Wednesday Morning Reads: It’s a man’s world, still.

Ah, Good Morning!

I am sitting here on my bed, with my legs crossed, and my laptop propped up on top of them…it’s cold in here, so my blankets are up over my head. Funny. Just like a child who stays up late at night, reading under their covers with a flashlight. (Damn, do kids even do that these days?) I feel quite insignificant under these cozy blankets, and that was before I read this article on Congress. Now I can add that I am  feeling mad and insignificant.  Congress and its men. Specifically, the House of Representatives. House committee chairs all men

At the top of House committees, it’s a man’s world.

Not a single woman will lead any of the major House committees in the 113th Congress.

Figures, damn it pisses me off!
After a day of meetings closed to the public, the House Republican Steering Committee announced an all-male slate of committee chairs, including 12 returning lawmakers who will head up some of the most important panels in Washington.
They still have not chosen the leaders for the House Ethics and the Administration committees, but…as usual, nothing ever changes.

The top female contender to lead a major committee was Michigan Rep. Candice Miller, who lost a battle for the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee to Texas Rep. Mike McCaul.

Women did make big gains in Republican leadership. Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will be House Republican Conference chairwoman, Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins will be her vice chairwoman and North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx will be conference secretary.

Wow, shame they could not find any women to fill those slots ay?

New chairmen include Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Texas atop Financial Services, Ed Royce of California on Foreign Affairs, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia on Judiciary, Lamar Smith of Texas on the Science, Space and Technology Committee and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania atop Transportation and Infrastructure.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was the only lawmaker to obtain a waiver to bypass House GOP rules to remain as a chairman for a fourth term. He will lead the Budget Committee again.

House Democrats are likely to have five women as ranking members committees: Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.) or Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) on Appropriations, Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.) on Financial Services, Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.) on Rules, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas) on Science and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (N.Y.) on Small Business.

Uh, two dudes from Texas are heads of these committees? Well, I guess that Texas and their Secessionist leaning GOP wingnuts are well represented in these committees, don’t you?
I am going to stick with the GOP members of congress a bit longer, in fact…it is about my Congressman, Saxby Chambliss. He got kicked down by Erick Erickson yesterday.  Balloon Juice tackles this latest temper tantrum here:  Erick Erickson for Senate (Primary)!
…the Voice of the GOP Gated Community is very disappointed by his so-called ‘elected representative’ for talking about going off Grover Norquist’s reservation:

In a 900-word indictment of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, RedState editor and CNN contributor Erick Erickson described the Georgia Republican Tuesday as “waffling around like a dog off its leash for the first time.”…The RedState post, which laid out the conservative case in full against Chambliss, read a lot like a campaign manifesto, which maybe it was: Erickson said Tuesday evening on his radio show he’d been approached “by serious people” to consider a primary challenge and is giving it “prayerful consideration.”

An Erickson primary challenge would certainly make for great political theater. He’s won elected office before—he served one term on the Macon City Council—and could complicate Chambliss’s re-election bid. But as a leading conservative blogger, radio talk show host and frequent cable television presence, Erickson’s also got a long trail of writing and video that might not be so helpful in a statewide campaign…

Murphy the Trickster God does not love me enough to make this travesty happen. Almost certainly, Erickson is just scrambling to re-establish his Master-of-the-Universe status with the RedState tribalists while not losing his ‘sane moderate’ credentials at CNN, because C.R.E.A.M. But every bloviator political blogger looks in the mirror and sees a solon, and a ‘true conservative’ challenge to that dishonorable pus-sack Chambliss (the chickenhawk who got his seat by attacking actual veteran Max Cleland) might cause me to break my lifelong commitment to never donating to a Republican primary contender.

Please, someone get me a bucket…and a cleaning lady. Maybe speculating on a Erickson ticket is yet another sign that the Mayans were right about that end of the world thing. If asshole aka son of Erick is seriously considering running, my little part of Georgia will surely love to have the head of Red State as their representative. I am so sick of all of this.

Moving on.

Dakinikat called this weeks ago, New Treasury Secretary Jack Lew: Chief of Staff will get the job.

I was considering doing a post with chin-stroking speculation about who the next Treasury secretary will be, but instead let me just tell you. It’s going to be Jacob Lew, the current White House chief of staff.

Why? Well, because the White House has decided that it wants the Treasury secretary to be deeply involved with budget issues, and who better than a former Office of Management and Budget director? What’s more, Obama has been working with Lew for a while now and likes him, and they’ve been working well together. All the other ideas kicking around involve bringing someone in from the outside who’d be taking over midstream and trying to establish a working relationship with the president and the Treasury team while simultaneously hammering out thorny bargains with House Republicans. It doesn’t really work.

See the link if you want to read the rest. Personally it is old news to us, because Dak brought up these points before…

There has been another killing of an unarmed young black man in Florida. Jordan Davis: Another Unarmed Young Black Male Gunned Down | Angry Black Lady Chronicles

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Another senseless shooting death of a young unarmed black man in Florida:

Michael Dunn, of Satellite Beach, Florida, was in Jacksonville this past weekend for his son’s wedding.

