Puppet Masters

Dollar Gold

Most will face a rare tax increase with or without 'fiscal cliff' resolution

Americans are all but certain to face a broad hike in taxes on Tuesday for the first time in at least two decades, ending a prolonged period of declining taxation that has become a defining characteristic of the American economy.

Regardless of whether President Obama and Congress reach an agreement to avoid the "fiscal cliff," many Americans will see a higher tax bill because of the expiration of the payroll tax cut, which was enacted in 2011 as a temporary measure to boost economic growth. The tax holiday was preceded by a similar temporary cut in 2009 and 2010.

Lawmakers on Monday morning were locked in negotiations trying to close a deal that would, in part, prevent a separate tax - the income tax - from rising for all but the wealthiest taxpayers.

Unlike income taxes, which rise along with a worker's income, the payroll tax is a fixed percentage of an employee's salary. Allowing the tax cut to expire will increase taxes on salaries by 2 percent for every American worker. Up to $110,100 a year in salary is subject to the tax.

This jump in payroll taxes, combined with other tax increases affecting the very wealthy likely to take effect in the new year, would make for the largest increase in taxes in about half a century.

Hypnotized populace: Americans don't care about the war in Afghanistan anymore

Look closely at the end-of-the-year lists of 2012's top news stories. What's missing? The 11-year-old war in Afghanistan and American-led counterterrorism efforts around the world.

The Pew Research Center's weekly polling on the public's interest in news stories showed such a low level of interest that the overseas conflicts didn't make the organization's list of the year's top 15 stories.

Nor did the Afghan war come up often when The Associated Press conducted its annual poll of editors and news directors in the United States. The only overseas stories voted to be the year's top news stories involved Libya and Syria.

Yahoo's list of the top news stories of the year also omitted the war, and so did a separate list of the top international news stories. Those lists were created by analyzing millions of searches by Yahoo users.

The absence of words like "Afghanistan" from year-end lists reflects both the national news media's scant coverage of the war and the public's disengagement with it.

"We are in a period where the American public is intensely focused on domestic economic concerns," said Michael Dimock, the associate director for research at the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. "On top of this, the public is having a hard time staying focused on foreign engagements that have been ongoing for over a decade."

Comment: Or to put it another way, "The government and the media have done a hell of a job distracting an easily distractable populace from a war that is illegal and killing innocent civilians almost daily. Unless an American died yesterday, the public doesn't bother to care about such things."

Eye 1

Obama authorizes five more years of warrantless wiretapping

© Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Federal detectives won't need a warrant to eavesdrop on the emails and phone calls of Americans for another five years. President Obama reauthorized an intelligence gathering bill on Sunday that puts national security over constitutional rights.

President Barack Obama inked his name over the weekend to an extension of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a George W. Bush-era legislation that has allowed the government expansive spy powers that has been considered by some to be dragnet surveillance.
Star of David

"Nonexistent" Jewish lobby declares war on Chuck Hagel

© Jim Young/Reuters
Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel, who were Senate colleagues at the time, at the Amman Citadel in Jordan in July 2008.
With Chuck Hagel, a former senator from Nebraska, emerging as a front-runner to be President Obama's next secretary of defense, critics are taking aim at his record on Israel as well as remarks he made about pro-Israel lobbying groups in Washington.

Mr. Hagel, a Republican, has been skeptical about the efficacy of American sanctions against Iran, has opposed efforts to isolate militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and has spoken candidly about the influence of what he once referred to as the "Jewish lobby" on Capitol Hill.

Those comments, in particular, have drawn the ire of Jewish leaders, who say they raise questions about Mr. Hagel's commitment to Israel and have propagated unsavory stereotypes about Israel's influence over American foreign policy.

"He has a checkered past on Israel," said Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy organization. "At the least, it's disturbing; at worst, it's troubling."

Several of the groups are reaching out to members of Congress, circulating a list of Mr. Hagel's positions on issues related to Israel, Iran and the Palestinians. The goal, officials on Capitol Hill said, appears to be to pressure the White House to think twice about naming him.

Comment: The Jewish lobby is pressuring other politicians in Congress to force Sen. Hagel to fall in line with Zionist interests regarding American defense policy and actions. If he does not follow the war party agenda, he will never be confirmed.
Chuck Hagel: Why his candidacy for Defense post is losing altitude


Angelo Mozilo, former Countrywide CEO, claims he doesn't know what 'verified income' is

Angelo Mozilo
© Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Angelo Mozilo
Another day, another corporate titan suffering from devastating amnesia. This time, the memory-loss patient is none other than Angelo Mozilo, the former CEO of Countrywide Financial.

Deposed in the landmark lawsuit between the monoline insurer MBIA and Countrywide/Bank of America, Mozilo professed not to know the difference between "verified" income and "stated" income. He also made some incredible remarks regarding his notorious "Friends of Angelo" lending program, in which, among others, political figures like North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd received Countrywide mortgages on highly advantageous terms just because they were tight with the CEO.

