cliff gets closer.  Once it gets to the floor, it will be hard even for GOPers to vote against a tax break for 98% of the population.

Meanwhile,  Michael Grunwald at Time called out the media for its mindless reporting on GOPer hypocrisy and nonsense (as Rachel did last week) :

"Mainstream media outlets don’t want to look partisan, so they ignore the BS hidden in plain sight, the hypocrisy and dishonesty that defines the modern Republican Party. I’m old enough to remember when Republicans insisted that anyone who said they wanted to cut Medicare was a demagogue, because I’m more than three weeks old.

I’ve written a lot about the GOP’s defiance of reality–its denial of climate science, its simultaneous denunciations of Medicare cuts and government health care, its insistence that debt-exploding tax cuts will somehow reduce the debt—so I often get accused of partisanship. But it’s simply a fact that Republicans controlled Washington during the fiscally irresponsible era when President Clinton’s budget surpluses were transformed into the trillion-dollar deficit that President Bush bequeathed to President Obama. (The deficit is now shrinking.) It’s simply a fact that the fiscal cliff was created in response to GOP threats to force the U.S. government to default on its obligations. The press can’t figure out how to weave those facts into the current narrative without sounding like it’s taking sides, so it simply pretends that yesterday never happened.
Whatever. I realize that the GOP’s up-is-downism puts news reporters in an awkward position. It would seem tendentious to point out Republican hypocrisy on deficits and Medicare and stimulus every time it comes up, because these days it comes up almost every time a Republican leader opens his mouth. But we’re not supposed to be stenographers. As long as the media let an entire political party invent a new reality every day, it will keep on doing it. Every day."

Friday, November 30, 2012

We don't get much autumn up here in far northern California.  For those of us who remember it from other places, or even for those of you in those other places, this is a pretty neat time lapse film in which you actually see the leaves change color in Central Park, NYC.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Today's Crazy

I'll tell you a secret--I thought I'd be making some big changes by now.  I thought I'd stop my concentration on electoral politics with the election, cut down on blogging altogether--and really, finally give up cable TV.

Then I got hit with the second part of a double-dip virus, and barely could keep up with my external responsibilities let alone change much.  So here I am.  But...we'll see.

Anyway, today's crazy.  Senator John McBlame and Lindsay "head dick" Graham are making a spectacle of themselves over UN Ambassador Susan Rice.  The CV news figures it's because they want John Kerry to be Secretary of State--instead of Rice-- so his Senate seat opens up for a special election that Scott "Asshole" Brown might win. Besides that they can't stand uppity black women.  And they want revenge for all the nasty things Dems said about Condi Rice.  It's all crazy because Susan Rice is not going to be nominated as Secretary of State, the country's head diplomat.  And it's not because of her talk show appearances (not exactly) or where she stands on policy, etc.  It's because she can't smile.

The CV news has it that the GOPers in Congress haven't learned anything and are intent on destroying millions of dollars in wealth and threatening the economic recovery by resisting and dithering on the lineup of fiscal decisions that must be made in the next month or so.  The politics are complex but basically stupid and crazy.  The stock market is already swooning, though consumers seem unrattled.  But never underestimate the lunatics running the asylum known as congressional GOP.  According to a CNN poll, a majority of Americans are ready to blame them for failing to agree on taxes, the budget, debt ceiling, etc.  70% say they haven't done enough to cooperate with President Obama.  So everybody knows they're going to cave somehow, but they have to make everybody miserable and anxious for a month first.  See, that's why I wanted to ignore politics for awhile.

I also accidentally had the sound on for a commercial for some product that doses the armpits of men old enough to watch the news with testosterone. This commercial began with one, maybe two sentences describing the product, with no great claims for its benefits.  And the rest of the commercial--at least ten minutes--was an increasingly alarming and horrifying list of possible side-effects, first to any women and children nearby, and then to the men with the armpits.  And this was a commercial FOR this product?  This is yet another reason that cable TV is some hellish booby hatch.

Oh, and the latest stories on that Mars thing claim it was all a misunderstanding.  There's no life on Mars, nor presumably among brain-dead reporters for NPR.   How long do you suppose it will be before there's a conspiracy theory about this?  Don't tell me.  It's been Twitter # for hours?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Forward! Continued

The news continues from the November 6 elections:  While Mitt Romney has been variously described as the sorest loser and most immediately repudiated and irrelevant candidate in presidential election history, President Obama's victory continues to look stronger--even in the South.  The Washington Post via Political Wire: "President Obama finished more strongly in the South than any other Democratic presidential nominee in three decades, "underscoring a fresh challenge for Republicans who rely on Southern whites as their base of national support."

"Obama won Virginia and Florida and narrowly missed victory in North Carolina. But he also polled as well in Georgia as any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, grabbed 44 percent of the vote in deep-red South Carolina and just under that in Mississippi -- despite doing no substantive campaigning in any of those states."

Which suggests again the subject of race.  Right after the election, Chris Hayes at MSNBC  had a perceptive commentary that began with the overwhelming support one racial group gave President Obama--but probably not your first assumption.  Asian Americans.  Among Asian Americans are a substantial number with high incomes, but they did not vote very much for Romney.  Still, what do all these people in this category have in common--with roots in China, Japan, Korea, Pacific Islands?  Not a lot, Hayes said, no more than many members of other racial groups.  That's because, he said, race doesn't exist.  It's a construct, a category.  There may be similar cultural backgrounds, but that's not the same as race.

Race is essentially maintained by racism. What turned non-white individuals into racial voting blocs, Hayes said, was the race-based hostility and disrespect Romneyryan and the Republicans showed to President Obama and various non-white communities. 

It's a profound point, and one that TPM is humanizing with reader responses--for example, here and here.   So it's the other side of dog whistle politics: the groups being dissed hear them, too, loud and clear, and as one of these readers wrote, race-based disrespect to a black President reminds them of their own experiences with racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice.

Meanwhile, the Obama army is not disbanding, even though they've gone home.  They're being mobilized on behalf of the President's agenda, starting right away.  As the NY Times reports:  "The president is planning rallies in influential states to remind supporters of the need to keep the pressure on lawmakers during the fiscal talks. And should negotiations break down, Mr. Obama’s team is arranging for Republican lawmakers to hear from of tens of thousands of riled-up activists through angry Twitter posts, e-mails and Facebook messages."

But it won't stop there: Obama aides view keeping their grass-roots supporters energized as important to the president’s second-term success on broader tax changes, an immigration overhaul and efforts on climate change.

Chris Hayes, by the way, had one of the better tributes to the Obama army organizers and volunteers--starting with his brother.