Jordan Davis, 17, and some other teens were sitting in a SUV in a parking lot when Dunn parked next to them and asked the youths to turn down their music.

Jordan Davis and Dunn argued over the music, then Dunn, who is a gun collector, pulled a gun and shot eight or nine times, hitting Jordan twice, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Jordan Davis’ father Ron Davis said his unarmed son died in the arms of a friend in the SUV.

Dunn and his girlfriend took off, but witnesses wrote down their license plate number, according to the police.

The couple was staying in a Jacksonville hotel when they heard a news report Saturday morning about the shooting, so they drove home to Satellite Beach, Florida.

Dunn was arrested at his home on Saturday and charged with murder and attempted murder. He is being held without bail.

Because this occurred in Florida, we can expect another round of likely unfruitful discussions about the “stand your ground” laws that were at issue in the Trayvon Martin case. There will be handwringing and a public outcry, but nothing will be done, ultimately, because the ALEC-sponsored gun laws in this country are just fine, and if black kids don’t want to get shot for wearing a hoodie, or playing loud music, then that’s just too damn bad. They should stay home.

It is such a sad thing to read about…think about it for a moment. Makes you mad too?

I don’t want to finish on a down note.

Check out this feature from Vanity Fair, Photos: Iconic Film Stills Photographed in Their Real-Life Locations

Journalist Christopher Maloney walks to work through Central Park on most days, and last summer he made an observation. “Every day I walked past tons of locations from popular—and not-so-popular—movies,” he explains. He decided to start printing out stills from the films and comparing them to their real-life counterparts. “Since then, I’ve re-created more than 250 scenes around the city.” His work—which includes movies as varied as Midnight Run, The French Connection, and Shaft—can be found at his Web site, FILMography. “I’m actually surprised that locations used in the 1940s and 1950s haven’t changed that much,” he says. “But places used in movies last year are virtually unrecognizable.” New York also changes depending on the director, Maloney adds. “You can tell just how much filmmakers like Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee love the city. It’s sometimes hard to believe that those three very different places are all the same city.”

Look at this:

Can you guess what film that is from? Yes, it is Cary Grant…in?

There is also this interesting read from Gin and Tacos: THE CONTEST EVERYBODY LOSES  It is a post about writing…crowdsourcing and giving the “middle finger.” Enjoy it…I did.

And I have to end this post with this funny cartoon. (Although I think it is missing something.) 11/28 Mike Luckovich cartoon: Stones | Mike Luckovich

mike112812

There should be a big set of lips on at least one of those stick figures!

Have a great day and let us know what is on your mind!


Tuesday Reads: Hitchcock, Hearing Aids, and Republican Delusions

Good Morning!!

I’m really looking forward to seeing Hitchcock, the new movie about the making of Psycho. Unfortunately, the film may not come to Muncie, IN, so I might have to just hope it will still be playing in Boston when I get back home sometime in December. If you have a chance to see it where you are, let me know how you like it.

Last night the Wall Street Journal posted an interview with Helen Mirren, who plays the great director’s wife Alma Reville Hitchcock in the new film. Mirren is one of my favorite actresses!

Alfred Hitchcock once said that there were four people who helped make him who he was—one was a film director, one a script writer, one a cook and one the mother of his daughter. “Their names are Alma Reville,” he said of his wife of 44 years, who performed all four roles. In the new biopic “Hitchcock,” Helen Mirren rolls Reville’s many facets into a singular performance.

The movie, which opened in the city over the weekend, traces Hitchcock’s (Anthony Hopkins) effort to make his 1960 classic, “Psycho,” from his struggle with Hollywood studios to finance the picture to Reville’s pivotal role in the movie’s—and her husband’s—success. “I was surprised to find out about the importance of Alma,” Ms. Mirren said recently.

Read what Mirren had to say at the link.

And here’s an interview with Anthony Hopkins, who plays Alfred Hitchcock at “Vulture.”

Do you remember the first time you saw Psycho?

When it first came out in Manchester on a wet September evening and I was knocked out by it. That was the most terrifying film I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe it: Where’s Janet Leigh? She’s got to come back. She’s the star of the movie! I thought she perhaps escaped from the trunk of the car. So I’ve been watching these films over the years, long before I knew I was going to play him.

Did you talk to anyone who worked with Hitchcock? What insights did they share?

I met Janet Leigh in New York, and then later in Hollywood at a function. She said, “Mr. Hitchcock was one of the funniest men I’ve ever worked with. My ex-husband Tony [Curtis] and I used to go to his house in Bel-Air, and we’d laugh ourselves sick, because he was so funny, so wicked, a great practical joker.” She said he wasn’t an easy man to get to know, but she got on with him.

Read lots more at the link.

Psycho came out in 1960, when I was only 12 years old. My parents wouldn’t let me see horror movies, which is probably why I love them so much now. I don’t remember when I first saw Psycho–it must have been on TV, probably in the late 60s or 70s. By then the shock value wasn’t as huge as when the movie first came out.

