The Ledes

Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Guardian: "The UK supreme court has cleared the way for the publication of secret letters written by Prince Charles to British government ministers, declaring that an attempt by the state to keep them concealed was unlawful. The verdict – the culmination of a 10-year legal fight by the Guardian – is a significant blow for the government, which has been battling to protect the Prince of Wales from scrutiny over his 'particularly frank' interventions on public policy."

Washington Post: "Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes early Thursday in neighboring Yemen, heading a coalition of Arab nations in an effort to dislodge Houthi rebels sweeping through that country. The strikes were a startling turn of events that came as the Houthis, in control of Yemen’s capital for months, barreled south toward the coastal city of Aden, seizing an air base along the way that was evacuated by U.S. Special Operations forces­ last week." ...

     ... New York Times UPDATE: "Egypt said Thursday that it was prepared to send troops into Yemen as part of a Saudi-led campaign to drive back the Iranian-backed Houthi advance, signaling the growing likelihood of a protracted ground war on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula."

New York Times: "As officials struggled Wednesday to explain why a [Germanwings] jet with 150 people on board crashed amid a relatively clear sky, an investigator said evidence from a cockpit voice recorder indicated one pilot left the cockpit before the plane’s descent and was unable to get back in." ...

     ... ** UPDATE: "The co-pilot of Germanwings flight 9525 deliberately crashed the aircraft, French officials said Thursday, pointing to voice recorder evidence that he had locked the captain out of the cockpit, ignored his pleas for re-entry and steered down into the French Alps as passengers were heard screaming. The assertions instantly changed the nature of the Tuesday crash, which obliterated the Airbus A320 and killed all 150 aboard, into a wide-ranging criminal investigation that focused on the co-pilot, a 28-year-old German with no obvious reason to commit mass murder, who had been hired less than two years ago." ...

     ... The Guardian's live updates are here.

... Washington Post: "A mother and daughter from Prince William County were among three Americans who perished when an Airbus jet plunged into a frozen ridge in the French Alps this week, officials said Wednesday. Yvonne Selke, a longtime government contractor, and Emily Selke, a recent graduate of Drexel University, died Tuesday along with 148 others on the Germanwings flight from Spain to Germany."

The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, March 25, 2015.

New York Times: "On Wednesday, the Army announced that it was charging Sergeant [Beau] Bergdahl with misbehavior before the enemy and desertion, raising the possibility that he could be imprisoned again, this time for life."

New York Times: "Rescuers on Wednesday resumed the difficult task of searching for the 150 victims of a deadly plane crash in the French Alps, as France’s interior minister said that terrorism was not at the top of the list of potential causes."

Washington Post: "Yemen’s embattled president was pushed deeper into crisis Wednesday after fleeing a last-ditch refuge as advancing Shiite rebels seized a key air base in a push to overrun the country’s second-largest city. The whereabouts of Western-allied President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was not immediately clear."

Put Some Ketchup on that Velveeta. New York Times: "Kraft Foods and H. J. Heinz, two icons of the American food industry, are merging in a blockbuster deal involving the billionaire Warren E. Buffett and the Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, creating what will be the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world.... Heinz, which is owned by 3G Capital and Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, will control 51 percent of the combined company, while Kraft shareholders will own 49 percent."

AP: "Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be released from a federal prison on Thursday and will serve out the remainder of his term in a Washington, D.C., halfway house, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy told The Associated Press after visiting Jackson. Kennedy said he spoke with Jackson at the minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, where the son of the civil rights leader has been serving a 2 ½-year sentence after pleading guilty to illegally spending $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items."

CBS New York: "The Connecticut home of the man who carried out the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has been demolished, Newtown officials said Tuesday. The 2-acre lot where the 3,100-square-foot house once stood in a leafy, suburban neighborhood will be left as open space under a plan approved by town officials.... Everything inside the home, including rugs and lighting fixtures, had previously been removed and incinerated so that no remnants were available to become memorabilia."

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
March 26

4:10 pm ET: President Obama speaks about the economy in Birmingham, Alabama

Go to WhiteHouse.gov/live.

