12/27/2012 archive

Jack Klugman’s Life Saving Legacy

On Christmas Eve, stage, film and television actor Jack Klugman, 90, died peacefully at home in California. Best know for his rolls as Oscar Madison, the sloppy roommate to Felix Unger in the TV series “The Odd Couple” and the crime-fighting coroner in “Quincy, M.E.,” Mr. Klugman left another legacy that of live saver for millions of people who suffer from rare or “orphan diseases.” Through his TV show “Quincy, M.E” and testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, he as instrumental in passage of the Orphan Drug Act of 1983.

Thanks, Jack

Stalemate: Off the Mythical Cliff and a Few Other Cliffs

Up Date 14:26 EDT: The House of Representatives has adjourned until Monday December 31

New Year’s Eve is four days away but you may want to start drinking now. True to form Congress is right on track to do nothing about anything, except maybe to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The House is still in recess, under what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called the “dictatorship” of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), with some major issues still in need of resolution. There is the mythical Cliff with its draconian spending cuts to everything except Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security; the expiration of the Bush/Obama tax cuts and the end of unemployment benefits for two million long term unemployed. There is the farm bill that has lingered undebated in the House which will most likely result in steep spikes in the cost of dairy products and to throw another log on the fire, Treasury Secretary notified congress yesterday that the debt limit will be reached on December 31.

This past Sunday on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, host Chris Hayes discussed how the president and congress almost came up with a deal to avert a non-crisis and how Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” failed. Chris’ guests were former Governor James Florio (D-NJ); Heidi Moore, Finance and Economics Editor for The Guardian newspaper; Dean Baker, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; and Dylan Glenn, Senior Vice President of Guggenheim Advisors and former Special Assistant to Pres. George W. Bush. Keep in mind that Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit. It is on the table because President Obama put it there.

Warning: Dylan Glenn and the lack of push back from Hayes and the others on Social Security may have you throwing things at your monitor, so secure any damaging objects before watching.

Back to the Phones

Habds Off Social SecurityBack to the grind. President Barack Obama cut his Christmas holiday in Hawaii short, returning to Washington to try to cut a deal to avoid the mythical” fiscal cliff.” While there was much cheering from the president’s most avid supporters over the reports of his tough talk last week during negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), there is still a major concern that Social Security cuts are still on the table by tying cost of living increases it to the chained CPI. It is not just Republican and the president we can’t trust on this, it’s also Democrats. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sees no problem with chained CPI. While there was no mention of Social Security in Speaker Boehner’s failed “Plan-B,” there is no indication from Pres. Obama that it won’t be offered again as a carrot to entice the Republicans to accept a tax increase on the top two tax brackets.

Until we hear it from Pres. Obama’s lips that it isn’t, Social Security is still a bargaining chip in the manufactured debt/deficit crisis. So it is back to the phone. Flood the White House and the Congressional phone lines with calls demanding that they keep their hands off Social Security.

White House


Your senators

Your House member.

No cuts to Social Security.

Gaius Publius @ Americablog offers this helpful digest-

What are we protecting?

We’re protecting three social insurance programs. These are:

    ■ Social Security

    ■ Medicare

    ■ Medicaid

What are we protecting them from? Anything that:

    ■ Reduces benefits

    ■ Turns the program from insurance to welfare (which only the “deserving” have access to)

How are these programs being threatened?

As near as I can tell, these are the threats. Note to foxes – this is the hands-off list. Each of these seven items is a benefit cut:

Social Security

    1. Raising the retirement age

    2. Chained CPI instead of current COLA

    3. Means-testing benefits


    4. Raising the eligibility age

    5. Increasing Part B premiums

    6. Increasing “cost-sharing”


    7. Shifting costs to the states by any means, such as “federal blended rate,” etc.

Keep it up everyday, jam the lines until the President and Congress get the message:

No cuts to Social Security.

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.

