Tuesday Night Open Thread

Jimmy Kimmel's latest threat to Germany to release Justin Bieber's monkey is pretty funny. So is Kid Rock who comes on at the end (and of course Guillermo in the middle blowing up a German chocolate cake.)

Why is the Voice so much better than American Idol? I think it's because the singers are more talented and memorable and the judges are better and much less scripted. They also have good chemistry with each other. New judges Shakira and Usher are more interesting than either Cee Lo Green or Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton is impossible not to like, and Adam Levine is so....earnest. Even Carson Daly is good in his role as hand-holder to the contestants' families backstage as they watch the performance. Or maybe it's just that the casting directors are better. Whatever, it's a the season is off to a great start. The blind auditions continue tonight.

On a more serious note, Reason TV has a video, "Tortured for Testimony: Anarchists Get Solitary Confinement for Not Snitching" about some young political activists/anarchists put in the hole at Seattle's federal detention center for refusing to comply with a grand jury subpoena ordering them to testify. Neither had been charged with a crime.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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    Any trouble with new comments not (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by caseyOR on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:06:04 AM EST
    highlighting? I ask because I told Colin, Jeralyn's web guy, that I would send him an email today, and tell him if the comment highlighting problem had been resolved.

    For me, on Mon. and Tues. I had highlighted new comments on all threads except the Open Threads. The front page would show me that there were, say, 6 new comments, but when I clicked over to the comments the new ones were not highlighted.

    Anybody else still having trouble intermittent or constant?

    It's intermittent for me too (none / 0) (#10)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 05:44:59 AM EST
    On my phone and at home (using Chrome).

    I encountered the new comment (none / 0) (#12)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 06:39:31 AM EST
    problem yesterday. Can't remember if it was just on the Open Threads but my experience mirrored yours otherwise. "The front page would show me that there were, say, 6 new comments, but when I clicked over to the comments the new ones were not highlighted."

    Yes, new comments not showing as new. (none / 0) (#18)
    by Angel on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 09:16:31 AM EST
    Happens when using iPad Safari and desktop Firefox.  Problem comes and goes, no discernible pattern.

    It happens for me in Safari too (none / 0) (#38)
    by shoephone on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:34:36 PM EST
    it seems to come and go in Chrome.

    Intermittent still (none / 0) (#19)
    by Zorba on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 09:23:50 AM EST
    for me.  Does seem to be worse for Open Threads.  Sometimes new comments show, sometime not.
    When I first clicked on to this thread this morning, new comments did not show as new.  But when I just came back here, Angel's brand new comment did show.

    And clicking on the hash tag next to the person's name who made the newest comment, under "Entries with recent comments," sometimes takes me directly to that comment, and sometimes just to the top of the thread.

    Beats the heck out of me.  Gremlins.  Or poltergeists.  


    Still happening for me, on and off. (none / 0) (#20)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 09:30:32 AM EST
    In this thread, for example, none of the comments showed as new the first time I clicked on the post - this isn't so bad when you know all the comments are new to you because you haven't read any, but when the comment count starts to get much past 25, it's a pain having to skim all of them to find the ones that are supposed to be new.

    I've also noticed - generally - that when I go home and look at TL on the laptop, using Firefox, I see graphics in the posts that weren't visible to me looking at TL from work, also on Firefox.  It's a little weird.


    And, my just-posted comment does (none / 0) (#21)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 09:31:21 AM EST
    not show up for me as [new], so, yeah, it's still happening.

    Ditto n/t (none / 0) (#32)
    by NYShooter on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 11:57:27 AM EST
    no new comments (none / 0) (#28)
    by the capstan on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 11:05:31 AM EST
    highlighted on this previously unread thread: Chrome, Ubuntu

    Intermittent (none / 0) (#29)
    by sj on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 11:09:39 AM EST
    But this whole thread is missing the "new" designation and this is the first time I've read through it.

    One of the most honest (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by jbindc on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 05:50:00 AM EST
    things a politician can say.  Too bad it's from The Onion.  But the sentiment, is oh, so true....

    I'm Weighing Whether Or Not I Want To Go Through The Hell Of Appealing To You Idiotic, Uninformed Oafs

    COMMENTARY * Opinion * ISSUE 49*15 * Apr 9, 2013
    By Hillary Clinton

    As President Obama serves out his second term in office and Washington looks forward to the 2016 presidential election, many friends and colleagues have been asking me what my plans for the future are. It's an interesting question, and one that I've given a lot of personal and professional consideration to. And while I can't definitively say what my plans are one way or another, I can say that, at this point in my life, I'm strongly weighing whether or not I want to endure the absolute hell of appealing to you mindless, dumb-as-dirt simpletons again.

    Because when it comes right down to it, I have two choices: Either I spend the next three years of my life investing an enormous amount of time and energy into appealing to the lowest common denominator, or I preserve my dignity, move on with my life, and continue serving the public without completely degrading myself day in and day out for millions of ignorant slobs.

    The sentiment is reflective of... (none / 0) (#24)
    by Dadler on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 10:01:23 AM EST
    ...the utter lack of imagination on the part of American politicians, not just the ignorance of the public. Leaders lead, but these days too many lack the ability to creatively hack at the brush to actually do so. And the Clintons, frankly, are just not very different. I don't really think either Bill or Hillary has the ability to really speak the truth about, say, the economy right now. I have yet to hear either of them speak the factual reality that the United States cannot go financially broke, that we can only go morally and intellectually and creatively broke -- which, at this point, we very much are.

