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The best article on Remembrance and Gettysburg that I’ve found is Tony Horowitz’s: here.  I think that, though there will undoubtedly be many things written about how to best remember the bloodiest battle in American history, Horowitz contributes the most complete in scope and thoughtful in range to our repertoire.

I’ve spent a couple of weeks now trying to avoid the supposed “scandals” of the Obama administration.  One of the reasons that I attempted to do this was because I find it incredibly hypocritical for those who pushed us into an illegal and immoral war with a sovereign nation for no logical reason to make accusations against an administration that seemed to be trying it’s best to do the right thing for the country as a whole.  The path to hell may be paved by good intentions, but I’d like the path to have some aura of good rather than walk along a path paved by evil wherever it leads.  Conservative commentators have said that the current scandals are like “Watergate x Iran Contra x 10.”  Liberal commentators have correctly pointed out that nothing the Obama administration did was illegal however repugnant their actions may be.  Both Watergate and Iran Contra were illegal actions.  My grandpa used to say that the only thing worse than Iran Contra was the idiots who were running it: Ronald Reagan and Ollie North (if you accept the Reagan administration’s talking points on this topic, which I don’t.)

“Just imagine if Ollie North were training those ‘crack’ Nicaraguan troops,” Grandpa joked.  “It’d be like the Bay of Pigs with more casualties and worse results.”

I don’t know why people have this innate need to compare scandals to other scandals as if all scandals were created equal but they do.  I don’t know if people would get as outraged about modern political scandals if I compared them to the nineteenth century political scandals but I have a feeling that most people wouldn’t remember the mistakes of the Grant and Harrison administrations nor would they abhor Grant’s indiscretions as much as voters at the time did.

SexAssaultHearing

I don’t know what’s more offensive about this photo, the fact that there is a hearing on sexual assault in the military that features just five women or the fact that C-SPAN is available in HD and nobody told me about it.

James Bond is set to return in 2014, will Sam Mendes be at the helm?

I don’t know what the point of this Whisper app is, but it seems like a brilliant way to make money off of something that Literotica does for free.  That being said, find me twenty writers with nothing better to do this summer and I’ll put together an IPO that brings in an equivalent dollar figure for a superior product.  There isn’t a single writer with half a brain that hasn’t thought of this idea.  The problem is Silicon Valley and how close to the vest they play this stuff.

Apparently, Disney World is a place where rich people hire disabled people so they can cut in line.  People are dicks.

Americans Hate Justin Bieber.  Yes, PPP did a poll on that.

CNN had what Buzzfeed called “one of the worst hours of television” in awhile today.  For those not able to sit around and watch this unfold there are two pictures that sum up the event:

BushVerbs

At one point an anchor actually says: “this all depends on the definition of identify.”  No!  This has to do with you being unable/unwilling to retract a story that was clearly false.

Speculate

Two critical posts about the huge systemic and structural problems that long-term unemployment is having on the U.S. economy here and here.

The scary info:

As long as you’ve been out of work for less than six months, you can get called back even if you don’t have experience. But after you’ve been out of work for six months, it doesn’t matter what experience you have.

I think that understanding basic color coordination should be something that everyone is forced to learn before leaving elementary school, unfortunately I appear to be in the minority on this opinion.  So to help the color coordinating impaired, please consult the following guide, it could change your life (unless you’re color blind.)

color coordination

Also, an awesome presentation on left v. right brain people:

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Some sad displays of hatred on Twitter tonight.  No need for this.  Also Ron Fournier’s very important piece on Asperger’s syndrome.

My piece in Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2012/11/05/which-states-will-romney-win-and-which-will-obama-win/

Remember:

Always giving up your ego is called being a hack. Never giving up your ego is called being unemployed.

From Danny Rubin’s piece on screenwriting this week.  Read it.

I really liked Matt Taibbi’s response to the VP debate:

The Romney/Ryan ticket decided, with incredible cynicism, that that they were going to promise this massive tax break, not explain how to pay for it, and then just hang on until election day, knowing that most of the political press would let it skate, or at least not take a dump all over it when explaining it to the public. Unchallenged, and treated in print and on the air as though it were the same thing as a real plan, a 20 percent tax cut sounds pretty good to most Americans. Hell, it sounds good to me.

The proper way to report such a tactic is to bring to your coverage exactly the feeling that Biden brought to the debate last night: contempt and amazement. We in the press should be offended by what Romney and Ryan are doing – we should take professional offense that any politician would try to whisk such a gigantic lie past us to our audiences, and we should take patriotic offense that anyone is trying to seize the White House using such transparently childish and dishonest tactics.

Among the things I’m really disappointed about is the downfall of effective Bittorrent sites.  There’s been a sort of metamorphosis that has occurred since the inception of the technology about a decade ago, but somehow a lot of the sites have not been able to stay up.  Whether it’s due to laws or general upkeep, overloaded servers or issues with content it seems like there are far more that are going than are coming into their own and this is too bad because the service they provide is immense.  The MPAA may feel differently, but that’s because they’re not turning out good content that people feel okay about spending money on nowadays.  Truth be told we need illegal file-sharing sites so that we can keep up with all the cool fads out there and try to remain relevant on a budget.  So come on webmasters, come up with a decent site that serves my needs, you could start a whole movement or something.

Just an awesome analysis of just who is on the House Committee on Science & Technology as well as a great primer on what it supposedly does.  Take a look below at some of the actual beliefs of these members of the committee:

Some smart analysis from Matt Yglesias on what we won’t be getting with the Paul Ryan VP pick:

“Focusing attention on the big-picture disagreement between Democrats and Republicans about long-term fiscal policy means we won’t be focusing attention on what ought to be the most pressing economic policy issue of our time—mass unemployment and the tragic waste of human and economic potential it represents.”

