Archive for December, 2010
So, like, people actually buy this? That Julie Andrews is a man? That seems to be beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief, no?
There’s always going to be reasons to complain about Congress. Even today, there are. Senate Democrats rolled over on the omnibus spending bill the other day, and the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents, was shot down this afternoon. We’ll see what happens with the ratification of the New Start Treaty next week.
Folks like me who are fans of justice, equality, empathy, fairness, having a fully functional and prepared military, and not being a backwards country can’t help but be pleased today. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed today. Whenever President Obama signs the bill, he’ll be fulfilling a campaign promise that most liberals considered to be a slam-dunk, no-brainer, but actually turned into a long, hard slog. Considering all of the campaign promises BHO has broken or just completely ignored, this is a big deal.
And of course, generally, it’s a huge deal. We never should have been discriminating against homosexuals serving in the military in the first place. One of these days, gay people will be full and equal citizens of our country. This is a big step in the right direction. Some notes on this historic occasion.
# Since cloture votes are all we seem to have nowadays, it’s interesting to see how an actual bipartisan vote plays out compared to a vote to end debate. They always say that cloture votes don’t necessarily tie the voter to a yay or nay vote. So to see Richard Burr of North Carolina and John Ensign of Nevada vote against cloture but then vote for repeal, it makes you wonder what’s up. These guys weren’t the high profile swing votes in the run-up to the vote (Scott Brown was, for one example). What’s going on here?
# Good for Ron Wyden, who’s undergoing prostate cancer surgery this coming week, but still showed up to cast his vote. Hopefully everything works out for him.
# Here’s a gem from that Times story: “‘In the middle of a military conflict, is not the time to do it,’ said Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia.” Which is precious for two reasons. Firstly, military conflict is America’s business nowadays. When’s the last time you couldn’t say “we’re in the middle of a military conflict”? And whenever we get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s always Iran, North Korea, and hell, even Mexico, for us to get duplicitously war-mongered into invading. It’s a bullshit excuse.
Secondly, I’d like Senator Chambliss to explain why allowing gay servicemen and servicewomen to openly fight while we’re in the middle of a military conflict is very bad, but allowing perfectly viable troops to be dismissed from the military simply for being homosexuals during a military conflict is perfectly fine. Actually, I wouldn’t like to hear him explain that. It’d probably make my head hurt. Fortunately, that’s no longer something we have to worry about. Saxby Chambliss and his ilk are wrong, and they always have been. The dustbin of history is too good for guys like him.
# Speaking of the dustbin of history, prepare to be swept into it, John McCain. Here’s a ruthless war cheerleader who somehow came to be the voice of reasonable opposition to DADT repeal, and who consistently moved the goalposts of his own opposition to such ridiculous lengths that he was eventually forced to whimper “well, ONE of the Joint Chiefs agrees with me.” And indeed, the Marine Corps commandant, General James Amos, did. But not the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, nor the Secretary of Defense, nor a wide-ranging survey of the military, nor most of the American people. John McCain is a villain.
If you know what I’m talking about, you know what I’m talking about.
So as you’re probably aware, John Lennon was killed 30 years ago today. Jillions of pixels have been dedicated to remembrances and reflections and whatnot, so if you’re looking for that sort of thing, it’ll be easy to find elsewhere on the tubes.
Being a student of history and a lover of music, I figured this would be as apt an occasion as any to post my favorite Beatles song by John Lennon. I was a little surprised to find, though, that pretty much all of my favorites were written by someone else. “Hello, Goodbye,” “Eight Days a Week,” “Rocky Raccoon,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Golden Slumbers,” none of them have Lennon as a primary songwriter. (Obviously, there’s plenty of debate over whose contributions were greatest on almost any given Beatles song. I’m going by cursory glances here.) Of course, Lennon wrote some good songs, so it wasn’t a total crisis. It came down to a near-tie between this and “In My Life.”
Anyway, listen to a little “A Day in the Life.”
It’s the last episode before the holiday break, so you know things are going to come to at least a little bit of a head. What sort of vicious reprisal awaits Juliet Sharpe? Will Nate’s family actually be reunited? Will Eric tearfully enter the room and report that Jenny Humphrey’s helicopter was shot down over Long Island Sound and there were no survivors found among the wreckage? On with the diary!
:00 I think Ben looks kinda like Julian Assange. Maybe a little?
:02 I know I speak for all of Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun’s readers when I say that I can go for some more of Dan and Blair be-bopping.
Eau de damage control: Lily’s classic scent. Good one, S. And yes, I want to see Serena in a Marlins jersey.
:04 When did Eric become such a wank?
:05 Nate’s mom trusts her screw-up kid to settle things with the Captain? Does she even know her own family?
