Author Archives: Chris Pummer

The Federal Budget

CHRIS PUMMER: It’s fair to ask if Democrats will ever have a serious plan for balancing the federal budget. Lacking the spine to even let tax cuts for the super-rich expire, they are also quick to point to Republicans as side that wants to cut entitlements that comprise the bulk of government spending.

That said, raising taxes and cutting spending are both necessary to balance the budget. And if you are looking for seriousness on that issue, don’t bother casting a glance at the GOP. Continue reading

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Sarah Palin, Influence and Influencing

STEPHON JOHNSON: So, Sarah Palin wants us to hold her to a different standard than she holds others? Why am I not surprised?

CHRIS PUMMER: All of the events of the last two weeks probably don’t shift any opinion about Sarah Palin. Not an inch for anybody.

AKIE BERMISS: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: ultimately we, the people, are responsible for those we put in power. In our representative democracy the masses are the king-makers. Yes, they may be being manipulated by the powerful few on high, but they can only be manipulated if they allow themselves to be manipulated. I say all this because I don’t think its fair to simply blame Sarah Palin for being Sarah Palin. While I think she is a deplorable person politically and probably a dangerous person to give any kind of serious power, I also think that Sarah Palin was created by some subset of “the people” and, ultimately, she therefore represents some subset of our society. Continue reading

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GOP Obstructionism and 2012

HOWARD MEGDAL: I don’t disagree with Dan on this point: obstructionism has served the GOP well in the first two years of the Obama administration. But both the results of that success, and more importantly, the differing demographics between a midterm election and a presidential contest make for different consequences to continuing down that path.

DAN SZYMBORSKI: One can hardly expect the Republicans to lose any points for obstructionism (if you can even call it that – opposing parties do have a very good argument for doing whatever they can to obstruct legislation that’s against first principles – we would have been far better off if the Democrats had done similar with the Iraq War). Simply put, they’ve not hidden in the least that they want to stand in the way of Obama’s desired legislation and in fact, touted it as part of the campaign. They’ll essentially do what they promised to do. Continue reading

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A Legal Obligation to Vote?

DAN SZYMBORSKI: Obligation, shmobligation. Shmobligation is a word, right?

EMILY SAIDEL: The biggest standout from this Tuesday’s election is the Republican claim that the results are a repudiation of Obama’s agenda. “The people have spoken,” official after official claims. A more accurate representation would be that some people have spoken. More specifically, about 42% of eligible voters expressed an opinion in these midterm elections. Repudiation is a hard conclusion to draw when not even half the country exercised its right to express an opinion. How might this election have looked if voting was a legal requirement? Continue reading

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HOWARD MEGDAL: While Dan speaks to the relative inconsequential nature of Rich Iott’s predilection for dressing as a Nazi in the grand scheme, the most interesting aspect of this controversy is the political calculation by John Boehner. By agreeing to campaign for him on the final weekend of the 2010 midterms, what exactly is Boehner saying? Continue reading

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McDonald’s and Health Care

DANI ALEXIS RYSKAMP: After threatening to drop its health insurance plan for its lowest-paid employees, McDonalds has asked for and gotten an exemption from the federal government to keep offering the plan, despite the fact that it doesn’t meet the new health care law requirement that 85% of the premiums paid go toward providing health services to the payees. After seeing the plan, however, I have to ask: who, exactly, is benefiting from this, or has McDonalds discovered yet another way to fleece the poor?

DAN SZYMBORSKI: Perhaps McDonald’s can develop their new insurance policy. If you’re working at McDonald’s and probably eating McDonald’s food. you probably don’t have a long to live anyway. After tasting a Big Mac, I think Sarah Palin should swoop in because McDonald’s greasy food is akin to a culinary death panel. Continue reading

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The Electoral College: Good Riddance?

DANI ALEXIS RYSKAMP: We are long past due to abandon the Electoral College for good. It unnecessarily favors small states by weighing their votes more heavily than others; it funnels far too much campaign money and effort into a handful of “swing” states; and it results in bizarre outcomes that do not reflect the will of the American voting public.

