Monday Reads

baby new yearHappy New Year’s Eve!!

Congress continues to drag us down its path of dysfunction.  This headline from Lindsey Graham should win him a congressional hearing for sedition.

But in an interview on Fox News Sunday this morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) threatened to oppose this must-pass bill unless Social Security benefits are taken away from millions of future retirees:
I’m not going to raise the debt ceiling unless we get serious about keeping the country from becoming Greece, saving Social Security and Medicare [sic]. So here’s what i would like: meaningful entitlement reform — not to turn Social Security into private accounts, not to take a voucher approach to Medicare — but, adjust the age for Social Security, CPI changes and means testing and look beyond the ten-year window. I cannot in good conscience raise the debt ceiling without addressing the long term debt problems of this country and I will not.

Unbelievable. We continue to see a series of really ridiculous memes spouted by the right. These included dragging Social Security into the debt crisis when it has nothing to do with the Federal budget, deficit or debt other than it is a primary investor in Treasury bills and bonds. We also continue hear about our country going the way of Greece or going bankrupt. We have the reserve currency of the world, a huge country filled with taxable assets and treasury bills and bonds under high demand. How many times do I have to call shenanigans on these cretins?

Graham isn’t the only republican willing to take the debt ceiling hostage to raise the age of social security. 

Two Republican senators want to use the threat of an economic meltdown to raise the retirement age and cut Medicare. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN)  introduced a plan today that would raise the federal debt limit by $1 trillion in exchange for $1 trillion in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, as The Hill reported:

The Corker-Alexander dollar-for-dollar plan has several components.

It would structurally reform Medicare by creating competing private options giving seniors greater choice of healthcare plans. It would not, however, cap Medicare spending.

The plan would also give states more flexibility to manage Medicaid programs and prevent states from “gaming the federal share of the program with state tax charges.”

It would gradually raise the Social Security retirement age and use the “chained CPI” formula to calculate cost-of-living adjustments, curbing the growing cost of benefits.

In exchange, it would direct the debt limit be increased by the same amount as the savings generated from entitlement reform.

The U.S. will hit its debt limit  on or around December 31st. The Treasury Department estimates that, using extraordinary measures, it could avoid default for another two months or so. Allowing the U.S. to default on its debt via not raising the debt ceiling could cause a complete financial meltdown. The 2011 debt ceiling debacle — during which House Republicans nearly pushed the country into a default due to their intransigence on taxes — cost the country  about $19 billion in higher interest payments and  at least one million jobs.

So, here’s an interesting bit of history on its way to the British Museum.

The largest Viking ship ever found, a 118 foot troop carrier, is to go on display at the British museum 1,000 years after it helped King Canute control the seas of northern Europe.

The long boat, known as Roskilde 6 because it was part of a batch found in the Danish city, is slowly being dried out in giant steel tanks.

Once it is stabilised and fitted to a steel frame, it will travel to Britain to go on display at the British museum where it will be a star attraction at an exhibition.

The warship was discovered by chance in 1996 at Roskilde as the local ship museum was being extended.

It is believed it was deliberately sunk along with other ships to narrow the fjord and protect the approach to the former capital of Denmark.

It was an incredible example of ship technology in its day and would have taken up to 30,000 hours to build.

Once again, I agree with Paul Krugman who says that deficit reduction really isn’t the Republican goal in all of these fiscal cliff talks.  All we’d have to do is go back to the Eisenhower tax rates and we’d solve the problem pretty quickly which is why I hate it whenever I hear an idiot talk about bankrupting grandchildren’s future.  Again, World War 2 didn’t depress the 1950s or 1960s did it?  That level of debt and high, high tax rates didn’t bring about a second great depression.

Evan Soltas of Wonkblog and Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider both make the same point, in more detail, that I tried to make in my series on ONE TRILLION DOLLARS: the current budget deficit is overwhelmingly the result of the depressed economy, and it’s not clear that we have a structural budget problem at all, let alone the fundamental mismatch between what we want and what we’re willing to pay for that people like to claim exists.