    I wish it was just a function of (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 10:29:11 AM EST
    lack of imagination; at some point, and especially when dealing with two highly intelligent people like the Clintons, one has to consider that the reason they aren't out there speaking the truth about our inability to run out of money is that it doesn't mesh with their fiscal philosophy and vision.

    There are very few people speaking that truth - possibly because whenever they do, they are portrayed as lunatics.

    It's kind of hilarious, really, that there seems to be so much concern with "giving" anything to people at the lowest end of the wealth spectrum - even the benefits they've earned after decades of working - but there is no matching concern for all the giveaways to the wealthy and to corporate America.

    At this stage, I'm praying for gridlock, or that the GOP can't get its act together long enough to take advantage of the cover Obama is giving them to lay the demise of the social safety net at the feet of Democrats.  The 2014 mid-term ads will write themselves if Obama gets his cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and we can look forward to a lot more GOP seats in both houses of Congress.

    And then it's really all going to go to hell in a handbasket.


    "doesn't mesh w/their fiscal philosophy" (none / 0) (#30)
    by Dadler on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 11:16:59 AM EST
    This, to me, for people like the Clintons, one of whom came from a welfare-check childhood, is exactly what I mean by a lack of imagination. I don't think the Clintons are like the Kochs, who care for nothing for their fat wallets and microscopic privates, but I do think the Clintons lack entirely the imagination necessary to translate and separate aspiration from acquisition, humane passion from inhumane profit, luck from fortune.  

    We all get old. But some of us retain the desire to youthfully acquire knowledge until we cease to pump our own blood. Others, not so much.

    As for speaking the truth, all it takes, IMO, is truly creative chops. A rhetorical game both intellectually sound and slightly flamboyant. This IS possible, to me. It will just take time, and the demise of geezer peers of ours. Provided we don't nuke or drown ourselves by then.


    It's just that, in order for them to (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:30:09 PM EST
    be able to promote a particular vision, they have to close their eyes to the truth, so it may be more a form of denial than of lack of imagination.

    I don't think the Clintons are blind to the inequality that is getting larger and the poverty that is getting deeper, but, Bill's stuck on deficits and Third Way BS that has never ever worked, and Hillary's hedging her bets with 2016 still a possibility.

    Reducing the deficit isn't going to help seniors, the poor, or the sick pay the bills, put food on the table or gas in the car - especially not when it's being done on the backs of those people to an extent that's really going to hurt.

    I know both of Clintons have the intellectual capacity to grasp the sovereign nature of our currency, the validity and security of the debt instruments we issue, and to put that together with the economic realities people are facing, and come up with a plan that provides people with the tools and programs for a standard of living that isn't one of deprivation.

    At the heart of this, I think, is being beholden to special interests, so whatever ideas their imaginations produce probably get dumped because they know they will never be allowed to fly.

    Whole thing just ticks me off.


    digby has a post with charts (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 07:08:25 AM EST
    that shows that the chained CPI is "a backdoor tax increase that falls disproportionately on those making between 20 and 50 thousand dollars a year."

    Oh, and let's not forget. That tax hike, by law, goes to pay for George W. Bush's wars not to shore up Social Security. And since these benefits cuts only add a very small amount to the Social Security trust fund, we'll be back with another campaign to cut more within a couple of years: Links to charts

    Recommend everyone read the article and view the charts, particularly those that deal with the minute impact to actually "strengthening Social Security."

    So to recap:

    o The chained CPI will cause a lot of pain by cutting benefits to seniors and for the disabled both civilian and veterans.

    o It will cause more pain by reducing the incomes of the working poor and the middle class.

    o It opens the door to future benefit cuts rather than making any real impact on closing the Social Security trust fund gap.

    o People without money cannot buy stuff. Less people buying stuff = more job losses.

    Blog writers (none / 0) (#14)
    by CoralGables on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 08:00:38 AM EST
    really should hold off on analyzing until they see the entire product rather than cherry picking thoughts without full facts. So there is little reason to read their thoughts until they have actually read the proposal later today.

    I think you'll find that the chained CPI would be adjusted for disabled civilians and veterans. It's also likely adjusted as SS recipients get older. But I'm happy to wait for the release of the budget before offering charts and graphs.

    Also many of your past posts are misrepresentative with regard to taxes. While the average tax rate for many would go up approx $300 per year in 2020, the rate for millionaires jumps far, far higher as deductions and write offs are capped; a Buffett rule is put in place for those easning over $1 million; and carried interest gets counted as normal income; and capping tax free retiremement accounts (sorry Mr Romney).

    Not that any of it really matters as the President's budget won't move forward any further than the current Senate or House budget but it would be nice if the chained CPI fetish crowd waited to read what is in the proposal before going on their daily rants.


    I don't know why we have to wait; (5.00 / 3) (#23)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 09:46:06 AM EST
    we already know that using chained CPI isn't going to, nor is it intended to, increase anyone's benefits, and we also know that the reasons given for why it makes sense to use it are pretty specious.

    And we already know that policies that will reduce demand don't make a whole lot of sense, especially in a fragile economy.  That being said, if dollars are going to come out of any pockets, it makes more sense to take them from the pockets of those fortunate enough to be earning wages high enough that some of them are exempt from Social Security tax.

    Poverty in this country is higher than ever, and I can think of no good reason why we would want to institute any changes to the social safety net programs that push more people closer to the edge - especially when it has yet to be demonstrated to any believable degree that chained CPI is going to strengthen Social Security or other programs that use the CPI as a factor in determining benefits.

