Friday, December 31, 2010

Zuckerberg is Boy of the Year for 2010.

The Facebook boy has been named Time's Man Person of the Year for 2010. Congratulations, Mark Zuckerberg.

Here is the 60 Minutes interview from the beginning of December:

Didn't we win this distinction a few years back? "Yes, you," Time magazine proclaimed. "You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hollywood is No Country for Young Men or Old Women

Here's the list of the Top Money-Making Stars of 2010 as voted by motion picture exhibitors in Quigley Publishing Company's 79th annual poll.

RankActorGenderAgeLifetime U.S. Box Office
1Johnny DeppMale47$2,731,758,969
2Angelina JolieFemale35$1,607,756,601
3Robert Downey, Jr.Male45$1,989,876,295
4Matt DamonMale40$2,511,475,356
5Steve CarellMale48$1,616,882,568
6Tom HanksMale54$4,408,107,253
7Denzel WashingtonMale56$1,833,794,005
8Leonardo DiCaprioMale36$1,883,672,916
9George ClooneyMale49$1,750,939,442
10Anne HathawayFemale28$1,188,233,811

What's striking is there isn't a man on this list under 35, or a woman over 35. Not that it's any suprise that Hollywood is no country for young men or old women.

Now if this were a different industry, such as college sports with Title IX, Hollywood would have to make one bug budget movie starring a woman for every one starring a man. But, of course, Hollywood already does that to a large extent, they are called romantic comedies.

Perhaps more draconian measures are in order, such as the CAFE standards where Detroit auto companies must sell a certain number of subcompact hybrid cars for every sport utlity vehicle to balance the gas mileage of the fleet. But are you ready to stand in line for a Johhny Depp movie at the megaplex waiting for someone to buy a ticket to see Anne Hathaway?

From another perspective, all of these actors have been in show business for more than 10 years. So these slots have been earned over a series of films by actors willing to work for a decade or longer on their craft.

And where are the women of a certain age who aren't on the list? Well here are 10 more women who were did $100 million or more at the U.S box office in 2010.

RankActorGenderAgeLifetime U.S. Box Office
1Cameron DiazFemale38$2,707,789,729
2Gwyneth PaltrowFemale38$1,752,156,187
3Cate BlanchettFemale41$2,038,042,217
4Julia RobertsFemale43$2,523,519,818
5Helena Bonham CarterFemale44$2,128,001,715
6Joan CusackFemale48$1,881,735,102
7Sigourey WeaverFemale61$2,409,910,544
8Meryl StreepFemale61$1,751,561,404
9Kathy BatesFemale62$2,561,897,494
10Maggie SmithFemale76$2,527,327,957

That list does not look so shabby in comparison to Quigley's list. So maybe the motion picture exhibitors don't know as much as they think they know. Or maybe they just didn't like Valentine's Day. But I think maybe Hollywood women just need better publicists.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Just What Was Evangelicist Pat Robertson Smoking?

There are some headlines that you just don't expect. Here is what Pat Robertson actually said a couple of days ago on The 700 Club:

"We're locking up people that take a couple puffs of marijuana and the next thing you know they've got 10 years. They've got mandatory sentences; the judges throw up their hands and say there is nothing they can do. We've got to take a look at what we're considering crimes, and that's one of them. I'm not exactly for the use of drugs -- don't get me wrong -- but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of of a few ounces of pot, that kind of thing is just costing us a fortune and ruining young people. Young people going to prisons, they go in as youths and come out as hardened criminals, and that's not a good thing."

A later email added this clarification:

"Dr. Robertson did not call for the decriminalization of marijuana. He was advocating that our government revisit the severity of the existing laws because mandatory drug sentences do harm to many young people who go to prison and come out as hardened criminals. He was also pointing out that these mandatory sentences needlessly cost our government millions of dollars when there are better approaches available. Dr. Robertson’s comments followed a CBN News story about a group of conservatives who have proven that faith-based rehabilitation for criminals has resulted in lower repeat offenders and saved the government millions of dollars. Dr. Robertson unequivocally stated that he is against the use of illegal drugs."

Let the punishment fit the crime. I don't know, that still sounds kind of progressive. Or is it just the spirit of Christmas?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Club Passim Goes Live on the Web

Listen up. Club Passim, the legendary folk music club in Harvard Square has taken the live music experience to the next level. They have engaged with Concert Window to broadcast shows live over the internet.

Tonight’s show with Aine Minogue was especially good. And even better with full access to the beer fridge.

