If you think people who say “Happy Holidays” are the spoilsports of Christmas, check out these folks. They were fighting the War on Christmas over 300 years ago.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
I was not expecting the budget deal to include extending unemployment benefits, so I was not surprised when it didn’t.
Individual pain aside, that will greatly undermine if not completely cancel the stimulative effect of the deal. It will also represent something of an official surrender by the federal government on unemployment, since the long-term unemployed are increasingly who we are talking about (short-term unemployment is now lower than it was in 2007).
The cost of another year of extended UI was estimated at about $25 billion—not much more than the symbolic money thrown at deficit reduction in the deal. That will bug a lot of congressional Democrats, as it should.
But not enough to get them to actually do anything about it.
I know how negotiations work and I know that compromise means that someone is going to get the short end of the deal. It’s always the people who have no power, which is why they get the short end of the deal: if they had any power…. you know the drill.
The maddening part of this reality is that both Democrats and Republicans all talk as if they actually give a shit about the unempowered unemployed. It’s a toss-up between the Galtian bootstrapism of the Republicans — hey, if you won’t work, you shouldn’t eat — and the synthetic sympathy of Democrats who wring their hands, say they’re really like to help, but don’t actually take it to the wall. They’re both saying the same thing.
I can’t remember the last time I actually cared about who would be Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
If you’re going to compare Obamacare to iron-bound socialism, it might help if you knew the name of the socialist paradise you’re using as an example.
A Republican Congressman tried, but failed, to compare Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to the North Korean dictator during a House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
The comment came during an exchange about the effect of preventive services on health care premiums under the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius disputed Rep. John Shimkus’ (R-IL) claim that offering prevention benefits without cost sharing would increase beneficiaries’ health care expenses. “There is no free lunch, Madam Secretary!,” Shimkus charged. “When you mandate coverage, it is rolled directly on premiums, premiums increase, that is paying for these services!” Sebelius responded by arguing that investing in prevention could decrease costs down the road.
Shimkus grew visibly agitated by her explanation and tried to compare Sebelius to the leaders of North Korea. But rather than referencing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Shimkus likened the Secretary to the “Republic of Korea” or South Korea, America’s ally in the region. “Alright, I got it. We’re just going to agree to disagree. It’s like talking to the Republic of Korea or something,” he said.
All those people look alike anyway, right?
Predictable reaction from the Tea Party over the budget deal:
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) displayed a rare flash of anger at outside conservative groups on Wednesday when asked about their opposition to a two-year bipartisan budget deal struck between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
“You mean the groups that came out and opposed it before they ever saw it?” a visibly angry Boehner told reporters Wednesday, his tone rising. “They’re using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous.”
Conservative groups Club For Growth, Heritage Action, FreedomWorks and Americans For Prosperity all began speaking out against the emerging deal before it was announced on Tuesday evening. These groups hold significant sway among House Republicans and have repeatedly thwarted Boehner’s attempts to govern and pass bills.
You mean like all those proposals that the president came up with that were crafted — some would say cribbed — from Republican ideas (i.e. Obamacare) that were shot down by the G.O.P. before they even got out of the starting gate? Heh, indeedy.
U.S. suspends non-lethal aid to Syrian opposition.
Blast reported near U.S. embassy in Afghanistan.
Sharp rise in sign-ups for healthcare in November.
Top aide to G.O.P. senator arrested for child porn.
Australia court overturns marriage equality law after five days.
R.I.P. Eleanor Parker, Oscar-nominated actor.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
2.3% may not be a lot, but ’twill serve.
‘Tis the season for holiday movies. Everyone has their favorite; I know at least one person in my family who blubs up over It’s A Wonderful Life, and many who adore Ralphie and A Christmas Story. Fine; we’ll get to those later. But via the Globe and Mail, here’s their picks of the seven worst holiday films of all time. I can’t argue with any of their selections. Now it’s your turn.
What’s the worst holiday movie of all time?
Via Andrew Sullivan:
Yes, they’re adorable until the little buggers slash your screens, break into the house, and steal your chocolate.
Ezra Klein explains what’s in the deal struck between the Democrats and Republicans.
Basic takeaway: nobody is really happy about the whole thing, and the unemployment benefits extension gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop.
Steve Rattner is unimpressed.
How wonderful it would have been for our elected officials to have had a major fiscal success to show for more than two years of stalemates, shutdowns and all-around silliness.
Even the most significant budget showdown, in November 2011, produced absolutely nothing, even though those deliberations occurred at the point of a gun, the impending forced spending cuts known as sequester.
This time around, legislators didn’t face similar consequences for inaction. So while we urgently need to reverse the federal government’s crazily backward fiscal policy and address long-term deficits, the agreement accomplishes neither.
It’s like watching a dog ride a bicycle: you’re impressed that he can do it at all, so you can’t expect that he’ll do it well.
A baker in Colorado gets fined for anti-gay discrimination.