    Finally, I don't believe there have been changes to the treatment of carried interest - if you have a link to that being changed, I'd love to see it.


    I expect the carried interest (none / 0) (#25)
    by CoralGables on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 10:14:49 AM EST
    to be included in the budget. I'm happy to wait and see if it is. It's being reported that it will be treated as normal income. (although we both know the Obama budget isn't going to pass because the GOP has already rejected it because of the supposed tax increases on the wealthy)

    Here is the quote from CNN (none / 0) (#26)
    by CoralGables on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 10:28:36 AM EST
    not that it matters as, like digby, they haven't read the complete document yet either.

    Managers of private equity, venture capital and hedge funds are taxed 20% on the portion of their compensation known as carried interest, essentially paying the long-term capital gain rate. Obama wants carried interest to be treated as ordinary income. The result: fund managers could pay a rate as high as 39.6%,

    Let's do recent quotes vs recent actions (5.00 / 3) (#35)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:24:48 PM EST
    What the president was quoting saying on taxes:

    The president said he wants to prevent U.S. companies from deferring tax payments by keeping profits in foreign countries rather than recording them at home and called for more transparency in bank accounts that Americans hold in notorious tax havens like the Cayman Islands.

    What the President signed into law:

    The "fiscal cliff" legislation passed this week included $76 billion in special-interest tax credits for the likes of General Electric, Hollywood and even Captain Morgan. But these subsidies weren't the fruit of eleventh-hour lobbying conducted on the cliff's edge -- they were crafted back in August in a Senate committee, and they sat dormant until the White House reportedly insisted on them this week...

    General Electric and Citigroup, for instance, hired Breaux and Lott to extend a tax provision that allows multinational corporations to defer U.S. taxes by moving profits into offshore financial subsidiaries. This provision -- known as the "active financing exception" -- is the main tool GE uses to avoid nearly all U.S. corporate income tax.

    Well, not exactly (none / 0) (#39)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:57:32 PM EST

    But in the final hours of the negotiations over the fiscal cliff bill, lobbyists pushing the additional tax breaks appear to have had a key ally: President Obama, who during his re-election campaign had touted the need to increase the nation's investment in alternative energy sources such as wind.

    Tax credits for the energy industry make up a big chunk of the "add-ons" that were attached to the fiscal cliff bill - about $18.1 billion worth, of which $12.1 billion represents a dramatic expansion of write-offs for wind energy investments.

    The fact that there were write offs (5.00 / 2) (#75)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:52:14 PM EST
    for wind energy investments have nothing to do with the fact that the legislation also allowed

    multinational corporations to defer U.S. taxes by moving profits into offshore financial subsidiaries. This provision -- known as the "active financing exception" -- is the main tool GE uses to avoid nearly all U.S. corporate income tax.

    Yeah, we should wait... (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by sj on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 11:21:21 AM EST
    Blog writers (none / 0) (#14)
    by CoralGables on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 08:00:38 AM EST

    really should hold off on analyzing until they see the entire product rather than cherry picking thoughts without full facts.

    ...until the proposal is in final form before weighing in on our preferences.  'Cause that's how the paid lobbyists do it, right?

    The income adjustment that happens if you (5.00 / 4) (#34)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:20:25 PM EST
    survive until you reach 85 - 87 has been analyzed and reported. Guess what it is not sufficient to reduce the financial hardship that the chained CPI will inflict on our seniors especially women. If no significant financial hardship results from implementing the chained CPI why are there any discussions about adjusting it for disabled civilians and veterans. As long as it just brings the majority of seniors down to but not below the poverty levels, no big deal according to Obama supporters.  

    Also, there was no misrepresentation on how the taxes generated by chained CPI hit the working poor and the middle class. There are no caps on deductions or write offs; there is no Buffett rule put in place for those earning over $1 million; and there is nothing on how carried interest or capping tax free retirement accounts contained in how the chained CPI imposes taxes. Those are completely different different proposals than the chained CPI. If the "Great Negotiator's" the past actions are any indication, it is more than possible that the chained CPI will be enacted into law while the other tax proposals are dropped as an indication of just how serious he is on eliminating the deficit. Let me suggest that you are misrepresenting the effect of the chained CPI by choosing to mix apple and oranges of other proposals to justify Obama's desire to cut benefits for Social Security as well as domestic programs and raise taxes on the working poor and the middle class.

    Also lets looks at the ratio of the proposals:

    But their current budget is already unbalanced. Dean Baker's calculations show that the president's asking the typical financially-strapped senior to sacrifice more than three times as great a share of income as the average wealthy American. Disabled veterans could be hit even harder, since they tend to spend more years collecting the benefit.

    While deficit reduction and this proposal are being sold non stop by the news media and Obama's cheerleaders, we and liberal bloggers according to you should sit down and STFU.

    Not a chance.


    Your link doesn't work (1.00 / 2) (#41)
    by CoralGables on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 01:14:12 PM EST
    Someone really should write an overhyped novel...Fifty Shades of Chained CPI.

    Maybe you should write a "How To" book (4.00 / 3) (#51)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:26:36 PM EST
    Titled "How I helped my favorite politicians move money from average citizens to billionaire corporations and the mega rich."

    Why so hostile? (none / 0) (#52)
    by sj on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:30:24 PM EST
    If you are so confident?

    "the chained CPI fetish crowd" (5.00 / 4) (#36)
    by shoephone on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:29:53 PM EST
    Is that anything like the "f*cking retards" on "the professional left"?

