Skip to main content


Showing posts from April, 2011

The Daily News' Howard Gensler treats sex assault like a joke

I guess that gossip columnists are supposed to be a guilty pleasure, but there's nothing really pleasurable about the scribblings of Howard Gensler at the Philadelphia Daily News. I've not got the energy to go back and round up links of what I consider the routine misogyny he displays in his column. Instead, I'll just go ahead and say that today's entry is pretty representative of Gensler's work:
LENNY DYKSTRA may no longer be playing baseball, but he still likes to take his bat out of the rack.

In December, Lenny was accused of bouncing a $1,000 check to a female escort. In January, he was accused of sexual assault by his housekeeper, who claimed that Lenny had forced her to provide weekly oral sexual favors. The Los Angeles Times quoted her as saying she "needed the job and the money" so she went along with Lenny's requests.

Lenny always could get to third base.Haha! Third base! A baseball joke! Get it! Because forced sexual assault is funny!

Me? I t…


Taken at Schuylkill River Park

Jo and T

Taken at Schuylkill River Park

The rich are not unduly burdened by taxes (A continuing series)

Via Paul Krugman, a chart that reminds us the rich aren't unduly burdened by taxes:

On a related note, there's been a lot of effort lately from my conservative friends to assert that merely raising taxes on the rich won't solve America's long-term deficit problem. And you know what? I think they're right! The middle class is going to have to ante up a bit if it wants to maintain some of the services it likes so much. So if Dems suggest they can pay for everything simply by larding up marginal tax rates, well, they're probably wrong or lying.


It's also true that the effective tax rates on the super-rich are the lowest they've been in recent memory. And it's true we face a long-term deficit problem. And it's also true that we were digging ourselves out of debt under the Clinton-era marginal tax rates that are slightly higher than they are now. But it's also true that the Republican plan going forward is to ... further reduce taxes on…

Ed Whelan says I'm confused about Vaughn Walker and Prop 8. Am I?

At National Review, Ed Whelan takes issue with my criticism of his call to have the Prop 8 verdict set aside. He lumps me in with the folks at Media Matters:
Meanwhile, the only two defenses of Walker’s non-recusal that I’ve run across conveniently misrepresent my argument. Media Matters falsely contends that I am arguing that Walker “should be disqualified because of his sexual orientation” (I have never made that argument) and conflates that argument with my argument that Walker should have disqualified himself because he was in a long-term same-sex relationship. And Cup O’ Joel likewise wrongly claims that I am arguing that Walker’s ruling must be vacated “because Walker has recently come out of the closet and thus can’t be considered impartial.” The implications that the two bloggers claim would flow from my argument rest entirely on their confusion.I'll gladly cop to occasional confusion, but not to "conveniently misrepresenting" Whelan's argument--at least, inte…

Donald Trump and the Republican birthers

That the topic of this week's Scripps column with Ben Boychuk. I'm a little closer to the edge of vitriol this week than I usually like to be, but some topics elicit only contempt from me. And, uh, Trump isn't the target of my ire:
Here's the difference between Democrats and Republicans: Democrats who embrace conspiracy-minded nonsense are chased from public life.

Republicans who do the same are vaulted into the front ranks of presidential contenders.

That's why Van Jones was rightly forced to resign from the Obama Administration in 2009; he'd signed a petition calling for an investigation of the government's secret involvement in the 9/11 attacks on America. His apparent belief in discredited "truther" theories destroyed Jones' credibility and made it impossible for him to serve the president effectively.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, wasn't on anyone's list of presidential candidates until he started giving interviews embracing "birth…

Matt Miller on Paul Ryan's really awful budget

For the life of me I don’t understand why the press doesn’t shove this fact in front of every Republican who says the debt limit cannot be raised unless serious new spending cuts are put in place. The supposedly “courageous,” “visionary” Paul Ryan plan — which already contains everything Republicans can think of in terms of these spending cuts — would add more debt than we’ve ever seen over a 10-year period in American history. Yet Ryan and other House GOP leaders continue to make outrageous statements to the contrary. Without blushing. And without anyone calling them on it. “The spending spree is over,” Ryan said the other day, after the House passed his blueprint. “We cannot keep spending money we don’t have.” Except that by his own reckoning Ryan is planning to spend $6 trillion we don’t have in the next decade alone. “We have too many people worried about the next election and not worried about the next generation,” Ryan added. So Ryan is expressing his concern by adding at least…

