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As President Obama was giving his speech in Tucson last night, I was headed to a TV studio, where I had a debate with the NRO's Cliff May about the speech as well as the state of political discourse in our nation. I had checked my twitter feed 20 seconds before I went on air live to get a feel of the atmosphere out there and immediately I saw both right and left voices for the most part praised it. I then conveyed that to Al-Jazeera English's audience.
[The debate I had with Cliff May was fun and although it wasn't the setting for a raucous discussion, I had to cut him off after he tried to equate the left with the vitriol and violence of the right that last few years. When I began making my points that the right has been way out of line and off the wall, May said that he had gotten so many death threats he needed bodyguards. This is Cliff May I'm talking about and I bet most readers don't even remember his disgraceful behavior during the Valerie Plame affair. He then started to get nervous when I began to list all the violence that had taken place since Obama was elected, including the Richard Poplawski shooting of three police officers, and he tried to cut me off.]
Back to the speech.
When the President talked about Gabby opening her eyes and young Christina Green's youthful outlook on public service, it was quite moving. It was a great speech -- his best since he became President -- and I hope it does some healing in Arizona and makes people start behaving differently. They know who they are, but I'm not confident that it will have the desired effect we'd wish. I think the constant cheering by the audience was a way to work out their grief and sadness and to deal with the tragedy; if ever a crowd needed something to cheer about, this was it.
John Boehner not showing up was very weird. He's Majority Leader now and should at least act like one. There were so many that made the trip and he stayed behind to go to an RNC function. Wow.
Fox News had on Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer and Chris Wallace after the speech to dissect it, and although they thought it was rather long and the cheering made them uneasy, they all thought the President did a wonderful job. Wallace was insistent that while the speech was good, it won't have any lasting effect because the Republicans take control next week, but Krauthammer told the FOX panel that they shouldn't minimize the positive and lasting effect the speech will have on the American people. Sometimes he can make some astute observations when he wants to.
On the flip side, Rachel Maddow gave a very good analysis of the speech as she went through it piece by piece. Later on MSNBC had on Tom Brokaw, who is now their grand poobah and he also enjoyed the speech and tried to attach a historical perspective to it -- and then blasted Sarah Palin for her bizarre whining video. David Frum came on later and basically said her popularity after that video is like an iceberg melting on all sides. She blew her chance at rising above any petty complaint she had and tarnished her sinking image immeasurably.
(I didn't get a chance to check out CNN.)
I'm providing this as an update to an earlier post, "Portrait of the Bush Economy". Perhaps I should call this one "A Portrait of the Obama Economy"; we'll see.
It begins with a fascinating article by Catherine Rampell in a New York Times economics blog which attempts to determine why despite their wealth, the rich feel insecure economically (yes, it's counter-intuitive, I know).
The writer's bottom line is that because the last part of the income curve is so very steep, the closer someone is to the end of it ? anywhere above the top 1%, for example ? the further away you are from the next richest person.
Here's the writer's graph of that income curve:
The dots from 0 through the 80th percentile mark five-percent increments. From 80 to 99, the dots mark one-percent increments. The last two dots are at 99.5 and 99.9 ? in other words, the top .5% and the top .1% in income. (The top .01% and .001% are literally off the chart, at least off this one. But count on it, they exist.)
Paul Krugman discusses this article here and offers Brad DeLong's log-scaled version of the graph.
An interesting analysis, but I'd like to focus elsewhere, on the income table that produced the writer's data.
In my earlier post I generated some magic numbers, easy-to-memorize data points to show the income breaks in the Bush economy. For example, I said the top 20% starts at $100,000 per year, the top 10% at $150,000 per year, and so on. That table included some guess work and averaging, since a single source for a single year was not available.
Now thanks to this article and the data it draws on, we can update that table with solid 2010 numbers.
Note that all of my revisions are upward. Rampell didn't provide data for the top .01%, so I left that number alone. As before, I did some rounding to make this easy to remember. See her spreadsheet for the rounded-to-$100 actuals.
Top 20% = $100,000 per yearAnd lest we forget, the top income I'm aware of is David Tepper, a hedge fund king, whose 2009 personal take was estimated at $4 billion. Yes, billion. That's not the fund's income; that's the guy's income, for one year.
