Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 1

John Boehner declares a "stalemate" on the fiscal cliff:
Speaker John Boehner declared an impasse Friday negotiations with the White House over avoiding the fiscal cliff.

"There's a stalemate," Boehner said at a news conference. "Let's not kid ourselves. I'm not trying to make this more difficult. If you've watched me over the last three weeks I've been very guarded in what I have to say, because I don't want to make it harder for me or the president or members of both parties to find common ground."

Okay, so if there's a stalemate, let's take a look at the Boehner/Republican position and compare it with the Obama/Democratic position.

President Obama and Democrats are saying that the most urgent fiscal issue facing the country is the expiration of tax cuts on income under $250,000. They say we should extend those tax cuts now, but let Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000 expire at the end the year. They also say that we should continue to look for ways to reduce the deficit through long-term spending reductions, but that we can't ignore the need for short-term measures to boost the economy—things like unemployment benefits and something to replace the payroll tax cut.

John Boehner and Republicans, meanwhile, say they agree that tax cuts on income below $250,000 should continue. However, they also say that tax cuts on income above $250,000 should continue as well. Moreover, they want to see cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, although they refuse to be specific about what cuts they'd like to see. They also say they want to raise revenue through tax reform, but again refuse to offer details. And they oppose any short-term efforts to boost the economy.

An outsider might look at those positions and say that there really isn't much of a stalemate over taxes, because both sides have the same position on tax rates for 98 percent of the public. The problem is that at least so far, Boehner and Republicans are saying they will only support tax cuts on income below $250,000 in exchange for continuing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and for agreeing to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. As a result, we do have a stalemate over tax cuts, but it's not because Republicans say they disagree with Democrats—instead, it's because Republicans think they can hold those tax cuts hostage.

By taking the tax cuts hostage, Boehner is raising the political stakes in a big way. He's setting up a scenario where he can only win by forcing the White House to cave or by following through on his threat to hold the tax cuts hostage. But if House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi—who says Boehner's stalemate talk is irresponsible—is able to get about 30 House Republicans sign a discharge petition that would bring an extension of middle-class tax cuts up for a vote, Boehner is going to lose. And even if she falls short, next year she's only going need about 20 Republicans to join her, because Democrats gained seats in the House during this year's election. Meanwhile, President Obama will continue rallying public support for an extension of middle-class tax cuts—and he's not shying away from calling out Republican hostage-takers by name.

Maybe John Boehner believes he can turn hostage-taking into a winning political position. If so, it probably wouldn't be the craziest thing he believes. But it's still plenty crazy. The good news for him and Republicans is that President Obama and Congressional Democrats would be happy to let him step back from the abyss and end the stalement. And the best part of the deal is that the only thing he'd have to do is vote for a tax cut. It's amazing he hasn't figured out just how good a deal he's being offered.


Has President Obama become a savvy negotiator? 

Ezra Klein on negotiations with congress over the fiscal cliff:

…Previously, Obama's pattern had been to offer plans that roughly tracked where he thought the compromise should end up. The White House's belief was that by being solicitous in their policy proposals, they would win goodwill on the other side, and even if they didn't, the media would side with them, realizing they'd sought compromise and been rebuffed. They don't believe that anymore.

Perhaps the key lesson the White House took from the last couple of years is this: Don't negotiate with yourself. If Republicans want to cut Medicare, let them propose the cuts. If they want to raise revenue through tax reform, let them identify the deductions. If they want deeper cuts in discretionary spending, let them settle on a number. And, above all, if they don't like the White House's preferred policies, let them propose their own. That way, if the White House eventually does give in and agree to some of their demands, Republicans will feel like they got one over on the president. A compromise isn't measured by what you offer, it's measured by what the other side feels they made you concede.

Man, you sure hope so. The negotiating tactic in the first paragraph was what cost us the public option. Obama should've opened with singlepayer and made the public option the compromise position. Instead, he offered what he expected the end game to look like. You might as well sit down to a chess board, immediately set up an end game, yell, "Checkmate!" and ask, "Want to play again?" It doesn't work that way.

Now, the President has Republicans on the spot. They're demanding that Democrats "get serious" about entitlement cuts, but aren't offering up any specifics of their own. Why? Because the public will hate any cuts. If Democrats propose them, then Democrats take the blame for them. And the President and his party aren't falling for it.

You want cuts to Medicare? Fine. You step your shifty GOP ass up to the plate and name your cuts — and get your fingerprints all over them — or go back to the bench and shut up about it.


