Saturday, February 25, 2017
Good advice and all that jazz
Madeline Peyroux and friends do "Don't Wait Too Long"
There is always one
When the fighting stops
Win or lose, countries that provided recruits for the fight have to face the problem of the return of those still alive. Imbued with ideology, innured to the destruction and hooked on the adrenaline rush of facing death and surviving, they seldom easily fit into the peaceful land they return to.
Tunisia has sent more fighters abroad to join the ranks of the Islamic State than any other country. And now, as the Islamic State takes a battering on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq, the country is at odds over what to do if and when they come home.Like fighting cancer, if all the cells don't die, it will just keep coming back.
Tunisians have been dealing with a frenzied polemic in recent weeks, as secularists have raised fears that a returning wave will bring further mayhem to this fragile state and Islamists have been forced to condemn the jihadists.
“How can we accept those people who are professionals in war, in the use of arms and have a culture of being terrorists?” asked Badra Gaaloul, a civil-military analyst who heads the International Center of Strategic, Security and Military Studies. “We in Tunisia are in crisis, and we cannot accept these people.”
“It is a nightmare for Tunisia,” she added. “We are not ready for that.”
The concern is not academic. Ms. Gaaloul, among others, points to the experience of Algeria, which suffered through a decade-long insurgency in the 1990s when jihadists returned from Afghanistan set on establishing Islamic law, and the army led a brutal war to crush them.
Already there are signs that some of the 5,500 Tunisians who have gone abroad, according to United Nations estimates, are seeking new targets at home and in Europe, where Tunisians have been implicated in several recent terrorist cases in France and Germany.
For Tunisia, there is no easy solution. The new Constitution does not allow the government to bar them. They can be locked up for joining a terrorist group, or for committing crimes abroad, but cases are hard to build and charges difficult to prove. The president proposed amnesty, only to be vigorously opposed.
Everybody loves Djibouti
And those that love it best build military bases there, first the United States and now China. And China is building right next door, like neighbors in a housing development.
With no shared border, China and the United States mostly circle each other from afar, relying on satellites and cybersnooping to peek inside the workings of each other’s war machines.Well, they do perform peace keeping functions so I guess your average Chinese swabbie would want someplace nearby for a little rest, a nice bowl of noodles and a few Tsingtao to wash it down. And it does so annoy the Pentgon brass when someone else builds a military facility next door.
But the two strategic rivals are about to become neighbors in this sun-scorched patch of East African desert. China is constructing its first overseas military base here — just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, one of the Pentagon’s largest and most important foreign installations.
With increasing tensions over China’s island-building efforts in the South China Sea, American strategists worry that a naval port so close to Camp Lemonnier could provide a front-row seat to the staging ground for American counterterror operations in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.
Established after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Camp Lemonnier is home to 4,000 personnel. Some are involved in highly secretive missions, including targeted drone killings in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, and the raid last month in Yemen that left a member of the Navy SEALs dead. The base, which is run by the Navy and abuts Djibouti’s international airport, is the only permanent American military installation in Africa.
Beyond surveillance concerns, United States officials, citing the billions of dollars in Chinese loans to Djibouti’s heavily indebted government, wonder about the long-term durability of an alliance that has served Washington well in its global fight against Islamic extremism.
Just as important, experts say, the base’s construction is a milestone marking Beijing’s expanding global ambitions — with potential implications for America’s longstanding military dominance.
“It’s a huge strategic development,” said Peter Dutton, professor of strategic studies at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, who has studied satellite imagery of the construction.
“It’s naval power expansion for protecting commerce and China’s regional interests in the Horn of Africa,” Professor Dutton said. “This is what expansionary powers do. China has learned lessons from Britain of 200 years ago.”
Chinese officials play down the significance of the base, saying it will largely support antipiracy operations that have helped quell the threat to international shipping once posed by marauding Somalis.
“The support facility will be mainly used to provide rest and rehabilitation for the Chinese troops taking part in escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian rescue,” the Defense Ministry in Beijing said in a written reply to questions.
The Tiger Woods of Hypocrisy
Seth Meyers on Trump's Golf, Town Halls and good soup.
What other ideas has he borrowed?
Friday, February 24, 2017
The Fruits of 'Good Christian' Hate
Rhiannon Giddens sings about the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing one "Birmingham Sunday" in 1963
Don't make them like they used to
He goes right, we go left
But that will not stop the Democrats from adopting a Republican game plan to deal with the hard right agenda of President Beetlefart.