***********************************************

Twenty percent more people trust Bill O'Reilly now than trusted O'Reilly before the press reported he was a serial liar:

East Wing Mystery. Washington Post: "There’s still no official comment on why [White House head florist Laura] Dowling is no longer at the White House, but according to a source with close ties to current residence staffers, she was escorted from the building on Friday Feb. 13." ...

     ... UPDATE. Thoroughly Modern Michelle. "Dowling ... left because her 'fussy style' was not in line with the first lady’s emerging modern and clean aesthetics, several sources said.... Recently the first lady has debuted a different aesthetic at the executive mansion. Last month, the White House revealed the newly refurbished and now decidedly modern Old Family dining room.... Mrs. Obama unveiled her 'thoroughly modernized' mark on the White House, featuring a custom-made 1950s-inspired rug and bold artwork, to surprised tourists on Feb. 10. Dowling is said to have been escorted from the White House three days later." ...

Reuters: "Whether it's the earnest Josiah Bartlet from 'The West Wing' or the manipulative Frank Underwood in 'House of Cards,' Americans prefer television presidents to their real-life POTUS, President Barack 'No Drama' Obama.'"

Washington Post: Scientists believe they've found the world's largest asteroid impact zone in Australia.

Washington Post: "King Richard III may have been buried quickly and without pomp the first time, but 530 years later, England is reveling in a final farewell to its long-lost monarch. On a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon on the battlefield where Richard III fell in 1485 — he was the last English king to die in battle — throngs of well-wishers, some dressed in medieval costume and blowing trumpets, gathered to honor England’s last Plantagenet king."

Out of the Parking Lot & into the Cathedral. Guardian: England is preparing to (re)inter a king today (Sunday, March 22). "... the coffin will be transferred to a horse-drawn hearse, to lead the way to a service of compline, with a sermon from a Roman Catholic archbishop, Vincent Nicholls. It will then lie in the cathedral, guarded night and day, until the reburial service on Thursday."

Politico: "The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it has granted Amazon Logistics, a subsidiary of the Internet retail giant, approval for a drone design that the company plans to use for research, development and training."

David Rackoff: "Things people say that irritate Republicans." Click thru. CW: I'll have to try to remember these. So I can say them. To Republicans. I hope I drive them all Rumpelstiltskin. Then I will ask the Flying Spaghetti Monster to forgive me for being so mean.

Prince Charles & the Duchess of Cornwall are in Washington, D.C., & environs.

President Obama hosts a St. Patrick's Day reception:

... CW: Somebody explain to me why apparently-intelligent people don't actually participate in events they attend but instead spend their time taking crappy cellphone videos, even when they know said events will be recorded by professionals & posted online. I get why a person would want to record some side-conversation with, say, the President, but the main event? It baffles me.

Patrick LaForge of the New York Times: "Welcome to a parallel universe. It is a world of tired news language where the verb 'stir' is bound to be followed by 'debate,' where those debates are always 'heated' or 'bitter.' In this world, anything newsworthy is automatically 'controversial,' and a 'hike' involves taxes, not a trail up a mountain. It is often a 'hardscrabble' place, sometimes 'densely wooded,' sometimes graced with 'manicured' lawns and 'leafy' streets. 'Landmark' agreements are 'hammered out' there, while adversaries are 'lambasted' and 'assailed.'” Meet journalese: a strained and artificial voice more common to news reports than to natural conversation." LaForge cites numerous examples of NYT reporters' use of these cliches.

"In March 2015, Robert Kenner, the Director of 'Food Inc' and other acclaimed documentaries, will debut his newest, 'Merchants of Doubt'. Based on the book by Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway, the film follows the development of sophisticated methods for distorting science, used by the Tobacco industry to hide the poisonous nature of their products, and adapted by the Fossil Fuel industry to distort the science around climate change":

... Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post discusses the documentary: "... Marc Morano, a professional climate-change denier and founder of the Climate Depot Web site ... is, arguably, the star of Kenner’s film. After a stint in the 1990s reporting for Rush Limbaugh, Morano worked briefly as a flack for Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who famously called global warming a 'hoax.' He also plays dirty. In 'Doubt,' Morano recounts with glee how he has published the e-mail addresses of climate scientists, subjecting them to intimidation and flaming attacks from anonymous critics. (Several of the abusive e-mails are read aloud in the film by their recipients...."

