Sunday, November 13, 2011

Last Call

The Super Committee was never going to get a deal, folks.  With ten days to go, it looks even more bleak then it did when the Super Committee was announced.
 The congressional "super committee" is at a difficult point in negotiations on deficit-reduction, but lawmakers said on Sunday they had not given up on reaching an agreement by this month's deadline.

The special congressional committee is tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings over 10 years, but with a November 23 deadline looming, Republicans and Democrats have not yet sealed a deal.

Republicans have been reluctant to allow tax increases, and Democrats do not want to agree to cuts in healthcare and retirement programs until tax increases are on the table.

House of Representatives Republican Jeb Hensarling, committee co-chair, acknowledged on CNN's "State of the Union" program that tax increases would likely have to be part of any bipartisan deal.
"We believe that, frankly, increasing tax revenues could hurt the economy, but within the context of a bipartisan negotiation with Democrats, clearly they are a reality," Hensarling said.

House of Representatives Democrat James Clyburn, a member of the super committee, said on "Fox News Sunday" that while he was "very hopeful" that a compromise could be reached by the deadline, "I am not as certain as I was 10 days ago."

Not happening.  Time to figure out what happens when the deal isn't reached, and the answer to that will most likely be nothing at all.

What if they fail – and nothing happens? After all, the automatic cuts kick in after the 2012 elections – when a new Congress will be in Washington. Will that Congress feel bound by the decisions of the previous Congress?

It depends on who's in charge of both Congress and the White House.  Of course, long before this deal plays out, the continuing resolution that funds the government expires on Friday.  So yeah, shutdown could come as early as Saturday.  Who knows where we're going on this mess?

Playing Bibi's Game

So what's Israel's game here, and what's the point of doing something silly, petty, and childish like this?

The US leader was rebuffed last month when he demanded private guarantees that no strike would go ahead without White House notification, suggesting Israel no longer plans to "seek Washington's permission", sources said. The disclosure, made by insiders briefed on a top-secret meeting between America's most senior defence chief and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's hawkish prime minister, comes amid concerns that Iran's continuing progress towards nuclear weapons capability means the Jewish state has all but lost hope for a diplomatic solution.
On Tuesday, UN weapons inspectors released their most damning report to date into Iran's nuclear activities, saying for the first time that the Islamic republic appeared to be building a nuclear weapon. It was with that grave possiblity in mind that Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, flew into Israel last month on what was ostensibly a routine trip.
Officially, his brief was restricted to the Middle East peace process, but the most important part of his mission was a private meeting with Mr Netanyahu and the defence minister, Ehud Barak. Once all but a handful of trusted staff had left the room, Mr Panetta conveyed an urgent message from Barack Obama. The president, Mr Panetta said, wanted an unshakable guarantee that Israel would not carry out a unilateral military strike against Iran's nuclear installations without first seeking Washington's clearance.
The two Israelis were notably evasive in their response, according to sources both in Israel and the United States.
"They did not suggest that military action was being planned or was imminent, but neither did they give any assurances that Israel would first seek Washington's permission, or even inform the White House in advance that a mission was underway," one said. 

So is this Israel's usual blustering and sabre-rattling in proxy for the US, or is Netanyahu really off the chain and about to strike?  I'm thinking it's the former here:  not much to be gained by saying that you're not going to tell your biggest ally that they can find out about your "strike on Iran" via Al-Jazeera.

If it is Bibi's hurt feelings, then this is a remarkably petty way to show it, too.  It's no secret that the Israelis would rather have the GOP in charge so that they can get away with 99% of whatever they want as opposed to 75% from Obama.  We'll see what happens.

Not So Fast, Holder's Furious

It looks like AG Eric Holder has finally realized that the GOP won't stop flogging his continuation of Bush's "Gunwalker" program until he's gone, so now Holder is fighting back.  Hard.

But amid dozens of calls for his resignation and a series of heated comments —one Republican implied that he’s an accessory to murder — Holder has stepped up his approach.

“I'd like to correct some of the inaccurate, and frankly, irresponsible accusations surrounding Fast and Furious,” Holder announced at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week.

The hearing was Holder’s first before the committee since internal DOJ memos raised questions about whether he misled the House Judiciary Committee in May when he testified that he had first learned about Fast and Furious “over the last few weeks.”

The memos launched a spate of Republican calls for his resignation as lawmakers debated whether Holder lied to Congress under oath and questioned whether he was fit to hold office.

At Tuesday’s hearing Holder immediately clarified his remarks from his House testimony in May, saying that he first learned about Fast and Furious and its gun-walking tactics after news reports emerged based on the concerns of whistleblowers. He said he immediately asked for an IG investigation.

And what the bigger issue here remains is the fact these programs were created and implemented by the Bush administration, continued by the staff inherited by Holder, and only questioned once whistleblowers came forward to point out that A) this Bush program was still going on and B) it was a stupid idea.

The GOP wants to pin all of the blame on Holder and have been trying to do so for nearly six months now, but nobody's buying it.  Remember, these are the same Republicans who approved the Bush torture regime without blinking but are now accusing Holder of being an accessory to murder.

Excellent to see Holder fight back on this.

Michael Jackson: History Of An Addict Emerges

Muchas gracias to TMZ, who doesn't stop digging when the others move on.