Entertainment Weekly has a “look back at the mystique of ‘Psycho'” by Owen Glieberman

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was released in the summer of 1960, and in the half a century since, it has become the rare movie in which every image and detail and motif is now, more or less, iconic. Every moment in the movie is a piece of mythological Americana.

In a way that I couldn’t quite say about any other film, I feel as if I’ve spent most of my movie life thinking — and writing — about Psycho. Part of the film’s mystique is that no matter how many times you’ve seen it (and it may be the ultimate movie that you can watch over and over again), it keeps coming back to provoke and tantalize and haunt you. Its power of revelation never wears thin or gets old. It’s one of the only films in Hollywood history — the others, I would say, are The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and Star Wars — that is so alive, its experience so vivid and immediate and larger-than-life, that it effectively transcends time….

In the infamous shower scene, when that big, fat kitchen knife, wielded by a mysterious Victorian shrew named Mrs. Bates, came slashing down, over and over again, into the body of Marion Crane, it was also slicing through years — decades, centuries — of popular expectation that the hero or heroine of a fictional work would be shielded and protected, or would at least die (usually at the end) in a way that made some sort of moral-dramatic sense. In Psycho, murder made no sense at all; the suddenness — and viciousness — of it tore at the fabric of our certainty. What it suggested is that none of us, in the end, are ever truly protected. Hitchcock seemed to be pulling the rug, the floor, and the earth right out from under the audience. He opened an abyss, exposing moviegoers to a dark side that few, at the time, could ever have dared to imagine.

Eeeeeeeeek!

In other news, I had a big day yesterday. I’ve had moderate hearing loss since I was pretty young–at least since my early 30s. When I first found out I had nerve damage, I was told there was nothing that could be done. My problem was that I had trouble making out words, and hearing aids would only make the garbled words louder.

Technology has advanced over the past 30 years, and yesterday I got some hearing aids, thanks to the generosity of my mother. Suddenly I can hear things that I never heard before. I can hear the words people are saying even if I’m not looking at them and watching their lips. I can hear people when they whisper–previously I couldn’t make out whispering even if the person’s mouth was right next to my ear. It’s just amazing. I hope you don’t mind me sharing that.

Now some national news. Republicans are still trying to figure out why they lost the presidential election and, as Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out last night, they still don’t want to give President Obama any credit for beating them. No, it’s all about demographics, fooling Latinos and women into thinking Republicans actually care about their issues. But what about Asian-Americans, another group that voted for Obama by a lopsided percentage?

Right wing racist Charles Murray argues that the problem (with both Latinos and Asians) is that the Republican Party has tied itself to socially conservative issues (no kidding!)

My thesis is that the GOP is in trouble across the electoral board because it has become identified in the public mind with social conservatism. Large numbers of Independents and Democrats who are naturally attracted to arguments of fiscal discipline, less government interference in daily life, greater personal responsibility, and free enterprise refuse to vote for Republicans because they are so put off by the positions and rhetoric of social conservatives, whom they take to represent the spirit of the “real” GOP….

Asians are only half as likely to identify themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative” as whites, and less than half as likely to identify themselves as Republicans. Asians are not only a lot more liberal than whites; a higher percentage of Asians identify themselves as “liberal” or “extremely liberal” (22%) than do blacks (19%) or Latinos (17%). And depending on which poll you believe, somewhere in the vicinity of 70% of Asians voted for Barack Obama in the last presidential election.

Something’s wrong with this picture. It’s not just that the income, occupations, and marital status of Asians should push them toward the right. Everyday observation of Asians around the world reveal them to be conspicuously entrepreneurial, industrious, family-oriented, and self-reliant. If you’re looking for a natural Republican constituency, Asians should define “natural.”

And so on… bla bla bla…

At the American Prospect, Jamelle Bouie explains to Murray How Not to Appeal to Asian Americans. Hint: cut out the racism.

As with Latinos, Asian American movement to the Democratic Party has a lot to do with with the explicitly anti-immigrant stance of the GOP, as well as the overwhelming sense that the GOP is a party for hidebound whites, and actively hostile toward nonwhites of all stripes.

There’s a policy component in this as well; the Asian American community is highly diverse (ethnically, economically, and otherwise), and there many who would benefit from the core Obama agenda of health care reform, stronger social services, and investments in education and other programs. Still, even with that in mind, it’s fair to say that Asian American support for Obama is as much about inclusion as it is about policy.

Which is why this piece, from conservative scholar Charles Murray, rankles. Rather than consider Asian American political preferences on their own terms—or even acknowledge the range of experience among different Asian American groups—Murray lumps them all into a single, undistinguished mass of model minorities, and then wonders why they don’t vote for Republican candidates.

But Murray’s argument is based on a false premise:

It’s worth noting the implicit contrast here. Entrepreneurism, industriousness, family-orientation, self-reliance—these are things that Murray sees as unique to Republican constituencies. Which must also mean that these are thing that go unvalued by Democratic constituencies, namely, African Americans, Latinos, young people, and single women.

