Frankly, I’ll be very glad when this holiday season is over. It goes on way too long. This year I saw Christmas stuff at Halloween! At least I don’t get depressed at this time of year anymore, and I’m very happy for people who enjoy the celebration. I’ll probably have a nice time at Christmas dinner, but why do we need a two month build-up? Please forgive my grumbling…. I’ll get to the news, such as it is.
MSNBC’s First Read reports that Boehner and his merry men in the House “punted” on the payroll tax cut bill last night; supposedly they’ll vote on it today.
House Republican leaders emerged following a meeting with rank-and-file members to say that the House would take up their votes on Tuesday. Lawmakers had planned to vote around 6:30 p.m. ET on Monday evening, but the 6 p.m. meeting of GOP lawmakers lasted longer than expected, over two hours.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that the House Rules Committee, which sets the parameters for votes in the House, would meet tonight to set the stage for tomorrow’s series of votes. Those Tuesday votes would include a measure to reject the Senate’s two month extension, and instead instruct lawmakers to meet in a conference — the formal process of resolving differences with legislation in the Senate.
“Our members do not want to just punt and do a two-month, short-term fix where we have to come back and do this again,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters at the Capitol.
House Republicans prefer legislation to extend the expiring tax cut by a whole year, and produced legislation to that effect. But Democrats in the Senate rejected that proposal because of some of the cuts used to offset the cost of the bill, which also includes an extension of unemployment insurance.
Meanwhile, Jake Tapper is reporting that the two month extension passed by the Senate and backed by President Obama cannot be implemented in it’s current form.
Officials from the policy-neutral National Payroll Reporting Consortium, Inc. have expressed concern to members of Congress that the two-month payroll tax holiday passed by the Senate and supported by President Obama cannot be implemented properly.
Pete Isberg, president of the NPRC today wrote to the key leaders of the relevant committees of the House and Senate, telling them that “insufficient lead time” to implement the complicated change mandated by the legislation means the two-month payroll tax holiday “could create substantial problems, confusion and costs affecting a significant percentage of U.S. employers and employees.”
ABC News obtained a copy of the letter, which can be read HERE. Isberg agreed that it would be fair to characterize his letter as saying that the two-month payroll tax holiday cannot be implemented properly.
Why on earth can’t those morons on Capital Hill just extend the unemployment insurance for Pete’s sake? The Congressional Republicans make Scrooge look like a piker when it comes to mean-spiritedness. Aren’t most of them supposed to be “Christians?” Good grief!
Please, can’t someone force Boehner and Cantor to visit some homeless shelters and perhaps some parks and street corners in Washington D.C., where no doubt some of the 1.6 million homeless children in the U.S. reside? One out of every 45 kids in this country were homeless last year! And these evil bastards are trying to make this horrendous situation worse!
A huge winter storm was pounding the Southwest and the lower Great Plains States last night.
Interstates and highways were shut down Monday night as a large winter weather system brought heavy snow, fierce winds and ice to at least five states in the West and Midwest.
There were blizzard conditions in parts of western Kansas and southeast Colorado, with visibility of less than a quarter-mile, said Ariel Cohen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
A blizzard warning was in effect for those areas along with northeastern New Mexico, the northwest Texas panhandle and the Oklahoma panhandle, he said. The severe weather was starting to affect Missouri late Monday, with a winter weather advisory in effect for the northwest corner of the state.
Roads were closed in Texas and New Mexico because of blizzard conditions. Wow, some of those people rarely see snow. If you live in the storm area, please stay inside and don’t drive!
The New York Times calls handling of Kim Jong Il’s death “an extensive intelligence failure.”
Kim Jong-il, the enigmatic North Korean leader, died on a train at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in his country. Forty-eight hours later, officials in South Korea still did not know anything about it — to say nothing of Washington, where the State Department acknowledged “press reporting” of Mr. Kim’s death well after North Korean state media had already announced it.
For South Korean and American intelligence services to have failed to pick up any clues to this momentous development — panicked phone calls between government officials, say, or soldiers massing around Mr. Kim’s train — attests to the secretive nature of North Korea, a country not only at odds with most of the world but also sealed off from it in a way that defies spies or satellites.
Asian and American intelligence services have failed before to pick up significant developments in North Korea. Pyongyang built a sprawling plant to enrich uranium that went undetected for about a year and a half until North Korean officials showed it off in late 2010 to an American nuclear scientist. The North also helped build a complete nuclear reactor in Syria without tipping off Western intelligence.
