November 29, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Like it or not, the state of Palestine is semi-officially on the map (RAPHAEL AHREN, November 30, 2012, Times of Israel)

On Thursday night, the world made much more than just a symbolic gesture. In recognizing Palestine as a nonmember observer state at the UN General Assembly -- the same status as The Vatican -- disregarding Israeli and American warnings that such a step was premature and would impede the resumption of peace talks, the overwhelming majority of nations sent an unambiguous message to Jerusalem: we want a Palestinian state and we're tired of your obstinacy in preventing it.

Sixty-five years after the United Nations decided to divide British Mandate Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state, and nearly 20 years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, even many of Israel's friends and allies have grown tired of what they perceive as the government's lack of initiative and good intentions when it comes the future of this region. If you want us to say no to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's initiative, then offer us something that we can say yes to, Western diplomats are saying.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 PM


Combating Inequality May Require Broader Tax (EDUARDO PORTER, 11/28/12, NY Times)

Many Americans may find this hard to believe, but the United States already has one of the most progressive tax systems in the developed world, according to several studies, raising proportionately more revenue from the wealthy than other advanced countries do. Taxes on American households do more to redistribute resources and reduce inequality than the tax codes of most other rich nations.

But taxation provides only half the picture of public finance. Despite the progressivity of our taxes, according to a study of public finances across the industrial countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, we also have one of the least effective governments at combating income inequality. There is one main reason: our tax code does not raise enough money.

This paradox underscores two crucial lessons we could learn from the experience of our peers around the globe. The first is that the government's success at combating income inequality is determined less by the progressivity of either the tax code or the benefits than by the amount of tax revenue that the government can spend on programs that benefit the middle class and the poor.

The second is that very progressive tax codes are not very effective at raising money. The corollary -- suggested by Peter Lindert of the University of California, Davis in his 2004 book "Growing Public" -- is that insisting on highly progressive taxes that draw most revenue from the rich may result in more inequality than if we relied on a flatter, more "regressive" tax schedule to raise money from everybody and pay for a government that could help every American family attain a decent standard of living.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 PM


Glenn Beck, the art critic, dunks Obama figurine in 'pee pee' (David Ng, November 28, 2012, LA Times)

Beck was inspired by a recent painting depicting Obama as a crucified Christ figure. In the video he also referred to Chris Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary," a painting that used elephant dung to portray the mother of Jesus; Lucian Freud's nude portrait of an obese civil servant; and several others.

"Here's the thing: I don't like any of these paintings," he said. "But they have a right to be [at a museum]."

Affecting a French accent, Beck questioned whether liberal art critics would show the same level of tolerance for art with politically conservative themes. He then submerged the Obama figurine in the jar of "pee-pee."

...let us just put it this way: Mr. Beck is a flaming anus.  The question isn't whether the Left will be tolerant of such offensive behavior, but why he thinks conservatives should be.  All he's done is demonstrate that he is an ill-mannered lout.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 AM


Study: Being Younger in Classroom Affects Performance (Iceland Review, 11/28/12)

Being younger than one's classmates affects academic performance as well as children's risk of being on prescribed drugs for ADHD, according to a new study conducted in Iceland. [...]

The study also found that the youngest third of children in the class were over 50 percent more likely to use stimulants for ADHD than the oldest third in class.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 AM

Corn and Bacon Loaf (MIami Herald, 11/28/12)

Adapted by the Modesto Bee from "Relaxed Cooking With Curtis Stone"

12 ounces hardwood-smoked bacon, coarsely chopped

1 ear sweet corn, husked

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 1/4 cups milk

3 large eggs

2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh chives

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Fry the bacon until browned and crisp, and drain on paper towels. Brush an 8-inch loaf pan with bacon drippings. Set aside 1/2 cup of bacon drippings to cool (add cooking oil if you have less than 1/2 cup).

Slice the kernels off the corn cob. You should have about 1 cup.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne in a large bowl to blend.

In another bowl, whisk the milk, the eggs and 1/2 cup bacon drippings. Stir in the bacon, 11/2 cups of the cheese, the corn and chives.

Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture just until blended. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Make 1 loaf, 12 slices.

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Posted by orrinj at 5:00 AM


The fight for a grand bargain (David M. Walker NOVEMBER 29, 2012, Reuters)

[T]he battle is far from over. Ideologues and special interests on the left and right are marshaling forces to crush all efforts to achieve a reasoned fiscal compromise. We are about to discover if our elected representatives are leaders or minions.

Each party has its sacred cow, untouchable in previous negotiations. For the Republicans, it is their insistence on no tax increases; for the Democrats it is a refusal to consider cuts to social insurance programs.

Both positions are irresponsible -- because we cannot address our structural deficits and mounting debt burdens without additional tax revenues and reform of existing social insurance programs. After all, total federal liabilities, unfunded promises for Medicare and Social Security, and other commitments are more than $71 trillion and growing by about $100 billion a week.

Already, however, several major unions and other special interest groups - for example, AARP and The Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare - have launched campaigns to pressure members of Congress to keep social insurance programs off the table in connection with any fiscal Grand Bargain.

These efforts coincide with the "Social Security Protector's Pledge" championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). His pledge now has signatures from 110 representatives and 11 senators.

Meanwhile, Americans for Tax Reform still has signed no-tax pledges from more than 200 representatives and many senators. You can bet that right-wing ideologues will be threatening to punish any Republican legislators who stray.