Friday Reads: The Ides of March

Eid_Mar Ah! The Ides of March and today’s political men with that lean and hungry look are upon us!  Let’s check out what Eric Cantor, Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan are up to.  All of them have that creepy angular look that makes my skin crawl. I always wonder if their supporters are as odd looking and grinch-like?

Ryan “looks with such ferret and such fiery eyes” and is trying to ride the same old budget that the voters soundly rejected in November.

Ryan’s budget is a retread of his previous offerings, the same ideas that were rejected by voters in the 2012 election. Like the old Bourbon kings, he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Once more he doubles down on the failed ideas of the past, and once more he brazenly seeks credit for making hard choices while refusing to tell us what those choices are. The cowardice and lack of candor reflect just how unpopular these ideas are.

The basic strategy is the same; the only new packaging is the pretense of balancing the budget in 10 years. Ryan does that by adopting the $600 billion in “fiscal cliff” taxes that Republicans voted against, the Medicare tax hikes that were part of the Obamacare that Ryan proposes to repeal, and, most brazenly, the infamous $716 billion in “Medicare cuts” that Ryan and Romney and legions of Republicans have railed against over the last two election cycles.

Ryan’s basic strategy is unchanged. He would lower rates on income and corporate taxes. He does this despite studies showing that lowering rates over the last decades have produced more inequality, but not more growth. With the top 1 percent capturing a staggering 121 percent of the income growth coming out of the Great Recession, and corporate profits at record highs as a percentage of the economy, Ryan still argues that if they just had more money, they would start investing here at home.

The lower tax rates, Ryan claims, will be paid for by closing loopholes and eliminating “tax expenditures” — only he reveals none of Romney 2012those that he would close. Studies show millionaires could give up all their tax deductions and still pocket a big tax break from the Ryan plan. By definition, middle class families will end up paying more — and will face the loss of tax deductions for mortgages, for employer-based health care, for state and local taxes and more. No wonder Ryan doesn’t want to reveal what’s behind the curtain.

Ryan then calls for cutting $4.6 trillion in spending over 10 years from projected levels. $2.5 trillion of that comes from repealing Obamacare and gutting Medicaid. That will leave, according to estimates of the Urban League and the Congressional Budget Office, 40 to 50 million more poor and middle-income Americans uninsured, even as the wealthy and multinationals pocket their tax breaks. In addition, Ryan promises to dismember Medicare 10 years from now, turning it into a voucher that will push more and more costs on seniors over time.

Ryan would cancel the “sequestration cuts” for the military over the next decade while cutting even more from domestic services. All domestic services — education, border patrol, workplace safety, food and drug monitoring, research and development, Head Start, infant nutrition, etc. — would be cut to levels not seen in modern times. Naturally, Ryan does not identify what would be cut.

His budget is expected to pass the House yet again even though there is no chance in the Senate and no chance that “Obamacare” will be repealed.   Yet, he’s consistent which is more than we can say about Eric Cantor recently.  You know Cantoe. ” Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort s if he mock’d himself and scorn’d his spirit that could be moved to smile at any thing.”

Cantor seems newly pained by his reputation as an ideological roadblock. In Virginia, his favorable rating is twenty-seven per cent, a fact that makes a statewide run for office in the near future a dim prospect. Cantor explained why he argued at the retreat against using the debt ceiling as political leverage. He had been hearing from donors on Wall Street and in the business community about the potential impact on the markets. “Most people would say incurring debt at this point is allowing money for bills that you already incurred,” he said. “It’s to pay the bills.” Eight days earlier, at a press conference, Obama had made the same argument.

Besides, there were better fights to come. Conceding the debt-ceiling vote was a simple way for House Republicans to prevent the 110803_eric_cantor_ap_328U.S. government from going into default, which would be disastrous for the economy here and abroad. It also meant they could save their leverage for the coming fight over the automatic spending cuts in the sequester. “We’re not trying to sit here and just obstruct,” Cantor said. “We’re trying to solve the problem, and we’ve been put in this position, I guess, perception-wise, that all we want to do is obstruct. So this is an attempt for us to get on firmer ground.”

To win over the right, House leaders promised three things. They would demand that the Democratic-controlled Senate write a formal budget, which Senate Democrats have avoided doing for several years; if the senators didn’t pass a budget, they wouldn’t get paid. Second, they promised conservatives that the cuts in the sequester would be kept intact or replaced with something equivalent. The final promise was far more daunting: Paul Ryan would write a budget that balanced within ten years. “Big goal,” Cantor said, and he sounded relieved that it wouldn’t be his job; Ryan’s last budget, which included severe spending cuts, didn’t promise to come into balance until the late twenty-thirties. “People were concerned that it took too long to balance,” Ryan said. To make the budget balance in a decade, the level of cuts will have to be extreme. Cantor may have led his colleagues out of the debt-ceiling canyon only to get them trapped in another one.

