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Photo by joanneleon. December, 2012

This is a classic case of what we used to call "ham-and-egg justice." The chicken and the sow are asked to contribute to breakfast. The hen lays an egg and keeps on moving. But the sow is forced to give up a leg. That isn't balanced and it isn't just.

-- Jesse Jackson

Danny Barker - Ham and Eggs
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Ham & Egg Justice Quotes of the Day


In the ongoing fiscal cliff chess match playing out on Capitol Hill, Democrats have a message for Republicans: checkmate.
Democrats look at the political landscape and see a win whether a deal gets cut now or after the country goes over the cliff. Worst-case scenario, they say, the House will approve legislation the Senate passed in July extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone but the rich, an idea that Republican House Speaker John Boehner has flatly rejected.
If Boehner refuses to pass the Senate bill before the end of the year, Democrats say their hand only gets stronger in the new year when the Senate will have 55 Democrats and at least five Republicans who have signaled they could vote to extend the middle-class tax cuts.
“We have the political high ground -- there is no question about it. The sooner they realize it, the better it will be for them,” Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said of the Republicans. “In 2010 it was the opposite. They had the political high ground and we had to do just about all cuts and no revenues. Now, the election was fought on revenues; we won it on revenues; the public is with us on revenues.” ...link
Face to face with time running short, President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner negotiated at the White House on Thursday night in what aides called "frank" talks aimed at breaking a stubborn deadlock and steering the nation away from an economy-threatening "fiscal cliff."

There was no sign of movement, as evidence mounted that the White House was moving away from politically difficult cuts like increasing the Medicare eligibility age. But some Republicans, especially in the Senate, advocated yielding to Obama on tax rates on the wealthy but continuing the battle on other fronts.
"He's got a full house and we're trying to draw an inside straight," Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said. When it was observed that making a straight would still be a losing hand, Isakson said: "Yeah, I know."
Still, any GOP plan B to surrender on upper income tax rate would leave unaddressed a bunch of other issues, especially $109 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic programs that would start to take effect in January. The alternative minimum tax needs to be addressed or else millions of middle- to upper-income taxpayers will face higher tax bills, while doctors face sharp cuts in their Medicare reimbursements.

But when it comes to the stuff that affects everyone, basically everything is a political loser. As the Pew poll shows, cutting spending on specific programs, reforming entitlements (something Republicans are pushing for) and cutting the military are all non-starters for a strong majority of Americans. ...link

Amid "Frank" Talks, Obama Uses Polls as Pry Bar

Although the budget negotiations involve more than tax policy, Obama has relentlessly focused on maintaining existing tax advantages for middle-class families and raising rates for “wealthy” families earning $250,000 or more a year. Because most Democrats say they oppose cuts to beneficiaries of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, Obama has been publicly vague about the “tough spending cuts” he has promised to reduce future deficits and stabilize U.S. debt.

It is no mystery why he is vague. For example, as part of a survey conducted for the AFL-CIO by Hart Research among union and non-union voters on Nov. 5-6, 73 percent said their intended message to the candidates was: “We should protect Medicare and Social Security benefits from cuts.” More than two-thirds said they opposed raising the Medicare eligibility age as part of a budget deal; 69 percent opposed making large cuts to Medicaid benefits in any pact; and an overwhelming 84 percent said they did not want Social Security benefits reduced by Congress and the president.

Not familiar with this source: people-press.org. Hope it's not astroturf.
As Fiscal Cliff Nears, Democrats Have Public Opinion on Their Side

When it comes to the reaching an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, 55% say Obama is making a serious effort to work with Republicans. But just 32% say Republican leaders are making a serious effort to work with Obama on a deficit deal.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 5-9 among 1,503 adults, finds that the current problems for the GOP run deep. Just 25% approve of the way Republican leaders in Congress are doing their jobs, while 40% approve of Democratic leaders’ job performance. And the GOP’s lead negotiator, House Speaker John Boehner, is viewed more unfavorably (40%) than favorably (28%).

The NYU Student Tweeting Every Reported US Drone Strike Has Revealed A Disturbing Trend

NYU student Josh Begley is tweeting every reported U.S. drone strike since 2002, and the feed highlights a disturbing tactic employed by the U.S. that is widely considered a war crime.