Bush should’ve never been allowed to run two wars for decades without making people pay for it.

India’s outrage grows over the instances of gang rape and the death of one 23 year old woman.  Police are preparing arrest warrants in the case and will charge india protestssix men with murder.

The trial of the six, who allegedly assaulted the physiotherapy student in the back of a bus on Dec. 16, will start after police file charge documents on Jan. 3, Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said by phone today.

An Air India plane brought the woman’s body back from Singapore and it was cremated today, the Press Trust of India reported. Demonstrators gathered at the Jantar Mantar, an 18th- century observatory and traditional rallying point, demanding speedy punishment for the alleged rapists while some held placards calling for them to receive the death penalty.

Thousands joined protests and candlelit vigils to mark the death yesterday. Some protesters held placards calling for the improved treatment of women in India as they congregated in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. Others braved the cold winter’s evening in New Delhi to carry candles or meet in quiet prayer.

So, that’s my offerings today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

76 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    I’m having a difficult time coming to terms with the GOP point of view: We will only begin to “negotiate” if the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, the seniors are forced to endure cuts before we consider a “deal”.

    Does this make sense to anyone? Increasing taxes by a few points on the rich is out of the question but asking the most vulnerable amongst us to sacrifice even more is acceptable?

    For the life of me I am unable to understand anyone defending this theory. It is beyond comprehension.

    • I agree Pat, and with this Bash news item, I can only say one thing: Source: Democrats offer higher threshold for tax increases – CNN Political Ticker – Blogs

      Congressional Democrats trying to negotiate a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff have increased the income threshold for tax increases to $450,000, a Democratic source told CNN. President Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to raise rates on households making more than $250,000 a year.

      The source said the offer was made over the weekend and still stands.

      Fuck the congressional democrats!

      • Pat Johnson says:

        Exactly! Do you personally know anyone that earns over 250 thousand a year? I sure as hell don’t.

        To me that figure represents wealth. Most of us would live quite comfortably with that as our annual income and would not feel “deprived” if our rate was upgraded by a mere 3%. Chump change.

        But for those who will suffer from the effects of this “deal” even a few hundred less annually would be felt in our day to day survival.

        This is where the argument falls flat A family with a handicapped child as one example would feel the burden of the expense in caring for that child if they were to receive less aid.

        Welcome back to the age of Charles Dickens.

      • bostonboomer says:

        They’d be much smarter to just go over the cliff than accept a stupid deal.

      • NW Luna says:

        Agree to all of the above! And it’s only the income above $250,000 that would get the higher rate, not the entire income. So it’s a ludicrously small difference.

        I say shove ’em all off the “cliff,” and too bad it’s a bunny slope.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “Do you personally know anyone that earns over 250 thousand a year? I sure as hell don’t”

        Never thought of it Pat, but I don’t think I do. Maybe my doctor does, but I’m not even sure of that because she’s a small town doc who has a lot of seniors. Damn I’m feeling poor. .

    • bostonboomer says:

      The biggest problem is that the corporate media defends the theory of making the poorest suffer for the sins of the rich. A few cases in point: Tom Brokaw and Dancin’ Dave Gregory.

    • dakinikat says:

      I have no idea … it’s evil.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    I’ve got the t.v. on in another room and I think it was Tom Coburn being interviewed on Morning Joe decrying the need to curtail our overspending. Really?

    Had he considered perhhaps pulling the plug on our presence in Afghanistan as one way of “curtailing” billions being sent down the rabbit hole?

    How about those subsidies to big oil? You know, those companies whose profits exceed whatever god has left in his treasury as another way to stop the bleeding?

    What better way to approach this so called problem than to introduce UHC that would stop some of the bleeding that comes from the rise in healthcare premiums as lobbyists for that industry write the laws that guarantee them 33% of the revenue collected before the insured is allowed to tap into his account?

    Maybe plugging up the holes for tax exemptions for the rich which allows them to keep their money in offshore accounts thus beating the system and calling this “legal”? Or taxing those companies who outsource their products while the American workers scrambles to find a job?

