It’s spring, and time to rock’n'roll!

I love guitar anthems, and “Seven Nation Army,” by the White Stripes, is one of my modern favorites. You hear that opening riff, and you’re hooked. I’m not a musician, so I have no idea how he does it, but there’s something unique about the sound that Jack White gets out of his guitar. Any song he plays can be identified as his. (I particularly like his collaboration with Loretta Lynn on their album “Van Lear Rose”. He treats Miss Loretta with the utmost respect, as of course he should, but he also pushes her to stretch musically which she seems to enjoy. The result is great.)

Anyway, on this beautiful spring day — maybe that’s why the guitar anthem theme hit me? — here’s Jack and Meg:


– Jay Bookman

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How the GOP gerrymandered itself into trouble

Political analyst Charlie Cook, writing in National Journal, muses about gerrymandering and the Republicans’ difficulty in breaking out of their demographic cul de sac in a way that I hadn’t thought of before.

As Cook notes, the GOP got 48 percent of the House vote in 2012 yet still won 54 percent of House seats, indicating that gerrymandering did produce benefits for the party. But ….

But could the Republicans’ arguably rigged House majority actually be a curse disguised as a blessing? It’s an interesting question. They clearly did everything they could to purge Democratic voters from their districts ahead of 2012, no matter whether those voters were white, black, Hispanic, left-handed, or right-minded—just as Democrats would have done had the roles been reversed. But in the process of quarantining Democrats, Republicans effectively purged millions of minority voters from their own districts, and that should raise a warning flag. By drawing themselves into safe, …

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Ga. ‘tax reform’ will mean big tax hike for many

If you want to pay higher taxes, state Sen. David Shafer, the Senate president pro tem from Gwinnett County, has just the plan for you. He has proposed two amendments to the state constitution that, if approved by voters, would lead to significantly higher taxes on the vast majority of Georgia households, while sharply reducing taxes on the wealthiest.

That ought to be controversial under any circumstances. As it is, lower- and middle-income Georgia households already pay a significantly higher percentage of their income in state and local taxes than do the wealthy. The Shafer amendments would make that disparity considerably worse.

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Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy

First, let’s take a look at the current disparity. According to a study of state tax structures by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, middle-class Georgians — those with incomes of $15,000 to $80,000 — today pay roughly 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes. In …

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Rubio: ‘New ideas? We don’t need no stinking new ideas!’

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In his speech today to a supportive crowd at CPAC in Washington, Sen. Marco Rubio brushed aside criticism that he and others in the Republican Party have no new ideas to offer.

“We don’t need a new idea,” Rubio said. “There is an idea — that idea is called America, and it still works.”

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And the crowd cheered.

That is, I think, the crux of the issue separating the left from the right in the economic debate now underway. The perspective of the right is that nothing fundamental has changed in the American economy, and that the only thing we need to do to return to the era of a fast-growing economy with good middle-class jobs is to get government out of the way.

From the perspective of the left, the American economy has changed in fundamental ways that have little or nothing to do with government. Government did not create the growing gap between the wealthy and the rest of America. Government …

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Who needs truth or accuracy when you’ve got GIRLS!

I’ve got to run out for a speaking gig this morning, but I thought I’d leave you with this bit of fluff, just to get things started.

Ordinarily, I’d look for a version that doesn’t include an advertisement, but in this case, the opening ad says a lot about the constituency that’s being pitched (I especially love the warning that the ad would soon be banned, just to turn the paranoia up to 11):

– Jay Bookman

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An unrepentent Dick Cheney, 10 years after

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“I did what I did,” Dick Cheney says in a documentary to be shown Friday night on Showtime, “and it’s all part of the public record and I feel very good about it. If I had it to do over again, I’d do it in a minute.”

History, however, will register a much different verdict. It will record that while Cheney won the battle, he lost the wars, both foreign and domestic, with consequences that continue to reverberate and may do so for decades to come.

Yes, in the wake of the attacks of Sept. 11, Cheney was able to maneuver a pliable, inexperienced and maybe somewhat frightened president into an unnecessary invasion of Iraq, an act of war that had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist attacks that inspired it. That war, which began 10 years ago next week, led to the deaths of more than 4,000 American soldiers, the psychic and physical wounding of tens of thousands more and the expenditure of well over a trillion dollars, and for what?

Saddam Hussein is gone. But …

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Obama makes it plain that a deal can be had

If the Republicans are willing to negotiate, they clearly have a willing partner in President Obama.

From The Hill:

“Obama stood firm Tuesday when pressed to back away from benefit cuts during the meeting with the Senate Democratic Conference, according to lawmakers who attended.

Democrats emerged from the Senate’s Mike Mansfield Room publicly declaring party unity.

But behind closed doors, liberals in the Senate caucus raised concerns about Obama’s readiness to consider cuts to Social Security benefits and his support for a deficit-reduction package evenly split between spending cuts and tax increases.

Obama did not back down from a proposal to switch to the chained consumer price index formula for calculating Social Security benefits, according to lawmakers…”

“I urged him not to cut Social Security and benefits for disabled veterans,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

“He is concerned about the long-term solvency of Social …

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The Ryan budget is about ideology, not finances

Today, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will release a budget proposal that alleges to balance the federal budget by 2024. However, the true goal of his proposal is not fiscal in nature. His true goal is ideological, and in an op-ed published Monday in the Wall Street Journal, Ryan makes that point pretty plainly:

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“A budget is a means to an end, and the end isn’t a neat and tidy spreadsheet. It’s the well-being of all Americans. By giving families stability and protecting them from tax hikes, our budget will promote a healthier economy and help create jobs. Most important, our budget will reignite the American Dream, the idea that anyone can make it in this country.”

However, dramatically slashing food stamps, as Ryan proposes, will not “give families stability” or open doors to pursue the American dream. Slashing Medicaid, which provides health care for poor families, is not going to offer stability either. Slashing federal aid to education, including student loans, will undermine rather …

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If Rand Paul is your party’s future, it has no future

Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, is drawing attention as a potential Republican candidate for president come 2016, part of a new generation of GOP leadership.

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But ladies and gentlemen, Rand Paul is also a bit of a nut. The deep streak of paranoia that he displayed for almost 13 hours on the Senate floor last week would, in ordinary times, disqualify him as a party leader, let alone a potential president. But sadly, these are not ordinary times.

Let’s start by admitting that the stunt itself was a nice piece of political stagecraft. The one-man, TV-friendly filibuster gave Paul the opportunity to play Jimmy Stewart, a lone hero standing up in defense of the Constitution. It’s the type of role that Paul covets.

However, if you’re going to grandstand on the national stage like that, shouldn’t you have something sane to say?

According to Paul, he rose to address the nation because he was deeply, seriously concerned that the Obama administration might start using …

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The Democrats and entitlement cuts

From Politico:

“The talk of any deal with congressional Republicans — and for now, it’s just that: talk — has liberals worried the White House will give in to changes to safety net programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Republicans say such changes are an essential part of any big deal. And Obama previously has been open to a number of reforms that irk the liberals, such as raising the retirement age of Medicare, means-testing and adopting an inflation calculation, known as chained CPI, for Social Security.

Inevitably, if there is an agreement on a big deal, Democrats will have to get on board for it to pass. But the 2012 election brought in new Democratic members of the House and Senate who are more liberal and more outspoken, strengthening the left wing of the caucus.

One hundred and seven of the 200 House Democrats signed a letter to Obama threatening to vote “against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits — …

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