It’s been a bit of a long day here …

yawn2It seems JJ’s having some issues with word press so I thought I’d just provide a few links to discuss since I really have a good case of blurry brain today.  Something intense and wonky is beyond me this evening.

I don’t know if any of you watch Richard Engle on NBC.  He’s one of the better foreign correspondents around.  He’s missing in Syria right now.  He hasn’t been in touch with NBC since Thursday. Syria’s a serious war zone right now with a mad dictator in charge of some fairly scary weapons so this is concerning.

NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has gone missing in Syria, according to Turkish news reports. The reports also say that Aziz Akyavaş, a Turkish journalist working with Engel, is unaccounted for. NBC News has been successfully keeping Engel’s status subject to a news blackout—one to which Gawker agreed until now—for at least the past 24 hours.

Turkish newspaper Hurriyet is reporting that Engel and Akyavaş were last known to be in Syria and haven’t been in contact with NBC News since Thursday morning. The news has been reported widely in the Turkish press over the past 24 hours, including by Turkish news channel NTV, which presents itself as an international partner of MSNBC. It’s also been widely distributed on Twitter.

A lot of the worst nuts are keeping their mouths shut about the Sandy Hook massacre.  However, there’s alway Dr. Dobson to bring on the theocratic fascism.

James Dobson dedicated his radio program this morning to discussing Friday’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut, which he attributed to the fact that God has “allowed judgment to fall upon us” because the nation has turned its back on him by accepting things like abortion and gay marriage:

Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I’m not talking politically, I’m not talking about the result of the November sixth election;  I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition.  Believe me, that is going to have consequences too. 

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us.  I think that’s what’s going on.

I’ve really thought a lot of the gun nuts represent an insurrectionist attitude and that many of them are still what I would chararterize as neoconfederates or confederacy hold outs.  Larry Pratt proved that royally on HardBall today.  Frankly, I hope the FBI keeps a really good eye or twenty on him.

Pratt believes gun ownership is necessary to scare office holders and to remind them that we can take them out.  I have no idea what to say to a man that is so obsessed with stolen elections that he suggests assassination as a way to correct things.

During the interview on Hardball, Pratt argued that guns are necessary to “control the government.” When Matthews asked for an example, Pratt pointed to 1946, in Athens, Tenn., when townsmen took up arms against corrupt government officials.

David Chipman, a former special agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who now works with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told Matthews that Pratt’s argument was bogus.

“Law enforcement is here as a force of good and we’re the good guys, and that’s what we saw in Newtown. When we get rhetoric like I’m hearing right now, I think this is extremely fringe, I believe most Americans believe otherwise.”

Pratt scoffed at Chipman as a tool of the government.  I really think that people like Pratt–read Glenn Beck, Michelle Bachmann, Allen West, etc.–need to be outed for the insane extremists they are.

Even worse is the suggestion by Megan McCardle which has got to be the dumbest idea on the planet.  This is written by Jonathan Chait at The Nation.

In what can only be seen as a malicious plot by Newsweek’s editors [Update: this is a long blog post, not a magazine piece] to ensure Megan McArdle’s reputation does not outlive Newsweek, the Daily Beast has published a 4,000 word essay by its new hire on how to stop massacres like last Friday’s. McArdle begins her essay with a prescient harbinger (“There just aren’t good words to talk about Newtown.”) but recovers to churn out a fairly standard libertarian argument about why various government remedies won’t work. And it’s true, to some extent, that various regulatory solutions all have complications.

The problem comes at the end when, having dismissed the standard liberal regulatory measures as unworkable, she has to propose her own solution. This is what McArdle comes up with:

I’d also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. 

Are you kidding me? You think gun control is impractical, so your plan is to turn the entire national population, including young children, into a standby suicide squad? Through private initiative, of course. It’s way more feasible than gun control!

Yes, if only those first graders had learned to tackle a shooter with 2 semiautomatic weapons in hand and a chicken-fried brain.  What a morooonnnnnn!!!!

T.@TPPratt

@AngryBlackLady The larger children can throw smaller children at shooter. #MeganMcArdleDefenseTips

There is one major headline today worth mentioning.  That is the death of Hawaiian former Senator and World War 2 Hero Daniel Inouye.

Democrat Daniel Inouye, the U.S. Senate’s most senior member and a Medal of Honor recipient for his bravery during World War II, has died. He was 88.

He died of respiratory complications and had been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center since earlier this month. His office said his last word was “Aloha,” the traditional Hawaiian word for “hello” and “goodbye.”