Emily Nussbaum of the New Yorker on true-crime documentaries like "The Jinx," the story of Robert Durst: "In the past several decades, true-crime documentaries have emerged as a kind of secondary appeals system...."

New York Times: "Marilynne Robinson won the National Book Critics Circle Award on Thursday for her novel 'Lila,' the final book in her trilogy set in the fictional Gilead, Iowa." The story names the other winners of this award, which -- at least among writers -- is more prestigious than the Pulitzer.

Guardian: "A presenter on the Spanish-language network Univision has defended himself after he was fired for making comments which appeared to compare US first lady Michelle Obama to 'something from the cast of Planet of the Apes'.... The situation is slightly murkier than it may have at first appeared. In the segment of the show in question, [Rodner] Figueroa had been discussing the work of a Filipino makeup artist named Paolo Ballesteros, who specialises in transforming himself into celebrities.... In a letter released through his PR firm, in Spanish and translated by the Guardian, Figueroa apologised but argued his remarks had been misinterpreted, saying he had been disparaging Ballesteros’s makeup talent, not making a slur about the first lady." ...

... CW: For what it's worth (not much), I would not have fired Figueroa. This seems to be a rare instance in which the excuse "I used a poor choice of words" is accurate.

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Off Times Square

 

This section is kaput. I will leave it up for several weeks or a month so you can retrieve any of your old comments you want to save for your posterity. See the Commentariat for additional information. -- Constant Weader

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Saturday
Jan072012

January 7 & 8 Open Thread

This is the last comments thread on Realty Chex Off Times Square.

"Willard Must Be Destroyed" -- Charles Pierce

Write what you will. I am busy packing my bags to move to New Hampshire where I will live free or die, a state where Republican voters may not only decide who will be the next POTUS, their locally-elected representatives are handily dispensing with all that unncessary folderol in the overly-progressive U.S. Constitution, to-wit:

** You Thought I Was Kidding When I Said The GOP Wants to Take Us Back to the Dark Ages. They're already back to 1215. That's close:

     Karen Langley & Matthew Spolar of the Concord Monitor: Republicans in the New Hampshire state legislature plan to introduce a bill requiring all civil rights legislation to derive from the Magna Carta. You can't make this stuff up. Here's their whole bill:

All members of the general court proposing bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta which sets forth the article from which the individual right or liberty is derived.

     The bill doesn't specify which version of the Magna Carta must be cited, so I guess there's some leeway. Here's the model -- directly from the Magna Carta, mind you, that women's rights legislation would have to follow: "No-one is to be taken or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman for the death of anyone save for the death of that woman’s husband." Bankers & the Anti-Defamation League will love this one from the 1297 (and more important) version of the charter: "If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age." BTW, -- much as they cherished it -- the Brits repealed most of the Magna Carta in the 19th century. In New Hampshire, the GOP is bringing it back!

Also, New Hampshire is an especially great place to be really rich, as one of my detractors (falsely) claimed I am:

Live Free or Die if You're a One Percenter. Center for Tax Justice: "Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s $6.6 trillion tax plan would give the richest one percent of New Hampshire residents an average tax cut of $125,900 which would be over 90 times as large as the average tax cut of $1,400 that the middle fifth of the state’s residents would receive. Former Senator Rick Santorum’s $9.4 trillion tax plan would give the richest one percent of NewHampshire residents an average tax cut of $219,570, which would be over 90 times as large as the average tax cut of $2,390 that the middle fifth of the state’s residents would receive." (File is a pdf.)

Friday
Jan062012

January 6, 2012 -- E.H.C.

On the Day of the Epiphany, I ended up posting quite a few links to stories in the Commentariat that reminded us that Elections Have Consequences, which is an epiphany I wish would dawn on some of our readers. Read these stories -- or at least the links (though Lithwick & Bernstein really are essential reading) -- and tell me if and why you still think voting for Republicans and/or third-party candidates is a good idea.

