Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Nobody Knows You
Amy Black from her This Is Home album
One of the complications
One return to the not-so-good old days
The World Health Organization has warned about the increasing number of "superbugs", bacteria resistant or immune to our current array of antibiotics.
The World Health Organization warned on Monday that a dozen antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” pose an enormous threat to human health, and urged hospital infection-control experts and pharmaceutical researchers to focus on fighting the most dangerous pathogens first.Thanks to over prescription including conditions where it is ineffective, massive consumption by livestock to fatten them up and even unnecessary use in cleaning products like soap, too many bacteria have evolved to a state of effective resistance to previously effective cures. And given the level of ignorance in our Republican Congress, the US can expect the problem to worsen to the point where some Republican one day will suggest we all pray for god to cure us.
The rate at which new strains of drug-resistant bacteria have emerged in recent years, prompted by overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock, terrifies public health experts. Many consider the new strains just as dangerous as emerging viruses like Zika or Ebola.
“We are fast running out of treatment options,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the W.H.O. assistant director general who released the list. “If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time.”
Britain’s chief medical officer, Sally C. Davies, has described drug-resistant pathogens as a national security threat equivalent to terrorism, and Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the recently retired director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called them “one of our most serious health threats.”
Last week, the European Food Safety Authority and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control estimated that superbugs kill 25,000 Europeans each year; the C.D.C. has estimated that they kill at least 23,000 Americans a year. (For comparison, about 38,000 Americans die in car crashes yearly.)
Most of these deaths occur among older patients in hospitals or nursing homes, or among transplant and cancer patients whose immune systems are suppressed. But some are among the young and healthy: A new study of 48 American pediatric hospitals found that drug-resistant infections in children, while still rare, had increased sevenfold in eight years, which the authors called “ominous.”
The W.H.O. report rated research on three pathogens as “critical priority.” They are carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, along with all members of the Enterobacteriaceae family resistant to both carbapenems and third-generation cephalosporins.
(The Enterobacteriaceae family includes familiar names like E. coli and salmonella, which live in human and animal guts and can cause food poisoning, and Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague. Carbapenems and cephalosporins are each “families” of related antibiotics; both break down bacterial cell walls.)
The W.H.O. listed six pathogens as “high” priority. They include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, which is responsible for about a third of “flesh-eating bacteria” infections in the United States, and antibiotic-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhea.
Where will it come from
President Beetlefart has announced that he wants to give a yuge and totally unnecessary pile of money to the military. He hopes to pay for it two ways. First he wants to cut every possible social program he can and second he his hoping for a rate of economic growth that absolutely no one else says is possible.
A day after announcing a big increase in military spending, President Trump appeared on Tuesday to be having second thoughts on the need for austerity across much of the federal government to pay for it, clinging instead to hope that a surge in economic growth would do the trick.Some may say he's a dreamer but most people realize he is just delusional and not least of all, has no ides the way things work with Congress. Even when most pretend to like you.
The comments, made ahead of his first presidential address to Congress, reflect the tension within the Trump administration over how to make bold investments in infrastructure and the military, cut taxes, protect Social Security and Medicare — and still remain fiscally responsible. Mr. Trump’s hopes, moreover, appear at odds with the lower growth forecast by his own economic team and the forecasts of most economists.
“I think the money is going to come from a revved-up economy,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday when asked how he would pay for his plans. “I mean, you look at the kind of numbers we’re doing — we were probably G.D.P. of a little more than 1 percent, and if I can get that up to 3 or maybe more, we have a whole different ballgame.”
Mr. Trump’s budget outline has made some Republicans nervous because he appears to be keeping his campaign pledge not to touch Social Security or Medicare, the two biggest drivers of the national debt. Mr. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, has been a fierce advocate for making cuts to the programs, but Mr. Trump said on Tuesday that it would not be necessary because his tax cuts and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would unleash a torrent of growth.
“If the economy sails, then I’m right, because I said I’m not touching Social Security,” he said.
Few if any economists foresee the burst of growth Mr. Trump is counting on. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the real gross domestic product will grow at an average annual rate of 2.1 percent through the end of 2018.