President Obama praised Inouye, saying the nation has “lost a true American hero.”

“In Washington, he worked to strengthen our military, forge bipartisan consensus, and hold those of us in government accountable to the people we were elected to serve,” Obama said in a statement. “But it was his incredible bravery during World War II — including one heroic effort that cost him his arm but earned him the Medal of Honor — that made Danny not just a colleague and a mentor, but someone revered by all of us lucky enough to know him.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced the news of Inouye’s death on the Senate floor, sparking a round of tributes for the man Reid called “a giant of the Senate.” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hailed Inouye’s service and his reserve as a mark of “men who lead by example and expect nothing in return.”

Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes appear to part way on gun fetishes.

While Ailes’s network said it wasn’t the right time to talk about legislation, Murdoch had no hesitation. Within hours of the attack, he took to Twitter to call for an automatic-weapons ban. “Terrible news today. When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons? As in Oz after similar tragedy,” he wrote, referring to Australia’s move to ban assault weapons in 1996 after a man used two semiautomatic rifles to kill 35 people and wound 21. That massacre came six weeks after the horrific mass school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland, in which sixteen children and one adult were murdered. (Despite Murdoch’s plea, automatic weapons are already illegal in the United States; Adam Lanza used semiautomatics.)

As a global media mogul, Murdoch’s newspapers and television networks have the power to shape public opinion. Already there are signs that parts of Murdoch’s empire are adopting the boss’s position. Today’s New York Post cover, fronting a photo of Obama, declared, “ENOUGH!” In London, where gun culture is decidedly outre, the cover of the Sun screamed, “END THE LUNACY.” Murdoch “is obviously very affected by what’s gone on,” News Corp. executive vice-president Joel Klein told me. “I think most rational people would think there’s no place for assault weapons. I don’t think it’s complicated.” He said that Murdoch will continue to advocate for gun-control policies.

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Oh, here’s a musical interlude to read by:


Whiny Rich People and Media Hackitude

Washington Post hack blogger Jennifer Rubin

It all started on November 18, when The New York Times published an article by Nathaniel Popper and Nelson D. Schwarz headlined, Investors Rush to Beat Threat of Higher Taxes. Much of the discussion was about tax increases that would take place in 2013 if the fiscal cliff curb is not averted, but the article quoted a woman in McLean, VA who is deeply concerned about what will become of her business if President Obama’s tax proposal is enacted.

Kristina Collins, a chiropractor in McLean, Va., said she and her husband planned to closely monitor the business income from their joint practice to avoid crossing the income threshold for higher taxes outlined by President Obama on earnings above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

Ms. Collins said she felt torn by being near the cutoff line and disappointed that federal tax policy was providing a disincentive to keep expanding a business she founded in 1998.

“If we’re really close and it’s near the end-year, maybe we’ll just close down for a while and go on vacation,” she said.

Either Popper and Schwartz do not understand Obama’s proposal or they simply chose not to call Ms. Collins’ attention to her error–or perhaps they’re just media hacks. A number of bloggers responded with derision. Here’s Dave Wiegel:

How do you get to be as rich as the people in this New York Times story without ever figuring out how taxes work? [….]

You see these idiots every time a tax hike becomes possible again. They have no apparent idea how marginal rates work. Right now, if her and her husband make $250,000, they pay at most a 33% tax on some of that income. If they made $251,000, they would have to pay the same rates for everything except that last $1000 — that, they’d be taxed at 35%. If the rates increase across the board that top rate becomes 39.6%.

Derek Thompson argues that the NYT journalists should have at least gently explained to Collins that she was confused about the way tax rates work.

Kevin Drum provided a handy dandy tax table to help the “innumerate rich people” who are confused about marginal rates.

Megan McArdle, Newsweek hack

Yesterday, conservative media hack Megan McArdle complained that Wiegel and Drum were only talking about ordinary income.

Their analysis is basically sound, except for the fact that it is not quite true. They have forgotten to look at deduction phaseouts, surtaxes, and the AMT, which are not taxes on marginal income.*

No matter what you have heard on the internet, there are in fact a lot of sizeable marginal inflection points for high earners. There are the Pease deduction phaseouts, temporarily abated by the Bush tax cuts but scheduled to go back into effect in 2013, which can eliminate up to 80% of deductions for couples who make more than about $175,000 (the number is indexed for inflation, so it changes every year): your deductions are reduced by 3% of the amount by which your income exceeds the threshhold. The student loan interest deduction phases out at $150,000 ($75,000 for singles). And a lot of tax-free savings opportunities disappear: educational savings accounts and IRAs have income limits, so your ability to use them starts phasing out in the low-six-figure income range. So do various educational and child tax credits. These things obviously aren’t a huge deal for people who make $1,000,000 a year but they can be a huge tax hit for couples in the $150,000 to $300,000 range. Come 2013, they will be an even bigger hit.