As the United States and its allies confront a perilous leadership transition in North Korea — a failed state with nuclear weapons — the closed nature of the country will greatly complicate their calculations. With little information about Mr. Kim’s son and successor, Kim Jong-un, and even less insight into the palace intrigue in Pyongyang, the North’s capital, much of their response will necessarily be guesswork.
Not good. Maybe the CIA and NSA should concentrate on actual intelligence gathering rather than bugging Americans phone calls and reading their e-mails and tweets and Facebook postings.
Did you notice that Jeb Bush had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday? With Gingrich tanking and Ron Paul rising in Iowa, are the Republicans getting ready to push another Bush for president? Charlie Pierce of Esquire thinks it looks that way:
He was supposed to be the savvy one, the presidential one, not that dolt of a brother who ducked his National Guard duty, ran several businesses into the dust of west Texas, got drunk and challenged the Auld Fella to a fistfight, and kept driving his car into the bushes. But the dolt got Daddy’s money and Daddy’s lawyers behind him and got installed as president, where he did his utmost to lodge the family brand somewhere between those enjoyed by Corvair and leprosy. Meanwhile, the golden child got to be governor of Florida for a while longer.
And now, in the widening gyre, slouching toward Manchester to be born, our moment of… Jeb (!)
Make no mistake. You don’t write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal at this point in the Republican primary process unless somebody, somewhere wants to make people think you’re an legitimate option. You certainly don’t write one as stuffed full of free-market banana-oil as this one unless somebody, somewhere wants to raise enough money to make the world think you’re a legitimate option. There was enough Jeb (!) buzz over the weekend that it’s becoming plain that some very important someone’s have looked over the current Republican field and decided that, by god, it’s just bad enough that there’s room in there to bring back the most discredited surname in American politics. The slogan writes itself:
“Jeb! This time, let’s try the smart one.”
I don’t know. I don’t think any of the Bushes are all that bright. They’re way too inbred. Maybe another Bush presidency is what the Mayans predicted as the world-ending event?
I’ll end with an upbeat story. Remember Jessica Lynch? She just graduated from college.
I don’t really like to talk about what it took to get here. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, or to think I don’t know how fortunate I am. Everyone else in my vehicle in Iraq was killed. My best friend, Lori Piestewa, died as a prisoner of war. I’m still here.
I’m also incredibly proud of this moment. I always dreamed of becoming a teacher, ever since my own kindergarten teacher took me under her wing when I was frightened on the first day of school. We are still in touch today. That’s the kind of teacher I want to be.
In the eight years since my captivity, I’ve had 21 surgeries. I have metal parts in my spine, a rod in my right arm, and metal in my left femur and fibula. My right foot is held together by screws, plates, rods, and pins. I have no feeling in my left leg from the knee down, and I wear a brace every day. Sometimes I’ll get a flash of pain, or feel upset because I can’t run, and then I’ll remind myself: I’m alive. I’m here. Take some ibuprofen.
Go read the whole thing. It’s not very long, and it’s a nice, inspirational story.
Now what are you reading and blogging about today?
Good morning everyone! Wonk the Vote here, wishing you a merry and a happy on this Saturday, December the 25th, 2010.
Whatever you celebrate or do not celebrate. I hope your inner child is finding a little peace, a little hope, and a little laughter this holiday season and that as we edge closer to 2011, we are able to keep on keeping on–with a little help from our family and from our friends.
In some ways, blog communities feel like a little of both family and friendship. We have been through a lot side-by-side in the past three years since we gathered together around Hillary 2008.
As a token of gratitude to each and every one of you, I want to share my all-time favorite holiday carol youtube with y’all — Rosemary Clooney’s rendition of “Let It Snow”:
I cannot help but be happy watching that footage! I hope if that doesn’t do the trick for you, you share what makes you happy downthread in the comments.
And, speaking of pure happiness–I am typing this from a brand new MacBook Air! Santa came a little early in the Wonk household, so I got my present on Christmas Eve. My laptop woes are over. Hooray! I can finally get back into the swing of all things news junkie.
Before I get to the news though, let’s take a look back on Christmases past.
On this day, December 25th, in history:
When I went to Italy, I visited a lot of churches. I won’t lie. They all started to blur together for me. Assisi was the one place that really stood out for some reason. Something about St. Francis I guess. Probably also has a lot to do with the first time I ever heard this prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Doubt is as important to me as faith. That’s just the way I am. I do, however, like the idea of reframing all the destructive energy in this world–in other words, turning oneself into an instrument for the universe’s creative energy. I also think that reflexive doubt, just like blind faith, is a corrosive force. It blinds us as individuals and as a populace. It makes us deaf to our own inner voices. I feel that in some ways, this is where America is at right now.