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

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Alan Grayson: Legislation Constipation

It’s been 10 months since the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board coined the term “fiscal cliff” when he called attention to the “massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases” that will go into effect less than a week from now. Ten months. But in all of that time, there has been nothing in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives even remotely resembling a line-by-line vote on whether each one of those spending cuts and tax increases, individually, is good or bad. Just John Boehner holding his breath until the Democrats “agree” to extending tax breaks for the rich, and cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits.

It’s the worst case of legislation constipation that I’ve ever seen. But that’s what happens — what ought to happen — when the folks in charge say over and over again, “I’m in favor of X, but I won’t vote for X, or even allow a vote for X, unless I get Y.”

We’re going to need some kind of patch to get through this. But I hope that the Powers That Be learn from this mistake. Slice it all into little pieces, and then vote each piece up or down. It works. And it’s a lot more practical than hoping that John Boehner, or Barack Obama, pulls a rabbit out of his hat.

Dan Baker: There Is No Santa Claus and Bill Clinton Was Not an Economic Savior

The truth is often painful but nonetheless it is important that we live in the real world. Just as little kids have to come to grips with the fact that there is no Santa Claus, it is necessary for millions of liberals, including many who think of themselves as highly knowledgeable about economic matters, to realize that President Clinton’s policies sent the economy seriously off course.

In Washington it is common to tout the budget surpluses of the Clinton years as some momentous achievement, as though the point of economic policy is to run budget surpluses. Of course the point of economic policy is to produce an economy that improves the lives of the people in a sustainable way. Clinton badly flunked this test. [..]

The big difference is that, unlike the Republicans, the Rubin-Clinton crew believes that the rich should have to pay their taxes. That’s something, but until there is someone in this debate who isn’t pushing policies that redistribute before-tax income upward, the vast majority in this country can only lose.

John Atcheson: Christmas, Winter Solstice, A Time of Renewal, and the Beginning of End of the World As We Know It

Scholars agree that the timing of Christmas has more to do with the end of winter than the birth of a savior.

The evidence that people celebrated the death of winter is literally everywhere.  Five thousand year old structures designed to track the sun can be found in England,  Ireland, and the Americas; the ancient myths of the Druids, Japan, Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, Crete, Greece, and Rome all speak of and celebrate the rebirth of sun as the days lengthened.

It’s not surprising that early humans were so concerned with the comings and goings of the sun, and that they viewed its return with a joy and reverence reserved for the gods.  We were – and are – completely dependent upon our star and the climate we evolved in for our survival.

Each annual return meant that crops could be grown, animals bred, game and nature’s bounty renewed.  With the whole cycle of birth and life and renewal once again assured, light banished darkness, warmth swept away cold, life vanquished death.

Joy to the world, indeed.

William K. Black: Obama Should Listen to Obama About Avoiding Self-Inflicted Wounds

Reporters need to ask Obama two series of questions. Who insisted on creating the fiscal cliff, threatened Republicans in Fall 2011 when they wanted to eliminate or reduce it, and after the “failure” of the November 2011 “super committee” to reach a deal to inflict even greater austerity on the nation, made a veto threat to block a Republican proposal to eliminate or delay the fiscal cliff? The answer is: Obama. “The White House wanted a ‘trigger’ that would automatically raise taxes on the wealthy and cut health spending, an idea the Republicans opposed.” Obama’s “trigger” became the “fiscal cliff.” I have explained how he then kept the “fiscal cliff” alive by blocking Republican efforts to eliminate or delay it. [..]

The second question Obama should be asked is: given your warning that the fiscal cliff’s austerity would cause a recession, why are you demanding a Grand Bargain (sic, actually the Grand Betrayal) that would inflict austerity for a decade and likely cause multiple recessions and larger deficits?

Consider the incoherence of Obama’s statement: “‘Everybody’s got to give a little bit in a sensible way’ to prevent the economy from pitching over a recession-threatening fiscal cliff, he said.” That statement makes no sense. Austerity is the problem. Obama and the Republicans agree that it is a self-destructive policy that would cause a recession, just as it did in the eurozone. The solution is (1) not to raise overall taxes and (2) not to cut overall spending.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: For Wall Street It’s “Peace On Earth, Goodwill Toward Remington”

Despite an epidemic of gun deaths, the river of gun cash never stops flowing. If you follow that river upstream you’ll see that its source lies very close to Wall Street. And the river’s mouth speaks with the voice of politicians, whose campaign fundraising is undoubtedly taking place even on this supposedly holy day for most of them.