Grover Norquist's latest very bad idea

My preference would be to keep the administration on a short leash and extend the debt limit by only a small amount and for a short period of time. This debt-limit increase is one of the few pieces of legislation that Obama must sign. Why not have such an extension every month and attach to each of them something small, reasonable, and related to debt or spending?via That's Grover Norquist, in an NRO symposium about whether Congress should raise the debt ceiling. His proposal, of course, would tie Washington down in never-ending debates about the debt ceiling and the budget, leaving the government with no energy or capacity to focus on anything else. Which might be Norquist's aim. But that doesn't mean the rest of us should sign on.

What Col. Qaddafi learned from Iraq

Sending advisers to Libya is the latest in a series of signs of trouble for the NATO campaign, which began in earnest with a stinging, American-led attack but has seemed to fizzle since operational command was transferred to NATO on March 31. After that, a rebel offensive was smashed by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces, which sent the rebels reeling toward the eastern city of Ajdabiya. New tactics used by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces — mixing with civilian populations, camouflaging weapons and driving pickup trucks instead of military vehicles — have made it hard for NATO pilots to find targets. At the same time, loyalist artillery and tanks have hammered the rebel-held city of Misurata with cluster bombs, which have been banned by much of the world, making a mockery of NATO’s central mission of protecting civilians.via I don't know if Col. Qaddafi learned these tactics by watching the war in Iraq. But I do know they're pretty classic insurgent tactics. If you've g…

LZ Granderson: The favorite openly gay dad of social conservatives everywhere

Interesting phenomenon the last couple of days: A few of my socially conservative Facebook friends have posted a link to this LZ Granderson essay about the oversexualization of young girls. An excerpt:
And then I realize as creepy as it is to think a store like Abercrombie is offering something like the "Ashley", the fact remains that sex only sells because people are buying it. No successful retailer would consider introducing an item like a padded bikini top for kindergartners if they didn't think people would buy it.

If they didn't think parents would buy it, which raises the question: What in the hell is wrong with us?Sensible stuff, hitting that sweet spot where social conservatives and feminist liberals can find common ground. And I don't think my socially conservative friends know each other, which indicates the essay is going viral. But I wouldn't mention it except for one thing: LZ Granderson is gay. Openly gay. With a teen son. He's a gay dad.

A …

Are you ready for some football! And mourning?

There's something that kind of weirds me out about how the national commemoration of 9/11 has been somewhat co-opted by the NFL:
NEW YORK -- The New York Giants will visit the Washington Redskins and the New York Jets will host the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 11, marking the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The first Sunday features several high-profile games, including Indianapolis at Houston and Atlanta at Chicago. But much of the national focus will be on Washington and New York, the two cities most affected by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"That stadium is going to be full of emotion, not only the people from the area but in the entire country," said Jets coach Rex Ryan, who will be matching wits with his brother, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. "The fact that it's the 10th anniversary of 9/11, that's where the focus should be, not me playing against my brother."

"For nearly 10 …

Today in inequality reading: What's your CEO making?

The AFL-CIO has launched a new website focused on CEO pay:
The site, 2011 Executive Paywatch, notes that total compensation for C.E.O.’s averaged $11.4 million in 2010, up 23 percent from the previous year, based on the most recent pay data for 299 major companies.

The Web site notes that the C.E.O.’s at those 299 companies received a combined total of $3.4 billion in pay in 2010, enough to support 102,325 jobs paying the median wage.

The Web site notes that chief executives’ compensation is 343 times the median pay — $33,190 — of American workers. It adds that the $11.4 million average for C.E.O.’s is 28 times the pay of President Obama, 213 time the median pay of police officers, 225 times teacher pay, 252 times firefighter pay, and 753 times the pay of the minimum-wage worker.Did you do 23 percent better in 2010 than 2009? I sure didn't. Did your company add that much value to its bottom line? Maybe, maybe not.

