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Longwood Gardens holiday display. Photo by joanneleon.  December, 2012

In short, Members of Congress: if you can, just pass the President's bill on middle-class taxes, and, if you can, eliminate the domestic sequester. Then, please go home.  Enjoy the holidays. Come back in January prepared to extend unemployment insurance, to phase out the payroll tax holiday gradually, to restore stable funding to necessary programs and to start dealing with our real problems:  jobs, foreclosures, infrastructure and climate change.

-- James K. Galbraith





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Kabuki quotes of the day


“But it’s just a Kabuki dance,” Clinton said. “They’re sort of like two dogs that meet each other over a piece of meat. They’re sniffing each other out. They are moving toward a deal. That’s what’s going on.”
Time is running out. The two parties must come to an agreement by the end of the year to avoid tax increases and automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending. ...Link
"The reason deductions is a more attractive way to do this is because it doesn't hit small businesses nearly as hard as rate increases do," Thune said. "That is a concern to me, because ultimately what we need to be thinking about is economic growth. Do our policies inhibit or facilitate economic growth? And rate increases on small businesses are going to be counterproductive in terms of growing the economy and creating jobs." ...Link
Peterson's goal is and always has been Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  These are the things that his foundations calls "'undeniable, unsustainable, and untouchable' threats to America's fiscal future".  That is what this whole fiscal cliff deception is about and that is what it has always been about.  And look who is behind it.  It's not just Peterson.  It's Wall Street money.
For Pete's Sake, What's Happened to Our Democracy?
One billionaire has the wherewithal to totally redirect America's political discourse.

A year later, with a $1 billion outlay from that fortune, Peterson established the Peter G. Peterson Foundation to target "undeniable, unsustainable, and untouchable" threats to America's fiscal future.

Peterson's foundation almost immediately began dispensing millions from its imposing stash of cash, funding everything from a high school curriculum to a "fiscal wake-up tour." Other millions, a National Journal analysis points out, went to think tanks across the political spectrum.

Three years ago, Peterson dollars helped fund the high-profile panel known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission. This theoretically "bipartisan" maneuver pitched social spending cuts as an essential ingredient in any "responsible" approach to deficit reduction.
[...]
This campaign, in turn, eventually morphed into "Fix the Debt," a more tightly organized effort to resurrect the "core principles" Peterson holds near and dear. Among them: the need for "pro-growth tax reform" that "broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues, and reduces the deficit."

Translation: Let's shift tax burdens off the rich and onto average Americans.

Fix the Debt has overshadowed the various other Peterson-funded lobbying efforts, mainly because the new group's "fiscal leadership council" includes a who's who of America's corporate and banking superstars — everyone from Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein to Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer.

The fascade for all of this, basically the only thing that the propaganda is focused on, is the tax "increase" on the wealthy.  It is framed as an increase but the Bush tax cuts were always temporary cuts, not permanent, and I don't think anyone expects those rates to go back to the pre-Bush tax cut rates anyway.  Plus, at this point there is so much money parked in offshore tax havens and is anyone serious about preventing that?  Along with the large savings in taxes, during the past ten years, the wealth of the already obscenely wealthy has continued to skyrocket.  So they are well prepared for this "increase" in their tax rate and there is widespread talk about tax reform, most likely a flattening of the tax code, which makes it less progressive and shifts more of the burden on the middle and lower classes.  This is another wet dream of the 1% and one they have long tried to get and have never been able to achieve.  But it looks like the new Democrats and this president are ready to hand that over too eventually.  Democrats used to dedicate themselves to defending against these things.  And let's get serious.  If CEOs, particularly defense contractor CEOs and Wall Street CEOs are asking for a tax increase on themselves, it's not motivated by patriotism, though, astoundingly, this is how they are playing it.
Top Two Percent To GOP: Tax Us

On Tuesday, FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith, an adviser to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, said that the notion that tax hikes on the richest Americans would kill jobs was simply "mythology."