An Arizona high school principal has punished two fighting boys by forcing them to hold hands in front of the entire school and thereby allow fellow students to cruelly mock them as homosexuals. The boys were so humiliated, they shielded their faces rather than face their taunters.


Judge: Bobby Jindal's Jesus rode a dinosaur education is unconstitutional

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal suffered a setback today when his school voucher program was ruled unconstitutional by a district court judge.

BATON ROUGE – A district court judge ruled today the funding formula in Gov. Bobby Jindal's school voucher program violates the state's constitution.

Judge Tim Kelley made the ruling after a week of arguments and testimony in Baton Rouge. He said it was against the constitution to send money intended for public schools instead to private schools.

Teacher unions and school boards filed the lawsuit, wanting the program shut down. State education officials argued the system was set up in line with the constitution.

Some of the private schools parents use the vouchers to send their kids to are religious schools that teach creationism, among other things.

These 119 non-schools would receive over $4 million of public funding in the first year alone.


Sorry, Republicans, but the economy keeps growing

I'm sure this is a massive conspiracy by the Obama administration that demands portly Dean Chambers to unskew it, but here you go:

The economy grew at a substantially faster pace in the third quarter than first thought, powered by increases in business inventories and federal spending.

After initially saying output increased at an annual rate of 2 percent, the Commerce Department on Thursday revised its estimate to show growth of 2.7 percent in the three months that ended Sept. 30.

Republicans hate this.


How about we spend some money to fix our crumbling infrastructure so things like this don't happen:

A bridge collapsed in the West Deptford area of New Jersey on Friday, sending several train cars carrying toxic chemicals crashing into a creek near the Delaware River, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Vinyl chloride, a highly toxic and flammable chemical, is believed to be leaking into Mantua Creek, Petty Officer Nick Ameen told CNN. No serious injuries have been reported, but nearby schools are on lockdown, a borough emergency official said, and people in the immediate area have been evacuated.

A representative for Underwood Memorial Hospital told CNN that the hospital has treated 18 patients with respiratory issues.

That would make too much sense. 


How many times do studies and stories like this have to run before people stop buying Republican BS:

But in fact, most Americans in 2010 paid far less in total taxes — federal, state and local — than they would have paid 30 years ago. According to an analysis by The New York Times, the combination of all income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes took a smaller share of their income than it took from households with the same inflation-adjusted income in 1980.

Households earning more than $200,000 benefited from the largest percentage declines in total taxation as a share of income. Middle-income households benefited, too. More than 85 percent of households with earnings above $25,000 paid less in total taxes than comparable households in 1980.

Lower-income households, however, saved little or nothing. Many pay no federal income taxes, but they do pay a range of other levies, like federal payroll taxes, state sales taxes and local property taxes. Only about half of taxpaying households with incomes below $25,000 paid less in 2010.

Even the "death tax" is a fraction of what it once was.


Film star Christian Slater live-tweeted his nightmarish voting process in Florida on Election Day. Even as a celebrity, Slater had to endure the same hours-long lines as other Florida voters. Once he finally made it to the front of the line, Slater was told his DMV registration was out of date and he had to cast a provisional ballot. Today he received a letter informing him that, after all that trouble, his vote was discarded.

BuzzFeed posted the letter, addressed to "Christina Slater," and Slater's tweets though he later deleted them:

The election chaos in Florida can largely be blamed on several reforms undertaken by Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) to restrict early voting hours and tighten restrictions on eligible voters. A post-election study found that these election law changes led to a huge increase in provisional ballots. Clearly, countless other Floridians besides Slater had their votes wrongly discarded. State GOP members have openly admitted that these laws were geared toward suppressing the minority and Democratic vote, even though they were billed publicly as ways to combat voter fraud. Florida Democrats called for a federal probe of Florida's election laws earlier this week.


Chicago's Favorite Underage-Sexytime Congressman Wants Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Job Please


What's been ignored by the Three Amigos is the real reason to have issues with Susan Rice's nomination: her conflict of interest over the Keystone XL pipeline.

From Democracy Now's headlines this Thursday: Report: Susan Rice Holds Stock in Keystone XL Oil Firm:

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is receiving criticism of a different kind after it was revealed she holds up to $600,000 worth of stock in the firm behind the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. TransCanada is seeking federal permission to transport Canadian tar sands oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast. If confirmed as secretary of state, Rice could play a key role in determining the fate of the pipeline.

I think if Ambassador Rice would like the job as Secretary of State, she needs to be divesting herself of those stocks, and if she doesn't and is nominated, she may find herself having problems with more Senators than just McCain, Graham and Ayotte, who look like they've all lost their freaking minds over this Benghazi nonsense.



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