Known as the "double tap," the tactic involves bombing a target multiple times in relatively quick succession, meaning that the second strike often hits first responders.

Yes, We’re Still In the Middle of a Foreclosure Crisis

The Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight released some interesting data on the first-lien and second-lien portfolios of the five services sanctioned in the foreclosure fraud settlement. Calculated Risk reproduces the data here. Despite the heavy investment in a narrative of the foreclosure crisis being over and the housing recovery underway, these loan portfolios show substantial weakness at the big banks, particularly Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Even at Wells Fargo, the bank with the best data here, nearly 1 in 11 first-lien mortgages in their portfolio are in some stage of delinquency.

These just aren’t good numbers, and they suggest continuing softness in the sector. Worse, home seizures have begun to rise for the first time in two years.

Matt Taibbi: After Laundering $800 Million in Drug Money, How Did HSBC Execs Avoid Jail?

DemocracyNow.org - The banking giant HSBC has escaped indictment for laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels and groups linked to al-Qaeda. Despite evidence of wrongdoing, the U.S. Department of Justice has allowed the bank to avoid prosecution and pay a $1.9 billion fine. No top HSBC officials will face charges, either. We're joined by Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Matt Taibbi, author of "Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History." "You can do real time in jail in America for all kinds of ridiculous offenses," Taibbi says. "Here we have a bank that laundered $800 million dollars of drug money and they can't find a way to put anybody in jail for that? That sends an incredible message, not just to the financial sector, but to everybody. It's an obvious, clear double standard where one set of people gets to break the rules as much as they want and another set of people can't break any rules at all without going to jail."

US: Release Report that Addresses CIA Torture
Lawmakers Need Facts to Ensure Secret Detention, Other Abuses, Not Repeated

(Washington, DC) The United States Senate intelligence committee’s long-awaited review of the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret detention and interrogation program after September 11, 2001, should promptly be declassified and released. On December 13, 2012, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence adopted the report, which contains important information on the use and ineffectiveness of torture.

“The Senate report is of monumental importance given the many uninformed claims that torture was central to US intelligence successes,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Only by making the facts public and understanding past mistakes can policymakers ensure that such illegal and destructive national security policies never happen again.”


Although adopted, the intelligence committee report remains classified. Feinstein said the report will first be sent to the executive branch for review, and then a decision on declassification will be made at a later date. The US government has released little information about its secret CIA detention program or facilities. Feinstein said the report uncovers “startling details” about the program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight. Human rights organizations and the media have uncovered some information about the program from former detainees, other first-hand sources, foreign court cases, discovered documents, and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation, but much information about the program remains secret. Lawsuits brought by former detainees in US federal court have repeatedly been dismissed on the basis of the state secrets privilege, which has been used to prevent introduction of testimony on torture methods.

In a related development, the European Court of Human Rights unanimously ruled on December 13 that Macedonia was responsible for violations of European Convention on Human Rights prohibitions on unlawful detention, torture, and other ill-treatment, and unlawful transfer of Khaled El Masri, a German national turned over to the CIA in Macedonia in late 2003. The court found that the Macedonian police held him incommunicado at the border for three weeks where he was interrogated. He was then transferred into the custody of CIA agents at Skopje airport who severely beat him, and then to a US-run prison in Afghanistan where he was repeatedly interrogated, beaten, and threatened over four months before being released. The court noted that Macedonian authorities knew or should have known that El Masri faced a real risk of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in US custody. The judgment, which cannot be appealed, awarded el-Masri 60,000 Euros (US$78,000) in compensation.

Don't Trust 'Zero Dark Thirty'

"It's a movie," Boal reminded me. "It's not a documentary." He continued, "I'm not going to go scene by scene or line by line, because first of all I think I've got to have some authorial privilege ... My standard is not a journalistic standard of 'Is this a word-for-word quote?' I'm not asking to be held to that standard and I'm certainly not representing my film as that. The standard is more, 'Is this more or less in the ballpark?'" I pressed for detail and he replied, "It gets very dicey for me if I start confirming specific lines from specific people, so I'm not going to do that."