:07 Ooooooooh. If there’s anything I ever wanted from this show, it’s to get Gossip Girl more involved. Asking her for Juliet’s address is an EXCELLENT plan, Dan.
:08 And GG comes through. Now we’re cooking with gas.
:11 Therapist: “I don’t know what to think. I would never do that.” That seems like a productive thing to say.
:14 Ah. Foreshadowing the inevitable Bass Industries power play between Chuck and Lily.
:15 Blair, on “I <3 Balls” shamed dude: “At least he’s owning it.” Hardy har har!
:16 Nate never jumps to conclusions. That’s so out of character. (Sarcasm, obviously, but then again, getting duped by people smarter than him is also a very Nate thing to do. What IS going on between his folks?)
:18 Drug dealers sell ether? I thought you had to go to the local apothecary for that kind of stuff.
:21 I feel like I ask this every week, but what the hell is One Tree Hill about?
:24 Of course Serena’s boarding school outfit involves a unbuttoned shirt, loose tie, and patterned tights.
:27 I see what they’re doing here. Ponytail = young for Serena, and Jared Leto bangs = young for Damian. Also, sepia tones for all!
:28 It wouldn’t be Gossip Girl without someone seeing a brief interaction from afar and drawing wild, damning, and ultimately wrong conclusions.
Ben the teacher: “The ability to have thoughts and not act on them is what separates man from beasts.” Ugh. Maybe this guy should be in prison . . .
:30 So these prison guards just sit there and do nothing while one of the convicts is having a clearly ominous conversation? Meanwhile, guys like me, on the outside, are probably being wiretapped. What gives!
:37 Why was young Juliet at the meeting with her brother and his lawyer to discuss his statutory rape charges?
:39 Lily to Eric on being such a little tool: “Somewhere between a Marlins jersey and the absolute truth lies the better part of decorum.” Good one, Mrs. VDW!
:41 We couldn’t have just one monocle popping into a glass of champagne during Serena’s sick burn of Lily?
:48 Oh Lily . . . this show sacrificed Dan and Serena’s love so you and Rufus could get together! And now you’re hiding things from him!
:50 I heard gossip on campus about my daughter, so I orchestrated a false statutory rape charge? This is certainly a flimsy story, Lily.
:51 Oh boy. That was brutal.
:54 Dan is going to skip a road trip with his hot, statuesque blonde ex girlfriend because Blair put a bug in his ear that he’s dumping everything in his life for S. Idiot. Do you think Hemingway would have picked writing over Serena? Fitzgerald? Kerouac? Bukowski? ANY of the greats?
:57 Hey, the adventures of Dan and Blair! Didn’t I say this is what I wanted?
Post script: C’mon, Gossip Girl! This is bullshit! You can’t build up Juliet Sharpe as this ur-villain, letting her slip out of the grasps of justice time after time for an entire half a season, building up our bloodlust for sweet, precious revenge, only to pull the rug out from under us and reveal Lily as the real villain! You had a good thing going with Juliet, and for what? So Serena can forgive her for drugging her and making her life miserable for months, and everyone can just be pissed at Lily again? I think we deserve better than this. Maybe I’d feel better about this if we actually had the Lily spinoff. Don’t think I forgot about that!
I think it’s hilarious that the commercial for Nick Varano’s Famous Deli features a kid that doesn’t have enough money for a sandwich. Hey Nick, maybe if you didn’t charge extortionary rates for your sandwiches, you wouldn’t have to accept toys as payment from street urchins!
# A miraculous solution to a problem you may not be aware that you had.
# I’ll try not to be a Matt Taibbi link whore, but this post is good at elucidating the twin problems of wealth-coddling status quo-ism and acquiescent, uncritical royal courtier journalism.
# Very rarely do you come across a video that speaks to a generation like this one does. Never have I come closer on more occasions to strangling one of my own kin with the cord of a Nintendo controller.
I promise that headline isn’t some kind of SEO scam. I bought this dustbuster yesterday, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. See, I’ve got all hardwood floors in my apartment, so there’s never really a pressing occasion to use the vacuum cleaner on a regular basis. Until you look in the corners, obviously! There’s only so much sweeping up or grabbing dust bunnies with your fingers that you can do before you say “screw this, I’m buying a machine to do this for me!”
I practically floated home from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. So I get home, and I open up the box, and I look at my dustbuster, and right there on the nozzle, it informs me that the battery isn’t fully charged, and I need to charge it for 20 HOURS before I can use the thing. 20 hours! I just got home an hour ago, and all I wanted to do was play with my new toy, but I don’t want to be that jerk that’s vacuuming while people are trying to sleep. So I have to wait until tomorrow to really give it a spin. I can barely contain my excitement!
