We began our holiday-season Thurber odyssey last night with a first helping of "The Pet Department." Owing to a scheduling confusion, tonight we being our look at the Fables for Our Time with not one but two of the original fables, published in Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated (1940). (The volume of Further Fables for Our Time appeared in 1956.)
Wikipedia observes that Thurber's fables "usually conformed to the fable genre to the extent that they were short, featured anthropomorphic animals as main characters, and ended with a moral as a tagline," and after what I think of as the archetypal Thurber fable, "The Little Girl and the Wolf," we've got one of the all-animal ones, on a famliiar theme, "The Hen and the Heavens." (We've already made the acquaintance of "The Very Proper Gander" in a post that suggested "the teabaggers would know how to deal with him.")
I see that Wikipeda proposes as the "most famous" of Thurber's fables one with an all-human cast, "The Unicorn in the Garden." We already have that on our schedule. -- Ken
The Little Girl and the Wolf
ONE AFTERNOON a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. "Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?" asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.
When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother's house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.
Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.
The Hen and the Heavens
ONCE UPON A TIME a little red hen was picking up stones and worms and seeds in a barnyard when something fell on her head. "The heavens are falling down!" she shouted, and she began to run, still shouting, "The heavens are falling down!" All the hens that she met and all the roosters and turkeys and ducks laughed at her, smugly, the way you laugh at one who is terrified when you aren't. "What did you say?" they chortled. "The heavens are falling down!" cried the little red hen. Finally a very pompous rooster said to her, "Don't be silly, my dear, it was only a pea that fell on your head." And he laughed and laughed and everybody else except the little red hen laughed. Then suddenly with an awful roar great chunks of crystallized cloud and huge blocks of icy blue sky began to drop on everybody from above, and everybody was killed, the laughing rooster and the little red hen and everybody else in the barnyard, for the heavens actually were falling down.
Moral: It wouldn't surprise me a bit if they did.
COMING UP SUNDAY: "My Fifty Years with James Thurber" (by James Thurber)
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Take My Country Back: Republicans worried about inflation vote no on one-time $250 Social Security payment to seniors designed to make up for no cost of living adjustment because there is no inflation.
Democracy Arsenal: The Montgomery Burns Party votes against health aid for 9/11 rescue workers. Again.
Random Musings: Arizona Democrats call for Governor Brewer to restore funding for transplants.
TPMDC: Mike Huckabee is building a $3 million mansion in early GOP primary state of Florida.
The Immoral Minority: Sarah Palin tops a new straw poll ? just not one she wants.
Open Congress: What do House Democrats want? For starters, fairness on unemployment insurance and the estate tax.
Speaking of which, your quote of the day: "I would hate to see the estate tax gutted. It's in keeping with the idea of equality of opportunity in this country, not giving incredible head starts to certain people who were very selective about the womb from which they emerged." (Warren Buffett)
Blue Gal is guest blogging Mike's Blog Round Up through the weekend. Send your tips, recommendations, comments and angst to bluegalsblog AT gmail DOT com.
Krugman weighs in: "This political reality makes the tax deal a bad bargain for Democrats."[...]
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Friday pundit edition.
NY Times editorial:
Failure to repeal "don’t ask, don’t tell" is only one of the reasons why Thursday was one of the most shameful days in the history of the Senate.
There was also this:
Republican senators blocked Democratic legislation on Thursday that sought to provide medical care to rescue workers and others who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke at the site of the World Trade Center attack in 2001.
Aren't you proud?
I’ve spent the past couple of days trying to make my peace with the Obama-McConnell tax-cut deal. President Obama did, after all, extract more concessions than most of us expected.
Yet I remain deeply uneasy — not because I’m one of those "purists" Mr. Obama denounced on Tuesday but because this isn’t the end of the story. Specifically: Mr. Obama has bought the release of some hostages only by providing the G.O.P. with new hostages.
And by stringing things along, the extension increases the chances that the Bush tax cuts will be made permanent, with devastating effects on the budget and the long-term prospects for Social Security and Medicare.
Over the past week we’ve seen the big differences between cluster liberals and network liberals. Cluster liberals (like cluster conservatives) view politics as a battle between implacable opponents. As a result, they believe victory is achieved through maximum unity. Psychologically, they tend to value loyalty and solidarity. They tend to angle toward situations in which philosophical lines are clearly drawn and partisan might can be bluntly applied.
Network liberals share the same goals and emerge from the same movement. But they tend to believe — the nation being as diverse as it is and the Constitution saying what it does — that politics is a complex jockeying of ideas and interests. They believe progress is achieved by leaders savvy enough to build coalitions. Psychologically, network liberals are comfortable with weak ties; they are comfortable building relationships with people they disagree with.
This contrast is not between lefties and moderates. It’s a contrast between different theories of how politics is done.
I'm a network liberal and I don't think this was such a great week. But then, Brooks is generally wrong, as he is here in assuming that this is a deal that will hold - with Republicans - over time. And as he is in assuming the DeMint/Palin wing bargains in good faith. Their goal is less taxes, not less deficit. They could care less about the deficit.
Chris Hayes agrees:
The Republicans have spent two years—an entire election cycle and postelection victory lap—repeating with tourettic persistence dire warnings about the existential threat posed by large deficits and mounting government debt.