Reduced to their weakest state in a generation, Democratic Party leaders will gather in two cities this weekend to plot strategy and select a new national chairman with the daunting task of rebuilding the party’s depleted organization. But senior Democratic officials concede that the blueprint has already been chosen for them — by an incensed army of liberals demanding no less than total war against President Trump.Moderate voters? Hel, you get them on your side by making it clear how much Trump and his stooges are taking out of their pockets and away from their lives. People lash out when they are hurt and they need someone to direct their anger. Trump did it and so can the Democrats.
Immediately after the November election, Democrats were divided over how to handle Mr. Trump, with one camp favoring all-out confrontation and another backing a seemingly less risky approach of coaxing him to the center with offers of compromise.
Now, spurred by explosive protests and a torrent of angry phone calls and emails from constituents — and outraged themselves by Mr. Trump’s swift moves to enact a hard-line agenda — Democrats have all but cast aside any notion of conciliation with the White House. Instead, they are mimicking the Republican approach of the last eight years — the “party of no” — and wagering that brash obstruction will pay similar dividends.
“My belief is, we have to resist every way and everywhere, every time we can,” when Mr. Trump offends core American values, Mr. Inslee said. By undermining Mr. Trump across the board, he said, Democrats hope to split Republicans away from a president of their own party.
“Ultimately, we’d like to have a few Republicans stand up to rein him in,” Mr. Inslee said. “The more air goes out of his balloon, the earlier and likelier that is to happen.”
Yet Democrats acknowledge there is a wide gulf between the party’s desire to fight Mr. Trump and its power to thwart him, quietly worrying that the expectations of the party’s activist base may outpace what Democratic lawmakers can achieve.
“They want us to impeach him immediately,” said Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky. “And of course we can’t do that by ourselves.”
Some in the party also fret that a posture of unremitting hostility to the president could imperil lawmakers in red states that Mr. Trump won last year, or compromise efforts for Democrats to present themselves to moderate voters as an inoffensive alternative to the polarizing president.
7th Infantry Division has a new division chaplain
And he is a Muslim. Which makes him no more and no less holy than any other denomination, it just puts him in charge of the spiritual needs of some 14000+ soldiers of all denominations.
He was offered the job of chaplain for an entire division, an honor for anyone in his field, but a milestone in his case. After a ceremony this summer, Shabazz will become the first Muslim division-level chaplain in the history of the U.S. military – a Muslim spiritual leader for more than 14,000 mostly Christian soldiers.No word on how his Commander-In-Chief will react but we wish him well as most of his duties have nothing to do with which invisible sky demon has dominion over you.
Shabazz, who’s dedicated his life to working across religious lines, found it hard to keep calm as he received the news at his desk on Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington.
To get a sense of what a long shot this might’ve seemed like to Shabazz, consider the numbers. He’s one of only 56 Muslim chaplains in the entire U.S. military; the Army alone has around 1,400 chaplains. He said more than 140 other chaplains of his rank were vying for division-level jobs. And the number of Muslim division chaplains in the military’s 241-year history: Zero.
“When you get the call saying you have been bestowed a division, the news is kind of like, unearthly,” Shabazz said. “The list is so small and it’s such a tough cut.”
With four months until the ceremony that will make him chaplain of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division at Lewis-McChord, Shabazz has plenty of time to think about taking on such a visible role in an age of open anti-Muslim hostility. He’d like to think his transition will be as smooth as those of his Christian peers, but he knows that not everyone will welcome him as warmly as the senior officers who gave him a standing ovation when the news was announced at a meeting on base.
“For me, a regular old guy from Louisiana, I look to the heavens and say, ‘Why me?’ ” Shabazz said. “As the day gets closer, I’m sure I’ll have more anxiety and think about it more. I’m extremely proud to have been on this journey for 20 years and never would’ve imagined that I’d be chosen to be the first.”
“Islamic guy in a leadership position?” he said. “If I think about it too much, it’ll get overwhelming.”
Republican Party's Greatest Disaster
Our various wars in the Middle East continue to drag on after a futile 15 years and there is no end in sight. So far the only ones to profit from them are the top military brass who have a road to promotion regardless of how badly they fail and the Defense industries that have a constant market for their goods.
It’s hardly controversial these days to point out that the 2003 invasion (aka Operation Iraqi Freedom), far from bringing freedom to that country, sowed chaos. Toppling Saddam’s brutal regime tore down the edifice of a regional system that had stood for nearly a century. However inadvertently, the U.S. military lit the fire that burned down the old order.How many more years of waste and folly can we expect? Given the type of people we elect, we are probably facing war without end, amen.