I am a journalist of the quotes-are-sacred sort, which means this is the point in the story where I should begin tearing into Boal and Bigelow. But I don't think the problem rests with them. They set out to create a feature film based on real events, and they have done so, making very clear that the film's heroine and other characters, while based on real people, are composites or complete inventions. I was hardly the only person who received the it's-a-movie-not-a-documentary line; the web is filled with instances of that quote from Boal and Bigelow. They are quite literally telling us to not believe every word we hear.

The fundamental problem is that our government has again gotten away with offering privileged access to carefully selected individuals and getting a flattering story in return. Embeds, officially begun during the invasion of Iraq, are deeply troubling because not every journalist or filmmaker can get these coveted invitations (Seymour Hersh and Matt Taibbi are probably not on the CIA press office's speed dial), and once you get one, you face the quandary of keeping a critical distance from sympathetic people whom you get to know and who are probably quite convincing. That's the reason the embed or special invitation exists; the government does its best to keep journalists, even friendly ones, away from disgruntled officials who have unflattering stories to tell.

The spin continues.
'Zero Dark Thirty' has bin Laden, Oscars in its sights

And Bigelow wasn't going to shy away from the subject matter, which began as a story of the military's failed search for bin Laden and was rewritten after he was killed May 2, 2011, by a U.S. special forces unit during a raid on his Pakistani compound (the film is titled after military jargon for the time of night — 12:30 a.m. — Navy SEALs raided bin Laden's house).

While Zero doesn't embrace a political party or specific military strategy, Bigelow says she wasn't interested in telling a story set anywhere but the real world.

"I felt a responsibility in recognizing the sea change history had dealt us," she says of the Sept. 11 attacks, a subject matter that has produced one film to eclipse $100 million, Michael Moore's 2004 polemic Fahrenheit 9/11, which earned $119 million.

She and Boal say the bin Laden story had to be told, regardless of its outcome or blowback from critics.

"It's tough and controversial and it happened," Boal says of the manhunt. "What we tried to do is capture the complexity of the debate without being a history lesson."

Andrew Sullivan has kind of an interesting discussion going on with and about Millennials.   I tend to hate stereotyping by generation, but it's some interesting reading as long as you don't don't totally buy into the generation "box" thing, imho, because it just serves to divide and there is a lot of useless, destructive generational division going on lately.  I was born during some kind of cusp and don't really belong to any generation, and was a little kid during the chaos years of JFK, MLK, RFK assassinations.  Since I'm in some non-generation I tend to be interested in the stereotypes. But right now I am interested in something else... watching for signs or more awakening, for a few reasons. One of the reasons is that it's critical to our future, imho, and another reason is that I think that there are a lot of people who, when they do finally open their eyes and mind, are not going to really understand what the f happened to this country though it's been right there in front of them all the while.
Letters From Millennial Gen X Voters

I just want to chime in on the (honestly fascinating) Millennial thread that you’ve been posting for the past few weeks.  As a member of Generation X, born in 1971, I find myself getting irritated when I see Millennials praising themselves for being so much more progressive and iconoclastic than the generation that preceded them. We members of Generation X were and are just as gay-friendly, pot-friendly, pro-equality, information-hungry and skeptical as these kids are; possibly more so.  We just had very limited political power due to our small numbers and the crushing weight of the generations above us.

There were so few of us that in the 1990s, advertisers barely targeted us, and our mainstream cultural tastes were considered "alternative" - a contradiction I still find pretty hilarious.  I protested the Gulf War in 1991, voted in favor of medical marijuana in California in 1996, and wrote Bill Clinton an angry letter (which I sent via postal mail) when he signed DOMA that same year.  (I have to give him credit for sending back a well-written response, also via postal mail. In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d kept it rather than crumpling it up and throwing it away in anger.)

The recent political shift that so many of us are celebrating is decidedly not a millennial thing.  It’s the product of a combination of factors, including the explosive increase in availability of information to everyone, the fact that both Generation X (approx. 41 million members) and Generation Y (approx. 71 million members) are now of voting age, and the fact that those kids had us, their cool older siblings, to help shape their points of view as they were growing up.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

The Evening Blues

Johnny Dunn - Ham and Eggs


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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