07/05/2011 archive

None of These People Are “Normal”

There are no more “normal” people in charge of government these days, nor are any of them reasonable:

Paul Krugman Not A normal Party:

But I’m unreliable and shrill, of course – you weren’t supposed to realize that the GOP had gone off the deep end that early in the game.

David Brooks: The Mother of All No-Brainers

If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases.

A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.

This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.

Richard Cohen: A grand old cult

Someone ought to study the Republican Party. I am not referring to yet another political scientist but to a mental health professional, preferably a specialist in the power of fixations, obsessions and the like. The GOP needs an intervention. It has become a cult.

To become a Republican, one has to take a pledge. It is not enough to support the party or mouth banalities about Ronald Reagan; one has to promise not to give the government another nickel. This is called the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” issued by Americans for Tax Reform, an organization headed by the chirpy Grover Norquist. He once labeled the argument that an estate tax would affect only the very rich “the morality of the Holocaust.” Anyone can see how singling out the filthy rich and the immensely powerful and asking them to ante up is pretty much the same as Auschwitz and that sort of thing.


This intellectual rigidity has produced a GOP presidential field that’s a virtual political Jonestown. The Grand Old Party, so named when it really did evoke America, has so narrowed its base that it has become a political cult. It is a redoubt of certainty over reason and in itself significantly responsible for the government deficit that matters most: leadership. That we can’t borrow from China.

Time in House Could Be Short for Republican Newcomers

It is miles to go before the 2012 Congressional races begin in earnest, but already some of the 87 freshmen who helped the Republicans win back the House last year are bracing for a challenge from within the party. At least half a dozen potential primary challengers to freshmen are considering a run, and there is heated chatter about more.

In some ways, the freshmen are responsible for their own predicament. Many won their seats after successfully challenging establishment Republicans in primaries, proving that a combination of gumption and the right political climate could overcome the advantages of incumbency.

Now, to some of the impatient and ideological voters who sent them to Washington to change things, the new House members may be seen as the establishment, and they face the disconcerting prospect of immediately defending themselves in the political marketplace.

The White House and the Democratic leadership aren’t any better having dropped the ball and allowed a small “cult” of unreasonable people to dictate the game. Obama was suppose to be “the adult in the room” according to his fans. He could have easily had the upper hand in his first two years in office if he had listened to reason about the economy and put his “foot down” like an “adult”. There is little reason to think that the Democrats will listen to “normal” people now

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Here is the first Punting the Pundits published July 5, 2010.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

New York Times Editorial: More Folly in the Debt Limit Talks

Congressional Republicans have opened a new front in the deficit wars. In addition to demanding trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for raising the nation’s debt limit, they are now vowing not to act without first holding votes in each chamber on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

The ploy is more posturing on an issue that has already seen too much grandstanding. But it is posturing with a dangerous purpose: to further distort the terms of the budget fight, and in the process, to entrench the Republicans’ no-new-taxes-ever stance.

Frank Rich: Obama’s Original Sin

The president’s failure to demand a reckoning from the moneyed interests who brought the economy down has cursed his first term, and could prevent a second.

What haunts the Obama administration is what still haunts the country: the stunning lack of accountability for the greed and misdeeds that brought America to its gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression. There has been no legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers. Nor have there been meaningful reforms that might prevent a repeat catastrophe. Time may heal most wounds, but not these. Chronic unemployment remains a constant, painful reminder of the havoc inflicted on the bust’s innocent victims. As the ghost of Hamlet’s father might have it, America will be stalked by its foul and unresolved crimes until they “are burnt and purged away.


“A nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous,” Obama declared at his inauguration. What he said on that bright January morning is no less true or stirring now. For all his failings since, he is the only one who can make this case. There’s nothing but his own passivity to stop him from doing so-and from shaking up the administration team that, well beyond the halfway-out-the-door Geithner and his Treasury Department, has showered too many favors on the prosperous. This will mean turning on his own cadre of the liberal elite. But it’s essential if he is to call the bluff of a fake man-of-the-people like Romney. To differentiate himself from the discredited Establishment, he will have to mount the fight he has ducked for the past three years.