At any rate, St. Francis’ prayer always seems to me a sort of prototype for cognitive-behavioral therapy before its time, as portions of religious texts and prayers often do. I would add one more line to it…
Where there is pain, let there be healing.
All this mythos stuff–in all its purest forms, unadulterated by institutionalism and authoritarianism–reads like one big self-help section on how to understand the world around us and how to do life. We human beings love to understand our world through storytelling–different stories pull us in, but we are all trying to understand some pretty universal themes when it comes down to it–human bonding, suffering, loss, and resilience. That’s what ties us all together. And, we want to hear our human story retold over and over again, in as many ways as possible, until it makes some sort of sense. It’s just the way we are.
Alright, enough of my existential ramblings. I want to touch on some actual newsy items in my holiday roundup.
First, a moment of remembrance for Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated on December 27, 2007. CNN has this clip up of an interview with Duane Baughman, director of the recent documentary Bhutto.
Now, for some quick headlines that caught my eye from the top of my news feeds at the moment–keep in mind that between computer chaos and holiday mayhem, I’ve been out of the news junkie loop for about a week, so some of this might be old news to you by now… Karl Rove: Hillary Clinton Will Be A Presidential Candidate In 2016 – Huffington Post December 23, 2010:
“I suspect she will be a candidate. I suspect she is going to think about being a candidate in 2016, and we’ll know by about 2014,”Rove said on Fox News. “If she leaves the administration in 2014 or 2015, in order to give herself a chance to write a book about her experiences and reconnect with the grassroots, then she might entertain it.”
We’ll see about that. I know I’m like a broken record on this one, but it’s all I can think: I can’t blame Hillary if she never runs again.
Longtime Democratic operative Guy Cecil will serve as executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the 2012 cycle, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced Wednesday. Cecil succeeds J.B. Poersch and is tasked with helping Democrats keep their tenuous majority in the Senate given a tough 2012 map for the party. [...] Cecil served as national political director for then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Interesting little shift of the Democratic political winds there. Something to keep an eye on, methinks.
Christmas came early for song man Steve Tyrell and his glam fiancéKaren Pulaski when former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton popped in at the Cafe Carlyle in New York on Thursday night to catch the holiday show by Tyrell, one of the former president’s favorite singers. The Clintons, including daughter Chelsea, had primo seats, posed for photos with the Tyrell/Pulaski clan and wished the couple all the best with their wedding, which will take place at the Carlyle Hotel on Sunday. Yes, the day after Christmas. When Tyrell dedicated The Way You Look Tonight to the Clintons, Chelsea moved to sit next to her father. They held hands, and according to Tyrell, the former president wiped a tear from his eye. You might remember The Way You Look Tonight as the song that Tyrell sang inFather of the Bride and it was his version of the tune that Bill and Chelsea chose as their first dance at her wedding.
So that’s a little of what the Clintons have been up to for the holidays. Sounds delightful! Check out the links for a few nice photos.
I’m not even going to excerpt on that one. Mostly my reaction is no comment. It’s an Examiner article, so grains of salt and all that.
Fierce Urgency of Inevitably Sometime? Via memeorandum.com:
Another story I saw pop up on memeorandum:
Kamala Harris: Democrats’ anti-Palin (Ben Smith/The Politico)December 25, 2010
I really wanted to read the profile on Kamala, but the constant defining of her as “the anti-Palin” or “the female” Obama made me tune out before I could get past the first page. The genius messengers of the Democratic party just don’t quit, do they?
Going to switch from memeorandum to Raw Story for the next few stories…
From the link:
“When told of the Pentagon’s statement that he did indeed receive exercise, Manning’s reply was that he is able to exercise insofar as walking in chains is a form of exercise,” House wrote.
Firedoglake was also featuring an online petition asking supporters to demand an improvement to the conditions of Manning’s detention.
Sigh. What continues to go on in our names is a disgrace to all the hope this season is supposed to bring. I’m not sure a petition is enough to make a dent here, but at least it’s something.
Also from Raw Story:
New rules to allow Blackberries, iPads on House floor December 24, 2010 David Edwards
One more RS link:
Device uses sunlight to make liquid fuel December 24, 2010 Eric W. Dolan
I’m intrigued. I’d love to hear from someone with some expertise.
Like I said, I’m just playing catch up here. Y’all can probably add some fresher links of what’s going on in the world in the comments.
Moving away from the headlines back to a holiday link, here’s a concise history on Thomas Nast’s Christmas illustrations, including “Santa Claus and His Works,” featured in Harper’s Weekly on December 1866. (via the Gray Lady):
Nast was instrumental in standardizing and nationalizing the image of a jolly, kind, and portly Santa in a red, fur-trimmed suit delivering toys from his North Pole workshop. This was accomplished through his work in the pages of Harper’s Weekly, his contributions to other publications, and by Christmas-card merchants in the 1870s and 1880s who relied heavily upon his portraiture.