He’s absolutely right on that front.  But I seriously doubt that we would have been on the road to have a campaign dedicated to relieving unemployment were any other pick made.  So the takeaway here is that from a macro-policy perspective we’re not going to get a great debate on the institutional minutaie of unemployment or more specifically; the best ways to reduce unemployment, underemployment and a general strategy as to what our economy should look like in the future and will instead spend time focusing on things that have nothing to do with unemployment like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the national debt – issues that all need to be addressed – but they’re not the most pressing issues that need to be discussed right now and my guess is that both campaigns are happy not to be having that discussion because neither side has offered a great proposal on ways to curb the unemployment quandary we currently face.

I think I’ve figured out why unemployment is so high.  We’re not using the Mitt Romney logic when applying for a job.  Using the Mitt Romney model (the one he wants to use to get elected President) we should expect to a) not submit a resume and b) declare all of our work experience off limits and c) refuse to answer any questions in the interview and then expect to get offered the job.  No wonder unemployment is so high!  We’ve been doing it wrong.

A note on what is and what could be: After what was really a quite dismal season, Saturday Night Live will be reeling after losing three major cast members and a number of talented writers.  I would argue that this is not so much a net loss as a potential gain.  SNL hasn’t been funny in a really long time, why people tune into it is about as puzzling to me as why people tune into the Olympics, but hey, I’m not your target demographic.  The thing that stood out to me this year and I didn’t really notice it until the Emmy’s were announced was that the shows that got the most nominations were on networks that actually looked for good outside talent, not just a bunch of network ass-kissers.  AMC and HBO did very well.  NBC and ABC?  Not so good.

Sure, Modern Family got a few noms as it should get, but when people complain about everything on TV being the same they’re mainly talking about you folks.  You, who haven’t been able to keep up with networks like HBO and AMC because your writing can’t keep up with theirs and perhaps even more important than that is that your talent is flocking to shows and projects that are written better and have more quality people attached.  As I’ve been arguing for some time, the problem with TV isn’t a lack of ideas, it’s a lack of vision.  People don’t take chances anymore and they really should.  Chances pay off when nothing is a sure thing.  Rather than looking at a model of what has worked in the past or what you think audiences want to see, why don’t you bring in someone who is a part of that audience?

There are plenty of good writers outside of the Hollywood and New York comedy circles that aren’t tapped because they don’t go the traditional route and it’s not those writers that suffer the most; it’s the people watching at home because while they could be watching good, quality programming instead they’re doing something else like tuning out your broadcast.  So, NBC when you look inside and ask why SNL lost so much talent and why it doesn’t have a lot of great ideas for the upcoming season, why not look outside the box like your competitors and take a chance on some writers who can, you know?  Be funny.

An excerpt from my piece in The Atlantic on The Civil War and American Exceptionalism:

When we look back at history, just as when we look back at anything, we give it a different meaning than it originally had.  That’s what we do with the Civil War, that is what we do with all wars.  Lincoln said that America was a “land of propositions” and that Jefferson was the one that wrote the propositions.  So, I think it is correct to view the Gettysburg Address as perfecting or if not perfecting, working toward perfecting Jefferson’s original proposition set forth in the Declaration of Independence.  Both the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence were documents attempting to make plain the reasons for war.  Lincoln’s was intended as a dedication, Jefferson’s Declaration was essentially a Declaration of War.  How perfect the ideals held in either are debatable.  That is not the question however, that I think is the most important for us to answer here.

Understanding that we view history and interpret history should also lead us to understand how the south framed the war.  The southern leaders in their speeches before the state conventions urging secession noted that it was their belief that if the south did not secede from the Union then the institution of slavery would die along with their liberty.  They were glorifying their institution, as they were glorifying themselves, but they were absolutely convinced that liberty was somehow attainable while the institution of slavery was still in existence and in practice.  How they were able to reconcile the view that everyone had the opportunity for liberty while holding others in chains is absolutely astonishing to me.  But if you read “Apostles of Disunion” and I think everyone should read that book because it shows in black and white terms what the Civil War was all about it is almost impossible to come away with the belief that the war was about anything other than the perfection of our American democracy and ensuring freedom to all who lived and would live under the American flag.

The war was fought as a perfection of the American idea and was thought of at the time as being one to preserve the union as many northerners did not want to fight to free blacks from the chains of bondage.  But as the war came to an end and so many lives had been lost, when people began to search for meaning in all the death, mutilation and carnage, people eventually came to the conclusion that it would be better to go down as fighting for something that was nobler than what was tried than it was to be thought of as a people who died for nothing at all.  When you listen to songs like: “When this cruel war is over” you begin to realize the state of mind that the American people – on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line – were in and that was that it was best to put the years of suffering behind them and emerge with a new idea of freedom than it was to say that they had fought over “state’s rights” or “preserving the union” as both sides sometimes liked to delude themselves into thinking.  We should never forget however that history always boils down to how we view the past outside the time in which it occurred.  Whatever views we have of the Civil War have been formed by subsequent generations of Americans and we pay little attention to that which was written at the time.  Our views of history are always as cloudy as the times in which history was formed and we cannot escape that.

Week in review: what should have been a simple process story turned into something more and it highlights a key problem with the Mitt Romney candidacy for President, that being that he cannot take a stand on any issue at all for any length of time.  If you look at polling data from the last week the one thing that stands out is how well the President is doing in spite of the economy.

If you want to understand a pretty simple explanation of why Romney’s not your guy on the economy, I think Brad DeLong did a pretty good job for non-wonks in the Detroit Free Press earlier this week.  The other interesting thing to come out of this week in terms of campaigning was this bombshell of a piece on the outsourcing of jobs that happened during Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital.  For my part, I explained why it’s important to examine Mitt Romney’s record, what Mitt Romney says he wants to talk about, and what’s going on with the Veepstakes.  I’ll have a project Q&A update later, but for now enjoy your weekend!