The alternative is a failure of historic proportions. Those who gamed the economy to near devastation – so much so that the nation turned to an untried young leader in desperation and in hope – would once again inherit the Earth. Unless and until there’s a purging of the crimes that brought our president to his unlikely Inauguration Day, much more in America than the second term of his administration will be at stake.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The New War of Independence – Against Corporate Politics

This is the age of corporatized politics. That means we may admire our leaders, but we can’t depend on them. We’re paying the price for Thomas Jefferson’s unfulfilled desire to “crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

This July 4th, politics is too important to be left to the politicians. The stakes are too high and the system is too broken. Citizen action is everyone’s job now, and it will be as long as our political debate focuses on misplaced austerity and ignores the majority’s yearning for jobs, growth, and those things that government does best.

But the problem isn’t just with politicians, or even the system. The problem is dependence itself.

Jose Antonio Vargas: The America in Me

“You’ve been trying to write yourself into America,” my dear friend Teresa Moore said after she read an early draft of the essay I ended up submitting to the New York Times Magazine.

I first met Teresa in 1999, when I was a high school senior and wanted to freelance for YO!, short for Youth Outlook, the monthly magazine she edited. She was my very first editor, the one who can most attest to how much I struggled with writing, with finding just the right words, phrases and punctuation (should I use a comma or a dash or a semi-colon?) with trusting the texture and timbre of my own voice. Then and now, Teresa was always exacting, always insightful.

“You’re still trying to write yourself into America.”

Indeed, I am, perhaps now more than ever.

Holly Sklar and Scott Klinger: Real Patriots Pay Taxes

Some of our nation’s biggest corporations are planning a tax holiday and they want you to pick up the tab.

Actually, you already pay for their routine tax avoidance through the use of tax havens in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and elsewhere. These accounting acrobatics cost the U.S. Treasury $100 billion a year. Now they want Congress to pass a special tax holiday for money they “repatriate” back to the United States.

There’s nothing patriotic about this repatriation being pushed by Google, Cisco, Pfizer and other companies in the Win America campaign. To sell the tax holiday, they claim it will produce a burst of jobs and investment. In fact, Congress passed a “one-time-only” tax holiday in 2004 with similar promises. Instead, it produced a burst of shareholder dividends and stock buybacks, which goosed the pay of CEOs.

Le Tour 2011- Stage 4

Lorient to Mûr-de-Bretagne (107 miles)

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Well, that was kind of odd.

I don’t mean Thor Hushovd doing leadout at the finish so that Tyler Farrar could get a Stage win on Independence Day.  That was kind of classy and arguably a team leadership move.

Nope, I mean what the hell was he doing contesting for 6th place sprinter’s points at best (5 riders in the break away) at the mid Stage checkpoint?

Those Green Jersey points don’t count a damn in GC.  Were I his manager he would have gotten an earful about his role on the Garmin squad in the debrief.  Mark Cavendish the Mad Manx took them anyway so what was the benefit?

Today’s course ends on a climb up the ‘Wall of Brittany’, terrain unsuited to sprinting and where the 3 km Turn Left Racing rule does not apply.  Fall off your bike and watch the seconds tick away.

Pre-Stage favorites include Philippe Gilbert (his birthday) and Cadel Evans, either of whom could take the maillot jaune (though Evans is much better positioned to do so).  On Contador watch the best you can say about yesterday is he moved up in rank from 75th to 69th and didn’t lose any more time to the leaders.  Frank and Andy Schleck are grouped in a 10 rider tie for 4th a mere 4 Seconds back, unless Hushovd has a great day overall leadership is poised for a change.

Don’t count him out though, the last time a similar Stage was contested in 2008 the winner was Thor Hushovd.

Coverage starts at 8 am on Vs.  

On This Day In History July 5

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

July 5 is the 186th day of the year (187th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 179 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1937, Spam, the luncheon meat, is introduced into the market by the Hormel Foods Corporation.

Spam (officially trademarked as SPAM) is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. The labeled ingredients in the classic variety of Spam are chopped pork shoulder meat, with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, and sodium nitrite as a preservative. Spam’s gelatinous glaze, or aspic, forms from the cooling of meat stock. The product has become part of many jokes and urban legends about mystery meat, which has made it part of pop culture and folklore.

