Awful, horrible, disgusting

Look, this story broke two hours ago and I just couldn’t bring myself to put it up. I’m so, so tired of crazy people with guns who shoot bystanders, and this time, in an elementary school with children all around. But now they’re saying there were “multiple” deaths, including children who were shot IN A KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM, so.

Sometimes the pain is just too much. This is a hard job, steeping myself in crazy every day.

Elf

Make of it what you will, but I’ll start by saying that if you don’t like “Elf,” we probably wouldn’t be friends in real life. “Elf” is the delightful Christmas tale of an unusually tall elf from Santa’s workshop who finds out he was adopted, and journeys to New York to find his real father.

And even if you hate Will Ferrell (some people do), he’s just so perfect in this as Buddy, the elf on a mission. He’s beautifully naive and loving, and there’s not a false note in his portrayal. And the story’s about family, and how hard it is when you don’t quite fit in, and finally opening your heart to hope and joy. Who can’t relate to that?

James Caan is his father. He doesn’t believe he’s Buddy’s father, but his wife (Mary Steenburgen) convinces him to take Buddy into their family. Zooey Deschanel is also her charming self as the Macy’s elf Buddy meets and with whom he falls in love. (Let’s just say they have the first date to end all first dates.) If you’re a fan of “Game of Thrones,” there’s also a hysterical scene with Peter Dinklage in which Buddy mistakes him for another elf.

And of course there’s a happy ending.

What a hoot

Asked about this after his press conference yesterday, the Tan Man was very annoyed that anyone would question the same elected official who’s been publicly blathering about the White House “spending problem” about the half-million bucks the Republicans saw fit to appropriate for DOMA:

It has come to light that House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-CA) secretlyapproved a $500,000 increase to a contract with a private law firm to defend the unconstitutionalDefense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in federal court.


While the increase was approved in September, neither the public nor the Democratic House minority was informed until this week, Roll Call reports.The contract now authorizes Bancroft PLLC and former Solicitor General Paul Clement (R) to spend up to $2 million in to defend DOMA — the second increase to what was originally a $1 million cap. The U.S. Department of Justice stopped defending the 1996 law in February 2011 after determining the law to be in conflict with the U.S. Constittuion.House Democratic


Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) denounced the increased expense in a statement:

It’s bad enough that Speaker Boehner and House Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act – and losing in every case. Now, they have reached a new low – signing a secret contract to spend more public money on their legal boondoggle without informing Democrats. Their actions are simply unconscionable; their decisions are utterly irresponsible.Hiding this contract from voters in the midst of an election season was a cynical move at best, and a betrayal of the public trust at worst. With Americans focused on the creation of jobs and the growth of our economy, Republicans should not be spending $2 million to defend discrimination in our country.


Though Lungren lost re-election in November, the Republicans maintained control of the House — and its operating budget.

Is the Medicare age safe?

Greg Sargent:

What’s more, the reaction from Democrats and liberals alike has been swift. It doesn’t hurt that the Center for American Progress, which is allied with the White House, has been banging the drum very hard against an age hike, arguing that it could leave over 400,000 people uninsured and undermine a key goal of Obamacare. The idea has been clearly revealed as a non-starter for a great many Congressional Democrats. For many of them, the idea of taking Medicare benefits away from folks in their early 60s, as diseases set in and 65 is now within reach, is morally unconscionable. Congressional aides believe this message has been made very clear to the White House.


All of which is to say that kicking up a fuss about this has been a good thing. There’s every reason for people with strong feelings about it to continue making those feelings known until it has been officially taken off the table.

Yep. Remember all that strong statements about how “I won’t sign anything that doesn’t include a strong public option”? Don’t assume anything just yet.

What’s the rationale?

Here’s the really puzzling thing about this whole fiscal-cliff, “let’s sacrifice a virgin on the mountain top” adventure we’re on. No one really wants this, except rich people and the politicians they own. No one. Tell me one good reason why non-profits should, in effect, slit their own throats — particularly at a time when we really need them, because of that aforementioned ritual sacrifice to the austerity gods. It’s like a giant game of Whack-A-Mole — as soon as they try to cut one thing, people rise up and say, “No way, pal!”

That’s because we still want clean air, safe food and prescription drugs, trains that run, roads without giant potholes, good schools with enough books, and programs that help the vulnerable.

You know what we don’t want? A massive black hole of a military budget. You want to talk about austerity? The Pentagon owns over 200 golf courses around the world — 234, the last time a reporter counted. (They hide the numbers, just because of stories like this.) Four-star generals live like kings:

The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.


The elite regional commanders who preside over large swaths of the planet don’t have to settle for Gulfstream V jets. They each have a C-40, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737, some of which are configured with beds.

So when Leon Panetta is running around the talk shows, sternly lecturing that the military is cut to the bone and oh noes! fiscal cliff!!, try to keep that in mind.

Oh, and you know what else we don’t want? Enough perks to make the members of Congress into royals who will never want for a pension or health care for the rest of their lives. There’s not a ghost of a chance they’re going to give up the good life.

So why are they asking everyone else to go without? Why did the president want this created “crisis”?

The White House and the nation’s most prominent charities are embroiled in a tense behind-the-scenes debate over President Obama’s push to scale back the nearly century-old tax deduction on donations that the charities say is crucial for their financial health.


In a series of recent meetings and calls, top White House aides have pressed nonprofit groups to line up behind the president’s plan for reducing the federal deficit and averting the year-end “fiscal cliff,” according to people familiar with the talks.


In part, the White House is seeking to win the support of nonprofit groups for Obama’s central demand that income tax rates rise for upper-end taxpayers. There are early signs that several charities, whose boards often include the wealthy, are willing to endorse this change.


But the White House is also looking to limit the charitable deduction for high-income earners, and that has prompted frustration and resistance, with leaders of major nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way, the American Red Cross and Lutheran Services in America, closing ranks in opposing any change to the deduction.


“It’s all castor oil,” said Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, an umbrella group representing many nonprofits. “And the members of the nonprofit sector I represent don’t want any part of it. It’s a medicine we’re not willing to drink.”

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