Monthly Archive: December 2012

Dec 31 2012

Missed Deadline: Tax Cuts to Expire at Midnight

The Senate has failed to come to an agreement to avoid the mythical “fiscal cliff” and the House has adjourned for the day thus missing the deadline for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the spending cuts that were agreed to last year. The MSM pundits are of course saying that this is not the be all or end all for an agreement. According to CNN sources told them that they saw little difference in settling the issue Monday versus Tuesday. Apparently it’s a Republican source:

If lawmakers approve a bill on Tuesday — after tax rates have technically gone up — they can argue they’ve voted for a tax cut to bring rates back down, GOP sources said.

So far, according to a report in McClatchy this is what they have argeed to:

Negotiators were working toward a scaled-back package that includes a series of critical tax changes that would extend permanently the Bush tax cuts on most Americans but end them and thus raise taxes for individuals who make $400,000 and families who make $450,000.

Individuals earning more than $250,000 and couples earning more than $300,000 would still be taxed higher because some of the value of their exemptions and itemized deductions would be phased out.

The tentative package would also:

– Extend unemployment benefits for 2 million Americans.

– Prevent about 30 million Americans from having to pay the alternative minimum tax.

– Keep Medicare payments to doctors at the current rate.

– Extend tax credits for children and college tuition.

– Provide tax breaks to clean-energy companies.

– Raise the estate tax, but significantly less than Democrats had wanted. The value of estates over $5 million would be taxed at 40 percent, up from 35 percent.

Left unaddressed, at the moment, are the $1.2 trillion in sequestration-related cuts that will also be triggered on Jan. 1.

The new congress will be sworn in January 3. If Obama and the Democrats are smart they will start tomorrow with a clean slate, as of tomorrow, telling the Republicans to suck it up.

It wouls appear that Congress has gotten an early start on dropping the ball.

Dec 31 2012

New Year’s Eve TV Evening

If you have any sense at all you are already safely ensconced wherever you plan to celebrate and are preparing for riotous self-indulgence to celebrate the schadenfreude passing of a year memorable mostly for the milestones of decline into another dark age.

What is more threatening?  Global Thermonuclear War or Warming?

But warming sounds so fuzzy and cute.

Tell it to the Polar Bears, God-less killing machines that they are.  At least you used to be able to duck and cover and kiss your ass goodbye while praying to be fortunate among the blast radius so you’d avoid the dystopian barbarism descending as the Anthropocene Epoch comes to a close.

Shall I set you up again?

Anyway, traveling early and leaving late (tomorrow) allows the best chance of avoiding your own personal Mayan Apocalypse on Amateur Night and that’s one reason I’m disappointed in the entertainment offered.  Where are my Circuses Caesar?

After the Ball drops your best bets are Zombie Apocalypse (AMC), Mayan Apocalyse (National Geographic), Dr. Who so depressing I didn’t even bother to record it (BBCA), Futurama Rapture (Comedy), Julia Roberts whoring for Mitt Romney (Lifetime), and the Twilight Zone (SciFi).

Oh, and Kathy Griffin (Bravo).

You might want to stay snuggled up until tomorrow when we will be liveblogging The Rose Parade at 11 am.

Happy New Year!

This edition covers the 12 hours from 6 pm to 6 am.  Immediate gratification is here.  The previous edition is here.

Dec 31 2012

Live at 1330 EST: Obama Press Conference

Dec 31 2012

FBI and Banks Supressed “Terrorist” #OWS

If anyone had any doubts that the US Government is no longer a “government of the people” but of corporation and Wall St, you need only read the recently released FBI documents that labeled Occupy Wall Street a “terrorist group” and coordinated with banks and cities nationwide to suppress the protests with strong arm tactics and targeted assassinations (see pg 61 of document). This all started before the protest even began without evidence that the protests would be anything but peaceful and despite the internal acknowledgment that the movement opposed violent tactics. The documents prove that the government blatantly lied about the Department of Homeland Security involvement in coordinating the violent crackdown in New York City, Oakland and other major cities. Partnership for Civil Justice obtained the heavily redacted FBI documents revealing that the surveillance began at least a month before the protest in Zuccotti Park began and that the #OWS movement was being treated as potential criminal and terrorist activity.

The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.

“This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF).  “These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity.  These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.

“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material. We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation,” stated Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF.