    See also: DFH (none / 0) (#40)
    by sj on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:58:53 PM EST
    But I'd rather hang out with the "changed CPI fetish crowd" than with the apologists.  I don't like the way blinders interfere with my peripheral vision.

    Blinders are for people (none / 0) (#42)
    by CoralGables on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 01:16:00 PM EST
    that whine about a proposed budget before reading the proposed budget.

    No, blinders are for the rah-rah Obama crowd (5.00 / 4) (#43)
    by shoephone on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 01:43:17 PM EST
    Rule #1 of of the rah-rah Obama crowd:
    Regardless of the consequences of his policies, we must not ever question or criticize the policies!

    For those interested in the truth, we ask: (5.00 / 3) (#44)
    by shoephone on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 01:45:35 PM EST
    How will cutting Social Security benefits for seniors fix--or affect in any way--the budget deficit?



    Read the document (1.00 / 2) (#46)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:02:46 PM EST
    $230 billion in savings from using a more
    accurate measure of inflation for cost-of-living
    adjustments throughout the Budget,
    with protections for the most vulnerable;



    Social Security is not a budget item. (5.00 / 2) (#49)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:22:04 PM EST
    And anything that's couched in terms of "protections for the most vulnerable" is one that ought to be looked at very carefully, because it usually means that someone who has no clue what it means to be living an economically precarious life will be deciding what qualifies as "most vulnerable."  

    As MO Blue has pointed out, if it has to have those kinds of protections, it isn't going to do one damn thing to make the lives of the old, the poor and the sick one bit better.  Can you explain to me why that is considered to be a good thing?  Because no one else seems to want to answer that question.

    While you're at it - if you care to take on that challenge - maybe you can tell me how reducing the deficit is going to help lift up the least among us.  Or why we even have to reduce it now?  

    Maybe you can explain why Obama's pushing austerity here at home, but sending his Treasury Secretary to Europe to lecture them about ending their austerity policies - does this make sense to you?  Is this further attempt to impose austerity here another one of those things that Obama thinks will work because he's the one in charge?  Does he think austerity will cease to be anti-growth because his name is attached to it?

    Would you be so willing to defend these ideas if they were coming from a President Romney?


    Speak facts not nice to haves, pie in the sky (2.00 / 1) (#56)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:52:57 PM EST
    I'd like to see us take care of everyone w/high taxes on the rich alone.  Let's re-allocate wealth, heck let's do away w/capitalism all together and come up w/something better that will work for everyone globally.  The reality is nothing like that will ever get passed in this Congress and the world won't get it together as long as you and I have a 401k.

    What would make the lives of the sick, elderly and poor better?  Cures for diseases, family, money, better choices in life (for some,) who knows?  

    Surely you do not expect the budget to solve all of those issues.  The best the budget can do w/in the current environment is attempt to address core, root cause issues in the limited manner that it can based on the priorities of the administration.  Assumption is President Romney would've had different priorities.

    You're a smart woman, you cannot seriously believe that SS has no impact on the budget, i.e. planning on future spending.  That's like saying since I don't pay the cable bill but my wife does, it's not "on budget."

    Even the SSA doesn't believe that:

    However, those involved in budget matters often produce two sets of numbers, one without Social Security included in the budget totals and one with Social Security included. Thus, Social Security is still frequently treated as though it were part of the unified federal budget even though, technically, it no longer is.

    These changes in federal budgeting rules govern how the Social Security program is accounted for in the federal budget, not how it is financed.

    How it is financed is directly related to how much it spends, no?


    I'm really surprised at how many people (5.00 / 2) (#59)
    by sj on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:59:29 PM EST
    are willing to do harm to their parents and grandparents.  And who knows, maybe your parents and grandparents deserve payback in your mind.

    But mine don't.


    Heh (1.00 / 1) (#62)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:05:58 PM EST
    Now, now, be nice.

    I just love how you provide quotes (5.00 / 2) (#64)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:14:27 PM EST
    that complete make your point invalid.

    Thus, Social Security is still frequently treated as though it were part of the unified federal budget even though, technically, it no longer is.

    From your link:

    However, in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1990 the law was changed to stop the use of the Trust Funds for any function in the unified budget, including calculations of the deficit. One sub-part of OBRA 1990 was called the Budget Enforcement Act (BEA), and it was this sub-part that specified this change in the law.

    I just love how you miss the larger point (1.00 / 1) (#67)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:24:06 PM EST
    but again, seek comfort in your "technical" explanation.  By the same token, I'm sure you were OK w/the big banks moving bad debts off their balance sheets.  No worries, soldier on.

    "Larger" point (5.00 / 2) (#69)
    by sj on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:32:47 PM EST
    I wonder if this applies to you:
    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
    Because clearly you are neither illiterate nor semi-literate.

    OTOH your link doesn't exactly say what you seem to think it says.  Just saying.


    Once again you use distortions and lies (5.00 / 1) (#72)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:41:51 PM EST
    to build strawmen to try and distract from what you write. I guess that is your only option since you can not rely on actual facts. Posting articles that do not prove what you want to prove, dismissing others hardships as non events and joking about people with disabilities seem to be your fall back position. Not sure how you think that does anything positive.

    Charlie Pierce reacts to a jaw-dropping (5.00 / 3) (#73)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:44:16 PM EST
    comment by a "longtime Obama aide."

    Here's the comment:

    "We're not going to have the White House forever, folks. If he doesn't do this, Paul Ryan is going to do it for us in a few years," said a longtime Obama aide, referring to the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate who proposed a sweeping overhaul of Medicare that would replace some benefits with vouchers.