Furthermore, as Bouie notes today’s Republicans actually are a bunch of fundamentalists who are anti-gay and anti-woman. That’s not just a perception, it’s the reality that Charles Murray doesn’t want to accept. It’s not that Latinos, Asians, and African Americans are deluded about the nature of the Republican Party. But what else would you expect from the author of the racist screed The Bell Curve?

Today Susan Rice will begin facing down her Republican critics on Capital Hill.

With congressional opposition softening, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice could find her name in contention as early as this week to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. It’s a step that may signal greater U.S. willingness to intervene in world crises during President Barack Obama’s second term.

As Obama nears a decision on who should be the country’s next top diplomat, Rice has emerged as the clear front-runner on a short list of candidates that many believe has been narrowed to just her and Sen. John Kerry, despite lingering questions over her comments about the deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya.

According to congressional aides and administration officials, Rice will be making the rounds on Capitol Hill this week for closed door meetings with key lawmakers whose support she will need to be confirmed. Those appearances follow her first in-depth explanation of her Benghazi remarks that Republicans seized on as evidence of the administration’s mishandling of the attack that took the lives of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

Acting CIA Director Michael Morell will join Rice in her meetings with lawmakers.

Today Rice will meet with Senators John McCain and Kelly Ayotte. When asked about the meeting, McCain was his usual testy self:

McCain said he would ask Rice “the same questions I’ve been talking about on every talk show in America.” Asked whether he thinks she’s still unfit for secretary of state and what he was hoping for, McCain interrupted and said, “I’m not hoping for anything. She asked to see me and I agreed to see her.”

What a jerk. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

I’ll end with this amazing artistic depiction of Republican delusion, Grover Norquist as the Wizard of Oz (via Buzzfeed).

Artist Michael D’Antuono has painted anti-taxi activist Grover Norquist as a Wizard of Oz-like disembodied head with Republican politicians bowing before him as an elephant burns, to symbolize Norquist’s powerful position in the Republican party.


Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Was I Dreaming? Did Mitt Romney Really Lose the Election?

Which of these guys really won the election?

Is Mitt Romney the President-elect or what? For the past several days, the media and the Republicans have acted as if they won.

In fact, President Obama won in the Electoral College by 126 votes and the popular vote by 3.3 million votes (so far). Democrats added 2  seats in the Senate and are likely to have a 55-45 majority if both independent Senators caucus with them. Democrats also increased their numbers in the House by 7. By any measure Democrats won a huge victory on November 6.

Is it just me, or are the corporate media and Republican leaders continuing to act under the assumption that Republicans will still be in full control of the nation’s destiny going forward and that Obama’s reelection means nothing?

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Bob Woodward produced a document that he described as follows:

MR. WOODWARD: Well, this is the confidential doc last offer the president, the White House made last year to Speaker Boehner to try to reach this four trillion dollar grand bargain. And it’s long and it’s tedious and it’s got budget jargon in it. But what it shows is a willingness to cut all kinds of things, like TRICARE, which is the sacred health insurance program for the military for military retirees; to cut Social Security; to cut Medicare, and there are– there are some lines in there about we want to get tax rates down, not only for individuals but for businesses. So Obama and the White House were willing to go quite far, in a sense this is the starting point

Dancin’ Dave Gregory says he’ll put it up on the MTP website so the “budget wonks” can see it. I can almost see his gleeful expression as he turns to newly elected Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro.

GREGORY: Right, we just got it here and we’ll– we’ll put it on the web [read it here]. But that’s the point. And congressman, I guess the– the question that Bob and I talked about is, there’s a lot of spending pain in there that Democrats are going to have to go back to their folks and say, hey, this is the pain you’re going to have to suffer. Are you prepared to do that?

REP. CASTRO: Oh, look, there’s no question. I mean, these are tough issues and that’s why there’s been a lot of hand-wringing and wrangling over them. But, yeah, I believe so. I believe you’ve got a Democratic Congress, especially in the House and in the Senate that are willing to make those tough choices, that know that in the long term that we’ve got to reform entitlements.

So these guys (including Democratic Rep Castro) are assuming that this same “grand bargain” will be the starting point for new negotiations? WTF?! From Lucas Kawa at Business Insider:

Yesterday on “Meet the Press,” Bob Woodward of the Washington Post displayed documents that outline a “Grand Bargain” the White House offered during debt ceiling negotiations in 2011.
The document in question appears to have been drafted by White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors, and includes the annotation ‘Post Gang of 6′ which suggests it was created as Supercommittee talks broke down.

Woodward describes the three-page document as “confidential” and points out Obama’s apparent willingness to take on sacred cows such as Medicare and Social Security. Specifically, the president was open to increasing the minimum age for Medicare recipients.

I assume Woodward would not have this “confidential document” and be handing it over to MTP if the White House didn’t want him to. The White House offer included cuts to veterans health benefits (Tricare), civilian and military retirement plans, social security, the Post Office, and Pell Grants. So it appears the White House is floating this idea to see what the public reaction will be.