Even the president’s own budget office is using an optimistic forecast — 2.4 percent economic growth — to calculate the White House’s anticipated deficit for the coming fiscal year. That rate is above most other estimates but well below the 3 percent Mr. Trump appears to be counting on.
Mr. Trump faces significant obstacles when it comes to turning his budget blueprint into reality. He will need to get Congress to lift the military spending caps mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act, and he will have to convince Democrats and members of his own party that his priorities make economic sense.
They have heard it before
Some of them have probably made similar promises. As the nation's governors return to their states from their meeting in Washington, they have little expectation that there will be any monies for infrastructure repair and replacement from this administration.
President Trump said again Monday that he was preparing to spend big on infrastructure. But even as he spoke, administration officials and congressional leaders were telling governors to expect little new federal investment in roads, bridges, transit systems, dam repairs and other water works.For the last 8 years it couldn't be done because there was a black man in the White House. Despite big talk about setting up their loyal donors to help themselves to the Treasury, it won't be done because there is no way the tightwads are going to do their job and raise the necessary monies for it. And when the important sections of the country start to collapse they will be the first to blame someone else.
Instead, the administration and congressional leaders plan to take a more incremental approach of spurring public-private partnerships – such as toll roads – by loosening environmental reviews, removing other red tape and possibly approving new tax credits. While some governors say private projects will provide little help in repairing their aging infrastructure, others say they will be forced to embrace the fiscal reality.
National Governors Association Chairman, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, center, waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump to a meeting of the NGA, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, at the White House in Washington. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is at right.
National Governors Association Chairman, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, center, waits for the arrival of President Donald Trump to a meeting of the NGA, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, at the White House in Washington. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is at right. Evan Vucci AP
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, said he and Nevada Gov. Ryan Sandoval, a Republican, had recently discussed infrastructure with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., prior to meetings Sunday and Monday with Trump and his Cabinet members.
“It seemed clear the way they were heading was public-private partnerships,” McAuliffe said in a news conference at the conclusion of the National Governors Association winter meeting here.
With Trump expected to address infrastructure in his speech on Tuesday night, McAuliffe said he saw little prospect of big new public investment. “Until they come up with a dedicated source of funding going forward, it is going to make it difficult,” he said.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to grow jobs with an infrastructure investment of $1 trillion or more. On Monday, speaking to a group of visiting governors, he seemed to renew that pledge, saying: “Infrastructure. We going to start spending on infrastructure big.”
Yet despite his rhetoric, Trump appears to have little GOP support for a big-money federal jobs program. Ryan is opposed, and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell – a Republican from Kentucky and the spouse of Trump’s transportation secretary, Elaine Chao – has been cool to noncommittal. Both congressional leaders want to cut taxes and reduce federal spending and are philosophically opposed to economic stimulus programs. Former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, head of the Heritage Foundation, has recently become an influential adviser to Trump, and his organization has been pressing the president to scale back dreams of big federal investment.
Ryan and some other Republicans seem open to using tax credits to spur private infrastructure work. Yet it is not yet clear how Congress would pay for those tax breaks and what process they’d use to select projects deserving of special treatment. Ryan has made clear that infrastructure decisions will need to wait until the spring, after Congress has had a chance to work on health care and tax revisions.
Last Week's Disaster Review
John Oliver looks at what President Beetlefart did last week.
This time is different, really
Monday, February 27, 2017
Always doing something different
That is part of the piquant charm of Norah Jones. "Flipside" is from her latest album. Day Breaks
The Trumpcare Brochure
Tom Tomorrow shows us the classy brochure for Trumpcare that illustrates how to access Trumpcare and what you can get from it.
Set your priorities
He's the right ethnic group - Deport him
Because the Imperial Decrees that President Beetlefart has ruled by are such poorly drafted pieces of shit, many towns in America may easily experience this.
Ask residents of this coal-mining crossroads about President Trump’s decision to crack down on undocumented immigrants and most offer no protest. Mr. Trump, who easily won this mostly white southern Illinois county, is doing what he promised, they say. As Terry Chambers, a barber on Main Street, put it, the president simply wants “to get rid of the bad eggs.”Two DUI's in 20 years. A lot of judge's sons have that many and a new Camaro from Daddy to replace the one he wrecked. But at least the people in town have come to their senses as they are about to lose the only restaurant in town with edible food.
