Ah! The Ides of March and today’s political men with that lean and hungry look are upon us! Let’s check out what Eric Cantor, Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan are up to. All of them have that creepy angular look that makes my skin crawl. I always wonder if their supporters are as odd looking and grinch-like?
Ryan “looks with such ferret and such fiery eyes” and is trying to ride the same old budget that the voters soundly rejected in November.
Ryan’s budget is a retread of his previous offerings, the same ideas that were rejected by voters in the 2012 election. Like the old Bourbon kings, he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Once more he doubles down on the failed ideas of the past, and once more he brazenly seeks credit for making hard choices while refusing to tell us what those choices are. The cowardice and lack of candor reflect just how unpopular these ideas are.
The basic strategy is the same; the only new packaging is the pretense of balancing the budget in 10 years. Ryan does that by adopting the $600 billion in “fiscal cliff” taxes that Republicans voted against, the Medicare tax hikes that were part of the Obamacare that Ryan proposes to repeal, and, most brazenly, the infamous $716 billion in “Medicare cuts” that Ryan and Romney and legions of Republicans have railed against over the last two election cycles.
Ryan’s basic strategy is unchanged. He would lower rates on income and corporate taxes. He does this despite studies showing that lowering rates over the last decades have produced more inequality, but not more growth. With the top 1 percent capturing a staggering 121 percent of the income growth coming out of the Great Recession, and corporate profits at record highs as a percentage of the economy, Ryan still argues that if they just had more money, they would start investing here at home.
The lower tax rates, Ryan claims, will be paid for by closing loopholes and eliminating “tax expenditures” — only he reveals none of those that he would close. Studies show millionaires could give up all their tax deductions and still pocket a big tax break from the Ryan plan. By definition, middle class families will end up paying more — and will face the loss of tax deductions for mortgages, for employer-based health care, for state and local taxes and more. No wonder Ryan doesn’t want to reveal what’s behind the curtain.
Ryan then calls for cutting $4.6 trillion in spending over 10 years from projected levels. $2.5 trillion of that comes from repealing Obamacare and gutting Medicaid. That will leave, according to estimates of the Urban League and the Congressional Budget Office, 40 to 50 million more poor and middle-income Americans uninsured, even as the wealthy and multinationals pocket their tax breaks. In addition, Ryan promises to dismember Medicare 10 years from now, turning it into a voucher that will push more and more costs on seniors over time.
Ryan would cancel the “sequestration cuts” for the military over the next decade while cutting even more from domestic services. All domestic services — education, border patrol, workplace safety, food and drug monitoring, research and development, Head Start, infant nutrition, etc. — would be cut to levels not seen in modern times. Naturally, Ryan does not identify what would be cut.
His budget is expected to pass the House yet again even though there is no chance in the Senate and no chance that “Obamacare” will be repealed. Yet, he’s consistent which is more than we can say about Eric Cantor recently. You know Cantoe. ” Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort s if he mock’d himself and scorn’d his spirit that could be moved to smile at any thing.”
Cantor seems newly pained by his reputation as an ideological roadblock. In Virginia, his favorable rating is twenty-seven per cent, a fact that makes a statewide run for office in the near future a dim prospect. Cantor explained why he argued at the retreat against using the debt ceiling as political leverage. He had been hearing from donors on Wall Street and in the business community about the potential impact on the markets. “Most people would say incurring debt at this point is allowing money for bills that you already incurred,” he said. “It’s to pay the bills.” Eight days earlier, at a press conference, Obama had made the same argument.
Besides, there were better fights to come. Conceding the debt-ceiling vote was a simple way for House Republicans to prevent the U.S. government from going into default, which would be disastrous for the economy here and abroad. It also meant they could save their leverage for the coming fight over the automatic spending cuts in the sequester. “We’re not trying to sit here and just obstruct,” Cantor said. “We’re trying to solve the problem, and we’ve been put in this position, I guess, perception-wise, that all we want to do is obstruct. So this is an attempt for us to get on firmer ground.”