This morning, I clicked around to a number of morning TV shows, and the meme I saw most often was that Obama and Congressional Democrats need to accept the reality that Obama’s supposed drop dead insistence on raising taxes on the top 2% is suddenly dead in the water and the only increased revenue will have to come from closing tax loopholes. There was much talk of enacting “Simpson-Bowles.”  I even saw Grover Norquist being asked whether he’d agree to raising some revenue in this way–but of course not by raising taxes on the wealthy!

The only tax loopholes that could be eliminated to raise significant revenue are the mortgage tax deduction and the charity deduction–and those would primarily affect middle class taxpayers.

Here’s Richard Escow at HuffPo, using a Veteran’s Day theme:

Every year our leaders honor our nation’s veterans with flags and parades. Are they also about to betray them this year with a backroom deal? Words won’t be enough this time. Our returning warriors need — and deserve — jobs, opportunity, and a thriving Social Security system that protects them and their families.

Bob Woodward obtained a copy of the deal the White House offered to Speaker of the House John Boehner last year. That proposal asked our nation’s vets to sacrifice for the luxuries of others once again It included cuts to TRICARE, the military health insurance program, which would have meant higher out-of-pocket medical costs for active and retired military personnel and their families.

The secret White House offer would have also cut Social Security payments for anyone receiving benefits today, along with everyone who’ll ever receive them in the future.

But Americans didn’t vote for a “grand bargain.” If Obama ran on anything, it was letting the Bush tax cuts expire on incomes over $250,000. He said it again and again on the campaign trail and he said it in a speech just a few days ago:

President Barack Obama on Friday signaled willingness to compromise with Republicans, declaring he was not “wedded to every detail” of his tax-and-spending approach to prevent deep and widespread pain in the new year. But he insisted his re-election gave him a mandate to raise taxes on wealthier Americans.

“The majority of Americans agree with my approach,” said Obama, brimming with apparent confidence in his first White House statement since securing a second term.

Finally, Josh Barro at Bloomberg writes that the Bush tax cuts for the rich aren’t going anywhere, “for now.”

Conservatives have taken a lot of well-deserved mockery about their overconfidence in last week’s election. But this week, I am seeing overconfidence from liberals that they are about to win the coming tax fight in Congress. They’re not.

On Dec. 31, all of the Bush tax cuts are set to expire, and, just like two years ago, Republicans want to extend them all while Democrats only want to extend about 80 percent of them, applying them to taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year….

If the fiscal cliff isn’t resolved before the end of the year, House Republicans will pass a tax cut in January — a tax cut that extends the Bush tax cuts in their entirety, including the part for people with high incomes. The Senate will pass one that excludes the high income tax cuts. Then both parties will say they have passed a tax cut bill and are just waiting for the other side to agree to it.

Democrats cannot force Republicans’ hand unless they are more willing than Republicans to let all the Bush tax cuts expire. And they won’t be. A full expiration might well cause a new recession, which would be even more politically damaging for the Barack Obama administration than for congressional Republicans. Congress is already about as unpopular as it can become, and Republicans know they are not going to get their legislative agenda enacted in the next two years anyway. But a new recession would greatly interfere with Obama’s second-term plans.

Obviously, I’m not Sky Dancing’s economist, so I’ll leave it to Dakinikat to tell me whether to freak out about this or not. But it isn’t sounding good to me so far.


Tuesday Reads: It’s Too Darn Hot!!

Good Morning!!

I’ve really been suffering from the heat for the past couple of days. I don’t have air conditioning, but I do have lots of fans. I’m OK as long as I’ve got the fans on me, but I think the stress of day after day of 90 degree temperatures has started to get to me. So I’m going to just throw out some links that caught my eye and then open the floor to you all.

At Forbes Magazine, a subscriber named TJ Walker has a list of 35 Questions Mitt Romney Must Answer About Bain Capital Before The Issue Can Go Away. It’s a pretty good list too–not the kind of thing I’d expect to find at Forbes.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn had an op-ed in The New York Times in which he criticizes Grover Norquist. Here’s what he wrote about taxes:

What unifies Republicans is not Mr. Norquist’s tortured definition of tax purity but the idea of a Reagan- or Kennedy-style tax reform that lowers rates and broadens the tax base by getting rid of loopholes and deductions. It’s true that Republicans would prefer to lower rates as much as possible, and it’s true that Republicans believe smart tax reform will generate more, not less, revenue for the federal government. But Republicans would not walk away from a grand bargain on entitlements and tax reform that would devote a penny of revenue to deficit reduction instead of rate reduction.

Apparently Norquist’s control over Congressional Republicans has weakened substantially.

Norquist was very upset by Coburn’s op-ed and actually called Coburn a liar.

Norquist told The Hill that the piece is filed with “lies” and said that Coburn is violating, and trying to get colleagues to violate, a pledge they made to voters.

