Longwood Gardens. Photo by joanneleon. November, 2008
Never has a strong, responsible trade union movement been so needed. With austerity policies biting hard and with no evidence that they are working, people at work need the TUC to speak up for them now more than ever.
-- Frances O'Grady
|Jethro Tull - A Christmas Song
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News and Opinion
Fiscal Fat Cats Quotes of the Day
“Recognizing the importance of raising tax rates is a big, positive and important step,” said former White House economic adviser Lawrence H. Summers, who emphasized that he was not speaking for the Obama administration.
“The evaluation of any deal should depend on how much total revenue is raised, whether adequate demand is maintained to sustain the recovery and whether we are restoring confidence or just marking time until another debt-limit crisis,” Summers said. ...linkHouse Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has offered to take the debt ceiling off the table for one year, the Washington Post and CBS News reported Sunday, marking a breakthrough in the speaker's fiscal cliff negotiations with President Obama. [...] Previously, many Republicans have argued that the debt ceiling gives the GOP leverage to negotiate spending cuts with Obama and congressional Democrats.
The debt ceiling is currently capped at $16.4 trillion, the rate established during last year's showdown. The U.S. is expected to hit that limit by early February, posing the threat of government shutdown and another congressional battle.House Speaker John Boehner is offering $1 trillion in higher tax revenue over 10 years and an increase in the top tax rate on people making more than $1 million a year. He's also offering a large enough extension in the government's borrowing cap to fund the government for one year before the issue must be revisited – conditioned on Obama agreeing to the $1 trillion in cuts.
The offer, made Friday after a long impasse between Boehner, R-Ohio, and President Barack Obama, calls for about $450 billion in revenue from increasing the top rate on million-dollar-plus income from 35 percent to the Clinton-era rate of 39.6 percent.
The additional revenue would be collected through a rewrite of the tax code next year and by slowing the inflation adjustments made to tax brackets.
In return, Boehner is asking for $1 trillion in spending cuts from government benefit programs like Medicare. Those cuts would defer most of a painful set of across-the-board spending cuts set to slash many domestic programs and the Pentagon budget by 8-9 percent, starting in January. ...link(Reuters) - The first real movement in the "fiscal cliff" talks began on Sunday, with Republican House Speaker John Boehner edging slightly closer to President Barack Obama's key demands[...]
In a note to clients, West wrote that it signals, significantly, that Boehner ultimately believes a deal to avoid the cliff is still possible.
"The political burden is now shifted back to the president, who must be willing to take on his party in order to get a deal Boehner can ultimately pass. We do not think the president will overreach: Obama will work with Boehner to get to a deal." ...linkA Still, Small Voice
Last year in Africa I heard the story of a nine-year-old girl who took her own life rather than face the horrors in her village. Her voice has spoken to me ever since, informing the work of my days with the graphic immediacy of her experience. Now the children of Newtown speak to millions of us. For me the voice of Newtown will alway be the voice of that friend of a friend’s daughter. From now on she will always be a still, small voice in my life.
As mournful as they are, we need those voices. Without them we become soulless purveyors of numbers and facts, debating-team members with no stake in the outcome other than the desire to win an argument.
The nation has come together, as it always does, during a moment of tragedy. But every day thousands of tragedies go unseen. Would we be as divided as we are if those tragedies were as immediate and visible as the deaths in Newtown?
It’s true that there’s a special horror to extreme violence, which is made easier by the ready availability of automatic weapons. But even that level of violence is visited upon lower-income children with shocking regularity, along with the violence of hunger, poverty, and inadequate medical care. And the violence of abuse, sexual and otherwise, is inflicted on children at all income levels.
The Visible Government
How the U.S. Intelligence Community Came Out of the Shadows
Their book with that startling title, The Invisible Government, was published in 1964 and it was groundbreaking, shadow-removing, illuminating. It caused a fuss from its very first paragraph, which was then a shockeroo: “There are two governments in the United States today. One is visible. The other is invisible.”
I mean, what did Americans know at the time about an invisible government even the president didn't control that was lodged deep inside the government they had elected?
Wise and Ross continued: “The first is the government that citizens read about in their newspapers and children study about in their civics books. The second is the interlocking, hidden machinery that carries out the policies of the United States in the Cold War. This second, invisible government gathers intelligence, conducts espionage, and plans and executes secret operations all over the globe.”
Similarly, the combined Intelligence Community budget, which in deepest secrecy had supposedly soared to at least $44 billion in 2005 (all such figures have to be taken with a dumpster-ful of salt), has by now nearly doubled to an official $75 billion.
Let’s add in one more futuristic shocker for our time travelers. Someone would have to tell them that, in 1991, the Soviet Union, that great imperial power and nemesis of the invisible government, with its vast army, secret police, system of gulags, and monstrous nuclear arsenal, had disappeared largely nonviolently from the face of the Earth and no single power has since arisen to challenge the United States militarily. After all, that staggering U.S. intelligence budget, the explosion of new construction, the steep growth in personnel, and all the rest has happened in a world in which the U.S. is facing a couple of rickety regional powers (Iran and North Korea), a minority insurgency in Afghanistan, a rising economic power (China) with still modest military might, and probably a few thousand extreme Muslim fundamentalists and al-Qaeda wannabes scattered around the planet.
They would have to be told that, thanks to a single horrific event, a kind of terrorist luck-out we now refer to in shorthand as "9/11," and despite the diminution of global enemies, an already enormous IC has expanded nonstop in a country seized by a spasm of fear and paranoia.
US Stupidity in Syria: This Is No Fight Between Goodies and Baddies
Syria's descent into Holy War
Syria today resembles Iraq nine years ago in another disturbing respect. I have now been in Damascus for 10 days, and every day I am struck by the fact that the situation in areas of Syria I have visited is wholly different from the picture given to the world both by foreign leaders and by the foreign media. The last time I felt like this was in Baghdad in late 2003, when every Iraqi knew the US-led occupation was proving a disaster just as George W Bush, Tony Blair and much of the foreign media were painting a picture of progress towards stability and democracy under the wise tutelage of Washington and its carefully chosen Iraqi acolytes.
Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest
Dean Baker: The Biggest Myth in Obama-GOP Spending Showdown is the "Fiscal Cliff" Itself | Alternet bit.ly/WgUUMA— Rick Cooley (@rcooley123) December 17, 2012
President returns to Washington later tonight. Monday: 10:15-intel briefing; 12:30-lunch w/VP Biden. Fiscal cliff continues to top agenda— West Wing Reports (@WestWingReport) December 17, 2012
Senate begins debate today on $60.4 BHurricane Sandy relief bill while fiscal cliff negotiations continue appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?metho…— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) December 17, 2012
Jethro Tull- We Five Kings
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