To win over the right, House leaders promised three things. They would demand that the Democratic-controlled Senate write a formal budget, which Senate Democrats have avoided doing for several years; if the senators didn’t pass a budget, they wouldn’t get paid. Second, they promised conservatives that the cuts in the sequester would be kept intact or replaced with something equivalent. The final promise was far more daunting: Paul Ryan would write a budget that balanced within ten years. “Big goal,” Cantor said, and he sounded relieved that it wouldn’t be his job; Ryan’s last budget, which included severe spending cuts, didn’t promise to come into balance until the late twenty-thirties. “People were concerned that it took too long to balance,” Ryan said. To make the budget balance in a decade, the level of cuts will have to be extreme. Cantor may have led his colleagues out of the debt-ceiling canyon only to get them trapped in another one.
I pointed out that, because the fiscal-cliff deal included more than six hundred billion dollars in higher taxes over the next ten years, Ryan’s job might be a little easier. Cantor flashed a mischievous grin. “Irony!” he said.
Jan Moller with the Louisiana Budget Project said he fears a financial blow to the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
“At a bare minimum, a tax overhaul should not be an excuse to make the state’s poorest citizens pay more, and they would suffer the most from the governor’s proposal to raise sales taxes,” Moller said in a prepared statement.
Barfield said something will be proposed to offset any increase for low- and lower-middle-classes.
“They would be in no worse position than they are today,” Barfield said.
Barfield said the administration wants to encourage job creation and economic growth, which help elevate the poor.
One has to wonder how the national ambitions of these men jibe with voters given their agendas benefit very few people. I suppose the idea is to appease the big donors and hope that every one else just votes based on name recognition and glossy mailers. Still, Jindal’s popularity sits at 37%. As mentioned above, Cantor’s popularity sits at 27%. Ryan’s last poll was the election.
“This is the start of a new story of physics,” said Tony Weidberg, Oxford University physicist and a collaborator on the Atlas experiment.
“Physics has changed since July the 4th – the vague question we had before was to see if there was anything there,” he told BBC News.
“Now we’ve got more precise questions: is this particle a Higgs boson, and if so, is it one compatible with the Standard Model?”
The results reported at the conference – based on the entire data sets from 2011 and 2012 – much more strongly suggest that the new particle’s “spin” is zero – consistent with any of the theoretical varieties of Higgs.
“The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is,” said CMS spokesperson Joe Incandela.
As is often the case in particle physics, a fuller analysis of data will be required to establish beyond doubt that the particle is a Higgs of any kind. But Dr Weidberg said that even these early hints were compelling.
“This is very exciting because if the spin-zero determination is confirmed, it would be the first elementary particle to have zero spin,” he said.
“So this is really different to anything we have seen before.”
Even more data will be required to explore the question of more “exotic” Higgs particles.
This HuffPo article suggest that there will even be fewer Americans for those Republicans to fool in the future as religion in America hits new low!!
The number of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is the highest it has ever been since data on the subject started being collected in the 1930s, new research has found.
Sociologists from the University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University analyzed results from the General Social Survey and found that the number of people who do not consider themselves part of an organized religion has jumped dramatically in recent years.
Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the number of “nones” — those who said they were religiously unaffiliated — hovered around 5 percent, Claude Fischer, one of the researchers with UC Berkeley, told The Huffington Post. That number had risen to only 8 percent by 1990.
But since then, the number of people who don’t consider themselves part of a religion has increased to 20 percent.
No wonder Republicans want to tank public education. I’d say there’s a bit of intelligent life left here!
The verdict is in: Mars’s Gale Crater was habitable in its distant past, perhaps during the same period in which microbial life was establishing itself on Earth between 3 billion and 4 billion years ago.
That is the conclusion scientists have reached after NASA‘s Mars rover Curiosity analyzed the first sample ever culled from deep in a rock on another planet. Curiosity used a first-of-its-kind drill to extract the sample.
Now, only seven months into its mission – a period set aside primarily for testing the rover’s various instruments – Curiosity has already given researchers the answer to the broad, basic question they set out to answer: Did Mars ever host environments suitable for life?
The issue of habitability is “in the bag,” said John Grotzinger, a planetary geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., and the mission’s lead scientist, during a press briefing announcing the results on Tuesday.
