Tom Waits: "Downtown Train"
By Richard K. Barry
Putting aside what's already happened, at this stage the president should make it very clear that we stand with Israel, that this is very important to the United States of America and that any nation that votes against Israel and against the United States in the vote in the United Nations will recognize that America will very carefully reconsider our relationship with that nation.
|source: Kevin Kallaugher|
In general, this newspaper's instincts lie with small government and against ever higher taxation to pay for an unsustainable welfare state. We reject the notion, implicit in much of today's debate, that higher tax rates on the wealthy are justified because of the finance industry's role in the crunch: retribution is a poor rationale for taxation.
First, the West's deficits should not be closed by spending cuts alone. Public spending should certainly take the brunt: there is plenty of scope to slim inefficient Leviathan, and studies of past deficit-cutting programmes suggest they work best when cuts predominate. Britain’s four-to-one ratio is about right. But, as that ratio implies, experience also argues that higher taxes should be part of the mix. In America the tax take is historically low after years of rate reductions. There, and elsewhere, tax rises need to bear some of the burden.
Second, there is a political argument for raising this new revenue from the rich. Spending cuts fall disproportionately on the less well-off; and, even before the crunch, median incomes were stagnating. Meanwhile, globalisation has been rewarding winners ever more generously. Voters' support for ongoing austerity depends on a disproportionate share of any new revenue coming from the wealthy.
[T]he third argument for raising more money from the rich is that it can be done not by increasing marginal tax rates, but by making the tax code more efficient... Getting rid of the deductions would simplify the code and raise as much as $1 trillion a year. Since the main beneficiaries of the deductions are the wealthy, richer folk would pay most of that. And since marginal rates would be untouched (or reduced), such a reform would do less to discourage them from creating wealth.
Historically, this country has tended to correct periods of heightened police powers with a pendulum swing back toward greater individual rights. Many were questioning the extreme measures taken by the Bush administration, especially after the disclosure of abuses and illegalities. Candidate Obama capitalized on this swing and portrayed himself as the champion of civil liberties.
However, President Obama not only retained the controversial Bush policies, he expanded on them. The earliest, and most startling, move came quickly. Soon after his election, various military and political figures reported that Obama reportedly promised Bush officials in private that no one would be investigated or prosecuted for torture. In his first year, Obama made good on that promise, announcing that no CIA employee would be prosecuted for torture. Later, his administration refused to prosecute any of the Bush officials responsible for ordering or justifying the program and embraced the "just following orders" defense for other officials, the very defense rejected by the United States at the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised. He continued warrantless surveillance and military tribunals that denied defendants basic rights. He asserted the right to kill U.S. citizens he views as terrorists. His administration has fought to block dozens of public-interest lawsuits challenging privacy violations and presidential abuses.
A Gallup poll released this week shows 49% of Americans, a record since the poll began asking this question in 2003, believe that "the federal government poses an immediate threat to individuals' rights and freedoms." Yet the Obama administration long ago made a cynical calculation that it already had such voters in the bag and tacked to the right on this issue to show Obama was not "soft" on terror. He assumed that, yet again, civil libertarians might grumble and gripe but, come election day, they would not dare stay home.
Some insist that they are simply motivated by realism: A Republican would be worse. However, realism alone cannot explain the utter absence of a push for an alternative Democratic candidate or organized opposition to Obama's policies on civil liberties in Congress during his term. It looks more like a cult of personality. Obama's policies have become secondary to his persona.
Earlier this year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed a sweeping bill intended to make it harder to vote in his state's elections. Kasich's anti-voter law drastically cuts back on early voting and erects new barriers for absentee and even for election day voters. Today, however, opponents of Kasich's war on voting will submit over 300,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office — well over the 231,000 signatures necessary to suspend the law until it can be challenged in a referendum in November of 2012. If enough of the signatures are deemed valid, the practical effect of this petition will be that Kasich's law will not be in effect during the 2012 presidential elections when Republicans hoped the law would weaken President Obama's efforts to turn out early voters who support his reelection.
Florida is now expected to hold its primary on the last day in January, a move likely to throw the carefully arranged Republican nominating calendar into disarray and jumpstart the nominating process a month earlier than party leaders had hoped.
Four cities, two playoff spots and one epic night. Within 89 minutes, Atlanta and Boston collapsed as St. Louis and Tampa Bay completed two unimaginable comebacks.
10:26 p.m. ET -- Cardinals win 8-0
11:40 p.m. ET -- Braves lose 4-3 in 13th, are eliminated
12:02 a.m. ET -- Red Sox lose 4-3 on walk-off single in 9th
12:05 a.m. ET -- Rays win 8-7 on walk-off home run in 12th, eliminating Red Sox
U.S. Sen. Trent Lott today told an enthusiastic Nashoba Country Fair crowd that Demoratic presidential nominee John Kerry is "a French-speaking socialist from Boston, Massachusetts, who is more liberal than Ted Kennedy."
" 'The fact of the matter is, anybody who has an ego large enough to say, 'Oh, please, please, please, stop asking me to be the leader of the free world, it's such a burden. If you could please just stop.' What kind of crazy egomaniac would you have to be to say, 'Oh, please stop, stop.'
'It's extraordinarily flattering. But by the same token, that heartfelt message you gave me is also not a reason for me to do it. The reason has to reside inside me.' "
The next questioner addressed the presidential campaign: "Gov. Christie, you're known as a straight-shooter, not one given to playing games. Can you tell us what's going on here? Are you reconsidering or are you standing firm?"
"Listen," said Christie, "I have to tell you the truth -- you folks are an incredible disappointment as an audience." That got big laughs. "The fact that it took to the second question shows you people are off your game. That is not American exceptionalism."
A "straight shooter" wouldn't pussyfoot around, throwing hints and travelling the country on fundraisers....for who, exactly?
Too, there have been a recent spate of television ads extolling Christie's ability to balance the state budget twice (on the backs of working class Jerseyans, of course), lower taxes and "improve" education (he actually makes that claim despite the fact that he's firing teachers, cutting funding AND has overseen a slip in test scores.)
And yet, he keeps his name out there, and allows his name to be tossed about as a potential candidate. That's something he has control over and hasn't exerted it much lately.
Here's my guess, based on a gut feeling: Christie won't run, unless it looks like it's coming down to a floor fight at the GOP convention in 2012. We may know this as early as the end of February. Perry will either be knocked out or will have taken a few surprise states by then. Romney has the funds and the werewithal to remain in the race until that point, no matter how well or poorly he's doing. He can count on the mushy middle of the GOP for the strongest support...I know, it seems weird that the guy who wears magic underwear would be considered the sanest, soberest candidate...and that will garner pluralities in states that he might not win outright.
Christie could jump in during the Spring, and if he can win a few key primaries-- say Colorado and Illinois, maybe Florida if they get brushed back-- Christie will have instant credibility in states that could be blue in 2012.
Until then, he might want to ratchet down the noise.