This is what the New Years' Eve fireworks look like in Dubai, that sun-scorched monument to conspicuous wealth. Watch it in HD if you can.
Bestowing this website's most prestigious award will have to wait just a bit longer; I couldn't resist the opportunity to make two points about the (god, I can barely stomach the sound of this phrase anymore) "fiscal cliff" "deal" reached to absolutely no one's surprise at the last minute.
First, from "Bart to the Future", Season 11 Episode 1 of The Simpsons.
Lisa: If I'm going to bail the country out, I'll have to raise taxes, but in my speech I'd like to avoid calling it a, "painful emergency tax."
Milhouse: What about, "colossal salary grab."
Lisa: See, that has the same problem. We need to soften the blow.
Milhouse: Well, if you just want to out-and-out lie … [Lisa doesn't object] Okay, we could call it a "temporary refund adjustment."
Lisa: I love it.
Milhouse: Really? What else do you love, Lisa?
You've no doubt heard that payroll taxes are going to "increase", which will (insert your own trite jargon like "take a bigger bite out of your paycheck") in addition to making your AM talk radio-loving coworkers shit themselves in agony. See, this is the brilliance of right-wing framing, which the media swallows unquestioningly time after time. The reduction in the payroll tax was passed as a temporary (stimulus) measure. I suppose it's semantic, but the expiration of something that was supposed to be temporary is not a "tax increase." And this is why we should run screaming from hare-brained schemes like "gas tax holidays" and other "temporary" tax cuts because they have a way of becoming permanent – or providing this easy, disingenuous talking point about "voting to raise taxes!" if they do not.
Moreover, the legislation was laden with tax breaks for the Right People. Most interesting is the millions in "incentives" for mining companies to purchase safety equipment and train workers in safety techniques. And this is perhaps everything you need to know about what's wrong with Congress, in a nutshell: if an industry pays enough lobbyists and donates enough money to the right members of Congress, we end up paying them to do what the law obligates them to do. Why are we incentivizing this? If we want mines to have a certain level of safety equipment, require it by law. If they don't have it, shut them down. But business doesn't obey the government in our system – government obeys business. We end up having to bribe them to obey the regulations and laws that we already allowed them to write for themselves.
Pretty exciting that we get to listen to all the same horseshit again in two months, though.