How the GOP Became The Party of the Rich

Astonishing reading for anyone who realises the November 23 deadline for the “supercomittee” is coming up, and they’re not doing anything about it – the malaise set in a while ago:

In November 2002, at a meeting in the White House, the president and his top economic advisers packed tightly around a mahogany table in the Roosevelt Room. With the administration’s own forecasts showing that the economy had already regained its footing, one after another of Bush’s deputies sounded the alarm about the dangers of a new tax cut. “This burns a big hole in the budget,” deputy chief of staff Josh Bolten told the president. “The budget hole is getting deeper,” added Daniels, “and we are projecting deficits all the way to the end of your second term.”… Entertaining the chorus of doubters, Bush himself voiced qualms about more cuts for the rich. “Won’t the top-rate people benefit the most?” he asked. “Didn’t we already give them a break at the top?”

But Cheney was having none of it. When O’Neill warned Bush that America was headed for a “fiscal crisis,” the vice president, sitting at the Treasury secretary’s right elbow, dismissed him midsentence by citing the ultimate champion of Republican tax cuts: “Ronald Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter, Paul.”

A true student of Reagan would have understood that 2002 was the moment for a tax increase. When his 1981 tax cut overshot the mark, Reagan had put aside ideology and raised taxes, putting the needs of the country above the desires of the wealthy.

For all their clamouring and strident proclamations, the current Republican leadership doesn’t have a clue as to how to get back into surplus. It’s much the same in our dear little opposition.

Battleship: the Movie

They’re really, seriously making “Battleship: The Movie“. And you thought comic book movies were bad?

(On the other hand, Funny or Die has a great “What other movies could they make?” post, which happens to include Clue(do):

When your family is more prolific than the Kennedys’ and more secretive than the Knights Templar, reunions can be a tedious affair. Especially when the mysterious, estranged patriarch is discovered dead before dinner can be served. Now in two days the Von Clu family must try to find a killer without murdering each other first. (Will be a quirky reboot of the storied Clue franchise)

Starring Bill Murray as Colonel Mustard, Meryl Streep as Ms. White, Angelica Houston as Mrs. Peacock, Luke Wilson as Rev. Green, Christina Ricci as Miss Scarlett and Jason Schwartzman as Professor Plum. Written and directed by Wes Anderson. That joke is an elevator pitch worth $25 million right there.

Climate Change and the End of Australia

Jeff Goodell, for Rolling Stone: Climate Change and the End of Australia:

 As the Big Dry dragged on, rainfall declined in the southern part of the country, where most of the people live and the majority of the food is grown, fueling the risk of catastrophic bush fires. The reasons for this change in rainfall patterns are complex, but many climate scientists believe that the Big Dry was driven by subtle shifts in the structure of Australia’s atmosphere caused by the dramatic buildup of carbon pollution. “The storm track, which brings rain-bearing weather to Australia, has shifted a few degrees south,” says Karoly, the University of Melbourne scientist. “Rain that had fallen on southwestern and southeastern Australia now falls on the ocean.” Global warming, in other words, shifted the continent’s vital rainfall out to sea.

For farmers in southeastern Australia, the minute shift in atmospheric conditions was devastating.

Nothing you don’t already know if you live in Australia, but seeing it all condensed into this article for foreign consumption makes it all the more relevant.

Clark is Offline

These days, when you lose someone you care for, the digital world keeps their footprints:

My Gmail is a priceless hoard of us making plans, telling inside jokes, calling each other “snoodle” and “bubbies.” I type his name into the search field and enter a world of the unscripted dialogue that filled our 9-to-5 existence. I become immersed in the coziness of our union. In hundreds of chats automatically saved to my account, we express our love for each other readily and naturally in our own private speech. This is a history of our relationship that we didn’t intend to write, one that runs parallel to the one authored by his uncontainable illness.

Julia, resign

Julia, resign:

At the same time you were blind to Rudd’s achievements, most importantly his tactical response to the global financial crisis mark I. It was fast, intelligent and successful. Few believe you can perform to his level for GFC II.

Neither the voters, according to the pollsters, nor the frightened people sitting behind you in the Reps. They know the party is doomed but are paralysed. They don’t have the guts to admit to a huge error of judgment and demand you leave.

That’s why you must resign. You started this fiasco. Only you can end it. That’s the only way to have a fighting chance. Not only in the next election but in the dramatic months between then and now.

Never, ever did I think I would find something in The Australian that I could point to as rational thought. Have a look at this chart of polling:

If Rudd had lost his way, Gillard is up the proverbial creek without a paddle and sinking fast.

