Re that awful NYC subway incident, our stout commenter Jabsco earns his long-sought-after handle appearing in a headline by suggesting:
If you find yourself on the tracks with a train coming at you... run away from the the train, DO NOT try to jump back onto the platform, it is a great way to become a "screwdriver" (MTA term for when someone gets caught between the train and platform with their upper body above the platform as you can imagine the body gets twisted like a screw as the train pulls into a station).
Yes indeed. I'd never thought of that, but sure, provided of course that you are on the tracks at a station, not in between them, but I suppose one would never find oneself in that latter situation, unless one was Robert Shaw in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, in which case you'd just step on the third rail after having it affirmed to you by W. Matthau that the state of New York had no death penalty, in one of 70s filmdom's more memorable moments.
As to avoiding the risk of being pushed by a crazy person onto the tracks, Greenlake's straightforward admontion to stand far from the edge and keep an eye out was always my practice as well. That was for New York, when I lived there. In Washington, the biggest threat is that someone might sneeze on you. But even that has never happened.
This Senate vote refusing to ratify the UN convention on people with disabilities is rather interesting.
1. It's modeled on our own Americans with Disabilities Act. Okay? Modeled on an American law.
2. It would help ensure that people with disabilities in less advanced countries get treated with some measure of ADA-like respect.
3. Every other advanced country has backed it.
Bob Woodward's scoop today about Roger Ailes's overture to David Petraeus is well worth your time.
If you haven’t yet read it: Ailes, through a Fox “reporter” (who once ran against Hillary Clinton for Senate), suggested to Petraeus that he resign from the Army, accept a potential position as head of the joint chiefs but turn down any other job, such as the one he was offered at CIA; then, having left government, run for president as a Republican, with Ailes running his campaign and Murdoch potentially bankrolling it (though there’s no evidence that Murdoch knew about any of this).
Woodward got a digital recording of the Kabul chat between Petraeus and Fox’s Kit McFarland:
“Tell him if I ever ran,” Petraeus said, and then laughed, “but I won’t . . . but if I ever ran, I’d take him up on his offer. . . . He said he would quit Fox . . . and bankroll it.”
Think Obama’s tax-hike bill can to pass the lower chamber of Congress with a majority of votes? Think again. Michael Tomasky on how the GOP plans to protect its wealthy donors.
As you ponder whether the Obama tax hike can pass the House, I bet you think something like, “All he needs is a few Republicans.” Right? I wouldn’t blame you for thinking it. Obama himself said last week: “If we can just get a few House Republicans on board, we can pass the bill in the House, it will land on my desk, and I am ready—I have got a bunch of pens ready—to sign this bill.” That’s how it works, right—218 votes? Friends, you’re hopelessly behind the times. The Republicans won’t allow measures to pass with just any 218 votes. It has to be mostly Republicans. Welcome to the little-discussed but possibly pivotal concept of the “majority of the majority.”
Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner takes questions during a news conference November 30, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
What does this mean? Pretty much just what it says: For Speaker John Boehner to bring any measure to the House floor, he has to see that a majority of the majority—that is, a majority of his GOP caucus—will support it. You might have in theory a bill that could pass with the support of 109 Democrats and 109 Republicans to reach the needed 218. You couldn’t ask for more bipartisanship than that. But 109 is not a majority of 241, so if Boehner and his whips were counting noses accurately in the run-up, this perfectly balanced measure would never see the light of day for a vote.
Sounds like madness? Yes, it does, and it is. But surely this is something, you say, that goes back a ways, and something both sides have done. Well, not really. It goes back, says congressional scholar Norman Ornstein, only to Denny Hastert, the GOP speaker during the Bush years who was the first to use the phrase. “It was a Hastert original,” Ornstein explained to me Monday. “In earlier eras, it would never have worked—too much heterogeneity in caucuses, to start. Hastert was a different Speaker, in another sense, seeing himself as more a field general in the president’s army than as first and foremost leader of the independent House, but to him that meant creating a majority party machine. More than anything, it formed the parliamentary party mindset.”
So, the House Republicans made their counter-offer today. But it's not much of a counter-offer. Josh Barro of Bloomberg identifies three problems: 1, zero specifics; 2, what description there is of the tax numbers doesn't add up; 3, it doesn't really avert the fiscal cliff, it just substitutes a different set of cuts that they prefer to the ones that would happen under sequestration.
