Trigger

The life of Willie Nelson’s guitar.

The guitar—a Martin N-20 classical, serial number 242830—was a gorgeous instrument, with a warm, sweet tone and a pretty “mellow yellow” coloring. The top was made of Sitka spruce, which came from the Pacific Northwest; the back and sides were Brazilian rosewood. The fretboard and bridge were ebony from Africa, and the neck was mahogany from the Amazon basin. The brass tuning pegs came from Germany. All of these components had been gathered in the Martin guitar factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and cut, bent, and glued together, then lacquered, buffed, and polished. If the guitar had been shipped to New York or Chicago, it might have been purchased by a budding flamenco guitarist or a Segovia wannabe. Instead it was sent to a guitarist in Nashville named Shot Jackson, who repaired and sold guitars out of a shop near the Grand Ole Opry. In 1969 it was bought by a struggling country singer, a guy who had a pig farm, a failing marriage, and a crappy record deal.


Willie Nelson had a new guitar.

I loved a cowboy

I left on New Year’s Day/It was my resolution/I just up and rode away.

Please don’t let the crappy video get in the way. Lynn Miles:

Conceder in chief

Krugman:

OK, now for the really bad news. Anyone looking at these negotiations, especially given Obama’s previous behavior, can’t help but reach one main conclusion: whenever the president says that there’s an issue on which he absolutely, positively won’t give ground, you can count on him, you know, giving way — and soon, too. The idea that you should only make promises and threats you intend to make good on doesn’t seem to be one that this particular president can grasp.


And that means that Republicans will go right from this negotiation into the debt ceiling in the firm belief that Obama can be rolled.


At that point he can redeem himself by holding firm — but because the Republicans don’t think he will, they will play tough, almost surely forcing him to actually hit the ceiling with all the costs that entails. And look, if I were a Republican I would also be betting that he’ll cave.


So Obama has set himself and the nation up for a much uglier confrontation than we would have had if he had set a negotiating position and held to it.


Update: I should mention that on one issue, the estate tax, the problem is apparently with the Senate; there are, unfortunately, some heartland Dem Senators who are extremely solicitous of the handful of super-wealthy families in their states, so that Obama’s people don’t think they can get a majority for higher taxes here. It’s bizarre: states like New Jersey have far more large estates, not just total but per capita, than states like Montana, but it’s the Senators from the latter that are eager to preserve the inherited privileges of the few.

Also, Noam Schieber: …”the strategic consequences are disastrous.”

Should auld civil liberties be forgot

Charlie Pierce, keeping his eye on the ball:

Of course, while everyone in Washington, and the courtier press that serves them, were endlessly droning on and on about the Gentle Fiscal Incline, the Bill Of Rights closed out 2012 by having one of the worst weeks it’s had in the two centuries of its existence. But the courtier press paid that little mind, possibly because selling out the Bill Of Rights was done on a “bipartisan” basis, and the denizens of the various Green Rooms would endorse cannibal murder if both parties agreed to subsidize it.

First came the revolting vote on the reauthorization of FISA. Time was, and not that long ago, that the whole idea of a secret court issuing secret warrants was enough to raise hackles all on its own. (There even was an episode of Law And Order from 2004 that centered on the execution of a FISA warrant that sent liberal defense attorney Danielle Melnick, and assistant DA Serena Southerland, up the wall.) Now the old FISA regulations seem like they were drafted by George Mason, compared to what keeps getting reauthorized in the Senate.

This latest thing was to reauthorize the truly spooky FISA Amendments that were passed in 2008 when the president, in one of the actions he’s taken that really was a naked sellout of his previously enunciated principles, joined with a Senate majority to immunize the telecommunications companies that had participated in the Bush Administration’s lawlessness regarding wiretapping, as well as to authorize sweeping new wiretapping powers far beyond those against which the companies were being immunized. What the president did is not excused by the fact that he was running for president at the time. This wasn’t a flip-flop he took because he wanted to be elected. This was a flip-flop he took because he wanted to do some things once you were elected.

This year, as those amendments came up for reauthorization, what we had was a genuine horror show, and it was made worse by the awful debate that preceded the vote. There was enough boogedy-boogedy coming from the Democratic side to embarrass John Bolton. Glenn Greenwald already has written at length on this, but one comment from the now-inexcusable Dianne Feinstein is worthy of further comment.

“This is an effort to make that material public, and I think it’s a mistake at this particular time because it will chill the program, it will make us less secure, not more secure…I know where this goes, it goes to destroy the program. I don’t want to see it destroyed.”

In other words…no, wait, there are no other words. This is the argument of a totalitarian. You can’t know what we’re doing to protect you, even if we’re doing it to you, because then we can’t protect you and you will be killed by bad people and it will be your own fault. Somewhere in East Germany, an elderly ex-bureaucrat is getting a thrill up his leg and doesn’t know why.
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Fiscal chuff

We can only hope the House teabaggers vote down the Senate debt deal today, but that seems unlikely.

In case you’re trying to untangle this, Obama basically wants another showdown in a few weeks so he can hand over Social Security and Medicare. No, he’s not incompetent. This is what he wants.

Alex Pareene:

It’s coming. Congress will obsess over crafting a long-term deficit deal no matter what happens with the tax rates and the sequester. In all likelihood, we’ll get regressive budget cuts at all levels of government, plus, for good measure, tax hikes not just on the rich but on working people. The well-funded “Fix the Debt” monsters will still demand massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Republicans are justifiably confident that they can use the debt ceiling to force more spending cuts less than a month from now. If all of this sinks the still-sluggish economic recovery, that’ll be just one more sign that we need to cut more, and “tighten our belts.”

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