by Max Brantley
The line is open. I'm thinking of an early night after laboring like a lumberjack to clear my walk of the snow-felled yaupon holly. Damn, those things spawn a lot of foliage in the course of 23 years. Closing thoughts:
* ON ICE CREAM — INCENSED NO MORE ABOUT PEPPERMINT: (For those who don't know, that lead-in is a reference to a 60s-era song by a one-hit wonder name of, I think, Strawberry Alarm Clock.) More specifically: Someone asked about my search for peppermint ice cream, in the absence of Yarnell's and the discovery that Blue Bell peppermint is even worse than its other flavors.
A friend alerted me to Homemade Brandpeppermint, from an Ohio dairy and available at Fresh Market. It won our holiday taste-off hands down. Graeter's, the Cincinnati artisanal ice cream producer, finished a close second. Talenti's, which makes spectacular high-end gelato widely available in stores here, reputedly makes a fine peppermint. I couldn't find it, but the old-fashioned eggnog by Talenti's was for sale and it is good stuff. Melt it slightly, stir in bourbon and you will be a most happy holiday camper. Speaking of melting: My haul for the taste-off was a victim of the power outage. I poured out the peppermint soup with regret, except for the oddly colored, poorly textured and underflavored Blue Bell. I never got any of the locally made Loblolly small-batch peppermint. Someday soon, I hope. A late arrival in the store was Kroger Premium brand peppermint and it was pretty darn good. Better than Blue Bell, for sure. Of course, anything awash in Williams-Sonoma's unparalleled hot fudge sauce tastes good.
* ON FIXTURES: John Lynch of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wrote a nice article today on my wife's retirement as a circuit judge. I know he meant well by mentioning me as a "fixture" at the Arkansas Times for the last 21 years. However... Many so-called friends, and others, rushed to be the first to tell me that they immediately thought of a familiar household plumbing fixture on reading the reference to this old fixture. I'm grateful to Lynch for getting Ellen on record with a promise to step up her game on household chores.
* ON FIXING FISCAL BLAME: There won't be a regular edition of the Arkansas Times this week, but we will distribute our annual Natives Guide in Pulaski County. In the absence of the regular issue, I wanted to rush this letter to the editor into print, because it comments on the current congressional debate on the fiscal cliff. There is NOT equal blame to go around in the impasse. Republicans are the problem. Read on: (But before the read, an UPDATE: Republicans' insistence on winning Social Security cuts as part of the deal seem likely to derail talks. Social Security is not the problem currently, but the party of the wealthy will get its pound of flesh or take its ball and go home. Dems are willing to ratchet back how SS increases are calculated, by the way, but only in return for concessions on the debt ceiling that Repubs won't give.)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Mercutio correctly condemned the Montagues and Capulets: "A plague o' both your houses." Commentators, many of whom I respect, are not correct in calling a plague on Republicans and Democrats alike by ascribing the gridlock in the debate over increasing taxes and avoiding the spending sequestration to the intransigence of both parties. The Republicans are solely responsible for three reasons: First, they created this mess eighteen months ago when they threatened the most irresponsible action Congress could take - not increasing the debt ceiling. After shaking the confidence of the world in our country, they compromised by setting up this impasse. Second, President Obama ran on a promise to return income tax rates on families making more that $250,000 and individuals making more than $200,000 to pre-Bush-era-tax-cut levels, and he won a resounding victory. The American people voted for that increase, and the Republicans should allow a vote in both houses on those rates. Third, the CNN exit poll showed that 13% of those polled favored increasing income tax rates for everyone and that another 47% favored increases for those making more than $250,000, a total of 60% favoring what Obama and the Democrats now propose. Proposing what the people want is not intransigence.
In 1965 Milton Friedman conceded that we are all Keynesians, and President Nixon repeated that assertion in 1971. The hysteria of many commentators and most Republicans over stepping off the fiscal curb by continuing current tax rates and sequestering some spending, which would result in a big cut in deficit spending, confirms that we are all Keynesians, although Republicans are loath to admit or act on that belief. Almost none voted for President Obama's stimulus package that saved the country from a second depression, and they blocked all efforts to enact additional stimulus packages that would have helped the economy. But they accept implicitly the fruits of Keynesian actions when continued economic recovery is threatened. When the economy recovers more strongly, as it will, we can only hope that they accept another tenet of Keynesianism, paying down the debt in good times, which they did not follow when they enacted the Bush tax cuts in seeming horror that we might pay down the debt.