As it turned out, no matter the efforts of the globe’s greatest military, no easy foreign solution existed when it came to Iraq. It rarely does. Unfortunately, few in Washington were willing to accept such realities. Think of that as the twenty-first-century American Achilles' heel: unwarranted optimism about the efficacy of U.S. power. Policy in these years might best be summarized as: “we” have to do something, and military force is the best—perhaps the only—feasible option.
Has it worked? Is anybody, including Americans, safer? Few in power even bother to ask such questions. But the data is there. The Department of State counted just 348 terrorist attacks worldwide in 2001 compared with 11,774 attacks in 2015. That’s right: at best, America’s 15-year “war on terror” failed to significantly reduce international terrorism; at worst, its actions helped make matters 30 times worse.
Recall the Hippocratic oath: “First do no harm.” And remember Osama bin Laden’s stated goal on 9/11: to draw conventional American forces into attritional campaigns in the heart of the Middle East. Mission accomplished!
In today’s world of “alternative facts,” it’s proven remarkably easy to ignore such empirical data and so avoid thorny questions. Recent events and contemporary political discourse even suggest that the country’s political elites now inhabit a post-factual environment; in terms of the Greater Middle East, this has been true for years.
It couldn’t be more obvious that Washington’s officialdom regularly and repeatedly drew erroneous lessons from the recent past and ignored a hard truth staring them in the face: U.S. military action in the Middle East has solved nothing. At all. Only the government cannot seem to accept this. Meanwhile, an American fixation on one unsuitable term—“isolationism”—masks a more apt description of American dogma in this period: hyper-interventionism.
As for military leaders, they struggle to admit failure when they—and their troops—have sacrificed so much sweat and blood in the region. Senior officers display the soldier’s tendency to confuse performance with effectiveness, staying busy with being successful. Prudent strategy requires differentiating between doing a lot and doing the right things. As Einstein reputedly opined, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
A realistic look at America’s recent past in the Greater Middle East and a humbler perspective on its global role suggest two unsatisfying but vital conclusions. First, false lessons and misbegotten collective assumptions contributed to and created much of today’s regional mess. As a result, it’s long past time to reassess recent history and challenge long-held suppositions. Second, policymakers badly overestimated the efficacy of American power, especially via the military, to shape foreign peoples and cultures to their desires. In all of this, the agency of locals and the inherent contingency of events were conveniently swept aside.
So what now? It should be obvious (but probably isn’t in Washington) that it’s well past time for the U.S. to bring its incessant urge to respond militarily to the crisis of the moment under some kind of control. Policymakers should accept realistic limitations on their ability to shape the world to America’s desired image of it.
Consider the last few decades in Iraq and Syria. In the 1990s, Washington employed economic sanctions against Saddam Hussein and his regime. The result: tragedy to the tune of half a million dead children. Then it tried invasion and democracy promotion. The result: tragedy—including 4,500-plus dead American soldiers, a few trillion dollars down the drain, more than 200,000 dead Iraqis, and millions more displaced in their own country or in flight as refugees.
In response, in Syria the U.S. tried only limited intervention. Result: tragedy—upwards of 300,000 dead and close to seven million more turned into refugees.
So will tough talk and escalated military action finally work this time around as the Trump administration faces off against ISIS? Consider what happens even if the U.S achieves a significant rollback of ISIS. Even if, in conjunction with allied Kurdish or Syrian rebel forces, ISIS's “capital,” Raqqa, is taken and the so-called caliphate destroyed, the ideology isn’t going away. Many of its fighters are likely to transition back to an insurgency and there will be no end to international terror in ISIS’s name. In the meantime, none of this will have solved the underlying problems of artificial states now at the edge of collapse or beyond, divided ethno-religious groups, and anti-Western nationalist and religious sentiments. All of it begs the question: What if Americans are incapable of helping (at least in a military sense)?
A real course correction is undoubtedly impossible without at least a willingness to reconsider and reframe our recent historical experiences. If the 2016 election is any indication, however, a Trump administration with the present line-up of national security chiefs (who fought in these very wars) won’t meaningfully alter either the outlook or the policies that led us to this moment. Candidate Trump offered a hollow promise—to “Make America Great Again”—conjuring up a mythical era that never was. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton offered only remarkably dated and stale rhetoric about America as the “indispensable nation.”
Your Morning Colbert
Wherein Stephen examines the madcap antics of the new Nazis.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Thirty five years ago
This was topping charts and filling jukebox coin slots.