“It is like a couple that is having a fight and one of them tries to drag a third party in. Like the preacher who gave a speech last week against adultery. ‘Hey, this is your fault!’ ‘No, no, no! You promised her you would behave, you didn’t promise me. You explain to her why you get to make decisions on adultery.’ ”

He said that the idea of not raising taxes is what is powerful and pointed out that more GOP candidates have signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge than ever before. He said that presidential candidate Mitt Romney has fully embraced the pledge as written.

Norquist said the pledge is not open to “interpretation,” as Coburn insinuates, and plainly states that ending tax breaks must be accompanied by equivalent rate reductions.

WTF? Like a couple having a fight? It appears that Norquist has forgotten who is actually in a position of power in his relationship with Coburn. He may have gone too far this time.

Speaking of crazy people, what’s going on with Michele Bachmann? In a throwback to the McCarthy Communist witch hunts, she’s apparently claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood has penetrated the upper reaches of the U.S. government.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann is asking how a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got security clearance given what Bachmann describes as the aide’s family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Bachmann also says an investigation of “potential Muslim Brotherhood infiltration” of President Barack Obama’s administration is needed because of interactions between federal agencies and what she calls U.S. front groups for the Muslim Brotherhood, an international Islamist group that recently came to power in Egypt.

The comments come in Bachmann’s new response to U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s call for Bachmann to back up the information on which she based a request for federal investigations into whether the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the U.S. government.

Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, wrote Bachmann and four other lawmakers last week asking them to name their sources for similar claims on which they based their June 13 call for the investigation.

Good Grief! Salon has more.

“I am particularly interested in exactly how, given what we know from the international media about Ms. Abedin’s documented family connections with the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, she was able to avoid being disqualified for a security clearance,” the congresswoman wrote.

As evidence, she pointed to Abedin’s late father, Professor Syed Z. Abedin, and a 2002 Brigham Young University Law Review article about his work. Bachmann points to a passage saying Abedin founded an organization that received the “quiet but active support” of the the former director of the Muslim World League, an international NGO that was tied to the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe in the 1970s through 1990s. So, to connect Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood, you have to go through her dead father, to the organization he founded, to a man who allegedly supported it, to the organization that man used to lead, to Europe in the 1970s and 1990s, and finally to the Brotherhood.

The next paragraph of the law review article she cites quotes Syed Abedin concluding that the Koran calls for, “multiple ways of life … i.e. religious and cultural plurality among mankind.” Pretty scary Islamo-fascist stuff. It’s also worth nothing that Weiner, Huma Abedin’s husband, is one of the most unquestionably pro-Israeli politicians in America. But Bachmann would have us believe that the security clearance process somehow missed Abedin’s nefarious connections, and thus she knows more than, say, the CIA and FBI, who are involved in the background-check process.

Michele Bachmann is dangerously unhinged–to use a word popular with right wingers. I’m beginning to wonder if she is actually psychotic.

The Boston Globe: John Kerry’s office blasts Mitt Romney over inaccurate claims about tax returns

Romney and his surrogates have repeatedly claimed that Kerry, the Democratic nominee in 2004, made public just two years of tax returns, despite the fact that Kerry released five years of tax documents and consistently released earlier returns during his Senate races.

On Monday, after Romney brought Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, into the argument, the senator’s office blasted Romney, accusing him of “conjuring up false and convoluted alibis.”

“As Senator [Daniel Patrick] Moynihan once said, people are entitled to their own opinions, but they’re not entitled to their own facts,” said David Wade, Kerry’s chief of staff and the Democrat’s national spokesman during the presidential race eight years ago.

“The Romney campaign needs to stop getting their facts wrong about John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry,” Wade added, saying Kerry had put a total of 20 years of tax returns into the public domain by the time he ran for president.

What’s the deal with Mitt Romney hiding behind a former candidate’s wife anyway? Does he want people to start asking to see Ann Romney’s tax returns?

Today a CNN reporter asked Hillary Clinton how she felt about being used in Romney’s attack ads against Obama.

Speaking in Jerusalem at the tail end of a two week diplomatic trip, Clinton said in an interview with CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott the spots were a “waste of money.”

“I am out of politics, and I haven’t seen any of the ads that you’re talking about,” Clinton said. “But I have to say it’s a waste of money. Everybody knows I ran against President Obama in 2008, that’s hardly news. Everybody knows we ran a hard fought campaign and he won. And I have been honored to serve as his secretary of state.”

Good answer. Too bad she’s out of politics.

There’s an article at Bloomberg, of all places, on why socialism has made Canada richer than the U.S.

On July 1, Canada Day, Canadians awoke to a startling, if pleasant, piece of news: For the first time in recent history, the average Canadian is richer than the average American.
According to data from Environics Analytics WealthScapes published in the Globe and Mail, the net worth of the average Canadian household in 2011 was $363,202, while the average American household’s net worth was $319,970.

A few days later, Canada and the U.S. both released the latest job figures. Canada’s unemployment rate fell, again, to 7.2 percent, and America’s was a stagnant 8.2 percent. Canada continues to thrive while the U.S. struggles to find its way out of an intractable economic crisis and a political sine curve of hope and despair.

