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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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News and Opinion




Kabuki Quotes of the Day


“They clearly are on the table,” Hoyer said of the Medicare changes during his weekly press briefing in the Capitol. “They were on the table in the Boehner-Obama talks. They've been on the table for some period of time. That does not mean that I'd be prepared to adopt them now, but they're clearly, I think, on the table.”
[...]
“We have many Republicans say 'absolutely not' ... on [higher] rates or revenues,” he said. “There are Democrats on our side who say 'absolutely not' if they do A or they do B or they do C. … You've got to put everything on the table.” ...Link
Indeed, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) last week urged that Social Security adopt the chained CPI formula.

“Those are the kinds of things that would get Republicans interested in new revenue,” McConnell told The Wall Street Journal. ...Link

Simpson said, ultimately, he was not confident a deal would be struck before the end of the year.

"I think the word ‘selfish’ will become the essence and they won't get it done," Simpson said. "And the horrible part is they'll think it will be an advantage to them, or the president will even think it'll be an advantage to him, and it will be chaos." ...Link

I guess we can see where this is going.  Goldman Sachs Turnpike? Blackwater Bridge?  JP Morgan Airport? Who knows what it will cost to get from point A to point B in the future?
The Infrastructure Cliff: Why the U.S. Desperately Needs a $2.5 Trillion Upgrade

Doomsayers' warnings that China will overtake the United States in economic strength because of its snazzier airports and trains are surely overblown. But we shouldn't minimize the task that our elderly infrastructure presents. Highways and bridges will need $2.5 trillion in upgrades if they are to survive for another 50 years -- a must-do to keep commerce thriving. And that figure doesn't even take into account the airports, railroads, subways, sewage-treatment plants, waterworks, levees, electric grids, pipelines, and all of those other expensive systems that people ignore until they break down.

So, who's gonna pay? Don't count on Washington, where cut, cut, cut is the order of the day. The 41,000-mile interstate highway system, which bound the nation into a single market with an investment of $130 billion, will cost twice that much in upkeep over the next five years. After two years of wrangling, Congress cobbled together only half a highway bill, authorizing just $104 billion -- less per year than a longer version and insufficient to cover modern improvements. The era of the massive federal public works project is over.
[...]
Let's not forget another source of funds: user fees, more palatable than direct taxes. The Capitol Beltway in Northern Virginia recently introduced toll lanes -- privately funded, mostly -- that, for a guaranteed 45 mph speed, electronically charge drivers a levy that varies with traffic volume. If governments are strapped, who's the last patsy standing? You are.

Laughing all the way to the bank.  And home from it.
FDIC-Insured Institutions Earned $37.6 Billion in the Third Quarter of 2012

Commercial banks and savings institutions insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported aggregate net income of $37.6 billion in the third quarter of 2012, a $2.3 billion (6.6 percent) improvement from the $35.2 billion in profits the industry reported in the third quarter of 2011. This is the 13th consecutive quarter that earnings have registered a year-over-year increase. Increased noninterest income and lower provisions for loan losses accounted for most of the year-over-year improvement in earnings. Also noteworthy was a decline in the number of banks on the FDIC's "Problem List" from 732 to 694. This marked the sixth consecutive quarter that the number of "problem" banks has fallen, and the first time in three years that there have been fewer than 700 banks on the list. Total assets of "problem" institutions declined from $282 billion to $262 billion.

"This was another quarter of gradual but steady recovery for FDIC-insured institutions," said FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg. "Signs of further progress were evident in a number of indicators, such as loan growth, asset quality and profitability."
 

Simpson and his Fix the Debt 1% cronies are targeting the millennial generation, trying to convince them that he is their champion.  (Just because he so loves the youth, of course, and wants to help them secure their future, not because he wants to enlist their help to screw them over along with the rest of the 99%!)  Yesterday he said that he had made a "perfect ass of himself" and this is true and it's not the first time he's done so.  But still, he remains a central figure in the phony debt crisis conspiracy, and as President Obama's appointed co-chair of the Simpson-Bowles catfood commission, is granted the privilege of high profile media appearances and a standing invitation to places like the White House and the Capitol.  Most of the very important and serious decision makers consider the plan offered by the co-chairs of the failed commission to be key in finding solutions to their manufactured crisis. And his co-conspirator, Erskine Bowles, is being considered for the Sec. of Treasury position, which would make him one of the most powerful people in the world.  Yes, this is the state of the union and these are the types of people in power today, or the kinds of people considered to be the vaunted advisors of some of the most powerful people in the world who are making decisions that will affect millions, even billions of lives.

