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Good Morning!

Longwood Gardens. Photo by joanneleon. January, 2010

“External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty.”

-- Charles Dickens

Bruce Springsteen - Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town - 2007
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News and Opinion

Fiscal Cliff Quotes of the Day

With the "fiscal cliff" looming and Washington lawmakers packing up for the holidays, President Obama late Friday appealed to lawmakers to go home, "cool off," and reflect on the need to "do the right thing" to avoid risking pushing America back into recession.
The comments came shortly before the president headed to Hawaii, where he plans to celebrate Christmas with his family before returning next week. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, with whom Mr. Obama spoke with this afternoon, has sent members of the House home until at least December 27, and the Senate is also leaving Washington until after the Christmas holiday.

Speaking late in the day, Mr. Obama said he was now pushing lawmakers to pass a bill that would extend the Bush-era tax rates for most Americans and extend unemployment insurance before the end of the year. Dealing with the rest of the "fiscal cliff," he suggested, would have to wait until after the deadline.


(CNN) - It was clear from House Speaker John Boehner's weekly address on Saturday that the fiscal cliff negotiations with President Barack Obama weren't going anywhere soon.
"Unfortunately, the president and Senate Democrats have vowed to reject and veto all of our proposals while failing to offer a responsible solution of their own," Boehner said in his recorded weekly address Saturday morning.
"The House has done its part to avert this entire fiscal cliff," he said. "On the 10th of May and again on Thursday, we passed legislation that would replace the 'sequester' with responsible spending cuts. We also passed a bill to stop all of the January 1 tax hikes." ...link
In this country, we take care of each other. And in this season of giving, it’s inspiring to see so many people all across America taking the time to help those most in need. --Front page of the White House web site with a title "Joy to All"
So, as we leave town for a few days to be with our families for the holidays, I hope it gives everybody some perspective.  Everybody can cool off; everybody can drink some eggnog, have some Christmas cookies, sing some Christmas carols, enjoy the company of loved ones.  And then I'd ask every member of Congress while they’re back home to think about that.  Think about the obligations we have to the people who sent us here.  Think about the hardship that so many Americans will endure if Congress does nothing at all.
So I hope that every member of Congress is thinking about that.  Nobody can get 100 percent of what they want.  And this is not simply a contest between parties in terms of who looks good and who doesn’t.  There are real-world consequences to what we do here.

Obama's statement

Rep. Pelosi News Briefing

Van Jones playing the role of the progressive champion and out in the media toning down the fiscal cliff panic.  Gingrich telling the Repubs to back out of any deal, the cliff is a fantasy. And of course, after the tax cuts expire they can wail about Dems raising taxes, which will not be true since tax cuts expired despite their sincere kabuki attempts to prevent that from happening and a rush vote on Obama tax cuts in the new year will be a tax cut vote for them, not a vote to increase taxes.  But this leaves unemployment and other things hanging if there is no vote next week.  Repeat of 2010 situation.  And now it's the holiday week, they've invested months and particularly the past few weeks confusing the heck out of the public, the public is sick to death of it all, and they are still talking about coming back for last minute, end of year votes. Congress hates to give up even a minute of their recess time though and leaders are loathe to require it.  And the president is body surfing in Hawaii, so there's that.  He says he will be back next week.
'Fiscal Cliff' Deniers Doubt World Will End If Talks Fail

"We cannot be in a situation where we get bullied or stampeded into putting in a deal that's even worse than what the fiscal cliff is about."

Jones later wrote on his blog that the "fiscal cliff" is actually a "fiscal bluff": "The so-called fiscal cliff is actually a fiscal bluff --- a made-up crisis to make us think our government is out of money and time. Congress continues to drag its feet over raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, despite the top 1% earning 23% of the nation's income, and insists on calling for cuts to vital programs instead of reining in massive subsidies ($100 billion in 2011 alone) to major corporations that already make billions in profits.

"America isn't broke --- it's being robbed. Gingrich and Jones started the conversation, but as the deadline creeps closer, others are finishing it."

To some, the "fiscal cliff" offers a clearer upside.

"Democratic and progressive leverage goes immensely up if we get past the beginning of the year," Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee told ABC News. "Once they have to proactively lower taxes on the rich, it makes it harder and harder to move that number up and makes it easier and easier to force votes or demand votes on policies that clearly benefit the middle class."

Green says liberals will get what they want immediately, if the Dec. 31 deadline passes without a deal.

Frpm the weekly address, the peace president.
Weekly Address

THE PRESIDENT:  And this year, that’s especially true for some of our military families.  You see, the war in Iraq is over.  The transition in Afghanistan is underway.  After a decade of war, our heroes are coming home.  And all across America, military families are reuniting.  

So this week let’s give thanks for our veterans and their families.  And let’s say a prayer for all our troops – especially those in Afghanistan – who are spending this holiday overseas, risking their lives to defend the freedoms we hold dear.
THE PRESIDENT:  Because that’s what this season is all about.  For my family and millions of Americans, it’s a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. To reflect on His life and learn from His example.  Every year, we commit to love one another.  To give of ourselves.  To be our brother’s keeper.  To be our sister’s keeper.  But those ideas are not just part of our faith.  They’re part of all faiths.  And they unite us as Americans.