I don't doubt that CEOs create value for their companies, and th…

Thomas Sowell doesn't know what he's talking about in Philly schools

Thomas Sowell says the key to stopping bullying is empowering educators to dispense with the bullies without due process or fear of lawsuits. As proof of educational namby-pambyness, he throws in this aside:
For years, there have been stories in New York and Philadelphia newspapers about black kids beating up Asian classmates. But do not expect anybody to do anything that is likely to put a stop to it.

If these were white kids beating up Hispanic kids, cries of outrage would ring out across the land from the media, the politicians, the churches, and civic groups. But it is not politically correct to make a fuss when black kids beat up Asian kids.But there was a huge fuss in Philadelphia. It was on the cover of Philadelphia Weekly, and when a mini-riot happened at South High, it resulted in weeks of media coverage—I covered a couple of the protests myself—and a change in the school's administration. That led to the Philadelphia Inquirer's huge week of stories this spring about v…

Prop 8 and Judge Vaughn Walker: Gay judges are automatically unqualified

Ed Whelan makes the case in National Review that Judge Vaughn Walker's decision overturning Prop 8 in California be set aside because Walker has recently come out of the closet and thus can't be considered impartial:
Two weeks ago, former federal district judge Vaughn Walker, who ruled last summer in Perry v. Schwarzenegger that California’s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, publicly disclosed for the first time that he has been in a same-sex relationship for the past ten years. A straightforward application of the judicial ethics rules compels the conclusion that Walker should have recused himself from taking part in the Perry case. Further, under well-established Supreme Court precedent, the remedy of vacating Walker’s judgment is timely and necessary.As a practical matter, I'm unsure if Whelan's thinking will carry the day. As a broader matter, I find it discomfitting: Would we ask an African-American judge to step aside in a race discrimination case? A female judg…

The anti-immigration movement: Brought to you by eugenicist John Tanton

One recurring theme in the anti-abortion movement is that organizations like Planned Parenthood are the fruits of bad seeds—irrevocably tainted by events that happened decades ago. And so you see frequent invocations of "eugenicist Margaret Sanger" in these debates. By that standard, then, I guess it's fair to accompany every single mention of the modern anti-immigration movement with a reference to eugenicist John Tanton—who helped create Numbers USA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the Center for Immigration Studies.

Here's a key excerpt from Sunday's profile in the New York Times:
But if anything, Dr. Tanton grew more emboldened to challenge taboos. He increasingly made his case against immigration in racial terms.

“One of my prime concerns,” he wrote to a large donor, “is about the decline of folks who look like you and me.” He warned a friend that “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, …

Billy Eger returns

I was worried he'd stopped paying attention. Billy Eger's latest:

Your definitely not an accounted,your definitely a communist liberal loser,you have 2 braincells an 1s out looking for the other one.Joel you really can't be this stupid ,but ,then again you think your a journalists,far, far,far from it.its ok,cause soon thier won't be print media an your stupidity will NOT grace the paper anymore unless sum1 goes online too read your immature beliefs,wich I doubt they will do.have a crappy day Asshole .oh all those loser government workers who enslave themselves to the sleeper cell in the whitehouse,fuck them,those people need to get a life ,its all corrupt DEMS an Republicans,don't need to be in public schools or tell me what too eat,drive or breath,this was created by banks that didn't even need to be bailed out. It's the next ponzi scheme,they ran out of tax dollars because of layoffs an jobs leaving country they have to devise way to tax u so they can hav…

Today in inequality reading: Barlett and Steele return

In short, corporate America does not come close to paying its fair share of government's cost. Nor, obviously, is it called upon to make any human sacrifice. As for all those hundreds of billions, they simply were and are added to the national debt, a tab that will be borne disproportionately by working Americans.What kind of corporation escapes responsibility for any of these bills? Carnival Cruise Lines for one, a Miami company whose glitzy megaships have names like Carnival Fantasy, Ecstasy, Elation, and Paradise. From 2005 to 2010, Carnival - the world's largest cruise carrier - racked up $13 billion in profits. The company's tax bill for those years? Chump change of $191 million. That's million. And that included U.S. income tax, foreign income, and local income tax. The overall tax rate came in at 1.4 percent. This even though the ships sail out of Miami and are inspected by the Coast Guard.Middle America has not fared nearly so well, thanks to a Congress that li…

Songs on my iPod with 'America' in the title

• "America" by Neil Diamond.• "America" by Simon & Garfunkel.• "America (Reprise)" by Neil Diamond.• "An American in Paris" conducted by Leonard Bernstein.• "American Music" by Violent Femmes.• "The American Patrol" by The Glenn Miller Orchestra.• "American Wedding" by Gogol Bordello.


