Boehner and Obama playing hardball about a fiscal cliff that hardly will have a soft landing

I always see the glass as half full instead of half empty because I know there’s always a nearby bottle to refill the glass.
Which is why I still have a hunch that John Boehner and Barack Obama will not let us plunge off the fiscal cliff as if we’re a bunch of Mexican cliff divers on an old Wide World of Sports program.
Public posture isn’t always private poker.
Waiting to see what unfolds here is worse than waiting for Godot.
These two guys are grumping and glowering enough to make us wonder if we’re cruising for a boulevard of broken dreams.
Boehner declared Friday that “we’re almost nowhere” near a deal to avoid the fast approaching fiscal cliff, lashing out at Obama for insisting on higher taxes for the wealthy without proposing enough spending cuts.
Earlier today in his first campaign-style event to sell his solution on the fiscal cliff, Obama said in the Philadelphia suburb of Hatfield that Republicans should extend existing Bush-era tax rates for households earning $250,000 or less while allowing increases to kick in for the wealthy, emphasizing that a tax increase for middle class families would be like a lump of coal for Christmas.
Lower, middle and upper classes will be eating nothing but lumps of coal if we plunge over the fiscal cliff.
What’s the severe downside?
Going over the cliff would suck more than $600 billion worth of fiscal stimulus out of the economy in 2013.
The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the post-cliff economy would shrink for the first half of the year, at an annualized pace of 1.3 percent. Bad news for an economy that still as relatively comatose as Judge Crater.
But the really bad news comes when our creditors want their money back and we don’t have it.
The amount of debt held by the public has increased from $4.9 trillion in the beginning of 2007 to $11.5 trillion today – from 36 percent of GDP to 75 percent of GDP. That is scarier than Joan Rivers without makeup. And you know how scary she is with makeup.
Our debt is increasing by about $2 billion a day. With interest rates so low, that much debt is not currently a problem. But if interest rates increased just 2 percent, we’d have to pay an additional $230 billion every year in interest costs. If they go up to 5 percent, which would be closer to their historical norm, we’ll be on the hook for half a trillion dollars a year.
The deficit has more ways to hose us than a guy selling Rolexes on a street corner.
That’s when things really become a tinderbox.

Private White House lunch with Obama just had to give Romney indigestion

It had to be more awkward than passing gas in public for Mitt Romney to be at the White House today for lunch with President Obama.

After all, Romney had been hoping to move into the place in January.

Of course, even the Make A Wish folks couldn’t make that dream come true.

Obama invited Romney because it makes the president appear bipartisan while he’s urging Republicans to compromise on his tax plan to skirt the fiscal cliff.

Then again with Romney essentially reduced to a leper in GOP circles, the bipartisan component was more watered down than a mixed drink in a dive bar.

The lunch meeting was closed to the media, which always loves a free lunch.

Apparently the focus of the Obama-Romney discussion wasn’t on why Obama was out to lunch during their first debate.

The lunch conversation focused on America’s leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership position in the future. Now there’s a controversial point of contention.

They pledged to stay in touch; particularly if opportunities to work together on shared interests arise in the future.

If Romney does work with the White House in some fashion, it likely would make him even more of a persona non grata with Republicans. But it would bring him back from the political dead before they chisel an epitaph on his tombstone.

Obama and Boehner still dancing the Paso Doble on the precipice of the fiscal cliff

Avoiding the upcoming fiscal cliff may be a dream with cold fingers.

As you may have heard when not preoccupied with Dancing With The Stars, President Obama and Congress are doing all sorts of dance steps, otherwise known as political maneuvering, these days.

Their focus is negotiating a possible agreement to avoid tax increases and deep spending cuts set to take effect in five weeks — the fiscal cliff scenario that analysts fear could push the country back into recession and have the incomparable Zeke holding a tin cup at Fifth and Penn in cold weather.

So needless to say I have a vested interest in this fight but I fear that my voice is a bird trapped inside a tenement.

Fear, by the way, is a beast you must keep feeding fresh kills to keep it quiet; giving the beast a snack to hold it until morning.