    No, better to the cord on families having to deal with elderly parents, handicapped children, veteran services, and seniors who never earned more than 50 thousand dollars – if that – in their entire lives.

    These people have no idea of what the rest of this nation faces on a day to day basis but they are quick to recommend “cuts to services” that keep most of us alive.

    How this can be defended is incomprehensible.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        Obama just increases and validates my doubts I have had about him all along.

        Conclusion: he is not to be trusted. Just another “weakling” giving in to the schoolyard bully demanding his lunch money. More so now when he has them where he wants them and should be holding all the cards in this “bargain” but instead is willing to give away the store to appease these liars and cheats.

        I’m disgusted.

    • Greywolf says:

      I don’t understand them. I am not rich by any means, but I would be willing to pay more instead of sticking it to the poor. Let those who can afford it pay a bit more; it is that simple.

  3. RalphB says:

    If the GOP was a dog, we’d put it down for it’s own sake.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Obama will speak on the fiscal “cliff” at 1:30PM. Cave time?

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Senate Dems very unhappy with the “deal” now being negotiated. Tom Harkin says:

    “They think Republicans may object? We may object,” Harkin told CNN.

    The Iowa Democrat said he and other progressives are furious about any suggestion of raising the household income threshold to $450,000 for tax cut extensions. President Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to raise rates on households making more than $250,000 a year.

    Many Democrats objected to that higher threshold when briefed by their party’s Senate leadership on Sunday, according to Harkin.

    Harkin also added he is unhappy that Democrats are considering keeping some or all of the estate tax cut in place, and making the Alternative Minimum Tax patch permanent.

    • NW Luna says:

      Dare I hope they are so unhappy they will tell Obama he’s full of bipartisan cowardice?

      Obama would try to buy a new car by offering twice what it was worth. It’s a crying shame we end up suffering for his spinelessness. WTF did this coward win an election for?

    • RalphB says:

      It’s a fundamental mistake to make any deal which doesn’t also take care of the coming debt ceiling blackmail. It does no good to put the problem off for a couple of months and then have the world economy taken hostage by the House economic terrorists again!

      • bostonboomer says:

        That doesn’t seem to be a possibility. We could be looking at four more years of this bullshit.

    • RalphB says:

      By the way, does anyone think Orange Julius can get any deal made in the Senate to pass in the House?

      • bostonboomer says:

        That’s my only hope. I still think going over the cliff is better than what they’re talking about. According to Durbin, this deal doesn’t even reduce the deficit and it will bring in only $800 billion in revenue. It’s a joke.

      • NW Luna says:


      • RalphB says:

        I think the revenue is more like $715 billion. We’re going backward. This is a huge mistake!

      • dakinikat says:

        All of the dems and about 20 repubs need to support it. The question is will he bring it to the floor for a vote and will the dems cave to the whip?

      • bostonboomer says:

        The answer to your question is, yes, the Dems will fold and vote to destroy the U.S. economy and hand even more money to the rich.

  6. Fannie says:

    Why is it important to make the alternataive mimimum tax patch permanent?

  7. NW Luna says:

    Just a repeat of my comment on last thread in re: the Daily Beast CDS Hillary article that JJ linked to. Their “expert” is an infectious disease expert. He should stick to prognostications on influenza and the like. Interesting that they could not find a mild brain injury specialist or a neurologist to talk to them on record.

    Post-concussion rest is not bed rest, it just means don’t do anything which could cause a 2nd head injury.

    Long airplane flights increase risk of clots for anyone, usually in the leg veins. That’s why the advice is to move your legs and walk every so often on long flights. I doubt Hillary is “prone” to clots — but she does have a very high occupational risk with all the travel she does for her job. She is far and away the most-traveled SoS. A venous clot that gets loose may end up in the lung which is nasty and called a pulmonary embolus. A brain clot would have started in the brain or somewhere upstream from the brain.