Okay, so what you really should be concerned about for the next week or two or sixteen is the crises in Greece, Spain, Italy, basically all of Europe.  But exactly why you should care is a tough question to answer.  We Americans demand that Europeans not only understand every bit of our politics, but embrace our leaders for reasons that even we don’t completely buy into, so it seems like a bit of a double standard that not a single reader could point out who the leaders of Greece are going to be.  I’d settle for who the newly elected French leader is, but I don’t want to have the freedom fries argument again.  I’ll just say for those interested in finding a decent analysis of the Greek elections can be found here.

A really awesome page on the legacy of Rodney King, who passed away at the age of 47 today.

A couple of tidbits of unrelated news: I found a piece of Seth McFarlane’s analysis of the 2012 race surprisingly insightful:

“Who can deny that the average American wakes up each morning and asks himself, “Oh my God, can Romney get the Latino vote?!” (A negative side effect is that we’re becoming conditioned to treat elections as just another sporting event. We pick our team, and then blindly cheer them on, with no more thought than we would give to a football game.)”

The point that Seth was making is that we don’t really hold our candidate’s feet to the fire anymore.  In avoiding a primary challenge for an incumbent there are important issues like climate change, torture, foreign policy, and tax policy that is either not talked about or downplayed by the party elite.  That’s not how democracy is supposed to function and I think we’d be better off if we discussed these issues rather than sweeping them under the rug.

In Wisconsin news, E.J. Dionne made some fair points about what we should take away from the Wisconsin election, noting:

“For years, progressives have engaged in a fruitless, false-choice argument as to whether victory comes primarily from mobilizing loyalists or from winning over middle-of-the-road voters. The obvious truth is that the center-left cannot win without pursuing both strategies simultaneously.”

It’s important to realize that sometimes you’re not always right if you can’t bear to admit that sometimes you’re wrong.  Big labor needs to understand the unenviable position they now find themselves in: they’re losing members and losing sympathy.  Dionne does come to a good conclusion noting that:

“For the left, conservative hubris would be the best outcome from Wisconsin. Nothing would do more to push swing voters the progressives’ way. But liberals and labor are operating in a difficult environment. They need to pick their fights carefully and match their energy with a new discipline and a cool realism about the power arrayed against them.”

The better bet here would have been to find a mechanism to put the collective bargaining law on the ballot.  I know this would have been difficult if not altogether impossible to do, but that should have been the first and perhaps only mode of attack.  Overplaying your hand can be worse than underplaying your hand depending on the results and because of the results from Tuesday, Democrats will be playing defense for far longer than they should have to.  Sometimes knowing when to cut your losses is just as important as understanding when you’ve lost.

The recall election was a tough moment for Democrats.  It was a moment that Ed Schultz is still trying to understand and it’s one that big labor still can’t quite comprehend.  Most people simply didn’t feel that a recall election was fair.  I can accept that.  I don’t agree with that sentiment, but I accept the underlying principle.  The question thus becomes: what do we do with this?  Conservative commentators and Republican politicians have used this opportunity to gloat, which I don’t think will help their cause but I suppose it is their right to do.  Many have pointed to the President’s election in 2008 as an equal bar for gloating.  I disagree heartily.  Electing an African-American one term Senator to the highest office in the land is a tad more important than a special election in a state with less than three million voters.  One commentator said: “I’ll take one victory in Wisconsin over any victory you may have in November” to which I say: “fair enough.”

Tom Barrett has had a couple of rough debates now and he’s not looking so good going into the recall on Tuesday.  If Barrett loses it would be a huge blow to the Progressive movement in America and would re-galvanize the once depressed conservative base who view Scott Walker as a hero for taking away the rights of teachers, cops, and firefighters to collectively bargain.  Of course the race isn’t over and internal tracking polls have it a dead heat, but usually late in the race the independents break for the winner and in a tight race in an election year with steady economic data they generally break for the incumbent.  If Walker wins it will be the first time in American history that a sitting politician has won a recall effort against them.

The new EHB was announced today, which isn’t really anything new and that’s the depressing part of it.  A good background on the EHB and its’ significance can be found here.

Thankfully I don’t have outstanding debt.  I’ve been really lucky that way, but if you do, you should read this.

I’m talking Tea Party politics.

On Ezra Klein’s blog today, Suzy Khimm laid out what should be the Democratic position on jobs.  I recommend reading it here.

What does John Boehner’s plan do for America?  A lot, none of it is good however and I encourage readers to check out Robert Greenstein’s analysis over at the CBPP, the link is here.

Matt Yglesias’s column on Harry Reid’s shocker is a must read.

What can Tim Geithner really do?  Not much.

The structure of Tim Geithner’s testimony to Congress defending his additional borrowing is:

  • The Constitution forbids me from even thinking about default.
  • You ordered me to spend.
  • A previous Congress told me not to borrow, but no Congress can bind its successors, and those of you who are in this Congress here now ordered me to spend.
  • I’m just doing what you told me to do–and what the Constitution directly and explicitly tells me to do.

And then we should move on to the people’s business. This episode of kabuki theatre has done nobody any credit. If I had previously had any respect for or confidence in Republicans, this would have shredded it. And each day it continues it further shreds my respect for and confidence in the executive branch.

John Boehner in a conference call today: “We’ve seen this coming all year long. But here’s the challenge: To stop [Obama], we need a vehicle that can pass in both houses,” Boehner told rank-and-file Republicans.

“I do think there is a path,” Boehner went on. “But it’s gonna require us to stand together as a team. It’s gonna require some of you to make some sacrifices. If we stand together as a team, our leverage is maximized and they have to deal with us. If we’re divided, our leverage gets minimized.”