And yet, amazingly, these same Republicans (and a few conservative Democrats), who love to offer lectures about the necessity of shared sacrifice, also spent the week demanding that all the Bush tax cuts be made permanent, a policy that would increase the debt over the next ten years by an astounding $3.3 trillion. Occasionally, you would find politicians oscillating madly between these two positions in the same paragraph or media appearance, reaching its reductio ad absurdum with a blog post about Kent Conrad's views on the matter that George Stephanopoulos headlined: Sen. Conrad: Extend All Tax Cuts; Time to Get 'Serious' About Deficit.
Duh. Conrad makes my head hurt.
Earlier this week, Weiner's Democratic counterpart from New York, Rep. Gary Ackerman, put it even more bluntly: "We got screwed." And Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana called the tax plan "almost morally corrupt."
Although most Republicans embraced the provision in the compromise that temporarily extends tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, GOP leaders have not spared Obama their criticism either.
Only in pundit-land is that "proof" of a good deal.
Barack Obama on the Nobel peace prize:
The rights of human beings are universal - they do not belong to one nation, region or faith. America respects the unique culture and traditions of different countries. We respect China's extraordinary accomplishment in lifting millions out of poverty, and believe that human rights include the dignity that comes with freedom from want. But Mr. Liu reminds us that human dignity also depends upon the advance of democracy, open society, and the rule of law. The values he espouses are universal, his struggle is peaceful, and he should be released as soon as possible. I regret that Mr. Liu and his wife were denied the opportunity to attend the ceremony that Michelle and I attended last year. Today, on what is also International Human Rights Day, we should redouble our efforts to advance universal values for all human beings.
China's not going to be happy. Hope too many people don't suffer on that account.
Friday's Headlines: An empty chair, but Nobel jury makes its point USA Obama Weighs Tax Overhaul in Bid to Address Debt Looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right Europe Commission dismisses petition on GM foods ban Anger at 'slave trader' Assange: WikiLeaks[...]
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On April 5, 2010 a mine blast killed 29 miners at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine - 50 miles from Charleston. It was the deadliest mine disaster since 1970 and is the subject of criminal and civil investigations.Don Blankenship - the[...]
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This should be the model for other countries, but we all know they're much too afraid of taking on the bankers. They're important people and geniuses, you know. CNBC:
Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said on Thursday he would include a 90 percent charge on bankers' bonuses in the budget bill.
"As far as the future is concerned I do propose to introduce the amendment to the finance bill to put this matter beyond any doubt and provide a high rate, a 90 percent rate of charge on any ... bankers' bonuses," Lenihan told local radio.
Ireland's government will seek parliamentary approval for a 85 billion euro ($113 billion) IMF/EU rescue package next week,in a surprise maneuver designed to embarrass its political rivals.
I'm nobody, who are you?
Born December 10, 1830
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MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT
I was going to write about the injustice that only 3,500 inheritances a year would be subject to the White House's proposed estate tax.
Then I was going to write about how the Obama plan would actually increase taxes on the poor.
Then I was going to opine on how public employees will pay more under the White House/GOP agreement.
Then I rewatched President Obama's December 7 news conference and stopped reading about all the adverse impact of the "deal," and I just got angry.
Obama ran on a narrative of changing the ways things work in DC and throwing out the lobbyists and entrenched
As readers of this blog know, I was originally willing to support the package that President Obama negotiated with the Republicans. While I am not happy about giving tax breaks to rich people, President Obama extracted more concessions from the Republicans than I had expected in the form of extending unemployment insurance benefits, an expanded earned income tax credit, and most importantly a substantial reduction in the payroll tax.
However, after further thought and conversations with people around Washington (first and foremost, Nancy Altman, the co-director of Social Security Works), I have become convinced that this deal would be a disaster. Paul Krugman does a nice job laying out the limited benefits of the stimulus, but my greater concern is what happens to Social Security in this story. Effectively, this deal would give us a permanent two-percentage point reduction in the payroll tax in a Washington climate very hostile to Social Security.
The logic is that the tax cut is scheduled to expire in December of next year. While it would require new legislation to extend the cuts, the Republicans will describe the failure to extend the cuts as a tax increase on middle class workers. (Several Republicans have already told reporters that this would be their view.)
Democratic officeholders have had difficulty standing behind tax increases for the very richest people in the country. It is difficult to imagine them sticking their necks out for tax increases that will hit low and middle-income workers, especially in a context where unemployment is virtually certain to be above 8.0 percent and quite likely above 9.0 percent. This means that the reduction in Social Security taxes may not be for just one year, it may persist for the indefinite future.
In principle there is nothing wrong with financing a portion of Social Security benefits with money from general revenue. This was in fact the original intention of President Roosevelt when he designed the program. However, the fact is that the program has always been financed exclusively by the Social Security tax that is taken from workers' wages. This makes the tax regressive, but it has the advantage that workers can quite legitimately say that they have paid for their benefits. This will be to some extent less true if a portion of the funding comes from general revenue rather than payroll taxes. In short, getting funding from general revenue opens a new line of attack on the program.
The prospect of this tax cut being the basis for a renewed attack on Social Security could be dismissed if the program had defenders in high places, but this does not appear to be the case. Most of the Republicans would almost certainly like to privatize Social Security.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration cannot be counted on to defend the program either. In fact, top officials in the administration seem to view attacks on Social Security and its supporters as a way to prove their manhood. President Obama's decision to appoint two arch-enemies of Social Security to chair his Fiscal Responsibility commission certainly does not inspire confidence among supporters of Social Security.
In short, supporters of Social Security have good reason to oppose the tax deal. It is easy to have the same stimulus with an expanded version of President Obama's Making Work Pay tax cut. Supporters of Social Security should reject the latest deal and tell President Obama to stand behind his own tax cut. This is what presidents are supposed to do.