    Guidelines are to not give anticoagulants if there has been recent trauma. One could, but it’s thought the bleed risk would be too high. So it sounds like they are not as concerned about causing new bleeds — may mean the concussion trauma was extremely mild, which is good — or it’s more important to prevent further clots. Any decision would be based on weighing risks vs benefits.

    So far, there’s no definite information that indicates a poor prognosis, and a few bits that could indicate a very good prognosis. I very much hope it’s the latter case. Speculation could go on forever, but I’m on the side of those who feel public figures don’t need to give out all their medical details in a case like this.

    May Hillary improve completely, and her family have time together without being hounded by the media.

    • Fannie says:

      Thank you much Luna, the media hounds are going pretty low these days. And I am a firm believer in privacy rights (hippa). Clotting is dangerous, and you are right, and her job does have safety concerns.

  8. bostonboomer says:

    I may need a break, because my latest thought is that Obama should be impeached for giving away the store as he seems to be doing.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Why Republicans think they’re winning the fiscal cliff.

      …the Senate had already passed a bill letting those cuts expire back in July because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell figured it would be too politically damaging to block. If Mitt Romney had won the election, that bill would have died. But after Obama won on a platform that was barely about anything aside from letting those tax cuts expire, it seemed inevitable he’d get it done. It was his due.

      To the GOP’s delight, that no longer seems to be the case. In the Obama-Boehner negotiations, the White House offered to raise the threshold from $250,000 to $400,000. McConnell, in his negotiations with Harry Reid and now Joe Biden, has been trying to raise that to $500,000. It’s clear to the Republicans that they will get past the fiscal cliff with a smaller tax increase than they thought. Perhaps much smaller. Huzzah!

      That will set up a fight over the debt ceiling. The Republicans plan to say that now that they broke their pledge and voted for a tax increase, they’ll insist on a dollar of spending cuts for every dollar of debt-ceiling increase — the so-called “Boehner rule”. The White House plans to insist that it won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling at all.

      Republicans I’ve spoken to laugh at this bluster. Obama is already negotiating over the debt ceiling, they point out. He began the fiscal cliff negotiations by saying he wanted a permanent solution to the debt ceiling. Then it was a two-year increase in the debt limit. Now he’s going to sign off on a mini-deal that doesn’t increase the debt ceiling at all. Does that really sound like someone who’s going to hold firm when faced with global economic chaos? The White House always talks tough at the beginning of negotiations and then always folds at the end. Republicans are confident that the debt ceiling will be no different.

      We are headed for European-style austerity and probably global depression, thanks to Obama’s idiotic dream of “bipartisanship.”

      • from the link:

        Anyone looking at these negotiations, especially given Obama’s previous behavior, can’t help but reach one main conclusion: whenever the president says that there’s an issue on which he absolutely, positively won’t give ground, you can count on him, you know, giving way — and soon, too. The idea that you should only make promises and threats you intend to make good on doesn’t seem to be one that this particular president can grasp.

        And that means that Republicans will go right from this negotiation into the debt ceiling in the firm belief that Obama can be rolled.

        At that point he can redeem himself by holding firm — but because the Republicans don’t think he will, they will play tough, almost surely forcing him to actually hit the ceiling with all the costs that entails. And look, if I were a Republican I would also be betting that he’ll cave.

        So Obama has set himself and the nation up for a much uglier confrontation than we would have had if he had set a negotiating position and held to it.

      • NW Luna says:

        We should all send postcards, e-mails, faxes and twitters to Obama: You coward!

    • hyperjoy says:

      I thought the same thing – he should be impeached. I said during the campaign that all liberals should throw their support behind Jill Stein, but alas that did not happen.

  9. Fannie says:

    I hear ya BB…………………we are once again screwed.

  10. Fannie says:

    Then there is Judge Gary Harger in Austin, Texas who says Texas can cut all funds to planned parenthood………………so much for helping poor women in Texas.

  11. RalphB says:

    They’re fucking delusional, that’s the ticket.

    Why the White House thinks it’s winning the ‘fiscal cliff’

    • bostonboomer says:

      Jeeze, when did the projected revenues drop from $800 million to $600 million? I can’t keep up. WTF is the point of this whole exercise? Is this all a buildup to the final cave when Obama hands over the Social Security money to Wall Street?