DAN SZYMBORSKI: While I agree with my colleague that there are certainly modifications to our voting scheme to would enhance value (though considering some of the problems people have with butterfly ballots and touch screens, a complex method will be a nightmare), the electoral college does a good job.

Next time someone tries to tell you that we live in a democracy, please punch them in the face. But don’t get my name involved. Continue reading

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Obama On The View

AKIE BERMISS: I’m probably less down on the President than most other people. For an extraordinary person doing extraordinary things in extraordinary times — I think he’d doing pretty damned well at it. What’s Obama’s most major criticism from the left? He’s not getting in to the game enough. Ok, well I think that’s pretty silly, its been about a year and half and he’s made more big “presidential”-style policy moves than most guys do in a TWO terms. All this while the civilized world is falling down around his ears, two land-wars, and an obstinate (almost hysterical) Republican Party trying to block him at every step.

So I think its about time people give him some credit for knowing what he’s doing.

THOMAS DELAPA: All in all, much ado about nothing. It didn’t hurt him, but possibly he helped his image a bit with the almost exclusively female audience. They all gave him plenty of room to stay on message about jobs and the economy, including a deferential Hasselbeck.

DAN SZYMBORSKI: I have to admit to being a little exhausted by Obama’s constant presence. Reaching voters is important but Obama’s around more than the Where’s the Beef ads were.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I didn’t watch President Obama on The View. I didn’t have to, and I still know it was a good idea. This is real simple math. 6.59 million viewers. Continue reading

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HOWARD MEGDAL: So we’ve established that the guru of COIN, Stanley McChrystal, couldn’t sell it to his own troops, let alone to the Afghans. It is stated by our own CIA Director that there are “maybe 50-100″ al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Getting military cooperation from would-be allies is proving to be impossible due to the belief that the United States will begin to withdraw next year- which, given the lack of political will for this war, we almost certainly will be.

So I must say, I come away from this feeling like for all of his successes, the decision to re-double efforts in Afghanistan has to rank among Obama’s failures so far. And by delaying exit until July 2011 or beyond, rather than acknowledging that the circumstances have changed and beginning the withdrawal process immediately, he is only exacerbating this failure.

AKIE BERMISS: I never really felt one way or another about General McChrystal but I have been extremely skeptical about the whole COIN conceptology. I am slightly less dubious about Obama’s intentions regarding the war in Afghanistan… but I am still very conflicted about it. I understand, however, that withdrawal is a delicate operation. If Obama had taken office and just said, “Ok — war’s over. Let’s go.” He’d never have recovered from the perceived weakness and lack of gravitas it would have bred. And so that leaves us with two certains: 1. we need to get the hell out of Afghanistan and 2. we can’t just up and leave. The trouble is that the strategies for leaving have often sounded like strategies for trying to rush a win now that the clock is running out.. Like its sudden death, or something. Continue reading

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Mishaps with Fire: Try This At Home

DAVE TOMAR: I’m not sure what it is about boyhood and fire. Perhaps it’s the promethean impulse toward creation. Perhaps it’s the sentiment of occasion and celebration first inspired by a birthday candle, a fireworks display or a citronella torch on Labor Day. Perhaps it’s the joy of holding a force of such sheer, unimaginable destruction in the palm of one’s hands. For me, it was that very special episode of Webster when he burnt his parents’ house down while playing with safety matches.

AKIE BERMISS: My trouble with fire is that I am practically always playing with it. Cigars — I love ‘em. I smoke ‘em. And there is no better solace after a long night’s gigging that drinking some stale gas-station coffee and smoking my cigar on the drives back to Brooklyn. Some of the drives, you see, are pretty late and pretty long and its rare that there’s anyone to talk to. I used to hook up my blue-tooth and just call anyone I thought might be awake and get them talking, but these days its not as cute as it used to be. People hang up. So its just me. And the road and the darkness. Usually, I light up and I turn on NPR (if I can get it) and I hit the road. But see the thing about cigars is: they’re big. A cigarette is easy to light. You almost don’t need a flame as a really strong spark will probably do the trick. Cigars, on the other hand, they take some real fire to get started. Really its just a barely-controlled micro-blaze.

And its alarming close to one’s mouth. Continue reading

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