And we haven’t even discussed the AMT, which virtually eliminates deductions for couples who make the mistake of doing things like buying a house, having children, or living in a high tax state.

McArdle provided this chart:

I have to be honest, I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about people as wealthy as the ones McArdle is freaked out about. But in any case, Kevin Drum took note of the issue McArdle raised in a follow-up to his earlier post. He agreed that there are complex issues for people in the upper income brackets.

None of this really affects our discussion of people with incomes over $250,000, but it does illustrate the fact that moving across a phaseout line can sometimes have a significant effect on your taxes:

For example, a married couple filing jointly in 2013 with two kids at home and one in college who go from making $100,000 to $125,000 loses a $2,000 child tax credit and $1800 worth of HOPE credit, an increase of almost 4% in their effective—not marginal—tax rate. The marginal tax rate on their extra earnings is 15.2% just from deduction losses; that comes on top of the 28% they’ll be paying the federal government in income taxes, and whatever state income tax they owe.

I don’t have any real point to make here. I just wanted to acknowledge that my income tax chart only showed one piece of the picture. It’s the most important piece for most people who earn under $1 million (above that, investment taxes tend to become more important), but there are still plenty of little gotchas in the tax code that can have funny effects as they phase in and out.

Finally today, the media hack of all media hacks Jennifer Rubin weighed with this: Obama’s class war against his supporters.

Democrat and former Michael Dukakis campaign manager Susan Estrich is very upset that the presidential candidate whom she supported actually is intent on raising taxes on the rich — which, lo and behold, includes her. She complains: “I did not vote for Obama because I think I am paying too little in taxes. Like many people I know, I am ‘rich’ by Obama’s standards. I pay more taxes, percentage wise, than Mitt Romney and Warren Buffett, because I earn virtually every penny of my income. I work. And yes, all those deductions that allow the truly rich to not work, or at least to not work all the jobs I do, make me angry.”

She means she earns mostly ordinary income as opposed to capital gains, but you see her point — who the heck is Obama to tell a hardworking upper-middle class gal she’s not paying enough in taxes?!

I have no idea how much Susan Estrich earns, but if it’s all ordinary income, then she’d pay the same amount as before on the first $250,000, right? And she’d pay a few percentage points more on anything she earns over that amount. Big f&cking deal!

More from Rubin:

If you live in New York or Los Angeles and have an income of $250,000, two kids and a house in a nice but not ostentatious neighborhood, you are not living a lavish lifestyle and you already pay gobs and gobs in taxes. You didn’t inherit wealth and you worked hard in college and in your profession, only to find yourself living paycheck to paycheck. And now, you’re going to get socked with a tax hike.

Not if it’s all ordinary income (i.e., “paycheck to paycheck.”) And if a family with an income of $250,000 is living “paycheck to paycheck,” they need to work on a budget. I didn’t inherit wealth and I worked my ass off in college too. So did millions of other Americans. Big f&cking deal! If you need more, get a second job.

Even more:

For years Republicans have been warning that the Obama-size of government will require much more than taxing the “rich.” That means not only the $250,000 earners (say, a white-collar professional with a mortgage, college tuition bills and a mother in long-term care) but the $80,000 earners (say a teacher in Massachusetts with a cramped condo, an old car and kids) also are going to be told they have to pay even more of their income to the federal government.

Newsflash for Rubin–you can do better than a cramped condo on $80,000 in Massachusetts–and that would be on the high end for a public school teacher. But Obama’s plan wouldn’t increase taxes on someone making $80,000 as salary income anyway.

To these whiny rich people and concern troll media hacks, I say tough shit! The average income in this country is a little over $50,000. Plenty of those people have parents in long term care–or are caring for them at home. And plenty of poor people have the same problems.

Obviously the White House needs to get busy educating the public as well as the lazy corporate media about how the tax system works and exactly what Obama’s tax proposals are. And hacks like Jennifer Rubin especially should be fired. As long as the Washington Post keeps this hack among hacks on staff, it cannot be considered a serious newspaper.

Feel free to use this as an open thread. I know most people are gearing up for Thanksgiving. I’m another one of those people who don’t really like the holidays.