Tag Archive: rationalization

HumpDay Part III: Bush Tax Cuts for Richest a Go, per Axelrod, Walks back Afghantime

Just before midnight, Wednesday, November 10, 2010, Pacific West Coast time:

Just when you really wanted to effing just go to bed and bury your head in a pillow for the next 24 hours, White House top advisor (at this hour….) David Axelrod has been tasked with imparting this cheery news:  The George W. Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthiest, began at the beginning of the Afghan and Iraq wars (2001 and 2003) due to expire at the end of the year, are alive and well, and won’t be rescinded after all.  Yay Chicago Neoliberal Ekonomists !  


HuffPo 11/10/10

White House Gives In On Bush Tax Cuts

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

“We have to deal with the world as we find it,” Axelrod said during an unusually candid and reflective 90-minute interview in his office, steps away from the Oval Office. “The world of what it takes to get this done.”

“There are concerns,” he added, that Congress will continue to kick the can down the road in the future by passing temporary extensions for the wealthy time and time again. “But I don’t want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point.”

Axelrod said the President would not comment on the Deficit, aka the Catfood Commision’s, draconium domestic spending cut proposals until the report is formally finished and presented on December 1.  A preliminary report by the Presidential appointed co chairs, Simpson and Bowles, was released earlier today.

http://docudharma.com/diar…

Oh, and that story I deconstructed earlier, http://docudharma.com/diar…      that the Cable News Peeps were sort of ignoring or downplaying earlier this evening, from Tuesday’s McClatchy, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/201… which quoted “administration and military officials”   about the change in the timeline for beginning withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan ? Axelrod walked it back.


Meanwhile, on the war in Afghanistan — an expensive and increasingly unpopular conflict — Axelrod pushed back hard against the notion, floated in some recent stories quoting “senior administration sources,” that the deadline for beginning troop withdrawals had been pushed back from July 2011 to some time in 2014.

“If it is being sourced to senior administration officials, than someone has bad administration sources,” Axelrod said. “There is no change in the president’s position. There is no change in that basic commitment.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

Well, look at the McClatchy story link again.


….administration and military officials have told McClatchy.

So far, the U.S. Central Command, the military division that oversees Afghanistan operations, hasn’t submitted any kind of withdrawal order for forces for the July deadline, two of those officials told McClatchy.

…. said one senior administration official.

….. one Pentagon advisor said

…. on Tuesday, a White House official who spoke with reporters in a conference call

“Bad administration sources ?”

This was a very coordinated trial balloon that fell like a lump of lead.  Or the guy left babysitting the press at the Oval Office in DC, Axelrod, is either out of the loop, or trying to spin it as nothing to see here.

Axelrod has lots of practice at spinning. In March 2008, Businessweek wrote “The Secret Side of David Axelrod, a master of astroturfing who has a second firm that shapes public opinion for corporations.”

The website is here http://askps.com/whatwedo.php  altho Axelrod’s name is not on the masthead now, they continue to specialize in “a disciplined focus on message development and message delivery.”  And they create lots of front groups for clients to do that.


March 2008

http://www.businessweek.com/bw…

From the same address in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, Axelrod operates a second business, ASK Public Strategies, that discreetly plots strategy and advertising campaigns for corporate clients to tilt public opinion their way. He and his partners consider virtually everything about ASK to be top secret, from its client roster and revenue to even the number of its employees. But customers and public records confirm that it has quarterbacked campaigns for the Chicago Children’s Museum, ComEd, Cablevision, and AT&T.

Eric Sedler, 39, a former public relations director at AT&T and corporate-reputation specialist at PR giant Edelman, is the “S” in ASK and the company’s managing partner. The “K” is John Kupper, 51, a former congressional press secretary and ad-industry consultant…

In politics, Axelrod’s AKP&D is as partisan as they come. But ASK travels easily across the aisle. Gene Reineke, head of Hill & Knowlton’s Chicago office and former chief of staff for Republican Governor Jim Edgar, says his PR firm shared ComEd as a client and now works with ASK on the Children’s Museum. “Their firm is outstanding,” he says. “I think it’s one of the best in the field, to be honest.”

