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Stewart's Speech at the Rally for Sanity

I caught some of Stewart and Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear today.  It was fantastic, emphasizing a critical message: 

...we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies...The country’s 24-hour politico-pundit-perpetual-conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder...If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the résumé. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers and real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate, just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything, we actually get sicker and perhaps eczema.  And yet with that being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun-house mirror — and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin and one eyeball. So why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin-assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable: Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution and racists and homophones who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of catastrophe, torn by polarizing hate, and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day.

The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live, our values and principles form the foundation that sustains while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals, or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do, often something they do not want to do. But they do it, impossible things every day that are only made possible through the little, reasonable compromises we all make.

Here is video is of Stewart's concluding speech in full:


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Sacrifice is for the little people

Regarding the controversy about whether to extend the "Bush-era tax cuts" to nobody, people making less than $250,000, or everyone...

From last Sunday's Krugman op-ed (h/t: rtoddbouldin):

“Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes — but that was a long time ago...Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent...

It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy. So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.  And when the tax fight is over, one way or another, you can be sure that the people currently defending the incomes of the elite will go back to demanding cuts in Social Security and aid to the unemployed. America must make hard choices, they’ll say; we all have to be willing to make sacrifices.

But when they say “we,” they mean “you.” Sacrifice is for the little people.

Of course, a similar argument could be aimed at the Obama admin's policies that, after the economic collapse, have made whole and protected the wealth of Wall St. while doing relatively little to relieve the suffering on main street.

Did you know this (link)?

Obama's "tax cuts for the middle class" aren't actually tax cuts for the middle class. They're tax cuts on all family income up to $250,000. So if you make $300,000 a year, you're getting a tax cut on $250,000. That's a serious tax cut! That's why the graphs showing how different taxpayers make out under the Obama and Bush tax plans all show a tax cut for the rich under Obama's plan:


Those who would pay higher taxes under Obama's plan typically aren't excited about that prospect, and one law professor famously complained that he didn't welcome paying higher taxes in order to finance "...the vast expansion of government [Obama] is planning."  Ezra Klein pointed out the reality (link):

Henderson's taxes aren't financing the government Obama would like to build. They're financing the government America already has. George W. Bush passed his tax cuts without offering any offsetting spending cuts. It was apparent then, and is even more apparent now, that he'd brought federal revenue beneath the level of federal spending -- and then he increased spending, too. Nothing Obama has signed into law will add as much to the deficit as Medicare Part D, for instance. Or the two wars George W. Bush began. Or, for that matter, the tax cuts Bush passed...The basic story here is that Henderson got a tax cut that the government could never actually afford, and it still can't. That situation predated Obama and has nothing to do with his agenda.

The effect that the proposed changes would have on small businesses (and what exactly is a "small business") is also a subject of controversy:

According to President Obama and the Democrats, 97 percent of small businesses will see their tax rates remain the same. Republican counter that the remaining three percent of small businesses -- about 750,000 of them -- constitute half of all small-business income. There's only one way both of those statements can be true: Many of those 750,000 small businesses aren't small at all. Some, like Bechtel Corporation, are positively enormous.

The Democratic and Republican figures come from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation. But numerous think tanks  and government organizations have examined the data and come to similar conclusions: First, that letting the Bush tax cuts on the top two brackets of "small-business" income would impact a tiny percentage of those businesses; and second, that many of the "small businesses" that would  be impacted are actually giant companies -- which explains why such a tiny fraction of them can account for half of small business income.


According to the Washington Post, which obtained its information from House Democrats, some of the "small businesses" that could see a small increase in their marginal taxes are household names like accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers and Tribune Corp. -- privately-owned behemoths whose owners and managers dodge corporate taxes by reporting profits on their income tax returns.

And did you know this?  If all of the tax cuts were allowed to expire, we'd be tantalizingly close to balancing the budget by 2015:

Today, the economy is sluggish and the national debt is soaring to worrisome levels. As lawmakers bicker over whether to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, not just for the middle class but also for the wealthy, many economists and budget analysts say there's a simple way to curb borrowing: Let the tax cuts expire for everyone.

