Christmas

Media Conspiracy Memo

To: Members of Media Conspiracy From: Governing Committee Re: McConnell "Compromise." Sen. Mitch McConnell has proposed a face-saving compromise to resolve the standoff over extending the payroll tax cut. We want Boehner to accept this compromise so bipartisanship may reign and we can all enjoy our Christmas dinner in peace. Also, it would be kind of nice not to hit working people with a payroll-tax increase when the economy's still struggling to recover.  The compromise isn't really a compromise. McConnell is telling Boehner it's game over and he lost.

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Grover Norquist, Toady

Listening to the ordinarily silver-tongued Grover Norquist, president of Americans For Tax Reform and high priest of the anti-tax movement, try to spit out some justification for the House GOP's Masada-like stance against extending the payroll tax cut is like listening to Porky Pig sing "Blue Christmas." He'll gloat that the Democrats had to back off their millionaire surtax to pay for the payroll tax cut extension. He'll chide Obama for trying to postpone a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

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If you’re like most folks, you’ll be spending a fair chunk of this month in a tipsy haze as you flit from one holiday party to the next in a halcyon glow of seasonal intoxicants. And who can blame you? December in America is when we happily mistake the Christmas spirit for the Christmas spirits. Spiked eggnog, of course, flows as freely as organically farmed pine needles across your living room floor. Hot toddies welcome flushed cheeks in from the cold and novelty tipples—from winter ales to peppermint punch—dot the holiday landscape.

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I’ll hold my humbugs. We’re entering the blue center of the holiday season, and Christmas songs—that is to say, songs that we associate with the winter holiday season, regardless of the lyrics’ literal meaning—are all around us again. The Billboard album chart, itself a relic of a tradition meaningful mainly to box-store retailers and nostalgists, has in the number-one spot for the third week the Christmas CD by the smarm prince Michael Bublé.

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Payroll Update

Political maneuvering in the payroll tax wars has gotten very complicated very fast. Yesterday the Republican-controlled House passed a payroll tax-cut extension, 234-193, that also included approval of the Keystone XL pipeline (which the president said would be a deal-breaker). House Speaker John Boehner immediately demanded that the Democratic-controlled Senate (which previously rejected its own Democratic and Republican versions of the payroll tax-cut extension, with a majority of Republicans and most Republican leaders voting against both versions) vote on the House-passed bill.

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Urban Outfitter

The past decade has seen the spread of a faith concentrated in the country’s more progressive-minded cities: the religion of smart growth. Its adherents are planners, environmentalists, and builders who believe development should be focused in existing communities rather than sprawling into the countryside. For them, good development is “infill,” “new urbanist,” and “transit-oriented,” and bad development is “greenfield,” “car-dependent,” and “half-acre lots.” They loathe cul-de-sacs and love light rail.

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The Turnaround Men

Just after dawn on a cool morning in September 2008, two FBI agents and a police officer walked into the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas and took the security elevator up to the twenty-third floor, where they knocked on the door of a high-roller haven known as the Grand Lakeview Suite. A Minnesota businessman named Tom Petters answered wrapped in a bathrobe. After a moment’s hesitation, he invited them in.

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Now that Nevada has backed down from its plan to hold its caucuses January 14, the path is clear for New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner to set his state's primary for January 10 without violating the state's self-decreed law that there be no "similar contest" within a week of the primary. Once again, New Hampshire has triumphed in the game of chicken, after having once again gone so far as to threaten the nuclear option -- moving the primary forward before Christmas.

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With former pizza magnate Herman Cain suddenly running second to Mitt Romney in most national polls, a Cain Mutiny was as inevitable as the Iowa caucuses moving into the Christmas season. The rebellion against Cain as a top-tier candidate was led by three lagging GOP contenders who must know that they will never be president—Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul. The occasion for the rhetorical caning of Cain by his jealous rivals was Tuesday night’s forgettable theater-in-the-round Dartmouth debate featuring the candidates all seated at the same circular table.

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Many Damascenes these days prefer to watch the government-run TV stations. Elsewhere, the news is bad. The local channels, with local announcers, speaking in proper Syrian Arabic, are often sweet. Often the broadcasters on these stations are beautiful young women. They smile a lot. Their channels say that in some outlying districts, vandals and religious fanatics have moved in, and have had to be removed by the army. But now all is back to normal. One cannot trade one’s Syrian pounds for dollars in Damascus anymore.

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