      • RalphB says:

        Who knows at this point? I’m totally shell shocked by the abject cowardice being displayed!!!!!

      • bostonboomer says:

        Bagdad Bob from your link:

        One problem the White House is having is that their congressional allies don’t see it the way they do. ”The direction they’re headed is just absolutely the wrong direction for our country,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, on the Senate floor today. A top Senate staffer on the Democrats’ side e-mailed me with a similar sentiment. He’d heard the McConnell-Biden deal was in the range of $660 billion. That’s “$940b below the President’s initial position, $340b below Boehner’s last offer, and $140b below the $800b the President told Boehner he gets for free,” he griped.

        Let’s face it, Republicans won the presidential election.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Jonathan Chait:

        Now, by all accounts, Obama is prepared to extend the Bush tax cuts up to $400,000 a year. Or maybe more. As of Friday, Obama had told Republicans they could have the tax cuts extended on income up to $400,000 if they would accept the estate tax rising from its Bush-set rates. As of last night, Democrats were conceding the estate tax plus the higher exemption on tax rates, which had risen to $450,000. And Republicans still hadn’t agreed to it! Why would they, when Democrats keep hurling money at them? By midnight, Republicans might be getting the Saturday Night Live version of Obama’s offer (“a 1% raise on the top two Americans — just two people”).

    • ANonOMouse says:

      This was my favorite line in that link:

      “The estate tax would exempt estates up to $10 million and tax them at 40 percent above” that.”

      Really? We wouldn’t want to tax the poor folks who only inherit a measley $10 million, that would be just too much of a sacrifice. Our society is so fucked up!!!!

      • bostonboomer says:

        Are you kidding? What we need most is for 80-90-yr old women to “feel pain” while guys like Dancin’ Dave get more tax breaks.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I imagine the rafts that will be used to set seniors adrift are already under construction.

        And Wolf Blitzer is on CNN, right now, stating and re-stating, emphatically that “we’re going over the fiscal cliff”.

  12. NW Luna says:

    More idiocy from the gun nuts:

    Health-care law curbs on gun-safety advice tied to NRA

    The words were tucked deep into the sprawling text of President Obama’s signature health-care overhaul. Under the headline, “Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights,” was a brief provision restricting the ability of doctors to gather data about their patients’ gun use — a largely overlooked but significant challenge to a movement in American medicine to treat firearms as a matter of public health. ….

    “This illustrates the fact that the NRA has insinuated themselves into the small crevasses of anything they can to do anything in their power to prohibit sensible gun-safety measures,” said Denise Dowd, an emergency care physician at a Kansas City, Mo., children’s hospital and an adviser on firearms issues to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dowd called the provision in the health-care bill “pretty outrageous,” saying it risked creating a sense among doctors that “this is dangerous information to collect. We ask our patients about many things, not because we’re anti-gun, but because we have an obligation and an ethical duty to keep the kids safe,” she said.

    The pediatricians group last week submitted a strongly-worded letter to the Obama administration saying that pediatric advocates “vehemently reject” the gun provision in the health-care law. The group notes that the provision runs counter to guidelines included in other sections of the legislation that ask family doctors and pediatricians to inquire about the presence of guns in patients’ homes, along with other potential dangers, such as mold, lead, cigarette smoke and a lack of smoke detectors.

  13. NW Luna says:

    Still a long way to go, but better news for workers in China:

    Signs of change take hold in electronics factories in China.

    One day last summer, Pu Xiaolan was halfway through a shift inspecting iPad cases when she received a beige wooden chair with white stripes and a high, sturdy back. At first, Pu wondered if someone had made a mistake. But when her bosses walked by, they just nodded curtly. So Pu gently sat down and leaned back.