It looks like the GOP strategy from day one has been to defeat the President, not stop the country from defaulting on it’s debt.  It’s truly frightening to hear them say as much on a conference call with reporters.

Yesterday, I started running opposition viewpoints.  Opposition viewpoints was created due to a large outcry from readers that somehow liberals make arguments against conservatives because they don’t understand conservative arguments in the first place.  Thus, all my answers yesterday were from a conservative perspective.  I’ll continue to do this, as I believe it does serve a purpose, but it’s not going to be as widespread because it tends to upset a lot of normal readers.  And that’s understandable because it’s difficult to put up with arguments that aren’t based in reason or fact.

Someone needs to tell Rebekah Brooks to cut her hair.  As someone with long hair, I’m sympathetic, but this:

That’s just unacceptable.  And someone needs to inform the mainstream media that Rupert Murdoch getting attacked with a pie does not qualify as “news.”  If I had to count all the times I’ve been attacked by a man wielding pies…or as Fox News put it “yielding pies” ?!?!?!  WTF?  Where’s Sarah Palin when you need her?  She’d be able to explain the difference between wielding and yielding, right?

Today is my “Republican for a day” day thingy.  I’m going to write everything from a Republican perspective and argue all my points using right wing talking points.  It’s just an experiment, tomorrow, I promise, I’ll return to reality.  My actual policy stuff will be in Policyhawk.

How many times does David Plouffe check his watch in the new video out on Whitehouse.gov?  My guess is ten?  That’s a lot for a four minute video and he looked really uncomfortable in Mass.

What is Grover Norquist scared of?  I’ve seen Grover Norquist on TV a couple of times today, which is odd because there are times where I’ll go months without seeing this guy.  But now, just days before the House will vote on whether the United States should default on it’s debt, he’s making the rounds on the talk shows.  What gives?

Wow, George Pataki was on Dylan Rattigan’s show today and he looks like he lost at least 50 lbs.  Looks like someone is getting ready to run for president…just saying.

Neil Irwin’s must read piece on the bond market lays out a lot of the reasons why Wall Street still has confidence in Washington.  Worst case scenario:

“If the talks break down and there is no agreement by early August, it could have the paradoxical effect of making Treasury bonds more attractive. Investors expect the government to continue making payments due on its debt. But it could have to slash all manner of other spending, such as Social Security and payments to government contractors, which would weaken the economy. Traditionally, investors pile money into government bonds when the economy is weak.”

Did I miss something or is 9.2% unemployment the new normal?

Also, the Economist’s piece on the Euro crisis is enlightening.  What you need to know:

“Depending on the degree of coercion, private creditors will give up at most €30 billion ($43 billion) for Greece’s financing needs to 2014. But officials say that merely to lower Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio to that of heavily indebted Italy, the unofficial goal, would require a sum several times bigger. Ireland and Portugal may need similar treatment.”

Ouch.

Pat Toomey was on Morning Joe this morning and insisted that Republicans were giving up all sorts of concessions in the debt ceiling deal.  I put a list together of all of the things he and other Republicans are willing to give up.  It starts with repealing “Obamacare,” I didn’t realize that was such a high priority for Democrats.  Then they say that we could cut taxes because what Democrat doesn’t want to that?  Then we can defund the EPA, adopt a balanced budget amendment that requires a 2/3 supermajority to raise revenues of any kind.  If we’re really lucky, Toomey says, we’ll be able to have a vote on the debt ceiling where all Republicans except a few will vote against it despite the fact that almost all of the priorities in the debt ceiling hike are Republican priorities.  I don’t know about you, but to me, this seems like the deal of the century!  Maybe tomorrow they’ll let me mow their lawns, take out their garbage, babysit their in-laws, and pay off their mortgages.  The only question I have is: when do I get to start?

Congratulations to Dan Pfeiffer and the rest of the communications team at the White House for not just steering, but keeping the media narrative where it needs to be.  It’s a really tough thing to do to make people talk about the things you want them to talk about, especially in the press and though we vilify them when they’re wrong, it’s only fitting that we give them their due when they get it right.

I’m not sure who’s “winning” in the Republican party, if anyone, but Politico thinks Eric Cantor is winning and I don’t have any evidence to contradict that theory.  The piece is worth checking out.  In my columns today, I discuss the various strategies and expectations in the debt ceiling negotiations.  Morning edition hereEvening edition here.

John Boehner announced that he’s taking his toys and going home.  What does that mean for tomorrow’s meeting at the White House?  Here’s my take.  George Will responds by firing ethnic slurs at Obama (that’s a responsible response, right?)  Michael Medved, a Republican strategist, actually has a decent idea for what the President could do sometime in the near future to stimulate job growth in a, we’ll call it “unorthodox” way and Politico (as always) has the best inside look on why Boehner stepped away from the table.

I think it’s a good thing that the service industry is rebounding, but this is more likely a result of the decline in discretionary spending by the federal and most state governments than anything else.  When businesses stop getting aid from one area of the economy they don’t just stop spending, they move their money to an area of the economy where they’ll see a better rate of return.  For more, read my column.

It would be a lot easier to negotiate an extension for the debt ceiling if we’d simply be honest about our motives in the debt ceiling negotiations.  My column is here.

Unexpected developments in the debt ceiling talks might yield an agreement some time in the next 7-10 days.  You can read my column here.

Joe Scarborough is optimistic:

“It is easy to grow discouraged by the spectacle we have to view from Washington every day, as politicians of both parties and from all regions show their prejudices, their passions, their error of opinions, their local interests, and their selfish views. But was it really so different when Washington, Franklin, Jefferson and Madison chartered America’s course from 1776 to 1789?”

Considering that my critique of Washington above was lifted verbatim from Benjamin Franklin’s speech the day the U.S. Constitution was ratified, I suspect not.”

Also read David Brooks’ unapologetic article, begging the GOP to take the deal on the debt ceiling.

