Thursday Reads

Einstein reading

Good Morning!

The New York Times has added more fodder for the Republicans’ Benghazi attacks. James Risen Mark Mazzetti and Michael S. Schmidt report that: U.S.-Approved Arms for Libya Rebels Fell Into Jihadis’ Hands.

The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.

Of course there’s no evidence that this had anything to do with the Benghazi attacks, but I’m sure that won’t stop Senators McNasty, Huckleberry Closetcase, and their new pal Senator Kelley Ayotte from pretending otherwise.

No evidence has emerged linking the weapons provided by the Qataris during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to the attack that killed four Americans at the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in September.

But in the months before, the Obama administration clearly was worried about the consequences of its hidden hand in helping arm Libyan militants, concerns that have not previously been reported. The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.

Also at the NYT, Jared Bernstein once again explains why politicians (and the media) in the Village need to stop obsessing on taxes and start focusing in increasing employment and, along with it, consumer demand.

WITH the budget-and-tax showdown dominating headlines, most Americans probably missed an even more ominous story: according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office, America’s underlying growth rate — that is, the best the economy could do, under optimal conditions, without driving up inflation — has slowed from just under 4 percent a year in 2000 to just under 2 percent today.

Why does this matter? For one thing, the combination of a lower underlying growth rate, which you could think of as the economy’s speed limit, and a less equitable distribution of that growth was a reason middle-income households did so badly and poverty went up in the 2000s.

During the 1990s, in contrast, stronger demand for goods and services led to much faster job growth and the last real gains experienced by middle- and lower-income households. Faster growth in those years also spun off a lot more government revenues, which interacted with slightly higher tax rates to take the budget from deficit to surplus.

Read the whole thing and fantasize what we could be doing if we had smarter leadership in DC.

Back in Republican la-la land, Joel Kotkin at Forbes claims that blue states are committing suicide by supporting raising tax rates on the rich.

With their enthusiastic backing of President Obama and the Democratic Party on Election Day, the bluest parts of America may have embraced a program utterly at odds with their economic self-interest. The almost uniform support of blue states’ congressional representatives for the administration’s campaign for tax “fairness” represents a kind of bizarre economic suicide pact.

Any move to raise taxes on the rich — defined as households making over $250,000 annually — strikes directly at the economies of these states, which depend heavily on the earnings of high-income professionals, entrepreneurs and technical workers. In fact, when you examine which states, and metropolitan areas, have the highest concentrations of such people, it turns out they are overwhelmingly located in the bluest states and regions.

Really? Then how come we did so much better under the Clinton tax rates in the ’90s? After all, that’s all that is happening–except that the first $250,000 of these poor rich people’s money will still be taxed at the Bush rates. But that’s not how Kotkin sees it.

The people whose wallets will be drained in the new war on “the rich” are high-earning, but hardly plutocratic professionals like engineers, doctors, lawyers, small business owners and the like. Once seen as the bastion of the middle class, and exemplars of upward mobility, these people are emerging as the modern day “kulaks,” the affluent peasants ruthlessly targeted by Stalin in the early 1930s.

OMB!! “Wallets…drained!” “Stalin!” Let’s all freak out!

The ironic geography of the Democratic drive can be seen most clearly by examining the distribution of the classes now targeted by the coming purge. The top 10 states with the largest percentage of “rich” households under the Obama formula include true blue bastions Washington, D.C., which has the highest concentration of big earners, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, California and Hawaii. The only historic “swing state” in the top six is Virginia, due largely to the presence of the affluent suburbs of the capital. These same states, according to the Tax Foundation, would benefit the most from an extension of the much-lambasted Bush tax cuts.

Hey Joel, maybe it’s not all about taxes, even though that’s all that seems to matter to you. Maybe some blue state folks think the whole economy would benefit if more people got back to work, earned some money and spent it–as suggested by Jared Bernstein in yesterday’s NYT (see above).

As Zandar notes, Kotkin then goes on to show how Republicans can use the home mortgage deduction and other methods to punish the blue state richies for voting for Obama.

– Keep the tax rate on capital gains the same.

– Raise income taxes on the top income bracket for 2013, those making $398,350 and up (single filers, married joint filers, or head of household).

– Means-test, or eliminate entirely, the mortgage interest deduction (which benefits taxpayers in areas with the highest real estate values and mortgages – i.e., Hawaii, D.C., New York, California and Connecticut).

