Speaker Boehner and the eternal wisdom of Abe Lincoln

Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious.

House Speaker John Boehner has sent out a memo to fellow House Republicans in which he updates the current situation and attempts to bathe his party’s efforts in the reflected nobility of President Abraham Lincoln, the most famous Republican of all.

Boehner writes:

A NOBLE PURPOSE: BALANCING FOR GROWTH AND WHY IT MATTERS

There should be no doubt that our purpose in calling for a balanced budget is a noble one, and the right one.

The book Congressman Lincoln by Chris DeRose, which I recently read, includes a chapter focused on Abraham Lincoln’s efforts to help craft a new national agenda.  At one point in the book, young Lincoln warns that government debt is “growing with a rapidity fearful to contemplate.”

“[Government debt] is a system not only ruinous while it lasts, but one that must soon fail and leave us destitute,” Lincoln warns his countrymen in Congressman Lincoln.  “An individual who undertakes to live by borrowing, soon finds …

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North Koreans get a little reminder

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An angry North Korea has cut the last remaining military hotlines with South Korea, raising tensions between the countries still further.

“There do not exist any dialogue channel and communications means between (North Korea) and the U.S. and between the North and the South,” the North Korean regime announced. “Not words but only arms will work on the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces.”

That came after previous statements from the North Korea military claiming that its missiles “are assigned to strike bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zones in the Pacific as well as all the enemy targets in South Korea and its vicinity.”

“They should be mindful that everything will be reduced to ashes and flames the moment the first attack is unleashed.”

The United States has now responded with a message of its own, announcing that it sent two nuclear-capable B-2 Stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base …

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GOP should pray it loses gay-marriage decision

Speaking in purely political terms, the best thing the Supreme Court could do for the future of the Republican Party is issue a sweeping ruling that gay marriage is a constitutionally protected right. By doing so, it would pretty much gut the issue as a point of political contention.

The worst thing the court could do to the GOP — again, politically speaking — is duck the issue and leave it for politicians to wrangle over, which is the outcome that most observers now predict.

Here’s why:

Last week, Mike Huckabee was asked if the GOP could ever endorse gay marriage.

“They might,” Huckabee responded. “And if they do, they’re going to lose a large part of their base because evangelicals will take a walk.”

He’s probably right. As the latest Pew poll reports, 75 percent of white evangelicals oppose gay marriage. As Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, warned recently:

“If the RNC abandons marriage, evangelicals will either sit the elections out completely or move to …

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Health-care costs consuming our national future

In fiscal 2013, the federal deficit is projected to be 5.5 percent of GDP, a level that according to many in Washington threatens our basic solvency and that must be addressed by any means possible, as long as “any means possible” does not include tax increases.

Meanwhile, Americans spend 17.6 percent of GDP on health care, more than three times our deficit. Much of that money is of course considered well-spent, keeping ourselves and our loved ones alive and healthy. But here’s the problem:

By any measure that you care to use, U.S. health-care spending vastly outstrips those of our competitors in the industrialized world. Here’s the comparative data, as compiled by a new report by the International Federation of Health Plans, a global network of health-insurance companies:

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If we reduced health-care spending to the level of the average member of the 34-member Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, we would offset our deficit entirely and free up another …

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The economic conundrum of the 21st century

Two stories at The Fiscal Times capture our predicament nicely.

The first, from Blaire Briody, explores the job-stealing impact of technology even in the service sector:

“MIT already has a BakeBot that can read recipes, whip together cookie dough and place it in the oven. The University of California at Berkeley has a robot that can do laundry and fold T-shirts. Robot servers have started waiting tables at restaurants in Japan, South Korea, China and Thailand – and just last week, a robot served Passover matzah to President Obama during his trip to Israel.

“Every year, machines are getting more capable of doing low-level tasks,” says Professor Seth Teller, a robotics researcher at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.

Many experts worry about what robots in the service sector could do to employment. The national unemployment rate remains at 7.7 percent — not remotely close to the 4.7 percent unemployment in 2007 before the recession. Job growth isn’t …

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A closet is for clothing, not for people

In 1994, 66 percent of Americans told Time/CNN pollsters that they did not have a close friend or family member who was gay.