I pointed out that, because the fiscal-cliff deal included more than six hundred billion dollars in higher taxes over the next ten years, Ryan’s job might be a little easier. Cantor flashed a mischievous grin. “Irony!” he said.

Then, there is Bobby Jindal who is plotting to push the most regressive tax plan ever through the state of Louisiana. jindal  He’s got the ALEC plan for wrecking the state down pat. “He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”

Jan Moller with the Louisiana Budget Project said he fears a financial blow to the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

“At a bare minimum, a tax overhaul should not be an excuse to make the state’s poorest citizens pay more, and they would suffer the most from the governor’s proposal to raise sales taxes,” Moller said in a prepared statement.

Barfield said something will be proposed to offset any increase for low- and lower-middle-classes.

“They would be in no worse position than they are today,” Barfield said.

Barfield said the administration wants to encourage job creation and economic growth, which help elevate the poor.

One has to wonder how the national ambitions of these men jibe with voters given their agendas benefit very few people.  I suppose the idea is to appease the big donors and hope that every one else just votes based on name recognition and glossy mailers.  Still, Jindal’s popularity sits at 37%.  As mentioned above,  Cantor’s popularity sits at 27%.  Ryan’s last poll was the election.

So, here are a few other reads that you might want to check out.  I’d say all of this is good news for rationale people and bad news for our Republican deniers of reality.
BBC News reports that “LHC cements Higgs boson identification”.  Yes, despite the agenda to stamp out the progress of scientists in the US, science and discovery happens in other countries.

“This is the start of a new story of physics,” said Tony Weidberg, Oxford University physicist and a collaborator on the Atlas experiment.

“Physics has changed since July the 4th – the vague question we had before was to see if there was anything there,” he told BBC News.

“Now we’ve got more precise questions: is this particle a Higgs boson, and if so, is it one compatible with the Standard Model?”

The results reported at the conference – based on the entire data sets from 2011 and 2012 – much more strongly suggest that the new particle’s “spin” is zero – consistent with any of the theoretical varieties of Higgs.

“The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is,” said CMS spokesperson Joe Incandela.

As is often the case in particle physics, a fuller analysis of data will be required to establish beyond doubt that the particle is a Higgs of any kind. But Dr Weidberg said that even these early hints were compelling.

“This is very exciting because if the spin-zero determination is confirmed, it would be the first elementary particle to have zero spin,” he said.

“So this is really different to anything we have seen before.”

Even more data will be required to explore the question of more “exotic” Higgs particles.

This HuffPo article suggest that there will even be fewer Americans for those Republicans to fool in the future as religion in America hits  new low!!

The number of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is the highest it has ever been since data on the subject started being collected in the 1930s, new research has found.

Sociologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University analyzed results from the General Social Survey and found that the number of people who do not consider themselves part of an organized religion has jumped dramatically in recent years.

Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the number of “nones” — those who said they were religiously unaffiliated — hovered around 5 percent, Claude Fischer, one of the researchers with UC Berkeley, told The Huffington Post. That number had risen to only 8 percent by 1990.

But since then, the number of people who don’t consider themselves part of a religion has increased to 20 percent.

No wonder Republicans want to tank public education.  I’d say there’s a bit of intelligent life left here!

Finally, the Mars Rover “Curiosity” finds some astonishing things on Mars.

marvinThe verdict is in: Mars’s Gale Crater was habitable in its distant past, perhaps during the same period in which microbial life was establishing itself on Earth between 3 billion and 4 billion years ago.

That is the conclusion scientists have reached after NASA‘s Mars rover Curiosity analyzed the first sample ever culled from deep in a rock on another planet. Curiosity used a first-of-its-kind drill to extract the sample.

Now, only seven months into its mission – a period set aside primarily for testing the rover’s various instruments – Curiosity has already given researchers the answer to the broad, basic question they set out to answer: Did Mars ever host environments suitable for life?

The issue of habitability is “in the bag,” said John Grotzinger, a planetary geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., and the mission’s lead scientist, during a press briefing announcing the results on Tuesday.

The minerals in the tiny, gray, ground-rock sample exposed by Curiosity’s drill speak of abundant standing water, conditions neither too acidic or too alkaline for life, and the minerals that would have provided a ready energy source for microbes, if any had been there.