"When Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure, he's just being America's accountant ... This is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill -- but wasn't paid for," Mr. Obama told his supporters. "So it's not on the level."via

We don't have a spending problem. We have a paying problem.

via I don't think we need to bring tax revenues up to Norway levels. But ... this is why I don't trust deficit-reduction plans that involve huge tax cuts. (I could see rate cuts as part of a tax reform package that eliminated loopholes, but Paul Ryan's plan seems aimed more at cutting revenues to government.)

Raise the debt ceiling

Ben and I tackle the debt ceiling vote in our newest Scripps columnWhen you're out driving with your family and see a stop sign ahead, how do you usually handle the situation? Do you wait until the very last second, then slam on the breaks -- hurtling your passengers forward against their seat belts and causing bruised ribs and bloody noses, along with no small amount of unnecessary alarm? Do you ignore the stop sign altogether and drive right on through, oblivious to crossing traffic?If you're a halfway decent driver, you do neither of these things. You try to slow down gently and calmly before coming to a full stop -- knowing that the panic-driven way of halting might be just as injurious as plunging through the intersection. This, roughly, is the situation we face with the debt ceiling.Simply put, if the feds try to completely slam the breaks on federal spending now, we'll end up in a fair amount of pain. Under one scenario, America would simply stop making interest pay…

Raise the debt ceiling

Ben and I tackle the debt ceiling vote in our newest Scripps columnWhen you're out driving with your family and see a stop sign ahead, how do you usually handle the situation? Do you wait until the very last second, then slam on the breaks -- hurtling your passengers forward against their seat belts and causing bruised ribs and bloody noses, along with no small amount of unnecessary alarm? Do you ignore the stop sign altogether and drive right on through, oblivious to crossing traffic?If you're a halfway decent driver, you do neither of these things. You try to slow down gently and calmly before coming to a full stop -- knowing that the panic-driven way of halting might be just as injurious as plunging through the intersection. This, roughly, is the situation we face with the debt ceiling.Simply put, if the feds try to completely slam the breaks on federal spending now, we'll end up in a fair amount of pain. Under one scenario, America would simply stop making interest pay…

The wealthy aren't unduly burdened by taxes

With Tax Day fast approaching and deficit reduction all the rage, one fact deserves significant attention: the wealthy are enjoying the some of the lowest taxes in generations. The Figure shows the average tax rate in 1979, 1992, and 2007, as well as the tax rate for the top 1% of households, and the top 400 households (who have an average annual income of nearly $350 million).  Since 1979, the country’s overall average tax rate—the share of income paid in taxes—has fallen slightly, but for those at the top of the earnings ladder this share has fallen dramatically.

via It may not be the case that we can solve all our problems by increasing taxes on the wealthy. But it's also not the case that the wealthy are stumbling under the weight of an overbearing tax burden in the United States, either.

Terry Bradshaw's concussions

Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw says he’s feeling the effects of numerous concussions sustained during his NFL career.Bradshaw, a 62-year-old Shreveport, La., native, says he has been having short-term memory loss as well as the loss of hand-eye coordination. He also said he is undergoing rehabilitation for those ailments. “I forgot the numbers. It’s pretty staggering,” Bradshaw said. “If you play in the NFL and start for 10 years, it’s not good. It is not good.”via There is part of me here that says: "So what?" Coal miners, for example, see their lives shortened pretty regularly by the work they do, but I'm not going without electricity. So if Terry Bradshaw finds himself harmed by the same work that made him rich and famous, who am I to complain? The difference here, of course, is that electricity is a vital and necessary component of modern life. We can't really live without it. Terry Bradshaw scrambled his brain ... so we could be entertaine…