Little did they know.

At the time, the closet was still a pretty crowded place. President Bill Clinton had just signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, instructing the Pentagon not to pursue gay military members as long as they kept their sexual orientation secret. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres was still three years from her “big reveal” on prime-time TV, and people in less-accepting communities and industries had far more to fear than she did. Matthew Shepard was still four years away from dying a brutal beating death in Wyoming, martyred for the sin of being gay. And just 10 years earlier, Rock Hudson had been dragged, sick and dying, from the closet by AIDS.

(For all of its horrors, and strange as it may sound, the AIDS epidemic played a crucial role in forcing society to acknowledge at least the existence of the gay community, and in encouraging many …

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U.S. boots on the ground in Syria? Only as a last option

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Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and head of the House Intelligence Committee, told the world Sunday that “I think that it is abundantly clear that that red line has been crossed” by Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people, and that small numbers of U.S. forces must be put on the ground in Syria to fend off impending chaos in that country.

“Our Arab League allies talk to us frequently, and they are as frustrated as I have seen them because of the lack of U.S. leadership,” Rogers said on “Face the Nation.” However, the Obama administration says it has no conclusive proof that chemical weapons have been used in the conflict.

That echoes demands made last week by Lindsey Graham and John McCain, both of whom insisted that President Obama intervene militarily in Syria, including using US troops.

“Absolutely, you’ve got to get on the ground,” Graham said. “There is no substitute for securing these weapons, I don’t care what it takes. We need partners in the …

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Some Georgia wisdom to start the week

Flannery O'Connor and one of her trademark peacocks at her farm near Milledgeville.

Flannery O’Connor and one of her trademark peacocks at her farm near Milledgeville.

Today, March 25, is the birthday of the wonderful Flannery O’Connor, the greatest writer in Georgia history if not the best-selling (take a bow of your own, Margaret Mitchell). Miss O’Connor, born in Savannah and for most of her life a resident of Milledgeville, had a talent for telling it straight and blunt, and for distilling complicated thoughts into sentences of startling clarity.

So let’s start the week with some selected O’Connor wisdom:

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

““Conviction without experience makes for harshness.”

“I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.”

“You have to quit confusing a madness with a mission.”

– Jay …

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When old songs were new songs, and dead genres lived

You don’t generally think of the Rolling Stones as a country-music band, but when they want to be, they do a damn fine job of it. “Dead Flowers,” recorded back in the prehistoric era of 1969, is a great example. Listen to the song as if it were the first time that you ever heard it, forgetting that those playing and singing constitute a celebrity rock band from England, and it just oozes country.

What you also hear, however, is a direction not taken for country music. The Stones were tapping into the country genre at a moment in its history when its commercial sound and its authentic sound had not yet divorced because of irreconcilable differences. It could still be vibrant and rough and at times crude, both in its lyrics and its sound, and it was still true to its shared roots in the blues and rock and roll.

Within a decade of this song’s release, country music in its commercial form had been castrated, and all the hat acts in the world can’t reverse the operation.

– Jay …

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Israelis and Obama: ‘He had us at ‘Shalom”

President Obama’s visit to Israel and Palestine has now ended, with the president having made quite an impression.

For example, Naftali Bennett, head of the far-right Bayit Yehudi Party, criticized Obama’s continued push for a two-state resolution to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, arguing that ” “a nation does not occupy its own land.” However, as the Jerusalem Post reports, even “Bennett said he recognized that Obama’s words came from concern for and true friendship with Israel.”

Others in Israel were considerably more emphatic and supportive, and in many cases downright enthusiastic about a major speech given by the president Thursday. Here’s Herb Keinen, again in the largely conservative Jerusalem Post:

He had us at the word “Shalom,” did President Barack Obama, on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport.

Or if not at “Shalom,” then 33 words later when he said in Hebrew, “Tov lihiyot shuv ba’aretz” (It’s good to be back in Israel). And if not then, well, at least at …

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