You pay for what you get
The jawbone of an ass
President Beetlefart has used a part of his time in office making grandiose promises about trade and tariffs and scaring the shit out of businesses. And they are scared because while other Presidents have made promises, this is the first time a stark staring lunatic has been in the White House with the support both houses of Congress in the hands of like minded lunatics.
President Trump has talked about border tariffs and new trade deals that many people in aerospace fear could raise the cost of American airplanes bought by foreign airlines or governments. And if Boeing’s sales or profits suffer, its nerve-system supply chain — more than 13,000 companies across the United States, and more than 1.5 million jobs — would most likely feel the pain, too. At SmartCells, 50 full-time employees and a few dozen temporary workers stamp out cushion pads on heavy machines. Executives work in a red building everyone calls the barn, and first names are the rule. Washington feels far away, but it is on just about everybody’s radar.Just one example of why business is fearful of a president who will speak about things of which he knows nothing and a Congress that will do anything to prove their rhetoric is valid.
“Let’s hit it with a two-by-four and see how it reacts, then get a plan,” said Bob Bishop, the chief operations officer at SmartCells, describing Mr. Trump’s hard-charging style. “That doesn’t always work.”
The anxiety, said Mr. Bishop, 46, a former deputy county sheriff who voted for Mr. Trump, centers not so much on politics as economics, specifically the intense competition with the French airplane maker Airbus, which competes toe to toe with Boeing for jet orders in countries around the world in a delicate game of narrow cost differences and giant contracts.
Mr. Trump has said he would seek a 45 percent tariff on imports from China, for example, to protect American jobs, and a 20 percent tariff on goods from Mexico. If business costs for Boeing go up as a result, the company — the nation’s single largest exporter by dollar volume — probably would not be able to raise prices on its airplanes to make up the difference, because then it would lose customers to Airbus. For workers and suppliers, the fallout could be brutal.
“We’ve got such a huge network here — anything that curtails exports hurts the entire supply chain,” said John Thornquist, the director of the aerospace office at the Washington State Department of Commerce. “We’re very vulnerable.”
Companies that sell to Boeing, or sell to other companies that build Boeing components, said that even predicting a trade war was risky, with so many variables — politics, economics, multiple countries — all in play. A modern commercial jetliner can have up to six million components that must be engineered and tested to safety standards, even before assembly starts.
“We’re trying to do our best due diligence to put together an assessment, but at this time, the best we can do is just monitor day by day,” said Maurizio Miozza, the vice president for development and strategic planning at Umbra Cuscinetti, an Italian company that makes precision parts for Boeing and that has about 100 employees north of Seattle. But, he added, “the picture is not rosy.”
Mexico won't be our Holding Pen
In addition to hopefully paying for President Beetlefart's Fabulous Fence, he apparently thinks Mexico will hold all the undocumented persons who can not, for whatever reason, be shipped back to their country of origin. Mexico's response to that suggestion was a nice diplomatic "Fuck You", "Fóllate" in the original.
Mexico is not happy – actually, angry – about President Donald Trump’s expectation that it would hold tens of thousands of apprehended migrants who can’t be immediately deported, regardless of where they come from.How like President Beetlefart to actually believe he can dump his shit anywhere he pleases and those lucky enough to receive it should be thankful. To him, "Su casa es mu casa" applies to the world.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray vowed Wednesday that Mexico will not accept the Trump’s administration “unilateral” directives and that President Enrique Peña Nieto will make that clear to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly when they meet on Thursday.
“I want to make clear, in the most emphatic way, that the government of Mexico and the people of Mexico will not accept decisions that, in a unilateral way, are imposed by another government,” Videgaray told reporters in Mexico City.
Videgaray said the Mexican government would not hesitate to turn to the United Nations to denounce actions by the United States.
The release of the documents signed by Kelly outlined how immigrants entitled to a court appearance would no longer be released into the United States to await their hearing date. If they couldn’t be deported to their home country, many would be sent to wait in Mexico.
The two nations have long seen the issue of immigration as a sovereign issue.
While advocating for the fair treatment of Mexican nationals living and apprehended in the United States, Mexican officials have been tolerant of the United States rights to impose its own policies. But Jorge Guajardo, Mexico's former ambassador to China, said the expectation that Mexico would take U.S. detainees without serious bilateral talks is step too far.
“You can’t just unilaterally decide something like this without the other country cooperating,” Guajardo said. He pointed out that many people of many nationalities, not just Central Americans, enter the United States from Mexico.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
A child of Philadelphia
Birdie Busch has always kept a place in her heart for the "City Of Brotherly Love"
We all want to know
R.I.P. Lorenz Albert Van DeLinder III
As Larry Coryell you were no purist but made whatever music you liked into jazz that many liked.