I'm not sure who these Concert Window folks are, but they seem to be linked with But who are they?

Solsticing with the Parkington Sisters at Club Passim

I caught the Parkington Sisters at Club Passim in Cambridge on December 21, 2010. You should catch them too.

I like this song but don't understand a word.

This one makes me cry.

This makes me cry too. Happy holiday tears.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stephen Colbert Wishes You a Merry Christ-box 360

"It hurts me to say this folks, but if Jesus really is a liberal, it is time to get the Christ out of Christmas.
You know me, I am no fan of the term X-mas or X anything, I make my kids play Christ-box 360. And if they break a bone they get Christ-ways.
Because if this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition, and then admit that we just don't want to do it."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Is Barack Obama Breaking His Campaign Promises on Tax Cuts?

With many House Democrats feeling their President sold them out on tax cuts, we wonder how far President Obama has strayed from his campaign promises.

I guess that depends on what you heard him promise. But if you go to his 2008 campaign website and look at the bullet points, it appears that he is mostly keeping his promises.

Middle class families will see their taxes cut – and no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase.That's true, the Bush tax cuts will be continued for the middle class folks, and they also will get 2% cut off their social security taxes.
Families making more than $250,000 will pay either the same or lower tax rates than they paid in the 1990s.That's true too, their taxes will go down. And if you read the fine print, it says "Obama will ask the wealthiest 2% of families to give back a portion of the tax cuts they have received over the past eight years to ensure we are restoring fairness and returning to fiscal responsibility." He asked, they said no.
Obama’s plan will cut taxes overall, reducing revenues to below the levels that prevailed under Ronald Reagan (less than 18.2 percent of GDP).That's at least partly true, taxes will be cut overall, whether to the levels of Ronald Reagan is hard to say. The fine print on this one is not true: "Coupled with his commitment to cut unnecessary spending, Obama will pay for this tax relief while bringing down the budget deficit." Of course, Obama can say he still has the committment, just as soon as we get out of the Great Recession.

For some Democrats, especially pundits and politicians on the left, the most important part of his campaign promise was to let Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire. Still, for many Democratic voters, getting middle class tax cuts for themselves was the important part of the promise. And the tax cut deal keeps that promise.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nancy Pelosi's Going Out of Business Sale

I got one of those emails today that makes you wonder about the awkward timing. It was from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee inviting me to a sale at My Democratic Store. Looks like everything must go before the Nancy Pelosi hands over her Speakership to the new Republican majority in January.

Know Your Power (autographed by Nancy Pelosi)
$42.50You can get this book from for $4.99, so $42.50 is a 750% markup. Has Nancy Pelosi once again overestimated her power?
Know Your Power (not autographed by Nancy Pelosi)
$25.00They've sold out of these so you'll have to spring for the autograph and an extra $17.50.
Red to Blue (autographed)$32.50Suspect Nancy Pelosi won't be selling the sequel Blue Back to Red here.
Third Term (autographed by Paul Begala)$32.50With Nancy Pelosi going into the Minority Leader position, we're sure to be hearing a lot from her about Obama's third Bush term.
Blue Democratic Dog Leash$6.99Nancy Pelosi is long a few leashes now that so many blue dog Democrats have slipped their collars or been defeated.
Speaker Pelosi Blue Twist Pen$.99First Nancy Pelosi twists your arm, then she tells you where to sign.
Men's Black Fleece Jacket$49.950 available. Is someome feeling fleeced or jacked by a black man? I'm just saying.
Proud Democrat Black LS T-Shirt$17.99Only 3 left, but all in the small size. When they're gone, there'll be no proud Democrats left.
We Don't Quit Black T-Shirt$14.99Again with the black sublimimal messages about not compromising?
Ladies' Black Fleece Jacket$55.20Is someone also feeling fleeced by a black lady, not the First Lady I hope?
Ladies' Organic Brown T-Shirt$20.00Excuse me? Is organic brown another dig at the First Lady? Say it isn't so.
A Woman's Place White LS T-Shirt$17.99Nancy Pelosi is a white woman, this is her T-Shirt, and I was starting to think I was reading too much into her color schemes.
Lil' Dem Baby Onesie$14.99Yes, you can get it in the Barney Frank size.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sarah Borges Comes in from the Cold

It was a cold night in Cambridge last night and Sarah Borges came in from the cold with a solo show at Passim.

Sarah is off the road after 8 1/2 years of touring. Her band the Broken Singles is on hiatus. She's taken a real job at a thrift shop that raises money for a no kill animal shelter. And she got married in September.