But then they took Carlos.
Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco — just Carlos to the people of West Frankfort — has been the manager of La Fiesta, a Mexican restaurant in this city of 8,000, for a decade. Yes, he always greeted people warmly at the cheerfully decorated restaurant, known for its beef and chicken fajitas. And, yes, he knew their children by name. But people here tick off more things they know Carlos for.
How one night last fall, when the Fire Department was battling a two-alarm blaze, Mr. Hernandez suddenly appeared with meals for the firefighters. How he hosted a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the restaurant last summer as police officers were facing criticism around the country. How he took part in just about every community committee or charity effort — the Rotary Club, cancer fund-raisers, cleanup days, even scholarships for the Redbirds, the high school sports teams, which are the pride of this city.
“I think people need to do things the right way, follow the rules and obey the laws, and I firmly believe in that,” said Lori Barron, the owner of Lori’s Hair A’Fairs, a beauty salon. “But in the case of Carlos, I think he may have done more for the people here than this place has ever given him. I think it’s absolutely terrible that he could be taken away.”
On Feb. 9, Mr. Hernandez, 38, was arrested by federal immigration agents near his home, not far from La Fiesta, and taken to a detention facility in Missouri. The federal authorities confirmed that he remained in custody, but would not comment on the precise reason for or timing of his arrest.
Everybody loves Defense spending
At least everyone who has a defense plant or two in his state or district. The rest of us who will have to pay for the totally unnecessary spending proposed by President Beetlefart may not be as filled with adoration for his hairball idea.
A day before delivering a high-stakes address on Tuesday to a joint session of Congress, Mr. Trump will demand a budget with tens of billions of dollars in reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department, according to four senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the plan. Social safety net programs, aside from the big entitlement programs for retirees, would also be hit hard.Like kids let loose in a candy store, there is no saying what will happen between now and the final passage of the budget. Just cross your fingers and pray to your sky demon for the best result.
Preliminary budget outlines are usually little-noticed administrative exercises, the first step in negotiations between the White House and federal agencies that usually shave the sharpest edges off the initial request.
The budget plan, a numerical sketch that will probably be substantially altered by House and Senate Republicans — and vociferously opposed by congressional Democrats — will be Mr. Trump’s first big step into a legislative fray he has largely avoided during the first 40 days of his administration.
Thus far, instead of legislating, he has focused on a succession of executive orders on immigration and deregulation written by Mr. Bannon’s small West Wing team.
Resistance from federal agencies could ease some of the deepest cuts in the initial plan before a final budget request is even sent to Congress. And Capitol Hill will have the last word.
To meet Mr. Trump’s defense request, lawmakers in both parties would have to agree to raise or end statutory spending caps on defense and domestic programs that were imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Mr. Trump is in a highly unusual position at a time when most presidents are finding their footing or confronting crisis. Despite his lament that he was handed “a mess” by President Barack Obama, Mr. Trump inherited a low unemployment rate, a lack of international crises requiring immediate attention and majorities in both houses of Congress.
The Republican Health Care Thong
John Oliver looks at the Republican ACA Replacement Dilemma
Who do you trust?
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Young singer fails to make it
And in 1970 Vashti Bunyan left the music business and raised a family. 30 years later she found out her one album was a cult favorite fetching as much as $2000 on E-Bay. "I'd Like To Walk Around In Your Mind" is one of the songs from that album.
The ultimate catch
R.I.P. Bill Paxton
Prolific actor, wonderful person and much too young.
Can he speak truth to Trump?
As President Beetlefart's first sane national security adviser, General H R McMaster has his work cut out for him.Not only must he give honest assessments of real problems but he will be fighting political battles with people who do not accept reality.
In his first week on the job, General McMaster has already shown an independence familiar to past colleagues. He has begun moving to revise an organizational order issued last month that seemed to downgrade the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of national intelligence, and he told an all-hands staff meeting that he did not consider the term “radical Islamic terrorism” helpful, even as the president insists on using it.Talk about "cleaning the stables", McMaster faces disabusing Beetlefart of a raft of crackpot ideas, explaining the reality and indeed probably defining all the elements of reality to a man whose ignorance shines through like a polished turd. The general is in for the biggest fight of his life.