And on Monday, a gathering of the nation's top defense executives took a surprising turn when they endorsed tax rate increases on the wealthy and cuts of up to $150 billion to the Pentagon's budget. Top executives from Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, TASC and RTI International Metals appeared at the National Press Club at an event organized by the Aerospace Industries Association, the top defense contractor lobbyist.

David Langstaff, CEO of TASC, said that the executives were speaking out because so far leaders of the defense industry were "talking a good game, but are still unwilling to park short-term self-interest." After the event, he told a defense reporter for Politico that tax rates need to go up.
[...]
David Hess, head of Pratt & Whitney, said his parent company, United Technologies Corp, believed personal income tax rates should be on the table; Dawne Hickton, CEO of RTI, said he would back a rate hike if it led to a deal.

This is a good piece.  I'm not sure it is quite this simple but good points are made here.  We know that the filibuster was also used cynically by Democrats as well, with certain members being allowed to vote for things, knowing that the filibuster would prevent it from ever passing.   But still, it has been a very destructive and anti-democratic force and it should, finally, be changed.  Democrats have had the ability to change it since 2006, and of course at other times when they held the Senate.  Let's hope that this time they really do it.
17 bills that likely would have passed the Senate if it didn’t have the filibuster

DREAM Act
DISCLOSE Act
Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)
Public option
Paycheck Fairness Act

[more...]

Kabuki legend Kanzaburo dies at 57

Kanzaburo launched a new-style kabuki performance at the Theater Cocoon in Shibuya in 1994 to attract younger audiences. He founded the Heisei Nakamura-za company in 2000 and presented plays on makeshift stages at home and abroad, in places including New York, to recapture the enthusiasm seen at kabuki playhouses of bygone years.

Kanzaburo also put on a play titled "Noda-ban Togitatsu no Utare" written and directed by the renowned standard-bearer of the theatre Hideki Noda in 2001, which invigorated kabuki with an up-to-date feel.

Kanzaburo's cheerful, amiable character was loved by the public. He performed in the 1999 NHK period drama "Genroku Ryoran" in the lead role of Oishi Kuranosuke, leader of the 47 samurai avengers in the popular Chushingura tale, as well as various roles in films and comedies at theatres. He also often appeared in TV talk shows.

Japanese actor who took Kabuki to the world dies at 57

Kanzaburo Nakamura, 57, was born to a family of longstanding performers in the ancient kabuki theatre - known for elaborate make-up, extravagant costumes and all-male casts - and began performing at the age of three.


Has Obama decided on war in Syria?

1 - The same two propagandists from WINEP and ISW are quoted as the main sources of this article as in so many other propaganda pieces on this theme and subject.  These two fellows have no sources of information that they will admit to other than rebel "news" releases.  The level of enthusiasm for this information campaign is so high in the idiot media that these two "experts'" opinions are now quoted as evidence.

2 - Both the president of the United States and the Secretary of State have taken to making speeches threatening Syria with unspecified "consequences" if chemical weapons are employed in the civil war.  Syria states that it will not do so.

3- It seems that the United States will soon recognize a coalition of rebel groups as the government of Syria in spite of the presence in that coalition of AQ related groups who are self-declared enemies of the United States.

4- It is the policy of the United States to bring about complete governmental change in Syria.  There is no UN sanction for such a policy.

The election is over and a journalist in Brussels reports a "radical change of NATO's current course" and NATO has done a "political U-turn" and the drumbeat for war with Syria and Iran was the topic at their dinner.  This is shocking... ahhh, not.  MoonofAlabama does a translation of the article of which I excerpted a few paragraphs, but you should read the whole thing.  According to the article, there was strong opposition from some European countries, especially Germany, and strong skepticism and distrust about the chemical weapons reports being generated by U.S. intelligence.  Also, the Straits of Hormuz fearmongering being pushed by Rasmussen was considered to be premature.
German Paper: U.S. Pressing For NATO War On Syria

While U.S. "officials" continue to spread rumors of Syrian preparations of chemical weapons the reliable center-left German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reports (in German) on U.S. attempts to get NATO to fight a war against Syria.
[...]