I was off for most of last week, so there are a lot of issues I want to cover.  First, the Greek bailout looks like it’s going to become much more expensive and I’ll have a piece on that tomorrow morning.  Also, the debt ceiling debate should ratchet up considering Moody’s has said they will downgrade America’s credit rating if a deal isn’t reached by next week.

In other news, I’m interested to hear everyone’s holiday stories, so please feel free to submit them.  The “Jerseylicious” live blog will return next week and I hope to have my sports section done by the time the NFL lockout ends.

When people ask me what’s wrong with America, the answer I give is that we suffer from an oftentimes maniacal arrogance towards each other and the rest of the time we suffer from an ignorance of this arrogance.  All of this “I’m number one” thinking leads to a ridiculously high (or ridiculously low depending on your outlook) view of ones own importance.  Where we see this mestastized is in our encounters with the opposite sex.  To those who disagree with me on this, I’d point you to Laura Stampler’s article on the Huffington Post.

As much as I disagree with the guy politically, NJ Governor Chris Christie makes some good points on leadership, saying that many people confuse bluntness with inflexibility.  Where I profoundly disagree with the Governor is on the situation in my home state, Wisconsin.  Governor Walker did not, in any way, shape, or form attempt to negotiate with anyone.  Saying that he did an effective job bringing people together in Wisconsin is a flat out lie.

The situation surrounding David Prosser and his choking of Ann Bradley is taking its course and people are taking sides.  You can read the full article here.

Why is The Onion so upset about not winning a Pulitzer?  Six of their eight “original stories” this week had to do with the fact that they’re pissed off at the Pulitzer people.  Is it just me or is being pissed at someone not all that funny?

David Prosser reportedly attempted to strangle a fellow judge during the Wisconsin Supreme Court deliberations over the controversial collective bargaining law.

Politico has an awesome piece on Jared Bernstein, one of our nation’s most under-rated economists and a guy that I love to quote and talk about often on this blog.

New York becomes the sixth state in the Union to allow same-sex marriage.  Read the story here.

Over 2500 homes are under water in North Dakota.  Imagine what the response would be like if this happened in a state anyone cared about.

Talking Points Memo has a good story on the deals that Republicans rejected in the debt ceiling negotiations.

It would be helpful if Republicans would actually show leadership instead of just telling everyone else how they should be leading.

Alice Rivlin lays out a four part solution that, although it sounds good and probably would cause the right kind of reactions in the market, isn’t realistic politically.

“A compromise package should have four elements. The first is near-term fiscal easing to keep the recovery from sputtering—for example, enhancing the payroll tax holiday or aiding states to slow the reduction in their payrolls. The second is firm, enforceable caps on discretionary spending, both defense and domestic. The third is entitlement reform through a credible restructuring of Medicare and Medicaid to slow future growth as the boomers retire, and far-in-the-future tweaks that put Social Security on a sustainable path. The fourth is tax reform that raises more revenue from simpler broader-based individual and corporate income taxes with lower marginal rates.”

For Democrats, you’re going to have a difficult time explaining, let alone gaining consensus on entitlement reform.  Republicans are unwilling to talk about defense or tax reform.  Closing tax loopholes might be a decent way to compromise on revenues, but it’s still kind of a tough sell to Republicans.

“There is a lot here for both parties not to like, but that is the essence of a bipartisan solution. Republicans worry that spending caps will threaten national security and Democrats that domestic needs will suffer. Both need to recognize that not all government money is well spent. Democrats are terrified of entitlement reforms and Republicans of tax increases, but there will be no solution without some of each. On entitlements, Democrats have to accept that the status quo is not an option and Republicans that draconian benefit cuts are not acceptable. On revenues, Democrats have to recognize that the debt can’t be stabilized just by taxing the very rich; the middle class will have to contribute too. Republicans have to recognize that in the face of a rapidly increasing older population, it is undesirable to hold spending at historic levels, so we need more revenues. Both parties should recognize that entitlements and earmarks in the tax code are the same as spending, and phasing them out can enhance growth.”

The key point to deficit reduction, in my view, is raising taxes.  It’s that simple.  We need to raise taxes so that spending doesn’t grow at too large of a rate in comparison to national GDP.

Mitch McConnell’s radical honesty scares me.

There are a few things to keep in mind before President Obama’s address on Afghanistan tomorrow.  First, there’s this great piece from Leslie Gelb that outlines why we really should get out of Afghanistan.  Second, we need to remember that Karzai was “picked” by the Bush administration “to lead” Afghanistan, and much like “heck of a job Brownie,” he wasn’t qualified either.  Americans also forget that it was Reagan that gave the Afghans ammunition when they were fighting the Soviets and after the Afghans “won” – we deserted them, which is how the Taliban ended up being in control and Osama bin Laden was given sanctuary in that nation.

Politico does a good job explaining why no one will like the President’s position on this or his speech, for that matter.

I have a few questions on the domestic front that I’d like answered, like:

Why are Democrats so eager to drink the Republican Kool-Aid?

If they do drink the Kool-Aid, who is really to blame for the economic tsunami that is all but guaranteed to follow?

Interactive:  Check out Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage and their menu.  Then come up with a burger reflecting a politician or celebrities personality through the burger.  It’s a tough assignment, which is why I’m giving you all day to ponder it.

Best answers will be posted tomorrow morning.

Wayne Pacelle has an interesting new book out called “The Bond,” I encourage everyone to read it.  One of the issues at the heart of the book are the issues of animal neglect vs. animal cruelty.  I think a lot of people downplay the role that animal neglect has in our society.  Many people view pet ownership as a luxury in the same way that you or I might value a TV or a lamp, which are things that you can just throw away when you’re done with it.  One of the really basic arguments laid out by Pacelle is that we have an obligation to take care of animals, just as we would people, who are dependent on us.  It’s a really compelling story about empathy and the power of the human heart.