A Colorado baker on Tuesday told Fox & Friends host Elisabeth Hasselbeck that he would be willing to go to jail after a judge ordered him to serve gay couples, saying that opposing same sex marriage is “who I am.”
Last week, administrative law judge Robert N. Spencer ruled that Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips must “cease and desist from discriminating” against LGBT couples because he refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple last year.
Attorney Nicolle Martin, who is representing Phillips, added that “if the government can force you to violate your beliefs under the threat of a jail sentence, there’s really no freedom they can’t take away, Elisabeth.”
In the first place, it’s a civil charge, not a criminal charge, so no one is going to go to jail. Second, as the administrative law judge pointed out in the ruling, baking a cake is not protected speech under the First Amendment. Third, refusing to serve a gay couple based solely on their sexual orientation is a violation of the public accommodation laws even if same-sex marriage is not legal in Colorado. It’s no different than refusing to bake a cake for an interracial couple. Finally, if Jesus Christ is telling Mr. Phillips to do this, than he must have mumbled the thing about “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
HT to NTodd.
They’re going all in for the holidays in Tallahassee.
Chaz Stevens, a Deerfield Beach resident, made a Festivus pole from Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and applied to have it displayed in the state capitol. Festivus was established on “Seinfeld” as a way to protest the commercial nature of Christmas, and the holiday’s traditions include displaying a Festivus pole and an “Airing of Grievances” with friends and family.
Stevens applied to display the Festivus pole because he wanted to make a political statement about separation of church and state after learning that there would be a nativity scene at the capitol, according to the News Service of Florida.
“I still chuckle, I literally can’t believe there will be a pile of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans in the state rotunda,” Stevens said.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group based in Madison, Wisc., also applied for a secular display in the Rotunda. The group has placed a banner in the capitol that reads, “At this season of the Winter Solstice, we celebrate the Birth of the Unconquered Sun — the TRUE reason for the season.”
Let the griping commence.
Budget Deal — Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) hammer it out.
Ukraine — Police move in against demonstrators.
Back Up — President Obama’s approval ratings rebound.
India reinstates ban on gay sex.
Mary Barra is the new head of General Motors.
Good news — Six people thought to be missing in Nevada wilderness found alive.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
To get you in the holiday spirit…
MSNBC started carrying the memorial service — more like a celebration — of Nelson Mandela at 4:00 a.m. ET. using the feed from South Africa Broadcasting. Over 100 world leaders and 90,000 people gathered in the rain at the FNB Stadium in Soweto. It’s a fitting place for the service since that was the focal point of so many struggles against apartheid.
Among the names in the VIP shelter, there was a wide selection, including President Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron of Great Britain, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, French President Francois Hollande, all alongside the likes of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Raul Castro. So in one way, Mr. Mandela was a great uniter, even if it makes for some interesting seating arrangements.
I’m wondering how long it will be before we see some wingnut tweet “If Nelson Mandela was so great, how come Ronald Reagan didn’t go to his funeral? Huh?”
The GOP outreach to women marches on.
As Republican candidates figure out how to best win over women voters, Iowa GOP Senate candidate Mark Jacobs thinks he has the answer: appeal to their emotions.
In an interview Sunday with WHO-TV in Des Moines, host Dave Price asked Jacobs what the “biggest difference between men and women” is, in terms of reaching out to them as voters.
“I think you have to connect with women on an emotional level,” said Jacobs. “And with a wife of 25 years and an 18-year-old daughter, I’ve had a lot of coaching on that.”
Yeah, forget all the stuff about pay equity or reproductive rights; they don’t understand all that kind of talk. Oh, and be sure to catch them at the right time of the month, too.
Via the New York Times:
Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents.
Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.
Actually, what I think happened is that a bunch of nerds got busting playing while at work so they came up with this story that they told their bosses that terrorists really do concoct their ideas while fighting Orcs and scoping out the lingerie at Victoria’s Secret.
This will be fun to watch.
In an unexpected move late Monday just before the qualifying deadline, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) jumped into the Republican primary against Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), setting up what will be one of the most-watched tea party v. GOP establishment clashes of the 2014 cycle.
Stockman, one of the more outspoken conservative members of the House of Representatives — he once threatened impeachment of President Obama over using an executive order to try and reduce gun violence — announced his candidacy for Cornyn’s seat on Monday in an interview with WND.com.
“We are extremely disappointed in the way he treated his fellow congressmen and broke the 11th commandment and undermined (Sen.) Ted Cruz’s fight to stop Obamacare,” Stockman told WND.com.
Stockman filed his candidacy for Cornyn’s seat at 5:45 p.m. on Monday, just before the 6 p.m. filing deadline, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Those of us in the real world know that Mr. Cornyn is one of the stalwarts of the right wing, so getting a challenger who doesn’t think he’s right wing enough will be a hoot.
Popcorn futures are looking really good.