As chief of Countrywide, Mozilo headed the single most corrupt subprime mortgage lender in America during the period preceding the crisis. Charged with mass fraud and headed for trial in October of 2010, Mozilo and the SEC ultimately settled four days before opening arguments were set to begin in Los Angeles. Ultimately, Mozilo got away with no jail time, paying a $67.5 million settlement, $20 million of which was covered by Countrywide, which by then had been acquired by Bank of America, a major bailout recipient. Just in the years between 2000 and 2008, Mozilo made over half a billion dollars - $521.5 million, according to one corporate research firm.

Silencers 'to protect kids hearing': The NRA's latest big lie

© Unknown
Silencers could give the next Adam Lanza even more time to kill -- but to the NRA, they protect kids' hearing

A gruesome holiday season exercise: Think of some firearms and accessories that might have added to the body counts of Aurora and Newtown. More starkly, imagine the means by which coming Auroras and Newtowns will be made more deadly.

The exercise starts with a militarized baseline, as both shooters unloaded designed-for-damage rounds from high-capacity magazines loaded into assault rifles. Improving their killing efficiency would require one of two things: the ability to shoot more bullets faster, or more time. A fully automatic machine gun would provide the first. More minutes to hunt, meanwhile, might be gained by employing a noise suppressor, those metallic tubes better known as silencers. By muffling the noise generated with every shot by sonic booms and gas release, a silencer would provide a new degree of intimacy for public mass murder, delaying by crucial seconds or minutes the moment when someone calls the police after overhearing strange bangs coming from Theater 4 or Classroom D. The same qualities that make silencers the accessory of choice for targeted assassination offer advantages to the armed psychopath set on indiscriminate mass murder.

It should surprise no one that the NRA has recently thrown its weight behind an industry campaign to deregulate and promote the use of silencers. Under the trade banner of the American Silencer Association, manufacturers have come together with the support of the NRA to rebrand the silencer as a safety device belonging in every all-American gun closet. To nurture this potentially large and untapped market, the ASA last April sponsored the first annual all-silencer gun shoot and trade show in Dallas. America's silencer makers are each doing their part. SWR Suppressors is asking survivalists to send a picture of their "bugout bag" for a chance to win an assault rifle silencer. The firm Silencero - "We Dig Suppressors and What They Do" - has put together a helpful "Silencers Are Legal" website and produced a series of would-be viral videos featuring this asshole.
Alarm Clock

16 things about 2013 that are really going to stink in the U.S.

new year fireworks
The beginning of the year has traditionally been a time of optimism when we all look forward to the exciting things that are going to happen over the next 12 months. Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of things about 2013 that we already know are going to stink. Taxes are going to go up, good paying jobs will continue to leave the country, small businesses will continue to be destroyed, the number of Americans living in poverty will continue to soar, our infrastructure will continue to decay, global food supplies will likely continue to dwindle and the U.S. national debt will continue to explode. Our politicians continue to pursue the same policies that got us into this mess, and yet they continue to expect things to magically turn around. But that is not the way that things work in the real world. Bad decisions lead to bad outcomes. Instead of realizing that what we are doing is not working, our "leaders" continue to give us more of the same. As a result, there are going to be a lot of things about 2013 that will not be great. Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that everything will be "okay" somehow is not going to help anyone. We've got to make people understand exactly what is happening and why it is happening if we ever hope to see real changes.

The following are 16 things about 2013 that are really going to stink...
Stock Down

Happy New Year middle class: The 'fiscal cliff' is going to rip you to shreds

Fiscal cliff protest
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 shrinking and 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.

So what happened?

British Olympian Mo Farah repeatedly detained as 'suspected terrorist' at US airports because he is of Somali origin

Mo Farah, right, who won the 10,000 meters race at the London Olympics this year, while Rupp Galen, left, came in second for the US.
The 29-year-old runner, who was awarded a CBE in the New Year's Honours list, has said he was detained by authorities while entering the US

Double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah has revealed that he was detained by US border guards on suspicion of being a terrorist, despite showing them his two gold medals.

The 29-year-old runner, who was awarded a CBE in the New Year's Honours list, has said he was detained by authorities while entering the country this Christmas.

Farah moved to America last year, but despite his international fame he says he frequently gets stopped at customs because of his Somali origin.

He told the Sun on Sunday: "I couldn't believe it. Because of my Somali origin I get detained every time I come through US customs. This time I even got my medals out to show who I am, but they wouldn't have it."

Syrian troops arrest 4 Turkish fighter pilots in Aleppo

Syrian troops arrested four Turkish fighter pilots near a military airport in the northern province of Aleppo, a pro-government daily said Monday.

The guarding troops of the Koerc military airport arrested four Turkish officers who were trying to sneak into the airport with an armed group, al-Watan said, giving no further details about the fate of the Turkish pilots but saying that the incident came to explicitly implicate Turkey.

Also in Aleppo, the paper said more than 100 armed men were killed when the Syrian air force bombarded the Finance Directorate in al-Sufaira town, where the armed men had been gathering.

In the central province of Homs, army units targeted armed groups' positions in al-Rastan town, killing scores of them, al- Watan said, adding that violence and clashes have renewed in the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees in the capital Damascus between local committees and armed rebels.

Meanwhile, opposition activists reported shelling on many hotspots nationwide by the Syrian army on Monday.

Source: Xinhua