One of the reasons that I am who I am today is a direct result of growing up with animals in my home and understanding at a pretty basic level, not just the responsibilities that we have to the animal world, but the joy that comes with having a really special relationship with animals and I hope that we, as a society, can develop these kinds of relationships at a much deeper level than we currently do because I think it would strengthen our minds, our hearts, and above all our sense of decency towards not just the animal world, but to our fellow man in general and that’s something that we could all benefit from.

Everyone’s feeling a bit moody today.  It’s understandable considering the weak jobs numbers.  The caveat in all of this is the fact that if we had simply voted on the debt ceiling earlier, we could be working on an actual jobs plan now.  My bet is that Republican leaders take to a hardware store or auto repair shop (whichever polls better) to announce that the President is an incredibly weak leader, who has no plan for economic recovery.  They will blame “record high” taxes, “big government spending,” and an “assault on American values.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m disappointed with the meager 83,000 jobs that were created last month, but I understand why that was the case.  You see, with economic uncertainty comes ever cautious approaches to business.  The market doesn’t like it when things are up in the air.  Especially when it comes to things as important as the debt ceiling.  Of course, Republicans have marginalized this issue.  Charles Krautenhammer said today that “it’s blackmail, but that’s a good thing.”  What?  Now, normally I’d take on such a ridiculous comment, but that wasn’t even the scary part of his column.  The scary part was when he suggested that we default on our debts and that that would be “a good thing.”  Going bankrupt is not a good thing!!!

What kind of universe do you live in where everyone gets excited to lose all of their assets and pretty much compromise their entire way of life?  Probably the same ones where public employees are getting tons of free Viagra shipped to their door, corporations are paying sky-high taxes (which is of course, why they’re not growing.  We all know that taxes hinder growth.)  This is probably why teachers are making over $100,000 a year and spending their vacations in Martha’s Vineyard on their catamarans, right?

I don’t know if I’m losing my mind or the world is just falling to pieces around me, but it’s getting to the point where I don’t even want to watch the news anymore because people keep getting crazier and crazier.  The worst part about all of this is that they think their insanity is “a good thing.”  No, it’s not!  Governor Scott Walker is pushing a conceal and carry law that would allow anyone to carry a gun around.  That’s not a good idea and not for the obvious fact that we’d be giving guns to people like, you know, murderers and rapists!  But because there’s no training required, meaning you’re not only going to hurt other people, but probably yourself in the process.  These are not good ideas, I’m just waiting for someone to admit that these are bad ideas.  But, given the Republican mantra of “win at any cost,” I don’t think I’m going to hold my breath.

With great power comes great responsibility and both parties are showing that their irresponsible.

Let’s talk scarcity!

&

Don’t kill the Messenger!

I think that people are generally well-intentioned when they write about or comment on my blog.  That being said, I can’t re-iterate enough how important it is to understand what is being talked about and why it is being talked about.  In my posts on Paul Ryan’s plan to systematically dismantle Medicare, for instance, I was making the broad point that we ought to go after health care costs with a supply-side approach to reducing costs and the overall delivery of health care.  A lot of people seem to either a) not understand what that is or b) refuse to admit that their overall philosophy is based on moral hazards and a belief that extreme cheating in the health care system or systemic markets is causing a ridiculously high expense in cost-control.

I encountered a lot of this kind of thinking when I talked about Scott Walker’s budget and his plan to dismantle public-sector unions.  I got a lot of replies talking about how people didn’t want their tax dollars to go towards Viagra for sixty year old teachers, which is not what the debate was about.  I agree, in principle, that people should not be disproportionality charged for expenses that are fundamentally unjustifiable.  I disagree however, that the individual tax payer is in a better position to judge what is or isn’t medically necessary than a Doctor who has a license to practice medicine.  If you think you’re better able to dispense appropriate care than a Doctor you should either go to medical school and receive the proper training or rewrite the laws that pertain to the dispensing of medical necessities.

The problem with going after individual parts of a collective plan, like plans that public employees have, is that it’s very easy to nit pick and say someone should or shouldn’t get this while someone else gets this or that.  We have Doctors who decide this stuff, not taxpayers who decide this stuff.  If you believe that it is fundamentally unfair for Doctors to treat patients when it comes to the cause, effect, and prevention of illness and disease then you don’t understand how to practice medicine and that’s understandable.  After all, you didn’t go to medical school.  It would be ridiculous to expect someone to know things that are taught in medical school simply as taxpayers, just like it would be ridiculous to expect taxpayers to understand legal procedure or minutiae that you have to go to law school to understand.

My broader point is that it isn’t just unnecessary, but also ineffective to go after a program or system of programs because you disagree about parts of the program while fundamentally agreeing that the program is a necessary part of the functionality of our medical system.  In other words, if you like Medicare, don’t attack it.  If you’re jealous of those who have a single-payer system of government run health care, don’t attack it, understand it.  If after understanding the system that you supposedly have a problem with originally you then, in turn have an issue with that same part or parcel of the program, try and figure out why that is or talk to someone who is an expert in that area.

The arguments that I make on here are not political.  They are philosophical.  I believe that the best way to treat diseases is to empower doctors to provide better care for their patients.  Apparently there are a lot of people who disagree with me on that point and rather than hearing scathing attacks about myself personally, I’d prefer to hear your principled opposition to the philosophy that I have.

The whole point of having a blog like this is to talk about important issues and to engage people, like-minded or not in a principled discussion that tests the things that we fundamentally believe in.  Hopefully, I can challenge some of your viewpoints and you can challenge mine.  That’s what I look forward to every day when I put out this blog and I hope that in the future, this is something that you will look forward to also.