More than just in bed with...
The e-mails ordered released by a judge last week show that President Beetlefart's carefully selected head of the EPA was cock in mouth with big oil and other polluters who wanted to make a few more buck ignoring safety and health rules and regulations.
During his tenure as attorney general of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt, now the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups with ties to the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch to roll back environmental regulations, according to over 6,000 pages of emails made public on Wednesday.Such is the man supposedly charged with protecting our environment, a fully paid for agent of the polluters who would destroy it for a few dollars more. So now no town, no neighborhood is safe from becoming a dump for their shit because their profit is more valuable to Pruitt than your life and well being.
The publication of the correspondence comes just days after Mr. Pruitt was sworn in to run the E.P.A., which is charged with reining in pollution and regulating public health.
“Thank you to your respective bosses and all they are doing to push back against President Obama’s EPA and its axis with liberal environmental groups to increase energy costs for Oklahomans and American families across the states,” said one email sent to Mr. Pruitt and an Oklahoma congressman in August 2013 by Matt Ball, an executive at Americans for Prosperity. That nonprofit group is funded in part by the Kochs, the Kansas business executives who spent much of the last decade combating federal regulations, particularly in the energy sector. “You both work for true champions of freedom and liberty!” the note said.
The companies provided him draft letters to send to federal regulators in an attempt to block federal regulations intended to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas wells, ozone air pollution, and chemicals used in fracking, the email correspondence shows.
They held secret meetings to discuss more comprehensive ways to combat the Obama administration’s environmental agenda, and the companies and organizations they funded repeatedly praised Mr. Pruitt and his staff for the assistance he provided in their campaign.
The correspondence points to the tension emerging as Mr. Pruitt is now charged with regulating many of the same companies with which he coordinated closely in his previous position. As attorney general of Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt took part in 14 lawsuits against major E.P.A. environmental rules, often in coordination with energy companies such as Devon Energy, an Oklahoma oil and gas producer, and American Electric Power, an Ohio-based electric utility.
The emails show that his office corresponded with those companies in efforts to weaken federal environmental regulations — the same rules he will now oversee.
“Please find attached a short white paper with some talking points that you might find useful to cut and paste when encouraging States to file comments on the SSM rule,” wrote Roderick Hastie, a lobbyist at Hunton & Williams, a law firm that represents major utilities, including Southern Company, urging Mr. Pruitt’s office to file comments on a proposed E.P.A. rule related to so-called Startup, Shutdown and Malfunction Emissions.
The most frequent correspondence was with Devon Energy, which has aggressively challenged rules proposed by the E.P.A. and the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, which controls drilling on federal lands — widespread in the west. In the 2014 election cycle, Devon was one of the top contributors to the Republican Attorneys General Association, which Mr. Pruitt led for two years during that period.
A yuge and wonderful beginning
A new McClatchy-Marist Poll has more than half the voters polled believing that President Beetlefart has done illegal and/or unethical acts involved with his many conflicts of interest.
More than half of voters believe Donald Trump has done something illegal or unethical as he faces potential conflicts of interest by continuing to own his businesses while serving as president, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.Dick Nixon was in his second term before people started to think he was a crook and Beetlefart has done it right out of the gate. One has to wonder how quickly His Fraudulency willburn out at this frantic pace.And when it's Flame-On will he include Bannon and his herd of asshole? We wait and hope.
Even more voters – nearly six in 10 – say Trump’s conduct as president makes them feel embarrassed, according to the poll.
Those who think Trump has done something illegal, unethical or embarrassing include large numbers of independent voters.
Matt Boyer, 40, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who does research for a large think tank, said he believes Trump is engaged in unethical behavior because he continues to profit from his businesses.
“He is generating benefit to his enterprise,” he said. “The rest of the executive branch can’t participate in this behavior.”
Just before he became president, Trump announced he would put his businesses and assets in a trust to be run by his two oldest sons and that he would have “no involvement whatsoever” in the businesses. The agreement did not go as far as ethics officials wanted because he retains ownership and did not use a blind trust.
Twenty-eight percent of voters think Trump did something wrong while 25 percent think he did something unethical but not illegal. Forty-two percent said he has done nothing wrong while six percent are unsure.
Just a month after his inauguration, Trump’s presidency is mired in turmoil. He faced massive protests over his sweeping temporary halt on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, ousted his national security adviser after he lied about his contact with Russian officials and watched as his labor secretary nominee withdrew from consideration after fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill failed to support him.