Wonder what Pat Robertson will say about this?

and what’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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28 Comments on “Friday Reads: The Ides of March”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    We may be missing the whole point here: the GOP is nothing if not consistent. They pledged en masse to vote “no” on anything proposed by Obama and so far they are sticking to their guns.

    Just continue to package the same old crap around retro budget cuts knowing full well it won’t pass the Senate then sit back and enjoy the fallout. It makes them appear “busy” while blaming the Dems for not “playing fair”.

    They have also learned that the possibility of Obama “caving” once again is another reality since the “grand bargain” is being tossed around which will undoubtedly make the Dem base unhappy as they watch segments of the New Deal disappear into the vapor.

    Anyway you look at it the GOP has a solid hold on the rest of the nation’s business and everyday lives just for “staying the course” they laid down in 2009. Obama’s ratings are taking a “hit” which is exactly where they were heading all along.

    Obviously their way of governing is to do almost nothing in the long run which is their idea of “public service” as the rest of us sit and wait.

    Matters not that over 70% disapprove of these cuts in the social safety net as long as “our side” holds the winning hand. For most of these intransients their seats are safe so why not continue the same policies since it costs them little.

    The really sad aspect of this whole mess is that the GOP will get some of the things they want from Obama no matter the cost.

    Discouraging.

    • dakinikat says:

      I think part of the reason that this is happening is that the party is so split that if it actually does much other than stuff that’s continually symbolic it just creates more public rifts. The donor base is unhappy. The social conservatives are unhappy. The business wing of the party is unhappy. Definitely, they’re losing voters. The more they specify stuff the more of their segments get alienated. If they just repeat all these symbolic gestures without much substance they seams hold for a little while longer.

    • dakinikat says:

      kewl! I saw they found this awhile ago. They’ve evidently found more stuff! Guess you can’t dig any where in England these days without finding a mass grave!!!

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Carl Levin’s committee is investigating JP Morgan’s disastrous trades after the release of the damning Senate report yesterday.

    http://www.c-span.org/

    Matt Taibbi is live blogging the hearing.

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog

    • RalphB says:

      Stuff like this makes Taibbi worthwhile…

      12:43 p.m. Braunstein… he’s beginning to pull ahead of Weiland in the douchiest-witness contest. When you look at him, you just want to fill up a tube sock with guacamole and whack him across the face with it.

      That and he knows this shit inside and out.

    • dakinikat says:

      Jamie Diamon’s empire of dust … too bad no one will prosecute them for running an illegal gambling house.

      • RalphB says:

        If it were up to me, HSBC would have lost it’s charter to do business here. JPMC would be pretty damn close to that point or over it.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    WSJ has article, with photos, on the latest trends in millionaire mansions.

    Jimmy and Margaret Lowder’s 4,600-square-foot home in Montgomery, Ala., includes a 32-by-59-foot inner courtyard that’s wrapped by the brick home on three sides. Inside the courtyard, bluestone pavers and grass crisscross on the ground and Italian cypresses, olive trees, rosemary bushes and boxwoods serve as the backdrop to lilies, jasmine, hydrangeas and delphiniums. A second, smaller courtyard flanks the master bedroom, allowing Ms. Lowder to have a cutting garden, where she grows snapdragons, pansies and begonias for flower arrangements.

    The couple say they were drawn to the design for the primary house after building a vacation courtyard home in Florida. “We wanted a place where we could be outside and still have privacy,” says Ms. Lowder, whose husband owns a local real-estate development and insurance firm. The couple say the house would have cost about $2 million to build; they paid less because they are in the industry and got discounts.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Mitch McConnell says Dems prospective candidates in 2016 looks like a ‘rerun of the Golden Girls’

    “Finally, don’t tell me that Democrats are the party of the future when their presidential ticket for 2016 is shaping up to look like a rerun of the ‘Golden Girls,’” McConnell said in his morning address to CPAC, drawing laughter and applause.

    “We’ve got Rand Paul, we’ve got Marco Rubio, we’ve got Paul Ryan and a slew of smart, young and energetic governors,” McConnell continued, generating more cheers. “And the other guys? They’ve got Hillary and Joe Biden. So don’t tell me, folks. Don’t tell me.”

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    While Joe Biden is a little “too silly” for my tastes, Hillary is still my choice from the “get go”.

    If the GOP is considering any of those fools suggested by McConnell they are already behind the 8 ball.

    However, their best choice at this point lies in Christie. He may not be my cup of tea for a variety of reasons but he makes the electorate sit up and take notice.

  6. RalphB says:

    Bill and Rob’s Excellent Gay Adventure Charles Pierce on some fabulous adventures on the way to supporting equality. From my perspective, you either support human rights for all or you don’t. There is no nice middle ground.