This new life is not the life she has been singing about in her songs. I guess that means she needs to write some new songs, not that there is anything orng with the old songs. The solo show at Passim had a lot of warmth that has always been there but wasn't front and center in the high energy punk rock country Americana band she has been fronting.

This old Passim regular thinks the solo act is more than passable as folk:

If this taste of Sarah Borges solo leaves you hankering for the fuller band sound, get yourself to the Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles online store and buy the CD Live Singles recorded on January 1 & 2, 2010 at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, Massachusetts or the DVD Live at the Livery filmed in Benton Harbor, Michigan on January 16, 2010.

There's also some miscellaneous stuff you can buy off the Borgesmord at the online store. Is that a Pabst Blue Ribbon in the SBBS beer cozie?

Yes, I believe it is.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell What Barack Obama Got in Trade for Tax Cuts

"Obama sold out the Dems," is the view I'm hearing on the tax cut compromise from some quarters. But if Obama did sell out, I wonder how much he got in return. Because if you are going to sell out, you should at least get a good price.

Democrats including the President have been saying they would go to the wall on not extending tax cuts to upper income taxpayers. The game changer that seems to have forced the compromise was Senate Republicans saying they would hold everything else up until they got the tax cuts they wanted too.

That threatened to stall the middle class tax cuts that the Democrats did want and the budget that Democrats have been working on all year. But it also threatened to derail some other things Democrats want:

DADT - repeal of don't ask don't tell to allow gays to serve openly in the military

DREAM - pathway to legal residency for children of illegal immigrants who grow up in the U.S.

START - ratification of a new strategic arms treaty with Russia

Presumably House and Senate Democrats have the votes to pass these before the Congress adjourns for Christmas, so long as Senate Republican let the measures come up for vote. Democrats won't have the votes in the House when the new Congress is seated in January. So if Democrats don't get these votes for Christmas, they won't get them.

Passage of none of those issues has been directly tied to the tax cut compromise, but is it too cynical to wonder what the private deal is? My guess is that President Obama will get DADT, START with reservations, and no DREAM. But that's just a guess. Maybe it will be START and DREAM but no DADT. Or DADT and DREAM but no START.

How this will work: The New England Republicans in the Senate will peel off and vote for the stuff on President Obama's Christmas list (hint: it's all about Susan Collins), Fox and friends will call them RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), New Republican House Speaker John Boehner will crow about how his taking charge of the House in January will close that door (but only after the horses are out of the barn).

Right now Nancy Pelosi has the veto, the tax cut deal comes down to what she'll let go to a floor vote in the House. Yes, it could all fall apart and she could block the tax cut vote (she passed the middle class tax cut version she wants, so she is covered). And the left wing may find 40 Democratic Senators willing to take up the filibuster for the next 2 years in the Senate. Meanwhile, by coming out strongly in favor of the deal, President Obama has positioned himself so that he doesn’t have to take the blame for that (and would get no credit for it either).

We may get a real-time demonstration of the sell-out theory if Nancy Pelosi and her House troops go rogue and won't pass the tax cut compromise before the lame duck session comes to an end. Then we'll get to see in real time how much worse a deal Obama can get from John Boehner’s new Republican majority in the House.

Bottom line: The Republicans are going to look mighty foolish if they can't get the tax cut passed even after Barack Obama has signed onto the deal. How do you explain to some rich old white guy on his third wife and fourth illegal alien housekeeper that you held up his tax cut because of DADT or DREAM?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Just What Are Those Crazy Right Wing Bloggers up to Now?

I met conservative blogger Robert Stacy McCain back in January during the Scott Brown surge in the U.S. Senate race here in Massachusetts. McCain came all the way up from the deep South to cover the race on his widely read blog The Other McCain (in November his site reached the 5-million-visit milestone).

So what crazy right wing blog stuff is he up to these days? Get this, celebrating the holidays with his family:

I also met Pete DaTech Guy during that race. He blogs out of central Massachusetts. He's gone progressive, setting aside his normally conservative barbershop principles in favor of a hair stylist:

I am thinking about these guys in connection with the extension of the Bush tax cuts for upper income taxpayers, which they both enthusiastically support. The conventional Democratic wisdom is that support for such tax cuts comes from the very rich.

But as I think the the videos above make clear, neither one of these two conservative bloggers is pulling down the $250,000 a year to get into the upper income category from whom Democrats want the extra taxes. Craven self-interest in getting a tax cut is not their motivation. These conservatives support the tax cut for upper income earners for the essentially selfless reason that they believe the tax cuts will grow the economy and help the country.