The minerals in the tiny, gray, ground-rock sample exposed by Curiosity’s drill speak of abundant standing water, conditions neither too acidic or too alkaline for life, and the minerals that would have provided a ready energy source for microbes, if any had been there.
Wonder what Pat Robertson will say about this?
and what’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Hilarious! While introducing his budget plan today, Paul Ryan unconsciously revealed his true purpose.
During the unveiling of his new budget proposal, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) made a slip of the tongue while railing against President Obama’s healthcare law.
“This is something we will not give up on because we are not going to give up on destroying the healthcare system for the American people,” Ryan accidentally said.
Here’s the clip, courtesy of DailyKos:
That put me in mind of another great Freudian slip by the master of Freudian slips, George W. Bush.
This is psychoanalytic open thread. Just kidding–it’s wide open. What are you hearing?
Oh man, this is too much!
Paul Ryan appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace today and admitted to that the new “Ryan Plan” budget is based on the assumption that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed along with the planned Medicaid expansion.
Here’s the transcript of the interview.
Ryan explains that he plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program and Medicaid, food stamps, and “49 different job training programs spread across nine different government agencies” into block grants and let the states decide what to do with the money. Wallace had some questions.
Let me ask you about a couple of the specific cuts that you made last year, and tell me if they’re not in the new budget — I assume that they are. You cut Medicaid by $770 billion, over the next 10 years. You cut $134 billion from food stamps. You cut $166 billion from education, training and social services.
WALLACE: Can you honestly say by turning Medicaid into a block grant and giving it to the states that you can cut $770 billion –
WALLACE: — out of that program, over the next 10 years, and that’s going to have no impact on legitimate recipients?
RYAN: These are increases that have not come yet. So, by repealing Obamacare, and the Medicaid expansions which haven’t occurred yet, we are basically preventing an explosion of a program that is already failing.
So, we’re saying don’t grow this program through Obamacare because it doesn’t work. Prevent that growth from going because it’s not going to work, it’s going to hurt people who are trying to help, it’s going to hurt hospitals and states and, give the states the tools that they are asking for.
I’m kind of surprised Wallace didn’t do a Ricky Ricardo-type double take after that.
WALLACE: I’m going to pick up on this because I must say I didn’t understand it. Are you saying that as part of your budget, you would repeal, you assume the repeal of Obamacare?
WALLACE: Well, that’s not going to happen.
RYAN: Well, we believe it should. That’s the point. That’s what’s — but this is what budgeting is all about, Chris. It’s about making tough choices to fix our country’s problems.
And here’s the really crazy part. Wallace points out that, you know, Obama won the election and Medicare was a huge issue during the campaign and the voters rejected the Romney/Ryan plan.
Ryan doesn’t buy it:
I would argue against your premise that we lost this issue in the campaign. We won the senior vote. I did dozens of Medicare town hall meetings in states like Florida, explaining how these are the best reforms to save the shrinking Medicare program and we are confidently this is the way to go. It has bipartisan support. It’s an idea that came from Democrats in the first place.
Wha– ?! Has this guy gone around the bend or what? Haven’t the House Republicans already tried to repeal Obamacare more than 30 times?
Here’s the video from Think Progress:
This is a completely wacko, insane, what-is-he-smoking open thread!
I have a nasty cold, so if I don’t make a lot of sense this morning, please try to make allowances. I just hope I don’t get the flu. Mayor Menino declared a public health emergency in Boston yesterday because there have been 700 confirmed cases of flu in the city. This morning The Daily Beast reports that there is a “major influenza epidemic taking hold across the country.”
New York City and much of the U.S. are a week or two into a major influenza epidemic. Boston declared a public-health emergency Wednesday after reporting four deaths, and North Carolina is seeing its biggest number of cases in a decade. To place the problem into graphic, corporate terms, the charts sent around to compare this year’s activity against that of other years have required re-scaling to accommodate the scary red line going up and up.
Public health officials are telling people it’s not too late to get a flu shot, but according to this article, this year’s vaccine may not be working so well.