Here’s another version, in the New York Times, with names you might recognize.  Of course they were out of the bleeping country when they said it.  Maybe we should check with Julian Assange of wikileaks ?


US Tweaks Message on Troops in Afghanistan

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11…

Nov 10, 2010 By Elisabeth Bumiller

In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves. Implicit in their message, delivered at a security and diplomatic conference in Australia, was that the United States would be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for at least four more years.

The 2014 date will be a focus at a NATO summit meeting that Mr. Obama is to attend next week in Lisbon, Portugal, where the alliance is to be presented with a transition plan, drawn up by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, that calls for a gradual four-year shifting of security responsibility to the Afghans. Administration officials said that the document had no timetable for specific numbers of troop withdrawals and instead set forth the conditions that had to be met in crucial provinces before NATO forces could hand off security to the Afghans.

per the NYT, another “WH spokesman,” Tommy Vietor, insisted that there had been absolutely “no change” to the original drawdown policy.   And a “White House official” said that “we’re bringing some clarity to the policy of our future in Afghanistan.”

To paraphrase Bush’s Secretary of Unpreparedness, Rumsfeld:

You go to war with the tax rate you have, not the tax rate you might want or wish to have at a later time.

Even if it will add $700 billion more to that deficit the Republicans and the Catfood Commisssion are baying about.

______

update Thurs And we already have some “Democratic” Senators indicating a willingness to put Social Security on the table because of their “concern” for the deficit.


http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-…

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) on Thursday said Congress should consider all of the proposals coming from President Obama’s fiscal commission, including the controversial proposals to reform Social Security.

In a phone interview with The Hill, Udall said the 50-page proposal released Wednesday by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), the chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, should be seriously considered even though “none of them are going to be very popular.”

“This is going to be a very painful process. But we must bring down the deficit and the debt, and everything needs to be on the table.

Blue Texan at FDL asks   “If the White House Gets Rolled by the GOP on Tax Cuts, What’s the Point of Voting for Democrats ?”

_______

edited to add link to orig story Huffpo

and links to business week article on Axelrod and his old PR firm, ASK

edited thurs to add link from The Hill about Udall and from FDL

HumpDay Part II: Debt Commish Wants Your Social Security & Medicare, Too

Oh, this is just turning out to be an all kinds of post electoral inspirational day for the Democratic Party.

  First we had this, the Pentagon’s version of the “4 more years!” cheer, and here’s my reaction to that. http://docudharma.com/diar…

And if you liked that, you are going to LOVE this.

  Debt Commission Report Targets Social Security and Medicare.  


The most direct assault on Social Security, however, may not be the increase of the retirement age, but rather an attempt to tilt the program toward a welfare model and away from the current, universal insurance model that has made it popular and enduring despite 75 years of attacks. The co-chairs propose to “increase [the] progressivity of [the] benefit formula by creating a new bendpoint at the 50th percentile.” Such a move would require means testing. In other words, the government would determine benefits based on a beneficiary’s assets and other sources of income. Currently, beneficiaries are paid benefits based on their contribution over their working life. Replacing the social insurance model with a welfare model would erode support, encourage fraud and ultimately undermine the program.

If you want to look at the original doc from the co – chairs of the Catfood, er, Fiscal commission, co chaired by ex Republican Senator Alan Simpson and ex COS of Pres. Clinton, Erksine Bowles, here’s the pagestart.  Remember President Obama appointed these clowns. http://www.fiscalcommission.go…

And here are more commissioners.  See anybody familiar on this list ?  Why look, it’s Southern California’s Rep. Xavier Becerra (D, CA 31) one of the Leadership “Liberal” Democrats who wouldn’t commit to signing on for a Public Option.   Bruce Reed, another Clintonite, is the Executive Director.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA 31)

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI 4)

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)

David Cote, Chairman and CEO, Honeywell International

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Ann Fudge, Former CEO, Young & Rubicam Brands

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX 5)

Alice Rivlin, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institute and former Director, Office of Management & Budget

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI 1)

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL 9)

Rep. John Spratt (D-SC 5)

Andrew Stern, President, Service Employees International Union

The White House is presumably tucked into bed in another Asian time zone, out of range of commenting and wondering if anyone is going to greet them at the airport tarmac on the way home next week other than John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Robert Gates.  Perpetual occupation of Afghanistan, secret drone wars, arms deals with India vs. Pakistan, and now the Cat Food commission turns loose the proposal to cut income taxes for the richest, and cut Medicare, and cut Social Security.   What’s not to like ?  