The difference grows starker by the month: The Canadian system is working; the American system is not. And it’s not just Canadians who are noticing. As Iceland considers switching to a currency other than the krona, its leaders’ primary focus of interest is the loonie — the Canadian dollar.

As a study recently published in the New York University Law Review pointed out, national constitutions based on the American model are quickly disappearing. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in an interview on Egyptian television, admitted, “I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.” The natural replacement? The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, achieving the status of legal superstar as it reaches its 30th birthday.

Let’s see Mitt Romney explain that one.

Sorry this post is a little brief, but that’s all I have the energy for at the moment. Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!

Wall Street Royal Jamie Dimon deigned to appear before a Senate Committee yesterday, and the Senators mostly sucked up to him. I’m surprised they didn’t ask if he needed a pillow for his chair. MSNBC: Senate treats JPMorgan CEO Dimon with kid gloves

Dimon was expected to receive a frosty reception in his first congressional appearance since he announced the bank sustained a trading loss some analysts now estimate is at least $3 billion. It was a massive loss for the nation’s biggest financial institution.

Instead, Dimon, who has won praise for bringing JPMorgan (JPM) through the financial crisis relatively unscathed, was treated cordially by most of members of the Senate Banking Committee. They peppered him with questions about regulation and risky practices at the bank, but did not press him to give an update on the losses resulting from the trade. JPMorgan is expected to give an update to shareholders when it reports its second-quarter earnings July 13.

“I think it was a pretty favorable day,” David Konrad, a Keefe, Bruyette & Woods banking analyst, told CNBC. Konrad said he was surprised that the questioning of Dimon by lawmakers was so “professional.”

Excuse me, “professional” for a Senator would have been sending this man to the woodshed. NPR’s Marketplace called the treatment of Dimon “a wake for Dodd-Frank.”

Yahoo has named the winner of the “Most Tepid Endorsement of Mitt Romney” contest: it’s a bumper sticker that reads “At least he’s not a communist.”

Until recently, it appeared that no one could unseat Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as the champion of the tepid Romney endorsement. Since Yahoo News started conducting reader polls on the politicians who supported Mitt Romney in the least enthusiastic terms, Daniels has defeated original champ George Pataki and defended the crown against Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and George W. Bush. (The former president came the closest to unseating Daniels.)

We thought the book was closed on the tepid endorsement bracket until Yahoo News reporter Chris Moody spotted a bumper sticker at last weekend’s regional CPAC conference in Chicago bearing these words of praise: “At least he’s not a communist.”

You can read the other tepid endorsements at the link.

First Romney made fun of Obama for wanting to help cities and states pay for cops, teachers, and firefighters. Then he went on Fox News and said it was a “strange accusation” for anyone to say he didn’t want to hire teachers and first responders.

After an extended skewering of President Obama for a gaffe about the private sector last week, ending with the charge that it was proof the president was “out of touch” Romney was asked by Fox and Friends’ Brian Kilmeade for his response to Obama saying it was Romney who was clueless (Romney’s comment comes at about the 1:40 mark) :

[BRIAN] KILMEADE: He says that you’re out of touch. He says you want to cut firefighters and teachers, that you don’t understand what’s going on in these communities. What do you say to that, Governor?

ROMNEY: Well, that’s a very strange accusation. Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn’t pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen. So, obviously that’s completely absurd.

But of course the federal government does subsidize states and they often use the money to pay for these public employees. In fact, the reason so many teachers, firefighters and cops are getting laid off now is because stimulus money has run out.

Yesterday Greg Sargent pointed out that Romney’s plan would indeed cut billions from cops, firefighters and teachers

Yesterday Mitt Romney claimed that it was “ completely absurd” of the Obama campaign to argue that he favors cutbacks in cops, firefighters and teachers. “The federal government doesn’t pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen,” Romney said, adding that they were paid by states and localities.

What’s getting lost in the back and forth here is that Romney’s actual economic plan would, in fact, cut billions of dollars in federal money that goes to cops, firefighters, and teachers — perhaps more than $10 billion a year, in fact.

This is the conclusion of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which analyzed Romney’s plan through the prism of the debate over public workers at my request.

As Michael McAuliff reported yesterday, despite Romney’s claim, the federal government does give billions of dollars to states and localities through programs like Title 1, the COPS program, FEMA and others — which pay for first responders and teachers.

This is amazing. Romney finally broke down and decided to talk to a media source that isn’t Fox News! He will be on Face The Nation on Sunday morning.

A full year into his presidential campaign, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney will venture out of his Fox comfort zone this Sunday to make his first appearance on a rival network’s political talk show.

Romney has been interviewed several times on ”Fox News Sunday” this campaign cycle, but has declined repeated invitations to appear on any of the other Sunday shows, occasionally drawing scorn from veteran anchors accustomed to interviewing presidential candidates.

Let’s hope Shieffer asks a few tough questions. One thing Shieffer will probably ask about is Romney’s choice of Vice President. One of the leading contenders, Marco Rubio, announced yesterday that he supports the illegal Florida voter purge.