Varieties of Spam include Spam Classic, Spam Hot & Spicy, Spam Less Sodium, Spam Lite, Spam Oven Roasted Turkey, Hickory Smoked, Spam with real Hormel Bacon, Spam with Cheese, and Spam Spread. Availability of these varieties varies regionally.

Spam that is sold in North America, South America, and Australia is produced in Austin, Minnesota, (also known as Spam Town USA) and in Fremont, Nebraska. Spam for the UK market is produced in Denmark by Tulip under license from Hormel. Spam is also made in the Philippines and in South Korea. In 2007, the seven billionth can of Spam was sold. On average, 3.8 cans are consumed every second in the United States.

Name origin

Introduced on July 5, 1937, the name “Spam” was chosen when the product, whose original name was far less memorable (Hormel Spiced Ham), began to lose market share. The name was chosen from multiple entries in a naming contest. A Hormel official once stated that the original meaning of the name “Spam” was “Shoulder of Pork and Ham”. According to writer Marguerite Patten in Spam – The Cookbook, the name was suggested by Kenneth Daigneau, an actor and the brother of a Hormel vice president, who was given a $100 prize for creating the name. At one time and persisting to this day in certain books, the theory behind the nomenclature of Spam was that the name was a portmanteau of “Spiced Meat and Ham”. According to the British documentary-reality show “1940s House”, when Spam was offered by the United States to those affected by World War II in the UK, Spam stood for “Specially Processed American Meats”. Yesterday’s Britain, a popular history published by Reader’s Digest in 1998 (p. 140), unpacks Spam as “Supply Pressed American Meat” and describes it as an imported “wartime food” of the 1940s.

Many jocular backronyms have been devised, such as “Something Posing As Meat”, “Specially Processed Artificial Meat”, “Stuff, Pork and Ham”, “Spare Parts Animal Meat” and “Special Product of Austin Minnesota”.

According to Hormel’s trademark guidelines, Spam should be spelled with all capital letters and treated as an adjective, as in the phrase “SPAM luncheon meat”.


A story about smoking.

The big place to watch fireworks is down on the beach and one year my friends and I decided to make an event of it so we packed up a couple of cases and our portable stereo- a car battery, 250 watt car equalizer/amp, a Colecovision power supply and voltage inverter, 2 Walkman CD players, mixer board, and 4 Minimus 7s.

And a blanket.

We got there early so we’d get good seats and were only 3 or 4 rows behind the Police tape and had a fun early evening waiting for the dusk to gather amusing ourselves, scaring little children, and annoying our neighbors.

Nothing like playing the feedback.

As it got darker we switched to more mellow fare, Holst’s The Planets and Pink Floyd as I recall and soon enough the show started and we were right underneath it.

Underneath as in the shells were exploding pretty much directly overhead and showering flaming debris all around us.  A blanket a couple of rows ahead caught fire causing several moments of excitement until somebody remembered that if you just shovel sand on top these things go out.

I personally was put in mind of an old Buck Rodgers comic strip where the villain, in preparation for a duel with Buck, lies down in a field and has his flunkies howitzer him with spikey mace balls to demonstrate his courage until his chief toady right next to him gets kind of, well, squished.  Think chunks of facade landing next to the Orc captain at the siege of Minas Tirith if you’re not getting the 1930s image.

Harmless good times for the most part and it seemed only fitting that when a lit fragment landed close enough to reach without straining I fished out a Kool and kindled it off the chunk.

The difficult thing was the three hours getting out of the parking lot.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

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Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 British PM’s Afghan trip marred by soldier death

By Danny Kemp, AFP

1 hr 13 mins ago

British Prime Minister David Cameron was forced Monday to scrap part of a visit to Afghanistan intended to hail improved security after a soldier went missing and was later found dead.

The soldier’s mysterious death in Helmand province, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility, overshadowed Cameron’s announcement that security had improved enough for Britain to soon withdraw a small number of troops.

Cameron arrived in Helmand on Monday morning on a surprise visit but quickly decided to abandon a planned trip to the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, one of a handful of towns earmarked for an early handover to Afghan forces.