Which is why I’m trying to have a pony under the tree optimism that the fiscal cliff showdown will be thee parts Dr. Jekyll to two parts Mr. Hyde.

Obama took his fight to the public today, urging Americans to call, e-mail, tweet and smoke signal their members of Congress to urge immediate passage of his proposal to extend tax cuts for most Americans while allowing rates on the wealthiest 2 percent to increase to 1990s levels.

Two conservative Republican congressmen, Tom Cole and Tim Scott, actually said — I’m not making this up – that they thought the Obama tax plan would pass the House, a measure that already has passed the Senate.

But John Boehner shot that talk down as if it were a clay pigeon and House GOP aides insisted there was no plan to bring the proposal up for a vote.

Which means that damn fear once again is churning like a cement mixer in my gut – an uncomfortable feeling when you still haven’t fully digested your Thanksgiving Day dinner.

The Andy Reid era, uh, error

They won’t be painting this Eagles’ season in watercolor and preserving it on a postcard.
Unless they mail it to Andy Reid to torture him during his exile in Belarus, which I hear is nice this time of year.
Monday night, of course, the Birds totally fell into the abyss — losing to a bad Panthers team 30-22.
The Eagles now have lost seven straight. Even the Phillies have won a game since the Birds last did.
Fourteen seasons Reid has steered the ship. The steering wheel won’t be in his hands much longer. The captain must go down with the ship.
This is going to be a coyote ugly death watch.
Granted, thousands of no-shows opted not to watch in person last night. They had better things to do, like flinging themselves down on hundreds of tacks.
The Eagles defense should work for the Postal Service because it’s mailing it in. Todd Bowles has the D scrambling mindlessly about like field mice. They couldn’t sniff the football even if it had garlic on it.
I hate to rush to judgment, but I’m thinking Nick Foles isn’t ready for prime time. His performance so far hasn’t been a magnet to attract potential new head coaches.
Speaking of a rush to judgment, could Eagles’ rookie Bryce Brown be the next Jimmy Brown?
In his first start since high school, Brown, an intoxicating blend of size and speed, rushed for 178 yards – including a 65-yard touchdown bolt. But two fumbles put a big kink in his debut.
The kid’s bobbles fit into the evening’s narrative arc of errors.

9 out of 10 doctors agree that competing in a cockroach-eating contest can shorten your shelf life

Most of us likely wonder from time to time on how we are going to die.

Once upon a time I thought I was going to die in an epic battle while storming an English medieval castle to rescue a damsel in distress.

But now I think I’m going to die in my sleep. That takes a lot less effort than swinging a broadsword at knights who are pouring burning oil on you as you scale the castle wall.

I’m not sure if Edward Archbold of West Palm Beach, Fla., ever envisioned how he was going to die. But I have a hunch he didn’t think he was going to exit life the way he did at age 32.

Then again, I’m also not sure if anybody who enters a cockroach-eating contest after competing in a superworm-eating contest earlier that same night is capable of thought.

Archbold collapsed after winning a cockroach-eating contest last month at a Florida pet store.

I can’t help but think of that adage that you are what you eat.

A Broward County Medical Examiner report released today said Archbold choked to death.

No kidding. You didn’t have to go to med school to figure that out.

Archbold ate dozens of giant cockroaches so he could win an ivory-ball python. Alas, Archbold never lived long enough to enjoying doing whatever people do with an ivory-ball python.
According to the medical report, the death was deemed an accident as a result of “arthropod body parts” blocking Archbold’s airways.

It’s hard to swallow how anybody could bring themselves to binge on giant cockroaches. Brussel sprouts are bad enough.

Of course, dozens of giant cockroaches could climb down anybody’s throat one night while sleeping.

That’s my I make it a habit never to sleep in a cockroach motel.