    Here's Charlie's reaction (the nut graf in bold is mine):

    Who thinks this way? More to the point, who in the White House ever has thought this way? And what kind of a four-toed idiot gives this quote to a reporter, even anonymously?


    Now, we have a Democratic administration, empowered by a solid re-election, that is proposing to its most loyal supporters that they support at least a partial sellout of the Democratic party's greatest legacy because, some day, a Republican president might do something much worse. (As though said imaginary Republican president won't go ahead and do much worse anyway, and claim a national mandate for it while he's at it, and eventually find a way to blame "a Democratic president" for having launched the process in the first place.) I literally never have heard this argument made in any political context. I certainly never have heard it from anyone in an incumbent administration. If this is your rationale for making policy, what in the name of god is the point of running for office in the first place? Nobody's president forever. You get elected. You enact the policies on which you ran, and of which the voters evidently approve. If, one day down the line, the voters decide to approve someone else, and someone else's policy, that's just the way it has to go. Caveat emptor, and all that. You certainly don't decide to enact policies based on their being the most palatable variation of something an imaginary future president might do. That's just nuts. On the national ecomony, we've abandoned Keynes, and Greenspan, and Laffer, and we've decided to cast our lot with Nostradamus.

    We will be told -- and already have been -- that this is simply the president's positioning the Republicans into a corner. But that's not consonant with the quote above. That quote isn't about what's happening now. It's about telling people that they have to accept some pain now because, otherwise, they'll face agony later at some unspecified time and the hands of some unspecified president. There is only one reason for anyone in the White House to adopt this rationale, and there is only one reason for anyone in the White House to float this rationale in public. The only plausible reason for adopting this rationale, or for floating it in public, is because this is what you really want to do in the first place and you are groping for a plausible alibi. The only plausible reason for it is that you've bought the deficit-hysteria to the point where you believe that you have to do this thing right now. Nothing else makes sense, unless the White House mess has changed where it shops for its mushrooms.



    No one is talking pie in the sky except you, (5.00 / 4) (#70)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:34:44 PM EST
    and you're doing it to trivialize and mock me - and others - for asking why we have to impose austerity measures on those who can't afford them.

    I have in no way suggested that the budget should or could fix all that ails us (straw man much?), but the choices that are being made and the policies and agenda that are being advanced and advocated for are not only not going to fix much of what ails us, but are likely to slow the growth this economy needs to begin to make life at the bottom less daunting.

    Social Security is self-funded, which is why it's not generally considered part of the budget; you're a smart guy, you should know that, shouldn't you?

    Social Security is just fine, and expected to be fine for the next 20 years; if there's "concern" for what happens after that, why isn't there serious consideration being given to lifting the cap on wages subject to the tax?  Doing that wouldn't affect anyone currently paying in who is under the cap - but it would nick those making over $113,000, and maybe that's the constituency that really matters, eh?  Apparently, it is more palatable to squeeze the poor than suggest that the much-better-off not get that automatic pay raise once they hit the current ceiling on the tax.

    Again - would you be supporting Obama's budget decisions if they were coming from a Republican president?  You can say yes if you want - but if you don't think you'd be defending it with the same vigor, maybe that tells you something.  

    I'll know something either way, but you aren't going to answer, so it's a moot point.


    We don't view this same way (2.00 / 1) (#79)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 04:08:25 PM EST
    and I'm reminded of a comment Peter G made the other day about how various sides must agree on certain fundamentals before a discussion can be had.

    Yes, technically SS is not part of the budget.  Clearly, one can discern that from the SS History link I posted earlier.  

    Nonetheless, the money to pay for it comes from the same pot as all the other on-budget items.  (self-funded, eh? what does that even mean?) To use a technicality to say that is has no impact on the budget when it is an obligation of the government is, IMO, analogous to what the TBTF banks did that caused a financial crisis.


    Do you recommend that the Federal Government (5.00 / 3) (#82)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 04:44:38 PM EST
    default on payment of all of its Treasury Bonds when they come due in order to fix the deficit?

    When a TB that China purchased comes due the government honors the agreement. That has the same impact on our budget as cashing in a TB to pay for Social Security. Honor our debt to China and default on our debt to the citizens who have invested in this program for 50 years?



    cost-of-living adjustments throughout the Budget (5.00 / 3) (#78)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 04:01:52 PM EST
    Let's repeat those key words "throughout the Budget." That is extremely important since the COLA effects over 50 government programs. School lunch program - whoops you no longer qualify due to the change in the COLA adjustment. Emergency heating assistance - whoops you no longer qualify due to the change in the COLA adjustment. Medicaid - whoops you no longer qualify due to the change in the COLA adjustment. Food stamps - whoops you no longer qualify due to the change in the COLA adjustment.

    $3 a month (1.00 / 2) (#47)
    by CoralGables on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:09:11 PM EST
    $27 increase in monthly payments next year rather than $30. As someone that lives by the chained CPI theory it will cost me more than most**  Forgive me while I yawn. I can recoup that by walking to the grocery store once a month.

    ** Note to the TL chefs, although noble it's not advisable to make up your entire monthly chained CPI loss by making La Brea Tar Pit chicken wings by using chicken legs on sale instead. The added fat present in legs helps prevent the achievement of the tar pit consistency. Better to save the monthly 3 bucks on your choice of bottles of red wine.


    Don't tell me, let me guess: you'll be (5.00 / 3) (#53)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:35:13 PM EST
    here all week!

    Who knew there was so much comedy in telling the old, the poor and the sick that they're going to have to be even more creative about making do with less?