Author and activist Naomi Wolf reported in The Guardian that these “new documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent.”

It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves – was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, sat down for an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!

Transcript can be read here

So much for paranoia. The government is out to stop peaceful protest in anyway they can.

Dec 31 2012

A Question

If the austerity bomb goes off at midnight as seems likely at the moment, what excuse do Democrats use for continuing negotiations with this Congress?

The incoming Congress will be sworn in January 3rd, 3 days from now.  Democrats have gained 9 seats, though not a majority, in the House, and added 2 in the Senate.

The legislation set to expire January 1st will have expired.

Just what do they hope to accomplish in 3 days that they could not address at their leisure?

Someone less charitable than I would suggest that there are 2 other clocks running, one is on the fiction that Democrats are at a tremendous disadvantage and must accept any deal they can get from those dastardly (and make no mistake, they are dastardly) Republicans.

The other is on the fiction that the debt and defict really are increasing and require drastic cuts to our earned benefits and social insurance programs to solve.  Each day that passes reduces it even now and the trend will only accelerate with the expiration of the Bush/Obama tax cuts.

Yes, this is austerity and the economy as a whole will take a hit and many people will be negatively effected by cuts in government expenditures for domestic and military programs.

However it should make it painfully obvious that the problem is not deficts or debt at all but instead growth, employment, and income inequality.

In any event it is not time to let up on the message that no deal is better than a bad one.

To The Phones

White House

202-456-1111

Your senators

Your House member.

No cuts to Social Security.

Gaius Publius @ Americablog offers this helpful digest-

What are we protecting?

We’re protecting three social insurance programs. These are:

    ¦ Social Security

    ¦ Medicare

    ¦ Medicaid

What are we protecting them from? Anything that:

    ¦ Reduces benefits

    ¦ Turns the program from insurance to welfare (which only the “deserving” have access to)

How are these programs being threatened?

As near as I can tell, these are the threats. Note to foxes – this is the hands-off list. Each of these seven items is a benefit cut:

Social Security

    1. Raising the retirement age

    2. Chained CPI instead of current COLA

    3. Means-testing benefits

Medicare

    4. Raising the eligibility age

    5. Increasing Part B premiums

    6. Increasing “cost-sharing”

Medicaid

    7. Shifting costs to the states by any means, such as “federal blended rate,” etc.

Dec 31 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Ezra Klein: The Republican Party in one tweet

This is pretty much the Republican Party in one tweet:

[..]

You can see why these negotiations aren’t going well.

Paul Krugman: Brewing Up Confusion

Howard Schultz, the C.E.O. of Starbucks, has a reputation as a good guy, a man who supports worthy causes. And he presumably thought he would add to that reputation when he posted an open letter urging his employees to promote fiscal bipartisanship by writing “Come together” on coffee cups. [..]

First of all, it’s true that we face a time-sensitive issue in the form of the fiscal cliff: unless a deal is reached, we will soon experience a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that might push the nation back into recession. But that prospect doesn’t reflect a failure to “fix the debt” by reducing the budget deficit – on the contrary, the danger is that we’ll cut the deficit too fast.

How could someone as well connected as Mr. Schultz get such a basic point wrong? By talking to the wrong people – in particular, the people at Fix the Debt, who’ve been doing their best to muddle the issue. For example, in a new fund-raising letter Maya MacGuineas, the organization’s public face, writes of the need to “make hard decisions when it comes to averting the ‘fiscal cliff’ and stabilizing our national debt” – even though the problem with the fiscal cliff is precisely that it stabilizes the debt too soon. Clearly, Ms. MacGuineas was trying to confuse readers on that point, and she apparently confused Mr. Schultz too.

New York Times Editorial: A Broken System for Tracking Guns

As President Obama looks to reduce gun violence after the Connecticut massacre through reforms like reinstating the assault weapons ban, he and supporters of sane gun laws in Congress need to be equally serious about strengthening the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the beleaguered agency charged with enforcing federal firearm regulations. [..]

On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, President Obama reiterated his commitment to lay out a package of gun reforms quickly and put his “full weight behind it.” In addition to a tough assault weapons ban, he should be pushing to bar sales of high-capacity ammunition clips and to close the loophole that allows felons and other buyers to evade background checks at gun shows. Empowering the A.T.F. is another step that clearly needs to be part of his agenda.