During a diner for NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday evening NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen talked about the situation in Syria and about the conflict with Iran over the street of Hormuz in a way that one participant characterized as "beating the drums of war".
[...]
As was clear to everyone at the table what he meant: NATO should prepare for a military intervention in Syria. Politically this would be a radical change of NATO's current course which excluded any intervention in Syria. Rassmussen was supported by the foreign minister from Turkey and Great Britain as well as the American Hillary Clinton.
[...]
Even if there was no vote during the dinner at least two opposing camps were visible: One formed around the USA, Turkey, Great Britain and the NATO secretary general with France leaning into that direction. The other camp, which Germany belongs to, sternly rejected these ideas. One of the reasons is that they estimates the risk as high that one would help people to rule in Damascus who would turn out to be more dangerous than the current regime and who would then have their hands on chemical weapons.
How many of these AQ rebels are Petraeus' and Stevens' recruited jihadists from Libya?
Al Qaida-linked group Syria rebels once denied now key to anti-Assad victories

The prominence of Nusra in the rebel cause worries U.S. and other Western officials, who say its operations rely on the same people and tactics that fueled al Qaida in Iraq – an assertion that is borne out by interviews with Nusra members in Syria.

Among Nusra fighters are many Syrians who say they fought with al Qaida in Iraq, which waged a bloody and violent campaign against the U.S. presence in that country and is still blamed for suicide and car bombings that have killed hundreds of Iraqis since the U.S. troops left a year ago.
[...]
“Our financial support is greater than other groups, and our faith makes us more effective fighters,” said Mahmoud, explaining why the group had grown so quickly. He said the financial support came from individual donors, not directly from any government.

The mujahedeen groups also appear to have clearer structures than the military councils, whose leadership is sometimes less than obvious as newer defectors of higher rank demand control from less senior officers who’ve been fighting against Assad longer.
[...]Still, there are moments when Nusra’s ideology shines through.

“When we finish with Assad, we will fight the U.S.!” one Nusra fighter shouted in the northeastern Syrian city of Ras al Ayn when he was told an American journalist present. He laughed as he said it and then got into a van and drove off, leaving the journalist unable to ask whether it had been a joke.

Wesley Clark: Decision made to invade 7 countries after 911

Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia and Iran.

‘Forgotten in Iraq’

I serve on the board of the International Institute of New England, an organization that helps settle refugees in the Boston area. In early 2007, we heard that our organization would soon be aiding a flood of Iraqi refugees. Many would be men and women who had worked directly for the United States government while we were at war in their country. They were Iraqis who threw their lot in with the Americans, serving as translators and guides, administrative staff members and procurement experts. But as the conflict dragged on, radical militias began to target the Iraqi workers and their families.

Very few of these Iraqi allies were receiving any help from the United States. In Boston, a trickle of refugees arrived, but not the flood we had imagined — and most had no United States affiliation. In Washington a group of politicians, including Barack Obama, then a very eloquent presidential candidate, campaigned for “keeping faith” with the Iraqis who kept faith with us. I hoped, as did many Iraqi workers whose lives were in danger, that an Obama presidency would usher in an airlift rescue for America’s Iraqi employees. Britain and Denmark, among other allies, had already offered their own Iraqi workers a path to safety. President Bill Clinton demonstrated in 1996 that something like this could be done, when he ordered an airlift of 6,600 Iraqi Kurds to Guam for processing to be resettled in the United States.





Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


The Evening Blues

"Those old coots will clean out the Treasury before you get there" Alan Simpson, Gangnam style.






Kabuki Music - Kanjincho






Debate

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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