“How can you argue against a state identifying people who are not rightfully on the voter rolls?” he said at a Bloomberg event, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Rubio’s comments put him in line with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) who on Tuesday declared the debate on the merits of the purge “over,” because the probe had supposedly turned up more than 50 non-citizen voters who had cast ballots.

The Department of Justice didn’t agree. Later Tuesday, it announced it was launching a federal lawsuit against Florida over complaints that the purge was taking place within 90 days of its August 14 primary election, as well as over its alleged violation of a voting rights law meant to prevent states from suppressing voters.

That might not help Romney win over Latino voters.

John Avlon has a piece at CNN on Jeb Bush and other “moderate” Republicans who are starting to fight back against Grover Norquist:

This is what happens when politics starts looking like a cult: Jeb Bush gets attacked for being a traitor to the conservative cause.

The former Florida governor has been speaking with the freedom of someone not running for office, saying that both his father and Ronald Reagan would have had a hard time in today’s hard-right GOP and questioning the wisdom of Grover Norquist’s absolutist anti-tax pledge.

That set off a fascinating public fight between Bush and Norquist, two faces of competing factions within Republican Party. It is the latest evidence of a growing GOP backlash against the ideological straitjacket Norquist has attempted to impose on governing in the United States.

And Jeb is not alone.

As it turns out, Norquist has reason to be concerned. It’s not just Jeb Bush. A growing number of Republicans are rejecting his pledge. Oklahoma conservative Sen. Tom Coburn called the pledge’s effective veto of deficit reduction plans “ridiculous” when talking with Erin Burnett on “OutFront.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Tuesday declared his independence from the pledge, saying, “We’re so far in debt, that if you don’t give up some ideological ground, the country sinks.”

Add to those voices seven other Republican U.S. senators — from Maine’s Susan Collins to Iowa’s Chuck Grassley to Wyoming’s John Barrasso — and 11 Republican House members, ranging from centrist New Yorker Richard Hanna to tea party Floridian Allen West.

In pedophile news, Jerry Sandusky had another bad day in court yesterday with three victims testifying that he manipulated and threatened them into putting up with his sick sexual behavior.

The trio of young men who testified against Jerry Sandusky on the third day of his sexual-abuse trial couldn’t have been more different in personality and temperament. Yet each of their testimonies was sexually graphic and disturbing—and midway through the prosecution’s fast-tracked arguments, a clear pattern has emerged in their allegations.

I’m not going to quote all of the sordid details–there are too many of them anyway. You can read it all at the link. I’ll just give you one excerpt that shows what Sandusky is all about:

Then, the witness told the jury of a time he visited the Sandusky home.

“We were in the basement. We were wrestling,” he said in a monotone frequently heard from abuse victims who have had to tell their stories multiple times. “The defendant pinned me to the floor, pulled down my gym shorts, and started to perform oral sex on me.” Asked by prosecutor Joe McGettigan what his reaction was at the time, the witness said, “I freaked out.”

“Did he ever say anything to you about it?” McGettigan asked.

“He told me if I ever told anyone I’d never see my family again,” the young man replied. “Later he apologized and said he didn’t mean it, that he loved me.”

I hope Sandusky goes to prison for life, and I want to see prosecutions of his enablers at Penn State. It’s an outrage that he was allowed to go on abusing children for years after many at the school knew about his behavior.

And then there’s the Catholic Church: U.S. Catholics still suspect priests sexually abuse children: Report

The National Review Board said that, a decade after the US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a child protection charter, there has been a “striking improvement” in the way the Church deals with the abuse of minors by clergy.

“Children are safer now because of the creation of safe environments, and action has been taken to permanently remove offenders from ministry,” said the report, released as the Conference began its annual spring meeting in Atlanta.

But it acknowledged: “Despite solid evidence (to the contrary), many of the faithful believe that sexual abuse by clergy is occurring at high levels and is still being covered up by bishops.”

Well, what did they expect? I’m certainly not surprised. In fact I’d be surprised if there aren’t still pedophile priests abusing children.

Forest boy

I’ll end with the strange story of “Forest Boy.”

Berlin police on Wednesday released photos an English-speaking teenage boy who wandered into the city nine months ago saying he had been living for the last five years in the forest with his father.
Police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf said all attempts to identify the boy since he emerged in the German capital on Sept. 5 have been unsuccessful, and they are now hoping the release of his photo may produce some leads.

“We have checked his DNA against all missing person reports, sent the data to Interpol so that they could check it internationally, but unfortunately without any success,” Neuendorf said.
The boy has told authorities his father called him “Ray” and that he was born June 20, 1994, but claims not to know his last name or where he’s from.

He said his mother, Doreen, died in a car accident when he was 12 and after that he and his father, Ryan, took to the forest. He said they wandered using maps and a compass, staying in tents or caves overnight.

He told authorities that after his father died in August, 2011, he buried him in the forest and then walked five days north before ending up in Berlin, and showed up at city hall.

As of last night, the identity of the boy was still a mystery even after release of the photos.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?