Robert Kuttner; New Year, New Low for Republicans

Four years ago Barack Obama prepared to take the oath of office as a Democratic president, at a moment when free market ideology and Republican incumbency were disgraced by events. But a year that should have marked the end of the laissez-faire fantasy and the resurgence of effective government instead began an era of muddle through. [..]

Obama wanted to be the president who would change the tone in Washington, meaning a more collaborative relationship with the Republicans. That was not to be. The Republicans would not allow it. Now, history invites Obama to change the tone in Washington by dispatching an extremist Republican Party to the far fringes of public discourse where it belongs.

Peter Dreier: New York Times’ Xmas Present to Corporate Lobby Group Fix-the Debt: A Puff Piece

The New York Times should be embarrassed. On December 24 it gave a Christmas present to the corporate-backed lobby group Fix the Debt with its front-page Business section puff piece about the organization, which is pushing to balance the federal budget by slashing social programs while cutting taxes for the rich.

The 1149-word piece, “One Woman’s War on Debt Gains Steam,” by reporter Annie Lowrey, is a fawning profile of the group’s public face, Maya MacGuineas. The article makes it appear that the Fix the Debt group was hatched last year at a dinner party at Senator Mark Warner’s house, when in fact it is simply the latest incarnation of Pete Peterson, the billionaire Wall Street financier who over many years has invested tens of millions of his money in his long-term crusade to reduce the federal debt on the backs of the poor and middle class, including the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which Peterson funded and where MacGuineas once worked. Peterson is also the largest funder of Fix the Debt, but he isn’t mentioned in Lowrey’s article. The launching of Fix the Debt was announced on the Peter Peterson Foundation website. Lowrey could easily have found dozens of articles on the web about Fix the Debt that reveal Peterson’s crusade and his role in the group, including an investigative article in New York magazine. Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik exposed Peterson’s long-term crusade to forge an elite consensus to slash social spending in pieces last October 2 and October 9. Bob Kuttner performed a similar service in an article for American Prospect.

Indeed, Times columnist Paul Krugman mentioned Peterson’s close ties to the organization in his column “Maya and the Vigilantes” two days before Lowrey’s article appeared.

Ralph Nader: Make Civic Engagement a Priority in the New Year

Many people view the New Year as a time for resolutions — losing weight, exercising more, staying in better touch with friends, taking up a new hobby. Here’s something you don’t often hear of when considering New Year’s resolutions — devoting more time to civic life. Our nation has millions of runners, gym goers, bird watchers, collectors, sports fans and musicians. But one area that is often overlooked when it comes to one’s free time and quality of life is the “democratic arts.”

A practitioner of the democratic arts can rally others informally or through civic groups to stand up against the power brokers who act against the interests of local communities or national interests; a practitioner of the democratic arts will dedicate time and ability to watching over institutions such as Congress, government agencies and multinational corporations; a practitioner of the democratic arts will not just grumble at injustices, but rather seek out and challenge injustices. In short, a practitioner of the democratic arts is an active citizen.

Politicians of all stripes can promise “hope and change,” but real change will only come when more Americans decide to try their hand at civic action. There is an old saying: “Eternal vigilance is the price for liberty.” An update may be — if you don’t have a say, you’ll pay, pay and pay.

Dec 31 2012

On This Day In History December 30

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Today history was made in in Parson’s Kansas where the last roll of Kodachrome was processed at Dwayne’s Photo Shop, the only Kodak certified processor of Kodachrome film in the world as of 2010. The final roll of 36-frame Kodachrome to be manufactured was tracked by National Geographic; it was shot by photographer Steve McCurry.

For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas By A. G. Sulzberger

PARSONS, Kan. – An unlikely pilgrimage is under way to Dwayne’s Photo, a small family business that has through luck and persistence become the last processor in the world of Kodachrome, the first successful color film and still the most beloved.

That celebrated 75-year run from mainstream to niche photography is scheduled to come to an end on Thursday when the last processing machine is shut down here to be sold for scrap.

One of the toughest decisions was how to deal with the dozens of requests from amateurs and professionals alike to provide the last roll to be processed.