    I have lived a life (5.00 / 1) (#54)
    by sj on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:38:17 PM EST
    where that three dollars meant I could buy a ten pounds of potatoes and eat for a week.  So yawn away.  

    This must be getting under your skin.  You are getting more and more hostile and vicious.


    Forgive me while I yawn when (5.00 / 2) (#55)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:52:31 PM EST
    people who don't need to work dismiss money that some people need to survive as a non event.

    Let's put out the real effect of just the chained CPI on Social Security benefits:

    How big is the president's chained CPI cut? For someone who retires at 65, it would be:

    a 3.7 percent cut at age 75;
    a 6.5 percent cut at age 85;
    and a 9.2 percent cut at 95.

    What about the dollar cost of the president's cut? For the average earner, cumulative benefits would be cut by:

    $4,631 -- more than three months of benefits -- by age 75; $13,910 -- nearly a year of benefits-- by age 85; and $28,004 -- more than a year and a half of benefits -- by age 95.

    How about we also point out that the chained CPI will force more people out of domestic programs such as the school lunch programs, emergency heating, housing assistence, food stamps, WIC that are also effected by COLA.

    Then of course there is the double whammy of cuts to Medicare at the same time as Obama is cutting Social Security. Reduce benefits, increase Medicare premiums, shift more of the medical expenses to seniors and reduce assistance if they need help keeping the heat on. Boy what a great proposal for you to support.  


    and if you can't walk (1.00 / 1) (#48)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:15:18 PM EST
    presumably you be deemed "most vulnerable"

    Wow (5.00 / 1) (#57)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:55:36 PM EST
    It never ceases to amaze me just how far you will go to defend Obama's draconian policies.

    You have definitely exceeded even your normal standards.  


    Oh God (none / 0) (#58)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:56:51 PM EST
    get a grip.  It was a joke in response to Coral Gables' comment.

    So that's the kind of thing (5.00 / 1) (#60)
    by sj on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:01:40 PM EST
    that makes you laugh?  Interesting.

    Wow I would like to say that what you considrer (none / 0) (#61)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:03:32 PM EST
    joke material amazes me but it does not. It doesn't surprise me at all that you would consider your comment about someone who is unable to walk a joke.

    Yes, you know me so well (1.00 / 1) (#63)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:11:26 PM EST
    from some blog comments.  For all you know I could be sitting at my computer limbless, or, due to a chronic disease be at risk for losing a limb.

    Go ahead an assume away, if it aids in your feeling of moral superiority.  It matters to me not one whit.


    So (5.00 / 2) (#65)
    by sj on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:16:45 PM EST
    Are you?
    For all you know I could be sitting at my computer limbless, or, due to a chronic disease be at risk for losing a limb.
    Since you brought it up, would you be affected by this? And if so, when?

    I'm not retiring for at least 20 years (none / 0) (#68)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:29:50 PM EST
    so presumably, I'd see a significant reduction.

    ...and for the easily offended, I have Type 1 diabetes and have had it for over 20 years.  So yeah, I know all about limb loss and the risks involved.

    Any other questions?


    Okay 20 years (none / 0) (#71)
    by sj on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:39:35 PM EST
    20 - 25 years ago, I, like most of my poor, broke contemporaries, thought that SS wasn't going to be there when I reached retirement age in about 100 years.  I was open to all sorts of accounting games as long as my grandma was still fine.

    Then it was my parents' turn, and I was much less open to machinations but Medicare Part D became the law of the land. Now I'm looking at that future right in eye and I realize that 20 - 25 years ago I was talking out of my a$$ and someone should have slapped me silly.

    I would be happy to do that for you, if you'd like.


    You are assuming again (none / 0) (#74)
    by vicndabx on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:51:29 PM EST
    that I have not already had to deal w/these issues simply because I'm not in my 60's.  Contrary to your earlier smart a$$ comment, I do care about my grandparents, parents, in-laws and other elderly folk.  Here's another shocker - I worked w/these populations directly on these very issues for a number of years.

    I would submit I don't need slapping as my career path is probably different from yours and has given me perspective you may not have had access to.


    That's right...you're in health insurance; (5.00 / 4) (#76)
    by Anne on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:54:55 PM EST
    you're probably used to justifying the imposition of hardship...

    You work for an insurance company, right? (none / 0) (#77)
    by sj on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:56:18 PM EST
    Or something similar?

    I do know because you wrote it in your (5.00 / 2) (#66)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 03:21:55 PM EST
    comment that you thought a joke.

    and if you can't walk presumably you be deemed "most vulnerable

    And if you are not in fact sitting at your computer limbless or, at risk for losing a limb due to a chronic disease your current comment goes about as low as someone can go IMO to justify their actions.


    Well most of the cuts in the budget are not (5.00 / 2) (#81)
    by MO Blue on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 04:31:16 PM EST
    new cuts. They are the same cuts to Social Security and Medicare that were in Obama's proposals to Boehner for the last year or so. Cuts to Social Security, reduction of eligibility for all domestic programs and tax increases to the working poor and the middle class through the chained CPI.

    Cuts to Medicare.

    Increase Income-Related Premiums Under Medicare Parts B and D Under Medicare
    Parts B and D, higher income beneficiaries pay
    higher premiums. Beginning in 2017, the Budget
    proposes to restructure income-related premiums
    under Parts B and D by increasing the lowest
    income-related premium five percentage points,
    from 35 percent to 40 percent and also increasing
    other income brackets until capping the highest
    tier at 90 percent. The proposal maintains the in
    come thresholds associated with income-related
    premiums until 25 percent of beneficiaries under
    Parts B and D are subject to these premiums.