THE FIRST LADY:  In this country, we take care of each other.  And in this season of giving, it’s inspiring to see so many people all across America taking the time to help those most in need.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s part of what makes us such a compassionate nation.  And this year, I know many of you are extending that kindness to the families who are still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Sandy and your prayers to the people of Newtown, Connecticut.

This is the reason why Democratic members of the House would vote to cut Social Security, imho.  I suspect that campaign funds from the party and other help raising money goes to the members who do what they are told to do by the party bosses and vice versa, and they believe that the campaign money is all that matters in the elections.  The second part of the article talks about Obama's campaign and how the money they sucked out of small donors was just cover for 1% money, and how they had a surge in campaign funds and spending in the final weeks which could not be reported until after the election and how there was no huge gap between the Romney and Obama campaign spending.  They each spent about a billion and a half.  The media reporting on this was all spin.
Revealed: Why the Pundits Are Wrong About Big Money and the 2012 Elections
One campaign funded largely by the super-rich lost to another funded by same, and money mattered big-time in House elections.

In 2012, across the House as a whole, they certainly were. As Figure 1 shows, a virtual straight line relationship existed between Democratic candidates’ shares of total political money and their showing against their Republican opponents.
The campaign also touted the number of small donations it was collecting, striving in 2012 to create the same impression that it had in 2008, that donors of modest means propelled it forward. [...]

In the final weeks of the campaign, it looked as though the Romney campaign would hugely outspend it. Based on data for Super Pacs through roughly October 27, we raised the question  whether the Romney campaign’s advantage in the final weeks might approach that of 2000, when George W. Bush’s campaign emulsified Al Gore in the battleground states.

A few days ago, however, the Federal Election Commission posted reports by both the Romney and Obama campaigns covering the final days of the campaign. Read in the light of reports by the Super Pacs, these lead to some surprising conclusions. Firstly, total spending by both campaigns, including the Super Pacs, was much closer than generally supposed, though the wide range of secondary committees that the campaigns utilized makes a single estimate treacherous and double counting an occupational hazard. One summary that (very reasonably) takes a wider view of total receipts than we do below suggests the Romney camp spent perhaps $1.51 billion,  while Obama’s campaign just a shade less -- $1.45 billion.  Secondly, in the last week of the campaign, contrary to what we feared at the time, 2012 was very far from repeating 2000 – though the Republicans spent more, spending by the Obama campaign also surged.

These numbers inevitably raise the question whether the Obama campaign’s 2012 claims to be fueled by small donations might be as  hollow  as its 2008 claims turned out to be.

Though the FEC has posted summary reports for the campaigns, it has inexplicably not updated the roster of individual donors to the President’s campaign, even though campaigns file these reports electronically.

US Military Needs to Leave Afghanistan and Stop Widening Drone Strikes

There is perhaps no time in American history when our leaders have fought a war with so little support. More than 60 percent of Americans want out of Afghanistan. Even at the peak of the anti-Vietnam-war movement, after a majority had turned against the war, there were still a large number of citizens who believed in the war and its official justifications. Today, as my colleague Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy notes, “Western leaders have largely given up trying to explain or justify why Western troops are still in Afghanistan and why they are still killing and being killed.”
The invasion of Iraq was disaster on an even larger scale, with more than a million estimated dead, including more than 4,400 U.S. troops. Hundreds of thousands came home wounded or with brain or psychological trauma and bleak job prospects. Beside the fact that the war was launched on the basis of lies, it is hard to see how anyone could excuse this crime even in retrospect. As the revolution in Egypt showed, people can get rid of their own dictators – foreign intervention is much more likely to create or vastly expand a bloody civil war.

Meanwhile, U.S. drone strikes carried out “secretly” by the C.I.A. are becoming institutionalized, widening the so-called “war on terror” to more countries, in addition to the hundreds of strikes already carried out in Pakistan. These attacks, which have killed hundreds of civilians and have even targeted rescue workers, are each day making more people want to kill Americans.

Four Feasible Ways Obama Can Work on Climate Change

The political death of climate-change policy could have come in 2009, when the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade emissions bill failed in the U.S. Senate. But it didn't.
In fact, President Barack Obama's first term has brought substantial progress on climate change. Two of the biggest successes were fuel-economy standards and emissions limits on new power plants. For passenger cars and light trucks, corporate average fuel economy will rise from 29 miles per gallon in this year to 35.5 mpg in 2016 and 54.5 mpg in 2025.  In 2014, fuel-economy standards will cover medium-duty and heavy trucks for the first time. For power plants, the Obama administration has established limits on emissions of mercury and particulate matter and is working on new caps for carbon dioxide.
As the president looks toward his second term, he has pledged that climate change will be one of his top three priorities. Given that a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program still seem to be remote possibilities, what else can be done? Here are four plausible policy options.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

The Evening Blues

Little drummer boy - David Bowie & Bing Crosby


Remember when progressive debate was about our values and not about a "progressive" candidate? Remember when progressive websites championed progressive values and didn't tell progressives to shut up about values so that "progressive" candidates can get elected?

Come to where the debate is not constrained by oaths of fealty to persons or parties.

Come to where the pie is served in a variety of flavors.

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum."  ~ Noam Chomsky

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