– Means-test or eliminate entirely the federal deduction of state and local taxes, which is disproportionately utilized by those in high-tax blue states: “In 2005, taxpayers in California and New York together made up 20 percent of those claiming the deduction and accounted for 30 percent of its value. Itemizers in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California claimed on average over $12,000 per household.”

Talk about a sore loser! Kotkin must be really bitter about Romney’s failure to get those blue state dopes to vote for him.

Meanwhile all those Romney voters in the red states are dreaming about seceding from the union. But if they did, asks The Nation, “Who’d Pay for Their Massive Government Handouts?”

In the wake of Obama’s victory, citizens in several states submitted petitions to secede from the United States. It is something of an irony that the very states seeking secession from “big government”—like Louisiana and Alabama—have been among the top beneficiaries of that selfsame government. Put bluntly, the government would be far smaller without them, and they would seriously struggle far more without it. Indeed, were they to become independent, most would be failed states in need of a bailout. Only this time their benefactor would be not the federal government but the International Monetary Fund, of which the United States is the principal donor. Louisiana and Alabama would go the way of Greece and Spain.

Oh, the irony of it all! And here’s another irony for Republicans to chew on. From TPM: Why Insurers Are Wary Of Raising The Medicare Age

House Republican leaders want to avoid the fiscal cliff with a proposal that would gradually raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67. Democrats are broadly reluctant to cut benefits, but President Obama was willing to accept the policy last year in failed deficit reduction talks with House Speaker John Boehner, and top Democrats have left the door open to including that measure in a grand budget bargain.

It may seem counter-intuitive: why would an industry threatened by government insurance not want it to shrink?

The reason: hiking the Medicare eligibility age would throw seniors aged 65 and 66 off Medicare and into the private market, forcing insurers, who will soon be required to cover all consumers regardless of health status, to care for a sicker, more expensive crop of patients.

“The risk pool issue is important,” the insurance industry source said. “[I]f you add more older and sicker people to the pool, that’s definitely going to have any impact on premiums.”

The policy would save the federal government $113 billion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But it achieves that by raising the cost of private insurance: the Kaiser Family Foundation projected that a Medicare age of 67 would raise costs for under-65 patients by an average of $141 in 2014. (In practice it would be phased in.)

Duh!

And even more Republican stupidity: Right wing nutcases are all bent out of shape because their favorite crazy propaganda movie didn’t get any Oscar nominations.

Gerald Molan, the director of the extremely anti-Obama movie, 2016: Obama’s America , is mad that his and Dinesh D’Souza’s film [“2016”] wasn’t on the shortlist of documentaries nominated for an Academy Award.

“The action confirms my opinion that the bias against anything from a conservative point of view is dead on arrival in Hollywood circles,” he complained to the Hollywood Reporter.

It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that the movie is based on a pack of lies and right wing conspiracy theories, could it?

To cleanse your palate of right wing and DC craziness, try watching this video from NASA that show views of the Earth from space. Here’s a still shot:

new-view-earth-at-night-usa_62009_600x450

So what are you reading and blogging about today? I’ve been a little out of the loop for the past couple of days, so I look forward to clicking on your links!


31 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Here’s a little something for Dakinikat from Dave Wiegel: Bobby Jindal’s Dumbed-Down Conservatism.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    I’ve turned off the tv for the past few days and immersed myself in the latest books by Alice Munro and Michael Connelly (both excellent by the way!) because there is no way I can sit here and listen to anymore crap being shoveled out by Boehner and Co. in their heedless quest to protect the rich at all costs. Beyond senseless.

    I truly want to believe that Obama will “stick to his guns” but he gives me the “heebie jeebies” to be honest. They are still discussing the “need” to increase the retirement age to 67 as one means of “cutting” benefits which just places the burden of “sacrifice” on seniors. Incredible!

    There is no “leadership” in DC but a never ending power struggle to control. Public service? Forget about it. Boehner is only interested in keeping his position as House leader and get to those golf links as early as possible. McConnell is only interested in keeping his “prune face” on tv with guarded threats and obstructionism. The public be damned!

    We are on “the cliff”. We are on “the edge”. We are about to “fall over”. This is all we hear day after day but the public needs are ignored. And for what? So some gazillionaire can purchase another bauble or another home?

    The entire thing is ridiculous. As well as the people elected to serve us. They don’t. Bottom line.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Good morning, Pat!

      I’ve been reading a lot too. Last week I read a delightful novel called “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.” I really enjoyed it.