Official and independent budget estimates show that letting tax rates spring back to pre-Bush levels for all taxpayers would bring the country within striking distance of meeting President Obama's goal of balancing the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt, by 2015...

But for all the election-year hand-wringing about deficits, no one in Washington is talking about letting the tax cuts lapse on schedule in January. Instead, Senate Republicans have offered a measure that would extend all the cuts, adding nearly $4 trillion to the debt over the next decade. This week, Senate Democrats say they plan to unveil a bill that would preserve most of the cuts for most Americans. That would add nearly $2 trillion to deficits by 2020.

I get the point that the current struggling economy may be a bad time to raise taxes, but I don't get how conservatives can keep a straight face while lamenting the growing debt out of one side of their mouth and out of the other accepting no responsibility to propose serious spending cuts sufficient to pay for their proposed tax cuts.


By Their Creator

During a speech last week (link), President Obama ad-libbed a bit (departed from the prepared text of the speech) to quote the Declaration of Independence and (presumably inadvertently) omitted the words "endowed by their Creator".  Obama spoke:

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights: life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Never mind that Obama ended the speech by saying...

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

...many conservatives (e.g. The Weekly Standard) have pounced and questioned whether or not Obama believes that our rights come from our Creator (Nature’s God” and “the Supreme Judge of the World”, as the Declaration says).

Sadly the epidemic of Obama Derangement Syndrome is now so rampant that the White House had to release this pitiful statement today (link):

“The President is in full agreement with the Declaration of Independence.  Any suggestion to the contrary is just silly.”(Josh Earnest, Deputy White House Press Secretary)

Imagine if, during the presidency of George W. Bush, I had a habit of highlighting every time President Bush didn't get a quote or statement exactly right in one of his speeches or press conferences.  How petty would that have been?  You'd have considered such nitpicking, coming from  me at least, to be low and unseemly.  You'd have been right.

This reminds me of P.Z. Myers recent criticism of "conspiracy theories" regarding Obama's religion and politics (link):

Please, fellow godless folk, stop trying to claim Obama as one of us. He isn't. He goes to church sometimes, he has a religious history, he's happy to use Christian metaphors, he hasn't claimed to be so much as an agnostic. He's a liberal Christian who is not obsessed with religion. Take his words at face value; I find it annoying when people look for signs that he's a hidden member of our little clan. It is so conspiracy-theory...

Obama is not a socialist or a communist or a Luo tribesman. He is a centrist politician from Chicago who believes in improving peoples lives incrementally by working step by step through political compromise. He pisses off the liberal, progressive wing of the Democratic party because we want him to be bold and aggressive, and he's not, and because he's also comfortable with the military-industrial status quo. He really  annoys the wingnut right because he wants to move the country away from their dreams of a Reaganesque/Randian capitalist paradise, and he is…slowly and tentatively.

That's really all you need to know to comprehend what Obama is doing and how he works. It's sufficient to explain everything. We don't have to postulate that he's a reincarnated Mau Mau chieftain or that he's a secret communist plant. He's just a traditional middle-of-the-road politician from the Midwest.

(I knew that many of Obama's conservative critics want to believe that he is an atheist but hadn't realized that many atheists want to believe the same thing).

This also reminds me of a cartoon: link.

The Agenda: The Terrorist Next Door

I just found out that Lisa's first cousin Jonathan Birdwell was recently on Canadian TV on a panel discussing: can you grow up in middle class Canada, and yet become so radicalized that you to turn to terrorism?

The discussion was prompted by the recent arrests of three men in Canada who were charged with conspiracy to facilitate a terrorist activity (link):

Three Ontario men accused of taking part in a domestic terrorist plot and possessing plans and materials to create makeshift bombs had allegedly selected specific targets in Canada, sources told CBC News.

The suspects are alleged to have discussed attacks on specific government buildings and city public transit systems, security sources told CBC News.

But none of the targets was in the United States, sources said.

Misbahuddin Ahmed, 26, and Hiva Alizadeh, 30, both of Ottawa, and 28-year-old Khurram Sher, of London, Ont., have all been charged with conspiracy to knowingly facilitate a terrorist activity.

Here is the video of the discussion:


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