On the first point, Barro writes:
The letter says Republicans want to cut $900 billion from mandatory spending and $300 billion from discretionary spending, but they On the tax side, they agree to $800 billion in new revenue from "pro-growth tax reform that closes special-interest loopholes and deductions while lowering rates." But they don't endorse specific loophole closures or propose a new rate structure.don't say what or how they want to cut. The letter nods toward a proposal sketched out by Erskine Bowles, the cornerstone of which is a gradual increase in the Medicare age, but it lacks specifics.
On the tax side, they agree to $800 billion in new revenue from "pro-growth tax reform that closes special-interest loopholes and deductions while lowering rates." But they don't endorse specific loophole closures or propose a new rate structure.
David Remnick joins the club. He opens a report, out today, from this past weekend, which he spent at a pow-wow of big foreign policy machers in Washington, thus:
Hillary Clinton is running for President. And the Israeli political class is a full-blown train wreck. These are two conclusions, for whatever they are worth, based on a three-day conference I attended this weekend at the annual Saban Forum, in Washington, D.C...
...Friday night, however, was on the record—and surprisingly revealing. Hillary Clinton was the main speaker. In a packed ballroom of the Willard Hotel, she was greeted with a standing ovation and then a short, adoring film, a video Festschrift testifying to her years as First Lady, senator, and, above all, secretary of state. The film, an expensive-looking production, went to the trouble of collecting interviews with Israeli politicians—Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni—and American colleagues, like John Kerry. Tony Blair, striking the moony futuristic note that was general in the hall, said, “I just have an instinct that the best is yet to come.”
Moony...nice adjective. Anyway, I'm with him, mostly. As I've written, I think her interest is keen but still provisional, depending on the circumstances. I think she'll run if she's healthy and if she's confident she can win. Having to commit to a presidential race as early as one does these days makes the second half of my equation a little dicey--what if she declares, starts running, even gets the nomination, and then a financial collapse hits, thus favoring the Republican?. But I mean to extent she can control or account for such factors, I think she'll be careful about doing so.
The conventional wisdom will probably come up with some other, more "even-handed" question, but the real question of the week is will the Republicans get specific with their proposed cuts? E.J. Dionne puts it well in his column today:
Republicans claim they are fighting for cuts in entitlement programs, particularly Medicare. Fine. Let them put their cuts on the table. So far, all we have are words. Obama has outlined $400 billion in savings from Medicare. If this isn’t enough, the GOP’s negotiators should tell us how to find more. And having individual Republicans toss out ideas is not the same as a detailed public counter-proposal.
Republicans also say tax reform can raise enough money so we can avoid rate increases on the wealthy. Fine. Let them put forward a comprehensive plan so we can judge it. Their problem is that tax reform can’t produce the revenue that’s needed, but let’s at least see what they have in mind.
I'd like to see Obama and the Democrats press this point and do their best to make sure that this is the week's main question. They don't really get to call Obama's proposal unserious and all those things when they haven't even really put out one of their own. But they won't do it because they want Obama to own the cuts, especially the entitlement cuts. He, reasonably, refuses to do that. No more negotiating with himself.
Okay, I went after Hamas and the Palestinians pretty hard a couple of times in recent weeks, but now it's Netanyahu's turn. This announcement about building the E1 settlement development is madness. This development would close off East Jerusalem from the West Bank and split the West Bank in two, making the two parts accessible to each other via a road through the desert that doesn't exist yet. This is in supposed retaliation for the recent UN vote.
In other words, Israel will, with this construction, cut the future Palestinian state in half. Ban Ki-Moon said yesterday: "It would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution."
To give you a little more perspective here, George W. Bush's administration was against this project. Even Rahm Emanuel, as AIPAC-friendly as they come, called Netanyahu's recent behavior "unfathomable."
It's breathtaking. He's working overtime to alienate his few remaining allies. It's almost as if Netanyahu is a double agent secretly dedicated to Israel's destruction. And this madness is going to win the election early next year? Good God. And finally, according to our neocon war caucus, we're supposed to let this guy bomb Iran, eh?
When Tim Geithner proposed that Congress be denied power over the debt limit, he was speaking for a president who intends to push back against the pols who humiliated him in 2011.
Like all of you, I have no idea how this fiscal cliff (I know, I know, I’m not supposed to call it that!) business is going to work out. I dearly want to see President Obama win on the 39.6 percent rate for upper incomes. But there may be one thing I’d like even more: for him to win the fight over raising the debt ceiling. There are more important issues facing the nation, I’ll grant you. But nothing, and I mean nothing, symbolizes how extreme, arrogant, oblivious to precedent and reason the Republican Party has become than the position Republicans took on the debt ceiling last year. It’s made worse by the fact that they made a then-weak Obama eat dirt. He seems to know this, and I hope to high heaven he seeks and secures his revenge.