But, I do not, in any case whatsoever, believe that it is acceptable behavior to go after someone personally.  I had a debate teacher that said “once one side goes personal, that side has admitted that they have lost the debate.”  Policy is about substance, not fighting words.  I look forward to a more spirited and policy-oriented debate in the future and continue to thank the thousands of daily visitors who engage in the incredibly important policy discussions we have on this site each and every day.

Hey, Man!  Nice Talking Points.

Ohio State fans aren’t the only ones who should be talking about Jim Tressel’s departure.

Sarah Palin returns to the front page as she uses Memorial Day to boost her image.  What’s striking isn’t so much what Sarah Palin is doing, but what the media is doing.  Why follow a hypothetical candidate around the greater D.C. area over Memorial Day?  I mean, yeah it’s a slow news day, but it seems like she got more news coverage than the actual President of the United States and unless she’s Lady Gaga (which would be a surprise!) she shouldn’t be getting this much attention.

The Calling

Hypothetical candidates do better than candidates that are already running running for office.  Fred Thompson topped the Republican field for President in 2008, then he started to run a campaign and fell flat on his face.  The reason that this happened was because people liked the idea of Fred Thompson just like old people like listening to him talk about reverse mortgages.  He sounds like a credible guy, but upon further scrutiny it becomes evident that he has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.  The same is true of Michelle Bachmann.  Continue reading this post…

You Should be Scared of Paul Ryan’s Budget

Paul Ryan put out a plan that deals with how much the government is willing to spend on health care costs and that’s good.  But, that’s not what we need.  We need a plan that creates effective exchanges so that people who don’t have health coverage can get it cheaply and for those who already have coverage so that they can get better coverage than they have.  Continue reading this post…

What About Jobs?

Usually, during economic expansion, hiring expands along the same lines as GDP.  Not so much in our current recovery.  Why?  We never hit full employment.  That means that, so long as companies continue their practice of not hiring, our potential GDP and our actual GDP are going to continue to be miles apart.  What does that mean for you?  It means you’re not going to see prices drop at the grocery store.  It means you’re going to continue to have to pay close to $4.00 for gas.  It means that until we have a business cycle that actually meets expectations, we’re going to have the same old problems.

You may be saying to yourself: ‘this isn’t anything new,” but actually it is.  During the last three economic downturns, the saving and loan crisis in the ’80’s, the inflation-driven crisis in the early ’90’s and the housing crisis we saw a return to full employment when the market hit bottom.  This hasn’t happened yet for the American economy after the financial crisis and this is a major cause for concern.  Continue reading this post…

Dick Cheney “worships the ground Paul Ryan walks on.”  I tackle the political problems that such an endorsement entails.

There are some strange ways of looking at the debt ceiling as evidenced today by Bill Clinton.

Why would you hold a vote on something in the Senate if you knew ahead of time you’d come up more than ten votes shy?

Climate Change anyone?

Is Jared Loughner insane, psychotic, or mentally incompetent?  I’m going to go with some sort of combination of all three.  This story just keeps getting weirder.

Peter Orszag has a great piece on the Ryan budget at Bloomberg News.  The gist is that consumer spending on Medicare and Medicaid go up exponentially with the Ryan budget.

“At the heart of the Ryan plan is a shift within Medicare toward consumer-directed health care -– which in turn is predicated on increasing beneficiaries’ “skin in the game” to make the health system more efficient.”

That’s a pretty good summation of what the Ryan plan attempts to do.  He wants to increase consumer spending on health care so government doesn’t have to.  It’s not a particularly novel approach – especially for a Republican – but it does allow the government to control Medicare costs somewhat.  The problem with the Ryan plan of course is that it would increase total health care spending.  Most people want lower costs, not higher ones.  That is, unless you’re a Republican.  If you’re a Republican you understand that business could get a huge net benefit if we force even more people into the market.  The only way you can do that effectively is to cut Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and force them into the private marketplace.  This will do for health care providers what Medicare Advantage did for prescription drug companies and that is mainly to increase the amount of prescriptions people get.

Orszag also makes a good point on the high cost of catastrophic care coverage and end-of-life treatment.

The core problem is that health-care costs are concentrated among expensive treatments for chronic diseases and end-of-life care -– and even consumer-directed approaches retain deep third-party insurance against such cases (which is, after all, the whole point of insurance).

That’s pretty much the ballgame right there.  If you want to reduce costs, these are the areas you need to reduce costs in.  Primary care doesn’t make up a huge percentage of health care costs.  It’s hospice care and treatment of terminal illnesses that drive health care costs up.  Of course, we can’t say that we should not help someone who is dying, that would just be cruel.  We can however, change the way that that’s paid for and that’s what a lot of the Affordable Care Act attempts to do.  When you look at spending as a percentage of the net total cost of providing health care one thing jumps out at you and that’s the fact that high risk people are covered in Medicare when in a private insurance market, they would not.

“Consider that, if you rank Medicare beneficiaries by cost, one-quarter of patients account for more than 85 percent of total costs. So even if the other 75 percent spend less on doctors and medicine, they can’t take a significant bite out of the total.”

If this weren’t a government run program the logical solution would be to raise the rates that the one quarter of patients pay into the system.  The problem with doing that in the public sector is that it looks really, really bad to do that.  Why?  Most of that 1/4 are either veterans, the elderly, the indigent, and kids.  Ouch.

Keep Your Hands off my Government Run Health Care!

There was a pretty important Congressional race decided last night.  Kathy Hochul won the special election in NY-26 last night 47-42%.  This delivers a pretty devastating blow to Paul Ryan and the Republicans backing his plan.  Hochul ran on her opponents’ endorsement of the Ryan plan and if you look at the numbers, it’s pretty obvious that once she zeroed in on that aspect of the campaign she pretty much ran away with the race.  Talking Points Memo has a good chart that illustrates how much damage the Ryan Budget has done to the Republican party.