Only 41 percent of registered voters say they approve of the job Trump is doing as president, compared to 49 percent who disapprove. Those numbers are weaker than other presidents at comparable time in their presidencies, according to national surveys.
Colbert on His Illegitimacy
President Beetlefart is so good for Stephen
To make a few dollars more
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
She grew up in Cabbagetown
So anything that Canadian Amy Millan sings should be good, like "I Will Follow You Into the Dark"
Going forward all references to The Tangerine Shitgibbon will now be President Beetlefart. Thanks to John Oliver for the inspiration.
Creating more value than Trump ever will
Immigrants and refugees, the target du jour of some of our less contented citizens, are proving to be a healthy shot in the arm to formerly dying areas of this country. New people with new ideas and, unlike their Teabagger/Trumpoon detractors, a willingness to work and create new lives.
While President Trump has cast incoming refugees in a sinister light, the influx into the beleaguered communities along New York’s old Erie Canal has been a surprising salve for decades of dwindling population and opportunity.Some people see the initial costs os refugees as expenses instead of the investments thy turn out to be. All those whiny white folks who want to turn them out could do well to follow their example.
The impact has been both low-budget and high-tech: Foreign-born students from countries like Iran have flocked to programs — and paid tuition and fees — at upstate schools offering advanced scientific degrees, while street-level entrepreneurs have started shops offering knickknacks and takeout for curious locals, and exotic staples and calls home for homesick émigrés.
Local businesses have found cheap, willing labor in the rolling stocks of refugees, while resettlement agencies have used federal funding to assist with their assimilation, creating work for everyone from refrigerator sellers to house painters.
“People left and left housing vacant,” said Shelly Callahan, the executive director of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in Utica. “So when refugees came in, the prices were cheap, and they were ready to put in the sweat equity that a lot of people weren’t anymore.”
And that, in turn, “put properties back on the tax rolls,” Ms. Callahan said.
All told, upstate communities took in nearly 95 percent of the some 5,000 refugees New York accepted during the last fiscal year, according to the state’s Bureau of Refugee and Immigrant Assistance. Perhaps nowhere has that impact been more profound than in Buffalo, the self-described “City of Good Neighbors,” where about 10,000 refugees have been placed over the last decade.
“One of the reasons that Buffalo is growing, that Buffalo is getting stronger, that Buffalo is getting better, is because of the presence of our immigrant and our refugee community,” Mayor Byron W. Brown, a Democrat, told several hundred recent arrivals at a town-hall meeting in early February.
The stance of Mr. Brown and other upstate leaders sharply contrasts to President Trump’s remarks casting refugees as potentially “very bad and dangerous people,” bent on bringing “death and destruction” to America.
Other critics, while less hyperbolic, note the new arrivals often cost the government money in the form of food stamps, cash assistance and Medicaid benefits, as many begin new lives here below the poverty line. Schools also sometimes struggle with language needs and some school districts have been the subject of embarrassing, and costly, lawsuits relating to their treatment of refugee students.
Still, economists say that such upfront costs are usually mitigated by immigrants’ long-term benefits to a community, a desire amplified by their often traumatic pasts.
“The drive for citizenship and the drive for a permanent home is a pretty powerful drive,” said Paul Hagstrom, a professor of economics at Hamilton College, who has studied the impact of refugees on upstate cities.
And unlike native upstaters, they tend to stick around. “My kid and every other kid here graduates from college and moves somewhere else,” Mr. Hagstrom said. “Refugees, they stay.”
Hottest new investment
With the installment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education and Republican control of both Houses of Congress the hottest investment these days are for profit schools of all types. With the removal of all those pesky requirements that teachers be qualified and students actually learn something, the prospect of ballooning profits is on the horizon.
Since Election Day, for-profit college companies have been on a hot streak. DeVry Education Group’s stock has leapt more than 40 percent. Strayer’s jumped 35 percent and Grand Canyon Education’s more than 28 percent.Regulatory elimination along with increased access to public funds should make these investments winners in everybody's portfolio in the years ahead.
You do not need an M.B.A. to figure out why. Top officials in Washington who spearheaded a relentless crackdown on the multibillion-dollar industry have been replaced by others who have profited from it.
President Trump ran the now-defunct Trump University, which wound up besieged by lawsuits from former students and New York’s attorney general, who called the operation a fraud. Within days of the election, Mr. Trump, without admitting any wrongdoing, agreed to a $25 million settlement.
