Weekday NEWS to Comfort the Disturbed and Disturb the Comfortable.
Happy New Year Middle Class:
The Fiscal Cliff Is Going To Rip You To Shreds
By Michael Snyder - TheEconomicCollapseBlog.com
The middle class has quite a gift welcoming them as the calendar flips over to 2013. Their payroll taxes are going to go up, their income taxes are going to go up, and approximately 28 million households are going to be hit with a huge, unexpected AMT tax bill on their 2012 earnings. So happy New Year middle class! You are about to be ripped to shreds. In addition to the tax increases that I just mentioned, approximately two million unemployed Americans will instantly lose their extended unemployment benefits when 2013 begins, and new Obamacare tax hikes which will cost American taxpayers about a trillion dollars over the next decade will start to go into effect. If Congress is not able to come to some sort of a deal, all middle class families in America will be sending thousands more dollars to Uncle Sam next year than they were previously. And considering the fact that the middle class is already steadily shrinkingand that the U.S. economy is already in an advanced state of decline, that is not good news. You would think that both major political parties would want to do something to keep the middle class from being hit with this kind of tax sledgehammer. Unfortunately, at this point it appears that our "leaders" in Washington D.C. are incapable of getting anything done. So get ready for much smaller paychecks and much larger tax bills. What is coming is not going to be pleasant.
2012 - Year of Living Dangerously In Review
BY JAMES QUINN - FinancialSense.com
On January 8 of this year I posted my annual prediction article for this year – 2012 – The Year of Living Dangerously. Now it's time to assess my complete and utter cluelessness when it comes to predicting things within a given time frame. Despite the fact that myself and everyone else acting like they know what lays ahead are proven wrong time and time again, we continue to make predictions about the future. It makes us feel like we have some control, when we don't. The world is too complex, too big, too corrupt, too lost in theories and delusions, and too dependent upon too many leaders with too few brains to be able to predict what will happen next. This is the time of year when all the "experts" will be making their 2013 predictions. I haven't seen too many of these experts going back and honestly assessing their 2012 predictions, which didn't happen.
Manchin Introduces 'CALM' Act to Ease Fiscal Cliff
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) - PressRelease - Manchin.Senate.gov
With hours to go before deadline, Manchin introduces last-ditch effort to prevent worst effects of the cliff
Washington, D.C. – With the country barreling toward the fiscal cliff and no deal in sight, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) offered legislation to alleviate the worst immediate effects of the cliff, while also providing a path forward to a long-term solution.
Senator Manchin introduced the "Cliff Alleviation at the Last Minute," or CALM Act, with less than 36 hours to go before the massive tax hikes and deep spending cuts from the cliff start to take effect.
At edge of ' fiscal cliff' with little option Last-minute deal elusive despite GOP concessions
By Stephen Dinan and Sean Lengell - The Washington Times
With hours to go, President Obama and Congress barreled toward the New Year's Day "fiscal cliff," trading last-minute offers and narrowing the range of options Sunday, but reaching no deal.
"There's still significant distance between the two sides," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, announced Sunday evening, though he said there was still time to reach agreement by Monday's midnight deadline. "We intend to continue negotiations."
"Major setback" in "fiscal cliff" talks, says Dem source
By LINDSEY BOERMA - CBSNews.com
A new demand from Republicans in negotiations to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" presents "a major setback" in lawmakers' attempt to reach a deal before Jan. 1, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will tell his Democratic caucus this afternoon, a Democratic source with knowledge of the negotiations told CBS News.
Though he is expected to qualify that he has not given up on talks with his House counterparts, Reid will brace his caucus for a new offer from Republicans, who in exchange for letting the tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans, are proposing a Social Security cut called "chained" consumer price index (CPI), which would measure inflation at a different rate, resulting in lower Social Security payments for recipients.
Budget Talks Stall Over Income, Estate Taxes
By James Rowley & Richard Rubin - Bloomberg.com
With little more than a day remaining to avert tax increases for almost every U.S. worker and to halt federal spending cuts, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell worked to bridge gaps over income tax rates, the estate tax and other issues.
"There's still significant differences between the two sides but negotiations continue," Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said on the Senate floor today. The Senate will resume its session tomorrow at 11 a.m. Washington time and "perhaps" have further announcements then, he said. "I certainly hope so."