It is at this time I am going to relish my earlier assessment of Senator Kent Conrad (D, Fly Over State, North Dakota) as a duplicitous warmongering **** .


” We have now received a proposal from the bipartisan co-chairs of the President’s Fiscal Commission, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. This is not the conclusion of the commission’s work. This is the beginning.

I commend them for putting together a serious proposal. It reveals just how difficult it is to put the nation on a sound fiscal course. Some of it I agree with; some I strongly disagree with. We will have a chance to offer alternatives as we advance the process later today and next week.”

Paul Krugman thinks they can’t be serious.  http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.c…

Because the good stuff ends up going to the very affluent.


I mean, what’s this about? There is no – zero – evidence that income taxes at current rates are an important drag on growth.

Oh, and they’re talking about raising the retirement age, because people live longer – except that the people who really depend on Social Security, those in the bottom half of the distribution, aren’t living much longer. So you’re going to tell janitors to work until they’re 70 because lawyers are living longer than ever.

It’s here. And it really is that bad. The idea that co-chairs of a commission whose charge is fiscal sustainability should take it upon themselves to (a) declare that federal revenue must not exceed 21 percent of GDP – that’s right, putting a cap on receipts and (b) call for reducing the top rate from 35 to 23 is just awesome.

Oh, Kruggie, since when do the Repukes and the Repuke wanna bees rely on evidence that excessively favoring the affluent might not be good for all of the rest of us ?

Dave Dayen went thru the thing –  hey, there’s cuts for the Veteran’s Administration, and TRICARE, too.

http://news.firedoglake.com/20…

Best comment-

ralphbon:

Splendid timing, given tomorrow’s Veteran’s Day.  

And the other good comment from “ottogrendal”


Indeed. The DoD still grows. Over $700 billion for the FY 2011 budget. http://comptroller.defense.gov…

Yay America !   We’re number 22nd now in life expectancy behind Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, and Cyprus, and a lot of European countries like Switzerland and the United Kingdom.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

Americablog says we’re actually ranked at 49th worldwide now.


In 1950, the United States was fifth among the leading industrialized nations with respect to female life expectancy at birth, surpassed only by Sweden, Norway, Australia, and the Netherlands The last available measure of female life expectancy had the United States ranked at forty-sixth in the world. As of September 23, 2010, the United States ranked forty-ninth for both male and female life expectancy combined.

Meanwhile, per capita health spending in the United States increased at nearly twice the rate in other wealthy nations between 1970 and 2002. As a result, the United States now spends well over twice the median expenditure of industrialized nations on health care, and far more than any other country as a percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP).

Demographics can be a beautiful thing.

Raise the retirement age, get rid of health care,  and we won’t need that silly Social Security.  

“For the Public Option. Just Not This One”

Warning. This is Not P.C.

Did you ever read something so mind bogglingly bereft of compassion, and so full of the banality of the banana slugs, it slimed the inner surface of your computer screen as you scrolled thru it ?  

This much “advocacy” deserves a rewrite. This is the current apogee of argument for “reform.”  All I had to do was substitute a few words for other words, throughout the piece.   And this is what happens:

____________________________________________________________________________

“I’m For A Public Option. Just Not This Public Option ”

I see a ton of enthusiasm for the public flogging.  I understand it.  Emotionally, I agree. Intellectually, not so much.

A public flogging is attractive on paper, but has some serious and real pitfalls, in my view.  

I understand why people don’t want to let slaves escape on this, and also why they hate having commercial slave bearing ships, competing with their breeding operations.  But there are still some very practical, non procedural reasons to stop and think it all thru.

