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Happy new year!

Despite recent setbacks, I’m so much better off than I was this time last year, I think. I have good friends and interesting things to do, so it’s not my personal life that makes me so happy to see 2011 go. I’ve been working hard to get mentally and physically healthy and making real progress. I’ve really gotten into forgiveness lately, too. It helps.

And this year, we also had thrill of watching the Occupy Movement begin and grow, offering us the first real hope in a long time. Inspiring!

With so many people everywhere who are out of work and hanging by a thread, it’s hard to feel really good for long. The planet seems to be angry at how much abuse we’ve heaped on it, while people in power ignore all the the signs. It’s so damned frustrating.

But we do still have each other. We gather in this place every day to read and converse with each other, and maybe we all feel less lonely and scared as a result. I hope so.

Anyway, I’m grateful for everyone’s support. Quite literally, I wouldn’t have made it this far without the help of my readers. (What always stands out is how – back in 2003, I think, when I had pneumonia, no health insurance and no sick days, you guys paid my bills and bought my food for that month so I could stay in bed for two weeks until I got better. Until then, I didn’t know I could be quite that sick and scared.)

So for all your help, emotional and otherwise, thank you for seeing me through another year. Here’s hoping for many more!

‘The Apartment’

The best-ever New Year’s Eve movie ever is a fairly grim comedy, but Billy Wilder, the brilliant director/writer, knew exactly when to lighten it up. More here.

Signing statement

Obama signs NDAA – with reservations.

The new law now requires military custody for any suspect who is a member of al-Qaida or “associated forces” and involved in planning or attempting to carry out an attack on the United States or its coalition partners. The president or a designated subordinate may waive the military custody requirement by certifying to Congress that such a move is in the interest of national security.

The administration also pushed Congress to change a provision that would have denied U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism the right to trial and could have subjected them to indefinite detention. Lawmakers eventually dropped the military custody requirement for U.S. citizens or lawful U.S. residents.

“My administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,” Obama said in the signing statement. “Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.”

Despite the changes, officials cited serious concerns that the law will complicate and could harm the investigation of terrorism cases.

For example, FBI Director Robert Mueller has said the measure would inhibit his bureau’s ability to persuade suspected terrorists to cooperate immediately and provide critical intelligence. He told Congress it wasn’t clear how agents should operate if they arrest someone covered by the military custody requirement but the nearest military facility is hundreds of miles away.

Tomorrow

Some good, lots more bad. Here’s hoping for a better year!

Pumped up kicks

Foster the People:

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

Diana Krall:

Sometimes, even the GOP’s big dogs can’t ensure victories by little dogs such as Maine Gov. Paul LePage. More here.

Gingrich: No pay for work

Editor’s note: This is fake. But, unfortunately, not fake enough.

DES MOINES, IOWA — In response to sagging poll numbers ahead of Tuesday’s caucuses, Republican presidential hopeful and former frontrunner Newt Gingrich unveiled a plan to decouple wages from jobs that he insists will bolster a struggling economy.

The plan, Gingrich’s first major policy announcement since unveiling his child labor initiative last month, would give businesses the option of paying employees in something other than money.

“In this time of economic crisis, we must re-examine this outmoded system of financial compensation for work performed,” Gingrich said in a speech before the Iowa Chamber of Commerce. “Government must free job creators from the burden of paying employees with currency. That’s currency businesses could use to expand and to create jobs — although they are under no obligation to do so. Actually, there’s nothing stopping them from simply pocketing this windfall.

“Nothing whatsoever,” Gingrich added.

Instead of money, the plan calls for businesses to pay employees in the form of tickets redeemable for merchandise at Dave and Buster’s Restaurant, Bar and Arcade.

Children enrolled in Gingrich’s child-labor initiative would receive tickets redeemable at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Stopping short of abolishing payment in the form of money, the plan would simply reduce the federal minimum wage to zero.

“And we would let our partners in the business community do the rest,” Gingrich said.

The plan already has received a warm reception among congressional Republicans, with both House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicating that they would support such a plan, but only if it were accompanied by concessions from Democrats.

The announcement comes on the heels of Gingrich’s child labor initiative, which polled well among Republican voters.

Gingrich’s jobs plan for children, widely referred to as the “Clean the School You Once Attended” initiative, would teach financially disadvantaged children in poor school districts the value of underpaid menial labor through what Gingrich calls “little-hands-on” experience.

Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond pointed out that the plan would free struggling school districts from the burden placed on them by “greedy janitors.” In addition, because the plan calls for pulling students away from classroom instruction for two thirds of every school week, the plan also addresses the potential problem of an educated lower class.

“I think the problems that would present are self-evident,” Hammond said.

Correction: A previous version of this story reported that Gingrich introduced this plan in a speech before a joint meeting of the Iowa Nazi Party and a local klavern of the Ku Klux Klan. Although the confusion is entirely understandable, we regret the error.

Cross-posted at Redsoxville.

Going down slow

Duane Allman:

This is the new year

Ian Axel:

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