    • janicen says:

      Yes, of course no one can disagree with your point, but there is such a thing as political reality. The political reality at the time was that there was a growing movement toward passing a Constitutional Amendment which would have banned same sex marriage. Back at the time of DOMA, it just might have passed. Had that happened we would have had a Constitutional ban in place for generations before it it was overturned. Yes, Clinton did what was expedient, but it was also smart. He took the momentum out from under the conservatives and signed a law that the majority of the country wanted at that time. Not me and not you, but many of the people who now support same sex marriage would have signed on to the Constitutional ban. The conservatives hate Slick Willie just for this kind of thing but I think he felt he was doing the best that could be done at the time even though it hurt his reputation and legacy within his own party. I know it can be argued that he should have shown leadership and stood for his beliefs, but that’s not what got him to the White House. There were plenty of proud Democrats who stood by their principles who lost elections before Clinton. Clinton won when he should not have won because he could read the political tea leaves better than anyone else and he wasn’t afraid to wallow in some shit for the greater good.

      • RalphB says:

        You’re almost certainly right, but it still sucks that all that triangulation was necessary. In a lot of policies, it’s still necessary.

  7. RalphB says:

    Song creation app wows crowd at South by Southwest

    Jam, released eight weeks ago for Apple’s iPhone, was developed by Joe and Sam Russell, members of a musical family from Melbourne who took the concept behind social-media photography and reinvented it for music.

    “Basically, you sing into your phone and it creates a song around what you’ve sung,” said Joe Russell as young music fans streamed into Jam’s booth in the SXSW trade show hall Thursday to spend a minute each trying out the app.

    “You don’t need to play an instrument or even sing all that well,” he told AFP. “You just have to sing into your phone and pick a (musical) style and it will created a song in that style, an original song.”

    But there’s more: users can upload their recordings onto Jam — just as Instagram or Hipstamatic photographers can do with their photos — for any and all to see, and the most popular tunes can wind up on Jam’s own hit parade.

    Sounds like a great idea.

  8. RalphB says:

    This could be a BFD, since the investigation is just really getting started. Several states are already involved and I’m leaning toward huge corruption.

    Fla. charity figures pumped $1M to politicians

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The key players behind a purported veterans charity accused of setting up illegal gambling rooms pumped more than $1 million into the campaign accounts of politicians who had the power to regulate or put them out of business.

    As the untaxed, barely regulated industry mushroomed into a billion-dollar industry, money went to the campaigns of governors in Florida and North Carolina as well as dozens of state legislators, and state political parties.

    Allied Veterans of the World ran nearly 50 Internet parlors in Florida with computerized slot machine-style games and gave about $6 million to veterans out of nearly $300 million in profits. Investigators said much of the money went to charity leaders, who spent much of it on boats, beachfront condos and vehicles such as Maseratis, Ferraris and Porsches.

    The operations were shut down this week and nearly 60 people arrested. Jennifer Carroll, Florida’s Republican lieutenant governor, abruptly resigned after being questioned by investigators. Carroll did consulting work for Allied Veterans while she was a state legislator. She was not charged with wrongdoing.

    After the arrests were announced Wednesday, authorities said the next phase of the investigation would focus on campaign contributions and lobbying.

  9. Prolix says:

    Surprisingly, I’d think the Conservatives would be all over the Higgs Boson since it is the goo that slows everything down in order for it to be captured. Isn’t that the CPAC philosophy — slow everything down to the point you don’t notice the regression?

    The shiny-shelled Senator from KY has made a six figure ad buy in KY to claim his victimhood — yes, that’s right, he’s a victim of a malicious smear campaign — the evidence of which is one, count’em, one tweet by an out of state group that was almost immediately recalled. Tortoise shells are not what they used to be.

  10. NW Luna says:

    North Dakota legislators hate women:

    The North Dakota Senate overwhelmingly approved two anti-abortion bills Friday, one banning abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and another prohibiting women from having the procedure because a fetus has a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome. North Dakota would be the first state in the U.S. to adopt such laws. ….

    Gov. Jack Dalrymple hasn’t said anything to indicate he would veto the measures, and the bills have enough support in each chamber for the Legislature to override him.

    Debate Friday was brief, with the Senate taking about an hour to pass both measures. No one spoke against the so-called fetal heartbeat bill, which the Senate took up immediately after passing the genetic abnormalities bill. The votes were largely on party lines, with Republicans supporting the measures and Democrats opposing them.

    http://seattletimes.com/text/2020565477.html

    So are they increasing aid to mothers, children, and the disabled? I doubt it.