Obama's 'Fiscal Cliff' Bottomline: Spare Only 'Middle Class' from Tax Hike and Extend Unemployment Benefits Again
By Terence P. Jeffrey - CNSNews.com
(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama said on Friday evening that if he cannot make a bipartisan deal with congressional leaders before the Monday "fiscal cliff" deadline, he has asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring legislation up for a vote in the Senate that would extend the Bush tax rates for "middle class" Americans only and extend unemployment benefits for 2 million Americans whose government payments would otherwise expire.
"So if we don't see an agreement between the two leaders in the Senate, I expect a bill to go on the floor—and I have asked Senator Reid to do this—put a bill on the floor that makes sure that taxes on middle class families don't go up, that unemployment insurance is still available for 2 million people, and that lays the groundwork then for additional deficit reduction and economic growth steps that we can take in the New Year," said Obama.
This Is How Much Your Taxes Will Rise
If We Fall Off the Fiscal Cliff Beware the looming payroll tax hike
By Matthew O'Brien - TheAtlantic.com
Until or unless Congress actually does something, 2013 will be the year of tax increases. Big tax increases.
The fiscal cliff is a bit of a misnomer, but when it comes to taxes, the metaphor is apt. If all of the tax cuts, credits, and deductions set to expire at year end do in fact expire, incomes will fall off a tax cliff. Median earners will have 4 percent less in take-home pay in 2013 than they otherwise would; households making a million dollars or more would have 11.4 percent less.
You can see what a fully armed and operational tax cliff would mean for different earners in the chart below from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
Obama Makes Last-Minute Fiscal Appeal as Time Grows Short
By Margaret Talev - Bloomberg.com
President Barack Obama made a last- minute appeal for compromise as three senators said the chances were greater than 50-50 for a deal to avert more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
In an interview broadcast today on NBC's "Meet the Press," Obama warned of "an adverse reaction in the markets" if Congress doesn't act.
The US 'cliff' - one small part of a huge debt crisis
By Liam Halligan | Telegraph - Yahoo.com
So here we are, at the turn of the year, with the global economy tottering on the edge of America's fiscal cliff.
What's kept springing to my mind over the holiday season is the final scene of The Italian Job the iconic 1969 original, not the tacky 2003 remake.
"Hang on a minute, lads," says heistmaster-in-chief, Charlie Croker, as he and his merry band of crooks balance precariously in a bus on the edge of an Alpine cliff. "I've got a great idea."
$1 Trillion Obamacare Tax Hike Hitting on Jan. 1 On January 1, regardless of the outcome
of fiscal cliff negotiations, Americans will be hit
with a $1 trillion Obamacare tax hike.
By Joh Kartch - ATR.org
Obamacare contains twenty new or higher taxes. Five of the taxes hit for the first time on January 1. In total, Americans face a net $1 trillion tax hike for the years 2013-2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The five major Obamacare taxes taking effect on January 1 are as follows:
The Obamacare Medical Device Tax: Medical device manufacturers employ 409,000 people in 12,000 plants across the country. Obamacare imposes a new 2.3 percent excise tax on gross sales – even if the company does not earn a profit in a given year. In addition to killing small business jobs and impacting research and development budgets, this will increase the cost of your health care – making everything from pacemakers to artificial hips more expensive.
Tim & Ben Are Fiscal Cliff Enablers
By Jonathan Trugman, New York Post
While most are chastising Congress for not coming to an agreement on the fiscal cliff as shirking its constitutional responsibilities, the real culprits in this macabre tableau go unmentioned.
Let's take a look at the "Great Enablers," Fed chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
You see when countries have piles of debt — and we have piles of it: $16.7 trillion and counting — interest rates should go sky-high.
Obama says failure to reach fiscal deal would hurt markets
By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON | Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:49am EST
(Reuters) - Financial markets would be affected adversely if U.S. lawmakers fail to agree on a "fiscal cliff" deal before Tuesday, President Barack Obamasaid in an interview broadcast on Sunday, while urging Congress to act quickly to extend tax cuts for middle-class Americans.
Lawmakers are seeking a last-minute deal that would set aside $600 billion in tax increases and across-the-board government spending cuts that are set to start within days. If Congress does not make that happen, the first bill brought up in the new year would be to reduce taxes for middle-income families, Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Empires of Illusion and the Credibility Trap
JESSE'S CAFÉ AMÉRICAIN
I came across a nice, compact interview with Chris Hedges which illuminates his thesis of the decline of the American Empire and the illusory thinking that accompanies it. Can the shock and meltdown of Karl Rove on election night be any better contemporary illustration of the power of selective thinking to delude a group of seemingly rational people to their own downfall?