President Obama walks towards the Marine One prior to his departure from the White House November 30, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
The most interesting wrinkle in the package of proposals announced by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on Thursday was the call for Congress to relinquish all authority over the debt limit. Of course this is not going to happen. The power of that debt-ceiling vote is the only leverage Capitol Hill Republicans have right now. They know this, and they certainly plan to use it to try to extract from the administration promises that it will agree to domestic spending or entitlement cuts in like proportion to the amount by which the limit is raised.
But Geithner and Obama, obviously, also know that the debt vote is the only leverage the GOP has, and therefore, they want to make it an issue now and get people to start thinking about it. It’s not yet clear the exact date by which a vote to raise the limit would have to take place—mid-February, maybe, at the very latest. But it’s close enough to the Jan. 1 tax and spending deadlines that the Republicans can surely threaten that they’ll be willing to take the country into default if the administration doesn’t go along on deep spending cuts.
Rather, the war on the war on Christmas started last night on, predictably enough, The O'Reilly Fraction, on which the host browbeat some poor atheist and called him a "fascist" and so on. O'Reilly can be relied on every late November/early December to return to his fantasty of liberalism's "war on Christmas."
I wonder what O'Reilly says to his Jewish friends. He must have some. Does he force a wish of Merry Christmas upon them? Or does he in fact respect the idea that they don't celebrate the holiday and say something else to them? Or does he avoid them altogether?
Personally, I like Christmas, in, I confess, all its secular manifestations. My Guardian faithful will recall the posts about cooking a Christmas goose, which my brother-in-law Jon and I pulled off rather stupendously two years ago, along with a delectable wild-rice stuffing of my creation. I like the music. Just earlier today I was humming "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas," which was written in 1952 by the great Meredith Willson, who also wrote what might be my favorite musical, The Music Man. I like the decorations. I even like going to the malls during the season. I'm a cornball and a sentimentalist.
At the same time, I'm a foot soldier in the war on Christmas, because I know that while whistling Meredith Willson Christmas songs suits me, it doesn't suit a lot of people, and to each his or her own. I wonder if the war on the war on Christmas will intensify this year, in this season right after Obama's reelection, with O'Reilly's America coming face-to-face with the reality that is not their country anymore. Obama voters, blacks, browns, gays, non-Jesus people...we're takin' over, Bill. By 2017, "Happy Holidays and Peace on Earth" will be the only seasonal greeting Americans will be permitted, via presidential executive order, if all goes to plan.
Fascinating piece in the Beast by Dilip D'Souza on the Hitler obsession in India. Pretty disturbing:
Consider Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. Reviled it might be in the much of the world, but Indians buy thousands of copies of it every month. As a recent paper in the journal EPW tells us (PDF), there are over a dozen Indian publishers who have editions of the book on the market. Jaico, for example, printed its 55th edition in 2010, claiming to have sold 100,000 copies in the previous seven years. (Contrast this to the 3,000 copies my own 2009 book,Roadrunner, has sold). In a country where 10,000 copies sold makes a book a bestseller, these are significant numbers.
And the approval goes beyond just sales. Mein Kampf is available for sale on flipkart.com, India’s Amazon. As I write this, 51 customers have rated the book; 35 of those gave it a five-star rating. What’s more, there’s a steady trickle of reports that say it has become a must-read for business-school students; amanagement guide much like Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese or Edward de Bono’s Lateral Thinking. If this undistinguished artist could take an entire country with him, I imagine the reasoning goes, surely his book has some lessons for future captains of industry?
The financial plan that Tim Geithner advanced yesterday caught everyone by surprise in its suck-on-this boldness, so unusual for Obama in such situations. Up to $1.6 trillion in revenue; new stimulus spending; new mortgage help; and elimination of Congress' role in the debt limit! Wowza. What's behind this?
First of all it looks like the White House just figured, and correctly: Let's not get bogged down in technicalities like Medicare reimbursement levels. It's of course inevitable that these negotiations will eventually get bogged down precisely in Medicare reimbursement levels. But Obama seems to have figured, let's not start that way. Let's start with a package that amounts to a vision and makes a statement.
The statement is about putting jobs and growth ahead of deficit reduction; it's about saying that we believe these are the right ways to stimulate the economy; and it's about saying that we're not going to open these negotiations on Republican turf.