Big Gubmint for its own sake

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said in a speech on the floor Tuesday that “too often, it seems, Democrats in Washington claim to be interested in helping those in need, when what they really seek is to protect big government.”via I hear this a lot from my conservative friends, and I guess my question is: To what end? Why would we love big government if not as an ends to helping those in need? Conservatives value small government for its own sake--they believe smaller government produces more liberty. I think that's an insight worth considering, frankly. But some of my conservative friends (like Mitch McConnell above) seem to then assume the inverse is true: Liberals want Big Government because, well, we really love Big Government. It doesn't really make sense. The truth is that lots of liberals really do want to help the less-fortunate, and see government programs and regulation as the best way to do so. There's nothing tricky about it…


They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors each to pay $6,000 more in health costs.  That’s not right.  And it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.Barack Obama, via If you don't believe government should be in the business of defraying health costs for the elderly, this probably doesn't move you. I've got to think there are more than a few independent voters out there who would agree with the president.

Barack Obama didn't make the deficit by himself. Neither did Social Security.

But as far back as the 1980s, America started amassing debt at more alarming levels, and our leaders began to realize that a larger challenge was on the horizon.  They knew that eventually, the Baby Boom generation would retire, which meant a much bigger portion of our citizens would be relying on programs like Medicare, Social Security, and possibly Medicaid.  Like parents with young children who know they have to start saving for the college years, America had to start borrowing less and saving more to prepare for the retirement of an entire generation. via Still reading my way through Obama's speech, but it's worth noting that the long-term deficit problem we have today didn't start with Social Security back in the Roosevelt era or Medicaid back in the LBJ years. It started in the 1980s...roughly the same time we started getting a generation of politicians who told us we shouldn't have to pay for the government we get. As I said in the Scripps column l…

Somebody tell Tom Corbett

The total number of job openings in February was 3.1 million, and the total number of unemployed workers was 13.7 million (unemployment is from the Current Population Survey).  The ratio of unemployed workers to job openings was 4.4-to-1 in February, a substantial improvement from the revised January ratio of 5.1-to-1.  However, February marks 26 months that the “job-seeker’s ratio” has been substantially above the 4-to-1 ratio.  A job seeker’s ratio of 4-to-1 means that for 3 out of 4 unemployed workers, there simply are no jobs.via

A fantasy budget for liberals that will never, ever happen

The People’s Budget would finance $1.7 trillion worth of public investment over the next decade, most of which is front-loaded over the next five years. The budget would strengthen Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable earnings. The budget also would accrue health savings of $308 billion over the next decade, primarily by creating a public option for health insurance and negotiating prescription drug prices for Medicare Part D.The budget would reduce conventional and strategic military forces, for savings of $692 billion and end all emergency war supplemental appropriations for savings of $1.6 trillion. Finally, individual and corporate tax reform would ensure sufficient revenue to cover federal outlays by the end of the decade.via

Today in inequality reading: Feminism edition

If different occupations don’t explain the pay gap, might it be caused by women’s decisions to work less outside the home in order to care for their children? Researchers have found that even when differences in work experience, education, age, and occupation are held constant, women continue to earn less. In fact, research by Columbia University social work professor Jane Waldfogel reveals that mothers receive a 4 percent wage penalty for the first child and a 12 percent penalty for each additional child. In contrast, University of Washington economists Shelly Lundberg and Elaina Rose find that men’s wages increase 9 percent with the birth of their first child. One possible explanations sociologists offer is that, upon parenthood, men are perceived as more committed to their work and women less.via My conservative friends shrug off the pay gap as being a result of the different choices men and women tend to make: Women stay home with kids for at least a little while…

We're No. 5! We're No. 5!

Perhaps I just lack the mentality of a true winner, but there's something weird to me about the way this New York Times story is framed:The United States continues to lag other nations in its use of computing and communications technology, according to an annual study issued Tuesday by the World Economic Forum.That's awful! We need to win the future and build a bridge to the 21st century! Otherwise our kids will someday play with their iPads while more forward-thinking countries use personal holograms in the classroom! Oh the humanity!For the second consecutive year, the United States finished fifth in the study’s comparison of 138 countries that make up 98.8 percent of the world’s total gross domestic product. Sweden was first, followed by Singapore, Finland and Switzerland.Wait. What? We're No. 5? Out of 138 countries? That puts us in the top 3.6 percent of nations? And we're much, much, much bigger than the nations ahead of us—meaning their higher ranking might be p…

Why can't Chuck Grassley just say no to Trump?