    Obama's extremely generous estate tax exemptions of $5 million - $10 million receive the current COLA adjustments each and every year. Yet, Obama will freeze the income levels for paying a higher premium on Medicare until 25% of the population due to inflation.

    More skin in the game for sick seniors (otherwise known as a cost shift)

    o  Budget proposes to apply a $25 increase in the Part B deductible in 2017, 2019, and 2021 for new beneficiaries.

    o Medicare beneficiaries currently do not make co-payments for Medicare home health ser
    vices. This proposal would create a home health
    copayment of $100 per home health episode for
    new beneficiaries, applicable for episodes with
    five or more visits not preceded by a hospital or
    other inpatient post-acute care stay. (Great idea - lets force more people out of their homes into hospitals or acute care facilities.)

    o To encourage more efficient health care choices,
    the Budget proposes a Part B premium surcharge
    equivalent to about 15 percent of the average Medigap premium for beneficiaries that purchase
    Medigap policies with particularly low cost-sharing requirements. (Automatic reduction in income for people who have chronic illnesses that require on-going treatment.) Seriously sick seniors will be given a choice between not receiving the care they need or paying a large premium for junk insurance and drastically reducing their incomes and/or depleting whatever small savings they may have.

    Now do you notice anything missing in the budget proposal that you claim people have not read.

    Would you please provide me with the exact details contained in that budget proposal on what income level is used to be classified as the most vulnerable and the exact method that is going to be used to protect them. Also, please provide me with the details contained in that budget proposal that show how many more years the chained CPI will extend the SS trust fund and how many more years the cost shifts in Medicare will extend the life of Medicare.


    Revolving door update: (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by oculus on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:14:54 PM EST
    A Pet Beef of Mine (none / 0) (#1)
    by RickyJim on Tue Apr 09, 2013 at 08:19:10 PM EST
    Here is an article on compensation the US Military has paid civilians wrongfully killed in operations like drone attacks.  The highest figure in the article was $7500.  The electrocution of a lady in Pennsylvania from a fallen  utility cable resulted in over a $100M settlement.  Does the disparity strike anybody else as egregious?  Is this a good argument for tort reform?

    What's the beef? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Yman on Tue Apr 09, 2013 at 08:33:26 PM EST
    Do you think the condolence payments are too small or the wrongful death settlement is too large?

    It's the Difference (none / 0) (#3)
    by RickyJim on Tue Apr 09, 2013 at 08:53:36 PM EST
    that bothers me.  I am very well aware that awards paid out in the US depend on the whims of juries.  That also bothers me.  Having some bureaucrats figure it out with a computer program would be fairer, IMHO.

    It's apples and oranges (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Yman on Tue Apr 09, 2013 at 09:35:30 PM EST
    The "condolence/solatia" payments are paid as a result of negligence or (as in your other example) gross negligence/recklessness.  They are voluntary payments made without legal liability/responsibility to people who are injured/killed or have property damaged in war.  A way for the military to try to maintain goodwill among the populace.  Not to mention the fact that $7,500 in Afghanistan is @ 18 years of wages in that country.

    In the civil case you cited, the defendant was found legally liable after a trial.  $48 million was for compensatory damages, split between the wrongful death claim of the decedent's spouse and children and the "survival claim", the pain/suffering of the decedent as well as any economic loss (lost wages, etc.).  While the amount may seem high, the facts of the case point toward such a verdict - a young mother, young children and spouse.  She was electrocuted for @ 20 minutes in front of her family, actually set on fire, burned over 85% of her body and lived for 3 days in the hospital with these injuries before she died.

    The other $61 million was punitive damages based on the extreme negligence of the power company.  The same line had fallen twice previously, and there was evidence that there were numerous problems with improperly spliced lines failing without being addressed by the power company.  Punitive damages are designed to punish extreme negligence or misconduct on the part of the defendant.  They are usually based on the defendant's income and/or assets - in this case, one quarter of the company's retained earnings after dividends and expenses.  They're often a favorite bogeyman of tort-reform advocates, but the reality is that large verdicts such as this are not representative.  Punitive damages are only awarded in 2 percent of cases that go to trial, and the median award is between $38,000 and $50,000.

    I sympathize with the desire to have some uniformity in civil awards, but there also has to be significant leeway in allowing for individual circumstances which can vary greatly from one case to the next.  You also have to compare apples-to-apples.


    Plenty of Negligence on the Part of US Military (none / 0) (#6)
    by RickyJim on Tue Apr 09, 2013 at 10:14:12 PM EST
    Didn't you follow what was learned from Wikileaks?  You are making a distinction without a difference.  What would 18 years of wages for the electrocuted lady come to?  

    You can review some cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen in the same way you did with young mothers and children being killed through things much less excusable than the fog of war.  Of course, the military won't willingly give out the details but don't you think it quite reasonable that there have been incidents where the US Military was at least as negligent as that power company?  Unfortunately, when these victims file suit in US Courts, the cases are thrown out on jurisdictional grounds, not lack of merit.  Where this hurts the US is that it motivates terrorists.


    It's a heee-YOOOGE difference (none / 0) (#15)
    by Yman on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 08:39:29 AM EST
    In the PA case, you have a wrongful death award payment awarded after a jury trial.  It's a "wrongful death/survival" case, a cause of action and a measure of damages that's been around for hundreds of years.