Betsy DeVos, the newly installed secretary of education, is an ardent campaigner for privately run schools and has investments in for-profit educational ventures.
While Ms. DeVos’s nomination attracted a flood of attention, most was focused on the K-through-12 system and the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers for private, online and religious schools. Higher education was barely mentioned during her confirmation hearings.
Yet colleges and universities are the institutions most directly influenced by the federal government, while public schools remain largely in the hands of states and localities. So it is in higher education that the new administration’s power is likely to be felt most keenly and quickly.
Under the Obama administration, the Education Department discouraged students from attending for-profit colleges, arguing recently that the data showed “community colleges offer a better deal than comparable programs at for-profit colleges with higher price tags.”
The for-profit sector has about 8 percent of those enrolled in higher education, according to the Education Department, but it has 15 percent of subsidized student loans.
While some career training schools delivered as promised, critics argued that too many burdened veterans, minorities and low-income strivers with unmanageable tuition debt without equipping them with jobs and skills that would enable them to pay it off.
Like a fart in a Beetle
John Oliver examines The Tangerine Shitgibbons ability to suck to attention from every other news event.
Monday, February 20, 2017
You Can't Talk to Me Like That
But it sure sounds like Nikki Lane wants you to.
The Creation of Policy
Tom Tomorrow shows us how the new drained swamp White House makes policy. Get used to it, it's the new normal.
Not what he smoked but where
A House divided
Not the United States, yet. The Tohono O’odham tribe living along both sides of the US-Mexican border stands threatened with division if The Tangerine Shitgibbon's Marvelous Fantastic Fence were to ever get built. And they don't like it one bit.
A wall would not just split the tribe’s traditional lands in the United States and Mexico, members say. It would threaten an ancestral connection that has endured even as barriers, gates, cameras and Border Patrol agents have become a part of the landscape.The problems faced along this stretch of border illuminate the paucity of thought given to the idea of a wall, if it was ever a real idea. So far it stands as a crude but effective lure for the uninformed.
“Our roots are here,” Richard Saunders said, standing by a border gate in San Miguel, which he and his wife pass through — when it is open — to visit her grandparents’ graves, 500 yards into Mexico. “Our roots are there, too, on the south side of this gate.”
The Tohono O’odham — they call themselves “desert people” — have been around since “time immemorial,” Mr. Jose likes to say; they and their predecessors were nomads in the region for thousands of years, roaming for water and food on mountains and lowlands.
After the Mexican-American War and then the Gadsden Purchase in 1854 delineated the border for good, most of the tribe’s land was left in present-day Arizona, where it still controls 2.8 million acres — a territory about the size of Connecticut — while a smaller piece became part of what is now the Mexican state of Sonora.
The tribe has 34,000 enrolled members, according to its chairman, Edward D. Manuel. Half live on the reservation in Arizona, 2,000 are in Mexico and the rest left for places where job prospects were better. Those who have stayed might work for the tribal government, its Desert Diamond Casino, the schools or businesses like the Desert Rain Cafe, which serves chicken glazed in prickly pear and smoothies made from saguaro fruit, on Main Street in Sells, the reservation’s largest community.
The Tohono O’odham (pronounced Toh-HO-noh AW-tham) reservation has been a popular crossing point for unauthorized migrants and one of the busiest drug-smuggling corridors along the southern border, in part because the federal government strengthened the security at other spots. While a 20-foot-tall steel fence lines the border in San Luis, Ariz., to the west, and Nogales, Ariz., to the east, here the border is a lot more permeable, guarded by bollards and Normandy barriers measuring eight feet, maybe, and, in some areas, sinking in the eroding ground.
Tohono O’odham leaders acknowledged that they were straddling a bona fide national security concern. The tribe reluctantly complied when the federal government moved to replace an old barbed-wire fence with sturdier barriers that were designed to stop vehicles ferrying drugs from Mexico. It ceded five acres so the Border Patrol could build a base with dormitories for its agents and space to temporarily detain migrants. It has worked with the Border Patrol; hardly a day goes by without a resident or tribal police officer calling in a smuggler spotted going by or a migrant in distress, said Mr. Saunders, the director of public safety.
The tribe regularly treats sick migrants at its hospital and paid $2,500 on average for the autopsies of bodies of migrants found dead on its land, mostly from dehydration. (There were 85 last year, Mr. Saunders said.)