That's something that I think many Democratic politicians in Washington and big paycheck liberal pundits on television just don't get.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

President Barack Obama Calls His Tax Cut a Compromise

Compromise is a dirty word to many in Washington, DC. Go to Washington and Don't Compromise is the mantra of both the right and the left. But to actually get things done, Washington needs Deal Cutters.

President Barack Obama explains the tax cut deal he has made with Republicans:

President Obama says this compromise is the right thing to do but acknowledged, "I know some folks, even good friends, who are unhappy with the plan."

He traded a two year extension of tax cuts for wealthly Americans for tax cuts for Americans who are not so wealthy, payoroll tax cuts for American employees, and extended unemployment benefits for Americans who are out of work.

I always applaud getting a tax cut but must recognize that these tax cuts and increased unemployment benefit spending will push up the already high federal budget deficits even further. That may help the economy, but will push up the country's debt.

So I will agree with the President on one of his own reservations:

"There are things in here I don't like, namely the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans at a time when we need to focus on bringing down the deficit."

The counter argument is that the high deficits are needed because of the deep recession. But need was the argument for the bank bailouts, auto company bailouts, and stimulus spending too. Where does it end? And when?

The best part of the plan, from my perspective, is that the extension being only temporary buys time, time that can be used to put together a workable deficit reduction plan. Some Democrats say they want to go to the barricades to stop the tax cuts, but that's just politics. If they are serious, they will instead spend the next two years working on reducing the deficit.

If Democrats expect Republicans to give up tax cuts for deficit reduction, Democrats should expect to offer spending cuts. So far their leaders in Congress, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, have nothing on offer. And it is now four years after the Democrats retook the House and Senate from Republicans in 2006. They've been campaigning against these tax cuts as budget busters longer than that, but still have nothing to offer on spending cuts.

After the winners of the November 2010 election are seated in January, the Democrats still have the Senate but don't have the House. We'll see if the leadership of the new House Republican majority has any spending cuts to offer. Deficits and spending were key issues for tea party voters in the election. Will Republicans deliver, which means finding a deal they can cut with Barack Obama on reducing deficits, or will they just spout empty rhetoric as did Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. I'm watching.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Senate Republicans Fall For Tax Cut Trap

Senate Republicans have followed their House colleagues into the trap of voting against extension of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class. Senate Democrats offered extension of the tax cuts for annual income of $1,000,000 or less. Republicans are holding out for extension of the tax cuts at all income levels, including annual incomes above $1,000,000. House Democrats previously voted to extend the tax cuts for annual income of $250,000 or less.

The trap is that the tax cuts enacted during the Bush years are set to expire at the end of 2010. Democrats can now argue that they have voted to extend the tax cuts for most Americans, but were blocked by Republicans voting No.

On the other side, the Democrats now have their votes on record to extend the tax cuts for the middle class. So they could sit tight and not budge, calling the Republican bluff. But there are other things they want, such as extension of unemployment benefits, that they can't get without acquiescence of the Republicans.

There is much talk in Washington of a compromise to extend the tax cuts temporarily for two years But they don't have a compromise deal done yet.

In the meantime, the problem of getting the federal deficits under control continues to mushroom. The Bowles-Simpson deficit commission has come forth with a plan to slash income tax rates but also take away many deductions (lower tax rates on a higher tax base). The net result would substantially increase total federal tax revenue levels. The deficit commission also wants to cut total federal spending levels.

Republicans and Democrats don't like the sound of the deficit commission plan even though that is what is needed to get the deficits under control. So you can see where this is going. Any compromise on the tax cut extension will likely put off deficit reduction for a couple of more years.

In the floor debate, Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley laid out the rationale for not looking to tax revenues for deficit reduction: "The taxpayers are smarter than we in Congress are. They know that if they give another dollar to us to spend it's a license to spend $1.15."

That strategy of passing tax cuts to starve the government of revenue and contain spending has been Republican Party dogma since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. The problem is that it lacks an end game. A 15 cent deficit may not seem like much, but after 7 years that adds $1.05 in debt, a whole year's worth of spending. After 30 years, that's $4.50 in debt.

You see, it's too easy for politicians to cut taxes and borrow money so they don't have to cut spending. Then everyone seems to get what they want for now. It's the old Keynesian trick. It works in the short term, and in the long term we're all dead. It ended badly when Ronald Reagan tried it in the 1980s. It ended badly again when George W. Bush tried it in the 2000s. It will end badly if we try it again. The Republican strategy is, in a word, insane.