One alarming possibility is that this year’s vaccine against influenza is not well-matched to the current disease-causing strains. This exposes a significant problem in the modus operandi of influenza vaccine production—it’s mired in techniques and approaches developed before World War II; in fact soldiers from that war were among the first to get this brand of vaccine. Here’s how it works: each year, around February, world experts select from a menu of dozens just three influenza strains—two of flu A andone of flu B—to place into the coming season’s vaccine. More than three would require a shot with too large a volume and might blunt the body’s immune response. Once selected, the three viruses are grown painstakingly, on hen’s eggs (what year is this?) then, after a big enough crop has been raised, the virus is killed and stabilized and sent around for injections—all on the hope that the experts guessed right.
To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found strong agreement between the vaccine strains and the current clinical strains, suggesting the vaccine ought to work just fine. But some clinicians have their doubts. This much activity, is the thinking, can only be due to extremely limited protection from vaccine. For some, it feels like 2009 all over again, when the novel flu strain, so-called because it had never previously been seen in people or animals, appeared. That was the year that spring-break revelers from Queens who had gone south of the border brought back an altogether new strain. Because of its novelty, no vaccine was active against it (at least at the start), so we saw the unchecked spread of influenza zipping across the country in no time flat.
So is that happening again? We won’t know until there is more testing of this year’s strains.
President Obama is getting a lot of criticism for turning his “inner circle” into a “boy’s club.” From Tuesday’s NYT:
In an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 29, 11 of President Obama’s top advisers stood before him discussing the heated fiscal negotiations. The 10 visible in a White House photo are men.
In the days since, Mr. Obama has put together a national security team dominated by men, with Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts nominated to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as the secretary of state, Chuck Hagel chosen to be the defense secretary and John O. Brennan nominated as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Given the leading contenders for other top jobs, including chief of staff and Treasury secretary, Mr. Obama’s inner circle will continue to be dominated by men well into his second term.
From the White House down the ranks, the Obama administration has compiled a broad appointment record that has significantly exceeded the Bush administration in appointing women but has done no better than the Clinton administration, according to an analysis of personnel data by The New York Times. About 43 percent of Mr. Obama’s appointees have been women, about the same proportion as in the Clinton administration, but up from the roughly one-third appointed by George W. Bush.
The skew was widespread: male appointees under Mr. Obama outnumbered female appointees at 11 of the 15 federal departments, for instance. In some cases, the skew was also deep. At the Departments of Justice, Defense, Veterans Affairs and Energy, male appointees outnumbered female appointees by about two to one.
At Salon, Irin Carmon writes:
Diversity in any sense is something that doesn’t really happen unless you try, and if the Obama administration is trying with its top-level appointments, other priorities have clearly trumped it. This doesn’t have to be because of a conspiracy: A lifetime of seeing almost exclusively white men as authority figures has a way of perpetuating itself, and without much self-examination or effort, people tend to go with a certain comfortable framework. (This is true despite the president being a black man; as anyone who has worked for a woman or a person of color who was the first to stake out a spot on hostile turf can tell you, racism and sexism aren’t exclusively white male phenomena.) But it’s still a problem that needs to be talked about, over and over again, until something changes.
Carmon concludes her post with some excellent questions:
…leadership matters, and here we are with this top-level lineup of too-familiar faces. Hillary Clinton is gone, and we don’t have Sheila Bair, Michele Flournoy or Susan Rice (a pretty good selection given that “pipeline problem”) and another white man is expected to succeed Jack Lew as chief of staff should be become the treasury secretary. The numbers look even worse now that Hilda Solis, a Latina woman, has resigned as secretary of labor.
So here are some follow-up questions: Will John Kerry carry on the legacy of Hillary Clinton in encouraging female leadership and entrepreneurship around the world? Will Chuck Hagel, if confirmed as secretary of defense, fully and fairly implement the progressive changes in the military the administration supports, including the partial expansion of abortion access for service-members and dependents, despite his past opposition? How independent will Lew be from the Wall Street boys’ club’s values and logic? And how will the administration do better on this stuff next time, if it does indeed care about it?
At least Eric Holder’s announcement that he is staying on at Attorney General will keep Obama’s cabinet from being made up of only white men.