The end of empires and the accompanying sea change of social organization are always remarkable for their extremes of human behaviour. The almost frenetic preoccupation and adherence to the Nazi ideology in the latter stages of the war, when it was obvious to any rational observer that they could not win, is remarkable.
Sci-Finance: The Great Cybernetic Experiment Mad scientists from MIT have taken over the markets to conduct the world's greatest experiment. What are the unintended consequences? Financial disaster is only part of it...
BY CRIS SHERIDAN - FinancialSense.com
As recently reported by the Wall Street Journal many of the world's most powerful central bankers — including our own distinguished Ben Bernanke — received their PhDs at MIT. ZeroHedge chose to frame this by saying:
"...a handful of people from MIT, deeply steeped in economic theory (not practice), the same people whose actions incidentally were responsible for the first great financial crisis, and who yield more power than any potentate in the history of the world - people who, as the ECB showed in the case of Berlusconi, can take down presidents and PMs with the flick of a switch, meet in private. No transcripts or butlers are allowed.
The middle class languishes as the super-rich thrive Washington's proposed budget solutions are ever more irrelevant to the problems at hand while being more protective of the 1%.
By Michael Hiltzik - LATimes.com
The good news for the U.S. economy as we enter 2013 is that the election's over. The bad news is that the election's over.
What's good about it is that both parties in Washington can shed their preoccupation with the campaign theatrics that dominated our long national voyage from pre-primary jockeying through election day.
Yet the most dispiriting thing about the campaign's end is that the economic challenges facing the majority of Americans remain unaddressed. As these words are being written, the end-of-year deficit debate in Washington remains largely unresolved.
CPI Unchained The sneaky plan to cut Social Security and raise taxes
by changing how inflation is calculated.
By Matthew Yglesias - Slate.com
On Wednesday I wrote about one of the most widely discussed and high-profile ideas for reducing federal spending on the elderly—raising the eligibility age for Medicare. It's a simple idea to understand and a pretty terrible one. The other idea that comes up constantly in negotiations and rumors of negotiations and hypothetical grand bargains, by contrast, languishes in obscurity. It involves indexing Social Security benefits to the Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) rather than the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) that's currently in use.* This change shows up in all kinds of think-tank plans and unofficial sketches, and it has at various times secured the endorsement of everyone from Dick Durbin to Eric Cantor.
US Whistleblowers on Being Targeted
by the Secret Security State
By: Kevin Gosztola
The Chaos Communication Congress (29C3), which organizers describe as "an annual four-day conference on technology, society and utopia," began on December 27. Yesterday, this blog featured Tor software developer and WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum's talk. Later in the day, three United States whistleblowers gave presentations, which should be considered required viewing.
Jesselyn Radack, who blew the whistle on ethics violations in the case of John Walker Lindh when she was an ethics adviser under Attorney General John Ashcroft, describes what led to her resignation and whistleblowing.
Obama Orders Pay Raise for Biden,
Members of Congress, Federal Workers
BY DANIEL HALPER - WeeklyStandard.com
President Barack Obama issued an executive order to end the pay freeze on federal employees, in effect giving some federal workers a raise. One federal worker now to receive a pay increase is Vice President Joe Biden.
According to disclosure forms, Biden made a cool $225,521 last year. After the pay increase, he'll now make $231,900 per year.
Gov strangling start-ups… Tech Freedom: Tech start-ups strain
against regulatory headaches
By Maxim Lott - FOXNews.com
Can't find a taxi on the street? Want to hail one using a smartphone? The technology exists -- if the government lets you use it.
Entrepreneurs are constantly pushing the boundaries of the web. But in some of the newest fields, they've hit an unexpected problem: government regulation. This month, after pressure from users of taxi-hailing app Uber, regulators in both DC and New York revised regulations to explicitly allow the innovative tech app on city streets. Now, multiple companies plan to compete for business. A company called "Hailo" raised $50 million and plans to compete with Uber in New York.
Senate Confirms Galante as Federal Housing Agency Chief
By Katherine Rizzo - Bloomberg.com
The U.S. Senate confirmed Carol Galante as head of the Federal Housing Administration, the agency she has spent more than a year running as acting FHA commissioner.
The vote to confirm her nomination as an assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development was 69-24. Sixty votes were needed under the terms of an agreement between majority Democrats and the minority Republicans who opposed her confirmation.
Obama Administration: We Can and Will Force Christians
to Act Against Their Faith
By Terence P. Jeffrey - CNSNews.com
(CNSNews.com) - In a legal argument formally presented in federal court in the case of Hobby Lobby v. Kathleen Sebelius, the Obama administration is claiming that the First Amendment—which expressly denies the government the authority to prohibit the "free exercise" of religion—nonetheless allows it to force Christians to directly violate their religious beliefs even on a matter that involves the life and death of innocent human beings.
