Voting– NC style

Sunday’s Doonesbury:

Doonesbury

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Photo of the day

A cool In Focus gallery of clouds filling the Grand Canyon:

A total cloud inversion in the Grand Canyon, viewed from Mather Point on the South Rim. (National Park Service/Erin Whittaker)

Two Americas– one is better

Man did I love this Josh Barro take on the whole Duck Dynasty business:

Specifically, there’s one America where comparing homosexuality to bestiality is considered acceptable, and another where it is rude and offensive.

In one America, it’s OK to say this of gays and lesbians: “They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil.” In the other America, you’re not supposed to say that.

There’s one America where it’s OK to say this about black people in the Jim Crow-era South: “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.” There’s another America where that statement is considered to reflect ignorance and insensitivity. In one America, it’s OK to attribute the Pearl Harbor attacks to Shinto Buddhists’ failure to accept Jesus. In the other America, that is not OK.

There are two Americas, one of which is better than the other. And it’s instructive who’s sticking up for the worse America.

The conservative politicians who are complaining that Phil Robertson’s firing flies in the face of “free speech” are generally smart enough to understand that Robertson doesn’t actually have a legal right to be on A&E. When Sarah Palin and her cohorts talk about the importance of “free speech,” they mean something much more specific: That the sorts of things that Robertson said are not the sorts of things a private employer should want to fire someone for saying. That they are, or ought to be, within the bounds of social acceptability.

But they’re wrong. The other America—the America I live in—has this one right. Racist and anti-gay comments and comments disparaging of religious minorities are rude and unacceptable and might cost you your job. It’s not OK to say that gay people are “full of murder.”  [emphases mine]

Also, nice take in the Atlantic that the real scandal is how Robertson’s odious comments on race have largely been ignored in all this.

Is the opera really a charity?

John F. read yesterday’s post about charitable giving and shared this great Robert Reich column with me (in Salon):

 According to the Congressional Budget Office, $33 billion of last year’s $39 billion in total charitable deductions went to the richest 20 percent of Americans, of whom the richest 1 percent reaped the lion’s share…

But a large portion of the charitable deductions now claimed by America’s wealthy are for donations to culture palaces – operas, art museums, symphonies, and theaters – where they spend their leisure time hobnobbing with other wealthy benefactors.

Another portion is for contributions to the elite prep schools and universities they once attended or want their children to attend. (Such institutions typically give preference in admissions, a kind of affirmative action, to applicants and “legacies” whose parents have been notably generous.)

Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the rest of the Ivy League are worthy institutions, to be sure, but they’re not known for educating large numbers of poor young people…

I’m all in favor of supporting fancy museums and elite schools, but face it: These aren’t really charities as most people understand the term…

In economic terms, a tax deduction is exactly the same as government spending. Which means the government will, in effect, hand out $40 billion this year for “charity” that’s going largely to wealthy people who use much of it to enhance their lifestyles.

To put this in perspective, $40 billion is more than the federal government will spend this year on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (what’s left of welfare), school lunches for poor kids, and Head Start, put together…

At a time in our nation’s history when the number of poor Americans continues to rise, when government doesn’t have the money to do what’s needed, and when America’s very rich are richer than ever, this doesn’t seem right.

If Congress ever gets around to revising the tax code, it might consider limiting the charitable deduction to real charities.

Amen.  The likelihood of revising our tax code this way?  Pretty close to zero.  Safe to say those rich people– who have maybe just a slightly disproportionate influence in politics– aren’t about to give up this deduction.

[Since when do I blog so much on a Sunday?  Since it’s Christmas vacation and my kids are more interested in spending time with the grandparents and aunt & uncle than me.  I’ll take it.]

Map of the day

Football vs. Soccer in one map.  Via Knowmore:

Who calls it “football” and who calls it “soccer”, in one map

The new school math

Nope, not the crazy way they teach kids to do multiplication these days (all these weird, pointless, boxes and stuff), but what budget cuts have done to education.  Excellent piece in the Times today:

Across the country, public schools employ about 250,000 fewer people than before the recession, according to figures from the Labor Department. Enrollment in public schools, meanwhile, has increased by more than 800,000 students. To maintain prerecession staffing ratios, public school employment should have actually grown by about 132,000 jobs in the past four years, in addition to replacing those that were lost, said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

Ugh.  And, of course, it’s not like these cuts are evenly distributed.  Those least able to lose school resources have lost the most.  Welcome to American education (not to suggest we’re horrible like the doom and gloomers, but our funding model is nuts).

Photo of the day

From Telegraph’s Animal Photos of the week gallery:

Polar bears appear to dance on the island of Svalbard in the Arctic circle off the north coast of Norway.
Polar bears appear to dance on the island of Svalbard in the Arctic circle off the north coast of Norway.Picture: Andrew Schoeman/National Pictures
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