In the end, it was determined that a roll belonging to Dwayne Steinle, the owner, would be last. It took three tries to find a camera that worked. And over the course of the week he fired off shots of his house, his family and downtown Parsons. The last frame is already planned for Thursday, a picture of all the employees standing in front of Dwayne’s wearing shirts with the epitaph: “The best slide and movie film in history is now officially retired. Kodachrome: 1935-2010.”

A Color-Saturated Sun Sets on Kodachrome

I have fond memories of my 35mm Yashika and Canon cameras.

Dec 31 2012

New Year’s Eve Sports

You can’t quite go all day watching the games, but here’s a list to get you started-

  • noon ESPN– College Throwball (Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: North Carolina State v. Vanderbilt)
  • noon ESPN2– College Hoopies (Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh)
  • 2 pm CBS– College Throwball (Hyundai Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech v. USC)
  • 2 pm ESPN2– College Hoopies (Michigan State @ Minnesota)
  • 3 pm ESPN– College Throwball (AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Iowa State v. Tulsa)
  • 4 pm ESPN2– College Hoopies (Indiana @ Iowa)
  • 6 pm ESPN2– College Hoopies (Gonzaga @ Oklahoma State)
  • 7:30 pm ESPN– College Throwball (Chick-fil-A Bowl: Clemson v. LSU)
  • 8 pm ESPN2– College Hoopies (Harvard @ St. Mary’s)
  • 2 am ESPN2– College Throwball (Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: North Carolina State v. Vanderbilt)
  • 3:30 am ESPN– College Throwball (Chick-fil-A Bowl: Clemson v. LSU)
  • 4 am ESPN2– College Throwball (AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Iowa State v. Tulsa)

Dec 31 2012

On This Day In History December 31

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. The last day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, it is widely known as New Year’s Eve.

On this day in 1759, Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and starts brewing Guinness.

Guiness is a popular Irish dry stout. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide.

A distinctive feature is the burnt flavour which is derived from the use of roasted unmalted barley (though this is a relatively modern development since it did not become a part of the grist until well into the 20th century). For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed product to give a sharp lactic flavour (which was a characteristic of the original Porter).

Although the palate of Guinness still features a characteristic “tang”, the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The thick creamy head is the result of the beer being mixed with nitrogen when being poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001[1], is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland where Guinness & Co. makes almost €2 billion annually.

The company had its headquarters in London from 1932 onwards. It merged with Grand Metropolitan plc in 1997 and then figured in the development of the multi-national alcohol conglomerate Diageo.

Arthur Guinness started brewing ales from 1759 at the St. James’s Gate Brewery, Dublin. On 31 December he signed (up to) a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum for the unused brewery. Ten years later on 19 May 1769 Guinness exported his ale for the first time, when six and a half barrels were shipped to England.

Guinness is sometimes believed to have invented stout,[citation needed] however the first known use of the word stout in relation to beer appears in a letter in the Egerton Manuscript dated 1677, almost 50 years before Arthur Guinness was born.

Arthur Guinness started selling the dark beer porter in 1778. The first Guinness beers to use the term were Single Stout and Double Stout in the 1840s.

The breweries pioneered several quality control efforts. The brewery hired the statistician William Sealy Gosset in 1899, who achieved lasting fame under the pseudonym “Student” for techniques developed for Guinness, particularly Student’s t-distribution and the even more commonly known Student’s t-test.

Guinness brewed their last porter in 1974.

Guinness has also been referred to as “the black stuff” and as a “Pint of Plain” – referred to in the famous refrain of Flann O’Brien’s poem “The Workman’s Friend”: “A pint of plain is your only man.”

Dec 31 2012

New Year’s Eve TV Day

The Hypnotoad.

"Television is a vast wasteland"
hypnotoad

You should know the drill by now.  Marathons are 4 half hours or 3 hours.  I attempt to capture specials and ignore the really painful drek, but if you simply must look my source is Zap2it.

Links bring you to show and movie Wikipedia entries.  Look back at the previous entry for ultra long marathons that may have started more than 6 hours ago.  I might attempt consolidated sports listings, it’s hard to say.  One thing I’ve noticed is it’s not the holidays as it used to be.  There was a time when you would have to pick and choose between 17 different sporting events and New Year’s Eve Specials because everybody did one.  Now networks seem to try and keep as close to their normal schedule as possible.  I call it lazy programming.

Some of the countdowns and retrospectives have moved to the network cable news channels so you should check those out.

This edition covers the 12 hours from 6 am to 6 pm.

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