The Presidential Inauguration Committee announced Tuesday that the President Obama has selected Pastor Louie Giglio of the Georgia-based Passion City Church to deliver the benediction for his second inauguration. In a mid-1990s sermon identified as Giglio’s, available online on a Christian training Web site, he preached rabidly anti-LGBT views. The 54-minute sermon, entitled “In Search of a Standard – Christian Response to Homosexuality,” advocates for dangerous “ex-gay” therapy for gay and lesbian people, references a biblical passage often interpreted to require gay people be executed, and impels Christians to “firmly respond to the aggressive agenda” and prevent the “homosexual lifestyle” from becoming accepted in society.
Read quotes from Giglio’s sermon at the Alternet link.
Buzzfeed notes that the White House hasn’t yet responded to the criticism of the Gigio choice.
The White House on Wednesday was refusing to address comments critical of gay and lesbian people made by Rev. Louie Giglio, who was tapped by President Barack Obama to deliver the benediction prayer at the Jan. 21 inaugural ceremony….
The inaugural invitation is not Giglio’s first interaction with Obama. He also was one of the president’s guests at the White House’s 2012 Easter prayer breakfast, according to the White House pool report from the April 4, 2012 event.
This past November, Giglio served as the convocation speaker at the Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University. Although he did not address homosexuality in the speech, he did strongly urge visiting high-school students to attend the college known for its strict policies against homosexual behavior and spoke about the positive influence Falwell has had on his life.
While Giglio did not talk about gay issues directly, he did reference gender roles in a striking way, speaking of a time he started crying very hard. He explained, “I started bawling, I mean, sobbing. Not crying like men cry. I started crying like women cry.” Continuing, he explained what he called the unwritten rules for men who cry, telling the students, “A man never looks at another man that’s crying. That’s the rule.”
If you’ve been watching the Rachel Maddow show recently, you’ve heard about the Shell Oil rig that went aground in Alaska last week. Connie from Orlando sent me a couple of links on Rachel’s interview with Rep. Ed Markey last night on Shell’s lies. From the Maddow Blog: One man’s near miss ecological disaster is another man’s swells. Watch the video here.
Paul Ryan is up to his old tricks. From Laura Bassett at HuffPo: Paul Ryan Cosponsors New Fetal Personhood Bill.
Despite the deep unpopularity of fetal personhood bills in 2012, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has again decided to cosponsor the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a bill that gives full legal rights to human zygotes from the moment of fertilization.
Ryan, who reportedly has 2016 presidential ambitions, had to de-emphasize his opposition to abortion without exceptions during the 2012 election to align his position with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But this year, Ryan has been tapped as a keynote speaker for the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s sixth annual Campaign for Life Gala, and he is re-upping his support for the most extreme anti-abortion legislation in the country.
The personhood bill, first introduced in 2011 by Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and reintroduced by Broun last week, specifies that a “one-celled human embryo,” even before it implants in the uterus to create a pregnancy, should be granted “all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” Similar legislation has been rejected by voters in multiple states, including the socially conservative Mississippi, because legal experts have pointed out that it could outlaw some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization as well as criminalize abortion at all stages.
Broun said in a statement that a zygote’s right to life should be “defended vigorously and at all costs.”
“As a physician, I know that human life begins with fertilization, and I remain committed to ending abortion in all stages of pregnancy,” he said. “I will continue to fight this atrocity on behalf of the unborn, and I hope my colleagues will support me in doing so.”
Of course Republican governors are still trying to limit access to abortion, and the Center for Reproductive Rights has designed a “monitoring tool” that can be downloaded to track what’s happening in the states.
The tool outlines State obligations under international and regional human rights law on a range of reproductive rights issues—freedom from discrimination, contraceptive information and services, safe pregnancy and childbirth, abortion and post-abortion care, comprehensive sexuality education, freedom from violence against women, and HIV/AIDS. The tool then identifies key questions that human rights experts, monitoring bodies, and civil society can use to assess to what extent a State is in compliance with its obligations.
I want to end with something more positive from Emily Esfahani-Smith at The Atlantic about the differences between the pursuit of happiness and the search for meaning: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy. It’s about Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning. I highly recommend it.
And here’s something nice: and unreleased track from Jimi Hendrix, recorded in the late 1960s.