** Elections Have Consequences. Dahlia Lithwick in the Washington Monthly: "If you care about the future of abortion rights, stem cell research, worker protections, the death penalty, environmental regulation, torture, presidential power, warrantless surveillance, or any number of other issues, it’s worth recalling that the last stop on the answer to each of those matters will probably be before someone in a black robe. Republicans have understood that for decades now, and that’s why the federal bench — including the Supreme Court — is almost unrecognizable to Democrats today."

Pat Garofalo of Think Progress: "... while corporate profits have rebounded to their pre-recession heights, setting a record in the third quarter of 2011, corporate tax revenue has yet to follow suit.... Corporate tax revenue has plummeted for several reasons, but one of the big ones is the growth of deductions, loopholes, and outright tax evasion that helps companies limit, or entirely eliminate, their income tax liability. 30 major corporations, in fact, paid no corporate income tax over the last three years, while making $160 billion in profits." CW: this story also falls in the "Elections Have Consequences" category. These companies aren't paying their fair share because Congress has decided they don't have to. Another good reason to support Sen. Bernie Sanders' Constitutional Amendment drive.

Elections Have Consequences. Brian Beutler of TPM: Mitt Romney's tax plan is a fucking disaster: "... the plan constitutes a major tax cut for wealthy Americans. But compared to today’s rates, Romney proposes effective tax increases for people making less than $40,000." Includes an interactive chart that shows the biggest break would be for those earning over a million a year, & the biggest tax increase would be for those earning less than $10,000 a year. And in case you're the last person in Amurrica who thinks Republicans care about the deficit, "The Romney plan would reduce federal tax revenues substantially."

Elections Have Consequences. If you think Mitt Romney will "move to the center" should he become president, as Nicholas Kristof argued in his wishful-thinking column yesterday (see my rebuttal of one aspect of it here), read Jonathan Bernstein's article in the Washington Monthly. Guess what? "Campaign promises set the presidential agenda, even when they don’t tell you which items will pan out and which won’t.... So as you listen to Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republicans..., don’t assume that it’s all meaningless, empty rhetoric that will be dropped once the campaign is over and governing begins. Don’t assume, either, that ... specific pledges made in the primary season will be left behind...." BTW, you can blame Steve Forbes for the deficit. (Read Bernstein to find out why.)

Write on this or something else. BTW, good discussions in the January 4-5 Not-GOP Thread.

Wednesday
Jan042012

January 4 and 5, 2012 -- Not-GOP

Let's see if we can get through the day talking about something other than Republican presidential candidates. But do let's talk. (And if you can't help yourself, feel free to break the rule of the day. We're mostly libruls here. We break rules.)

Update: My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on David Brooks' "Real America." The NYTX front page is here. The column is a slight cheat on today's rule in that Brooks mentions one of the GOP candidates, though he is not the star of the column. Also, the column includes a Very Important Point that our friend Kate Madison made....

... AND please consider making a contribution to NYTX, which is doing a very good job of keeping 'em honest over at the Times.

Update 2: We didn't get far yesterday, so let's keep on keepin' on. However, feel free to mention the GOP presidential contenders. I think I can stand it. How about you? Speaking of which ...

... My column in the New York Times eXaminer is on Mitt Romney, the New York Times' favorite presidential candidate.

Monday
Jan022012

January 2 & 3 -- Iowa Predicitions

Okay, let's hear your predictions on which GOP presidential candidate will will the Iowa Caucuses. No, Iowa is not in the Caucasus Mountains. But it is extremely Caucasian.

Here is the Des Moines Register final poll to help you out: "The Des Moines Register’s latest Iowa Poll shows a surprise three-way match-up in contention to win the Iowa Republican caucuses: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum." Public Policy Polling results are here:

Ridiculous answers are acceptable, as always. Speaking of ridiculous answers, @Forrest Morris's intrepid investigative reporting on the New Year's Resolutions of seven of the candidates, published in the Weekend Thread, may be of help.

Update: John Cassidy of the New Yorker has some Handy Handicapping Hints that might be more Helpful than Morris's. ...

... AND here's the latest from the super-reliable Nate Silver.