Top 10% = $150,000 per year (actually $160k)
Top 5% = $200,000 per year
Top 2% = $375,000 per year
Top 1% = $500,000 per year
Top .5% = $800,000 per year
Top .1% = $2 million per year
Top .01% = $10 million per year (not represented in her data)
Kay Bailey Hutchison is a down the line mainstream Texas conservative. Her ProgressivePunch lifetime score on crucial votes is 4.23, exactly tied with Oklahoma reactionary Tom Coburn. Her record is further right than GOP Establishment vice presidential top choice John Thune (R-SC), further right than John McCain's (11.46), Richard Shelby's (6.31) and John Ensign's (5.30), among others. She scores perfect zeros on issue after issue important to delusional teabaggers-- from education, the anti-UN mania that has swept the GOP again and gun-nuttery, to the unfair tax policies favoring the wealthy that the Republicans and teatards love and beating up on public employees and their unions. She has a record any reactionary imbecile should love. But this morning, despite a 58% approval rating among Texas Republicans, she announced that she's not running for reelection. On her Facebook page she wrote that "the last two years have been particularly difficult, especially for my family," referring to the knee-jerk teabagger attacks against her.
Having lost a horribly divisive primary against teabagger secessionist (and ex-Democrat) Rick Perry, she had every reason to believe that could be the next William Bennett (R-UT), who was deposed by his own state's radicals for not being "conservative" enough, even though he's extremely conservative. Having watched Lisa Murkowski lose the Republican primary in Alaska against nihilistic extremist Joe Miller and Mike Castle lose the GOP primary in Delaware against embarrassing circus clown and former witch, Christine O'Donnell, she probably thought she would be better off bowing out gracefully. DeMint already had one of his teabagger lunatics, Michael Williams, in the race against her. Below is a video of Hutchison speaking with a gaggle of teatard morons, the kinds who she would have to face for the next year if she decided to run:
video details and more
Here's some astute analysis from PPP's Tom Jensen on what this means to Republican incumbents:
Hutchison's approval rating with Republicans on our last Texas poll was just 58%. To put that number into some perspective Lisa Murkowski's approval with Republicans in January of 2010 was 77% and Mike Castle's in March of 2009 was 69%. They both started out in a much better position against their Tea Party opposition than Hutchison would have, and they both lost anyway. A poll we conducted in September of 2010 found that only 25% of Republicans in Texas would support Hutchison for renomination to 62% who preferred a 'more conservative' challenger. It's doubtful Hutchison really would have lost by that sort of margin, but she certainly would have been in deep, deep trouble had a Tea Party challenger emerged.
The fact that someone like Hutchison who has generally been among the more popular Senators in the country and has always won by wide margins has been at least partially pushed out by the Tea Party is indicative of a new reality for Republican Senators- pretty much no incumbent is safe if these folks decide to target them. Among GOP Senators up for reelection next year we've found a 71% approval rating for Arizona's Jon Kyl with Republicans, a 53% approval rating for Maine's Olympia Snowe with them, a 74% approval rating for Massachusetts' Scott Brown with them, a 59% approval rating for Nevada's John Ensign with them, and an 84% approval rating for Wyoming's John Barrasso with them.
With the exception of Barrasso every single one of those folks has worse numbers with Republicans than Murkowski did just seven months prior to losing the primary, and most of them have numbers pretty comparable to where Castle's were as well. Now obviously not every single one of these folks is going to draw a viable, well funded Tea Party opponent. But if they do any of them could be in a lot of trouble- there is pretty much no Republican incumbent immune to a challenge from the right these days and Hutchison evidently saw the writing on the wall and got out. Not saying that's the only reason she retired but I'm sure it's a piece of it or else she would have made this decision a long time ago.
The shootings in Tucson last weekend happened to coincide with former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty’s (R) media tour to promote his new book. In various interviews, Pawlenty has discussed the role violent rhetoric played in Tucson and in politics. While the former governor said that the Tucson shooter is solely responsible for his actions, Pawlenty acknowledged that political rhetoric could be toned down. “I think we can all benefit from a more thoughtful discourse,” he said on Fox News. Pawlenty even criticized Sarah Palin’s now infamous crosshairs graphic. “It wouldn’t have been my style to put the crosshairs on there,” he said on ABC. “There’s a line there as it relates to, you know, basic civility, decency, respect and, and not trying to invoke violence.”