But those are relatively small matters compared to what may come. Already, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, has led the president to put aside his desire to reinstitute torture in interrogations of terrorism suspects, at least by the military. Mr. Trump places great faith in the generals he has surrounded himself with, but he and General McMaster had never met until a week ago, and the book’s reputation may set a hard-to-meet standard for the general.
“The difficulty is that Trump has a lot of crazy ideas in his head — like we should steal Iraq’s oil or we should kill the relatives of terrorists or we need to ban Muslims from coming here,” said Max Boot, a military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations. “And I’m sure someone like McMaster, like Mattis, understands how crackpot these ideas are.
“So can you say to the president, ‘Hey, Sir, you’re full” of it? Mr. Boot continued. “Or do you have to sugarcoat it and handle him with kid gloves? I suspect it’s the latter, and that’s not been H. R.’s approach. We’ll see if Trump is man enough to take it.”
It's not the crime, it's the coverup that gets you
An ancient saying that has been with us since Richard Nixon and Watergate, reflecting on the fact that people get into more trouble trying to hide their crimes than the crimes would have brought them. And now many in Congress are asking if Republicans who would be leading any investigation have, in fact, colluded with the cover up attempts.
Congressional Democrats are questioning whether recent comments from leading Republicans, made at the request of the White House, have compromised Senate and House investigations into possible Russian influence on the recent election.This is definitely a situation that calls for a minimum of "arm's length' separation between investigators and investigated.
The comments were from the chairs of the Senate and House intelligence committees, which are expected to play pivotal roles in investigation of Russian interference in the election and Russian influence in the administration of President Donald Trump.
The comments came last week after the White House admitted contacting Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and asking them to speak to reporters to debunk media reports of “repeated” or “constant” contact between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Both men have issued statements saying they have done nothing improper.
Jack Langer, spokesman for Nunes, said the congressman had not been influenced by the White House requests. In addition, he said the congressman’s comments were appropriate and should not cast doubts on further investigations.
“Yes, the chairman’s comments were entirely appropriate,” he said in an email response to questions. “And yes, the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation will remain bipartisan, just as we’ve been investigating Russia on a bipartisan basis for many years.”
Langer said the House investigation into possible Russian influence was now in an early stage, and the intelligence committee “expects next week to finalize a bipartisan scoping document establishing the bounds and focus of the investigation.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Saturday said that the contact from the White House on an issue currently under investigation indicates that an independent investigation might be needed “to get to the bottom of attempted Russian interference in our elections.”
“While I also believe the intelligence committee should continue its important investigation, reports that the White House asked intelligence officials and lawmakers to help counter stories on Russia is Exhibit One on why we also need an independent commission,” she said in a statement.
Gods of convenience
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.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
From Down Under and Left Handed
Courtney Barnett has a lot going for her as she sings "Depreston" in Brisbane.
The Belfry has a combover
Kim Jong Pudge went too far
And the Chinese government has just pulled back sharply on his economic chain.
China will suspend all imports of coal from North Korea until the end of the year, the Commerce Ministry announced Saturday, in a surprise move that would cut off a major financial lifeline for Pyongyang and significantly enhance the effectiveness of U.N. sanctions.This is a nice kick in the nuts for Chairman Pudge and the exceptions will let China tell him when he is being good or bad. On the other hand maybe now the Best Korean peasants will be able to heat their homes and have more hours of electricity.
Coal is North Korea’s largest export item, and also China’s greatest point of leverage over the regime.
The ministry said the ban would come into force Sunday and be effective until Dec. 31.
China said the move was designed to implement last November’s United Nations Security Council resolution that tightened sanctions against the regime in the wake of its last nuclear test.
But experts said the move also reflected Beijing’s deep frustration with North Korea over its recent missile test and the assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half brother in Malaysia.
Kim Jong Nam had been hosted and protected by China for many years, and his murder, if proved to be conducted on Pyongyang’s orders, would be seen as a direct affront to Beijing, experts said.