Michael Jackson took Propofol as early as 1999, a former manager claims in a new book -- and says Jackson was late to his 30th anniversary concerts because he was drugged up.

Frank Cascio, a former personal assistant to Jackson who eventually became his close friend and manager, writes that he first noticed Jackson taking Demerol in 1993 during his "Dangerous" tour. He says Jackson was first introduced to the drug in 1984, after Jackson burned his head during a Pepsi commercial shoot.

In the book, an advanced copy of which was obtained by the AP, Cascio claims Jackson took Propofol in 1999 after a stage accident in Munich.

Cascio says he spoke to Jackson's siblings about his drug use in 2001 and they tried to approach Jackson about it -- but MJ "simply pushed them away."

Writing about Jackson's death, Cascio says Michael "died in his endless quest to attain some inner peace."

That pretty well sums up what makes sense, that this was a long-standing problem that led to an inevitable end.  I also wondered, while Jackson didn't self-administer the fatal shot, how much he had given himself over the years.  I'm just saying, when you have that kind of money and resources you can get what you want.  Though what led him to the drugs was not his fault, it introduced him to the escape that he had been craving for years.  He never stood a chance

Again, not contradicting Murray's guilt but shows this train was in motion years before he came on board.  According to TIME, Jackson and Murray did not meet until 2006.

Remembering Jack Palance

Jack Palance was a great actor, and a hell of a man.  According to his daughter Holly, he was also a hell of a parent.

Sure, when we lose someone we love we tend to forget their flaws and remember them with an exaggerated loyalty.  But Holly's storytelling and memories couldn't come from someone with a shallow or disconnected upbringing.  It's a short read but touching and gives a few comments about her generation and loss as well.

This morning, on the fifth anniversary of my father's death, I saw a raisin pie in the bakery and burst into tears. My Dad adored raisin pie. And I adored him.

I may be 60, but I've discovered that you don't outgrow being a Daddy's girl.

His memory is with me every day. He was tall, talented and a man of few words. When he spoke, I listened. He made me feel like the best little girl/young woman/woman in the world. In his book, I could do no wrong.

Boomers like to call themselves orphans after their parents have 'slipped the surly bonds of earth,' but that doesn't make sense to me. On my eighth birthday my father took me to a real orphanage to hand out Ukrainian costumed dolls, identical to the present he had just given me. I didn't understand what we were doing there, but he soon made the reason clear. These girls, he said, had no mother or father. I had both. The least I could do was share the bounty I'd been given. He said it would make me feel grateful for my good fortune. He was right.

The rest of the article tells an even better story, one that I think more parents should read.  My own dad said once that the reward of living a good solid life is being able to respect yourself and be comfortable and confident with who you are.  That also meant believing in yourself and being willing to listen but firm in your understanding.  Palance believed in something similar, and taught the lessons the easy way first, the hard way if necessary, but he never failed to teach his daughter what she needed to know.

I went out looking for a nice read, and I found one. I hope you enjoy it as well!

The Big GOP Debate Thread

Last night's GOP foreign policy debate in South Carolina went pretty much exactly as you expected it to.  CNN's Peter Hamby noted that the Clown Car Crew put up an increasingly awful isolationist front, starting with Rick Perry:

Perry said that's the amount of foreign aid every country in the world would receive at the outset of his administration. Each nation would then have to explain why they deserve American funds -- even Israel. Perry later clarified that Israel, a staunch ally, would continue to receive "substantial" money from Washington.

The proposal was a warning shot to Pakistan, which continues to receive billions of dollars in aid from the United States even though its intelligence services have been linked to terrorists.

Several of the candidates seemed to agree with Perry, even former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who said aid to Pakistan should be zeroed out and re-evaluated. And so, not only did Perry escape Spartanburg without another embarrassing gaffe on his hands, he actually made news with a policy proposal.

Then the second tier tore into the media.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann was handed an opportunity to take a similar path on Saturday when CBS Political Director John Dickerson accidentally copied a Bachmann aide on an email saying that the candidate was largely irrelevant and would not be asked many questions in the debate.

The Bachmann campaign called on Dickerson to be fired and accused the network of sidelining a candidate based on her diminished standing in the polls.

Bachmann's campaign manager stormed through the post-debate spin room and called Dickerson a "piece of sh-t" and a "fraud." Dickerson's response: "Bachmann is at 4% in the polls and has been for a while. Other candidates aren't. I sent an email based on that."

Because it's the media's fault Michele Bachmann is in the single digits, you know.  Has nothing to do with her policies or her totally crazy ideas.  Finally, Mittens didn't screw up.

Improbably, after 10 presidential debates -- or is it 11? - the putative GOP frontrunner survived unscathed once again. His rivals, particularly Perry and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, will almost certainly pick apart his answers on the foreign policy front.

But Romney has yet to suffer the kind of campaign-altering blunder that these nationally televised debates tend to produce. And this is in a presidential campaign that has been almost entirely defined by the marathon debate schedule.

Who CNN didn't mention at all in the article?  The supposedly "surging" New Gingrich was ignored.

All these debates prove that once again the most qualified person in the race right now is Barack Obama.  But please, keep reminding people of that, guys.

Oh and if you're worried about Michele Bachmann, even the SC GOP threw her under the bus. They want nothing to do with her either.
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