Last night on the Daily Show, host Jon Stewart picked up on this theme, telling Pawlenty, “It feels like to me, Barack Obama?s critics are reacting to him as if as though he is something this country hasn?t seen before,” he said, adding, “very prominent Republicans talking about, ‘This is a fundemental change in our society. A march to tyranny.’? Pawlenty confused the point, claiming that both sides engage in vitriolic rhetoric, but Stewart clarified:
STEWART: If the defense is, ?They?ve got people who do it too.? That doesn?t appear to be much of a defense. And the other thing is, I don?t think you can conflate 18-year-olds who?ve written a lawyer?s name on their arm running around with bandanas with Newt Gingrich, with Rush Limbaugh, with the leaders of the Republican Party. I think that that is a cop-out that I don?t think is fair. And I?m not talking about their side did it, your side did it; what I?m asking you is, fundementally does the Republican Party believe we are as close to tyranny and socialism as the tone of their rhetoric would insinuate?
Shockingly, Pawlenty, who has been calling for civil discourse throughout the week, said that the U.S. is indeed creeping toward tyranny:
PAWLENTY: I think there?s a lot of us in the conservative movement who view government, whether it?s personalized to Barack Obama or anyone else, as government crowds into more space that used to be for individuals, that used to be for private markets, that used to be for charity, that used to be for entrepreneurial activity, that used to be for faith organizations and they push in and say, ?We?ll do that now.? And they take over one more piece of what used to be reserved for, say, individuals?
There?s a lot of us who say, you know that feels kind of like government stepping on us, pushing us to the side, and there is a continuum between liberty and tyranny and it sometimes happens very incrementally so is it about throwing stones and taking over by force? Maybe just incrementally everyday a little bit more gets nudged out of the way and you got to at least acknowledge John it is a continuum and in my view, we?ve moved down the continuum.
Watch it, starting at 5:56:
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Greg Sargent reports Chuck Schumer has endorsed Mark Udall's proposal of a bipartisan seating map during the State of the Union, saying it would symbolize the bipartisan approach of the lame duck session and would be a fitting response to President Obama's calls for national unity.
The concept behind the idea, as articulated by Udall, is that divided seating -- and the resulting sight of one side sitting down while the other stands and claps -- is unbecoming and reinforces the appearance of an institution divided irrevocably along partisan lines. The mixed seating is obviously a cosmetic gesture, but in a town that tends to worship bipartisan gestures, talk about the idea is likely to get a lot of attention.
Republicans have largely been silent on Udall's proposal, but as Greg points out, given that there is no formal rule regarding where member's must sit, it seems plausible if not likely that at least some bipartisansit (yes, that's your new word of the day) might break out on the House floor during the address.
My $0.02: doesn't seem like a bad idea, and it could be a reasonable symbol. But the best way to get members of Congress working together is to take away their incentives to obstruct legislation, and that means taking action on the efforts by Tom Udall and Jeff Merkeley to reform the filibuster.
A new judge, from outside of Arizona, has been appointed to handle the Federal Criminal case against Jared Loughner, and he will have a substantial issue of jurisdiction on his hands when he first takes the bench on it.[...]
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In a democracy that can only boast that 71 percent of its citizens are registered and able to exercise their civic duty in any given election, access to the franchise is crucial. For decades, millions of citizens have relied on either[...]
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Police in Tucson have found a black bag containing ammunition near Jared Loughner's house and the FBI is analyzing it, according to local reports.
Investigators have been looking for the bag, which they say Loughner and his father fought over the morning of the shooting. According to police, Jared Loughner took it out of the trunk of his car and then argued with his father about it. When Jared drove away, his father reportedly tried to drive after him, but lost him.
A teenager walking his dog in the desert near the Loughners' home found the bag this morning and turned it over to investigators.
Police also say they believe Loughner spent the night before the shooting at a Motel 6.
Meanwhile, investigators have finished processing of the crime scene outside a Safeway supermarket and the store is expected to re-open soon.