China has also come under significant international pressure to do more to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, while Chinese President Xi Jinping is believed to have become increasingly irritated by Kim Jong Un’s behavior.
North Korea is China’s fourth-biggest supplier of coal. Although China announced last April that it would ban North Korean coal imports to comply with U.N. sanctions, it made exceptions for deliveries intended for the “people’s well-being” and not connected to North Korea’s missile programs.
The usual Republican budget shit
The Tangerine Shitgibbon's White House staff has put together a preliminary draft of his first budget and so far it looks very much like the standard Republican wish list. Any programs designed to help people or make life better is scheduled to be axed.
The White House budget office has drafted a hit list of programs that President Trump could eliminate to trim domestic spending, including longstanding conservative targets like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, AmeriCorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities.Overall the cash flow will be diverted from any citizen based program and re-directed to the military and corporate welfare to insure that the wealthy remain so. Surprisingly for a bunch of people who praise their own business acumen, they resist raising revenues when a yuge deficit is apparent. They seem more interested in a mafia style bust-out than running the country smoothly.
Work on the first Trump administration budget has been delayed as the budget office awaited Senate confirmation of former Representative Mick Mulvaney, a spending hard-liner, as budget director. Now that he is in place, his office is ready to move ahead with a list of nine programs to eliminate, an opening salvo in the Trump administration’s effort to reorder the government and increase spending on defense and infrastructure.
Most of the programs cost under $500 million annually, a pittance for a government that is projected to spend about $4 trillion this year. And a few are surprising, even though most if not all have been perennial targets for conservatives.
Mr. Trump has spoken volubly about the nation’s drug problems, yet the list includes the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, which dispenses grants to reduce drug use and drug trafficking. And despite Mr. Trump’s vocal promotion of American exports, the list includes the Export-Import Bank, which has guaranteed loans to foreign customers of American companies since the 1930s.
While the total amount of annual savings of roughly $2.5 billion would be comparatively small, administration officials want to highlight the agencies in their coming budget proposal as examples of misuse of taxpayer dollars. An internal memo circulated within the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday, and obtained by The New York Times, notes that the list could change. Proposals for more extensive cuts in cabinet-level agencies are expected to follow.
During his campaign, Mr. Trump promised large but unspecified cuts to rein in the deficit, even as he promised to protect programs for his working-class voters and to drastically expand spending on the military, roads, bridges and airports. While the memo in no way resolves that contradiction, it suggests that he could lean toward a small-government philosophy that conservatives like Mr. Mulvaney have fiercely advocated.
The Paradox of IOKIYAR
Bill Maher's New Rules examines the invincibility bestowed on assholes for being a Republican.
Sell by date has passed
Friday, February 17, 2017
From her newest album
Sara Watkins sings "Say So"
The First One
R.I.P. Robert Michel
A decent human being and a sane Republican, the last of his kind.
Seth Meyers takes a closer look at Trump's presser
You inherited a fortune, we elected a mess
Colbert on The Tangerine Shitgibbons press conference
I'm crazy too
Thursday, February 16, 2017
When she fell in love
Serena Ryder's next album Harmony included this song "For You"
Identify the problem
He's Just Not That Into You
Congress, and most importantly the Republican segment of Congress, is finding that is not just the title of another so-so Ben Affleck movie but a real description of Precedent Donald Trump's need for Congress.
After moving to start rolling back the Affordable Care Act just days after President Trump was sworn in last month, Republican lawmakers and Mr. Trump have yet to deliver on any of the sweeping legislation they promised. Efforts to come up with a replacement for the health care law have been stymied by disagreements among Republicans about how to proceed. The same is true for a proposed overhaul of the tax code.Congressional Republicans find themselves stuck with a White House resident who would rather issue Imperial Decrees than work with a bunch of sqabbling bozos to pass legitimate legislation. And they don't know what to do about it so they are falling back on the old, "This is just as we planned" routine. And even they aren't buying it.