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a longtime GOP leader in the Hawkeye State, tells National Review Online that he is open to hearing Donald Trump’s case for the presidency. But that’s where his enthusiasm ends. “I’ll listen to anybody,” he says, “but I wish that General Petraeus would get interested. I’ve only had one person in Iowa ask me about Donald Trump.”via Obviously, this is a long way from being a full-throated endorsement of Donald Trump on Grassley's part. But given that Donald Trump is a reality TV host who has lately been doubling- and tripling-down on "birther" accusations against President Obama, would it hurt Grassley to skip the politeness and say flatly: "This guy has no credibility"? Is he being overly polite, or is the Republican party that far gone these days that even the worst conspiracy-driven vanity candidates must be given a respectful hearing?

Today in inequality reading: Kevin D. Williamson

The numbers generally cited in support of this argument do not actually tell us much about what has happened to the incomes of wealthy households over time. That’s because the people who are in the top bracket today are not the people who were in the top bracket last year. There’s a good deal of socioeconomic mobility in the United States — more than you’d think. Our dear, dear friends at the IRS keep track of actual households (boy, do they ever!), and sometimes the Treasury publishes data about what has happened to them. For instance, among those who in 1996 were in the very highest income group isolated for study — the top 0.01 percent — 75 percent were in a lower income group by 2005. The median real income of super-rich households went down, not up. The rich got poorer. Among actual households, income grew proportionally more for those who started off in the low-income groups than those that began in high-income groups.Kevin D. Williamson, via This piece appeare…

Listening to my iPod songs, A-Z

Started my iPod from the beginning of the song list this morning. There's 5,000 songs on there, so this project might take ... awhile. Here's the first 10 selections:• "Abandon Love," by Drakkar Sauna.• "Abigail, Belle of Kilronan," by Magnetic Fields.• "About A Girl," by Nirvana.• "About Face," by Grizzly Bear.• "About Her," by Malcolm McLaren.• "Abracadabra," by Judee Sill.• "Absolutely Cuckoo," by Magnetic Fields.• "Acapulco," by Neil Diamond.• "Accidents Will Happen," by Elvis Costello & The Attractions.• "Ach, Elslein, liebest Elslein," King's Singers.

Congress and war

What dirty hippie said this?:
"The Constitution vests the power of declaring war with Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject, and authorized such a measure."Just George Washington is all. Conor Friedersdorf notes: "So 218 years ago, the ratification of the Constitution having just occurred, the first president of the United States insisted in the face of raids on the homeland, and the virtual certainty of future attacks, that he couldn't commit to a military response without the permission of the United States Congress."

I'm sure John Yoo, Dick Cheney, and (cough, sputter) Barack Obama would be happy to set George Washington straight. One of those three actually used to talk the same way.

Deborah Solomon is gone, but her spirit still lives at the New York Times

I rejoiced when Deborah Solomon's needlessly inane interviews disappeared from the Sunday Times Magazine. Unfortunately, they've been replaced with ... needlessly inane interviews. Take this Q&A with CBS anchor Katie Couric:
Since your new book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives,” is about great advice, imagine that your boss, Les Moonves, called you on Christmas 2009 and said: “Charlie Sheen was just arrested for holding his wife at knife point. He has a history of this sort of behavior with women, but he makes a ton of money for the network.” What do you tell him?
Fire him.

Have you told him as much?
No. He hasn’t really sought my advice on Charlie Sheen. I hope what Charlie Sheen did wouldn’t be consistent with the values of this network. That’s probably an unrealistic response, but that’s my initial gut reaction. Luckily, that’s not my job.

Did you feel less proud going to work at CBS knowing that he was essentially a colleague?
I don’t re…

Single-Tasking Sundays: Week Two

"Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life."

Our second Single-Tasking Sunday occurred the same day Virginia Heffernan's column, debunking the notion of Internet addiction, appeared in the New York Times. New pastimes have often drawn widespread condemnation, she noted, but today's Web-enmeshed folks are merely finding new ways to play, do some intellectual exploration, and (yes) waste time that might be used clearning house.