    In March, unbeknown to Pu, a critical meeting had occurred between Foxconn’s top executives and a high-ranking Apple official. The companies had committed themselves to a series of wide-ranging reforms. Foxconn, China’s largest private employer, pledged to sharply curtail workers’ hours and significantly increase wages — reforms that, if fully carried out next year as planned, could create a ripple effect that benefits tens of millions of workers across the electronics industry, employment experts say.

  14. NW Luna says:

    Some fun news on the new “MoMath” in NYC:

    Squealing schoolchildren ride a square-wheeled tricycle and a “Coaster Roller” that glides over plastic acorns. Downstairs, they fit monkey magnets together at the “Tessellation Station.”

    This is how math is presented at New York City’s brand-new Museum of Mathematics, the only museum of its kind in the United States and a place where math is anything but boring.

  15. bostonboomer says:

    Any news about whether the “deal” will do anything to keep milk from going up to $8 per gallon?

  16. RalphB says:

    Adding insult to injury.

    So whether this particular deal passes or not, it’s basically a given that the payroll tax holiday is going away, which means a $115 billion fiscal contraction this year directly from the pocketbooks of ordinary Americans. To put that in perspective, the sequester cuts that are so dreaded would cut about $110 billion this year — more or less the same amount. While the fiscal cliff deal will save middle-class families an extra $2,000 in tax pain by extending the Bush tax cuts, anyone who earns $50,000 a year will still be hit with a $1,000 higher payroll tax burden.

    Obama’s wrong: This ‘cliff’ deal still raises taxes on the middle class

  17. dakinikat says:

    Conceder In Chief?

    OK, now for the really bad news. Anyone looking at these negotiations, especially given Obama’s previous behavior, can’t help but reach one main conclusion: whenever the president says that there’s an issue on which he absolutely, positively won’t give ground, you can count on him, you know, giving way — and soon, too. The idea that you should only make promises and threats you intend to make good on doesn’t seem to be one that this particular president can grasp.

    And that means that Republicans will go right from this negotiation into the debt ceiling in the firm belief that Obama can be rolled.

    At that point he can redeem himself by holding firm — but because the Republicans don’t think he will, they will play tough, almost surely forcing him to actually hit the ceiling with all the costs that entails. And look, if I were a Republican I would also be betting that he’ll cave.

  18. bostonboomer says:

    I’ve posted an open thread up above.

  19. dakinikat says:

    Robert Reich
    The deal emerging from the Senate is a lousy one. Let me count the ways:

    1. Republicans haven’t conceded anything on the debt ceiling, so over the next two months – as the Treasury runs out of tricks to avoid a default – Republicans are likely to do exactly what they did before, which is to hold their votes on raising the ceiling hostage to major cuts in programs for the poor and in Medicare and Social Security.

    2. The deal makes tax cuts for the rich permanent (extending the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000 if filing singly and $450,000 if jointly) while extending refundable tax credits for the poor (child tax credit, enlarged EITC, and tuition tax credit) for only five years. There’s absolutely no justification for this asymmetry.

    3. It doesn’t get nearly enough revenue from the wealthiest 2 percent — only $600 billion over the next decade, which is half of what the President called for, and a small fraction of the White House’s goal of more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction. That means more of the burden of tax hikes and spending cuts in future years will fall on the middle class and the poor.

    4. It continues to exempt the first $5 million of inherited wealth from the estate tax (the exemption used to be $1 million). This is a huge gift to the heirs of the wealthy, perpetuating family dynasties of the idle rich.

    Yes, the deal finally gets Republicans to accept a tax increase on the wealthy, but this is an inside-the-Beltway symbolic victory. If anyone believes this will make the GOP more amenable to future tax increases, they don’t know how rabidly extremist the GOP has become.

    The deal also extends unemployment insurance for more than 2 million long-term unemployed. That’s important.

    But I can’t help believe the President could have done better than this. After all, public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side. Republicans would have been blamed had no deal been achieved.

    More importantly, the fiscal cliff is on the President’s side as well. If we go over it, he and the Democrats in the next Congress that starts later this week can quickly offer legislation that grants a middle-class tax cut and restores most military spending. Even rabid Republicans would be hard-pressed not to sign on.