Blessed are the Conflicted

As part of a recent assignment, I was required to write up short, snappy summaries of candidates who are running this election cycle for political office.  In so doing, I had to make sure to showcase their legislative accomplishments as well as to provide a bit of the personal to ensure that they seemed human and approachable, rather than robotic policy wonks.  In the course of my work, what I couldn’t help but notice was that, regardless of how Progressive a candidate claimed to be, he or she was always very careful to highlight his/her strong support of the military and of those who either currently served or had served in times past.  To back up this claim, close family members and other relatives who had served in combat were visibly invoked, as were the specific bills proposed to assist both veterans and military families.  This deliberate posturing was true to a person, even candidates who were bold enough to promote themselves as peace-loving doves.

As a rule, Quakers are strict believers in pacifism.  Though I was not born into the faith, I have often attempted to reconcile my original thoughts on war with those which I believe now.  I find, as is sometimes the case, that the two of them are often in conflict.  Those who have studied wars in much detail, as I have, know that there is something about them that translates well to stirring narrative and romantic retelling.  In time, the horror of battle subsides, as well as its impact upon the civilians caught in the middle, and we are left with a sort of gloried nostalgia that any sports fan can understand as he or she recalls in conversation some past victory and close defeat.  Perhaps this is what Robert E. Lee meant when he said, “It is well that war is so terrible — lest we should grow too fond of it.”

Two choices lay before me.  I could go out of my way to mention that this particular section of the work went against my religious beliefs, but doing so would draw attention to myself, perhaps unduly and to no good end.  I would then be obligated to specify why I found it so objectionable, and while I have no doubt that my reservations would be noted and taken seriously, I’m not really sure that anyone would truly understand why I found the matter so odious and offensive.  Or, instead, I could choose complete the task in full, not feeling especially good about it, and simply pass the baton to someone else so that it would no longer be my problem anymore.  I regret to report that I chose the latter, since delegating an additional task to someone else already overburdened with work would cause delays and potentially result in resentment from whomever had to pick up where I left off.  

Life, of course, is full of such compromises.  I have no doubt that those of you reading this have run up against similar circumstances in your own lives.  It may be a simple matter of, pardon the expression, knowing how and where to pick our battles.  Few of us are fortunate enough to have the ability to be purists in all circumstances.  In politics, only those fortunate few who run for office in cities, districts, or states overwhelmingly in support of one particular way of thinking ever truly get the ability to present a public face anything in line with their own private convictions.  The game of politics as we know it states, in part, that one is only really indebted to one’s last position statement, and moreover, anything said today can be compellingly rationalized away tomorrow if needed.  It isn’t just politicians who have a genius for rationalization.  Humans have managed to become masters at the process.      

Returning to the earlier point, my own inward leanings against war of any sort take me once again to the Sermon on the Mount and those old, familiar passages that many have committed to heart.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  

Jesus doesn’t equivocate here.  He doesn’t give us any wiggle room.  He doesn’t say, “Forgive your enemies, unless you’re in danger of losing your job.”  He doesn’t say, “Some of you were taught that if someone were to pluck out your eye, you have a right to pluck out theirs in retaliation, but don’t do that, unless, of course, the laws on the books tell you otherwise.”  He doesn’t say, “Love those who hate you, but I certainly concede that there are some people who simply aren’t able to be loved without turning on you.”  Jesus wasn’t exactly someone who practiced the art of Triangulation or who talked out of both sides of his mouth.        

Emerson famously mentioned that to be great was to be misunderstood and I have always been uncomfortable with the phrasing and the sentiment.  It can be easily construed as a justification for egotistical conduct and as a crutch to forgive deplorable behavior.  I’d much rather put it another way alogether.  To be a servant, putting yourself last and service to your fellow person first, is to be misunderstood.  To live a spiritual life is to be misunderstood.  To chart a course between pragmatism and idealism is to be misunderstood as well, but don’t forget that to be fully misunderstood is to stick to your convictions even when others don’t understand them.  After all,  

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

These words are as shocking now as they were then and just as applicable.