At first, this might seem to rebuke my efforts to create a day each week that isn't dominated by the Internet and electronic doo-dads. I don't think so, in part because I believe Heffernan is largely correct.

After all, I spent a day last week hosting a Facebook thread about Paul Ryan's proposed budget, a sometimes fierce blow-by-blow that featured contributions from really smart and passionate people from coast-to-coast--some of whom I have never met in person, but whose place in my circle of online friends I find noneth…

Paul Ryan's budget

Ben and I discuss it in our Scripps Howard column this week. My take:
Credit Paul Ryan for bravery: He has done what Republicans avoided doing for decades -- show exactly how the party would cut government.

Americans may not like taxes, but they do like government services.

Just don't give Ryan too much credit.

Why? Because his proposal is not entirely honest. Ryan presents cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and Pell Grants as a means to preserve the safety net for America's poorest. But many of Ryan's conservative allies see the proposal as an opening gambit to undo the welfare state entirely and turn the clock back to the 1920s, when the sick and elderly suffered needlessly. Back down, and it won't be long before we're debating whether the programs should exist.

Why? Because Ryan's diagnosis is wrong, treating government spending as though it is the main cause of America's recent financial troubles.

That's wrong: Wall Street went on a gambling s…

Congressman Kevin McCarthy's mighty big bootstraps

Last week I noted that the Koch brothers believe in the power of hard work and free enterprise because they turned themselves from millionaires into billionaires—seemingly missing the point that it's lots easier to become a billionaire if you start out with some word ending in "illionaire" as a description of your monetary worth.

Via Adam Serwer, I note that GOP Congressman Kevin McCarthy has a similar story to tell.
FOX: Sure. Such a good point. You would actually know something about the American dream because going... in the Wayback Machine for a moment... you won the California lottery.

McCARTHY: On my first ticket. I was 19. I won the lottery. I could do one of two things: I could become Charlie Sheen and throw a big party, but I chose to invest in the market, and after a while... I decided to invest in the American dream and open my own small business. [Despite] the challenge of government regulation, luckily I was successful, and at the end of two years, I then had…

My Glenn Beck prediction

I've already said this on Twitter, but want to preserve this at the blog so that I can say "I told you so" in about two years.

My prediction is this: Within two years, Glenn Beck remakes himself as a David Brock/Arianna Huffington lefty 'disillusioned' with the right. He'll be so good at it that liberals will ... like him. Beck's left himself plenty of escape hatches along the way, with the "rodeo clown just trying to understand stuff" routine he does. He'll say: "Well, I understand now! And once Fox realized I was going places that weren't in line with GOP orthodoxy, they got rid of me!"

When I fall for this, I ask that one of you slap me. Hard.

'Never in history has liberals abstaining from a vote lead to a more progressive government'

Adam Serwer casts his lot with the lesser of the two evils:
Liberals may ultimately come back to the Democrats, but this isn't merely out of blind loyalty or because they're easily manipulated by cheap Democratic fearmongering. It's because the consequences of Republican dominance are anything but abstract.And that makes sense. But there has to be something better for liberals than hoping for better Democratic governance and shrugging our shoulders when we don't get it. (Read Serwer's post, and that's more or less what his position amounts to.) On the civil liberties front, there are plenty of allies across the political spectrum—including, yes, the libertarian-oriented right—that a coalition that exerts real pressure and that can cause real pain ought to be possible. Perhaps I'm too optimistic. But seeing "civil liberties" as the cause of a narrow portion of the Democratic base, I think, is viewing things too narrowly—as is the idea that those of …

The end of Barack Obama

First, do no harm.

That's where I start with my philosophy of governance. Maybe it sounds conservative. I don't think conservatives would have me as one of their own, though, because I think it is also wise—where possible—for republican government (as the servant of the community) to provide services we can't otherwise provide for ourselves. A safety net for the poor. Universal healthcare. NPR. Stuff like that.

But a government charged with providing such services to—and on behalf of—the citizens has a basic obligation that supersedes those: Do no harm.

Do not torture people.

Do not lock away people without due process of law.

Do not eavesdrop on people without a warrant.

Do not subject people to cruel and unusual punishment.

Do not deprive people of their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

If a government cannot do those things, the rest—the social services, the safety net—is just a payoff. If a government cannot do those things, then it is probably…

Who wins under Paul Ryan's budget plan?