Update 3: All the news is Iowa, Iowa, Iowa, so let's keep at it.

Saturday
Dec312011

Weekend Open Thread -- When Two Days Seems Like Two Years

¡Felíz Año Nuevo!

                                           --- from a place not far from Cuba

Write what you will. Ridiculous New Year's resolutions would be welcome. Also, if you want the definitive inside scoop on Who Shot JFK, you will find the answer, and tantalizing details, in yesterday's thread....

     ... Update: also from yesterday's thread, do go to @Fred Drumlevitch's links to stories about (and in) The Realist. I'd never heard of The Realist, but it turns out to have been a big influence on all of our lives.

Friday
Dec302011

December 30 -- Conspiracy!

James Kirchick of The New Republic in a New York Times op-ed: "... there is one major aspect of [Ron Paul's] newsletters, no less disturbing than their racist content, that has always been present in Paul’s rhetoric, in every forum: a penchant for conspiracy theories.... Paul has frequently attacked the alleged New World Order that 'elitist' cabals, like the Trilateral Commission and the Rockefeller family, in conjunction with 'globalist' organizations, like the United Nations and the World Bank, wish to foist on Americans.... Paul has not just marinated in a stew of far-right paranoia; he is one of the chefs.... Ron Paul is a paranoid conspiracy theorist who regularly imputes the worst possible motives to the very government he wants to lead." ...

Ron Paul Isn't the Only Crazy Conspiracy Theorist Running for President:

Michele Bachmann is up against not only the other candidates, but up against President Obama, who has Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube in its back pocket. I believe that helped him win the last election. No president should have the monopoly of those companies in their back pocket. -- Jonathan, a radio talkshow caller ...

... I absolutely agree, Jonathan. We have seen, whether it is the head of Facebook or Google, it is clear there is an alliance with the Obama administration, as well as with NBC. -- Michele Bachmann

Update: Yippee! Another Bachmann Conspiracy Theory! John McCormick & Lisa Lerer of the Washington Post: "Michele Bachmann pressed her allegations that the former head of her Iowa presidential bid was bribed by the campaign of rival Ron Paul to endorse him, even as one of her own aides denied the charge. The aide who issued the denial later quit Bachmann’s campaign, the candidate said." Bachmann is a gift who keeps on giving.

I don't think it's fair that wingers get all the crazy conspiracy theories. Can you think of any for progressives? (BTW, Kirchick's op-ed is very good.)

Thursday
Dec292011

December 29 -- Low-Information Voters

Sorry, I'm literally having technical difficulties this morning. My computer crashed and lost quite a bit of stuff. I'll get it back up when I get it back up. In the meantime, here's this thought:

Yesterday, @Marvin Schwalb raised an issue that has vexed me, too: what about the millions of Americans who are eligible to vote but don't? So here's a scenario:

It's late on a Thursday afternoon in September 2012. You have just come home from a trip to the local high school where you have been registering 18-year-olds to vote. You get out of your car, pick up the voter registration material -- including new, unused voter registration forms -- and notice your next-door neighbor working in his yard. He waves you over.

Your neighbor is a friendly guy, you like him, but you don't know him well. You've chatted with him over the year or so he's lived there about family, the weather, sporting events. So he asks what you've been up to and you tell him about your afternoon. "Really?" sez he. "Gee, I've never voted. My parents didn't vote either. Just not a family tradition. Besides, I don't follow the news. Never watch it. I barely know who's running for President much less Senator or mayor or whatever." (Nobody is running for mayor -- the mayoral elections are in April.)

Obviously, you have no idea how this guy will vote. There's no family tradition where he might be a "legacy" Democrat or Republican or independent. He's a complete know-nothing.

What do you do? Even if he registers, he probably won't vote. And if he votes, how will he choose candidates? He might vote for the side you don't like, and you care about who gets elected. Do you hand the guy one of those registration forms you're holding? Do you urge him to vote for your guy Joe Blow? Do you promise to take him to the polls?

Or do you decide an uninformed voter is a danger to democracy and switch the topic to the autumnal equinox?