The large infrastructure bill that both Democrats and Mr. Trump were eager to pursue has barely been mentioned, other than a very general hearing to discuss well-documented needs for infrastructure improvements. Even a simple emergency spending bill that the Trump administration promised weeks ago — which was expected to include a proposal for his wall on the Mexican border — has not materialized, leaving appropriators idle and checking Twitter.
At this point in Barack Obama’s presidency, when Democrats controlled Washington, Congress had passed a stimulus bill totaling nearly $1 trillion to address the financial crisis, approved a measure preventing pay discrimination, expanded a children’s health insurance program, and begun laying the groundwork for major health care and financial regulation bills. President George W. Bush came into office with a congressional blueprint for his signature education act, No Child Left Behind.
But in the 115th Congress, the Senate has done little more than struggle to confirm Mr. Trump’s nominees, and Republicans ultimately helped force his choice for labor secretary, Andrew F. Puzder, to withdraw from consideration on Wednesday in the face of unified Democratic opposition.
The House has spent most of its time picking off a series of deregulation measures, like overturning a rule intended to protect surface water from mining operations. For his part, Mr. Trump has relied mostly on executive orders to advance policies.
The inactivity stems from a lack of clear policy guidance — and, just as often, contradictory messages — from the Trump administration, which does not appear to have spent the campaign and transition periods forming a legislative wish list. Democrats have also led efforts to slow the confirmation of nominees to Mr. Trump’s cabinet who might otherwise be leading the charge.
“When you spend a lot of time talking about policy and debating policy in the presidential campaign, it is far easier to be specific about legislation when you get into office,” said Austan Goolsbee, who served as the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration. “President Trump spent the campaign fleshing out nothing in detail, so it’s not really a surprise that they can’t even agree on priorities, much less on actual legislative detail.”
House Republicans say slow and steady was always the plan. “We are 100 percent on pace with the 200-day plan we presented to President Trump and to members at our retreat,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker Paul D. Ryan, wrote in an email. “Budget first (check), then regs (check), then Obamacare bill (in process and on schedule), and then tax (after Obamacare).”
Colbert asks, "Are you fucking kidding me?"
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017
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Like the good old days
Home of Sun Baked Brains
No question about it, the Arizona government needs to spend more time indoors and out of the sun. The latest bit of loonytunes to come from that not quite august body concerns state sanctioned executions. The latest protocol from the Arizona department of corrections.
As states have faced challenges to carrying out executions by lethal injection, various work-arounds and alternatives have been proposed, including the return of electric chairs and firing squads. Arizona may have come up with the most original concept yet: an invitation for lawyers to help kill their own clients.How curious that a staunchly right wing state should propose something almost identical to a procefure from the most Communist People's Republic of China which is famous for billing the families of executed prisoners for the bullet that killed them. Politics does have a circular nature.
With drugs that can legally be used for lethal injections in short supply, the Arizona department of corrections’ latest execution protocol states that attorneys for death row inmates are welcome to bring along their own.
The protocol says that “the inmate’s counsel or other third parties acting on behalf of the inmate’s counsel” may provide the department with a sedative, pentobarbital, or an anesthetic, sodium pentothal, if they can obtain it “from a certified or licensed pharmacist, pharmacy, compound pharmacy, manufacturer, or supplier”.
Attorneys, though, said the idea is ludicrous. Megan McCracken, a lethal injection expert at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, said the clause is “unprecedented, wholly novel and frankly absurd. A prisoner or a prisoner’s lawyer simply cannot obtain these drugs legally, or legally transfer them to the department of corrections, so it’s hard to fathom what the Arizona department was thinking in including this nonsensical provision as part of its execution protocol.”
Dale Baich, an assistant federal public defender who works on death penalty cases in Arizona, said he was “at a loss” to explain the provision, which he said presents “ethical issues as well as legal issues. It’s not legal for me as a lawyer to go out and procure drugs for a client. So legally it’s impossible and ethically as well, my job is to make sure that my client’s rights are protected and not to work with the state to ensure that it carries out the execution … If the state wants to have the death penalty it has the duty to figure out how to do it constitutionally, it can’t pass that obligation on to the prisoner or to anyone else.”
The department of corrections did not respond to a request to elaborate on the reasoning behind the clause.
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