Back in the old neighborhood, I had a pal named Frankie who taught me an early lesson about negotiating. Any time he saw someone had a pack of gum, or some Skittles, or some Twizzlers, he’d say “Lemme get three pieces of gum” or “Gimme a handful of Skittles” or “Can I get four Twizzlers?” In all my days, I never gave up three pieces of gum, and I never saw someone hand over four Twizzlers, but Frankie always got something. His thinking was, nine times out of 10, he’s going to get something out of the deal. And who knows, maybe he’d get lucky and someone would give him the whole absurd amount he asked for. The point is, when he entered a negotiation, he put his pie-in-the-sky, best-case-scenario offer out there, and it eventually, most of the time in an instant, got negotiated down to a mutually agreeable deal. What Frankie never did was say “Gimme only one piece of gum.” And it was unimaginable to think he would say “You’ve got some gum. Want some more? Here.”
Which brings us to the president, who this week announced a pay freeze for federal civilian employees. You can go ahead and read that whole article, but here are the five most important sentences:
The pay freeze will save $2 billion in the current fiscal year that ends in September 2011, $28 billion over five years and more than $60 billion over 10 years, according to Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and the government’s chief performance officer. That represents just a tiny dent in a $1.3 trillion annual deficit but it offers a symbolic gesture toward public anger over unemployment, the anemic economic recovery and rising national debt.
Mr. Zients said the president made the announcement on Monday because of an approaching legal deadline for submitting a pay plan to Congress. But by doing it now, the president also effectively gets ahead of Republicans who have been talking about making such a move once they assume greater power in January. Some Republicans have gone further, proposing to slash federal worker salaries.
Actually, I lied about those being the most important sentences, because President Obama had a nice quote at the beginning that offers some important context: “I did not reach this decision easily. This is not just a line item on a federal ledger. These are people’s lives.”
So look at what we have here. We’ve got people’s lives, we’ve got almost purely symbolic political gestures, and we’ve got an attempt to preempt something the Republicans were undoubtedly going to do anyway once they formally took control of the House.
The most important question here is, what’s preventing Republicans from going ahead and actually cutting federal civilian employee salaries once they take all their seats in the House? This is where the little anecdote about Frankie comes into play. There’s nothing compelling President Obama to do this now. It’s anti-stimulative. No one is clamoring for it. The midterm elections are over, so any perceived political benefit will disappear, like tears in rain, by the time any of the president’s political capital needs to be cashed in. It’s quite literally an example of the administration’s confounding habit of negotiating with itself before even coming to the table with Republicans.
In a sensical world, our liberal, Democratic president would sidle up to the negotiations with Congressional Republicans and say “We’re not going to deny thousands of middle class Americans the salaries they’re entitled to in the middle of the tough economic times.” Then Congressional Republicans would cackle like the aliens from Mars Attacks, and in the end, you’d come out with a compromise. Probably the same federal pay freeze we’re looking at now. But maybe you’d get something better. The point is, you wouldn’t have pissed away your leverage before the discussions even started. Because ask yourself this: does Darrell Issa sound like a guy that’s going to be satisfied with Obama’s voluntarily offered pay freeze? Dude thinks BHO is a socialist, so anything the president does must be an underhanded attempt to push the country further to the brink of Marxist revolution in the streets.
Ezra Klein of the Washington Post today offered another model for negotiation that (probably) wasn’t devised outside the Quik Chek on 38th Street in Bayonne.
“The best negotiator I ever came across was [former Reagan and Bush chief of staff] Jim Baker,” says Paul Begala, who served as an adviser to President Clinton. “He began every negotiation with this sentence: ‘Nothing is agreed to till everything is agreed to.’ So no one can pocket anything, and no one suffers for making the first move.” To many Democrats, Republicans have simply proven the wisdom of Baker’s strategy: They keep pocketing these gains without giving the White House any credit, while both the Democrats and Obama take lashings from their base for being insufficiently principled and tactically incompetent.
Whether you subscribe to the candy store philosophy (which I admit assumes, probably naively, good faith between negotiating parties) or the more politically savvy and realistic philosophy of Jim Baker, the truth in both cases is that you’re not negotiating with yourself.
Earlier in that post, Klein talks about various arguments from White House staffers for why the president has pursued this unilateral self-negotiating strategy. (Previous iterations include the $300 billion stimulus tax cuts, the discretionary spending freeze, and the expansion of offshore drilling.) One of these arguments is that these weren’t bargaining chips at all, but rather good policies that the president wanted to get credit for. As a flaming liberal, this is an infinitely more dismaying argument than “Obama is just a bad negotiator.” As his term goes on and the evidence keeps piling up, though, the most dismaying argument might end up being the most true.
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