‘Tis the season to be lobbied.

“More than 50 firearms-related companies have given at least $14.8 million” to the National Rifle Association, Bloomberg News reports — and that’s just the money we know about. The NRA spent nearly $25 million in the last election cycle alone. True to form, the NRA’s chief said this week that we need more guns in the schools to end the killing of our children.

That’s like spreading a flu virus to stop an epidemic.

Robert Reich: Cliff Hanger: Obama’s Last Stand and the Republican Strategy of Fanaticism

President Obama is cutting his Christmas holiday short, returning to Washington for a last attempt at avoiding the fiscal cliff. But he’s running headlong into the Republican strategy of fanaticism.

It’s a long-established principle of game theory (see Thomas Schelling’s classic 1956 essay in the American Economic Review) that a fanatic who restricts his freedom to avert a disaster puts maximum pressure on his opponent to give ground. [..]

The real problem with this gambit is it doesn’t change the game. Even down the road, Boehner’s hands will still be tied and the fanatics will remain in charge — which will give Republicans the stronger position in negotiations leading to a “grand bargain.” Compromise would have to be almost entirely on the Democrats’ side.

That’s why I’d recommend going over the cliff and forcing the Republicans’ hand. It’s a risky strategy but it would at least expose the Republican tactic and put public pressure squarely on rank-and-file Republicans, where it belongs.

On this Day In History December 27

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.

December 27 is the 361st day of the year (362nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are four days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1932, Radio City Music Hall opened in New York City.

The 12-acre complex in midtown Manhattan known as Rockefeller Center was developed between 1929 and 1940 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., on land leased from Columbia University. The Radio City Music Hall was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone and interior designer Donald Deskey in the Art Deco style. Rockefeller initially planned a new home for the Metropolitan Opera on the site, but after the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the plans changed and the opera company withdrew from the project.

Its originally planned name was International Music Hall. The names “Radio City” and “Radio City Music Hall” derive from one of the complex’s first tenants, the Radio Corporation of America. Radio City Music Hall was a project of Rockefeller; Samuel Roxy Rothafel, who previously opened the Roxy Theatre in 1927; and RCA chairman David Sarnoff. RCA had developed numerous studios for NBC at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, just to the south of the Music Hall, and the radio-TV complex that lent the Music Hall its name is still known as the NBC Radio City Studios.

The Music Hall opened to the public on December 27, 1932 with a lavish stage show featuring Ray Bolger and Martha Graham. The opening was meant to be a return to high-class variety entertainment. The new format was not a success. The program was very long and individual acts were lost in the cavernous hall. On January 11, 1933, the Music Hall converted to the then familiar format of a feature film with a spectacular stage show which Rothafel had perfected at the Roxy Theatre. The first film was shown on the giant screen was Frank Capra’s The Bitter Tea of General Yen starring Barbara Stanwyck and the Music Hall became the premiere showcase for films from the RKO-Radio Studio. The film plus stage spectacle format continued at the Music Hall until 1979 with four complete performances presented every day.

By the 1970s, changes in film distribution made it difficult for Radio City to secure exclusive bookings of many films; furthermore, the theater preferred to show only G-rated movies, which further limited their film choices as the decade wore on. Regular film showings at Radio City ended in 1979. Plans were made to convert the theater into office space, but a combination of preservation and commercial interests resulted in the preservation of Radio City and in 1980, after a renovation, it reopened to the public.

Radio City Music Hall is currently leased to and managed by Madison Square Garden, Inc. Movie premieres and feature runs have occasionally taken place there but the focus of the theater throughout the year is now on concerts and live stage shows. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular continues to be an important annual event. The Music Hall has presented most of the leading pop and rock performers of the last 30 years as well as televised events including the Grammy Awards, the Tony Awards, and the MTV Music Awards.