Chait: "Americans overwhelmingly oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Ryan understands he can only make his plan acceptable if those cuts are seen as necessary to save the programs.

And certainly some level of cutting is necessary. But Ryan's level of cutting goes far beyond what's needed to preserve those programs, and it does so in order to clear room for a very large, regressive tax cut. He is making a choice -- not just cut Medicare to save Medicare, but also to cut Medicare in order to cut taxes for the rich."

Barack Obama and Bradley Manning

A petition: "President Obama was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander in chief meets fundamental standards of decency. He should not merely assert that Manning’s confinement is “appropriate and meet[s] our basic standards,” as he did recently. He should require the Pentagon publicly to document the grounds for its extraordinary actions—and immediately end those that cannot withstand the light of day."

Can Obama be trusted on civil liberties?

No: "Since his January 2009 inauguration, President Obama has embraced positions that he denounced as a candidate, presided over a War on Drugs every bit as absurd as it's always been, asserted the unchecked, unreviewable power to name American citizens enemy combatants and assassinate them, and launched a war without seeking Congressional authorization. His attorney general's efforts to live up to his boss' campaign rhetoric have been thwarted at every turn. And presiding over the disgraceful treatment of Bradley Manning, he has lost the right even to tout his record on detainee policy. On civil liberties, President Obama cannot be trusted."

Adam Serwer on Obama's failures

Co-sign.: "Point is, though, if you voted for Obama in 2008 expecting a restoration of the rule of law, a rejection of the Bush national-security paradigm or even a candidate who wouldn't rush headlong into wars in Muslim countries expecting to turn back the current of history through mere force of will, then you don't have a candidate for 2012. You probably don't have a party either."

Corporate America has a smaller tax bill than you do

Nancy Folbre: Tax Havens and Treasure Hunts -

"Our budget deficit would be smaller – and pressure to cut social programs lower – if corporate tax revenues had not declined over time relative to gross domestic product and relative to individual income tax revenues.

Corporate America is a world leader in creative tax minimization. As David Kocieniewski reported in The New York Times, General Electric used some particularly innovative strategies to take advantage of overseas tax havens, including “offshore profit-shifting.”

The Boeing Corporation, a major federal contractor, has had a net rebate in federal taxes over the last three years, and a total tax rate of 4.5 percent over the last five years, though the company points to pension contributions and research credits that have reduced the bill.

In 2008, the Government Accountability Office reported that 83 of the 100 largest publicly traded corporations in the United States had subsidiaries in jurisdictions listed as ta…

Single-Tasking Sundays: Week One

The first Single-Tasking Sunday is over, and I think I can call it a success. I confess to using my phone to make a call and peak in the world on Sunday morning, but otherwise managed to keep the day clear of e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and a host of other electronic distractions. In the morning, we had breakfast and read the papers. (Actual papers.) Around midday we did some housecleaning. In the afternoon, my wife and I went to see a movie and have dinner. Very relaxing all around.

In some respects, it wasn't an extraordinary day. It was just ... quieter. Two moments stood out for me.

• We took a brief break from our mid-day chores. Often, these 10-minute breaks involve iPhones, iPads, and all manner of diddling around—to the point that chores are never returned to. On Sunday, I just sat. We had a Billie Holiday album playing on our sound system, and so I listened. Music is often background noise for me; on Sunday, for a few minutes, it moved to the foreground.

• At dinner, I fou…

Today in inequality reading: Real economic stability

New York Times:
"But many of the jobs being added in retail, hospitality and home health care, to name a few categories, are unlikely to pay enough for workers to cover the cost of fundamentals like housing, utilities, food, health care, transportation and, in the case of working parents, child care.

A separate report being released Friday tries to go beyond traditional measurements like the poverty line and minimum wage to show what people need to earn to achieve a basic standard of living.

The study, commissioned by Wider Opportunities for Women, a nonprofit group, builds on an analysis the group and some state and local partners have been conducting since 1995 on how much income it takes to meet basic needs without relying on public subsidies. The new study aims to set thresholds for economic stability rather than mere survival, and takes into account saving for retirement and emergencies."
As it happens, I've been thinking a lot about this National Affairs essay by Yuva…