As Nast’s own children entered and left their teen years, knowing that Santa was really their father, the artist’s illustrations finally showed direct communication and interaction between Santa Claus and the pictured children. In a postdated January 1879 issue, a girl drops a letter to Santa in a mailbox (the first time the artist depicted a letter from a child to Santa), and in December 1884, Santa and a girl are able to speak with each other by using a relatively new invention, the telephone. In the January 1879 issue, another Nast cartoon portrays Santa Claus in the midst of a group of gleeful children who he embraces affectionately. Santa is now recognized as part of the family, whose shared love is the greatest gift. Nast’s Santa makes his last appearance in Harper’s Weeklythe next year when the jolly old (man-size) elf offers himself as a present. Nast’s last two Christmas illustrations in Harper’s Weekly appeared in December 1886, when he resigned from the newspaper, but his impact on the popular image of Santa Claus continued and remains potent to this day.
Well, that’s all I’ve got! I know today is busy for lots of people, so if you made it all the way to the end, thanks for reading and here’s wishing you a day of whatever brings you peace and joy. I’ve got to get going. I’m out of town and have a Christmas breakfast to go to this morning. As always, treat this as an open thread to share your Saturday reads and thoughts.
I don’t really celebrate Christmas as a religious feast anymore, but I do enjoy some of the secular aspects of the holiday. I sometimes like to listen to Christmas carols performed by various popular artists. I even like the religious ones when they are sung with style. I’ll share a few of my favorites with you, and if you like, you can embed more in the comments.
This is an open thread, so you can also continue talking about politics or anything else that is on your mind tonight.
First, one of the best ever: The Drifters singing “White Christmas.”
Next, the Temptations, singing “Silent Night.”
The incomparable Elvis singing “Blue Christmas” during his 1968 Comeback Special
The Moody Blues sing the Christian cover of “Greensleeves,” “What Child is This?”
Billie Holiday sings “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”
Barbara Streisand with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
Just one more from the King:
How about one from Ike and Tina?
There are so many great Christmas covers to pick from. Which ones do you like best?
Happy Festivus Everyone!!!
Festivus is a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 as “another way” to celebrate the holiday season without participating in its pressures and commercialism. It was created by writer Dan O’Keefe and introduced into popular culture by his son Daniel, a screenwriter for the TV show Seinfeld, as part of a comical storyline on the show. The holiday’s celebration, as shown on Seinfeld, includes an unadorned aluminum “Festivus pole,” practices such as the “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength,” and the labelling of easily explainable events as “Festivus miracles”.
Celebrants of the holiday sometimes refer to it as “Festivus for the rest of us,” a saying taken from the O’Keefe family traditions and popularized in the Seinfeld episode to describe Festivus’ non-commerical aspect.
The holiday, as portrayed in the Seinfeld episode and now celebrated by many, includes practices such as the “Airing of Grievances,” which occurs during the Festivus meal and in which each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year. After the meal the “Feats of Strength” are performed, involving wrestling the head of the household to the floor, with the holiday ending only if the head of the household is actually pinned.
The original holiday featured more peculiar practices, as detailed in the younger Daniel O’Keefe’s book The Real Festivus. The book provides a first-person account of an early version of the Festivus holiday as celebrated by the O’Keefe family, and how O’Keefe amended or replaced details of his father’s invention to create the Seinfeld episode.
We’re getting really close to that other holiday, Christmas. Through most of my adult years, I found the Christmas season extremely stressful. Frankly some of my happiest Christmases have been years when I spent the day alone. In recent years, I’ve gotten quite a bit closer to my siblings and I’ve enjoyed some family Christmases; but when all of us get together it can still be pretty crazymaking.
This year I’ll be going to my sister’s house with my mom. I’m hoping it will be quiet and peaceful, and I’m hoping the snowstorm we’re expecting won’t be too bad. We lost my dad in March, so this will be the family’s first Christmas without him. I know that will be really hard for all of us, especially my mom.
I’m not going to go through all the legislation that passed yesterday or write about President Obama’s self-congratulatory press conference. I think we should keep it light today. I’m just going to throw out a few links that I found interesting and let you all do the same in the comments.
I really got a kick out this article at Buzzflash by Peter Michaelson, a psychotherapist from Ann Arbor, MI: The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears.
According to Michaelson, Boehner’s frequent “crying jags” stem from his troubled childhood.