    In the case of the "condolence/solatia" payments, you have the government deciding - as a policy matter - to voluntarily pay people for property/personal damage and deaths which occur as a result of US/coalition actions during combat.  There is no legal responsibility/liability at all.  Now maybe that's something you would like to change, but the law as it currently exists makes the comparison apples-to-oranges.

    Didn't you follow what was learned from Wikileaks?  You are making a distinction without a difference.  What would 18 years of wages for the electrocuted lady come to?

    Yes.  Wrong.  No idea - neither do you, since you're stating in in the form of a question.  Not particularly relevant, however, since that's only one part of the damages in that case, as I pointed out above.  Moreover, even if there was legal liability for the military in the case of solatia payments, the amount of liability for the military is strictly limited.  Military members killed in combat receive a $100,000 death gratuity and a burial allowance of $100-$3,000.  Their spouse receives $1,154/month and their child gets $286/month until age 18.  In the case of military members killed (even through the negligence of the US government), wrongful death actions (and other types of negligence actions) are almost universally barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, the Federal Torts Claim Act and the Feres Doctrine (see Feres v. United States).  IOW - they can't sue.  If those same drone strikes killed US soldiers, their families suits would also be dismissed.

    Again, maybe you'd like to change the law to allow such suits, but as the law currently exists, it's apples-to-oranges.

    Unfortunately, when these victims file suit in US Courts, the cases are thrown out on jurisdictional grounds, not lack of merit.

    No idea what suits you're talking about (do you mean the Anwar al-Awlaki/drone suit?), but it's not surprising, given that there exists no cause of action for such suits.

    Where this hurts the US is that it motivates terrorists.

    Agreed, but that's an entirely different issue than that of tort reform or verdict size.


    Correction (none / 0) (#16)
    by Yman on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 08:41:35 AM EST
    The "condolence/solatia" payments are not paid as a result of negligence or (as in your other example) gross negligence/recklessness.

    That $100M was Nothing (none / 0) (#45)
    by RickyJim on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 01:55:31 PM EST
    compared to the half a billion punitive damages awarded in a Nevada hepatitis case.

    A fairer method of compensating harms, whether in war or peace, not so dependent on lawyer skills and jury selection, is just as important a national goal as gun control and immigration reform. Some more daily outrages in this area and a charismatic politician, who can exploit the issue, is what is needed.


    All over the place (none / 0) (#50)
    by Yman on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 02:26:15 PM EST
    So your real issue is the use of punitive damages?  Punitive damages can be useful to force a defendant to keep from engaging in truly egregious conduct, particularly a wealthy defendant who will not be affected by compensatory verdicts alone.  That being said, you're choosing the most extreme examples, given that punitive damages are awarded in only 2% of jury verdicts, with a median amount of $38,000-$50,000.  So, much as you may hope, you're not going to get your "daily outrages".

    That is the Same Argument as Assault Weapons (none / 0) (#80)
    by RickyJim on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 04:13:04 PM EST
    lovers give since Newtowns, Auroras etc. don't happen every day.  I don't think I am the only one who is skeptical of punitive damages. From what I can tell, they are uncommon outside of the US.  And the fact the the military is immune from them, except perhaps for a war crimes trial hanging over their heads, doesn't give them the aura of fairness.  

    Analogies getting stranger (5.00 / 1) (#83)
    by Yman on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 04:50:45 PM EST
    Nothing wrong with being "skeptical" of punitive damages.  Personally, I think the punitive portion of awards should go into a general fund to be used to compensate plaintiff's where the defendant has insufficient funds or declares bankruptcy.  That being said, they can be very useful in cases where compensatory damages alone are not enough to dissuade a defendant from engaging in egregious behavior.  They are, however, a frequent target of tort reformers who point to large, isolated punitive damage awards to make it appear that they are either: 1) an example of the justice system gone wrong, or 2) a large part of civil awards which (when properly limited) will greatly reduce insurance premiums, etc.

    Military immunity is a separate issue from punitive damages.  The military is (generally) immune from wrongful death suits brought by its own soldiers - both compensatory and punitive damages.  War crimes are criminal charges.


    I Agree With The General Idea (none / 0) (#85)
    by RickyJim on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 07:01:39 PM EST
    Personally, I think the punitive portion of awards should go into a general fund to be used to compensate plaintiff's where the defendant has insufficient funds or declares bankruptcy.

    There are probably other funds for the public good where punitive damages could go also.  I think the system would be much better if the plaintiffs and their lawyers wouldn't be the ones to get them for an individual case.  I am pretty sure the Trial Lawyers Lobby is dead set against such a reform.

    BTW - I would agree ... (none / 0) (#84)
    by Yman on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 04:56:14 PM EST
    ... that mass shootings with assault rifles/high capacity magazines are relatively rare, although I would point out the dangers posed by assault weapons/high capacity magazines are far greater than those posed by punitive damage awards.

    Looks like the gun control debate (none / 0) (#4)
    by CoralGables on Tue Apr 09, 2013 at 09:07:13 PM EST
    will reach the Senate floor Thursday. A handful of Republicans have publicly said they won't block it which is the splinter that will move the process a little bit forward.

    There will probably be be a failed GOP attempt at a filibuster along the way and expanded background checks will be the most likely outcome.

    Well, Michigan lost, but the Padres (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 12:31:35 AM EST
    beat the Dodgers 9-3 in Pads home opener.  Woot!

    Canrival Cruise, $37.25/day (none / 0) (#17)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Apr 10, 2013 at 08:46:28 AM EST
    Not spam, just noting how far they have fallen, $149 to Bahamas.  I would guess that a third of their last minute deals are under $200.