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Well, lookie here, it's the austerity twins, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, writing at the Los Angeles Times that the House's budget deal is just a start:

The small reforms in this agreement do not address the real long-term drivers of our debt, including the growth of healthcare entitlement programs and Social Security's funding shortfall. We still desperately need to reform the tax code, which is riddled with trillions of dollars in economy-distorting loopholes. The agreement also leaves in place sequester cuts that could have adverse effects on economic productivity and military readiness.

With this agreement, Congress has exhausted nearly all of the easy choices available. That leaves only tough choices for future deficit reduction or sequester replacement, which are critically necessary to keep entitlement programs affordable and the economy vibrant.

Reforms to entitlements and the tax code need not wait for the next election.

Joan Walsh at Salon writes—For decades, both parties supplanted a push for higher wages with well-intended public aid. The result: calamity:
Based largely on that speech, and some West Wing whispers, Politico announced Friday “President Obama turns left.” But outside of saying again that it’s time to raise the minimum wage, the president hasn’t yet put much meat on a “left” agenda for low wage workers.

It would also be nice for Obama to recognize: The fact that so many Americans “work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty,” receiving public assistance, is not just an unhappy accident. It’s the result of public policy supported by many Democrats — and he hasn’t done much to change or challenge it. In fact, the chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors has made the most spirited defense of it.

The truth is, a bipartisan consensus emerged in the 1990s, that a job, practically any job, was better than long-term public assistance for so-called “able-bodied” adults, including mothers with young children. It led to controversial 1996 welfare reform legislation that had ramifications way beyond the realm of welfare.

Paul Krugman at The New York Times pounds on the pundits who think every-swelling income and wealth inequality is no big deal and would be solved by solid economic growth:
We can argue about the significance of Bill de Blasio’s victory in the New York mayoral race or of Elizabeth Warren’s endorsement of Social Security expansion. And we have yet to see whether President Obama’s declaration that inequality is “the defining challenge of our age” will translate into policy changes. Still, the discussion has shifted enough to produce a backlash from pundits arguing that inequality isn’t that big a deal.

They’re wrong.

The best argument for putting inequality on the back burner is the depressed state of the economy. Isn’t it more important to restore economic growth than to worry about how the gains from growth are distributed?

Well, no. First of all, even if you look only at the direct impact of rising inequality on middle-class Americans, it is indeed a very big deal. Beyond that, inequality probably played an important role in creating our economic mess, and has played a crucial role in our failure to clean it up.

More pundit excerpts can be read below the fold.

E.J. Dionne Jr. at the Washington Post takes a look at what is sure to be family values hypocrisy in the debate over a congressional proposal to add some money to the national requirement of 12 weeks of leave for new babies or caring for sick family members:

it was exciting last week to see Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut introduce the FAMILY Act, the acronym standing for their Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. The bill would provide partial income for up to 12 weeks of leave for new parents and for other family demands, such as care for a sick family member, including a domestic partner. [...]

Our current discussion of what constitutes “freedom” is shaped far too much by a deeply flawed right-wing notion that every action by government is a threat to personal liberty and that the one and only priority of those who care about keeping people free is for government to do less than it does.

This perspective ignores the many ways over the course of our history in which government has expanded the autonomy of our citizens. Consider how much less freedom so many of us would have without civil rights or voting rights laws, without government student loans, without labor laws, without public schools and without Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. (And we don’t take seriously enough the implications of a most basic fact of our national story: that it took big government in Washington to outlaw slavery.)

David P. Barash at the Los Angeles Times explains how abolishing the military in Costa Rica 65 years ago has paid off:
On Dec. 1, 1948 — 65 years ago this month — Jose Figueres, then president of Costa Rica, made a fiery and eloquent speech, after which he took a sledgehammer and bashed a hole in a huge stone wall at the nation's military headquarters, Cuartel Bellavista. Its imposing towers and massive gates had loomed over the capital city of San Jose since 1917, the country's premier symbol of military power and the home of the "Tico" military establishment.
Figueres was not just being a showman; he was announcing something truly extraordinary: Henceforth, Costa Rica would take the almost unheard-of step of renouncing its military. [...]

To this day, Costa Rica has no army, navy or air force, no heavy weapons of any kind. There are local police forces but no national defense force. When visiting dignitaries arrive in San Jose, they are never met by bands in military-style uniforms or uniformed national officials of any kind, because by law there are none; rather, foreign VIPs are met by schoolchildren wearing the visitor's national colors

Isaac Chotiner at The New Republic writes Who Cares if Santa Claus is Real? The Megyn Kelly Scandal Is About Race:
"Santa is what he is." ([Megyn Kelly] added that Jesus was "a white man too.") Understandably, the internet erupted in outrage, Jon Stewart mocked Kelly, and various commentators pointed out that the Santa Claus most people recognize today is barely based on Saint Nicholas, who himself was from what today is Turkey. So, on Friday Kelly went back on her show to address the controversy.