I’m talking Medicare and Medicaid today as those are going to be two really big issues moving forward, you can read my piece here.  I also have a piece on the best historical sex scandal this side of Thomas Jefferson.  Later I’ll be discussing the incredibly complex relationship between the United States and China.  For a primer read Henry Kissinger’s thoughts on China here.

TPaw isn’t quite who he says he is.  I take that assertion on in today’s policyhawk.  Later, I’ll be discussing what we should be doing to reform entitlements as opposed to just throwing people who benefit from entitlements under the bus (and yes there’s a big difference between the two in terms of policy and just simple ethics and morality.)

A front page story on Politico outlines why every candidate who’s not running would make a better candidate than any of the candidates who are actually seeking the Republican nomination.  I think that says everything you need to know about the Republican field in 2012.

Speaking of sad candidates…

I agree with…Herman Cain.

I couldn’t even spell his name write the first time I wrote it.  That serves as the perfect metaphor for how I view him as a candidate and the level of respect that I have for his campaign.  Cain did something today that shouldn’t come as a surprise however.  He came out against compromise, which has been official Republican policy since Republicans assumed control of the Congress in 2011.

On this point I actually agree with the Republican crazy-man, I mean candidate.

Herman Cain said that “compromise is killing this country” in an interview with Hotline On Callpublished online on Monday.

Cain, who officially launched his campaign for the White House over the weekend, is not one to mince words in communicating his staunchly conservative views.

“Compromise is killing this country,” he told Hotline on Call. “Compromise is killing this economy.”

I agree.  We shouldn’t be trying to cut spending when we’re trying to dig our way out of the biggest recession in our nation’s history.  It makes absolutely no sense economically.  You invest more in an economy when it’s floundering and less in it when it’s prospering.  It’s called market elasticity, but I think all Republicans were sick on those couple of days of Economics class.

Where I disagree with Cain is where he suggested that the way to achieve legislative success is not by meeting in the middle, but rather by taking “solutions to the people so they can put the pressure on their members of Congress.”

That sounds an awful lot like a second amendment remedy and I think we all remember how that worked out for that ill-fated Senate Candidate.

Meanwhile,

I hope this guy isn’t a hostage negotiator…

In a new piece for Politico it’s been pointed out that there were plenty of warning signs when it came to the Ryan budget.  Leading one insider to say: “The feeling among leadership was, we have to be true to the people who put us here. We don’t know what to do, but it has to be bold.”

Another GOP insider involved to the process was more morbid: “Jumping off a bridge is bold, too.”

I guess jumping off a bridge is okay as long as it’s only you that’s jumping off a bridge.  I’d rather someone else didn’t throw me off a bridge and my bet is that my feeling will be shared by a good amount of incumbent Republican Congressmen come election day in November 2012 as Democrats use the budget vote to end their relatively short political careers.

A note on jobs.

For it, now against it.  Although Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will vote for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) controversial budget plan, he’s not out whipping other members to join him and he’s not even saying whether he supports all of its provisions.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to bring Ryan’s plan — which would substantially alter Medicare benefits — to the floor next week, forcing Republicans to take a position on the measure. McConnell, for his part, plans to force a vote on the budget that President Obama submitted in February.

“What I’ve said to our members is we’re not going to be able to coalesce behind just one [plan],” McConnell said in an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” He pointed out that both Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have budget plans of their own that some members of Congress may want to support.

“Candidly, Chris, none of these budgets are going to become law,” McConnell admitted.

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich stirred up controversy last week when he appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and criticized the Medicare proposals in Ryan’s budget. Gingrich said he would prefer a system that preserved the current Medicare program and also created a private alternative.

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich said. “I think we need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare solution for seniors.”

Gingrich was quickly attacked by fellow Republicans, who worried his criticism would be used by Democrats against any GOP lawmaker who voiced support for the Ryan plan.

In today’s PolicyHawk: the key questions surrounding President Obama’s tact on Middle East peace and why, by unequivocally siding with Israel, the Republican field is giving us the best argument for the President’s re-election.

I’ll also be focusing on why you should care about the huge uptick in natural disasters.  This year is already the worst since 1953 in terms of damage done by tornadoes.  All of this leads one to the obvious conclusion that climate change is as big of an issue as liberals have believed all along.

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11 thoughts on “The Latest

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  2. Have you ever thought that there might be two sides to this? Seriously, what kind of asshole just goes off on someone without asking her how she feels?

    • If she doesn’t want to talk to me then she really shouldn’t complain about what I say. I’ve said this before: if there’s something untrue that’s been said please point it out but the problem that you folks have is that everything I’ve said is true. You’re just upset that it doesn’t paint her in a positive light and it shouldn’t. What she did to me was a really shitty thing to do.

  3. I read your Atlantic piece and the one question that kept bugging me was: why do we keep tying the Civil War to nationalism? Isn’t that inherent in “The Civil War?”

  4. When it comes to the debt ceiling, people need to realize that Ron Paul has no idea what he is talking about.
    The immediate impact is that the US Treasury will not be able to pay the US government’s bills. This includes Social Security payments, interest and principal payments on US bonds, support for US agencies like the Post Office, defense, payrolls for army, navy, marines, etc. Functionally this will be the result, unless the Treasury ignores the debt ceiling and issues more debt to raise money to pay for these things. If you’re fine with not paying any of these payments on time, then yes, I suppose business will go on as usual.

  5. Virtually anything Fox News does, i.e. making Sarah Palin look like an intellectual, making fabricated stories seem real, etc. just makes everyone look bad. These fabrications had the ruler of the USA (Dick Cheney) insisting that he would not watch any other channel.

  6. I’d like to see a real alternative plan as opposed to these tax-raising this or this federal spending that ideas that seem to be permeating our political discourse.

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