Because federal judges—including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor—have refused to grant an injunction protecting the owners of Hobby Lobby from being forced to act against their Christian faith, those owners will be subject to federal fines of up to $1.3 million per day starting Tuesday for refusing to include abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plan.
Speed Limiters, Too? From gun control to car control and more.
By ERIC PETERS - Spectator.org
Most people — including people who favor what they call "gun control" — would probably not support the idea of fitting all cars with speed governors. But why? Isn't the principle exactly the same?
A car is a machine that's capable of being used for "illegal" purposes. It can be used to cause harm, even to kill. Why should anyone be allowed to own a car with more capability than theyneed?
Most people would rise back on their heels and defend their cars. But why not someone else's gun?
WashPost's Endorsement Of Kerry: Curious And Curiouser
By Ken Blackwell - CNSNews.com
The editorial staff of the Washington Post surely meant well. They wanted readers to think that Sen. John Kerry's vast experience in foreign policy over four decades equips him to serve as Secretary of State in the second Obama administration.
The editorial, titled "John Kerry: Well-suited to be Secretary of State," gets that part right. The natty Mr. Kerry certainly looks the part of a globe-trotting senior U.S. diplomat.
What 2013 and Sec. Kerry Hold for Keystone XL
By Daniel J. Graeber - OilPrice.com
When the Obama administration formally enters its second term in a few short weeks, U.S. lawmakers will have presumably averted sending the national economy into a tailspin and will be looking ahead to more pressing foreign policy issues like the pending Afghan drawdown and the so-called pivot to Asia. At the helm of that drive will be John Kerry, tasked last week with taking over for retiring Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Kerry has been a staunch ally of the green movement, saying climate issues are as important as many national security matters. At the top of the 2013 agenda will be the status of the Keystone XL pipeline, though by the time Kerry starts his new job, his voice might not matter.
Graham: Clinton must testify on Benghazi
before Kerry's nomination process
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must testify before Congress on the Benghazi issue before the Senate begins confirmation hearings on likely replacement Sen. John Kerry, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday.
Graham told "Fox News Sunday" that Kerry, D-Mass., agrees.
"He needs to know what (Clinton) says," said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Big Wind Meets an Ill Wind The answer to our electricity needs is not blowin' in the wind.
By PETER HANNAFORD - Spectator.org
Four years ago, Shell Wind Energy, a unit of the oil company, looked for a suitable site for a wind farm on the Northern California coast. Its scouts found a large acreage — cattle pastures — high on the hills about six miles from the town of Ferndale. They secured permission from the rancher-owners to use the land and announced the project. All hell broke loose.
The local weekly in the tight-knit town was flooded with concerned letters to the editor: One of two narrow roads into the hill area carried all the daily traffic of a large hinterland; the other was largely dirt. They would be clogged for months with construction trucks. Wind turbine blades will kill thousands of birds. The constant noise of the turning blades will keep local ranch families awake. The wind farm will spoil the view and forever alter the bucolic nature of the land.
Globalization on the ropes! Can globalization survive 2013?
By Robert J. Samuelson - WashingtonPost.com
One fateful question for 2013 is this: What happens to globalization? For decades, growing volumes of cross-border trade and money flows have fueled strong economic growth. But something remarkable is happening; trade and international money flows are slowing and, in some cases, declining. David Smick, the perceptive editor of the International Economy magazine, calls the retreat "deglobalization." What's unclear is whether this heralds prolonged economic stagnation and rising nationalism or, optimistically, makes the world economy more stable and politically acceptable.
Senate Approves Warrantless Electronic Spy Powers
BY DAVID KRAVETS - Wired.com
The Senate on Friday reauthorized for five years broad electronic eavesdropping powers that legalized and expanded the President George W. Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program.
The FISA Amendments Act, (.pdf) which was expiring Monday at midnight, allows the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans' phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed outside the United States. The communications may be intercepted "to acquire foreign intelligence information."
OBAMA ON GUN CONTROL: 'THERE WILL BE RESISTANCE'
by WYNTON HALL - Breitbart.com
In his first appearance on the Sunday shows in over three years, President Barack Obama called the Newtown shooting the worst day of his presidency and vowed he would throw his "full weight" behind gun control measures and warned "there will be resistance."