Trump's Best Friend Putin
John Oliver exposes the Putin/Trump relationship
He has given us so many reasons
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Another Country Heard From
In the never ending race to lick the Boots of Donald
The Good Old Days of Religious Freedom
From Jesus and Mo:
The Eternal Whipping Boy
The Estate Tax, or as it should be know, the capital gains tax on previously untaxed earnings, is once again in the Republicans sights. Despite it bringing in a significant amount of revenue while doing no harm to anyone and, indeed, affecting only a few percent of the population, the wealthy owners of Republican Party have a particular jones for this tax.
The future of the estate tax is in debate again. President Trump promised to eliminate it during the campaign last year. “No family will have to pay the death tax,” Mr. Trump said at the Detroit Economic Club in August. “It’s just plain wrong and most people agree with that. We will repeal it.”Simply put, the Estate Tax affects very few people, but the taxes and fees necessary to replace the lost revenue will fall on all of us.
Whatever happens, statistics show that very few families actually pay the tax — and those that do are subject to a series of interconnected other taxes.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Repeal the estate tax,’ but it’s like squeezing a balloon,” said Alexander A. Bove Jr., an author and estates lawyer with Bove & Langa in Boston. “Something has to give when you do that.”
Estates are now taxed at 40 percent. But with an exemption of the first $5.49 million per individual — and nearly $11 million per couple — the average effective rate can be much lower. Using Internal Revenue Service data from 2013, the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center calculated that the average size of estates paying the tax that year was $22.7 million, and that they paid an effective rate of 16.6 percent.
Few estates are large enough to require any payment. In 2015, only 11,917 estates filed I.R.S. Form 706, “United States Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return”; 4,918 of them owed any tax, paying a total of $17.1 billion.
“This tax paid by very, very wealthy people and the rate they pay is reasonable,” said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy for the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “A lot of this money has never been taxed before. Working-class people pay payroll taxes every week, and for wealthy people that’s not how it works.”
One big advantage the current estate tax gives to wealthy heirs is in the treatment of capital gains, which are taxed at a rate of 0 percent for anyone in the 10 and 15 percent income tax brackets, 15 percent for most others, and 20 percent for anyone in the top 39.6 percent bracket. But under current rules for estates, no capital gains are paid on assets up to the exempt level, and assets over that amount pass to heirs at the current market value, shielding them from tax on any gain in prices that may have already occurred. The I.R.S. found in 2015 that stock and real estate — assets likely to appreciate — made up more than half of all estates subject to tax.
Resetting the cost-basis, or value, of an inherited asset can be an important benefit. “The person who inherits it can sell it with no tax,” Mr. Bove said. “That’s a big advantage when you combine it with the exemption of almost $11 million for a couple.”
The estate tax has two siblings, the gift tax and the generation-skipping tax.
The gift tax is imposed on any transfer of more than $14,000 in one year to any single individual. The total value of gifts given during someone’s lifetime lowers their estate tax exemption.
The generation-skipping tax applies to gifts larger than the estate tax exemption that go to anyone 37 years and 6 months younger than the gift-giver. It’s devised to keep wealthy families from avoiding one generation of estate tax by transferring the money directly to grandchildren.
He just can't help himself
The Tangerine Shitgibbon once again pulled a humongous and totally dismissable lie out of his ass as he preached to his zombie minions instead of working.
Swedes reacted with confusion, anger and ridicule on Sunday to a vague remark by President Trump that suggested that something terrible had occurred in their country.If only we had the Swedish Chef as President instead of The Tangerine Shitgibbon. He had the most creative way of making Brussels Sprouts.
During a campaign-style rally on Saturday in Florida, Mr. Trump issued a sharp if discursive attack on refugee policies in Europe, ticking off a list of places that have been hit by terrorists.
“You look at what’s happening,” he told his supporters. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”
Not the Swedes.
Nothing particularly nefarious happened in Sweden on Friday — or Saturday, for that matter — and Swedes were left baffled.
“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and foreign minister, wrote on Twitter.
Mr. Trump did not state, per se, that a terrorist attack had taken place in Sweden.
But the context of his remarks — he mentioned Sweden right after he chastised Germany, a destination for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing war and deprivation — suggested that he thought it might have.
“Sweden,” he said. “They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris. We’ve allowed thousands and thousands of people into our country and there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing. So we’re going to keep our country safe.”
Contrary to Mr. Trump’s allegations, nearly all of the men involved in terrorist assaults in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, in Brussels on March 22 last year, and in Nice, France, on July 14, were citizens of France or Belgium.
As the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet noted, Twitter users were quick to ridicule Mr. Trump’s remark, with joking references to the Swedish Chef, the “Muppets” character; Swedish meatballs; and Ikea, the furniture giant.
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