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Christmas caroling

With the Roches:

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.

Birth control politics

By pretending it’s the Democrats who have politicized the issue, Bobby Jindal is, as usual, a lying sack of manure, and has more than a little something to do with keeping Obamacare from covering contraceptives, but as long as it drives the prices down low enough that women can afford it, fine with me.

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.”

‘Bigger fish to fry’

I’ll file this one under “weasel words”, right there with “I’m not going to slash Social Security”:

President Barack Obama said prosecuting pot users in states that have legalized the drug won’t be a top priority for his administration.


“We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Obama told ABC News’ Barbara Walters. “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.”


Last month, voters in Colorado and Washington legalized recreational pot use for adults, though marijuana remains illegal under federal law.


The Obama administration suggested last week that it was considering plans to undermine the voter initiatives. In his interview with Walters, Obama did not say whether his administration would go after producers and suppliers of marijuana in those states. The administration has cracked down extensively on the medical marijuana industry in California, despite its legality under state law there.

Stephen Colbert is a good Catholic boy

And I mean that in the most complimentary sense:

My Dearest Email List,


Last month, my friend Ham Rove passed away in a very unsuspicious fashion. On the same day, Colbert Super PAC’s money, $773,704.83, was squirreled away in a fashion that was extremely suspicious, but entirely legal. I thought that’s the last I’d hear from Ham Rove, particularly because a dog ate him.


But Ham Rove had plans beyond his death, and I was recently surprised to find myself on the board of the Ham Rove Memorial Foundation. I was equally surprised to learn we received a $773,704.83 donation. Where did that very specific amount of money come from? There’s simply no way to know.


Tonight, I am honored to announce First and Final Annual Charitable Donations by the Ham Rove Memorial Fund.


Hurricane Sandy was much like Ham Rove: Cold, cruel, salty, and the cause of untold devastation. In his honor, Donors Choose, Team Rubicon, and Habitat For Humanity will each receive $125,000 to assist with their Sandy relief efforts.


We’ll also be donating $125,000 to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, which serves wounded soldiers and their families. My attempts to get a matching donation to the Blue Ribbon Fund, which serves me frosty cans of PBR, were not successful.


The remaining money will be split between two pro-transparency groups who fight against the corrupting influence of outside money in politics. Luckily, they were both fine with the corrupting influence of outside money in their offices. As per his wishes, the Center for Responsive Politics has officially renamed their meeting space “The Colbert Super Pac Memorial Conference Room.” And the Campaign Legal Center will, from here on out, be home to “The Ham Rove Memorial Conference Room.”


It is the highest compliment that I can pay when I say I miss Ham Rove almost as much as I miss that money. I wish he could have stayed with us a little longer. Because now I have to plan a whole new Christmas dinner.


Yours Givingly,


Stephen Colbert

Accidental Chairman, The Ham Rove Memorial Fund

You mean after all that, they didn’t even bother to have their new law checked against existing legislation? Ha, ha! Boy, the Kochs really should be more careful about the quality ofthe people they buy:

Lansing – Less than 24 hours after Governor Snyder signed his damaging “Right to Work” legislation into law, analysis shows that the flawed legislation may not even have the result the Governor claimed it would, raising serious questions about whether the Republican leadership even read the language of the bills before voting it through and signing it into law.


“It’s become increasingly clear that the Governor presented the legislature with bills written by out-of-state extremists who had no understanding of Michigan’s constitution or how our laws apply to Michigan workers,” said Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer. “This is what happens when the Governor does an 11th hour about face in a lame duck session showing utter contempt for our people by cutting out all public input, scrutiny and debate. That isn’t leadership, it’s epic incompetence .”

Someone needs to tell ALEC to get better lawyers!

Reports today show that HB 4003, which the Governor said would provide “Right to Work” type policies for public employees in Michigan, could not be implemented as intended as the Michigan Constitution gives clear authority to the Civil Service Commission over conditions of employment for the state’s workforce. Experts have suggested today only a vote of the Civil Service Commission could enact Right to Work policies for state workers.


“The public was not given an opportunity to read these bills, legislators were not given an opportunity to read these bills, and we now know that the Governor himself either didn’t read or didn’t understand these bills himself,” said Senator Bert Johnson (D – Detroit). “This process has been a complete affront to democracy from the start and was nothing more than a political gift to the Koch Brothers and ALEC who bought and paid for this legislation.”


A series of questions have been raised in recent days over the legality of the “Right to Work” legislation as well as the process in which it passed. A lawsuit has already been filed against the Michigan House of Representatives for violating the Open Meetings Act as these bills were passed while the public was illegally locked out of the State Capitol and additional legal challenges are expected in the coming days.

I took a look at their Open Meetings Act, and Democrats look like they have solid grounds to sue and overturn the new law. See, under open meetings or “sunshine” laws, politicians aren’t allowed to meet in secret to plan these little legislative coups, and since the Democrats had no idea what was coming, looks like a de facto violation to me,

Huh

Like that’s any of our business!

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