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Free as a bird

Here’s part of an e-mail I recently received from Barack Obama’s spin doctors:

David —

As someone who got his start as a community organizer, President Obama’s entire career has revolved around the idea that ordinary people working together can do extraordinary things. So I hope you can take part in marking his 50th birthday… This Wednesday, August 3rd, campaign volunteers will get together for house meetings in all 50 states. We’ll plan local events… and talk about how to spread the word about the President’s accomplishments…

Can you attend a house meeting…? RSVP now.

I replied with this:

What are “the president’s accomplishments?” His unprecedented (for a Democrat) efforts to tear down the social safety net that evolved from the New Deal? To my shame, I voted for Obama, but I’m certainly not going to help celebrate his ongoing dismantlement of the Democratic Party.

But there’s a better way to express discontent about Obama’s refusal to back tax hikes for the rich and his unwillingness to defend Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Simply show up at one of the house meetings and tell those present what you think of his ongoing cave-in to right-wingers.

Click here for the meeting closest to you.

Debt deal

You already know it will suck and cut our retirement programs, but here are some details if you insist on torturing yourself.

Entitlement programs

Loved this!

Newport Folk Festival

Watch it live here until 7pm EST tonight!

New rules

I’m going to make a concerted effort to change things around here, mostly because while I was driving home, I had an anxiety attack in the car — just from thinking about the debt-ceiling crap waiting for me here. I really, really didn’t want to come home — it was so nice to have an entire week without chest pains. And once I was home and catching up on the week’s stories, I could feel my blood pressure going back up.

So I’ll lay it on the line: My ultimate allegiance is to my own survival. I can’t go on like this, it’s quite literally killing me.

Here’s the thing: If you’ve been reading here for a while, you already know what’s going on. Most of what I post is repetition, or some variation on “I told you so.” But we already know how bad things are. I don’t think hitting you over the head with it helps anything.

And we all know about the feelings of despair. We all go through it. But what I’m beginning to realize is how much focusing on it only amplifies its effects.

So I’m going to tone it down to see how that goes, and I’m asking you to do so in the comments, too. Instead of focusing all our attention on what’s wrong, let’s try to come up with ways to support each other through these hard times. And jokes, lots of ‘em! Because we really need to laugh more.

I’ll also warn you that I’m going to spend more time taking care of myself, so I won’t be blogging at the same frenetic pace. I’m not willing to let my anger over our political system kill me. Anything you can do to help will be gratefully appreciated.


Maybe he’s had sex with all of them?

Just what is it that 236 GOP House and 41 GOP senators fear from an operative known to be involved in illegal activity involving taxpayer fraud and influence peddling?

Why voters tune out Democrats

This is an interesting piece, although I don’t agree with this part at all. There was never an organic uprising against the deficit; it was a carefully-orchestrated campaign by the likes of Pete Peterson, helped along by the Koch brothers and their media enablers:

Finally, progressives have to be serious about reducing the country’s long-term deficits, constraining special interest spending and tax breaks and making government accountable to the ordinary citizen. The deficit matters to people and has real meaning and consequences. A government that spends and borrows without the kind of limits that would govern an ordinary family is going to have big troubles. Voters I’ve studied say things like, if “we keep spending like this, we’re going to be bankrupt and there won’t be anything for anybody,” especially “our children.” The final straw is the government’s decision to continue spending and to put the country deeper into debt and more dependent on China.

And this is where innumeracy comes in. Voters simply have no idea of the numbers involved, the size of the debt vs. the size of the U.S. economy. They haven’t noticed that deficit scares occur only during Democratic administration, and magically go away as soon as a Republican is elected president.

Midnight in Paris

I saw three movies this week, and one of them was Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” Of the three, it was not the worst. But I couldn’t help thinking 1) that his movies are always about the sorts of things that pass for problems among a certain type of rich, white and privileged New Yorker and 2) how much this movie reminded me of an After-School Special.

Plus, it’s really annoying to watch the much-younger Owen Wilson take on Woody Allen’s old-man mannerisms. Is it inconceivable that an actor simply be allowed to interpret the role instead of replicating Allen’s neurotic gestures and speech patterns? Apparently.

I detest how the people talk in his films, too. They never really communicate with each other, they fucking declaim to some unseen audience as if they’re in a Noel Coward play. (I have to say, though: Corey Stoll practically oozes sex appeal as the young Ernest Hemingway. He and Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein manage to transcend the material.)

Despite Allen’s annoying directorial tics, the movie wasn’t that bad. Paris looks beautiful, and everything ends as it should. And it was a matinee, so it only cost $5.50. So there you go.

Instant karma

The Tea Party “patriots” and political apostles of Pope Grover are really shooting themselves in the foot on this one, and they’re just too dumb to realize it. There just isn’t much discretionary spending left to cut — which means any money for this debt ceiling deal will come from funds that should be going to state budgets, and the pain will be amplified on the local level. It will be interesting to watch all these Republican governors and state legislators try to explain away the eventual steep rise in state and local taxes, trying desperately to distance themselves from the consequences of their “cut cut cut” rhetoric. Wait until all those Medicare-loving tea lovers find out their spouses who need nursing home care will no longer be eligible — because the Medicaid funds aren’t there anymore.

Congratulations, all of you – here comes your instant karma!

Among the biggest items on the chopping block in Congress are education and Medicaid spending — federal dollars that make up the largest parts of most states’ budgets. Nearly every state government has already set its budget for the next year — some for the next two years — under the assumption that federal spending would remain more or less consistent. If such money is abruptly pulled, states won’t suddenly be able to change their spending obligations or raise taxes.

“They’re going to have to eat that in some way, and many will pass [the cuts] onto local governments,” said Frank Shaforth, director of the Center for State and Local Government Leadership at George Mason University.

Amid the recession and dropping revenues, there’s already been an uptick of bankruptcy filings by cities, towns and rural districts across the country over the past two months and there could be more if Washington follows through on its promise to slash spending as soon as possible.

“The cities and counties that already in bad shape — they’re the first ones to go,” White said.

Even if state governments hold special sessions to cut spending further, their cuts will still “filter through to the local government,” he added. “Public-sector workers get laid off. There’s higher employment and lower spending.”

Local governments will try to raise property taxes to raise revenue, which could be yet another drag on a housing market that’s yet to recover. Those who fail to meet their fiscal obligations could see their credit downgraded, making it even harder for them to borrow money to build basic local infrastructure, while both the president and the GOP have threatened to pull funds for state infrastructure. What was once an ideological abstraction — “austerity” — will have very real effects on everyday life for average Americans.

Some state and local officials are already bracing for the worst. As the Pew Center on the States notes, Virginia’s Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has proposed borrowing money fromthe state treasury to cover federal Medicaid funds, and the California state treasurer is considering a Wall Street loan to help the state make ends meet in August.

With state and local voices largely absent from the Washington debate, officials and advocates are struggling to make their concerns heard — and remind Congress that slashing federal spending could have a massive, unanticipated ripple effect on every level of government.

Meeting with Sen. Mark Warner (R-Va.) on Tuesday, Shaforth told the ex-governor, “I want you to put your governor hat back on…This is the United States — this is not just the federal government.”

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