On NBC's "Meet The Press," Mr. Obama told David Gregory:
"It is not enough for us to say, 'This is too hard so we're not going to try.' So what I intend to do is I will call all the stakeholders together. I will meet with Republicans. I will meet with Democrats. I will talk to anybody.
Hillary Clinton 'in hospital' with blood clot US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been admitted to hospital in New York with a blood clot, officials say.
Mrs Clinton suffered a concussion earlier this month after fainting and falling down.
At the time, she was reported to have had a stomach virus and to have passed out after becoming dehydrated.
The worst year in Washington: The tea party
By Chris Cillizza - WashingtonPost.com
The Gadsden flag, which flew proudly over the 2010 midterm elections, now lies in tatters — rent by internal disagreements, losses among its most visible standard-bearers and a growing sense that the tea party movement, which once looked like it could transform American politics, will soon be nothing more than a blip in the country's collective memory.
The movement's journey from boom to bust is the story of American politics writ large. The tea party's ups and downs (in 2012, mostly downs) highlight some of the key forces shaping today's battles — from the fissures that threaten to destroy the Republican Party to the perils of a leaderless or multi-leader effort to the difference between proving a point and winning.
U.S. Taxpayers Will Continue to Pay
More Than One-Fifth of U.N. Budget
By Patrick Goodenough - CNSNews.com
(CNSNews.com) – In one of its last actions of the year, the United Nations General Assembly on Christmas Eve agreed to extend for another three years the formula that has U.S. taxpayers contributing more than one-fifth of the world body's regular budget.
No member-state called for a recorded vote, and the resolution confirming the contributions that each country will make for the 2013-2015 period was summarily adopted. The assembly also approved a two-year U.N. budget of $5.4 billion.
Chinese Oil Companies Apparent Victors in Post-Saddam Iraq
By John Daly - OilPrice.com
It was not supposed to be like this.
After 2003's U.S.-led Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq's vast oil reserves, a monopoly under the Baathist government of deposed President Saddam Hussein, were opened to foreign investment.
That optimistic assessment proved somewhat naïve however, as the country quickly descended into a prolonged power struggle between Sunni Arabs, who had dominated the Saddam administration, Shia Iraqis, the majority in the country, and northern Iraq's Kurdish population, which had suffered years of repression.
Approaching comet may outshine the moon
By Irene Klotz
Dec 28 (Reuters) - A comet blazing toward Earth could outshine the full moon when it passes by at the end of next year - if it survives its close encounter with the sun.
The recently discovered object, known as comet ISON, is due to fly within 1.2 million miles (1.9 million km) from the center of the sun on Nov. 28, 2013 said astronomer Donald Yeomans, head of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif
NextWorld: Future Intelligence
Soon, we will be able to build computers with artificial intelligence and processing power that rivals the human brain. Intelligence will be everywhere, embedded in our clothing, our vehicles and homes. Intelligent robots will serve us - until they don't feel like doing so anymore. And what happens then…?
North Korea EMP attack could destroy U.S. — now Obama must take immediate action
By Peter Vincent Pry - WashingtonTimes.com
North Korea now has an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to the United States, as demonstrated by their successful launch and orbiting of a satellite on Dec. 12. Certain poorly informed pundits among the chattering classes reassure us that North Korea is still years away from being able to miniaturize warheads for missile delivery, and from developing sufficiently accurate missiles to pose a serious nuclear threat to the United States. Philip Yun, director of San Francisco's Ploughshares Fund, a nuclear disarmament group, reportedly said, "The real threat from the launch was an overreaction that would lead to more defense spending on unnecessary systems. The sky is not falling. We shouldn't be panicked."
In fact, North Korea is a mortal nuclear threat to the United States— right now.
UN Envoy Warns of Syria 'Hell' as Beheaded Bodies Found
By Henry Meyer & Scott Rose - Bloomberg.com
UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned yesterday that the war in Syria is spiraling into "hell" and giving rise to warlords.
The Syrian army killed 143 people across the country yesterday, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mailed statement. Fifty unidentified beheaded corpses with signs of torture were recovered behind Tishreen Military Hospital in Damascus, the group said.
Obama deploys troops to Africa to defend U.S. Embassy
By Dave Boyer - The Washington Times
With rebels advancing on the capital city of the Central African Republic, the U.S. has deployed about 50 combat troops to neighboring Chad to support the evacuation of U.S. Embassy personnel and American private citizens, President Obama notified Congress in a letter Saturday.
Mr. Obama said he took the action "due to the deteriorating security situation in the Central African Republic and the potential threat to U.S. citizens." The evacuation of Americans from Bangui, Central African Republic, began on Thursday.