Boehner cries a lot in public, even when debating bills in the House. He cries when he talks about his humble past. Son of a bar owner, he grew up with 11 siblings in a two-bedroom house with a single bathroom. He said recently on “60 Minutes” that he no longer visits schools or even looks at kids playing outside because he immediately starts crying.
Boehner had a scrappy upbringing, running cases of beer and mopping the floor in his father’s bar. He put himself through school, “working every rotten job there was.” The circumstances of his childhood, along with his manner of describing it, strongly suggest that, at times, he felt unappreciated, disrespected, and lacking in value.
Since Boehner rarely does anything to help deprived children, why does he burst into tears when he sees them? Michaelson see this as a form of projection.
When Boehner cries around kids, he’s not necessarily feeling their pain. He’s not seeing the world through their eyes. Rather, he’s imagining that they’re seeing the world through his eyes, through the self-doubt and pain with which he saw the world as a child. Unconsciously, he experiences himself and his political life in ways that are under the influence of these unresolved negative feelings.
He sees the children through what is unresolved in himself, through the pain he has repressed from his childhood. He’s also likely crying with relief because, unconsciously, he believes that, through his elevation to fame and power, he has liberated himself from those haunting feelings.
It’s an interesting hypothesis. We’ll probably learn a lot more about Boehner when he becomes Speaker of the House–probably a lot more than we ever wanted to to know. I wonder if he’ll cry frequently while going about his Speaker duties? I’ll bet he cries during the swearing in anyway.
Last night some moron drove his Plymouth Barracuda onto the North Dallas lawn of Mr. and Mrs. George W. Bush.
A suspect accused of driving a muscle car erratically onto the lawn at former President George W. Bush’s north Dallas home Wednesday night was detained by the Secret Service.
The former president and former first lady Laura Bush were in the Preston Hollow neighborhood home at the time but were unharmed and never in danger, officials told NBC station KXAS.
That must have been exciting.
Have you heard about the new Broadway sensation, “Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark?” There have been so many mishaps with this production that they had to call off Wednesday’s scheduled performances.
The Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” canceled its two Wednesday performances to test a new safety plan for the show’s 38 aerial and stage maneuvers, which involve actors hoisted or tethered in harnesses, including the maneuver that failed at Monday night’s performance when a stunt actor fell more than 20 feet and broke his ribs.
By canceling the performances at a cost of roughly $400,000 in ticket sales, and by adopting safety measures recommended by state and federal officials, the producers of “Spider-Man” sought to project a sense of urgency and understanding that action was needed to make the show safer. While the producers said that Thursday night’s performance would go on, they also committed, according to state safety officials, not to hold performances until the new measures were in place. The state officials said the plan could be tested successfully by Thursday night.
Under the plan, one offstage crew member will attach the harness and related cables, wires or tethers to the actors, and a second stagehand will verify that the attachments are made. That second stagehand will then verbally notify a stage manager that they are safely connected. The actor will also verify that the attachment is made. Previously, there was no second stagehand to verify or communicate with the stage manager, and the actor was not required to check his harness.
Well I sure hope everything works out okay…
Did you know that “Rev.” Pat Robertson supports legalization of marijuana?
“We’re locking up people that have taken a couple puffs of marijuana and next thing you know they’ve got 10 years with mandatory sentences,” Robertson continued. “These judges just say, they throw up their hands and say nothing we can do with these mandatory sentences. We’ve got to take a look at what we’re considering crimes and that’s one of ‘em.
“I’m … I’m not exactly for the use of drugs, don’t get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot, that kinda thing it’s just, it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people. Young people go into prisons, they go in as youths and come out as hardened criminals. That’s not a good thing.”
Hmmm….could this explain where Robertson gets his wacky ideas about the causes of hurricanes and terrorist attacks?
Here’s one more goofy story, and then I’ll let you guys take over. From The Independent UK: North Korea threatens to attack South over Christmas lights
Seasonal goodwill is in short supply on the divided Korean peninsula, where both sides are again at potentially deadly loggerheads – over a Christmas tree.
North Korea’s military is reportedly preparing to shoot down a floodlit tower decorated with Christmas lights which overlooks the border near the South’s capital, Seoul – home to millions of Christians.
The provincial governor, Kim Moon-soo, has warned that firing at the tree would be a reckless and “provocative” act. The South’s Defence Minister was more blunt. “We’ll retaliate decisively to take out the source of any shelling,” Kim Kwan-jin told parliament yesterday. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said fighter jets were on standby, ready to strike back.
OK, that’s it for me, except for this gratuitous kitty picture.
What are you reading this morning? Feel free to post links to serious stories, if you must.