That is: If the White House had instead yesterday offered a modest set of specific entitlement cuts and domestic spending cuts, that would have started the negotiations on GOP turf, since those are the two things the GOP wants. This of course is exactly what Obama used to do: As in last year's debt negotiations, he started by offering the Republicans half a loaf, and the compromise ended up at 75 or 80 percent of the GOP loaf, and Obama looked weak and his voters were terribly dispirited. it took months for him and them to recover.
We're all pretty clear on what Barack Obama wants--a hike in the tax rate by 3.6 percent on dollars earned above $250,000. It's pretty clear and specific.
But what exactly to the Republicans want in return? Matt Yglesias observes that they're being pretty foggy about it, at least publicly:
If Republicans are going to agree to a deficit reduction bill containing a big tax increase, then obviously they're going to want large domestic spending cuts. And if we want the basic operations of the federal government to continue, large domestic spending cuts need to contain meaningful reductions in entitlement spending. But while Democrats have been out there banging the table for their preferred tax increases, it's not at all clear what Republicans negotiating objectives on the entitlement side are. Paul Ryan's budget, for example, cut Medicare spending by exactly $0 over ten years, promised small cuts in years 11-20, and then giant cuts in years 21-30. Obviously if Democrats proposed that timetable as their spending "concession" Republicans would laugh them out of the room. But that was their proposal!
Now of course, they may be saying specific things in private that Matt and I have no idea about. But here's the problem.
With opposition to Susan Rice mounting daily, Michael Tomasky proposes six alternative nominees for the top post at Foggy Bottom. Head of the list? The winner of the 2000 election.
Things maybe aren’t looking so great for Susan Rice. The throw-down yesterday by Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins, who extended the Republican case against Rice back to the Clinton years, is one of those Washington smoke signals, and it’s not a positive one. Let me therefore set aside for a day the question of the merits of Rice and raise another one: Who would make for some credible, interesting, outside-the-box choices to run Foggy Bottom? There are ample non-Rice options that would provide the nation with a strong chief diplomat and would piss off the wingnuts in the bargain. Here are half a dozen.
Michael Tomasky tells David Frum that Susan Rice deserves a pay day.
1. Al Gore. I first heard this suggestion from my friend David Greenberg, the historian who writes for Slate, and I though, nahhh. But it grew on me pretty fast. Tell me why not. He’d be great. He’s known around the world. He’s respected around the world, about 90 percent of which surely wishes he’d been the president instead of the guy he beat. I’m not saying he’d change the world; no one can do that. But he’d get a hearing everywhere. He knows a huge number of world leaders, and he knows the issues cold. He could dive right into the pool’s deepest end, in the Middle East, on Iran, you name it.
What about his climate-change crusade, you wonder? Far from having to drop his signature issue, Gore could use his new position to push it with even greater vigor in a global context. Gore, and probably Gore alone, would be capable of elevating the climate change issue to the position it deserves on the national and global stage.
Jokes aside, this could conceivably be a good thing, this lunch, and Romney can make a useful citizen of himself if he agrees to try to play some kind of moderating role in the Republican Party. Of course, Republicans will just not listen to him, and in a way why should they, but he's still one of the country's best-known Republicans, and while he lost handily he did come semi-reasonably close to becoming the president of the United States.
In other words, he has more juice with broader public than Mitch McConnell or John Boehner, each of whom would have won about 41 percent of the vote in a presidential election. Romney got (ain't it delicious!?) 47 percent.
So what could he do? I assume Obama is attempting to enlist him to try to get him to say a few constructive things nudging the GOP toward sanity on some fiscal matters. Of course that's a little hard for him to do considering the non-sane positions he took during the campaign. But it would be nice to hear him say some of those reasonably sensible things that so many insiders persuaded themselves he really believes deep down.
In fact, all this raises an interesting Romney character question. Now that he's done with politics, will he ever just say what he actually believes about anything beyond the "moocher class," the only matter on which he seemed to make his genuine views known? Will anyone care? Maybe. Al Gore and John Kerry lost presidential elections, but they're still important figures (obvious Gore is the better parallel here, since Kerry still holds office). Romney can be, too, if he wants to be. He could start this week by telling Republicans, hey, gang, let's drop the unceasing obstinacy.
With a quick turn of phrase and a solemn visage, these four disgraced politicians re-entered the political arena after being removed from office. Three got back in; will Weiner join their ranks?
Naming a special prosecutor would destroy Obama’s presidency, says Michael Tomasky.