November 16, 2017

NYTimes Picks

Al Franken Issues Apology After Accusation of Forcible Kissing and Groping (20171116)

To those who think Senator Franken should step down or offer a fuller apology, in what world are you living? At the rate this is going, indiscriminately jumbling together stupid male jokes (yes, they are funny only to men) and gross presumption (taking advantage of a scripted kiss) with child molestation and bragging about grabbing women by their genitals, any competent PR professional would tell Franken to sit tight on his apology, because 20 other prominent men are going to be in the spotlight for their past misdeeds within the next 30 days. We are even dragging out Bill Clinton for another round of the same thrashing he's had many times before. If there is no sense of proportion in coverage and outrage, just a leaping from one sensational headline to the next, this laudable change in our "national conversation" will just get dissipated whenever, eventually, the press and public get tired out from hyperventilating. And nothing will change. The wolves will slip away as we run in every direction chasing dogs.

Trump's Tax Plan Cuts Rates for Individuals and Corporations and Eliminates Many Deductions (20170927)

If you are self-employed, beware! A 25% tax rate on "pass through" income represents a huge tax cut for higher earners, taxed in upper brackets. But for lower income, self-employed people operating as sole proprietorships, reporting income on Schedule C -- the so-called "gig economy" -- a flat 25% rate represents a huge 67% tax hike for those currently taxed in the 15% tax bracket, which extends up to $75,900 for married couples. Talk about reverse Robin Hood, this is literally stealing from the poor to pay to the rich.

(The published "framework" made available after I posted this comment refers to a maximum rate on pass through income of 25%, not a flat rate, but without specifying what rates might be under this cap, if it proves a cap in any final legislation. I remain concerned and convinced a careful eye must be kept on this area of the framework as it wends its way through a GOP-controlled Congress. The central problem the GOP confronts, and the reason the "framework" is deliberately vague, is that Republicans no longer have available the Obamacare and Medicaid pot of gold they intended to grab and divvy up among their wealthy constituencies. Instead, the GOP must raise elsewhere the revenue necessary at least to dampen the massive deficit balloon this tax giveaway to the wealthy will bring on. The GOP's inclination to flatten tax rates to advantage the wealthy is well established; indeed, exemplified in this proposal in spades. Where the majority of small businesses using pass throughs are paying less than 25% now, the temptation to nip at them to fund the giveaway to those comparatively few paying more will be great. An issue to watch.)

Russian-American Lobbyist Attended Meeting Organized by Trump's Son (20170714)

Liars who, when caught lying, simply lie some more. And when those lies are found out, lie some more and lie to blame someone else. Why do we keep granting the Trumps the benefit of the doubt we would not grant the most mendacious child? And since when did immature, compulsive moral depravity become exculpatory? If they are lying it is not because they can't help it; they are lying because they did something, perhaps many things, they know very well will get them in big, big trouble.

The North Korea-Trump Nightmare (20170421)

I'm unsure how younger Americans feel, who have not lived through this before, but I distinctly don't appreciate waking up every morning wondering if my country's leaders are mad enough or sufficiently belligerent and incompetent to precipitate a nuclear war or. short of that, simultaneous conventional wars on the top of ones we are already fighting without Constitutional authorization.

Neither do I appreciate having to wonder whether the President, Vice President, U.N. Ambassador, the Cabinet, and the U.S. military and military command are all on the same page, in the face of evidence that they decidedly are not. It is very disturbing that Captain Wrongway Peachfuzz seems in command of Trump's "armada" or that Trump himself is the orange-haired reincarnation of that Rocky & Bullwinkle Show Cold War cartoon character.

One did not have to agree with President Obama to rest assured that, at least, someone was in control who was appropriately cognizant of the risks in foreign policy and military action. Neither did one have to agree with President Bush to rest assured that someone (Vice President Cheney; Secretaries Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell) was in control who was appropriately cognizant of the risks in foreign policy and military action. If American citizens must worry, our allies must be worried. And that is even more worrisome.

Agree or not - and we can't know with whom or with what we are agreeing or not - this administration is failing in fundamental, dangerous respects.

Manhood in the Age of Trump (20170402)

Good column, though the usual focus on Hollywood misses the mark. You are a bit unfair to the male stars you cite, all of whom have made efforts to play less cliched macho roles. Just to mention two: Dwayne Johnson is at root a comedian, a thoroughly ironic muscleman; and Ryan Gosling is where he is today for an on-point performance in "Crazy, Stupid, Love" as a pick-up artist in full emotional meltdown in bed with a woman he can't just take as another conquest. Hollywood contributes but fairly cravenly serves a market for extreme gendered roles that preexists.

Your memories of high school, particularly physical education and athletics, are more on target. High school is the crucible in which the Man Box (and girls' adulation for its walls) is forged. There we take adolescents at their most sexually insecure and rigorously separate them for "education" specific to their physicality, while turning on the full power of peer on peer pressure. One doesn't have to be a gay man to remember that the P.E. locker room was the most humiliating and dangerous place to be "less than a manly man." High school football and high school dances are often apiece, organized and scheduled as a concerted effort to make "young men and young women."

This is where the current transgender bathroom issue is a very good thing, despite the grotesque cliches the transgendered typically take for the gender they are. It forces on schools a nut they cannot crack with the same old pernicious machinery.

House Republicans Unveil Plan to Replace Health Law (20170306)

The provision that creates a 30% barrier to reentry into the health insurance market virtually guarantees that, over time, with vicissitudes of employment and unexpected expenses, fewer and fewer people will have insurance and that those who do will be sicker and sicker. In other words, it legislates a death spiral in the individual market, at the same time that eliminating the requirement that large employers offer coverage to full-time employees forces more people on to it. It would be hard to devise anything more certain to reduce coverage and still call it a national health care plan. It will be interesting to see if major insurers remain silent or speak up against this planned rapid, destructive contraction of their industry.

First, Sex Ed. Then Death Ed. (20170219)

Before adding Death Ed. to Sex Ed., how about reviving Civics Ed., before we lose both and Science Ed. in the bargain.

Posted by Raoul

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