Blackwater becomes new landlord in Afghanistan for US Special Forces

The private military company Academi — formerly Blackwater and, more recently, Xe — is the proud winner of a no-bid contract that will keep them profiting off Uncle Sam’s wars for the next few years. Under a deal first reported by Wired.com’s Danger Room, Academi will assist the recently created US Special Operations Joint Task Force–Afghanistan with housing facilities and office space on their massive 10-acre compound in Kabul named Camp Integrity.

According to Danger Room reporter Spencer Ackerman, Academi won the rights to lease Camp Integrity to the special ops team through May 2015, providing accommodations for some 7,000 elite troops.

U.S.-Approved Arms for Libya Rebels Fell Into Jihadis’ Hands

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.
[...]
But in the months before, the Obama administration clearly was worried about the consequences of its hidden hand in helping arm Libyan militants, concerns that have not previously been reported. The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.

The experience in Libya has taken on new urgency as the administration considers whether to play a direct role in arming rebels in Syria, where weapons are flowing in from Qatar and other countries.
[...]
Mr. Turi said he believed that United States officials had shut down his proposed arms pipeline because he was getting in the way of the Obama administration’s dealings with Qatar. The Qataris, he complained, imposed no controls on who got the weapons. “They just handed them out like candy,” he said.

I think this decision had already been made, was made long ago, and it was only a matter of timing, though I am surprised that this is happening in the midst of a supposed fiscal crisis and so soon after the election.  There is some dispute about the carrier group off the coast of Syria, though you'd think that would be something that would be pretty difficult to hide.
Syria's WMD: Real Threat or 'Pretext for Intervention'?
US armada gathers off coast of Syria

The US and Europe are whipping up fear of chemical weapons as a pretext to intervene in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad's government said on Thursday, after NBC News reported that US officials told their reporters that Syria had just "locked and loaded" sarin gas into aerial bombs.
[...]
Meanwhile, the rightwing Israeli intelligence service DEBKA is reporting that the US has moved a major armada just off the Syrian coast. The USS Eisenhower Strike Group has just joined forces with the the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group with a combined force of 10,000 US troops, 70 fighter-bombers and at least 17 warships, including three Iwo Jima amphibious craft, a guided missile cruiser and 10 destroyers and frigates. Four of these vessels are armed with Aegis missile interceptors.


Sad news.  David Dayen is leaving FDL and stepping back from blogging for some period of time, taking time to consider what he'd like to do going forward.  This a huge loss, as he has been one of the best writers on the left for years now, particularly on certain neglected topics like foreclosure fraud.  We wish dday all the best and look forward to his return in whatever form that takes.  He has said that he will still be around, so that's good news.  I say this is sad news, but in the end, it is more likely to be a positive thing for him and his readers, but in the short term, his exceptional work will be greatly missed.  I'll excerpt a little bit here, but he goes into more detail, which should be read in full.
A Programming Note

I want to share some news. I am going to be ending my association with FDL News Desk. My last day will be December 21, two weeks from tomorrow.
[...]
I was fortunate to come up in a different time, with a vital and important liberal blogosphere that served as a true alternative community for the politically engaged. I don’t know if that community exists anymore. I truly don’t know because I don’t have the time to check it out. Maintaining and delivering this blog every day is a massive undertaking, and I think I’ve lost the plot a bit between tending the site’s numerous gardens rather than actually doing something I feel is worthwhile.
[...]
It’s not that I feel burned out or overwhelmed, it’s that I believe that the playing field for blogging, particularly the dinosaur of broad-based general news cycle blogging, has truly changed, and I must change with it. I have never been someone contented by standing still.

Japan's post-quake tsunami warning lifted
The 7.3 quake hit the same region ravaged by last year's major quake. Little damage is reported, but coastal areas are evacuated. After two hours, the tsunami warning ends.

TOKYO— A strong earthquake Friday struck the same Japanese coast devastated by last year's massive quake and tsunami, generating small waves but no immediate reports of heavy damage. Several people along the northeastern coast were reportedly injured and buildings in Tokyo and elsewhere swayed for several minutes.

The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 and struck in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Miyagi prefecture at 5:18 p.m. (0818 GMT), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The epicenter was 6.2 miles beneath the seabed and 150





Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


The Evening Blues

Sen. Coburn, R : ' $50-60 billion could be cut each year from the DoD budget'

Butterflies Passing Through: Photo Diary

Bridging The Fiscal Cliff: A Wall Street Sales Tax

BREAKING UPDATE: How the Defense Department Inspectors Failed Bradley Manning






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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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