      Right now I’m rereading “Fatal Vision,” because I’m so incensed by all the dopes who have again bought into Jeffrey MacDonald’s lies. The fact is that MacDonald was a typical controlling wife abuser, and he did have a history of violent behavior before the murders, despite the claims of the dopes. Not to mention that he was convicted by a jury and has had many appeals that were found to be baseless. What is it about the guy that makes people want to believe he’s innocent? I can see critiques of the investigation, but there was still plenty of evidence.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        “Fatal Vision” sits on my shelf too and I’m going to read it again so we can compare notes.

        As far as I can determine this guy is guilty on all counts. One very telling action occurred when the detectives returned to the apartment to review the event.

        Apparently there was another apartment above the McDonalds and the occupants heard nothing that night. When the detectives went upstairs to determine the sound level they jumped on the floor. Sitting below on the McDonald t.v. were a few cards. They fell over.

        The supposition was that if there was a “struggle” taking place in the living room as McDonald claimed, how did those cards remain upright when all it took was for a detective to stomp on the floor from above and they then fell over? As a doctor, he managed to “puncture” himself in places of his body where little damage would occur.

        The theory is that the oldest child crawled into bed with her mother and wet the bed. An arugument ensued that got out of hand and he accidentally harmed the child in the process. A violent confrontation took place between he and his wife and he subsequently killed her in a rage. He then finished off the older girl but then went into the baby’s room in order to set up a defense that the home had been “invaded by hippies” looking for drugs. This action led to first degree murder charges where the baby was concerned.

        Cold blooded, cold hearted, and self involved, he created a make believe defense in order to be free to pursue a life that did not involve family responsibilities.

        It was also suggested that during his “recovery” at the base hospital he was openly “flirting” with other women while autopsies were being conducted on his wife and children. Not exactly the demeanor of a grieving husband and father.

        The “Fatal Vision” was McGinniss himself who went into the trial believing in McDonald’s innocence but came away convinced of the opposite.

        McDonald should die in prison for his acts. There is nothing to suggest otherwise.

      • Fannie says:

        Ok, let me find my copy, and I’ll jump in with you all.

      • bostonboomer says:

        It’s definitely worth rereading. In fact, it’s hard for me to put it down. There is so much that I had forgotten, too, since I read the book when it first came out in 1983.

        BTW, JJ, I went through that Alternet post again, and almost everything in it is wrong–right down to calling McGinniss’ book a “novel.”

  3. Fannie says:

    Thanks BB……………just wanted to let you know that everbody lit up at midnight in Seattle, Wa. since marijuana is now legal. Cops were told to overlook anybody getting stoned.

  4. Did you see that DeMint is heading over to Heritage foundation…great, let’s get that group of crazy right wing nuts, even more crazy-ed up!
    Conservative Firebrand DeMint Bolts Senate To Lead Heritage Foundation

    And, Syria chemical weapons?
    Joyce Arnold: Syria Prepares Chemical Weapons | Taylor Marsh
    I’m going back to bed….

  5. RalphB says:

    That NYT story on loose Libyan weapons is more than passingly stupid, since the largest share of loose weapons have to be those from Qaddafi’s government arsenal. Reporters seem to just follow the latest leak without paying any attention to the larger story. Sigh.

  6. RalphB says:

    In other stories of the sanity challenged …

    TPM: Fugitive John McAfee Arrested, Blogs From Jail

  7. RalphB says:

    I find Tim Noah’s article here to be highly amusing.

    TNR: GOPocalypse: A Guide to Republican Purges

    Between an electoral defeat that was wholly unexpected (by them, anyway) and a “fiscal cliff” that will compel them to support a tax increase, Republicans are experiencing present political reality as a sort of Apocalypse. That’s how it feels, anyway; eventually they will adjust. But for now they’re channeling their resentment into internecine warfare, creating a tableau vivant of pitched battle and unending recrimination that Hieronymus Bosch could have set against a landscape of burning lakes and whirling locusts. It is deeply satisfying to behold. But there’s so much bile flying in so many directions that the uninitiated can find it difficult to keep track of who’s purging whom, and why. Here follows a guide to some of the more interesting enmities.

  8. RalphB says:

    Charlie, fuck yeah!

    Charles Pierce: The Dangerously Profound Distance Between The Elites And The Rest Of Us

    Our elites are now a universe of chickenhawks and every issue out there is Vietnam. This is not a healthy state of affairs.

    • dakinikat says:

      Yup. It’s embarrassing. The rest of the world must thing we’ve really lost it. It’s like we’ve rolled back everything we used to stand for including the idea of aristocracy. Name the war we’ve fought and won and the principle we fought for, and there’s the Republicans trying to re-fight it on the opposite principle.