It's here that I should say my once stalwart confidence in the P.R. geniuses at Fox has been shaken. Apparently the best they could come up with was that Kelly was joking (as she states in the clip above), but then she proceeds to play the clip from the previous show where it is abundantly clear that she was not joking. Guys, c'mon! This isn't rocket science. Kelly then went on to say that America is becoming too politically correct and sensitive, and that Fox News is targeted for its politics.

It's this last bit that is the most interesting, and also explains why people have been focusing on the wrong aspect of this story. "Race is still an incredibly volatile issue in this country, and Fox News and yours truly are big targets for many people," Kelly said. Well, yes. Both those things are literally true. But Kelly wasn't saying them because they are true. She was saying them because one of Fox's most popular topics is that white people are victimized by accusations of racism, and must tiptoe around all racial topics. (Of course this would be less true if our society didn't have so much racially insensitive garbage peddled by the likes of Fox News, but let's leave that aside). In short, Kelly was playing the victimization/self-pity card, which white conservatives have oh-so-charmingly been playing for decades.

Kieran Cooke at the Climate Change Network takes a look at how to go about reigniting the climate change debate:
In the US there seems to be less public engagement in the issue. A survey this year by Yale University found that only 8% of respondents said they communicated publicly about climate change, while nearly 70% said they rarely or never spoke about it.

“We have failed, collectively, to make climate change something that inspires passion in all but a vocal minority (on either side of the argument)”, says [the Climate Outreach and Information Network].

So what’s to be done? COIN proposes a national series of conversations embracing a broad cross-section of society—including those who might be skeptical. Ways must be found to inspire people to care about the problem. Climate change, it says, is fundamentally a human story, and public campaigns must reconnect with that basic fact.

“For too long, climate change has been stuck in a rut—pigeon-holed as a scientific and an ‘environmental’ issue—a niche topic that has little direct relevance to the lives of ordinary people.

“Without a way of translating the dry, faceless facts of climate science into living, breathing reasons to care about climate change, meaningful public engagement will remain out of sight.”

Greg Mitchell at The Nation laments The Sad Decline of '60 Minutes' Continues With This Week's NSA Whitewash:
The sad decline and fall of 60 Minutes has been a long time coming but now it is nearly completely. Just in recent months: the horrid hit on Americans with disabilities; the Lara Logan affair, and now tonight's whitewash of NSA (and bonus slam vs. Edward Snowden), hosted by longtime FBI/police/NSA propagandist John Miller.

Here's the complete transcript of tonight's show. It's got something to offend everyone.  All that's missing is an NSA drone delivery a package of listening devices to an agent in the field.

Chris Crass at Truthout writes Expecto Patronum: Lessons From Harry Potter for Social Justice Organizing:
Have you daydreamed about being a member of an intergenerational social justice organization like the Order of Phoenix? Do you want Dumbledore to be your mentor?

Have Dementors ever burned you out to the point where you doubted your ability to take on the Voldemorts of our world? Do you find yourself analyzing Dumbledore's Army for lessons on developing liberatory vision, culture, leadership and organization?
Me too. Let's develop our magic, build our liberation movement and defeat the Voldemorts in our world. I'll meet you in the Room of Requirement. Until then, here are my top lessons from Harry Potter for social justice organizing. [...]

Six key lessons emerge for our movement. First, we must assess the institutions in society, determine which ones have the most liberatory potential and actively support efforts to govern them from the left and marshal their powers to further social justice. Through our work, our values can shape the institutions and influence the common-sense understandings in society.

Yasmin Alibhai Brown at The Independent explains her journalistic activism in working to stop the "Talibanization of British universities":
Result! In one week, we, a small group of stalwarts, Muslims and non-Muslims, who are opposed to sexual apartheid in our universities, raised the slumbering politicians and jolted gutless academics. Universities UK (UUK) will reconsider its guidelines which sanctify gender discrimination in the name of freedom of speech and equal access.

My column denouncing this advice appeared last Monday. On Tuesday, Human Rights Day, a bitterly cold night, protesters demonstrated outside the UUK Headquarters in central London. No UUK rep came out to speak to us. (Dear readers, you should have been out there with us.)

That evening, on Channel 4 News I took on Omar Ali of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies. He said segregation at universities was no different from what happens in synagogues and mosques and that a liberal society should accommodate such “choices”. I rejoined that prayer houses were not state-funded public spaces and that some choices ought never to be accommodated.

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