The skinny on deficit math: Clinton-era spending levels have to ride in tandem with Clinton-era tax rates

I so wish I had the utmost confidence that Democrats and Republicans will soon stop doodling and start wrestling that dyspeptic alligator otherwise known as that dreaded fiscal cliff.
But I don’t. And it’s not just because partisanship is imprisoning us in a time of meanness and darkness.
I’m dubious because a microbe’s cunning is not lurking inside any of them when it comes to explaining just how we can return to Bill Clinton-era tax rates without slicing spending to Clinton’s levels.
According to official government figures, the feds collected revenues totaling 20.6 percent of the gross domestic product in 2000, the final full year of Clinton’s term.

Under Obama in 2012, however, Washington spent money at a near-record rate of 24.3 percent of the GDP.

Even with all of Clinton’s tax revenues, that still would have left a deficit of 3.7 percent of GDP.

Simply put, Uncle Sam has to cease spending money as if everybody in America is celebrating birthdays every day and everybody is invited.
Kapish?

Does it ever end? With Israel and Hamas OK for now, Macy balloons now imperil humanity

The good news today is that Israel has agreed to a ceasefire with Hamas.

The bad news is the ceasefire could stick about as well as a wet Post-it note. Or as long as a Kim Kardashian and Larry King marriage.

After all, the Middle East has hardly been a destination stop for everlasting happy times. There’s a reason it’s not called Nirvana and is short on Kurt Cobain posters.

While both sides agreed in principal for a truce, there was no agreement on the key demands — leading to a second phase of talks that will address the issues that Hillary Clinton will be involved in.

The devil is always in the details. So don’t hold your breath until Gaza turns into Haight-Ashbury, circa 1967.

In eight days of fighting, more than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis have died.

While the Mideast powder key leading to Armageddon always is as much as a pressing concern as the muddled state of the Eagles’ OL and Andy Reid’s violated serenity, there apparently is something graver facing us on this Thanksgiving eve: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Never mind that they only hold the silly and senseless parade to fill air time before the football games, family ties and turkey feasts kick off.

The Macy’s parade evidently is a threat to mankind because it boasts 16 gigantic balloons and is squandering the dwindling global supply of helium.

Helium does a few things a tad more vital than filling balloons and making otherwise humorless people squeak like Mickey Mouse after inhaling.

No other gas is as light without being combustible. And it’s indispensable for aerospace engineering, deep-sea diving and cryogenics.
What’s more, without liquefied helium we wouldn’t be able to make the superconducting magnets like those in MRIs, which is sort of important if a runaway Macy’s balloon blows your way and fractures some of your limbs.
Happy Thanksgiving you all and hopefully your bellies don’t feel as if they’re filled with helium after you squat and gobble your holiday dinner.

So when do they reach the snapping point over Gaza?

I have a suggestion for eternal peace in Gaza: Relocate it to Maui and stock it with Mai Tai bars. That should chill folks.

What’s going on in Gaza and Israel right now is no way to live. But it’s a fast way to die.

Warplanes, drones and rockets crisscrossed the sky over Gaza for the sixth day today as Israel pressed its air offensive against Gaza militants.

In Israel, air raid sirens wailed throughout the day and troops shepherded residents into bomb shelters as rockets arced overhead.

In Gaza City, rockets streaked away toward Israel as smoke and fire poured from buildings struck by Israeli warplanes or drones. Most businesses were closed, the streets largely empty.

Man, you thought Reading was violent. Palestinians and Israelis both need to develop some knee-jerk nonchalance before this violence swells like a blowfish.

The top leader of Hamas dared Israel to launch a ground invasion of Gaza and dismissed diplomatic efforts to broker a ceasefire.

A military solution likely won’t solve anything. It didn’t in their 2008/2009 confrontation either.

A political solution likely is the answer but Israel is holding an increasingly shorter straw. The Arab Spring further isolated Israel in the Middle East, with such countries as Egypt and Qatar more Hamas-friendly.

No wonder diplomats trying to contain this powder keg from exploding are walking around with eyes glazed as a Krispy Kreme.

You try talking sense into two sides that squeeze hatred until the juice runs.