The Founding Fathers in a new light

History diversion: Today I learned… the “Founding Fathers” of America might not have been so pure in their motives after all:

As Ethan Allen: His Life and Times, a new and frustrating biography by Willard Sterne Randall, shows, Allen is hard to write about. He poses a challenge not so much because he is different from more famous Founders like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Benjamin Franklin but because he resembles them perhaps a bit too much—in ways most Americans prefer not to think about.

Indeed, who wasn’t a land speculator in this freewheeling age? George Washington, a former surveyor, had amassed thousands of acres in the Ohio valley and spent 10 years lobbying the governor of Virginia to legalize his titles. Gen. Thomas Gage, who would lead British forces against Washington, held 18,000 acres, and had married into one of the greatest landowning families on the continent. When fighting broke out in 1775, these contested speculations loomed in the background.

If Allen had one thing in greater quantities than courage and verve, it was good timing. In the spring of 1775, just as officials were planning to arrest Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, a far greater insurrection broke out in Boston. Had the imperial crisis not come to a head just then, Allen would surely have been captured and executed.

and, alluding to the religious context of the time, the article makes mention of Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, a text by one of the Founding Fathers that explicitly attacks Christianity in its then-modern form, along with straight-out calling the Bible just another book. Imagine someone on the level of the US President saying that these days – it’d cause apoplexies across the US and be liable to see him impeached before the week was through!

Fascinating that the US has warped into the strange country with conflicting drives that exists today.

Russell Brand on the London Riots

Russell Brand writes surprisingly well on the causes of the London/UK Riots:

Why am I surprised that these young people behave destructively, “mindlessly”, motivated only by self-interest? How should we describe the actions of the city bankers who brought our economy to its knees in 2010? Altruistic? Mindful? Kind? But then again, they do wear suits, so they deserve to be bailed out, perhaps that’s why not one of them has been imprisoned. And they got away with a lot more than a few fucking pairs of trainers.

These young people have no sense of community because they haven’t been given one. They have no stake in society because Cameron’s mentor Margaret Thatcher told us there’s no such thing.

If we don’t want our young people to tear apart our communities then don’t let people in power tear apart the values that hold our communities together.

Fascinating. Between this and Brand’s semi-eulogy of Amy Winehouse, I’m fascinated by the writing of this man that comes across as such a crass simpleton. I guess there’s really a difference between the public and private personas after all.

Political reality

Alan Kohler: A Surplus of Political Stupidity:

We are about to get a lesson in the absurdity of political discourse: the government is going to be accused of ‘breaking a promise’ if a global downturn prevents the budget from returning to surplus by 2013, or if it sensibly decides to put off the carbon tax.

In normal life, we adjust according to circumstances. A company, for example, might decide to do something next year, but if things change the board will meet again and put it off. If they didn’t, they’d be sacked.

In politics, however, there are only broken promises; if you make a sensible decision to change course because the wind is blowing a different way, you get pilloried instead of praised.

[Link requires registration, unless you arrive from Google]

Obama is the Democrats’ Nixon

Obama is the Democrats’ Nixon:

Thus Obama took office under roughly the same political and economic circumstances that Nixon did in 1968 except in a mirror opposite way. Instead of being forced to manage a slew of new liberal spending programs, as Nixon did, Obama had to cope with a revenue structure that had been decimated by Republicans.

Liberals hoped that Obama would overturn conservative policies and launch a new era of government activism. Although Republicans routinely accuse him of being a socialist, an honest examination of his presidency must conclude that he has in fact been moderately conservative to exactly the same degree that Nixon was moderately liberal.

This debt debate has dragged on far too long. and Obama’s negotiation is far too forgiving to achieve anything like an equitable result.

The Perfect Fire

From Longform.org, a story of a fire in an abandoned warehouse – The Perfect Fire:

The message that there might be people inside was relayed over the fire-department radios. Brotherton and Lucey walked back across the roof to the AB stairs, tromped down one flight, and started searching the top floor for people. Routine. At 6:22, only the thinnest haze of smoke hung in the corridors. More than two dozen men were in the warehouse, looking either for homeless people or flames. Each man had a tank strapped to his back filled with oxygen compressed to forty-five hundred pounds per square inch–enough for thirty minutes of relaxed breathing, half as long humping through a burning building–and connected to a plastic face mask. But the air was so clear that no one had bothered to put his on.

Chills, and heart-wrenching.