Wednesday
Dec282011

December 28 -- American Caste

** Stephen Marche of Esquire: "... a class system has arrived in America — a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility.... In the United States, the emerging aristocracy remains staunchly convinced that it is not an aristocracy, that it's the result of hard work and talent. The permanent working poor refuse to accept that their poverty is permanent. The class system is clandestine.... The majority of new college grads in the United States today are either unemployed or working jobs that don't require a degree. Roughly 85 percent of them moved back home in 2011, where they sit on an average debt of $27,200. The youth unemployment rate in general is 18.1 percent.... The Tea Partiers blame the government. The Occupiers blame the financial industry. Both are really mourning the arrival of a new social order, one not defined by opportunity but by preexisting structures of wealth." ...

... ** "Income Inequality Is a Symptom, Not the Disease." Charles Pierce on how Bill Clinton made you poor and the New York Times and University of Chicago say it isn't so.

Do read Charles Pierce's commentary; it's pretty good. Then add your own.

Monday
Dec262011

December 26 & 27 -- Why Vote?

Commenters and I are always writing about why it does/doesn't matter whether or not we vote Democratic, Republican or Neither of the Above. So please share with us at least one reason -- whether or not that "reason" will influence your own vote (its still a secret ballot, after all!) -- progressives should vote Democratic, Republican or neither.

Or write about something else.

Also, thanks again for your comments over the holidays.

Update: My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's column, which he titled "The Cratchit Tax Credit." I call it the "Ebenezer Scrooge Tax Break," and I explain why. I guess Douthat is one good reason to vote. Somebody has to cancel out his vote. I just took dibs (though I'll accept challenges from anyone who claims a higher right to be the anti-Douthat voter). God bless us, every one.

Sunday
Dec252011

December 22 & Etc. (Con'd.)

I can't figure out how to re-enable comments on our continuing thread, so if you want to comment, you can do so here.

Happy Holiday, Everybody! And thank you to every one of you who has contributed here over the past six months. It's been a joy.

Marie

Sunday
Dec252011

December 22 & Etc.

Here's a short post on celebrations of the Winter Solstice. And how will you be celebrating Yule?

Update: let's continue. Besides, I would not want readers to miss yesterday's responses, which were quite beautiful. It is not, however, necessary to try to match them or follow in the same vein. Whatever interests you will be fine.

BTW, my column for the New York Times eXaminer just went up. It's on Part 2 of Brooks' list of best magazine essays -- so the boxed set made in out in time for Christmas. I'd like to box Brooks' ears. Ho ho ho.

Update 2: okay, we've found a place where we all differ. I thought maybe this year, since a number of you had suggested some good Christmas songs, I'd also do a post on the good ones. I listened to several of your suggestions -- they would definitely have fit well into my Worst Songs scheme! There's no accounting for taste, especially in music. So here's one I like (and so do almost 36 million other people):

Then there's this from the 1998 Olympics. I was living in Italy at the time & I watched it live on a little 15" TV with lousy audio. It still gave me chills. As it does today:

Wednesday
Dec212011

December 21 -- Whatever

I'm at a loss. Help me out.

BTW, I'm looking forward to again creating my annual "Worst Christmas Songs Ever" special gift to humbuggers. If you have favorites of the genre, let me know. A link would be helpful.

Also, if you're still shopping, commenters made excellent suggestions yesterday for books for adults and children.

AND I agree with Robert Pear of the New York Times: this part of Tea Party Scrooginess has not gotten enough attention: ""More than three million people stand to lose unemployment insurance benefits in the near future because of an impasse in Congress over how to extend the aid and how to offset the cost. Jobless benefits have been overshadowed by debate on a payroll tax cut, but have become a huge sticking point in negotiations on a bill that deals with both issues. Republicans would continue aid for some of the unemployed, but would sharply reduce the maximum duration of benefits and impose strict new requirements on people seeking or receiving aid." Having to pay a little more in payroll taxes will work hardships on some families; others will hardly notice. BUT. Almost everyone on unemployment insurance needs those payments to survive. And GOP protests to the contrary, people who collect unemployment benefits are not slackers living a life of luxury on the public's dime. They are looking for work: active job-hunting is a condition of collecting the checks.