Foles and follies add up to a wickedly woeful afternoon for the Eagles, uh, Turkeys

You don’t have to know George Thorogood to know that the Eagles are bad to the bone. And that bone is afflicted with osteoporosis.

Right now, these Birds couldn’t beat you, your cousins and your uncles in a Thanksgiving morning touch football game.

Since everybody from the Reading Hospital to the Reading Phillies is changing their name these days, watch for the Philadelphia Eagles to soon become the Philadelphia Turkeys.

They got waffled by a woeful Washington Redskins squad today. The final score was 31-6 and it could have been worse if the Redskins hadn’t fallen asleep at halftime.

Philly now is 3-7 and has lost six straight. Our Iggles have now lost four games in a row by 13 points or more for the first time since 1976.

Wake up the echoes of Rich Kotite.

Andy Reid may beg Jeffrey Lurie to fire him now and spare him this grief. Big Red is more shattered than Humpty Dumpty. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men (assuming we had a king) couldn’t put Andy together again.

Nick Foles made his first NFL start for the concussed Michael Vick and he was no rookie wonder, failing to generate a touchdown.

He finished 21 for 46 for 204 yards and threw picks on his first two possessions. Granted, the first one wasn’t his fault as it clanged off the increasingly concrete hands of Brent Celek. The second Foles pick was thrown into double coverage that Stevie Wonder could have seen.

The offensive malfunctions weren’t all Foles. The kid had to play behind a makeshift offensive online that was actually comically creative in coming up with every type of drive-killing penalty imaginable. With that OL, Foles was playing on a 200-yard field.

I know Foles needs a haircut, but his teammates didn’t have to go out of their way to get him scalped by the Skins.

His passer rating of 40.5 was the worst by an Eagle throwing 40 or more passes in a game since A.J. Feeley had a 30.0 rating for a four-INT performance against the Seahawks in 2007.

Press the mute button on the franchise quarterback babble, please!

The Turkeys’ defense sucked worse than their offense. Consequently, Robert Griffin III was playing on a 50-yard field.

The Birds made RGIII look like the greatest Washington QB since Slingin’ Sammy Baugh. Their pass coverage was incredibly pathetic, especially on scoring bombs of 49-yards to Adrick Robinson and 61 yards to Santana Moss.

Griffin almost was perfection personified, going 14 of 15 for 200 yards, with four touchdowns.On top of everything else, the Eagles’ best player, LeSean McCoy, suffered a concussion with under two minutes left and the Eagles down 25.Suffice it to say, this is the biggest meltdown around here since TMI2.

The theme for the remainder of this Eagles’ season is The Limbo — how low can you go?

Petraeus: I always knew Benghazi was a terrorist strike

OK, maybe this was a big ruh-roh or maybe no ruh-roh at all.
My hunch it’s more of the former. I’m more confused than I was in high school trig class.
But I do know this is getting messier than a truck stop kitchen.
Ex-CIA Director David Petraeus told lawmakers during private hearings Friday that he and the CIA brass believed all along that the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was a terrorist strike, even though somewhere along the chain of command the terrorism talking points were left on the cutting room floor.
Granted, editors love to hit the delete button even more than Petraeus loved to hit on Paula Broadwell.
Since the hearings were private, the media has to rely exclusively on second-hand accounts from those in the room. Hence, the picture is blurry from the spin cycle.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Petraeus disputed Republican suggestions that the White House misled the public on what led to the violence in the midst of President Obama’s reelection campaign.
“There was an interagency process to draft it, not a political process,” Schiff said after the hearing. “They came up with the best assessment without compromising classified information or source or methods. So changes were made to protect classified information.”
Smacks of politics to me, but that’s just me.
Don’t you just wish we could end the reign of mystery that has hung like a black cloud over Benghazi?
Petraeus did not discuss the sex scandal that has made him more infamous than Lindsay Lohan except to express regret about the circumstances of his departure from the CIA.
So no more juicy gossip on that front, my friends.
I can’t read Petraeus’ mind, but I’m sure he’d love to put a muzzle on all the mouths that questioned him today.