I'd like to suggest a new strategy. Set the tax rates at the level needed to equal federal spending. If those rates are too high, that will create the political pressure to reduce spending so that the tax rates can be reduced. And in the meantime we aren't running up a huge debt. I have a great new term for this strategy - I call it a "balanced budget."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mr. Shit Sandwich Boehner Eats the Pelosi Chicken Crap

Outgoing Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, got to be tax cut queen for the day by passing renewal of the Bush tax cuts for the first $250,000 of income. It passed by a vote of 234 to 188. Who voted No on the tax cuts? House Republicans led by incoming Speaker John Boehner.

Republicans voted No on the tax cuts because they say they want to extend the tax cuts for income about $250,000 too. And how does voting against the tax cuts for lower and middle class Americans get you tax cuts for wealthier taxpayers?

Republicans also say they want to reduce the federal deficits. We might need some tax revenues to do that. It's fair to ask why these Bush tax cuts are going to expire at the end of the year. When they were first passed during the Bush administration, there wasn't enough money in the budget for Republicans to make them permanent. Then federal tax revenues plummeted while federal spending soared as the country entered the worst recession since the Great Depression. Were budget busting tax cuts over the long term a reason for the recession?

Boehner will probably win this one, since come January he can pass the tax cuts when his new Republican majority from the November election takes office. But in the meantime he's gotten his House Republican members on record voting against tax cuts. Senate Republicans now face being accused of holding tax cuts for working and middle class Americans hostage in order to give the rich a tax cut.

The questions is, what will Boehner trade to get his tax cuts for income above $250,000? Probably sustaining current federal spending levels with borrowed money. Borrow and spend has been Republican policy for 30 years. That's what the tea party voters who turned out the Democrats want the Republicans to get away from. If Boehner isn't careful, he'll have completely blown his electoral mandate before he even takes up his Speakership.

Boehner referred to the tax cut vote as "chicken crap." That brought to mind his description of the fall 2008 bank bailout as a shit sandwich. Boehner voted for the bank bailout too. Some advice to Boehner: If it tastes like crap or smells like shit, just don't make that vote.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Iowa Congressman Steve King Calls President Obama the U Word

Steve King, our favorite Republican Congressman from rural Western Iowa, has thrown another wild pitch. That's right, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives King referred to Barack Obama as "very, very urban."

This has cause considerable consternation from some who think the U word may be some new type of coded racial slur:

Ryan Grim on the Huffington Post noted that "King emphasized the word 'urban,' drawing the first syllable out."

Hillary Busis at hints "we all know what he means by 'urban.'"

MinistryofTruth at labels this an "obviously racially charged tirade" under the headline "Rep. Steve King invents new way to say N-BOMB on House floor."

Oliver Willis says, "They just want to use the 'N' word so badly."

Is Urban the new U word? You can judge for yourself:

Steve King was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN and had this to say on the U word controversy:

"It is not something that would ever occur to anybody in my background that that would be something that could be some kind of a racial pejorative. It’s just simply, he comes from the city, that’s urban. You come from the country, you’re rural."

My take: Steve King doesn't talk in code, he says what is on his mind. And when you come from the country, calling someone urban is a putdown. It's just not a racist putdown.

The context here is a class action suit claiming discrimination against black farmers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. King's complaint is that a lot of the claims were fraudlent but black activists and legislators pushed for them to be paid anyway. He further suggested that this was done as form of reparations for slavery with accustations of discrimation by the USDA just a pretext in many of the cases:

"We've got to stand up at some point and say, 'We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress.' That war's been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees, especially. And there's no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one's filing that claim."

Steve King is making a charge of reverse racism. He's suggesting that because then Senator Obama was an urban dweller from the city of Chicago he had no natural legislative interest in black farmers or black persons claiming to be harmed by discriminatory farm policies, except that the claimants were black.

This is a repeat of a charge Steve King made last June, that President Obama "has a default mechanism in him that breaks down the side of race, on the side that favors the black person."

My take: The evidence that President Obama is a racist is a little thin. At the same time, it would not shock me that black farmers who were never actually farmers got undeserved monetary settlements. Steve King might have done better to present the evidence for that.

When you call someone a racist on such thin evidence, you risk getting called a racist yourself in return. But that's something those who are quick to jump on Steve King should consider too.

U are the racist, no U are, and U know who U are.